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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Epstein's Horsemen

This post represents a return to a series demonstrating that the New Atheism isn't so new. Inspired by Four Horsemen identified by Greg Epstein (2007), Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, in Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, and by Massimo Pigliucci's (2010) exposition of the PreSocratic philosophers in Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk. Here, I present Epstein's Horsemen.

Epstein compares Darwin, Marx, Nietzche and Freud to the New Atheists--the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It's interesting to test the comparison by matching each horseman from one group to an analogue in the other, both in terms of the perspectives they bring to bear and on the arguments against the existence of gods. These are the four classic ontological arguments:

The argument from evil. There's no plan or divine will to explain suffering. The biologists concur.

The argument from reasonable nonbelief. The existence of the gods is not self-evident. The burden of proof is on religion. Faith is credulity. Two political rebels make the case.

Lack of empirical evidence. Prophesy is hearsay. Discovery trumps revelation. The incorporeal is immaterial. So say the two philosophers.

The argument from inconsistent revelations. Religions are mutually contradictory, internally inconsistent and incoherent. Psychology calls it delusion.

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