Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God"

Karen Armstrong is an advocate for NOMA, the principle which says that science and religion involve unique, non-overlapping domains of human interest. In Armstrong's view, each offers a distinct way of finding truth. Science comes from logos, the path of logic, reason, and evidence. Religion, on the other hand, comes from mythos, tapping into the mythological, emotional, intuitive path to wisdom. She believes that religion and science are both necessary for humanity, but that problems arise when either one attempts to invade the other's epistemological territory.

Anyone familiar with my views on religion will know that I find this point of view highly problematic. For one thing, it romanticizes both science and religion. More importantly, the distinction is without practical sense. It cannot be justified by appeal to either logos or mythos, and so any disputes cannot be resolved by common agreement.

Here are two clever responses to her latest book, The Case for God. Both articles are from The Guardian.

The first is a review by Simon Blackburn. I have only one point to add to Blackburn's insightful criticism: He forgets to point out the self-contradiction in Armstrong's perspective. She argues, using reason and evidence, that religion is about something which cannot be intellectualized by reason or evidence.

The second article is a humorously scathing "digested read" by John Crace.

I wonder how the responses in major American newspapers compare. Unfortunately, I expect they are a lot less critical, and a lot more empty-headed.