The important word in the quotation in the previous post is the one in italics: rational. You can offer smoke, mirrors, and shouting as an explanation for anything, and a lot of people will be distracted enough by the spectacle to believe you. But you won’t convince anyone who’s thinking clearly.
I’m not sure that our highly visible materialist-atheist types like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett really even attempt the sort of explanation of which Ratzinger points out the absence. I may be doing them an injustice, as I’ve never actually read one of their books all the way through (I read a third or so of Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and browsed the rest), but they seem to view the existence of the undeniable order in the universe as simply a given which needs no explanation. They stop where the real quest of philosophy and religion begins, perhaps accepting an infinite regress of physical causation as if that solved the problem. Like Christopher Hitchens on the question of morality, they seem to accept the existence of certain fundamental realities and regard them as being beyond inquiry. (I don’t know if they bluster the way Hitchens does when this is mentioned to them.) That’s a respectable position—I don’t object to someone saying “we just don’t know and it’s useless to inquire.” But I object to him claiming to have explained everything.
Suppose a people who know nothing of modern technology, and have none of their own beyond pottery and the spear, find an abandoned jeep. Eventually the engineers among them figure out what it does and how to make it work, while the philosophers among them try to figure out where it came from. The philosophers postulate the existence of intelligent beings who designed and built it. The skeptical engineers think this is ridiculous, and set about trying to understand how it works. Eventually they succeed, to a degree: although they don’t know exactly what goes on inside the engine, they understand that the liquid in the tank is being burned there, producing fumes from the exhaust and somehow making the wheels go round.
“We’ve solved the mystery,” say the engineers to the philosophers. “Let us hear no more of your mystical claptrap.”
Which reminds me a little of But these go to eleven.Pre-TypePad