Last updated on June 13th, 2012 at 04:51 pm
You’re going to be reading this story about Richard Dawkins and his doubts about the NON-existence of god. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, wrote about a recent public discussion between Dawkins and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the traditional head of the Church of England (known as Anglicans outside of the USA, and Episcopalians in the USA):
There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator.
The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did.
An incredulous Sir Anthony replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist.”
Lots of theists will state that Dawkins is unsure of his atheism. And they’d be right, because Richard Dawkins is a scientist, and science is not dogmatic. I’m also fairly certain that there are no gods, but if evidence is provided to me that says otherwise, I’m willing to review it. That’s why scientists are “open-minded,” because one of the basic principles of science is falsifiability, that is, the ability to imagine an experiment that disproves the hypothesis, theory, or principle. I’ve mentioned the old joke about the theory of evolution. If someone shows us a rabbit fossil in a precambrian rock layer (the Precambrian happened some 300 million years before rabbits evolved), and it’s not a fraud or mistaken dating, then we have falsified the theory of evolution.
Science is not pragmatic or dogmatic. That’s a religion, where one must believe, so therefore, it cannot be falsified. That’s why, oftentimes, religion and science are just incompatible. For example, Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Catholic priest, discovered the Theory of the Big Bang (origin of the universe, not the oft-mentioned TV show around here), calling it “the hypothesis of the primeval atom.” He never mentioned that a supernatural being was involved, because he knew it could possibly be falsified, and if he went down the path of a religious basis for the Big Bang, then his god could be falsified.
Of course, the Catholic Church initially wanted to lay claim to this theory as a “proof of the existence of god.” Pope Pius XII stated:
❝It would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux [Let there be Light], when along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, and the elements split and churned and formed into millions of galaxies. Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, [science] has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator. Hence Creation took place. We say: “Therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore God exists!’❞
However, Lemaître quickly pulled the Pius XII aside and said, “hey dude, if you intertwine the Theory of the Big Bang with god, then we scientists can falsify the existence of god.” After that, Pius shut up, and went back to making pathetic excuses about how the Catholic Church did nothing to stand up to Hitler and Mussolini (see Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy). Pius XII never mentioned the Big Bang again.
Religions need an absolute adherence to their beliefs. Science, on the other hand, waits for evidence, repeats the evidence, analyzes the evidence. We are not absolutely certain of anything, because we pursue the evidence continuously. Dawkins has said this same thing over and over in several of his books. And every REAL scientist I know says the same thing.
I’ve always found that this appearance of doubt to be used by those who support the pseudoscience side to their advantage. No scientific publication will state that “homeopathy doesn’t work”, what it will say is “no evidence so far supports the use of homeopathy in treating a clinical condition.” There is no doubt that homeopathy is just water, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that someone would provide outstanding evidence that it works (and thereby causing us to set aside every single law of physics and chemistry).
So just because science is 99.9% sure that something is a fact, we don’t round up to 100%. On the other hand, pseudosciences and religion round up 0.01% to 100% absolute fact all the time. I guess they’re missing basic math too.