Saturday, October 28, 2006

ID Friendly at The New Republic #3: Fear of Religion

Thursday I posted this quote from Thomas Nagel:
I agree with Dawkins that the issue of design versus purely physical causation is a scientific question. He is correct to dismiss Stephen Jay Gould's position that science and religion are "non-overlapping magisteria." The conflict is real. But although I am as much of an outsider to religion as he is, I believe it is much more difficult to settle the question than he thinks. I also suspect there are other possibilities besides these two that have not even been thought of yet. The fear of religion leads too many scientifically minded atheists to cling to a defensive, world-flattening reductionism. Dawkins, like many of his contemporaries, is hobbled by the assumption that the only alternative to religion is to insist that the ultimate explanation of everything must lie in particle physics, string theory, or whatever purely extensional laws govern the elements of which the material world is composed.

Nagel elaborated on his idea of the fear of religion in his book The Last Word:
The thought that the relation between mind and the world is something fundamental makes many people in this day and age nervous. I believe this is one manifestation of a fear of religion which has large and often pernicious consequences for modern intellectual life. In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper-namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. p. 130

I elaborated on this idea without knowing about Nagel's comments in my previous post Intelligent Design is Frightening:
How can zealous atheists honestly evaluate the scientific evidence when they believe deep in their hearts that there can be no such design or designer before they even consider the evidence? How can they consider the issues objectively when the mere possibility of a designer is likely so emotionally disturbing to them?

I think they could consider the evidence objectively, but they would need to acknowledge their bias and adjust for it.

Fear of religion? That is one way of describing it. Does Dawkins also exhibit a visceral hatred of religion and religious people? What might flow from that?

Another post on the importance of worldviews and how they influence and potentially constrain how people evaluate the scientific evidence is here.


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