In “Science is not your enemy” (permanent link), Steven Pinker starts an argument with humanist Leon Wieseltier. The humanities are a sinking ship, says Pinker, and need to re-conceive their relationship with the natural sciences. Let the two faculties fertilize each other! – No, thank you, says Wieseltier, we get along just fine. Read More
So, there you are, a scientist, impressed by the anti-religious fervor of the likes of Dawkins, believing that science can do away with God. You’re an atheist, in the sense that you believe there is no God, and that science licenses this conclusion.
But then, you’re also irrational. If you think God is outside the realm of the testable, science does not give you reason to believe anything about a potential God: neither that he exists nor that he doesn’t. If you believe God is in the realm of the empirical, science shows you a lack of evidence (which, as the famous saying goes, is not evidence of absence) and again leaves you without any reason to believe anything about God one way or the other.
In the current situation, therefore, you cannot both be rational and an atheist. The perfect scientist is agnostic.
Richard Dawkins is arguably the spiritual father of the new atheist and skeptics movements, whose followers claim to know what the world is like. Or, more to the point, who claim to know what the world is not like. No ghosts, no telepathy, no ectoplasm. Science does not support the belief in such phenomena, and, some say, it supports disbelief in them.
I assume Dawkins would agree with this, but then he surprises me with what strikes me as an utterly pointless definition of the supernatural that supports his case by definition. Read More