Michael D. Reynolds

"I am a retired physician. Since I retired and became free to study and write about something other than medicine I thought (to paraphrase C. S. Lewis) that the best service I could do for my credulous, spiritualist neighbors was to explain and defend naturalism."
— Michael D. Reynolds

Published on the Secular Web

[ Published in: Kiosk Article ]

Moshe Averick’s “Nonsense of a High Order” as a Model of the Flaws of Attacks on Nontheism

Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick’s Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism is in many ways typical of that niche of recent popular books that attack modern “atheism.” The errors that plague Averick’s own thinking are often found in other authors of similar works. For example, Averick repeatedly makes assertions without providing any arguments to back them up, fails to engage relevant research on the issues that he touches on, and misrepresents the views of his opponents. He also spills a great deal of ink critiquing idiosyncratic views of his opponents as if they were typical of nontheists as a whole, uncharitably attaches false meanings to his opponents’ statements, and takes their words out of context. He both mischaracterizes how science is done and twists cherry-picked scientific findings to create the appearance that they support his own religiously informed positions. Projecting his own unwillingness “to consider anything that presents a challenge to his dearly held belief system” on to his opponents, Averick steadfastly advocates the existence of spirits and their frequent interaction with our world, that human minds involve a spiritual component, and that the Supreme Spirit sustaining the physical world has handed down rules for us to follow, dismissing naturalistic accounts of mind, meaning, and morality for the flimsiest of reasons.

Moshe Averick’s “Nonsense of a High Order” as a Model of the Flaws of Biblicist Denial of a Naturalistic Origin of Life

In an earlier critique of Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick’s Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism, Michael D. Reynolds pointed out that Averick’s book is typical of recent popular works attacking “atheism” in leaning on various informal logical fallacies. In this follow-up critique Reynolds focuses specifically on what Averick has to say about the “failure” of naturalistic accounts of the origin of life, which comprise forty-eight percent of the text of Nonsense of a High Order. Reynolds finds that Averick is ignorant of the nature of science and its principles, that he either does not know, or else fails to understand, the standard scientific explanations of the topics that he addresses, that this ignorance or incomprehension causes him to invent odd notions that completely misrepresent the standard scientific view, that he arbitrarily rejects standard scientific explanations without providing any substantial argument against them, and that he repeatedly asserts that something is true without offering any argument for its truth, among other things.

Why Would Anyone Believe Justin Barrett’s Theistic Arguments?

Christian psychologist Justin Barrett argues that belief in immaterial minds is similar to and justifies belief in God. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates that Barrett’s concept of mind is outmoded. Moreover, Barrett does not distinguish between innate beliefs in other people’s mental abilities and the cultural concept of mind, which is learned, not innate. The belief that other people think, have emotions, and so forth is supported by evidence, but there is no evidence for the existence of God.

Barrett presumes that “atheism” is difficult to maintain because innate ways of thinking promote belief in spirits. In response, Reynolds provides some of the reasons for nontheism and refutes Barrett’s arguments that having moral principles and confidence in one’s beliefs pose special problems for nontheists. Reynolds concludes that, to the contrary, living as a nontheist is not difficult and does not require social and cultural segregation to sustain it.

How to Know Deepak Chopra’s God

Deepak Chopra operates a business that offers “life-changing retreats” and courses instructing clients in meditation and “alternative medicine,” especially Indian techniques. In How to Know God he postulates seven responses of the brain to God. From this notion he constructs a detailed theistic scheme. A prominent theme of the book is an attempt to relate his ideas to quantum physics. Readers and reviewers have heaped praise on the work, but it contains numerous errors of fact and logic. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates some of the errors in the foundational first chapter of the book.

Is Acceptance of Evolution Evil?

An often overlooked religious criticism of biological evolution focuses on the alleged ethical consequences of accepting it, particularly increased immorality and harmfulness. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds describes and critiques one such criticism, that provided by biblical literalist John MacArthur and his historical forebears documented in Charles Sprading’s Science Versus Dogma and Maynard Shipley’s The War on Modern Science. MacArthur makes seven chief assertions about the ethical consequences of accepting evolution: (1) that naturalism and its acceptance of evolution removes the foundation of morality and causes immorality; (2) that accepting evolution prevents belief in spiritual things; (3) that acceptance of evolution entails that humans are no better than animals; (4) that conceding evolution robs human life of meaning or purpose; (5) that naturalism and its acceptance of evolution leads to nihilism; and that evolutionary concepts laid the groundwork for (6) Communist and (7) Nazi ideology. Reynolds concludes that MacArthur’s assertions exemplify the rejection of rational, evidential thinking in favor of unquestioning credulity.

On “Christian Theology: An Introduction”

Theology professor Alister McGrath’s Christian Theology: An Introduction is a clear and comprehensive theology textbook that is balanced, at least, when presenting conflicting Christian opinions. This review by Michael Reynolds from the perspective of a nonbeliever is not intended to be comprehensive, but focuses on McGrath’s treatment of issues found to be incomplete or misleading, or otherwise his omissions of discussion (or even mention) of large and important topics within Christianity. Some of these topics include the pernicious effects of Christian theology on social progress (such as equal rights for men and women), the conflict between science and religion, Christianity’s history of suppression of thought by imprisonment, torture, and murder, religious wars, and rationalization of the conquest of non-Christian cultures. In short, McGrath neglects a large swath of issues close to the heart of Christianity in a way that suggests that Christian theology is taught in order to promote a set of fictions.