Adventures in Logic: Are believers more rational than non-believers? | Thomas M. Doran | The Dispatch at Catholic World Report
The man on the street often insists that non-believers are more rational than believers, but is this a logical conclusion on the evidence?
The modern catnip that only what we can measure is real reduces man to just another evolved organism, with human lives having no more permanent (transcendent) value than other organisms. As just another smarter organism, human reasoning-logic is necessarily reduced in significance. For the modern non-believer, reasoning is merely a skill to be applied to practical problems, and not something that can reveal truth, because there’s no such thing as truth for everyone everywhere. For the believer, though reason isn’t the highest form of knowledge, rightly applied reason is highly valued as a means of informing man about himself, the world, the universe, even the Creator.
How seriously believers take human reasoning is demonstrated by Karol Wojtyla’s Faith and Reason. (He explained that he wished "to reflect upon this special activity of human reason" because "at the present time in particular, the search for ultimate truth seems often to be neglected.") A modern non-believing philosopher could not produce such a masterwork of reasoning, not because the non-believer is dismissive of faith, not because of a deficit of intellect, but because the non-believing philosopher has consigned reason to just another culturally, socially, psychologically influenced skill.
As to asserting there is no Creator (atheism): to deny the existence of a Creator requires conclusive proof that the Creator doesn’t exist. As the universe is big, and as there are many things we don’t yet know about it, and as many of the things we once thought we knew are now known to be different than what we once thought, insisting there is no Creator is impossible to prove, thus, irrational.
As to accepting trusted testimony: believers readily admit that they accept on “faith” the testimony of people they deem credible, including prophets, apostles, evangelists, saints. Non-believers scoff at beliefs that can’t be physically or mathematically demonstrated, though they readily accept black holes, the retention of fundamental information at black hole event horizons, dark matter, string theory, things they don’t understand, meaning they can’t follow the mathematical proofs themselves. Thus, these “beliefs” become matters of trusted testimony rather than personal observation or comprehension. And even scientists and mathematicians who understand the physics and math concede they are far from a “unified law of everything”.
As to evolution: reasoning believers admit a long evolutionary process, though not a mechanistic process that occurs in the absence, or disinterest, of a Creator. The circular reasoning of non-believers goes something like this: Given enough time and external stimuli, any evolutionary development that doesn’t violate the laws of physics is possible. Therefore, if this or that adaptation or enhancement has occurred, there must have been enough time and/or stimuli. Circular reasoning is a defective argument, because the premise (Given enough time…) is as much in need of proof or evidence as the conclusion.
As to human utopias: believers believe that while human beings do good and heroic things, sin is a part of human nature, so while we should strive to produce just, peaceful, and prosperous societies, creating a utopia on Earth isn’t possible. Those convinced that man can and should “take charge”, that economic, environmental, social, political, technological utopias can be humanly produced produce hells on Earth.
As to living a virtuous life: for the non-believer, how can virtue be anything more than the opportunistic construct of an individual, society, or culture?