[asa] FYI: Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is the new enemy of

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Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is the new enemy of
reason

23:31pm 5th August 2007
<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/columnist
s.html?i
n_article_id=473347&in_page_id=1772&in_author_id=256#StartComments>
CommentsComments

 Melanie Phillips
<http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/columnists/melanie_phillips.jpg>

Our most celebrated atheist, the biologist Professor Richard
Dawkins, has
briefly turned his attention away from bashing people who believe
in God.

Instead, he is about to bash people who subscribe to 'new age'
therapies
which he says are based on 'irrational superstition'.

In a TV programme to be shown later this month, Dawkins looks at a
range of
ludicrous therapies and gurus, including faith healers, psychic
mediums,
'angel therapists', 'aura photographers', astrologers and others.

Not surprisingly, he is horrified by such widespread irrationality,
not to
mention an exploitative industry that fleeces people while
encouraging them
to run away from reality. He is right to be alarmed.

What previously belonged to the province of the quack and the
charlatan has
become mainstream. The NHS provides funding for shamans, while the
NHS
Directory For Alternative And Complementary Medicine promotes
'dowsers',
'flower therapists' and 'crystal healers'.

Scroll down for more

'We are living in a scientific, largely post-religious age in which
faith is
presented as unscientific superstition'

Read more...

*
<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.ht
ml?in_ar
ticle_id=473369&in_page_id=1774> New age healing and astrology
slammed by
God Delusion author

Indeed, such therapies aren't the half of it. Millions of us are
now eager
to believe that the world is controlled by conspiracies of covert
forces,
for which there is not one shred of evidence because such theories
are
simply bonkers.

Thus Press articles and TV documentaries seriously advance the
belief that
the 9/11 attacks on America were orchestrated by the U.S.
government itself.
Similarly, thousands believe that Princess Diana was murdered at
the hands
of a conspiracy composed of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles
and MI5.

Bestselling books by the former TV sports presenter David Icke, who
has
announced he is 'the son of God', argue that Britain will be
devastated by
tidal waves and earthquakes, and that the world is ruled by a
secret group
called the 'Global Elite' or 'Illuminati' which was responsible for
the
Holocaust, the Oklahoma city bombing and 9/11.

These trends are not just nutty but sinister. Thousands of cults
now combine
similar crazy beliefs with programmes to control people's minds and
behaviour.

Their techniques include food and sleep deprivation; trance
induction
through hypnosis or prolonged rhythmical chanting; and 'love
bombing', where
cult members are bombarded with conditional love which is removed
whenever
there is a deviation from the dictates of the leader.

Disturbing indeed. But where Dawkins goes wrong is to assume this
is all as
irrational as believing in God. The truth is that it is the
collapse of
religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality.

We are living in a scientific, largely post-religious age in which
faith is
presented as unscientific superstition. Yet paradoxically, we have
replaced
such faith by belief in demonstrable nonsense.

It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped that "when people stop
believing
in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything."
So it has
proved. But how did it happen?

The big mistake is to see religion and reason as polar opposites.
They are
not. In fact, reason is intrinsic to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator and an orderly
universe -
which, accordingly, provided the template for the exercise of
reason and the
development of science.

Dawkins pours particular scorn on the Biblical miracles which don't
correspond to scientific reality. But religious believers have
different
ways of regarding those events, with many seeing them as either
metaphors or
as natural occurrences which were invested with a greater
significance.

The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the
concept of
truth, which gives rise to reason. But our postreligious age has
proclaimed
that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is "true
for me".

That is because our society won't put up with anything which gets
in the way
of 'what I want'. How we feel about things has become all-
important. So
reason has been knocked off its perch by emotion, and thinking has
been
replaced by feelings.

This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth
and lies
by using evidence and logic. And this collapse of objective truth
has, in
turn, come to undermine science itself which is playing a role for
which it
is not fitted.

When science first developed in the West, it thought of itself
merely as a
tool to explore the natural world. It did not pour scorn upon
religion;
indeed, scientists were overwhelmingly religious believers (as many
still
are).

In modern times, however, science has given rise to 'scientism',
the belief
that science can answer all the questions of human existence. This
is not
so.

Science cannot explain the origin of the universe. Yet it now
presumes to do
so and as a result it has descended into irrationality.

The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins
himself, who
breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that
Darwin's
theory of evolution - which sought to explain how complex organisms
evolved
through random natural selection - also accounts for the origin of
life
itself.

There is no evidence for this whatever and no logic to it. After
all, if
people say God could not have created the universe because this
gives rise
to the question "Who created God?", it follows that if scientists
say the
universe started with a big bang, this prompts the further question
"What
created the bang?"

Indeed, if the origin of life were truly spontaneous, this would
constitute
what religious people would call a miracle. Accordingly, this claim
in
itself resembles not so much science as the superstition that
Dawkins
derides.

Moreover, since science essentially takes us wherever the evidence
leads,
the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research - which have
revealed the
almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed
to
produce life - have thrown into doubt the theory that life emerged
spontaneously in a random universe.

These findings have given rise to a school of scientists promoting
the
theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that some force
embodying
purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe.

While this theory is, of course, open to vigorous counter-argument,
people
such as Prof Dawkins and others have gone to great lengths to stop
it being
advanced at all, on the grounds that it denies scientific evidence
such as
the fossil record and is therefore worthless.

Yet distinguished scientists have been hounded and their careers
jeopardised
for arguing that the fossil record has got a giant hole in it. Some
570
million years ago, in a period known as the Cambrian Explosion,
most forms
of complex animal life emerged seemingly without any evolutionary
trail.

These scientists argue that only 'rational agents' could have
possessed the
ability to design and organise such complex systems.

Whether or not they are right (and I don't know), their scientific
argument
about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life
spontaneously
created itself is being stifled - on the totally perverse grounds
that this
argument does not conform to the rules of science which require
evidence to
support a theory.

As a result of such arrogance, the West - the crucible of reason -
is
turning the clock back to a pre-modern age of obscurantism, dogma
and
secular witch-hunts.

Far from upholding reason, science itself has become unreasonable.
So when
Prof Dawkins fulminates against 'new age' irrationality, it is the
image of
pots and kettles that comes irresistibly to mind.

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Received on Mon Aug 13 20:34:13 2007

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