We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
…when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.
Creationists eagerly seek a gap in present-day knowledge or understanding. If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default, must fill it.
Why would an all-powerful creator decide to plant his carefully crafted species on islands and continents in exactly the appropriate pattern to suggest, irresistibly, that they had evolved and dispersed from the site of their evolution?
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
When I am dying, I should like my life taken out under general anaesthetic, exactly as if it were a diseased appendix.
Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.
The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.
Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.
Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.
Why, I can’t help wondering, is God thought to need such ferociousdefence? One might have supposed him amply capable of lookingafter himself.
Do those people who hold up the Bible as an inspiration tomoral rectitude have the slightest notion of what is actually writtenin it?
Real life seeks the gentle slopes at the back of Mount Improbable, while creationists are blind to all but the daunting precipice at the front.
Science replaces private prejudice with public, verifiable evidence.
What matters is not the facts but how you discover and think about them.
Even those who do not, or cannot, avail themselves of a scientific education, choose to benefit from the technology that is made possible by the scientific education of others.
Even if it were true that evolution, or the teaching of evolution, encouraged immorality that would not imply that the theory of evolution was false.
Science is interesting, and if you don’t agree you can fuc
It has become almost a cliché to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.
DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.
We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.
The truth is more magical – in the best and most exciting sense of the word – than any myth or made-up mystery or miracle. Science has its own magic: the magic of reality.
A god who is capable of sending intelligible signals to millions of people simultaneously, and of receiving messages from all of them simultaneously, cannot be, whatever else he might be, simple. Such Bandwidth!
Even if not a single fossil has ever been found, the evidence from surviving animals would still overwhelmingly force the conclusion that Darwin was right.
It is interesting to wonder whether taxonomists of the future may regret the way our generation messed around with genomes.
I know that not all my readers like my digressions, but the research that has been done on Caenorhabditis elegans is such a ringing triumph of science that you aren’t going to stop me.
One way to express the answer is that it might happen by ‘chance’. But ‘chance’ is just a word expressing ignorance. It means ‘determined by some as yet unknown, or unspecified, means’.
Religion enjoys astonishing privileges in our societies, privileges denied to almost any other special interest group one can think of-and certainly denied to individuals
Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.
We are talking about a bet, remember, and Pascal wasn’t claiming that his wager enjoyed anything but very long odds. Would you bet on God’s valuing dishonestly faked belief (or even honest belief) over honest scepticism?
However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747.
I don’t give a damn for anybody’s opinion, I only care about the facts. So I’m not an enthusiast for diversity of opinion where factual matters are concerned.
Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.
The Bible may be an arresting andpoetic work of fiction, but it is not the sort of book you should giveyour children to form their morals.
Evil…doesn’t mean doing things that have bad consequences for people. It means private thoughts and actions that are not to “the Christian majority’s” private liking.
More generally, as I shall repeat in Chapter 8, one of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.
If this dysfunctional family was the best Sodom had to offer by way of morals, some might begin to feel a certain sympathy with God and his judicial brimstone.
The idea of a divine creator belittles the elegant reality of the universe.
Either blasphemy is a victimless crime or its victim is powerful enough to take care of himself without any help from you.
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.
I am passionate about the truth. Passion is very different from fundamentalism.
There was something built into the human brain by natural selection which was once useful, and which now manifests itself as religion.
There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else (parents in the case of children, God in the case of adults) has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point.
We can give up belief in God while not losing touch with a treasured heritage.
The chicken is only an egg’s way for making another egg.
Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colours.
It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).
We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realize that we are apes.
If the second dinosaur to the left of the tall cycad tree had not happened to sneeze and thereby fail to catch the tiny, shrew-like ancestor of all the mammals, we should none of us be here.
Things exist either because they have recently come into existence or because they have qualities that made them unlikely to be destroyed in the past.
I am an enthusiastic Darwinian, but I think Darwinism is too big a theory to be confined to the narrow context of the gene.
It requires a deliberate mental effort to turn biology the right way up again, and remind ourselves that the replicators come first, in importance as well as in history.
Oxygen flooded into the atmosphere as a pollutant, even a poison, until natural selection shaped living things to thrive on the stuff and, indeed, suffocate without it.
The best scientists can do is fail to disprove things while pointing to how hard they tried
All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities
Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.
Dan Nilsson even remarks of compound eyes that ‘It is only a small exaggeration to say that evolution seems to be fighting a desperate battle to improve a basically disastrous design.
When challenged by a zealous Popperian to say how evolution could ever be falsified, J. B. S. Haldane famously growled: ‘Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.
What shall it profit a male if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his immortal genes?
most of us happily disavow fairies, astrology and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, without first immersing ourselves in books of Pastafarian theology etc.
The fact that we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of something does not put existence and non-existence on an even footing.
As J. B. S. Haldane said when asked what evidence might contradict evolution, ‘Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.
[I]sn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be part of it?
Indeed, organizing atheists has been compared to herding cats, because they tend to think independently and will not conform to authority.
The important thing to remember about mathematics is not to be frightened
We’re going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones.
Discretion can be abused, and rulebooks are important safeguards against that. But the balance has shifted too far in the direction of an obsessive reverence for rules.
The habit of questioning authority is one of the most valuable gifts that a book, or a teacher, can give a young would-be scientist.
There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?
I’m quite a softy, yes. I have a blank spot with respect to visual art, but I have perhaps a compensating hypersensitivity to poetry and music.
Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the world chess championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility.
The reason we personify things like cars and computers is that just as monkeys live in an arboreal world and moles live in an underground world and water striders live in a surface tension-dominated flatland, we live in a social world.
I detest ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,’ and the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to occupy not just December, but November and much of October, too.
I suppose if you look back to your early childhood you accept everything people tell you, and that includes a heavy dose of irrationality – you’re told about tooth fairies and Father Christmas and things.
It has become almost a cliche to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.
I am one of those scientists who feels that it is no longer enough just to get on and do science. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organised ignorance.
Of course in science there are things that are open to doubt and things need to be discussed. But among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know.
To an honest judge, the alleged marriage between religion and science is a shallow, empty, spin-doctored sham.
The obvious objections to the execution of Saddam Hussein are valid and well aired. His death will provoke violent strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and between Iraqis in general and the American occupation forces.
Of course, we would love to know more about the exact moment of Big Bang, but interposing an outside intelligence does nothing to add to that knowledge, as we still know nothing about the creation of that intelligence.
I’m pretty sure there is some genetic component towards intelligence.
Something about the cultural tradition of Jews is way, way more sympathetic to science and learning and intellectual pursuits than Islam.
I can remember at the age of about six being fascinated by the planets and learning all about Mars and Venus and things.
I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.
Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.
The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible. Not only should we not get our moral compass from religion, as a matter of fact we don’t.
You can’t understand European history at all other than through religion, or English literature either if you can’t recognise biblical allusions.
A universe with a God would look quite different from a universe without one. A physics, a biology where there is a God is bound to look different. So the most basic claims of religion are scientific. Religion is a scientific theory.
If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.
Disagreements between incompatible beliefs cannot be settled by reasoned argument because reasoned argument is drummed out of those trained in religion from the cradle.
I’m not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.
God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture.
The chances of each of us coming into existence are infinitesimally small, and even though we shall all die some day, we should count ourselves fantastically lucky to get our decades in the sun.
Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs.
We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
I was brought up in a family which valued natural history. Both my parents knew the names of all the British wildflowers, so as we went walking the country, I was constantly being exposed to a natural history sort of knowledge.
Darwin gives courage to the rest of science that we shall end up understanding literally everything, springing from almost nothing – a thought extremely hard to comprehend and believe.
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.
Publishers like a good buzz, and negative responses sell books just as well as positive ones.
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
People believe the only alternative to randomness is intelligent design.
Design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything. It can only be a proximate explanation. A plane or a car is explained by a designer but that’s because the designer himself, the engineer, is explained by natural selection.
All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation.
When I say that human beings are just gene machines, one shouldn’t put too much emphasis on the word ‘just.’ There is a very great deal of complication, and indeed beauty in being a gene machine.
By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.
I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine.
I do think imagination is enormously valuable, and that children should be encouraged in their imagination. That’s very true.
Isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be part of it?
I’m fascinated by the idea that genetics is digital. A gene is a long sequence of coded letters, like computer information. Modern biology is becoming very much a branch of information technology.
Science, as opposed to technology, does violence to common sense.
Science – or the products of science like technology – is just a way of achieving something real, something that happens, something that works.
I do sometimes accuse people of ignorance, but that is not intended to be an insult. I’m ignorant of lots of things. Ignorance is something that can be remedied by education.
Nothing is wrong with peace and love. It is all the more regrettable that so many of Christ’s followers seem to disagree.
The Bible should be taught, but emphatically not as reality. It is fiction, myth, poetry, anything but reality. As such it needs to be taught because it underlies so much of our literature and our culture.