Scientist blasts ‘new atheists’ saying ‘atheism is a belief in non-belief’

Scientist blasts ‘new atheists’ saying ‘atheism is a belief in non-belief’ March 19, 2019
Image via YouTube

Marcelo Gleiser, above, a US-based physics and astronomy professor, today (Tuesday) became this year’s winner of the $1.5 million Templeton Prize, which recognises outstanding contributions to ‘affirming life’s spiritual dimension’ – and he is quoted as saying:

Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against.

Utter tosh! I’ve always understood that atheism means nothing more or less than an absence in the belief in gods, and Wiki and other sources confirm this:

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.

The latter is what I would term antitheism. The Oxford English Dictionary, according to Wiki, defines an antitheist as “One opposed to belief in the existence of a god”. The earliest citation given for this meaning dates from 1833.

Gleiser’s remarks, to my mind, place him alongside many Christians fools who insist that atheism is a religion.

The agnostic Brazilian-born professor added:

I’ll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited.

Although he does not believe in God, he refuses to write off the possibility of God’s existence completely, and he accuses the “new atheists” of doing a disservice to science by making an enemy out of religion: notably British scientist Richard Dawkins – who called for the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI over paedophilia in the Catholic Church – and the late journalist Christopher Hitchens, who, among other things, attacked Mother Teresa, pointing out in no uncertain terms she was a charlatan.

For Gleiser, who grew up in Rio’s Jewish community, religion is not just about believing in God: it provides a sense of identity and community.

At least half of the world population is that way. It’s extremely arrogant for scientists to come down from the ivory towers and make these declarations without understanding the social importance of belief systems.

When you hear very famous scientists making pronouncements like … cosmology has explained the origin of the universe and the whole, and we don’t need God anymore. That’s complete nonsense because we have not explained the origin of the universe at all.

The prize is funded by the John Templeton Foundation – a philanthropic organisation named after the American Presbyterian who made his fortune on Wall Street, and who set out to seek:

Proofs of divine agency in every branch of science.

What does he think of people who believe that the Earth was created in seven days?

They position science as the enemy … because they have a very antiquated way of thinking about science and religion in which all scientists try to kill God. Science does not kill God.

Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and dissident Soviet author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as recipients of the prize, first awarded in 1973.

Gleiser should invest some of the money he’s just been handed in a decent dictionary.

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  • Robert Conner

    “Social importance of belief systems” huh? How about the social importance of Nazism as a belief system? Or communism? Or the beliefs of the KKK? Or Neo-capitalism? Since when did “social importance of belief systems” prove anything?

  • Ian Gager

    I noticed this earlier and my first reaction was the same: he doesn’t know what atheism is.
    But after reading about him it’s clear that he knows exactly what words he’s using and why.
    After all, the effects have provided substantial rewards and I’m sure they will continue to do so.
    What a shill.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Michael Neville

    This guy is not stupid or ignorant, he knows exactly what to say to get some Biblethumpers to give him $1.5 million.

  • larry parker

    I don’t believe in non-belief, I know non-belief.
    But for 1.5 million, I might change my mind.
    ; )

  • Agnosticism is probably the more “scientific” -ism, but the fact of the matter is that atheism is the go-to default for the practical day to day operations of life. This is actually how science works. Theories are posited and proven – or in the case of many, not disproven – and science proceeds in the assumption that the “theory” is true. Such is the case with belief in gods; there isn’t any proof that they exist, so the operational assumption is that science proceeds as if there are no gods. Gleiser should certainly understand this.

  • some bastard on the internet

    …the $1.5 million Templeton Prize, which recognises outstanding contributions to ‘affirming life’s spiritual dimension’…

    So, all I have to do to become a millionaire is write up something along the lines of, “Blah, blah, spiritual dimension, blah?”

    Curse you, inner sense of integrity!

    At least half of the world population is that way. It’s extremely arrogant for scientists to come down from the ivory towers and make these declarations without understanding the social importance of belief systems.

    ‘Tis a better thing that scientists come down from “ivory towers” to explain their work to people, than to have priests dictate doctrine unquestioned from their golden thrones.

  • Does Marcelo Gleiser have any evidence for a god? No. So there’s still every reason to believe no god exists. Same reason we don’t believe in unicorns or flying monkeys.

    Next.

  • Agnosticism has nothing to do with atheism. It’s not like they are two competing options. You can be both, or neither, or either one. Like most atheists, I am both agnostic and an atheist.

    And neither is more or less scientific. What people claim to know is no more scientifically valid than what they claim to believe.

  • Agni Ashwin

    No non-belief, no peace.
    Know non-belief, know peace.

  • larry parker

    Knice!

  • MarquisDeMoo

    I use anti-theist differently. I acknowledge a god may exist, albeit by Occam’s razor unlikely. However I’m anti-theist when it comes to any of the patently ridiculous gods as postulated by any of the world’s supposedly revealed theologies.

  • Raging Bee

    Belief systems are important because they give us the social cohesion we need to fight our enemies and their belief systems!

  • Dglas Raeat

    I have always thought of antitheism as a recognition of the harm of religion (or god(s)-belief, if you prefer).
    That is why I call myself an antitheist.

  • Bubblecar

    I don’t “believe in non-belief”. I believe that religion is a product of the human imagination, as all the evidence tells us. It’s a human creation that has played a widespread role in many cultures, in many forms.

    This is exactly the approach taken by anthropology, archaeology, psychology and other human sciences in which study of religious belief may be relevant.

    Gleiser just sounds like an opportunistic idiot. I hope he enjoys his “spiritual” zillion bucks or whatever it is.

  • Sau Peih

    So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against.

    People categorically believe in things for which they have no evidence. But it seems he’s okay with that! Doofus.

  • Agreed. I think that’s the generally understood meaning. I, too, am an antitheist because I consider theism to be the harmful consequence of a lack of evidence based reasoning. I am also an antireligionist, because I see religion as a harmful thing (but quite different from theism).

    I am an atheist in the most general sense- I don’t believe there are any deities. There are specific deities that I assert are non-existent beyond reasonable doubt (like the Abrahamic god), but make no such broad assertion about all possible deities. I deem them highly unlikely, but not outside the realm of possibility.

  • Jim Jones

    Typical of the hard sciences. And doctors.

    Where is the Graveyard of Dead Gods?

  • Jim Jones

    Unicorns are possible. So are centaurs. They just never were an outcome of evolution.

    OTOH, Cymothoa exigua – Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymothoa_exigua

    That does exist.

  • Jim Jones
  • Nomad

    Theories are posited and proven – or in the case of many, not disproven – and science proceeds in the assumption that the “theory” is true.

    I think you have a misunderstanding of the scientific method. “Not disproven” is only a status that a theory gains once it’s been vigorously tested. A theory gaining that position has to be a theory that even *can* be tested.

    Speaking as an atheist, I can tell you that I don’t believe in one or more gods because I’ve seen no convincing evidence of their existence. Such evidence could, as you seem to be suggesting, consist of the concept being challenged by tests with the ability to provide contradictory evidence. If there was a way to test their existence and to come up with a “not disproven”, that might be something.

    But nobody, so far, has managed to do it. So far it seems that the competing god concepts cause no real difference in the world around us compared to a world in which they don’t exist. That is not the same as “not disproven” in scientific parlance. That is the same as “not tested”. It is a claim that is impossible to test.

  • Nomad

    This is a dog bites man story, right? Man accepting million dollar prize contingent on his religious belief says mean things about non-religious people. Not exactly a shocker, is it?

  • Zetopan

    “The agnostic Brazilian-born professor …”

    He is surely every bit as agnostic as the Pope. Templeton has been trying to pervert science for years and this fool is eager to cash in on that.

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    quite, they only give templeton prizes to ‘Atheists’ that know how to blow the right whistles

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    more to the point clearly does not understand thing one about burden of proof and how to support a claim.

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    if some jack ass would pay me $1m for writing some wordy tosh i would do it to. I am an atheist, doesn’t means i have principals 🙂

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    quite, there is no such thing as an agnostic, you are either an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist, you have to live your life as if one of those two positions is true.

  • Zetopan

    Religious apologetics were expelled from science 4 centuries ago, but this fool still hasn’t read the memo.

  • Freodin

    Unicorns… definitly. There are a number of existing species that would already fit this description, and a similar equine-based creature would not be impossible.

    Centaurs… hybrid species tend not to be the result of evolution. So while they might be technically “possible”, their existence by evolutionary ways is, well, extremely unlikely.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Theism is to do with belief in deities so an atheist does not believe.

    Gnosticism is to do with knowledge so an agnostic does not know about something.

    Even Professor Dawkins acknowledges that he is an agnostic where gods are concerned. This is the position taken by the vast majority of atheists, we’re agnostic atheists. Why do so many have difficulty with these two words?

  • Lark62

    It is the difference between having enough information to make a conclusion and needing more information.

    I am “atheist” about complex life on Mars – little green men with antennae who built canals. We have enough information to conclude that that is not true. I am “agnostic” about microbial life on Mars or elsewhere in our solar system. I personally believe that there was/is other life elsewhere in our solar system, but as yet, there is no evidence.

    Likewise, I am agnostic about one or more supernatural beings outside of physics that humans have not seen, felt or experienced in any way. But since we have not seen it/them, felt it/them or experienced it/them, who cares? I am an atheist about Yahweh, Zeus, Gandalf and all other products of human imagination. We have more than enough evidence to conclude that those are make believe.

    I am agnostic about the existence 2000 years ago of a wandering, self-declared messiah named Jesus. Not enough information to reach a conclusion. I am atheist about a magical, virgin-born, man-god who could defy physics and who rose from the dead to save us from the wrath of the equally mythological Yahweh. We have more than enough evidence to determine nonsense is nonsense.

  • Raging Bee

    It doesn’t mean you have grammer either. 🙂

  • Raging Bee

    I figure if you believe in a god who loves you and wants you to prosper, but don’t expect this god to poof extra money into your bank account when you need it, you’re a “de-facto atheist.”

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    if someone was paying me that kind of money, i would probably invest in a good editor

  • Mythblaster

    Knifty!

  • Broga

    “The Templeton Foundation” prize. Yup! That says it all.

  • Jim Jones

    Indeed. But if they existed, we would accept them – sort of.

  • Such is the case with belief in gods; there isn’t any proof that they exist, so the operational assumption is that science proceeds as if there are no gods.

    That’s exactly right. Science isn’t supposed to pander to anyone else’s prejudices. It’s supposed to pander to my prejudices.

  • Freodin

    Well… if Jesus was still around and turned water into wine, we would also accept him… sort of.
    But there are several little technical problems with that. Exactly as there are with centaurs.

    So… yeah. And So what?

  • Broga

    Templeton was terrified of death. So he offered this prize in an attempt to quiet his panic. With that kind of money he was not likely to be short of scientific casuists.

  • Jim Jones

    > if Jesus was still around and turned water into wine,

    That’s a very old magic trick. Really old. And a trick.

    Now if Jesus had X-ray vision or super cooling breath or could fly . . . he’d be Superman.

  • Matthew

    Proof would get me to change mine. (Not that I’d turn down the money)

  • brianmacker

    Marcelo Gleiser: “It’s extremely arrogant for scientists to come down from the ivory towers and make these declarations without understanding the social importance of belief systems.”

    Also, Marcelo Gleiser: “They [people who believe the Earth was created in seven days] position science as the enemy … because they have a very antiquated way of thinking”

    He’s not exactly a deep thinker, but he has classified himself as “extremely arrogant”.

  • Unhiddenness

    just another grifter

  • Arthur F. Meincke

    I am an atheist and atheism is not a belief based system. It is a conclusion…

  • Dglas Raeat

    One also comes to understand that the definitions of god(s) are usually designed to “not admit” of empirical exploration, so agnosticism becomes a matter of mere haphazard definition. Once one gets to that point, all the god(s) stuff becomes rather comical … and profoundly sad.

    Anyone can define something as undetectable. Religion is on the same level of thought as a 5 year old imagining monsters under the bed or in the closet.

  • Brian Curtis

    Or maybe the right judges.

  • Terrence Brann

    New atheists are just paid shills for Big Nothing.

  • Bubba Q Maggot

    Belief in a god is also inconsistent with the scientific method. There is no god and there is no evidence of any god. There is only a book written by ignorant camel jockies 2000 years ago.

  • Dglas Raeat

    I think that would be “skeptical.”
    Atheism is skepticism about a particular subject, god(s).

  • Dglas Raeat

    Most likely his definitions are presented to more firmly establish those definitions among like-minded individuals. It is rarely ever as simple as getting it right or wrong. He is pushing a mindset, a virulent and twisted one that seeks to distort and obfuscate. Nothing new there. What the religious leaders need is for their flocks to think that atheism rests on the same shaky foundation as their own – as just another belief.

    That is what this article hopes to accomplish. And this sort of thing works because the religious are desperate to maintain their cognitive bias. Their limited, confirmation-bias, echo chamber rattles with this deliberate mischaracterization of atheists.

    He may, in fact, know what atheism is, but he is not going to tell the truth here. It doesn’t fit the narrative the Templeton Foundation wants to build in its mindless minions’ heads. This is an entirely disingenuous article about an entirely disingenuous individual who abandoned his integrity long ago.

    Very shamefully disgraceful for a “scientist,” if it is even true he is one.

  • Raging Bee

    …John Templeton Foundation – a philanthropic organisation named after the American Presbyterian who made his fortune on Wall Street, and who set out to seek: “Proofs of divine agency in every branch of science.”

    So, have any of them ever FOUND such proofs? I’m guessing that would be easy to verify, since the Foundation would have given a HUGE reward for it, right? RIGHT?

  • Raging Bee

    Atheism is a belief in non-belief.

    Is he sure it isn’t a non-belief in belief?

  • Raging Bee

    Someone needs to pull a Sokal hoax on the Templeton Foundation.

  • Marie-José Renaud

    Eeew