Monday, April 19, 2010

The Faith of an Atheist

In talking to the average atheist, you are likely to hear them making statements
such as, "I have no religion; I am not religious", or "my world view has nothing
to do with 'faith', it's all based on science and reason." These, or some
variation of these, are themes in their discussions.

But when there are very good counter arguments, or scientific data, or any sort of
patent lack of certainty in any given discipline about which they've already
drawn conclusions (or accepted as fact the ones fed to them), wouldn't something like
"faith" be required to continue to retain those conclusions in spite of evidence
to the contrary?

Indeed, isn't the response of "well, science will figure out the answer someday"
an absolute Faith statement? Of course it is.

So it seems, like it or not, that atheists exercise faith every bit as much
as Theists do, only with a different anchor. Consider these examples of the
blind faith of atheism:


Cosmologists have identified more than two dozen constants in the laws of Physics
that are required, and required in precisely the right amounts, with infinitesimally
allowable degrees of variation with each one, to allow for the existence of Planet
Earth and for its complex Life forms.

The odds that ANY of these would be so finely tuned are very small indeed, and the
odds that ALL of them would be in precise relation to each other are so small that
we can rationally assert that it is IMPOSSIBLE that Planet Earth and its complex
Life forms could have come about by mere Chance.

AND YET, a typical atheist will thunder and rail against any hint of
Intelligent Design, insulting its supporters, because of their blind faith in a
god-LESS Cosmology and a god-LESS Darwinian approach to origins.


Here is what Richard Dawkins -- a modern-day atheist preacher -- has to say:
    "An atheist ... is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural,
    physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind
    the observable universe, no soul that outlasts the body and no miracles -- except
    in the sense of natural phenomena that we don't yet understand. If there is
    something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now
    imperfectly understood, we hope eventually to understand it and embrace it
    within the natural."
    -- from "The God Delusion"

AND SO, Dawkins proclaims his faith that against-all-odds, and despite
things "we don't yet understand", Naturalism will someday explain everything...

Wired Magazine

... and yet, other atheists maintain that this kind of wild hope -- zealous Faith --
is precisely the problem:

In an article in the latest issue of "Wired" (known for, among other things, its
antagonism toward Creationism, Religion, and all things Conservative), a staff
writer (probably unwittingly) lent support to a fundamental Intelligent Design
principle: Irreducible Complexity, which is the idea that the basic building blocks
of Life are composed of highly complex and interconnected systems, *machines*,
which, if broken apart, would cause those systems to cease to function.

Speaking of science, this writer says scientists continue to foolishly pursue
something like a "Theory of Everything", touting the latest tool or gizmo or theory
to do far, far more than it is capable of:
    "Time and time again, an experimental gadget gets introduced...
    and we're told it will allow us to glimpse the underlying logic of
    everything... But the tool always disappoints, doesn't it?
    We soon realize that those pretty pictures are incomplete and that
    we can't reduce our complex subject to a few colorful spots...
    Scientists...should anticipate that the Universe is always more
    networked and complicated than reductionist approaches can

He goes on to say,
    "Thanks to [recent advances in Neuroscience, there is now a] mandate
    to forgo the measurement of local spikes in blood flow in favor of
    teasing apart the vast electrical loom of the cortex. God and Love are
    nowhere to be found -- and most of the time we have no idea what we're
    looking at. But that confusion is a good sign. The brain isn't simple;
    our pictures of the brain shouldn't be, either."

He finishes by noting that Reality is more like a Cloud than a Clock:

    "Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided
    the world into two categories: Clocks and Clouds. Clocks are neat,
    orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; Clouds are
    an epistemic mess, 'highly irregular disorderly, and more or less

    The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a Clock,
    which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of
    brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand
    Nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that
    approach is doomed to failure. We live in a Universe not of Clocks
    but of Clouds."

STILL, atheists believe so fervently in the lofty and vaunted
capabilities of science that they will not abandon that faith even in the
face of constant, less-than-stellar outcomes...


Jerry Fodor, a Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist at Rutgers University, continues
this theme:
    "We don't know what makes some cognitive states conscious.
    (Indeed, we don't know what makes any mental state, cognitive
    or otherwise, conscious, or why any mental state, cognitive or
    otherwise, bothers with being conscious.) Also, we don't know
    much about how cognitive states and processes are implemented by
    neural states and processes."

    "We don't even know whether they are (though many of us are
    prepared to assume so faut de mieux). And we don't know how
    cognition develops (if it does) or how it evolved (if it did),
    and so forth, very extensively."

    "In fact, we have every reason to expect that there are many
    things about cognition that we don't even know that we don't
    know, such is our benighted condition."

SO, in direct contrast to scientific data, and despite not knowing much
about how the physiology works in some key areas, the atheist resolutely
clings to his faith in No-God and in the promise of "science".
This is perfectly understandable, of course; just don't let an atheist tell you
his world view has nothing to do with faith.