Between the Romans and the Lions

The other day I had an Astronomy Cast fan send me an email asking where I fall on the Dawkin’s Continuum. He was referring to the belief scale that Richard Dawkins laid out in his new book, The God Delusion. Within this system, individuals are divided by their level of belief that God does or does not exist. On his scale of 1 to 7, a person who is a strong theist, with 100% certainty that God exists, rates a 1. A person who is a firm atheist, who knows with 100% certainty that there is no God, rates a 7. Discussion of both this book and this scale are currently popular within skeptics circles and on atheist websites. Faced with this listener question, I have to admit to being a bit scared, because to many there is a “right answer.” This is a problem both when I deal both with scientists and with theologians (however the correct answer depends on the grader).

Over the years, I have encountered more than one scientist who expressed a belief that anyone with a functional brain can not believe in God. I have had loud tall men get in my face, informing me from uncomfortably close proximity that a belief in a God, especially a Christian God, meant a person had failed at learning reason, at learning logic, and at learning every other skill necessary to be a good scientist. “How can a good astronomer possibly believe in a God?” he asked me in a loud and incredulous voice. This person, and every other evangelical atheist who has ever attacked someone who failed to not believe fervently enough, was a 7 on the Dawkins scale.

Over my life, I have encountered more than one Christian who expressed a belief that anyone with an observant eye can not help but believe in God. I have had fiery matrons get in my personal space, informing me with uncomfortable passion that failing to believe in God, especially a Christian God, meant a person had failed to notice all the improbabilities that defy science, had failed to notice all the times an unnamed need was fulfilled in the 11th hour, and had failed to notice the strength of prayer to change lives. “How can a person truly be observant and fail to believe in God?” these people have asked in a 1000 different forms. These incredulous believers are 1s on the Dawkins scale.

Those 7s had looked at a cross I used to wear around my neck, and they had gone on the attack. I never really got it until one of my kind office mates, after watching me get harassed, asked me why I wore something that was such a symbol of hate. I had never thought of it that way, but…

But those 1s had looked at my love of astronomy and science and had seen me as an enemy without ever asking, “What do you believe?” How often has that happened? How many scientists have been attacked just for stating the principles of science in the wrong company?

Both that cross I used to wear (before realizing some saw it as a symbol of hate) and my constant promotion of science make me an enemy in certain circles.

So, when faced with this listener question, I paused, didn’t answer real fast, and eventually responded, “I’m a 2, why do you ask?”

And I have to wonder, why does anyone ask within the context of science? I am a strong proponent of the scientific method. For something to be called good science, it must explain past observations, and make unique predications that add something to our understanding of the universe. In order for me to say with certainty that something is true and real, it needs to be observable, repeatable, and documentable.

I’m a skeptic.

But, I believe there is room in the universe for a God. And this is an uncomfortable place to be. Between the Romans and Daniel’s lions, I wonder who I should fear more?

This is one of my concerns with the current skeptic’s movement. Just as the Christian’s look at me and assume by my vocation that I need saved (really, I don’t), I fear that many skeptics assume that everyone in their midst is a 6 or a 7 on the Dawkin’s scale. In the land of “I don’t know,” it is a dangerous thing to assume any absolutes. Even Dawkin’s, a self proclaimed 6, leaves room for God. The facts are out, and as a Skeptic, I can say “I believe there is room for a God, and I choose to fall on the ‘I think the odds are more in favor of God than against’ side of the betting pool.” I’m calling odds without having a test for my theory. That’s not science, it’s belief. There are also people who believe in string theory. I suspect that there are even people who believe in string theory and in a God or Gods.

It is in the land of absolute’s where we get ourselves into trouble when discussing non-testable, or not yet tested, theories. This is a tricky dance. I am perfectly comfortable saying with 100% certainty that my human husband can not have his head cut off and survive. (Note, I love him a lot. He just has a head cold and wishes someone would cut his head off). This is a statement based on (someone else’s) past observations and a lot of medical knowledge regarding how the brain and heart must be attached for a person to live. I am not comfortable saying with absolute certainty that if a crazed individual sneaks into our house and cuts off my husband’s head, his ghost won’t periodically race up the stairs after me. I don’t think it will happen, but I leave room for doubt and testing. James Randi style testing. And despite knowing my house is old enough that at some point someone must have died in it, I never worry about what is creaking. There is a place and a time for absolutes. And there is a time to say, the statistics based on prior null results are so far against you that it is close to certain there is nothing there, but there is room to be wrong because we may not have done the right tests (it is just really unlikely!).

Of course statements like this, which leave room for ghosts, drive some skeptics crazy. But, can we say for certain there aren’t? All we can really say is we have no reason to believe there are: no facts, no tests, and no theories that require them, the way the hard to find neutrino was required.

And there are middle grounds where we are a test away from certainty, but those tests, like so many Mythbusters episodes, aren’t believed in the face of Urban Legends that just must be true. For instance, I am allowed to say with certainty that a slotted spoon holds no broth but can catch the potato.* That is a statement based on past data, and a predictive theory with sound science behind it (including some scary fluid mechanics). To say with absolute certainty that the well wishes I have for the sick while making the soup effects the healing powers of the soup is, well, stupid. This is because there is no research showing that if I make soup with well wishes and a specific recipe, and you make soup with hate and the same recipe (and same everything else), that we are effecting the soups ability to aid the human immune system. There are no documented studies on which to base this prediction. (Urban Legends aren’t data.) It would be neat if someone tested it and emotions did effect the soup. I’d even make soup (with warm positive emotions) for any team who carries out this experiment in a well documented statistically significant kind of way that passes peer review and proves the emotions of the chef effect the immune response. It would be hard to maintain warm fuzzy thoughts that long, but I’d do it :-)

Although chicken isn’t cheap this year, I’m not worried about having to pay out.

And that just ticked off some ghost believers, some soul believers. But I believe in equally annoying the absolute believers.

What can I say – I’m a skeptic.

I’m a skeptic who would love to be proven wrong.

And yes, I’m a skeptic who believes in God. I’m a 2. Why must you ask?

33 Comments

  1. Autumn May 16, 2007 at 10:23 am #

    An evangelical christian once told me that being agnostic is even worse than being an athiest as far as his church is concerned. I thought that odd, but I guess it’s easier to combat the opposition if they also deal in absolute beliefs.

  2. pamela May 16, 2007 at 11:15 am #

    I once got chewed on for getting frustrated with a “the world is only 8000 years old” person and trying to teach her the science behind an old unierse. The person doing the chewing told me the person who I was inflicting science on had a faith based on absolutes (absolute certainty in God, absolute certainty the Bible is literal, absolute beleif that even Job was an actual person and not an allegory). By trying to get her to believe dinosaurs didn’t simply not fit on the ark, I was shaking an absolute, and in fact she took my pleas to look into carbon-dating as me telling her God wasn’t an absolute. I was shaking her faith.

    A willow tree bends in the wind. The oak breaks. Things that are too brittle and too stiff can’t adapt to new forms and new data. An agnostic can go “Oh, thats nice, but I’m still not laying bets on your side. I still have my doubts.” A 100% certain athesist might break.

  3. That Neil Guy May 16, 2007 at 11:35 am #

    Just wanted to pop in to say “What a great post.”

    So, I’ll say it.

    What a great post.

    I think it’s sad you feel compelled to stop wearing the necklace. But, I suppose, it’s sort of like when I see a Confederate flag — I think they’re symbols of hate. I don’t see the cross as a symbol of hate, but I guess other people don’t see the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate.

    Well, I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, so I’ll just stop.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful post.

  4. Fraser Cain May 16, 2007 at 2:09 pm #

    I think it’s good that listeners don’t know where we stand on that issue. It shouldn’t have anything to do with a sense of wonder and enjoyment with the Universe. You’re a 2, I’m a 6.5, and we get along just fine.

  5. Jeremy Bettis May 16, 2007 at 3:03 pm #

    Beautiful post. I had to stop listening to skeptic podcasts for the reason that they seem to all be #7s and had no room in their world-view for anyone who was anything below #7.

  6. Ed May 16, 2007 at 10:11 pm #

    Great post, but more importantly a very brave one. Not many people declare themselves, unless they are 1′s or 7′s it seems. I find intolerance and hypocrisy on both sides of this debate just about daily.

    Thanks from a fellow “2″.

  7. Aaron Jackson May 16, 2007 at 11:56 pm #

    The statement that “Even Dawkin’s, a self proclaimed 6, leaves room for God.” is problematic at its absolute best. Anyone that has spent any time reading or listening to Dawkins knows that if he leaves any room for God it is merely a function of probability rather than a matter of practical application. As noncommittal as your post is, it would still be enough to prompt a pompous jeer or two from the old chap.

    Fraser, a 6.5? Come one, The only plausible reason anyone would neglect that last lonely .5 of a point is to insure they won’t be labeled among the “loud tall men”. Go for it, grab that extra .5 and run!

  8. Fraser Cain May 17, 2007 at 12:16 am #

    Well, the way Pamela described it, a 7 is someone who’s certain that there is no God. For me, there’s no evidence for it, and plenty of evidence against it, but if new evidence presents itself, I’m happy to change my mind. Peg me at a 6.99 then?

  9. Aaron Jackson May 17, 2007 at 12:32 am #

    You believe there to be no evidence whatsoever for the existence of God? None? Not one iota? I think I feel worse for the poor .01 point than I did for that lonely .5 ;)

  10. Clair August 30, 2007 at 2:13 pm #

    I dig this post.

    Sorry to come along at such a late stage of the game, but I guess I would probably be somewhere near Fraser. To me, all evidence provided shows me no evidence of a god, therefore I don’t believe one to exist. Give me evidence otherwise, and I’ll be right there with you.

  11. rj August 30, 2007 at 9:35 pm #

    I also say good post.

    I’m best described as a Christian that struggles, but realizes that if there were no God, life would be completely pointless what will all the pain and suffering in the world. So 2 would best describe me.

    My opinion regarding science and God is that I take the position of God is almighty and all-powerful, and he can do whatever the heck he wants, and that’s probably the best argument to a so-called 1.

    Remember that 500 or so years ago, the 1′s were the people that thought Galileo was a heretic cause he made a telescope that could see four moons of Jupiter and in one fell swoop destroyed the belief that Earth was the center of the universe. Christianity did not die because of Galileo, obviously. The Christian lesson in that is that one should not base their belief in God and his son on a bunch of rocks floating in the sky.

    For a 7 (or 6.99), I recommend the book “The Case for Christ”, written by a former atheist that did a scientific study (archaeologically, historically) on Jesus. There are also later books “The Case for Faith” and “The Case for a Creator”, however I’ve not read them so I can’t comment on them.

  12. Tyler September 11, 2007 at 4:34 pm #

    Good posts. I’ve always thought that the cross symbolizes Christianity and that this religion is one of peace and love. The fact that some use it to espouse hate (or that others believe that those persons actually represent the true religion of Christianity) shouldn’t disuade one from having a conversation about it with those who are offended by its perceived message. Anyway, I’m as logical as can be and think astronomy and science are fascinating. I, like Pamela, agree that there’s room for God to exist with all we know today. We all must agree that we don’t know and may never know (with our limited brains/computers) what is actually present before us in the universe, especially if one starts trying to wrap the brain around string theory and other crazy thoughts to explain what we think we observe. I guess I don’t know why scientists think it’s important to try to empiricallly rule out God, especially taking into account the human condition (i.e. we’re not totally rationale nor will ever be regardless of strides in science). What’s the point? Open to hearing suggestions.

  13. JB November 20, 2007 at 4:46 am #

    Hi, Pamela! What a thoughtful, courageous post for a scientist to write!

    I discovered Astronomy Cast after attending several of your talks at Dragon Con, and I eventually discovered your blog through the podcast page. And tonight I can’t sleep (damned coffee!).

    The belief/non-belief debate has always intrigued and befuddled me. Folks seem to be talk past each other, as if their perceptions are turned 90 degrees from one-another and they are each asserting where they stand on the x-axis. They are those blind men arguing about an elephant.

    So the Dawkins scale makes no sense to me.

    When the evangelists of either side of this debate come at me, demanding my affiliation, I sometimes get a little snarky and describe myself as a deeply Christian atheist. This generally confuses and offends the evangelist, but it’s as truthful as I can be inside the space of a soundbite. It’s kinda tight in there.

    If the evangelist doesn’t simply reject my answer and walk away, they’ll generally tell me it’s impossible to take both positions. “Tell that to Dr. Schrödinger.” (Hey, I’m a cheeseball, and it’s still a good line.)

    When one sets out to measure a person’s belief in God, isn’t it useful to first agree on the idea of this “God” thingy? If we are going to talk about the tallest mountain in the world, shouldn’t we agree on what we mean by “tallest?” Most distant firmament from the center of the Earth? (Kilimanjaro) The highest peak measured from its base? (Hawaii?) The highest point above sea level? (Everest) Yadda.

    Do I believe in God, meaning a robed fellow with a beard and a staff, who lives up in the sky and calls my haircut an abomination? Nah. Some mystical energy force that lives in the gaps of science, insisting that absence of evidence is evidence of absence? Uh-uh. Aliens, so far advanced beyond us as to be indistinguishable from gods? Nope. A invisible flying wad of noodles? Haw!

    Much like the imaginary rubber mat table that physicists use to illustrate the effects of gravitational distortion, I find my heartfelt Christiananity to be a useful way to understand a reality that my mind cannot easily grasp directly. But I am careful not to confuse the model with the reality. That guy with the beard is just a model built to help us understand a larger concept. The cathedrals and tiny missions that I love to explore are constructs of allegory. The holy texts that we debate ad naseum are the shadows from Plato’s Parable of the Cave. They help us understand the world beyond our sight, but they are not that world.

    It’s sort of like, if we could completely understand God, God would not exist. God doesn’t exist. God is.

    …Hey, I think I’m channeling Kazantzakis! Ever read _The Saviors of God_? Pretty cool stuff. It’s a short little book, but it flipped my lid pretty good when I first read it. Still does.

    Okay. It’s getting late and my brain’s getting weird. (Getting?) And I really should get some shut-eye. Thanks very much for giving me something to blather on about on a sleepless evening, hope I didn’t track up th’ blog too much. (Danged Internet rabble!)

    The Neptune podcast was terrific, BTW. I really enjoy what you, Fraser and Rebecca put together each week. Y’all really brighten up my work week.

    Keep up the great work!

  14. Eduardo Rodas November 20, 2007 at 10:23 am #

    HI Pamela,

    I just want to say that you are really brave and really admire you for that. In this world, specially the one you are immersed in (of the skeptical ones because of belief of because of their job) it is very difficult to be yourself.

  15. James Platt November 24, 2007 at 6:15 pm #

    Interesting conversation. I believe in God and consider that belief to be a central part of my life. I am not certain how useful the 1-7 scale is because there is no real certainty even in science because none of us really knows absolutely that our physical senses give us an accurate representation of reality. We still have Plato’s caves, and we cannot know that what we see or experience is real. We have to operate with some assumptions about reality. One being that our observations are accurate. I operate under the assumption that my experience of God is real. I cannot prove it, nor can I prove the opposite, but my life experience tells me that God is real.
    I must admit I have never heard of anyone describing a cross as a symbol of hate. I know it only as a symbol of love. I am sorry that some have distorted its meaning, but I will not allow them to determine what the meaning is for me. James

  16. Robert March 15, 2008 at 9:26 pm #

    It’s in the Bible, “Seek and you shall find.” It’s also in the heavens we so vigilantly observe. I “choose” to believe in God, and even though I’m not sure God exists, I believe God “wants” us to understand His/Her/Its creation. I feel that God wants us to understand so badly, that He/She/It is willing to put up with Atheist-Nazis and Religio-Nazis, belief and non-belief, Science and Religion.
    One day, I believe a scientist, an atheist scientist, is going to mathmatically validate the existence of God. And it will come as no surprise to that scientist.

  17. Judy March 22, 2008 at 3:28 pm #

    It’s a shame God can’t be separated from religion so the question could be examined without everyone grabbing their chosen goal post. What is about we humans that we can’t just have opinions. Seems like every question is approached competitively, as though we’re choosing teams in a football game. Is that competitiveness a biological thing, connected to our being critters, or just because we’re stupid? That’s the sort of thing this non-scientist ponders.

    Was raised as a 1, spent much of my life as a 5-6, in middle age am a 0 or a 100. I’ve come to believe we are probably an infinitesimal piece of a life form so different than we that it’s improbable we’ll ever be able to even conceive of it. No more than cells in my toe can conceive that they’re components in one of 10 toe universes, that are in turn components in one of 2 foot universes, connected to leg universes, and part of a creature that calls itself a human. Until my toe cells know they’re part of a human, and have some fairly concrete concept of what a human is, there’s not much value in them arguing about who made them, because it’s not a question they can hope to answer. If I could communicate with them I’d have to give them the bad news that while I’m pretty sure about my parents, grandma was vulnerable to fast talking fellows at the factory where she worked as a young woman, so grandpa’s identity is a little iffy.

    I realize my belief is non supportable, not worth even a snort from scientists, but it works for me and seems ever more plausible with passing time. I see a pattern in things that tells me it’s highly unlikely that even a collection of universes constitutes a Big Cheese. Every thing is a little part of a bigger thing that is a little part of a bigger thing, and so on. And mostly those things don’t know much about each other.

    I ponder the idea of our host herding us into behavior that is in its best interest. The message in many legends can be summarized that it’s a bad idea to harm one another and a good idea to mate, make and raise strong babies who will do the same. Isn’t that the behavior we humans oftentimes require of cells, and use medicine to bring about? Who is to say that the bible, fables, legends, etc. are not methods of behavioral modification in some way instigated by our host? Or by its host?

    So then I wonder whether the bible was administered as part of a daily maintenance program, like a vitamin, or in response to a modest discomfort, like indigestion, or as a fire fighting effort, a kind of chemotherapy. Is our host healthy? If I consume too many iron supplements, I’m likely to become constipated. If our host consumed an overly large dose of religion, would it become constipated? Did the Reformation come about because our host took a laxative? Not trying to be irreverent here, my curiosity is genuine

  18. David April 10, 2008 at 10:09 am #

    Bravo! Thanks for that.

    I would place myself around a 2 also, and have long felt that scripture and science are quite compatible. In my view, scripture tells “why” things happen, while science deals with the “how”. It’s only when the religionists start trying to read too much into “the length of a day” and such nonsense (or, perhaps, just get bored with the “why” and think it should be about “how” as well) that all the us v. them hoopla gets going, and all hell breaks loose. (What’s the analogy on the science side?)

    (Regarding Christian theology, I’ve heard it rumored that folks of Jewish faith generally get a chuckle about how literally some Christians want to read Genesis.)

    Dave

  19. Chuck April 22, 2008 at 4:32 pm #

    Most of the posters should also believe in all of the world’s religions, Christianity is only 1.

    If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
    – Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

  20. Harman July 16, 2008 at 4:11 am #

    Dear Pamela,

    First of all thank you–and Fraser, of course–for a great podcast. I only discovered it some months ago, so I’m still catching up.

    Second: I applaud you for making this page on your website. The debate on the roles that science and religion take is a significant one, and anyone who dedicates their time to popularizing science should not shy away from the issue.

    The one problem I have with much of this discussion is this. Somehow it seems as if the question “Do you believe in (a) god?” is considered a quick-and-dirty way of unlocking the answer to the question “What is your world view?” And this, I am convinced, is not the case.

    The big picture is much more complicated than that. What is “god”? What is “believing”? What, for that matter, is “science”? What we are dealing with here is a rich tapestry of ideas, facts, convictions, behaviors, observations, etc. It spans the full width of the human experience, and I do not think it can be resolved in a simple yes-or-no question, even if it is extended to a seven-point scale.

    I am not a religious person, and I see no reason to think that there is any kind of metaphysical or transcendent reality. I build my understanding of how the world works on science, not faith. But life if full of questions that science cannot answer: questions or morality, value judgments, the quandaries of beauty and love, and so on. The desire to address such matters in a meaningful way is an integral part of life. For me, the scale upon which to mark these issues is not divine, but humane. I am then, in a word, a humanist.

    But what matters most is that all people, whatever their beliefs and convictions, treat each other with kindness and respect, and that we never fail to wonder at the beauty of the universe.

    And that is where you come in, Pamela and Fraser. You have made my experience of the universe a richer and more rewarding one. Thank you.

  21. Dave A. October 13, 2008 at 3:44 am #

    Dear Pamila,

    I applaud your courage and virtue (look up virtue in the OED). It is a bummer to be attacked and usually ridiculed by the basic evolutionary/nazi or any other twit for that matter.

    Its just too late to pontificate. I hold to the Rodney King theory of human relations, i.e. ccann”tt wweee all juust geget aalong!?

  22. craigR December 28, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    The barrier all thinking people must ultimately ram-into is the unthinking person. Hence the two different factions getting in your face, yelling their knee jerk opinions. Shame on both of them, but they are a fact of life. Remember, it’s a bell shaped curve, most individuals are self-contentedly stuck in the middle, we few are not. I too am a scientist/Christian, and I have zero trouble reconciling the two. When God decided to create the universe, why not with a Big Bang? When He elected to start life, why not via Darwinian (self-correcting) evolution?
    When someone shouts another theory at you, why, lest they be non-thinkers, would they assume they know the Ways of God better than you do? You just have to read the start of Genesis to see two mutually exclusive versions of the dawn of Man. How does the evangelical reconcile this? The point is, they don’t have to, because they need not think it through.
    Conversely, when a pseudo-scientist shouts that science and spirituality are mutually exclusive, how could he KNOW that? I believe there are baby pigeons in this world, I’ve seen millions of adults, but I’ve never seen a baby one. My lack of seeing does not mean excluding them is rational, but then I am encumbered by thought.
    Bottom line: the bulk of people are happy with easy, safe and less complicated lives. Witness the proliferation of Applebees and Chilies and MacDonalds and all-you-can-eat Asian buffets. If one challenges them, even by existing, one becomes a threat, so I smile a lot and think quietly to myself.
    Sorry to pontificate (well not really sorry, but it’d PC to say so), but your comments are well considered and deserve support. Parenthetically, you could wear the cross under your outfit, n’est-ce pas?

  23. Glen January 7, 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    I applaud your boldness to speak out on this subject. I am an evangelical Christian and have no problem with evolution, a 15 billion year old universe or God. I am even an elder at the church I go to. There are many (the majority) of evangelical Christians who don’t have issues with these facts either. The majority of the press and evangelical atheists though do not present this though because it goes against the stereotype that they are trying to form or it’s not grand enough to make news. There are many excellent scientists who believe in God. The former head of the human genome project,Francis S. Collins, is one whose book I just read. Here is an ‘evangelical’ pointing the out the proof of evolution in his book “THe language of God”. Good science and good theology do not go against each other. I would say I am a 1 on Dawkins rating scale ( I admit to have my 2 and 3 moments as did most of the people in the Bible). I know there is a God in the same way I know that I like chocolate, experience. Someone who hasn’t ever tasted chocolate doesn’t have the expertise to tell me whether it tastes good or not. Even if he has tasted it and didn’t like it, doesn’t negate my experience.
    There was a time in my life where I was a 7, basically from birth until I was about 33. I’ve tasted both sides.
    The scientific means cannot prove or disprove God. To state absolutely that a God does or does not exist seems to go against the scientific measure since no proof can be made either way. There is no shortage of concepts in physics and astronomy that are purely ‘faith’ based because math and physics break down. But because we have no way to prove these things, doesn’t mean that they aren’t correct or that they aren’t looking in the right direction. Where science cannot go, is relegated to faith, no different than those who believe in a God.

    BTW a cross is not a ‘hate’ symbol. Imagine if that person dared say a star of David was a hate symbol. The person who said that must have been quite the bigot.

  24. Jake Williams January 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm #

    I don’t believe you. You say your a skeptic. Yet, you’re obviously christian. You claim that you require evidence for belief, yet your belief in a god is stemmed from the Bible. Have you read the Bible Pamela? Compartmentalizing our knowledge are we? I will guess as you get older you will eventually become a 3 or 4. A 2? I don’t believe you. In fact, I sense PR tactic in your response. By claiming a 2, many theist will take a liking to you and get involved in astronomy. You know what science does to unprovable belief systems.

    I must say by claiming a 2 you may have brought many into the realm of scientific rationality. Great job! In poker this would be like bluffing someone with a crappy hand. In this case, a 2/7 off suit is your hand. Meanwhile we’re at home watching you on ESPN thinking your nuts because your up against a set of aces.

    BTW as far as astronomy goes you’re a 10 :)

    Fraser, 6.99? Ha Ha! On the other end of the spectrum it would be a 1.01. For some reason 1.01 sounds more ridiculous than 6.99. I wonder why?

  25. Robert Meinhofer January 24, 2009 at 12:43 am #

    Great post. I laugh at the debate because the 1′s are often inflexible, and the 7′s are equally so.

    Further, I laugh because 1′s refuse to see scientific evidence, and 7′s are closed minded to anything that their computer and instruments can’t calculate observe and/or measure.

    1′s (often) see a small universe with God in it, 7′s see a vast universe with no god in it.

    Funny thing is, if there is God, the universe is both extremely vast (as we can measure), and extremely small (because a god has to be greater than his creation and has the universe in him).

    Otherwise God would just be a dude with a beard in a robe and not God.

    So the 1′s are often too scared to think big, and the 7′s are often too scared to think at all.
    I happily believe fully in the Christian God/Holy Spirit/Jesus and happily love science.

    Thing is, science without God is really pointless. :D

  26. Ian March 23, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    What the hell is a 2? It sounds like something out of Dead Poets Society – (“Begone, J. Evans Pritchard, Ph. D”).

    Its un-necessary to have to use someone’s (Dawkins) arbitrary scale to be able to place ones-self along a continuum. A tad lazy perhaps.

    If we have to generalise lets follow the lead of a true genius and skeptic of some note who said “I think to be intellectually honest one has to, in my opinion, has to say they’re an agnostic”

    Vale Perry.

  27. A sad Agnostic June 29, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    I grew up believing in God ever since I could remember but the more I study science and astrophysics, the more I find evidence against the existence of God. It makes me very very sad. I’m not comfortable saying I’m an atheist..yet, but I’m just begging for anyone to prove me wrong. I wish I had the peace that believers have when they go to bed every night but to me, that would just be lying to myself so that I don’t face the uncomfortable truth. What number on the scale does that make me?

  28. Gary July 22, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    I am over 50 yrs old. I don’t know how many times all the atoms in my body have been replaced, but I assure you that not one molecule, not one atom, or subatomic particle of the body with which I was born, or had even 10 years ago, is still connected to me in any way. If not ‘proof’ then this is surely ‘evidence’ that we are not our bodies. It is evidence that we are transcendental to the material creation. I am expected to believe that when this current ‘pound of flesh’ breathes no more, that that’s the end of me. Sorry I don’t have that much faith.

    Everything we see, touch, taste, smell or experience in any way is temporal, here today gone tomorrow. Therefore everything we ‘do science’ on is transient. It was something; it is becoming something else. Science never finds God because by nature it is restricted to looking in the wrong place. It only comprehends the temporal, not the eternal. It comprehends matter, never spirit.

    10,000 times per day ‘evidence’ shows that life only comes from life. Never, not even once, have we created life from non-life. Yet I am asked to ‘believe’ that this is possible. And that I must accept it on ‘faith’. Sorry I don’t have that much faith.

    There’s no proof of God but surely proving the opposite is just as impossible. Because there can be no proof of Not-God anybody who claims to be a 7 simply accepts that on faith. So how are they any different from somebody who accepts God on faith?

    No, the way I see it, it takes quite a bit more faith to believe in Not-God. When I look at the universe, the world where I live; everything I see is evidence of an infinite, unimaginably intelligent and incredibly beautiful God!

    We can no more comprehend this God than the number “1″ can comprehend the infinite. The number “1″ thinks that if I only count high enough, if I only count long enough, then I will be closer to understanding the infinite. But if he goes on counting for a billion years and reaches the highest number ever conceived, reaches the absolute limit of his little imagination… well, he may learn something about himself but he will certainly be no closer to understanding the infinite.

    Peace, Gary

  29. Gary July 26, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

    At first I was simply not going to believe in a God for which there was no proof. It seems to me that an intelligent God who wants to be found must leave a way. There is more intelligence packed into the DNA of one living cell than all of the accumulated knowledge of mankind. And that’s just one cell! All of creation declares a GLORY that just cannot be ignored. I could not believe that a God with this kind of super-intelligence would require that I commit INTELLECTUAL SUICIDE to believe in him. But I was trapped, because there can be no proof.

    One day I had a subtle and seemingly insignificant realization. It is true that God can neither be proven or disproved. Because He can never be disproved, one can never know with absolute certainty that He does not exist. Let me repeat that it is impossible to KNOW with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that God doesn’t exist. Because of this, while I was yet a non-believer, I could not open my mouth to speak out against God as so many arrogant and proud fools do. Since He could not be disproved I had to admit that He might exist. And if there was any chance that I might meet Him someday… well, I didn’t want to sew any rotten seeds.

    Here then was my subtle realization. While God can be neither proven nor disproved, and one can never KNOW that He does not exist, it IS POSSIBLE to KNOW that He DOES exists! I repeat, it IS POSSIBLE to KNOW that He DOES exists! While as an individual I cannot PROVE His existence to you, I can yet KNOW His existence myself by having a DIRECT and PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with Him, the Living God!

    Ah, but where to start. Realizing how powerful our imagination is, I did not want this relationship to exist only in my mind. A person can believe anything he wants. In fact when someone says, “I believe”, that person has just professed their LACK of knowledge. For when a person knows something he says not, “I believe”, but instead, “I KNOW”. Imagination and reality have nothing in common and searching for God must truly be searching for reality. But how do you love a God that you do not know? How do you build a faith in Him when you cannot see Him? There is a way!

    I stumbled for the longest time with faith because I thought that faith must be blind. And being blind I would not follow it. But the truth is that while faith is in something “not seen” it does not have to be blind! How can such a thing be?

    Imagine you are hiking down a trail and you come to a chasm. Over the chasm is a bridge, looking none too trustworthy. You are all alone. Nearby is a registry with the testimony of many who have crossed the bridge…safely. Your are the one who must cross now and the one who will fall when the bridge crumbles. So you cannot place your faith in the testimony of another, especially since you have never actually seen anyone cross the bridge. What will you do?

    It may be that the bridge is totally trustworthy and you could run back and forth, jump up and down on it all day long. Or…maybe…not. How will you know? You MUST place your faith in the bridge, however, (and here is the key), you do not have to go blindly, blissfully ignorant of the dangers. You can test the bridge slowly, carefully at first. Keep a life-line to shore…just in case. Let your smaller successes build up one upon the other until you are confident enough to trust that bridge each and every time you must cross it.

    And that is how I have come to faith in God. That is how I know that He is there. I trusted Him with the little things and found Him there. I trusted Him with bigger things, and found Him there. And every day that I trust Him more my faith grows stronger and more unshakable. And the Joy of knowing the living God…unspeakable! So many years…such an empty life, leading to despair. Neither possessions nor activities could fill the emptiness. Neither physical nor intellectual achievements could totally satisfy.

    But an eternal RELATIONSHIP with the Living Infinite God who loves and cares about you…there is nothing else!!!

    This is what the LORD says:
    “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
    or the strong man boast of his strength
    or the rich man boast of his riches,
    but let him who boasts boast about this:
    that he understands and knows me,
    that I am the LORD , who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
    declares the LORD .

  30. Murich November 24, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    If you’ve seen the X-files then you may know the poster Mulder has on his office wall saying “I want to believe”.

    That summarizes how I feel about God. I feel that there must be something there caring about us, caring about me, or maybe just existing “out there”. Sometimes I “send my thoughts” to it – I want it to listen to what I have to say. I believe that it cares.

    Then again I have times when I don’t believe, that I think that we are just alone. I don’t like that feeling, it somehow feels wrong not to believe.
    So I say that I’m an agnostic, because in a very real sense I believe that we can’t know if there is a God or not. Still my belief would be somewhere close to 2 (sometimes 3).

    I’m not even sure that we can know the truth about reality at all, but we have to assume that what we experience is true.

    I don’t really think any of us can truthfully know about God, so all religions and sects are in one way or another flawed – they can not all be true, and probably none of them are. It seems to have more to do with upbringing and the society you live in which religion you adhere to. That would make me Christian, yet that seems arbitrary – why should Christians have the truth about God, and everyone else be wrong?

    So I’m left with my belief in something, maybe a god, that I hope cares for us, while living in a mostly Christian, secular society. It’s complicated…

    I love Astronomy Cast, and I hope you and Fraser get to do many many more episodes together, I’m plowing through them like a steam-roller! :) (Only started listening a couple of months back).

  31. David Diaz December 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Hi, Pamela
    Thank you for taking a courageous stand. I’m a 1 because He talks to me all the time. We have a relationship. I _never_ go in anyone’s face challenging their belief and/or disbelief because I think that it boils down to a choice. I’m somewhat disappointed that you let some schmuck talk you out of wearing your cross because _she_ took it as a symbol of hate. That’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Upon that cross was a Man-God who gave His life for love of mankind. Yes, that’s _all_ of mankind… Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, and Frisbee-tarians.

    I say that the person can choose not to look at your cross if she believes it to be a symbol of hate. Please put it back on, and wear it to let the world know that _some_ brilliant scientists actually have _faith_, which by definition means believing something you can’t prove. There’s another dimension to mankind, and that is the dimension of the soul. You either get it or you don’t. If you do, well, then you are a one or two. If you don’t, you are a six or 7. I say there are no 3′s, 4′s, or 5′s.

    Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will, and Merry Christmas

    David

  32. Jack April 25, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Oh cm’on Pamala. I salute your believing in God. But at least be consistent.

    How disingenuous of you to ridicule those who believe in things such as telepathy, and other paranormal phenomenon. You regularly dismiss such on your podcasts with Fraser, but then state here you believe some guy died on a cross for our sins, and that there is a God. Shame on this inconsistency. It’s OK for you to believe, on the flimsiest of evidence, such superstition as Christianity, yet you ignore the reams of good scientific evidence in favor of psychic phenomenon. Don’t think there is evidence for such?

    What about http://www.scientificexploration.org/ ?

    800 of your peers participate in this peer reviewed scientific journal devoted to such phenomenon. There are Phd’s in this org from every discipline. Are THEY superstitious kooks? They don’t think people who believe in the paranormal are kooks. Why do you and Fraser? Is it fear? It can’t be for lack of evidence.

    You’re closed mindedness would be OK if you were also an atheist, but to say that your superstition is ok but other’s are not is shameful. And……….UFO’s? It is clear you are not familiar with the best studies, books, researchers and evidence of this issue, so how can you honestly claim there is no such evidence? Start being a bit more fair to the unknown mysteries of consciousness.

  33. john October 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I think there are many things we understan and think we understand.Energy with an intelagence,as far as serching for life out there,the evidence tells us they have been visiting us for some time.Or traveling interdiamentionaly with in this planet,or out there some where.Jesus is real an all will see that soon.There of course is a lot of thought,what is solid,the earth as a living oganisim houseing life.Things are set up to perfect to think it is just by chance.and at one point on the other but most likely prospective I have seen and beleave had some kind of contact with the visiters that we have not been visited with.Human aspects for most part.p.s.God still exist all maybe related.Truth should be never changing,things are complicated how ever it turns out,would like to emerge the winer in life and death.WE may not be able to control all things,would like to understand and learn as much as possible.Well have a great evning.john

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