mai 2010

Ny-ateistisk litteratur, del 2 – Dawkins

Min venn fra 80-årenes L’Abri, Bjørn Are Davidsen, er en av de få nordmenn som over lang tid har prøvd å ta livet av de mange oppdiktede mytene om kristendommen, og slik drevet godt apologetisk arbeid. Han kommenterer noen ganger her på bloggen, og har sin egen blog: Dekodet. Han har også gitt ut flere bøker, bl.a. en helt ny en som heter: Da jorden ble flat – om myter og vandrehistorier om kirkens forhold til fremskrittet.

Jeg kom til å tenke på Bjørn Are da jeg leste videre i David B. Harts artkkel om ny-ateismen, der han bl.a. karakteriserer den berømte kristendomsangriperen Richard Dawkins på følgende måte:

… But something worse than mere misunderstanding lies at the base of Dawkins’ own special version of the argument from infinite regress – a version in which he takes a pride of almost maternal fierceness. Any “being,” he asserts, capable of exercising total control over the universe would have to be an extremely complex being, and because we know that complex beings must evolve from simpler beings and that the probability of a being as complex as that evolving is vanishingly minute, it is almost certain that no God exists. Q.E.D. But, of course, this scarcely rises to the level of nonsense. We can all happily concede that no complex, ubiquitous, omniscient, and omnipotent superbeing, inhabiting the physical cosmos and subject to the rules of evolution, exists. But who has ever suggested the contrary?

Numerous attempts have been made, by the way, to apprise Dawkins of what the traditional definition of divine simplicity implies, and of how it logically follows from the very idea of transcendence, and to explain to him what it means to speak of God as the transcendent fullness of actuality, and how this differs in kind from talk of quantitative degrees of composite complexity. But all the evidence suggests that Dawkins has never understood the point being made, and it is his unfortunate habit contemptuously to dismiss as meaningless concepts whose meanings elude him. Frankly, going solely on the record of his published work, it would be rash to assume that Dawkins has ever learned how to reason his way to the end of a simple syllogism. …

En knusende anmeldelse av ny-ateistisk litteratur

David Bentley Hart er en ortodoks kristen i USA, og har skrevet en artikkel om det kan kaller ny-ateistisk litteratur i siste nummer av First Things (mitt favoritt-tidsskrift). Han utga boka «Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies.» på Yale University Press i fjor, og denne artikkelen er et resultat av arbeidet med den. Han er ganske knusende i sin omtale av denne lettvinte og overflatiske litteraturen – da er det noe helt annet å lese Hume og Nietzsche (se slutten av dette innlegget). Slik skriver han:

… I can only say that I have arrived at it honestly. In the course of writing a book published just this last year, I dutifully acquainted myself not only with all the recent New Atheist bestsellers, but also with a whole constellation of other texts in the same line, and I did so, I believe, without prejudice. No matter how patiently I read, though, and no matter how Herculean the efforts I made at sympathy, I simply could not find many intellectually serious arguments in their pages, and I came finally to believe that their authors were not much concerned to make any. … …

Take, for instance, the recently published 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Simple probability, surely, would seem to dictate that a collection of essays by fifty fairly intelligent and zealous atheists would contain at least one logically compelling, deeply informed, morally profound, or conceptually arresting argument for not believing in God. Certainly that was my hope in picking it up. Instead, I came away from the whole drab assemblage of preachments and preenings feeling rather as if I had just left a large banquet at which I had been made to dine entirely on crushed ice and water vapor.

To be fair, the shallowness is not evenly distributed. Some of the writers exhibit a measure of wholesome tentativeness in making their cases, and as a rule the quality of the essays is inversely proportionate to the air of authority their authors affect. For this reason, the philosophers … tend to come off as the most insufferable contributors. … The scientists fare almost as poorly. … The contributors drawn from other fields offer nothing better. The Amazing Randi, being a magician, knows that there is quite a lot of credulity out there. The historian of science Michael Shermer notes that there are many, many different and even contradictory systems of belief. The journalist Emma Tom had a psychotic scripture teacher when she was a girl. Et, as they say, cetera. The whole project probably reaches its reductio ad absurdum when the science-fiction writer Sean Williams explains that he learned to reject supernaturalism in large part from having grown up watching Doctor Who.

So it goes. In the end the book as a whole adds up to absolutely nothing – as, frankly, do all the books in this new genre – and I have to say I find this all somewhat depressing. For one thing, it seems obvious to me that the peculiar vapidity of New Atheist literature is simply a reflection of the more general vapidity of all public religious discourse these days, believing and unbelieving alike. … …

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