Irrational and proud of it

10 05 2008

Ben Stein on science:

Anyway, I couldn’t give a [profanity] whether a person calls himself a scientist. It doesn’t earn any extra respect from me, because it’s not as if science has covered itself with glory, morally, in my time. Scientists were the people in Germany telling Hitler that it was a good idea to kill all the Jews. Scientists were telling Stalin it was a good idea to wipe out the middle-class peasants. Scientists were telling Mao Tse-Tung it was fine to kill 50 million people in order to further the revolution. [Via Memeplex]

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor on reason:

if you go just by reason, I think, without faith, without belief in God, you can imagine, for instance in the last century, some of the faith(less), or supposedly faithless societies – people, whether it’s like Hitler or Stalin, bringing up – having a country in which, if you like, a God free zone, a dictatorship ruled by reason, and where does it lead? To terror and oppression [Richard]

Regarding the second quote, Richard Dawkins remarked that while the use of the reductio ad Hitlerum against science is commonplace, “this is the first time I have heard any reputable spokesman (a) say that Hitler and Stalin’s dictatorships were ruled by reason, and (b) say that reason leads to terror and oppression.”

Further reading: Memeplex and Terry Sanderson at <i>The Guardian</i>.

Quote of the week: Alan Sokal

29 02 2008

The bottom line is that all of us – conservative and liberal, believer and atheist – live in the same real world, whether we like it or not. Public policy must be based on the best available evidence about that world. In a free society each person has the right to believe whatever nonsense he wishes, but the rest of us should pay attention only to those opinions that are based on evidence. (“Taking Evidence Seriously,” Comment is Free)

But you knew that already.

Quote of the week: Barack Obama

4 02 2008

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example. Read the rest of this entry »

Ratiosimilitude: A few thoughts on faith vs. reason

7 01 2008

Some of you, particularly the owner of the blog who by now must be getting sick and tired of the whole affair, may have been following my “debate?”/”discussion?” with a commenter by the name of Saved Sinner over at OzAtheist. Indeed, I don’t quite know how to describe the “exchange” (and not even that term seems to suffice), given that my interlocutor’s contributions are limited to repeating religious mantras and abstractions ad infinitum, imploring me to read his holy book, evading my simple requests to properly substantiate his religious truth-claims (i.e. without the use of religious dogma), and crying foul when such evasions as well as the flaws in his reasoning are pointed out to him. Furthermore, I am accused by Saved Sinner of ignoring the evidence he says he has provided in support of his religious dogma, even though the “evidence” in question consists entirely of the aforementioned religious mantras and holy book, and so cannot reasonably be accepted as good evidence. And when this is pointed out to Saved Sinner, it falls on deaf ears as he insists, mantra-like, that he has presented the evidence. Read the rest of this entry »