Both Sean Carroll, and Michael Shermer were staunch advocates of what I would call the Sceptic movement of the late 2000’s, and I had the chance to speak with both of them through email for an old website, and question their beliefs. Both discussions were quite terse, tense, and touch-and-go… Partly, because I was still trying to find my style of conversation, and also because of the nature of the subjects we were discussing. Still, there were some great insights given. Therefore, I believe there may still be some value in sharing them.
LETTERS WITH MICHAEL SHERMER
https://superscholar.org/features/influential-atheists/Michael Brant Shermer (born September 8, 1954) is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. The Skeptics Society currently has over 55,000 members.Shermer also engages in debates on topics pertaining to pseudoscience and religion in which he emphasises scientific skepticism. He was recently voted #7 in superscholar’s 25 most influential living athiests.
JC: If, with one word you could wish all the theists out of the churches and rid the world of religion, would you?
JC: Being an Atheist yourself, please explain how you repuniate one of the most prevalent arguments in any theists diction, intelligent design.
MS: See my book: Why Darwin Matters. I present all of the creationist and Intelligent Design Theory arguments and refute them one by one. It take much too much space for a short interview like this to do it properly, but in brief all of their arguments go like this:
1. X looks designed.
2. I can’t think of how X came about naturally.
3. Therefore, X was designed supernaturally.
X is whatever the particular topic in question is: the eye, the bacteria flagellum, the origin of life, the universe. It’s the argument from personal incredulity: because I can’t think of how X was designed naturally, it must have been designed supernaturally. This is an unacceptable way to argue in science.
JC: Do you believe the misconception of numinous experiences taken as religious experience is one of the main reasons religion is still strong today?
MS: It is one reason that some people believe in God–a personal revelatory experience. But most people do not have such numinous experiences. They believe because they were raised to believe and those beliefs are reinforced by their culture, their peer groups, etc.
JC: Professor Richard Dawkins has said he believes, that if Michael Angelo had painted the sithsteen chapel on science rather than religion it would still be as breathtaking. do you agree?
MS: Yes, of course. When the Pope hires you to paint a religious scenes in his church, that’s what you do.
JC: It seems common place that most religious people, contradict there ‘religious beliefs’ in there every day life. Do you agree with that, and if so, why do you think that is?
MS: Religious people are as hypocritical in their moral beliefs and actions as non-religious people, but their’s is more prominent because they’ve made a point that you need religion to be moral, so when they are not moral their hypocrisy stands out.
JC: Do you think the world would be a better place without religion? and if so, please elaborate.
MS: Yes, and it will, in time, fall into disuse as we replace religion with humanism.
Wed 13th Dec 2013
LETTERS WITH SEAN CARROLL
Short Biography of Sean Carroll
Sean Michael Carroll, Ph.D. (born 5 October 1966) is a senior research associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He is a theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity. He has been a contributor to the physics blog Cosmic Variance, and has published in scientific journals and magazines such as Nature, Seed, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. Described as a gifted science communicator, he has appeared on the History Channel’s The Universe, Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Carroll is the author of Spacetime And Geometry, a graduate-level textbook in general relativity, and has also recorded lectures for The Great Courses on cosmology and the physics of time. He is also the author of two popular books: one on the arrow of time entitled From Eternity to Here, and one on the Higgs boson entitled The Particle at the End of the Universe.
JC : Do you believe it is possible to be objective in ones belief in “a” God, Peter Hitchens says no, Vic Stenger says yes. Please elaborate.
SC : I hope I’m interpreting this question correctly: if you are asking whether believing in God (or not) can be an objectively rational choice, I would have to say yes. I think any belief about the nature of the world should be judged rationally, in as objective a way as we can manage. There are certainly non-objective components in our human nature — desires and inclinations that we are born with or are inculcated in us at an early age. But I don’t think that substantive statements about reality are in that category.
JC : A subject i touched on with both previously mentioned guests was; Human nature and the seemingly ingrained need for division in social grouping, and the violence this can cause. Do you think any seperation within society can cause a violent response?
SC : I that kind of assertion is far too general and vague to have much value. People have certain “ingrained” feelings, but they can generally overcome them through careful thinking.
JC : When the world ends and consciousness ends with it, and all we know is destroyed, Why does it matter what we do? How can one person be judged objectively “moral”?
SC : It matters what we do because we’re not dead yet. We are living persons with feelings and aspirations, in a world full of other such people. Our actions have consequences for those other people as well as ourselves. The lesson of naturalism is that what matters is our actual lives as we live them, not some far-off goal.
I don’t believe in objective morality, but I do believe in morality. We create it for ourselves, just like we create all sorts of things.
JC : A question i ask all my guests, If you could rid the world of religion today, empty the pews and begin tomorrow with no religion. Would you? if so why? And would this make the world a better place?
SC : Im afraid the question isn’t very well-defined. It would depend on the kind of process we’re talking about that would lead to the abandonment of religion. If we’re contemplating a series of rational deliberations about the state of the world, each person carefully weighing the evidence and concluding that religion is false, then I believe that would make the world a better place. But if we’re imagining a magical mind-ray that erases memories and beliefs instantaneously (which is about as plausible as the first scenario), that doesn’t sound like a good idea at all.
JC : You have the floor to finish on a statement of your choice.
SC : Science has overturned many of the substantive claims on which religions are often based, especially in the Western world. But science doesn’t offer a replacement for other aspects of religion, from community to morality and meaning. That requires philosophy, contemplation, introspection, and communication. It’s a long-term project, so the sooner we start taking it seriously, the better off we will all be.
Thankyou for your time, Sean Carroll
I would just like to reiterate to our audience- go buy and read ‘from eternity to here’.
30h Dec 2013