I and other contributors to Cloud of Witnesses have observed before that the most visible leaders of the new atheism fail to properly represent religion and fail to engage the most articulate, sophisticated arguments for God’s existence and the rationality of Christianity. Now Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, joins the throng of critics who have pointed this out, in a post at the New York Times Opinionator blog.
Religious believers often accuse argumentative atheists such as Dawkins of being excessively rationalistic, demanding standards of logical and evidential rigor that aren’t appropriate in matters of faith. My criticism is just the opposite. Dawkins does not meet the standards of rationality that a topic as important as religion requires.
The basic problem is that meeting such standards requires coming to terms with the best available analyses and arguments. This need not mean being capable of contributing to the cutting-edge discussions of contemporary philosophers, but it does require following these discussions and applying them to one’s own intellectual problems. Dawkins simply does not do this. He rightly criticizes religious critics of evolution for not being adequately informed about the science they are calling into question. But the same criticism applies to his own treatment of philosophical issues.
. . . . [T]hose, like Dawkins, committed to believing only what they can rationally justify, have no alternative to engaging with the most rigorous rational discussions available. Dawkins’ distinctly amateur philosophizing simply isn’t enough.
The entire article presents a fine critique of Dawkins’s arguments for atheism.