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Friday, 9 January 2009

Cosmic semantics

The religion correspondent of The Times (UK), Ruth Gledhill, quotes her “illustrious predecessor” Clifford Longley at length on how there must be a God, or else the universe would not have developed the way it has – with great complexity.

Longley is a man often described by the BBC – whereon he frequently pontificates – as a “religious commentator” or some such. Whatever that is.

He’s taking the creators of the ad that’s being displayed on what’s become known as “the atheist bus” to the Advertising Standards Authority, because, it seems, he doesn’t like the sentence, “There’s probably no God.” Others, it seems, are equally furious.

Longley writes:

The statement “There’s probably no God”, as currently seen on the side of London buses, is untrue and dishonest, in so far as the word “probably” completely fails to reflect the true state of the scientific argument. In fact it would be honest and true to say the opposite – “There probably is a God.”

Semantics, semantics. Probably is, probably isn’t, probably schmobably, what the hell?

He cites several scientists who have banged on about how, if something or other had been a millitweak to the left or something else had been a microdibble to the right, then the universe would not have happened as it has, and there would be no life as we know it to witness its awesome beauty.

So what? The fact is that it did happen that way. That’s the way it fell. It had to fall somehow. There is no evidence whatever that such complexity had to be the work of a conscious mind. (It may have been, but we’ll never know – ever – and so no one can say either way.)

I fail to see why people who talk a lot about this can’t get their heads around the fact that things happen, and things happened one way because they didn’t happen another way. If it hadn’t happened this way, we wouldn’t be here to dwell on it. But it did, and we are, and we do, and that’s that.

Or perhaps some other life form we can’t at the moment conceive of would have developed, become intelligent and now be scratching one of its heads and doing a Longley.

As for complexity itself, well our universe has had a few billion years to develop that complexity, through a helluva lot of trial and error. A long time, that.

Perhaps it is because these wafflers pontificate so much about it that it troubles their deluded, superstitious minds – minds that seem to want to grasp at anything to prove that there’s a God, because that fits in with the comfort zone of their beliefs, a comfort zone they are unwilling to step out of.

And, as for that “probably no God” thing, the reason the atheist bus people say there probably isn’t is surely only down to the fact that they are countering the assertions of the people who say there is. After all, if you’re gainsaying something, arguing against it, you tend to say the opposite: yes it is; oh no it isn’t; oh yes it is.

Sorry, but this seems straightforward to me. Is this because I can see it without being encumbered by needless religious baggage, Clifford? Shouldn't we be applying the principle of Ockham's razor here somewhere? Or am I missing something?

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