The Scientific Indian

Too Skeptical?

Too skeptical for our own good. That’s how someone characterized many scientists and science teaching on BBC Radio 4. I was listening yesterday morning where Lewis Wolpert*, the scientist and another gentlemen – apparently religious, whose name I forgot – were guests. Wolpert is an avowed atheist who was startled at one point when the other gentleman pulled the Origin of Universe question from his hat. Here’s my recollection of the discussion.

“Surely, the origin of the universe has an explanation”, he said.

“Perhaps, but saying god made the universe explains nothing. Who created god then?”, Wolpert retorted.

The gentleman shot right back with a muddle that would’ve startled even the mic in front of him. “You know, this is a philosophical problem. If you ask for an explanation for an explanation, you can never stop”, he said.

He was alluding to the question of Knowledge*. He even presented the case of a Matrix-like world where brains in vats cluelessly think they live in a world far removed from their actual state.

I missed what Wolpert said because I was hitting my head repeatedly with a hammer I keep on the table specially for these occasions. So, what’s the response to his question? Is there a point at which we must stop being skeptical?

The choice for me is always between rational skepticism and willful ignorance. The choice is clear. It may not be an easy choice to make but our inability to choose does not change the choices in any way. At the end of it all, what you choose is your own decision and you must be prepared to live with the consequences.

*Wikipedia page of Lewis Wolpert
*Knowledge at Stanford Enclyclopedia of Philosophy


  1. #1 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    February 28, 2007

    That would have been William Lane Craig.

    So, what’s the response to his question? Is there a point at which we must stop being skeptical?

    The response is to point out that is exactly what he did by suggesting that the Big Bang needs God as an explanation. Apply his own objection to his own question.

  2. #2 Nikhil Dandekar
    March 1, 2007

    I believe we always have to stop being skeptical at some point (or level of depth). That’s the point where we make solid assumptions which form the basis of our skepticism.

  3. #3 bharath
    March 12, 2007

    I saw a guy on Youtube who had posted some atheist’s viewpoints. He made a perfect point when he said “You can put the world’s renowned biologists, geologists and physicists in a room with a preacher and the preacher, the preacher, will feel equally qualified to talk about every scientific matter as they and will not be daunted by the facts.”

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