Oh. Oh. I almost hate to post a blog entry because the discussion is really getting so interesting. I am enthralled with each entry. Carl – your story made me well up. Yes, it’s true. Atheism has nothing to say about how to cope with life. And you are so right, when you lose a loved one and are surrounded by people who try to comfort you by telling you that you will see the recently deceased again one day… it’s just a big old reminder that you aren’t.
And Michael – the person who wrote that science is anti-God. Yes, it is. You are right. It’s anti-God. Many others said the same thing. Science has a bias against evidence that cannot be tested. And since most people define God in a way as to make him, her, or whoever completely Un-testable, then God is not a good solution to scientists.
And so, in that sense, you could argue that science is anti-God. Of course there are scientists who believe in God and the ones that I respect (I am thinking of Martin Gardner) insist that their faith is completely private (and I think he even has admitted that his faith is for his own comfort, nothing more - he won't define his God or debate about it) and people like him don't even try to do silly things like argue against evolution or try to prove a 6,000 year old world, or that there is something called a quantum consciousness. They just have their faith. And it's private. And they don't insist that other people have their faith and they agree that science and secularism are the best ways through which to govern and exist in society.
Imagine if Copernicus had just accepted that the earth was flat because that’s what it said in the Bible. Any scientific advance necessarily discounts a supernatural answer. Because then that’s the end of the inquiry. God did it. End of story. And yet, this computer that I am writing on right this minute, is a product developed persons who dared to think further and experiment more and wonder deeper than the limited worldview that belief in God and compliance with a religious text might have instilled in them.
I say to Michael, just try and think of it. Just try to. Imagine we are right and you are wrong. Now I say this because I spent so many years thinking scientists were wrong and religion was right.
So I say to you, just sit and think about it. A species like ours, lurching – careening – bumbling into existence, in a world with a million, a billion possible outcomes. Here we humans come, oozing up out of the earth right along with the caterpillars and worms and bats and whatever existed at that moment. Imagine all the accidents – the asteroids destroying so much, the climate change, the deforestation, the flooding, supervolcanoes and wandering continents and magnetic fields switching up and back – all the species that died off that inadvertently benefited us, all of that – and here we are. Dominion over the earth – and not pre-ordained by God, but by pluck and luck and the virtues of natural selection and time and evolution – here we are.
And we have these brains that can figure out so much, and we are chock full of wonder and ability as well as violence and hate and jealousy. And we populate the earth, we over-populate it! Our success will, surely, participate in our ultimate demise – and yet here we are – you and me. Aware that the earth is round and that our solar system is about 6 billion years old. And we can’t even think about time that long because our puny little minds only evolved to be able to really appreciate about a hundred years or so. And here we are for this glorious moment, looking back at the Universe, blinking.
And then gone again and who knows what other species will evolve after us or if there will be an enormous asteroid plunging into us tomorrow. Or if we will extinct ourselves because of our violence that seems to be inexplicably, and intrinsically intertwined with a species’ intelligence (Dolphins, turns out they aren’t all so sweet as Flipper…)
But I ask you Michael, just let yourself imagine that we are right. Now, I know you will go right back to your other way of thinking. And I know that I would march to the Capital by foot to defend your right to believe anything you want to (in the privacy of your own home). But imagine that we are right for just a moment.
What a magnificent moment! How terrifying! How exhilarating! How tragic! How beautiful and poignant! Here we are, a little field of flowers and who knows when we’ll get plowed over and if the right insects will come and pollinate us.
And we know this because of this method – this crazy simple, but mind-bogglingly difficult method – the scientific method. And this method requires of us to stand up taller, distance ourselves from our feelings for just a moment, pull the camera back so we can see where we are standing when we face this evidence and then with tough, accepting eyes – take in the answer. To me, that is science at it’s best. And of course there are a zillion mistakes and missteps in this endeavor because we are simply humans and we are full to the eyebrows with emotions that cloud our perspective and our competitiveness and our desire to imprint our own expectations on the evidence. Of course! But science, when it’s done right – attempts to take the most honorable road. Even when that road offers us no comfort, and in fact makes the world much starker and more difficult to swallow.
I listened with some interest in the meeting of the American Bishops in Baltimore. And they started their weekend (which came to some announcements about homosexuality and the Church, more in a minute) with a shared reading that reminded us of god’s grant to humans, dominion over the earth. And I thought: that’s the problem right there! Dominion over the earth. Dominion. That arrogance!
But then I thought, but they are right. The outcome I mean. We have dominion over the earth. We are causing the sixth great extinction right now. And who cares if it was the Bible who told people or if we just evolved into this position of power and vulnerability. But we DO have dominion over the earth. And we are not handling our dominion particularly well.
And then the Church made an announcement that it was perfectly all right to be gay and Catholic as long as you agreed that acting on your sexuality (if you are gay) is sinful and wrong and heinous. And that it’s the actions that are bad, not the person. It’s just… something inside you that God put in you that makes you want to do things that are… bad, bad, bad. But don’t worry, that’s not YOU. That’s just God testing you.
ARGH. It just makes you wonder how that church even can continue at all.
In other news: I am doing a CNN interview tomorrow that is supposed to air Sunday morning on the CNN news. This segment is on faith and I am the subject of this week’s story. I did a pre-interview this morning and I go to tape tomorrow morning. The man who interviewed me today said he was shocked I was willing to say I was an atheist and that his friend told him not to even talk to me because I didn’t believe in God. Even though, this man was perfectly wonderful to talk to. I think, mostly, that people don’t understand why you are good if you don’t believe in God. It always amazes me that people think that if they didn’t have God to answer to, they would just bust out and do all kinds of unlawful and immoral things. It’s as if they, themselves, don’t understand why they behave well.
I am gearing up to shoot the movie in February, probably mid February. There is a raging debate going on in my mind about whether to shoot the show in a theater with an audience, like I did God Said Ha! Or film it all in my own home, me talking right to the camera, like the audience is a visitor. I go back and forth all the time over what is right.