Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Some posts and articles that I enjoyed the last few days

The real reason theism isn’t taken seriously is because it’s completely ill-defined. If we would presume to contemplate theism from an intellectually honest perspective, we would try to decide what kind of universe we would expect to live in if theism were true; then we would do the same for naturalism; and finally we would compare those expectations to the real world. But when we do that we find theistic expectations failing to match reality over and over again.

Now, I know perfectly well (from experience as well as from cogitation) that you can never make headway with theists by claiming “If God existed, He would do X, and He doesn’t” (where X is “prevent needless suffering,” “make His existence obvious,” “reveal useful non-trivial information to us,” “spread religious messages uniformly over the world,” etc.) Because they have always thought through these, and can come up with an explanation why God would never have done that. (According to Alvin Plantinga, our world — you know, the one with the Black Death, the Holocaust, AIDS, Hurricane Katrina, and so on — is “so good that no world could be appreciably better.”)

But these apologetic moves come at a price: they imply a notion of theism so flexible that it becomes completely ill-defined. That’s the real problem. Craig’s way of putting it is to suggest that God is “like the cosmic artist who wants to splash his canvas with extravagance of design.” That’s precisely why naturalism has pulled so far ahead of theism in the intellectual race to best model our world: because it plays by rules and provides real explanations for why the world is this way rather than that way.

---- Sean Carroll

I use the word "proof" to refer to scientific proof rather than deductive logical or mathematical proof. Scientific proof does not provide absolute certainty, but is more like the proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" that is applied in criminal courts in the United States. I dispute the common assertion that you cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. You can, if you mean scientific proof. [...] the hypothesis I am testing is not what Pigliucci seems to think Dawkins and I are doing, namely asking for some kind of physical evidence for the nature of a supernatural being. Rather we are asking for tangible evidence - scientific evidence - that a God who plays an important role in the universe exists. If such a God exists, then his actions should leave some observable effects in the real world, effects that should be at least as obvious as the footprints in the snow of passing wildlife that I see in the field behind my house. I rarely actually see those animals, but I know they exist. God has left no footprints on the snows of time.

---- Victor Stenger in Science Religion & Culture

What's striking about the modern world is indeed that atheists and believers have a lot in common, but the main thing that they share is a belief in reason and science. To go back to physics, which Gopnik mentions: do you know of any believers who don't believe in the laws of physics? In gravity? In the roundness of the earth? That the sun will rise in the morning? Do you know any believers for whom the majority of their beliefs don't spring from material reality? Probably not.

Even believers, then, live their lives according to science and reason 99% of the time. It’s only regarding that other 1% of things–which concerns issues like the creation of the universe, or faith in a supernatural power–that many believers depart from the scientific consensus. I imagine most religious people are as rigid about a belief in gravity as the average atheist, so why is the atheist scolded for rigid scientism when he or she also believes in the areas of science that conflict with religion?

I yearn to read a piece that, rather than scolding atheists for being scientifically minded, actually noted that we are all scientifically minded. And hooray for us.

---- Isaac Chotiner in the New Republic

If you're interested in passing moral judgment on everyone who walks through the door, maybe the restaurant industry isn't for you.

---- Ed of Gin and Tacos on US-American conservatives who argue that "religious freedom" means being allowed to refuse service to people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

No comments:

Post a Comment