(Not) Looking for Meaning

searching__but_not_seeing__by_lyndzieAlex Rosenberg is so dogmatically committed to his materialistic atheism that he’s willing to present an excellent argument against it as if it were a point in its favor:

In fact, wherever and whenever there is even the slightest appearance of purpose in the universe, the scientist’s task is to figure out natural selection’s sleight of hand. (Atheist’s Guide to Reality, p. 92)

Rosenberg, like most atheists I encounter, tries to support his atheism in a particular view of science: the idea that there is no other source of knowledge. But, here, we have him stating directly that science rules out, a priori, any concept of purpose. Its only job is to explain away purpose, not to actually consider the idea that it might really exist.

And he’s absolutely right about this last; that is the job of the scientist. Useful as it is, considering the possibility that there is more to reality than the physical is not part of it.

But to say that, because science is so good at its job, all other jobs aren’t useful is more that a little presumptuous. I’d be more inclined to call that a wild non-sequitur. One of the great strengths of science is the specificity with which it defines the limits of its inquiry. To demand that science investigates everything, then, is as anti-science as it is anti-religion.

Presumably, real support of science would involve learning what science actually is and does. And a belief that it is some universal form of inquiry, as applicable to metaphysical and spiritual questions as it is to physical prediction, is treating science as if it were religion and philosophy.

And the science lover in me is bothered by that.


6 responses to “(Not) Looking for Meaning

  • katachriston

    The object of faith – to some it is Jesus, to others reason, to others faith itself. But we all have it don’t we?
    Nihilism is no option. Ask Nietzsche.
    Smart as he is it’s time for Rosenberg to admit his presuppositions, stop tripping over himself and come clean…

    • Debilis

      I do think we could make much more progress if we would all admit that we have faith in something.

      One thing I do appreciate about Rosenberg, though, is that he puts his position forward for criticism. That makes it much easier for the contradictions in materialistic atheism to be pointed out.

  • Atomic Mutant

    There is no place for authority in science. If Einstein said something, it doesn’t become more (or less) true just because he was Einstein. So who cares what one guy says?

    The job of the scientist is to gather the facts and try to find a suitable explanation (a theory), which then can be tested. If there was “purpose”, the ultimate goal (albeit hidden) of science would be to find it. Science simply does not assume that is has the answers and then tries to find evidence for them (which is the way religion works). Science looks at the facts and tries to explain them, where ever that leads.

    • Debilis

      I’m not sure what you mean by “authority”. I wasn’t referring to Rosenberg as an authority in science.

      But he does happen to be correct. Seeking purpose is outside of the purview of science. Physical objects and forces are all science, by definition, proposes.

  • indytony

    Ironic, isn’t it, that Rosenberg anthropomorphizes “nature selection”, referring to its “sleight of hand”? Yet, he would not doubt contend a believer anthropomorphizing the Creator is logically flawed.

    • Debilis

      That is a good point. Too often I’ve heard people complain that taking anthropomorphic comments about God in any way but purely literally is a “cop-out”.

      I wonder what such people would say about this?

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