The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism

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"The central contention of the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that the centuries-old "war between science and religion" is now over and that religion has lost. But as Edward Feser shows in The Last Superstition, there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all. There has instead been a conflict between two entirely philosophical worldviews: the classical "teleological" vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is ...
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The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism

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Overview

"The central contention of the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that the centuries-old "war between science and religion" is now over and that religion has lost. But as Edward Feser shows in The Last Superstition, there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all. There has instead been a conflict between two entirely philosophical worldviews: the classical "teleological" vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is as inherent a feature of the material world as mass or electric charge; and the modern "mechanical" vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which physical reality is comprised of nothing more than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion." "This modern "mechanical" view of nature has never been proved, and its hold over the contemporary intelligentsia owes more to rhetorical sleight-of-hand and political expediency than to rational argument. For as Feser demonstrates, the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the traditional natural-law conception of morality are rationally unavoidable given the classical "teleological" philosophical world-view. Hence modern secularism crucially depends on the false insinuation that the "mechanical" philosophy has somehow been established by science." Moving beyond what he regards as the pointless and point-missing dispute between "Intelligent Design" advocates and Darwinians, Feser holds that the key to understanding the follies of the "New Atheism" lies not in quibbles over the evolutionary origins of this or that biological organ, but in a rethinking of thephilosophical presuppositions of scientific method itself back to first principles. In particular, it involves a recovery of the forgotten truths of classical philosophy. When this is accomplished, religion can be seen to be grounded firmly in reason, not blind faith. And despite its moral and intellectual pretensions, the "New Atheism" is exposed as resting on very old errors, together with an appalling degree of intellectual dishonesty, philosophical shallowness, and historical, theological, and scientific ignorance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587314520
  • Publisher: St. Augustine's Press
  • Publication date: 12/10/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition, New edition, PB
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 132,029
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Bad Religion 1

2 Greeks Bearing Gifts 27

3 Getting Medieval 74

4 Scholastic Aptitude 120

5 Descent of the Modernists 166

6 Aristotle's Revenge 229

Notes 269

Index 293

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  • Posted July 21, 2011

    Highly recommended fot its presentation of Aristotelian Thomism

    In "The Last Superstition: A refutation of the new atheism", Charles Feser presents an excellent historical and philosophical review of the arguments for the existence of God as established by Aristotelian Thomism. It is worth reading for that alone.
    The most prominent of the new atheists is Richard Dawkins. His basic premise in "The God Delusion" is that mathematical probability can be inferred from the observation of material phenomena. If this is true, material reality is irrational and, by default, the source of intelligibility is the individual human mind. Voila, relativism!
    In the context of Aristotelian Thomism, Feser delineates the errors of early modern philosophy, namely those of Descartes et al, the predecessors of the modern atheists. However, Feser does not address the specific arguments of Richard Dawkins. In "The God Delusion", Dawkins reviews three mathematical problems of mathematical improbability. They are the problems of the improbability of evolution in a one-off event, the improbability of the origin of life and the improbability of God. To Dawkins' satisfaction, mathematical analysis leads to solutions to the first two problems. However, mathematical analysis demonstrates that there is no solution to the improbability of God. Feser's implicit position is that the conclusion of Dawkins is incompatible with the valid conclusion of Aristotle and Aquinas that God exists. Therefore, both the conclusion and the argument of Dawkins must be false. Should Feser be given a pass from directly facing his opponents?
    Feser notes that metaphysics starts with both empirical and conceptual premises from which metaphysical conclusions necessarily follow. He attributes the necessity of the truth of metaphysical conclusions to the fact that the empirical premises of the sort used by Aquinas in metaphysics are obviously true. Mathematical arguments start with conceptual premises and draw necessary conclusions. In contrast to both of these epistemological routes is that of science. Scientific arguments start from empirical premises and draw merely probabilistic conclusions.
    In the epistemology of science, it would appear that for Feser, probabilistic is probabilistic in the sense of human certitude. If so, it is a very strange word to refer to human certitude when the crux of an opponent's arguments is the inference of mathematical probability from material phenomena, not only generally, but particularly in empirical science. Feser shares the same fault with Richard Dawkins, the failure to cite the distinction between probability in the sense of human certitude and in the sense of mathematical probability. In light of that failure the studious reader must conclude that Feser would be fully agreeable to equating the probability of the conclusions of empirical science to the probability of mathematics. In other words, Feser has implicitly conceded to Richard Dawkins.
    In spite of his excellent presentation of Aristotelian Thomism, it cannot be said that Feser has refuted modern atheism, because he has avoided the central issue in contention, the inference of mathematical probability from material phenomena and the specific mathematical arguments alleged by Dawkins to flow from that inference.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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