Ike’s Coming Out

Dr. Asimov was one of the first scientific skeptics I was introduced to through my SF fandom in my early teens by way of his numerous nonfiction works, such as the collection of essays, X stands for Unknown, particularly the last chapter, which I would cause much gratuitous eldritch mischief to get a new copy of…

*chortle* *waves tentacles*

Anyhoo, though it’s not set in stone that you have to be an atheist to be a skeptic, and I know two words to refute the claim that you do – Martin Gardner – I found Asimov’s status as a religious nonbeliever unsurprising, but the quote below puts that status, and what it meant to him, in his own words, more succinctly and perhaps more accurately than I suspect myself to at times.

It would seem that there are facts we must all face, realities we must confront, or be taken by our own subtle and powerful means of self-deception…

I also thought it interesting that he had written a bit of biblical scholarship that I’m interested in locating a good copy of also, since the best commentary on written works is done through honest, and therefore fair, critical scrutiny…par for the course for a good skeptic like Asimov.

It was he who pointed me in the direction of the passage Isaiah 40:22 in the Old Testament describing part of the cosmology of the early Hebrews, gotten from the science of the Babylonians (the best in that region at the time, though far short of where we are now) featuring a flat, circular Earth, and an interesting reference to grasshoppers as a metaphor of smallness and thus insignificance…

…since bacteria or viruses were an unknown then.

Asimov was not known for modesty, kinda like Troythulu, and throughout his works I’ve found his honesty about this and other matters refreshing. If you were an idiot, he would tell you so, in as articulate, polite, and devastatingly a manner as possible given the considerable intellectual resources at his disposal…

But his wit, brilliance, well-mannered charm, and the strength of his friendships go unchallenged to this day…

…and so here’s the quote…

I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.

Isaac Asimov (Russian: Айзек Азимов; c. January 2, 1920[1] – April 6, 1992)

Ike could explain darn near any concept easily to perhaps even the densest of us, and indeed, he has been called “the Great Explainer” by none other than the subject of yesterday’s post, Carl Sagan.

I’ve got a long way to catch up with the works of such a prolific author, but that’s something to be done in due time. Fnord.

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