Atheists can be anti-science and irrational, too

Being a freethinker, I’m free to call out irrationality whether perpetrated by atheists or by theists.  Here are just a few examples of atheists’ being anti-science, making assertions with no evidence, and adhering to views that run counter to the facts or to the scholarly consensus in the relevant field:

GMO’s

Many atheists believe that foods containing genetically engineered ingredients (GMO’s) are either unsafe or that not enough research has been conducted to determine their safety.  However, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, a European Union study of 50 research projects, and other reputable studies  on this question (e.g. this one and this one) have concluded unequivocally that GMO products have been scientifically shown to be safe.  In the words of the EU study, there was “no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.”

As Skeptic Magazine’s Michael Shermer (@michaelshermer), an atheist, conceded in a recent tweet:  “Anti-GMO/Monsanto is science denial/anti-capitalism comparable to climate denial/creationism on the right. We all have our blind spots.”

Bill Maher

Mr. Maher, a constant ridiculer of those who hold anti-scientific views, apparently is anti-vaccine and has doubted germ theory.

Free will

Neuroscientist and anti-theist author Sam Harris, of whom I am a fan, as well as anti-theist biology professor Jerry Coyne, adhere to their view that humans have no free will (see here and here, respectively).  I have found their arguments persuasive.  However, a survey of analytic philosophers showed that only about 12 percent accepted or leaned towards no free will.  In addition, Dr. Harris maintains that science can determine objective moral values, despite the fact that his thesis has, by and large, been rejected by moral philosophers.

Dr. Harris rails against religious people for relying on Bronze Age teachings rather than having a 21st century conversation.  In these cases, however, 21st century conversations have taken place and yet neither he nor Prof. Coyne has accepted the conclusions of those conversations.

Gun control

In the gun control debate, the same atheists who ridicule religious people who back up their views with nothing but passion, name-calling, and assertions without evidence often do the exact same thing when arguing for stricter gun control (e.g. here).  This is not to say their conclusion is wrong necessarily – just that they usually don’t use any evidence to support their position.  Granted, good data in this debate is difficult to find, but then we should just say “Let’s come up with more good data before we trust our inclinations.”  Isn’t that we do with questions such as, “How did the universe begin?” and other faith-related questions?

In another recent tweet, Michael Shermer declared: “New paper on relationship between gun ownership & gun homicides: More Guns=More Murder. John Lott is wrong again.” [Lott is a crime researcher who is a proponent of gun rights.]  However, right there in the abstract of the article Shermer cites, the authors of the study write, “This, however, should not be seen as a policy recommendation, due to the limited data available to inform and parameterize the model.”

How is this different from theists who quote mine or jump to conclusions about their beliefs based on little or no real evidence?

Israel

Finally, a very costly example is the way many atheists have sadly gotten swept up in the “Israel-bashing is cool” trend.  For instance, many atheists who themselves are not anti-Semitic will blindly regurgitate what they hear from those who are – e.g. that Israel is an “apartheid regime.”  Yet it would be oh so simple for them to be good skeptics and look up the facts, instead of just believing such a severe accusation on faith.  If they would do so, they would discover, for instance, that:

– about 20 percent of Israelis are Arabs;

– Israeli Arabs have voting rights equal to those of Israeli Jews;

– the Israeli parliament has included Arab members at all times since the founding of the state and currently includes 12 Arab members;

– an Israeli Arab medical student graduated first in her class this year at the Technion – Israel’s version of MIT, a Lebanese woman was last year’s valedictorian, and a leading Israeli cancer researcher there is Arab; and

– Miss Israel is an Ethiopian-Israeli.

On the other hand, if a Jew would try to take up residence in Gaza or the West Bank – let alone try to gain voting rights, join the Palestinian government, or study at a Palestinian university, the Jew’s head would become a soccer ball before he/she could say, “Apartheid.”

settlers

I have no doubt that atheists are far more likely to accept the evidence and scientific consensus that evolution and man-made climate change are true, and that’s important.  But as the above examples show, the idea that atheists are always guided by evidence and scholarly consensus – well, the evidence is clearly against that hypothesis.

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