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What I found out about God - Comments

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 1 by Mr Blue Sky

Whoever thought his radio interviews could be referred to as acclaimed?? Lot of nonsense and name dropping etc. Is Rumsfeld a great thinker? Best bit was his reference to "the whole wretched business". A lot of words to say so little!

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 14:49:00 UTC | #12699

Jared's Avatar Comment 2 by Jared

I take his appropriation of the newly-unemployed Mr. Rumsfeld as a 'great thinker' to be sarcastic, Mr Blue Sky, but I may be wrong. If I am, YIKES!

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 16:12:00 UTC | #12720

Sancus's Avatar Comment 3 by Sancus

I admit that I have not read this article. I scrolled down, saw the first comment, and then read backwards to the penultimate paragraph about Rumsfeld. So am I making an ad hominem argument for not wanting to read this?

My goodness, any layperson of war whose experience basically consists of playing the earlier Warcraft games knows that you must secure borders and resources when you conquer new territory, or else that territory will be lost to neighbors who are poised to take the spoils. And that much more risk is taken with a smaller invasion force and few allies. And most importantly, that you do not alienate your own intelligence service and try to find security in a bubble of agnosticism.

Which this man seems to be in.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 16:22:00 UTC | #12722

goddogit's Avatar Comment 4 by goddogit

Another very "nice," smug man in the pay of a conservative rag farts into the windstorm.
******
I must note that I am beginning to lose interest in checking this site daily, since there is as endless a supply of these yellow-snow opinions as there are moose turds in a Canadian National Park. Can't they have a warning flag or something, like:

MORE OF THE SAME

unless the article is actually causing some real debate instead of providing "tomorrow's fish-and-chip papers."

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 16:32:00 UTC | #12724

jbannon's Avatar Comment 5 by jbannon

I think some people need to switch their irony meters on before reading the comments about Donald Rumsfeld. John Humphrys is not a fan of neo-conservatism!

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 16:40:00 UTC | #12725

Sancus's Avatar Comment 6 by Sancus

From jbannon:

I think some people need to switch their irony meters on before reading the comments about Donald Rumsfeld. John Humphrys is not a fan of neo-conservatism!

Okay, but I still don't think it's truly ironic, since Rumsfeld's words are characteristic of someone blatantly forcing himself into an "agnostic bubble," and we know what kind of danger that leads to, right?

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 17:16:00 UTC | #12727

Jared's Avatar Comment 7 by Jared

I'm going to say that I didn't mind this article at all. I thought it considered things quite well. I did not listen to the radio program, so I can't speak for that part, but this piece at least seemed decent, well-humoured, and rational.

If, in the end, Humphrys decides to be agnostic, that's his choice. He doesn't proselytize it, and says he knows it isn't good enough for some people. Meh, so be it. I'd rather read dozens of articles of this sort than that postmodernist BS posted around the same time! :)

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 18:33:00 UTC | #12733

jbannon's Avatar Comment 8 by jbannon

From Sancus:
"Okay, but I still don't think it's truly ironic, since Rumsfeld's words are characteristic of someone blatantly forcing himself into an "agnostic bubble," and we know what kind of danger that leads to, right?"

It would appear that agnosticism is a "dirty" word to some. Agnosticism is a claim about knowledge, not about belief or even truth. E.g. I am atheistic (I do not believe in god or gods) and agnostic (I do not know whether or not any gods exist). Personally I have never bought any of the "strong atheistic" philosophical arguments. To me they're just as much "buffoonery" as the theistic arguments. Let me put it this way: there are valid logical arguments from both points of view but, given the lack of available evidence, we cannot be sure either side is correct, although given what we know of the universe at this point the existence of such a being seems unlikely.

I will go further and say that my beliefs about gods are not even connected with questions of existence. I would not "believe in" god even if such a being a being existed and especially not if it was anything remotely like the god of Abraham. Richard's description of this being in "The God Delusion" is absolutely spot on. However, even if god turned out to be entirely benevolent I would not surrender sovereignty over myself to such a being. I will not do this for any man so I see no reason why I should for any god. It seems to me that Richard's book is misnamed. Rather than calling it "The God delusion", it should have been called "The Sovereignty Delusion". The single thing that the "three great religions" have in common is the believers' willingness to surrender their own sovereignty over their own being. Once that is done all things become possible, including genocide!

I will go further still. It would appear to be a popular misconception (delusion?) that science can provide the answers to all questions about how the natural world works and further that those answers will be absolutely true. However given the nature of modern science this is simply false because at its core it is an empirical discipline. There is no guarantee that any scientific theory will provide a true picture of the way in which reality actually works, no matter how well it is supported by evidence. This has to be the case since we derive everything we know about the real world from our experience even if it is technologically enhanced. Of course, this does not devalue science in any way, and it could be said to be one of science's greatest strengths, because it is still by far the best method of constructing models that approximate reality. It should not, however, be confused with truth in any absolute sense.

One final question (and this should be an easy nut to crack): As an atheist I assert that teleological causation exists. Can you take a guess at what I mean by that?

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 18:52:00 UTC | #12736

John Phillips's Avatar Comment 9 by John Phillips

"teleological causation"

It depends on context as there are many subjects or fields relevant to this site where I could apply the word. For instance, in a theological sense a teleological argument could be used as a basis for the IDiot brigade's belief in an intelligent designer. Or as some have argued from an evolutionary sense where the form follow function, a simple example might be I have eyes because I need to see. As an atheist and largely a Darwinian you will not be surprised that I reject both.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 21:33:00 UTC | #12750

jbannon's Avatar Comment 10 by jbannon

Imagine one of our stoneage ancestors way back sitting next to a little brook with a piece of bone and a flint. He sharpens the bone with the flint and makes a hole in one end. Then, taking a piece of a plant, he makes a little fibre rope and uses that with his needle to sew two pieces of skin together to make part a of piece of cloth that he wraps round his legs to keep them warm. Design? I would say so. True, it's rather crude and was initially probably learned through a trial-and-error process but the intention is perfectly clear. This is what I mean by teleological causation. It is the same with meaning. All meaning in the universe is created by humans (or more generally by sentient creatures to allow for alien civilisations and non-human animals with a degree of sentience).

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 21:49:00 UTC | #12751

Roy_H's Avatar Comment 11 by Roy_H

"Terrible though it is to us, God grants the same freedom to cancer cells that he grants even to the most noble and virtuous of us."
That sounds all too typical.Most vicars seem to suffer from acute "foot in mouth disease " at funerals, thus managing to upset at least some, if not all of the congregation by their cock-ups. At my own father's funeral the vicar kept getting my mother's name totally wrong (in fact half way through the service I heckeled him about it!) Afterwards, a friend of mine told me that he had recently been to the funeral of a woman who was in only in her early 40's when she died. The vicar said in his eulogy how she "Would be sadly missed by both her children and grandchildren".In fact,she did not have any grandchildren at all. At a recent funeral I attended the vicar said "___'s Nephew would like to say a few word. The guy mounted the pulpit and said "Well thank you for the introduction, but I happen to be his Grandson!"

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 22:41:00 UTC | #12761

Niels Thorsen's Avatar Comment 12 by Niels Thorsen

RE: 10. Comment #14637 by jbannon

"It is the same with meaning. All meaning in the universe is created by humans (or more generally by sentient creatures to allow for alien civilisations and non-human animals with a degree of sentience)."

I prefer to call this perception rather than think of it as 'meaning'. What exactly is your point? If it is that we cannot really *know* anything for certain, than what is the point of discussing it in the first place?

We have to start somewhere.

Niels

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 23:39:00 UTC | #12765

Niels Thorsen's Avatar Comment 13 by Niels Thorsen

Regarding the article, I think John Humphrys is sincere and his position is honest. He is simply not being rigorous enough to really answer his question.

The scales tipped for me when I realized that everything, (life, the universe, etc.) made much more sense when I understood that there was no 'personal god'. All of the contradictions I once observed, such as 'free will v. intervention', immediately vanished.

Niels

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 23:47:00 UTC | #12767

Nardo's Avatar Comment 14 by Nardo

RE: 13 Comment #14653 by Niels

I did listen to two of John Humphrys interviews in this series. My position agrees precisely with Niels, and it's nice to see it put so concisely.

If God is not a personal God does it matter if there is some sort of Einsteinian unknowable force behind the universe? No. (Except in a scientific search for 'truth').

Is there a mountain of evidence that life is a bit of a lottery and unspeakable diseases like childhood leukaemia will kill innocent individuals for no 'reason'? Yes.

So there is no interventionist personal god. In that case all disease and suffering does make perfect sense.

So give your money to medical research not the church!

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 00:19:00 UTC | #12769

Simon Quick's Avatar Comment 15 by Simon Quick

It is actually somewhat irrelevant what Humphreys says in this article one must read or listen to what was said by his guests.

To save reading the whole set of transcripts I have prepared a critique of the programmes plus commentary and posted it on my blog at the following address:

http://simonquick.blogspot.com/2006/12/humphreys-in-search-of-god.html

It is worth spending some time reading and re-reading the actual words of these three with out the interference of their voices, intonation or other expressives attributes distracting from the actual content. Which, needless to say, is very thin!

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 02:28:00 UTC | #12778

Sancus's Avatar Comment 16 by Sancus

jbannon, thank you for your reply. Even if I knew one to exist, I would not surrender my sovereignty to an omnibenevolent God either. Sometimes, I think, that I would be so deeply exasperated by the idea that one person would provide everything for me, including the things I ought to provide myself, that I would wish such a person to give me a wide berth. Indeed, I am pleased that this would be the case.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 03:48:00 UTC | #12779

jeepyjay's Avatar Comment 17 by jeepyjay

It's a bit odd that Humphrys doesn't mention his other two interviewees. Didn't he get anything from them to think about? I thought the rabbi was the most candid, about the idea of god evolving over time until it has now almost disappeared. One more push and it may be gone. The archbishop was extremely vague aboout everything.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 04:46:00 UTC | #12783

jbannon's Avatar Comment 18 by jbannon

From Niels Thorsen:

"I prefer to call this perception rather than think of it as 'meaning'. What exactly is your point? If it is that we cannot really *know* anything for certain, than what is the point of discussing it in the first place?"

Well, this isn't really the place to discuss the difference between perception and meaning. That is precisely my point. Science as a discipline is not absolute, indeed it is impossible for it to be so. However, I do not view this as a bad thing. Say rather that it is open and leads to critical questioning. If this weren't so there would be no room for freethinkers like Dawkins would there?

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 05:21:00 UTC | #12787

Mel Z's Avatar Comment 19 by Mel Z

This was me for a long time before I settled on atheism. I will still, of course, believe in a personal god if there was some sort of sensible proof for his existence, but, i do not know if I would accept him, on grounds of his obvious indifference for humankind

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 14:06:00 UTC | #12813