- 2014Dec 14
“I just witnessed an event so mysterious that it shook my skepticism.” That from Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptic Society and editor of Skeptic, its official magazine.
A skeptic’s skeptic
Michael Shermer, in short, is a skeptic’s skeptic, whose skepticism is most strenuously exercised against all things supernatural. With a full-throated materialistic bent, he argues that all phenomena are reducible to natural causes ultimately explainable through science.
In his writings, interviews, and debates, Shermer projects an intellectual swagger that has become fashionable in freethinking circles. A number of years ago in a PBS panel discussion on religion, when the topic of the Resurrection came up, he pressed a Christian physician for how (how!) God did it. By presuming that the Resurrection must have occurred through a clever medical manipulation to be credible, Shermer’s question was designed to ensure that naturalism wins.
It was also designed to make his Christian opponent appear badly misinformed, intellectually challenged, or worse. For in our enlightened scientific age, smart people everywhere know “there is no such thing as the supernatural or the paranormal,” Shermer reminds us. “There is just the natural, the normal, and mysteries we have yet to explain by natural causes.”
Such unswerving confidence in naturalism seals the imagination from any consideration of supernatural causation, even for things currently inexplicable by science (e.g., dark energy, quantum behavior, abiogenesis, consciousness, the Big Bang, etc.). However, when life collides with our worldview, it can create cracks in our ideological foundation and shake our confidence. This past June, Michael Shermer experienced just such a collision. Continue reading here.
- 2014Nov 16
Their moony embrace of multiculturalism has rendered modern liberals unable to connect the dots between beliefs and consequences. Rooted in moral relativism, multiculturalism is the notion that all moral codes are valid within their respective cultures, with no people group privileged to make moral judgments of others.
The person boorish enough to criticize the mores of another culture will quickly find himself banished from polite company for being racist, bigoted, intolerant, or (fill in the blank)-phobic. Just ask Sam Harris and Bill Maher, both establishment liberals, who were excoriated by Ben Affleck on an HBO panel discussion for their illiberalism. Their offense: calling Islam dangerous for the atrocities committed by Islamists.
To remain a member of the left in “good standing,” one can never, but never, attribute evil to the belief system that spawned it, even when the perpetrators themselves do so. One must stick to the liberal script, characterizing the actors as fringe, radical, extremist, misguided, and not representative of the true beliefs of their culture—except, that is, when those actors are Christian.
Had the target of Harris’s and Maher’s criticism been Christianity, I doubt it would have elicited so much as a raised eyebrow from Affleck. Indeed, it has become standard practice in liberal circles to blame Christianity for hate crimes against gays and abortion clinic bombings, among other things.
But when the crime in question is a suicide bombing by ISIS, Al Qaeda, or other Islamist group, the well-bred liberal will respond, first, with appropriate outrage, then, with an ever-so-reassuring explanation that such is not the action of Muslims, but of religious fanatics; because Islam, “true” Islam, is a religion of peace and Muslims are a tolerant people.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who sided with Affleck on the HBO panel, commented that ISIS militants who cite Islamic teaching to justify their barbarism “give all Islam a bad name.” Former Muslim Ibn Warraq knows better...Continue reading here.
- 2014Oct 12
Charles Spurgeon once said, "Truth is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose and it will defend itself." A few years back, I learned just how right the 19th-century preacher was. It happened during in an online discussion I had with “Nigel” (not his real name).
Nigel is a self-described atheist and rising star in theBrights movement—a community of philosophical naturalists aimed at “illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview,” as their slogan proudly states. Some of its more prominent luminaries include Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Daniel Dennett.
After coming across a piece I had written critical of naturalism, Nigel invited me to have a dialogue with him on his open blog. I agreed and was quickly drawn into a protracted discussion.
Over a period of several weeks, we covered topics ranging from the origin of the universe and the nature of matter to the origin of morality and the nature of God. Nigel’s central argument rested on the explanatory power of naturalism over theism, with particular emphasis on Darwinian evolution. As he explained in one characteristic statement,
“Natural selection is so parsimonious and so powerful, it answers so many questions and solves so many intellectual problems in biology, archaeology, paleontology and anthropology, that it is rightly held aloft as one of the pinnacles of human thought.” My response went something like this