Friday, April 20, 2012

Ask an Atheist Day: Questions

A compilation of the questions I was asked on Facebook for Ask An Atheist Day! I have anonymized my friends by giving them funny names for my amusement.

Guyver: What is your favorite food?
BW: Spicy Pad Thai

Facetious: What is the best way to prepare a baby?
BW: This.

Effin': What do think becomes of us after our body dies?
BW: I don't think anything happens to 'us' after our body dies. I think we're just dead.

Guyver: What do you believe in?
BW: I believe that the Universe is a spectacularly amazing place, and that science is the absolute best tool we have for learning about and understanding it.
I believe that the time I get here on Earth is all I'm going to get, so I ought to enjoy every bit of it and do my best to make sure everyone I care about is enjoying every bit of it.
I believe in equality for everyone, regardless.
I believe in doing the right thing and making the world a better place for everyone, because I am a social animal with a sense of empathy that is not dependent on some external force. 
I believe that humanity is on its own, so we'd better get to work fixing things like the environment and various social injustices ourselves.
Guyver: Do you believe in things you cannot see? Something like faith, but not religiously related.
BW: I can't see atoms or radio waves, but I know there is evidence for them to exist, the experts who study them tell me they exist, and I can observe the effects of their existence so I behave as if they exist and take their existence to be true. I have been accused in the past of not believing in 'love' on account of it not being something I could see or analyze...but I can experience it for myself, and I obviously do 'believe in love'. I believe in human consciousness, which isn't currently well-defined or understood...but I also believe that it is a product of brain chemistry and not some abstract 'spirit'. I don't believe in the supernatural, but I have faith in the people I care about, humanity as a whole and the power of science to improve the world. I am inspired by the wonders of the universe, people who do amazing things and the beauty of our world.

Effin': Do you think Earth is the only "intelligent" life supporting rock in this joint?
BW: In terms of life on other planets, it is statistically extremely unlikely for 'intelligent as we know it' life to develop probably not. Honestly though, I don't know. And I'm ok with not knowing until we have learned more about the Universe. Simpler forms for life, though? Such as microbes or viruses of some sort? I imagine it's just a matter of time before we find that somewhere out there. But again, I don't know.
Mr. Chick-Fil-A: Well, with billions of stars in our galaxy and billions of galaxies in the universe, I believe that it is statistically impossible for life not to have developed in other planets or rocks (moons, don't forget the moons). And, I'm with Facetious on this. Taking in consideration all these numbers, philosophically speaking, it is inconceivable to think that intelligent life had developed only on planet Earth.
BW:  I don't know about that. I fully expect that there is other forms of life out there, but the jump to more complex forms of life is a major thing.
Facetious: Certainly the odds of simple lifeforms developing into complex ones, then intelligent ones are slim. But then its still a great big universe, which has existed for billions of years and will last for hundreds of billions more. Other civilizations may have been born and died out many millenia before the earth was even formed, or will come about after the sun has expanded and gobbled up our little blue dot. Unless we find someway around the laws of physics which prevents us from observing or even moving faster than light, I doubt we'll ever find any other intelligent on our own.
Mr. Chick-Fil-A: " the chances of intelligent life emerging is low – less than 0.01 per cent over four billion years." I take 0.01 percent over 4 billions in a planet like-Earth no problem. You know why? Because, if that was the probability of intelligent life to have developed in this planet, and it did happen, why would not happen in other billions of planets like-Earth?
BW: You could be right, Mr. Chick-Fil-A. We really don't have enough information to say just yet, and our only frame of reference is how life developed on Earth. I am wary of 'if it could happen, then it will happen somewhere' logic, though. The concept of infinity is just too abstract. Regardless, counting on aliens to help us fix our problems is just as productive as counting on prayer or divine intervention. 

The Bearded One: Why aren't you an agnostic like all the REAL skeptics? :P
BW: I'm an agnostic atheist. I recognize that it is impossible to prove there is no God and that there is a remote possibility that a God-like being exists that we can't currently observe. Based on the current evidence however, I have concluded that God most likely does not exist and choose to act accordingly. I feel that it is far less skeptical to say, 'I don't know, therefore God' than simply 'I don't know'. : P

Effin': If somehow it was proven to you that God did exist and that the Bible was more or less accurate, do you think that would truly change anything for you?
BW: Well, I'd have to admit I was wrong and that would suck. I don't think it would change my faith in science or my core morality, but I'd definitely start going to Church and I'd probably spend more time writing about arguments for Christianity as opposed to arguments for atheism. Thankfully that doesn't seem to likely, so I'll get to keep sleeping in on Sundays.
Effin': I've often wonder what, if anything, I would change if it was ever proven to me or my beliefs ever came to be different than they are for whatever reason. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around some of the seemingly petty things that can be required from Christianity (the religion I am most familiar with). Of course, I'm not all knowing or all seeing, so I suppose that could be the problem for my lack of brain wrappage. 
BW:  I've switched belief systems a few times while I was figuring things out. I feel it was mostly superficial behaviors that differed. The whole Christian thing never felt quite right, but there were things about paganism that really resonated with me. There was definitely a transition from vaguely-mystical fluff to 'reality is awesome'. I will think on it more and see if I can articulate it better.

Jazzy: Do you ever entertain the idea that so called 'spiritual' or 'paranormal' events might be explained by events or beings related to other dimensions or similar unknown aspects of the universe??
BW: Of course I do! I'm a sci-fi geek after all, and those ideas are fun to speculate about. Throughout the history of human thought, supernatural explanations for events have been regularly and consistently replaced with natural ones that we simply didn't know enough about. The problem with the supernatural arguments is that they often go something like 'I don't know, therefore supernatural'. A simple 'I don't know yet' is far more honest and reasonable. It's entirely possible that there are aspects of the natural world that we don't currently understand or can't observe. But until there is real evidence for them all they are is speculation. I prefer to make my decisions and conclusions based on the best available evidence. So until I have real reason to believe that extra-dimensional beings are stealing my socks, for instance, I will continue to behave as if they don't exist.
Jazzy: I know what you mean. My best description of my beliefs is an optimistic agnostic, but people never seem satisfied with that.... lol
BW: Sounds good to me. : ) 

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