Why Smug Atheists Should Read More Science Fiction

#1

You can't be on Twitter these days without being bombarded with atheistic smugness. You know what I mean. People who can't just profess that they don't believe in God — they have to taunt religious people for believing in "fairy tales." Or the Tooth Fairy. Most of the time, these are geeks who have immense respect for science... and yet, they won't recognize a situation where they simply have no data, one way or the other.

After a while, I can't help wishing that these people would read some more science fiction, which above all is the genre of amazement and limitless possibility.

Of course, science fiction is also the genre of skepticism, and there are numerous examples of fake gods cropping up in SF books and other media. But there's also a long tradition in science fiction of transcendence, and encounters with something huge and unknowable. A lot of the best science fiction also features the realization that for all our knowledge, there are still things in the universe we don't yet fully understand.

io9.com/5963475/why-smug-atheists-should-read-more-science-fiction?tag=open-channel

I think that is a good observation.

#2

Just don't read the comments section, most of them are by smug atheists :p

It was an interesting article though. I'll never understand why (most) atheists seem to think science has all the answers. Science is amazing, and awe inspiring, but it can never answer the deeper questions related to human nature.

#3

I love science fiction, in movies and in literature. I'm 43 yrs old and still have Star Wars posters up in my laundry room. But it never fails to amaze me how atheists (and I used to be one), will rely so much on science when it can't even answer the two most basic questions in life. Who are we and why are we here?

Very good article, thanks for sharing. :)

#4

I didn't go to the link. I just read the quoted section.
The thing about science fiction is that there is virtually never any religion portrayed at all. If there is something unknown about the universe, the characters in science fiction try to solve it through (you guessed it) science, even if the science is fanciful.

One of the points of conflict (if that's the right word) is that science does not make religious claims, but religion makes scientific claims.

Science does not make religious claims. For example, no scientist would rely on an ancient text of dubious authorship to explain the origins of the world. No doctor tells you that prayer will cure your illness. No physicist ever goes to God for answers about quantum theory. The mysteries of the universe are solved by reason. Those matters beyond science at the moment will be solved eventually.

Religion, however, makes scientific claims. If God created the universe, then we have to deal with a universe where the laws of physics are dependent on the will of a spirit being. If humans are about 7,000 years old, we have to completely revisit the science of evolution. If God can communicate telepathically with humans (hearing prayers, for example), then we have an entirely new and unpredictable way of thinking about neuroscience. If a three-day corpse can walk out of his tomb, then walk through walls and shortly thereafter float to the sky and exist in another dimension, then virtually all laws of physics must be thrown out the window. The same with turning water into wine, healing the blind with saliva and mud, walking on water and resurrecting a corpse.

If religion is to make those claims, it has to have something to back it up. This requires an independent, impartial source (so the Bible, which presupposes the existence of God, is unacceptable).

#5

The author doesn't seem to know many smug atheists. The most unbearably smug ones I know love science fiction. I'm afraid if they read any more it would cut in to work and family time.

I've also never met an atheist who had a problem saying that there is so much out there that we don't understand. They just have a problem saying that because there is so much that we don't know that is evidence for a god.

#6

[quote="hansard, post:4, topic:306536"]
I didn't go to the link. I just read the quoted section.
The thing about science fiction is that there is virtually never any religion portrayed at all. If there is something unknown about the universe, the characters in science fiction try to solve it through (you guessed it) science, even if the science is fanciful.

One of the points of conflict (if that's the right word) is that science does not make religious claims, but religion makes scientific claims.

Science does not make religious claims. For example, no scientist would rely on an ancient text of dubious authorship to explain the origins of the world. No doctor tells you that prayer will cure your illness. No physicist ever goes to God for answers about quantum theory. The mysteries of the universe are solved by reason. Those matters beyond science at the moment will be solved eventually.

Religion, however, makes scientific claims. If God created the universe, then we have to deal with a universe where the laws of physics are dependent on the will of a spirit being. If humans are about 7,000 years old, we have to completely revisit the science of evolution. If God can communicate telepathically with humans (hearing prayers, for example), then we have an entirely new and unpredictable way of thinking about neuroscience. If a three-day corpse can walk out of his tomb, then walk through walls and shortly thereafter float to the sky and exist in another dimension, then virtually all laws of physics must be thrown out the window. The same with turning water into wine, healing the blind with saliva and mud, walking on water and resurrecting a corpse.

If religion is to make those claims, it has to have something to back it up. This requires an independent, impartial source (so the Bible, which presupposes the existence of God, is unacceptable).

[/quote]

Your point only has merit if there is no God.

#7

Most "smug athiests" know very little to nothing about what "science" actually is.
Science has nothing to do with "truth", it is the activity of cataloging similarities (and differences) of objects and phenomena and calling it "knowledge".

If an angel were to show up at a laboratory and be willing to undergo any tests they could dream of, none of the results would be scientifically valid, as they would have no frame of reference to compare him with.

Uh, Sir, how old are you? -Ageless, your frame of reference is meaningless in this case.

OK. You seem solid enough. What are you "made of"? -Spirit, pure spirit. My apparent body is just that, appearance, and will cease to exist the moment I'm done here.

Hmm. Pure spirit,... right. How much effort or energy did it take to make this "apparent body" you are using? - None.

OK, Yup. Created a 90 kg body with no effort. Hey Bob, tell the itern I need a coffee. No, make that scotch.

#8

[quote="hansard, post:4, topic:306536"]

Religion, however, makes scientific claims. If God created the universe, then we have to deal with a universe where the laws of physics are dependent on the will of a spirit being. If humans are about 7,000 years old, we have to completely revisit the science of evolution. If God can communicate telepathically with humans (hearing prayers, for example), then we have an entirely new and unpredictable way of thinking about neuroscience. If a three-day corpse can walk out of his tomb, then walk through walls and shortly thereafter float to the sky and exist in another dimension, then virtually all laws of physics must be thrown out the window. The same with turning water into wine, healing the blind with saliva and mud, walking on water and resurrecting a corpse.

If religion is to make those claims, it has to have something to back it up. This requires an independent, impartial source (so the Bible, which presupposes the existence of God, is unacceptable).

[/quote]

The laws of the physical world aren't invalidated by miracles, just suspended. God's power transcends the laws of nature, since, after all, he made those laws. He sometimes uses miracles though, in order to show his power to those who will see.

#9

[quote="hansard, post:4, topic:306536"]
IThose matters beyond science at the moment will be solved eventually.

[/quote]

Nothing like expressions of absolute faith.

Wouldn't such an absolute expression only be a warranted claim if the power of reason is actually absolute? If reason is absolute, i.e., all knowing, then are you not here expressing faith in God?

The question is, then, how do you know that reason will indeed solve all the mysteries "beyond science" without believing in the absolute power (omnipotence) of knowledge to do so?

It may be that knowledge does have that kind of power, but to assume that humans are capable of grasping it and using it properly is to put absolute faith in human beings. Judging by what human beings, on our own, have done with quests for absolute power and knowledge in the past, perhaps the object of your faith needs to be reconsidered.

#10

[quote="hansard, post:4, topic:306536"]

One of the points of conflict (if that's the right word) is that science does not make religious claims, but religion makes scientific claims.

[/quote]

This is incorrect. Religion makes absolutely no claims to science. We make claims to the power of God. This has absolutely nothing to do with science.

Science is the study of the physical reality; that is, the quantifiable aspects of this universe and any other universes.

Theology is the study of God, who exists outside of the physical reality, and in fact created the physical reality. To say that God invoking his power violates physics is like saying a programmer fixing a bug or adding a new feature violates the game. He created it, it's his to do with as he pleases. With your given examples, physics was not affected by God's works, because he does not require physics to operate.

#11

[quote="ProdglArchitect, post:2, topic:306536"]
Just don't read the comments section, most of them are by smug atheists :p

.

[/quote]

I had similar thoughts. I was thinking "The comment section will be filled with anti-religious statements." Such people tend to find their way to these types of articles. It's like they actively seek them out or wait in the woodwork until one appears.

#12

The very idea of "science is the end all be all" of reality is not a scientific one but a philosophical one and a really weak one at that. Let's face it, without logic and philosophy, science would not exist!

#13

[quote="Kithrus, post:6, topic:306536"]
Your point only has merit if there is no God.

[/quote]

Okay. For the purposes of the discussion, I assert that there is no God. As I can't be proved wrong, my point has merit.

Do we really want to go down this path? The classic, never-ending argument?

#14

[quote="Crescentinus, post:12, topic:306536"]
The very idea of "science is the end all be all" of reality is not a scientific one but a philosophical one and a really weak one at that. Let's face it, without logic and philosophy, science would not exist!

[/quote]

I'm just suggesting that science is a far more reliable and credible source of wisdom than religion. I don't for a second deny that theology is a highly academic and worthwhile pursuit, but most religious adherents are not theologians and never consider any rigorous theological concepts.

#15

[quote="hansard, post:14, topic:306536"]
I'm just suggesting that science is a far more reliable and credible source of wisdom than religion. I don't for a second deny that theology is a highly academic and worthwhile pursuit, but most religious adherents are not theologians and never consider any rigorous theological concepts.

[/quote]

I just said that without logic and philosophy, science would be useless.
A lot of the adherents of scientism tend to either forget or ignore that simple fact. It's really sad.

#16

[quote="hansard, post:14, topic:306536"]
I'm just suggesting that science is a far more reliable and credible source of wisdom than religion. I don't for a second deny that theology is a highly academic and worthwhile pursuit, but most religious adherents are not theologians and never consider any rigorous theological concepts.

[/quote]

Reliable? Given the large clunks of data and the politicization it both gets at times, I would say it is more of an exploitable weapon than something to refer.

#17

[quote="hansard, post:14, topic:306536"]
I'm just suggesting that science is a far more reliable and credible source of wisdom than religion.

[/quote]

Nahh.... science concerns itself only with 'fact' and 'knowledge'; it doesn't truck in 'wisdom' in the least! ;)

most religious adherents are not theologians and never consider any rigorous theological concepts.

I'd wager that most atheists and agnostics aren't scientists, either. What's that have to do with the price of rice in China? :shrug:

#18

Science is an excellent tool for answering the "what, where, when and how" questions of the universe.

Revelation is the only way of knowing the Who and the why questions of the universe.

Religious fundamentalists get themselves into trouble when they try to force revelation to answer "what, where, when and how" questions. Revelation often doesn't provide those answers and those who insist that it MUST end up looking foolish.

On the other hand, earth has seen rather her share of evil and horror come out of those who have rejected revelation and presumed to place "who and why" questions in the realm of science. From that kind of thinking we got eugenics, Nazi-ism, Stalinism (Mao, etc), abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.

Frankly, the fundamentalists don't look so bad compared to that lot!

#19

[quote="Dale_M, post:1, topic:306536"]
io9.com/5963475/why-smug-atheists-should-read-more-science-fiction?tag=open-channel

I think that is a good observation.

[/quote]

Nice article. I dig the books he mentioned. Lots of religious work in SF. Heinlein, Herbert, Lewis...

I think most of the individuals that the author speaks to are not well versed in SF because they're very young. Their idea of sci-fi is Firefly or Futurama. I'd be surprised if any had read Hitchens or Dawkins outside of buzz quotes or actually examined what any particular religion teaches. Most of the Atheists I know are well read, dig sci-fi and have no problem with religion in sci-fi because they know the religion in sci-fi is a product of the author's imagination. Unfortunately they think the same about Christianity, which is a bummer.

#20

[quote="hansard, post:4, topic:306536"]
I didn't go to the link. I just read the quoted section.
The thing about science fiction is that there is virtually never any religion portrayed at all. If there is something unknown about the universe, the characters in science fiction try to solve it through (you guessed it) science, even if the science is fanciful.

One of the points of conflict (if that's the right word) is that science does not make religious claims, but religion makes scientific claims.

Science does not make religious claims. For example, no scientist would rely on an ancient text of dubious authorship to explain the origins of the world. No doctor tells you that prayer will cure your illness. No physicist ever goes to God for answers about quantum theory. The mysteries of the universe are solved by reason. Those matters beyond science at the moment will be solved eventually.

Religion, however, makes scientific claims. If God created the universe, then we have to deal with a universe where the laws of physics are dependent on the will of a spirit being. If humans are about 7,000 years old, we have to completely revisit the science of evolution. If God can communicate telepathically with humans (hearing prayers, for example), then we have an entirely new and unpredictable way of thinking about neuroscience. If a three-day corpse can walk out of his tomb, then walk through walls and shortly thereafter float to the sky and exist in another dimension, then virtually all laws of physics must be thrown out the window. The same with turning water into wine, healing the blind with saliva and mud, walking on water and resurrecting a corpse.

If religion is to make those claims, it has to have something to back it up. This requires an independent, impartial source (so the Bible, which presupposes the existence of God, is unacceptable).

[/quote]

Science is limited to the material universe. It's not applicable to what lies, metaphysically speaking, outside. Why is there a universe at all? What existed before time? What caused the universe to come into being? These are metaphysical and religious questions not accessable to the scientific method, which after all, relies on the physics of our universe.

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