Freitag, 28. Januar 2011

Stephen Asma's critique on the new atheists and the battle thereafter

Stephen Asma wrote a piece about the "New Atheists narrow worldview". Give it a try.
Ac­cord­ing to these sol­diers of rea­son, the time for re­li­gion is over. It clings like a bad gene rep­li­cat­ing in the pop­u­la­tion, but its use­ful­ness is played out. Sam Har­ris's most re­cent book, The Moral Land­scape (Free Press, 2010), is the lat­est in the continuing bat­tle. As an ag­nos­tic, I find much of the horse­men's cri­tiques to be healthy.
But most friends and even en­e­mies of the new athe­ism have not yet no­ticed the pro­vin­cial­ism of the cur­rent de­bate. If the horse­men left their world of books, con­fer­ences, classrooms, and com­put­ers to trav­el more in the de­vel­op­ing world for a year, they would find some un­fa­mil­iar religious arenas.
Hav­ing lived in Cam­bo­di­a and Chi­na, and trav­eled in Thai­land, Laos, Viet­nam, and Af­ri­ca, I have come to ap­pre­ci­ate how re­li­gion func­tions quite dif­fer­ent­ly in the de­vel­op­ing world—where the ma­jor­ity of be­liev­ers ac­tu­al­ly live. The Four Horse­men, their fans, and their en­e­mies all fail to fac­tor in their own pros­per­i­ty when they think a­bout the uses and a­buses of re­li­gion.

Basically he argues that the new atheists limit the discussion too much on the "true or false" question along with questions about the potential bad effects of religion.  A for me very interesting part that deserves to be thought about is the following:
But I'd advance a much more rad­i­cal ar­gu­ment as well. Not only should the more rational and therapeutic elements be distilled from the opi­ate of re­li­gion. But the wacky, su­per­sti­tious, cloud-cuck­oo-land forms of re­li­gion, too, should be cherished and preserved, for those forms of religion some­times do great good for our emo­tion­al lives, even when they com­pro­mise our more-rational lives....
Religion, even the wacky, su­per­sti­tious stuff, is an an­al­ge­sic sur­viv­al mech­a­nism and sanc­tuary in the de­vel­op­ing world. Religion pro­vides some or­der, co­her­ence, re­spite, peace, and trac­tion against the fates. Per­haps most im­por­tant­, it quells the emo­tion­al dis­tress of hu­man vulnerabil­i­ty. I'm an ag­nos­tic and a cit­i­zen of a wealthy na­tion, but when my own son was in the emer­gen­cy room with an ill­ness, I prayed spon­ta­ne­ous­ly. I'm not naïve—I don't think it did a damn thing to heal him. But when peo­ple have their backs against the wall, when they are tru­ly help­less and hope­less, then grov­el­ing and ne­go­ti­at­ing with any­thing more pow­er­ful than themselves is a very hu­man re­sponse. It is a re­sponse that will not go away, and that should not go away if it pro­vides some gen­u­ine re­lief for anx­i­ety and ag­o­ny. As Rog­er Scruton says, "The consolation of imag­i­nary things is not imag­i­nary con­so­la­tion."

Read this through several times to understand where he comes from. He simply argues that ALTHOUGH religion is false it might still make sense to preserve it because......

Quite some folks criticized Stephen's text including PZ Myers here.

Which prompted Stephen and then PZ to write again.

Currently i must say I think that PZ doesn't see the point really or he doesn't seem to see the relevance of it.
For me striking are the following two parts in PZs' last post.
and I've told people that we need more appeal to those lower centers of the brain…but this idea that atheists are all a bunch of Spock-like uber-rationalists, or that we aspire to a coldly logical society, is simply an annoying stereotype that isn't true.
I recall a presentation by PZ Look at 5:35 where he himself stated that atheists do have that image and that they should have to work against that image. So i presumed (and still do) that he is well aware of the problem that atheists often DO appear to be exactly the stereotype that he states to be untrue. Atheists often do tend to argue based on reason and rationality (which is of course the only way to correctly argue) Especially if seen from the perspective of people that (as PZ and the other author seem to agree) use the rationality-module less often than atheists. So frankly it is NOT a question of true and false alone but also one of appearance. And it is a sad thing that sometimes with all the talks about truth and false that you get from reasonable people like PZ and Dawkins and whoever you want to list, that sometimes they simply fail to see the "emotional" side. It actually doesn't matter if something is true or not. Believers will recognize what seems "appropriate" for them. PZ fails to see that I would say ...
"And the whole point of what I wrote is that "it makes me feel good" is inadequate support for a complex set of beliefs about the world—"it's true" is also essential."
The judgment about whether something is inadequate or not ... who is allowed to make that?
I think Stephen has a good point for example with the story of the son that died. IF an illusion is all that can keep the mother sane, THEN that illusion is as adequate as anything could be in that situation REGARDLESS of whether it is true or not. Sometimes the truth is simply not acceptable for a person at a certain point in life.
It also doesn't matter if Atheists are correct or not if their correctness would destroy the worldview of a person. He most probably won't accept it.

The question is not if that is so, but rather how do we deal with this. And sadly that's where I think the biggest failure of many atheists resides. Stephen in my view correctly hints that a relationship between the amount of people living a religion and the social and economic situation in a region seems to exist. It is NOT the truth that will persuade or convince people to come over to the "light" side. In order to get them to use the neocortex more and be less dependent on emotional relief you have to reduce the situations that trigger your "limbic or mammalian brain".

Less religiousness requires more wealth and a more stable environment. This helps far more than lectures about evolution alone could, when it comes to people and the strength of their convictions.
I would argue that the wealthier and socially advanced a society, the more receptive people are for "scientific ideas".

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