Premature termination

Bryan Appleyard cuts through all the verbiage and sets everyone straight with just a few words – nineteen words, to be exact.

…the new, militant atheism of Richard Dawkins and friends…The disputes didn’t amount to much then and they don’t amount to much now. Put it like this: it is blindingly obvious that claims about a spiritual reality can neither be proved nor disproved by material means. End of argument.

End of argument! So tidy! Except for the tiny little fact that proving and disproving don’t exhaust the possibilities, so there is argument after all. Quite a lot of it, in fact. So much for ‘End of argument’ – and for bossy attempts to end arguments.

In order to make their case meaningful, the Dawkinsians must prove that religion is demonstrably a bad thing…they can’t prove this…because the persistence of religion in all human societies strongly suggests that, even in the most basic Darwinian terms, it has been good for us as a species.

Uh huh, and the persistence of rape and murder and general violence and paranoia and crabbiness in all human societies also strongly suggests that it has been good for us as a species, does it? No complexities there? No issues about what is good for the individual, not to mention the gene, not being good for ‘us as a species’? No issues about adaptations to one environment persisting into a different environment? Nothing to indicate that that claim might be a little simplistic?

The point is not how the watch was designed but the fact that it is designed. Some process has led to its existence and it is that process that matters because the mechanism and purpose of the watch clearly make it different in kind from, say, rocks. Equally, humans also require a different type of explanation from rocks. It may be natural selection or it may be some innate force in the universe. Either way, it is reasonable to associate this force with morality and God.

Or immorality and Devil. Or gymnastics and Energy. Or technopop and Noise. Or – you get the idea.

This is an entirely decent and persuasive argument against the intolerance of the atheists, in that it shows religion makes perfect sense, and getting irritated because you think it’s “untrue” is just silly.

Okay, I give up, this stuff is too sophisticated, I can’t keep up with it.

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