smuggling the soft and fuzzy and personal into cold materialism

One of the books I’m reading atm is Rupert Sheldrake’s “The Science Delusion”. It’s an unfortunate title, as it sounds like, in promoting it, that I’m anti-science. As that’d be a crime worse than stealing a kid’s stuffed llama, I wouldn’t want to be accused of it.

But it’s proving interesting nonetheless, a few pages in. And it’s referring to the work of philosopher John Gray, an atheist known for his critiques of secularism. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across it recently, so it looks like Gray’s work will be something to add to the list of to-reads. It’s also interesting that he sets up a dichotomy I’ve thought a bit about and drafted a few words on – between hard atheism/materialism and soft humanism (even Dawkins, for all the bravado and rhetoric, leans more towards the fuzzy edge of the spectrum IMHO); perhaps, dear reader, you’ll see more of this in coming months from me if you stick around. A similar point of interest is the cute way in which neo-atheists grab the label “reason” for themselves, like a toddler grasping for their favourite toy (e.g. ‘2012 Global Atheist Convention, A Celebration of Reason’); but perhaps that’s a spiel to be developed in a different study break.

Now for the quote that brought this post on – feel free to let me know what you think about it. (pp. 24-25 of ‘The Science Delusion’ – Sheldrake, 2012)

       “Mechanistic science in itself gives no reason to suppose that there is any point in life, or purpose in humanity, or that progress is inevitable. Instead it asserts that the universe is ultimately purposeless and so is human life. A consistent atheism stripped of the humanist faith paints a bleak picture with little ground for hope, as Bertrand Russell made so clear. But secular humanism arose within a Judaeo-Christian culture and inherited from Christianity a belief in the unique importance of human life, together with a faith in future salvation. Secular humanism is in many ways a Christian heresy, in which man has replaced God.
       Secular humanism makes atheism palatable because it surrounds it with a reassuring faith in progress rather than provable facts. Instead of redemption by God, humans themselves will bring about human salvation through science, reason and social reform.
       Whether or not they share this faith in human progress, all materialists assume that science will eventually prove that their beliefs are true. But this too is a matter of faith.”

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