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What Has Atheism Ever Done For Science?

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Chapter Summary

What has atheism ever done for science? After all, it is one thing to admit that religious dogmatism has periodically halted the march of scientific progress, but it's quite another to argue that atheism has actually advanced science. If atheism is to go beyond the mere denial of certain religious authorities, then it must be something more than a position that retains all the key metaphysical assumptions of monotheismincluding the eschatology, soteriology, and theodicyand sometimes even its institutions, as in Comte's post-Catholic positivist religion. Atheism as a freestanding worldview has always had difficulty in justifying the pursuit of science, understood as a long-term intergenerational project that aspires to a comprehensive understanding of all of reality, in relation to which 'progress' can be measured. Even if most scientists nowadays call themselves 'Atheists,' or even 'New Atheists,' Atheism as a positive doctrine has done precious little for science.

Keywords: atheism; monotheism; positive doctrine; science

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