Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Atheism and the Question of Truth - Professor L. Figurski invites you to read his books

The natural desire to know can be only satisfied if the person is    passionately  looking  for truth . Somehow we know that life in delusion , illusion and ignorance,  must be necessarily false,  meaningless and leading to disaster. The most essential  distinction between humans and  other lower forms of life consists precisely in  the fact that man  has a mind  which in it’s quest for truth  is  unconquerable . Aristotle’s statement that all man by nature desire to know  seems to be true beyond any question. All human history is a gradual  development  of  ideas and  visions of reality, because  ideas are  governing  human behavior.  
Human beings  are known  to have been  freely and willingly dying  for their beliefs and  I do not mean here  only religious beliefs, but  also other strong convictions for which man was willing to die.   Since man  is  not only  a self,  and the mind , but also embedded  in matter and body,  he/she is subject to many deviations,  and even  conscious denial  of the importance of seeking the truth. Those hindrances are connected  with many  powers and institutions  in which  humans live. Especially in modern times  the pressures  against  honest search for truth are enormous. Everyone is constantly bombarded by political propaganda , commercial advertising, biased mass media , and  chauvinistic  and corrupted influential politicians. In such situation it is  easy to resign  from one’s own independent thinking, and follow the  accepted  political ideology for fear of being ostracized and  even persecuted as  an enemy of the state,  and the interest of the nation, like it happened  for example in the  Nazi ideology  in the XX century.
However  the purpose of this article is  to analyze  the position  of new atheism  (Richard Dawkins, Lewis Wolpert, Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, Daniel Dennet and quite a number of others)  and  it’s relationship to the  ultimate  truth of reality and the atheistic  attitude.        The  basic problem  here is the  question of  possibility of the human mind to reach the  transcendent , philosophical truth. Atheism  developed under  the  umbrella of  science, which primarily for atheists, became the new idol of our times. The average person is also  under the influence  of  the authority of scientific accomplishments . Many people  when they hear the words scientifically proven,    accept  whatever is announced without any question. The authority of science  replaced for many  the authority of  religion, tradition and even moral values.
The question is very  important  because there is an  absolute  unbridgeable gap  between  atheistic position and  the  vision of religious person. Religion   , to the degree it is true,  requires  the totality of  man’s life: it influences  his/her  thinking,  his/her expectations for eternity , his/her values and his/her  way of living  this life. In other words, it calls for total, absolute commitment. On the other, hand atheism  destroys  the power of the human mind  to discover the  transcendent being  (metaphysics)  it  denies  any  meaning after death , and  it has to establish its own values, purposes and  meaning of life. To many atheists,  especially  existential thinkers, life appears utterly meaningless and  absurd ( Russell, Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche and others).   The  appeal to science as  a final explanation of  the universe and it’s development  cannot be justified logically because science on the basis of it’s methods  does not deal with the  questions of existence , the universal mature of being  and  the final answer to the question why is there universe at all. 
The aim of science is to  conquer the natural forces for  human purposes . Every scientific theory is  therefore provisional and subject to the possibility of change and replacement by  a more comprehensive theory. That is why  science  never will answer the most fundamental question of existence and  it cannot therefore serve as  replacement of philosophical arguments concerning  the  nature  of final  , contingent beings and their  existence. Science cannot answer the question why is there a universe at all, why not  nothing instead .
                        The basic arguments  for existence of a transcendent infinite being  are  as follows :
1.     The first cause of existence of a universe of contingent beings (The Aristotelian concept of a First Mover).
2.     The  inference from contingent existence of all finite beings to one  First cause  creative  of all contingent reality.
3.     The purposefulness    and regularity observable  in the universe  both in the inanimate  world and  especially the  living  world developing in the process of evolution shows  the validity of the teleological  argument pointing to some cosmic intelligence responsible for  the nature and structure of all finite beings man included.
The  three above arguments are not all but the most obvious pointers to some  sort of  infinite transcendent being, perhaps not only  as First Cause but also as a personal reality  self-hood and  freedom   and intelligence.
Dawkins and the other new atheists  do not show in their writings that  the metaphysical arguments mentioned are not sound. Certainly, Richard Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion” does not  show it. He  stresses again and again that science    is  the complete explanation of the phenomena of nature. By science Dawkins  means the theories of  development of the universe  but primarily  the fact of Darwinian evolution relative to the appearance of man. He does not explain  why there is  life  or evolution of life. He simply assumes that this is how it is and  that is enough. If one takes him seriously, then man is nothing else  but a little higher  developed great ape . The intelligence  of humans  would then be only somewhat different  from the intelligence of higher primates but same in kind. This approach is really           abolition of man as man . For man,  so understood,  is not really a person  with  symbolic  language , ability to think abstractly and to  develop philosophical understanding of reality. He/she remains  within the borders of scientific method where  transcendent activity of the mind to reach towards the absolute  is  simply denied at least according to Richard Dawkins.
       Philosophy begins with the  wonder of the fact of existence  analyzed on the metaphysical level . Without this attitude there is no philosophy. If one refuses to use the  power of the human mind  then one commits a mental suicide  One refuses simply even to seriously ask the questions and  becomes an agnostic or  skeptic. As  Frederik  Copelston remarked in his  famous discussion on God’s existence with Bertrand  Russell: “If one does not sit down  to the chessboard and makes the first move  one can never lose the game.” One can add here: neither can one win it.
            Even if science would explain  every detail in nature  and how it all works    in the whole universe  known to man , it would not answer  why there is a universe or why there is such a universe   and not another. Neither would it explain  the  dynamic nature of the world developing  from sub atomic particles to molecules, to  primitive living forms , to the multiverse of  life,  to  the rudiments  of animal intelligence, to self consciousness, abstract intelligence and  free personality of humans.  So much  can never be denied and  it is enough to  guarantee that  the argument of the First Cause , the Prime Mover and the Cosmic Intelligence are valid pointers to the existence of  God.
            Richard Dawkins seems to believe without any hesitation that Darwinism implies the following : (a) there is no evidence for God , (b) no life after death and (c) no foundation  for right and wrong or ultimate meaning of life. (d) people really have  no free will.
If we take Dawkins statement seriously we would have to believe that nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and not reason produces reason.  It is obvious that for  Dawkins the Darwinian theory of evolution is a  complete universal  explanation of any problem whatsoever.
The central question here is  the  definition of truth and  it is the fundamental problem because outside of truth we have only ignorance, deception, and  delusion of all kind. The first thing to notice is  the  crucial distinction between facts   and interpretation of fact , explanation of facts or  proving  facts. All relationship between mind and reality is a form of mutual interaction . The  scientific method,  so popular in our times is a philosophical assumption because it cannot be proven scientifically. Consequently rejection of  metaphysical reflections is also  an unproved  assumption. It  denies  the minds the natural ability to  make the fundamental questions of existence intelligible and   somehow  valid as arguments  for a transcendent being.
Here we have very many positions beginning with uncritical  acceptance of whatever is  given  in the society and the mass media, through the skeptical attitude of the agnostic  who affirms that any knowledge of  the ultimate question is not possible, to the scientific attitude and finally to philosophical metaphysical reflections. Methodical realism accepted in those present reflections  is an accepted definition of truth. It assumes  intelligibility of  the realm of being and  penetrability of beings to the human inspection and analysis. Truth therefore will have three basic characteristics :
(1) Conformity of  the concepts of the mind to what the facto is real.
 (2) Intrinsic coherence.
 (3) Consistency and ,
 (4) Acceptance of both  deductive and inductive  thinking conforming to the laws of logic. The mind is not  a passive faculty but it is  both active and passive .
Search for truth requires methodical  effort of the whole mind and a serious commitment to the importance of truth in human life. At the base of any problem whatsoever in human life  there always lies a question of value . Without  fully expressing  the attitude of the mind to reality we all know that truth is  of  fundamental and absolute value. Any other position leads to living in semi –darkness and a mental suicide.
Evolution of different forms of life including humans is by no means hostile to the belief in a transcendent deity . The concept of  natural selection and survival of the fittest  leaves out  many fundamental philosophical problems completely untouched:
 (1) Matter  is not eternal as it was believed for many  centuries because  astronomy and physics itself proves the beginning of the universe.
(2) Natural selection is in itself not productive of new species but it eliminates the less adapted , and  it is important to remember that before  there are the fittest there had to be first the fit, that is  the beginning of  life .
(3) The biological increase in complexity from the most primitive living cell to the phenomena of man does not explain the  appearance of consciousness, self-consciousness , the human personality  and  the nature of the human mind.
The concept of evolution understood in his own way by Richard Dawkins  does not provide evidence  or sound arguments. It is  a dogmatic , philosophical assumption. The whole philosophy of people life Dawkins and his friends ultimately is based on  sheer unproved  belief that nothing exists  but only matter in movement.
If one accepts this  first         assumption then of course any talk  about mind, spirit, purpose, intelligibility,  moral values are of course automatically rejected. However it remains nothing but   sheer assumptions  not  a valid  interpretation and explanation of reality.  If the arguments  mentioned here  for the existence of God are  valid  - and  no one ever proved that they are not valid – then  there exists  a transcendent  First Cause , Omnipotent Creator,  One  Prime Mover , Immaterial, Intelligent Personal Being and  this  to use  the words of St. Thomas: All call God.

Suggested readings
Miller, Kenneth R.      Findings Darwin’s God. A Scientist’s Search for Common ground Between God and Evolution  Harper, Perennial: (New York, 1999)

Strobel,  Lee, The Case for a Creator, Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, Zondervan:  (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2004)

No comments:

Post a Comment