Argumentum ex malo

A while ago we wrote about Dinesh D’Souza’s sorry attempt to defend his indefensible book–you know, the one in which he blames the terrorists attacks of 9/11, and terror generally, on our loose morals and overly restrictive divorce laws. Now he uses the shootings at Virginia Tech in order to score points for Jesus. He writes:

>Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.

That’s not really interesting. At least not in the way D’Souza thinks it is. All the talk of Divine Mercy in the face of death and mayhem are precisely the kinds of self-interested motivations for religious observance that people like Dawkins seek to explain. And furthermore, they’re the kinds of things other atheists use in their arguments for the non-existence of God. “What loving creator, they argue, would allow such a warped young mind to destroy so many innocent lives?” they might ask.

And he continues:

>The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul–well, that’s an illusion!

That’s a rather silly version even of Dawkins’ view. But no reason to bother with D’Souza’s lack of philosophical sophistication. Take a look rather at the conclusion:

>To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.

>If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.

D’Souza has probably not been invited either. Neither has, to my knowledge, Pope Benedict XVI. That doesn’t demonstrate anything. And it certainly doesn’t provide evidence for the view that atheism suffers from the problem of evil–for, on D’Souza’s on shamelessly ignorant account, for atheists there’s no meaning, so no evil. Just as however the absence of a God does not eliminate evil (but rather explains it), the human need for comfort and the hope for something better does mean there really is something to hope for.

4 thoughts on “Argumentum ex malo”

  1. Wow. I mean, granted I have just happened to have been doing readings on the problem of evil for class for the last few weeks, but this D’Souza is particularly egregious.

    As for “Atheists are nowhere to be found,” it’s also worth pointing out that they’re only 6% of the U.S. population (see, e.g.,
    So it’s almost as if, you know, they’re found 15.6 times less often.

    But you made the better point in your second paragraph on larger reasons behind the correlation here.

    I think his main complaint (whether he realizes it or not) is best summed up by that last sentence, though:

    /”If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.”/

    In other words (the classic strawman lead-in), some people just can’t cope with an a-religious outlook, and that’s all the justification they need for belief.

  2. This story has been ripped to shreds many times over sinse it was first written (or vomitted onto a page, if you will) He evn wrote a follow up once he realized what a rize he got out of people.

    If you ignore schlussel, you should ignore this bumbling idiot as well. It is somewhat gratifying however, that some of the best refutations of his refuse are on the commentary of his own page.

    A couple things more though, those invisible atheists? There only invisble if you’re a blind lunatic. They’re here
    and here
    and plenty of other places I’d immagine.

    It took me about three seconds to find them, but hey, I actually give a shit about things like logic and accuracy. What I want to know is, where are all the mathmaticians? There’re so handy with their formulas and equations, but when there’s tragedy, where are they? Oh, wait, arithmatic doesn’t claim to be an absolute source of morality and goodness. That’s that other thing, you know, that thing this moron is pushing.


  3. I’m inclined to agree with your overall assessment of D’Souza’s stature, but the sad fact is he is a fellow and a prominent conservative think tank. Anyone with that level of legitimacy–of any political stripe–ought to be held to account.

Comments are closed.