Science & Faith
3/19/12 at 03:55 PM 15 Comments

Preparing for the March 24 “Reason Rally” with the book “True Reason"

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Earlier I wrote about the "Reason Rally" here: Bad Religion and the "Largest Gathering of the Secular Movement in World History." You will want to purchase the book True Reason whether or not you attend the March 24th "Reason Rally." This book responds to the unjustified leaps of thinking that you will find at the much anticipated secularism-atheism "Reason Rally" event.

Here is the book description:

While New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and others proclaim loudly their rationality, clear thinking, and incontrovertible scientific arguments, others are beginning to wonder how genuinely rational they are. Have they proved anything? Have they argued convincingly? Have they pinpointed any real challenges to the credibility of Christian faith?

"True Reason," edited by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer, brings together a compendium of writers--philosophers, apologists, ethicists, theologians, historians--who look carefully at the best arguments atheism has and evaluate their validity, logic, assumptions, and naturalist conclusions.

Authors include noted philosopher William Lane Craig and popular apologist Sean McDowell, along with Gilson, Weitnauer, John DePoe, Chuck Edwards, Matthew Flannagan, Peter Grice, Randy Hardman, David Marshall, Glenn Sunshine, David Wood, and Samuel Youngs. Each chapter tackles a different atheist argument and brings reason fully into the discussion. 

Which is more reasonable: atheism or Christianity

Here is an excerpt from Chapter One: The Party of Reason (by Tom Gilson):

The point is that there is a wide variety of rational errors in the New Atheist literature. Sometimes it's misinformation with respect to the evidences for belief, and sometimes it's appeals to emotion rather than to evidence and reason. Whatever form it takes, each example is one more piece of evidence that the New Atheists are not as rational as they claim to be. Yet "reason" is stamped on virtually all of their products. Again we say, really?

Views of Reason

But perhaps we are viewing reason wrongly; and perhaps also at the same time we are thinking of faith in the wrong manner. Maybe the two really are opposed, as Sam Harris says in The End of Faith:

The truth is that religious faith is simply unjustified belief in matters of ultimate concern.... Faith is what credulity becomes when it finally achieves escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse—constraints like reasonableness, internal coherence, civility, and candor.

If Harris is right to say that faith can never be reasonable, then of course the discussion is over. That seems illegitimate as an argument, however: shall we define faith out of rational existence, or shall we make our decisions about faith on the basis of standards of evidence and logic? If the former, that's both premature and terribly ironic, for it leads to a conclusion divorced from all evidence, which is exactly what the New Atheists complain that faith does (falsely; see the ninth and tenth chapters in this volume). But if we let ourselves be guided by proper standards of evidence and logic, then we are bound to look for objective signs of the truth or falsity of our views—both Christian and atheist—accepting Harris's "constraints" of reasonableness, internal coherence, civility, and candor.

There is a hint here, at any rate, of how a leading New Atheist would define reason. Does he have more to say? One looks in vain for anything like a pithy and authoritative definition in The End of Faith, but that's of little consequence; his views are not hard to discern. To be reasonable is to let your beliefs comport with evidence. He makes that case repeatedly, and in this he reflects what seems to be what the New Atheists mean by reasonability: to confine one's beliefs to that which can be demonstrated by objective, empirical, preferably scientific evidence. This is the first part of what they mean by reason. It is fine as far as it goes, although it cuts too fine a line, as many thinkers have noted (see for example Sean McDowell's work on faith and science in chapter eleven). If I take it to be true that I am only to believe what can be empirically demonstrated to be true, how can I demonstrate that that is true? Its truth can't be empirically demonstrated. As a canon of reason, "only believe what can be demonstrated by objective, empirical, preferably scientific evidence" is appropriate for those matters for which it is appropriate, but clearly it does not fit all questions of truth.

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