Reason’s Greetings! Say Brights to Supers

Let's give the ultimate Reason this season

By William M Briggs Published on December 23, 2017

The email salutation began “Reason’s Greetings.” It continued:

Friends. Family. Food. Festivity. What else?

Another basis for a bit of seasonal merriment could be the human capacity for rational thought. The radiant spark of reason does offer hope of our species wending its way to a brighter future … somehow. Brights can celebrate that capacity, and each do our best to nourish it!

How nice of these brights to think of me at Christmastime!

Merry and Bright

What’s a bright? According to them, a bright “is a person whose worldview is naturalistic (no supernatural and mystical elements).”

Founder Paul Geisert conjured up the term back in 2003. He and Richard Dawkins thought brights would do for atheists what gay did for men who have sex with men.

Brights are a branch of the new atheists, a self-declared “community of reason,” folks who try to claim reason as their sole territory.

Now you may think bright is a stuffy, patronizing and annoying term for atheist. Which it is. What after all is a non-bright? A dim? Because of this obvious insulting inference, brights got a lot of grief and a fair share of teasing over the word. So they juiced their powers of reason and conjured a contrasting term for believers. Which is supers.

Super-Duper

To them, a super “is a person whose worldview includes supernatural and/or mystical elements.” Some find this cloying, but it is at least not condescending.

Merry Day to brights and supers, then!

Merry Christmas day, that is. The day of Christ’s birth . A birth we know was special via history and revelation — and through the use of reason.

Brights are a branch of the new atheists, a self-declared “community of reason,” folks who try to claim reason as their sole territory. By their definition, a believer in God cannot be using reason, and must be enslaving himself to superstition and corrupt authority.

Stir the pudding three times.

Superstitions are not all bad. Brights point to “research” that argues superstitions “evolved to help us survive.”

A superstition is the false association of an observation with an effect. It is thus an error in reason. Yet superstitions are “adaptive,” say these researchers. “As long as the cost of believing a superstition is less than the cost of missing a real association, superstitious beliefs will be favoured.”

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So evolution, via some unknown mechanism, made brains naturally take to superstition and eschew true reason. But somehow — and nobody knows how — brights can go beyond their evolutionary hard-wiring and leave superstition behind. It appears biology mandates superstition, but some people are gifted with abilities above biology. Is that reasonable?

Unreasonable Reason

Superstition is one thing, but it’s reason itself that brights hang their fedoras on. Reason is what they possess in abundance, and which their rivals freely abandon in search of belief. They say things like, “Belief without proof is no virtue. Insisting on proof is no vice.”

Yet there are many instances in which proof (of the sort they imagine) is impossible. And if no proof can be had, then it is indeed a vice to insist upon it. For example, we may assume the brights believe in mathematical axioms. An axiom is a proposition about mathematical objects which by definition has no proof, but which must be taken “on faith” as true.

Without these axioms, no mathematics is possible. Yet even though all mathematics has no ultimate basis in proof, brights would likely not jettison math as easily as they have abandoned God. That would be unreasonable.

Unthinking Reason

Many new atheists are uncurious. They are satisfied with their self-taught understanding of theism, which is why they are ever congratulating themselves for “destroying” straw men of their own creation. I know this to be true, because for many years before I returned to the fold, I was one of these guys.

It was only after investigating the challenging, subtle, complex and above all rigorous arguments for the existence of God that I realized how unreasonable I had been. To give you a flavor, here are the first three lines of a proof of God’s existence by philosopher Ed Feser (don’t worry about understanding this):

1. That the actualization of potency is a real feature of the world follows from the occurrence of the events we know via sensory experience.

2. The occurrence of any event E presupposes the operation of a substance.

3. The existence of any natural substance S at any given moment presupposes the concurrent actualization of a potency. …

Now you can say this is many things — opaque, difficult, obtuse, even mistaken — but what you cannot say is that it is not the product of reason.

Therefore, the best Christmas present we supers can give to our wayward bright brothers, is the gift of our reason. Merry Christmas, brights!

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