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Dawkins' Atheism Is OK, But So Is Theism

By       Message Thomas Farrell     Permalink
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The very quest of science bespeaks a search for the intelligible. But for centuries in western philosophy, intelligibility has been attributed to the Word. Thus the human desire to know discussed by Aristotle can be understood as providing a basis for reasoning our way to the existence of God, as Lonergan shows in the book "Insight: A Study of Human Understanding" (1992).

If Dawkins and other scientists today would prefer to carry out their investigations without making explicit that their very work presupposes some kind of intelligibility, they are of course free to proceed to do that. But that is a deliberate non-explanation. But is that non-explanation corrosive of the life of the mind, as Dawkins says that the supposed non-explanations of religion are?

In any event, Charles Darwin himself was a Christian. Granted, he may have found his own insight about evolution by natural selection corrosive to his religious faith, as other Christians have found his insights to be corrosive to their religious faith. But what exactly about their religious faith was being corroded?

So far as I know, the only things that Darwin's insight about evolution by natural selection might corrode would be the literal interpretation of the biblical accounts of creation in the book of Genesis. But I would say good riddance to the literal interpretation of those accounts of creation.

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However, I would point out that religious faith should involve far more than those accounts of creation. Religious faith involves trusting in God.

But if atheists want to say that they do not trust in God, I have no problem with their saying that. However, it is hard to live without trusting anyone or anything. So what is the atheist's motto going to be -- "Trust no one and nothing"?

In the title of his book Fetzer suggests that we should render unto Darwin what is his due. I have no problem with doing that. But let us also trust in God, the transcendent divine ground of being -- that without which there would have been no evolution.

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I can understand that American biologists do not like to be attacked by Protestant fundamentalists. As I've indicated, I think that Protestant fundamentalists should stop making such attacks. But Dawkins' militant atheism strikes me as the wrong way to go about fighting those attacks. I would urge American biologists to read Fetzer's book and to call it to the attention of Protestant fundamentalists.

Yes, evolutionary theory should be defended from the attacks of Protestant fundamentalists, as Fetzer has done. But the target should be their attacks on evolutionary theory -- the target should not be religious belief in God.

Dawkins and his fellow atheists surely cannot think that they are going to abolish religious belief in God in favor of their atheism. That strikes me as an unrealistic goal. But what would be a realistic goal, or perhaps goals?

It strikes me that American atheists should join other concerned Americans to support the efforts of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. But Dawkins is not an American. However, even he might recognize the wisdom of directing militant atheism to support militancy to support the well-known American doctrine about the separation of church and state.

For example, expressions of religiosity should be kept out of the public square. The public square should be non-religious or secular in spirit. The principle of the separation of church and state should be used by American biologists to argue against the introduction of so-called intelligent design theory into public education as a supposed alternative to evolutionary theory.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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