Guest column: In defence of atheism

Vee had posted this forward about God. A friend of mine read it and has something to say. This is his reaction. When I asked him permission to post it, this is what he had to say, “Yeah, if you like to. I said forwards like this are an insult to atheists. We are not dumb you know. We have reasons not to believe in god.”

According to him, this forward should be read in the light of the following:

· The current Bush government in the US has approved studies of Creationism along with Evolution in some states. There is strong propaganda in US now against Evolution.
· Bush has claimed that God acts through him.
· Bush wants to keep his right wing political supporters (churches etc), all whom believe in creationism, happy.
· Creationism is taught in Dover area and Kansas state is propagating against teaching evolution in schools.

This is what he had to say:

Well lads and ladies, sorry to be the spoilsport here. After reading Nothings Aplenty’s little “Note”, I couldn’t stop myself from saying this. Two things provoked me to do this,

1) The article itself: It was cleverly structured and highly manipulative and wants to look mighty intelligent. Though disguised as something happened, it is clearly a work of fiction.
2) The way you guys reacted to this manipulative junk. It is like watching bunch of people snorting chalk powder just because it looked like cocaine.

This is my counter point: The characterization of the story is flawless (If you think Adrian Lyne’s movies have flawless characters, that is). The Student is level headed, a believer and a courageous guy (and Muslim in some versions and Christian in some other, sometimes it is Einstein himself). The Professor is arrogant, and an idiot.

The story kickstarts by establishing the professor first. He asks a string of questions in a rude manner. The Student on the other hand stays silent almost respectful. Before the student utters a word, I am sure we all have started hating professor for his arrogance. Then when student answers back writer uses phrases like, “The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events” and “There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre” to emphasise David’s feat over Goliath. Then when he emerges victorious we have sentences like “The class is in uproar” and “The class breaks out into laughter” to decorate it. All is well if we are reading, “Who moved my faith?” in paperback. If the arguments are good I would have been impressed with the narration here, but here is where argument fails.

Argument: “Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it?…..No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain.”

This shows how ignorant the student is about science. Science doesn’t confirm absence of something if you can’t feel, touch or smell it… Science goes by inferences, the Professor can walk, talk, and read. This infers that professor does have brain. And if you still don’t buy that, we can scan professor’s head anytime. Can’t we?

Argument: “Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?”

Same again, Evolution need not be seen to be proven, there are thousands of inferences – Fossil records and such. Evolution is by no means an opinion. There are thousands of scientific papers written on Evolution. And anyone is welcome to prove Evolution is wrong with logical scientific arguments. That’s the beauty of science. Anyone can contribute, and can come up and say, “Hey, this is wrong“. Every year new things are found and science is under constant change. It always will be a work in progress. Need I have to talk about about religions in this context?

Argument: “Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one.”

Science doesn’t use electricity and magnetism, we use it in science and in every day life (Clearly writer wants to alienate the reader from science). Science explains electricity and magnetism, it gives mathematical formulae to help us understand them and use them.

Argument: “Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.””Sir. Darkness is the absence of something.” (light)”Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it.”

Did any one, even the professor in the story stated otherwise? This is a sermon like speech typical of religious preachers and proves nothing. To top it all, statements are all scientific.

Argument: “Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good god and a bad god. You are viewing the concept of god as something finite, something we can measure.”

Well argument is – who created Evil if god is good and if he created everything? The Student clearly does not answer that. If he says working on “the premise of duality” does not explain god then what is the premise to explain god?

I don’t have anything against faith. There are far more sensible arguments supporting faith out there. Electricity, computers, super-conductors, satellites – these are products of Science. Science is direct product of knowledge. Classical faith in religion and God are byproducts of lack of this scientific knowledge. No religion proposes convincing manifestation of god in the light of knowledge we possess about the universe today. Agnostics are in urgent need of redefining god (anyways Theists don’t). Forwards like this are more anti-science than pro-faith. It disturbs me when people take in all that they read. Of all that we eat, we only digest a bit and the rest is thrown out of the body. We are intelligent species. Why can’t we do the same with what we read?

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18 thoughts on “Guest column: In defence of atheism

  1. Agree with most of the things said by your friend. Your friend has correctly pointed out that nowhere in the student’s rhetoric is the basic question of “Who created evil?” answered. We all would have seen ‘good’ people leading miserable lives and ‘bad’ people prospering, at some point of time in our lives. What sort of a God would allow that? And more importantly, why? If God is deliberately allowing millions of innocent people to die from starvation, floods, tsunami, earthquakes etc. (not to mention man-made crimes like murder), then I have serious doubts about his ‘fairness’. I could go on and on, especially about the traditional concept of God, but space constraints forbid! Maybe I’ll write about it on my blog one day!

  2. The way you guys reacted to this manipulative junk. It is like watching bunch of people snorting chalk powder just because it looked like cocaine
    lol! at the above.

    well. this might seem like a nice cat-on-the-wall/let-me-be-safe kinda approach to the whole thing, but i quite like what your friend has to say. also he sounds so like my dad its not funny!
    i am a believer though. i cannot necessarily explain it, or defend why i am one. in fact i cant even say “i’m working on it”. i’m also quite the against evangelism. but am i anti-science? i should hope not. 🙂

  3. gosh, i’m confused!
    i believe in god.
    and i believe in no-god.
    i just believe in every being’s right to believe what he or she believes.
    or should i say,
    god, i’m confused!

  4. God is the answer which man found out to all the questions he could not answer…till the day there is an unanswered question ,God will prevail..its just a matter of time..

    🙂

    lets see

  5. what does politics have to do with the matters of God? I have talked to many athiests .. none have brought up a good argument backing up their beliefs

  6. Guest column: In defence of atheism – South of the Border, West of the Sun

    Very interesting. The atheist is right when he is talking about a Judeo-Christian conception of God. However, when it comes to Vedanta, it is quite different. Vivekananda said, “He who believes in a God that is all good believes in a one-legged God.”

  7. That’s a really interesting article..makes you think a lot!! Its one of the best posts I’ve come across.!!
    “Bush has claimed that God acts through him.” I’m rolling on the floor laughing lol..Bush and God…hahaha

  8. AFJ: Interesting. your friend isn’t quite accurate, though. The logic of inference per se cuts both ways – a creationists could argue that we can infer from the fact that the world exists that someone must have created it.

    The thing that distinguishes science from faith is simply the principle of falsifiability (see the works of Karl Popper, for instance). The point is that all scientific ‘facts’ are held to be true only conditionally – that is they are held to be true only till they are proved false. Empirical evidence cannot prove a scientific theory true, it can only prove it ‘not false’. Thus we can conceive of scenarios, however unlikely, where facts could emerge that would prove evolution false (say if we were to find human remains dating back to the beginnings of Earth), but the same can’t be said for religion – faith is fundamentally beyond empirical refutation.

    The fact that science is capable of such refutation means its open to debate and therefore to new ideas – which is what makes it progressive. It’s worth arguing about. Religion, on the other hand, is ‘not scientific’ in that it’s not open to discussion and therefore dogmatic and unconducive to progress or the development of new knowledge. Put simply, there’s no working with a person / system that will never admit to being wrong.

  9. falstaff, excellent summary there. couldn’t have done it better myself.

    afj, i had read that forward a long time back, sent to me by someone to provoke me, i’m sure 😉 (I believe, to be precise! lol). i remember that I had chuckled and deleted the mail. didn’t sound worthy enough to try and refute it (too many weak arguments as shown by your friend). OTOH, if those who believe want to have some fun at the expense of the agnostics/athiests, i’m all for it. whatever make you feel better guys. i can see that the way the God’s world has turned out, the believers have very little to be happy about. i’ll pray for them ;-).

    amen,
    asuph

  10. Falstaff says: Religion, on the other hand, is ‘not scientific’ in that it’s not open to discussion and therefore dogmatic and unconducive to progress or the development of new knowledge. Put simply, there’s no working with a person / system that will never admit to being wrong.

    This is a gross generalization – you are obviously yet to come across Vedanta.

    The Vedantist asks you to be scientific and to challenge all theories of God and the Universe. But it asks you to be a honest scientist. You cannot yell Hydrogen and Oxygen and conclude that water cannot be formed from the two. You will have to follow the rules of the scientists in terms of mixing them together and using lightning to cause the reaction. Only then would you get the results they claim.

    It is the same with the Vedantist. You are free to reject, but if you claim to be a votary of science, you will have to setup the experiment the way the scientists have laid down. Perform it and see the reaction for yourself. If nothing happens, you are scientifically justified in rejecting it.

    Any other form of rejection is akin to thinking about Hydrogen and Oxygen and not actually setting up the experiment and then being surprised as to why water did not form.

  11. AFJ: One week! That’s almost as bad as my ‘regularity’ record! Bhere have you disappeared??? Your fans want you back in action 🙂

  12. it is good one.. but just dont get bothered into it. whether you are thesist or athesit both going to exists. Dualism is not objectable. so let both exists complimenting each other in sarcastic way

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