It’s Monday. You’re tired after your weekend, you aren’t too enthused about getting back to work, and it’s just so dispiriting to have to get back into the grind. What do you need with your coffee? An unsurprising tale of a very stupid person, so that your boss and your coworkers will look like shining beacons of reason by comparision, and you’ll realize your job isn’t so bad after all. You need to hear about Dinesh D’Souza, because you’ll realize that even in the state of sluggish stupor on a Monday morning, you are a thousand times wiser and more perceptive than that crank.
You will especially enjoy the irony of D’Souza declaring that atheists aren’t very bright.
I don’t need to dwell on it (if you want more, Dust in a Sunbeam is more thorough), because early on the whole of D’Souza’s argument collapses in a torrent of straw.
The Fallacy of the Enlightenment is the glib assumption that human beings can continually find out more and more until eventually there is nothing more to discover. The Enlightenment Fallacy holds that human reason and science can, in principle, unmask the whole of reality.
So atheists aren’t very bright because they think they can understand all of reality. How silly. We don’t think that at all. I’m fairly sure I can only grasp 93.4% of reality, and that’s only after drinking so many cups of coffee that my reality is reduces to a painfully full bladder and life is nothing but an episode of prolonged micturition. But seriously, this is not part of the premise of either atheism or science; we don’t claim completeness at all. So how can something we freely admit be an argument against our position?
All it takes is one very silly man to spiral his delusions up into a fantasy case against science and atheism, and that man is Dinesh. After going on and on about Kant in a pointless appeal to the authority of a poorly understood philosopher, he gives us his refutation of atheism.
It is a shared doctrine of those religions that the empirical world we humans inhabit is not the only world there is. Ours is a world of appearances only in which we see things in a limited and distorted way, “through a glass darkly,” as the apostle Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians 13:12. Ours is a transient world that is dependent on a higher, timeless reality. That reality is of a completely different order from anything we know, it constitutes the only permanent reality there is, and it sustains our world and presents it to our senses. Christianity teaches that while reason can point to the existence of this higher domain, this is where reason stops: it cannot on its own investigate or comprehend that domain.
A thousand words berating atheists for having a certainty that they do not claim, and then he announces his own dogma of certainty, and refutes himself.
So this spiritual world is different from anything we know, and we cannot investigate or comprehend it with reason.
So how does Dinesh D’Souza know anything about it?
The atheist position does not rest on any claim of absolute perfect knowledge. It is based on a very simple principle: that we have to be able to explain how we know what we know, and support it with some kind of independently confirmable evidence. When people make extravagant religious claims, like this invention of D’Souza’s that there is an independent reality supporting the one we can see, we ask, “How do you know that?” And what do we get? Silence. Or meaningless babble that skirts the question.