” Atheists, The Origin Of Species” By Nickolas Spencer and Book review by Michael Robbins. ” “Atheists were not always as intellectually lazy as Dawkins and his ilk”
A formal definition of religion is notoriously difficult to formulate, but it must surely involve reference to a particular way of life, practices oriented toward a conception of how one should live. “You must change your life,” as the broken statue of the god Apollo seems to say in Rilke’s poem. Science does not—it isn’t designed to—recommend approaches to what Emerson calls “the conduct of life.” Nevertheless, Richard Dawkins claims that religion “is a scientific theory,” “a competing explanation for facts about the universe and life.” This is—if you’ll forgive my theological jargon—bullshit.
To be sure, several scriptures offer, for instance, their own accounts of creation. But Christians have recognized the allegorical nature of these accounts since the very beginnings of Christianity. Basil, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine—they all assumed that God’s creation was eternal, not something that unfolded in six days or any other temporal frame. In the third century Origen of Alexandria wrote:
To what person of intelligence, I ask, will the account seem logically consistentthat says there was a “first day” and a “second” and “third,” in which also “evening” and “morning” are named, without a sun, without a moon, and without stars, and even in the case of the first day without a heaven (Gen. 1:5-13)? …. Surely, I think no one doubts that these statements are made by Scripture in the form of a type by which they point toward certain mysteries.
Well, no one but Richard Dawkins. As Marilynne Robinson writes:
The notion that religion is intrinsically a crude explanatory strategy that should be dispelled and supplanted by science is based on a highly selective or tendentious reading of the literatures of religion. In some cases it is certainly fair to conclude that it is based on no reading of them at all.
Science and religion ask different questions about different things. Where religion addresses ontology, science is concerned with ontic description. Indeed, it is what Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart calls their “austere abdication of metaphysical pretensions” that enables the sciences to do their work. So when, for instance, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne and pop-cosmologist Lawrence Krauss dismiss the (metaphysical) problem of how something could emerge from nothing by pointing to the Big Bang or quantum fluctuation, it is difficult to be kind: Quantum fluctuations, the uncertainty principle, the laws of quantum physics themselves—these are something. Nothing is not quantum anything. It is nothing. Nonbeing. This, not empty space, is what “nothing” signifies for Plato and Aquinas and Heidegger, no matter what Krauss believes. No particles, no fluctuation, no laws, no principles, no potentialities, no states, no space, no time. No thing at all..
Atheists: The Origin of the Species seems to have been born out of frustration with these and other confusions perpetuated by the so-called “New Atheists” and their allies, who can’t be bothered to familiarize themselves with the traditions they traduce. Several thoughtful writers have already laid bare the slapdash know-nothingism of today’s mod-ish atheism, but Spencer’s not beating a dead horse—he’s beating a live one, in the hope that Nietzsche might rush to embrace it. Several critics have noted that if evangelical atheists (as the philosopher John Graycalls them) are ignorant of religion, as they usually are, then they aren’t truly atheists. “The knowledge of contraries is one and the same,” as Aristotle said. If your idea of God is not one that most theistic traditions would recognize, you’re not talking about God (at most, the New Atheists’ arguments are relevant to the low-hanging god of fundamentalism and deism). But even more damning is that such atheists appear ignorant of atheism as well.
Posted By F. Sheikh
By Patrick Cockburn
World View: The slickness of Israel’s spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
Nowadays, people claim a human right to many things. Prisoners claim a human right to vote. Convicted immigrants resisting deportation claim a human right to family life. Victims claim a human right to damages. Travellers claim a human right to roam. Benefit claimants claim a human right to welfare. The ill and infirm claim a human right to medical and social assistance. I could go on. Today, it’s fair to say that somebody wanting something can usually frame its receipt as the performance of a human right.
The essence of these human-rights claims is an assertion that the claimant has alegal right to something from the state. Whether each claim is meritorious is neither here nor there; what matters is that the claim is made on the basis of there being a human right to it. This human-rights discourse is of a recent vintage and gained currency during and after the Second World War with the publication of Hersch Lauterpacht’s influential book, An International Bill of the Rights of Man(1945), the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).
Although the human-rights discourse was in abeyance for several decades after the Second World War, it has come to the fore of legal and political thinking in recent years. In 1998, the UK Human Rights Act was passed by the Labour government with cross-party support. Even now, for all the gnashing of teeth by the Conservatives over decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, the Conservatives remain committed to the human-rights discourse; it’s just that they prefer the British to the European version. Damian Green, UK police and criminal-justice minister, recently observed that ‘there is absolutely a Conservative case for human rights’. And he directed his ire at those who seek to question the worth of human rights: ‘The whole political spectrum in this country believes in human rights. This should not be a political issue in a country like Britain.’
The consensus over human rights needs interrogating because Conservative Eurosceptic arguments over the European Convention on Human Rights are apt to confuse rather than clarify. Similarly, the Labour Party’s ‘unswerving support for the Human Rights Act’ as being ‘core to what we believe in as a party’ is usually justified with unhelpful tub thumping and a nationalistic massaging of history. So,Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, states that he is ‘enormously proud of how [human rights have] improved countless people’s lives in this country and protected hundreds of millions of citizens across Europe’. And he claims that ‘human rights are an ancient British tradition’ that dates back 800 years to Magna Carta, ‘the world’s first bill of rights’
Posted By F. Sheikh