Atheists are not the skeptics they think they are

A very interesting critique on atheism and the methods used by atheists to explain their position. The author Edward Tingley, a philosophy professor, bases most of his arguments against the material written by Blaise Pascal on applying the scientific mind to discover the existence of God.

The professor goes on to demonstrate how, in his opinion, it is hypocritical for atheists who profess a scientific approach to disregard the very fundamentals of the scientific temper that they are supposed to defend.

He points out the mindset from where Pascal and other atheists begin their attempts at discovery:

He likes a world in which he can stop thinking about something when the hard evidence for it gives out: That is a beautifully simple world. “If I had to sum up my own atheism, I would have to say that it amounts to this: I have no interest in the supernatural.” Let’s “simply dismiss the whole issue of whether ‘God’ exists as not worth any discussion.” “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

He attacks the common point raised by atheists about the lack of evidence thus:

We need evidence that God exists. Agreed. What kind? Is there only one kind? Scientific evidence. And what is that: material evidence? Is that how science works? Didn’t the nature of evidence expand as science went deeper into what is? Aren’t there new and unexpected kinds of evidence?

Even scientists don’t quit when the old sort of evidence runs dry. Not quitting—going beyond the established sort of evidence—is a virtue of science.

What would we say to the pre-Darwinian who did not believe that biodiversity could be explained? (“It all had to be put here,” he insisted. “There is no material evidence for a mechanism of biodiversity.”) Was natural selection material evidence?

He sums up atheists or unbelievers thus:

Who, then, is this person? He is not a skeptic at all (someone who, for want of solid reasons, refuses to commit)—he commits. He is not a lover of reason over passion—he chooses the possibilities he cares about because those are the ones he likes. He is not a skeptic who in the absence of evidence withholds belief—he is a believer.

I found the article a bit dense at times but on the whole very well articulated, in fact the best skepticism of atheism that I have read till date. It made me think quite a bit about my belief in atheism. Come to think about it, there are so many things in common between atheists and believers:

I believe professor Tingely has a very important point to offer which I am beginning to agree with, the more I think of it - the correct “faith” for a person who believes in science, logic and rationality, is Agnosticism, not Atheism. For being an atheist is to stop seeking. And whether it is the meaning of life, or God or the medicine for AIDS/Cancer, how can you find conquer new frontiers if you have stopped seeking?

But even after having convincing arguments on a lot of points, it still did not answer one of the questions that I always had - why should one be looking for this answer at all? What is all this frenzy about finding the “one larger being above us all”? Why should one perform such a spiritual quest at all? As in the words of Isaac Asimov -

I have never, in all my life, not for one moment, been tempted toward religion of any kind. The fact is that I feel no spiritual void. I have my philosophy of life, which does not include any aspect of the supernatural and which I find totally satisfying. I am, in short, a rationalist.

The conclusion to that statement might be debatable, and Edward Tingle has also partially talked about this line of thought, but professor’s article still doesn’t answer my question fully.

(Reference to prof. tingle’s article found here)

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