January 14, 2010

Nano God

Now that occasional Herald columnist Garth "Vader" George has veered off into the irrelevancy of veneration of our Prime Minister in between his theistic exhortations, enter a new voice, this time one Jeff Tallon, described as a "physicist specialising in the fields of superconductivity and nanotechnology". Not that his specialty is a subject of his columns - if only that were so - his beef seems to be with atheists bent on expressing opinions on the back of buses:
"There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
I questioned the first sentence, suggesting that it was inconsistent with what we know about our fine-tuned physical and biological world.
His opening paragraph must put the obtaining of his scientific degrees into question, since there is simply no scientific evidence of the existence of god(s).
But I also question the second sentence. It suggests that serious believers in God are racked with worry and do not enjoy life.
For which he claims that happy-clappy Christians are the epitome of happiness, willfully ignoring links between excessive religious fervour, adherence to cult leaders, fundamentalist beliefs and mental illness.
Then he shows us St Francis of Assisi, a truly happy saint but only when he was talking to the birds, closely followed by that world famous St Augustine, a lifelong wrestler with the concept of lust. One would have thought that lust is a big deal in happiness, but no, for our Saint Augie it's one of the most grievous deadly sins.
At a meeting of atheist scientists two years ago, one speaker conceded that belief in God seems to motivate people to help others.
He referred to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when churches all over the United States sent people, money and supplies to help meet the need. He reflected that as far as he knew no atheist group had responded at all.
This proves nothing about the charitableness of atheists. He doesn't know anything about whether atheists donated to existing charities (religious or secular ones), only there was no "atheist group" charity, whatever that is (FEMA perhaps?). Atheists simply think that welfare, disaster relief and civil protection are legitimate tasks of the state and not just the province of religious charities. Simply paying all your taxes (and not claiming tax exemption as a church) thus qualifies as "donating to charity" too.
Tallon's piece de resistance comes with a quote from Juergen Habermas:
"Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilisation.
"To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is post-modern chatter."
Professor Habermas may be a good philosopher and a sociologist but that doesn't mean he can re-write post-medieval history. The Christian Church has always been a bulwark against any human rights such as freedom of expression or any others we take for granted today and for which countless of people in Renaissance, Enlightenment and other Revolutionaries (and even some Whigs) have campaigned, fought and died for in the face of Church and absolutist rulers' collusion to keep the ancien regime status quo. Calling abolitionists, democrats, free thinkers, anarchists, feminists and all other human and labour rights campaigners as just indulging in "post-modern chatter" is an insult unworthy of a scientist or an historian.

The atheist bus campaign is actually too insipid. The slogan (if somewhat unwieldy put) should have read: There is no god. So stop god-bothering, and stop abusing our science and engineering to try to kill us.

UPDATE: Dr Tallon is being slaughtered in the commentary on his column.

1 comment:

Paul said...

No, no, no: they have found a Scientist who believes in God; therefore, there is a God, the Christian God, and all the Atheists are wrong.

Simple, innit?