170 Renowned Academics Talk About Why They Disbelieve, or Believe, in God

Whether we choose to affil­i­ate with any sort of athe­ist move­ment or not, many peo­ple raised in the­is­tic reli­gions came over time to see God as a lit­er­ary char­ac­ter in ancient mytholo­gies and his­tor­i­cal fic­tions, as a place­hold­er for human igno­rance, or as a per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of humanity’s great­est fears and desires. The notion that such a per­son­al super-being actu­al­ly exists has become for many of us, in William James’ terms, a “dead hypoth­e­sis.” As physi­cist Lawrence Krauss puts it in the video above, “there’s absolute­ly no evi­dence that we need the super­nat­ur­al hand of God” to explain the uni­verse. Reli­gions give us fan­ci­ful sto­ries, illus­trate eth­i­cal (and uneth­i­cal) prin­ci­ples, and enforce trib­al loy­al­ties, but they do not describe real­i­ty as it is.

We all come to hold our beliefs, or lack there­of, about reli­gious claims for an irre­ducibly com­plex vari­ety of rea­sons that are intel­lec­tu­al as well as moral, polit­i­cal, and emo­tion­al. Can we demon­strate, how­ev­er, that “the more sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly lit­er­ate, intel­lec­tu­al­ly hon­est and objec­tive­ly scep­ti­cal a per­son is, the more like­ly they are to dis­be­lieve in any­thing super­nat­ur­al, includ­ing god”? Such is the the­sis of Dr. Jonathan Pararajasignham’s doc­u­men­tary 50 Renowned Aca­d­e­mics Speak­ing About God, which con­sists of edit­ed clips from inter­views with “elite aca­d­e­mics and pro­fes­sors at top insti­tu­tions, many of whom are also Nobel Lau­re­ates.” The claim appears on the screen in each of the three videos above and below, fram­ing the inter­view clips as mount­ing evi­dence for the con­vinc­ing case that dis­be­lief is strong­ly cor­re­lat­ed with, if not nec­es­sar­i­ly caused by, sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­cy, intel­lec­tu­al hon­esty, and skep­ti­cism.

Since his first video, Parara­jas­ing­ham has expand­ed his series to include 100 more “Renowned Aca­d­e­mics Speak­ing About God.” (See Parts Two and Three of the series above.) On the videos’ Youtube pages, he antic­i­pates a ready objec­tion, writ­ing, “I do not claim that this video demon­strates there is no God. It is not an argu­ment against God in itself, so there is no argu­ment from pop­u­lar­i­ty and author­i­ty.” If you’ve already arrived at the con­clu­sion, you’ll find it con­firmed many times over by a cast that includes physi­cists like Krauss, Richard Feyn­man, and Steven Wein­berg, philoso­phers like A.C. Gray­ing, Bertrand Rus­sell, and John Sear­le, and far too many more illus­tri­ous thinkers to name. (See a com­plete list on the Youtube pages of each video.) In addi­tion to well-known athe­ist writ­ers like Daniel Den­nett, the series also fea­tures aca­d­e­mics like anthro­pol­o­gist Pas­cal Boy­er, whose book Reli­gion Explained makes a nov­el and very per­sua­sive nat­u­ral­is­tic argu­ment for why humans have believed in the super­nat­ur­al for thou­sands of years.

Believ­ers may counter with their own list of smart peo­ple who do believe in God, and who also work in the hard sci­ences and aca­d­e­m­ic phi­los­o­phy, includ­ing renowned fig­ures like Human Genome Project direc­tor Fran­cis Collins and physi­cist Free­man Dyson. Whether or not they’d wish to claim failed pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son or reli­gious apol­o­gists Dinesh D’Souza and Ravi Zacharias as exam­ples of “intel­lec­tu­al hon­esty and sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­cy” I couldn’t say, but all of those peo­ple and more are includ­ed in the video above, 20 Chris­t­ian Aca­d­e­mics Speak­ing About God, which Parara­jas­ing­ham pro­duced as a coun­ter­point to his 50 Aca­d­e­mics series. Find the com­plete list of names for this video, along with links to com­plete inter­views, on Youtube.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Reli­gion Cours­es

Robert Sapol­sky Explains the Bio­log­i­cal Basis of Reli­gios­i­ty, and What It Shares in Com­mon with OCD, Schiz­o­phre­nia & Epilep­sy

Richard Feyn­man on Reli­gion, Sci­ence, the Search for Truth & Our Will­ing­ness to Live with Doubt

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why He’s Uncom­fort­able Being Labeled an ‘Athe­ist’

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Sollipsist says:

    In a sci­en­tif­ic study by sci­en­tists, 9 out of 10 sci­en­tists pre­ferred to use sci­ence when doing sci­ence! Next up, we go to an art school to ask a bunch of artists which is bet­ter: art or tax prepa­ra­tion? The results may sur­prise you…

  • Luke says:

    Dear Solip­sist, you’re miss­ing the point: sci­ence is not a sub­ject, is not a col­lec­tion of sto­ries facts and the­o­ries. Sci­ence is a col­lec­tion of meth­ods to under­stand the world as cor­rect­ly as pos­si­ble and as coher­ent­ly as pos­si­ble. A god might or not might exist and sci­ence might or might not come to a con­clu­sion about that. But there are many reli­gions in the world and they dis­agree among them­selves: which one should we believe in? How can we decide? Ask a bunch of Chris­tians: is Chris­tian­ism true or is it Induism? Ask the same ques­tion to Induists. All reli­gions claim to be true, but they can’t all be true. Reli­gions dis­agree also with what we have dis­cov­ered through the meth­ods of sci­ence; meth­ods that have proved effec­tive in under­stand­ing what sur­rounds us and improv­ing our lives.

  • Cecil says:

    How does incon­sis­ten­cy among reli­gions and their beliefs prove that there is no God? You are act­ing under the assump­tion that if all reli­gions aren’t 100% “cor­rect”, then they all must be 100% incor­rect, and there­fore there can be no God.

  • Luke says:

    I did not say incon­sis­ten­cy among reli­gions and their beliefs prove there is no God, but they do prove that reli­gion can­not be 100% cor­rect. How­ev­er, reli­gions claim to be 100% cor­rect: how can we trust and believe in some­thing that claim to be 100% cor­rect but it clear­ly isn’t? Fur­ther to that, how cor­rect do you think they are? How much agree­ment is there, for exam­ple, among Abra­ham­ic reli­gions and Indi­an reli­gions, even ignor­ing their inter­nal dis­agree­ments and incon­sis­ten­cies? What about the evo­lu­tion of reli­gions, the rise of new ones and the demise of old ones? How can we get a guid­ance on any­thing from reli­gions when with­in reli­gions them­selves there is no effec­tive method to get clos­er to the truth? The main basis for a reli­gion are beliefs: some­thing sta­t­ic that is sup­posed to give you already the truth. Too bad that there are the afore­men­tioned incon­sis­ten­cies.

  • Wayne Hoss says:

    The Lords Bless­ing

    Because you came to me before the end
    Now it is for your soul that I will send
    You have real­ized your sin’s and that is good
    You are sor­ry for sin­ning against your broth­er­hood

    In the end you were no longer fight­ing Life
    You final­ly gave in to its strife
    You final­ly real­ized that I want­ed you to love me by faith not fear
    That is why you couldn’t see me but knew that I was here

    At first you hat­ed life and its demands
    Until you reached out for my lov­ing hands
    Tell your fam­i­ly, “Please do not grieve!”
    For I promised eter­ni­ty for he that would believe

    Tell them you will be wait­ing in the Promised Land
    Some­day togeth­er you will play in the sand
    Tell them to go after that one that went astray
    Bring them clos­er, don’t push them away

    Work togeth­er, stay by their side
    Teach them my love, but don’t insult their pride
    Show them my love, raise their spir­its high
    Tell your fam­i­ly I need­ed you here in heav­en up high

    Tell them please do not shed a tear
    Before long they will join you here
    Tell them that I have for­giv­en you for all of your sin
    Tell them I also opened heav­ens gate to let you in

    Be a good friend and a good host
    Show them the way to the Holy Ghost
    Be there when they fall to lift them high
    Do all these things and they join you in the sky

    By: Wayne Hoss

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