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An open letter to Richard Dawkins...

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Wanda_the_Wonder, Sep 12, 2020.

  1. Wanda_the_Wonder

    Wanda_the_Wonder Established commenter

    Dear Professor Dawkins,

    We have corresponded before. I know you are a busy man so I will be as succinct as I can.

    As I have written in the past I have no problem with your science but I do have problems with your philosophy - in so much as I can elicit a philosophy from your writings. I guess I'm a believer; you are not. Maybe never shall the twain meet.

    Just a couple of points:

    1 You have had much flack from your dismissal of the 'Miracle of the Sun' at Fatima in Portugal on 13th October 1917. You have got to expect this. Some 70,000 people saw that miracle and it lasted for more than ten minutes. There can be mass hysteria but not mass hallucination. 70,000 saw what they saw. That can't be disputed. Your dismissal on the grounds that the laws of physics cannot be altered doesn't cut the mustard.

    2 You claim with rock solid certainty that there is no afterlife. Let me put this to you. Someone, such as Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata, spends her life doing only good. She dies: oblivion. No reward. The likes of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot spend their lives doing the most heinous evil. They die: oblivion. No punishment. This does not make sense. And, as Judge Judy frequently reminds us, if something does not make sense it is most likely not true.

    Best wishes,

    lexus300 and Kandahar like this.

    ACOYEAR8 Star commenter

    Heaven and Hell are what you make it in life. Whatever awaits us when the heart ceases to beat, we cannot know but it makes sense to want something to come of our existence. Sadly, there's much about our existences which doesn't make sense, even to Prof Dawkins.
    I have read a great deal about Fatima and have to conclude that atmospheric anomalies seem likely -even though I'd be happier if it were a visit from Our Lady.
    bombaysapphire and theworm123 like this.
  3. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

  4. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    lexus300 and artboyusa like this.
  5. Wanda_the_Wonder

    Wanda_the_Wonder Established commenter

    Miracle of the sun at Fatima 13th October 1917
  6. ajrowing

    ajrowing Star commenter

    Do the current Conservative party believe that the great work that they are doing to keep the poor, poor brings them closer to God in the same way that Mother Teresa did?
  7. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    Because Richard Dawkins definitely reads the TES Personal forum.
  8. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    I am not hostile to religion but the so-called Miracle of the Sun is not as impressive as it sounds.

    It occurred on the 13th October 1917 near Fatima in Portugal and was witnessed by a crowd variously estimated at being 30,000 to 100,000 consisting of believers and sceptics, including a number of newspaper reporters and at least one Professor of Natural Sciences. And despite minor inconsistencies, all present agreed on what happened that day.

    After a shower of rain the clouds broke up to reveal the sun, less bright than usual (or else they would not have been able to watch it so closely), dancing about in the sky, and at one point moving towards the earth in a zig-zag pattern. This display was observed by people scattered up to 18 kilometres from the site where the main crowd had gathered; photographs exist (and YouTube videos) claiming to show the movements of the sun, thus apparently excluding the possibility of mass hysteria and hallucination.

    Various scientific explanations were proposed, although none could account for the fact that the crowd had gathered at Fatima that day only in response to an earlier prediction supposedly made to three children by an apparition of the Virgin Mary that a miracle would be performed.

    So here we have an example of a corporate (group) religious experience that is also a miracle on a huge scale in terms of the number of people who saw it.

    The philosopher David Hume, however, wrote that where miracles are concerned, a wise person should proportion their belief to the strength of the evidence for whatever example of a miracle is being considered. That evidence usually comes in the form of testimony. He goes on to conclude that the testimony in favour of a miracle can never match, let alone outweigh, the evidence against it, especially when a natural law is contravened.

    And the ‘Miracle of the Sun’, however convincing it may seem, is still outweighed by the evidence against it. Here’s why:

    1. If the sun really had danced about in the solar system, the effects in outer space would surely have been dramatic. But nothing seems to have changed.

    2. No astronomical observatories reported any unusual solar activity on that day.

    3. The event was not observed by the rest of humanity.

    4. The idea that God only allowed the privileged few to see this alleged miracle means that they were temporarily deceived by God, which does not fit with the idea of God being the kind of being that does not mislead people.

    So all in all, the evidence for the ‘Miracle of the Sun’ is not all that convincing. I don't know what Dawkins said about it but it doesn't hold up that well in my opinion. Maybe there are better examples out there.
    SeanbheanMac, Laphroig and ajrowing like this.
  9. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    He was prominent on the Opinion forum about 12 years ago. He might have been banned.
    alex_teccy likes this.
  10. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    Miracles cannot be evidenced.
    lexus300 and alex_teccy like this.
  11. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    The OP should definitely shell out 76p for a stamp and post that very important letter off to him then.
  12. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Star commenter

    More to the point, God is truth and it would be inconsistent of him to suspend the laws of physics that he had himself created just for its and giggles.
  13. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    No one in their right mind buys a first class stamp.
    BigFrankEM likes this.
  14. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. If an alleged miracle violates a given law of nature (e.g. a Yogi claiming the power of levitation, or the ability to generate bodily heat of a temperature sufficient to dry out wet blankets that are draped on them) then this is potentially replicable under laboratory conditions. The classic example is Uri Geller’s spoon bending feats that he has never been able to duplicate to the satisfaction of sceptics.

    What you are referring to is the notion of God moving in mysterious ways. In such instances, no scientific laws are broken e.g. someone believing that they have been healed through the power of prayer. Here the problem is one of divine intervention: why is God so selective in his dispensation of grace and healing power, choosing to respond to one person’s petitionary prayers but not those of another? Why does he shrink one person’s tumour but not that of another if their sincerity is comparable and they are both morally upright?

    Given that there is likely to be a preponderance of sincere and devout believers, God should really be doing a lot more if He is omnibenevolent, shouldn’t He? Instead, what we see is a lack of intervention, the ‘Silence’ (Chinmoku) in the face of suffering that forms the title of the Catholic author Shusaku Endo’s most famous novel (that was skilfully adapted by Scorsese a few years ago).

    It is also interesting that of the miracles attested at Lourdes, none seem to involve the regrowing of a lost limb. Why, we might be entitled to ask, does God not perform this specific type of miracle?

    From the many examples I have studied, there is one that continues to baffle me. However, it is rather obscure and only found in Tibetan Buddhism.

    When a Tulku or advanced meditative practitioner in this tradition dies and their body gets cremated, a rainbow appears in the sky. I have watched two instances of this in documentary films and am at a loss to account for them. One was about the controversial teacher Chogyam Trungpa, and another featured at the beginning of the film ‘Unmistaken Child’.

    I suppose both could be coincidences. And there is the additional issue of why this doesn’t happen to other Buddhist teachers who are prominent within, say, the Theravadin, Amidist or Zen traditions?

    Anyway, I am with Hume on this. Miracles require better standards of proof than ordinary events. And those standards of proof have not been forthcoming.
    George_Randle likes this.
  15. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Was it a two way correspondence or was it just a daft post from Gene on a blog site?
  16. Katzenjammer

    Katzenjammer Senior commenter

    People are free to believe in miracles should they wish to, but to my mind, anyone who needs miracles to inculcate and nourish faith has a flawed understanding of the nature of religious belief. Additionally, the most convincing miracles are those susceptible of a rational explanation. The miracle of the loaves and fishes, for example, becomes more rather than less miraculous if it isn't some sort of a conjuring trick. The crowd, all with their own food, but unwilling to share it, is shamed into doing so by the example of the small boy, unselfishly willing to share his sardine sandwiches. To effect a mass-change from selfishness to unselfishness in a moment can indeed be seen as some sort of a miracle.

    And again to my mind, the notion that an after-life rewards or punishes good or bad behaviour on earth is a crudely reductionist, indeed childlike, superstition, reducing religious faith to the level of a transaction, an insurance policy, as well as completely ignoring the millions of atheists and agnostics who proffer charity, help and compassion to people with no thought of a reward, whether temporal or eternal. It is a kind of preposterous arrogance on the part of religious believers which atheists and agnostics see, rightly, as a kind of insult.

    I write as a religious believer who disbelieves in miracles and is completely agnostic about the whole notion of an after-life. Sooner or later I will finid out anyway: for me, a better preoccupation is how to live well today. Like the old Duke of Omnium in Phineas Redux, I hope for nothing, but I fear nothing either.
  17. Nellyfuf2

    Nellyfuf2 Lead commenter

    There's very little difference between the price of a first class and second class stamp so the letter might as well be sent first class.
  18. BigFrankEM

    BigFrankEM Established commenter

    What, I ask, would Dawkins make of that reasoning?

    Or Wanda?

    The TES mods?
    Kandahar likes this.
  19. Nellyfuf2

    Nellyfuf2 Lead commenter

    Sometimes it's nice to throw caution and economy to the wind. Make a grand gesture. Addressing the envelope will be a bit tricky.
    Jamvic and nomad like this.
  20. Nellyfuf2

    Nellyfuf2 Lead commenter

    Stuff that. Make a really grand gesture, climb a hill and light a bonfire and declaim it to the heavens. Sometimes a first class stamp does not really fit the situation.

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