Victor Stenger - Taking a Stand for Science and Reason

March 16, 2010

Victor Stenger is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Hawaii and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado. He is also founder of Colorado Citizens for Science. He’s held visiting faculty positions at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and at Oxford in the United Kingdom, and has been a visiting researcher at Rutherford Laboratory in England, the National Nuclear Physics Laboratory in Frascati, Italy, and the University of Florence in Italy. Stenger’s search career has spanned the period of great progress in elementary particle physics that ultimately led to the current standard model. He participated in experiments that helped establish the properties of strange particles, quarks, gluons, and neutrinos and has also helped pioneer the emerging fields of very high energy gamma ray and neutrino astronomy. In his last project before retiring, Vic collaborated on the experiment in Japan which showed for the first time that the neutrino has mass. He is the author of many books, including Comprehensible Cosmos, The Unconscious Quantum, Not by Design, Has Science Found God, The New York Times best-seller God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist, and The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason.

In this, the second of three special-edition episodes featuring D.J. Grothe, Vic Stenger discusses who the New Atheists oppose: not just anti-science activists, but even those who have faith in God even if they support science to some extent. He explores if science is itself based on faith. He describes ways in which faith may appear to be based on evidence. He compares evidence supporting God's existence coming from the appearance of design in nature with evidence from the sciences suggesting a total lack of design in the universe. He debates which should have priority: science or atheism, and whether learning science will lead to atheism, or if being an atheist will lead to an natural acceptance of the scientific worldview. He defends causing offense to believers in the name of truth, and explores to what extent such an approach may be counter-productive at times. He explores the best ways to "frame" atheism so as to have the most impact. He recounts his appearance on Christian radio, and what it illustrates about communicating atheism and rationalism. He explains why natural explanations for events are better than supernatural explanations. He reveals who the real audience of the New Atheists is. He talks about the growing student freethought and skeptics movement, and why young people are one the target audiences of the New Atheists. He explains why he thinks within mere generations religion will fade away. And he talks about the righteous indignation of the New Atheists, and the moral imperative of atheists to speak out because of the harm resulting from religion.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Comments from the CFI Forums

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Here’s a very interesting artilce on Newsweek explaining why science is losing ground here in the U.S.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/235084

It is always good to hear the other side of the story.  We already know ours.

Posted on Mar 20, 2010 at 5:21am by tcm92678 Comment #1

Very interesting talk.  On the subject of evil in the name of atheism:  All the oft cited evils were done in the service of a cult of personality… the personality of a self proclaimed “great leader” who was not himself religious, but whose cult was indistinguishable from a religion.  All the Stalinist regimes (China, Soviet Russia, North Korea, Cuba…) were ruled by a cult of personality where the absolute ruler was essentially raised to the status of a god… so even in those cases, we’re dealing with religion based evil.  Hitler used Catholicism and later pre-christian germanic paganism to solidify the cult of his personality.  The distinction between a religion and a cult is not real.  We arbitrarily distinguish between cults and “religions” based on how many victims each cult has managed to suck into its ranks.  The Catholic Church is no less a cult than the Mooneys or Jim Jones’ cult.  The thing distinguishing it from the less successful cults is that until recently, it has managed to adapt itself (kicking and screaming the whole while) to gradually improving social mores (and morals) over the centuries.

Posted on Jun 05, 2011 at 2:42pm by ullrich Comment #2

If the so called scientists can’t come up with near universal agreement AND BE PUBLIC ABOUT IT about skyscrapers and airliners then why should they be taken seriously about something far more complicated?

Niel Tyson has a book about Black Holes and he says he saw the events of 9/11.

So how can someone know enough about gravity to talk about Black Holes and not have some idea about what it takes for a skyscraper to hold itself up under 1 G?  I wouldn’t spend 2 seconds thinking about buying his book.

How can scientists have no idea if planned obsolescence is going on in cars 42 years after the Moon landing when WWII planes could do 400+ mph 25 years before 1969?  So if the unnecessary production due to planned obsolescence is a contributing factor to the production of CO2 causing climate change then what business do scientists have not talking about it?

Two faced scientists should be ignored.

The reality of how the universe works cannot give a damn about the hypocrisy of scientists.

psik

Posted on Jun 05, 2011 at 3:14pm by psikeyhackr Comment #3

If the so called scientists can’t come up with near universal agreement AND BE PUBLIC ABOUT IT about skyscrapers and airliners then why should they be taken seriously about something far more complicated?

Niel Tyson has a book about Black Holes and he says he saw the events of 9/11.

So how can someone know enough about gravity to talk about Black Holes and not have some idea about what it takes for a skyscraper to hold itself up under 1 G?  I wouldn’t spend 2 seconds thinking about buying his book.

How can scientists have no idea if planned obsolescence is going on in cars 42 years after the Moon landing when WWII planes could do 400+ mph 25 years before 1969?  So if the unnecessary production due to planned obsolescence is a contributing factor to the production of CO2 causing climate change then what business do scientists have not talking about it?

Two faced scientists should be ignored.

The reality of how the universe works cannot give a damn about the hypocrisy of scientists.

psik

Please stop!! (a pox on whoever got him started down his rabbit hole again!!)

Posted on Jun 05, 2011 at 5:13pm by asanta Comment #4

Psikey, you are trolling. Please cut it out.

Posted on Jun 05, 2011 at 7:46pm by DarronS Comment #5

Psikey, you are trolling. Please cut it out.

I really don’t give a damn about what you regard as trolling.

You think you can have science without physics.  You think physics turns on and off with different areas.  Physics underlies everything.

You can find ten year old kids that can shoot pool better than people with PhDs in physics.  Does it cease to be physics because they can’t do the math?  It is not my fault that atheists can convince themselves they are so intelligent and scientific and can’t do simple physics.  :lol:

Or are you saying gravity does not have anything to do with Black Holes or that scientists should not be able to figure out if planned obsolescence is going on 42 years after the Moon landing?

psik

Posted on Jun 05, 2011 at 8:15pm by psikeyhackr Comment #6

You have gone completely off the deep end. Buh bye.

Posted on Jun 05, 2011 at 8:24pm by DarronS Comment #7

So how can someone know enough about gravity to talk about Black Holes and not have some idea about what it takes for a skyscraper to hold itself up under 1 G?  I wouldn’t spend 2 seconds thinking about buying his book.
psik

I think the Twin Towers were dealing with more than just 1 G before and after planes crashed into them.  Science without physics?  Biology, psychology, sociology, Biomedical science, internal medicine, chemistry, neurology, only to name a few.

Posted on Jun 05, 2011 at 8:57pm by Mriana Comment #8

I think the Twin Towers were dealing with more than just 1 G before and after planes crashed into them.  Science without physics?  Biology, psychology, sociology, Biomedical science, internal medicine, chemistry, neurology, only to name a few.

Biology?

Have you ever considered how the square cube law applies to dinosaur bones?  How can ants be so strong relative to their size.

http://dinosaurtheory.com/scaling.html

The sciences are like a pyramid with physics at the bottom Everything depends on the layer immediately below.

Chemistry is probably the layer right above physics.  The shapes of molecules depend on the shapes and configuration of the electron orbitals around the nucleus.

The trouble is our schools teach sciences as though everything is in different boxes while in actuality all of the boxes are connected and sometimes it is even difficult to to see where one box ends and the other starts.  The boxes are actually in our heads.  Reality is incapable of caring.

The trouble is most people seem to concentrate on memorizing words and then behave as though they understand because they memorized the word.  Words are nothing but symbols for some reality or abstraction.  Understanding the reality is harder but usually you just run into more words.  I did not learn the term von Neumann machine until after I quit IBM but I understood how computers worked because I soldered together my first computer on my own time shortly after I was hired.  But I was walking down the street one day when suddenly it occurred to me, “How could I work for the biggest computer company in the world for years and never see or hear the term “von Neumann machine” when every machine I was trained on was that kind of device?”

It was years after that that I learned that IBM hired John von Neumann as a consultant in 1952.  LOL

We live in a world of infodreck.  Huge amounts of so called information that conveys very little useful understanding.  But we are supposed to memorize more and more words as though that is becoming more knowledgeable.  The tablets and the netbooks and the smartphones are all von Neumann machines.  Why give a damn about the difference except what operating system and applications?

psik

Posted on Jun 06, 2011 at 7:44am by psikeyhackr Comment #9

I think the Twin Towers were dealing with more than just 1 G before and after planes crashed into them.  Science without physics?  Biology, psychology, sociology, Biomedical science, internal medicine, chemistry, neurology, only to name a few.

Biology

Have you ever considered how the square cube law applies to dinosaur bones?  How can ants be so strong relative to their size.

psik

Nope.  When I studied those subjects in college, we never had any physics to go with it nor did I even have to study physics.  It wasn’t required when I finally got my degree in ‘98.  It took me from 84 to 98 to get my degree (kids, life, and all) and not once was physics a prerequisite for those subjects.  It’s not necessary, obviously.  I took biology, Biomedical, neurology, psychology, chemistry, and sociology, not once did the professor talk about physics.  I don’t even know what you are talking about in reference to the square cube law.  Apparently universities disagree with you.

Posted on Jun 06, 2011 at 7:50am by Mriana Comment #10

Psik, you’re welcome to bring up your nonsense theories in threads where they belong. But please do not hijack random threads with them. You’ve done this in the past on occasion, and it is against the rules. Thanks.

Posted on Jun 06, 2011 at 7:57am by dougsmith Comment #11

I think the Twin Towers were dealing with more than just 1 G before and after planes crashed into them.  Science without physics?  Biology, psychology, sociology, Biomedical science, internal medicine, chemistry, neurology, only to name a few.

Biology

Have you ever considered how the square cube law applies to dinosaur bones?  How can ants be so strong relative to their size.

psik

Nope.  When I studied those subjects in college, we never had any physics to go with it nor did I even have to study physics.  It wasn’t required when I finally got my degree in ‘98.  It took me from 84 to 98 to get my degree (kids, life, and all) and not once was physics a prerequisite for those subjects.  It’s not necessary, obviously.  I took biology, Biomedical, neurology, psychology, chemistry, and sociology, not once did the professor talk about physics.  I don’t even know what you are talking about in reference to the square cube law.  Apparently universities disagree with you.

I am not saying that a lot has to be known about physics to understand what is relevant about a particular subject.  I am saying that physics affects what happens in that subset of reality regardless of what people know about it.  The bones of dinosaurs had to be strong enough to support the weight of the dinosaur.  They would EVOLVE to do that.  A dinosaur with weak bones would not survive to reproduce.

psik

Posted on Jun 06, 2011 at 8:31am by psikeyhackr Comment #12

Psik, you’re welcome to bring up your nonsense theories in threads where they belong. But please do not hijack random threads with them. You’ve done this in the past on occasion, and it is against the rules. Thanks.

What THEORY did I mention?

psik

Posted on Jun 06, 2011 at 8:54am by psikeyhackr Comment #13