A Prize-Winning Theoretical Physicist’s Critique of Atheism

March 22 2019

The Brazilian-born Jewish theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser recently won the Templeton prize, a prestigious award that has been given to figures ranging from the Dalai Lama to the physicist Freeman Dyson. While not religious himself, Gleiser saves his criticism not for the faithful but for the so-called New Atheists, as he explains in an interview by Lee Billings:

I believe we should take a much humbler approach to knowledge, in the sense that if you look carefully at the way science works, you’ll see that yes, it is wonderful—magnificent!—but it has limits. And we have to understand and respect those limits. And by doing that, by understanding how science advances, science really becomes a deeply spiritual conversation with the mysterious, about all the things we don’t know. . . . And that has nothing to do with organized religion, obviously, but it does inform my position against atheism. I consider myself an agnostic. . . .

I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. [Atheism is] a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief: “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.” Period. It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations. We say, “Okay, you can have a hypothesis, you have to have some evidence against or for that.”

[Thus] an agnostic would say, “Look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god.” . . . But [at the same time] an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and all that. This positions me very much against all of the “New Atheist” guys. . . .

There is, [likewise], a difference between “science” and what we can call “scientism,” which is the notion that science can solve all problems. To a large extent, it is not science but rather how humanity has used science that has put us in our present difficulties. Because most people . . . have no awareness of what science can and cannot do. So they misuse it. [Say] you’re going to develop a self-driving car? Good! But how will that car handle hard choices, like whether to prioritize the lives of its occupants or the lives of pedestrian bystanders? Is it going to be just the technologist from Google who decides? Let us hope not!

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Read more at Scientific American

More about: Alfred Hitchcock, Atheism, New Atheists, Science, Science and Religion, Scientism

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism