Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't Worry, Be Happy

The Guardian informs us of this development in the British culture wars:

The atheist bus campaign launches today. Because of your enthusiastic response to the idea of a reassuring God-free advert being used to counter religious advertising, the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" could now become an ad campaign on London buses - and leading secularists have jumped on board to help us raise the money.

The British Humanist Association will be administering all donations to the campaign, and Professor Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of The God Delusion, has generously agreed to match all contributions up to a maximum of �5,500, giving us a total of �11,000 if we raise the full amount. This will be enough to fund two sets of atheist adverts on 30 London buses for four weeks.

As Richard Dawkins says: "This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion."

Well, if Professor Dawkins expects us to think perhaps we could follow the example of the renowned thinker Blaise Pascal and begin by asking if a thinking man wouldn't wish to see appended to the words "There's Probably No God" the question "but why on earth would you want to bet on it?"

In any event, like so much of what Dawkins says, the claim that thinking is anathema to religion is simply nonsense, at least if the religion under examination is Christianity. Most of the greatest thinkers in the history of human civilization were religious as are many of the finest thinkers doing philosophy today. If we would like an example of what ideas people propound when they refuse to think it's hard to imagine a better case than Dawkins' own book The God Delusion (See Hall of Fame in left margin of this page).

The slogan on the bus tells us to accept the probable non-existence of God, to enjoy our lives and not worry. Such an odd juxtaposition of thoughts. It's a bit like saying we're all doomed to a meaningless, pointless existence so let's enjoy ourselves and not think about it. It's precisely those who don't think who alone could enjoy life despite its horrors and absurdities, despite the monumental mass of human suffering. Anyone who thinks, would, if they really thought seriously about the emptiness of human existence in a world without God, be driven to despair.

Here is the assessment of a man known for thinking, an atheist like Dawkins: "I was thinking...that here we are eating and drinking, to preserve our precious existence, and that there's nothing, nothing, absolutely no reason for existing." Jean Paul Sartre from Nausea.

But don't worry. We all escape the nausea eventually. We all die. Enjoy.


Don't Judge Him

By Ramirez.


Battle for the Mind

Michael Egnor at Evolution News and Views composes a post in which he offers up a nice summary of various materialist views of the mind. He closes with this:

The mind is a catastrophe for materialism. Materialism doesn't explain the mind, and it probably can't explain the mind. Materialism flounders on the hard problem of consciousness - the problem of understanding how it is that we are subjects and not just objects. Now a number of scientists and other academics are challenging this repellent materialist nonsense. There's no scientific or even logical justification for the inference that the mind is merely the brain, without remainder, and the philosophical and sociological implications of the materialist view of the mind are abhorrent. Now there's a reality-based push-back to materialist superstition, and the materialists have an insurrection on their hands.

The question of whether we have a mind that is a qualitatively different "substance" than matter has, like almost all philosophical problems, enormous implications. If material stuff is all that makes up the world, our bodies, and our brains then it becomes much more difficult to hold onto a number of beliefs that many people hold dear.

If, for example, materialism is true it's harder to believe that there is a God, a life after death, human dignity, free will, and moral responsibility, just to mention a few. Indeed, most materialists don't believe in any of these things. Fortunately, it's very unlikely that materialism is true. Egnor's summary does a nice job in a relatively few paragraphs of showing us why.