Noted philosopher William Lane Craig responds to the American Humanist Association “Kids without God” web site
|December 14, 2012||Posted by kairosfocus under Philosophy, Religion, Science, Atheism, Popular culture, science education, Science, worldview issues/foundations and society|
As I have just noted, the AHA has put up a blog promoting its brand of evolutionary materialist naturalism to children:
. . . the AHA has a web site that promotes its brand of naturalism — in effect, atheism rooted in evolutionary materialism, but with the attempt to promote human values and being “good without God” — to children (here) with a section for teens (here).
The sneering, condescendingly sophomoric tone and dismissivenes of the site is clear right from its declared (and very familiar-sounding) theme:
Welcome to Kids Without God, a site for the millions of young people around the world who have embraced science, rejected superstition, and are dedicated to being Good Without A God!
Noted Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig has therefore responded (in some very familiar terms) in a December 10th 2012 Washington Post blog column, “Humanism for children.”
We can excerpt the core of his summary argument:
[Now, the] renaissance of Christian philosophy [in academia since the 1950’s] has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in arguments for God’s existence based on reason and evidence alone, apart from the resources of divine revelation like the Bible. All of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene.
But what about the so-called “New Atheism” exemplified by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens? Doesn’t it signal a reversal of this trend? Not really. The New Atheism is, in fact, a pop cultural phenomenon lacking in intellectual muscle and blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in academic philosophy. In my debates with naturalistic philosophers and scientists I have been frankly stunned by their inability both to refute the various arguments for God and to provide any persuasive arguments for naturalism.
Moreover, naturalism faces severe problems of its own. The philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued persuasively that naturalism cannot even be rationally affirmed.
For if naturalism was true, the probability that our cognitive faculties would be reliable is pretty low. For those faculties have been shaped by a process of natural selection which does not select for truth but merely for survival. There are many ways in which an organism could survive without its beliefs’ being true. Hence, if naturalism were true, we could not have any confidence that our beliefs are true, including the belief in naturalism itself! Thus, naturalism seems to have a built-in defeater that renders it incapable of being rationally affirmed.
The problem for the humanist is even worse, however. For humanism is just one form of naturalism. It is a version of naturalism that affirms the objective value of human beings. But why think that if naturalism were true, human beings would have objective moral value? There are three options before us:
• The theist maintains that objective moral values are grounded in God.
• The humanist maintains that objective moral values are grounded in human beings.
• The nihilist maintains that moral values are ungrounded and therefore ultimately subjective and illusory.
The humanist is thus engaged in a struggle on two fronts: on the one side against the theists and on the other side against the nihilists. This is important because it underlines the fact that humanism is not a default position. That is to say, even if the theist were wrong, that would not mean that the humanist is right. For if God does not exist, maybe it is the nihilist who is right . . .
He then stingingly concludes:
The new humanist Web site never encourages kids to think critically about the tough questions concerning the justification of humanism itself. Humanists tend to be condescendingly dismissive of theism and oblivious to nihilism. Meanwhile, they blithely extol the virtues of critical thinking, curiosity, and science, apparently unaware of the incoherence at the heart of their own worldview.
Since the last census in 2001, the number of Britons identifying themselves, however loosely, as Christians is down 13 percentage points to 59 per cent.
The number of respondents who say they have no religious faith is up 10 points to 25 per cent. Meanwhile, staggeringly, the Muslim population has grown from 1.55 million to 2.7 million, an increase of 1.15 million from 2001 to 2011.
The surge in Islamic belief is entirely a consequence of immigration. The spread of agnosticism and atheism is (though I haven’t yet seen the breakdown by age) largely generational.
It cannot be said too often: the default position of people born since 1980 is agnosticism or atheism. [emphasis original] Meanwhile, as a commenter points out below, net migration from the UK consists largely of people who would probably have ticked the Christian or C of E box. That hadn’t occurred to me, but it’s an important factor.
In the responses to this article by Damian Thompson, I found a comment that seems to capture much of what the authors of the AHA site probably had in mind in using the themes “science” vs. “superstition”:
Another big factor in the spread of atheism and agnosticism is the internet and the easy exchange of information – religions and other superstitions rely on ‘faith’, i.e. not questioning too deeply, and it is no coincidence that in developed countries the higher the level of education a person attains, the less likely they are to be religious. The more science shows us about the universe, the more fascinating it becomes, and the ramblings of 2000 year old middle eastern farmers seem less and less satisfying.
I set as an overnight assignment to jot down notes on what one thinks in response to this, promising to get back on the subject. When I did so, I commented in the following “bullets” (going on to remark on issues of culture foundations and renewal in light of the pioneering work by a noted philosopher-theologian of the last generation, Francis Schaeffer):
1 –> Observe the sting in the tail, dismissive remarks about presumably ignorant, semi-literate at best and credulous peasants from 2000 years ago. In quick answer to the ignorance aspect, let us just say that the author of Romans was no ignoramus, and that though he was regarded circa AD 30 as less than a sophisticated man of letters by the Sanhedrin, the apostle John by the time he was finished was capable of penning the opening remarks in the gospel of John. Where also, of course Luke was a physician whose Luke-Acts two-volume history of the founding of the church has been demonstrated to be astonishingly good as history, which is exactly what it set out to be, cf Lk 1:1 – 4. To wit:
2 Exactly as they were handed down to us by those who from the [[d]official] beginning [of Jesus’ ministry] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word [that is, of [e]the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God],3 It seemed good and desirable to me, [and so I have determined] also after [f]having searched out diligently and followed all things closely and traced accurately the course from the highest to the minutest detail from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4 [My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been [g]orally instructed. [AMP]
2 –> The real point however, is that the well-poisoning dismissal of the apostles and other founding Christian figures, is meant to be a sneer at their willingness to believe in the miraculous. In short, there is a pretence here — it finds an infamous formulation in Hume’s sneers — that the only reason that one can believe in miracles, is to be ignorant and gullible.
3 –> But in fact this is little more than an excuse for selective hyperskepticism. (For simple instance, apart from a miracle of guidance that led my mom to the right doctor when she was in despair of my life, I would not be here to type this, and if it were not for a healing in response to — of all things, a TV preacher — I would not have the back to sit up to write this. [Where, as one who has served as an educator at secondary and tertiary levels and as a holder of two graduate level degrees, I cannot be dismissed as an ignoramus. And there are thousands and thousands of others who have been healed by God in answer to prayer. Not to mention the millions who have met and been transformed by the living God, in the face of the risen Christ including highly pivotal figures for the course of our civilisation, from Paul to Pascal to Kelvin, Planck and more.] )
4 –> Where (as can be seen here) the pivotal miracle — the resurrection of Jesus — stands up to serious scrutiny quite well indeed, especially by comparison with typical alternatives offered to explain it away.
5 –> And just what has science — as opposed to a priori materialism dressed up in the holy lab coat and declaring itself to be science — taught us about the cosmos and the world of life? That, we live in an observed cosmos that had a definite beginning, which cries out for a begin-ner. That the physics of that cosmos is astonishingly fine-tuned in many ways that set up a basis for Carbon-Chemistry, watery medium, cell based life. That such life has in its core, DNA which has in it digital code used to assemble proteins and provide regulation for many things that happen in the cell. That the cell is chock full of clever nanotech machines that carry out its work. That to make a new body plan for an organism, we need a large further increment of such information and functionally organised machines to carry it off. Where all of this points to design as the best explanation. [Cf. here.]
6 –> It is easy to set up a strawman caricature of faith as blind and irrational belief and dismiss it. What is not so easy is to address why it is that we have no alternative but to start from a set of first plausibles taken on faith in the foundation of our worldviews:
7 –> Where it can be shown that evolutionary materialism (never mind the lab coat disguise, this is a longstanding philosophy . . . ) is self referential — it has to account for all observed phenomena including our own selves — and runs into serious hot water when it tries to account for the credibility of the consciously aware, perceiving, knowing, reasoning mind. Not to mention, that it has in it no foundational IS that can safely bear the weight of OUGHT and (as Plato long ago warned us c. 360 BC in his The Laws, Bk X) ends up inviting the destructive nihilist notion that might and manipulation make ‘right.’
8 –> The equation of religion with superstition is of course little more than sneering. Here is what the apostle Peter, an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus who was then facing death at the hands of the mad tyrant Nero c. 65 AD, had to say by way of parting words, words we should soberly heed:
2 Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . .
19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain [–> he alludes here to especially the c. 700 BC prophecy in Isaiah 52 – 3, cf. here on in context . . . ], and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [NIV ’84]
9 –> I do agree with the commenter that the easy and rapid spread of “information” by the web and other means is a major way that atheism and its fellow travellers are propagated today. But, he needs to understand that “information” is not the same thing as truth or sound reason. Indeed, where people are not adequately equipped to think straight and to straighten out spin-driven manipulative rhetoric, they easily fall prey to rumours, fallacious arguments and other manipulative devices online, on TV, in textbooks, announced as news and in museums dressed up in the holy lab coat.
10 –> That is why we need to do some serious re-thinking about what is going on with today’s aggressive but sophomoric atheism that imagines that Christianity is a delusion, and do something serious about it.
So, now, we see the wider worldview, grounds of mind and morality, as well as cultural trend and focus issues openly on the table for discussion.
What do you think? END