• By Eric Niller

    Science and religion have never gotten along very well. But both strive to answer one fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? Are we here thanks to a random sequence of events—just a […]

    • er: naturalism = no religion = atheism (according to theists)


    • Or in Latin, Taurus Excreta

    • I like it as a personal philosophy but would like it more if it had some emphasis on primary actors in this Universe being sentient beings. With intelligence and the ability of an entity to enact their will being the defence against entropy.

    • Looks to me as if he’s asking – WHY does 1 + 1 = 2!

    • But both strive to answer one fundamental question: What does it mean to be human?

      sorry only got this far then stopped reading

    • @OP- It is a long book [Ed. note: 464 pages]. I cut some of it. There are two threads. One is an apologia for naturalism. I’m saying that despite appearances to the contrary in our everyday life, this world we live in is governed by laws that don’t have goals or purpose that are not sustained by anything outside the world.

      But that should be obvious to anyone whose head is not filled with theological rubbish! There is no need to even try to prove a negative unless trying to educate the deluded!

      It is just stuff obeying the laws of physics over and over again. The other thread is that that is OK. The fact that you were not put here for any purpose, that we are collections of atoms that always obey the laws of physics is not reason to despair that life is meaningless.

      Again, there is only a need to debunk this strawman claim, when debating those who have been filled with theistic nonsense!

      Understanding physics does not lead to despair, regardless of how many ranting preachers may say so to gullible congregations in order to try to maintain delusional supernatural beliefs!
      (Ho sheeples, – You don’t want to reject god’s miracles and become one of those “despairing depressed scientists”, when you can be a happy-clappy Christian – Praise de Lawd and reject doubt!!)

    • Cairsley.

      stercus taureum
      excrementum taureum
      excreta taurea
      faeces taureae

      This is why I love this web page. Classis post.

    • Wow. Tough audience!

      I could detect not a hint of Anthropocentric Universe Syndrome.

      The poetry (Attenborough’s or Feynman’s or Dawkin’s or Sagan’s) can be as bleak and windswept as you like. My aesthetic is for bleak and windswept and open…

    • I think its worth noting that this book is aimed not at atheists but the other 89% of Americans etc.

    • @Cairsley and David R Allen
      scatology abounds

    • Interesting collective reaction from the commentators in this forum. Almost universal rejection. Having read the responses it left me feeling there was a small but common thinking on display from people who’s most likely common denominator is lack of belief in a god. Interesting.

      I read the article and was not impressed. Even though I understood he was not advocating religion, I came away feeling he was trying to substitute a GMO religion. My reaction was that this wasn’t necessary. Atheism has got a measured and rational argument in relation to religion. This smelt a bit like reinsertion of Woo…. And if it sounds like Woo, and it quacks like Woo…

    • David,

      I realised quite a long while ago that many religious folk are “religious” as an aesthetic reaction to the universe. They are nervous nellies who need to know that like their childhood environment their world is synthetic, pre-tested, de-risked, and comes with a clear set of parental instructions for use.

      This book is not in any way selling the stuff of religion like Sunday Assemblies (spit…a waste of good drinking and talking time) or the creepy Alain De Botton (pandering to our very weaknesses and insecurity with a defensive huddle). This book is to note the aesthetic reaction to the world embodied in the robust poetry of Attenborough, Feynman, Dawkins and Sagan.

      In wanting to see religion gone I want those religious out of habit and nervous nelliedom (those who are atheist over dogma), yet indifferent to Atheism’s active political agenda of secularism etc., be engaged.

      I have two types of argument with the religious, about morality, and about aesthetics (the folk I engage with mostly don’t have a problem with scientific truth, perhaps because of IQ). Carroll’s words as we can discern them here address the second type of argument.

      I find the complaint astonishing. (Mind you I haven’t read the book yet….I could be severely disappointed.)

    • Phil #19

      I find the complaint astonishing.

      Is that my complaint? Whatever the guy was saying, and apologies if I have missed the finer nuances of his argument, but I was not alone, as you can see by the others who felt similarly to me, and came to the same conclusion.

    • I find the collective complaint astonishing.

      It is the collectiveness that is the biggest surprise…

      Its why I opened with “tough audience!”

    • There isn’t a thing said in this short interview that leads me to conclude that a naturalist can not also be an atheist. If Sean Carroll wants to define atheism as “a reaction against theism. It is purely a rejection of an idea. It’s not a positive substantive idea”, I’m fine with that. But it doesn’t mean that the rejection of theism is the only idea an atheist can hold in his head. Everything else Sean Carroll says here indicates that he rejects supernaturalism – he’s an atheist.

      I wonder if Carroll feels that drawing a distinction between naturalism and atheism is necessary because of the strong insistence of people like Jerry Coyne that determinism must rule out free will? If so, it should be noted that in Coyne’s line of reasoning leading to that conclusion lies an equally strong argument for nihilism (but if you continually point this out to Coyne and do so even a little too pointedly, he’ll ban you from his site).

    • Tim #22

      I wonder if Carroll feels that drawing a distinction between naturalism and atheism is necessary because of the strong insistence of people like Jerry Coyne that determinism must rule out free will?

      In the USA, the home of the euphemism, where bathrooms contain no baths, Atheist or even atheist is an unappetising word and a most unhelpful identity. The bad reaction from Atheists here is probably the distaste that this may just be a search for a congenial euphemism.

      I think that is surely part of Carrol’s thinking, regrettably so but not an ignoble thing in itself. Much more I think it is genuinely aimed at those who are simply atheist without really realising it or those many more who have a belief in belief only. I think his prospectus is truly about how atheists regard the universe and their governing aesthetics. I think such folk have little concern for Coyne’s view on free will, which is itself answering a non-question, framed as it was originally in a theological context.

      Is your view or answer arrived at by your own free will?

      Who cares except in the legal, moral, judgmental sense? (A clearer question than this is- are you prepared to own your speech and actions?) The pertinent and only question outside of this about your view or answer is…is it correct?

      Please, please, please let Carrol’s book have nothing to do with this fatuous theological question of free will. The only useful writer on the topic is Dan Dennett in “Freedom Evolves”, where he identifies choice of action as freedom.

    • Tim #22
      May 14, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      There isn’t a thing said in this short interview that leads me to conclude that a naturalist can not also be an atheist.

      I’ll echo Phil’s point on this.

      It is not about naturalists BEING atheists.
      It’s about American naturalists recognising themselves as atheists, or coming out as atheists, in view of the strawman negative images of atheists which are regularly propagated from pulpits and in the media.

    • I don’t get it. What is he saying that the hasn’t been saying for years.

      Can’t we just call it ‘philosophical naturalism’ like we always did?

    • I was watching some vapid television show — using it as background while I cooked dinner for my family. Anyway, one of the characters uttered a phrase that actually set me into some thought.

      It was a stereotyped detective who was a hardened non believer and had “seen too much”. The pigeon hole he occupied was a never smiling logic machine…. The character opposite set him up for the following line

      “Truth or happiness; but not both…. never both.”

      It got me thinking. The reason that this brooding stereotype persists is the misunderstanding that the person who is arriving at the atheistic standpoint is never happy or always angry or just negative in general. It is a misunderstanding that (IMO) manifests from the observation that the “transition” to non-belief is sometimes very difficult.

      This, in my case, was never because the atheistic worldview is inherently grumpy, but rather I was grumpy because I was coming to grips with the multitude of lies i had been fed my whole life. Lies proliferated, many times for profit, by people that I loved, trusted, were in power and even those that used these qualities to then prey on people both financially and even sometimes sexually.

      This pisses me off. So, Truth or happiness??? I have arrived at happiness because I have arrived at my truth. But the road was rocky because of the land mines and pitfalls purposely installed by “believers” who demonstrate clearly that they do not actually subscribe to what they purport.