• The ‘New’ Atheism: 10 Arguments That Don’t Hold Water?: A Refutation, Part 2

    A2 ‘Faith is irrational’ and ‘demands a positive suspension of critical faculties.’

    The author cites several quotes by the New Atheists stating how faith is “unevidenced belief,” but disagrees with this claim. He essentially uses semantics to argue his case here, saying that “credulity” would be a better word to use than faith to describe belief without evidence. Poole writes,

    The above views of faith do not reflect how the word is generally used in everyday life. […] [W]e might express our faith in a surgeon, a close friend’s reliability […] (18-19)

    These beliefs he uses as examples of “faith” are actually not “unevidenced” beliefs, but are beliefs that are reasonably held due to certain facts. Perhaps both the surgeon and the close friend are trusted because they have proven themselves to be reliable in the past? However, religious beliefs often have no evidential support to speak of. Any claims of evidence are often found to be faulty, such as “design” arguments. Therefore, religion can be said to be based on “blind faith.” After all, it’s been shown quite extensively that Christianity is built upon exactly this kind of faith, “belief without evidence.” [1]

    The final argument Poole uses is the claim that atheists have “faith” too. Faith in our senses. This argument has the same problem I spoke of above. Based upon past experience our senses can be trusted and have been proven to be reliable most of the time. In addition, the scientific method has often been helpful in correcting any issues with our senses not accurately representing the world, such as the common example of ghost sightings. Here, our senses are seemingly leading us astray but the scientific method can be used as a way to check to be sure our senses are not deceiving us.

    The author also references Richard Dawkins’ lectures titled Growing Up in the Universe and argues that Dawkins has also used the word “faith,” essentially trying to discredit his argument, saying that, “faith is a word used by religious and non-religious people” to mean “trust.” He quotes Dawkins saying that one must “put your faith in the scientific method. There’s nothing wrong with having faith… there’s nothing wrong with having faith in a proper scientific prediction.” (21)

    What Dawkins meant in his lecture by “faith in the scientific method” was that based upon what we know about the laws of physics he knew that when he swung a ball, suspended by a string, away from his face it wouldn’t swing back and strike him due to the knowledge we have of how objects behave due to these laws.

    I don’t feel this semantics argument is an effective one because no matter which word one uses, what matters is how one comes to believe certain things and whether or not there is reliable evidence for those beliefs. The scientific findings of science Dawkins spoke of in his lecture had solid evidence backing his statements, which is a far cry from the claims of religion. I will get to those supposed evidences later on in the book.

    1. Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn’t Need a Miracle to Succeed, by Richard Carrier, Lulu.com, 2009; 329-351; 385-404

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist