All Astronautical Evolution posts in 2018:

How Far Can We Take the Copernican Principle? (Dec.)

Dawkins and the McGraths: a Biologist versus two Theologians (Nov.)

The Atheism Question (Oct.)

The Religion Question (Sept.)

I, Starship (June)

Back to 2017:

Scenario Block Diagram Analysis of the Galactic Evolution of Life (Nov.)

Comments by Alex Tolley (Oct.)

Elon Musk’s “Great Martian” (Oct.)

Elon Musk’s Mars Plans: Highlights from His Second Iteration (Sept.)

What is a Supercivilisation? (Aug.)

Quantifying the Assumptions Behind the METI Debate (July)

Five Principles of a Sustainable Manned Mars Programme (June)

Pale Red Dot: Mars comes to Oxford (May)

Back to 2016:

Elon Musk and Mars: Looking for a Snowball Effect (Oct.)

New in 2020:

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AE posts:

2021: New space company Planetopolis…

2020: Cruising in Space…

2019: The Doomsday Fallacy, SpaceX successes…

2018: I, Starship, atheism versus religion, the Copernican principle…

2017: Mars, Supercivilisations, METI…

2016: Stragegic goal for manned spaceflight…

2015: The Pluto Controversy, Mars, SETI…

2014: Skylon, the Great Space Debate, exponential growth, the Fermi “paradox”…

2013: Manned spaceflight, sustainability, the Singularity, Voyager 1, philosophy, ET…

2012: Bulgakov vs. Clarke, starships, the Doomsday Argument…

2011: Manned spaceflight, evolution, worldships, battle for the future…

2010: Views on progress, the Great Sociology Dust-Up…

Chronological index

Subject index

General essays:

Index to essaysincluding:

Talk presented to students at the International Space University, May 2016

Basic concepts of Astronautical Evolution

Options for Growth and Sustainability

Mars on the Interstellar Roadmap (2015)

The Great Sociology Debate (2011)

Building Selenopolis (2008)


Issue 142, 1 October 2018 – 49th Apollo Anniversary Year

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The Atheism Question

Atheism versus theism versus quasi-theism

Having criticised one major failing in The God Delusion by Professor Richard Dawkins in my previous post, I shall devote this page to noting other points of both agreement and disagreement.

The reader should recall that in these posts we are keeping Professor Konrad Szocik at the back of our mind (pronounce his name: Shotsik). His thesis involved “the possible utilisation of some kind of religion and/or religious belief in a future Mars colony” (Spaceflight article, p.92), and he concludes:

Professor Konrad Szocik

“It seems that it is worth bearing in mind possible roles that could be played by religion and religious beliefs in a future Mars colony. It is difficult to find any negative results of the application of religious beliefs [sic!]. … There is no doubt that the positive and beneficial functions of religious beliefs and religion mentioned have worked, and still work, well in human history” (p.96-97).

Curiously, Professor Szocik appears to believe that there is no truth in religion. He justifies his future martian religion purely on two pragmatic grounds: the cognitive science of religion, in which modules in the brain evolved for other purposes also favour the acquisition of religious beliefs, and a direct evolutionary explanation, in which religious beliefs were actively selected for in ancient societies. Perhaps we should dignify this strange viewpoint – which manages to combine both atheism and theism – with the technical term quasi-theism.

NB by “religion” we shall be thinking in terms of the varieties of monotheism originating in the Middle East. It would be difficult and unnecessary to try to include a system such as Buddhism under the same rubric, and it is certainly the various branches of monotheism which intrude most prominently into current events, and are the target of criticism in Professor Dawkins’s book.

Dawkins versus the preachers

The main points made in The God Delusion are as follows:

Professor Dawkins

As you can see from my comments in italics, I agree with Professor Dawkins about 65% of the time (scoring “maybes” as half an agreement).

The material success of modern civilisation is partly due to our having privatised religion, relegating it to the private sphere and out of public life, and when it intrudes back into public life it is generally in the form of violence or nastiness of some sort. Many specific cases are discussed in detail in The God Delusion, starting, at the end of chapter 1, with the religious violence ostensibly motivated by a dozen cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad which appeared in a Danish newspaper.

What Professor Dawkins is missing, in my view, is any feel for why the more thoughtful believers adhere to their faith. When he thinks of a believer, what comes to his mind is a fanatic bombing an abortion clinic, brainwashing an impressionable child or attacking a fellow believer in God, though by a different tradition, with a machete or a machine gun. When I think of a believer, I think of C.S. Lewis, or of friends I have known – quiet, ordinary, middle-class people who get on with their lives as peacefully as the rest of us.


Konrad Szocik, “Religion in a future Mars colony?”, Spaceflight, March 2017, p.92-97. The author is based at the University of Information Technology and Management, Rzeszow, Poland.

Responses to Szocik’s article appeared on the correspondence page of Spaceflight, June 2017, p.230-231. In addition to an e-mailed letter by myself, the others were written by Peter Davey, James Royse Murphy, James Fradgley, and Keith Gottschalk.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006; 10th anniversary edition, Black Swan, 2016).

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