Interview with Prof. Christian Rawkins
Chair of Atheism, University of Tottenham-Spurs

Ian James
© 4th September 2011


#Do you think weíll ever find evidence of miracles?

No Iím afraid not. Miracles represent wishful thinking on the part of simple-minded people. Common sense is a useful guide, though many people are keen to abandon logic when confronted with new experiences.

#Like people rising from the dead.

People do not rise from the dead.

#But suppose it was the first time youíd ever seen it, do you think your powers of rational thinking would cease to function?

A reaction of shock or confusion to an otherwise explainable event would give rise to muddled thinking, and a description that might sound miraculous.

#How do we best explain people rising from the dead?

It hasnít happened yet, so it doesnít need to be explainable.

#Would a reaction of shock or confusion to an un-explainable event give rise to muddled thinking?

Probably. But we should not be too hasty to call it a miracle.

#And we should come up with a description that sounds very ordinary.

We should be very cautious.

#Is that because people who rise from the dead are very dangerous?

No-one can rise from the dead because there is no good explanation.

#Would you be concerned if a good explanation became available?

Only if people started believing it.

#What if it was proven in a court of law?

The legal profession has no authority in matters like this.

#What if you were shot for not obeying the law, and then you rose from the dead?

Itís an unlikely outcome.

#What if you were killed by a person who has risen from the dead, might you rise from the dead yourself?

No, this is also unlikely. Rising from the dead is not contagious, as far as I know.

#What about people who believe good explanations of miracles which do become available?

They are very dangerous.

#For public safety then, miracles should be described in ordinary terms, and any explanations of them should not be good ones?

Put it this way. If I said it was a miracle that people die and do not rise up again, people might think differently about it.

#People might think this is ordinary, and that your explanation was not a good one?

Well, it is ordinary. But people should perhaps consider that life and death are something like miracles. Before getting carried away with the stuff of fairy tales.

#So life and death are not real miracles?

Thatís right. In the sense that scientists are not surprised by them.

#So scientists can engage logic rather than wishful thinking?

Exactly. And within five or six years we will understand enough about the death process to enable immortality.

#So when someone shoots you, you will just rise up again and continue regardless.

This will be quite possible in the near future.

#So when scientists have enabled immortality, this kind of thing will not be miraculous at all?

Thatís right. When scientists do things like this, we prefer not to use the word Ďmiracleí. It sounds too boastful.

#Is growing old also something like a miracle?

Not yet. Once eternal life becomes ordinary, growing old will then be surprising and shocking, and some may describe it as a miracle.

#Will genetic engineering play a part in the immortality of humans?

Iím afraid thatís classified information.

#Have scientists managed to make anything immortal yet?

We can engineer, or rather we can manage, to keep some items of food from ripening for many thousands of years.

#Thatís quite a long time to wait for ripe food. Might we go hungry?

Luckily (some may call it a miracle, but that would be muddled thinking), we can engineer, or rather, we can provide plenty of nutritious food for everyone.

#Thatís wonderful (I almost said Ďmiraculousí).

Yes it is. By increasing yield and efficiency of existing food-sources, such as chickens, we can assure immortal people never go hungry.

#Are existing chickens too inefficient?

Yes, very much so. Chickens in the future will be headless.

#And french fries?

They will be crossed with broad beans and grow on tall stalks. Once ripe, they will burst from their shells and fall into vats of cooking oil.

#How tall will the french fry beanstalks be?

They will probably grow from small seeds to the height of clouds within a few days.

#So when everyone is immortal ...

No, Iím afraid not everyone will be immortal. There would be over-population.

#So the people who do not achieve immortality will die, as is currently the case.

Of course.

#Wonít their offspring still keep adding to the population?

No, the offspring of mortal people will not add to the population.

#This is due to the current situation of death and dying, which they will still succumb to?

We prefer to think of death as a problem which needs a managed solution. Immortality is part of that solution. Yield and efficiency are also part of the solution.

#Youíre referring to food-sources.

No. Or rather yes. For mortal people, death will still play an important role.

#But the babies of mortal people ...

It would be a miracle if dead people had babies.

#But scientists could make it happen one day?

Scientists will have more pressing concerns. Such as designing entertainment for immortal people. We wouldnít want boredom to make a mockery of this exalted state.

#How do you see the onset of immortality occurring?

As with most things of lasting value, there will be a cost proportional to the reward. I imagine the pioneers of eternal life will be incredibly rich. One-by-one, the first immortals-to-be will be injected with a special elixir. It will be an exciting new era.

#So just some elixir in a needle is all that will be required?

Itís that easy. Rich people will only require a needle to enter the kingdom of eternal life.

#And poor people would need to save up a lot of money?

The poor shall inherit their past debts, and inevitably succumb to various genetic disorders.

#Such as mortality?

Yes. But we should be able to save some of them.

#Thatís wonderful.

Indeed. Those with advanced factory and production-line skills will be spared, or rather, will be less likely to succumb.

#Will factories in the future be better than those we currently see?

Much better. When we look at factories in the future we will see places of great joy and entertainment.

#So factory workers will have wonderful working conditions?

We will not see such things, only joy and entertainment.

#Immortal people will need high ethical standards in order to sustain peace and harmony, wonít they?

Iím sorry, ethics is downstairs. We in this department are primarily interested in fulfilling the demands of clientsí imaginations.

#And that includes producing miracles?

We prefer to call them essential new technologies. Though simple-minded people may still persist in calling them miracles.

#And these technologies will help improve our quality of life?

Iím afraid thatís classified information. Put it this way, the client is always right. And we take our inspiration from their straight-forward and honest vision.

#Thatís wonderful. But do you ever wonder if their vision might be wrong?

At the end of the day, right and wrong are just two sides of a golden coin.

#Thatís very mysterious. What does it mean?

Iím not sure. Actually, in the near future, there will be no end of the day. We are putting plans in place which will allow immortal people to control the length of their days. We shall also be eliminating Sundays.

#Is it dangerous to alter astronomical events?

We are merely altering the days. What harm is there in that? Even when we farm the Moon, it will be no more dangerous than farming generally.

#Farming the Moon? Is this another scientific miracle?

Sort of. As a result of work carried out by the Apollo lunar colonies ...

#There are no colonies on the Moon.

Never mind that. The point is that by farming the Moon, there will be a near infinite supply of cheese to feed the immortal people here on Earth.

#Wonít the efficient chicken & french fries be enough?

Itís more about having a balanced diet.

#And greens?

No problem. We are currently developing a new breed of edible plant called a triffid.

#What if no-one likes it? I know I donít like cabbages.

Thatís the beauty of this plant. It doesnít take no for an answer.

#Is it possible to make the Sun a bit cooler?

That would be foolish. If it happened indiscriminately. We would need to make it warmer for the cold countries, obviously.

#Are there any more scientific ďmiraclesĒ on the horizon?

In the future, we shall be eliminating the horizon. For immortal people, a horizon is too restrictive.



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Last modified Jan.26,2012