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The Atheist's Primer - Broadview Press

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Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. The Atheist's Primer. Description This little book lays down reasons for atheism. To the question, "Does God exist? There is no shortage of untenable beliefs. This book does not address one's right to believe whatever one wants. Its concern is strictly with the epistemic warrant of the belief.

The intended audience of the book is not restricted to atheists. Whatever side of the fence we sit on, our beliefs should be well-founded. The goal of this primer is to offer the best reasons going-for both sides. Atheists may learn them and use them at their disposal. Palmer has now stripped out the primary texts and expanded his commentaries into fluent and concise analyses of the arguments. Free of philosophical jargon and assumptions of prior knowledge, this is an important introduction to a major cultural debate.

An Atheistic Critique. Guide to Further Reading.

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These assumptions may impact, positively or negatively, their willingness and ability to engage the scientific presentation of human origins. The questions below are offered as a guide to begin thinking about science and religion in the context of the possible interactions of religious worldviews with a scientific account of human evolution and origins. Science is a way to understand nature by developing explanations for the structures, processes and history of nature that can be tested by observations in laboratories or in the field.

Sometimes such observations are direct, like measuring the chemical composition of a rock. Other times these observations are indirect, like determining the presence of an exoplanet through the wobble of its host star. An explanation of some aspect of nature that has been well supported by such observations is a theory.

Well-substantiated theories are the foundations of human understanding of nature. The pursuit of such understanding is science.

Book Review: The Atheist's Primer by Michael Palmer

Religion, or more appropriately religions, are cultural phenomena comprised of social institutions, traditions of practice, literatures, sacred texts and stories, and sacred places that identify and convey an understanding of ultimate meaning. Religions are very diverse. While it is common for religions to identify the ultimate with a deity like the western monotheisms — Judaism, Christianity, Islam or deities, not all do.

There are non-theistic religions, like Buddhism. Although science does not provide proofs, it does provide explanations. Science depends on deliberate, explicit and formal testing in the natural world of explanations for the way the world is, for the processes that led to its present state, and for its possible future.

When scientists see that a proposed explanation has been well confirmed by repeated observations, it serves the scientific community as a reliable theory. Well-supported theories guide future efforts to solve other questions about the natural world. Religions may draw upon scientific explanations of the world, in part, as a reliable way of knowing what the world is like, about which they seek to discern its ultimate meaning.

Religious understanding draws from both subjective insight and traditional authority. However, this is an erroneous judgment.


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Virtually all of the historic religions include traditions of rational reflection. Science and religion both have historical traditions that exhibit development over time. Each has places for individual insight and communal discernment.

Book Review: The Atheist’s Primer. By Michael Palmer

Analytic and synthetic reasoning can be found exhibited in both. Science and religion have been and continue to be formative elements shaping an increasingly global human society. Both science and religion have served to jeopardize and contribute to the common human good. Typical assumptions about this relationship fall into one of three forms: conflict, separation or interaction. A conflict approach assumes that science and religion are competitors for cultural authority.

Either science sets the standard for truth to which religion must adhere or be dismissed, or religion sets the standard to which science must conform.

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For example, some atheists adopt this approach and argue that science reduces religion to a merely natural phenomenon. Conversely, some religious adherents, while claiming to accept science, will identify specific points at which mainstream scientific findings must be distorted or abandoned for the sake of religious convictions. Such an adversarial approach tends to rule out any constructive engagement between science and religion. Individuals who prefer a separation approach hold that science and religion use different languages, ask different questions and have different objects of interest e.

By highlighting the differences between science and religion, conflict is avoided. While this approach allows a person to explore what science has learned about human origins without fear of conflict with religious beliefs, it also encourages that the science be left, so to speak, at the museum threshold so that it has no impact on other non-scientific explorations of what it means to be human. A consequence of separation is that the science of human origins can be viewed as irrelevant to what might be the deepest of human concerns. It should be noted that it is true that science is practiced without reference to religion.

God may be an ultimate explanation, but God is not a scientific explanation. This approach to science is called methodological naturalism. However, this method of isolating religious interests from scientific research is not an example of the separation approach. Historically, this bracketing out of religious questions in the practice of scientific inquiry was promoted by religious thinkers in the 18th and 19th centuries as the most fruitful way to discover penultimate rather than ultimate explanations of the structures and processes of nature.