Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dawkins is a decent popularizer of science but compared to Kepler, Newton, and Einstein he is a Lilliputian

Q&A with Dinesh D’Souza (Part I) By Dr. Paul Kengor Thursday, October 25, 2007 Send an email to Dr. Paul Kengor Editor's Note: Acclaimed commentator and best-selling author Dinesh D’Souza recently released his latest book, What’s So Great About Christianity. D’Souza spoke to the Center for Vision & Values’ Executive Director Dr. Paul Kengor.
Dinesh D’Souza: We’re seeing a surge of atheist confidence and atheist belligerence. The best-selling atheist books like Hitchens’ God Is Not Great and Dawkins’ The God Delusion are one indication of this. Another is the militancy of atheism on many campuses today. In a way, the atheist attacks on God and religion are a bit odd. I don’t believe in unicorns, but I don’t go around writing books about them. I suspect what has given atheists a boost is the Islamic radicalism we’ve seen in the wake of 9/11. The atheists glibly equate Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism, and then conclude that religion itself is the problem.
My book What’s So Great About Christianity is consciously written in the C.S. Lewis tradition. Just as Lewis, writing after World War II, dealt with issues specific to his time, such as “How can a just God allow the Holocaust?” so too my book is a response to the intellectual and moral attack on Christianity launched by the new atheists. I take the atheist argument seriously, and meet it on its own ground, which is the ground of reason and skepticism. I want to show Christians and religious believers that theism makes vastly more sense of the world and of our lives than agnosticism or atheism. I also want to persuade genuine seekers that they should take Christianity seriously, and give it real consideration. I don’t expect to convince dogmatic atheists, but I do intend to expose and refute and embarrass them.
D’Souza: While there are a lot of shallow arguments made by Dawkins, Hitchens, [Sam] Harris and the others, behind them there is the formidable atheism of philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche. My book takes the new atheists to task on specific fallacies and whoppers that they routinely make. But I’m not content to defeat them on their weakest ground. So at times I strengthen their arguments, remove contradictions, and give them the benefit of every doubt. I attack their argument not at its vulnerable point but at its strong point. If I succeed there, then I have defeated atheism in its strongest and most coherent form. Ultimately, it is Russell and Heidegger and Nietzsche who pose the greatest challenge to believers, not intellectual snipers like Hitchens and Dawkins.
D’Souza: There is a whole body of data showing that the world is growing more religious. One reason for this is that religious countries and religious people are having more children, while secular countries and secular people are not reproducing themselves. Interestingly while Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are all growing worldwide, Christianity is the fastest-growing religion. Islam grows mainly because of Muslims who have large families, while Christianity is also growing through rapid conversion. Once a religion confined mostly to Europe, Christianity has become a truly universal religion and over time it will increasingly be dominated by Asia, Africa and South America. This is very disturbing news for atheists. Not so long ago the typical atheist could be comforted by the idea that as the world became more modern, more urbanized, more educated, it would also become more secular. Religion would wither away. This hasn’t happened, and the trend is actually in the other direction. In fact, religion is booming in rapidly modernizing countries like India and China. Perhaps the new atheism is a backlash against the unforeseen success of religion.
D’Souza: It seems like every year or so one of the news magazines does a cover story on Science vs. Religion. It turns out that this whole framework is a 19th-century fabrication. There is no sustained historical clash between science and religion. In fact, Christianity was crucial in giving birth to modern science, and the vast, vast majority of leading scientists over the past 500 years have been Christians. The whole warfare model relies on a handful of examples, mostly exaggerated or made up. Perhaps the best example that the atheists can cite is the Galileo case. I re-examine this case in the light of the best scholarship about it. We discover that the evidence for heliocentrism was not definitive in Galileo’s day. With hindsight we know that Galileo was right, but the arguments he made for heliocentrism were actually wrong. The Church’s position was far more open-minded and reasonable than Galileo’s. He made agreements that he didn’t keep, and blatantly lied about his views before the Inquisition courts. Still, he was treated leniently and allowed to continue his scientific work and died in his bed. I’m only giving hints of a remarkable story that readers should digest in full in the book.
D’Souza: Well, on the Christian side we have Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Brahe, Descartes, Boyle, Newton, Leibniz, Gassendi, Pascal, Mersenne, Cuvier, Harvey, Dalton, Farady, Hershel, Joule, Lyell, Lavoisier, Priestley, Kelvin, Ohm, Ampere, Steno, Pasteur, Maxwell, Planck, Mendel and Lemaitre. Einstein too was a believer in God as a kind of supreme mind or spirit discernible through the complex and beautiful laws of nature. So none of these folks saw theism or Christianity as incompatible with science, as Richard Dawkins and others would have it. Dawkins is a decent popularizer of science but compared to Kepler, Newton, and Einstein he is a Lilliputian. So he works very hard to make Einstein look like an atheist. His proof is a complete failure, but give the man credit for effort. The deeper point to be made here, however, is not merely that leading scientists over the centuries have been Christian, but that science itself, in its assumption that the universe is rational and obeys laws discoverable by the human mind, is based on Christian precepts and cannot in fact be done without Christian presuppositions.
D’Souza: I could give numerous examples here—Boyle, Newton, Kepler—but let me focus for a moment on Kepler. Kepler wanted to become a theologian, but he finally decided to become an astronomer to demonstrate God’s hand in creation. When Kepler realized that planets don’t move in circular orbits, he was criticized by some for rejecting the creative beauty of God’s plan. These critics reasoned that surely God would have used perfect circles to choreograph the planetary motions. Kepler was sure, however, based on his deep Christian faith, that God had employed an even more beautiful pattern, and he labored hard to decipher it. When he discovered what it was—his three laws of planetary motion—he experienced something of a spiritual epiphany. In a prayer concluding his “Harmony of the World,” Kepler implored God “graciously to cause that these demonstrations may lead to the salvation of souls.” I don’t think we can understand the motivations and greatness of scientists like Kepler and Newton if we ignore their theological and specifically Christian beliefs.
Dinesh D'Souza is a best-selling author, former policy analyst in the Reagan White House, and the Rishwain Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His latest book, What’s So Great About Christianity, was just released by Regnery Publishing.
Paul Kengor is associate professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. His most recent book is
The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperCollins, 2006).
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  1. The Black Adder summed up any and everything that Dinesh has to say:

    The fact he is a tenth rate propaganda hack, a stooge of the right wing think tanks that promoted the systematic cultural devastation and destruction described in The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

    It also shows how intellectually and culturally bankrupt the "right" are when they have to rely on such tenth rate hacks to present their case.

    But then again there is no truth whatsoever to the usual exoteric Christian claims---it is all lies, every last bit of it.

  2. See the inherently totalitarian agenda and inherent western "superiority" in

    "science itself---cannot be done without Christian presuppositions"

    In other words all other ways of "knowing" how the universe works are false. All other cultural expressions and understandings are false. Hence we are engaged in a project to bring "jesus" and "freedom" to every one "else"---even if they dont want it. We will "righteously" use shock & awe if necessary because we know what it is good for you.

    Never mind too, that the underlying root motive of western science and "culture", is power and control over everything.

  3. Notice too that like all right wing "true believers" he doesnt even begin to talk about the fundamentals of being and existence.

    Or ask fundamental questions such as what are we as conscious beings (Consciousness), and what is our relationship to everything that arises to and in Consciousness --Energy/Form/Light.

    Or God as Conscious Light rather than the mommy-daddy "creator" of the "world".

    What is the world anyhow? Didnt Einstein effectively tell us that everything including "matter" is energy of light---or rather Conscious Light. Not a hint of such an understanding can be found in the usual right wing "god" blatherings.

    Which makes them just as must dismal reductionist materialists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

    And very, very dangerous because they have "total truth" on their side.

    He remains an apologist for the usual patriarchal right wing "conservative" dogmas with their dreadfully dismal mis-understandings of what Man with a capital M, both male and female, are in Truth. And of Reality and Truth altogether.

    All the usual blather about the "resurrection" of "jesus".

    Nothing whatsoever about the moral demand for open hearted love which is the core message of Jesus of Galilee.

    Never mind too, that the world altogether has a very pressing over population problem.