Agnostic! Are you sure? (The atheist delusion)

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Saturday, January 31, 2009, 16:02 (4172 days ago) @ ima sceptic

I've been prompted to revive this thread after hearing an interview with David Attenborough on the radio this morning. It was in the context of his coming programme on Darwin and the Tree of Life to be broadcast on TV on Sunday, and his having admitted to receiving obnoxious letters and emails from creationists.

The interviewer made the mistake of assuming that he was an atheist, and he responded that he was an agnostic. He explained this in terms of an analogy of himself looking down on a termite nest and the termites being unaware of his presence. In a similar way he suggested there could be things we are not aware of because of the limitations of our senses and limited brains. He gave the example of telling a Victorian that one day it would be possible to transmit televisual pictures or to have the music of a symphony orchestra playng in your front room; he would regard you as a lunatic.

In this I completely agree with him, yet I do not call myself an agnostic, but an atheist. Where we disagree is thus in what we are agnostic or atheistic about. He has clearly expressed his view that he does not believe in a benevolent creator, else why the worms that bore into the eyes and blind people in Africa? I think this is sufficient to call oneself an atheist, since this is the sort of god that most theists believe in. Though of course I go further, maintaining that there is no evidence for any creator, benevolent, malevolent or indifferent, and that our mental abilities are up to the task of deciding this.

I also think that there will be developments in future, discoveries and inventions, that we would regard now as impossibilities. But, thanks to the Victorians (Mary Shelley, Jules Verne etc), we now have the world of speculative science fiction where such ideas can be debated and imagined.

I conclude that David Attenborough prefers to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist purely for political or social reasons, in that the term atheist attracts more abuse than agnostic.


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