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Showing posts from June, 2009

God Look-a-Likey

If there is a God I imagine he looks and sounds alot like this ... Those curious numbers and letters in the backgrounds spell out the meaning of life - if you can decode them.

Alister McGrath vs Stephen Law: Does The Natural World Point To God?

Debate - With CFI UK Provost Stephen Law and Alister McGrath, author of The Dawkins Delusion , Dawkins' God , and A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest For God In Science And Theology . Thursday October 29th, 2009. 7pm. Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn London WC1R 4RL - Main Hall. 7pm. £5 on the door (£3 Humanist organizations) Free to Friends of CFI.

UFO speakers

I am looking for good UK-based speakers knowledgeable about alien-related matters - UFOs, SETI, etc. Can anyone recommend anyone? No wackos obviously - I need credible people with some genuine expertise...

Gig on Sunday

I am playing with Ropetrick at the Perch pub in Binsey, nr. Oxford (by Port Meadow) this Sunday (21st June), 1 o'clock. It's part of an all-day music thing going on at the pub.

Gig on Thursday night

I am playing at the Bullingdon Pub (in the Backroom), Cowley Rd Oxford on Thursday night (Ropetrick - last of three bands on, about 10pm-ish I think). Incidentally, does anyone know how I can contact Christina Odone (religious journalist)? Or any other suggestions whom I should invite to Oxford Lit Fest to debate faith schools with me (Jonathan Sacks cannot do it - I asked)? For your interest - I have set up a debate between John Polkinghorne and philosopher David Papineau for the Oxford Lit Festival (title: Does the Universe Reveal The Mind of God?). This should be excellent. And also have booked Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre, Richard Wiseman and also maybe someone v famous that I cannot confirm yet (I am really trying hard to sell this, I admit). More CFI UK events about to be announced too...

God, Poetry and Emotion

[I am repeating this post from earlier, as becoming increasingly relevant to recent discussions of "sophisticated" theology] Following on from the previous post on God and indefinability, I have been thinking a bit more about Sam’s sophisticated theology. I have been suggesting, rather bluntly (!), that Sam is (unwittingly) falling for, and applying, several rhetorical devices in order to try to deal with the problem of evil. These include: (i) Playing the mystery card (See my The God of Eth) (ii) Now you see it, now you don’t (iii) Pseudo-profundity I think there are lots more sleights-of-hand and rhetorical devices in play here, too. Perhaps I should go right through them all in detail at some point. My view (again, to state it bluntly) is that, once you’ve unpacked and disarmed all these various ploys and manoeuvres, what remains – the actual content of theism (to the extent that there actually is any content left in “sophisticated” theism once all the sleights-of-hand

Are the 'New Atheists' avoiding the 'real arguments'?

Great article here from Edmund Standing on the "new Atheists" and how they are shot down by sophisticated theologians. Seems to me Standing has caught Rowan Williams out in a flagrant use of what I call: "now you see it, now you don't" . P.S. "great" should not to be taken to indicate I agree with everything in said article - I don't. But the central point is good, and well made, I think.

The case of the sixth islander

The case of the sixth islander [another extract from a paper I am writing, this time a thought experiment related to the preceding post]. Suppose five people are rescued from a large, otherwise uninhabited island on which they were shipwrecked ten years previously. The shipwrecked party knew that if they survived they would, eventually, be rescued, for they knew the island was a nature reserve visited by ecologists every ten years. As the rescued party recount their stories, they include amazing tales of a sixth member of their party shipwrecked along with them. This person, they claim, soon set himself apart from the others by performing amazing miracles - walking on the sea, miraculously curing one of the islanders who had died from a snakebite, conjuring up large quantities of food from nowhere, and so on. The mysterious sixth islander also had striking and original ethical views that, while unorthodox, were eventually enthusiastically embraced by the other islanders. Eventuall

Extract from paper I am writing on Jesus' historicity

Here is an extract for comments... A skeptical argument I want now to show how our two principles - P1 and P2 - combine with certain plausible empirical claims to deliver a conclusion that very few Biblical scholars are willing to accept. Let me stress at the outset that I am not endorsing the following argument. I present it, not because I am convinced it is cogent, but because I believe it has some prima facie plausibility, and because it is an argument that any historian who believes the available evidence places Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt needs to refute. 1. (P1) Where a claim’s justification derives solely from evidence, extraordinary claims (e.g. concerning supernatural miracles) require extraordinary evidence. In the absence of extraordinary evidence there is good reason to be skeptical about those claims. . 2. There is no extraordinary evidence for any of the extraordinary claims concerning supernatural miracles made in the New Testament documents. 3. There

Message from Simon Singh

I am passing on this message from Singh - please sign statement of support. 1. Court of Appeal and Campaign Launch I am glad to say that on Monday I will apply to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to overturn the recent negative ruling on meaning in my libel case with the British Chiropractic Association. Also, Sense About Science have launched a campaign linked to my libel case and focussing on the need to overhaul the English libel system, which is deeply flawed and which therefore has a chilling effect on journalism. The campaign has issued a statement of support, which has already been signed by an incredible list of people, including James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Sir Martin Rees, Penn & Teller, Stephen Fry, Martin Amis and Steve Jones. It would be terrific if you would also sign up to the statement and (better still) encourage others to sign up. It is conceivable that this campaign could help reform the English libel laws (which unfortunately affect overse

Hubertus Stelzer

A friend in Bavaria. Other photos on my flickr site.

The Evil God Challenge

My paper The Evil God Challenge - the long, academic version of The God of Eth , has been accepted by Religious Studies . As it has now been accepted for publication, I am also posting it for anyone to look at. The copyright now belongs to CUP. Go here . Be warned - it is 10K words!

CofE spokesman misleads on Today programme

This from philosopher Simon Blackburn (passed on with his permission): Some of you may have heard on yesterday's Today programme a C of E spokesman, George Pitcher, say and repeat that there is no palliative care in Holland as a result of their legislation on euthanasia. He was not challenged by the presenter or by Lord Falconer, who is seeking a change in the law governing assistance (which at present renders a carer liable to up to 14 years in prison). For interest, I gave evidence for the BHA to Lord Joffe's committee who looked into this matter when he was seeking to change the law in 2004 - 5. I have the extremely thorough and impressive report and evidence volumes in front of me. The evidence from Dutch professionals was unambiguous that palliative care increased massively in Holland from 1995 onwards, and partly as a result of their euthanasia legislation has continued to develop. Palliative care is not a speciality in Dutch medicine but is part of all healt

Virtual world lecture and Q&A on Second Life this Saturday

This Saturday I'll be presenting a lecture and a short Q&A thereafter about my book, "The War for Children's Minds", at The Open Habitat Project, a Second Life programme promoting science, reason and critical thinking. I'll be discussing my book at Open Habitat on Saturday, 6 June, from 19:30 to 20:15 GMT (or 11:30 to 12:15 PDT). If you are familiar with Second Life then you can follow the SLURL link below to reach the island. If you are unfamiliar with how Second Life works, please see the information below: Open Habitat Amphitheatre SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Open%20Habitat/132/204/25 The organizers have provided the following information: Second Life is 3D interactive ‘world’ in which you are represented by an avatar. If you have ever played a computer game, or an X-Box or something to that effect where you have a character/avatar within the game that you control – that is essentially what it is like in Second Life – the main difference being t

Andrew Brown on secularism

I have only just noticed this old piece by Andrew Brown. Brown writes (slightly patronizingly) about disagreements at a meeting of the Council of Ex-Muslims at Conway Hall: "The only time these disagreements were overcome was when someone made a little speech about how no one minded religion as a private activity: it was only obnoxious when the religious tried to force their opinions on everyone else. The whole hall joined in applauding this sentiment, so obviously and unarguably right. Perhaps it's just my limited tolerance for high-mindedness that gave me a sudden flash of insight that this doctrine was in fact obviously and unarguably wrong." Actually, I think Brown is wrong and the applauded doctrine was largely right. In this article it becomes clear that Brown (though perhaps also his target) is muddling up the kind of secularism (my kind) that makes equal public space for religious and non-religious views without privileging either [and which says you shouldn&

Tim Chambers on rape and sex

NO, YOU CAN’T STEAL A KISS Timothy Chambers Here, Timothy Chambers argues that rape is not a sex act. In a piece further down, I suggest that it is. I guess my first feminist role-model was Marilyn Sokol. She played ‘Stella,’ the boisterous best friend to Goldie Hawn’s ‘Gloria,’ in the 1978 blockbuster, Foul Play. I first saw it when I was eight or nine years old. There’s a scene where Gloria reveals that she gave a ride to a hitchhiker. Stella is incredulous. ‘Really, Gloria! Do you know the percentages of rapes from hitchhikers?!...And look at you, with no protection.’ (By ‘protection,’ Stella means mace or brass knuckles, both of which she owns.) ‘Well,’ Gloria considers, the hitchhiker ‘didn’t seem to be after sex.’ ‘Rape is not an act of sex,’ Stella booms. ‘Rape is an act of violence! Remember that.’ I can’t speak for Gloria, but I surely remembered it. I’m reminded of it every so often. In her tantalizing attempt to define sex (entitled, ‘