What Do New Atheists Actually Believe?
A while ago Larry Moran at Sandwalk asked:
Let's stop the whining about how "know-nothing" atheists are ignoring the very best arguments for the existence of God. Come on, all you theists and accommodationists, put your money where your mouth is. Give us something of substance instead of hiding behind The Courtier's Reply. Let's see the angels...I'm betting that [theists] haven't the foggiest notion of any new and sophisticated arguments for the existence of God that the New Atheists haven't already addressed. I'm betting they're just blowing smoke in order to provide cover for their theist friends in the hope of saving them from intellectual embarrassment.
Moran got 551 comments. Not one argument for theism satisfied him:
I think it's fair to say that nobody came up with anything that even remotely resembles a modern "sophisticated" argument that the Gnu Atheists are ignoring. Therefore, I declare victory.
But what about arguments for New Atheism? Casual perusal of New Atheist discourse reveals recurring themes.
The New Atheism Cliff Notes:
1) There are no gods
2) Theists are IDiots
3) Catholic priests molest children.
Surely there's more to New Atheism. Some old atheism (Epicurus, Lucretius, Hume, Russell, Quine) was pretty profound. New Atheism should be even better. Reason, Modern Science, Brights, etc.
I want to learn more about what New Atheists really believe. So I'm asking Moran a few questions, although other atheists (Myers, Coyne, Novella, Shallit, etc) are invited to reply on their blogs, and I will answer.
Here are the questions:
1) Why is there anything?
2) What caused the Universe?
3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?
4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?
5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?
6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?
7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)
8) Why is there evil?
I'm not expecting a treatise on each. Theists don't have all the answers. I don't expect New Atheists to have them either. But each metaphysical tradition -- Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, animist, old atheist, heck, even Scientologist and Raelian -- has addressed at least some of these questions, for better or worse. How do New Atheists address them? Just a few coherent sentences for each question that will begin a conversation. If any of the questions are too hard, say so and skip them. Soon, I'll post my answers as well. No peeking.
1) Answers can't be limited to the shortcomings of theism (e.g. 'So who caused God?'). I'm looking for an exposition of New Atheist belief, not a criticism of theist belief. Mutual criticism will come once all beliefs are on the table. If New Atheist belief can only be expressed by negation of the beliefs of others, just say so.
2) Myers' "Courtier's Reply" gambit is fine. If you think that a question is nonsense, say so.
3) No changing the subject. New questions are welcome, once the old questions are addressed.
4) The Law of Snark Conservation applies; thoughtful courteous answers get thoughtful courteous replies.
I want to learn more about what New Atheists really believe.