Atheism: The End of Reason

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There’s a new atheism taking root in America, a movement more powerful and subversive than the atheism of Madalyn Murray O’Hare in the 1950s and 1960s. This militant atheism is led by individuals such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. Harris’ bestselling Letter to a Christian Nation absolutely and unflinchingly attacks all religions—but is particularly hard on the Christian faith. Harris writes, “It is time for us as Americans to outgrow our religious beliefs.” His unwavering hatred for religion is laced with strong, condemning language and illustrations designed to convince the world that Christians are stupid for believing in God.

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Commenting on Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, which takes a militant approach similar to that of Sam Harris, fellow atheist Michael Ruse, professor of philosophy at Florida State University, says, “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist.” And in response to Sam Harris, atheist and professor of psychology Scott Atran used almost identical words: “I find it fascinating that among the brilliant scientists and philosophers… there was no convincing evidence presented that they know how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be rational and evidence-based. It makes me embarrassed to be a scientist and atheist.”

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The Big Bang theory, along with Einstein’s theory of general relativity, implies that there is indeed an “in the beginning.” All the data indicates a universe that is exploding outward from a point of infinite density. We know quite well that this singularity is not really a point in the universe; it is the whole of three-dimensional space compressed to zero size. This, in fact, actually represents a boundary at which space ceases to exist. Even the terms plead for explanation. At the point of the universe’s origin, there is something rather than nothing—a mystery that leaves science totally silent.

Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing

Not only is there something, the laws of science actually break down right at the beginning. The very starting point for an atheistic universe is based on something that cannot explain its own existence. The scientific laws by which atheists want all certainty established do not even exist as a category at the beginning of the universe because, according to those laws of science by which atheists want to measure all things, matter cannot simply “pop into existence” on its own.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and atheist, said that the university is “just there.” But that clearly is not a scientific explanation by any stretch of the imagination. According to science, nothing that exists (or that is) can explain its own existence. Yet, according to their cosmology, we just happen to be here. This means that any purpose for our existence for our being is as random as any cause for our being. Atheist Stephen Jay Gould makes this observation:

We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures… because comets struck the earth and wiped out dinosaurs, thereby giving mammals a chance not otherwise available… because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age… because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a “higher” answer—but none exists… We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must construct these answers ourselves—from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way.

The Odds of So-Called Random Life

Francis Crick (1916-2004), a British molecular biologist and co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, regarding how life began, made the absurd comment, “Probably because a spaceship from another planet brought spores to seed the earth.” Carl Sagan believed the whole universe is “nothing more than molecules in motion.” He believed that some extraterrestrial entity would be able to explain us to ourselves and thereby justified the billions of dollars spend on listening in on outer space, watching and waiting for contact.

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Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Science has calculated the odds against our universe randomly taking a form suitable for life as one out of 10,000,000,000¹²³—a number that exceeds all imagination. Astronomers Fred Hoyle and N.C. Wickramasinghe found that the odds of the random formation of a single enzyme from amino acids anywhere on our planet’s surface are one in 10²°. They note that there are about two thousand enzymes, saying the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in (10²°) ²°°°° = 10 to the 40,000th power, an outrageously small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup. And this is just one step in the formation of life.

What about DNA and its origin, or of the transcription of DNA to RNA, which scientists admit cannot even be numerically computed. Moreover, no one has explained the process of mitosis or meiosis. The chance of the random ordering of organic molecules is not essentially different from a big fat zero. Remember, that’s the zero to which Sam Harris gives credit for everything; that’s his explanation for why we are here. And if we accept this explanation, the resulting pointlessness of existence is devastating to our desire to feel significant. Thankfully, this rhetoric does not faze billions of people who still seek a relationship with God.

Man’s Search for Meaning

If life is random, then the inescapable consequence is that there can be no ultimate meaning and purpose to existence. This consequence is the existential  Achilles’ heel of atheistic belief. As individuals—and collectively in cultures around the globe—man has been searching for meaning for centuries. But if life is random, we have climbed the evolutionary ladder only to find nothing at the top.

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The greatest disappointment you can feel is when you have experienced what you thought would bring ultimate in pleasure—and it has let you down. Pleasure without boundaries produces a life without purpose. That is real pain. No death, no tragedy, no atrocity—nothing really matters. Life is sheer hollowness. Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and philosopher, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, sometimes asked his patients who suffered from a multitude of mental torments, “Why do you not commit suicide?” From their answers he could find the proper guideline or approach for his psychotherapy. He called this approach logotherapy.

Frankl, along with Voltaire, Sartre, and Nietzsche, were honest and consistent in their views. They admitted the ridiculousness of life—the pointlessness of everything in an atheistic world. In contrast, contemporary atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, are so blind to the conceit of their own minds that they try to present this view of life as some sort of triumphal liberation. Sartre, as atheistic intellectual elites know but are embarrassed to acknowledge, denounced atheism on his deathbed as philosophically unlivable. Hear what Sartre said: ” I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.”

Morality and the Atheist

There is no way for militant atheists like Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins to argue for moral preferences except by their own subjective means—that is, their personal preference or environment. What is the objective moral framework these men adopt on which they build their objection to God? Harris said, “I can see no moral framework operating in the world, but what I do see is morally condemnable.” In philosophical terms, this is called a mutually-exclusive assumption. Therefore, the moral framework he is forced to adopt is, in reality, one he built himself.

Bertrand Russell admitted he couldn’t live as though ethical values were simply a matter of personal taste. He said, “I do not know the solution.” Russell tried to get around the existence of objective morality. When asked how he differentiated between good and bad, Russell answered, “I don’t have any justification any more than I have when I distinguish between blue and yellow… I can see they are different.” Consider this: You distinguish blue and yellow by seeing them, but you distinguish good and bad by what faculty? Russell’s response was, “By my feelings.” To simply say you do not see a moral order to the universe is to ignore the real issue. Rather than proof of the absence of moral order, this amounts to insistence on determining for oneself what is good and what is evil in spite of what we intuitively know to be true.

Concluding Remarks

Routinely, three tests for truth are applied: (1) logical consistency, (2) empirical adequacy, and (3) experiential relevance. We come to a real situation of determining how many levels of cause-and-effect it takes to explain all of existence. We cannot have an infinite series of causes in time, starting from the present of any completed state and moving backward in search of an ultimate cause, because if the sequence were infinite, we would never arrive at the present. A can of alphabet soup dumped onto a table implies that somebody made that soup. You would absolutely deny that those shapes just happened to be in the soup. And if the letters fell out of the can in sequence every time you would never even consider the possibility that it was accidental.

Something does not come from nothing.

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Atheism: The End of Reason

  1. hmm, and someone who didn’t study biology thinks he can write about it. do you see how hypocritical your little meme is?

    and yep morals are subjective. Even for you and your religion. How many times has what religion claims that god wants changed?

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    • Sounds like you are hostile toward Christianity if not monotheism in general. Am I missing something here? Morals are NOT supposed to be subjective or based upon relativism. There is NOT more than one ultimate truth. Although I understand that things like cannibalism, pedophilia, polygamy, marrying children, and the like have been both acceptable and unacceptable throughout history and across cultures, I believe there is an ultimate morality that trumps cultural differences. It WAS wrong for Hitler to exterminate over 6 million Jews. Catholic priests should NOT have sex at all (according to the Vatican) let alone with underage boys. Doctors should NOT commit sexual assault on their patients. I hold the opinion that ultimate morality is a reflection of the character of God. I believe in the deontology that an action itself is wrong based on biblical principles, period, not just because the outcome is negative.

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      • Why aren’t morals supposed to be subjective and based on relativism? You have yet to show that there is any ultimate truth and that your beliefs reflect it.

        YOu may believe what you’d like. the problem is can you show your beliefs to be true? Yep, it was wrong for Hitler to exterminate millions of Jews, homosexuals, disabled, gay, etc people. Now, consider what the Christian god has done, Poet. Was it wrong for this god to have exterminated people in the magic flood? Was it wrong for this god to have killed people in Egypt when they were controlled by a dictator that this god was controlling? Would it be okay that this god will work with Satan to corrupt faithful Christians after they lived under Jesus Christ’s rulership for an eon (Revelation 19-21)”

        How doe your believe that there is an ultimate morality as a reflection of your god when your god is no better than humans?

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      • He is your God too and you’re purposely pushing him away? Tell me why? Do you enjoy darkness and torment rather than peace and happiness?
        If you ENJOY the dead empty feeling inside then Satan already has you.

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      • In that there is no god or gods, there is no god of “mine”. but please do show evidence for your version of the Christian god if you want to make these claims, HG. You may also want to explain why you can’t do the things promised that any baptized person who has accepted JC as savior can do in the gospel of Mark.

        You see, you have no more evidence for your god than those theists whom you are sure are wrong. You all make the same claims, and you can’t show your version to be any more real than theirs. You are an atheist to those gods for the same reasons I am, no evidence. That’s the reason I don’t believe, there is nothing to show that your claims are true. All you have is fear and false claims to try to convince people that your words are true.

        I’m very happy and contented, HG; no “dead empty feeling” at all. Why do you falsely claim I am not? The reason seems to be that many Christians find they have to lie to themselves about non-Christians in order to think that they and only they have the right answer. People like you need to fantasize that everyone but you is sad, lonely, etc. This is why I guess atheists so terrify some Christians, just by living our lives, we show you that you are wrong.

        And even if your god did exist, I have no problem “pushing away” and actively being against a genocidal idiot that intentionally works with its supposed archenemy to murder more people after all of the non-Christians are murdered and the christians live under JC’s rule for an eon. Answer my questions, HG. Was it wrong for this god to have exterminated people in the magic flood? Was it wrong for this god to have killed people in Egypt when they were controlled by a dictator that this god was controlling?

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  2. I really have to let this one go. I can see you are not “following” my blog; rather, you have latched on to my blog post merely to attack what I believe. This is not the forum for that. I don’t “debate” non-believers through my blog posts.

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  3. Hello,

    Thank you for the really interesting post. I would like to post my thoughts on some of what you have written. I would genuinely be interested in discussing this further. I do not intend any of what I write to be an attack or dismissive.

    “I find it fascinating that among the brilliant scientists and philosophers… there was no convincing evidence presented that they know how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be rational and evidence-based. It makes me embarrassed to be a scientist and atheist.” Could you provide a link so I can read where this can from?
    I agree that humans are not naturally rational. Indeed, if we were inherently rational we wouldn’t need courses on how to think rationally. However, the fruits of rational thinking are pretty impressive, for instance we can converse online via the internet. Likewise science in its various disciplines has furnished us with an unparalleled amount of knowledge.

    “At the point of the universe’s origin, there is something rather than nothing—a mystery that leaves science totally silent.” I haven’t ever read a science text that says we came from nothing. So, yes, there is something rather than nothing (which Lawrence Krauss has given an account of, as has Brian Cox et al. in ‘Universal’). But I would also suggest that everyone is silent at this juncture. I don’t think anyone can claim to know what would be the case prior to the Universe’s origin.

    “Bertrand Russell said that the university [sic] is ‘just there.’” I agree this is an unsatisfying answer to the question. It may be that is true, and it would put the issue to bed. However, positing God as the cause, as religions do, they use the same principle. In many arguments God is treated as a ‘brute fact’ and is ‘just there’.

    “This means that any purpose for our existence for our being is as random as any cause for our being” I would disagree. We have a suite of cognitive faculties that allow us to select a purpose, irrespective of the cause of our being. The cause of my being is my parents. But that does not entail anything about the purpose (or lack thereof) in my life.

    The paragraph about the odds of our existence and the odds of elements combining to make a single enzyme. Do you have the source for how they calculated this? And my take on it is, these probabilities could have been different and led to a different universe in which we would not exist, but another sentient life form could have arisen to pose the same question we do. I think this is called the anthropocentric view (Stephen Hawking discusses it in ‘A brief history of time’).

    “The chance of the random ordering of organic molecules is not essentially different from a big fat zero.” But it is different from zero. My bank balance having £1 in compared to £0 in is a difference. I agree we have a desire to feel significant. But (a) we are not owed a feeling of significance by the universe and (b) as above, we can constitute our own significance.

    “If life is random, then the inescapable consequence is that there can be no ultimate meaning and purpose to existence. This consequence is the existential  Achilles’ heel of atheistic belief. As individuals—and collectively in cultures around the globe—man has been searching for meaning for centuries. But if life is random, we have climbed the evolutionary ladder only to find nothing at the top.” I can accept that there is no ultimate meaning and purpose to existence. Indeed, it does seem like people insert meaning (and a deity or deities to give feeling to them as surety against the inherent uncertainty of life) in order to get that feeling of significance in their lives. Again, I would maintain that we can live in am a-deist universe and still have a profound sense of awe, significance, and meaning from our lives.
    Yes, man has been searching for meaning for centuries. But this tells us nothing about whether it is true that there is an ultimate meaning or purpose. Many alchemists spent their lives searching for a way to turn base metals into gold; the intensity of their search says nothing about the truth of what they are trying to achieve.
    Finally, there is no ‘top’ of the evolutionary ladder. Each successful species has adapted best to the environment(s) it inhabits. If it did not, it would not have continued to reproduce. Our species has evolved a set of behaviours and traits that enable us to view the world in the way we can. But for other species these features would not necessarily benefit their survival (indeed, they may be so energetically costly that reflective thinking would damage the survivability of a species).

    “Pleasure without boundaries produces a life without purpose. That is real pain. No death, no tragedy, no atrocity—nothing really matters. Life is sheer hollowness.” I would say I am an atheist and I absolutely agree with the sentiment that pleasure should be bounded. But I would also say that many things do matter. I am currently convinced that all people should work towards improving the well-being of all people. I am likewise convinced that we should learn more about the world as it enriches our lives. This is made the more pressing and poignant precisely because we are temporal, and to my current understanding, only guaranteed to have this life.

    “Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and philosopher, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, sometimes asked his patients who suffered from a multitude of mental torments, “Why do you not commit suicide?” From their answers he could find the proper guideline or approach for his psychotherapy. He called this approach logotherapy.” I love this book, I read it last year and it did have a profound impact upon me. But again, his question to dig into someone’s value system applies to anyone – regardless of their world view.

    “What is the objective moral framework these men adopt on which they build their objection to God? Harris said, “I can see no moral framework operating in the world, but what I do see is morally condemnable.” In philosophical terms, this is called a mutually-exclusive assumption. Therefore, the moral framework he is forced to adopt is, in reality, one he built himself.” Why do you believe there is an objective moral framework? How would you evidence (a) that it exists and (b) that it is objective? Even if a God exists and has communicated a moral code to humans we only have the subjective experience of those who received it. Selecting a faith is subjective and anything built upon it is therefore built upon the first subjective encounter with that faith.

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