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Christopher Hitchens: Truth in a pearly nutshell

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... ... ... I don't believe there is a supernatural dimension, and I don't believe there have ever been any miracles, so, I don't believe that prayers are answered, any bit of this. None of this comes up so far in this argument. I've not argued with a religious person yet at all. I'm arguing with someone who claims to know more than I do about physics and biology. It's possible that he does, many, many people do. But bear in mind that we cannot say that we know that there was not a prime mover. It's not within our compass, pitifully ignorant as we are, only scrabbling on the lowest slopes of the study of Physics, as all of us are, even the best. We may not say that we know there was no prime mover. We may not say that. We can say that all the laws appear to operate without that assumption. It's very, very rare indeed to meet a physicist of any standing, from Einstein onwards, who is not at the most a spinozist, in other words someone who might say there could be a pantheism somewhere who could be a force, but there is no way you could take a step from the laws of physics, the observable creation of the Cosmos that leads you to the belief that there is an intervening personal god who does answer prayers, who does watch over you, who does notice what you're up to, who does mind what you do, who you sleep with and in what position, what you eat, and on what days of the week, what propitiations and sacrifices you'll make, what commandments you observe. There is no possible way, no one has even tried it of getting from the laws of Physics or Biology any such idea, so the person who says: "I'm a deist, I don't think all of this can be an accident, there must be some cosmic force", I say, I can't disprove it, though I think that the Cosmos functions without it, but you have all your work, Sir or Mam, still ahead of you before you can say that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person, let alone that he was the son of god, let alone that his mother was a virgin, let alone that he was resurrected, none of these things, by the way, would prove that he was the son of god, if they did happen. Nor would they prove that his doctrines were not erroneous. A resurrected person, who is a son of a virgin, could still be talking nonsense. There's no logic that says he must be right. If I'm having an argument with you, Sir, and you say >> 'you lose boychick', I say: >>'How come?' >>''Because my mother never went to bed with a man'. Your logic is faulty. I think my case could remain just as strong as ever was in default of that, I must say rather bizarre, intervention. Now, why do we have religion in the first place? Why we're having this discussion? Why does Frank feel the need to talk in this way? Because we are pattern seeking mammals. It's part of our evolution. We look for patterns. We're designed to look for them. And, if we can't find a good explanation we'll come up with a bad one, rather than none at all. Most people would rather have a conspiracy theory than no theory. It's very observable that. There's a lot of junk science around before good science arrives. Before we have Astronomy we have Astrology. Before we have Chemistry we have Alchemy. All of these things are derivatives of religion. Because in a very sinister verse of the Bible that used to upset me when I was beeing forced to listen to it as a little boy it says : 'Seek and ye shall find'. Yes, that's exactly right! Seek and you will find. Seek for an explanation of volcanic eruptions when you're living in a primitive society and you will think that probably a visitation from an angry deity. And if you are told you can postpone the next eruption by throwing a few live babies into the lava, down the crater, that's what you'll do. Religion has just started. Religion has just begun. Why do some people get the plague and others not. Because they are sinful. Where's the plague coming from in the first place? It's a punishment from god and all -- in early Christian society the Jews have poisoned the wells. So, we're going to get them. Again. Because we already hate them because they killed our redeemer. They committed deicide. All of them did. All of them. No one is exempt. Indeed, if you have to be a Christian, it's an article of their faith, that we were all present at Calvary, we all drove in the nails, the Jews particularly so. And we all have to expiate this guilt for a crime that may or may have not been committed, but if it was, it was committed before we were born. What is this ?? It's not Physics. It's not Biology. It's not Science. It's faith. Why don't you fly under your own true flag, Sir. Why don't you say: these things must be believed as articles of faith. Don't try and derive it from Science. Now I've -- I can't improve on the argument that David Hume came up with against the idea of the supernatural, against the idea that the laws of nature are occasionally suspended in order to make people's faith a little more secure. Ambrose Bierce in his Devil's Dictionary, may you remember, says, under prayer, under 'p' for prayer, PRAYER= a request the laws of nature be suspended in favor of the petitioner, himself admittedly unworthy. David Hume puts it a little more acidly than that, he says: 'If you see the laws of nature apparently suspended, perhaps a virgin's given birth, perhaps a leper has suddenly stopped being a leper, who knows what it might be, you know that sort of thing, you have to ask yourself one of two things,well, you have to ask yourself both. Which is the more probable that the laws of nature have just been suspended or that I am under a misapprehension? That's if you were an eyewitness yourself to the fact. If you hear about it second, third, forth and fifth hand you have to ask this question with redoubled, and tripled, and quadrupled force and the likelihood is which that the laws of nature were suspended or that somebody may be gabbled, maybe a rumor got around? If you make this assumption then nothing is mysterious about reality. Nothing is mysterious at all. It would explain why everyone seems to die and no one comes back. No longer a mystery about that. Would explain why some people are cured of leprosy and other ever worse diseases if they go to the doctor, and if that doctor has access to certain sorts of drugs but not if they don't. The great theologian Lancelot Andrewes, archbishop of Canterbury, during the black death wondered, he says: It seems odd to me, there're people who go to church and pray and they give their ties and they do everything they are supposed to do, they live godly lives, and yet they seem to die of the plague just as much as the sinners do. He went to his grave, the archbishop, not realizing that he'd very nearly stumbled on a very good point. (Break) Most educated people said Sir Martin Rees are aware that we are the outcome of nearly four billion years of Darwinian selection. but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. It will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6 billion years from now. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoeba. I find that an arresting thought in some ways a depressing one in someways an inspiring one. It certainly make me that one mustn't consider evolution as producing us as its last word. That would be a sort of insult to any scientific process. We happen to know that even in the measurable distance of the last few thousand years the progress is going forward in our brain formation. I think our job is to remain without illusions, integral, intact, keep our planet the best we can and pass it on so this experiment gets more interesting. And if you allow me to say so what I just quoted for you from St. Martin, unless I much mistake my audience is genuinely awe inspiring. You think of watching -- (Applause) --Good. I mean really awe inspiring, not like seeing a burning bush would be awe inspiring. (Laughter) Really awe inspiring. You think of creatures gradually watching the sun die and they are not us. And they are as far from us as bacteria, our ancestors are from us. If that isn't mind expanding, awe inspiring, then you don't have the capacity for awe. And you'll not be able to get it from the holly book either.

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 47 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 3,657
Posted by: rianaa on Jan 30, 2011

Concise, eloquent, sarcastic and fun, enlightening earthlings with the truth in a pearly nutshell:

Really awe inspiring! Think of creatures gradually watching the sun die and they are not us.
And they are as far from us as we are from bacteria.
If that isn't mind expanding, awe inspiring, then you don't have the capacity for awe. And you'll not be able to get it from the holly book either !

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