The limits of scientific explanation. Part 1

First a link from a gentle reader. We’ll get into more depth soon I suspect, so this is worth a look. But first some more tedious rhetoric.

Lennox takes exception to scientism. Lennox says that scientism’s adherents claim: the bottom line is: science deals with reality, religion does not. Richard Dawkins makes this point in dedicating his book The God Delusion to the memory of Douglas Adams with the quote: ‘Isn’t it enough to see a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it?’ (40).

Lennox takes a few prods at the quote, so let’s join him. First up:

The fact that you can think about fairies and be enchanted or terrified by them does not mean that they exist. The scientists of whom we are speaking, therefore, are (often, but not always, as we have seen) happy to let people go on thinking about God and religion if they want to, as long as they do not claim that God has any objective existence, or that religious belief constitutes knowledge (40).

It’s the use of ‘are happy to let’ that’s worth prodding back at. The New Atheists don’t let, permit or allow people to go on thinking anything; people think these things regardless. The choice of words has an authoritative aura that harks back to the start of the book where Lennox was conjuring the boogymen of militancy and totalitarianism, as if the New Atheists are something more sinister than a bunch of strident scientists and thinkers who passionately air their views in public. Much like Lennox is doing with this book. Atkins, Dawkins, et al aren’t coming to arrest religionists for thoughtcrime. Let it go.

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