Atheist? Religious? Either way, science can’t help.

The first self-proclaimed atheist I ever met was my father, but in retrospect I think he was really more of an agnostic.  It’s true that he took a certain ferocious pleasure slamming the door in the faces of those religious folk who stopped by to offer their literature, but he never did spend any time trying to convince them they were wrong.  Maybe they were right – he didn’t deny the possibility, he just didn’t believe any of it and didn’t think it was worth discussing.  He once said to me, “You can become a nun for all I care – that’s up to you.  Just don’t try to save me.”  I was a teenager at the time, and I enjoyed reading about Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, and various other belief systems – in some cases there were good insights to be had, but that didn’t make any of it true.

Now that I’m old and suspicious, it seems odd to me that everyone wants science on their side, creationists and atheists alike.  The “intelligent designers” have some strange arguments – because bacterial flagella look like bits of machinery they must have been created.  Say what?  When I was a doctoral student I, along with some of my fellow students, accompanied one of our professors to a creation versus evolution debate.  Our professor talked about the features organisms share as evidence of their evolution. The creationist wiggled his fingers at the audience and said, “The human hand!  It’s a miracle!  It proves there must be special creation!”  Seriously, dude, it proves no such thing.  The creationist and the zoologist may as well have been on different planets.  It was a very strange “debate.”

In more recent times the argument has gone beyond the necessity of a hard boundary between church and state (and churches should pay taxes, too).  The creationists have put on lab coats and are pretending to be scientists (even if some of them have degrees in biochemistry, their religious arguments make them irrational).  What’s stranger is that some of the atheists have become just as strident in the other direction.  Isn’t this kind of a waste of time?  There’s a huge amount of evidence for evolution.   Even if I think the presently accepted neo-Darwinian theory sucks as an explanation, this doesn’t alter the evidence (I just think the evidence has been incorrectly interpreted).  But when it comes to the existence (or not) of one or more deities, science can’t help.  The reach of science stops at the laws of nature, the regularities and behaviors of matter and energy in our universe.  Sure, maybe these laws were kicked into action by some creator, but science can’t address that question.  What’s more, science can’t really prove anything is true (contrary to that annoying phrase, “clinically proven”), and in the case of gods and spirits and such, it can’t prove any of this is false.  Religion is a realm of metaphysics well removed from science.  I have known some very good scientists who were also quite religious.  They never mixed the two and saw no reason to do so – there was no conflict.

When I think about nature and the evolution of life on Earth, I’m filled with awe and delight, but not necessarily spirituality.  I consider myself an agnostic.  We all die (another reason I think the second law of thermodynamics is a much likelier candidate than natural selection as the causal agent of evolution), we all disintegrate into basic components – there’s plenty of evidence to support these assertions.  Maybe other things happen too – who knows?  My religious views can be summed up as, “Damned if I know.”  I guess some people feel spiritual things within themselves or their readings, and so they believe because they believe because they believe.  They have no evidence one way or the other beyond the anecdotal, and it’s just the same situation for atheists.  There is simply no way to approach gods or spirits empirically (those guys who visit haunted places never seem to capture any hard evidence, though it’s sometimes fun to watch them try).  There is no theory of gods or not-gods that can be tested.  The presence or absence of creator-things is scientifically unapproachable, and so to me at least, rather uninteresting.  Calm down, atheists!

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About Kali

I wanted to be a botany professor studying alternative pieces of evolutionary theory contributed by various people and extrapolated from I. Prigogine's expanded 2nd law of thermodynamics - there's a far more accurate causal explanation to be had here than the standard neo-Darwinian explanation based on random mutation and natural selection. But there's no job market - no immediate $$$ to be made for drug or GMO companies! So, I'm working on a book - I put a proposal on morethanthesum.com and added a blog - I hope to do more on the blog before too long, but I'm old and poor and need to hunt for work!
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13 Responses to Atheist? Religious? Either way, science can’t help.

  1. Jack Maze says:

    Kali’s right, science can do nothing for religion nor can religion do anything for science. And if I were really pressed, I’d say that trying to use science to justify religion cheapens the religion, just as using religion to justify science cheapens the science. I have a comment on Intelligent Deign. It is a “God of the gaps” argument; when science is inadequate, you stick in God. But what happens when science plugs the gap? You are put in the position of dismissing God. I will not claim to be theologically sophisticated or particularly devout, but if you’re a serious monotheist, you do not, that’s DO NOT, dismiss God. That’s blasphemous, idolatry and ends up elevating humans to the level of God, which violates the first commandment. And what is ironic is that the defenders of the evolutionary faith haven’t figured this out yet.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Jack! I’m discovering that many of the responses I’m getting are actually from spammers trying to sell stuff from wherever they can and I’m now marking them as such to keep them away. But it’s great to get thoughtful comments from you (and so far Mishtu, and a few others) for all the world to read. I hope to get more good responses. Still, there are probably more readers at this early stage than the audience for the average scientific journal, and no snarky editors guarding their turf (except perhaps me!) -DD

  2. Martin J Sallberg says:

    Claiming that “science can NEVER prove or disprove the existence of any form of deity” is itself an unproved claim. Claiming such absolutes without evidence is not scientific. For instance, just 20 years ago the existence of exoplanets were considered forever untestable, and now it is not.

    • admin says:

      Hi Martin!
      Thanks for your response, even if I don’t agree! In terms of science, I must agree with old Karl Popper – scientific conjectures can be pretty much disproved, but never proved – we strive for truth as scientists, but can’t quite touch it (and should always keep this limitation in mind). It’s about evidence – not “truth.” Deities and exoplanets aren’t in the same metaphysical category, I don’t think. I may be mistaken, but religion doesn’t require evidence of any kind, and sometimes prides itself on the simple purity of belief. I have no plans to try to “prove” or “disprove” any of my arguments – I just want to approach objective reality as objectively as possible (impossible, I know, for a mere human, but always worth a shot!).

      Thanks also for suggesting a site for further debate on non-religious, but also non-neo-Darwinian evolution. I will check it out – I hope it ties into the powerful ideas connected to Prigogine’s version of the 2nd law. I wish I could have spent the last 30 years as a botany prof pursuing these ideas, but the academic job market has been dying (or slowly murdered) for that long, and there were certainly no jobs for heretics like me who really do think Darwin was mostly a product of his animal/plant-breeding, Victorian, Dickensian times. Still, there are lots of “true believer” biologists out there – a few months ago one looked at me in horror when he realized I was arguing that Darwin was pretty much Isaac Newton – we should give him credit (after Lamarck) and move on to better theories (being theories, they are never provable).

      But many thanks – I’ll see if I can find the Wiki site!

      Cheers! -Kali

  3. Amy Brandt says:

    Awww. poor you. Other people get jobs. Maybe you didn’t get hired at a college somewhere because you are close-minded and not quite good enough for academia. Or maybe your appearance is a problem.

    If you put yourself out on the net, expect this.

    Did we really need to be subjucated to your pathetic self-pity?

    “I wish I could have spent the last 30 years as a botany prof pursuing these ideas, but the academic job market has been dying (or slowly murdered) for that long, and there were certainly no jobs for heretics like me who really do think Darwin was mostly a product of his animal/plant-breeding, Victorian, Dickensian times.”

    Laughable stuff. Did Darwin read Dickens? I wonder if you could even name 5 of his novels without looking it up. And what does Queen Victoria have to do with it? Are you proposing to be some sort of expert on the time period?

    If you had been extant back then you would have been lucky to be a mill worker or bottle-washer because I don’t think your intellect is good for much else. Get all this stuff including your “chapters” off the net before you look completely ridiculous. Haven’t any of your “friends” told you this?

    Old and poor my ass. You aren’t old, just unwilling to work. Other people have hobbies, maybe the 2nd Law should have been yours all this time while you did other things. LIKE MAKING A PAYCHECK AT WHATEVER YOU CAN AND STOPPING YOUR WHINING ABOUT BEING OLD AND POOR.

  4. Amy Brandt says:

    Trolls might make a living and don’t complain about it. Do you?

  5. Amy Brandt says:

    So auspiciously placed. A beacon of understanding with your outstanding review of Илья Романович Пригожин. Aren’t you fine.

    What have you done? Nothing of note.

    You hate the fact that you did not win a professorial position. There’s a reason for that. Good reason for that. My way or the highway. That is not the signature of any true scientist. Any interviewing committee would see that immediately. Which is totally fine, just don’t complain about your oldness and poorness and inability. Get out and do a job.

  6. Amy Brandt says:

    Available at Michaels Arts & Crafts as 0f 7/27/14

    200 Triangle Center Ste 240
    Longview, WA 98632

    Michaels Arts & Crafts Merchandise Stock Associates – Early Morning job in Longview, WA. The Replenishment Associate is enthusiastic and passionate about Creativity, People and Arts and Crafts. The Replenishment Associate is responsible for executing tasks in the areas of Receiving, Replenishment and Merchandise presentation. Must be available to work scheduled early mornings, days, nights, weekends and overnights.

    Go and generate some income so you are not so old and poor! I’ll find more for you.

  7. Amy Brandt says:

    Why do you think anyone gives a G-damn about what you’ve done with your life?. No-one would read much less publish any book you might write. Get over it and stock shelves or clean toilets.

  8. Amy Brandt says:

    http://jobs.monster.com/l-woodland,-wa.aspx

    Would your long-nailed darling Пригожин disapprove? Lower yourself. Think of your own evolution. Fight back if you can.

  9. Amy Brandt says:

    So you won’t fight. Lame. Could you find your way out of a cardboard box? Can you do anything other than buy cat food and squirrel on your past?

    Your self-righteousness sucks dog, demented one.

  10. Amy Brandt says:

    OK. This is your blog site and you can delete anything you like but you keep my comments here, ninny. Your choice. What do I hope is the best for you?

    1) That you not find yourself to be finer than others, and realize that your passion for the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as it relates to evolution will always be a hobby and never a job. Congrats on coming through the Peanut Gallery of UBC and having deep discussions with what you might consider to be the best evolutionary scientists ever. Jolly. Fact is, you haven’t done much in that regard. And this is not a line of work that requires half million dollar grants to continue research. With excellent sense and good writing skills (if you had them) you might have published something the “common person” would understand and might actually find interesting. But instead you spin off through tirades and self-indulgent self-importance.

    2) Get a job. 62 isn’t even close to old.

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