Atheist Philosopher Michael Ruse Sizes up the New Atheists

Michael Ruse posted this article last year, but his insights are still spot on.   A few of his incisive criticisms . . .

I am not a devout Christian, yet if anything, the things said against me are worse. Richard Dawkins, in his best selling The God Delusion, likens me to Neville Chamberlain, the pusillanimous appeaser of Hitler at Munich. Jerry Coyne reviewed one of my books (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) using the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in. And non-stop blogger P. Z. Myers has referred to me as a “clueless gobshite.” This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash.

Let me say that I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice. I will defend to the death the right of them to say what they do — as one who is English-born one of the things I admire most about the USA is the First Amendment. But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. . . . Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group.

I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again. Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a bloody disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.

(HT: Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society)

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13 thoughts on “Atheist Philosopher Michael Ruse Sizes up the New Atheists

  1. Why would Dawkins or any naturalist give a sh!t about whatever anyone says, as ultimately it is just a bunch of random blind forces dictating our senses, or should i say ‘illusion’ :)

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  4. Wow, Ruse makes an excellent point here:

    “Most importantly, the new atheists are doing terrible damage to the fight to keep Creationism out of the schools. The First Amendment does not ban the teaching of bad science in publicly funded schools. It bans the teaching of religion. That is why it is crucial to argue that Creationism, including its side kick IDT, is religion and not just bad science. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion. But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism. This is the claim of the new atheists. If this is so, then we shall have to live with it and rethink our strategy about Creationism and the schools.”

    • Yes, that’s insightful. I’d argue that naturalism is something very similar to a religion. If you’re trying to promote the idea that God doesn’t exist, you’re definitely crossing the line from science into religion and philosophy.

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  7. I don’t think Dawkins’ book is aimed at leading ‘experts’ in theology, or philosophy – it’s aimed at the general public, and I think he does an excellent job.

    That very many religious people feel so threatened by the book seems to me to support my opinion.

    William Lane Craig’s article – well, as the article notes Dawkins addresses all five head on.

    1&2&4 merely push the the question back to ‘okm so what caused / designed god’

    3 is not an argument at all, merely a statement of belief

    5 is just too silly for words – do you think that (5) forms the basis for belief for even a single person in the world?

    • So uninformed ignorance becomes acceptable when aimed at the general public? Funny how atheists have this ‘means justifies the end’ mentality “Sure – he’s clueless/misinformed… but his conclusions are still true!”

  8. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course

    sorry .. could you be more specific about what is wrong about what he wrote?

    • Hi Max,

      It would take a lengthy reply to explain here, but William Lane Craig has recently written an article that goes into the details of Dawkins’s superficial treatment of the arguments for God’s existence. You can download the PDF here. Check it out and let us know what you think.


  9. Yes, Dawkins’ writing is too emotional and passionate for many people’s taste.

    Being Christian Apologist yourself I can imagine you are similarly embarrassed by the emotional, passioonat and superstitious excesses of some of your co-religionists?

    There are many ways to put over an argument. To my mind Dawkins and the ‘new’ atheists have been a welcome addition to the conversation helping to spark a great number of people to reflect and actually consider their own views.

    • Hey botogol,

      Yes, you’re right that there are apologists out there who sometimes make ill-informed or even outrageous claims, and that’s always unfortunate. Being passionate in your views isn’t a bad thing. But if you’re going to critique something in front of a worldwide audience, you really should research it thoroughly and in your writing interact with the best proponents of that view. I think the problem is that Dawkins wants to dismiss religion so quickly, that he hasn’t taken it seriously and investigated what it’s most accomplished proponents have to say about it. Thus, in his books, he fails to interact with leading experts, and so his arguments come out sounding superficial and uninformed.

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