Thursday, July 10, 2008

Atheist meme

Late is better than never when it comes to memes, especially atheist ones... If I tag you, participate! Dr. Spurt, Simon, Wim, David, Dan and Mark.

1) How would you define "atheism"?
The absence of a belief in God, as opposed to the belief in God's absence.

2) Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
Yes, very religious: strict Afrikaner Calvinism Boer Calvinism. It wasn't a good experience.

3) How would you describe "Intelligent Design", using only one word?

4) What scientific endeavor really excites you?
I'll cheat and name two three: evolutionary psychology and exobiology (including the hunt for exoplanets). Oh, and abiogenesis - it's going to be massive when we figure out how it works.

5) If you could change one thing about the "atheist community", what would it be and why?
More organization, and, in South Africa, being far more outspoken. Depressingly, there are few prominent atheist voices here.

6) If your child came up to you and said "I'm joining the clergy", what would be your first response?
I would try to be accepting, make it clear that it is her choice, that I would support whatever decision she made, and then try to convince her otherwise with rational arguments. (If I have children, I'm having only girls... if I can help it).

7) What's your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
I find no theistic argument even remotely convincing, but the most reasonable (and thus my favorite) is William Paley's version of the design argument. I agree with Dawkins (in The Blind Watchmaker) that Natural Theology is a fantastic book for its time - it asked all the right questions, even if its answers turned out to be incorrect. Paley, it has often seemed to me, is a testament to the greatness of the Enlightenment: even the religious apologists were pretty reasonable! As for refutation: I simply point to On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

8) What's your most "controversial" (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
I'm more 'militant' than most of my friends, so I guess that would be my post controversial position wrt atheism. (I have one atheist friend who's more militant than me: Andrew Dellis is to atheism what Ann Coulther is to right-wingers).

9) Of the "Four Horsemen" (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
I'd have to pick Dawkins - his militant atheism TEDTalk is something to behold and I enjoyed The God Delusion. I love Hitchens as a speaker, but not as a serious atheist writer. I'm not a fan of memetics, so I don't like Dennett on religion (although, I haven't read Breaking the Spell). Harris is pretty good, but I think he can be uninformed about the complexities around Islam and violence and his Buddhism stuff annoys me.

10) If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
Now: Osama bin Laden, without a doubt. A couple of years ago: George W. Bush.


  1. You got me Mike.


  2. Me too:

  3. I also got nailed...