Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Tuesday | October 13, 2009
Home : Letters
Boyne fails to address atheists' questions
The Editor, Sir:

The article in The Sunday Gleaner, October 11, titled 'Tackling the atheists' is vintage Boyne; a flood of references to authors with whose works he is familiar, accompanied by assertions concerning their brilliance, but without any real substance concerning the main point raised by atheists or, for that matter, by the authors themselves. His one attempt at explaining anything is to quote from a work by Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity.

"Now imagine two groups of people - let's call them the secular rebel and the religious tribe. Which of two tribes is more likely to survive, prosper and multiply? The religious tribe is made up of people who have an animating sense of purpose. The secular tribe is made up of people who are not sure why they exist at all. The religious tribe is made up of individuals who view their every thought and action as consequential. The secular tribe is made up of matter that cannot explain why it is able to think at all."

The need to believe

This is an argument that explains why people have historically been led to believe, and it supports the views of atheists such as Thomas Hardy who feel that religion has served mankind very well up to a point. In The God Delusion, Dawkins deals at length with the evolutionary advantage of religious belief. Boyne should read it again. It is even possible that we are genetically wired for faith and altruism. It explains why we are willing to defend the young, the tribe and even the nation when it might cost us our own lives and it also explains why we are led to believe that this propensity originates with some external supernatural power that directs our actions and supervises our efforts at survival.

Genetic predisposition

The infant Homo sapiens needs to have complete faith in the wisdom of the parent if it is to survive the first few years of its life. Any species in which mothers are disinclined to defend their young will die out and the genetic predisposition will be removed from the environment by natural selection.

Dawkins suggests that the natural predisposition of human beings towards faith in the supernatural has its roots in natural selection. However, he regards it as a vestigial structure, like the appendix, which no longer serves any useful purpose and which can endanger the survival of the individual with its tendency to become infected and inflamed.

Darwin's theory explains best how the world works in the absence of God. The 19th-century poet's assertion that "nature is red in tooth and claw" is a much better explanation concerning the problem of evil in the world than any tale about devils and demons.

Monopoly on truth

Atheists like me, regard Darwin and Dawkins' explanation as being more acceptable to reason and hold that it will remain so until we hear a superior one.

A great misunderstanding that too many people have of science is that it claims to have some monopoly on absolute truth. It does not. In science, there always are competing theories. Scientists are continually testing and knocking down each other's theories. Where theories no longer compete, you end up with religion, not science.

Boyne needs to spend less time and space trying to impress his readers with the extent of his reading and deal more directly with the questions raised by atheists as he has done so well with those raised by other Christians. Too much of what he writes is just a long-winded attempt to imitate profundity.

I am, etc.

R. Howard Thompson


Rockton Drive

Mandeville PO

Home | Lead Stories | News | Business | Sport | Commentary | Letters | Entertainment | The Shipping Industry | Lifestyle |