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Bobby Jindal on Atheism
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Bobby Jindal just got elected Governor of Louisiana, the youngest in its history, and also the first of Indian descent. He's also a staunch Republican and a convert from Hinduism to Catholicism. And he's got an undergraduate biology degree from Brown.

Via Gene Expression, here's a piece Jindal wrote for Catholic Answers against atheism. It's fairly long and it's full of problems, so bear with me.

Here's where he actually starts making points:

It is not enough to show a coincidence of phenomena (psychological needs and God) to assert a causal relation. Atheists must also show that man's need for a higher being preceded God's existence if they are to assert that the needs created God and not vice versa. Atheists must show why their belief in the non-existence of God is any more credible than the theists' belief in God.

Uh, wrong. Nice try, though. The burden of proof is on those who are asserting the existence of something which needs to be explained. If I claim that Bigfoot is real, and assert this belief to you, do we now have an equal responsibility to justify our beliefs? Must you show why your non-belief is more credible than my belief? Hell no. I'm the one making the claim about the existence of something. The burden of proof is on me. Using Jindal's logic, you have to justify your non-belief in every mystical, religious, and pseudo-scientific conjecture ever put forth by human beings. Are all the Christians out there ready to defend their non-belief in animism, polytheism, dragons, UFOs, the chupacabra, and on and on and on...?

The rationalist assertion that God only exists if he is perceived by the subject is surely not how we approach the world. It would be ridiculous to claim that the existence of DNA depends on whether I am convinced of its reality. Though we routinely believe in many things we cannot see or fully understand, atheists have chosen not to believe in God.

Right and wrong. As Gene Expression points out, this isn't a rationalist assertion. A rationalist allows for beliefs based on inferences. We have reason to believe in things we cannot directly perceive because we have good evidence that they exist even if we cannot directly observe them. But we still have evidence.

The honest scientist, whether investigating nature or politics, should acknowledge that circumstantial evidence certainly favors the existence of a supernatural and transcendent being.

I'm pretty honest, but no, I don't acknowledge that.

God is creative and thus supernatural.

Nice deduction. I like it. So because he is creative, it follows that he is supernatural. I like this construction...let's try some replacement for fun. Picasso is creative and thus supernatural. Beethoven is creative and thus supernatural. Michael Jackson is creative and thus supernatural. Yeah, that makes sense.

What is crucial is that there must exist some uncreated being with the ability to create and give order. A being which defies the natural laws of physics concerning energy, matter, and order is necessitated by the very laws of nature.

Why must it be a being? The problem with that, as many have pointed out, is one of infinite regress. Why doesn't the origin of this hypothetical being need explaining? Oh, well, he transcends explanations of causality and origins! You see, the moment you do that, all your reasoning breaks down.

First, Dawkins merely has explained the development, not the origin, of life.

True enough. The origin of life is currently not well-explained. I think it's a fascinating open scientific question, and I've blogged about it before. Jindal, like so many other religious people, apparently don't like open scientific questions, and so they need to explain it away with god. That's not very rational.

Second, Dawkins reduces human beings to the moral equivalent of other animals and does not even consider their unique attributes.

That's just flat-out wrong. He talks about how humans are in a unique position to determine our own fate and our own morality through the power of reason.

I don't have the time or energy to wade through the rest of it. Most of it is shop-worn stuff. He is basically simultaneously arguing that adherence to evidence is misguided, while trying to defend evidence in favor of believing in god. You can't have it both ways. I'd have slightly more respect for people who just say, "Yeah, it's irrational, but I want to believe it anyway, so I will." At least it would be honest.

But one more comment, as Jindal brings up the atheist/agnostic distinction:

The atheist, unlike the agnostic, makes metaphysical assumptions as significant as those of theists. Not content with admitting uncertainty about the existence of God, the atheist claims that God does not exist and that creation can explain itself.

Dawkins has the right rejoinder to this kind of statement. He calls him self an atheist, but admits freely that he does not dogmatically claim that god does not exist. He simply say there is justification for believing in god, so he doesn't. He's agnostic about god in the same sense that most people are agnostic about leprechauns or dragons. You have to logically concede that there is a chance that they exist, but there is such a lack of good reason to believe in them that you go about your daily life as if they don't exist.

Some people have the idea that agnostics are giving even odds, 50/50, while the atheist is 0/100 against. Actually, most atheists are more like 0.00000000000000000001/0.99999999999999999999. Basically, the claim is not absolute, but they're certainly not banking on it.

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