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Showing posts from January, 2009

Sye is back - and telling fibs?

If you were reading this blog last July/August you will remember a very, very long exchange between myself and Sye, of Sinner Ministries . Sye has a "proof" of God which is based on "presuppositonal apologetics". We spent ages - two or three weeks and over 30 main posts - slowly and carefully unpacking Sye's arguments and rispostes, until, eventually, he was left with nowhere to run. I kind of enjoyed doing it, but some of you got highly irritated, I know. Anyway, the 30 odd posts can be found listed under "sinner ministries" on my sidebar menu. Well, Sye now turns up on the debunking atheists website where he is peddling the exact same arguments, winding people up all over again. When one commentator mentioned that I had dealt with a point Sye raised on this blog, Sye, I'm told, said: "I guess you haven't been paying attention Dale. We discussed my time at Stephen Law's blog at an earlier entry here, and also the fact that he n

New York City - accom. required

I am in Manhattan nights of the 8th and 9th of April 2009 (and am around daytime 9th, flying to Washington evening of 10th) and need some cheap accommodation. If anyone can recommend anything do please let me know. I'll also happily speak, do school event, etc. if you buy me a burger!

Klug - Not in My Name

My colleague Brian Klug has posted a couple of pieces on the Guardian comment is free section, which may be of interest (whether or not you agree with them). I paste one in here. The link to the other is here: For many Jews today, Israel is not a normal state - it is a cause or ideal. Not in My Name NOT IN MY NAME In the midst of the carnage in Gaza, it defies belief that my synagogue has asked me to march in solid support of Israel Brian Klug In any conflict between peoples, there is a time for balancing the books, for placing facts neatly in the debit and credit columns, for issuing measured statements about the rights and wrongs on both sides. But not in the midst of one-sided carnage. The only decent thing to feel at the present time is outrage. The only thing for decent people to do right now is to condemn, without reserve or qualification, the brutal campaign that the Israeli military is waging against the population of Gaza. Every if and but derogates from decency. Ear

Atheist bus complaint rejected

More news on Stephen Green's silly complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency about the atheist bus adverts which say "There's probably no God". Green said: "Advertisements are not allowed to mislead consumers. This means that advertisers must hold evidence to prove the claims they make about their products or services before an ad appears." The above complaint resulted in this verdict: "The ASA council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser's opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation. Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence." I disagree with this verdict because I believe the claim on the buses is capable of objective substantiation. Indeed, it's substantiated. Source here.

A Level Philosophy One day Conferences 2009

A Level Philosophy One day Conferences 2009 Programme - Thursday 5th March 2009 and Friday 6th March 2009 10.30 Registration 11.00 Chris Horner: Ethics tips for A Level 12.00 Nigel Warburton (Philosophy: The Basics; Philosophy: The Classics): Mill and Plato on Freedom 1.00 - 2.00 Lunch break 2.00 Stephen Law (The Philosophy Files, The Philosophy Gym): Descartes proof that he is not his body 3.00 Michael Lacewing (co-author of Philosophy for AS Level): The origin of God 4.00 End VENUE: The venue is Heythrop College, Kensington Square, London W5 8HX, which is just a two minute walk from Kensington High Street tube station. COST: £16 per student/teacher. Bookings will be accepted via e mail at and post. Please note that payment must be received within ten days or the booking will be automatically cancelled. Cheques should be made payable to HEYTHROP COLLEGE. Please note that fees are non-refundable. Confirmation of your booking will be se

Reviews of CFI WEIRD SCIENCE event

Martin has been kind enough to put up links to various reviews of the Weird Science event we put on last Saturday. I had a great time... My talk was probably the most "serious" - Wiseman and French were very funny, as usual, and Ben Goldacre said the "F" word. All three talks were genuinely excellent. Go here . Here is Richard Wiseman's video of the amazing floating cork, which he used in his talk. And also Wiseman's amazing colour-change card trick. Our next event is God in The Lab , on 21st March. For details go to

"Religion is false, but useful!" Comment on Matthew Parris on religion

Following on from the previous piece , which was a response to Matthew Parris's piece "As an Atheist, I truly Believe Africa Needs God" , a few more thoughts on using religion as a social tool. Perhaps the right way to think about religion as a tool is as a catalyst . It does seem to have a supercharging power. Take our tendency to strive to improve our collective lot, to be benevolent and caring, etc. Add a pinch of religion, and the tendency is magnified. However, the catalytic power works just as well with negative tendencies, such as the desire to dominate and exploit. Take the subjugation of women, mix in a few drops of the heady brew of religion, and watch how much more entrenched and hard-to-shift the subjugation becomes; add a few drops more, and watch how some become sufficiently intoxicated to start flinging acid in the faces of young girls who dare to attend school. Add a dollop of religion to homophobia, and suddenly the attitude becomes far more difficult t

Matthew Parris on religion - false, but useful!

Matthew Parris' piece , in which he suggest that, though he is an atheist, he thinks religion is a powerful tool for good in Africa, something he recommends we foster and encourage, has predictably provoked responses from atheists. See previous post. My small contribution here is just to repeat and edited part of my earlier post Is Religion Dangerous . The moral I wish to draw is, obviously, that even if religion can be a highly powerful and useful tool, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to use it. Many, including Keith Ward, recommend religion for social engineering purposes. They claim that (i) it helps build a sense of community, (ii) it makes people happier and healthier, and (iii) it makes them better behaved [more highly motivated to do good, etc.]. Suppose it does. Even if it were useful in these ways, it seems to me there are nevertheless special dangers attaching to the use of religion as a tool. Religion is immensely powerful and can behave in un

Response to Matthew Parris from Norm Allen

Source: Africa Needs More Human-Centered Thought and Activism Norm Allen On December 27, 2008, the self-professed atheist Matthew Parris argued for religion in Africa in The Times Online, headquartered in the UK. In his article titled “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God,” he spoke glowingly of “the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa….” I readily admit that missionaries have done some great work in Africa—building roads, clinics, schools, etc. However, missionaries in recent years have also enriched themselves while exploiting the masses, discouraged millions of Africans from using condoms, thereby increasing unwanted pregnancies and the spread of Aids, promoted sexism, contributed greatly to the persecution and deaths of alleged witches, etc. Indeed, Africa provides the perfect example of what Robert Ingersoll said about the historic role of the Catholic Church: “In one hand she carried the alms dish, in the other, the dagger.” The same co

Train woes

It's almost 5pm. I am supposed to be live on Little Atoms radio show at 7pm (studio nr. Borough tube station, London), but I went into Oxford railway station at 4.30pm to find there are no trains to London. Now sitting on the bus (which has wireless) but I think it's a long shot I'll make it. Annoying. But they have promised to plug tomorrow's WEIRD SCIENCE event in anycase.

How Many British Schools Are Covertly Teaching Young Earth Creationism "As Fact"?

The recent revelation that about 30% of secondary school teachers want "creationism" taught in schools reminded me of the results of a survey reported back in 2006, which is still one of the most disturbing educational surveys I've ever seen. If you are not aware of it, it's worth checking out. Go here . The original tables of results of the Opinionpanel survey are here (scroll down to 2006) Students from British Universities were surveyed on a range of questions, including whether they were Young Earth Creationists, and whether Young Earth Creationism had been taught to them by their parents, school, sunday school, etc. Amazingly, 12% of these undergrads were Young Earth Creationists. But the real stand-out statistic for me was that 19% of students said that they had been taught Young Earth Creationism "as fact" in school. 19%! One in five students. We are not talking mostly Muslim schools either. The figure for those who were of other non-Christia

Gene Stolzfus talks over next weeks

As you may know I wrote this piece looking at non-violent solutions to the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict for my book Israel, Palestine and Terror. This guy is giving talks on the subject around the country in next week or two. This is just for your information. Of course, he is a Christian and the venues are all Christian but I am sure they let heathens in. PRESS RELEASE Pioneering Christian peace activist and organizer Gene Stoltzfus will be in Britain and Ireland from 16 January 2009, speaking about nonviolent intervention in situations of conflict and injustice. With the tragedy unfolding in Gaza, the trip could not be more timely. The visit is part of a larger tour. Gene Stoltzfus was the director of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) since its founding in 1988 until September 2004. CPT trains and places violence reduction teams in high conflict situations like Iraq, the West Bank, Colombia and various native or indigenous communities in the United States and Canada. In the


I'll be live on London's Resonance FM radio show called Little Atoms, which is a live chat show about rationalism, humanism and science. 7-7.30pm. Each show features a guest from the worlds of science, journalism, politics, academia, human rights or the arts in conversation. This Friday it's me - I'll obviously be plugging the WEIRD SCIENCE event on Saturday (details at

Christian complains about atheist buses

Stephen Green of Christian Voice has complained to the advertizing Standards Authority about the Atheist Bus Campaign. 800 buses carry an advert saying "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Green has challenged the adverts on grounds of ‘truthfulness’ and ‘substantiation’, suggesting that there is not ‘a shred of supporting evidence’ that there is probably no god. See the BHA's response here . This could be a lot of fun. Suppose Green wins - then the BHA can complain about adverts saying "God loves you" etc. on the very same grounds.

Institute of Ideas Event

From Fatwa and Book-Burning to Jihad and Hate Laws: Twenty Years of Free-Speech Wars Thursday 12 February 2009, 7-9pm @ Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4QH Two speakers will give lectures exploring the impact of the Rushdie affair on our perceptions of free speech, multiculturalism and Islam: Kenan Malik, author, From Fatwa to Jihad: the Salman Rushdie affair and its legacy (forthcoming) Tariq Modood MBE, professor of sociology, Bristol University; director, University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship Claire Fox will then chair a panel debating the issues and the audience will also have their say in what promises to be a lively discussion. Respondents include: Jo Glanville, editor, Index on Censorship Stephen Law, Provost, Centre for Inquiry London Amol Rajan, reporter at the Independent This event is in association with Index on Censorship and Bishopsgate Institute Info + tickets

Face to Faith

Here is something from today's Guardian - the Face to Faith section. I have asked if I can respond... The source is here . SCIENCE CAN'T EXPLAIN THE BIG BANG by Thomas Crowley You reported a recent poll which indicates about 25% of UK teachers support the teaching of creationism in secondary school science courses (Would you Adam and Eve it? Quarter of science teachers would teach creationism, 23 December). In a sidebar, Professor Richard Dawkins states that it would be a "national disgrace" if such a high percentage of teachers believe this, adding that the teachers must be either "stupid" or "ignorant". But an important point of confusion involves the poor use of the term "creationism" in the original poll question: "Alongside the theory of evolution and the big bang theory, creationism should be taught in science lessons." The question is ambiguous because there are at least two interpretations of "creationism"

Face to Faith piece

Just stumbled over this old unpublished piece. It was submitted for Face to Faith in The Guardian, but the old editor of that section reacted in a very hostile manner! Of course, it cover stuff I have written about in depth elsewhere. Face to Faith Stephen Law The smoke generated by the battle over faith schools has obscured a far more fundamental dispute – that between liberals and authoritarians. Liberals believe individuals should be encouraged to think independently and make their own judgements about, say, whether stealing from supermarkets is wrong or if Jesus literally rose from the dead. Authoritarians believe individuals, and particularly children, should defer to some external authority that can make these judgments for them. The issue here is freedom of thought, not freedom of action. We can all agree children shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever they like. But should they be encouraged to think freely. Liberals say yes. Authoritarians are far less enthusiastic. This li