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Let's talk sense about our origins - Comments

Eshto's Avatar Comment 1 by Eshto

What of Richard Dawkins, who had the arrogance to write a fat book about God without troubling to read up on theology


No believer can prove that God exists: isn't faith rather the point? And no scientist can prove that He doesn't.

What about someone who has the arrogance to make a statement about proof, who obviously hasn't bothered to study simple logic (i.e. where the burden of proof falls).

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 17:48:00 UTC | #315079

ANTIcarrot's Avatar Comment 2 by ANTIcarrot

"But getting cross because some people believe in God - well, what's that got to do with science?"

Nothing. but it's everything to do with engineering. Machines only work if they follow scientific principles. When they are built according to people's beliefs, and their bad habit of thinking their beliefs do not need to be subjected to proof, then the machine tend to go wrong, and tend to end up killing people.

And that can be taken metaphorically too. The court system is a 'machine'. If juries start basing convictions on belief rather than evidence the concept of fairness and justice start to break down. Look at America over the past eight years, when Bush had trouble with global warming, largely because of his confusion over belief and evidence.

So yes, while belief has nothing to do with science, the application of belief can cause science and humanity in general great harm.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 17:50:00 UTC | #315081

gedwarren's Avatar Comment 3 by gedwarren


Please, let's not pretend science and religion are on an equal footing. The former is based upon evidence while the latter is based upon what? The whim of whoever was powerful at the time of the last schism?

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 17:51:00 UTC | #315082

Naturalist1's Avatar Comment 4 by Naturalist1

Good article...I also agree with Eshto and would add to it by paraphrasing something Christopher Hitchens said..."Any postulate that can be made without proof can also be torn down without proof".

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 17:52:00 UTC | #315083

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 5 by Cartomancer

But what of the legions of self-deluding i'm-an-atheist-butters? What of Simon Barnes, who had the arrogance to write a slim diatribe about The God Delusion without troubling to read it first, a book that includes many valid criticisms of the Gouldian NOMA argument which he flatly trumpets as his knock-down solution to the clash between faith and reason?

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 17:55:00 UTC | #315084

AmericanGodless's Avatar Comment 6 by AmericanGodless

...getting cross because some people believe in God - well, what's that got to do with science? No believer can prove that God exists: isn't faith rather the point? And no scientist can prove that He doesn't.

Wrong. "God: The Failed Hypothesis" by Victor Stenger.

How many times do we have to be told that "goddidit" and find that no, it (whatever) can be shown to have happened naturally, before the supernatural god-hypothesis becomes so improbable that to cling to it is just perverse? Right, no scientist can prove that god doesn't exist, and neither can it be proved that a unicorn doesn't exist, but science can indeed prove that a natural world is very probable, and a supernatural world is very improbable. To ask for more than this for the god hypothesis is special pleading. Nothing else in the scope of all human knowledge is known to be absolutely true.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 17:56:00 UTC | #315085

Aupajo's Avatar Comment 7 by Aupajo

You may believe that you have a soul. Professor Dawkins believes that you don't.

Well that came across as quite unneccessarily contemptuous.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:01:00 UTC | #315086

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 8 by Diacanu


Indeed, seems like he was tweaking the religious "fear", dial there.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:08:00 UTC | #315088

Sigmund's Avatar Comment 9 by Sigmund

Considering that every religion is contradicted by at least one other religion is it even possible to write about theology with any certainty?
It is guaranteed that another theology - and one of which you are virtually certain to have zero expertise - claims your theological arguments are utterly wrong.
At least with science there are agreed principles over which we can argue. No physicist will dismiss arguments over the distance from the earth to the moon by claiming the moon is simply a legend and not a reality, yet all theological arguments can be dismissed in such a manner by other theologians - so long as they are thsologians of a different religion.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:09:00 UTC | #315089

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 10 by Steve Zara

I am simply too angry after having read this nonsense to comment coherently. I will be composing a letter to the times tomorrow. Hopefully it won't contain the obscenities and insults that come to mind right now. This is patronising dumbed-down journalism at its worst.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:10:00 UTC | #315090

Ned Flanders's Avatar Comment 11 by Ned Flanders

POsted this, not sure it will get approved:

Steve, the burden of proof falls on the claimant. Any first year logic course will have taught you that. The hypothesis "is there are God" does not resolve to a 50-50 bet, and if you ever read The God Delusion you will understand why.

Religion, and the daft beliefs it drags with itself, have everything to do with science, as they continually purport to have alternative answers to big questions, and these false beliefs influence our leaders, judges, and those who would do us harm. In the face of contradictory evidence. If you choose to "pick" the part of the bible that says gays are going to hell and should be punished during life, then that has everything to do with science - which continues to show that homosexuality is not only common in the animal world, but a natural thing altogether.

Feel free to think that religion has nothing to do with science, but don't expect any rational person to respect you for it.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:11:00 UTC | #315091

corvis_9's Avatar Comment 12 by corvis_9


No believer can prove a ham sandwich has a soul, no scientist can prove it doesn't, no statement to this effect demonstrates a reasonable mind, without regard to what stands in for a the sandwich.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:15:00 UTC | #315093

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

Comment #330516 by Ned Flanders

I treat theology as a journalistic problem in this case. Richard Dawkins questions the sources of the stories that are published. He is justified.

No serious journalist turns up and says "prove that my source does not exist, otherwise believe me!"

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:18:00 UTC | #315096

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 14 by Mark Jones

I despair at these columnists with their facile appeals to NOMA. Have they ever really thought about the issues?

You may believe that you have a soul. Professor Dawkins believes that you don't. Both positions are equally tenable in that both are matters of belief, of faith. This stuff can be neither proved nor disproved, therefore it is nothing to do with science.

We seem to be plagued by this sort of woolly thinking in the press. Just to be clear here, Barnes is *actually* saying that because there is *no evidence* for something, its existence or not is 50/50 ('equally tenable'). Is there *any* other area of life where he would allow such a preposterous statement? Does he really think the existence of fairies is 50/50? Nessy? The humours? Zeus on Mount Olympus?

He really needs to read some David Hume.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:18:00 UTC | #315097

phatbat's Avatar Comment 15 by phatbat

What an incredibly bad article. It really does look like it was written by a teenager.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:19:00 UTC | #315098

Rodger T's Avatar Comment 16 by Rodger T

The fact that god him/herself can`t be bothered to present themselves for observation to the masses and answer a few simple questions ,is proof enough ,to me at least,that she/he does not exist.
Surely and omnipotent deity could put in an appearance from time to time ,just to keep the peasants in line.
Not even a piece of graffiti anywhere,saying god was here?
I know absence of proof is not proof of absence but hey,dog, step up to the plate ,dude.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:20:00 UTC | #315100

Metatronide's Avatar Comment 17 by Metatronide

Alas, it started so well.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:21:00 UTC | #315101

Aupajo's Avatar Comment 19 by Aupajo

...Richard Dawkins, who had the arrogance to write a fat book about God without troubling to read up on theology.

This made me curious, albiet frustratingly so, because author fails to give any source for this claim. It sounds like a personal gripe with the book, and the opinion is unwarranted for the subject of this article.

I think that if you take issue with somebody, you should have the decency to write to them not about them, especially in a newspaper. Give them a chance to respond, at least, before publicly decrying their works.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:24:00 UTC | #315103

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 18 by Diacanu


The older and more learned I get, the more people I'm leaving behind, and the clearer the sad realization becomes that most adults don't make it past their teens intellectually and emotionally.

Eh, I hope that doesn't come off as snooty as it sounds as I read it back now, but...ah, fuck it, the world is run by perpetual teenagers, snoot snoot, snoot!!!

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:24:00 UTC | #315102

black wolf's Avatar Comment 20 by black wolf

Remember guys, we can leave comments at their site. I for one have started out three responses now and abandoned them. I just don't know where to start without writing way too much about all this fail.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:26:00 UTC | #315105

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 21 by Mark Jones

Comment #330530 by black wolf

I've left a comment, but it has yet to be moderated (I guess; or their software's not working). They have to be short and sweet...

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:31:00 UTC | #315107

a.j.g.wolf's Avatar Comment 22 by a.j.g.wolf

Mr. Barnes neglects the many assertions in revelatory (almost wrote lavatory) texts that are empirical in nature, claiming to be true while flatly contradicting scientific facts, not to mention themselves. Surely religion must be held accountable for propagating evident falsehoods.

Secondly, if atheists cannot prove the non-existence of gods (they're so kind as to say "probably"), it does in no way follow that a theist's opposing view is correct. Assuming the existence and overwhelming influence of entities without any real evidence (that's what faith means) simply is not rational, as Laplace told Napoleon.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:39:00 UTC | #315109

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 23 by Frankus1122

It points to a common misunderstanding that needs to be addressed.

This point in particular should be shown up for what it is: nonsense.

You may believe that you have a soul. Professor Dawkins believes that you don't. Both positions are equally tenable in that both are matters of belief, of faith

The comments section is one way to rebut. I would prefer a retraction. I would like to see the writer engage with the arguments against him and offer up another article admitting to the error in his thought.
How likely is that?

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 18:54:00 UTC | #315119

Lenny's Avatar Comment 24 by Lenny

Does it really take a clever person to realize that just because a belief exists doesn't mean that it has a considerable likelihood of being true? I would have thought not, but this embarrassing "you can't disprove x..." argument comes up so often that I'm no so sure.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 19:04:00 UTC | #315130

Bacchus's Avatar Comment 25 by Bacchus

But getting cross because some people believe in God - well, what's that got to do with science?

I don't get cross with people because they believe in gods, everyone can believe in anything they want as far as I'm concerned, Fairies, Leprechauns, Santa Claus etc. I get angry when people make decisions that affect me based on their belief in god or decisions based on what is written in the stars.
Theology and Astrology belong in the same category of Non-Science.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 19:18:00 UTC | #315136

Gmork's Avatar Comment 26 by Gmork

Comment #330518 by corvis_9 on January 30, 2009 at 6:15 pm

No believer can prove a ham sandwich has a soul, no scientist can prove it doesn't, (...)

But a scientist can certainly shoot down the idea, the rest is psychology and imagination.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 19:28:00 UTC | #315139

troyreynolds86's Avatar Comment 27 by troyreynolds86

I don't think the author seems to realize that to engage theology is an utter waste. Theology revolves around a single and rather huge assumption. Not only that a god exists but that particular theologian's god exists. Everything that a theologian writes hinges on that assumption. If it turns out that that god is just a figment of the theologian's imagination then everything that they provide from that assumption has to be discarded. Not because it is necessarily wrong but because they can't demonstrate that it is right. Just like in math if you get the answer right having done the problem wrong and just got lucky that is equivalent to being wrong. So what use is theology if it can't demonstrate a rational reason to accept its original assumption?



Fri, 30 Jan 2009 19:35:00 UTC | #315142

hoops mccann's Avatar Comment 28 by hoops mccann

"What of Richard Dawkins, who had the arrogance to write a fat book about God without troubling to read up on theology, a discipline that includes many writers as subtle-minded as himself?" ... Blah, blah, blah...

I'm so sick of hearing the same arguments over and over again. Can't they think of something original just once? So, for the 10,00th time:

Dawkins did not write a scholarly treatise debating the fine points of theology. He wrote a popular book laying out his objections to religion on evidential grounds, and exposing the falacies in the accepted arguments for the existence of a god. He is applying the same standards of evidence and logic to religious claims that scientists use for establishing factual claims, and demonstrating that the religions claims are found wanting. There is no need to become adept at theological argumentation to do this, since that is not point of his book. His arguments are based on analysis of evidence, something on which he has certainly "read up".

"And no scientist can prove that He doesn't."

And no scientist ever claimed he could.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 21:11:00 UTC | #315169

MelM's Avatar Comment 29 by MelM

The really unfair thing about the nonexistent is that it doesn't leave any evidence. Something that doesn't exist leaves no footprints, no fingerprints, and no fossils. Bummer. That leaves us only with refutation: showing that the thing proposed has internal contradictions or that it contradicts some solidly known fact. Other than that, no one can prove or contradict (disprove) some wild assertion that there is no way to even think about. Example: "God hides in the electron cloud of some atom in Andromeda."

I think atheism would be well served by a philosopher providing a discussion of the issue of "God can't be disproved."The nutters get plenty of mileage from this. (There also needs to be a short version good for debates.) Even "God can't be proved" doesn't stop them though. Get a load of this rotten little attack on Dawkins.

If Only Atheists Were the Skeptics They Think They Are

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 21:19:00 UTC | #315170

hoops mccann's Avatar Comment 30 by hoops mccann

Comment #330526 by Metatronide
"Alas, it started so well."

I think that this is a standard persuation technique. The author begins with a few sensible statements to establish cred. The bullshit gets slipped in later.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 21:22:00 UTC | #315171