A response to Steve Zara responding to Victor Stenger

This is what happens when I sit in Hotel rooms with not much to do until later, I can fully live out my SIWOTI syndrome !
Victor Stenger has given a long interview to a greek newspaper, and the HuffPo has published an excerpt from it.Then Steve Zara put up a post in which he goes through Stenger’s answers to the questions, and comments on where he disagrees with him.
Well, I disagree with some of Zara’s answers, too, so here goes !(questions are in bold, Stenger’s answers in italic, Zara’s yellow shaded)

1. You are one of the so-called new atheists. What does the concept refer to?

New atheism was the name attached by others to the phenomenon of multiple bestsellers written by atheists Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and me that appeared from 2004 to 2007. It may also refer to the widely read blogs by nonbelievers P.Z. Meyers, Rebecca Watson, and others.

I would certainly say it includes P.Z. Myers (why does everyone mis-spell his name). I think it’s now broader in use. I would call myself a New Atheist as well.

Rebecca Watson might be an atheist, but she’s first and foremost a sceptic I would have thought.She certainly isn’t a gnu atheist, in my opinion.

They also regard moderate believers as being at least partially responsible for the actions of religious extremists since they hold to many of the same irrational superstitions as the extremists and do no speak out sufficiently against them.

I disagree with that. I don’t hold moderate believers at all reponsible for the actions of religious extremists. What I believe is that society as a whole enables the actions of religious extremists because it considers religious faith to be a virtue, and the criticism of religious ideas to be distasteful or even bigoted.

This doesn’t make much sense.Aren’t “moderate believers” 80% of society as a whole in the USA?
It is a reality that religious moderates and extremists in any given denomination share the same foundation, the same holy book, the same morals and values taught in that holy book, so the moderates do of course affirm positions that the extremists hold all the time ! And that’s what makes them part of the problem, Stenger is right here.(By the way, that’s not even talking about moderates that wouldn’t fly planes into buildings, but withhold medicines from their children, tell me they’re not part of the problem!)
Another way how moderates, if unintentionally, are part of the problem is when religious believers ask for, or demand, respect for their beliefs.This is particularly a problem in Islam, and one of the main reasons that extremists are somewhat sheltered, because when questioning or criticising a moderate is already considered an insult or even blasphemy, then extremists become exempt from criticism too.

3. But how could such a beautiful place like the universe have been created from nothing?

“Beauty” is in the eye of the beholder, but basically you are asking how complex structure developed without design.

I don’t think that’s what people are asking. It is why the universe seems so suited to us and our lives. Of course, evolution answers that question.

Well, first of all, we know that something can be created from nothing in quantum mechanics, and the problem is more our understanding of the term “nothing”, and confusing its philosophical meaning with one pertaining to physics.
I agree with Zara here, I think the interviewer was after Stenger’s views on the various fallacious finetuning arguments, rather than those on design and complexity in nature.Nevertheless, he is wrong when he says that evolution answers the question of why the universe seems suited to our lifes(it isn’t, in most places), evolution does no such thing.

4. So what is faith?

Faith is belief in something in the absence of empirical evidence or reason for that belief. It provides no information about reality and no basis for human action. Science is not based on faith since it relies on observations and reason.

Faith isn’t really like that. Most believers think that their faith is based on good reasons. They have trust in their feelings about religious statements. Faith encourages the use of emotions as a basis for action as against rational consideration. But, the reason they use faith like this is because they have been told it is the will of God. That’s an extremely good reason, if true!

Again, I think Stenger is right and gives a concise summary of what faith is.Zara’s answer is confused, the internal and untestable “knowledge” and “reason” that the religious assert as basis for their beliefs is not reason in the way scientists or rational people use the term, and hence insubstantial, i.e., faith.

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