Book Review: The Irrational Atheist, Part 3 of Many (Atheism and Science)

Just as with defining “Atheist”, defining “science” required some extra legwork. After all, one of the primary arguments advanced by High Church Atheists (HCAs) is that religion–in particular Christianity–is an impediment to scientific progress.

Vox Day followed up his definition of Atheism with a definition of science, then proceeded to demonstrate not only how the logic of the HCAs against Christians is false, but also that (a) the same argument that the HCAs use against Christians–applied empirically–could be used against science and (b) that HCAs aren’t really promoting science but are rather advancing a case for either a return to the old Enlightenment (Harris, Dawkins) or a new Enlightenment (Hitchens).

In defining science, Vox applied a threefold definition supplied by PZ Myers:

  • science as a body of knowledge (scientage)
  • science as a methodology (scientody)
  • science as a profession (scientistry)

These definitions were critical, as Vox seeks to determine–using available data–which portions of science are particularly threatened by religion. After all, science has a substantial body of history associated with its practice, and therefore the relationship between science and religion should be ascertainable from that historical record.

This is where Vox delves into dissecting common mantras that have been promoted by the scientific community. One of the most prominent is that the Medieval period was the “Dark Ages” during which autocratic religious control stifled scientific progress, artistic development, and technical innovation and that the Enlightenment provided a great period of advancement by divorcing science from religion. In fact, Vox shows that–far from divorcing science from religion–religion and science have not had the strained relationship promoted by the HCAs.

Taking it one step further, Vox exposes the HCAs for being promoters–not of science–but rather of the Enlightenment, while cross-dressing that agenda in scientific veneer. This is because Dawkins–while an evolutionary biologist–promotes his Atheism without engaging in scientody (the empirical method) to make the case. Similarly, Harris makes his case for Atheism by making a plethora of assertions that–tested against a mountain of empirical data–are not only false, the data makes the case against him.

Harris and Dawkins argue using reason without data–even though data was readily available–while Hitchens argues using pure rhetoric while eschewing reason and data. Vox exposes them in all their nakedness.

Setting up his case against Atheism, Vox challenged Atheists to list the crimes of religion against science. PZ Myers and his devotees provided a list, which Vox provided for all to see (pp. 57-58). It was quite petty.

Taking it one step further, Vox turned the HCA line of reasoning on science. I remember Vox doing that on his blog–and in a WND column–and I did not respond as I figured he was going somewere with this. I remember the Atheists complaining about how Vox (a game designer who has made a good living creating state-of-the-art technology) was anti-progress. They took the bait: hook, line, and sinker.

Vox Day–a practitioner of the scientific method–was showing how the arguments of HCAs against Christians could, using empirical data, be used against them. In fact, Vox sets up a very damaging case against Atheism, because the empirical evidence of Atheist government is one of mass murder and scientific atrocity against Man.

While I could spent lots of time discussing the fine points he made, The Irrational Atheist is perhaps a great handbook of examples for how to think and reason critically. Here are some key takeaways that Christians and non-Christians alike can appreciate:

  • Always look for evidence. Reason without evidence is just untested hypothesis at best and gratuitous speculation at worst. Asserted as authoritative without results, it is misrepresentation. Done deliberately, it is fraud. When someone makes a general claim about the crimes (or accomplishments) of a particular religion, the data is probably out there. Never be afraid to look, and when you find it, don’t be afraid to see what you see.
  • Always look at the details. A good example of this was the way Sam Harris–using state crime data from the FBI–asserted that “red” states have higher crime rates than “blue” states. Vox, on the other hand, demonstrated that the same data was available by county, and showed that it was the “blue” counties within those “red” states that had the highest crime rates.
  • Never trust something just because it is repeated in academic circles. Vox spent lots of time dispelling myths about (a) the “persecution” of Galileo, (b) the Spanish Inquisition, (c) the “greatness” of the Enlightenment, and (d) the “superior” morality of Atheism.
  • Be honest about what you find. One of the biggest failures of the HCAs–Dawkins and Harris in particular–is their lack of intellectual honesty. In fact, Vox makes a compelling case that Harris was deliberately dishonest. On the other hand, while refuting Daniel Dennett, Vox commends him for his intellectual honesty. If you don’t have an answer, a good sign that you’re a grownup is the willingness to admit it rather than pull a fraudulent answer out of your ass.
  • Always ask the question, “Compared to what?” While the Spanish Inquisition and pogroms against Jews are certainly nothing for which Christians can brag, the total deaths of each of those combined are far less than the total killed under Atheist regimes during peacetime!

At the end of the book, Vox gets a little controversial, confronting the uber-Calvinist premise of God as Master Puppeteer (probably shades of his back-and-forth with The Responsible Puppet.)

In so doing, Vox provides an alternative model: that of God as game designer. In my final part of the review of his book, later this week, I will address this. While I am not in complete agreement with him–especially with respect to some of the particulars of Open Theism–I think that, with some modifications, the Game Designer model has traction. (I get the impression that Vox has a sequel to TIA in the making.)

While the Game Designer model is overly Arminian–I think he underplays God’s Sovereignty–it does form a basis for understanding the riddle that combines God’s justice, sovereignty, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and justice. While no model is perfect, Vox makes provides a framework that constitutes a good faith effort to reconcile predestination with free will. More on that later.

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