The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dr. Peter Kreeft's Speech

A few weeks ago, a good friend's brother (Hi, Steve) gave me a couple of CDs to listen to on Catholic apologetics. One lecture by Dr. Peter Kreeft and another by Dr. Scott Hahn. Today, I'll go over the former's speech entitled Seven Reasons Everyone on Earth Should Be a Roman Catholic.

This was pretty hard to listen to, not because it was difficult to refute or anything, but because there isn't any decent logical points at all to dig into. I mean, his first argument is, "What else is there?" Seriously. He asks, "Why believe anything at all? Because it's true." See, as an example, Santa made you happy, and good/moral. You were good before Xmas, and you were happy. Why don't you believe in Santa? It's not true. So, as he says, "Truth trumps everything." Ok, what's this truth stuff?

His questions are, Do you desire truth? Do you seek truth? This is sounding a bit new-agey. Kreeft goes on here about wanting truth and a bunch of stuff, but there's no argument in sight.

He then quotes the best atheist question, supposedly from Bertrand Russell on his deathbed after being asked, "What will you say to God if you're wrong?" Russell supposedly answers, "Fair enough, why didn't you give us more evidence?"

Ah, but see, God would compel us against our will if he gave us too much evidence. (Ed. note: Whaaaa?) Yeah, God gave just enough "light" for those who truly seek him to find him ("seek" here is an ancient Babylonian word meaning "have enough blind faith").

The point: "Either there's some sort of a God, or there isn't...Assuming that the religious view of some sort is true..." No no no... you can't just assume that. We can end the discussion here because everything apart from this is just more floors built upon the non-existent foundation. It's Tooth Fairy philosophy.

Kreeft asserts, "Many Gods just doesn't work"? Well, it seems to work fine for Shintoism. Worked for the Romans and Greeks. That flat statement is both condescending and ignorant of history and other religions.

In this lecture, there are so many either/or assumptions based on ridiculous "logic" that it's difficult to even follow along. It's almost like trying to listen to Deepak Chopra and attempt to make any sense out of his driveling rants.

Regarding the church's history, Kreeft says, "If the bones of the dead Jesus would just turn up in some tomb in Palestine, all Christianity would be destroyed." Sure, assuming Jesus was a real person. Plus, it's hard to find the bones of one guy who's grave was (if he was real) likely pilfered for relics.

He says that science relates to Christianity in that there's, "not a single scientific discovery that refutes a single doctrine of the Christian religion". about Heliocentrism? Just a thought. Catholic dogma held that back for a long long time; remember Cardinal Robert Bellarmine who said that, "we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary". That would be the contrary message to what Galileo figured out, which was the that Earth went around the Sun.

Weak weak weak arguments.

Now we get into C.S. Lewis. You had to know he was on the way. It's the old, "Christ was either the messiah or he was a liar/madman" bit. Kreeft says that this argument, "forces you to say one of two extremes", which is true, but why go with the craziest? A little razor cut from old William of Occam fixes that right up, especially the old school version that says, "plurality should not be posited without necessity". Exactly. If the guy's either crazy or the "son of God", well, there's no proof whatsoever for the existence of some man in the sky, therefore the best answer is that he's a crazy person. Boom. Done. Let's go grab a beer.

Oh, wait, he's not done....

Sure, the Nicene Creed which gave the four marks (clues) of the Church:

Firstly, it's got to be holy, Catholic, and apostolic. Really? It's got to be "Catholic"? But what about this part of the creed, which is the really scary bit to me: "I expect the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the world to come." Death cult, anyone? People who expect to live forever and yearn for the "world to come" make me afraid because it so takes away from the importance of this life. We only have about 80 years, on average, to do what we like and be around those we love - to piss on that for some empty vague promise of what's to come is incredible weak. Tim Minchin expresses this thought beautifully in his nine minute beat poem, Storm, heard right here:
Back to Catholic doctrine and the lovely idea that they don't allow divorce because "we don't claim to have the authority to change the words of our Master." - to a nice little applause break...or as the Japanese say, "Apprause blake". So screw you, missy, you stay with that abusive, wife-beating drunk, you second-class woman, you. Way to hang on to that tremendous misogyny.

Oh, and women also can't be ordained for the same reason. Simple misogyny. You stay classy.

So, if you can't change the "word" you stone adulterers? (Lev. 20:10) Do you kill homosexuals? (Lev. 20:13) Not so "infallible" now, is it?

Kreeft says that because Catholics don't change with the times, they're persecuted and are the "new Jews". He says, "We're like an iron ball in the pit of the world's stomach, we can't be digested, we can't be assimilated." Another applause break from the supportive-yet-unthinking crowd. Great. I guess I'm just weird in thinking that unchanging dogmatism is a bad thing.

Next item of interest is "Apostolic Succession". He makes this point by pointing out three "historical facts": 1. Jesus did appoint apostles. 2. These apostles exercised their powers to pass on themselves in the form of bishops. 3. These bishops are still around. I think when you look at arguments for why everyone in the world should be a Catholic, this counts as the worst argument ever.

I had two mice. Those mice had babies and became my new mice. I still have mice. Therefore the bible is true. See how that works?!

This one made me laugh out loud. Kreeft says that, "Reason can prove very much of the Faith, not all of it, but much of it. And it can refute all objections to it." Really? I call BS. If the Catholic faith (or any faith, for that matter) could refute any and all objections, then I'd be convinced, but it can't. Period.

Kreeft said that he was bored on a beach and read St. John of the Cross. When he was done he said, "I don't understand this, but I know it's true." There's the mindset, in one concise sentence. If you don't take away anything else from this blathering I do, remember that one sentence because it sums up religious belief very succinctly. If ever there was a phrase to encompass the arrogance of ignorance, this is it.

We're nearing the end, thankfully, because this line made me almost seltzer my milk out my nose: "The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church." What? So no one bothered to change the text, big deal. Bishops had mistresses, church officials stole money, now a not-inconsequential number of priests rape children...that means the church is infallible? I think you live in Topsy Turvy Land

Kreeft says that the church and its inspired music/architecture/art are beautiful. He listened to music and thought, "I absolutely know that this music comes from Heaven." Argument from ignorance, anyone? Anyone? This is quietly, seemingly viewed as a serious point. He says, "I know three ex- atheists who were converted by J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion." Good for you. I have a newsflash - they weren't knowledgeable atheists, because any atheist worth his or her salt (see what I did there, making men and women equal? Right) would realize that Bach was great at something. Period. It's a lot like Francis Collins' frozen waterfall conversion. As Michael Shermer says, sometimes smart people are great at rationalizing the things they came to believe for not-smart reasons.

Here's where I actually got angry. Kreeft said that while visiting Africa, some members of the tribes he talked to couldn't believe two things: 1. They couldn't believe that there was such a thing as an atheist. No one near a river or an ocean could be an atheist.

This is, to be blunt, stupid. Who cares what the tribes believed about atheists? You might as well go back a couple hundred years and ask someone then about iPhones. If you have no technology and no science, the clouds and rain are magic.

Secondly and much more infuriating, Kreeft said that the tribespeople, "couldn't believe that, 'In America alone, a million and a half mothers pay hired killers called physicians to kill their unborn babies.'" All this is is inflammatory rhetoric from a deluded fool. It's bullshit. It also ignores womens' safety issues and shows the black/white mindset for the dangerous tripe it is.

Kreeft's final message to non-Catholics: Come out into the "splendor of Truth". I'm pretty sure that you don't mean that in the Stephen Colbert, ironic and hilarious way. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I left the Catholic faith a long time ago and Dr. Kreeft has nothing at all to make me think I made a mistake. Thanks, but no.

30 Barbaric Yawps:

At 15/1/10 10:57 am, Anonymous Skeptico said...

"not a single scientific discovery that refutes a single doctrine of the Christian religion"

- how about the discovery that dead people don't come back to life after two days of being dead?

OK probably not proven strictly speaking since you can't prove a universal negative, but it's pretty good evidence that it probably never happened.

At 16/1/10 3:28 pm, Blogger King Aardvark said...

"not a single scientific discovery that refutes a single doctrine of the Christian religion"

He's right, just so long as he remembers to pull those goalposts out of the ground, pack them in a truck, and drive off at high speed down the 401.

At 11/2/10 1:33 am, Blogger markmorales said...

the Catholic Church has never held an official doctrine regarding heliocentrism.

At 7/3/10 9:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you arguments were not ignorant but they are dishonest. i bet you were listening to find errors rather than understanding first the concepts as a whole before giving lousy conclusions as if you understood everything.

theism and atheism are both logical in a sense that both can be internally coherent within the frames of logic and towards our attitude toward life. we know and believe every discoverable truth there is without resorting to God. But attaching a corollary such as therefore God doesn't exist simply is not needed since some people believe so much in the afterlife. but how can one be such a snob to treat theists as insane when they compose the 90% of our world?

There is something in the "idea" of God that compels people, and that idea is rejected by some.

it is the very existence of that "idea" that people are categorized.( whether they are theists or atheists).

so insofar as this is an observable fact among peoples throughout history, we can say that essentially we are either believers or non believers.

to cut it short. you can live in this world being an atheists, but for the theists it is incomplete since there is such a thing as eternal life. and this is the core essence of finding the truth, to live to the maximum of what you believe in whether God or not.

but is to find truth the real meaning of life whether in this life or in the afterlife? if we are atheists do we now suffer Sartre's conclusion that life is meaningless?

I always liked Nietzche when he said " all philosophers seek the truth but then i ask, why truth?"

i guess this is the ultimate "Why" that philosophers are asking and they may have skipped it, and even ordinary people. why truth? does it give meaning or ultimately nothing?

theism and atheism both falls without an introspection of this this very profound but simple question.

At 8/3/10 8:05 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

You said: "i bet you were listening to find errors rather than understanding first the concepts as a whole before giving lousy conclusions as if you understood everything." I initially listen to anything trying to get the gist of what they say and see if it (a) makes sense and then (b) is meaningful enough to spend some time pondering. Kreeft wasn't.

You: "...attaching a corollary such as therefore God doesn't exist simply is not needed since some people believe so much in the afterlife." I don't care how many people believe in an idea, if it is unsupportable by evidence then it is your choice to believe, but don't go around saying it's "logical".

You: " can live in this world being an atheists, but for the theists it is incomplete since there is such a thing as eternal life." Please re-read my above paragraph re: evidence.

I have no problem with questions. Questioning is a part of every honest skeptic's daily routine, to the point of seriously questioning our own sacred (if I may) beliefs when they are challenged.

Is there an "afterlife"? Maybe. Is there a "god/creator of the universe"? Perhaps. There is no evidence for these ideas and as such, we have to stick with "I don't know" as our ultimate answer. The main problem, as I see it, that atheists have with believers is that you insist that you know the answer to these unanswerable questions.

Just say, "we don't know", please. Believe if you want, but don't say you've got the "Truth".

At 15/3/10 4:15 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got your point.

what i'm saying is that atheism and theism cannot both be refuted by way of logic since the very framework by which logic flows can and often times flow from the perspective of either theism or atheism.

in a sense, it is like the Kantian a priori forms of intuition but which reconstructs the external world.

i'm not espousing theism nor atheism. i'm just saying that the ontological value of either positions can easily lead the discussion back to the time of the rigid empiricists and rationalists.

If you are familiar with Hume's explanation of how a consciousness is of the "self" is possible and you don't find errors within his logic with his explanation that the self is simply a bundle of expressions blah blah then you can go far with your beliefs that the self is ultimately material, but i don't know how that can be proven.

and then if you try to follow either Descartes and Leibniz' intuitionism, then i guess it is impossible to go by in this world.

Now going back to my analogy of Kant's ambition of mediating the two schools of thought, this is partly what i'm trying to get at. His method was to sought a middle ground between the two, but my concern here is not the middle-ground that Kant sought to describe, but rather the very a priori forms by which we grasp logic in the world.

I think it is fitting to say at least for the moment that both positions are logical, since both positions can give evidence but only so much because the evidences themselves get blurred when you think of more explanation behind every single phenomena.

So my conclusion,which i think can be accepted by both positions is that, theism and atheism both makes explicit the a priori forms by which a man constructs his logic.

A priori intuitions are abstract, theism and atheism both unearth the deeper framework that lies beneath a man.

I hope you are familiar with the Kantian categories.

some thoughts?

At 15/3/10 9:53 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

I think that what you are saying is an attempt at philosophically justifying the theological belief system by undercutting the value of actual evidence.

When you say, "I think it is fitting to say at least for the moment that both positions are logical, since both positions can give evidence but only so much because the evidences themselves get blurred when you think of more explanation behind every single phenomena", it devalues actual physical evidence for the world/universe. Saying there is/are (a) god(s) out there is making a leap of logic that is not warranted unless you believe a particular religious doctrine, most of which oust evidence and the importance thereof from the start.

Going just by reason, "I don't know" is a perfectly good answer. We can dig philosophically as far down as we want to go, but we'll eventually come back to uncertainty, and at that point is where the religious make their Kirkegaardian leap - unjustified in my opinion.

I appreciate your discussion and points, but ultimately there is hard evidence for a natural world, and it leads to secularism in the mild form or a skeptical atheism in the more scientific sense.

In my opinion, of course. :)

At 15/3/10 10:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

honestly, do you think every belief in God is a leap? How can such "leap" be the default of human beings?

I guess if one has to take the leap, it presuposses that at some point in time one must have thought of the idea of God extensively and seriously. Because to make the leap one has to exhaust all logic and find that logic is not enough that is why there is a need for a leap.

There are more theists who never took the leap.

If your position is that "we cannot know" but in relation to yourself then i guess that's good. But to make such statement universal i guess is unacceptable.

I have high respect for atheists and theists alike who use reason, because often times they are honest and you can talk to them.

At 15/3/10 12:10 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

I do think that every theistic belief is a "leap". You have to, as you said, get to the point where you exhaust your knowledge and then start to include supernatural ideas like deities. That is why all gods are "gods of the gaps" and why our belief in them is shrinking - not too many people these days think storms, earthquakes or volcanos are controlled by the gods anymore.

When you, "Because to make the leap one has to exhaust all logic and find that logic is not enough," it's only partly correct in that it really should say, "your logic or knowledge base is not enough". The basis - again, as I see it - of religious belief is personal or societal ignorance and that supernatural belief vanishes as our technological and scientific knowledge grows.

A quick point of correction: my position is not that "we cannot know", it is:

There are things we do not know yet, and may never know. Until such time as there is solid evidence for these things (universe creator, miracles, homeopathy, ghosts....), the only honest position to take is that of, "we do not know". Technically that makes me an agnostic, but for all intents and because of the staggering lack of evidence in the supernatural and mountains of evidence for a natural world/universe, I live as an atheist.

Finally, I too share your respect for those who use reason, even if they don't come to the same conclusions I do. At least in reason there is room to honestly argue and change minds.

At 3/8/10 12:56 pm, Anonymous David said...

Opposing divorce does not mean a woman has to live with her husband who beats her. The church does not say that a married couple have to live together at all.

A wife or husband can live in a different country if she or he chooses to.

At 3/8/10 1:12 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Ok, so what's the point then? If the "married couple" are living in different countries, what's the rationale for calling them still "married"? Why not just allow divorce like civilized people? You know, catch up with the 18th century?

At 9/11/10 12:50 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an atheist. However, I must point out a glaring flaw in your talk about the Nicene Creed. The "holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" is lowercase catholic, meaning "Universal," not uppercase Catholic, meaning the denomination - homonyms. Just saying...

At 17/3/11 11:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thumbs down! Love Peter Kreeft....looking for negative...close minded!

At 18/3/11 7:57 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

I wasn't "looking for negative". "Negative" hit me in the face and I had to call it out.

At 24/3/11 9:43 pm, Anonymous Krys said...

I think it takes a greater leap of faith to believe that all of creation happened by chance. Read the mathematical probabilities put forth by a scientist in the link below. It doesn't "prove" God's existence, but I'd question the rationality of anyone that would believe in the odds. -Even Relativity is considered a mere theory ---I doubt that any rational person would doubt it.

At 24/3/11 11:14 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Ugh. Why must I defend evolution (or creation itself) to people who clearly don't understand it? I have an idea: you go read a book by a person who you don't agree with? Someone who does it for a job (think Dawkins, Krauss, or Gould).

I only suggest this because I keep hearing from creationists that the odds are SOOOO huge against evolution happening by chance alone!

Well, guess what? It's not chance alone. See, in evolution for example, chance works together with natural selection - that's the non-random part - to produce things that mimic design. Read up on it.

Analyzing data on the odds of something happening after the fact will always show the event being unlikely. Given a set of circumstances, however, *something* will happen.

A deck of cards will end in some order after shuffling, but if, after the fact, you look at how unlikely it was to end up in that specific order, it'll be crazy odds.

Go. Learn. From non-religious people who know what they're talking about.

At 25/3/11 12:38 am, Anonymous Krys said...

You shouldn't asssume that people that disagree with you haven't read widely. Since you cite Dawkins, who is just plain snarky--and shares your condescending attitude---I'd like to share with you a critique written by Thomas Nagle, an atheist that I disagree with but seems more intellectually honest. Here's an exerpt from his review of God Illusion:
"It is a question that Dawkins recognizes and tries to address, and it is directly analogous to his question for the God hypothesis:who made God? The problem is this. The theory of evolution through heritable variation and natural selection reduces the improbabilityof organizational complexity by breaking the process down into a
very long series of small steps, each of which is not all that
improbable. But each of the steps involves a mutation in a carrier
of genetic information--an enormously complex molecule capable both of self-replication and of generating out of surrounding matter a functioning organism that can house it. The molecule is moreover capable sometimes of surviving a slight mutation in its structure to generate a slightly different organism that can also survive.
Without such a replicating system there could not be heritable
variation, and without heritable variation there could not be
natural selection favoring those organisms, and their underlying
genes, that are best adapted to the environment.

The entire apparatus of evolutionary explanation therefore depends on the prior existence of genetic material with these remarkable properties. Since 1953 we have known what that material is, and scientists are continually learning more about how DNA does what it does. But since the existence of this material or something like it is a precondition of the possibility of evolution, evolutionary
theory cannot explain its existence. We are therefore faced with a problem analogous to that which Dawkins thinks faces the argument from design: we have explained the complexity of organic life in terms of something that is itself just as functionally complex as what we originally set out to explain. So the problem is just pushed back one step: how did such a thing come into existence?

Of course there is a huge difference between this explanation and the God hypothesis. We can observe DNA and see how it works. But
the problem that originally prompted the argument from design--the overwhelming improbability of such a thing coming into existence by chance, simply through the purposeless laws of physics-- remains just as real for this case. Yet this time we cannot replace chance with natural selection.

Dawkins recognizes the problem, but his response to it is pure
hand-waving. First, he says it only had to happen once. Next, he
says that there are, at a conservative estimate, a billion billion planets in the universe with life- friendly physical and chemical environments like ours. So all we have to suppose is that the probability of something like DNA forming under such conditions,
given the laws of physics, is not much less than one in a billion
billion. And he points out, invoking the so-called anthropic
principle, that even if it happened on only one planet, it is noaccident that we are able to observe it, since the appearance of
life is a condition of our existence.

Dawkins is not a chemist or a physicist. Neither am I, but general expositions of research on the origin of life indicate that no one has a theory that would support anything remotely near such a high probability as one in a billion billion. Naturally there is speculation about possible non-biological chemical precursors of
DNA or RNA. But at this point the origin of life remains, in light
of what is known about the huge size, the extreme specificity, and
the exquisite functional precision of the genetic material, a
mystery--an event that could not have occurred by chance and to
which no significant probability can be assigned on the basis of
what we know of the laws of physics and chemistry."

At 25/3/11 9:10 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Do you know why Dawkins is condescending? Because he has to repeatedly explain concepts that people have spent their lives discovering and refining to people who think they know better with less education or experience.

A good example is in your quotation: "The entire apparatus of evolutionary explanation therefore depends on the prior existence of genetic material with these remarkable properties." NO, it doesn't. This is why scientists get annoyed. Nagle makes some good points in his critique of Dawkins' work, but there are places where he is plain wrong.

While scientists and the people who defend them (like me) probably should be more civil and patient, from time to time it's difficult and the snark comes out. People like you make it easier when you say things like "Even relativity is a mere theory", showing you have no idea what a scientific theory actually is.

So, I apologize for being condescending, but I stand by the thrust of my point which is that people who criticize should make an effort to understand what they're talking about.

At 25/3/11 12:51 pm, Anonymous Krys said...

Your categorical dismissal of Nagel's statement is not convincing. It does not disprove Nagel's(not my) contention. Please expound on why you believe that Nagle is wrong. I understand that you may be limited in space, but scientific links refuting Nagle's assertion would be helpful. I also respectfully disagree with your understanding of the reasons for Dawkin's condescending tonality. It seems to me he is purposefully trying to impugn the intelligence of people that believe in God (as have you)and make those that disbelieve in God feel intellectually superior. Not only did Nagle find Dawkins work lacking in rigorous sophisticated logic and science, but he also derided his dogmatic fundamentalist like rhetorical fervor. He was not alone in that. Terry Eagleton also took Dawkins to task for his tone. Just as Nagle, he critiqued Dawkins lack of knowledge in sophisticated philosophical reasoning AND lack of adequate scientific training. I believe that intellectuals can have disparate opinions.We can agree to disagree. Nagle and Eagleton are also atheists, but see no reason to impugn the intelligence of those that disagree with them. Francis Collins who worked with James Watson on the Human Genome Project is no mental slouch scientist. He started out as an atheist, but to him, the evidence pointed to a divine creator and he sees no reason to seperate his religious beliefs from his scientific knowledge. Here's a quote from an interview he gave on PBS (link to the interview in its entirety follows):

"I don't see that any of the issues that people raise as points of contention between science and faith are all that difficult to resolve. Many people get hung up on the whole evolution versus creation argument ā€” one of the great tragedies of the last 100 years is the way in which this has been polarized. On the one hand, we have scientists who basically adopt evolution as their faith, and think there's no need for God to explain why life exists. On the other hand, we have people who are believers who are so completely sold on the literal interpretation of the first book of the Bible that they are rejecting very compelling scientific data about the age of the earth and the relatedness of living beings. It's unnecessary. I think God gave us an opportunity through the use of science to understand the natural world. The idea that some are asking people to disbelieve our scientific data in order to prove that they believe in God is so unnecessary.

If God chose to create you and me as natural and spiritual beings, and decided to use the mechanism of evolution to accomplish that goal, I think that's incredibly elegant. And because God is outside of space and time, He knew what the outcome was going to be right at the beginning. It's not as if there was a chance it wouldn't work. So where, then, is the discordancy that causes so many people to see these views of science and of spirit as being incompatible? In me, they both exist. They both exist at the same moment in the day. They're not compartmentalized. They are entirely compatible. And they're part of who I am."

At 25/3/11 2:29 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

I'm not questioning the intellegence of Nagel, I'm saying he's wrong about evolution. You can see a discussion on Jerry Coyne's blog here (
and you can find a specific referral to Nagel being wrong at comment 13 and response.

Also on Coyne's blog is this post ( where he lauds Michael Ruse for calling out Nagel, among others, for their ignorance of the subject they criticize; and here on Scienceblogs ( Nagel gets called out for not understanding science.

People don't really criticize Francis Collins for his science, they criticize him for how he came to get his faith. Conversely, Dawkins may be rude and condescending to religious people, but his science is pretty solid according to most biologists and evolutionary scientists.

I don't care if people are religious or what they believe - but don't pretend nonsense like "intelligent" design is science when it's only peddled by "cdesign proponentists", the activities of whom are, in part why some of us are condescending and rude from time to time.

At 26/3/11 12:01 am, Anonymous Krys said...

Since you cited Michael Ruse as calling out Nagle. Here's what he has to say about Dawkins and Coyne. The link to the original as well as a secondary critique follow."Jerry Coyne reviewed one of my books (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) using the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in. And non-stop blogger P. Z. Myers has referred to be as a ā€œclueless gobshite.ā€ This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash. (Of course some science and religion clashes. That is the whole point of the Darwinism-Creationism debate. The matter is whether all science and religion clash, something I deny strongly.)
Let me say that I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice. I will defend to the death the right of them to say what they do ā€“ as one who is English-born one of the things I admire most about the USA is the First Amendment. But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. (He was just this when, thirty years ago, Mary Midgeley went after the selfish gene concept without the slightest knowledge of genetics.) Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group."

secondary analysis:

At 26/3/11 2:06 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Yes, I cited Michael Ruse because he rightly called out Nagel for not understanding evolution.

Ironically, Ruse has himself been called out for a similar offense (not understanding the U.S. Constitution and its implications of teaching religion in public schools) and then gotten his panties in a bunch about it in the quote you reference. Myers' link is here:; the Larry Moran link says Ruse himself has a poor understanding of evolution (here:; and the second link is particularly telling about Ruse's attitude re: evolution, creationism, atheism, and the U.S. Constitution.

Ruse and Nagel can make good points/arguments, but overall, both are philosophers who are markedly out of their league when talking about biological evolution via natural selection.

Do you see why, from time to time, scientists and science cheerleaders get frustrated and rude/condescending? Do you see why saying, "Even Relativity is considered a mere theory" makes my head hurt? I hope so because that is why I get my back up.

That said, thanks for taking the time to both read and comment.

At 26/3/11 6:31 pm, Anonymous Krys said...

My last post---I never intended to spend even a fraction of the time I have in commenting. I have enjoyed reading your responses. I also realize that I have probably taken up way too much of your blog space. After this I will leave it to others to give you "fodder".

My final points 1)You wrote--- Do you see why saying, "Even Relativity is considered a "mere theory" makes my head hurt?" Perhaps you should not always assume that people who do not agree with you are ignorant. As a blogger, seeking clarification is ALWAYS important because you are communicating with strangers. The point was (is) ---if scientists are so reluctant to give certainty (law)to Relativity, why does Dawkins expound (and you believe) his theories with such condescending certainty? You may say that irrational people would not doubt it, however, evidence shows more people reject it than accept it. Are they ALL(or even most) irrational for doing so? I think not. If you scrutinize the link I sent in my original post, you will see that the probabilities that the events happened solely based on evolution and natural selection stretch credulity.I'd say considering the probabilities---rationality, reasonableness, and logic favor belief

2)You wrote---A deck of cards will end in some order after shuffling, but if, after the fact, you look at how unlikely it was to end up in that specific order, it'll be crazy odds." A specific order after a shuffle would occur and have crazy odds but the probability for deck of cards to be arranged in specific suit AND numerical specificity would strike most as highly improbable and reasonable (rational)people would surmise that someone stacked the deck.

3)I came to your site via a google search looking for atheists' response to Peter Kreeft. I had some issues with Kreeft, but I think his introduction categorizing people into those who seek and those that don't was spot on. As Nagle, Eagleton, and Ruse are still seekers I respect them even though I disagree with their conclusions. However as evidenced by my posting of critiques of Dawkins, I have much concern with the godlike worship that Dawkins is commanding. This "new atheism" really seems to have a lot in common with the structure of the Church. Dawkins seems to have become the movement's infallible god. There seem to be a slew of disciples that carry his "gospel". People(even fellow atheists) that disagree are denounced as ignorant and belittled ---ensuring sole devotion to Dawkins' "gospel". For his "disciples" his conclusions are dogma--not to be questioned.

My final comment.... "If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart."

At 26/3/11 9:13 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Thanks again, I have enjoyed our back and forth. My final comments:

"...if scientists are so reluctant to give certainty (law)to Relativity, why does Dawkins expound (and you believe) his theories with such condescending certainty?"

Relativity is a certainty. That was my point in criticizing the "mere theory" comment. A scientific theory is different from a guess, idea or the colloquial meaning of "theory". It is a well-tested and established law of nature (gravity, evolution by natural selection, heliocentrism, quantum mechanics, relativity...) that scientists have discovered and described to a high level of...what's that word? Right, "certainty".

Dawkins (and all of us on this side of the argument) is stating that evolution is a scientific theory, it's a law of nature. The specific mechanics of how evolution works (i.e. gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, some variation of the two...) is debated - and fervently - by scientists, but that evolution happened is not up for grabs anymore.

re: the card analogy - You're examining a hypothetical end point that is statistically anomalous and reading design in it. Sure, if I saw a deck of cards in its boxed order I would likely think it either new or someone set it up, but that's only because I'm used to that being a "set order". There is nothing inherently "special" about all suits and numbers being aligned.

What you are saying is that if you see a string of fifteen heads in a row of coin flips, there must be some cheating. My point is that that coin may have been flipped billions of times and, as such, fifteen heads in a row at some point is a certainty. Law of Large Numbers and all that.

I would suggest, if you are serious about learning about the opposing side, you read the articles at this link - there's a ton - and see what the scientific response is to most creationist claims.

re: the Dawkins is "infallible god" of atheist movement". Hardly. Dawkins gets pestered by people who don't agree with him all the time, scientifically and socially. Recently he was lambasted by many in the atheist community for being ok with the Richard Dawkins Award being given to Bill Maher. Larry Moran disagrees with Dawkins on the mechanics of evolution. Hardly sounds "infallible" to me.

Ok, we've gone back and forth too much and it's Saturday night. I'm going to do something fun, likely involving a beer or three. I hope you're doing the same and having as much of a good time.

At 9/4/15 4:19 pm, Blogger cameron said...

I studied philosophy in university (was a straight A student in it) and have read much of Peter Kreeft. Kreeft teaches philosophy at Boston College. I find your representation of his arguments selective and superficial. Maybe you should be a little more skeptical of your own intellectual honesty and logical abilities.

At 10/4/15 7:33 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Sounds good.

At 1/6/16 9:50 am, Anonymous Honest Reader said...

This article is a joke. It is full of caricatures, ad hominem's, non-sequitur's, etc. Suggestion 1: take logic 101 sometime. Suggestion 2: don't assert anything you can't back up (if you claim to be so reasonable). Suggestion 3: subordinate yourself to truth, facts, and logic. Given the tone and manner of your article, I don't expect that you will take any of these suggestions though.

At 1/6/16 10:17 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

If you're going to say my article is "full of caricatures, ad hominem's (sic), non-sequitur's (sic), etc..." then please, at least give a few examples. Snarky? Sure. I'll admit to that a hundred percent, but show me where I've caricatured his position or words. Show me where I used a non-sequitur. Where did I assert something I didn't back up? Come on, man, show me *something*. Your comment is lazy.

At 2/6/16 7:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have all day to pick this apart, but I'll make a few points. . .

First caricature and unfounded / unbacked up assertion: "this truth thing is new-agey."

Second, according to you, Christianity taught heliocentrism as a doctrine. Not true regarding the Catholic Church. Can you show me, not just opinions, but actually any text of official Catholic Church teaching that asserts that heliocentrism is essential to the faith? Precisely, you can't, because it doesn't exist. Yet another unfounded assertion.

"There's not proof for a man in the sky." Fine point. I'm not aware of any proof of some "man in the sky." But that isn't the notion of God that Catholics believe. Again, an unfair caricature and dismissiveness.

So, the Catholic Church is a "death cult" because it believes in the resurrection of the dead? Yet another caricature and non-sequitur. It does not follow that to seek heaven necessarily involves a taking-away from this life, or much less an obsession with death and dying. Some Christians might take this approach in this life: I am not aware of many. However, that doesn't mean that that is what the Catholic Faith believes and teaches. In fact, Vatican II teaches that Catholics are morally bound to make this world a better place, and not to neglect it, even as they seek their ultimate destiny.

Anyone can refute a caricature. But to be accurate in your critique, that's harder to do.

That Catholic Church is against divorce does not mean that we say that an abused wife should stay with an abusive husband. Yet another caricature and failure to do your homework on what the Catholic position actually is. We Catholic priests counsel people out of abusive situations.

You criticize infallibility, because you cite certain Scriptural texts that we do not follow literally. Yet another caricature and misunderstanding. The Church has a way of interpreting Scripture. We are not fundamentalists. We do not say that we should follow every injunction of Scripture at face value without reference to reason, Christ, and the historical context in which it was written.

Your argument against Kreeft's arguments for apostolic succession is non-existent. You simply call it the "worst argument ever." That's a little hard to prove too!

Saying that blind belief "sums up religious belief very succinctly" is yet another caricature and unfounded assertion. It is also pretty dogmatic for someone so against dogmatism.

You didn't understand Kreeft's argument about human sins of Christians lending credibility to the Church. He is in no way condoning such horrible things. He is basically saying that if the Church were left to itself, if it were only human, it would have destroyed itself long ago.

I don't know if Kreeft's story about the tribe that found abortion incredible is true. However, if it is true, then that is the reaction of certain people, whether you like it or not, and whether you agree with it or not.

You seem to favor abortion too. How is that reasonable? I guess you think it's ok to kill innocent human beings? I thought you believed in human dignity. Perhaps you just uncritically accept what the culture says you ought to believe about abortion. The Catholic Church actually teaches that it is never justified to kill innocent human beings, from the beginning to the end of their existence, because of the great worth of human dignity. Killing unjust aggressors can be allowed under certain strict conditions and only when necessary and as a last resort, but killing the innocent is never allowed. I can understand the pacifist position, which asserts that it is always wrong to kill human life in any circumstances, unjust aggressor or not. That is not the Catholic position, however. Do you believe that it is also ok to kill the innocent?

At 2/6/16 7:23 am, Anonymous Honest Reader said...

By the way, Mike (I won't call you "Heathen Mike"), I am a Catholic priest. I also have no problem with evolution, the big bang theory (first proposed by a Catholic priest, you probably know), and science (I love them all). I am also an environmentalist. I am in no way a climate change denier or skeptic, but an advocate for green living and good stewardship of the earth. And, I'm a fully orthodox Catholic priest. I am also pro-woman, pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-family. I am against all injustices, whether perpetrated by believers or non-believers.


Post a Comment

<< Home