Monday, October 27, 2008

Bus to Nowhere

In this article in the Spectator, author Melanie Philips quotes Richard Dawkins saying “A serious case could be made for a deistic God”. Dawkins made this statement at the beginning of his second debate with Oxford Mathematics professor John Lennox. Reading between the lines it seems that this was a defensive reaction to the first debate (which I haven’t seen) where the uncompromising Dawkins came head to head with someone who has a strong grasp of philosophy and science and who would very likely expose the loopholes in absolute atheism. Not surprisingly in the second debate Dawkins was cagier about his absolute atheism and instead went on to attack the much more vulnerable specifics of faith. When faced with someone like John Lennox the turkey shoot is over for Richard Dawkins.

However, Dawkins statement sits well with the atheist bus poster campaign projected for the New Year which uses a slogan reading: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life". “Probably” no God? I read subtext as: “We might just possibly have got it wrong, but we don’t think there is a God”. The redneck fundamentalists, for whom the very certainty of belief and experience is the clinching exhibit-A evidence for God’s existence, will laugh that one to scorn! I almost feel sorry for the atheists who by definition can’t match the fundamentalists in convinced fervor! Zealous evangelism and atheism simply don't mix!They are not going to be able to take on the vehement believers by playing them at their own game: if anything this rather lame slogan campaign will play into the hands of those believers for whom uncompromising conviction is evidence of veracity. Even the relatively moderate Methodists are welcoming the atheist campaign as it least putting the concept of God on the agenda; once one entertains the God concept, even just as a remote possibility, one is half way to faith - all that remains is for the “God meme” to be switched on! These atheists haven't got the foggiest idea about how the religious mentality works, least of all that of the fundamentalists.

The trouble with atheism, or at least a fair minded and reasonable atheism, is that in the final analysis it is a self referencing conceptual object that doesn’t allow certainties including itself. It’s a bit like the ground state in quantum theory. Quantum mechanics prohibits the absolute emptiness of nothing: on either side of nothing there is cloud of matter and antimatter! For absolute atheism the only way is up. The tentativeness of human knowledge demands that one can’t declare that God doesn’t exist, only that he probably doesn’t exist. Absolute atheism has only one state: complete disbelief. Theism on the other hand has many states. If you are an absolute atheist there is nowhere else to go other than into one of the various states of belief … or perhaps a superposition of several states of belief!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Absentee Diety

Here is an intriguing phenomenon: two atheists have popped up in a discussion thread on the Christian web site Network Norwich, one of whom created the thread and dubbed it “Religious Twaddle”. He then went straight in with all guns blazing declaring the backwardness and irrationality of religion. Not surprisingly he got a rather visceral response! Depending on how or if they respond to my own rather late-in-the-day input, it appears that we have here two atheists who, like many theists, see the question of God’s existence swinging very much on the subject of Divine "intervention": That is, these atheists believe there is no evidence of such "intervention" and that in any case the "proven laws of science" obviate any intervention or involvement by God. Hence, it’s then down to the "interventionist" believers (and there are plenty about) to provide evidence that God does intervene every now and again and punctuates reality with "supernatural" events. Presumably this anthropomorphized category of God, a category deeply rooted in the mind of believer and unbeliever alike, is of a God who relies on the laws of science to run the cosmic show when He is absent on holiday, sleeping or has to use the convenience. Presumably these atheists believe that since the number of well documented "interventions" is close to nothing, then absence of evidence of God is evidence of absence and you can't be more absent than not existing. Shucks, I never thought of that one.