Dr. David Eagleman On Being a Possibilian

David Eagleman is "founder and co-director of the Center for Science and Law, which studies how new discoveries in neuroscience can navigate the way we make laws, punish criminals, and develop rehabilitation." A few years back The New Yorker did a story on Eagleman calling him The Possibilian. What is that you ask? Watch this entertaining 20 minute talk, where he explains why he's a possibilian, rather than an atheist or a believer, who are both "certain" they are right.

He misunderstands what an atheist is, since there's nothing he says that isn't what I can agree on.

I am sure, as is he, that there's no supernatural being who created the universe, who loves us, who answers our prayers, and who demands anything from us in return. If one exists despite the lack of evidence, s/he can be--and should be--safely ignored by reasonable people.

If pressed, Eagleman would say with me that to be open-minded--truly open-minded--means accepting the results of science.

With him I say that where science stops we simply don't know, and we should admit it. But since objective evidence is all that counts when it comes to the nature of the universe, its workings and origins, faith has no bearing on what we might find as science progresses.

So he's an atheist in the most relevant sense of the word, just like me. That doesn't make me any less interested in what science may discover as it progresses into the future.

In a way, my atheism is a provisional conclusion, just as any of them are provisional. It's just that it's a really really strong provisional conclusion based on what science has shown us so far.

Although it's possible the scientific conclusions of today might be overthrown and replaced by the advance of science, it is science, not faith, that will do this feat. And even though we know this might possibly happen, we can still say what we know now, to the degree it's based on the science of today--because there is no other alternative but science to inform us of the nature of the universe, its workings, and origins.