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Oh, how the credulous are shaking in their boots. Searching high and low like jonesing addicts for their security blankets, their soporifics. Now comes The Delusion of Disbelief to their rescue. By David Aikman, this book represents the latest plaintive whine from that camp. Having not yet seen the book, I only can go by the press release, the cover, the supporting website and video at, I kid you not–www.isanyoneupthere.com. What a desperate cry for help that URL is. Seriously cracks me up. Given the marketing, it’s clearly one more copycat response to Dawkins’ classic The God Delusion. I mean, couldn’t Aikman even come up with an original title? Weak, weak, weak.

First, the cover shows a broken light bulb. How’s that for sound thinking? Take the universal symbol for knowledge and smash it. Good job! Let’s make sure people understand up front that knowledge is dangerous and should be destroyed.

Next, we move to the supporting video (linked above), a hastily thrown together vignette of the narrow horizons of small-town America, complete with somnambulant acoustic guitar track, reminiscent of a 1970s cereal or laxative commercial. We get exactly 4 arguments in the video against the so-called delusion of disbelief, none of them remotely new or at all convincing:

  1. Argument from nature/personal incredulity: Popularized by Francis Collins, "Look around you, look at all this beauty and nature, it had to have been created by someone. We need faith because we just can’t comprehend how it all happened." "Somebody has to be up there."
  2. Argument from morality: "We have to try to make this world a better place. We have to get back to God’s plan, which is certainly not what we’re seeing today." "It’s like a karma thing, I think there’s somebody up there tallying how you behave, and it will come back to you."
  3. Argument from personal redemption: "I was a sinner but now I’ve accepted Jesus, and he changed me completely. It’s something unexplainable."
  4. Teleological argument (blended with personal incredulity again): "There has to be some purpose to all this. We can’t just be out there doing our thing, there has to be some natural order."

It’s a virtual guarantee that the book won’t be any better than the video. In fact, I’ll put out a USD$100 challenge, payable to the first person who submits a quote from this book of a single new argument that hasn’t been regurgitated ad nauseam on the web or in other apologist literature. If it’s in there and you find it, I’ll pay up. I’m confident that my money is safe.

Underscoring the continued weakening of the theistic position, 3 out of the 4 people interviewed expressed deist points of view. It seems many people are no longer hanging their hats on concepts of a personal God, and that’s progress. They’re retrenching to deism, the impersonal "higher power," which means moving inexorably closer to agnosticism/atheism. It’s the combination of fear and sentimentality which allows what remains of people’s belief to self-perpetuate.

But rather than acknowledge the obvious societal retrenchment evident in its own promotional video, The Delusion of Disbelief imagines itself to be on the vanguard of some kind of attack. As such, it ends up as thinly veiled anti-atheist bigotry, painting atheists as enemies of political liberty. From the press release:

Explaining why it’s so important to expose the flawed logic and historical errors of the New Atheists, Aikman points out that not only are their arguments against God weak, but "atheism, when adopted wholesale by any government or society, has very profound and disturbing consequences for political liberty."

So now, we’re threatening his freedom–er–Christian privilege. It’s pretty easy to figure out why Aikman feels that way:

Dr. Aikman is a columnist on world affairs for Christianity Today and writes for news publications including the Wall Street Journal, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard. With special expertise in China, Russia, the Middle East, Mongolia, and religious freedom issues worldwide, he is often asked to provide expert testimony at congressional hearings and to give television commentary in connection with breaking news events. His radio commentaries can be heard regularly on the Salem Communications network. Dr. Aikman also teaches history and writing at Patrick Henry College in Virginia.

But that’s ad hominem. Who he works for is not enough cause to dismiss his book. It’s his (lack of) arguments that damn him. And no doubt his confused rhetoric will resonate through the echo chamber of the right-wing talk show circuit like a thousand exploding light bulbs. Which won’t be anything new–they’ve gotten so used to that sound, they’ll barely even notice.


Comments (14 comments)

Eric / April 19th, 2008, 7:09 am / #1

Can't waaait to sink my teeth into those four arguments. I wish Dr. Aikman was here so he could say hello to my little friend logic.

1. "We just can't comprehend how it all happened." And yet he comprehends enough to know that?

2. Assumes he knows an infinite being's plan? And apparently that plan is not what we're seeing today? In other words he is saying that he not only knows God's plans, but it's not the plans that an infinite being would allow happen in the world He created. I see why there's a broken light bulb on the front cover.

3. Doesn't even deserve a response.

4. For this one, it simply does not follow that because the universe is perceived to be ordered that necessarily "god" must have created it. People are just unwilling to accept the other possibility that maybe they just don't have any idea about the nature of the universe and it was always here in one form or another, simply always changing, just like everything you see inside the universe. You could argue that the universe doesn't necessarily reflect what is inside of it, (bad me :( ) so If you guys have any alternative explanations to the teleological argument I'd be happy to hear them. (Or try and defend it if you dare, lol)

Eric / April 19th, 2008, 4:04 pm / #2

Sorry for double-posting but I just though of a good answer to the problem I posed. (Yes, I’m an obsessive philosopher) If you accept that this universe is in fact ordered, you must then accept that it is necessarily so. Even if it was some kind of long shot accident, it happened, and order is a necessary property of this universe.

This means that there could be no other possible circumstance in which this universe would exist and not be ordered. So it literally could not “be” without the order you and I see in it. So the reason this order is labeled as the work of God is simply because it is ordered. But what is not understood is that it could be no other way and still have produced the same results. So in other words don’t attach the word God to order because you think it could have been so many other possibilities but thank God it was this one, but rather thank our universe instead, because order was just another necessary condition for its existance.

BlackSun / April 21st, 2008, 8:33 am / #3

Eric,

Good points. I’ve stopped posting rebuttals to the most basic fallacious arguments, because I’ve done it so many other times. But it’s good to have a refresher for current readers. With regard to the argument from personal incredulity, I’m a little more sympathetic to the average non-scientist who expresses this view. They actually may not comprehend, and are taking a position of honest bewilderment. But when people like Francis Collins (who absolutely know better) take such a position, it truly offends me.

So much of what passes for apologetics hinges on First Cause type arguments. And these are inherently unresolvable. Also, you touched on the anthropic principle, which again, cannot really be effectively debated–because if cosmological constants were different, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it. But these kinds of blind alleys actually work in favor of apologetics, because they provide the perfect setup for the “gods of the gaps.”

It requires a certain sophistication to say “Wow, that’s a mystery, wrapped in a paradox, wrapped in an enigma, and I’m OK with leaving it that way until we have more information.”

Eric / April 21st, 2008, 1:24 pm / #4

BlackSun,

As far as the teleological argument goes, I was applying posteriori necessity to throw that argument out, which I think is a very effective counterargument because it holds up in all cases, even if this universe isn’t “real.” So anyone who accepts the universe is in fact ordered (although it might in fact not be) must also accept that it is necessarily ordered, so it becomes true by definition, and God becomes a superfluous appeal.

However, then the question does get thrown back to “origins of the universe(s)” which as you said is currently unresolvable, and that question leads to a host of other messy and inherently difficult questions.

But I must say that I do not agree with this part of your last statement: “I’m OK with leaving it that way until we have more information.” I think that if your alright with simply not-knowing, you have no need to wait for more information because it doesn’t matter to you. But if your not alright with not-knowing (which I’d guess that you are because your an atheist and not an agnostic, lol) then that really does matter to you and it explains the want for more information, whether that information comes from you or other people.

I myself could never abandon the search for knowledge in favor of living with the idea that it all can’t be figured out. I maybe a fool for thinking this way, but hopefully I’ll be able to just maybe help push current human understanding in the right direction just a little bit.

BlackSun / April 21st, 2008, 1:31 pm / #5

I myself could never abandon the search for knowledge in favor of living with the idea that it all can’t be figured out. I maybe a fool for thinking this way, but hopefully I’ll be able to just maybe help push current human understanding in the right direction just a little bit.

I didn’t say stop trying. I meant that the more we know, the more we realize how much greater the unknown will always be than the known. We have to make peace with it. That doesn’t mean stop working on it.

Eric / April 21st, 2008, 1:42 pm / #6

Just one fix, in the comment above replace “not-knowing” with “leaving it that way” because obviously you do know a lot. My overall point is that you can never really say that your ok with what you already know, and desire more information.

Eric / April 21st, 2008, 1:47 pm / #7

I didn’t say stop trying. I meant that the more we know, the more we realize how much greater the unknown will always be than the known. We have to make peace with it. That doesn’t mean stop working on it.

Yea sorry about that I kinda feel into my own philosophy a little too much there. lol

Marc André / April 22nd, 2008, 8:45 am / #8

Hey Sean

Because a few books on atheism got some attention these last years ‘’faith is under attack’’ its so ridiculous. How many religious/new age books passes some ‘’not so nice’’ remarks about non-believers. I guess Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennet might have touch some sensible spot.

Chris / April 24th, 2008, 9:01 am / #9

a broken light bulb??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! oh man. good stuff.

@eric

wow… you are so deep. its good to have a real live philosopher finally post on blacksun. tone down all that really heavy stuff though. some of us might get lost in your genius! are you the first to think of these ideas? if so, you should write a thousand page book. i’m sure it would be captivating. your unparalleled insight into the true nature of the majesty that is our universe would put the philosophical postulations of the Greats to shame… hahaha okay i’m done.

Laurence / April 24th, 2008, 5:50 pm / #10

You usually have to pay top dollar to get the kind of drugs that make this book look sensible…

…wait a tic…

I’ve finally figured it out! Christians are the ones with the strong drugs!

the glossy eyes, the need to “be somewhere” every sunday, the constant off-key wailing of church hymns, and the fear of “heaven” and “hell”! it all makes sense! heaven and hell must just be metaphors for good and bad trips.

I’m officially converting.

Engineer-Poet / May 4th, 2008, 2:33 pm / #11

Quoth Sean:

In fact, I’ll put out a USD$100 challenge, payable to the first person who submits a quote from this book of a single new argument that hasn’t been regurgitated ad nauseam on the web or in other apologist literature.

And I bet you’d be laughing at all the dreck the poor winner had to wade through to find it, too. ;-)

Quoth Eric:

the more we know, the more we realize how much greater the unknown will always be than the known. We have to make peace with it. That doesn’t mean stop working on it.

“The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” — Ralph W. Sockman

AV / May 10th, 2008, 5:43 am / #12

First, the cover shows a broken light bulb. How’s that for sound thinking? Take the universal symbol for knowledge and smash it. Good job! Let’s make sure people understand up front that knowledge is dangerous and should be destroyed.

Well, wasn’t the movie Expelled subtitled “No Intelligence Allowed”? These apologists seem to have cornered the market in own goals.

Chris / May 16th, 2008, 6:38 pm / #13

Sorry for being sarcastic mr. eric… I was in a very cynical mood.

Shifu Careaga / November 16th, 2010, 5:57 pm / #14

Sigh.

I am right. No I am right. Who is right?

Measure correctness by the results of action generated from one's paradigm. For example: nihlism led to the first and second world wars… now the only place those philosophical thinkers can call home are the two most perverse places on the planet: our economic centers and the internet.

Now as for science it has been a good thing, but the embracing of technology and money (ie: capitalism) as salvation and a pathway to immortality have been the most closely linked correlate to worldwide environmental destruction in the last 200+ years.

How long of denying and stealing humanity's soul will you go on hoping the world will improve?

I'm not saying to get rid of technology and the internet: not at all. I am saying our paradigm must change, and that includes the haughty hubris of you who eat from the tree of "I know better than those fools".

The disease of this planet is in the thinking patterns of the leaders, and those leaders are scientists or disbelievers and they are full of evil moral relativism.

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