Oh, Deepak…


So Deepak Chopra has weighed-in on atheism. He does make a few good points about religion in general, and belief.

If belief in God can’t stand up to proof, it won’t sustain a person through difficult times.

And…

What’s not rewarding is to base your belief or unbelief on secondhand opinion. Being a knee-jerk skeptic is as limiting as being a knee-jerk fundamentalist. In both cases, the mind is being conditioned by others.

This is absolutely correct, for a given definition of “secondhand opinion”. If someone who is an astrophysicist says there is probably no god, and certainly no proof for god, and I leave it at that, then I’m taking them at their opinion. If, on the other hand, they subsequently produce peer-reviewed documents backing up their position, and are willing to change that position when new information is produced, then that’s a very different thing.

But overall, ok, not horrible. Here’s what I roll my eyes at.

Atheism can do good by casting a skeptical light on cultural mythologies, but believing in nothing but the material world is cold comfort.

It is? I’m quite happy believing in only the material world. It’s the only one I have any reason to believe exists. I take a great deal of comfort in the idea that this life is all that I get, and so I’d best make the most of it.

Strong-minded, vocal atheists claim that God isn’t science and science isn’t God. But the implication that faith is irrational and only science knows the truth has no basis in fact.

“Science” doesn’t know everything, or indeed, anything. Science is a method, a way of accumulating, processing and using data to draw conclusions based on evidence. This is like saying, “Only baking knows the truth of food.” That’s just…bizarre.

What he’s trying to do is say that belief in something that cannot be proven and has, to coin a phrase, “no basis in fact” is also a valid way of perceiving the universe. It’s his way, sure, and perhaps valid in some ways, but certainly not, you know, accurate.

Some studies indicate that scientists actually go to church more than the general population.

[citation needed]

I can sort-of agree with what he ends with.

I feel for people who get stuck in any belief system, including rigid skepticism. They are signing up for the suppression of curiosity. As painful as it may be to question the faith you were brought up in, it’s worse to be stuck. The human story is about growth and evolution. That will remain true no matter who shouts loudest about God or the absence of God.

But you know…I’m skeptical about pretty much everything at first. Once I have a bit more information, and sometimes not even very much, if it’s from a source I trust, I go with it. My skepticism over many things isn’t hard to overcome.

The last two sentences are basically very true, though it is worth noting that while atheists might “shout” about the absence of God, we do so because our shout is a mere whisper compared with the god-obsessed society we live in. Also, I don’t know any atheist, and have never met any atheist, who would pass restrictive and oppressive legislation against people simply because they believe in God. That is certainly not a given when it’s coming from the other side.

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3 Responses to “Oh, Deepak…”

  1. Robert Stabell Says:

    I wanted to respond to Deepak which led to my Googling this subject and finding this blog. I am very much bothered by his remark, “Some studies indicate that scientists actually go to church more than the general population.” What studies? (Most likely studies done by The Baptist Association of Texas.) Your response does a great job of voicing my concerns with Deepak’s comments. Thank you!

    • Chris Says:

      Yeah, that’s what my snarky little [citation needed] comment was all about. No studies I’m aware of have ever indicated this. It’s also not really relevant, since those scientists could simply be responding to societal and cultural pressure. I’m glad you liked my reply. 🙂

  2. arthurthepanther Says:

    It doesn’t matter one way or the other whether a scientist is a person of faith (like a couple of my friends from college, one of whom is working on a doctorate in physics, the other a BS biology), or a person who is anti-religion in any form, like me (AS biochem) – scientist is a JOB.

    People are capable of doing all kinds of things as part of their job that have nothing to do with their personal opinions. It’s meaningless to say ‘more scientists are atheists’ or ‘more scientists are Christians’ – it’s like saying ‘more hotdog vendors eat pizza than hotdogs’. It adds nothing informative to the topic, whether that be the question of the existence of god, or what fast food is tastier at three in the morning.


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