Friday, 1 January 2010

next decade

As a belated Christmas present, see:

Cassini Holiday Movies Showcase Dance of Saturn's Moons

Who needs religion when there are true wonders.

See also:

Those who use and abuse the term "new atheism" ought to listen to this interview with Bertrand Russell in 1959, who sums up all the relevant arguments and counter-arguments in a nutshell. E.g.:
It seems to me a fundamental dishonesty and a fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it is useful and not because you think it's true.

Irrespective of his sharp mind and exceptional eloquence, Bertrand Russell in fact only repeated existing arguments. For example, the suggestion that there is a causal relationship between belief in a god and morality was already convincingly refuted by Socrates.

So what is "new" about "new atheists"? Perhaps it is that theists feel more threatened than ever, now that they seem to be losing ground to the voices of reason, at least in the Western world. By calling their opponents "new", they demand that atheists justify their position from scratch, as if such justification hasn't been around for at least two and a half millenia. By bickering about the "tone" of the arguments set forth by "militant" or "fundamentalist" atheists, they attempt to distract attention from a lost cause on the intellectual and scientific battleground, trying to take the discourse into the realm of cowardly irrational sentiments and ad hominem attacks.

Belief in, and promotion of something that is patently false isn't morally defensible, and has never been. What may have changed over the last decade is the growing awareness that religion is a serious threat to civilisation. The Aids epidemic in Africa can be largely blamed on Christian and Muslim interference in prevention programmes. G.W. Bush's motivations for the disastrous war in Iraq were his wacky beliefs in Old Testament prophesies, and he found his ally in Tony Blair, whose deranged religious convictions were still in the closet at that time.

As to the 9/11 attacks, there is no rational basis for criticising Islamic fundamentalism without criticising Islam, and similarly, there is no rational basis for criticising Islam without also criticising Judaeo-Christian beliefs and related forms of delusion, including pseudo-science. Suppressing criticism because of the assumption that believers are such vulnerable weaklings that they would be unable to cope with rational arguments could well be regarded as a form of racism. Respect is due to people, but no respect at all is due to a mistaken belief, whether it is astrology, homoeopathy, Scientology or Islam.

At the top of the list of my hopes for humanity in the coming decade is therefore that religion will continue to lose its unwarranted air of respectability, and that some of the most serious forms of quackery will follow suit.

Some more pointers:

'The Evolution of Confusion' by Dan Dennett, AAI 2009

'Morality: From the Heavens or From Nature?' by Dr. Andy Thomson, AAI 2009

Scientology 2009…Year Of Epic Fail