New Statesman: famous atheists explain why they don't believe in God...what is Hawking saying?

by unshackled 72 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • bohm

    I think Harris simply made the remark because Hawkins is a heck of a lot less than clear in what he write here.. for instance the first part --i am not claiming there is no god-- is likely an unclear way of stating insufficient evidence, and the part which imply physics is solved desperately lack content (what physics, what problem..)

    i dont think he aimed for zen or didnt think it through.. i think he got tired of writing the same blurb once again with one muscle...

  • AGuest
    I have little doubt that it is going to end up being all about Shelby.

    Sigh... I hope not, dear MS (peace to you!). I hope we can all just stick to the issues/topics... and not start calling others crazy or delusional or things like that. But, like you... I seriously doubt it.

    Time magazine had an article relating that variations in genetics can shift the visible spectrum of some people, slightly into the infared or towards ultraviolet. Perhaps not to the degree of a honeybee or pit viper but a shift outside the norm nontheless. Interesting idea, and one that might explain a great many ghost stories,...;)

    Is it possible that this can apply to hearing, as well, dear Twitch (peace to you, as well!)? That while many LOSE hearing... some gain an even more acute ability? I realize someone would say, "But that's due to genetics, SA, not God/holy spirit." I would have to counter, though, that holy spirit very much deals with genetics: blood... and particularly Abraham's. I digress, so that no one mistakes me for trying to make this "about" me, etc. I've always said I have no problem with science, itself...

    If I follow you, you're saying atheism is no different than religious belief.

    Oh, no, not at all, dear Unshackled (again, peace to you!). There absolutely are some differences. MANY differences. Primarily differences. BUT... there are several SIMILARITIES... and it's the SIMILARITIES that seem to be the things each point the finger at the other about. And BOTH tend to want to deny that. Which is one of those similarities. That's what I'm saying.

    And also, that the more well-known atheists argue amongst themselves.

    Nope (SA scratches head)... didn't "say" that, either. I agree that they don't absolutely AGREE among themselves... which is what many often (accurately) accuse religionists of. But that seems hypocritical to ME. I mean, the "pot calling the kettle black" thing. But my comments regarding those who argue among themselves had to do with the LESSER known (perhaps even unknown) atheists. For instance, those who commented on the article. I find that interesting... in light of the comments often made HERE... about how "christians argue among themselves." Both camps engage in this. So, why does one look down its nose at the other for it?

    And further, that these well-known atheists like Stephen Hawking carry themselves with an air of superiority that if you don't think like them, then you're just common folk. In a nutshell, is that it?

    Nope, again. My comments regarding the well-known atheists, as made in the other thread... is that I had more respect for them that I did the lone theologian. The physicists asked valid questions to which the theologian pretty much pontificated... on nothing. The "air of superiority" comes from the LAYfolk. Much as it does with religion. I mean, in both camps, even the experts try to be civil. It's the layfolk to throw barbs, ad hominems, chuck red herrings, lash out, attack... curse... and damn. Yet, can't answer pretty basic questions. Given the similarity in the conduct of the FOLLOWERS... neither camp appeals to me.

    If so, I would say the attitude of superiority may apply to some, but not all.

    Yes. But I would say that of BOTH camps. I, however, don't get how the two keep pointing the proverbial finger at one another... while saying, "Our hands are clean!" When they're not.

    There isn't a brush big enough to paint them all that color.

    But isn't that the SAME thing religionists say??? So, see, here you've got me... standing with one on the right and one on the left... and the PROPOGANDA and rhetoric I hear coming from BOTH... sounds the same: experts at the top using "big" words... with "little people"... who can't explain the big words themselves telling others, "You MUST listen to them and believe what they say because THEY know and YOU don't." I truly CANNOT see the difference.

    I can see how some would feel Richard Dawkins can appear that way, he has a certain disadvantage of being a rather starchy, dry Brit.

    I'm not the kind to have problems with the messenger, dear one. If I have a problem, it's with the message. Which is why I raised the questions I did regarding Dr. Hawking's theories. I also stated that the show I saw reminded me of a sermon... given the wordage and propoganda. Unfortunately, some were blinded by their preconceived notions of me... and what they THOUGHT I was saying.

    I wouldn't apply that to Stephen Hawking though. Christopher Hitchens? Yes, but that's what's great about him…he does it with a swagger that is infectious, IMO.

    Please see above. Again, I listened... with an open mind... to the panelists. And, again, I had more respect for the physicists and what they said, than for the theologian and what HE said (actually, didn't say). The show did show, however, that not ALL physicists are atheists... which that camp wants us to respect ("We're not all alike!"). Okay, cool. But not all believers are religionists. Yet, I don't see that same "respect" being offered in the other direction.

    I would hope they would argue amongst themselves. That keeps each other honest, peer review and continually scrutinizing with critical thinking is the backbone of the scientific method.

    Yes. And I am so glad you feel that way. I think those who have a problem with that are closed-minded, dogmatic, and fearful. But I have to ask, because maybe you can help me understand: why it is scandalous front-page news here... when "christians" argue amonst themselves??? Not that I believe that happens (my definition of "christian" is different than others)... but I'm just sayin'. Why is it a problem when ANYONE else argues, discusses, disagrees, what have you... among [what others believe to be] themselves? I personally think it's hypocritical...

    As for atheism being no different than religious belief

    But that is an erroneous assumption on your part, dear one...

    I'll use Sam Harris' words from that article:
    The most common impediment to clear thinking that a non-believer must confront is the idea that the burden of proof can be fairly placed on his shoulders: "How do you know there is no God? Can you prove it? You atheists are just as dogmatic as the fundamentalists you criticise." This is nonsense: even the devout tacitly reject thousands of gods, along with the cherished doctrines of every religion but their own. Every Christian can confidently judge the God of Zoroaster to be a creature of fiction, without first scouring the universe for evidence of his absence. Absence of evidence is all one ever needs to banish false knowledge. And bad evidence, proffered in a swoon of wishful thinking, is just as damning.

    This is SO true! And, again, both camps play this tit-for-tat game! So, please... don't think I let religionists off the hook, either. Surely you've seen that I will discuss with THEM... and THEIR hypocrisy... as I will a non-believer, atheist, agnostic, or what have you.

    I hope this clarifies, dear Unshackled. I think confusion comes in when people "skim" a post and THINK they know what was stated. That's why I tend to take comments to ME line by line: so that I can SEE what the person has stated... and respond to THAT... and not to what I THINK he or she stated. Which sometimes results in very long posts, yes, but I can usually respond with confidence that I didn't jump to wrong conclusions or misstate/misunderstand the poster.

    Again, peace to you!

    A slave of Christ,


  • Twitch
    "I am not claiming there is no God. The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour, because there are too many equations to solve. One therefore uses a different model, which can include free will and God."

    I'll have a go.

    God cannot be proven nor disproven; this is logically sound. He says humans can be accounted for in science (i.e. biologically) but science has no means to measure and predict behaviour, mathematically. There are too many variables in the equation, from enviroment, genetics, consciousness, relationships, choices, and so on for a theorem to explain a person and predict their behaviour. (Hawking has never conferred with 45639PintofKeiths323432 apparently)

    Therefore, if one has to amend a model of the universe to include free will and god to account for that which cannot be measured or explained i.e. humans, then the initial model wasn't required to explain same. The universe would work just as well without us. For us to understand the universe, we need god in the equation, somewhere.

    That's my take on the OP question. I'll check out the articles,..

  • unshackled

    Shelby, thank you for the clarifications. Wasn't completely sure of what you were saying, but now have a better understanding. You should start a thread detailing the similarities of each side and the shared hypocrisy. If you already have, sorry I missed it...please post a link and I'll see what I can add to the discussion.

    Bohm...thanks for your thoughts on what Harris meant. Hawkings comment left me wanting more as well, for him to elaborate. I considered it as well, and you're right, that maybe his cheek was just damn tired.

    Twitch...your expansion on what Hawking's comment is excellent. (And yes, no doubt Hawking has never conferred with 45639PintofKeiths323432...LOL.) I agree that is the likely direction he was briefly alluding to. Which brings me back to Harris - if we can expand on the likely meaning of Hawking's comment, why couldn't or wouldn't he? May have been a simple, perhaps jokingly, passing comment but that doesn't seem to be Harris' style.

    Harris does a frequent Q&A video which he invites the questions from I've sent him a tweet and email asking him to elaborate on what he meant. There's a Snowball's (Snowball the cat, not the winter precipation) chance in hell that it'll make the Q&A...but who knows right?

  • unshackled

    From the article that has the believer's explain their faith, this one is particularly interesting and honest. It is by journalist Peter Hitchens, the brother of renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens. Does belief stem from a desire to want to believe? Peter seems to admit just that (italics mine)...

    I believe in God because I choose to do so. I believe in the Christian faith because I prefer to do so. The existence of God offers an explanation of many of the mysteries of the universe - es­pecially "Why is there something rather than nothing?" and the questions which follow from that. It requires our lives to have a purpose, and our actions to be measurable against a higher standard than their immediate, observable effect. Having chosen belief in a God over unbelief, I find the Christian gospels more per­suasive and the Christian moral system more powerful than any other religious belief.

    Does choosing and prefering to believe something make it real or true?

  • AGuest
    "I am not claiming there is no God. The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour, because there are too many equations to solve. One therefore uses a different model, which can include free will and God."

    Interesting (may you all have peace!). What Hawking said seems clear to me:

    "I am not claiming there is no God."


    "The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour..."

    Science can predict all that is empirical. Human behavior, however, is not empirical. Therefore, science cannot predict human behavior.

    "because there are too many equations to solve."

    And science cannot solve all of such equations. There's too many for science to handle.

    One therefore uses a different model,

    Therefore, one must use a model different than science to explain human behavior (versus the behavior of that which science CAN explain. which does NOT include human behavior)...

    which can include free will and God."

    Which model (that is different from science) CAN include free will... AND God.

    Since some get confused by my wordiness, the bottom line of Hawking's statement is:

    SCIENCE... cannot predict HUMAN behavior. You need a DIFFERENT model (than science) to do that. And that model CAN include free will.... AND God.

    How's that? Makes total sense to ME... because it's what I've been saying for what... years, now: that science ISN'T the "only" model... as some believe... and certainly isn't the one to explain US. There is ANOTHER model... and it includes God (and free will). We truly are more than our bodies, dear ones. Science can only explain our bodies, the "man" we are on the OUTSIDE. It cannot, however, explain our individual essence... the "man" we are... on the INSIDE.

    Hmmmm... I think I really WOULD like to have that talk with Dr. Hawking. Again, though... highly unlikely, peon that I am. Ah, well...

    Again, peace to you all!

    A slave of Christ,

    SA, who's starting to kinda like these "Evening with An Atheist" types of discussions...

  • sizemik

    The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour,

    I would suggest this comment is puzzling to anybody . . . it simply doesn't make sense without explanation.

    Exactly which "scientific account" is complete? . . . it's a startling claim with regard to any scientific discipline.

    Science is generally not in the "prediction" business . . . hypotheses based on discovery sure . . . but these are viewed in terms of probability and likelihood . . . not "prediction"

    I have no idea what he is talking about either . . . a very poor choice of words at the very least

  • OnTheWayOut

    I will take a stab at it, although that's all it is. From reading recent activity from Hawking, it seems that he was commenting on how researchers say faith can have measurable psychological benefits. He has said that Heaven is a "fairy tale" and that "God wasn't needed to create the universe."


    "I am not claiming there is no God. The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour, because there are too many equations to solve. One therefore uses a different model, which can include free will and God."

    Accent on "CLAIMING." He is not claiming it, he is stating it as a fact.

    He speaks with a little arrogance when he says the scientific account is complete, but I think he means that it is complete enough to be sure that we can move beyond claims. But then he goes into addressing how people find comfort or psychological benefits from their beliefs. He is saying that belief is easier than continuing to work on "too many equations" that will never predict human behavior, so they abandon rational thinking and use a different model, which can include free will to excuse God for letting people screw up things.

  • AGuest


    Mayhaps it was one of those "You had to be there" (i.e., when he said it) moments. Which those who saw... and paid attention to... the show were. Including, perhaps, Mr. Harris. In that light, Mr. Harris' statement makes sense. I mean, surely, if Dr. Hawking meant what some are suggesting, Mr. Harris would not have been confused.


    A slave of Christ,


  • Qcmbr

    I don't have a real clue what he's saying either.

    Maybe: other models for human behaviour can and do include gods but science has no need to nor has it the tools to explain behaviour.

    I can agree that isolating behaviour from other natural processes is a good distinction ( so no god required in a model of plate tectonics ) and maybe this is the key, human behaviour is so full of competing environmental and cultural influences - belief/ gods/ religion being for many a dominant one - that behaviour models must take into account belief in gods ( while not needing to examine whether that god is a real being ). Thus to understand the crusades one must include the maedieval view of the catholic god.

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