‘The Enemies of Reason’

Richard and Judy: The Enemies of Reason (Pun intended), talk to Richard Dawkins

I managed to see the end part of this documentary. I really liked this programme. I am always unsure about the whole theism/atheism dispute, and I am disheartened a lot by the loaded-nature of both sides, as well as the ad hominems and worst of all, the terrible tacit assumptions before conclusions are made.

Dawkins apparently puts forward an enlightenment vision of reason’s natural light discerning truths about the world. There is lot to be said of this project; reason is not just used to do science and mathematics, but is a tool to discern moral, aesthetic, and ethical truths (by the latter, I mean ‘how to live’). The use of reason in all aspects of life means that we use our mental capacities to judge the direction of society AND government, rather than rely on traditional forms of authority.

Reason is so much more than science; it is pertaining to morality, art, politics and (that which has all three of the latter); society.

On the other hand, a sympathetic eye and mind should be given to all systems of thought. One of my lecturers told me, that the greatest critics of Descartes’ (such as Spinoza) are coming themselves from the Cartesian view. Inside critiques are always more fruitful than outside ones. I find that an interesting argument technique (especially to build a juicy fat reductio!)

Sinistre & Destre


2 thoughts on “‘The Enemies of Reason’

  1. I am interested in what tacit assumptions you think are being made on the atheist side. The main planks on which I think atheists arguments lie are the (my own term) principle of non-arbitraryness (deep questions about reality do not have arbitrary answers) and the assumption that Occham’s razor is an important principle that has wide application (the more complex a theory the less likely it is to make correct predictions). Having discussed the question of the existence of god with many people, and being an atheist myself I am very surprised to find that I am rarely challenged on these grounds in discussion. I am almost always presented with assertions about faith, nonoverlapping magisteria, duality or personal experience.

    I think the first principle should be taken as an axiom and that Occham’s razor will eventually be proven logically (thats why we need a reasonable theory of probability). So it seems to me that the argument for atheism rests on the applicability of Occham’s razor to various questions. Occham’s razor may be wrong on certain decisions where the complexity of theories (being compared) is very similar but I’d be much more willing to trust it where there is a big disparity in complexity. Interestingly this means that I need put very little trust in Occham’s razor overall to use it confidently in the case of deciding whether there is a god.

    What do you think the assumptions are that atheists make?

  2. Atheists often affirm the (i.) unity of science, (ii.) application of (natural) science to all areas of## existence, (iii.) the superiority of the
    rational inquisition of the world over any other (say, tradition), and following (iv.) the nature of rationality.

    Another way of saying this, is that they make the notion of ‘reason’ and ‘science’ ideological, AND THEY ARE NOT!

    I think i. ii. and iv. are highly contentious; but most atheists are trying to find a more sophisticated expression of ‘I dislike religion’ over ‘I think there are serious problems within Christianity.

    Destre’s objections are more with the nature of naturalism that is inherited by Hume. I’ll let him reply.


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