Rob Sherman Reacts to a Car Crash May 26, 2011

Rob Sherman Reacts to a Car Crash

Rob Sherman, an atheist who’s always ready to file a lawsuit if there’s a church/state violation in Illinois and who loves to sing his own praises, was in a car crash over the weekend. His wife and daughter were in the car with him.

He’s ok. His family is ok. The car’s not ok, but the crash wasn’t his fault.

The only reason I’m mentioning this is because Rob, in true form, used the situation to assert his beliefs:

Amazingly, everybody walked away from the crash completely uninjured. A big thank you goes out, not to God, who is make-believe, but to the automobile engineers who did such a great job designing those vehicles that it was the cars that completely absorbed the impact, rather than the passengers.

A lot of the article makes me just roll my eyes, but I’ll admit, that reaction is one you rarely hear in these kinds of situations. And it’s completely accurate. I’m surprised we don’t hear it more often.

Gotta respect a guy who never loses focus…

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  • Glenn Davey

    “Serious” journalism?

  • Ben

    Rob calls himself a “professional atheist”. I met Rob at one of the University of Chicago debates on religion, and he had never heard of the term “god of the gaps” among other common ideas. I find it reassuring that atheism has become popular enough that there are even wannabe atheist figureheads.

  • KerryH

    I had exactly that reaction when I rolled my van in February and wrote about it:
    I was told by a few people that I must have a guardian angel, but I responded to everyone that all the praise goes to Toyota and their amazing engineers and designers etc.

  • Jonas

    I’ve always been a fan of shows like Modern Marvels, and How it’s Made. — Even ‘Engineering Disasters’

    Whenever there is a engineering disaster, there is an opportunity to improve the design. Seatbelts, Crush zones in cars, all a product of designers building thing safely.

    Humor mode on:
    — You don’t see Gideon Bibles in airplane seats.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I am tired of hearing the faithful natter away about how grateful they are to the almighty for killing only half their family in a tornado.

  • Rich h

    let’s see
    delta p = F * delta t….

    The momentum change will always be a constant (1 metric ton involved in a collision at a given velocity will always be 1 metric ton involved in a collision at a given velocity)….

    It’s the Force component that will kill you. IF the car survives the crash intact, the soft squishy bits inside absorb all the force over a very short amount of time…

    Lengthen the time through crumple zones and airbags, while at the same time keeping the squishy bits inside their metal shell, and you can survive an accident!


  • Tim

    Did he make the “not God” comment in the news or only on his blog? Considering the extent of the crash, I presume Mr. Sherman would have been interviewed (or should have been).

    Incidentally, that was perhaps the worst “professionally written” article I have read in quite some time. Bad enough that, despite giving most atheist sites a chance after I find or hear about them, I will not be doing so in this case.

    It was good to read that nobody was killed, though…

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    Ok, I have to come out a bit against the Rob Sherman nay-sayers. He may not know things relating to evolution, but he certainly understands separation of church and state. We can’t all be experts at evolutionary biology, just like we can’t all be experts at 20 gazillion other things all at the same time.

    Also, he’s on the front lines putting the time and effort and money into protecting our rights. I certainly wouldn’t have the patience to deal with a lawsuit, so I’m happy that people like Rob can deal with that aspect of it.

    Now, is he sometimes a bit …. ummm… non-average or maybe unique? Yes, but I think it takes a special person to really devote themselves to a cause. (Well, ok, I’d say he was a very strange, but funny sorta fellow.)

    I do agree that it’s a huge thanks to the engineers to keep us safe, not just for cars that absorb impact, but for simple things like seat belts. In fact, some may remember a time when only worrywarts wore seat belts, but now with the seat belt laws, nearly everyone is in the habit of wearing a seat belt. I know I was never taught to wear my seat belt while growing up, but my parents would suddenly enforce it to prevent a ticket after the seat belt laws came into being.

    I hear the same kinds of things about motorcycle accidents. You’d be amazed at how much better a person looks after an accident if they wear full riding gear (helmet, riding jacket, pants, boots). The gear really does what it’s designed to do. They’re still generally hurting in some fashion, but that’s because hitting the cement is just a fact in a motorcycle accident (that hurts), but every case where I’ve heard of someone walking away from one of those accidents, the riders were wearing their motorcycle gear.

  • Siamang

    Rob Sherman’s diary:

    I ate a cup of yogurt today. Did I mention God doesn’t exist?

    Also, went to the bank for a few minutes. Which reminds me of a funny story: God is imaginary!

    Here’s a riddle: What’s the BEST time to talk about God being totally completely not real and also fake?

    Answer: RIGHT NOW!!!

    Also: NOW!

    …..And NOW!!!!

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    I hear the same kinds of things about motorcycle accidents.

    Sorry, by that I meant that people praise god if they survive, instead of praising leather or Kevlar.

  • Methdissed

    I agree with this post except for the last sentence.

    Gotta respect a guy who never loses focus…

    Names like Fred Phelps and William Lane Craig come to mind.

  • francois

    this rob Sherman guy comes off as kind of condescending to me I have no issue with him its just the attitude I get from him.

  • robinottawa

    What gets me is how the superstitious always give god credit for saving them, but never blame for causing the problem in the first place. If god hadn’t caused that accident/tornado/etc, it wouldn’t have had to pull their a@@ out of the fire.

  • Vanessa

    You’d be amazed at how much better a person looks after an accident if they wear full riding gear (helmet, riding jacket, pants, boots).

    This is why I cannot understand why there are still states that do not require riders to wear helmets. And why I cringe every time I see someone on a bike who is wearing shorts and a tank top.

  • Ben

    @Ms. Crazy Pants

    I agree with the gist of what u said. I don’t want to throw Rob under the bus. However, “god-of-the-gaps” has little to do with evolutionary biology. It’s a simple and fundamental concept, especially for atheists. Also, I remember it had to be thoroughly explained to him, as if the term wasn’t self explanatory. I simply haven’t see evidence of an informed mind at work with Rob, just a rabble-rousing personality.

    No one should have to pass a test of education or personality to be in the public eye. However, we should all consider whether the good that someone like Rob does outweighs the stupid crap that the rest of us are saddled with and have to disavow.

  • It’s something that we need to hear much more. After Hurricane Katrina, when the question loomed, “How could God let this happen?”, many Christians reported that it had reinforced their faiths. You would think it had the opposite effect.

    It’s refreshing to hear his comments even though they seem a little contrived. He does like to look for every opportunity to speak about atheism. But I guess that’s a good thing… I’d say the same after a car accident. “Wow, I’m thankful modern technology has created safer vehicles!”

  • Dan W

    I’d love to see more people thanking the people and things that are actually responsible for saving their lives, rather than thanking imaginary gods. Of course, the same people who give credit to a god for good things never think that the same god might be behind the bad things that happen to them. It’s nice to see a more reasonable response for a change.

  • I’m glad Rob and his family are okay. I like his response. Credit where credit is due.

    Many Atheists are new to Rob. He is not new to the Atheist movement, that’s for sure. He’s spent the last few decades working for state/church separation, and has had some interesting successes along the way.

    For sure, every effective and long-term activist in our movement is fallible, and eventually develops a reputation with some for, among other things, making mistakes. We’re very picky and skeptical people, and we know our movement is free from the scandals that religions are still handicapped by. This sets us all up to have higher expectations from our activists, which is a good thing, overall.

    Sure he’s odd and a little annoying. He’s got energy – which is something that all activists need, and without which, most of them slowly burn out.

    The more we try, the more we accomplish, after wading through the normal pool of our own imperfections in action. Remember something about activism please: It’s not like other jobs. It’s the kind of job that’s a bittersweet adventure, and will make our successes and failures that much more colorful. Another fact about activism is this: If you want it done better, it’s very likely that you are capable of trying. So do that thing! 🙂

  • For years I’ve got Rob Sherman and Micheal Shermer mixed up. I wondered why people where so against Shermer and his excellent books. How embarrassing. I won’t make that mistake again. :}

    Anyway, so he doesn’t believe in gods, good for him. So he’s being proactive about his atheism rather than reactive, good for him. So he’s a brash American with a lot of self confidence, well we can’t all be perfect. 😉

  • Peter Mahoney

    Along similar lines of offering gratitude to a mythical deity instead of appreciating the humans who deserve the praise…. I am sure that I have had literally thousands of meals that started with someone thanking god for the meal but not thanking the cook.

  • You are welcome Rob! We auto engineers spend literally millions of man-hours trying to make cars as safe as possible while still maintaining low cost and weight. Car safety has improved so much over the last two decades that the government/insurance industry is going to start making the testing tougher. Go on… raise that bar… we will just have to jump higher!

    It may sound a bit lame, but I was working from my home one night on a document called a “Failure Mode and Effect Analysis”. This can be a giant and boring document depending on the part being studied. My kid asked me what I was doing and I said “I have to make sure this analysis is correct or else someone might get hurt, or even killed.” Leave it to your kid to put things into perspective.

    I’m not saying we engineers are better than anyone else or anything… but good engineering makes a real difference. For anyone looking for a great career where you can make a difference and be really geeky at the same time… please consider engineering.

  • Guest Pest

    robinottawa Said:

    What gets me is how the superstitious always give god credit for saving them, but never blame for causing the problem in the first place. If god hadn’t caused that accident/tornado/etc, it wouldn’t have had to pull their a@@ out of the fire.

    But then, theists will use the excuse, “God was testing them”, which begs the question, why would an all-knowing god need to test anyone or anything?

  • Udaybhanu Chitrakar

                               God of the Gaps Argument-From a New Perspective
                       I will begin this article with two suppositions: 1) God has created this universe; 2) He has brought man in this universe with some purpose.
             I am not claiming here that these two suppositions are true, or that I can prove them to be true. But I want to show here that if these two suppositions are true, then God will always be the God of the gaps. Anyone who will be reading this article should not forget that there is an “if” clause in the last sentence.
              Now I begin with the supposition that God has created this universe. If God has created this universe, then He could have created it in four different ways: 1) He created it in such a way that there was no necessity for Him to intervene in it after creation, 2) After creation He intervened in it, but these interventions were a bare minimum, that is, He intervened only when these were absolutely necessary. In order to clarify my point here, I will say that He intervened only when He found that without His intervention the universe would come to a standstill, 3) He created the universe in such a way that in order to keep it going He had to make very frequent interventions in it, 4) God’s total intervention after creation.
             If it was the purpose of God to keep mankind crippled in every possible way, then He would have adopted either the third or the fourth way while creating the universe. This is because in these two cases man, in spite of his having sufficient intelligence and reasoning power, will fail to unveil the secrets of nature, because in almost every phenomenon of nature that he will decide to study he will ultimately find that there always remains an unknown factor, for which he will have no explanation. For him the book of nature will thus remain closed for ever. But if it were God’s purpose that man be master of His creation, then it is quite natural for Him that He would try to keep the book of nature as much open to him as possible, so that with the little intelligence he has been endowed with man will be able to decipher the language of nature, and with that acquired knowledge will also be able to improve the material conditions of his life. In that case God will try to adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal from His creation. He will create the universe in such a way that without His intervention the created world will be able to unfold itself. However that does not mean that He will never intervene. He will definitely intervene when without His intervention the created world would become stagnant. In such a scenario man will be able to give an explanation of almost all physical events in scientific language. But in those cases where God has actually intervened, he will fail to do so.
        So I think there is no reason for us to be ashamed of the “God of the gaps” hypothesis. Yes, if God has created the universe, and if God’s purpose was that man be master of His creation, then He would try to keep as little gap in His creation as possible. But the minimum gap that would be ultimately left can never be bridged by any sort of scientific explanation. God will also reside in that gap. Why should we be ashamed of that?
          The whole matter can be seen from another angle. Those who strongly believe that God has created this universe also believe that He has created it alone. Now is it believable that a God, who is capable of creating such a vast universe alone, is not capable enough to keep a proof of His existence in the created world? So I think it is more reasonable to believe that while creating the universe God has also kept a proof of His existence in something created. This proof is open to us all, but we have not found it, because we have not searched for it. So even if it is the case that God has never intervened in the created world after its creation, still then there will be a gap in this natural world, purposefully left by God, for which science will find no explanation. This will be the ultimate gap that can only be filled up by invoking God.
                              So it is quite logical that a God who will create man with some purpose will always prefer to be the God of the gaps. Yes, if we were really created by some God, and if it was not God’s desire that we be some sort of semi-savage beast, then it makes quite a good sense if I say that in that case God would try to keep the book of nature as much open to us as possible (policy of maximum withdrawal). In such a case man will also be able to explain almost everything of nature without invoking God. But then this “ability to explain almost everything of nature without invoking God” will not prove that there is no God, because it might also be the case that this ability itself is God’s design, God’s plan.
             Here I will give an example in order to make my point more clear: Let A be one most obvious fact of nature, and let D be one natural phenomenon that follows from A. Let us also suppose that D does not directly follow from A, but there are some intermediate steps. A causes B, then B causes C, then C causes D. In order to be more precise here let us say that A means dark clouds gathering in the sky, and that D means lightning. We know very well that lightning does not always take place whenever there are dark clouds in the sky. So we will modify the above chain from A to D in this way: A causes B, but B does not always cause C. Instead of C, it sometimes causes C1. When B causes C1, there is no lightning. But when B causes C, in that case only lightning occurs. Now it might be the case that there is a God, and that after creating the universe He has not intervened in it at all. So all the processes from A to D will be natural. In that case if man wills then one day he will be able to understand the whole natural process here. He will understand what lightning is, how and when it occurs, and with that knowledge it can be hoped that one day he will also be able to protect himself and his property from lightning. Now let us suppose that after creation God has frequently intervened in his creation, but his intervention was not total, but only partial. Let us also suppose that God has chosen the above case of lightning for His intervention. That means lightning can never take place unless He wills. When He decides to punish mankind by sending lightning, then only B can cause C, otherwise in every other case B causes C1. In this case the whole chain from A to D will be broken at B. Man will never understand how B can naturally cause C, and so he will never understand how D naturally follows from A. So lightning will forever remain a mystery to him. Now let us suppose that God’s intervention in this universe is total, that is, behind every natural phenomenon there is hand of God. In that case man will understand nothing of nature, and he will remain as ignorant as a savage. In this world his fate will be no better than birds and beasts, and his condition will remain as miserable and helpless as those birds and beasts in the face of natural calamities. But if God wills that man be almost equal to Him in the knowledge of things in nature, and if He also wills that man live in this world with some dignity and not just like birds and beasts, then He will create the universe in such a way that almost all the phenomena in nature can take place naturally without His intervention. In that case He will adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal. He will intervene only in those cases where His intervention is absolutely necessary. One such case is genetic code. Genetic code is information code, and those who believe that there is a God try to make a point here. They say that information code cannot naturally arise from space, time, force, field, matter, energy. Some intelligence is required, and nature does not possess that intelligence. Only God possesses that intelligence, and therefore only God can generate information code. If what they are saying is true, then I will say that man will never understand how information code can arise from space, time, force, field, matter, energy. It will forever remain a mystery to him.
                               My thesis presented here has at least one merit. It can successfully explain as to why nature has opened her secrets to man, whereas proponents of accidental origin of man cannot give any reason as to why nature has done so. If their theory was correct, then man also could have led a life just like other higher primates, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutangs. That man has not done so and that instead he has been able to raise a civilization and lead a life with some dignity and self-respect shows that nature has taken a special care for us and equipped our brain accordingly.                       

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