Professor says science
rules out belief in God
The London Telegraph

"I came here today to de-corrupt you all."

September 11, 1996

It is not possible to be intellectually honest and believe in gods. And it is not possible to believe in gods and be a true scientist, a professor said yesterday in a debate between science and religion at the annual festival of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

While apologising for being "forthright", Peter Atkins, professor of chemistry at Oxford University, said that religious belief was "outmoded and ridiculous". Belief in gods was a "worn out but once useful crutch in mankind's journey towards truth". "We consider the time has come for that crutch to be abandoned," he said.

Theologians could not even agree about the nature of their gods. These personages ranged from "blue touch-paper gods" who started everything and never interfered again, to "infinitely meddlesome gods who, as well as starting it off, police every elementary particle".

Religion provided empty answers to questions it had itself invented. To assert, for example, that a god was responsible for any action or deed was an abnegation of the power of human understanding. "It is a vacuous answer," said Prof Atkins. "To say that 'God made the world' is simply a more or less sophisticated way of saying that we don't understand how the universe originated. A god, in so far as it is anything, is an admission of ignorance."

Science, on the other hand, gave us the hope of comprehension. It provided clear answers to questions that had stumped religion for centuries. It respected the human spirit and encouraged striving towards comprehension. Prof Atkins said: "Religion utterly failed to provide an explanation of the biosphere other than that 'God made it all'. Then Darwin thundered over the horizon and in a few decades of observation and thought... arrived at an answer."

Putting the opposite view, Prof William Gosling, of Bath University, said the strength of religion was its "unknowable mystery". He added: "At the heart of all religion there is nothing but the mysterious cause and author of all. More durable than time, more extensive than space, stronger than death, the very source of life itself ... God is the last answer to all questions."

Religion was not about searching for truth. "To speak of truth in religious mysteries is beside the point. If you can test a statement's truth it cannot be essentially religious. It is not knowledge but belief that matters most in religious life."

Science even failed to offer us truth. Discoveries such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and chaos theory showed it was eternally impossible to discover absolute truth. All science could offer was probabilities. Some of the most important questions in life were essentially religious. "Will you love me for ever?" "Can abortion be morally justified?"

"None of these gives rise to verifiable answers, but to think them meaningless is crazy," said Prof Gosling, who later accused Prof Atkins of being "slightly polemical". Prof Atkins responded: "I regard teaching religion as purveying lies. I came here today to de-corrupt you all."

Graphic Rule

Is God a Dope?
or Just Plain Clumsy?
by Robert Anton Wilson
from his book, Right Where You Are Sitting Now

In the writings of many contemporary psychics and mystics (e.g., Gopi Krishna, Shri Rajneesh, Frannie Steiger, John White, Hal Lindsay, and several dozen others whose names I have mercifully forgotten) there is a repeated prediction that the Earth is about to be afflicted with unprecedented calamities, including every possible type of natural catastrophe from Earthquakes to pole shifts. Most of humanity will be destroyed, these seers inform us cheerfully. This cataclysm is referred to, by many of them, as "the Great Purification" or "the Great Cleansing," and is supposed to be a punishment for our sins.

I find the morality and theology of this Doomsday Brigade highly questionable. A large part of the Native American population was exterminated in the 19th century; I cannot regard that as a "Great Cleansing" or believe that the Indians were being punished for their sins. Nor can I think of Hitler's death camps, or Hiroshima or Nagasaki, as "Great Purifications." And I can't make myself believe that the millions killed by plagues, cancers, natural catastrophes, etc., throughout history were all singled out by some Cosmic Intelligence for punishment, while the survivors were preserved due to their virtues. To accept the idea of "God" implicit in such views is logically to hold that everybody hit by a car deserved it, and we should not try to get him to a hospital and save his life, since "God" wants him dead.

I don't know who are the worst sinners on this planet, but I am quite sure that if a Higher Intelligence wanted to exterminate them, It would find a very precise method of locating each one separately. After all, even Lee Harvey Oswald -- assuming the official version of the Kennedy assassination -- only hit one innocent bystander while aiming at JFK. To assume that Divinity would employ earthquakes and pole shifts to "get" (say) Richard Nixon, carelessly murdering millions of innocent children and harmless old ladies and dogs and cats in the process, is absolutely and ineluctably to state that your idea of God is of a cosmic imbecile.

Graphic Rule