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LONDON (RNS) A controversial Oxford University professor billed by many as the world's ``most famous atheist'' now says he is not 100 percent sure that God doesn't exist _ but just barely. By Al Webb.

26 Comments

  1. I imagine to religionists this is news. As an atheist, I never met an absolutist fellow non-believer.

    Being an absolutist is purely a religionist trait. I.e.: only religionists have 100% certainty that their “faith” in god, satan, heaven, hell, dead things coming to life et al is genuine and real… all without a shred of objective or testable evidence.

    Thinking people never do that. It is because there is no objective or testable evidence that non-believers are non-believers. But much like we would attribute 6.9 out of 7 that evolutionary theory is correct, we will always hold open the door for evidence that can falsify it (discredit it), or improve upon / enhance our understanding. This is called “reasoning”.

    6.9 out of 7 certainty of no god is pretty much the same degree of certainty I would attribute to the non-existence of Bigfoot, Wolfman, pixies, lapracalns, Zeus, Mithra, Isis, and the factuality of people claiming alien abduction and having their anus’ probed by ET.

    Well, maybe 6.8 out of 7 for Bigfoot.

  2. Your headline for this article is shamefully provocative in as much as it is entirely true yet entirely misleading! Dawkins did not say something new, yet you are playing it as a reversal of his position. For Shame……

  3. slowe…
    Youarecorrect of course that this is not new, but a basic to realists thought (see my comment above). But to be fair, the news reports are all doing pretty much the same thing with this . It’s not RNS’s unique treatment.

  4. Thomas Rooney OFS

    This is all over the news, secular and religious, and it is NOT news. Out of Dawkin’s books, I’ve only read The God Delusion. An almost identical quote is within the first 20 pages, I believe.

  5. Gallifrey1966

    Dawkins hasn’t said anything different. This is part of the whole point of his worldview. There’s absolutely no evidence that God exists, he would say, and I am fairly certain no such thing exists. However, is it possible new evidence could come to light to change that thinking? Not likely, he’d say, but not impossible either. He’s not, as you imply, starting to lose his conviction. He’s approaching this subject as a good scientist would.

  6. GalileoUnchained

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the flabby “Scientists are closed minded because naturalism rejects the supernatural out of hand” would be put to rest?

    Not likely, I’m guessing.

    CrossExaminedBlog

  7. Re comment from Bart,
    Without identifying myself as a believer or non-believer, I feel your comment “Being an absolutist is purely a religionist trait” rather uninformed. Christianity exposes the trait of ‘doubt’ in one of its founding saints Thomas… while Jesus is reported to have admonished Thomas for doubting in the face of visible evidence of the resurrection, the very fact that doubt could exist inside a believer is never denied by reasonably en-cultured Christians.

    In fairness, we might hope that nurturing of agnosticism over time will allow reasonably en-cultured atheists such as Richard Dawkins to share the commonality of transcendence that his debate opponent was perhaps more aware of. Transcendence in and of itself has much to offer.

  8. DangerousTalk

    This story makes me so mad. It is horribly misleading and intellectually dishonest. I wrote a response: http://t.co/JLWjKdE5

  9. bob..oh please…stop with the biblical references and self serving defense of the faith by trying to imbue tit with reason. Simply conduct a survey and you’ll find the following:

    Ask Pat Robertson, Billy Graham or his even more insipid son Franklin, the Pope, Jerry Falwell (you can discuss it with him in his place in hell), Ken Ham, Benny Hinn, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Hucksterbee, any “prince of the church” or charlatan of the ministry, or the typical sunday-go-to-meetin’, tongue talking, snake handling, platitude spewing, Satan hating, possession believing, door to door proselytizing , Jesus worshipping religionist to what degree do they believe in the existence of God.

    I’ll bet my copy of Origin of Species , and my NIV Bible personally authographed by jesus, against one of your dead body crackers and a bottle of your 12% alcohol man-god blood that the vast majority will answer “100%!!! Hallelujah!!!” (AKA. 7 out of 7).

    Let me know the results of your scientifically conducted study. I won’t hold my breath.

  10. oops..for give the typos, esp. “tit” = “it”
    I’ll do a few Hail Marys as penance.

  11. Dawkins is foremost a scientist. Science tells us there is nothing absolute. Dawkins therefore cannot unequivocally say there is no god. However, as he points out in his book, “The God Delusion”, he believes the probability of there being a god is about the same as his belief unicorns and leprechauns exist.

    The title of this article is misleading and mendacious.

  12. Bart said “I’ll bet my copy of Origin of Species , and my NIV Bible personally authographed by jesus, against one of your dead body crackers and a bottle of your 12% alcohol man-god blood that the vast majority will answer “100%!!! Hallelujah!!!” (AKA. 7 out of 7).”

    Yep. You are correct. This is because, as a Christian, I have nothing to lose if I’m wrong. As an atheist, you have everything to lose if you’re wrong.

    As a side note, it’s fun to watch how rabid atheists get in defending everything that comes out of Dawkin’s mouth. It’s like he’s considered infallible. It’s like…well, it’s like he’s worshiped as a god or revered as a pope. I guess we all have a need to worship something or someone.

  13. Thog, so you ARE 100% sure.
    And you’re reference to Pascal’s Wager (i’m guessing you didn’t know it was Pascal’s Wager), a defunct and dismissed apologetic due to it’s multiple holes and falacies that religionists are incapable of perceiving for themselves, is sort of misplaced in this discussion,

    Hey, bob… about abosolutist religinists?? – I rest my case.

  14. a·the·ist? ?[ey-thee-ist]
    noun
    a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    So, I guess this makes Dawkins an agnostic. The headline should read “Dawkins Comes Out of the Closet. Reveals He’s Agnostic.” I am enjoying the way Dawkins and his followers are hedging their bets.

  15. DangerousTalk

    Dictionaries are reference guides, not authoritative directives. One can be both an agnostic and an atheist and I will contend that most atheists are agnostics too: http://exm.nr/dKVT65

    But you can call us anything you like, it doesn’t change our position and you just revealed yourself to be dogmatic… unless you are willing to call yourself an agnostic too. Or are you clamming to know with 100% certainty that your beliefs are true?

  16. Yeah, I guess I am dogmatic. But I’m really confused now. If you, Dawkins, and other atheists are not dogmatically atheistic, why spend so much time trying to convince others not to believe in a deity? If I’m 7.9 out of 8 sure the gun is not loaded, why would I work so hard to convince others to put it to their head? Dawkins is demonstrating some sort of faith, one way or another. Perhaps, in that .1 out of 8 level of belief in which Dawkins is vacillating, he is also holding out the faith that the deity he has denied is benevolent and will cut him some slack. Look at Bart’s 8:17 PM post above. Why all the derision? Dawkins is holding out a 1.25% chance there is a God. In a lottery for $10 million, most people would think those are pretty good odds. And there is a lot more at stake than $10 million in the question of the existence of an intelligent creator.

  17. DangerousTalk

    I’m getting bored of the same old ridiculous attacks to defend ridiculous beliefs:
    http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-philadelphia/atheism-101-why-do-atheists-care-about-religion
    http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-philadelphia/atheism-101-does-it-take-more-faith-to-be-an-atheist

  18. Well, I’m disappointed that derision, labeling, and then throwing web links out are the best ways for you to try to answer my questions. The one bit of new information I gained by this exchange is that a little bit of belief (or doubt in one’s position) is ok, but if you REALLY believe then you are committing the “sin” of being dogmatic. Holding out a 1.25% chance that God exists allows you to deride those who do fully believe.

    I’m curious…what % of belief in the potential of God’s existence finally does disqualify one to call him or herself an atheist (or a “skeptic” if that’s what you choose to call it…I realize you do want to play it safe).

    Let me state for the record, I’m sold out to the idea that God exists, but there is much about God and his ways that are a total mystery to me. He’s way beyond my ability to comprehend fully.

  19. DangerousTalk

    I find it funny that you ask questions, but refuse to read or even consider the answers to those questions. That’s dogmatism for you. I answer your questions in those links, but you refuse to read those answers and state in advance that you are going to believe no matter what the evidence suggests. So what’s the point in the discussion?

  20. Dangerous,

    I did read the links you sent. You should not assume I didn’t. I actually read a couple other articles in the Atheism 101 series as well. Also, you should not assume I did not consider their content. So, I suppose you are right. My beliefs and questions are labeled by you as dogmatic, ridiculous, and boring. There is no point in continuing.

  21. Thog asks: ” I’m curious…what % of belief in the potential of God’s existence finally does disqualify one to call him or herself an atheist (or a “skeptic” if that’s what you choose to call it…I realize you do want to play it safe).”

    I am aghast at the shallowness and lack of intellect displayed here. Unlike the speed of sound, the age of the universe, the number of genes on the double helix, attributing 6.9 of 7 , or 9 out of 10, or 1 out of a million, or 1 out of a billion as degree of belief or non-belief, isn’t a drived based on scientific evidence and laws ofprobability. It wasn’t the point of Dawkins comment at all. Layering on the “1.25%” chance as though it was a calculated number using a scientific formula exposes the religionist proffering it as intellectually cripled at worst, bordering on devoid of any ability to conceptualize the abstract at best.

    Dawkins’ comment was meant to demonstrate that atheists and scientists are not absolutists. That we / they always hold open the door for evidence and proofs that could influence our perceptions. To do otherwise would be to violate the principles of the scientific method. Whether Ganesh, Isis, Mithra, Yaweh, or a still yet to be named god, while no objective evidence supports their existence, the door to the remote possibility of their existence has to be left ajar pending evidence that supports the contention.

    If he was asked to what degree on a 7 point scale he’d attribute to the Loch Ness monster being myth, he’d likely assign the same 6.9 out of 7. It doesn’t change his rejection of the “monster’s” existence, nor does it “hedge a bet” in anticipation of the Monster being real and taking vengeance. It’s all related to their being no viable objective evidence for it’s existence, but it doesn’t mean that the improbable could not be remotely true and not subject to later discovery. Again, it only leaves a door open to change one’s mind based on objective evidence that can be sustained by the scientific method, repeated, and subject to falsification.

    I think it was Dawkins himself who said that when a person lives their life as though no supernatural being/s exist, they are atheist. There is no numerical calculation or litmus test for what makes a person a non-believer.

    Now, I’m going to venture to those who have difficulty dealing with simple logic and reason, and absorbing the basic tenets of the scientific method and the meaning of objective evidence this is all lost on them. Typically they are people for whom everything must pass through the lens of religionist non-think and a history of rejection of reason. But it’s ok. I did my duty in attempting to educate the least among us.

  22. Bart,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond and explain. I would counter by saying that the rejection or acceptance of theories regarding origins are based on the philosophical presuppositions of the observers.

    Here is something I wrote after listening to a discussion forum held at Stanford a few years ago featuring Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawson. I really would be interested in your response.

    “Kraus and Dawkins kept referring to “the illusion of design” in nature. To me, it’s overwhelmingly obvious that purpose and order point to a designer…but they call this an illusion. Only fools (according to Dawkins and Krauss) could believe that an extremely intelligent and powerful being could have created and ordered the universe.

    Dawkins explains that evolution can be summed up in one word: heredity. He defines heredity as “high fidelity replication of coded information.” Krauss agreed. I find this to be fascinating and even comical. Both Dawkins and Krauss have been guest speakers on the SETI Institute’s weekly radio program titled “Are We Alone?” The mission of the SETI Institute (the acronym SETI stands for Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) is to “explore, understand, and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the universe.” One project funded by SETI is the Alien Telescope Array (ATA) which is a large number of small radio telescope dishes that are scanning the celestial skies for signals from intelligent beings.

    In the Frequently Asked Questions section of the SETI web page researchers explain how they will know if signals are from extra terrestrial beings. SETI researchers are listening for “narrow band signals” in the otherwise random radio static spread evenly across the frequency spectrum. Intelligent life forms would purposely pack a lot of energy, or information, in a narrow band of “spectral space.” In other words, the purposeful packing of high amounts of orderly information into a very small space (relatively speaking) is a sign of intelligence. Biologists are awed by the incredible amount of information packed into the strands of DNA that can be found in each and every cell of every living thing. One strand of a DNA molecule is estimated to contain approximately 350 megabytes of information. That’s a lot of information packed into something as tiny as the human cell!

    So let me get this straight…if SETI researchers intercept a radio signal that is more than just static, this probably indicates that the signal was created by intelligent beings. But the massive amount of beautifully coded information packed into a single strand of DNA is a random occurrence caused by nothing but purposeless chance, and it’s origins can be traced back to absolutely…nothing??”

  23. Thog,
    I see you addressed me directly. I will thus respond directly.
    You’re welcome. Glad to have been able to clarify the issue at hand for you.

    I scanned the rest of your post, and don’t see it having any relavance to the news story / e Dawkins “6.7 out of 7″ discussion; and does not prolongue the misconception and Pascal’s Wager foolishness proffered earlier. I am gratified to see that come to it’s conclusion.

    That said: I have zero interest in reading your article in depth, providing you with my response to it, or prolonging any discourse with you.

    Thank you.

  24. That’s ok. Perhaps someone else read it and may have been helped by it. Interesting though, you wrote a lengthy comment to me in which you insult my intelligence and accuse me of rejecting reason, then you refuse to read my post in depth.

    So much for the dogmatism of us “religionists.” It goes both ways. But please notice, the personal, degrading insults only went one direction. Skeptics sure come across as arrogant bunch.

  25. Bart-
    “It is because there is no objective or testable evidence that non-believers are non-believers.”
    Belief in God is “belief”. You can’t find God with a microscope. God is a part of the supernatural, so obviously the rules of natural science, requiring evidence etc., can not apply.
    God is supernatural, but so in part is each of us. Most of us, believers and atheists both, acknowledge the reality of a moral law. For instance, we know we should not commit murder. But we can not produce evidence for this moral law. We can no more produce evidence for the moral law than we can for God. Yet since we do believe in this moral law, why not believe in God also?
    Having said all this, I would note that the mathematical laws of probability, while not constituting scientific evidence in the usual sense, do serve to indicate that the probability of the universe (given the complexity and organizational level that we observe it to have) having an intelligent designer and creator are overwhelming. I would refer you to Sir Fred Hoyle’s work. Discussion of it can be found in “How Did the Universe Begin?”
    by Ralph Epperson