Atheism and Total Vindication

The "new" atheists: rehashing bad arguments against bad apologetics.

The "new" atheists: rehashing old, bad arguments against other bad arguments.

By: Jay In over eight years of higher education, a thread I was able to see emerging was the "new atheist"/atheist trend.  Part of the reason for that was embarking on a philosophy degree at a state university, so that kind of mindset was to be expected.  In the last week, atheism has come up in several discussions and I think warrants another analysis.  To most people, movements and ideologies are fluid, arising organically, based on whoever has the best argument and presentation.  Academia is a neutral entity, fostering genuine dialogue between competing ideas, and over time, the best ideas prevail, and the older ideas fade into the dustbin of history. Public education and higher academia thus facilitates the development of the individual into a mature, rational thinking citizen able to offer informed opinions on all matters scientific, religious and political.  The system-indoctrinated atheist rationalist becomes the ubermensch in his mind, able to critique, build, fix and destroy all reality at his own whim.  All his thoughts and opinions are de facto genius, simply by virtue of having been through the system and mastering its version of some singular field like biology. Interactions with any of the unenlightened that still believe in childish notions like God, angels and devils requires a pseudo-psychological characterization of the theist as trapped in some form of neurosis or pathological problem. On the contrary - none of this is true or accurate. In reality, atheism is irrational and utterly philosophical nonsense.  The atheist position is one of unenlightened closed mindedness to the extent that any propositions that don't fit into the materialist presuppositions are considered rank heresy.   In fact, the more one watches the modus operandi of the so-called new atheists and the "Skeptic Magazine" crowd like Shermer, the more evident it is that their enlightened skepticism operates like a systematic orthodoxy, replete with its saints (mischaracterized views of Galileo, Newton, Darwin, etc.), dogmas like Darwinism(s), modern prophets and evangelists like Dennett and Dawkins, and a a communal "spirit" they all possess of bad hygiene, crappy beards, and faggy fedoras. When Nietzsche mocked the "pale atheist" evangelists of his day, he was once again prophetic.  At least their Enlightenment forebears and philosophes had some culture and were interesting.  These creatures are cloned in the pseudo-educational academic factory. But lest I be accused of the ad hominem attacks they so often level my way, I thought it would be useful to offer up several of their own modern myths to be slain on the altar of truth with the ritual athame of my keyboard.  After a brief analysis of those myths, I would like to offer a few vindications of my own analyses that have proven correct, demonstrating that for all the ad hominem attacks, none of their petty tricks and sophistry can stop what is actually and objectively true.  Normally these kinds of responses aren't worth doing, but a few run ins of late with several self-titled, enlightened "atheists" has sparked my sick enjoyment of debate and disarming of opponents.

The first and most common myth is that atheism (and rationalism and agnosticism and modern liberalism) are “scientific,” while religion relies on superstition, fear, ignorance and a cult-like mentality of following false prophets claiming divine warrant.  Generally, these are people who have left some form of Protestantism or evangelicalism due to anti-intellectualism and fideism among those groups.  The ability to embrace things like “philosophy” or “science” gives the new atheist a profound sense of discovery and freedom to think as an individual.  That is not always the case, but often the die-hard atheistic evangelists are from that proselytizing background.  And in many cases, the background was one of fundamentalism or sectarianism.  That is merely an observation, so before critics latch on to the fact that was no “proof,” let’s examine some actual claims hoisted up by the new atheist, as if they were indubitable, eternal Pythagorean principles.

In my experience, aside from one professor, the atheists I’ve encountered are poor philosophers and logicians.  That is not to say there aren’t some skilled at logic (Bertrand Russell was one of the foremost logicians of his day), or some skilled at philosophy and metaphysics (I’ve met one), but that there are certain foundational assumptions atheists operate on that they do not think to question.  The most obvious is that of empiricism and the “scientific method.”

As I’ve detailed before on my site, the argumentation is as follows:

1. Human knowledge comes through sense experience.

2. The scientific method is a tool of inquiry by which we come to know things based on empirical observation. Therefore,

3. Anyone who claims to believe in, or “know” a thing, must be able to “verify” that knowledge through the scientific method.  Any and all other claims of knowledge are dubious at best, and superstitious and delusional at worst.

Having read a good bit on science, focusing on analytical philosophy and phenomenology in my academic studies, and having debated probably a hundred people with this worldview, this is basically accurate as a description of the said presuppositions.   Since atheists so often tout “logic” and coherency, are these presuppositions logical? Are they coherent?  In fact, they are not.  On atheistic grounds, they are not even consistent, so at this point I will offer the strongest argument possible: a reductio, based on the empirical methodology itself.  We can thank Aristotle for showing the force of a reductio argument when coupled with a transcendental argument.

The claim “human knowledge comes through sense experience” is undoubtedly true, but is somewhat of a tautology.  Of course knowledge comes through sense experience.  Yet in the history of ideas and in practice, this has been taken to the extreme in the form of empiricism, the epistemology that still dominates in modernity, which says that all knowledge comes through sense experience.  The problem with this claim is that it cannot be verified or justified through sense experience.  As such, it becomes an unquestionable maxim, a outworking of a foundationalist epistemology that actually negates foundationalist epistemology. By foundationalist epistemology, I mean anachronistically the view that there are self-evident maxims or principles by which we can start our philosophic and scientific endeavors that cannot be questioned.

The problem is that the development of western philosophy and science did question foundational assumptions, particularly its own metaphysical and religious beliefs, opting to jettison them for a new faith in the “scientific method” as more than just a method of inquiry about the natural world, but as a new all-encompassing grand narrative of human destiny.  Now, an undefined category of research (“science”) is proffered as some kind of Delphic Oracle: whatever the problem, faith in the priests in white lab coats will suffice, dear brothers. Yet once metaphysics had been laid waste, there was no reason for epistemology to not undergo the same razing of foundations.  In figures like David Hume we see this questioning come to full fruition, demonstrating accurately that denying the usefulness of metaphysics does not merely pave the way for glorious progress through rational/empirical methodology, it logically leads to the same assumption questioning for epistemology.  If being is useless, man’s mind is also a metaphysical fiction.  If man’s mind is a metaphysical fiction, then scientific endeavor is useless and impossible.

Euphoric! So Inlightened!

Euphoric! So Inlightened!

This is proven by the fact that the claims themselves in the above argument are not justifiable on their own grounds.  It would be helpful at this juncture to consider how many assumptions are at work in 1, 2 and 3 above.  For the atheist, there is often a kind of naive pragmatism and common sense philosophy at work (generally unbeknownst to the atheist) arising from that same Scottish and American pragmatist tradition (Tomas Reid, etc.) that Locke, Berkeley and Hume were also instrumental in.  The glaring inconsistency here is clear: Why should we simply accept common sense philosophy and pragmatic, naive empiricism?  It has not been “proven” or demonstrated to be true in its foundational assumptions.  It is merely assumed to be so by the atheistical empiricist.  In fact, a whole gaggle of metaphysical and epistemological notions are necessary for these three claims to even be possible that are logically and metaphysically prior to the three claims themselves! This has been argued before on Jay’s Analysis, but let’s review for new readers.

A vast array of metaphysical and epistemic assumptions might be compiled for the above 3 to even be possible, but a few key preconditions will suffice.  Let’s start with 1.  For 1 to be possible, the following things must, by necessary implication, also be so (in no specific order):

A. Words convey meaning.  For this sentence to be coherent, it assumes a host of metaphysical and semiotic truths that are not immediately demonstrable by the scientific method (and we haven’t even come to 2 yet!)

B. It assumes that there is some relation between subject and object, and the notion of rational subjects is itself metaphysical.  For an atheistic scientist to come to the table and make these statements, it suggests that the individual making the claims in some way exists as a self or subject, but the question of consciousness is a notorious one for atheists and materialists.

C. To speak of human knowledge in general assumes some ability to predicate truths about experience that go beyond immediate sense experience.  But that  violates claim 2, and we aren’t even there yet.  No finite, atheist mind can lay claim to any knowledge of a universal, since for almost all atheists, universal claims are impossible and relegated to the dustbin of metaphysical nonsense.

D. What does it mean for “knowledge” to come through “experience”?  What exactly is “knowledge”?  Is it a conceptual reality that retains an identity over time, or is it too, like the human mind in the materialist worldview, also just random neurons firing?  How does one mind made up of random chemical reactions convey “meaning” to another mind of determined chemical reactions?  It cannot, and the notion is nonsense on the atheistic worldview.  Are we supposed to just ignore these serious questions simply by atheistic fiat due to his preference for pragmatism?  On what basis should one just assume pragmatism and ignore metaphysics?  Where does the scientific method demonstrate the validity of pragmatism and the error of metaphysics?   It doesn’t and by its very nature cannot, any more than a measuring stick (a tool) can tell you how measuring sticks are possible or come to be.

E. What is the proof that is assumed here?  What is the logos, or logic behind this principle of scientific inquiry that makes objectively observable events meaningful?  To speak meaningfully about events and objects in the past, and to project and identity and meaning to them in the future assumes some a lot of metaphysical truths.  Where is the atheistic justification for these metaphysical principles?  I thought metaphysics was to be tossed out, and only physics remained?  Since universal truths are impossible in an empirical system, how can any predicate be universalized?  It cannot. It is impossible.

Many, many more assumptions could be listed, but these suffice to show the utter bankruptcy and silliness that is atheistic empiricism that relies on science as if it were some objectively existing power at work out there in the world, mystically moving mankind towards “progress” and some higher destiny.  But ideas like progress and decline are value judgments, and value judgments are metaphysical and ethical ideas.  They require a worldview very different from the atheist’s.  In a universe of random, chaotic and deterministic natural process, value judgments are subjective, illusory and utterly transient. No phenomenon is better or worse than another: subjective feelings and emotions are merely chemical reactions in a vast void of meaningless, infinite chemical reactions.  It is all sound and fury signifying nothing, making logical and conceptual entities like “truth,” “meaning,” “the self,” “scientific method,” etc., just as illusory and nonsensical as the soul, God or angels.  In that regard, atheism, materialism, agnosticism and liberalism are worse than nonsense and utterly incoherent: more superstitious, irrational, incoherent and contradictory than most religions.  So when it comes to logic, metaphysics and the scientific method, the argumentation here is vindicated because there is a God.  If  God exists, then it makes perfect sense how the world is so composed and established, with these operant, logical (logoi) principles, underlying a magnificent, harmonic, universal architecture.

13 Comments on Atheism and Total Vindication

  1. “On what basis should one just assume pragmatism and ignore metaphysics?”

    Aesthetics, ultimately. In the case of pragmatist atheists, they are operating with a variant on Occam’s razor, which has never been about logic but about taste. David Bentley Hart pointed out in a review of a Daniel Dennett book* that atheists boast about the complexity and utter impenetrability (as concerns the layman) of modern science, but then whine about theology when its answers are similarly complex. Different parties play by different rules, in their book, because playing by the same rules might reveal them as losers. They always have to see themselves as winners: that’s the common factor in all atheist aesthetics.

    ( * Link to the Hart review: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/01/003-daniel-dennett-hunts-the-snark-15 )

    • Agreed, and aesthetics itself is also metaphysical.

      • Totally, but I would add the caveat that, when it comes down to the existential choice of choosing between reality and falsehood, aesthetics ends up as the domain that concerns us the most. You can demonstrate absolute metaphysical truth all day long, to which the willfully ignorant can defiantly respond, “Why should I care about the truth?” In comes the principle of non-contradiction, which is metaphysical, of course; however, it’s also aesthetic. When Aristotle says of the one who denies PNC, “But if he supposes nothing, but thinks this no more than he does not think this, how is his state any different from a plant’s[/potato’s]?” (Metaphysics IV.4.1008b) he is making an aesthetic appeal: you sure as hell don’t want to be a potato, so you’d best pick up the PNC. In other words, truth and reality (and assenting to them) are simply more beautiful than fantasy and falsehood (and rotting in them). Even if aesthetics has its roots in metaphysics, the only way we can existentially assent to metaphysics is via aesthetics.

      • Totally totally agree. Everything is at once ethical, metaphysical, epistemological and aesthetic. Any one of those humanly divided subjects necessitates the other. Bahnsen actually had a great thing on that long ago back in the day…

  2. Your argument was degraded by your comment that atheists possess a “communal spirit” of “bad hygiene, crappy beards, and faggy fedoras” and your link to a few atheists who fit this description comes across as petty. Someone who was an atheist would immediately become offended by this characterization, unless your interest is simply in “preaching to the choir” instead of formulating an intelligible argument meant for consumption by those who both agree and disagree with your point of view.

    • This is my ad hominem in response to the zillion atheist ad hominems I’ve received. I don’t care.

      • Good reply. I, too, am tired of statements of fact being taken as statements of motive. Effeminate men with bad hygiene is a fact–because there is such a thing as masculinity and femininity as well as disgusting and unkempt versus clean and orderly and nice-smelling.

  3. Agreed, metaphysical “stuff” (laws, universals, etc.) can’t be justified via scientific method.

    But why does metaphysical stuff necessitate God? Aren’t they self justifying?

  4. “In a universe of random, chaotic and deterministic natural process, value judgments are subjective, illusory and utterly transient. No phenomenon is better or worse than another: subjective feelings and emotions are merely chemical reactions in a vast void of meaningless, infinite chemical reactions. It is all sound and fury signifying nothing, making logical and conceptual entities like “truth,” “meaning,” “the self,” “scientific method,” etc., just as illusory and nonsensical as the soul, God or angels”

    You actually nailed what all atheists “believe” right here.

    As an atheist with a scientifically informed worldview, I understand the epistemic limits of empiricism and logical positivism. While these philosophies are flawed in the pursuit of “ultimate truth”, I consider the concept of “ultimate truth” to be unattainable/made up and thus value postpositivism as a “good enough” metric.

    99% certainty with the flexibility to be face-on-the-floor wrong and come out okay is pragmatic to me, and thus as you say, an aesthetic. Secular humanism is the idea that as helpless heaps of conscious matter in an uncaring universe with more similarities than differences, we can at least act to minimize suffering and maximize enjoyment (dopamine in the brain, whatever).

    We will probably never actually know what an electron is actually is. But we can figure out how to manipulate the thing enough to power our other things which we think add value to our existences whose “meanings” and the like are largely self-determined.

    I’m not an asshole to theists, but I reject their assertion because i don’t think the logical arguments that necessitate the existence of an anthropomorphic God are compelling. Cosmological arguments are made of special pleading. Since i see no reason to believe that the specific gods of the world’s religions are real, I resent it when people assert the authority of their fiction over me.

    I don’t think apotheosis is a scientific objective, but since science and technology are inextricably linked, and technology often reduces suffering while adding enjoyment, we tend to be biased towards equating technology with good and thus science as progress.

    I am also open to the idea that evidence for God(s) could emerge tomorrow, and I would have to change my mind. That’s fine. I just currently don’t see a lot of evidence for the supernatural in the natural. There are unanswered questions, sure, and I am okay with a degree of uncertainty in my life (which is a common to us all anywho).

    Cherry picking redditors and “explaining” their intellectual journeys is itself a bankrupt enterprise. By the way, that image you have that supposedly represents atheists was probably made by atheist SA goons poking fun at the worst examples of our community. The dumbest are hardly representative. Also, making homophobic comments doesn’t make you more of a man; you reveal yourself as one who has bought into the gender-normative myth or is just plain bigoted. If you didn’t mean it like that, whatever, but that’s how it looks to others.

    Also, redoves: no scientist thinks science is hard or impenetrable, or there would be no scientists. Quit projecting the notion, that may not be yours but you accept it, that there’s ivory tower bullshit going on. Science is unintuitive, yes, but not opaque.

    Which reminds me of that awful “priests in white coats” sentiment expressed above. Science is based on relative certainties. The days of science clergy are limited to 1950s instructional videos and Marvel Comics readership.

    Also, what’s metaphysical about the mind? Isn’t it a chemically regulated electrical pattern generated by synchronized neuron action (as far as we can tell)?

    • Imma’ just reply to the part directed to me: “. . . no scientist thinks science is hard or impenetrable, or there would be no scientists. Quit projecting the notion, that may not be yours but you accept it, that there’s ivory tower bullshit going on. Science is unintuitive, yes, but not opaque.”

      I believe you’re misinterpreting my point about Dennett. The point was that in atheists’ eyes, complexity and the need for dedicated study in order to understand it is a mark of success for science, but a mark of failure for theology. Whether or not theoretical complexity is a mark of a worldview’s success, if it *is* such a mark, then atheists like Dennett should accept it when it appears in non-scientific (in the modern sense) areas like theology. But they don’t, revealing the dishonesty of their rhetoric.

      Have you studied philosophy of science, perhaps the works of Thomas Kuhn (who has been mentioned on this blog) or Paul Feyerabend, to any decent length? In the history of science, certain hypotheses have been flat-out rejected by the contemporary science simply because they don’t meet the accepted theoretic mold of the day, not because they are “unscientific” in their empirical method or what have you. One of Feyerabend’s examples is the Galileo case: as far as the science of his day goes (i.e., a highly developed Ptolemaic/Aristotelian science), Galileo was actually quite unscientific. The shift that occurred was not due to the “realization” that “Galileo is right, all this other shit is wrong,” but was rather due to a host of political, philosophical, aesthetic, and psychological factors. (Since you say yourself that “ultimate truth” is “made up,” I believe this point should relatively easy for you to swallow.)

      Which is to say that you have to squint really hard to ignore the ivory tower stuff that goes on in science. The only science that is accepted today by the community is journal approved, and please spare me the incredible naivete that this process isn’t a form of censorship (if you want to be informed on this, you really must pick up some Feyerabend–he’s fairly well known in phi. of science). And in terms of an “initiated scientists vs. uninitiated masses” image, there are a couple things in favor of it. (1) Eliminativist materialists like Paul Churchland have explicitly stated that the “folk psychology” picture of the mind is downright absolutely false, and the only true picture is the one afforded by neuroscience. How many people in the world are capable of assuming the “unintuitive” perspective of neuroscience? It’s like putting the cookie jar on top of the refrigerator and telling the two-year-old that if he can get there (which he can’t) he can eat the cookies. This is “not opaque”? (2) The fact that scientists [A] must follow specific transmitted doctrines to be accepted as scientists; [B] can supposedly can access the world “as it really is,” or at least in a way that allows them power over the world in a way that the worldview and method of non-scientists do not; and [C] are accepted by the masses precisely because of the power they wield… to put it bluntly, all these are marks of a royal priesthood. Most corrupt priesthoods throughout history, going back to the Egyptians, operated exactly in this way: they can make the water clean, therefore we must follow them. The main distinguishing characteristic of modern science is that its initiation is meritocratic, not hereditary. On that, though, see point (1).

      And I haven’t even touched on the questions of research funding, DARPA, Google, and that mess!

      • thanks for the reply, it looks like I have some reading to do. Will respond when more knowledgeable.

  5. My response to both commenters above will be an article. The comment itself was getting too long.

  6. It takes a great deal of discipline and careful planning.

    Present-day scientific dogma doesn’t know how to measure these forces and therefore
    they are not part of the current scientific model of reality.

    There is a wonderful science fiction story ‘ a John Collier story ‘ that brings
    this idea home.

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