100 voices of disbelief

Neurosurgeon Jonathan T. Pararajasingham has put up a great resource:  two videos of 100 renowned academics explaining why they don’t believe in a god or an afterlife. Most are scientists; many are Nobel Laureates.

Each video is a bit longer than half an hour.  I’ve put in bold the names of those people whose statements I found most interesting. It’s worth spending an hour on this, if for no other reason than to feel good about being in such smart and articulate company.  One bizarre and unconscionable aspect: only five of the respondents—Rebecca Goldstein, Mahzarin Banaji, Dame Carolyn Humphrey, Patricia Churchland, and Carolyn Porco—are women.

Part 1:

Speakers in order of appearance:

1. Lawrence Krauss, World-Renowned Physicist
2. Robert Coleman Richardson, Nobel Laureate in Physics
3. Richard Feynman, World-Renowned Physicist, Nobel Laureate in Physics
4. Simon Blackburn, Cambridge Professor of Philosophy
5. Colin Blakemore, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Neuroscience
6. Steven Pinker, World-Renowned Harvard Professor of Psychology
7. Alan Guth, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Physics
8. Noam Chomsky, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Linguistics
9. Nicolaas Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate in Physics
10. Peter Atkins, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Chemistry
11. Oliver Sacks, World-Renowned Neurologist, Columbia University
12. Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
13. Sir John Gurdon, Pioneering Developmental Biologist, Cambridge
14. Sir Bertrand Russell, World-Renowned Philosopher, Nobel Laureate
15. Stephen Hawking, World-Renowned Cambridge Theoretical Physicist
16. Riccardo Giacconi, Nobel Laureate in Physics
17. Ned Block, NYU Professor of Philosophy
18. Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate in Physics
19. Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford Professor of Mathematics
20. James Watson, Co-discoverer of DNA, Nobel Laureate
21. Colin McGinn, Professor of Philosophy, Miami University
22. Sir Patrick Bateson, Cambridge Professor of Ethology
23. Sir David Attenborough, World-Renowned Broadcaster and Naturalist
24. Martinus Veltman, Nobel Laureate in Physics
25. Pascal Boyer, Professor of Anthropology
26. Partha Dasgupta, Cambridge Professor of Economics
27. AC Grayling, Birkbeck Professor of Philosophy
28. Ivar Giaever, Nobel Laureate in Physics
29. John Searle, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
30. Brian Cox, Particle Physicist (Large Hadron Collider, CERN)
31. Herbert Kroemer, Nobel Laureate in Physics
32. Rebecca Goldstein, Professor of Philosophy
33. Michael Tooley, Professor of Philosophy, Colorado
34. Sir Harold Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
35. Leonard Susskind, Stanford Professor of Theoretical Physics
36. Quentin Skinner, Professor of History (Cambridge)
37. Theodor W. Hänsch, Nobel Laureate in Physics
38. Mark Balaguer, CSU Professor of Philosophy
39. Richard Ernst, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
40. Alan Macfarlane, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology
41. Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, Princeton Research Scientist
42. Douglas Osheroff, Nobel Laureate in Physics
43. Hubert Dreyfus, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
44. Lord Colin Renfrew, World-Renowned Archaeologist, Cambridge
45. Carl Sagan, World-Renowned Astronomer
46. Peter Singer, World-Renowned Bioethicist, Princeton
47. Rudolph Marcus, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
48. Robert Foley, Cambridge Professor of Human Evolution
49. Daniel Dennett, Tufts Professor of Philosophy
50. Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in Physics

Part 2:

51. Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate in Physics, MIT
52. VS Ramachandran, World-Renowned Neuroscientist, UC San Diego
53. Bruce C. Murray, Caltech Professor Emeritus of Planetary Science
54. Sir Raymond Firth, World-Renowned Anthropologist, LSE
55. Alva Noë, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
56. Alan Dundes, World Expert in Folklore, Berkeley
57. Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy, CUNY
58. Bede Rundle, Oxford Professor of Philosophy
59. Sir Richard Friend, Cambridge Professor of Physics
60. George Lakoff, Berkeley Professor of Linguistics
61. Sir John Sulston, Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
62. Shelley Kagan, Yale Professor of Philosophy
63. Roy J. Glauber, Nobel Laureate in Physics
64. Lewis Wolpert, Emeritus Professor of Biology, UCL
65. Mahzarin Banaji, Harvard Professor of Social Ethics
66. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Professor of Practical Ethics, Duke University
67. Richard Dawkins, Oxford Evolutionary Biologist
68. Bruce Hood, Professor of Experimental Psychology, Bristol
69. Marvin Minsky, Artificial Intelligence Research Pioneer, MIT
70. Herman Philipse, Professor of Philosophy, Utrecht University
71. Michio Kaku, CUNY Professor of Theoretical Physics
72. Dame Caroline Humphrey, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology
73. Max Tegmark, World-Renowned Cosmologist, MIT
74. David Parkin, Oxford Professor of Anthropology
75. Robert Price, Professor of Theology and Biblical Criticism
76. Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Psychology, Virginia
77. Max Perutz, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
78. Rodolfo Llinas, Professor of Neuroscience, New York
79. Dan McKenzie, World-Renowned Geophysicist, Cambridge
80. Patricia Churchland, Professor of Philosophy, UC San Diego
81. Sean Carroll, Caltech Theoretical Cosmologist
82. Alexander Vilenkin, World-Renowned Theoretical Physicist
83. PZ Myers, Professor of Biology, Minnesota
84. Haroon Ahmed, Prominent Cambridge Scientist (Microelectronics)
85. David Sloan Wilson, Professor of Biology and Anthropology, SUNY
86. Bart Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies, UNC
87. Seth Lloyd, Pioneer of Quantum Computing, MIT
88. Dan Brown, Fellow in Organic Chemistry, Cambridge
89. Victor Stenger, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Hawaii
90. Simon Schaffer, Cambridge Professor of the History of Science
91. Saul Perlmutter World-Renowned Astrophysicist, Berkeley
92. Lee Silver, Princeton Professor of Molecular Biology
93. Barry Supple, Emeritus Professor of Economic History, Cambridge
94. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Professor of Law
95. John Raymond Smythies, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatric Research
96. Chris Hann, Max Planck Institute For Social Anthropology
97. David Gross, Nobel Laureate in Physics
98. Ronald de Sousa, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Toronto
99. Robert Hinde, Emeritus Professor of Zoology, Cambridge
100. Carolyn Porco, NASA Planetary Scientist

h/t: The post’s title is purloined from Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk’s  excellent book, 50 Voices of Disbelief

61 Comments

  1. independent thinker
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the postings, I do not know about at least 2/3 of the scientists. That means my knowledge of scientists is limited not in any way intended nor should it be inferred that they are not disitinguished scientists and scholars

    I would play the “Devils” (or is it “God’s”?) Advocate and try to name a few distinguished scientist from the other camp.

    I can offhand think of quite famous and distinguished scientists whose views can be described as theistic though not neccessarily Christian. Yes, I will mention – but Jerry has already ‘critiqued -Simon Conway Morris and in his own field lhe is a distinguished scientist. I can without referring to any source think of the late Nobel Prize lauerate in medicne Sir John Ecceles and the late Robert Jastrow (author of 1978 book ‘God and the Astronomers’) and also this just comes to mind the late Abdus Salam who was Nobel co-lauerate in physics with Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg (in the above list) and who was a devout Muslim.

    This does not mean that the theists (in the case of Conway Morris Christian and in the case of Abdus Salam Muslim) are right but (dis)interested persons could also compile a list among those eminent scientists, philosophers who can be described as either theists, deists, Christians, Muslims or believers in traditional Judaism. And even if they are compiled and even if they are in terms of numbers less, more or roughly equal to the apparently distinguished scientists who are atheists mentioned above this does not mean logically, that either camp is right and the other is wrong. (Let me be clear I am much more towards -in fact virtually in- the ‘camp’ of the scientists above but at the same time I also recognize that there are very distingished scientists and morally good persons who may also be theists, creationists, Muslims, Christians and orthodox Jews.

    Incidentally for list 14 above Bertrand Russell was not merely a ‘Sir’. He was a ‘Lord’.

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 4:45 am | Permalink

      I contend that your assertion that “…theists, creationists, Muslims, Christians and orthodox Jews” can be “morally good persons” is a logical impossibility.
      If they claim to follow their holy books, yet remain moral, they are either grossly ignorant, delusional or liars.
      In any case, they aid and abet religious extremists by providing cover against questioning. This, in itself is utterly immoral.

      • Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        Totally agreed!

      • Posted August 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        Agree quite a bit with this. Deliberate or not, they choose to ignore the exhortations of the religious text they profess to believe in.

    • llwddythlw
      Posted August 8, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      He was never a knight. He became the 3rd Earl Russell when his brother Frank (the one who introduced him to Euclidean geometry) died.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 8, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      This list and similar illustrates that scientists commonly are atheists. It also illustrates that there are socially distinguished persons that are atheists.

      That religion has a grip on people is trivial and boring, also the fact that it uses special pleading to get that status.

      Therefore I find it distasteful that the first response is “let’s compile a list that illustrates the grip [of special pleading]“, which is in itself special pleading in the context. As is contrasting “smart and articulate” with “(feeble-minded) devout and good (emoting)”.

      Besides that: one may make such a list, but it is disparate on these points. So why would one?

  2. Posted August 8, 2011 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    I, on the other hand, have two not so-distinguished people who don’t believe in god; one is great company (my wife) and the other, not so much (me) :)

    Seriously, nice catch.

  3. endrekovacs
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I’d stand behind Richard Feynman or Bertrand Russell against a battalion of believers any day.

    • llwddythlw
      Posted August 8, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      Or even Paul Erdos, the man who referred to God as The Supreme Fascist or SF for short.

  4. Posted August 8, 2011 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I only just hit “play,” but I can’t help but laugh at the ironing of opening with the Mozart Requiem….

    Cheers,

    b&

    • TrineBM
      Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Oh no – not again. Last time I heard absurd use of that piece of music was in Watchmen (the film) – why oh why didn’t they use Verdi’s Requiem instead in that sequence. And Mozarts Requiem and irreligious scientists … huh? They could well have used Delius’ Requiem “A Mass of Life” – praising this life – denying any other. (OK, so the music isn’t quite up to Mozart standards, but quite good.) Delius was an atheist!

      • TrineBM
        Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        Ahhh well – it was a very short quote from the Requiem. Wonder what the minimalistic piano + violin theme was?

      • llwddythlw
        Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        Janacek was an atheist, so the Glagolitic Mass would also be appropriate.

        • TrineBM
          Posted August 8, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

          Janacek is a favourite of mine, too!

      • Posted August 8, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        Well, I can’t help but enjoy Mozart any time I hear it.

        The second video begins with the impossibly sublime opening chorus from the Matthäuspassion.

        Instant goosepimples.

        And, as long as we’re naming atheist composers, we probably won’t be able to do much better than Brahms.

        Ok. That’s it, I promise, Jerry. :) No more irrelevant music blather from me. For a while, at least.

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, Jerry, for derailing the thread into music again. I can’t help it!

      Trine, I’m not overly fond of Mozart, but the Requiem — and, especially the fugue that’s quoted — is one of his works that I do like. And his operas, too, but I seem to be a sucker for opera. (Must have something to do with growing up always tuning in to the Met on Saturday mornings.)

      llwddythlw and Trine, I had the pleasure of reading through the Sinfonietta some weeks ago with the Arizona Repertory Orchestra. It was a blast — both literally and figuratively!

      llwddythlw and JS1685, so long as we’re tossing out atheists who wrote masses…how could one possibly overlook Bernstein? A Jewish atheist who wrote a brilliant — and blasphemous — mass!

      Cheers,

      b&

      • bric
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 4:44 am | Permalink

        Don’t forget Brahms and the German Requiem, which uses Biblical texts but is non-liturgical.

      • TrineBM
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

        I’m overly fond of Mozart, and Ben, all his music is opera! The concertoes, the symphonies – all have dramatic elements in them.
        And you means Janaceks Sinfonietta?!? Isn’t that just a gorgeous (sp?) piece of music? So full of life, and energy and sharp edges.
        (Sorry – shouldn’t derail thread even more)

        Do we know that Brahms was an atheist. I’m convinced he wasn’t a raditional believer, but I’m not entirely convinced he was an atheist. Proof?

        • TrineBM
          Posted August 9, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

          traditional – not raditional

        • Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          Brahms’ skepticism is well-documented. Some people found it too hard a pill to swallow: a biographer in the middle of the last century by the name of Abell claimed to have found correspondence between Brahms and his good friend Josef Joachim that explicitly asserted his religious belief, complete w bible quotes. This account has been shown to be fraudulent by other more recent biographers/historians like Jan Swafford and Charles Rosen.

          Dvorák, who was a good friend and spent quite a lot of time w Brahms, wrote in a letter about his concern for Brahms’ spiritual well-being: “such a fine man, a fine soul, but he believes in nothing!”

          • TrineBM
            Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

            Thank you! I didn’t know the Dvorak quote. Very interesting. I’ve always felt that Brahms’ music with bibletexts were … odd … and he choosed text very focused on death – and not resurrection, but I didn’t know he was a non-believer. I can’t like Brahms more than I already do, because he’s one of my top five favourite composers and I’ve always dreamt of sitting at a dinner with Darwin, Brahms and Charles Dickens … Three grumpy men and me. :-)

            • TrineBM
              Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

              Chose not choosed – my brain is on holiday. Sorry.

            • Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

              Please invite me to that dinner. :D

              Can I bring Bach?

              • TrineBM
                Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

                Yes – you can come and bring Bach, and two more in fact! The rule is you can choose three historic or living persons not from your family to join you!

  5. llwddythlw
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    The buggers missed you out, Professor Coyne!

  6. Cliff Melick
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Pararajasingham”s response to the observation that so few of his clips were of female academics after his first compilation of 50 clips:

    “I have simply used the clips that I have found over the years, without even thinking about social diversity. Patricia Churchland will be in the next compilation, but I haven’t found any other clips of renowned female academics expressing their views on god. If you can show me them, I will most definitely use them.” ~ RDFRS

    I think your use of the adjective “unconscionable” is unconscionable.

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      Well, I if he just compiled existing clips showing professions of atheism, and there were none available for women, I suppose you’re right.

      • Sigmund
        Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:18 am | Permalink

        Perhaps there are more out there that he has missed. Maybe people could suggest those of which they are aware.

      • Marlene Zuk
        Posted August 8, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        But that’s the question, isn’t it — were the clips compiled in an all-encompassing effort to get everything available, and then it turned out such a small percentage were women, or was it more a matter of “let’s see who comes to mind?” If the latter, Jerry is right; such cognitive availability is why women are so scarce in many editorial boards, science prizewinners, etc. Nominators often don’t deliberately exclude women, but they also often show biases in who they think of first, or at all.

  7. Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    What could be the factors for women being less in number?

  8. TrineBM
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Wonderful way to spend a halfhour. So many calm, reasonable humans talking sense. (And my schoolgirl crush on Sir David Attenborough that began when I was 14 has not abated. Sigh, that man is gorgeous (and 40 years older than me))

  9. Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I must say I know embarrassingly few of them, but that could still be changed.

  10. bric
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Professor Marcus du Sautoy may not be much known in the US, but he now has Richard Dawkins’ old post of Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, has an OBE, and most importantly has made a number of excellent TV science programmes for the BBC (currently ‘The Code’).
    Here he is on the infamous Monty Hall problem

  11. early_cuyler
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    What, no highlight (bold) for PZ? Jeez, you go anti-Caterday and you’re no longer on the A-list!

  12. Peter White
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Why is it unconscionable that only 5 of the 100 academics are women?

    Is it also unconscionable that no women are among the authors of several recent popular books explaining the impossibility and/or improbability of gods or other supernatural entities? Should Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger and Christopher Hitchens each be concerned that he isn’t a woman?

    • Frank
      Posted August 8, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      You may be right – it might be difficult or impossible to find many clips of women atheists stating their positions. As far as recent books, there are two by Susan Jacoby that, while not overt atheist screeds, do a good job of defending science and reason (Freethinkers and The Age of American Unreason).

      One of my favorite quotes defending rational thinking against religious superstition is by the great novelist, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans):

      “It is commonly seen that, in proportion as religious sects believe themselves to be guided by direct inspiration rather than by a spontaneous exertion of their faculties, their sense of truthfulness is misty and confused. … Minds fettered by this doctrine no longer inquire concerning a proposition whether it is attested by sufficient evidence, but whether it accords with Scripture; they do not search for facts, as such, but for facts that will bear out their doctrine. … Where adverse evidence reaches demonstration they must resort to devices and expedients in order to explain away the contradiction. It is easy to see that this mental habit blunts not only the perception of truth, but the sense of truthfulness … So long as a belief in propositions is regarded as indispensable to salvation, the pursuit of truth as such is not possible. Evangelical Teaching, in Westminster Review (1855)

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      The most vocal and uncompromising atheist of the 60′s in the US was a woman, Madalyn Murray O’Hair. As far as I know, she was not famous as a scientist, but she was the most famous atheist of her day, and perhaps the most vocal and uncompromising one of all time. She had a syndicated radio show which poked fun at god all across the US; in those days that was remarkable. If any reader thinks today’s gnu atheists are too direct, he or she should have seen Madalyn back then. Dawkins and PZ are gentlemen; Madalyn was a ball of fire who really hated religion, and made no pretense of hiding that hate. Not only did she win the Supreme Court case that ended obligatory bible reading in schools, she even went after astronouts (who are, after all, federal employees) who read bible verses from space. (The court ruled it had no jurisdiction in space!) Read the Wiki for details of her life and eventual kidnapping/dismemberment. She had a lasting influence on me, as she was virtually the only public atheist visible to me as I struggled with these issues as a small-town teen.

  13. Cleta Hughes
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    We would find similar statistics no doubt during the middle ages regarding number of Scientists vs Believers, in reverse. Numbers can be misleading when it comes to truth.

    The number of scientists who believe in an old fasioned God running things must be near zero. Which brings up the point there is a vast difference between believing in a traditional God with the traditional afterlife and suspecting 0ther non materialistic theories are in play in the universe. Atheiest read only what supports their inclination, just as do the Fundamentalists. the true scholar of inquirty explores outside the box.

    The scientist Freeman Dyson is one of several. Usually they remain in the closet until retirement. Or have lost tenure such as the author of The Tao of Physics.

    Atheists love to count do they not? like children separating marbles or the Indian with his scalps. Those who believe the Jury already in, regardless of pro or con, have lost the most valuable asset of the inquiring mind, open endedness. The inquiring mind does not have the soul of a bookeeper. Spinoza is an example of the mind of inquiry. He was a sole number admist a world of opposite numbers on a list such as this one. His philosophical deductions remain viable today.. ..

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Atheiest read only what supports their inclination, just as do the Fundamentalists.

      Which is exactly why Jerry has recently been documenting his survey of modern sophisticated theology. Oh, wait….

      Those who believe the Jury already in, regardless of pro or con, have lost the most valuable asset of the inquiring mind, open endedness.

      One should be careful that one’s mind isn’t opened so far that one’s brains fall out.

      And you can’t be serious that these hundred scientists, many of whom are responsible for true revolutions in the way that humans understand the universe, are close-minded. That makes as much sense as claiming that the Pope really isn’t Catholic, after all.

      Cheers,

      b&

  14. TheBard1599
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Alan Dershowitz? That man is a loon. It sucks to know that he’s an atheist as well. I guess it just proves that we have our share of fanatics, who justify violence, illegal occupations, deny proven facts for ideological reasons, and so forth.

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      He is wrong on many things, but right on others.

      • Bryan
        Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        I really enjoyed his “America Declares Independence” and “Genesis of Justice”.

  15. Yngve B
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    You should all see the third video in the series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yfBMFPYuLsE “20 Christian Academics Speaking About God”. Fantastic how olympic their mental gymnastics is.

  16. Lyndon
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I liked the comment by Bart Ehrman talking about the numerous and problematic translations of the bible, number 86:

    26:30 “What does it mean to say that God inspired the words of the text if we don’t have the words. Moreover why should one think that god performed the miracle of inspiring the words of the bible if he didn’t perform the miracle of preserving the words of the bible. If he meant to give us his very words why didn’t he make sure we recieved them.”

  17. Posted August 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I watched both videos. I was probably less selective than Dr. Coyne; too many were good! :)

    My favorites:
    2, 3, 5, 17, 23, 27, 29, 30, 33, 38, 41, 45, 49, 50, 64, 71, 76, 78, 80, 81, 82, 86, 89, 94. Heck, I picked 24 out of 100!

  18. MarcusA1971
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Watched part one a couple of weeks ago and I was wondering where Richard Dawkins was. But now that he was in the second 50, I am wondering why Jerry Coyne was not included.

    • bric
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:15 am | Permalink

      I suspect a canine conspiracy

  19. Posted August 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s Bertrand Lord Russell. He was an Earl by birth.

  20. Kevin Amani
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t Jerry himself distinguished? Isn’t he the go-to man for expertise on speciation?? If he’s not gonna blow his own trumpet, then we should do it for him

  21. Posted August 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Video I: IMO Sagan’s comments were the most logical, succinct, straightforward, and lucid. I very much identify with Marcus. Some may view his position as agnostic because he states we can’t know everything; however, I don’t think his statement reflects or is intended to reflect ambivalence about the existence of a supreme being. Rather, among them all, Marcus seems to me to be practical and to represent one of the most important characteristics of a scientist…the ability to simply say I know something about X; I don’t know everything about X, much less Y or Z. My job is to learn as much about X as possible if I have the ability to do it…I do the best I can. I consider Marcus’ statements to be the only brilliant ones as well as the only wise ones in the bunch. A possible criticism of Marcus’ comments might be that he seems to be saying that he really hasn’t thought about it much because he’s been busy with his work. Ilove it though some may consider it irresponsible. Many of these very remarkable persons were pontificating, in my view. Some others were I perceive attempting too hard to sound profound. Others were just preaching to the pews

  22. Posted August 8, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Video II: I only saw 99 clips…the cube thing lost me. I sympathize w/these men (the women except arguably Churchland had nothing of substance to say or no new perspectives); the men are attempting to state why belief in a superior being doesn’t make sense using formal logic. The problem with this approach as I see it is that philosophy isn’t science; scientific statements are by & large probabilistic; thus there is always a degree of error. This character gives believers an advantage…one that believers will always have (unless the scientific method were to be improved upon). Again I agree w/the very small numbers who say simply that…I do what I can do as best as I can do it. I’m expert at and I’m trained to do certain things/to ask and possibly answer certain questions and not others. Now, excuse me, I’m wasting limited T & have to get back to my work.

  23. Urb
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    I came back to visit the good professor’s site as I find intriguing some of the disparity between people of sound reasoning on both sides of the God debate at this point in time. I especially found this 100 Voices of Disbelief an interesting effort to change opinion by appeal to “authority”. It may provide an effective polemic for those already in the choir, but the presentations gave too little time to hear their arguments to be able to judge well their thought. Some did not seem more than agnostic, and a few clearly indicated that they had no desire to try to force believers to eat atheist gruel, even if they are content with it themselves.

    Look, gang, it’s the latter point that I really would like to comment about for a moment. Many of the opinions I have read on this site suggest a strong infatuation with science alone. I too have a love for science in all of its full evolutionary development of thought (not just the development of Darwinian evolutionary thought). And its role in the development of religious thought has also been vitally important to that worldwide interplay of experience, reason, human interaction, and spiritual awareness. I appreciate it all the more because I am religious.

    With all of the bitching here about the great evils caused in the name of religion one would think you don’t know that the razor cuts both ways. No doubt most of the horrors you proclaim are real, but no more real than the tremendous destruction of lives and environment promulgated by science through chemical proliferation, animal and human experimentation, and now climate disaster, just to name a few. Was that just “bad science” in some exempt way that “bad religion” is not? We could go tit for tat about who in the history of the world has done the most harm, but let’s face it, formal empirical scientists have not been around as long to do as much damage … or have they in the case of that last example?

    I hear you that you believe the evolution of ideas has reached the pinnacle of human awareness in the mouths of the 100 most famous (plus Jerry). But folks, some of those guys know that science has no real ability to give the masses enough hope to keep them willing to live out each day of a natural lifespan. Unless you are left-brain dominant or you are given the chance to be a science celebrity you likely won’t even find the beauty in a Nova program, let alone find your raison d’être in the search for scientific truth. And the most logically minded even of the left-brain elite will eventually wonder why all the “truth” in this world matters any more than one minute atom of cosmic dust. Unless you are a Social Darwinist as well, or are already a science celebrity, you will realize that meaning for life matters to all, and that “religion” in that most basic and universal of definitions is vital for human growth and continued development. But it needs scientists to help it stay honest, to help it refine what is true from what is not.

    I realize that this is no proof of a god. But all of the experiential and anecdotal evidence of spiritual reality that convinces me would have no validity to you at all with your ever-present empirical razor. You even ignore evidence that is empirical because it is not completely at your control, i.e. able to be replicated on command. I don’t know if most women are just more naturally inclined to the kind of spiritual-emotional intelligence that some scientists cannot utilize, but I wonder. But either way, we should agree that proof by appeal to authority is the weakest proof of all. Look, I won’t be responding individually to your critique of this comment. Sites like this are just not healthy for specific point-by-point debate, but I will read them because I respect you, and I just came to stir the pot. Thanks.

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      There are many things to criticize in your comment, but I just want to mention your last point, that scientists reject empirical evidence that they cannot control or replicate. The sciences of cosmology, geology, and paleontology, to name a few, show that your statement is false. Science is rightly skeptical about empirical evidence, because we know how easy it is to fool ourselves. But we work hard to find methods for distinguishing good empirical evidence from bad. The evidence for your religious beliefs is bad empirical evidence. It is the same quality of empirical evidence that the Greeks used in order to justify beliefs in Zeus and Apollo. This kind of evidence only convinces someone who badly wants to believe.

    • Notagod
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      It is so sad to read a comment from a christian. An example is the comment from Urb, clearly a christian whose only hope is death. Very sad, it is hard to avoid crying big alligator tears. I suspect that Urb likely lives in the United States, a morally poor country where the majority only cares about life before it is born and after it is dead. In the United States they think health care is a luxury item.

      I feel so sorry for you Urb but, I have hope that someday there will reside in the United States enough thoughtful non-christians that people like you Urb, people whose only hope is death, can receive the help that you obviously so desperately need.

  24. Posted August 8, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Two final comments: So many of these scientists speak in a manner suggesting a commonality with believers…that man is, if not the center of the universe, then the most important and hallowed component of the biogeochemical ecosystem. Finally, I found the idea fascinating that religion may be preserved phenomenologically as a way to preserve culture. This is similar to what many of my Catholic friends mean when they call themselves “social Catholics”.

  25. SwedishChef
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Steven Weinberg for the Win!

  26. Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    My goodness; I was embarrassed for the scientists in this video.

    I suppose that this shows that religious belief can make a smart person sound dumb.

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      It appeared to me that the scientists here were saying: “we believe that this universe acts in accordance to the laws of nature, except when it doesn’t. ” :)


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] (hat tip: Jerry Coyne) [...]

  2. [...] complement neurosurgeon Jonathan T. Pararajasingham’s videos of 100 academics explaining their atheism, he’s also made a 25-minute video of 20 academics and theologians explaining why they believe [...]

  3. [...] T. Pararajasingham has followed up his 100 voices of disbelief with 20 voices of belief. I could feel neurons dying in protest as I watched [...]

  4. [...] Jonathan T. Pararajasingham follows up his videos of 100 academics explaining their atheism with a 25-minute video of 20 academics and theologians explaining why they believe in god. The [...]

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27,064 other followers

%d bloggers like this: