Category Archives: Science

The God Delusion – first thoughts

So with all the talk and thoughts about atheism this last week, I thought I should actually read the God Delusion. While I’m only a little ways in, I thought I should make some comments.

Dawkins brings up some very good points about organized religion and how it seems to get a free pass in the excuse lane. I agree that hate speech should not be allowed just because its “part” of their religion.

I also think terrible, horrible things have been done in the name of religion… but what about places that lack a major religion? Doesn’t the offending party just find some other excuse to take the place of religion? Though maybe Dawkins addresses this some place further in the book.

Either way I feel like I’m still at a middle ground. It’s not that I think people are justified to do whatever they want, but I don’t feel like its my place to tell them what to believe. I think people, over time, will generally move away from religion. While it would be nice to think this is something that will happen soon… its almost just as silly as religion itself to think it will.

Major social change takes time. How long have women been waiting for equal treatment? (And in some places still waiting) How long did it take (is it taking) for African Americans to have equal rights in America? Living in the northeast I still know older people that are generally racist. Of course they would be very ashamed to admit it. As younger generations grow up in a more accepting world, they in turn are more accepting.

When I was growing up in environmentalism was taught in schools a bit, so I am more aware of these things. In turn my kids are really saturated with it at home and at school, so now they are very aware of conserving water, electricity and waste. I’m amazed at how often they remined me to turn off my laptop or the faucet!

So while I think Dawkins points are very valid I think they are not as dire as he makes them sound. Change takes time. Focusing on educating children all the way through college is probably the best way to insure logically thinking future generations.

Either way I’m looking forward to reading the rest of his points, and I’m glad that it is a best seller. While some points might be exaggerated, it is definitely something that needed to be said. Though I still disagree with the title.

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Belief in Belief: Interesting Discussion

I’ve been reading and writing a lot on religion/philosophy/existence etc over the last couple days, and as a result of such, my brain is just bouncing around with arguments and thoughts. In the moments before I’m fully awake or asleep my brain auto pilots strange explanations for a God. This morning I woke up to my brain arguing atheism. I think this has to do with my inability to grasp exactly what I believe, so that when I come across a strong atheist post, I feel offended. I feel like they are calling me silly because I may or may not believe in a God.Which is odd because for the most part I think I side with atheists much more than theists. Anyways this is long and ramble-ly because I’m in the mood to write/think that way.

Anyways an question series in the Guardian on “Should we Believe in Belief?” has stirred up some interesting discussion. Highlights and comments follow:

From Karen Armstrong’s reply-  Metaphysical mistake: Confusion by Christians between belief and reason has created bad science and inept religion

“In most pre-modern cultures, there were two recognised ways of attaining truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were crucial and each had its particular sphere of competence. Logos (“reason; science”) was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to control our environment and function in the world. It had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external realities. But logos could not assuage human grief or give people intimations that their lives had meaning. For that they turned to mythos, an early form of psychology, which dealt with the more elusive aspects of human experience.”

Karen Armstrong’s reply talks a bit about logos and mythos and how dangerous it can be to confuse the two. To me its not that science and religion have to be separated, but that they are two ways of looking at the world. One with the mind, logically figuring out what makes sense, and one with the heart, emotionally navigating this strange existence. Nor should we always separate them. But you can’t always take emotional reactions and feelings and apply a logical structure to them.

“We often assume “modern” means “superior”, and while this is true of science and technology, our religious thinking is often undeveloped. In the past, people understood it was unwise to confuse mythos with logos, but today we read the mythoi of scripture with an unparalleled literalism, and in “creation science” we have bad science and inept religion.”

This is a big beef… taking the bible as absolutely literally is just about the silliest thing ever. I’m on board 100% with atheists on this one. Not only do most people pick and choose which parts to take absolutely literally, its 2000 year old ideas. While this is a wonderful base for idea and inquiry, stagnation of thought is dangerous and silly. You wouldn’t stop the development of medicine 2000 years ago and call it good.

So this is where I’m in the middle roads. I think telling people there is NO God is rude and presumptuous. Telling them to think outside the box (or book in this case) is a good cause. But we need to be careful how we tell them. Telling them God is a delusion or not great, is not a place to start the dialogue. This sensationalizes the debate and leads to hurt feelings and closed ears. It sells books, but to the wrong people.

From Daniel Dennett’s article – The folly of pretence: We must not preserve the myth of God – it was a useful crutch, but we’ve outgrown it

“Today one of the most insistent forces arrayed in opposition to us vocal atheists is the “I’m an atheist but” crowd, who publicly deplore our “hostility”, our “rudeness” (which is actually just candour), while privately admitting that we’re right. They don’t themselves believe in God, but they certainly do believe in belief in God.”

This is funny, because just above I talked about the rudeness of telling people there is no God. I am almost exactly the person he is talking about here. And honestly its not so much what Dennett, Dawkins, Harris or even Hitchens say about God that bother’s me its the crusade of followers. While the four horsemen usually debate these things perfectly reasonably, the general public, especially on the internet, can argue these things less than diplomatically. This is also very true of the other side of the debate.

Which is why I feel the debate should be moved away from the word God. God is a very personal thing. Even within the major religions, each person’s mental idea of God different.This is a sacred space. A place to retreat to when things are shitty, and a place to rejoice in when things are good. When you call this idea space a crutch, delusional or less than great, feelings get hurt.

From Baber’s reply – The philosopher’s God: There is no cabal seeking to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes. Many philosophers believe in God, and many more think the issue is not easily solved

“Most people I know are atheists. But they’re atheists of the old kind who have no particular interest in proselytising because they do not believe that anything of importance hangs on whether or not people believe in God and because they recognise that theological claims are controversial. Unlike the New Atheists they don’t think they have discovered, or invented, something new and interesting.”

I think this is interesting for the use of calling anyone that attacks God as a New Atheist. While it stirs up thoughts, I also think it is untrue. I somewhat agree with her article in general, because she seems to be calling for atheists to not attack God as an idea. Though her article is a little all over the place.

Yes the belief in God can be a dangerous vehicle for other ideas, but its not the major problem. Chip away at the ideas themselves and leave the center of the tootsie pop for another day.

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The Multiverse

While looking at Nathan Schneider’s blog I saw a link to his article on multiverse theory. Interesting.

A multiverse means a different way of thinking about God, too. If a model like Linde’s is correct, the faithful can no longer point to the apparent fine-tuning of our universe as evidence for intelligent design with human life in mind. This is why some have reacted against such proposals as the unscientific tricks of desperate atheists. But other believers recognize a multiverse as a genuine scientific possibility, and their reflections have already begun to show that God can have a place in the multiverse, too.

Full article here.

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