Anthony Grayling on Atheism

A C GraylingPhilosophy Bites – podcasts of top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics – features Anthony Grayling on Atheism.

“Is belief in the existence of a God or gods the equivalent of believing that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden? Or can it be defended on the basis of reason or evidence? In this interview for Philosophy Bites  Anthony Grayling (A.C. Grayling), author of a recent book of essays, Against All Gods, gives a philosophical defence of atheism and explains why he believes it to be a well-grounded and ultimately life-affirming position to hold.

Listen to Anthony Grayling on Atheism


One response to “Anthony Grayling on Atheism

  1. When you think of the great and varied minds possessed by the like of Plato, Augustine, Copernicus, Shakespeare, Newton, Picasso, Einstein, and then you compare them with the shrill and ‘aggressive’ voice of Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion you cant help thinking of a poor man’s Mr Spock: the cold absence of intuition; the dictatorship of a crude intellect over the greater arts of consciousness.

    The intuitive genius contained in the like of the Inuit, Kalahari Bushmen, the Cogi of South America – the great Native American elder Fools Crow (now sadly deceased). If Richard Dawkins were to look with more scientific neutrality at this phenomena, and not approach received religion with his pre-judged half way house understanding of the greater phenomena behind it, he might settle for that less extreme position of agnosticism pending further exploration.

    60% of cutting edge scientists persist in failing to categorise themselves as atheist at all. Where 40% might choose to follow his lead, another 40% confess to a faith not at all at odds with the finding of physics, bio-chemistry or cosmology. This ratio remains largely unchallenged over the past 100 years. The conclusion from science is clear; in no way can it be said it debunks the ’spiritual’ mind. In fact there are significant problems with any such claim, and they spring first and foremost from cosmology: take the small but unavoidable matter of the cosmic constant and the uncannily prescient anthropic principles. And not least from bio-chemistry – we have yet to successfully computer model the emergence of life on Earth from its initial building blocks without some form of ‘informative inflation’ hypothesis. This posits an equally mysterious ’self organisation’ as the only means for matter to overcome the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in order to kick start evolution. Indeed this is not unlike Plato’s ideal ‘desiring’ some kind of ‘replication’ of potential form.

    So in a sense when Richard Dawkins strays from his personal remit of minimalist ’science populariser’ onto the time honoured territory of metaphysics it is faintly reminiscent of that Edward Woodward character in 70’s horror classic The Wicker Man. Like Sergeant Neil Howie, Richard Dawkins fairly blunders around the realm of intuition totally oblivious to what is taking place around him. While there may be no unsavoury resolution implied there is perhaps a strong implication of Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man, to paraphrase: ’something is happening there, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr Spock.’

    PS: For anyone who has read Dawkin’s The God Delusion, in the spirit of fair play, might do well to also read Alistaire McGrath’s more measured reply The Dawkin’s Delusion.

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