While Cathnews is reporting the story that “Organisers of The Atheist Bus Campaign in New Zealand are considering taking legal action after their ads were rejected by the national bus company”, the A2 in yesterday’s Saturday Age was running a story on Richard Dawkins “Keeping the Faith” using a picture of the walking edition of the Atheist Manifesto with just such a bus in question. (not online).
In her article, Stephanie Bunbury writes:
What is beyond doubt, at least for me, is that you would think twice about starting any kind of argument with “Darwin’s rottweiler”, a man of gimlet eye, rapier tongue adan armoury of intelectual weaponry, no matter how much evidence you thought you had.
Well, we have given a couple examples on this blog, that more than one (ie. at least two) interviewers have had no such fear, one being Hugh Hewitt and the other Andrew Denton, in which Dawkins had his “rapier tongue” rather tied…
In any case, back to that bus ad campaign. It is questionable at just about every level. Pascal, author of the idea now known simply as “Pascal’s wager”, would say: How can you be so sure that “there’s probably no God” in the first place and secondly, are you willing to bet your eternal life on it? Apart from any Christian claim (and, in my book, the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ rather weights the probability toward the opposite conclusion), from the perspective of pure logic, can one ever say that there “probably isn’t” something? Evidence can point to the fact that something “probably” exists, and clear evidence can also point to the fact that something “probably” does not exist, but lack of evidence cannot justifiably lead one to conclude that there “probaby isn’t” something. The best example of this fallacy can be seen if we were to ask a 17th Century Englishman if there is any such thing as a “black swan”. The lack of evidence – ie. no Englishman before that date had ever seen a black swan – would not have been grounds for concluding that black swans “probably” don’t exist – for even in the 17th Century, black swans really did exist here in Australia. In other words, black swans not only “probably” but “really” existed, despite the lack of any positive evidence available to 17th Century Englishmen.
On the other hand, even if this statement were true – that God “probably” does not exist – Pascal’s logic would answer that even if there is only a remote possibility that God did exist, it would be worth living “as if God existed” because of the outcome of such a belief not only for the afterlife but for this life also.
That is the guts of what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said the day before Pope John Paul II died:
The attempt, carried to the extreme, to manage human affairs disdaining God completely leads us increasingly to the edge of the abyss, to man’s ever greater isolation from reality. We must reverse the axiom of the Enlightenment and say: Even one who does not succeed in finding the way of accepting God, should, nevertheless, seek to live and to direct his life “veluti si Deus daretur,” as if God existed. This is the advice Pascal gave to his friends who did not believe. In this way, no one is limited in his freedom, but all our affairs find the support and criterion of which they are in urgent need.