Introduction: Skepticism and Contemporary Atheism
There are really two things that stand out in current discussions about atheism, aside from atheism itself of course: science and morality. These are two important issues! From the anti-religious treatises of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to the classic works of Immanuel Kant, the ability to know things in light of our advancements in understanding the universe apart from theological explanations throws up the unique importance of science and morality for the modern mind. It is central to the basic fact/value relationship: science delivers what is while morality tells us what we ought to do. Moreover, the skepticism exercised toward God-talk of folks like Dawkins and Hitchens leads them to yearn for a new Enlightenment, one free of religion all together, which maintains scientific knowledge and morality on its own grounds.
In short, they say that a kind of sober and reasonable scientific skepticism goes hand in glove with skepticism toward God. While a sober skepticism, on the one hand, is vital – one which doesn’t believe just anything but does venture to know some important things about human life – it can be pushed too far. Carl Sagan, the famous scientist and atheist, made the point that “if you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new.” But can the skepticism of many atheists, the thing they say encourages them to dismiss the notion of the divine, make room for all that they claim to know? The purpose of this book is to show “that there is a conflict between sober skepticism and science-induced atheism.” We will approach the argument in three parts, the first about the physical world outside our own minds, the second about observable scientific entities, and the third about objective moral laws.