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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Weinberg, Steven (1933 - )
"Even though their arguments did not invoke religion, I think we all know what's behind these arguments. They're trying to protect religious beliefs from contradiction by science. They used to do it by prohibiting teachers from teaching evolution at all; then they wanted to teach intelligent design as an alternative theory; now they want the supposed "weaknesses" in evolution pointed out. But it's all the same program -- it's all an attempt to let religious ideas determine what is taught in science courses."

-- Steven Weinberg


Steven Weinberg is an American physicist. He was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics (with colleagues Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow) for combining electromagnetism and the weak force into the electroweak force.

Weinberg graduated from Bronx High School of Science in 1950, and received his Bachelor's degree from Cornell University in 1954, living at the Cornell branch of Telluride Association, and his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University in 1957, studying under Sam Treiman. He is currently a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2002 Weinberg received an honorary D.Sc. from Bates College.

Besides his scientific research, Steven Weinberg has been a prominent public spokesman for science, testifying before Congress in support of the Superconducting Super Collider, writing articles for the New York Review of Books, and giving various lectures on the larger meaning of science. His books on science written for the public combine the typical scientific popularization with what is traditionally considered history, philosophy of science and atheism.

Weinberg is also known for his support of Israel. While this is not extraordinary in itself, he does support Israel from a liberal point of view. He wrote an essay titled "Zionism and Its Cultural Adversaries" which explains his views on the issue.

Quotations

"Even though their arguments did not invoke religion, I think we all know what's behind these arguments. They're trying to protect religious beliefs from contradiction by science. They used to do it by prohibiting teachers from teaching evolution at all; then they wanted to teach intelligent design as an alternative theory; now they want the supposed "weaknesses" in evolution pointed out. But it's all the same program -- it's all an attempt to let religious ideas determine what is taught in science courses."

"Their [the proponents of Christian "intelligent design"] discussion of the supposed weakness of evolution rests on a fallacy about the way science works. Scientific theory is never regarded as certain; it's continually confronted with testing, asking if it can explain what we can see in nature. That work is never finished. There are always some things left that haven't yet been explained. That's true of physics as well as biology.... This work goes on and on -- it's not a weakness of the theory. I don't regard it as a weakness of my own work that it hasn't explained everything in elementary particle physics."

"If there is a God that has special plans for humans, then He has taken very great pains to hide His concern for us. To me it would seem impolite if not impious to bother such a God with our prayers."

"Religious people have grappled for millennia with the theodicy, the problem posed by the existence of suffering in a world that is supposed to be ruled by a good God. They have found ingenious solutions in terms of various supposed divine plans. I will not try to argue with these solutions, much less to add one of my own. Remembrance of the Holocaust leaves me unsympathetic to attempts to justify the ways of God to man. If there is a God that has special plans for humans, then He has taken very great pains to hide His concern for us. To me it would seem impolite if not impious to bother such a God with our prayers."

"Premature as the question may be, it is hardly possible not to wonder whether we will find any answer to our deepest questions, any signs of the workings of an interested God, in a final theory. I think that we will not."

"Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things -- that takes religion."

"It's a consequence of the experience of science. As you learn more and more about the universe, you find you can understand more and more without any reference to supernatural intervention, so you lose interest in that possibility. Most scientists I know don't care enough about religion even to call themselves atheists. And that, I think, is one of the great things about science -- that it has made it possible for people not to be religious."

"I can hope that this long sad story, this progression of priests and ministers and rabbis and ulamas and imams and bonzes and bodhisattvas, will come to an end. I hope this is something to which science can contribute ... it may be the most important contribution that we can make."

"This is one of the great social functions of science -- to free people from superstition."

"Science should be taught not in order to support religion and not in order to destroy religion. Science should be taught simply ignoring religion.'

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

"I enjoy being at a meeting that doesn't start with an invocation!"

"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.'

"The whole history of the last thousands of years has been a history of religious persecutions and wars, pogroms, jihads, crusades. I find it all very regrettable, to say the least."

"Though aware that there is nothing in the universe that suggests any purpose for humanity, one way that we can find a purpose is to study the universe by the methods of science, without consoling ourselves with fairy tales about its future, or about our own."

"It seems a bit unfair to my relatives to be murdered in order to provide an opportunity for free will for Germans, but even putting that aside, how does free will account for cancer? Is it an opportunity of free will for tumors?...I don't need to argue here that the evil in the world proves that the universe is not designed, but only that there are no signs of benevolence that might have shown the hand of a designer. But in fact the perception that God cannot be benevolent is very old. Plays by Aeschylus and Euripides make a quite explicit statement that the gods are selfish and cruel, though they expect better behavior from humans. God in the Old Testament tells us to bash the heads of infidels and demands of us that we be willing to sacrifice our children's lives at His orders, and the God of traditional Christianity and Islam damns us for eternity if we do not worship him in the right manner. Is this a nice way to behave? I know, I know, we are not supposed to judge God according to human standards, but you see the problem here: If we are not yet convinced of His existence, and are looking for signs of His benevolence, then what other standards can we use?"

 
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The Talk Of Lawrence