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The Last Superstition

A Refutation of the New Atheism

Author(s): N/A

ISBN13: 9781587314520

ISBN10: 1587314525

Publisher: St. Augustine's Press (10 Dec 2010)

Extent: 299 pages

Binding: Paperback

Size: 22.6 x 15 x 2.5 cm

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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 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 worldview. Hence modern secularism crucially depends on the false insinuation that the "mechanical" phi­losophy has somehow been established by science.

     

    But as Feser shows, this "mechanical" picture of the world is in fact demonstrably false - and, into the bargain, utterly incompatible with the very existence of morality, rationality, and science itself. Recent developments in philosophy and science confirm this judgment, showing as they do how human thought and action, cause and effect, and the findings of the empirical sciences from physics to biology cannot even be described co­herently without reference to purpose or goal-directedness. The "teleological" vision of the ancients and medievals is thereby rationally vindicated, and with it the religious and moral worldview they are based upon it.

     

    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 the philosophical 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.

     

    The Last Superstition has been widely hailed as the strongest argument ever made against the New Atheists, earning outstanding plaudets from reviewers nationwide, and was the winner of the 2008 Best Book in Religion from ForeWord magazine and the 2008 "Editor's Choice" selection (the only one in Religion) from the American Library Association's BookList.

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The Last Superstition