(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
Historical Footnote: New Atheism
The first salvoes in the war between religion and science were shot at the end of the 19th century, during the post-Darwin euphoria. New York University's chemist John-William Draper, better known as a pioneer of photography, wrote a "History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science" (1874). Andrew Dickson-White, the historian who had founded Cornell University, in his influential "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom" (1896), recognized a "conflict between two epochs in the evolution of human thought - the theological and the scientific". A few decades later, during the post-Einstein euphoria, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell became the most celebrated critic of religion. He started with the lecture "Why I Am Not a Christian" (1927): "We can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the Churches... Science can teach us ... no longer to look round for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky". The essay also contains the sentence "Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations" which is rather bizarre: the exact opposite is likely to happen after you stopped believing in an afterlife.
In the 21st century the Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion", 2006), the Cambridge University physicist Stephen Hawking ("Grand Design", 2010) and the UCLA neuroscientist Sam Harris ("Science Must Destroy Religion", 2006) led the charge against religion. It took one year for the radical right-wing news channel Fox News to pick up the news but, when it did, it panicked and posted an article titled "Physicist Stephen Hawking Says There Is No Heaven"! Hawking's view is actually humbler: "This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary" (interview published in German magazine Der Speigel in 1988). In 2002 the British philosopher Christopher Hitchens called the three monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) the "axis of evil" and then published "God Is Not Great" (2007). The British novelist Philip Pullman excoriated religion in the fictionalized biography "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" (2010). In 2006 Gary Wolfe wrote an article in Wired magazine about them titled "The Church of the Non-Believers" and his expression "New Atheism" stuck.
However, in 2011 the MIT political activist Noam Chomsky, hardly a defender of organized religions, and another child of secular Jews, called the New Atheists "religious fanatics" on his Myspace blog (which in 2017 shows "Page not Found", a reminder of how ephemeral all online debates will be). Two years later, in 2013, Chomsky, interviewed by futurist Nikola Danaylov, dismissed the singularity as "science fiction". Surprisingly, he missed the connection with the religious fanatics.
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