Claim: There are some things the human mind is incapable of knowing. Science can't even attempt to answer the purpose of existence.
This claim has two responses.
1. I agree that we may never know some aspects of the universe and I would challenge Chris to show an example of a prominent atheist that claims we can. From watching many speeches and debates featuring Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Krauss, I know they would agree with Chris on this. Our brains evolved in the trees, and later, on the plains of Africa. We evolved to hunt antelope and evade lions. How can we be expected to understand everything in universe? Richard Feynman showed how small antimatter particles actually move backward through time! Our minds evolved experiencing time as a one-way street. Our previous understanding of physics featured cause and effect relationships. Can a universe cause itself? Maybe! Can we intimately grasp what it means to move backward in time? We will certainly try! What about quantum super-positioning where one atom can being in more than one place during a single moment in time? Yes! We have a photo of it happening! The complexity of nature is amazing and surprising, but saying atheists think we can or will understand it all isn't something I have heard. Besides, most atheists have a sentiment similar to Richard Feynman:
"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs, in different degrees of certainty, about different things. But I'm not absolutely sure of anything and of many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here and what the question might mean."
2. Questions like "How did we get here?" may or may not be beyond the reach of science. Questions like "Why are we here?" are false questions. They presuppose a purpose exists. Why assume it has a purpose? Lets illustrate a similar situation. The question "What does pink look like?" may or may not be answered by science. The question "What does pink taste like?" is just a nonsense question. It's a loaded question that assumes taste is a quality of pink. There have been many "purposes" throughout history before science took a swing to explain. The purpose of the Bubonic Plague was to punish an unbelieving Europe. The purpose of AIDS was to punish homosexuals. The purpose of sheep and cattle was to keep meat fresh for humans. (My own confrontation of this "purpose" is partially what led to my recent conversion to vegetarianism.)
History shows that the "purpose" of purpose is wishful thinking, human-centric ego-boosting, and a tool for promoting political or ideological goals. Purpose isn't a quality of nature. It's a product of human thinking. It's an illusion. Don't get me wrong; to us, purpose can be useful and good. It's just unscrupulous to believe it to be inherent in nature.
Claim: The new atheists class people using social Darwinism. They seek to wipe out morally inferior people.
For atheists, life is precious. We only get one life. So it's no surprise that secular Americans are more likely to oppose the death penalty than any religious group. The idea that atheists want to wipe out anyone is just plain wrong. We want to alleviate suffering through Humanism.
We do want discussion about morality, which is exactly what happens in the universities and courtrooms of America. I cringe when people claim the morality in the U.S. Constitution is based on the bible rather than through secular discussion. To quote John Adams: "It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [creating the Constitution] had any interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of heaven."
We don't want people who derive their morality from the bible to keep us from discussing morality. The idea that morality is unquestioningly defined for us in an ancient book is abhorrent to atheists. When someone uses the bible like a trump card during a discussion of morality, they throw reason out the window.
Claim: New atheists believe that we can evolve morally. In fact, we can break from evolution and redesign ourselves. Which is a religion-like belief. They believe humans can be perfected. It becomes a mission and a hope.
He must be referring to something posited by atheist author Sam Harris. I haven't read his books on morality yet, but I have a feeling this topic will be revisited in detail later in the book. So I won't deal with it now. My current thoughts on this are highlighted in a quote by Carl Sagan:
"It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars. It will be a species very much like us, but with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses, a species returned to circumstances more like those for which it was originally evolved, more confident, farseeing, capable, and prudent"