Last night, I attended a lecture by Victor Stenger on his new book The New Atheists. After listening to his talk, I'm still not entirely sure what the book is supposed to be about. How "New" atheists are defined? Their arguments?
For those not familiar with Stenger, he was a physicist who did most of his work during the explosion of knowledge on particle physics. His physicist nature was completely apparent during the lecture. He tended to pause while he caught up with his thoughts (either that or figure out where he was on his notes). He rambled onto side topics. And although it wasn't obvious while he was standing behind the podium, when he came to the front of the stage to answer questions, he revealed that his pants trim was flipped. Very physicsy.
The material of the talk was very boring. If you've read any books by any of the new atheists, you've heard it all before: They think religion isn't just silly, it's harmful. Stenger vaguely hit on some of the points hit on by other new atheist authors, but his delivery was so poor, it wasn't worth listening to if you've read
any other books, or even hung out on the web for a few weeks.
Another odd point was that Stenger claimed "humans will never leave the planet." He made the point that space just isn't friendly to us. To hope that we'll ever find another planet fine tuned enough for us is pretty silly. Of course, Stenger ignored the possibility that we may fine tune it for ourselves. Meanwhile, I agree with Stenger that this does reveal that this does make a pretty good case against a creator; Why create an entire universe that's inhospitable for the (supposedly) most important creations in it. It doesn't jive. Regardless, the whole point was pretty negative. No wonder theists don't like us atheists. Reality can be a downer.
The question session was pretty dismal too. The dumbest question there was from an obvious theist asking the age old, equivocation question: Don't "laws" imply a lawmaker. This was probably the best answered question since Stenger, as a physicist could point out that these universal laws are simply by-products of the non-preferentiality of the universe (ie, if you don't have a preferred direction in the universe, conservation of momentum can be derived from this).
The same asker also asked how we can be "sure there is something rather than nothing?"
Has he bothered looking around?