Is the phrase “atheist believer” an oxymoron, a metaphor or just a bit of silliness? What is the difference between faith and knowledge?

These two questions, which I have been asked by many readers continually, clearly require a detailed answer, the nature of which had initially seemed to me to be obvious.

Let’s start with the first question: is the phrase “atheist believer” an oxymoron, a metaphor or just a bit of silliness?

Can a person who believes, that all the events occurring in the universe since the Big Bang can be explained on the basis of the laws of Galileo, Newton and Einstein, and that all the events occurring in the living world can be explained by the laws of Darwin and genetics, without involving the concept of God, be conclusively called an atheist?

If such a person does not know what existed before the Big Bang, why the laws of nature exist or why they work so coherently, and if such a person understands that it is impossible to either prove or disprove the existence of God in an attempt to answer these questions, then can such a person be called a believer?

There is a philosophical view referred to as agnosticism, which relates to all this, but that isn’t our main concern here.

The first question, “is the phrase ‘atheist believer’ an oxymoron, a metaphor or just a bit of silliness?”, is best answered when considered in the light of the second, “what is the difference between faith and knowledge?”

Following the examples in the famous Feynman Lectures on Physics on the law of the conservation of energy I would like to offer an analogy in the style of a “child’s example”.

Imagine a child, perhaps “Dennis the Menace,” who has not yet begun to study physics, and who from early days of childhood has observed how objects carelessly dropped always fall downwards. At first it is a cup of tea, a bowl of porridge, a buttered piece of bread that falls on the carpet, seemingly, always butter side down and which leads to a telling off from his mother; then it is his father’s dumbbell, which has to land on his foot, and later, well, an iPhone that just had to fall on the tiled floor. In addition, Dennis notes that all these objects appear to fall at the same rate of acceleration.

Dennis, who has not yet learned Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, independently makes a brilliant, scientific discovery: “any” body released from the hands falls downwards with an equal acceleration.

Is this discovery a matter of scientific knowledge or faith? We will show, that to all intents and purposes it is a matter of faith.

Indeed, Dennis drops a cup, a bowl, a piece of bread, a dumbbell or an iPhone, i.e. the objects of which he has specific knowledge but he hasn’t dropped “any” or “every” object!

In the evening, when Dennis’ father, who is an engineer, returns home from work, Dennis recounts the discovery he has made during the day. The father praises Dennis but then asks if he is confident in using the word “any” in his law. Dennis responds that he believes that to be true. Then the father blows up a balloon and lets it go. The balloon falls to the floor but slowly, at the “wrong” acceleration, or rather, without any acceleration at all. Then the father takes a second balloon, fills it with helium and releases it. Instead of falling downwards, the balloon contradicts the law Dennis has discovered and travels upwards. The third time, the father drops a piece of paper, holding the sheet parallel to the floor and the sheet of paper also turns at the “wrong” acceleration and slowly falls downwards.

Dennis is dismayed to find his law disproved, but the father comforts him, explaining that his initial law has not been completely disproved. Together they have simply revealed the limits of its applicability.

The father tells Dennis about the air that surrounds us, the story of Archimedes buoyancy, the force of air resistance and that in junior school he will study Newton’s Second Law of Motion, which, taking into account all the forces: the force of gravity, Archimedes force and the force of air resistance, will generate a more general law correctly describing how different bodies fall to the ground.

The law you have discovered and assumed to apply to “any” body, the father says, is underpinned by faith, not knowledge. But it remains true, the father clarifies his point further, for relatively small, heavy, streamlined objects.

Once Dennis reaches junior school and has studied the Newton’s laws of motion, he believes that what he knows, finally, is not just based on faith but real knowledge.

Imagine the disappointment when in high school, on studying Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, Dennis realises that his law which ended with the words “equal acceleration” has turned out once again to be based on faith, not knowledge, and that these words have to be discarded or clarified by adding the words “near the surface of the Earth.”

Perhaps now, Dennis can consider that his knowledge is comprehensive and impeccably scientific.

Enrolling at the University’s Physics Department, Dennis discovers something that even their engineer-father does not know. In the proximity of massive stars, Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation does not work, and instead, Einstein’s law of gravity should be applied, derived as a more exact law from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Does Einstein’s law of gravity constitute the last and final knowledge?

I would like to believe that it is, but recently, several voices have resounded in the world of astrophysics, asserting that this law cannot be taken as the last word and that discrepancies have been observed which pose the need for a new theory.

So, as I conclude this article, I would like to invite my readers to answer for themselves the two questions with which we began.

Written by Karmak Bagisbayev, an author of “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer”

Translated from the Russian original by Joanna Dobson.


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How reliable are the prognoses of The Last Faith? Betting on the internet generation.

Towards the end of last year, we published various large-scale and smaller social prognoses on our blog, some of which have already come true, some of which are still in the process of being realised.

In one way or another, all the prognoses we made were based on the Law of Humandynamics which asserts that Freedom of Choice on our planet can only grow and that it is, in fact, increasing exponentially, notwithstanding short-term and local fluctuations.

The Law of Humandynamics represents a consequence of the striving of the majority to expand their personal Freedom of Choice. This striving facilitates the development of communications, which in turn influences the growth of Freedom of Choice. In the twenty-first century, the internet is the key means of communication influencing this trend.

In “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer”, we predicted that the internet would reduce the gap in world view between advanced and catching-up social groups and peoples. The internet has particularly affected the younger generation and we see now the emergence of a new internet generation, who since birth have lived in a huge, global, virtual space in which Freedom of Choice is taken for granted, something which their parents could only have dreamed of. Unlike their parents, this new generation knows nothing of the racial, religious and political intolerance characteristic of the older generations.

This influence of the internet has been so fast and furious that even before “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer” was published, extensive research was carried out in the West which we discovered just recently. On 13th of November 2008, The Economist magazine published a review of “The Net Generation. The Kids Are Alright”, written by American researcher Don Tapscott based on studies involving over eight thousand people from twelve different countries born between 1978 and 1994.

Contrary to widespread expectations of the negative impact of the internet on young people, the research results showed the opposite to be true. The internet generation turned out to be smarter, more tolerant of diversity, more well-read, socially aware, optimistic, decent and compassionate to the needs of others than the preceding television generation.

“These empowered young people are beginning to transform every institution of modern life. They care strongly about justice, and are actively trying to improve society,” said Mr Tapscott, who puts it down to the advantages of the net which is interactive and stimulates the brain over one-way broadcasting via television. People who play video games have been found to have more rapid decision-making abilities, are better at multi-tasking and process visual information more quickly.

I must confess, that although I was confident in the great role the internet would play in the coming revolutionary transformation of our world, I didn’t know exactly what form it would take.  Now I know.

“The ‘internet generation (Net Geners) values freedom and choice in everything they do. They love to customise and personalise. They scrutinise everything. They demand integrity and openness, including when deciding what to buy and where to work. They want entertainment and play in their work and education, as well as their social life. They love to collaborate. They expect everything to happen fast. And they expect constant innovation.” Tapscott writes.

It’s just exactly as “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer” describes it: Freedom of Choice and the Rights of the Individual.

Now to Russia. Mass participation by students of colleges and universities throughout the country in the 26th March 2017 anti-corruption protest rallies came totally out of the blue. Both the authorities and the opposition were at a loss to explain the new phenomenon. Nobody had noticed the new generation ‘Net Geners’ growing up in Russia with exactly the same social demands as those described in Tapscott’s article.

In another 10-15 years, when Net Geners begin to take up key positions in society, the world will change quite significantly for the better. Once again in history, we shall bear witness to another positive leap forward in levels of Freedom of Choice. The Law of Humandynamics will reveal itself once again, just as it should.

And once again, we see that in accordance with “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer”, no people on earth has its own unique historical path. We are all moving in the same direction, in accordance with the Law of Humandynamics, just as we leave some behind, overtake others and push each other aside.

The only real challenge that stands before international organisations and the economic superpowers, as they act on behalf of humanity, is to find a way of reducing (but not eliminating!) the huge 50-100 year gaps that exist between the different peoples taking part in the race.

And the sooner we understand this, the better it will be for all.

The simultaneous existence of such huge gaps in the economic and cultural development of different nations on a backdrop of intense globalisation is impossible and dangerous.

But will we understand?

Written by Karmak Bagisbayev, an author of “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer”

Translated from the Russian original by Joanna Dobson.

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