Engaging Today’s Militant Atheist Arguments
In November 2010, a small group of leading pastors, scholars, scientists, public intellectuals, and informed laypersons gathered in New York City to consider several pressing questions at the interface of science and faith (see summary statement ). Three papers, each addressing a different question, provided the framework for our discussions at the meeting. These were presented by Faraday Institute Director Denis Alexander (see paper), Oxford theoretical biophysicist Ard Louis (see paper), and MIT physicist Ian Hutchinson. Hutchinson's paper addresses the question of how to engage arguments put forward by the New Atheists by offering a critique of scientism, the assumption that scientific knowledge is all the real knowledge there is.
Editor's Note: After some discussion surrounding the use of the world "militant" in the last video from Ian Hutchinson, we've asked him to clarify his use of the word in the accompanying paper. He responds in this video:
What do I mean by Militant? Nothing different from what the dictionary says. 'Vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause' (Free Online Dictionary). The Pocket Oxford Dictionary says 'engaged in warfare (Church militant, Christians on earth), combative,' So this ephithet has not historically been considered an insult and is not intended by me as one. Militant atheists is a factual description of those who are active and aggressive in support of their atheist cause. If they wish to return the compliment by referring to militant Christians, they will have some historical precedent and I shall not complain, but I am personally less aggressive, even if perhaps not less vigorous, than the likes of those who are often called New Atheists!
For more, see Ian Hutchinson's full paper Engaging Today's Militant Atheist Arguments
Ian H. Hutchinson is professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His primary research interest is plasma physics and its practical applications. He and his MIT team designed, built and operate the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, an international experimental facility whose magnetically confined plasmas are prototypical of a future fusion reactor. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Cambridge University and his doctorate in engineering physics from the Australian National University. He directed the Alcator project from 1987 to 2003 and served as head of MIT’s nuclear science and engineering department from 2003 to 2009. In addition to over 200 journal articles on a variety of plasma phenomena, Hutchinson is widely known for his standard monograph on measuring plasmas: Principles of Plasma Diagnostics. For more, see Hutchinson's book Monopolizing Knowledge.