Thursday, December 28, 2006


So I'm tearing thorough the books I got for Christmas. So far I read Sam Harris' Letter to A Christian Nation (that one is more of an essay- it's kind of like a regular sized New Yorker piece with a hard cover), THEN I tore through Carl Sagan's posthumous new book The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God. This book is essentially a series of transcripts from some lectures he gave back in 1985. His wife Ann Druyan edited them together, and makes a few comments and updates / corrections. Now I'm onto Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion.

Harris' was a great warm up, a wee amuse bouche of a book; the Sagan was a nice, balanced, respectful and utterly Saganesque commentary on religion; and now the Dawkins is an unapologetic ripping into the ridiculousness of ALL religion. YES YES YES. I'm so thoroughly enjoying his writing that I'm actually slowing down so that I can savor it more. Dawkins became friends with Douglas Adams (he of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame) and I think that his humorous influence is readily apparent. Dawkins (so far, I'm about halfway done) manages to do deal with all of these heady arguments and proofs for god in such a conversational and enlightening way. Like all examples of the kind of writing I enjoy, you feel like you're having a conversation with him. (That's something I always found missing in Gould's books, try as I did to enjoy them) Dawkins just keeps coming up with these incredible arguments AGAINST the arguments, that I keep finding myself smiling and nodding.

If I can- I did manage to think of something after reading his response to the argument called "Pascal's Wager". Very simply and quickly, Blaise Pascal was an 18th century philosopher who said that one should believe in god because the rewards are so much greater and more infinite IF there is a god. Basically- if there's no god you lose your life, if there IS a god you lose ETERNAL life. This argument has many things wrong with it, and Dawkins tears it a lovely new croissant chute. HOWEVER- I came up with (and I'm sure that I ain't the first schmuck to do so) what I modestly call "Geo's Wager":

It's better to deal with and live in the everyday, scientific real world that WE ACTUALLY KNOW EXISTS, than to focus and hope for some intellectually inconsistent, logically dubious, details-ever-changing, gloriously convenient, culturally conflicting and contradicting afterlife.

I bet that what I KNOW exists is much more likely to exist than something that makes so little sense, but would be kinda cool if it did.

In other words- I will sooner rely on and drive my '02 VW with it's scratched hood and funny sound emanating from the front bumper to a gig, than sit and wait for a golden chariot pulled by chocolate horses, driven by a naked Tina Fey and Emma Thompson to haul my gear.

1 comment:

Skepticality said...


So that means you heard our episode with Sam Harris as well? :)