Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fish, Stanley. "God Talk, Part 2." THINK AGAIN BLOG. NEW YORK TIMES May 17, 2009.

According to recent surveys, somewhere between 79 and 92 percent of Americans believe in God. But if the responses to my column on Terry Eagleton’s “Faith, Reason and Revolution” constitute a representative sample, 95 percent of Times readers don’t. What they do believe, apparently, is that religion is a fairy tale, hogwash, balderdash, nonsense and a device for rationalizing horrible deeds. Of course, there is more than name-calling to their antitheism; there are arguments, and the one most often made insists on a sharp distinction between religion and science, or, alternatively, between faith and reason. The assertion, generally, is that while “science is based on observation, religion is based on opinion” (RM Paxton) Or, in another formulation, science does not involve belief, it is “based on common observation” (Dave Goldenberg). Science “simply reports facts” (Bob W.) Or, in the same vein, “Science helps us to understand the world as it is” (Mark Grein). In short, while science provides a window on the world, religion places between us and the world a fog of doctrine and superstition, and if we want to become clear-eyed, we have to dispel (a word that should be taken literally) that fog. This is the promise offered by Christopher Hitchens, who tells his readers (in “God is Not Great”), “You will feel better . . . once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking.” (Thinkers of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.) Sounds good, sounds simple. Just free the mind of pre-packaged beliefs and take a good look at things. But is it that easy? Is observation a matter simply of opening up your baby blues and taking note of the evidence that presents itself? Does evidence come labeled as such – “I am evidence for thesis X but not Y”? Read the rest here: There have been many reactions to this column, including the following:

For a brief overview of Fish's position on the relationship between knowledge and belief, see:

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