The New Atheists have it all wrong, insists McGrath (Science and Religion/Oxford Univ.; C.S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, 2013, etc.).
Instead of delving deep into the classic proofs for the existence of a cosmic intelligence—cosmological, ontological, or theological arguments—the author concentrates on the basic errors of atheism. McGrath’s particular nemesis is The God Delusion author, Richard Dawkins. Those who rely solely on science for all the answers forget that scientific “facts” are not fixed but change with new information and new thinking. Though Charles Darwin’s insights remain intact, social Darwinism, after all, has had its day. Not so long ago, the Big Bang supplanted the steady state theory of the history of our universe, and the sun no longer revolves around the Earth. That has been scientifically established. Many of McGrath’s arguments for faith are based simply on “widely agreed” notions and “growing consensus.” He asserts that there are “strong indications that religion is something natural.” To understand the mechanics of the world, writes the author, we should ask the scientists; for ethics and meaning, we must turn to philosophers and theologians. Defender of the faith McGrath seems to consider his own Christian belief the sole representative of all religious faith—though the only Scripture he directly quotes is from the Hebrew book of Psalms. Much more ecumenical and accessible is Jonathan Sacks’ wonderful The Great Partnership (2012), which tackles many of the same existential topics. McGrath’s entry isn’t light reading, however, and close attention may provide new questions and yield nutrients for further thinking for adherents of both camps. Despite the declarations of religious fundamentalists or fundamentalist New Atheists, each path has a place in humanity’s search for knowledge and understanding.
Another deeply felt entry on two divergent, yet ultimately compatible, ways of engaging the world and understanding reality.