When science gets hijacked

Science_badThe cultural and intellectual authority of science depends critically upon its absolute neutrality in such debates. If it is hijacked for ideological purposes, its public reputation can only suffer. This point was appreciated long ago.

Darwin’s great supporter Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895) famously declared that declared that science “commits suicide when it adopts a creed.” Huxley was right. If science allows itself to be hijacked by fundamentalists, whether religious or anti-religious, its intellectual integrity is subverted and its cultural authority is compromised.

That is one of the reasons why so many scientists are troubled by the New Atheist agenda. They see this as compromising the integrity of science, and hijacking it for the purposes of an anti-religious crusade.

–Alister McGrath,
Stephen Hawking, God and the role of science,

The prison of mere rationality

canstock16766365To limit oneself to what reason and science can prove is merely to skim the surface of reality, and fail to discover the hidden depths beneath. Both reason and science are severely limited in what they can prove…

For Christian writers, religious faith is not a rebellion against reason, but a legitimate and necessary revolt against the imprisonment of humanity within the cold walls of a rationalist dogmatism. The Christian faith declares that there is more to reality than reason discloses – not contradicting reason, but simply transcending it, and escaping from its limitations.

–Alister McGrath,
Faith and the prison of mere rationality,

What is “new” about the New Atheism?

Alister-McGrath 3An innocent reader might assume that this movement had discovered new scientific evidence or philosophical arguments that demonstrated that God was the arbitrary and meaningless construction of the human mind. Yet it soon becomes clear that there are no new arguments here. The old, familiar and somewhat tired arguments of the past are recycled and rehashed. What is new is the aggressiveness of the rhetoric, which often seems to degenerate into bullying and hectoring. It serves a convenient purpose, by papering over the obvious evidential gaps and argumentative lapses that are so characteristic of this movement. But it does little to encourage anyone to take atheism with intellectual seriousness.

–Alister McGrath