Transcendental Science

Good. After Michael Ruse it’s a relief to read Dawkins on the same general subject.

You can’t statistically explain improbable things like living creatures by saying that they must have been designed because you’re still left to explain the designer, who must be, if anything, an even more statistically improbable and elegant thing. Design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything. It can only be a proximate explanation. A plane or a car is explained by a designer but that’s because the designer himself, the engineer, is explained by natural selection.

And it’s no good pretending otherwise, is it, especially if you simply can’t possibly believe that otherwise. It’s ridiculous to expect it. And then, it’s not as if religion is uniformly and reliably beneficent, or even harmless. That’s worth keeping in mind too, when people get indignant with atheists who actually have the bad taste and lack of tact to say they are atheists. There’s that little matter of the Vatican and condoms, just for instance…

A delusion that encourages belief where there is no evidence is asking for trouble. Disagreements between incompatible beliefs cannot be settled by reasoned argument because reasoned argument is drummed out of those trained in religion from the cradle. Instead, disagreements are settled by other means which, in extreme cases, inevitably become violent.

Sometimes quietly violent, but nonetheless violent for that. The Vatican doesn’t go into Africa and Latin American with machine guns blazing, but it might as well. It abuses its ridiculous undeserved power, to order people to kill themselves and their relatives for no good reason; it causes the deaths of millions by that abuse of power; that’s pretty violent.

And you see the same problem of the inability of reasoned argument to adjudicate between incompatible beliefs in the case of religious hatred of homosexuality – or sodomy, as I heard some charm-boy call it on C-Span the other day. They can’t for the life of them come up with a good reason for it – but so what? They don’t need to. They are convinced that their invented god hates it, and that’s all they need. Reasoned argument doesn’t come into it. Secularists are always at a disadvantage in that situation, because the believers just brush off the reasoned arguments; they throw up what they ‘know’ as if it were a magic shield – and for them it is.

“Unweaving the Rainbow” specifically attacks the idea that a materialist, mechanist, naturalistic worldview makes life seem meaningless. Quite the contrary, the scientific worldview is a poetic worldview, it is almost a transcendental worldview. We are amazingly privileged to be born at all and to be granted a few decades — before we die forever — in which we can understand, appreciate and enjoy the universe. And those of us fortunate enough to be living today are even more privileged than those of earlier times. We have the benefit of those earlier centuries of scientific exploration. Through no talent of our own, we have the privilege of knowing far more than past centuries. Aristotle would be blown away by what any schoolchild could tell him today. That’s the kind of privileged century in which we live. That’s what gives my life meaning. And the fact that my life is finite, and that it’s the only life I’ve got, makes me all the more eager to get up each morning and set about the business of understanding more about the world into which I am so privileged to have been born.

Testify, brother. You rock.

7 Responses to “Transcendental Science”