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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Atheism: Its attractions for science bigwigs

Mathematician and author of The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (and of much irrepressible mischief) David Berlinski explains for Pajamas Media the attraction of atheism for science bigwigs,
It takes no very refined analytic effort to determine why Soviet Commissars should have regarded themselves as atheists. They were unwilling to countenance a power higher than their own. Who knows what mischief Soviet citizens might have conceived had they imagined that the Politburo was not, after all, infallible?

By the same token, it requires no very great analytic effort to understand why the scientific community should find atheism so attractive a doctrine. At a time when otherwise sober individuals are inclined to believe that too much of science is too much like a racket, it is only sensible for scientists to suggest aggressively that no power exceeds their own.


Many might be tempted to dismiss such a view from a clergyman but Berlinski is an ironic agnostic. Here’s a sample of his approach from his book page at Amazon:
Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
Not even close.

Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.

Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?Close enough.

Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.

Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

Berlinski does not dismiss the achievements of western science. The great physical theories, he observes, are among the treasures of the human race. But they do nothing to answer the questions that religion asks, and they fail to offer a coherent description of the cosmos or the methods by which it might be investigated.

I found his book both hilarious and sobering, and will link to the review (when I write it - soon).

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