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The tragedy at the heart of New Atheism

Belief in an ordered universe is hard to reconcile with a tragic view of life

By on Friday, 3 August 2012

Richard Dawkins poses on a London bus displaying an atheist advertisement (PA)

Richard Dawkins poses on a London bus displaying an atheist advertisement (PA)

I remember sitting up and taking notice of something Richard Dawkins once said, which was to this effect: “When aliens arrive here, the first thing they will ask is: ‘Have they discovered the theory of evolution yet?’”

The only problem with this quotation is that I can find no reference to Professor Dawkins actually saying it, or the occasion and context of him saying it. He may not have said it at all. If anyone can give me a reference (the link above, which is hardly satisfactory, is all I can find) then I would be grateful. It would be interesting to unpack the meaning of the words.

Hunting down the quotation, I did of course come across others, collected, for example, here. Again the lack of context makes them rather strange, and one wonders what so many of them mean. Words like “religion” are not of themselves univocal. It all depends what you mean by religion.

Here is a saying that I find particularly problematic: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

First of all, notice the use of the words “precisely” and “observe”. It is surely impossible to observe the universe in its entirety. We observe parts, though we may intuit wholes. But these observations are not going to be precise – not if they are observations of “the universe”. So the use of the words “observe” and “precisely” here strikes me as giving the statement a scientific veracity that it cannot possibly claim, for this statement seems neither falsifiable or verifiable.

What the statement seems to be conveying, rather than a scientific observable truth, is an existential statement of belief about the nature of the universe. While Christians believe that at the heart of the universe there is Love, Professor Dawkins makes an opposing and opposite statement. But if the first statement is unscientific, so surely is the second one as well.

What this might all boil down to are opposing interpretations of experience. Some may feel that they are being protected by a benign Divine Providence and that even when they suffer this suffering can be turned somehow to good. Others may feel that life teaches them that there is no purpose to anything, only blind, pitiless indifference.

This strikes me as being the essential difference between comedy and tragedy. The characters in a tragedy frequently experience this Dawkins-like sense of desolation. Remember the Duchess of Malfi? “Look you, the stars shine still” – in other words, the heavens are indifferent to human suffering. Indeed, the characters in tragedy often call upon the heavens for justice, but answer comes there none.

And yet comedy is radically different. In comedy there is justice done at the end, each gets what they deserve. Some may find it hard to join the harmonious human community, such as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, who leaves the happy final scene of reconciliation with the words “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you.” But comedy depends on a firm belief in justice and truth and that these are possible on earth.

It seems to me that if Professor Dawkins believes in pitiless indifference as the presiding spirit of the universe, then he is clearly in the camp of an earlier professor, Friedrich Nietzsche. This is a serious matter, because the Nietzschean vision is one that not only contradicts the idea of Divine Providence, but it also makes science of any sort nonsensical, in that it seems to deny intrinsic meaning to physical phenomena, attributing meaning only to human will.

In other words, a Nietzschean would say that any theory of meaning is in the head of the person who holds it, not in the phenomena themselves. Or to sum up the tragic view of life in the words of Macbeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Is this what Professor Dawkins believes? Is this what modern atheists believe? It does sound pretty close to the quote from Dawkins above. But if he believes this how can he believe in an ordered universe, one that is susceptible to rational and scientific observation?

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Are you for real? Nietzsche argues that, from the death of God, only fools (=English -and apologies to all those South of the border, but this is Nietzsche not me talking!) go on prattling about the unproblematic nature of morality, and then, without drawing a breath, you go on prattling about the unproblematic nature of morality…

    Wow!

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     By “recently” you mean 400 YEARS AGO.

    Also, the Spanish Inquisition killed some 2000 people in centuries.

    Atheist Stalin killed millions in two years.

  • Gypsycook

    The figures are greatly disputed; depends which side you are on!- and we all know that Stalin killed millions only because he had a moustach, like Hitler, the great “atheist” Catholic.

  • theroadmaster

    The “Materialism” argument which theists are so fond of is obsolete;scientists don’t use it. Quantum Mechanics deals in subatomic particles and energy. if you insist on using your terminology, then these are obviously “material” entities. In the persistent absense of direct evidence for the existence of God, and the improbability of that hypothesis, then REAL direct evidence should br obvious in spades, (not assumed circumstantial evidence) . Therefore atheism is indeed the null hypothesis.
    You do seem trapped in a “materialist” mindset which demands a scientific explanation for questions which even go beyond the empirical methodology of Science I use the word “materialist” deliberately as your measurement of reality is very much effected by this.. At the sub atomic level there is a whole other “reality” going on out of our sight and mind, as represented by the discovery of the formerly elusive “Higgs Bosun” particle which gives other particles the necessary “weight” to move through space. Our cosmos is a good starting point to investigate the possibility of a Divine Intelligence behind it all. The physical laws and mathematical logic which undergird the universe did not happen by blind happenstance. Where did the law of gravity come from? Science can only postulate theories about the source of the cosmos, e.g string theory but they are often convoluted and the mathematical odds are stacked against them. Once the other theories prove to be near impossible, then we should consider what has been for some the unthinkable, namely God. You do not appreciate the radical nature of the wager made by Pascal to atheists and agnostics. He was stating in other words, what have people to lose by betting in favor of a Paradise after death? If there is nothing after this life, then it does not matter anyway. Thee is everything to gain if we live exemplary lives to get to our Heavenly reward. You keep using words like “idiot” , “intellectual cowardice” and “rubbish” in a wildly generalized and unthinking fashion. Many scientists did not find any conflict between a dedication to Science and a belief in a Divine Creator. Here is a list of some of the most famous pro-theist scientists- Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543),
    Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1627),
    Galileo Galilei (1564-1642),
    Rene Descartes (1596-1650),
    Blaise Pascal (1623-1662),
    Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
    Max Planck (1858-1947),
    Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
    As Einstein stated…””Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” So people who believe in God are in good company. Your atheist notions are only really restricted to shrinking parts of the globe as Religious Faith grows exponentially in the rest of the world. Geraldo

  • Gypsycook

    Living in the past a bit aren’t you? I wonder why you did not quote another letter of Einstein?


    In the letter, he states: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.””

  • Acleron

    Any evidence for this?

  • Acleron

    1) Pascals wager is a real fail. Just which god do you pledge your dying breath to? You would choose yours but what would a native N American Indian pray to? Loki?
    And wouldn’t an omniscient god see through the hypocrisy?2) Einstein didn’t believe in your god, he directly stated so.3) You should modernise your list. Lamaitre should be on it.  After all you need to bulk it out a bit. 

  • theroadmaster

    1) Pascals wager is a real fail. Just which god do you pledge your dying breath to? You would choose yours but what would a native N American Indian pray to? Loki?
    Did you get a personal glimpse into the “other side” to verify your totally unsubstantiated claim that it was a “fail”? The wager still stands and is a real challenge for those who have the intellectual curiosity to take it on. In terms of an appellation for God, the Native American Indians generally call Him the “Spirit In The Sky”. Faithful Jews will call Him “Yahweh”, observant Muslims will use the term “Allah” and Christians will utilize “God”. These names do not invalidate the concept of a Divine Creator and it does not disprove it in any way. Rather it shows the universality of the belief in a Divine Presence across different cultures and nations throughout history. Einstein was fuzzy on his true beliefs concerning a Theistic belief, but he did not rule out the idea of a God. In fact his beliefs in this area were complex. Here are his words on people trying to define him as an atheist-
    “”I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what that is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the most intelligent human toward God.”
    Here is what he stated about the reality of God(he did not believe in a “personal” God that interfered with out affairs daily but he still believed in supernatural Intelligence)- “”That deeply emotional conviction of a presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” You mention my lack of “modern” scientists who believe in a Divine Creator. Then let me introduce you to a few more then who are more contemporaneous than the previous listing- Dr. William Arion, Biochemistry, Chemistry
    Dr. Paul Ackerman, Psychologist
    Dr. E. Theo Agard, Medical Physics
    Dr. Steve Austin, Geologist
    Dr. S.E. Aw, Biochemist
    Dr. Thomas Barnes, Physicist
    Dr. Geoff Barnard, Immunologist
    Dr. John Baumgardner, Electrical Engineering, Space Physicist, Geophysicist, expert in supercomputer modeling of plate tectonics Dr. Jerry Bergman, Psychologist
    Dr. Kimberly Berrine, Microbiology & Immunology
    Prof. Vladimir Betina, Microbiology, Biochemistry & Biology
    Dr. Andrew Bosanquet, Biology, Microbiology
    Edward A. Boudreaux, Theoretical Chemistry
    Dr. David R. Boylan, Chemical Engineer
    Prof. Linn E. Carothers, Associate Professor of Statistics
    Dr. Rob Carter, Marine Biology
    Prof. Sung-Do Cha, Physics
    Dr. Eugene F. Chaffin, Professor of Physics
    Dr. Choong-Kuk Chang, Genetic Engineering
    Prof. Jeun-Sik Chang, Aeronautical Engineering
    Dr. Donald Chittick, Physical Chemist
    Prof. Chung-Il Cho, Biology Education
    Dr. John M. Cimbala, Mechanical Engineering
    Dr. Harold Coffin, Palaeontologist
    Timothy C. Coppess, M.S., Environmental Scientist
    Dr. Bob Compton, DVM
    Dr. Ken Cumming, Biologist
    Dr. Jack W. Cuozzo, Dentist
    Dr. William M. Curtis III, Th.D., Th.M., M.S., Aeronautics & Nuclear Physics Dr. Malcolm Cutchins, Aerospace Engineering
    Dr. Lionel Dahmer, Analytical Chemist
    Dr. Raymond V. Damadian, M.D., Pioneer of magnetic resonance imaging Dr. Chris Darnbrough, Biochemist
    Dr. Nancy M. Darrall, Botany
    Dr. Bryan Dawson, Mathematics
    Dr. Douglas Dean, Biological Chemistry
    Prof. Stephen W. Deckard, Assistant Professor of Education
    Dr. David A. DeWitt, Biology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience
    Dr. Don DeYoung, Astronomy, atmospheric physics, M.Div
    Dr. Geoff Downes, Creationist Plant Physiologist
    Dr. Ted Driggers, Operations research
    Robert H. Eckel, Medical Research
    Dr. André Eggen, Geneticist
    Dr. Dudley Eirich, Molecular Biologist
    Prof. Dennis L. Englin, Professor of Geophysics
    Dr. Andrew J. Fabich, Microbiology
    Prof. Danny Faulkner, Astronomy
    Prof. Carl B. Fliermans, Professor of Biology
    Prof. Dwain L. Ford, Organic Chemistry
    Dr. Kenneth W. Funk, Organic Chemistry
    Prof. Robert H. Franks, Associate Professor of Biology
    Dr. Alan Galbraith, Watershed Science
    Dr. Paul Giem, Medical Research
    Dr. Maciej Giertych, Geneticist
    Dr. Duane Gish, Biochemist
    Dr. Werner Gitt, Information Scientist
    Dr. Warwick Glover, General Surgeon
    Dr. D.B. Gower, Biochemistry
    Dr. Robin Greer, Chemist, History
    Dr. Stephen Grocott, Chemist
    Dr. Vicki Hagerman, DMV
    Dr. Donald Hamann, Food Scientist
    Dr. Barry Harker, Philosopher
    Dr. Charles W. Harrison, Applied Physicist, Electromagnetics
    Dr. Mark Harwood, Engineering (satellite specialist)
    Dr. George Hawke, Environmental Scientist
    Dr. Margaret Helder, Science Editor, Botanist
    Dr. Harold R. Henry, Engineer
    Dr. Jonathan Henry, Astronomy
    Dr. Joseph Henson, Entomologist
    Dr. Robert A. Herrmann, Professor of Mathematics, US Naval Academy
    Dr. Andrew Hodge, Head of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Service
    Dr. Kelly Hollowell, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacologist
    Dr. Ed Holroyd, III, Atmospheric Science
    Dr. Bob Hosken, Biochemistry
    Dr. George F. Howe, Botany
    Dr. Neil Huber, Physical Anthropologist
    Dr. James A. Huggins, Professor and Chair, Department of Biology
    Evan Jamieson, Hydrometallurgy
    George T. Javor, Biochemistry
    Dr. Arthur Jones, Biology
    Dr. Jonathan W. Jones, Plastic Surgeon
    Dr. Raymond Jones, Agricultural Scientist
    Prof. Leonid Korochkin, Molecular Biology
    Dr. William F. Kane, (Civil) Geotechnical Engineering
    Dr. Valery Karpounin, Mathematical Sciences, Logics, Formal Logics
    Dr. Dean Kenyon, Biologist
    Prof. Gi-Tai Kim, Biology
    Prof. Harriet Kim, Biochemistry
    Prof. Jong-Bai Kim, Biochemistry
    Prof. Jung-Han Kim, Biochemistry
    Prof. Jung-Wook Kim, Environmental Science
    Prof. Kyoung-Rai Kim, Analytical Chemistry
    Prof. Kyoung-Tai Kim, Genetic Engineering
    Prof. Young-Gil Kim, Materials Science
    Prof. Young In Kim, Engineering
    Dr. John W. Klotz, Biologist
    Dr. Vladimir F. Kondalenko, Cytology/Cell Pathology
    Dr. Leonid Korochkin, M.D., Genetics, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology Dr. John K.G. Kramer, Biochemistry
    Dr. Johan Kruger, Zoology
    Prof. Jin-Hyouk Kwon, Physics
    Prof. Myung-Sang Kwon, Immunology
    Dr. John G. Leslie, Biochemist, Physician, Archaeologist
    Dr. Jason Lisle, Astrophysicist
    Dr. Alan Love, Chemist
    Dr. Ian Macreadie, molecular biologist and microbiologist:
    Dr. John Marcus, Molecular Biologist
    Dr. Ronald C. Marks, Associate Professor of Chemistry
    Dr. George Marshall, Eye Disease Researcher
    Dr. Ralph Matthews, Radiation Chemist
    Dr. John McEwan, Chemist
    Prof. Andy McIntosh, Combustion theory, aerodynamics
    Dr. David Menton, Anatomist
    Dr. Angela Meyer, Creationist Plant Physiologist
    Dr. John Meyer, Physiologist
    Dr. Albert Mills, Animal Embryologist/Reproductive Physiologist
    Colin W. Mitchell, Geography
    Dr. Tommy Mitchell, Physician
    Dr. John N. Moore, Science Educator
    Dr. John W. Moreland, Mechanical engineer and Dentist
    Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918–2006), founder of the Institute for Creation Research. Dr. Arlton C. Murray, Paleontologist
    Dr. John D. Morris, Geologist
    Dr. Len Morris, Physiologist
    Dr. Graeme Mortimer, Geologist
    Dr. Terry Mortenson, History of Geology
    Stanley A. Mumma, Architectural Engineering
    Prof. Hee-Choon No, Nuclear Engineering
    Dr. Eric Norman, Biomedical researcher
    Dr. David Oderberg, Philosopher
    Prof. John Oller, Linguistics
    Prof. Chris D. Osborne, Assistant Professor of Biology
    Dr. John Osgood, Medical Practitioner
    Dr. Charles Pallaghy, Botanist
    Dr. Gary E. Parker, Biologist, Cognate in Geology (Paleontology)
    Dr. David Pennington, Plastic Surgeon
    Prof. Richard Porter
    Dr. Georgia Purdom, Molecular Genetics
    Dr. John Rankin, Cosmologist
    Dr. A.S. Reece, M.D.
    Prof. J. Rendle-Short, Pediatrics
    Dr. Jung-Goo Roe, Biology
    Dr. David Rosevear, Chemist
    Dr. Ariel A. Roth, Biology
    Dr. Joachim Scheven Palaeontologist:
    Dr. Ian Scott, Educator
    Dr. Saami Shaibani, Forensic physicist
    Dr. Young-Gi Shim, Chemistry
    Prof. Hyun-Kil Shin, Food Science
    Dr. Mikhail Shulgin, Physics
    Dr. Roger Simpson, Engineer
    Geraldo

  • theroadmaster

    Well, I have provided you with substantial quotations from the great man himself which totally contradict those views. I told you, he was complex in relation to his opinion on the proposition concerning a Divine Intelligence. So the case is far from closed concerning your confidence that Einstein was a confirmed atheist and rather suggests that he was anything but. Geraldo

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     Oh please.
    Marxism is based on the Materialistic Conception of History. Marxism thrives where religion is weak. It is no coincidence that Marx hated religion.

    And Hitler killed Catholics, including priests and Bishops. He hated the Church.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    “official” Catholic Church?
    “schismatic Popes”?

    Wow, you truly let the mask drop. You are a sedevacantist.

    Why don’t you just join the “Old Catholics”? The “church” you want already exists. Why don’t you leave us alone?

  • Whizzo76

    Humanism was a word created in the 15th century, but it is the application of the humanities. This hardly matters though it is not a faith based movement. 

    As for the bible i’m sure you do pick and choose what you like from it. Most people do, they can do this because people are ethical, moral, people. For example you know its wrong to kill people (if you don’t you lack the most basic empathy) not because of the bible but because your not a monster of a human being. I find it interesting that god never condones rape as an evil act and in fact allows/encourages it at some points. 

    Of course I am missing the only important point which is what evidence do you have that any god exists? Not your god in particular, but any god. Don’t bother responding to the above paragraphs they are unimportant the only real question is what evidence do you have for your beliefs?

  • Whizzo76

    I asked if that was your take on it, if i erred then please correct it. My Metaphysics is sound, how can you justify your beliefs?

  • Whizzo76

    First of all which of those are wrong? In order for them to be wrong you need proof. Saying Atheism is immoral based on Stalin and Mao is not proof, they killed out of political ideology not Atheism, i really hope you know that. 

    Second do you know what doctrine means? It means it needs to be taught, unequivocally, without reason. So who is indoctrinating people with this seven point “creed?”

    Third which (other than number 6 and the the second part of 7) of those tenants are unscientific? 6 and the second part of 7 are historical/philosophical i agree.

    Fourth this is doctrine straight from someone who has a strong opposition to all of these ideas, that means that the writing is as biased as possible against them.

    Fifth Religion means a belief in the existence god(s), these ideas reject that basic tenant so they are not religious, just like political ideology is not a religion. Communism is not a religion but people who are communist supporters share political beliefs.

    Lastly this is the first time i have ever seen anything like this seven point “creed” but i know that it is easy to come to these same conclusions with a small science background and some rational thought. These are all supported by the null hypothesis and or actual scientific fact. 

  • Whizzo76

    Prove metaphysical beings (or a being) exist. Then I’ll prove my statements for you.

    Quantum Mechanics do not violate our understanding of they universe they instead show us how causality is much more complex then we first thought. Lets not debate it though because what we say today will probably be wrong tomorrow, we don’t understand enough about our universe, I agree which is why science is so important.

    I never said they the laws of reality were governed by science, we don’t know nearly enough to begin to think that we have anything completely right, but we try.

    Null hypothesis, ever heard of it? Give proof of a god.

    I am a scientist, the more I learn the more my ideas and notions change. I just want the truth don’t you?

  • Whizzo76

    I’m not a political philosopher I do not think i can adequately describe Marxism. I am also not a credible source I don’t have the time nor the willpower to cite Marx, I can just say that Marxism is not an ideology shared by all atheists, it is political and has nothing to do with ones belief in deity. Thinking it does it wrong.

  • Whizzo76

    I didn’t consult google, what are you talking about.

  • Whizzo76

    None of which were actually ruled by the proletariat but by insane military dictators who used fear and military might to stay in power because they wanted power. Communism doesn’t really work but In reality it has never happened, Marx thought the proletariat would rise up but instead dictators used them to obtain power.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    The 19th century Marxists already advocated a “Vanguard Party”, because of the “false class consciousness”; this wasn’t a Stalin invention.

    So, Marx is responsible for what happened in the URSS and China.

  • Gypsycook

    Yes I know all that. Christian debate appears to be all about name-dropping and posting chunks of irrelevant text.  Hitler also killed altheists, gypsies, gays, untermenschen generally,and-O yes,-Jews!

  • Gypsycook

    Did I say that Einstein was a confirmed atheist? To quote your own words, ” I have provided you with substantial quotations from the great man himself “– which contradict the quote which you favour because of your religious bias.
     Why not just accept the more sensible proposition that he may have changed his mind, –either way,-at some point in his life; people do, unless they have been totally brainwashed.
    All these arguments about who said what to whom going back thousands of years are just silly and pointless, and probably false and forged as well. I prefer to look at present evidence, or lack of it concerning the actual existence of God. Many people obviously need to believe in made- up stuff as a sort of comfort blanket, quite irrespective of whether it is true; and most people are too ill-informed to know or care if it is true anyway. It me, it is false.  Maybe Einstein was a better physicist than he was a philosopher?

  • Gypsycook

    Yes we know, thanks to our predominately atheist and materialist scientists, that there is a whole new level of reality out there, including the Higg’s bosun (sic); “boson” actually. So why do you assume that “materialism” has suddenly given way to magic or “spiritualism” -whatever that is?
    This is a typical “God of the Gaps” argument; beware of them, they are always shown to be false.
    Gravity is not a “Law”, it is an observation of a physical consistency in the Universe, and it is the effect of Mass on the curvature of space-time. If you are seeking a more fundamental explanation of that, then it is probably just a brute fact, and you may be guilty of the “reductionism” epithet which Christians are so fond of pinning on “atheist scientists”.
    You give a long list of Renaissance “scientists ” (Natural Philosophers), as if I had never heard of them. Overloading me with a long post of assertions which are already known to serious atheist philosophers is quite unnecessary.
    Copernicus, if I remember rightly, was unable tp publish until after his death, for fear of the Inquisition; and of course as you know, Galileo was threatened with torture and put under house arrst for life. Einstein made conflicting statements about religion; at one tiome saying “science is lame with religion”, and in another letter saying it is a childish superstition. He certainly did not believe in a personal God who answers intercessory prayer, His was more like Spinoza’s deistic or pantheistic God; not at all Christian. 
    “You keep using words like “idiot” , “intellectual cowardice” and “rubbish” in a wildly generalized and unthinking fashion”.
    No I didn’t; I applied it specifically just to Pascal’s Wager.

  • Acleron

    Lol, I meant bulk it out with a bit of quality. I won’t be examining these in detail because a blanket list of atheist scientists would be far more impressive and equally useful. 

    But some stand out for mention Austin, Gish and Roth and probably a few more are creationists, not scientists. They may have accomplished some good work before they moved into the anti-science arena but they are examples of the point I made in my previous post. Have they contributed to our understanding of the universe from their theistic beliefs? And the answer is no. There is a good reason for this. Science progresses by having an open mind, its conclusions are based on the evidence. Scientists nearly always fail when they are irrationally convinced of something. Like all humans they will then cherry pick their evidence to shoehorn it into their belief or in the case of the creationists will often lie.

    Lamaitre was a cut above your list, although he was an ordained priest he was able to seal off his theism from his rationality. He was a progenitor of the Big Bang Theory and when your leadership jumped on BBT because it happened to fit your beliefs, he warned them to back off because he realised that the evidence wasn’t totally convincing. A truly remarkable man. But as another example of someone who is misled by non-scientific parameters, I give you the steady state theory supporters. They partly preferred the SST precisely because it didn’t fit theology. This was wrong as well but they continued to hanker after SST when the BBT was overwhelmingly supported by evidence.

    The advances in the human condition of happiness, wealth and health have all been led by science and its partner technology. Just what has a belief in a supernatural being given us?

  • karlf

    “Karl, all you have demonstrated is that there are people who want to read something into the Gospels that isn’t there” Exactly my point – allegory and metaphor for instance.
    Hinduism also has a long tradition.

  • theroadmaster

    The arguments you are making and your selected Einstein quote, makes me think that you were trying to depict him as a convinced atheist or at least an agnostic. Nothing that you have stated, convinces me otherwise. As I have commented, Einstein did not have an opinion etched in stone, but it was flexible. He did allow for the viewpoint that a mysterious Intelligence is at work behind the reality of our universe. The source of our universe and world is mysterious and because one believes in a Divine Creator does not make them either gullible or stupid. The Book of Christian Revelation i.e the Bible, still resonates with us to this, despite being authored thousands of years ago. Countless millions of people have been directly influenced by this and the present total stands at around 2 billion out of 7 billion present in our planet. It is something that one cannot simply ridicule as superstitious nonsense without arguing for a better alternative. Geraldo

  • Gypsycook

    “Einstein did not have an opinion etched in stone, but it was flexible. He did allow for the viewpoint that a mysterious Intelligence is at work behind the reality of our universe. The source of our universe and world is mysterious—”.

    This is the gist what I posted to you; why are you repeating it as if it was your own?
    I never said anyone was gullible or stupid, but they can be ignorant or misinformed if they have either missed, or deliberately discarded rational and empirical scientific statements.
    Do you think that less than one third of the world population being”Christian” is a very impressive record after 1600 years of enforced proselyizing? As you should know, Christianity has undergone cultural adaptive radiation and mutated into thousands of differents sects and demoninations; which one is true? An increasing number of educated people are rejecting the message in the light of modern knowledge; -apart from in some blighted third world countries where superstition is eagerly lapped up. The fact that “countless millions” of the educationally deprived embrace an aberration like  pie in the sky, virgin births,  resurrections, and a plethora of “miracles”, (not just one or two), does not mean that it is true, and that there are no better explanations. Someone once said: “If a million people believe a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing”.  That very facrt that I and thousands of other atheists and most of the world’s top scientists don’t need it, must say something.  Someone (was it you?) posted a long list of allegedly religious scientists just now. Without doing a controlled trial  comparing it with a  group of non-religious scientists, that is a worthless enterprise; and highly unscientific.

  • theroadmaster

    Science reveals to us the materialistic reality of our world and cosmos and the laws and processes which effect them. It does not aspire to explain the source of it all but it’s remit is limited to the aforementioned. Scientists who have a theistic belief, are motivated by Faith, which informs them that these realities are not accidental or the result of blind chance. But rather they are the products of a very fertile and perfect Intelligence who is not amenable to scientific empiricism. This is not to disparage the discipline of Science but rather to indicate where religiously-inspired scientists are coming from. Lemaitre’s “Big Bang” theory does not invalidate the argument for a Divine Creator, whatever initial understandings that there have been with theological interpretations. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ, the great French priest-scientist, encountered similar misunderstandings with his cosmic understanding of the Eucharist. But in essence, they were trying to understand the universe in a theological framework which demonstrated that Religion and Science can co-exist and complement eachother. Geraldo

  • Gypsycook

    If a statement is made that “there is a God”, and also, “God made the world and intercedes in it”, then these are obviously scientific hypotheses, and therefore subject to scientific investigation through model-building and  empirical data-gathering. If you want to promote (pseudo)-science,-please stick to the scientific rules and procedures.

  • Gypsycook

    “BTW, it is astoundingly naive to imagine that the efficacy of prayer can be measured by scientific tests, as has been attempted”.

    It is mainly religious people, including some scientists who have made studies of the “power of prayer”, in order to “prove” their belief system. Atheists could not be bothered. As should be well-known by now, such studies have proved a failure; but the point is, they can be done on any system which claims that there is a Something which acts within the material world. It can therefore be investigated through material means, like controlled trials.

  • theroadmaster

    I am repeating it to you, because you gave me a quote which Einstein gave in relation to his apparent disdain for a religious belief in God. So I countered with quotations which showed that he was not antagonistic to the belief in a Divine Intelligence.
    2 billion Christian believers out of a population of 7 billion is not bad going for 2000 years of “proselytism” and people are still converting in the millions across the globe. There are also over a 1 billion Muslims in the world Atheists are on the back foot and numerically in the minority. The US is a modern, liberal, well-educated country where religion plays a prominent part. Your stereotype of the ill-educated religious believer I’m afraid is tired and there are millions of university-educated graduates who are people of Faith and do not reject Science. The game of posting religious and atheist scientists is a non-win game as it does not really prove anything accept people have arrived at different conclusions despite being involved in the same disciplines. Geraldo

  • Gypsycook

    Well no wonder there are doubters. You are assuming that there is something (outside the world) which created them. This is pure metaphysical speculation, and you should not try to impose it upon us as an empirical “fact”.
    If this hypothetical God lives outside the Universe in his own different space-time continuum, then where did his own Universe come from? Was it created by Supergod?
     Or did God pull hiself up by his own bootstraps and create himself out of Nothing before he actually existed?
    Are all these hyper-Universes inhabited by Superdupergods connected together in a closed circle,-or is there “outside” input frpm yet another SuperhypersupremeGod?

  • Gypsycook

    OK let’s call it one each. I think I will be more impressed when the religions truly become monotheistic and all believe the same factual truths, and can demonstrate the same facts, and Jesus comes down from wherever he is and holds a press conference, and then does some impressive miracles which cannot be feigned by James Randi or anyone else; when they stop fighting each other for converts and territory in Africa and elsewhere, and when they stop trying to take people’s indigenous religions away from them as in India and China, when they use their enormous wealth , (ie ill-gotten gains) and return most of it to whence it came, over the centuries and use it to really improve the lot of the poor, without expecting people to sell their souls in return.
    Until then I shall continue to consider that “Reigion poisons everything”.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “Hitler also killed altheists, gypsies, gays, untermenschen generally,”

    That does not change the fact that he hated the Church. There was even a plan to kill the Pope.

  • Gypsycook

    Yes alright. Hitler was not an atheist anyway, but i’m bored with him, and even more with Stalin. I wonder why throughout history there have been so many efforts to get rid of the Pope and the RC church generally, the Lombards were going to wipe it out, but after an appeal from the Pope to save him the Franks drove out the Lombards; phew! The various “Holy Roman Emperors” had a go. The Protestant Reformations were against him too.  They, the RC church,must be doing something wrong, upsetting so many people.

  • theroadmaster

    Ok we can call it one each and agree to disagree. But you view the activities of Christian missionaries in a distorted and rather out of date way. Often the only effective health and social care is provided by those very people whose selfless efforts you view with suspicion. The Catholic Church is reckoned to provide at least a quarter or more of all the health and social care outside government organizations in the world. These missionaries shun publicity and just want to be Faithful to their Christian calling. I think perhaps, you need to revise your opinions on this matter. Geraldo

  • Gypsycook

    Yes I am sure there are bound to be different individuals with different agendas, as in all walks of life. Some of them will, as you say, be selfless carers just wanting to alleviate distress with no other view in mind. Others will be fanatical evangelists who want to take over the whole world for Christ, and destroy the culture and independence of what they view as godless heathens who need to be brought to Jesus one way or another. I don’t think anyone can deny that is has been the case in past centuries, as an accompaniment of empire-building colonialism, orchestrated by the churches at the highest level, ie the Vatican; and there is no reason why such an attitude should suddenly have become moderated from within, other than by the civilising effects of secularism as it has whitted away at the monolithic arrogance of large power groups, whether State or Church,-usually a combination of the two.
    Of course the very existence of secular overseas aid means that religion is not absolutely necessary for doing good. Medicin sans frontiers (Doctors without borders), springs to mind, as well of course as the religiously neutral Oxfam etc.
    I do not want to get involved in long wrangles. My only purpose has been to try and persuade some religious people that atheists are not all mass murderers like Stalin, but serious philosophers who find their purpose and ethical systems from within human society alone, as in Secular Humanism.
    I think I will sign off now; too tiring to keep this up at my advanced age (72). All the best. Reg

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    I do feel for you, Karl: you’ve clearly given a lot of thought to this line of argument, but you need the cooperation of your interlocutor to make it work.

    I simply don’t accept that your reading of your proof-texts is supported by the texts themselves: use of a cultural commonplace in an allusion, simile or metaphor is not evidence for a belief that the source material is reportage of a literal event; and we know enough about exegesis in the first century to dismiss your assumption that literalism was the normal mode of interpretation at that time. 

    Asking Catholics our views about Christ’s “beliefs” is nonsensical: we believe that Christ is the second person of the Trinity;  he would not have “believed”, he would have known. 

    I appreciate that the current version of Hinduism draws on traditions that can be traced back a long way, but none of that is relevant to Biblical exegesis: I have no idea why you have tossed that red herring into the argument. 

    You need to look for an argument that doesn’t rely on your own subjective opinion and emphatically doesn’t rely on recruiting your interlocutor to your assumptions. 

  • karlf

    Hinduism was hardly a red herring, but to show that a long tradition doesn’t make something any more true. Neither does the knowledge first century exegesis dismiss the point I am making. But now you are saying that Jesus knew all about animal development through evolution. Why did he not tell anyone about this? Do you know what the medieval Popes believed to be the origins of man – I can’t find any info on this.
    Yes, I have given this some thought.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    How, exactly, would the evolution of man from animals have been relevant to the mission of Christ?

  • Justin

    Do you believe in God Fr Alexander?  Or do you use him to show what a truthful guy you are?  From what you write I believe it is the latter.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Yes, as opposed to the Catholic Church.
    The Catholic Church defends freedom of religion. Read about the Second Vatican Council.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     

    Materialism and communism don’t go hand in hand, in fact communists reject western materialism.

    If you had the faintest idea of what “materialism” means in philosophy, you would realize that the sentence above is extremely stupid.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     

    Liar.  The church has campaigned against interracial marriage.

    Show evidence.