Stephen Jay Gould:
'How To Go To Heaven'?
Gil Gaudia

"the heavens, as any astronomer will tell you, is a euphemism for everything out there -- the universe; Heaven, for most believers is something very different -- a preposterous notion of an actual, non-locatable place where everyone who has ever existed, and didn't piss off the church, will always reside with everyone else, lounging around listening to Beethoven while eating hot pastrami sandwiches.

"I am appalled that a world-class thinker and writer such as yourself would betray the few of us who retain some semblance of rational thinking by juxtaposing the two concepts in such a way as to indicate that they actually might be related. We rely, to some extent, on the published opinions of respected scholars to maintain the strength and vigor of the position, unfortunately held by so few, that supernaturalism has no value in our society, in fact is an obstacle to free inquiry, and more often than not brings about harm to individuals.... If you have time read your colleague Richard Dawkins' excellent article on related issues in The Humanist, January/February 1997.

"Gil Gaudia"

* Gould, Stephen Jay; Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Sunday, March 25, 2001 11:44 PM

When I was detoxing from Creationism, Gould's works were readily available and did the job of finishing off the vestigial suspicions toward science that Creationism had instilled in me. We could do a lot worse than having Gould stumping for evolution -- even if his ideas can be seen as being compatible with theistic evolution (the majority viewpoint, by the way).

Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, alienates many people with his abrasive, almost dogmatic-sounding anti-theism pronouncements. Ditto for Victor Stenger. Don't get me wrong, I love both men, and I fully agree with each of their controversial pronouncements. But I think some of this would be toned down if either author's stated goal was to reach a wider audience for showing the basic integrity of, in Dawkins's case, the Theory of Evolution, and, in Stenger's case, the Inflationary Big Bang Model.

Stephen Hawking is so deliberately silent that Christians often insist to me that he is a theist in their attempts to bolster the credibility of the Christian religion (although I don't think he is, but like George Washington, he refuses to spell out his position to the public -- probably because directly admitting his atheism would ruin his credibility before a very bigoted public).

So we prove to ourselves once again that this world is not "perfect" and that humans are fallible. The answer that I proposed to Stenger when I met him was to have people who are fluent writers and also fluent philosophers of science as advisors when scientists decide to write an important book that is targeted for the mass audience. Most scientists who write popular books do just that. But we are reaching a point where the State of Alabama seriously considered enacting portions of one of those Jack Chick comic book tracts as law.

Thus, as far off the mark as Gould's remark is, if it nudges just a few theists toward keeping religion in its own realm and from spilling over into science, I think that aspect can help somewhat. I would never make a statement such as he made, but I would only take him to task in a limited way for having said it -- and how you responded is very close to how I might have responded.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, March 26, 2001 5:04 AM

It only has to be lonely if you restrict yourself to atheists as friends. Otherwise, life can be a gas if you want it to be.

I choose to be a loner because I'd rather work during this phase of my life. Not sure how much longer I'll be around, so I'd better knock out some product before I go.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, March 26, 2001 9:41 PM

We do not have memberships, but you can receive our print edition for $24 per year. I also (currently) have several sets of the back-issues collection (66 issues) available for $120, which includes a lifetime subscription to the magazine. As it stands, the next Lifetime Subscription we sell will be what pays for the printing and mailing of the March edition, late, now, by 25 days and, for now, awaiting my next payday if no donations come in.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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