Tuesday, November 17, 2009

finishing a task, and preparing for another

now this looks interesting...

Jacinta: Okay, so the ever-complacent reviewer Luke Pollard next tells us that Williams 'discusses' the view that 'explaining the prevalence of religious belief in evolutionary terms negates any truth that it may hold', a view he attributes to Daniel Dennett. He provides us with no further detail about the discussion however.
Canto: Well I would think that explaining religious belief in such terms almost requires you to be an unbeliever.
Jacinta: Mmmm, maybe. I'm not so sure about that. I would rather object to the use of the singular - religious beliefs vary enormously and are often contradictory. Further, I think most religious believers never even consider their beliefs in terms of truth or falsity. They're just part of the belief system they're brought up with. Once you're thinking in terms of truth and falsity, you're on your way toward adopting scientific methodologies, and simple faith is already starting to crumble.
Canto: Yes, and I think Dennett is right, if that's his position, though I think he would phrase it quite differently.
Jacinta: Quite. Anyway, Pollard goes on to praise Williams for engaging with the 'new atheist' arguments in a logical, constructive way, unusually for a popularist book. However Pollard doesn't give us any real evaluation of any of these arguments, so when he writes of 'a new level of civilized debate' offered up by Williams, we can only take his word for it.
Canto: Or not, as the case may be.
Jacinta: Quite again. So he goes on about Williams' precise and logical style, again without providing evidence, but hey it's only a one-page review, but he really ends it on a bum note, saying that because it is well-written it will 'probably be burned as heretical'.
Canto: What the... So what is he saying, that atheists, or 'new atheists', hate well-written books on religion by Christian philosophers and prefer to burn them rather than engage with them, and like to employ the religious term 'heretical'? Yes, complacent really is the word for this Pollard guy, Jass. Or maybe fatuous.
Jacinta: Yes and don't you just love the way religious 'thinkers' constantly project religious terminology onto secularists, like describing them as obsessed with heresy, or having faith in science... But now it's time to get onto the real thing, not a review but a real philosophical essay by Peter S Williams.
Canto: Yes, I've already found much to get stuck into in Williams' attempt to rebut A C Grayling's claims in Against all Gods. Unfortunately we haven't read the Grayling book, but we've read a few polemics against religion in two of Grayling's essay collections, The Form of Things and The Heart of Things, and we've read an excerpt of Against All Gods, the essay 'Can an Atheist be a Fundamentalist', which is reprinted in the Christopher Hitchens-edited The Portable Atheist. So we're quite familiar with Grayling's overall position...
Jacinta: And essentially in agreement with it, I'd say. So let us sally forth into the fray.
Canto: Oh, sally, let's.

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