Monday, May 4, 2009

"Are you a religious man yourself?"

A grade-12 student sent me an email today about my novels The Terminal Experiment and Calculating God (the former a Nebula Award winner; the latter a Hugo Award finalist), because she's doing her final project for English class on them. She asked:
I don't mean to ask anything personal, but are you a religious man yourself? Or do you tend to be more like Tom, in 'Calculating God', and not really believe in anything other than science? Or on the flip side, was this book a way for you to explain your reasoning to the idea that a supreme being must exist through Hollus' character?
Here's my response:
I'm not a religious person. It would take proof to convince me that souls, or God, exist -- so I wrote books in which scientists found proof of those things to play with the notion of how skeptical people might react. I'm fascinated by the fact that many skeptics are as dogmatic in their anti-religious beliefs (nothing could convince them that they are wrong) as many religious people are dogmatic in their beliefs. I liked playing with the notion of whether skepticism/atheism was really a reasoned position, or simply another belief system that would endure regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof, for its veracity.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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At May 30, 2009 9:44 PM , Blogger MarkF said...

Atheism is a religion. Like belief in god, it is a belief, not a hypothesis. By design, belief in the nonexistence of god(s) is untestable, as is belief in the existence of god(s). Either belief might be true, but neither is science, because science is not a collection of truths but a method of understanding, and that method requires testability. So, whether there's a god or not doesn't really matter in your books: you write science fiction, not religious fiction.

At May 30, 2009 11:23 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

I disagree. Atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby.

And Occam's razor is a perfectly reasonable principle to invoke in science. If you can account for all observable phenomena with fewer elements, you should. Atheism says unless you need God -- or the flying spaghetti monster, or monkeys flying out of your butt -- to explain things, you shouldn't invoke him.

And would you say that the belief in the nonexistence of, say, a statue of Elvis Presley made out of lime Jell-O on the far side of the innermost moon of a planet in the Andromeda galaxy is a religion? If it isn't, in what way, logically, is it different from your assertion about atheism? We can't test the proposition about the statue, either, after all. :)


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