Science shows us the wonder of reality.

Apr 9, 2018

Dear Richard,

I have just finished reading ‘The God Delusion’ and felt compelled to write to you to let you know how much of an impact it has had on my thinking.

I am a gay man, brought up to Irish Catholic parents. My mother was a wonderful, kind-hearted woman from the country, and my father was a very well-intentioned, but highly religious man(iac). Having practically abandoned any kind of actual religious belief long ago, I still felt a distant affection for the rituals of the church, along with residual guilt-resonance whenever I did anything un-catholic (sex, usually).

I now feel quite happy to say categorically that I am an atheist. I will still happily sing church music (I was a choral scholar and lay clerk at Oxford at around the time you wrote the book) but will appreciate it for its artistic value, without attaching any mystical meaning to it.

I’m currently sat in a cafe in Nepal, having just finished the final chapter. I am very taken by your passion for science and your explanations of the alternative ways of perceiving quantum theory. This jogged a long-forgotten memory of applying to be a choral scholar, as one of the stages of the process, I was required to have an interview with the then Chaplain. We were required to write a short statement explaining how we would uphold the Christian values associated with being a choral scholar. As an enthusiastic teenager fresh from a Physics A Level I waxed lyrical about the wonder of the natural world and included something about how quantum physics might better help us to understand the nature of God. I remember vividly the chaplain taking me to task on this, taking me down a peg or three, suggesting that I had no idea what I was talking about and that I shouldn’t even make such stupidly ill-informed suggestions. I was thoroughly deflated by the encounter, but I now realise that perhaps I had hit a raw nerve. It is also possible that he was just an arsehole.

In any case, I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I have never written to an author after reading one of their books, but felt the need to do so today. It’s always nice for us to hear that our work has a positive impact on people, so I just wanted to let you know that I’ll buy you lots of drinks if our paths ever cross.

All best

7 comments on “Science shows us the wonder of reality.

  • More food for thought:

    The Big Bang, according to a scholar who is renowned as the world’s greatest observational cosmologist, Allan Sandage, “was a supernatural event that cannot be explained within the realm of physics as we know it.”25

    Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask: (With Answers) (p. 35). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

  • Stewart #1

    As you have written that your religion allows for all avenues to be explored, I just wondered what YOU made of that quote? I know how I interpreted it but would like to hear your understanding please?

  • Stewart B #1
    Oct 8, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    The Big Bang, according to a scholar who is renowned as the world’s greatest observational cosmologist, Allan Sandage

    I think that’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination!
    He was assistant to one of the worlds greatest astronomers and carried on with the work after the death of Hubble, rather a long time ago before modern cosmology was developed, and before our present knowledge of the age of the universe was established.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Sandage

    Sandage was one of the most influential astronomers of the 20th century.[5] He was born in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1948. In 1953 he received a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology; the German-born Wilson Observatory-based astronomer Walter Baade was his advisor.
    During this time Sandage was a graduate student assistant to cosmologist Edwin Hubble. He continued Hubble’s research program after Hubble died in 1953.
    In 1952 Baade surprised his fellow astronomers by announcing (at the 1952 Conference of the International Astronomical Union, in Rome) his determination of two separate populations of Cepheid variable stars in the Andromeda Galaxy, resulted in a doubling of the estimated age of the universe (from 1.8 to 3.6 billion years)

    Allan Sandage, “was a supernatural event that cannot be explained within the realm of physics as we know it.”

    I think that is what is known as a “God-of-gaps” argument! –
    “science has not yet discovered the details”, so god-did-it!

    We do however, now know the physical timeline of the big-bang from within the first fraction of a second of its occurrence, and the explanations sound a lot more like quantum physics than supernatural magic!!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe


    – 1. The very early universe – the first picosecond (10−12) of cosmic time. It includes the Planck epoch, during which currently understood laws of physics may not apply; the emergence in stages of the four known fundamental interactions or forces – first gravity, and later the strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions; and the expansion of space and supercooling of the still immensely hot universe due to cosmic inflation, which is believed to have been triggered by the separation of the strong and electroweak interaction.

    Tiny ripples in the universe at this stage are believed to be the basis of large-scale structures that formed much later.

    .- 4. The universe as it appears today. From 1 billion years, and for about 12.8 billions of years, the universe has looked much as it does today.
    It will continue to appear very similar for many billions of years into the future. The thin disk of our galaxy began to form at about 5 billion years (8.8 bn years ago),[4] and the solar system formed at about 9.2 billion years (4.6 bn years ago), with the earliest traces of life on Earth emerging by about 10.3 billion years (3.5 bn years ago).

  • Alan

    Can’t that quote also be seen as a scientifically correct statement. It seems true to me with the question mark over the “supernatural” word with those wishing to put one there. The supernatural being not natural to our universes laws?

  • Olgun, I make of that statement that science sees things that are still far beyond there understanding. May shun Christianity and say that science is what we should be paying attention to. I think in some cases we are re-inventing the wheel if you will. In many cases of the past scientists followed the information in the bible as a guide, and attempted to prove those things out. God never said we couldn’t explore the “How” of the way we got here, he just wanted to make sure we got the “Why” we got here. The rest is open territory. In science we start with philosophy, and migrate to theories and then attempt to prove them. There are some theories that are just not repeatable and in many cases that is how we prove our science theories are correct. Until that happens thoes theories are a kind of best guess based on what we can see, touch, and test. Much of the science they call creation science is laughed at as pseudo science but many of those conducting the tests and making the theories are just as good at science as those who disagree. Remember, however it is not the first time, nor will it be the last that scientists will be labeled crackpots for their theories until we finally have enough information/evidence to prove them correct. In the case of my beliefs I simply know enough not to cut it down to the wire. You don’t have to put the answer in my hand, because it is in my heart. What I believe will not hurt anyone and will in fact help those who are looking. for answers.
    Her is a scenario I have heard before:
    A building is on fire. A person on the twelfth floor is in trouble, but no ladders can reach that high. The firemen blow up one of those stunt fall balloons and tell the person to jump. My gosh it is a long way down. Lets make a couple of comparisons:
    1. A person who knows the hallway is on fire, but is not affected by the smoke or heat is more likely to wait for another alternative. This is the skeptic who is comfortable where they are.
    2. The person who fells the heat because it has already entered their apartment and is starting to burn their back are the poor, the destitute, and those at the end of their rope.
    In either case there has to finally be a leap from the window. That leap is “faith”. Landing safely in the balloon is “salvation” The leap is faith because to the jumper, salvation is not guaranteed, even though the firemen say it is. The balloon is salvation because it is the result of the faith! Pretty uncomplicated huh? Now, Mr. Sandwich, if you read this please be nice 🙂

  • Stewart

    The firemen say it is because the ballon has been tested scientifically and the jumperjopes that all the right precedures have been carried out. The faith of the jumper has no effect on the end result. I now have a Pythonesque style skit in my head where they test the faith of people by making them jump from a high place onto a balloon not fit for the job and claiming those that die as unclean. The idea is to make better balloons as they go until they find the right one and call that faith. 😁

  • Stewart B #5
    Oct 8, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Much of the science they call creation science is laughed at as pseudo science but many of those conducting the tests and making the theories are just as good at science as those who disagree.

    Nope! They are just conmen or the self-deluding, who kid the uneducated that they are as good as the expert scientists who THEY disagree with!

    Remember, however it is not the first time, nor will it be the last that scientists will be labeled crackpots for their theories until we finally have enough information/evidence to prove them correct.

    This has nothing to do with the conmen of pseudoscience.
    Scientists who are dishonest or get it wrong, have their hypotheses shot down by fellow scientists not by pseudo-scientists. Sceptical scientists retest theories which might be wrong, and either refute them or confirm them.
    The pseudo-scientists incompetently snipe a theories which get it right!
    Most of the pseudoscientists would fail basic school science tests, but are stupid enough to think they can offer a serious challenge to world-leading experts!

    In the case of my beliefs I simply know enough not to cut it down to the wire.

    . .. .
    Which may be why the pseudo-science conmen target people like you, because the brighter ones know that they will get their nonsense publicly taken apart if they try it on people like me!
    The dimmer ones try it anyway, and in a public forum get laughed at as the self-deluding clueless incompetents they usually are!

    The most devious ones, are the dishonest bought stooges working in the pay of charlatans and crooks, who have quackery to market for a profit! – They are the likes of climate-change deniers, anti-vaxxers, and snake-oil salesmen.

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