Sunday, January 20, 2013

Atheism and Fundamentalism

In recent news, theoretical physicist Peter Higgs (of Higgs boson fame) lashed out at biologist Richard Dawkins, accusing Dawkins of fundamentalism. From the article:
"What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists," Higgs said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. "Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind."

He agreed with some of Dawkins' thoughts on the unfortunate consequences that have resulted from religious belief, but he was unhappy with the evolutionary biologist's approach to dealing with believers and said he agreed with those who found Dawkins' approach "embarrassing".
Dawkins has, in the past, rejected this designation, but in some ways, I suspect Dawkins doesn't understand what the accusation means. That leads me to a related point concerning biblical interpretation.

Catholic Mark Shea is fond of saying, "Scratch an atheist, find a fundamentalist". The reasons underlying this saying are manifold, and while I'm sure it isn't universally applicable to all atheists, I have often found a trend when debating Internet Atheists that they will insist on holding Catholics to an incredibly rigid interpretation of Scripture. It seems that in most cases, their knowledge of the biblical interpretation had not advanced beyond 8th grade Sunday School, if that. Any suggestion that Scripture is not perspicuous, that it requires an authoritative reading that actually may encompass many levels of interpretation, in consort with an equally authoritative Tradition going back (at least) 2000 years, is simply brushed aside as being irrelevant. For them, it's nothing compared to, as one thread commenter put it, the "idiosyncratic beliefs of Bill and Ted's Excellent Bible Shack, whose teachings go back to last Tuesday."

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