Tag: atheism

Lawrence Krauss: ‘All Scientists Should Be Atheists’

kraussscience1Source: Patheos

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

“Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world.” – Lawrence Krauss.

In an essay for The New Yorker titled All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists Lawrence Krauss makes a powerful argument for science and against the urge to protect religious superstition from scrutiny.

The essay, published last September, begins with a discussion concerning conservative culture warrior Kim Davis using her Christian religious beliefs to deny wedding licenses to gays and lesbians in Kentucky. Commenting on the controversy, Krauss notes:

The Kim Davis controversy exists because, as a culture, we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free, not more. Religious liberty should mean that no set of religious ideals are treated differently from other ideals.

Krauss dismisses the demand that many make for respecting religious superstitions by noting the obvious:

The problem, obviously, is that what is sacred to one person can be meaningless (or repugnant) to another.

Krauss is correct. What is a sacred commandment or belief for one is another’s moral abomination. One need only be reminded of the sexism and misogyny woven into the fabric of all three of the Abrahamic religions to understand why many would find the supposedly sacred to be morally repugnant. The refusal by Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians is another example, and there are of course many more.

Krauss goes on to move from a discussion of Davis to a discussion of science, opining:

In science, of course, the very word “sacred” is profane. No ideas, religious or otherwise, get a free pass. The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking. This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise.

Krauss observes that science is inherently dangerous to religion because scientific understanding often draws people away from religion:

Because science holds that no idea is sacred, it’s inevitable that it draws people away from religion.

Yet the uncomfortable fact that science often has the effect of exposing religious superstitions as irrational and ultimately untenable beliefs about the world means that the culture of science often panders to the faithful by sugar coating the truth about the natural world:

Even so, to avoid offense, they sometimes misleadingly imply that today’s discoveries exist in easy harmony with preexisting religious doctrines, or remain silent rather than pointing out contradictions between science and religious doctrine.

Krauss rejects the misleading fabrication that science and religious dogma are compatible, at one point declaring:

Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world.

In concluding, Krauss sees a direct link “between the ethics that guide science and those that guide civic life.” Arguing that honesty should take priority over religious dogma, Krauss says “we owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass” to those “that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered ‘sacred.’”

Bottom line: Krauss is right, all scientists, and all thinking people, should be atheists.

Lawrence Krauss is a physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is also the author of The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.

See:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/07/lawrence-krauss-all-scientists-should-be-atheists/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=progressivesecularhumanist_071416UTC010701_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=51829285&spUserID=MTIxNzQwMzMwMDkyS0&spJobID=961932578&spReportId=OTYxOTMyNTc4S0

Speck of Interstellar Dust Obscures Glimpse of Big Bang

31bigbang-articleLarge

This map highlights a patch of sky that was thought to show the most ancient light in the universe, but is now thought to be dust.
European Space Agency 

 

Source: Portside

Author: Dennis Overbye

Emphasis Mine

Scientists will have to wait a while longer to find out what kicked off the Big Bang.

Last spring, a team of astronomers who go by the name of Bicep announced that they had detected ripples in space-time, or gravitational waves, reverberating from the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of time — long-sought evidence that the expansion of the universe had started out with a giant whoosh called inflation.

The discovery was heralded as potentially the greatest of the new century, but after months of spirited debate, the group conceded that the result could have been caused by interstellar dust, a notion buttressed by subsequent measurements by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite that the part of the sky Bicep examined was in fact dusty.

Now a new analysis, undertaken jointly by the Bicep group and the Planck group, has confirmed that the Bicep signal was mostly, if not all, stardust, and that there is no convincing evidence of the gravitational waves. No evidence of inflation.

“This analysis shows that the amount of gravitational waves can probably be no more than about half the observed signal,” Clem Pryke of the University of Minnesota said Friday in an interview.

“We can’t say with any certainty whether any gravity wave signals remain,” Dr. Pryke added. “Obviously, we’re not exactly thrilled, but we are scientists and our job is to try and uncover the truth. In the scientific process, the truth will emerge.”

When the galactic dust is correctly subtracted, the scientists said, there was indeed a small excess signal — a glimmer of hope for inflation fans? — but it was too small to tell if it was because of gravitational waves or just experimental noise.

The Bicep/Planck analysis was led by Dr. Pryke, one of the four Bicep principal investigators. Brendan Crill, of the California Institute of Technology and a member of Planck, acted as a liaison between the groups. They had planned to post their paper Monday, but the data was posted early, apparently by accident. It was soon taken down, but not before it set off an outburst of Twitter messages and hasty news releases.

A paper is to be posted to the Bicep website and has been submitted to the journal Physical Review Letters.

But it will be far from the final word. A flotilla of experiments devoted to the cause are underway, studying a thin haze of microwaves, known as cosmic background radiation, left from the Big Bang, when the cosmos was about 380,000 years old. Among them is a sister experiment to Bicep called Spider, led by Bill Jones of Princeton and involving a balloon-borne telescope that just completed a trip around Antarctica, as well as Bicep’s own Keck Array and the recently installed Bicep3.

At stake is an idea that has galvanized cosmologists since Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invented it in 1979. Inflation theory holds that the universe had a violent and brief surge of expansion in the earliest moments, driven by a mysterious force field that exerted negative gravity. It would explain such things as why the universe looks so uniform and where galaxies come from — quantum dents in the inflating cosmos.

Such an explosion would have left faint corkscrew swirls, known technically as B-modes, in the pattern of polarization of the microwaves. So, however, does interstellar dust.

The Bicep group — its name is an acronym for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization — is led by John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Jamie Bock of Caltech; Dr. Pryke; and Chao-Lin Kuo of Stanford. They have deployed a series of radio telescopes at the South Pole in search of the swirl pattern.

Their second scope, Bicep2, detected a signal whose strength was in the sweet spot for some of the most popular models of inflation, leading to a sensational news conference attended by Dr. Guth and Andrei Linde, two of the founding fathers of inflation.

But that was before critics raised the dust question. Moreover, that result was contrary to a previous limit on the strength of gravitational waves obtained by the Planck satellite, which has scanned the entire microwave sky in search of the Big Bang’s secrets.

Planck observed the microwaves in nine frequencies, making it easy to distinguish dust. Bicep2 had only one frequency and lacked access to Planck’s data until last fall, when the two groups agreed to work together.

Dr. Bock of Caltech, in an interview at the end of what he called a long, stressful day, characterized the result as “no detectable signal.”

“I’m not discouraged,” he went on. “We’re going to have to have better data to get a definitive answer.”

In an email, Paul J. Steinhardt, a Princeton cosmologist who was a founder of inflation but turned against it in favor of his own theory of a cyclic bouncing universe, said the new results left cosmologists back where they were before Bicep.

But Dr. Linde noted that there was evidence in the new analysis for a gravitational wave signal, albeit at a level significantly lower than Bicep had reported. “This is what all of us realized almost a year ago, and it did not change,” he said in an email.

The earlier Planck result limiting gravitational waves, he said, had inspired a firestorm of theorizing, in which he and others produced a whole new class of theories relating not just to inflation, but to dark energy as well.

“So yes, we are very excited, and no, the theory did not become more contrived,” he said.

Max Tegmark, an M.I.T. expert on the cosmic microwaves, said, “It’s important to remember that inflation is still alive and well, and that many of the simplest models predict signals just below this new limit.” The next few years will be interesting, he said.

Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, said he could appreciate the frustration of his colleagues, who have been wandering in the wilderness for nearly four decades looking for clues to the Beginning.

Inflation is the most important idea in cosmology since the hot Big Bang,” he said. “It is our Helen of Troy, launching a thousand experiments.”

Posted by Portside on February 1, 2015

See: http://portside.org/2015-02-02/speck-interstellar-dust-obscures-glimpse-big-bang

There Are as Many Atheisms as There Are Gods

Source:Guardian, via AlterNet

Author: Andrew Brown

There are as many atheisms as there are gods. We spend most of our lives disbelieving in things without wasting time asking why, and quite right too. So what is it that makes some particular forms of disbelief intellectually fertile or socially significant?  Nick Spencer’s short history of atheism goes a long way towards answering this question, and anyone seriously interested in religion and irreligion today should read it.

The first shock of the book is just how old the strongest atheist arguments are. Spencer doesn’t quote my favourite, a Babylonian tablet from around 1,000 BC that was referenced in  Robert Bellah’s book, but the Book of Job is certainly a powerful argument against what you might call the corporate PR department of GodCo.

Over in Greece, the logical difficulties of an omnipotent and benevolent God were clear as soon as people got the concepts of omnipotence and benevolence straight. Everything you needed to be an intellectually fulfilled disbeliever in the Christian God was in place by the birth of Christ.

In this light, it’s remarkable not that there are atheists today, but that there were so few in the long centuries of Christendom’s glory. I don’t think persecution or the fear of persecution can account for this. It did not manage to suppress all manners of subtle heresy; why should it successfully suppress the most obvious and radical objection to the whole business?

One answer, Spencer suggests, is that important atheism is always secondary to theism. For any particular atheism to matter, there must be an important conception of God to be rejected; in that sense, atheism is closely related to blasphemy. And the concept of God is itself extremely flexible: some are so strange as to be unrecognisable as gods to other worshippers, which is one reason why the early Christians themselves appeared as atheists to the pagans around them.

Arguments against God’s justice, such as those we see in Babylon, are not arguments against his existence: they are arguments about his character, which presuppose that he has one. Modern atheism, in the sense of a rejection of Christian monotheistic conceptions of God, doesn’t really get started until the 18th century. But by the French Revolution, modern western arguments were clear except for the faith in science, which emerged in the next 100 years.

The study of how these arguments spread and ramified into their modern forms turns out to be historical and political, rather than philosophical. It was impossible to separate a reaction against Christianity from a reaction against the Christian church, and so the forms this opposition took was determined by the role of the church in the societies involved.

In France, Italy and Russia, autocratic and clerical regimes bred a fierce anti-clericalism, which slaughtered thousands of priests and nuns and tens of thousands of believers whenever a revolution brought it to power. In Germany and countries in the German cultural sphere, atheism was far more of an intellectual matter and the Protestant churches went much further towards meeting atheist arguments in good faith.

In Britain, Spencer argues, the weight of the Anglican establishment would have been a much more powerful stimulus to atheism had it not been for the presence of thriving traditions of leftwing Christianity – this was not just Methodism and the socially conscious forms of Anglican belief: the Catholic church in this country was on the side of the working classes against most of the establishment in a way unthinkable elsewhere in Europe. Of course, that had more to do with the situation of Ireland than with theology.  So the atheisms of modern England shadow those of Anglican England, ranging from a mild an undogmatic benevolence to rebarbative sectarian fervour.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/there-are-many-atheisms-there-are-gods?akid=12058.123424.ftFHNy&rd=1&src=newsletter1013113&t=13

Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris Are Old News: A Totally Different Atheism Is on the Rise

10255797_10152206156388197_5651832525060857729_nSource: Alternet

Author: Chris Hall

It’s surprising just how much media analysis, both mainstream and progressive, continues to take as given the notion that atheism can be defined and discussed solely by looking at the so-called “New Atheists” who emerged roughly between 2004 and 2007. It’s easy to understand the appeal: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens became prominent representatives of atheism because they were all erudite, entertaining and unafraid to say what they thought. A lot of people, myself included, were drawn to their works because they were forthright and articulated things we had kept locked away, or simply hadn’t found the words for.

But in 2014, Hitchens is dead, and using Dawkins or Harris to make a case for or against atheism is about as relevant as writing about how Nirvana and Public Enemy are going to change pop music forever.

More and more, the strongest atheist voices are talking about nonbelief less as an end in itself, but as part of a larger conversation about social justice. It could hardly be any other way: atheism is growing not only in numbers, but in diversity. When Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens were at their most prominent, a frequent (and credible) criticism was that the faces of atheism were all white, male and affluent. To make the same claim now is to deliberately ignore some of the most vital atheist and skeptic voices that have emerged in the last 10 years.

Greta Christina, the author of Coming Out Atheist describes the changes in organized atheism: “[T]he movement has become much more diverse — not just in the obvious ways of gender, race, and so on, but simply in terms of how many viewpoints are coming to the table. The sheer number of people who are seen in some way as leaders… has gone up significantly…. And the increasing diversity in gender, race, class, and so on are important. We have a long way to go in this regard, but we’re doing much, much better than we were. And that’s showing up in our leadership. It’s absurd to see Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris as representing all organized atheism — it always was a little absurd, but it’s seriously absurd now.”

Just as in any other group, there are scores of people in atheist and skeptic communities who don’t want to have discussions about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other bigotries, or say they’re irrelevant to the agenda at hand. The increase in diversity isn’t happening quietly or easily, and it’s often brought out the ugliest sides of people who base their entire identities on being rational and humane. Direct challenges to racism and sexism haven’t traditionally been the domain of the large organizations like American Atheists or the Secular Coalition for America. It’s been far more typical to fight incursions against separation of church and state or educate against pseudoscience like homeopathy.

It’s not that these aren’t important issues: separation of church and state is one of the linchpins of American democracy. As the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Town of Greece vs. Galloway shows, it’s also extremely fragile, and there is a very loud and insistent portion of America who would like to see it disappear entirely.

But such a narrow focus also means that atheist and skeptic groups have a history of looking at these issues in isolation, without considering how race, gender, or class play into them. That isolation has been one of the great limiting factors in the growth of movement atheism. Too many activists and groups trapped themselves in rhetorical Möbius strips, where their conferences and literature were dominated either by debunking the same pseudoscience over and over again, or fighting cases of church-state intrusion that were more relevant as abstract principles.

But the more people step forward and identify themselves as nonbelievers, the more it’s become obvious that this narrow focus is unsustainable. Although the top positions in many organizations are still dominated by white men, an increasing number of the most passionate voices bringing new people into the movement are people of color, women, transgendered, or queer.

Jamila Bey, the communications director of the Secular Student Alliance, summed up the concerns of many in a recent interview: “There are people who say, ‘Why are we talking about racism? We would rather argue that Chupacabra are fake.’ And fine, that is their right. On the other hand, I don’t get to divorce my critical thinking from my blackness, from my femaleness, from my position as a mother. So when I see the only affordable child care in my community being offered at churches, that’s an issue for me that makes me say ‘Wait a minute, there’s a problem here. Why am I not being afforded the opportunity for my child not to be indoctrinated just so my kid has somewhere to play and meet other children?’ I can’t divorce my whole life from my skepticism and for anybody who says, well , talking about female issues or talking about issues that impact black people, oh, that’s taking away from skepticism, I go, well that’s really easy for you to say. This is my life. I can’t divorce the issues. You can choose to not care about them or whatever, but don’t tell me I’m diminishing skepticism because I’m talking about the reality of what my life is.”

Those last few words speak directly to the very reason behind organized atheism: almost everyone who deconverts from religion and declares themselves a nonbeliever does so because of a compelling need to talk about reality. Whether it’s because we couldn’t reconcile the fossils in the earth with the story of creation we were told by our parents and clergy, or because of a need to lay claim to our sexuality without first checking for the approval or condemnation of a deity, the desire to discard what we perceive as falsehoods and speak honestly about the realities of our lives is one of the most commonly shared passions of atheists as a whole.

So, even for many of us who play life on the lowest difficulty setting, who get all the goodies that come along with white skin, cis-gender maleness and middle-class backgrounds, when old-school atheists attempt to dismiss social justice issues as “mission drift,” it seems like a betrayal of the very principle that was most attractive about standing up and identifying as an atheist in the first place. For those who don’t get those goodies, the betrayal is much more intimate.

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If Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris brought a single essential insight to modern atheism, it was the idea that atheists could and should be unapologetic about their disbelief. For Heina Dadhaboy, who blogs on Skepchick, that was critical as she moved away from the traditional Islamic beliefs of her family.

“I think the fact that [Dawkins] was so unapologetic is why a lot of us became quite taken with his writings. It wasn’t so much what he was saying or how he was saying it, it was just the fact that he never apologized or capitulated for being an atheist.” That shamelessness helped Dadhaboy to assert her own voice as an atheist. Like most of mainstream culture, her family expected that if she was going to be an atheist, she would at least have the good sense to pay lip service to religion’s superior worldview.

“They expected me to capitulate,” she says. “They expected me to follow their rules and even if I didn’t believe in their religion, to agree with them that it’s more moral and makes more sense. Reading Dawkins was like, ‘Hey, I don’t need to do that.'”

Heina Dadhaboy, Greta Christina, Jamila Bey, and scores of others found their own voices, rather than becoming mere echoes of the New Atheists who were anointed by the media all those years ago. James Croft, the research and education fellow at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, says there are already generational differences in how they’re viewed. “Frankly, people like Richard Dawkins and even Sam Harris to some extent, are not viewed positively by young atheists now,” he says. “They actually don’t think that they’re that great. You still find people at the conventions who love them of course, but it does seem like they’re already a bit passé….They kind of pushed a door open, and that represents an opportunity, but the real task is to step through that door with some positive proposal of what life after religion has to look like.”

The first steps through that door have already been taken by atheist women, queers and people of color. Progress has not come easily, by any means. In some ways, it’s been outright nightmarish. The standard use of harassment and rape threats against women who make even relatively mild critiques of gender has put some of the ugliest, sickest parts of atheist communities on public display. It has even cost the movement voices; in 2012, blogger Jen McCreight proposed a new wave of secular activism called “Atheism Plus,” which would explicitly embrace social justice as part of its mission.

“It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime,” she wrote. “We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.” The campaign of harassment and abuse that followed, combined with stresses in her personal life, eventually drove her to stop blogging and speaking at atheist events. McCreight recently began writing again at a new blog, The Jenome, which does not focus on atheism.

But despite the organized hatefulness, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or just the malign neglect of old-school atheists, those who are demanding that atheism become more intersectional and diverse are not becoming silent or fading away into the background. It’s becoming more and more obvious that these critiques are essential if organized atheism is to transcend its stereotype as a refuge for privileged eccentrics.

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I can’t say when exactly I became an atheist. There was no flash of light, no road to Damascus moment where I suddenly dropped the Episcopalianism I was raised in. I stopped being a Christian sometime in early high school, but for years afterward, I tinkered with a wide range of mysticism and spiritualities, until I finally realized there was no “there” there.

What made me ultimately accept my atheism as an identity is that about the same time I began to fall away from Christianity, I began to be concerned about social justice. Atheism appealed not only as a logical conclusion, but as a more humane and just way of living. To make ethical decisions without the revelations from a deity means that the responsibility for those decisions ends with you, and no one else. Even more importantly, when you accept that there is no world beyond this one, you have to turn your eyes away from the sky and look at the people around you.

When Elliot Rodger went on his shooting spree in Isla Vista, the harm was not to the immortal souls of the people he shot and killed. His bullets tore into their bodies and devastated the lives of people in the real world. It was not a crime against god, or the spirit world, or Allah, or karma, but against fellow human beings who were alive and breathing and may have lived for decades more if he hadn’t pulled the trigger.

But those gunshots didn’t kill just because of chemistry and physics; the bullets were driven just as much by Rodger’s poisonous misogyny as by a sudden expansion of gases in the barrel of the gun. We are social creatures, and racism, misogyny, classism, and other prejudices affect our lives in ways that are just as solid as the earth orbiting the sun or our immune systems’ response to a vaccine. The activists who insist that atheism address matters of social justice are not distracting the movement from its purpose or being divisive; they are insisting it deliver on the promises that attracted so many of us to it in the first place.

 

Emphasis Mine

 

 

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/hitchens-dawkins-and-harris-are-old-news-totally-different-atheism-rise?akid=11879.123424.fof9t9&rd=1&src=newsletter999606&t=6&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Lawrence Krauss Interview

Source:  about.physics.com

Author: Andrew Zimmerman Jones

I had the privilege of meeting with acclaimed cosmologist and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss on the evening of Monday, April 7, 2014. We met at Wexner Auditorium on the campus of Ohio State University, prior to a showing of his documentary The Unbelievers (in which he co-stars with famed atheist and zoologist Richard Dawkins). Our discussion, though brief – I was the only thing standing between Dr. Krauss and his dinner – covered a wide range of intriguing topics. A summary of the interview is also on the website, but here is the full text (with some edits of my own “ums” and “ahs” and filler rambling):

Andrew Jones: So, the Origins Project just literally had its fifth anniversary.

Lawrence Krauss: Yes, on Saturday [April 5, 2014].

AJ: I’ve seen some of the videos from it. You guys (sic)  host the Great Debates.

LK: Yes, we just had a Great Debate with 3,000 people on Saturday.

AJ: What I really like about the work I see coming out of there is that it’s a very interdisciplinary look at origins.

LK: Everything from the origins of the universe to the origins of consciousness, so it’s about as interdisciplinary as you can get. We call it transdisciplinary. That’s the buzzword at ASU [Arizona State University]. But we try to bring together people from vastly different fields to look at forefront questions and look at them in different ways and see which questions we can make progress in. And these questions, since they’re foundational, are often of interest to the public, so we often have a public event associated with them.

AJ:  Obviously, you got into that through cosmology and the origins of the universe, but what made you decide you wanted to make that the origins of everything?

LK: Well, actually, I began to think about this back when I lived here in this state of Ohio, but as I was thinking of ways to get people interested in the subject, I realized that cosmology, as exciting as it is, alone is just part of the question and that one could bring together lots of different fields and when I started to think about it, I realized that origins questions are really at the heart of the forefront of science. And, as you may or may not know, I have a broad interest in science, well beyond physics, and so I just thought: Well, since origins questions are at the forefront of science, and they are also at the forefront of the public’s interest, it would be a wonderful handle to allow us to look at really interesting questions anywhere, they all fit in an origins framework. And it would allow us to do just what we’ve done, to bring together people from different fields and it’s been incredibly successful. It was ambitious and I think a lot of people thought it wouldn’t work, but it did.

AJ: Yes, I wish something like that had been in place when I’d graduated. I have an undergraduate degree in physics. And, in addition to just being kind of tired of 16 years of college [I meant school], I also kind of got the sense there wasn’t much left to do, because at the time they were writing books like The End of Physics and so on.

LK: Yeah, I know, and that’s an unfortunate thing.

AJ: So if something like this had been there to make it clear how many good, rich questions there were still.

LK: Exactly! We tend to treat physics for kids as if it was done 200 years ago by dead, white men, but that’s just not it, though. The questions are vibrant and they’re of interest and they’re accessible to people, which is one of the reasons that I write and speak about them. Yeah, it’s unfortunate the way that we turn people off by doing that. And ASU, when the President of the university invited me to come, they were particularly attracted by this idea of interdisciplinary. I am part of a school of Earth and Space Exploration that has astronomers, astrophysics, geophysicists, planetary scientists, engineers, all in one place looking at these things. An example of the kind of interdisciplinary work we’re doing.

AJ: So, to get back to cosmology. Of course, your last book [A Universe From Nothing] was on the origins of …

LK: … the universe.

AJ: … of everything. And one thing I know you’ve answered in previous interviews, and I think in The Atlantic interview you really clarified this point, but so just since I have you here, I’ll just double check that my understanding is correct. The book, as I read it, is not saying that this is definitely what happened, it’s saying that we have an explanation of what could have happened. Is that a fair statement?

LK: We have a plausible explanation of what could have happened. More importantly, if you asked “What would be the characteristics of a universe created by nothing ... created from nothing by known laws of physics?” our universe has precisely those characteristics. Now does that prove it happened? No, because we don’t have a theory of quantum gravity, but it’s plausible. It’s become a lot more plausible in the last few weeks, with the discoveries from the cosmic microwave background and the gravitational radiation, which in principle take us back and directly allow us to measure what happened in the first 10-35 seconds of the big bang. But it was just that: This is plausible. And just having a plausible explanation is remarkable. Just like when Darwin developed the theory of evolution, he was plausible. He didn’t have all the data. He had fossil ideas and he had data suggesting this idea worked, and actually compellingly suggesting that it worked, but he didn’t know about DNA or the genetic basis of life and now we do, but at the time it was a plausible argument.

AJ: One of the things that I really like about things you’ve said repeatedly about science is about being honest about how we look at questions and not assuming we have the answer before we start.

LK: No, I think that’s … I mean, we teach kids as if the answers are important. It’s the questions that are important. And I think that not knowing is a wonderful thing and more parents and more teachers should be willing to say that. “I don’t know the answer. Let’s figure out how we might learn what the answer is.” Because that’s what we’re trying to teach in schools. It’s a process. Science is a process of trying to take this complicated world and figure things out and that means not knowing things and try to figure out how to get the answer. And not knowing is what I do for a living.

AJ: In research for this, I read your article on the recent inflation results … the gravity wave article. And I loved that you said, “I did this thing a few years ago. Now that didn’t turn out to be right.” You would never hear a theologist …

LK: Yeah, they know they’re right, which means they don’t know anything.

AJ: But, I loved the honesty about, “We tried this. It didn’t work.” And scientists embrace that, because it leads us forward.

LK: Yeah, well, absolutely. I think, um …

AJ: That wasn’t really a question.

LK: No, I think honesty is a key part of science. Honesty and full disclosure. I like to try and think I do that, take that beyond science. But being wrong is a central part of science and being willing to say you’re wrong. In fact, Woody Allen says in our movie, too, he talks about it. I think the point is that’s how we make progress. I have had, I think, many beautiful ideas and unfortunately nature wasn’t smart enough to adopt them.

AJ: So, I have a couple of questions that are related to again kind of the questions of origins. I was wondering of one thing. In the past, you have expressed … I’m not sure if skepticism is quite the right word, but not exactly being “on board” with string theory as enthusiastically as some people are. Is that still kind of a fair assessment? Or was that ever really fair? Because it’s hard to get a clear handle on it. Or does that fall in the “we don’t know” category?

LK: I wrote a book, called Hiding in the Mirror, which I called a “fair and balanced look at string theory,” in the non-FOX News sense. My point was that string theory is based on a lot of fascinating ideas. However, it has been the least successful great idea in science in the sense that it hasn’t yet made touch with observation in any way. We still don’t know if the ideas of string theory are right. They’re really well motivated; it’s not as if they aren’t well motivated. But it was strongly hyped. And I guess I was against the hype, not the theory. It’s not even a theory. It’s unfair to evolution to call string theory a theory. It’s not a theory. A theory is something that has been tested robustly by experiment and it’s unfair to evolution to call it a theory. I said that many years ago and Brian Greene used to get mad at me, but now he agrees with me. But I think the point is that it’s fascinating and we’re studying it, it just hasn’t had any great successes in terms of demonstrating that it can help us understand the universe. Maybe it will one day. And, as I say, some of my best students have become string theorists, I just wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one. No, just kidding.

AJ: One question I had was about the Higgs boson. One thing that I’ve heard, and I’ve gotten mixed results from different people in the science community, so I’ll get your take on it. I’ve heard that the Higgs boson that’s seen is kind of the garden-variety Higgs. There’s no evidence of supersymmetry

LK: No, there’s no evidence at all, and it’s very disconcerting to many people, because … Actually, many of us thought, I thought – another example of being wrong – I thought supersymmetry would be seen before the Higgs. It was easier, in principle, to be seen at the Large Hadron Collider. So the fact that it hasn’t been seen is telling. Now, what happens when the Large Hadron Collider turns on again next year will be quite important. Now I’d say that there’s more evidence that supersymmetry might be correct after the discovery of gravitational waves from the big bang, because the scale that’s picked out is the scale of grand unification which is picked out if supersymmetry is part of things. So, it gives me maybe a little more confidence that supersymmetry may be seen, but it’s kind of remarkable that it’s all working out at that scale. But if supersymmetry isn’t seen at the Large Hadron Collider, then we know that we’re missing something important. And it’s a nightmare scenario. If only the Higgs is seen, in some sense, it’s a nightmare scenario, because it doesn’t tell us what is happening.

AJ: Well, let’s discuss the film for a few minutes. One thing I’m curious about, and this is probably something you address in the film, but what motivated you to go from kind of the straight just “here’s the facts” science to really being an advocate for atheism, if that’s not overstating it.

LK: I’m not an advocate for atheism; I’m an advocate for science, and that I’ve always been, so there’s nothing new about that. What I am is … By being an advocate for science I’m asking people to be willing to accept the reality, the empirically reality of the universe, the evidence. Having their beliefs conform to evidence, rather than the other way around. And, naturally, that implies – since there is no evidence of purpose to the universe – that implies that the tenets of organized religion in the world are not consistent with science. And one should be willing and upfront to say that. I think that by pretending there are some things which are not subject to questioning, we do everyone a disservice. And so, I think the point, what really got me involved in it was, again, in Ohio, right here, in Columbus, where this movie is. I got involved in the Board of Education here in Ohio was trying to essentially get rid of the teaching of evolution in schools and the biologists weren’t speaking up and I had a public pulpit, so I spoke up, and it got me involved and I came here to a big even with the school board for 1,500 people, me and another scientist debating these two nudnicks from the Discovery Institute. And that kind of got me, just protecting science from religious dogmatism, that sort of established that. And once that happened, I’ve been fighting that fight. And I’m against religious dogmatism. It’s not as if I’m out to be an advocate for anything. Except, atheism is just open questioning. It’s not a belief system. It’s just saying you don’t accept things without evidence or good reason for accepting them and that you allow your beliefs to change. As you pointed out, being wrong is really a central part of science. It’s not a central part of religion, where you assume the answers before you ask the questions, and that does a disservice to thinking and action. And if you don’t base your public policy on sound empirical evidence, then the public policy is going to be irrational. And we can’t afford that in the modern world.

AJ: What is your next project after this?

LK: Well, I have a lot of projects. I’m in the middle of scientific papers. I just wrote, what, 2 last week, because of these new discoveries. I’m writing a new book, but I won’t go into that yet, except that it will follow up on A Universe from Nothing, in a different sense, and address more of the question of why we’re here rather than could something come from nothing. Another fundamental question that in some sense is a religious one. And what I want to do, what I’ve done with these books is show that these fundamental questions that have been the basis of theology and philosophy, science is addressing in new ways. And it’s changing what we mean, but that’s okay. That’s okay. It’s called learning.

Emphasis Mine

See:

Christian Right Has Major Role in Hastening Decline of Religion in America

Source: Alternet

Author: CJ Werleman

Of those aged 18 to 35, three in 10 say they are not affiliated with any religion, while only half are “absolutely certain” a god exists. These are at or near the highest levels of religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the 25 years the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.

As encouraging as this data is for secular humanists, the actual numbers may be significantly higher, as columnist Tina Dupuy observes. “When it comes to self-reporting religious devotion Americans cannot be trusted. We under-estimate our calories, over-state our height, under-report our weight and when it comes to piety—we lie like a prayer rug.”

Every piece of social data suggests that those who favor faith and superstition over fact-based evidence will become the minority in this country by or before the end of this century. In fact, the number of Americans who do not believe in a deity doubled in the last decade of the previous century according to both the census of 2004 and the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2008, with religious non-belief in the U.S. rising from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2001. In 2013, that number is now above 16 percent.

If current trends continue, the crossing point, whereby atheists, agnostics, and “nones” equals the number of Christians in this country, will be in the year 2062. If that gives you reason to celebrate, consider this: by the year 2130, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christian will equal a little more than 1 percent. To put that into perspective, today roughly 1 percent of the population is Muslim.

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Political scientists Robert Putman and David Campbell, the authors of American Grace, argue that the Christian Right’s politicization of faith in the 1990s turned younger, socially liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. “While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction.”

Ironically, the rise of the Christian Right over the course of the past three decades may well end up being the catalyst for Christianity’s rapid decline. From the moment Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980, evangelical Christians, who account for roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population, identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. Michael Spencer, a writer who describes himself as a post-evangelical reform Christian, says, “Evangelicals fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith. Evangelicals will be seen increasingly as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.”

In light of the recent backlash against Republicans who supported the right-to-discriminate bills across 11 states, Spencer’s words seem prophetic. Republican lawmakers had expected evangelicals to mobilize in the aftermath of Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s veto of SB1062. Instead, legislatures in states like Mississippi, Kansas, and Oklahoma have largely backed down from attempts to protect “religious freedom” after a national outcry branded the proposed bills discriminatory. 

Every denomination in the U.S. is losing both affiliation and church attendance. In some ways the country is a half-generation behind the declining rate of Christianity in other western countries like the U.K., Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, France, and the Netherlands. In those countries, what were once churches are now art galleries, cafes and pubs. In Germany more than 50 percent say they do not believe in any god, and this number is declining rapidly. In the U.K., church attendances have halved since the 1970s.

A recent study into the beliefs of people living in 137 countries concludes that religious people will be a minority in many developed countries by 2041. Nigel Barber, an Irish bio-psychologist, based his book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, on the findings. His book also debunks the popular belief that religious groups will dominate atheistic ones because they collectively have more children. “Noisy as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity increases and standards of living improve,” writes Barber.

Anthropologists have often stated that religion evolved to help early man cope with anxiety and insecurity. Barber contends that supernatural belief is in decline everywhere for the fact that ordinary people enjoy a decent standard of living and are secure in their health and finances. “The market for formal religion is also being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment. Even Facebook is killing religion because it provides answers for peculiarly modern narcissistic anxieties for which religion has no answer,” observes Barber.

While some polls show roughly 9 in 10 Americans still maintain belief in a god or gods, the trend of religious young Americans is toward a mish-mash of varied religious beliefs. A 2010 USA Today survey revealed that 72 percent of the nation’s young people identify as “more spiritual than religious.”

With an increasingly majority of younger Americans accepting evolution as fact, Christianity for many under 35 is becoming a watered-down hybrid of eastern philosophy and biblical teachings. “The turn towards being ‘spiritual but not religious’ points at the decreasing observation of doctrine and strict rules and a broader relationship to sentiment and ‘Jesus and me’ on the one hand alongside the rise of yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism and a blend or smorgasbord of eastern practices with the idea of being loosely/broadly spiritual—yet not in any specific context or foundation of the Trinity, Seven Deadly Sins, Karma, Nirvana or any of the pillars or branches of belief,” writes Alan Miller, moderator of a “spiritual but not religious” event.

Young people are turning away from the church and from basic Christian beliefs. While a number of non-denominational mega-churches continue to thrive, their teachings are less dogma and more self-help. Eventually, Christianity-Lite will be replaced with Spirituality-Full Strength.

Certainly, pro-secular groups have been largely successful in removing Jesus from the public square, workplace and classroom.

All of which leaves only one self-evident conclusion: that despite the Christian Right’s well-funded and well-organized effort to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy, Christianity will inevitably mirror the days of its origins i.e. something that is only whispered about in secretly guarded places. And that may happen sooner than you think.

Emphasis Mine

See:

Are Religious People More Depressed?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

N.B: An interesting perspective!

“While non-religious people tend to reject religion because they find the evidence for a supernatural deity unconvincing, a new study shows that rejecting religion can be good not just logically, but emotionally.

While previous studies had suggested some emotional and social value to being religious, a new study that examined a huge number of people from around the world discovered that being religious is a risk factor for depressionAs explained by the Huffington Post, over 8,000 people from different countries from the UK to Chile, had their levels of religiosity measured. The study covered various economic and social groups and looked at the relationship between religiosity and depression.

The researchers found that religious people were more prone to depression, with rates of developing depression in places like the United Kingdom being three times as high for believers than non-believers. Studies like this are merely measuring risk factors and not necessarily suggesting a causal relationship so much as suggesting to clinicians traits to look out for when determining a patient’s chances of developing depression. However, the fact that the finding was both cross- and intra-cultural suggests that there may be more going on here than a simple correlation.

Is there anything about religion that might make people more prone to depression? Or is it that people who are prone to depression are more likely to be religious?

The latter is certainly an intriguing possibility. It would make a lot of sense if people who are prone to depression find themselves drawn to religion, precisely because it offers the kind of hope depressed people often find difficult to muster by themselves. This is particularly true when one considers how religion imagines hope as a thing external to the believer. All the believer is required to do is believe and follow a set of rules, religions like Christianity promise, and they will go to heaven.

Depression is described as a state where the sufferer experiences “feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness and of being out of control.” Depressed people have a hard time looking on the bright side of life, and muscling up that optimism that allows non-depressed people to feel confident in their ability to go out and conquer the world. It’s not a coincidence that religion offers exactly what is missing in a depressed person’s life.

Take Christianity, for instance. It promises that God loves you, that he has a unique plan for you, that you can exert control over your life through prayer and good works, and that even if things are bleak now, there is a promise of another life beyond where things are perfect. If you can work yourself into believing it, that might sound very much like a cure, especially if you’re not aware the feelings you’re suffering are clinical depression—which is a common dilemma for people suffering it.

Certainly there’s some reason to believe that if society protects people against some of the worst causes of depression, such as the fear of falling into poverty, that society will have more atheists in it. Stable, egalitarian societies repeatedly prove to be places where the atheist message takes off really well. We know that on a national level, if people feel like they have control over their lives and there’s hope in the here and now, those nations tend to have more atheists. So why wouldn’t that be true on an individual level?

Most atheists, including myself, like to believe we came to the conclusion that religion is not true and that there are no gods simply through rigor and logic. What this study may suggest, however, is that we’re underestimating the role our emotional states play in making us at least willing to hear atheist arguments. When you feel good about yourself, you’re less likely to need to hear there’s a God who does the loving of you for you. If you feel hope about tomorrow, the promise of heaven isn’t quite as tempting—or you’re less likely to be perturbed at the idea of death being forever if the life you’re living today is pretty good. If you feel you have some control over your life, you’re not going to see any need to beg a supernatural being to intercede on your behalf.

For those of us who want to both help people leave religion and improve the public image of atheists, this understanding of why religion so often appeals to people is critical. Instead of being angry with religious people for believing, it’s useful to consider that the hope that religion offers might seem like a lifeline to people who are hurting badly, and ask if there’s anything atheists can do to offer similar kinds of hope.

Indeed, one major advantage atheists have on their side is that there’s no reason to believe that religion alone is actually helping people. After all, religious people have higher rates of depression, suggesting that while they may hope religion will make them feel better, it’s often not working.

Luckily, more atheists are beginning to take seriously the idea that atheist activists need to be talking more about mental health, and reaching out to people who have mental health issues and getting them the evidence-based help they need. Some atheists, like Greta Christina and JT Eberhard have opened up about their own struggles with mental illness. Instead of offering prayer and heaven as answers, they point their audiences to more proven methods for getting help, such as therapy and the use of medication under a doctor’s supervision. Indeed, atheists are uniquely able to speak to the issue of getting help for depression, because they can speak directly about the environmental and biological causes without getting bogged down in talking about spirituality.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/are-religious-people-more-depressed?akid=10955.123424.udQPK9&rd=1&src=newsletter898915&t=9&paging=off

Atheists Rejoice! Pope Francis Says You’re O.K.

Source: Salon

Author: Mary Elizabeth Williams

“It likely doesn’t matter much to the atheists of the world that — of all people — Pope Francis is on their side. But he is. And that’s a cool thing for all of us.

In a message delivered Wednesday via Vatican Radio, the new pontiff distinguished himself with a call for tolerance and a message of support – and even admiration – toward nonbelievers.

Naturally, a guy whose job it is to lead the world’s largest Christian faith is still going to come at his flock with a Jesus-centric message. But he’s taking it in an encouraging new direction. In his message, Francis dissed the apostles for being “a little intolerant” and said, “All of us have this commandment at heart: Do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not (a) Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must.”

And the pope spoke of the need to meet each other somewhere on our on common ground. “This commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” It was a deeper affirmation of his comments back in March, when he declared that the faithful and atheists can be “precious allies… to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”

That’s a message that’s vastly different from Catholicism’s traditional “We’re number one!” dogma. Six years ago, the Vatican reasserted the church’s stance that while there may be“elements of sanctification and truth” in other faiths, “that fullness of grace and of truth… has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.” In other words, close but no cigar, everybody else.

The pope was not, of course, addressing the non-believers of the world in his Wednesday sermon, or trying to win them over. Instead, he was telling his Catholics about the importance of cutting outsiders slack. And it’s a hugely important message for Christians to hear. It’s not about being right. It’s about being loving. And it’s a necessary concept, one that needs to be expressed again and again, in a world in which the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor  in Virginia is justifying his repulsive hate speech against gays and lesbians because “I’m a Christian, not because I hate anybody, but because I have religious values that matter to me.” Coming within a week when atheists have been stepping into the spotlighthere in America with their own messages of live-and-let-live tolerance, it’s downright refreshing to get a similar message from the biggest Christian in the world.

There are plenty of atheists out there who will no doubt take the pope’s message with a grain of salt or even flat-out disdain. The last thing somebody who doesn’t believe in heaven could possibly need is some guy in a funny hat telling them that they’re okay in God’s eyes anyway. But maybe, whatever we believe or don’t believe, we can consider that the man is on to something when he speaks about “the culture of encounter.”

Francis notes that the apostles were “closed off by the idea of possessing the truth,” an arrogant certainty that no one group currently has a monopoly on. Where we find each other is in practicing tolerance for our differences, and in finding the commonality of our values. “Doing good,” Francis says, “is not a matter of faith.”

It’s not that faith, for the faithful, doesn’t matter. It’s that belonging to a church isn’t what saves us. It’s belonging to each other.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of “Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter@embeedub.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/atheists-rejoice-pope-francis-says-youre-ok?akid=10473.123424.jYYz0V&rd=1&src=newsletter844873&t=3

 

Godless America: The New Religious-less Reality

From:Huff Post

By: Staks Rosch

Religion is still very important to many Americans and it will be a very long time before we will live in a world without religion. It might not ever happen. However, we are getting much closer to that world, and before we know it, religious belief will occupy the same place as fortunetellers in our society. We are at the dawn of a new reality in America in which people are starting to be more interested in actual reality than they are in ancient superstitions.

According to a 2012 Gallup-International poll (PDF), the number of “convinced atheists” in the United States has risen from 1 percent in 2005 to 5 percent in 2012. I want to point out here that we are not talking about some vague group of “nones,” or even people who shy away from the “A” label. That 5 percent doesn’t count those who only identify as agnostic or secular. It doesn’t count those who only use the Humanist or rationalist labels, either. We aren’t even talking about people who are just a little bit atheist; we are talking about “convinced atheists.” That’s 5 percent of the American public.

Let’s put this in context with some religious group identities. Muslims make up just .6 percent of the population in America. Although you wouldn’t know that by watching Fox News or by listening to many religious fundamentalists who insist that Sharia Law is going to take over the country any day now.

While Jewish groups have a strong lobby in Washington, they only make up 1.7 percent of the population in the nation. That’s it! Plus, there are still a lot of Jews who are secular and “convinced atheists.” So that number is probably inflated.

There are more “convinced atheists” in America than all the Muslims and Jews combined and doubled. But that’s not all. Not by a long shot. Atheism is still considered a dirty word in much of this country. So there are a lot of people who lack a belief in gods but don’t call themselves atheists.

The media loves the fact that according to the new Gallup tracking poll, the so-called “nones” only grew .3 percent from the previous year. Religious leaders are thrilled that the rise of the “nones” is slowing down. But the media reported it wrong. The “nones” are still rising! Looking at the context of how the other religious identities have risen or fallen, it becomes clear that this is a win for atheism. Protestants actually shrunk by .6 percent. Catholics can’t brag either. They fell .2 percent. Jews and Muslims stayed the same at the previously mentioned 1.7 percent and .6 percent, respectively.

In fact, aside from the Mormons, no religious group increased their numbers in 2012. But the religiously unaffiliated did grow! The story shouldn’t have been that the rise of the “nones” was slowing down, but rather that the religiously unaffiliated is still the fastest growing religious identity. More people are leaving religion than joining religion. Even in the most Bible-minded cities in the country, 48 percent of people are “resistant” to the Bible.

The religiously unaffiliated or “nones” make up about 19 percent of the American population. That’s nearly one in five Americans. I know, not all those people are “convinced atheists,” but the Pew Research Centerdoes break down those numbers a little bit and most of the “nones” don’t believe in any deities. So yeah,they’re atheists. Thirty-six percent of the “nones” are flat-out convinced atheists and agnostics. Thirty-nine percent consider themselves secular or not religious. In other words, they don’t like to use the “A-labels” but they still don’t believe in any deities. Only 23 percent of the religiously unaffiliated “nones” consider themselves to be unattached believers. That means that 77 percent of the “nones” don’t believe in deities. That’s about 14 percent of the American people and 0 percent of Congress.

While religious lawmakers continue to waste tax-payer monepushing laws that affirm “In God We Trust” as our national motto, it is their religious-based laws which continue to attack the rights of women, gays people and racial minorities that are most problematic. Those things aren’t helping religions grow one bit. On the contrary, they are making it easier for me to make my case that basing our laws on the Bible is silly and dangerous. It is much better to base our laws on secular values like human compassion, fairness and reason.

Religious apologists like to talk about a clash of world-views but there is no clash. There are people who live in reality and people who believe ancient stories on bad evidence and faith. When it comes to understanding the world we actually live in, there is no better tool than science. Stephen Hawking put it best:

There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

As information becomes more available to the general public via the Internet, religion can no longer hide. When religious leaders make claims, people can now turn to Google and research those claims. You won’t find a religious leader claiming that there are no contradictions in the Bible anymore because a quick Google search can expose that as nonsense. That old line claiming that something can’t come from nothing is easily refuted with a YouTube search on Lawrence Krauss.

Whether religious believers like it or not, we are at the dawn of a new godless age in America. Religious leaders know it and they are afraid. The greater community of reason is organizing and we are starting to demand equal treatment and representation. It won’t be long before we actually get it, either. Religious believers can deface our billboards, but they cannot prevent the inevitable reality that our message is getting out there. People are starting to think critically about the beliefs they have been indoctrinated to believe and they are leaving their religions behind.

 

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/staks-rosch/godless-america-the-new-r_b_2561272.html

Asking Lawrence Krauss: How was the universe created? Read more: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/conscience-realist/2013/jan/1/asking-larence-krauss-how-was-universe-created/#ixzz2Gsnqi08C Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter

From: Washington Times

By: Joseph Cotto

“At one time or another, most people wonder exactly how our universe came into being.

Various religions and philosophers have offered explanations. It was not until physics began to achieve huge prestige in the 19th century that society began to look for empirically verifiable answers. Today, more progress than ever before is being made in unraveling the secrets of of the universe past, present, and future.

Lawrence Krauss is a theoretical physicist and bestselling author. His most recent book, A Universe from Nothing, is a response from the cutting edge of theoretical physics to that all-important question of how our universe burst into existence.

Here Dr. Krauss explains why so many scientific breakthroughs have occurred over the last several years, whether or not faith is compatible with modern science, how the universe might have been created, whether science supports the idea of an all-powerful creator, and much more.

Joseph F. Cotto: Science is beginning to answer many of the questions that have perplexed humanity throughout the ages. Why have so many breakthroughs taken place over the last several years?

Dr. Lawrence Krauss: Every time we open a new window on the universe we are surprised. Technology has allowed us in the past few decades to reach out to observe things we might never have thought possible, to take photos of the universe when it was less than 300,000 years old, to probe the fundamental structure of matter on scales a thousand times smaller than the size of a proton, to sequence the human genome. The expansion in our ability to probe the universe has been exponential, which is kind of poetic, since the universe itself appears to be expanding exponentially.

Cotto: Many people fear that science is answering too many questions too quickly. They claim that this will diminish the societal influence of religion. What is your opinion about this idea? 

Dr. Krauss: It would be fantastic if science diminished the societal influence of religion, since religion encourages people to force the universe to conform to their beliefs. Science forces beliefs to conform to the evidence of reality. That leads to much better policies for society.

Cotto: Across the world, billions rely on faith just to get them through the day. Said faith might be in the divine, another person, or a social construct. In your opinion, is faith compatible with modern science?

Dr. Krauss: Faith is not incompatible with science if it is based on the evidence of reality and does not contradict experiment or observation. The moment it does, it becomes incompatible. Note that science cannot disprove the existence of God anymore than it can disprove the possibility that a china teapot is orbiting Jupiter. But that doesn’t make either likely.

Cotto: The existence of God is an immensely controversial subject. From your standpoint, does modern science support the idea of an all-powerful creator?

Dr. Krauss: Absolutely not. No evidence that anything other than natural laws are required to have produced everything we see and much that we don’t. [There’s] no need for supernatural shenanigans, and no evidence of purpose to the universe. God is irrelevant to everything we measure in the universe, if she exists.

Cotto: In a summary sense, how did the universe come into existence?

Dr. Krauss: WE don’t know the answer of course, but we do know that quantum mechanics, combined with gravity, allows universes to pop into existence from nothing, and those that survive 13 billion years will end up looking a lot like ours.

Cotto: Evolution is a fact of life. Can the importance of its role throughout human history be understated?

Dr. Krauss: Evolution generally occurs on long timescales, far longer than recorded human history as a rule, although not always. Human evolution has occurred over millions of years, and of course the evolution of life in general over billions of years.

Cotto: Whether they should be rooted in theism or politics, various ideologies often attract droves of willing participants searching for a universal truth of some kind. While modern science is answering many difficult questions, does it offer any absolute truths?

Dr. Krauss: No, but there are no absolute truths. There are only absolute falsehoods. The beauty of science is that it does not claim to know the answers before it asks the questions. There is nothing wrong with not knowing. It means there is more to learn, and as I have said before, ignorance bothers me far less than the illusion of knowledge.

Cotto: Mythology often finds a greater degree of popularity than scientific conclusions do. In your view, is there a reason for this?

Dr. Krauss: Yes. People want to believe, we are hard wired to, and we have a long history of myths. In addition, religions have a vested interested in continuing the myths for their own survival.

Cotto: The search for meaning in life is a theme shared by all societies. Does science offer any concrete answers to the question of what life is all about?

Dr. Krauss: That Scienpresumes that life is about something. Maybe it isn’t.   Science allows for the possibility that there is no absolute purpose or meaning, that we make our own meaning in our lives. In my opinion that is far grander than some meaning imposed by some cosmic dictator in the sky.

Cotto: How did you become such a prominent academic? Tell us a bit about your life and career.

Dr. Krauss: That is a long story. The short version is that I worked hard, and have also been lucky, and I was inspired by many people who came before me, in particular by their writing. That is one of the reasons why I write popular books, to return the favor.

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Emphasis Mine

See: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/conscience-realist/2013/jan/1/asking-larence-krauss-how-was-universe-created/