Home » Culture, Evolutionary psychology, News » If even atheist Philip Kitcher is saying, take out this trash, …

If even atheist Philip Kitcher is saying, take out this trash, …

The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions

.. this bag is surely destined for the SS Darwin’s scow load.

In “Seeing is Unbelieving,”a New York Times Sunday book review (March 23, 2012), Philip Kitcher graciously allows us to know that Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions is not the worst book of 2011:

The evangelical scientism of “The Atheist’s Guide” rests on three principal ideas. The facts of microphysics determine everything under the sun (beyond it, too); Darwinian natural selection explains human behavior; and brilliant work in the still-young brain sciences shows us as we really are. Physics, in other words, is “the whole truth about reality”; we should achieve “a thoroughly Darwinian understanding of humans”; and neuroscience makes the abandonment of illusions “inescapable.” Morality, purpose and the quaint conceit of an enduring self all have to go.

The conclusions are premature. Although microphysics can help illuminate the chemical bond and the periodic table, very little physics and chemistry can actually be done with its fundamental concepts and methods, and using it to explain life, human behavior or human society is a greater challenge still. Many informed scholars doubt the possibility, even in principle, of understanding, say, economic transactions as complex interactions of subatomic particles. Rosenberg’s cheerful Darwinizing is no more convincing than his imperialist physics, and his tales about the evolutionary origins of everything from our penchant for narratives to our supposed dispositions to be nice to one another are throwbacks to the sociobiology of an earlier era, unfettered by methodological cautions that students of human evolution have learned: much of Rosenberg’s book is evolutionary psychology on stilts. Similarly, the neuroscientific discussions serenely extrapolate from what has been carefully demonstrated for the sea slug to conclusions about Homo sapiens.

The serious question is, if so, why is this rubbish being reviewed in the New York Times? A paper that, quite properly, wouldn’t review some apocalyptic fundie should also not be reviewing this.

Which is why many of us think The Gray Lady will not survive her rapidly sinking bottom line and poor news judgement.

Read Uncommon Descent instead. The majestic forests of Canada thank you. Yes, you are most welcome.

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4 Responses to If even atheist Philip Kitcher is saying, take out this trash, …

  1. “Morality, purpose and the quaint conceit of an enduring self all have to go.”

    I know it’s meant seriously, but that’s a keeper!

    “Many informed scholars doubt the possibility, even in principle, of understanding, say, economic transactions as complex interactions of subatomic particles.”

    Better still! I expect the author (Cornelius?) quietly murmurs these things, so you could miss them if you haven’t got your wits about you. Very like some Aussie humour. You even wonder if they realise if they really understood how funny their joke was.

  2. “Morality, purpose and the quaint conceit of an enduring self all have to go.”

    I know it’s meant seriously, but that’s a keeper!

    “Many informed scholars doubt the possibility, even in principle, of understanding, say, economic transactions as complex interactions of subatomic particles.”

    Better still! I expect the author (Cornelius Hunter?) quietly murmurs these things, so you could miss them if you haven’t got your wits about you. Very like some Aussie humour. You even wonder if they actually realised how funny their joke was.

  3. Sorry about the duplicate post.

  4. So, if morality has to go, does that mean that all nations will live in total anarchy with no laws governing what behavior is good and what is bad?

    Really, atheists? Really?

    Is that how you truly want to live? You want to live in a world where no behavior, whether it’s your personal pot smoking on Saturday night or your neighbor’s affair with another woman, or (better yet) the homeless man who breaks into your house and beats you to death with a 2 x 4, is considered wrong?

    Really? Wow. I am truly glad that atheists aren’t in charge of the world.

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