I was over at The Good Atheist
watching the recent debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Souza
. I've addressed D'Souza before
, but here he poses a question that I've heard from several people in both verbal exchanges and in essays so I wanted to address it. D'Souza states the position in part 11 of 13, starting about 2:10 into it saying:
"In every culture, when you ask someone, 'where did you learn about right and wrong?', he says, 'I'm a Muslim, I'm a Hindu'...now, true we can probably do it by philosophy, but I've yet to meet a guy who says, 'I got my morality from Hegel.' So we can talk all we want about philosophy, but the truth of it is that religion has delivered the goods as being the transmission belt of conveying morality. What about hope and life and a sense of purpose?....Religion, by giving a sense of purpose and meaning to life, by ultimately answering the large questions that science has proved radically incapable of even entertaining, (is better than secular science)..."
To start, he is using a logical fallacy known as making shit up out of completely thin air
. Really? Religion has "delivered the goods"? Religion has "ultimately answered the large questions" that science hasn't? I'm going to have to call shenanigans.
Religion does not answer questions. Let's just say that out loud, shall we? Religion is, at best, a place holder until a better answer comes along that has, you know, a foothold in reality. Science doesn't have to answer everything - the big questions included - because it has people who are always working on answers. The answers are rarely complete and are always up for revision, which is why there are changes and updates and progress. Religion is still WAAAAAYYYYY back in the Dark Ages thinking that men in the sky dole out parcels of wisdom and senses of purpose one rainbow at a time. For fuck's sake, how do grown humans buy into this stupid shit?
Religion puts a nonsensical bubble in the spot where an answer should go, but by doing so, they don't accomplish anything other than stopping potentially smart people from looking at the problem in the future. There are smart people in religions, but when they look at certain questions and see that "God did this in that way for that purpose over there; so says Rev. So-And-So", they tend to move on to other problems. It's ridiculous.
To answer questions or solve a problem, you have to provide solutions that (a) explain the observable details and (b) do not raise more questions that are unanswerable. Occam's handy razor should always be in your pocket so that when D'Souza says something like, "Religion...by ultimately answering the large questions that science has proved radically incapable of even entertaining (is better than secular science)", you can point out that not knowing the answer and being ok with that bit of ignorance for the time being is better than saying a "man in the sky dictated a book to a bunch of men and it tells us how to be good people, and terrible misogynistic war-ridden people...but ignore that last part."