God as a scientific explanation

November 28, 2010 | By | 17 Replies More

Whenever I consider the magnificent structures of cells, I wonder “How could this possibly be?” There is no answer forthcoming, despite the incredible insight offered by scientists. What is, simply is, and I don’t have a reasonable answer for how such exquisite complexity can arise from a cosmic explosion and a showering of stardust. I assure you that I’ve felt a deep craving to announce that I had figured things out, but the most honest answer is I don’t know. I wish I understood things better, but I fully expect to die without having a satisfactory explanation of many of life’s miracles.

This is where religious believers try to come to my rescue by offering the “explanation” that “God did it” or that “This is God’s design.”

I respond by telling these folks that “God did it” doesn’t explain anything to me. I urge these often well-intended believers that they are talking strange poetry, not real science, and that their platitudes about God don’t help me understand anything about my physical existence. In fact religious claims packaged as “explanations” distract and annoy me. At this point, believers are usually perplexed. From their perspective, uttering religious claims about “God” and pointing to the Bible truly serve as explanations. They are frustrated that agnostics and atheists reject this earnestly offered explanation that “God designed the world.”

How is it that believers are so convinced that bringing “God” into scientific conversations serves as a meaningful explanation?

Philosophers of science have offered many approaches identifying worthwhile explanations, such as A) conformity with a known scientific law (Hempel’s Deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation) or B) Philip Kitcher’s approach, stressing explanatory unification or C) the ability of that explanation to precisely generate predictions of future events or D) Bas van Fraassen’s approach. For van Fraassen, an explanation is an answer—an informative description evaluated pursuant to the context established by a particular question—a request for a specific kind of information.

I subscribe to the idea that an explanation is essentially a description that makes you feel good inside. That’s the currency on the streets. I explored that idea in a post instigated by my encounter with “ball lightning.”

The use of the word God makes believers feel very good inside, indeed, even ecstatic. But uttering the word “God” only sounds plausible to any of us (plausible enough that we might find it worth our while to debate it), because we have heard this purported “explanation” for hundreds of years. These “God did it” claims sound a little plausible only because we hear these claim so often; many of us heard them while our parents held us in their laps.

What would we think, however, if we heard such a far-fetched claim only in settings devoid of emotion and social connectedness (or better yet, in the absence of the threat of social disconnectedness). We’d reject it flat out. All of us would reject it. Why am I so convinced?

I’m going to use literary license to offer religious explanations that are comparable to Christian beliefs in terms of believability, but dressed up in an unfamiliar way, so that perplexed Christians might be better able to see why I so quickly and decisively dismiss “God” as a meaningful explanation. This is how their religious “explanations” look and sound to me.

Once again, here’s the question: How is it possible that microscopic cells are so incredibly complex?

ME: It’s because Ockbon made it so

TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN (TC): Who is Ockbon?

ME: A giant invisible baby who wears purple diapers. He sometimes talks to me, but no one but I can hear Him. I go to a four story building to praise Him every week. The spiritual leader dresses up in sparkly clothes and tells us the same stories about Ockbon every week.

TC: What? That’s absurd. On what basis do you make such a preposterous claims about Ockbon?

ME: Based on 900-year old scraps of written by unknown people. Many passages contradict with other passages to outsiders, but not to me. For instance, there are two creation stories. In one, Ockbon is created by 14 magic trees. In another story, he was created on the moon. These are perfectly consistent to anyone who prays for 58 hours every week. Ockbon is actually six persons but also one person. One of the persons is a horse. Another is a two-headed squirrel. Ockbon created the universe 37 years ago and implanted false memories in our heads. We often think that the universe has been around much longer, but we are confused and mistaken.

Image by Bowie15 at Dreamstime.com (with permission)

TC: This is absurd. There’s no evidence of any of this. You are hallucinating.

ME: No I’m not. There’s plenty of evidence. One of Ockbon’s six persons was a girl named Sheena, born on earth, according to several fragments. Her earthly father had been in a terrible accident, and he had no testicles. Nonetheless, he sired Ockbon-the-Daughter (“Sheena”). She did many miracles as she grew up. On one occasion, the crowd brought her a little boy with only one leg. She waved her hand and the boy grew a new leg as the crowd watched. She is inerrantly intelligent. She predicted the discovery of Pluto, the four major moons of Jupiter and nebulae when she said: “In the skies, there is more than there seems to be.”

TC: This is absurd.

ME: Only to you is it absurd. Not for those who have faith. Sheena once created a 15,000 foot mountain 8 miles outside of Rome. Then she made it disappear the next day. There is no record of this in history books, but the sacred fragments say that it happened and all of those who have faith believe her. I know that Sheena is loving and perfect. If I keep believing in Sheena she will allow me into a sacred and beautiful cavern inside of the sun after I die, and she will allow all of us chosen people to watch TV shows inside the sun, and they will be the most wonderful shows ever created. Thus it is written.

TC: This is really absurd.

ME: You need to have faith. People who fail to honor Sheena as the perfect creator of the universe (along with Ockbon) will be stabbed with hot swords for 800 trillion years in a mold-filled windowless room in tiny planet in the solar system that they haven’t yet discovered. This is proof that Sheena and Ockman love us.

This does not explain the biology of cells:

ME: Cells are amazing because Ockbon designed them, along with Sheena, his Daughter. And Sheena is her own father. This is the obvious explanation, far superior to science. You need to have faith. We need to teach about Ockbon in school science classes. We need to teach this controversy. Ockbon and Sheena designed cells because they are so smart that even though they are omniscient, only they would be able to create an IQ test to measure their own super-duper intelligence. They designed human cells in a blink of an eye. After they invented cells, Ockbon said to Sheena (she was there, even though she hadn’t yet been born): “This is a human cell in which I am well pleased.“ People who try to apply science to Ockbon’s handiwork are arrogant, and they will go to the bad place after they die.

Traditional explanations of “God” are as utterly absurd as the above story about Ockbon and Sheena. They deserve no discussion in a science class. They are strange poetry. And there’s not much else I can think of saying when Believers inject “God” into science discussions. In fact, I have now gotten to the point where I am utterly bored and annoyed with religious “explanations.” On the other hand, I’m fascinated by the fact that people embrace these religious claims. As I’ve extensively written, religious beliefs are critically important, at least for social organizing, even though they are not true.

So does Christianity explain human biology? Not at all. When we give “God” a new name and concoct comparable claims about “God,” but put these claims into an unfamiliar context, it becomes abundantly clear, at least to me, that “God” should be kept far from science classrooms.

“God” is not an explanation, but the battle between scientists and the religious faithful will go on and on, because for Believers “God” viscerally feels like an incredibly obvious scientific explanation.

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Category: Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (17)

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  1. Rich Paxson says:

    Thanks for this post. I think that the Ockbon & Sheena myth is great! Although I'm not all that familiar with his work, it brought William Blake to mind.

    God as a scientific explanation is a category error. Science deals with the 'it' of the material world. God and Religion is about meaning and relationship. Confusing human longing for meaning with explanations about the 'it-ness' of the world mixes up these philosophical categories. At least, that's how I understand Ken Wilber explaining it in his book, The Marriage of Sense and Soul.

    Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens debated in Toronto Friday night on – Be it resolved: Religion is a force for good in the world. Munk Debates offers an archived replay for $2.99 here: http://bit.ly/eVdGk0

    About an hour and a half into the debate, which was about two hours total, Hitchens shared some positive thoughts about religion. What follows are quotes I typed from the archived video:

    Christopher Hitchens: "I would say a couple of things for religion itself.

    1. First is what I call the apotropaic – the desire not to be found claiming all the credit. A certain kind of modesty/humility i.e. “thank God” for certain personal successes rather than claiming all the credit. Not necessarily ‘religious,’ as the Greeks had the concept of ‘hubris.’ But apotropaic to the Greeks – not all the glory can be claimed by lowly primates such as ourselves.

    2. "The sense that there’s something beyond the material, or if not beyond it, then not entirely consistent materially with it is I think a very important matter, what you could call the numinous or the transcendent or at its best, I suppose, the ecstatic. The question is how to keep what is best about the numinous, transcendent & ecstatic while also distinguishing it precisely."

    In a September 2009 online interview with Sally Quinn in the Washington Post, Hitchens reflected on his life's work defending the truly transcendent against religious forces that always are trying to co-opt the the transcendent into their religious systems. Quinn's column with the embedded video is available here: http://bit.ly/hJR7DU

    Death is our final arbiter. Christopher Hitchens through his esophageal cancer daily is directly confronted with this reality. Many people have been quoted as saying they are praying for Christopher Hitchens. I haven't been praying for him, but were I so to do, then this poem by 19th century German poet Rainer Maria Rilke captures my thoughts and feelings.

    Enter Death

    We know nothing of this going.

    It excludes us. Faced with death,

    what cause have we to respond

    with the fear and grief or even hatred

    that twist the features to a mask of tragedy?

    On this side of death we play roles.

    So long as we seek to please the audience,

    death, who needs no approval, plays us.

    When you died, there broke across the stage,

    through the gash your leaving made,

    a shaft of reality: green of real green,

    real sunlight, real trees.

    Still we keep acting: fearful and solemn,

    reciting our script, taking on gestures.

    But you, who have been withdrawn from us, subtracted from our very being,

    now and again you overcome us,

    showing us the reality we glimpsed,

    so that for a while, jolted back, we are life

    with no thought of applause.

    [A Year With Rilke. 2009, translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows]

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Rich: Thank you, once again, for yet another insightful comment. Thank you for sharing the Rilke poem and the Hitchens video. I would agree with you that most religious explanations are category errors, substituting human (social) longing for it-ness. Yes, indeed.

  2. Jim Razinha says:

    God of the Gaps.

    And in case someone reads this thread and not another in which I've posted this:

    Science does have all the answers. We just don't have all the science. (James Morrow, from his novel "Only Begotten Daughter")

    And per Richard Dawkins, “The religious mind, however, restlessly seeks human meaning in the blind happenings of nature.”

    I'll take Dawkins one step further: the religious mind seeks supernatural meaning in the blind happenings of nature.

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    The other day, I had an epiphany. For a moment, I had a complete understanding of the totality of existence as we experience it. It was beautiful. It was simple, elegant and the obvious root of everything. It was the answer to all questions. The ultimate answer.

    But before I could find a pen to put to paper, the thought had faded.

    Damn those senior moments.

  4. Rick Massey says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Having been deeply entrenched in the fundamentalist Christian view many years ago, I understand that no amount of logic will ever affect what they believe. Once you have bought into the premise that you have been supernaturally enlightened while “the world” has been supernaturally deceived, logic and reason cannot help.

    I don't think many true believers realize that the inerrant book on which they base every important decision in their lives does not exist. As your analogy points out, the existing text is a collage of pieces and manuscripts from different centuries that were woven together into one book centuries later.

    Most of them do not realize that the text contradicts itself to such an extent that believers have written entire books in a vain attempt to explain them all away. Nor are they aware that virtually every page of Nestle's 27th Edition of the Greek Text of the New Testament (the official text upon which almost all modern translations are based) contains dozens of notes describing how the various known fragments disagree with the text that was ultimately included.

    When most believers say God "speaks to them" they don't mean that they hear audible voices. They mean God "speaks to their heart". As one of them used to tell me, you just "know in your knower." Their faith is actually based on two things: their own internal feelings; and a text, the origin of which they know almost nothing about. Everything else is, as you perfectly describe here, a poetic rationalization of how everything seems like evidence after you have seen the light.

  5. TheThinkingMan says:

    It is easy to dismiss religious fanatics as silly or stupid, especially when viewed in such a sarcastic light. I don't really think that one goes very far by mocking religious views, all it does is incite anger and harden the mind of those to whom you should be trying to explain this science.

    I've seen it countless times. Clearly, you don't understand why Christians chose supernatural explanations to explain away the universe. But, it doesn't help that they view logical, science-minded individuals as mocking and disrespectful. How could you possibly hope to change the mind of any person with such sarcasm. I dare say that none here would listen for more than a moment to any point that someone makes were their speech initiated with some sardonic pun about something, however inane, that you might hold dear.

    The point that Rich made is so true, religious ideals and scientific realizations belong to completely different realms of thought. The problem arises when people try to combine the two. You will never be able to change the mind of a "believer" because, in doing so, they believe that they have been corrupted by the world and that they have lost faith, which in and of itself is something abhorrent to those people. What must be done is to explain the truth that science deals with the physicality of the natural world, whereas religion deals with spirituality. Now, whether one wants to debate whether the spiritual even exists or is relevant in our lives is a completely different matter, but it would be separate from the scientific debate of life on this planet and the physics of the universe. Maybe?

    Of course there will be those who will not listen to reason. But of course, you can not reason with them. Best to agree to disagree and move on. But, just as there are those, there are many Christians who still trust science. Indeed, there are many Scientists who are also Christians, and they feel no innate conflict with these supposedly contradicting ideologies.

    I am always forced to remind myself that VERY MUCH of the advanced science throughout the centuries came from religious believers and cultures. Hindus and the Muslims are examples. Many very advanced scientific minds come from cultures where religious thought is still very important in their lives, and they live perfectly happy lives where they can be both religious and scientific.

    I don't see why that can't be true with anyone else. Or why one must make a stereotype of the hard-headed, hillbilly Christian with no education and a narrow view of the world. Certainly, such people exist. But that is not everyone.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      TheThinkingMan: I'm certain that you are correct, that many believers would think that I'm mocking them with my story about Sheena. What I was trying to do is to create a story that is similar to the "explanations" I hear from believers, but also different enough that it doesn't immediately trigger the safe harbor or an established religious belief system. I was trying to recreate for Christian believers what it sounds like TO ME when I hear Christians explaining the complexities of the world by reference to simple ancient supernatural stories. It sounds to me pretty much like the story about Sheena. If it offends them to see my version of a religious explanation, then perhaps they can better see why I am not moved by their version of religion.

      Then again, believers have their coveted beliefs well protected in their minds by something akin to an electrified fence. Anyone who gets close to making them skeptical about one of their cherished beliefs causes that part of their mind to switch over the platitudes instead of skepticism.

      I really like your reminder that much of the great science that has been done has been done by believers. Especially science far from biology. Creationists can even talk somewhat freely about bugs evolving. It's when we talk about people being animals that the defenses tend to be activated the most.

      I vacillate between trying to make believers question their beliefs and living and let live. I get more aggressive when I feel pushed more by believers. I'm convinced that all out attacks on belief are useless. I'm also convinced that non-confrontation serves as fertilize form unscientific beliefs.

      My five-part series called "Mending Fences" describes my struggle with this topic: http://dangerousintersection.org/2010/07/11/mendi

  6. TheThinkingMan says:

    So, Erich, I went and read the "Mending Fences" post on the website and realize that no one says what I was trying to express better then you did in that post. Well done. I realize that you, and perhaps others here, are not as quickly judgmental and harsh of Christian thought as I had first thought. It is too bad, though, that others that I encounter on both sides are far too stubborn to try and see the opposing point of view, or AT LEAST "live and let live."

    It's refreshing, though, to see that there are still some who "get it."

    Still, though, I want to express my view concerning the mocking of religious thought with the "Ockbon" story. I realize it was simply a creative comparison to how the creation myth sounds to you. Still though, it is a mock portrayal of an important religious belief that I doubt will go over fondly with many people is all.

  7. TheThinkingMan says:

    Ironically enough, I had been reading that post right before you posted your comment. When I returned here to comment I saw that you posted yours.

    Of course I realize the reason for the "Ockbon" comparison. Indeed, I am more tolerant of it now than I was, understanding that you simply wish to show how very skeptical you are of the belief in general. It's understandable, though not quite analogous in the mind of believers as your story is just that, a story you created out of the blue in your own mind. The Christian Creation story, to Christians, is of course, much more than that. They view the Bible as inerrant proof, and their faith as something to be protected from outside attacks (which they will undoubtedly view any scientific debate as).

    So, while I understand, I can't imagine many religious fundamentalists to listen much to what you had to say. But, then that's why they are fundamentalist, after all.

  8. Jim Razinha says:

    TheThinkingMan: how is Erich's myth mocking? That he made it up is no different than any other religious story. If someone chooses to take offense, then that is a sign of insecurity in the beliefs. For why should one be offended if one is right and everyone else is wrong? But such is the case with most believers. Taking offense, that is.

    Each adherent believes his or her religion has a lock on something and that all others are (and I'm generalizing again to make the point, so please bear with me) wrong. There are 2.2 billion (give or take) people in the world who claim Christianity as their faith of choice, 1.7 billion claiming Islam, 1 billion Hindu, half a billion Buddhists, and another billion plus that believe different religions. Too much of each of these faiths are mutually exclusive, though the Abrahamic religions do have a common base. Still, not all can be right, so why is one more right than another?

    One might deduce that it comes down to geography. If Americans were born in India, they would most likely be Hindu. But the predominant religion here is Christianity and thus that's what most people are.

    Now, I left off the 1.1 billion plus people who are nonreligious, agnostic or atheists, and to us, all religions are myths. I can't recall off the top of my head who said it, but we are all atheists of a sort: if you are a Christian, I suspect you do not believe in Thor, Vishnu, Ra, or any of the myriad of gods and goddesses that preceded the Christian God. Thus, you are atheist in that respect. I, and other atheists just happen to believe in one less god than you.

    I happen to ascribe to live and let live as far as religion remains a personal matter. When it intrudes into public policy, government (in which god do ALL Americans trust? there are Hindu Americans, and Buddhist Americans, and atheist Americans for which that motto does not apply), shows up as a prayer at a football game, forces a President to have to explain why he is downplaying a National Day of Prayer instead keeping it a personal matter, or shows up on my doorstep trying to convert me, well, then I have to say something.

    I decided 30 years ago that the religion I grew up with was inconsistent and arbitrary and as no one could ever answer the questions I had, then it had to be flawed. I had a militant phase, as do most born-again atheists, but I grew out of it, as most do. Now I apply my skepticism liberally to all things. I don't try to convert anyone to my thinking – that's just wrong. But I will discuss and offer resources if someone is questioning their faith. People have to decide for themselves.

    Except my children – they did not have a choice, but I give them the tools to discover what makes sense to them. If they want to believe in something supernatural, I will challenge them to defend their belief. If they can, regardless of whether I think it true, then I have accomplished my goal. If a religion is inherently right, then it doesn't need to indoctrinate from birth – the obvious should win out to reasoning adults. Until then, they will learn about religions in the context of all mythology.

    I really liked the Ockbon myth and will add it to my shelf of Bulfinch's mythology, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Analects of Confucius, a few Vedas, Korean Buddhism, and the rest of my religious studies. It was well crafted.

  9. TheThinkingMan says:

    Jim,

    My point is not to claim that any religion is any more right or wrong than any other. I do not offer my personal religious beliefs because they are irrelevant.

    All I wished to signify was that, in order to have a decent conversation with someone of some sort of religious background (especially Christians, unfortunately), it is best not to mock their faith, regardless of the fact that you may believe their beliefs are childish, moronic stories.

    I would daresay that you wouldn't respond too kindly to any person, regardless of background, sociological standing or religious preference, who tries to have a conversation with you by beginning with mocking your intelligence and crafting some inane story about how atheist views are ridiculous. Being human, you are likely to become upset, stop listening to any debate, and perhaps even lash back. Perhaps you are not so easily dissuaded and can keep your cool in those situations. Fortunately, many atheists and agnostics tend to be far more open minded and thus less easily phased. The point still stands, however.

    Of course atheists have science to back them up, but to many people that counts as a faith just as strong as any other. Please don't misunderstand me, I understood the reason for the Ockbon story, and as entertaining and humorous as it might be, it doesn't do a great job at convincing someone to at least begin the process of listening, even if it is a very good analogy as to how Erich feels about religious myths in general.

    As in his "Mending Fences" posts and those related, simply equating his doubt to a belief in Zeus would usually be sufficient.

  10. brian says:

    "The point that Rich made is so true, religious ideals and scientific realizations belong to completely different realms of thought. The problem arises when people try to combine the two…the truth that science deals with the physicality of the natural world, whereas religion deals with spirituality."

    OK, we seem to be having a language problem. When I say "religion", I mean one of the dictionary definitions, which one hopefully being clear from context. This nonetheless includes many systems of belief that deal with the physicality of the natural world. What should I call these systems? They meet all (other) criteria for being religions, but they (also) have intrinsic elements that deal with the physicality of the natural world.

    If in general I used the word "religion" to mean not only "religion" but also "systems of belief that aren't religions only because they deal with the natural world", would that be impossibly confusing?

    Let's make up a completely ridiculous hypothetical in which when people throughout our lives have said "rectangle" they actually meant "rectangle, but not one that is also a square". When Mrs. K. told me to draw a rectangle in kindergarten, it was hypothetically not acceptable if all four sides were the same size. Wild! How silly. That was so much fun, let's do another.

    Let's imagine that when all people say "religion" they mean "religion plus systems of belief that aren't part of religion only because they deal with the natural world". Now that we've monkeyed around with the definition of the word, statements that are wrong because they defy the true <del>Scotsman </del>definition of "religion" are perfectly cogent. And the people countering those arguments appear to be using the word oddly when they express meaning, and what's worse, their rebuttals to their (genuinely wrong but hypothetically rehabilitated) interlocutors fail to address the points made. Heady stuff.

  11. Jim Razinha says:

    TheThinkingMan:

    I understand where you come from, and though I seem to have misrepresented myself, I agree that mocking is wrong, and most certainly the wrong way to have a discussion. I just didn't see his fable as mocking; merely a representative story to illustrate that to someone outside the story it might come off as illogical or nonsensical. And if framed as such, then I do think it a good way to begin a process of listening. If framed as a mockery, then no. It would then be counter-productive. Christians, as a general rule, view other religions (and sometimes factions of their own – see fundamentalist Protestant versus Catholicism or even moderate Protestantism) as such. Fundamentalist Muslims seem to want to convert or worse, though moderate Muslims, much as moderates everywhere, try to be accepting. I have Indian friends, and haven't gotten into many discussions of religion with them – just hasn't been necessary, but my understanding of Hinduism is that prophets and wisdom of all religions is esteemed if it improves humanity and Hindus don't dismiss Jesus or the Biblical teachings as most Christians might the Vedas (see one opinion here: http://www.hvk.org/articles/1098/0053.html) Generalizations are weak in arguments and can be picked apart easily, but for the purposes of this discussion, I hope you'll agree these are more or less correct.

    I do not get offended when someone mocks my views because sticks and stones, etc. I'm not sure if anyone I know equates those views with a lack of intelligence, but if so, then so be it. I know most of them are coming from a perspective that they feel is true and right and generally good intentioned. And lashing out serves no constructive purpose, so why do it? One can't have a civilized discussion if emotion takes over. However, if people want to discuss religion with me, then they had best be prepared to do so calmly and openly. And be prepared to defend their position. I don't initiate those conversations. I don't seek out controversy, but it sometimes finds me, particularly when I champion the rights of the minority. People want to either convert me, or they want understand me when they find out I don't hold their views. We don't wear our views on our sleeves or carry placards decrying superstition. We prefer people get to know us and see we are good and moral and raise polite and respectful children, before they presume that we eat babies and worship Satan (oddly, no belief in a god sometimes implies a devout belief in the anti-god; we have actually been accused of practicing Satanism, though true Satanism is not killing babies, etc, but I digress…) The discussion ends when it devolves into name calling or formless non-arguments ("because!" or "the Bible says so"). I would like to add that it is a moral imperative in our home that we respect others' views/beliefs even if they do not respect ours.

    Having lived on both US coasts and in many places in between, I've seen the diverse cultural difference that is the richness of America. During an eye-opening seven years in Korea, I was saddened to see how some Americans view the world. A thing that bothers me about Americans in general is a lack of world view or consideration for differences. The assumption, or presumption, that I or anyone they meet holds the same views as they (I'm sure you will agree; it's assumed that you are a Christian if you are not Asian or southwest Asian in appearance) disturbs me profoundly. Political correctness is somewhat off topic, but also germane to the discussion. I view PC as a necessary courtesy out of respect for differing beliefs, whereas many see it as an affront to their own value system. We need to be considerate first until it is no longer possible. And then still be poite in resistance.

    I like what Dakwins and Hitchens and Harris are doing to raise awareness for non-belief. Many non-believers still feel alone and need to know there are others that think like them. And many believers need to know that there are a lot more non-believers than they thought, so should take that into consideration. BUT, I don't always agree with the attack mode of dealing with the issue. I see articles and headlines about "science attacks on religion" and cringe because those are usually editorial comments and do not reflect the goals of science in trying to understand why we are the way we are. Boyer and Dennett have shown me the very real probability that a propensity for belief is an evolutionary result. That implies that I and other non-believers are evolutionary aberrations, which I'd like to believe is a progressive step, but I won't lose any sleep over it if it is not.

    Finally, I submit that publicizing a doubt in Zeus is not and has never been sufficient. It hasn't worked yet. Introducing a new, rather a reframed perspective on an old argument stimulates discussion. Obviously.

  12. Ben says:

    Erich does comes off a few shades more shrill than Dawkins here.

    However that is not to worry because most of us here (and atheists in general) are not nearly as aggressive and "in your face" as the Hitchens's and Vieth's of the world.

  13. thethinkingman says:

    So, Brian, are we defining evolution or atheist belief (or rather lack of belief) as religion? Just for clarification.

    And Jim, I do agree with you. And I realize that perhaps I was making the mistake, as many people do, of treating religious topics as too reverent for discussion and religious people (specifically Christians) as being fragile in their opinions and in need of intellectual protection. Dawkins warns against that in his book. I realize that Erich's story serves as a point of opening conversation at least and those offended simply have no place in the argument anyway as they undoubtedly will not listen to the opposing point anyway.

    I realize that most are not purposefully mocking and that was not the intent. My point was unnecessary as I know everyone here (so far at least) have been very collected and realize the difference between conversation and mocking.

  14. Ben says:

    Should atheists be allowed to attend ‘skeptic’ events?
    PZ offers a nuanced reply to those who say no —>

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/01/30/a-reply-to-steven-novella/#more-9142

  15. grumpypilgrim says:

    Great post! It reminds me of the conversations I’ve had with believers who have told me that all their questions about life have been “answered” because they “know” that god has a plan for them, even though they have no clue what that plan is. So, basically, they don’t know anything.

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