Victor Stenger – Taking a Stand for Science and Reason

March 16, 2010

Victor Stenger is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Hawaii and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado. He is also founder of Colorado Citizens for Science. He’s held visiting faculty positions at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and at Oxford in the United Kingdom, and has been a visiting researcher at Rutherford Laboratory in England, the National Nuclear Physics Laboratory in Frascati, Italy, and the University of Florence in Italy. Stenger’s search career has spanned the period of great progress in elementary particle physics that ultimately led to the current standard model. He participated in experiments that helped establish the properties of strange particles, quarks, gluons, and neutrinos and has also helped pioneer the emerging fields of very high energy gamma ray and neutrino astronomy. In his last project before retiring, Vic collaborated on the experiment in Japan which showed for the first time that the neutrino has mass. He is the author of many books, including Comprehensible Cosmos, The Unconscious Quantum, Not by Design, Has Science Found God, The New York Times best-seller God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist, and The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason.

In this, the second of three special-edition episodes featuring D.J. Grothe, Vic Stenger discusses who the New Atheists oppose: not just anti-science activists, but even those who have faith in God even if they support science to some extent. He explores if science is itself based on faith. He describes ways in which faith may appear to be based on evidence. He compares evidence supporting God’s existence coming from the appearance of design in nature with evidence from the sciences suggesting a total lack of design in the universe. He debates which should have priority: science or atheism, and whether learning science will lead to atheism, or if being an atheist will lead to an natural acceptance of the scientific worldview. He defends causing offense to believers in the name of truth, and explores to what extent such an approach may be counter-productive at times. He explores the best ways to “frame” atheism so as to have the most impact. He recounts his appearance on Christian radio, and what it illustrates about communicating atheism and rationalism. He explains why natural explanations for events are better than supernatural explanations. He reveals who the real audience of the New Atheists is. He talks about the growing student freethought and skeptics movement, and why young people are one the target audiences of the New Atheists. He explains why he thinks within mere generations religion will fade away. And he talks about the righteous indignation of the New Atheists, and the moral imperative of atheists to speak out because of the harm resulting from religion.