Skeptiles: Episode 30 – Science Fie-day

Skeptiles: Episode 30 – Science Fie-day

SkeptilesSkeptiles for Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 in which we talk about Lawrence Krauss’ appearance on Science Friday and whether atheists should hijack the term spirituality for our own ends. Are the New Atheists “Islamophobic”? We call bullshit. Joe brings fresh Arrested developments and, finally, discussions on Texas gun nuts and baby barf.



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Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens: New Atheists flirt with Islamophobia

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One Reply to “Skeptiles: Episode 30 – Science Fie-day”

  1. I liked the discussion on ‘spirituality’ and it’s something I’ve thought about a lot. I think that one of the reasons religion and other ‘spiritual’ beliefs endure is that they help to make sense of the enormously complex human experience in ways we can a) understand and b) communicate in ways we can get others to understand. So even when people reject conventional religions they often still drift towards wishy-washy, new-age hippy type ‘spirituality’ or some such. I think that science and the atheist community fails spectacularly to fill the hole left when you remove that ‘spiritual’ narrative from people’s lives, simply because their only answer to it ATM is ‘you have no spirit, so any such feelings and yearnings are illusory’ – unsatisfactory and dismissive.

    Let me give you an of example of a ‘spiritual’ belief that I think explains aspects of human existence in ways we can make sense of; Karma. Quite a bit of bullshit is spread around about ‘karma’ and the original concept has been rather distorted by western-christian minds into the same kind of punishment/reward system as Christians believe in; ‘doing good gives you good karma and you will have a better reincarnation, doing bad will give you bad karma and you will have a worse reincarnation, come back as an ant or something’. But if you look into the concept (or at least, some schools of the concept – it’s been around a while and is, after all, a human invention) you see that really what it’s expressing is Newton’s laws of motion and the first law of thermodynamics, as applied to human interaction. Everyone, even atheists, understand the concept of ’emotional energy’, even though we all accept that there isn’t some extra boson mediating the emotional-field-energy. But actions have consequences. Which also have further consequences. Ad infinitum. And negative actions tend to have negative consequences, and positive actions tend to have positive consequences. So if you can take other people’s negative actions against you and turn them into positive consequences you’ve have increased the amount of positive feeling in the world. And if you direct negative actions towards someone else, the negative consequences will tend to hang around for ever in some form or other, until someone CAN turn them into positive consequences.

    Another couple of good examples are in this excellent piece by Douglas Adams ‘Is there an Artificial God?’:

    So I think it’s a good thing trying to claw back the term ‘spiritual’. I think it’s important to be able to not just explain how the universe works and construct logical arguments – we also need to be able to explain and express human (subjective) experience, and I think it should be obvious that the ‘spiritual’ language is the one that humans seems to understand best…. As well as things like art, music, poetry etc., which I guess can be thought of as part of the ‘spiritual’ language – most people feel these things touch their ‘spirit’, even if they don’t think they have a ‘spirit’.

    And in my opinion the film ‘I HEART Huckabees’ expressed this idea brilliantly. Dustin Hoffman was awesome in that movie.

    For clarity, I don’t think it’s the ONLY reason organised religion has endured – entrenched power structures always try to endure and preserve themselves; that’s just an evolutionary thing, like Dawkins’ memes.

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