God and Purple Unicorns Drinking Tea

January 26, 2011

I came across this quote heading a guest blog on GrrlScientist’s ‘Punctuated Equilibrium’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2011/jan/26/1 )

Some people think that science is just all this technology around, but NO it’s something much deeper than that. Science, scientific thinking, scientific method is for me the only philosophical construct that the human race has developed to determine what is reliably true
— Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 2010.

Tracking down the source, I found a series of videos of an interview with Sir Kroto; this one contains the quote:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqCGSOan0yU

I have commented on the beauty of watching a skilled craftsman; how easy they make a difficult task seem. Sir Kroto does this with thinking. How fluently, how readily insights come forth – what a wealth of study, pondering, and questioning honed his mind.

He says in this interview that he was told he has to be an agnostic, not an atheist, because he cannot disprove god. This is an argument that never fails to irk me. The universe is filled with things that cannot be disproven. There is no limit except our apparently limitless imaginations. Hence, we use science, logic, reason to test assertions, to find what is true and discount what is not.  (Alas, humans never lose their addiction to superstitions).  So by this token, I, too, am an agnostic.


But by this same token, all religious people must be agnostics because they can’t prove god. It works both ways  (why is simple honesty never part of the mindset that claims ethics derives from religion?).

If we adhere to this bizarre conclusion that something that can be neither proven nor disproven must be allowed the possibility of existence – I challenge any god-believing person to disprove my belief that there are purple unicorns on the dark side of the moon having a tea party using Russell’s special orbiting teapot. What? You say I’m wrong? You expect me to prove it? But you can’t put that on me. You yourselves have ordained that the burden of proof falls on the skeptic, not the believer. You are the skeptic, oh religious one – so prove to me I am wrong.


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