Fifteen Eighty Four

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Michael Ruse: New Atheism "A Bloody Disaster"

Michael Ruse

Writing for BeliefNet, author and philosopher Michael Ruse writes on religion and science, and why New Atheism doesn’t engage either end properly.

darwindiscontentsIn my seventieth year I find myself in a very peculiar position. Raised a Quaker, I lost my faith in my early twenties and it has never returned. I think of myself as an agnostic on deities and ultimate meanings and that sort of thing. With respect to the main claims of Christianity – loving god, fallen nature, Jesus and atonement and salvation – I am pretty atheistic, although some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically. I often refer to myself as a very conservative non-believer, meaning that I take seriously my non-belief and I think others should do (and often don’t). If someone goes to the Episcopal Church for social or family reasons, or because they love the music or ceremonies, I have no trouble with that. Had I married a fellow Quaker, I might still be going to Quaker meetings. But I have little time for someone who denies the central dogmas of Christianity and still claims to be a Christian, except in a social sense. No God, no Jesus as His son, no resurrection, no eternal life – no Christianity. As it happens, I prefer the term “skeptic” to describe my position rather than “agnostic,” because so often the latter means “not really interested” and I am very interested. Like Thomas Henry Huxley, I am deeply religious in a total absence of theology. Unlike his grandson Julian Huxley (and others like Edward O. Wilson), I am totally uninterested in a “religion without revelation.” I loathe the term and the idea of “humanist.” One religion in this lifetime is quite enough thank you.

Without burnishing my halo too much, I think – and I warned you that I am a very conservative non-believer – that the most important parable is that of the talents and that in this lifetime, although never succeeding (thanks to my own moral frailty), I have tried hard to use that which has been given to me. In particular, I have striven to move beyond the comfortable life of a university professor – and I have been a full-time philosophy prof since I was twenty five – to engage in the public sphere on issues that I think morally important. Specifically, I have engaged in the science-religion debate – more precisely in the Darwinism-Creationism debate – for over thirty years. I have written on the subject, I have lectured regularly on the subject (on average, I give a talk about every two weeks and many are on this topic), and I have appeared as witness in a court case to defend the US separation of Church and State.

ccoriginsThat the Creationists and fellow travelers, notably proponents of Intelligent Design Theory (IDT), would dislike my views I take as axiomatic. They should dislike my views for I spend my life fighting against these people. I say this notwithstanding the fact that, at the personal level, I have good and friendly relations with many of the leaders, including Duane T. Gish, Phillip Johnson, and Bill Dembski. I do not consider these people to be evil or motivated by money – anything but this latter, Gish could have made millions in the motivational speaking arena – although I deplore their beliefs and think them deeply dangerous. I will say however that I was disappointed that when Ben Stein tried to make me seem foolish in his movie Expelled, not one of them sprang publicly to my defense. Anyone who did not condemn that gross piece of distortion of the issues should feel really ashamed.

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Ruse’s forthcoming book is Science and Spirituality.

About The Author

Michael Ruse

Michael Ruse is Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. His publications include Can a Darwinian be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion (Cambrid...

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