Saturday, January 31, 2009

Discussing Religion

  • Slashdot recently discussed free, open source software for experimental physics.

  • A pretty breezy piece in the NYT about the physics of tackling (in American football).

  • Cocktail Party Physics is literally discussing physics, or rather astrology, at parties, or rather social gatherings. This reminded me of a dinner party from last month. We were talking about what to tell children when they directly ask if God/Santa/ToothFairy/etc exist. I said I tell them I don't believe in God, but I avoid answering the other questions (mostly because I don't want them "spoiling it" for other kids). Anyway, so a friend asked if I was an atheist or an agnostic. Knowing she's somewhat spiritual and not wanting to offend, I gave a response I thought fairly polite (as well as accurate):

    I'm an atheist because I don't think God exists.

    But this person persisted, questioning my use of the word "think." So I continued:

    Well, I don't know that God doesn't exist, but similarly, I don't know that you exist. However, I live my life accepting in pragmatic terms that others probably exist since it's easier than not and there is evidence for your existence (although not conclusive). However, there's no evidence of God's existence, so to the extent that you want to consider me agnostic, I'd have to say I'm just as agnostic regarding the existence of ferries, ghosts, etc.

  • This discussion reminds me of something I read on Facebook recently. This woman from high school I barely know was posting a combination of religious and political stuff. Mostly just enough to merit a smile, like how she joined a group celebrating Sean Hannity. Or a status update about how dare Obama disrespect Bush in his inaugural speech. But then she posted the oft-told parable about a religious Marine knocking out a liberal professor (among many hits on Google, you can read the story at this blog). I'm amazed at the behavior of some people who make themselves out to be very moral and God-fearing. It probably didn't occur to her that she was advocating for violence against anyone. In any case, I avoided commenting, but took the preventative measure (to forestall her getting me upset) of "de-friending" her. Apparently, the de-listed friend isn't notified, which has its advantages and disadvantages.


Anonymous said...

Answers to previous questions:
2.Paying the bill

And as for the current post: did you really say that to some kid? You've probaby scared them into a life of mystical voodoo-hoodoo, just as they may have started to think for themselves. Shame on you.

Neutrino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neutrino said...

Sorry, had to delete my previous comment, as I screwed something up badly in typing it. ;)

Here's what I was attempting to say after reading the post.

I'm an agnostic myself(and growing up I went to/was a member of the Lutheran church). I guess that's the result of majoring in physics and math and questioning things, which has the odd effect of estranging others who knew me when I was growing up. ;)

When I get into such discussions, I have to qualify things by saying that:

a. I have no proof that God exists.

shortly followed by:

b. I also have no proof that God doesn't exist.

Which is why the parable at the blog you linked to about the Marine hitting the professor is one I find very interesting.

i.e. If I follow part (a) of that, I have no way of proving that God compelled the Marine to hit the professor. But if I stuck to the part (b), I'd have no way to prove that God didn't compel the Marine to hit the professor.

Of course, it'd be silly to think God did compel the Marine to do that--free will and such. If God exists, doesn't God have better things to do?

Anonymous said...

You don't believe in ferries? Boats that transport cars across rivers, etc? I have pretty good evidence that they exist.