Saturday, January 13, 2007

NAS-Atheism Connection: A Closer Look

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Categories : Science, Religion, The New Atheists

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published: samedi 13 janvier 2007 17:38:41

Sam Harris notes that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a personal God and then claims that “this suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.” I have already shown that Harris is circumventing rules of critical thinking and raises an argument that is essentially the same as saying “there are few modes of thinking less congenial to women than science.”

There are, of course, other problems with Harris' claim. It’s not quite clear what he means by “mode of thinking” and “congenial.” Also, he conflates “belief in a personal God” with religious faith, as there are several forms of religious faith that do not involve such a belief. However, we get a better feel for Harris’ point when the previous context is considered, where he asserts “there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith.”

What intrigues me most about this claim is that Harris abandons “scientific thinking” in order to cite it as a means to promote his social agenda. For example, a scholarly approach to the NAS statistic would entail curiosity and a desire to study this piece of sociological data. Instead, Harris has simply adopted the statistic and turned it into a talking point for his cause (it is also worth mentioning that both Dennett and Dawkins do the same).

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