True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism Edited by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer
The onslaught of arguments against God and his existence seems to grow every day. Yet, we generally hear from only a few atheists in the news, namely the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other notables public figures like Bill Maher. These virulent men lay claim that their religion is reason and they use reason alone in debating matters of science, religion, and ethics. But, as many have pointed out, reason is not the only tool in their arsenal. In this new book called True Reason, edited by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer, the issues surrounding rationality, the Christian faith, and the irrationality of these new atheists come to the foreground. Gathering a host of wonderful authors, apologists, and teachers, these chapters cut right against the heart of the claim that reason alone is the way of the new atheists. With stunning insight, sound analysis, and an eye toward the Christian faith, these authors present a brilliant case against the new atheism and its tenents.
Tom Gilson leads off the book with a chapter entitled The Party of Reason? He comments after reading Richard Dawkins that, “Evolution provides a way for nature to have come about without design, therefore it came about without design.” (16) Disappointment follows his Tom’s comment due to the lack of evidence or rationality on the part of Dawkins. Tom goes onto point out that the New Atheists look at reason in two ways, that which can be ascertained by empirical study and to act reasonably. Yet, there is no hint of reason proper here, the act by which we draw deductive inferences from a premise and then test its viability through observation. This kind of reasoning is prior to other kinds of logical thinking because it puts at the center the nuts and bolts of sound reasoning and the trajectory of how you get to a certain conclusion from premises. Tom ends the chapter with an appeal to the Christian faith to show that Christianity is no enemy of reason, nor has it ever been.
One of the best chapters in the book is chapter 4 by Chuck Edwards. He looks at arguments against God by Richard Dawkins and points out some telling observations. One, Edwards points out that Dawkins uses two fallacious arguments, poisoning the well and the straw man, to seek to bring down the God of the Old Testament (44). I would add that in the description of God by Dawkins there is not the slightest hint of a desire to interpret OT passages contextually with reference to the history of Israel or their religion. Dawkins also fails to consider the positive contributions to society that Christianity has provided, rather he looks for isolated passages in the OT that bolster his straw man argument that God is blood thirsty and capricious.
Lenny Esposito’s analysis of reason and the new atheism is provocative and very beneficial (ch. 7). He indicates that we can’t know whether a belief is true or false if our ‘reasoning ability is purely an internal product of biochemical development.’ (104) We have to get beyond the senses to figure out the truth of the matter. The New Atheist claim that naturalism is the most reasonable option and true to reason is faulty because it fails to understand that naturalism is a belief itself. The argument that Christianity provides an outside source of truth is hard to swallow for the New Atheists because this is outside the material and empirical data, or so they say. Lenny carefully exposes the circular reasoning and unreasonableness of their propositions.
I think anyone wanting to see the New Atheism and all its foibles would do well to read this book.
Thanks to Kregel Publications and General Editor Carson Weitnauer for the copy of this book in exchange for review.