When we first sought out atheism, we wanted to unshackle ourselves from dogmatic beliefs. Initially, it was a whisper that spoke of defiance to the Church. In Canada, this happened in the 1960s. The Quebeckers were tired of the grip the Church had on their minds, and the infantilizing speeches of ministers on television. This was of course but a handful of things that led to the “Révolution Tranquille”. It acted as an emancipation of social mores, and an expansion of humanities, happening at around the same time as the students’ militant action of 68 in France.
Philosophers helped back both movements, with Foucault in France and André Moreau in Quebec. I name only two, because again, I could digress into a deeper historical analysis of the events. I name these both as a way to provide you with inquiry on who these men are and were, and as a way of showing that despite the advent of science, those who speak for the liberation of the mind from dogma are usually philosophers.
Science has no care for rhetoric, it deals with evidence, with processes, with systematic research, protocols, results, formulas, falsification, reproducibility, among many others. All tools, that are best left away from human influence. Which is why doing anything more with science than it was meant for (discovering things), we find ourselves inching ever closer to dogma. The logical positivist doctrines of the beginning of the 20th century have been replaced with a new enemy of reason, which is Scientism.
Now, that is to say faith in Science appears on paper to be an adequate shift. I say otherwise. If children can be swayed to segregate based on simple things like hair or eye color, via simple schooling, then religion was not at the base of all human ails. That those who call themselves atheists could not resolve this brings a bit of regret to me. I was once like that myself, therefore I cannot reproach other atheists for having surrendered their critical faculties to science.
I’ve been told by certain that they hold no superstitious beliefs, wherein superstitious beliefs are beliefs in things not supported by evidence. All of that is well and good, but evidence is not plentiful in this world. Much as our senses and our thoughts can provide us with ample reason to doubt things unsupported by evidence, to base our superstitious beliefs solely on this factor is superstitious on its own.
Not everything we believe is in fact supported by evidence. If we mean higher beliefs like God’s existence, well this is fine. Still, to say: “I don’t believe in God.” marks only the beginning of atheism. It was the fresh start toward spiritual emancipation from divine morality. Instead, scientific educators took hold of the microphone, shouted on all rooftops about the magic of science, and how it just makes sense to believe in it.
In a way, we’ve come full circle. Rust is starting to accumulate and I consider myself one of the very few intellectuals capable to grasp this concept. I felt envigorated by defying religious beliefs, and ridiculing those who dared to question my non-belief. How many times have each of you snidely remarked that atheism is just “not believing in God”?
It was to be expected, I suppose. With every revolution is a power vacuum, that apparently must be filled in by a new authority. Liberating minds from the clutches of religious dogma meant we had to get a new one. How is this dogma expressed, in everyday life? Well, it isn’t very much, you don’t see it happen around you, as most people don’t argue with one another about scientific claims and whether they have superstitious beliefs.
Contemporary intellectuals, however, are ripe with this ideology that only things that can be proved via science are worth pursuing. STEM fields, for example, are seen as the pinnacle of intellectual pursuit and growth. While they all provide their own parts of scientific knowledge and the job market, STEM fields are extremely specialized, technical fields. They do not raise free-thinking individuals, they raise workers, with the possible exception of mathematicians.
Should you need me to put it in blunt terms: Our love for materialism has made the economy our primary goal, and its safekeeping is promoted by scientific pursuit. That is not to say this is bad, but the outright denial of the importance of the Humanities or any developing “soft sciences”, indicates that our contempt for reason has only doubled. Instead, it has been replaced by a new form of reason, that of “being right”, whereas any middleground has been denied access. If something is not demonstrably true, then it is rejected and not even worth discussing.
As a primary broadcasting outlet for any one person with an opinion, Social Media, the likes of Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, have been shown to provide plenty of evidence of this occuring on its own. Debates centered around any subject devolve into providing evidence for the slightest claim, whereas counterclaims the likes of atheistic skepticism are given a pass, because they are the rejection of another.
This seems all well and good, as Skepticism is a rational approach to counter dogma and especially religious dogma. When you begin to doubt, you edge closer to evidence, but sometimes the doubt is misplaced, and I find that the flaw that Scientism has spread about is that only claims that can be falsified are claims that should be analyzed. It is held by epistemologist, such as Yannis Delmas-Rigoutsos, who in his work “Petites Leçons d’Épistémologie”, demonstrates that scientists themselves have easily rendered “falisifaction” or “popperianism” useless in certain cases.
It is thus naive for the internet skeptic to presume that only falsifiable claims should be given attention. Yet, it is the primary votive for any one atheist who claims to only believe in things which have evidence. Sometimes, the reality is much more complex than just having evidence for one’s claim. The evidence is not always self-evident and it must be sought after, and amazingly, you must use your own brainpower to process the possibility of something being true.
That is why I can clearly, and rationally state that a lack of philosophical baggage correlates with atheists converting themselves to Scientism. A comic by Cyanide and Happiness adds a touch of irony to this whole deal:
Richard Feynman when interviewed on whether he felt any remorse for not having found all the answers rejected the possibility. In short, he did not find that it was reasonable to presume that the goal of Science was to discover laws.
“…and therefore, when we go to investigate it, we shouldn’t pre-decide what it is we’re trying to do except to find out more about it…”
So, the question becomes not of whether there is evidence for it, but whether we can find out more about it. When the discussion is shut down with “Do you have evidence for it?”, you’re essentially saying that unless the person comes up with a scientific analysis for something that may not yet have been taken into account by science, you will not contemplate discussing about it.
That is a similar cop-out you would get from so-called Christian apologetics saying “If it is in the Bible, then it is true”; it is sheer dogmatism that science needs nothing of. You aren’t a scientist, and you are not science. You insult science the moment you try to use hypothetico-deductive methods with which to analyze every single claim being tossed at you. It isn’t the universal method and it certainly won’t ever be.
Epistemologically speaking, it is nonsensical to presume that only through falsification will you ever find the truth behind a given claim. It works for certain situations and not others. Keeping your mind open is of the utmost importance, and by siding with polemicists of science and so-called educators of science, you will not achieve a belief supported by evidence, you will simply have convinced yourself that only YOUR belief has evidence and that is all you need to believe it.
My post here is not with regards to science specifically, as I have the utmost respect for science, its rigor and its methodologies. A concern which is mine and I find is not spread out enough across the scientific educators of New Atheism (Scientism), is that by vulgarizing science as they have, these educators have spread a gospel, unwittingly, that has tentacularly reached out to the minds of those who leave religion.
Keep in mind, that no matter what religion you come from, you have been raised in a traditional mindset, and tradition is what you will try to go back to. You will try to find this new routine, these new securing thoughts that make your world have order. Do not fall in this trap, continue to inquire. Continue to inform yourselves, do not stop at evidence. Your skepticism is your greatest weapon and it should not be used solely to reinforce a lack of belief, but in helping others come to grips with reality the same way you did.
Preaching the gospel of Scientism does not help you nor does it help science. It makes you a big fat target for your opponents to dismantle with their own dogma. Preach by example, not by rhetoric. It is pointless to debate for hours on end with people who will not listen to you. Spark that curiosity in another by discussing with them rationally, rather than hurling insults. When you succumb to the need to insult a person wracked with dogma, you hurt only yourself, for in their mind, you are the dogmatic one and you are the crazy one.
Communication requires one person to cross the bridge. If no one crosses the bridge, then there can be no end to the alleged “War on Religion”, and I can assure you that atheism will not win that war. Not the way things are looking.