Philip Kitcher at the New York Times Sunday Book Review has written an honest review of Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheists Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, in light of the New Republic’s christening it 2011’s worst book.
Rosenberg’s compendium to the atheist’s vision argues three principle points: that micro-physics determines everything, that natural selection explains human behavior, and that the budding and brilliant work of neuroscience yields the greatest explanatory value among competing frames of reference. Kitcher summarizes: “Morality, purpose, and the quaint conceit of an enduring self all have to go.”
Surely the supernatural commitments of theists are not as naive as these. Claiming that we’re determined by micro-physics is at the very least premature: “Many informed scholars doubt the possibility, even in principle, of understanding, say, economic transactions as complex interactions of subatomic particles.” No more convincing is Rosenberg’s explanation of morality, or “evolutionary psychology on stilts,” as Kitcher calls it, doing painfully little to explain the connection between natural selection and what seems to be congenital moral dispositions. And the burden of proof lies with Rosenberg to show how neural states explain the breadth of human experience.
Kitcher wants us to know, though, that book isn’t bad as work of imaginitive philosophy. Read another treatment by Edward Feser in our November 2011 issue, here.