Humanism’s Aspirations

“Paul Kurtz, the author of Humanist Manifesto 2000, declares, “The underlying ethical principle of Planetary Humanism is the need to respect the dignity and worth of all persons in the world community.” Murray, Abdu H.. Grand Central Question

BTW NOTE: The Christian critique of humanism is not whether it has ethics, but what rational basis can it provide for ethics once it determines that the universe as no Designer or purpose.

 

Bubbles on the Waves of the Universe?

“Though the scientist may individually nourish a religion and be a theist in his irresponsible hours, the days are over when it could be said that for Science herself the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Our solar system, with its harmonies, is seen now as but one passing case of a certain sort of moving equilibrium in the heavens, realized by a local accident in an appalling wilderness of worlds where no life can exist. In a span of time which as a cosmic interval will count as but an hour, it will have ceased to be. The Darwinian notion of chance production, and subsequent destruction, speedy or deferred, applies to the largest as well as the smallest facts. It is impossible, in the present temper of the scientific imagination, to find in the drifting of the cosmic atoms, whether they work on the universal or on the particular scale, anything but a kind of aimless weather, doing and undoing, achieving no proper history, and leaving no result. Nature has no one distinguishable ultimate tendency with which it is possible to feel a sympathy. In the vast rhythm of her processes, as the scientific mind now follows them, she appears to cancel herself. The bubbles on the foam which coats a stormy sea are floating episodes, made and unmade by the forces of the wind and water. Our private selves are like those bubbles, – epiphenomena, as Clifford, I believe, ingeniously called them; their destinies weigh nothing and determine nothing in the world’s irremedial currents of events.” -William James, Varieties of Religious Experience

More Pain from (Thomas) Paine

“I have now gone through the examination of the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and when it is considered that the whole space of time, from the crucifixion to what is called the ascension, is but a few days, apparently not more than three or four, and that all the circumstances are reported to have happened nearly about the same spot, Jerusalem, it is, I believe, impossible to find in any story upon record so many and such glaring absurdities, contradictions, and falsehoods, as are in those books. They are more numerous and striking than I had any expectation of finding, when I began this examination, and far more so than I had any idea of when I wrote the former part of ‘The Age of Reason.”  -Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

Cultural Observation: What Modernists Think Science Did to the Bible

“The telescope destroyed the firmament, did away with the heaven of the New Testament, rendered the ascension of our Lord and the assumption of his Mother infinitely absurd, crumbled to chaos the gates and palaces of the New Jerusalem, and in their places gave to man a wilderness of worlds.”  ― Robert G. Ingersoll, Some Mistake of Moses

‘I want atheism to be true’

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” -Thomas Nagel, The Last Word

Atheism Turns Out to be Too Simple

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?  A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Arid, Irrational Creed of Atheism

“As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational. Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.” -A.N. Wilson, “Religion of hatred”

Thoughts on a Response to C.S. Lewis and “Spilled Milk”

I was recently doing some study for a membership class at church, and I came across this critique of C.S. Lewis’s “spilled milk” argument against atheism:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2016/03/23/c-s-lewis-and-the-argument-from-spilled-milk

I appreciated the post because it did make me think, and at least for my own personal processing of the argument, I wanted to offer a brief response. I’m not really taking up the cudgels against the author. This is for me (and I suppose any who read my posts).

First, thoughtful as the post is, I’m not sure it has grasped the point Lewis was making. I would appeal to these paragraphs for proof of the confusion.

Suppose you did spill a jug of milk, and suppose that somehow, inexplicably, it did produce a map of London….Would it ultimately matter that you cannot explain how the map appeared? Would that have any bearing on the usability of the map itself?

Well… yes it would matter, because this isn’t actually about milk or maps, it’s about rightly namely the universe that we live in. Asking why we have minds that work is actually another way into the question of whether there is a God and for what purpose did he make us. Lewis’s whole argument is that atheism has no ability to account for the origins of the mind, but Christianity does and therefore Christianity is a more probable account of the universe. So, yes it does matter (a lot) how we explain the origins of the mind.

Second, to say, as this post seems to, that ‘my experience of rationality tells me it is reliable’ is actually a viciously circular argument. It assumes the conclusion, rather than proving it. To overturn Lewis’s argument, you have to provide a competing, compelling, and coherent account for the (metaphysical) origins of the mind in an atheistic universe. That is the only way. Until such a time as that happens, uncomfortable as it may be, atheists must live with Lewis’s problem.

Third:

But hold on a second. If you can’t trust your own thinking, and if you therefore cannot trust the arguments leading to atheism, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that you similarly cannot trust the arguments that led to a belief in God? Why does the inexplicability of human cognition invalidate arguments for atheism, but not also invalidate arguments for the existence of God?
Here again, I wonder if Mr. Carter has missed the point of Lewis’s argument. Lewis is not arguing that nobody can trust human reason. He is saying that apart from a proper accounting of where reason comes from, atheism has no logical basis for trusting it. This is why saying: “who cares where it comes from, it works” really misses the point.Also, the appeal to experience (which is a circular argument) doesn’t address the crux of Lewis’s point which is how do you know that your mind isn’t lying to you? Again, a metaphysical account of where they came from and why we have them would be very useful here.

And that argument does not apply to Lewis because he can supply such an account for the origins of human reasoning. Because atheism hasn’t provided a coherent account, it has a different set of problems to deal with.

Finally:
Lewis was a man of literature, and clearly not a man of science. If he had studied biology, he would have understood that the selective pressures of evolution are not completely random, even if the process of mutation is. There is an illusory appearance of intelligence produced by the forces of natural selection whereby living things develop capabilities which give them advantages over their environment. In the case of higher mammals like ourselves, we have developed advantageous cognitive abilities which, very much like that analogous map of London, have gotten us places where we want to go.

True enough; Lewis was a man of literature, and not a man of science. He was also not a theologian (which is why he gets himself into trouble in theology too, sometimes). But in his defense, he did believe in evolution, so I don’t think he would’ve felt brushed back by these comments about biology. If anything, such observations about science would’ve made him hammer his point more. How do you account for such a rational, coherent, progressing evolutionary process in an undesigned, atheistic universe?

The block quote is fascinating to me precisely because it illustrates the failure of atheism to grasp what it needs to do to establish itself as a credible philosophy. Appealing to science and evolution is not it. In fact, logic would show us as much. A-theism (no-God-ism) is a metaphysical claim. Evolution is not a metaphysical claim, it is a scientific theory. So, appealing to evolution to vindicate atheism doesn’t make sense.

Atheism’s issues are metaphysical. That is what Lewis is arguing in the illustration. Atheism will always be stuck explaining how a meaningless, undesigned, uncared for universe could somehow ‘just happen to produce’: 1) meaning that isn’t us lying to ourselves over and over again, 2) morals that we should care about and treat as universal to everyone, 3) reliable scientific laws that came from nowhere but somehow happen again and again for billions of years and do not appear to be disappearing as suddenly as they came, and 4) unseen laws of logic and rationality that also happen again and again and are here just as firmly as the scientific laws are. This is the battlefield that atheism stands or falls on, not science.

And I would say that answering, “I don’t know where these things come from, but they are just here, so let’s go with it” (in addition to be a circular argument) is a curiously weak answer from a philosophy that has always insisted it is more concerned for logical precision and a humble, intellectual curiosity than any religious worldview. At least in this case, it seems like Lewis the Christian was more curious about the origins of human logic than an atheist was.

 

Blind Pitiless Indifference?

“The universe we observe had precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” -Richard Dawkins,

BTW: Define “property.” Is a species that is invincibly convinced that good and evil are real and actually matter a “property” of the universe? If so, we are the fly in the ointment of atheism.