Libby Purves writes an article in today's Times "Aggressive Atheism denies Culture and History" and this attracted a lot of comments. My contributions included my reply to the idea that that if you didn't believe in god it took all the mystery out of life. I responded:
Recently I was walking in some National Trust woodland and decided to sit down and admire the view. I turned to someone sitting nearby and said how wonderful it was to be there and observe nature at work.
He replied "It's wonderful and its all Gods' work" and it was clear he had no idea how wonderful it really is, when seen by an atheist who understands science. To me nature is fully of partly explored mysteries and there is alway room for creative imagination in trying to understand the underlying science - and the evolutionary implications.
The ideas of looking at the wonders of nature and having only one answer "God did it" would seem boring, boring, boring to me. To him there was no mystery and no need to think creatively - one meaningless and unsupportable answer and you can sit back and let your mind stagnate.
Religious people who hide their lack of imaginative thinking behind a screen of ancient myths may find it satisfying - I am more interested in actively exploring the wonders of the real world."
Following a comment I continued:
I am interested in the evolution of human intelligence and once we had language children would have always been asking their hunter-gatherer parents questions.
"How can I catch a fish" is a good question, "Why is the sky blue?" is a bad question because the parent doesn't know the answer - and does not want to waste time on meaningless debate. Having a quick and easy answer such as "The invisible fairy in the oak tree did it" would be a universal answer to hundreds of difficult questions ... ...
The next generation would then have an easy answer when their children asked questions - and they didn't want to admit they didn't know Undoubtedly this is how the first religions started.
In another thread I was challenged by someone who clearly has no idea how science works. They said:
Chris, do you believe that all scientific theories regarding the origin of the universe are true? And if only one is true you must accept that throughout history scientists have sincerely believed in dozens of totally unrealistic theories. I don't doubt your sincerity in believing one particular fantastically impossible theory (I don't care which one it is) but ''the absolute origin of the universe, of all matter and energy, even of physical space and time themselves, in the Big Bang singularity contradicts the perennial naturalistic assumption that the universe has always existed.
M. - do you believe in ALL the different religious stories about the origins of humans, life and the universe are true in every detail? Or do you believe that billions of very sincere religious believers are deluded because they are worshiping the wrong god(s) and the wrong sacred texts. After all there are very many more religious theories that scientific ones - and all the ones I know about are very bad at predicting what the real world is like. So why should I treat any specific religious model as more reliable than the rest.? After all if you honestly believe that there are billions of other religious people who are mistaken in their beliefs - how are you going to convince me that you are not equally mistaken.
Your comments about my belief in various scientific theories indicates that you have no understanding in how science works. Science is about looking at the real world, asking questions about it, and suggesting predictive models. The process always continues in that we are always looking for better models. For instance Newton's Law of Gravity is a good predictor of what happens on the surface of the Earth (after allowing for the presence of air) but Einstein introduced a different model which works on an astronomical scale. Both are good models for doing what they were designed to do - it is not a question of one is true and the other is false - and scientists would be quite prepared to accept a different model if it was better at predicting the observed facts.
So scientists do not believe that any one theory is true - in that they are always open to better theories with better predictions. I do not believe any of the theories of the origin of the current universe in the narrowly focused way that many religious people believe in the "truth" of one of a number of very different archaic texts, all of which are out of touch with the facts that can be observed by those who are not blinkered by faith. I believe that an open mind is far more health than a closed mind which unquestioningly accepts fables rather than thinks for itself.