Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John Haught Vs The Movement Atheists

The Atheist Delusion

Can hope exist in a Godless universe? Is Darwinian evolution a boon to religion--not the final nail in the coffin, as Fundamentalists would have you believe? There's an excellent interview in Salon with John Haught, author of "God after Darwin", "Is Nature Enough?" and the forthcoming "God and the New Atheism". This man has the bone fides to adequately address both sides of the science verses religion argument:

...He was the only theologian to testify as an expert witness in the landmark 2005 Dover trial... Haught testified against intelligent design, arguing that it's both phony science and bad theology. But Haught is also a fierce critic of hard-core atheists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who claim that evolution leads logically to atheism. He says both sides place too much faith in science. "Ironically," Haught writes, "ID advocates share with their ideological enemies, the evolutionary materialists, the assumption that science itself can provide ultimate explanations..."

I have good friends who are Atheists. But I think some should be mindful of the expression, "When you hunt dragons for too long, you become one yourself". One of Haught's peeves is the sloppy theology expressed in certain Atheist bestsellers:

...My chief objection to the new atheists is that they are almost completely ignorant of what's going on in the world of theology. They talk about the most fundamentalist and extremist versions of faith, and they hold these up as though they're the normative, central core of faith...They miss the moral core of Judaism and Christianity -- the theme of social justice, which takes those who are marginalized and brings them to the center of society. They give us an extreme caricature of faith and religion...

I would add that it's dangerous for people to define themselves primarily by what they are against. You risk the danger of becoming reverse image of your own straw man. Haught continues:

...The only thing new in the so-called new atheism is the sense that we should not tolerate faith because, by doing so, we open people's minds to any crazy idea -- including dangerous ideas like those that led to 9/11. In every other respect, this atheism is similar to the secular humanism of the modern period, which said that faith is incompatible with science, that religion and belief in God are bad for morality, and that theology should be purged from culture and academic life. These are not new ideas...

If I understand Haught correctly, he advocates a "layered" understanding of the universe. He gives this fun example:

...if a pot of tea is boiling on the stove, and someone asks you why it's boiling, one answer is to say it's boiling because H2O molecules are moving around excitedly, making a transition from the liquid state to the gaseous state. And that's a very good answer. But you could also say it's boiling because my wife turned the gas on. Or you could say it's boiling because I want tea. Here you have three levels of explanation which are approaching phenomena from different points of view. This is how I see the relationship of theology to science...

In the case of the boiling tea pot, all three "levels of explanation" enrich the answer as to why it's boiling. I guess this means that everyone should behave, and if anyone insists their explanation is the only reason the water is boiling--they don't get any tea! OUCH--I just burned my hand on the kettle! Heh!

Haught testified against Intelligent Design in the Dover Case. He makes a compelling case for spiritual people to embrace Darwin:

...Darwin's thought seems to be more important intellectually and culturally than it's ever been. My view is that theology, instead of ignoring or closing its eyes to it, should look it squarely in the face. It has everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing so. In my view, Darwin's thought is a gift to theology...

Haught address the issue of Gov. Mike Huckabee and his creationist comments:

...To admit that he "personally" rejects evolution may sound harmless enough at first sight. But when any Christians reject evolution these days, one may presume that they usually, though not always, do so on the basis of a literalist style of biblical interpretation. It's this that concerns me. Combined with the principle of private interpretation of Scripture, biblical literalism can end up short-circuiting the process of public debate, justifying almost any domestic and international policies one finds convenient. I don't know for sure that this is the case with Huckabee, but I'm still worried...

We all should be worried. I don't buy this "it's my personal" belief nonsense. That's like saying 'we hate the sin, not the sinner'. Thinking like that was a excuse to persecute witches: 'Oh, you are guilty of witchcraft, so we are going to burn you alive--but don't take it personally. We don't have anything against you--personally--it's the sin of witchcraft we are trying to eliminate. Hey, cheer up! Your body may be burnt up, but your soul will be saved in Heaven. So you should really look at it like we are doing you a favor.' Someone who is willing to discard heaps of evidence for something (in this case, evolution), and go with their personal views--is a dangerous person. They should not inhabit the highest office of the USA.

But I've already quoted too much from this wide ranging and informative interview. Please check it out yourself.

No comments: