Atheism and Thinking

“Thinking is anathema to religion,” says Richard Dawkins.

There are times when people say things with a straight face without realizing the ironic, contradictory juxtaposition of their statement with their actions. This is one of those times. Dawkins made his comment about thinking and religion while discussing the recent advertising campaign by atheists in England. They’ve put signs on the sides of London’s famous buses, reading, “There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.

Billboard sloganeering qualifies as higher “thinking”?

The sad fact is that this sophomoric level of “thought” is what passes as cutting-edge insight among many atheistic circles. This is the sort of atheism espoused by the adolescent more motivated by rebellion than by humble search for the truth. Having just dried off his logical and rhetorical wings, he flaps about the forest floor and thinks he’s soaring above the eagles. Dawkins and his atheistic comrades are so conceited that they cannot even grant that two millennia of Christian thought, based on an even older tradition of theistic thought, qualifies as thinking. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas were amateurs. Augustine couldn’t tie his shoelaces. Popes John Paul and Benedict are morons.

There are serious and strong arguments for atheism – very intelligent arguments, though they ultimately fail. Hilaire Belloc maintained that the honest and intelligent skeptic is the most like in mind to the honest and intelligent Catholic. Those who come by those beliefs honestly deserve our respect and, if they will have it, our dialogue. But the type of atheistic arguments that fit neatly on a bus-side are not in the league of intelligent arguments. These are the arguments the obnoxious eleven year old makes in Sunday school, thinking he’s the first to hit on an objection in thousands of years of Christendom:

“Well who made God?” — Asked with complete ignorance to the fact that whether one is atheist or not, there still must be an uncaused cause.

Can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?” — A mistake that assumes any combination of words must have real-world meaning. This sentence works only grammatically, but not conceptually. It is an artifact of the limited nature of language.

“Scientists have looked underground. There’s no hell there.” — Nobody said it was supposed to be. (I actually saw this one on an atheist blog recently.)

“The Inquisition! Galileo!” — Stalin! Mao!

Skepticism is not a bad thing. Even atheism as a result of reasoned and honest thought may be commendable, as long as the person remains open to further thought and inspiration. But Dawkins’ suggestion that two-sentence advertisements surpass centuries of Christian thought is nothing short of laughable.

Hubble Update

NASA reports that Hubble’s main camera is back in operation.

Unknown Law Behind Galaxy Evolution?

ScienceNOW reports the discovery that the various properties of galaxies — size, shape, luminosity, etc. — seem to follow a pattern related to some unknown variable. Read here.

X-Rays from Tape

UCLA scientists have discovered that unrolling rolls of tape in a vacuum produces unexpectedly high levels of x-rays – levels high enough, in fact, to produce x-ray images. This discovery could lead to the development of cheap, portable x-ray imagers for use by paramedics and others in the field. Read here.

Saint Thomas More, Pray for Us

As we approach this election, may St. Thomas More’s example of adherence to conscience informed by the Church be our guide. He gave his life. What will we give? More is, by the way, the patron saint of politicians.

(From A Man for All Seasons)

Rosary Novena for Election

Father John Corapi has called for a rosary novena to be prayed between Monday, October 27th and November 4th, the date of the American elections. He states:

If we do not soon stop the genocide of abortion in the United States, we shall run the course of all those that prove by their actions that they are enemies of God—total collapse, economic, social, and national. The moral demise of a nation results in the ultimate demise of a nation. God is not a disinterested spectator to the affairs of man. Life begins at conception. This is an unalterable formal teaching of the Catholic Church. If you do not accept this you are a heretic in plain English. A single abortion is homicide. The more than 48,000,000 abortions since Roe v. Wade in the United States constitute genocide by definition. The group singled out for death—unwanted, unborn children.

No other issue, not all other issues taken together, can constitute a proportionate reason for voting for candidates that intend to preserve and defend this holocaust of innocent human life that is abortion.

Read here (PDF).

First Things: “Brain Science and the Soul”

R. R. Reno posts this over at “On the Square:

These days, cognitive scientists are doing experiments that use MRI technology to visualize the brain while subjects undergo experiences, solve problems, and make decisions. This approach allows scientists to see and theorize about the significance and sources of patterns in our brains, patterns that shape the way we respond to the world. We are learning about the highway system of neurological movement, which turns out to be decisive for the way our minds work.The new emphasis on patterns of neural activity suggests an important support for the traditional Christian understanding of the soul. The cutting edge of brain science makes it clear that it is as foolish to say that our brains are just neurons as it is to say that highways are just concrete and asphalt. After all, what matters to the motorist is the way in which the concrete is organized to create an interlocking system of usable roads. The same holds for the gray matter inside our heads.

The Christian tradition has long taught the same thing about the human person. St. Thomas drew on Aristotle’s philosophy to define the soul as the form of the body. The soul is the pattern or highway system that organizes our bodies, including, of course, our brains.

Read here.

Hubble: Back in Action

Engineers have used Hubble’s back up systems to bring the telescope back online after it suddenly shut down last month. Read here.

UPDATE: Guess not.

Miller-Urey Resurrected

Science reports on the new look at the Miller-Urey origin-of-life experiments, and the attendant hypothesis that volcanic activity or lightning could have provided the chemical conditions necessary for life to form on earth:

“So could lightning have helped jump-start life on Earth? Possibly, Cleaves says. Although Earth’s primordial atmosphere was not hydrogen-rich, as were the chambers in the Miller-Urey experiment, gas clouds from volcanic eruptions did contain the right combination of molecules. It is possible that volcanoes, which were much more active early in Earth’s history, seeded our planet with life’s ingredients. The big question is what happened next–how did those molecules turn into self-replicating organic compounds? “That’s the frontier,” Cleaves says, “and we’re sort of stuck there.””

You don’t say? There is, of course, nothing wrong from a Catholic perspective with holding the opinion that physical processes can provide a complete naturalistic account for the formation of organisms at the beginning of the history of life. But his candor here gives the lie to the breezy confidence of those scientists who claim that the natural origin of life is obvious and proves materialism.

Read here.

Benedict XVI Praises “Fides et Ratio”

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the publication of John Paul II’s encyclical, Fides et Ratio:

“Who can deny”, the Pope asked, “the contribution the great philosophical systems have made to the development of man’s self-knowledge and to the progress of various cultures? Indeed, these cultures become fruitful when they open to truth, enabling those who participate in them to reach objectives that make social life ever more human”.

“Nonetheless, we cannot conceal the fact that there has been a slide from a prevalently speculative form of thought to a chiefly empirical one. Research has turned to focus above all on the observation of nature in the attempt to discover its secrets. And the desire to understand nature has then been transformed into the desire to reproduce it. … Scientific and technological progress, which ‘fides’ is increasingly called to confront, has altered the old concept of ‘ratio’; in some way it has marginalised the reason that sought the ultimate truth of things to make way for a reason that satisfies itself with discovering the contingent truths of the laws of nature.

“Scientific research certainly has a positive value” when “the applied sciences are the fruit of reason and an expression of the intelligence with which man manages to penetrate the depths of creation. For its part, faith does nor fear scientific progress and the developments to which its achievements lead when their ultimate focus is man, his wellbeing and the progress of all humanity”.

Read here.

InsightScoop offers commentary here.