Tags: science!

just me

More Atheism and Space!

Two links for you:
Another ill-informed rant about The New Atheism
The Depressing Realities (?) of interstellar travel

New Atheism
The article basically lacks some research that needed to be done to make an informed report or critique. Some of these are common errors, some of them are based on misconceptions and others seem to be derived from the same sort of 'belief in belief' excuses that I mentioned in a previous post on this subject and which Dennett has gone on about at length, you really should read Breaking the Spell on that topic as I can only really present a pale shade of his comments on the topic, though there's an amusing shortened presentation by him on the topic HERE.

Addressing the article more directly:

Yes, the New Atheism is very much associated with Anti-Theism. I don't see this as a bad thing and you won't see the same sort of fuss being made about, say, Anti-Fascism. Fascism is another set of faith beliefs with no basis in fact and another set of faith beliefs that cause an enormous amount of harm in the world. Just as people try to with religion, you'll find fascist apologists who will make various points about the aspects of fascism that did 'work' in various forms but the question each person must ask themselves is whether the cost justifies the benefit. You'll find few people argue the fascism toss there and those arguing the toss on a religious basis should ask themselves whether they're saying that because it's demonstrably and actually true or merely because they've been inculcated with belief and reverence for that tradition - or the idea of religion itself.

You will find a lot of sarcastic wit and scathing comment in The New Atheism directed towards religion - and that's certainly something that's deserved by religion - but more importantly, as well as rhetoric, you will find testable, confirmable facts and statistics backing that criticism.

"There can't be peace without religious peace"
I haven't particularly followed this specific set of arguments about this particular issue. So I'l just touch on the main points. Yes, it does seem unfair that religious conferences etc recieve funding help while other philosophies and ideas don't. We find this a lot with non-believing organisations having issues getting tax exemption or charity status. There's a severe lack of parity that reveals people's prejudices.

The comment above does, IMO, justify Meyer's comments. It IS an admission that religions are inherently violent and troublesome and largely incapable of compromise or development. This is an issue with faith which, since it's based on no foundation or basis of fact, is not open to negotiation, dilution or correction.

Reverend Tim Costello's CV
All the accomplishments and jobs that are listed are all pretty self-referential and none of them indicate any true education or understanding of 'anything that matters' though this is, of course, a subjective judgement. Being well regarded doesn't mean you know anything useful or with any real point to it and none of his impressive seeming accomplishments say anything that good about religion.

Atheist Fundamentalism?
Atheism is a lack of belief in god/s. That's it. That's all it is. The term fundamentalism is specifically religious and specific to Christianity, even taken in its less formal sense it can't really apply to atheism since it's a lack of belief, not a belief. There's nothing to be fundamentalist about! You could be insistent about a few things, though this still isn't really fundamentalism since the kinds of ideas associated with The New Atheism tend to be those stemming from science and most people will tend to agree on the usefulness of logic, reason and evidence right up until it demolishes their particularly loved irrational nonsense.

Atheist Dogma?
See above and, again, if we conflate New Atheism with scientific ideas we still can't have dogma since the scientific method, by its very nature, has to be open to new evidence and cannot, as a system, be dogmatic. It's literally impossible.

The accusation, the misinformed one, seems to be that The New Atheism is - somehow - becoming what it hates. As covered above this is something that is literally impossible. What it CAN be is strident and insistent, but there's a difference again here in that what it's insistent about are things that are real and which can actually be checked or about processes with proven utility, rather - again - than nonsense with zero basis in reality.

Besides, as we can see from the success of religion, being forceful is clearly a positive adaptation for a meme and if we're to successfully inocculate people against the harm of religion any competing memeplex is going to need to be insistent in its own way. Again, this is a cost/benefit analysis.


Interstellar Travel
I love Charles Stross' work but man, that's a depressing write up right there and without actual, personal space travel I don't see people ever getting interested and motivated enough to get out into space. While personality upload/download is one way of getting out into the stars it has no poetry, no soul, no opera.

We can get out to the stars, as people, but it's going to take a huge amount of resources and those resources do exist - in the solar system. Looking to the stars is getting ahead of ourselves a bit. We've got a whole solar system to exploit first and by the time we've reached every part of the solar system and put it to good use, who knows what other possibilities we might have discovered? Warp travel? Hyperspace? Wormholes? Things we haven't even thought of yet?

It's hard enough to get people excited about practical and genuinely exciting space science such as returning to the moon or setting up a colony base on Mars, if the best we can ever hope for is flinging posthuman slivers of nanodiamond at the stars on a microwave beam then we're never, ever going to bother.

While this does explain Fermi's Paradox it's as depressing - in its own way - as our total failure, thus far, to colonise the solar system has been. There should have been a moon base by the 1980s for fuck's sake and here we are struggling to find the budget to fling rehashed 1960s technology up there.

Doomed, either way, bugger. :(