A line of argument that one can pursue against the existence of “god” is that there are other explanations that are both simpler and more consistent with everything else we know about the universe. That is, we aim to find a better explanation for things than “god.” In this post, I will present the sketch of one such argument. The details are not particularly robust as I have not yet had the time to research things fully. However, the gist of the argument should be clear, and I welcome corrections of fact.
Religious zealots target the weak, the ignorant, and stupid with their arguments. Atheists don’t. This is our mistake. To combat the scourge of religion, we need to communicate in ways that even the weak, ignorant, and stupid will understand and believe.
I’ve written before about the difference between science, the sciences, and scientists. These kind of differences are essential to make if you want your arguments make sense. Confusing science and scientists is like confusing biology and a medical doctor – it’s stupid. Making these kinds of mistakes ends up letting one prove things like 1 = 2 and that the moon is made of blue cheese and that murder is perfectly acceptable.
Dear Mr. Camping,
It has come to my attention that you and your fellow freaks of nature have been peddling the notion that the world will end this Saturday, May 21st. Even though your attempts to justify your claim are laughable, I find that simply laughing at you and calling you obscene names – enjoyable though that is – just isn’t enough.
So, Harold Camping, I dare you to put your money where your mouth is.
If the world really does end according to your prediction, then I will:
- publicly endorse you as a messiah,
- accept the one true God as my personal God, and
- willingly commit my soul to Hell for all eternity, to make room for one more in Heaven.
For an anti-theist like me, I hope you’ll agree that that’s a major commitment.
If, on the other hand, the world just keeps on running, then you owe me everything you have. Everything. Every dollar, every car, every stick of furniture, every candy bar in your pantry, every bible you have will belong to me.
That’s the dare. Are you sufficiently committed to your beliefs to take it?
Or are you just another coward, like all the other losers in your sad and pathetic cult?
Margaret Somerville, a bioethicist at McGill University, is still pushing her Christian-based views as if they were science. Recently, she’s taken on the emerging controversy about the rights that dolphins may deserve. The short version is this: dolphins’ brains appear to be functionally more like our brains than are the brains of primates. So some experts are suggesting that we should grant dolphins the status of “non-human persons.” Somerville disagrees because she thinks humans are “special” and that personhood should be reserved exclusively for us.
I got turned on to this while listening to CBC Radio One’s The Current (19 January 2010 – the audio clips of the story are at the CBC website). Shortly thereafter, on the 25th of January, an article by Somerville appeared in the Ottawa Citizen and soon thereafter spread to other places on the web. The article was more lucid than her interview for CBC, but still suffers several problems.
Some, like religious historian Karen Armstrong (author of The Case for God), have argued that while you can’t prove God, you can come to understand the necessity of God “by practise.” I find this kind of argument quite specious.
One example I’ve heard to explain this God-by-practise thing, is dancing: you can’t learn to dance by reading a book. To learn to dance one must actually practise. Similarly, the argument goes, you can’t know God except by living an appropriate life to gain the right mindset and experience set to reach a certain kind enlightenment.