Dinesh D'Souza on Life After Death: The Atheist Delusion
In this provocative essay, Dinesh D'Souza argues that the atheist critique of life after death is actually irrational. He takes on Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and more to say their arguments lack evidence.
So what do atheists have to say about all this? Basically, they say that to give up reason and evidence, even in situations which seem outside the bounds of reason and evidence, is to open the door to all kinds of craziness. Should we start believing in unicorns and centaurs on the grounds that there is no way to disprove them? The philosopher Bertrand Russell gave the example of a celestial teapot that is said to rove the solar system but is undetectable by all scientific instruments. Should we believe in such an absurdity simply because it cannot be refuted?
With some glee, Richard Dawkins invokes the example of an invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster that controls the operations of the universe. These way-out examples can't be disproved, Dawkins writes, "yet nobody thinks the hypothesis of their existence is on an even footing with the hypothesis of their non-existence." In other words, the odds in favor aren't the same as the odds against.
A little scrutiny of these examples will quickly show that the craziness here is entirely on the part of the atheists. We have combed the earth without locating a single unicorn, so we seem justified in rejecting unicorns. Centaurs are believed by scientists to be biologically impossible. In these two cases, the odds are clearly against. Celestial teapots are also very unlikely, as are Flying Spaghetti Monsters, but our derision is prejudicially solicited by the particular examples chosen. Teapots do not fly, and pasta is an unlikely ingredient to produce flying monsters.
On the other hand, if we modify the examples slightly to involve matter and energy that is undetectable by scientific instruments and yet is presumed to exist in order to account for the motions of the galaxies, we have just described "dark matter" and "dark energy," widely accepted by scientists today. Here the odds are heavily in favor, even if the phenomena in question are strange and not well understood.
I agree with Russell and Dawkins that even when propositions seem outside the bounds of verifiability, there is no cause to give up reason; I am merely arguing that we should be constantly aware of what reason does, and doesn't, tell us in a given situation. Moreover, there may be things that are outside experience that have features different from what is within our experience, and we should be open to such possibilities and not dismissive of them in advance.
Consider the possibility of aliens that exist in some galaxy far away. Is there anything we can say about them that would automatically count as absurd? For instance, can we reject out of hand the possibility that the aliens each have 10 eyes? No. Can we dismiss the suggestion that they weigh less than a speck of dust, or more than a skyscraper? No. Can we laugh out of court the idea that they don't have hearts, or that they communicate by telepathy, or that they sustain themselves by consuming metal? In each case, no.
Life After Death: The Evidence