The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism

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9781587314513: The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism

The central contention of the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that there has for several centuries been a war between science and religion, that religion has been steadily losing that war, and that at this point in human history a completely secular scientific account of the world has been worked out in such thorough and convincing detail that there is no longer any reason why a rational and educated person should find the claims of any religion the least bit worthy of attention.

But as Edward Feser argues in The Last Superstition, in fact 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 conceptions of the natural order: on the one hand, the classical "teleological" vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is as inherent a feature of the physical world as mass or electric charge; and the modern "mechanical" vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which the physical world is comprised of nothing more than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion. The modern "mechanical" picture has never been established by science, and cannot be, for it is not a scientific theory in the first place but merely a philosophical interpretation of science.

Not only is this modern philosophical picture rationally unfounded, it is demonstrably false. For the "mechanical" conception of the natural world, when worked out consistently, absurdly entails that rationality, and indeed the human mind itself, are illusory. The so-called "scientific worldview" championed by the New Atheists thus inevitably undermines its own rational foundations; and into the bargain it undermines the foundations of any possible morality as well.

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About the Author:

Called by National Review "one of the best contemporary writers on philosophy," Edward Feser teaches philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He is the author of On Nozick, Philosophy of Mind: A Short Introduction, and Locke, and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Hayek. He has also written for such publications as City Journal, Crisis, National Review, and New Oxford Review.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* New Atheists Richards Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris get their comeuppance from philosopher Feser in the spirit with which they abuse believers. “Their books stand out for their manifest ignorance” of the Western religious tradition, he says, “and for the breathtaking shallowness of their philosophical analysis of religious matters.” Far better than such no-quarters rhetoric, however, are the review of pre-Aristotelian philosophy and the summary of Aristotelian metaphysics and Thomas Aquinas’ refinements of Aristotle that make up the heart, soul, and bulk of the book. Feser chooses to argue from Aristotle because he was not arguing from any religious perspective and because Aristotle’s logic, his rationality, hasn’t been improved upon or refuted by modern philosophy. Aristotle’s proof that there is a prime mover or pure being—God—remains solid. Ignoramuses like the four horsemen of the apostasy, whose factual errors, half-truths, and mischaracterization Feser highlights with contemptuous glee, “refute” Aristotle only by changing the playing field from metaphysics to science, from philosophical realism to materialism. With energy and humor as well as transparent exposition, Feser reestablishes the unassailable superiority of classical philosophy. --Ray Olson

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