One of the main arguments of New Atheism against religious belief is the supposed detrimental effect religious belief has on the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Religious faith is portrayed as being a viral delusion which undermines reason and contradicts that which gives us the only source of reliable knowledge – scientific research. And yet, when one considers the record of New Atheists on scientific research, it would seem being a New Atheist leader is quantitatively antagonistic to scientific research. Consider for a moment the research publication record of various New Atheist leaders:
Richard Dawkins – Last date of publication, 2004
Jerry Coyne – Last date of publications, 2007
PZ Myers – Last date of publication, 2002
Sam Harris – Last date of publication, 2011, the only paper in the last three years.
And of course Christopher Hitchens, not being a scientist, has never published research.
It seems the pattern with New Atheists is to get a degree in some scientific field, write a few popular books on a scientific subject, and then abandon scientific research all together to pursue the advocacy of atheism. In fact these folks aren’t particularly notable for their ground breaking research in a field of science; they are more notable for their popular books and their strident advocacy of atheism.
Of course nothing prevents them from pursuing what they consider to be the most reliable form of truth, scientific knowledge. Amongst the myriad of blogs advocating New Atheism there is a constant din concerning the value of scientific knowledge –and very little attempt to actually acquire such knowledge or utilize it in any practical way. Instead there is mostly a critique of religious belief (mainly Christianity) and practicing scientists who don’t throw in with the New Atheists. New Atheists spend as much time or more discussing religious beliefs as do religious people; certainly more time doing so then they do discussing hard science.
In the end the objective reader is forced to conclude that pursuing scientific knowledge is not nearly as important as wrangling over metaphysical issues; a conclusion with which I would heartily agree.
This is however unlikely to be the conclusion the New Atheists desire.