Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Secular Age 8

From the Theory Camp discussion of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age.

Charles Taylor spends much of the book considering the opposition between transcendental and immanent worldviews, which mostly boils down to Christianity vs. secular humanism. One of the most interesting points he makes is that we tend to choose these worldviews not because we are convinced by arguments for one side or the other. Instead, we are drawn to these positions for ethical reasons - what kind of life would I lead if I adopted one view or the other? What kind of life do people live who have already adopted one view or the other? We look at the narrative that each position would make in our lives. Then we consider arguments. And often we convince ourselves that the arguments were the reason we adopted the worldview in the first place.

One major story that atheists tell for being atheists is that "science disproves God." Really, though, Taylor argues, it is the moral authority of exclusive (atheistic) humanism that makes people think that they were made atheists by science. Science, by its very premises, could neither prove nor disprove God. The appealing atheist story is a narrative of coming of age, becoming mature.


Anonymous said...

Sorry - just wanted to check in about the survey. I thought it would be ready in early July. Should I stop asking? Thank you.

Gruntled said...


Matt said...

'One major story that atheists tell for being atheists is that "science disproves God." '

Very few atheists would say this. They would say simply that there is no evidence for god, not that 'science disproves god's existence'. Science doesn't prove or disprove anything, proof (in the absolutist sense) is left for math. Science, to put it very simply, is concerned with evidence and the accumulation of evidence leading to a conclusion.

This means that to the scientifically driven atheists/materialists lack of evidence drives towards the conclusion of no supernatural being, not disproof. Just as the lack of evidence surrounding the loch ness monster/fairies/ESP/insert supernatural phenomena directs towards a conclusion of their non-existence. Eventually the evidence for or against a certain phenomena (natural or supernatural) becomes so overwhelming (to the specific individual that is) that for all intents and purposes the words proved and disproved are used. However I think it is important to remember what is truly meant by these words.

Matt said...

I should add that I don't think materialists/atheists remove biases entirely from their world view, or even that many weren't entirely driven to their worldview based upon these biases. I just think you/Taylor mischaracterized both how atheists think and how science works in this post.