So what do atheists have to say about all this? Basically, they say that to give up reason and evidence, even in situations which seem outside the bounds of reason and evidence, is to open the door to all kinds of craziness. Should we start believing in unicorns and centaurs on the grounds that there is no way to disprove them? The philosopher Bertrand Russell gave the example of a celestial teapot that is said to rove the solar system but is undetectable by all scientific instruments. Should we believe in such an absurdity simply because it cannot be refuted?

With some glee, Richard Dawkins invokes the example of an invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster that controls the operations of the universe. These way-out examples can't be disproved, Dawkins writes, "yet nobody thinks the hypothesis of their existence is on an even footing with the hypothesis of their non-existence." In other words, the odds in favor aren't the same as the odds against.

A little scrutiny of these examples will quickly show that the craziness here is entirely on the part of the atheists. We have combed the earth without locating a single unicorn, so we seem justified in rejecting unicorns. Centaurs are believed by scientists to be biologically impossible. In these two cases, the odds are clearly against. Celestial teapots are also very unlikely, as are Flying Spaghetti Monsters, but our derision is prejudicially solicited by the particular examples chosen. Teapots do not fly, and pasta is an unlikely ingredient to produce flying monsters.

On the other hand, if we modify the examples slightly to involve matter and energy that is undetectable by scientific instruments and yet is presumed to exist in order to account for the motions of the galaxies, we have just described "dark matter" and "dark energy," widely accepted by scientists today. Here the odds are heavily in favor, even if the phenomena in question are strange and not well understood.

I agree with Russell and Dawkins that even when propositions seem outside the bounds of verifiability, there is no cause to give up reason; I am merely arguing that we should be constantly aware of what reason does, and doesn't, tell us in a given situation. Moreover, there may be things that are outside experience that have features different from what is within our experience, and we should be open to such possibilities and not dismissive of them in advance.

Consider the possibility of aliens that exist in some galaxy far away. Is there anything we can say about them that would automatically count as absurd? For instance, can we reject out of hand the possibility that the aliens each have 10 eyes? No. Can we dismiss the suggestion that they weigh less than a speck of dust, or more than a skyscraper? No. Can we laugh out of court the idea that they don't have hearts, or that they communicate by telepathy, or that they sustain themselves by consuming metal? In each case, no.

So the bottom line is that there is nothing about the possibility of aliens that is prospectively out of bounds; we simply have no idea about what aliens, if they exist, might be like. Perhaps there is even one that looks like a Flying Sphagetti Monster! If atheists wrote about life on other planets in the way that they write about religious claims, their derision would be immediately seen for the ignorant prejudice that it is.

Atheists like to think of themselves as the party of reason, advancing views that are based only on facts and evidence. Here we see that when it comes to life after death, the atheist claim to knowledge constitutes a kind of false advertising. In reality, the atheist is in the same position of ignorance as the believer. Yet the religious believer doesn't claim to be a champion of reason and is content to hold his position based on faith. The atheist is a victim of what may be called the "Dawkins Delusion": he too holds a faith-based position while deceiving himself into thinking that his rejection of life after death is wholly based on the evidence.

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