Saturday, July 23, 2005

Doubting Thomas

To quote Edward Feser, Thomas Nagel in The Last Word, "acknowledges that it is a "fear of religion" among contemporary intellectuals that keeps them from facing up to the deep problems facing naturalistic attempts to account for the nature of the human mind and human knowledge"
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. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind.Wow.
That's quite an admission. Amazing. Believers aren't the only ones beset by doubts. By no means.

Feser's lead-up to the Nagel quote also frames the question of theism in a refreshing and novel manner:
The hoary "science vs. religion" conflict is, then, a myth. What exists in reality is a dispute between rival metaphysical systems: the theism, dualism, and Platonism of traditional Western philosophy and the modern naturalism or materialism that is less a result of modern science than an ideologically secularist interpretation of it. But for contemporary intellectuals there is, we might say, public relations value in maintaining the fiction that there is a war between science per se and religion, and that religion is losing: it is easier thereby to insinuate that in the real battle -- the philosophical one -- the "naturalists" rather than their opponents ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. There is, again, no rational justification for such an attitude; but there is a motive, which the philosopher Thomas Nagel has given voice to in a moment of frankness rare among the members of his profession.
The entire article, which I've linked to previously, is marvelous, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Tip: Don't let the breezy tone fool you. Read slowly and carefully. And don't miss the trees for the forest.