You can find it here (Dawkins starts at 13:20 into it). I enjoyed the interview.
Ok, I know that “agnostic/gnostic” is about “knowledge” (what you can “know”) and “atheism/theism” is about belief. But let’s go by the statements.
On this scale, I’d say that I was about a 6.5 with respect to the deities that humans have come up with (sun gods, Abrahamic deities, Hindu deities, etc.) and maybe a 5 with respect to deities that humans have not presented (perhaps believed by sentient beings on another planet or perhaps not even thought of by any sentient being anywhere in the universe).
No, I can’t be certain…not 100 percent certain, but I seriously doubt that humans 2000-3000-4000 years ago were right about much of anything, much less being right about the workings of the universe. Or put another way, I put LESS “faith” in their knowledge about deities than I do in their level of knowledge of science at the time; after all, they could make metal objects and plant crops. Yet, consider how primitive their knowledge of science was!
For scaling purposes, I would say my “acceptance” of, say, gravity, mechanics, evolution, etc. would be, oh, about 1.5 and my belief in fairies, elves and pixies would be also about a 6.5.
True, much of the Bible is horrific; for example, the book of Joshua is an extended account of genocide. Of course, it is a genocide that serious scholars can’t find evidence of, but never mind that.
Then in Judges, early on, this deity is less than impressive: (Judges 1:19)
“The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.”
Good thing that they didn’t have B-52′s.
Then there are the alleged miracles, etc. It is hard to take seriously.
So I can state that The Bible does not make a credible case for either the Christian or for the Jewish deity.
But what about other non-Abrahamic deities? These have nothing to do with the Bible.
Atheists of this type (“Abrahamic deity or atheism”) make the same mistake that many believers in this deity make. There is no reason for a deity to be that one or even one conceived by humans.
I saw this comment on a Facebook page; it was a light hearted comment joking about the “I just () love science” Facebook page (which is a cool page, by the way).
But this is one of the many ways that atheism differs from a religion. You’ll see people saying that they “love their religion”, or “love their deity” (more often), etc.
Atheism isn’t like that for me.
For me, it is a conclusion that makes intellectual and emotional sense to me.
We are a planet orbiting one of upwards of 100 billion stars in our galaxy, that is one of among (at least) 100 billion galaxies. Do you really think that anything made this for “little old us”; a mere species of ape? Do you really think that some deity out there cares if you get a job, get a parking spot, or cares at ALL about us?
None of this precludes some grand “creative force” but I am agnostic with respect to such things, and find it highly unlikely that ignorant humans of 2000 years ago (or even 1000 years ago) came close to getting it right, when they got many more “easier” things wrong.
Also I ask myself: if there is a deity, why would it be one that any group of humans came up with? Why wouldn’t such a deity be one that some other sentient beings came up with, or some deity that NO sentient beings anywhere came up with?
I’ve yet to see evidence that would encourage me to take the idea of a deity seriously, at least a deity that causes natural laws to be violated at select times.
Evolution is directionless; there is no guarantee that we’d be here if we started life all over again, though I understand some religious scientists talk about humans filling an evolutionary niche that would have been filled by something “similar” to us. Perhaps that is true; I can accept that. But “evolutionary niches” is not the type of creation taught by the religions that I am familiar with.
So, I see a lack of evidence, and certainly no reason to believe in one deity or another.
Now I can understand why someone might join a religion anyway; many see statements of faith as poetry rather than prose.
But that is a digression.
My point: atheism is nothing I love but rather a conclusion that I arrived at. And yes, I am open to evidence.
This was a complete bust. Last night I had a mild headache (not serious), so I took two extra strength Tylenol PM; that was complete overkill. Note: I rarely take anything.
Hence I was groggy this morning and my attempt to run was a farce; I was hung over!!! I made it 2.5 miles in 27:30 (11 mpm) and quit and walked it in…so total was just over 3 miles or so. It was a pity since the day was perfect for July; not that warm and not humid. I might take an extra walk home just to enjoy the day more.
I wasn’t going to even write about this, but while searching for a good music video to listen to as I typed an article about Bayesian hypothesis testing, I found some old Christopher Hitchens videos. In one of them, he was asked “why do you talk about God so much if you are an atheist”.
Hitchens’ answer was fine; he responded that he was fighting against some truly evil ideas (e. g. that “end times were near” and improving the “here and now” was relatively unimportant that many monotheists have). That was a good enough answer though I know of many theists who think that the real purpose is to establish “God’s kingdom on earth” via good stewardship of the planet, working for peace, justice, curing the sick, feeding the hungry, etc.. By the way, those are great things to do.
I know of other theists who see the appeal of “packaged spirituality” and “community”; one Christian flat told me that he didn’t really ascribe to the “supernatural mumbo-jumbo” and were he living in, say, Indonesia, he would have become a Muslim instead.
Here is my take, as an atheist
Mostly I am an atheist for intellectual reasons:
1. I’ve seen no proof of anything supernatural and
2. The idea that in our multi-billion galaxy universe, it makes no sense that on planet orbiting one particular star in one particular galaxy is somehow, well, “special”.
At a lower level, think about humans being around in present form for 50,000 years (at least) and that this deity decided to reveal itself to us…in the last 6000 years?
But there are emotional reasons too.
1. I don’t expect miracles (ok, magic tricks) to be performed on my behalf. I am subject to the same laws of nature that everyone is subject to, and I don’t expect “exceptions” for me or for my loved ones.
2. I sure as heck don’t expect for some awesome deity to have a “plan” just for little old me. Being a theist would inflame my megalomania.
So, you know, for me, atheism is a type of “Good News”: “don’t worry about soliciting for exceptions to the laws of nature because you are bound by the same laws as anyone else. So relax and enjoy as much of your life as you can!” If something bad happens, there is no deity to be upset with.
Now, much of what I said does NOT apply to, say a Spirit of the Universe, Creative Power/Force, or some deity that doesn’t suspend the laws of nature at the bequest of someone (or at all) and should evidence of such a deity were to be discovered, I’d consider it.
So, one might say that I am an agnostic (in the informal sense) with respect to deities that I haven’t heard of yet.
But I definitely do not believe in the deities that I’ve heard of.
As to the possibility of knowing (which formal agnosticism applies to): knowing at some 100 percent confidence level is impossible. But I am reasonably confident (say, 99.999 percent sure) in rejecting the existence of the deities that I’ve heard of (e. g. deities that display human characteristics such as jealousy, anger, rage, rewards for “faith” or blind belief, etc.)
Woo and yoga
Someone asked me how I could like yoga and be down on “alternative (quack) medicine”. Well, there have been some rigorous studies done on yoga and it CAN be recommended for physical therapy purposes (e. g. back aches). Via our National Institute of Health.
This Tiger Frog from Ghana is a cutie:
Movies: I want to see this one:
Note: my beef with religion, at least as practiced in the west, is that too many of them require people to accept “miracles” (resurrections, parting seas, virgin births, etc.) on “faith” (sans evidence). So once you “accept” that the laws of science (naturalism) can be suspended at set times, then, well, why trust science with anything? Seriously: if there is, say, water on your basement floor and a pipe joint above that with green on the joint…well…if you didn’t SEE it drip, then maybe the water and the green just appeared because of the work of some devil or pixie? Why not…if suspensions of naturalism are allowed?
My beef is NOT with religions that don’t require acceptance of miracles.
It is my opinion that a deity/spirit/whatever that is interested in humans and human affairs makes no sense, but that is the realm of opinion.
The eye of a super-hurricane at Saturn’s north pole looks like a peaceful red rose in a fresh bouquet of pictures from NASA’s Cassini orbiter. But don’t be fooled: That rosy appearance is merely due to the false colors ascribed to infrared wavelengths.
This storm’s eye measures 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) in diameter, about 20 times wider than the average hurricane’s eye on Earth. The outer clouds at the hurricane’s edge are traveling at 330 mph (530 kilometers per hour), which would be off the scale on our planet. The vortex whirls inside Saturn’s mysterious hexagonal cloud pattern, and it’s not going anywhere.
How do you like this image of the moon taking from space near the earth?
Here is a picture of a solar eclipse via Scientific American:
Miloslav Druckmüller, a mathematician at the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic, and his colleagues were on Enewetak as the eclipse’s shadow raced toward them from the northwest at more than twice the speed of sound. This composite of 31 images from the eclipse shows the solar corona, the wispy “atmosphere” of the sun peeking out from behind the moon as well as the cratered, rayed surface of the moon itself.
Back on Earth Again
This species of fish, commonly found in China, Russia and Korea, has been found in New York. It is an invasive species.
Even more interestingly, it can actually breathe outside of water for a short period of time (days) and even hunt.
I am in the background, near the rear of the room (white beard).
This is a small group, but the speaker and many that you can see are among the world’s best topologists.
It was a different story at my hotel room:
5.7 mile run over lunch; 57 minutes.
Going to research meetings is always eye-opening. On one hand, I often learn something and pick up techniques and ideas that I can use.
On the other hand: I am seeing people who, for the most part, research and direct graduate students for a living. This is very different from what I am used to (teaching moderately talented undergraduates relatively elementary things).
The blunt fact is that the researchers are not only the best that graduate school graduating classes have to offer (I wasn’t) but they are also people who do it full time; if you teach a 11-12 hour load (with administrative duties to boot) you are NOT going to research at that level. But it is easy to forget that if you don’t take in one of these from time to time. Those who don’t: often lose perspective.
Yes, this is a Salon article and the title is misleading. But it does raise a point:
The heads and hearts of atheists may not be on precisely the same page. That’s the implication of recently published research from Finland, which finds avowed non-believers become emotionally aroused when daring God to do terrible things.
“The results imply that atheists’ attitudes toward God are ambivalent, in that their explicit beliefs conflict with their affective response,” concludes a research team led by University of Helsinki psychologist Marjaana Lindeman. Its study is published in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.
Lindeman and her colleagues describe two small-scale experiments. The first featured 17 Finns, recruited online, who expressed high levels of belief, or disbelief, in God. They read out loud a series of statements while skin conductance data was collected via electrodes placed on two of their fingers.
Some of the statements were direct dares to a deity (“I dare God to make my parents drown”). Others were similarly disturbing, but did not reference God (“It’s OK to kick a puppy in the face”). Still others were bland and neutral (“I hope it’s not raining today”).
The arousal levels of the believers and non-believers followed precisely the same pattern: Higher for both the God dares and otherwise unpleasant statements, and lower for the neutral ones.
Compared to the atheists, the believers reported feeling more uncomfortable reciting the God dares. But skin conductance data revealed the underlying emotional reactions of the two groups were essentially the same. This suggests that taunting God made the atheists more upset than they were letting on (even to themselves).[...]
The second experiment was designed to test that hypothesis. It featured 19 Finnish atheists, who participated in an expanded version of the first experiment. It included 10 additional statements—variations on the God dares which excluded any mention of supernatural forces. For example, in addition to “I dare God to turn all my friends against me,” they read out loud the statement: “I wish all of my friends would turn against me.”
The results: The atheists showed greater emotional arousal when reading the God-related statements than while reading the otherwise nearly identical sentences that omitted the almighty. To the researchers, this indicates that “even atheists have difficulty daring God to harm themselves and their loved ones.”
Note: the “n” is rather low.
The article goes on to make conjectures as to why this might be so. I’ll make mine:
my position of atheism is NOT so much an emotional one as an intellectual one. I see no evidence of divine intervention in human affairs and the idea that there is a “interested in human events” deity in such a large universe with billions of galaxies and billions of stars per galaxy makes no sense to me. I just don’t believe it.
But I WAS raised Catholic; my dad wasn’t a religious man but believed in a deity of some sort; mom believed in “magic tricks” of a deity (one that intervened). So I was raised that way and I have the resulting emotions. I sometimes ask a non-existent deity to eternally condemn inanimate objects when they break or spill (or when I break them ).
But emotions and emotional actions are hard to turn off.
I’ll give an example: I know that my stuffed frogs are inanimate objects. But I’d feel bad if, say, they burned in a fire and I’d get very angry if someone “mistreated” them. That is an emotional, irrational reaction. I’d have the same about religious stuff even though my mind knows better.
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