Disbelieving in God
By Justin Holder | Wed, May 09, 2012 - 12:00 AM()
In his column Atheism’s dilemma in the last Sunday Sun, Peter Laurie made an unfortunate and all too common conflation between atheism and scientism.
Atheism holds the proposition that “there is at least one god” to be false, and it is ancient. Scientism holds that only science gives us reliable knowledge about the universe, and is a very recent trend.
It so happens that the loudest contemporary exponents of atheism use scientism as their vehicle, but the two ideas have essentially nothing to do with one another. To see this one might observe that there were atheists long before anything we would recognize as natural science even existed.
Laurie argued that atheists have as little scientific basis for domains of value in human life like art and love as they do for God. True, but only atheists who base their atheism on scientism would find this fact interesting. Only adherents to scientism would think that lack of scientific evidence is itself sufficient to dismiss anything.
Philosopher, scientist, and activist Noam Chomsky has said more than once that it is almost certain that we will always learn more about human nature from novels than scientific inquiry. To agree with Chomsky – as I do – must one necessarily also assert that God exists?
The very thought is ludicrous and I trust that Mr Laurie is intelligent enough not to think it plausible.
If Mr Laurie’s piece was called Scientism’s Dilemma and altered accordingly, I would have been largely supportive of it, but not fully. As published, however, it contributes to, and is a symptom of, a widespread confusion about what it means to disbelieve in the existence of a deity.
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