Since the year is winding down, I think I will repost the top 5 most popular blog entries from 2015. The fourth most popular one was entitled, “Richard Dawkins Admits That Nothing Can Persuade Him God Exists” and was posted on August 31, 2015. I think this was an eye-opener for some, as Dawkins can’t think of anything that he would count as evidence for the existence of God. This, of course, means that all that talk about be willing to believe as long as someone can come up with some evidence has been dramatic posturing. Anyway, coming in at #4 –
We have seen that the central claim of New Atheism – “There is no evidence for God” – is equivalent to saying “There are no Gaps.” That is, the evidence that the atheist demands is a Gap – something that cannot be explained by natural laws. Yet the same atheist will insist that the God of the Gaps approach is not a valid way of determining whether God exists. Heads I win, tails you lose.
Of course, don’t make the mistake of thinking that if only you could find a big enough Gap, the New Atheist would have to embrace that as evidence for God. After all, that’s not how it would work with Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist alive. Dawkins made this clear some time ago in an interview with atheist Peter Boghossian. You can see the demonstration for yourself in the video below. It starts at 12:30 and goes to 15:30. I’ll post a transcript below the fold.
Concerning Pascal’s Wager, I wrote:
So what? When I die, I simply cease to exist. I have incurred no cost.
I think this is a rather limited analysis of “cost”. No religion is cost-free, and Christians don’t usually claim that for Christianity either. There might not be any “cost” in terms of eternal wellbeing if you die and it turns out atheism was true after all. But you have still paid whatever costs Christianity – the pearl of great price – required of you during your lifetime.
Maybe a member of a rival monotheistic sect held a knife to your throat and demanded you convert, and you were a faithful witness where an atheist could have saved his skin by sacrificing his public commitment to atheism?
Maybe you could have been happy escaping a boring marriage, or having an adulterous relationship with your secretary? If you had been an atheist, there would have been rationalizations open to you that would allow you to explore these paths and still be faithful to your belief system.
Maybe you asked what you had to do to obtain eternal life, and you were told you had to sell everything you have, and you did so?
Maybe you simply liked sleeping in on Sunday mornings, or you could have had breakfast at a local cafe instead of putting the money in the offering basket?
It seems to me these are factors that need to be taken into account when considering Pascal’s Wager.
Okay, let’s have a closer look at these costs:
Since the year is winding down, I think I will repost the top 5 most popular blog entries from 2015. The first one was entitled, “Richard Dawkins’ Net Worth” and was posted on January 29, 2015. Not quite sure why it was so popular, but I think the realization of Dawkin’s being so rich tied in nicely with the common perception that the man is simply “out of touch” with the way things are. Anyway, coming in at #5 –
Did you know that Richard Dawkins is not merely rich, but Super Rich?
Richard Dawkins is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author who has an estimated net worth of $135 million ($100 euro) according to the Sunday Times in 2012. He has earned his net worth due to book sales, science career and his television and film appearances.
$135 million dollars strengthens my previous case outlining the deceptive nature of Dawkins’ public image as a “lover of science:”
Retirement is a time in a person’s life when you finally get to focus all your time and attention on your true passion. This is especially true if the person who retires is both healthy and wealthy. Dawkins is all three – he has retired, he is healthy, and he is very wealthy. If his true love really was science, he would use all this free time and money to pursue scientific quests. For the first time in his life, he could focus on any unanswered question he wanted to. He would not need to write grants or go to meetings, or play any other of the social games needed to pursue his scientific passion. He could just go out there and do the experiments and make the observations! But alas, he has continued to be the man he has always been – a man with little interest in actually doing any science. Instead, his love for atheism has emerged in all its glorious splendor. Dawkins, the wealthy, retired scientist, invests all his time and money on atheist activism.
When I noted he was wealthy, I envisioned him as having a couple of million. Never did I imagine he had $135 million dollars. A man with that much money and free time who refuses to do science is a man who does not truly love science.
As we all know, Sam Harris likes to blame faith and religion for the killings caused by extremist Islamic terrorists. In fact, after the terrorist attack in Paris, many atheists on the internet were sharing the following Sam Harris meme:
Apart from the nonsense of the terrorists not being cowards (brave men don’t attack defenseless civilians), what of this idea that it is “perfect faith” that drives the extremists to kill?
Consider the following news article from the Washington Post:
The tiny pill fueling Syria’s war and turning fighters into superhuman soldiers.
A powerful amphetamine tablet based on the original synthetic drug known as “fenethylline,” Captagon quickly produces a euphoric intensity in users, allowing Syria’s fighters to stay up for days, killing with a numb, reckless abandon.
There’s plenty more all over the internet. For example:
Earlier this week when French police raided a cheap hotel room rented by the Islamic State (Isis) terrorists who had unleashed the Paris massacres on Friday the 13th, they were surprised to find among the debris of pizza boxes and sweet wrappers, used syringes, needles and plastic tubing. But there is growing evidence to suggest the gunmen, who killed dozens at the Bataclan venue, fuelled their slaughter with drugs, with some of the survivors of the horror reporting the killers appeared to be in a “zombie-like” state…… Captagon is known to be a drug used by fighters all over Syria, leading some to suggest that the hotel room discovery tells us that the Paris attackers had taken Captagon as part of their preparations before the attack……. Meanwhile, Isis pharmacists are understood to have produced the drug to supply to its militants to enhance their fighter feelings of invincibility and increase endurance.
Oh, the delicious, delicious irony.
Several years ago, Sam Harris set out to refute Pascal’s Wager in the pages of the Washington Post. Harris began as follows:
The coverage of my recent debate in the pages of Newsweek began and ended with Jon Meacham and Rick Warren each making respectful reference to Pascal’s wager. As many readers will remember, Pascal suggested that religious believers are simply taking the wiser of two bets: if a believer is wrong about God, there is not much harm to him or to anyone else, and if he is right, he wins eternal happiness; if an atheist is wrong, however, he is destined for hell. Put this way, atheism seems the very picture of reckless stupidity.
But there are many questionable assumptions built into this famous wager.
When looking through the “many questionable assumptions,” it quickly became apparent to me that Harris doesn’t understand how the Wager works. So first, let me spell it out and then we can return to Harris critique.
I was not raised as a Christian. I became a Christian, and remain a Christian, because of reason and evidence. However, I also recognize the limitations of the human intellect. Since my Christian faith is not rooted in intellectual certainty, I fully concede that I could be wrong. I could be deluded. That naturally leads to the following question – “What if I am wrong?” It’s precisely at this point that the Wager comes into play. For if I am wrong, if when I die I simply cease to exist, the answer becomes “So what?” It’s not as if I will ever know or notice it.
Let’s now turn to Harris’s critique:
Richard Dawkins could not wait to use the terrorist attack in Paris as an excuse to preach his culture wars agenda:
I see. So over a hundred people have been murdered in Paris because of…..”religion”. And “faith.”
If you ask me, Dawkins and the New Atheists are actually supporting and strengthening radical Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS. How?
New Atheists are often proud of the fact that their familiarity with theology is so superficial. For example, philosopher Anthony Grayling rationalizes flippant dismissal of theology as follows:
For example, if one concludes on the basis of rational investigation that one’s character and fate are not determined by the arrangement of the planets, stars and galaxies that can be seen from Earth, then one does not waste time comparing classic tropical astrology with sidereal astrology, or either with the Sarjatak system, or any of the three with any other construction placed on the ancient ignorances of our forefathers about the real nature of the heavenly bodies.
Of course, such arrogance comes at a price and that price can be the flaunting of one’s ignorance. For example, Lawrence Krauss kicked off his WSJ defense of New Atheism with a quote that both Coyne and Myers embraced with glee:
My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world. – JBS Haldane
Yet the Haldane quote demonstrates profound theological ignorance.
Twelve year old Jordan Wooley was under the impression her teacher wanted her to label God as a myth. The evidence indicates her impression was most reasonable. First, let’s recall the uncontested evidence I have provided thus far:
- An internet search shows that the lesson Jordan had popularly defines “commonplace assertion” as unfounded belief. An unfounded belief is a belief having no foundation or basis in fact. It is perfectly reasonable to expect a 12 year old to thus interpret “commonplace assertion” as myth if the common interpretation was applied.
2. Pay attention to claim #8 on the assignment – “People with glasses are smart.” Keep in mind Jordan had to answer that one too. Now, I think all intelligent, honest people will recognize the intended answer for #8 was supposed to be “commonplace assertion.” Yet we also know that as a common myth. In fact, this page calls it a “crazy myth.” Since everyone agrees the teacher insisted Jordan categorize “There is a God” as a “commonplace assertion,” the teacher was trying to force Jordan to group “There is a God” with another claim that is a crazy myth. Once again, it is perfectly reasonable to expect a 12 year old to thus interpret “commonplace assertion” as myth.
Now, we have more evidence:
Deanna says her son had the same controversial assignment on the same day, just in an earlier class.
“I asked him what were the instructions for the assignment? He said, ‘well we had to look at these statements and decide if it was fact, opinion, or myth.”
But, the school district claims the word myth was never used by the teacher. As seen on the paper itself, the assignment was to distinguish between fact, opinion, and commonplace assertion. So Deanna asked her son to clarify.
“How did the word myth come into it?” She says she asked her son. “He said we didn’t know what commonplace assertion meant so we asked the teacher. She said the definition of commonplace assertion is myth. So, we referred to it as myth in the class after that.”
Militant atheist Hemant Mehta continues to allow his popular anti-religious blog to be a launching site for attacking a 12 year old girl. We’ve already seen many of his followers used his forum to attack the girl as being “stupid” and a “liar” (both accusations are completely unfounded). But now it seems to be getting worse. Yesterday, one of Mehta’s fans/followers decided to publicly attack the child as follows:
This little bitch is freaking OUT because the question made her stop and wonder for a second.
She started to THINK!
And then, like a good Evangelical child, she panicked, and then tattled to her family and church!
She’ll be done with that faith inside 10 years. Just *thinking* about how her entire lodestar of her whole young life, thanks to parental indoctrination, might be wrong?
Mehta, of course, allows the comment to stand and offers not one word of criticism.
ETA: I stand corrected. Mehta has now deleted the posting and banned the user. I thank him for this.