Krauss: Join the real world and show faith in reasoned debate – SMH

by Lawrence Krauss
14th April, 2012
via Sydney Morning Herald

This weekend’s Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, one of the largest such gatherings in the world, has raised more than a few eyebrows. The first question that arises is this: how can one seriously bring people together simply to celebrate not believing in something? The answer is equally simple. The convention will instead celebrate something positive: reason.

Too often, especially in my own country, the United States, public policy is based on ideology, preconception or money – anything but what it should be based on, namely empirical evidence. Promoting such evidence-based decision-making is vital to the health of democracies, which can function effectively only with an informed electorate and legislators.

Individuals may differ in their opinion on issues such as addressing climate change, for example, but without an honest assessment of existing knowledge, and an awareness of the fact that the climate is changing now, that sea levels are rising, that the world is getting warmer, that oceans are acidifying, and that all these changes are consistent with predictions based on known human production of greenhouse gases, how can we hope to explore sound policy options for how to meet this challenge?

In the US in 2008, when presented with the option of a presidential debate on science and technology policy questions, the two presidential candidates opted instead for a debate on faith, in spite of the fact that faith is irrelevant for all of the major challenges facing the next president, from the environment to energy production, national security and health.

As I put it at a recent debate in Canberra, when the issue of religion as the basis of rational policy was concerned, if you are choking next to me and either I could perform the Heimlich manoeuvre or I could pray for you, which would you choose? Needless to say, in that instance, even the most devoted recognised the difference between religion and science in a time of real crisis is that science works.

There is another reason, however, to bring such a large group of individuals together who share an unwillingness to accept on faith various outrageous claims of divinity associated with books compiled by long-dead and sometimes illiterate peasants thousands of years ago. Religious fundamentalists of all persuasions are quite vocal – and politicians do not turn a deaf ear. It is about time we demonstrated that a significant fraction of the voting public, about 15 per cent in the US, for example, claim no religious affiliation, and that we vote, too. Two weeks ago, 30,000 people came together in Washington DC for a Rally for Reason. On the other side of the globe, in Melbourne, 4000 people will gather for a similar purpose.

But perhaps the most significant impact for the individuals who will come together at the Global Atheist Convention will be a personal one, and one that is not that different from the reasons that people attend churches, synagogues and mosques.

Based on my own experience, many will come to share a sense of community with those who share a common world view. They may come from communities where they are afraid to speak out openly about their views on religion. Surrounded by the relative safety of numbers, many will come away from the weekend with courage bolstered and frankly feeling better about themselves.

One of the criticisms launched against a scientific world view is that it can never fulfil the deep human needs that have made religion so prevalent throughout human history – the needs to be a member of a group, to sense something grander in the world outside oneself than one can immediately perceive.

I for one cannot accept this claim. Surely by celebrating together a remarkable universe, indeed a universe far more remarkable than anything envisaged either by science fiction writers or by the authors of scripture, we might hope to encourage a shared sense of awe and wonder and partnership that is based not on an imaginary world we have created to console ourselves, but on the real world.

Lawrence Krauss is foundation professor and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, and the author of A Universe from Nothing. He will appear with Richard Dawkins at the Sydney Opera House on Monday.

2 Responses to Krauss: Join the real world and show faith in reasoned debate – SMH

  1. Dan Trent says:

    Dear Lawrence Krauss,

    How well your sentiments sound:
    “Surely by celebrating together a remarkable universe, indeed a universe far more remarkable than anything envisaged either by science fiction writers or by the authors of scripture, we might hope to encourage a shared sense of awe and wonder and partnership that is based not on an imaginary world we have created to console ourselves, but on the real world.”

    But what is the actual reality of human life on Earth, both today and in the past? Devastation, destruction, eradication, suppression, oppression, pollution, and constant ongoing futility and waste.

    You may blame this on human ‘nature’, but what is this comprised of and caused? Does science actually know? No. Whereas it’s no deep mystery. All that’s required is an understanding of who and what humans are.

    Or you may blame religions. But does science have any firm responses to proving that gods do not physically exist – something for which you seem to apologise. Once again, the answer is “no”, despite that the requirements are merely to know exactly of what all that is physical is physically made of, and why.

    So where do the problems lay? Surprisingly, in science itself. For it is science that’s the fundamental cause of all problems facing humanity, despite that science presents itself as a saviour of humanity.

    There are two factors to this:
    Firstly: science is now the biggest business on the planet – bigger than the business of religion – controlling directly and indirectly even the most primitive and most desolate societies. Name any human need or attribute and science is either effecting it or controlling it. Everything from nuclear weapons, to life saving drugs, to ice cream; they are all part of business of science. It is, therefore, this business of science that’s causing a drastic and totally unmanaged population explosion on this planet, which not only damages the state of this planet’s environment for all its life forms – both flora and fauna – but shall have a devastating effect on humans as well.

    Secondly: the most prevalent human attitude has been that of a dominant males claiming their right to rule all others in the name of their god. This goes on to this day, whether the rulers are despots or democratic politicians. Why? Because human societies have been so indoctrinated by religions, and their gods, that they trust gods where they would never trust or support the rulers themselves.

    And has science liberated humans from their reliance on entities that do not exist, such as gods? No. Why? Because it is science itself that’s based on entities that do not exist. How in the world can anyone prove that god has no existence when science takes for granted notions such as ‘time’, and that something can be derived from nothingness of vacuum space?

    If you and other scientists are so bereft of factual reality, I would suggest a book, ‘Revelations of a Human Space Navigator, Second Edition’, by Victor Senchenko, which is available for free download from Lulu.com.

    There you shall learn not only of what everything physical is physically made of and why; and who and what humans are, and why; but what there was before our Universe and what there shall be after, and what occurs between the periods when universes take place and then become dispersed. And it does explain exactly what gravitation and the so-called electromagnetic fields are, so that you shall learn why there can be nothing in physical existence that’s exclusively positive or negative, as everything – with no exceptions – is simultaneously both positive and negative.

    It is all this information that gives a definitive explanation why gods not only do not exists, but cannot exist.

    • Davo says:

      Science is a methodology dude. What methodology do you propose for working out what is reality and what isn’t?

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