Jul 27, 2011

5 questions for 50 atheists

1. Given that this is a big game of "Not My Job," why scientists? Why these scientific disciplines (not a lot of botanists or chemists here, but quite a bias towards physicists)? Would it be valuable to hear 50 experts on, say, international politics pronounce on God? Expert hostage negotiators on science? What is the expertise being used?

2. What are the assumptions being made about God? (E.g., in Stephen Hawkins statement @ 9:29 that scientific "theory doesn't disprove God, but it makes him unnecessary").

3. Re: Chomsky's caveat @ 5:11, "You should believe somethings for which you have some evidence, some support, apart from commitment to principles like equality and freedom," is there an important place in human life and in societies for beliefs which have no scientific foundation? (John Searle @ 18:10, "We ought, methodologically, to be very suspicious of believing something that we very much want to believe." Is this also true of, say, math's ability to act as "sure-footed guide to reality"? Is it also true of, e.g., human equality?)

4. Does life have meaning? (Not a trick question -- there would probably have been a lot of interesting and different answers to this, as well as to the follow-up, "where does it come from?" The diversity of answers and the seriousness with which that question would get considered would have made for a more interesting conversation, I think).

5. How would this have been different if the question had been not about God per se, but about the unknown? Do these men's philosophies have space for the unknown? The unknowable? Is there anything beyond human knowing, and if so, could that still possibly be relevant to human life? (Note Brian Cox @ 18:37 "I am comfortable with the unknown, that's the point of science," but also, more, Alan Guth @ 4:04, "I don't think at this point we have any way of knowing where the laws of physics came from").

(Note: Personally, I think David Attenborough @ 13:20 presents the most serious problem for theists of the traditional Christian sort.
Note2: An awful lot of the history here is total crap, esp. re: "before Darwin" statements, and the idea as per Steven Weinberg @ 33:30 that science has always and everywhere corroded religious belief.
Note3: The title of this video is misleading at best -- it's a survey of atheists/agnostics/non-believers, not of scientists and academics.
Note4: The most significant theological assumption made here that would be challenged by many, many serious theologian is the assumption that "God exists" is the same kind of claim as "barium exists" or "alpha centauri exists." If you're not going to engage with the theological lit on what "exists" means or could mean for God, or what "being" God has or is or is not and what that might mean w/ regards to the divine in the theology of a monotheism, you really ought not comment out of that ignorance.)