Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Answering the new atheism

Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God is a new book book by Dr. Scott Hahn and Benjamin Walker. When Scott Hahn had heard that there were students at Franciscan University of Steubenville losing their faith after reading Dawkins' The God Delusion he decided to write a book that specifically addressed Richard Dawkins' arguments. Even though the arguments that Dawkins' uses don't hold up to much rigor he writes in such a way that many people will be convinced by them. Even some of his fellow atheists after reading his book had said much the same thing about some of his arguments. Fr. Benedict Groeschel is fond of saying that he could write a better book defending atheism than Richard Dawkins' did. That being said many people just don't have the background to see the logical and philosophical errors made and this book provides and excellent counterpoint to Dawkins' contentions. While this book specifically addresses the arguments personally made by Richard Dawkins' it pretty much applies to many of the arguments used by all of the "new atheists."

I have never read any of Dawkins' books myself. When I was an atheist I didn't read any atheist apologetics until I started to lose my atheist faith and wanted to save it. This book though quotes extensively from the arguments used in "The God Delusion" and some of his other books to fairly state them. You also get a good idea how polemical Dawkins' book is from some of the statements quoted. This book though in contrary is not polemical towards Dawkins'. As is proper the arguments used by the authors stick to the realm of reason it does not rely on revelation at all. The focus of the book is not an apologetics work specifically towards Christianity or even atheism, but a direct response to Dawkins' reasoning for atheism.

Since one of Dawkins' main thrusts is to equate what is impossible as just highly improbable this book takes those arguments head on by showing how at times Dawkins' minimizes the numeric improbabilities of things happening purely by chance. Though this isn't done as Intelligent Design versus Darwinian evolution, but to answer certain claims that Dawkins' uses as proofs. This section of the book uses the type of information that was influential in bringing influential ex-atheist Anthony Flew from atheism to theism. Anthony Flew has even praised this book by saying "Rarely, if ever in my many years as a procfvessor of philosophy did I hever have the opportunity to read such a compelling argument."

The latter sections of the book deal to a large part with Dawkins' philosophy and his grounds for morality. This is really where Dawkins' case is weakest since he has such a poor grasp of real theological arguments and philosophy. In Dawkins' world straw men evolve quite quickly. He never seems to realize how the arguments he uses to bash religion, especially Christianity in many cases could be more aptly used against his view of how evolution works. It is quite evident that his own worldview departs from his chance-based evolutionary scheme when he feels it necessary to do so and will not quite go along with the conclusions of what he preaches. He is obviously trying to prove at times that atheists can be good people - something I would totally agree with. My own experience was that when I did something morally good when I was an atheist it was not because of my atheistic faith, but often despite it.

Richard Dawkins' also tries to show that religious believers have nothing to worry about from atheists such as himself while at the same time calling religion a "mind virus" and teaching religion to children as "child abuse." The last chapter of the book is an interesting theoretical exercise in the consequences of what a society that had a King Dawkins at its helm and followed what he has said would be like. Not a pretty picture if you take seriously that teaching religious belief is "child abuse" and that euthanasia, bestiality, and infanticide are "moral" choices.

I found this to be an excellent book and Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker have really done their homework in answering Dawkins' arguments in a very accessible way. Many of the arguments of the new atheists are not as strong as they appear and this book serves as a good inoculation to those arguments.


Samuel Skinner said...

Atheist faith? Okay, you are an odd one. First rule of the EAC- we don't have faith. No wonder they kicked you out!

Things happening by chance is irrelevan to Dawkin's argument. Why? Because chance is natural! There is another problem- Dawkins uses logical, not possibility based proofs. They don't really deal with chance.

So for starters the author hasn't even correctly responded to Dawkins... lets see what is next.

Good despite your atheist faith? Dear merciful emperor- don't tell me you are like Vox Day! If you consider THAT morality and atheism was "Obstructing" you from it... seriously- that is disturbing on so many levels.

You never say how his own arguments could be used against him.

Dawkins doesn't intend to kill or persectute believers- that is what he meant by "nothing to fear". He also has little interest in politics.

Euthenaisa, infanticide and bestality are moral choices. In case you weren't aware a "moral choice" is when you have to use morality to come to the correct decision.

So far it appears all the arguments are empty and hollow, only able to appeal to those too weak minded to see through their sophistry. Harsh, but given the fact that you read the counter book, but not the origional (seriously- never read the rebutal without reading the origional).

Dawkins is not the best and well written atheist- that title belongs to Epicuras. He is dead so someone else has to do the writting. If you think all your critiques are so "irrefutable" use google and search for atheists who give refutations to the falsehoods you believe.

FVThinker said...

You haven't read Dawkins book yet you feel qualified to critique it!?!?!?

DUDE!!!!! You are nicely entrenched in the world of religious apologetics. As such, you don't answer the challenges that were ACTUALLY made, but the challenges that you want to be made (or were provided to you by other apologists). ...terribly weak.

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
Although it is possible not to read a whole book and respond to it (you can read the chapter titles and skim- Dawkin's does go off on the occasional tangent. His stories are interesting though), it isn't a good idea. It leads to what you just did- straw manning a person's arguments, refuting them and then declaring you have answered their book, when in reality the only book you rebutted is one in your own head.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Actually, Jeff isn't critiquing Dawkins. He's writing a book review of a book by Hahn and Wiker that critiques Dawkins.

This is the first I've heard that in order to write a book review one needs to have read not only the book one is reviewing but all the books that book is engaging.

I can certainly see how having read Dawkins might add depth to Jeff's discussion of Hahn and Wiker's book and make him a better reader and critic of that book; but I don't see how a failure to have read Dawkins' books invalidates him as a reader of a book about Dawkins.

And of course it begs the question of how many theology books Dawkins himself read before he began writing critiques of religious belief.

Anonymous said...

The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins (Author)

More in Bargain Books

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
It isn't essential, but if one writes about how "You also get a good idea how polemical Dawkins' book is from some of the statements quoted" and other statements about how this book crushes Dawkins book, it is sort of essential that you actually have read the book you claim is being crushed.

The exception to this rule is Pierre Bayard- but he has written a book on how to do that.

You have to read the book being critiqued if you what to declare the responce book an effective rebuttal.

Dawkins says (I believe- I'm not positive) that he has read little theology. He does point out it is completely irrelevant- theology is the STUDY of God and given his central point of God not existing that means it is useless. What Dawkins has studied are arguments for God- and like just about all atheist bokks, he trounces them.

Julie D. said...

Just a couple of things.

As Melanie said, Jeff is reviewing the book that rebuts Dawkins' book. As a review of "Answering the New Atheism" I find it very good. All the objections I see here merely show that y'all also need to read the book before commenting with such authority. N'est-ce pas? :-)

Also, I do remember seeing in a couple of places that the book these authors are taking to task was one that was embarrassing to many atheists, unlike his previous books. I have read the forward to this one and remember that the authors stated they wouldn't have written the book at all had not so many of their students been falling prey to the bad logic used by Dawkins in The God Delusion. This is their response. They are not rebutting all of his books.

Robin Edgar said...

"That being said many people just don't have the background to see the logical and philosophical errors made and this book provides and excellent counterpoint to Dawkins' contentions."

Let's not forget the factual errors and disingenuous declarations, if not outright lies. . . that Richard Dawkins is clearly guilty of in his attacks on religion. For starters, the arguments for ID have by no means been completely "refuted" by scientists. Indeed a reasonable number of bona fide scientists are proponents of ID aka Intelligent Design. I look forward to seeing Professor Richard Dawkins' God-free explanation as to how evolution aka natural selection caused the total solar eclipse to so distinctly resemble the pupil and iris of a gigantic "Eye of God" staring down from the heavens. . .

What was it that Charles Darwin said about the eye?

"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." Yes, he does go on to defend his theory of evolu tion but that initial statement still bears some serious reflection.

Darwin also said - "The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!" I can reasonably presume that he was referring to the "eyes" on a peacock's tail and can thus imagine that the total solar eclipse "Eye of God" might have been more than a little bit disconcerting to him had he been aware of it.

Robin Edgar said...

It looks like the URL for the photo of the 2001 total solar eclipse "Eye of God" was cut off a bit. Here is a link to it.

Shannon said...

I find it curious that it was students at a "rigorously Catholic" university who didn't have enough logic or philosophy and were swayed by a single author that prompted this book.

Or maybe that was just a good excuse.

Summa Theologiae said...

Dawkins trounces the arguments for God's existence? Are you kidding? I've read one chapter of Dawkins' book, the one that to me personally mattered most; his critique of Aquinas. I cannot say how appalling his treatment of Aquinas' arguments were. Probably the most inept of any atheist literature I've seen. Nowhere are they stated/quoted in Dawkin's book. Hence he feels he has some liberty to misrepresent them at points (the first way for instance). His treatment of the fourth way on perfection concerning an "pre-eminitely peerless stinker" would have been embarrassing if it weren't for the general populance's ignorance of metaphysics. He completely ignores the distinction between predicamental and transcendental perfections. In a way I don't blame Dawkins, the fourth way is the hardest and assumes the most prior knowledge of the reader but he is writing a book on it. Only atheists who are equally as non-adverent to the subtleties of the arguments would declare it a "trouncing". I'm only skimming the surface here ...