I find Jonathan Haidt’s arguments to be interesting in light of how he is saying something very similar to one of the central points of The Irrational Atheist. After all, it’s difficult to argue for rational materialism when reason only comes into play after the fact, this is one reason why atheists like PZ are so uncomfortable with what he’s suggesting even though he is making a scientific case for moral evolution:
BLVR: So your conclusion is that while we might think that Reason or reasons are playing a big causal role in how we arrive at moral judgments, it’s actually our intuitions—fueled by our emotions—that are doing most of the work. You say in your paper that reason is the press secretary of the emotions, the ex post facto spin doctor.
JH: Yes, that’s right.
BLVR: What do you mean by that, exactly?
JH: Reason is still a part of the process. It just doesn’t play the role that we think it does. We use reason, for example, to persuade someone to share our beliefs.
If Haidt is correct, one of the primary foundations of the New Atheism, and indeed, the secular humanism they champion, is nonexistent. I suspect we are not witnessing the renaissance of Western atheism, but rather its high-water mark, as it is increasingly coming under siege from three sides, paganism, evangelical Christianity and science.