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Showing posts from September, 2011

“BUT I JUST KNOW!”

(this is adapted from my book Believing Bullshit - compressed version of the chapter of the same title) Bush’s gut Notoriously, during George W. Bush’s presidency, Bush’s gut became the oracle of the State. Bush was distrustful of book learning and those with established expertise in a given area. When Bush made the decision to invade Iraq, and was subsequently confronted by a skeptical audience, Bush said that ultimately, he just knew in his gut that invading was the right thing to do. As writer Rich Procter noted prior to the invasion: Now we're preparing to invade a country in the middle of the most volatile "powder-keg" region on earth. We're going to toss out our history of using military force only when provoked. We're going to launch a "pre-emptive" invasion that violates two hundred-plus years of American history and culture. We're on the verge of becoming a fundamentally different kind of nation - an aggressive, "go-it-alone"

Heythrop College, University of London

If you are thinking of studying philosophy, or have students thinking of doing so, and want to find at more about studying at Heythrop College University of London - get in touch. I am tutor for admissions for the BA in Philosophy. Heythrop is a small institution specializing in Philosophy and Theology. It's compact and friendly and in a beautiful central London location - Kensington Square. As I pointed out in recent letter to The Independent , it's also a pretty extraordinary place, offering Oxbridge style tuition but for rather lower fees. Dominic Lawson ("A Private Sector Oxbridge? Not Exactly" 7th June) rightly celebrates the one-to-one tutorial system, offered by Oxford and Cambridge, which he describes as "the single most valuable aspect of their educational offering". But Lawson is wrong to say the system is only offered by Oxford and Cambridge. It is also offered by Heythrop College, University of London for undergraduate degrees in philosophy a

The “free market thinktanks” and their secret funders are a threat to democracy

By George Monbiot . Published in the Guardian 13th September 2011 Nadine Dorries won’t answer it. Lord Lawson won’t answer it. Michael Gove won’t answer it. But it’s a simple question, and if they don’t know it’s because they don’t want to. Where does the money come from? All are connected to groups whose purpose is to change the direction of public life. None will reveal who funds them. When she attempted to restrict abortion counselling, Nadine Dorries MP was supported by a group called Right to Know. When other MPs asked her who funds it, she claimed she didn’t know(1,2). Lord Lawson is chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which casts doubt on climate science. It demands “openness and transparency” from scientists(3). Yet he refuses to say who pays, on the grounds that the donors “do not wish to be publicly engaged in controversy.”(4) Michael Gove was chairman of Policy Exchange, an influential conservative thinktank. When I asked who funded Policy Exchange when he r

Let's move to Sweden

Much current economic wisdom has it that the high taxing, high public spending, highly redistributive, bank-and-finance-regulating countries will be those that suffer most in the current economic crisis. They need to get lean and mean and cut, cut, cut, and free-up their financial sectors to remain economically competitive and healthy. Their economies need "rebalancing". State-heavy, socialist Sweden must surely be having a particularly terrible time, for example. STOCKHOLM (MarketWatch) — Residents of this capital radiate a sense of well-being and it’s not only because they live in a beautiful city built on 14 islands that draws comparisons to Venice. It’s also because they call home one of Europe’s fastest growing economies. The success of this export-oriented Nordic nation is noteworthy, because it’s in stark contrast to the debt woes plaguing Greece, Portugal and other southern euro-zone countries. Sweden is a member of the European Union, but it has chosen to keep its

Quotes needed

I am looking for good, pithy quotes from theists acknowledging that the various arguments for the existence of God are inconclusive or even poor (even though they think that doesn't matter). If you have examples (with sources), could you email me direct rather than stick them here? Email address above. Thanks...

Finsteraarhorn

Another video I made on Finsteraarhorn couple of weeks ago. Can be viewed full screen and in 720pHD for the full effect.

What is the Tory party for - really?

This time round with the Conservatives, it seems to me more obvious than ever that the party is, like the Republican party in the US, in essence nothing more than an organization devoted first and foremost to helping out the very, very rich, and big business, often at the expense of everyone else. The real expertise of the party lies in dressing up policies designed to favour what the rich/big business perceive to be in their short-term interest as really being about "fairness". This was masterfully done in the case of the Higher Education reforms, which stuffed the middle classes financially, saved the highest rate tax payers a fortune for generations, offered big business all sorts of opportunities, but dressed it all up as "Why should a postman have to pay for your university education?" That was quite brilliant PR. Ditto the ongoing cuts which were 50% higher again than even Darling wanted (who was in turn much more pro-big-cuts than Balls and Brown), which w

John Gray: Can Religion Tell Us More Than Science?

From BBC website ... When he recounts the story of his conversion to Catholicism in his autobiography A Sort of Life, Graham Greene writes that he went for instruction to Father Trollope, a very tall and very fat man who had once been an actor in the West End. Trollope was a convert who became a priest and led a highly ascetic life, and Greene didn't warm to him very much, at least to begin with. Yet the writer came to feel that in dealing with his instructor he was faced with "the challenge of an inexplicable goodness". It was this impression - rather than any of the arguments the devout Father presented to the writer for the existence of God - that eventually led to Greene's conversion. The arguments that were patiently rehearsed by Father Trollope faded from his memory, and Greene had no interest in retrieving them. "I cannot be bothered to remember," he writes. "I accept." It's clear that what Green accepted wasn't what he called &

Gig on Tuesday night

I am playing with the Heavy Dexters at the Bullingdon Arms pub in Oxford, this coming Tuesday (20th Sept). It's a pretty good venue in the back room with stage PA, light rig, etc. By the way our website with demo etc. is here . Available for weddings, bar mitzvahs etc.! It's on the Cowley Road. Live jazz plus DJs playing r'n'b, funk and soul 9.30pm-midnight. DJ set till 2am. Free entry The Bullingdon Arms, 162 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1UE; Tel. 01865 244516.

GOING NUCLEAR

Chpt 2 of my book "Believing Bullshit" which you should rush off and buy. New Scientist interview here . Newsweek interview here . Suppose Mike is involved in a debate about the truth of his own particular New Age belief system. Things are not going well for him. Mike’s arguments are being picked apart, and, worse still, his opponents have come up with several devastating objections that he can’t deal with. How might Mike get himself out of this bind? One possibility is to adopt the strategy I call Going Nuclear. Going Nuclear is an attempt to unleash an argument that lays waste to every position, bringing them all down to the same level of “reasonableness”. Mike might try to force a draw by detonating a philosophical argument that achieves what during the Cold War was called “mutually assured destruction”, in which both sides in the conflict are annihilated. There are two main variants of Going Nuclear: skeptical and relativist. I’ll begin with some skeptical versio

UPDATE TO CONSPIRACY THEORY DAY

CONSPIRACY THEORY DAY – update Unfortunately David Aaronavitch appears unlikely to be available after all (through no fault of his) and so we have arranged a slightly revised programme (that can still be further amended should David prove available). The new addition is Ian R Crane, a former oilfield executive who is a described as a “Researcher, Writer and Presenter in Deep Geopolitics” where "geographic, economic, social, political and spiritual issues conjoin". Crane’s website notes of his presentations that "once you understand the eventual goal for the global society, then actions in the present, which seem irrational or bizarre, become far easier to comprehend". He will be responding to the other speakers, bringing a different outlook on conspiracy theories. We hope this will produce an interesting exchange of views at the end of the day. Stephen Law Provost CFI UK 10.30 Registration 10.45-11.55 Chris French and Robert Brotherton “Conspiracy Minded: The P

Go to Amnesty website...

This does seem important and worth a minute of your time... Spread the word about Troy's case This is Troy Davis's last chance. Remember: - 0 physical evidence - 6 witnesses have recanted their testimonies - 7 out of 9 witnesses say another committed the murder There are so many additional doubts around Troy's case. Executing him would be a horrendous and irreversable act of injustice. We need as many people as possible to let the Georgia state board of pardons and parole know that the world is watching. Please take a minute to encourage others to take action by emailing them via this page. Thank you for your support. Go here .

Playing drums with Heavy Dexters...

on 24th Sept straight after Conspiracy Theory Day. We are also playing at the Bullingdon Pub in East Oxford on Tuesday, September 20 at 10:00pm - 12:00.

Conspiracy theory day - is part of a conspiracy! Come and join...

Just to remind you of this upcoming event I've organized as Provost of CFI UK. One speaker may be unavailable, but should know shortly. I note that some on the internet have this event down as part of a conspiracy. Of which I must be the evil mastermind, mwahahahaha!!! Example: "So... 'Conspiracy Theory Day'...an innocent get-together of like-minded folk, or something far darker?..." "The more I think about this, the more unsettled I become. Look at the backgrounds of those appearing at the event..." Am anticipating possible disruption from those seeking to tell us The Truth. Not sure whether this will prove entertaining or irritating. Advice welcome. Of course there's opportunity for all and sundry to ask questions. CFI UK and SPES present CONSPIRACY THEORY DAY Sunday 25th September 2011 9/11, alien visitation, Jewish cabals and global warming - why are people drawn to conspiracy theories, and what holds them captive? What are the warning

Telescopes offer evidence of Bible's creation story

At Christian Post. NASA Telescopes Offer Evidence of Bible's Creation Story, Says Author By Jeff Schapiro, Christian Post Reporter Several thousand years ago, long before spaceflight and advanced telescopic technology, a description of how God formed and created the Earth was penned in the Book of Genesis. Today, author Paul Hutchins says that the discoveries of NASA's Hubble and Spitzer telescopes provide convincing scientific evidence that supports that biblical description. Paul Hutchins is the author of the book, 'Hubble Reveals Creation by an Awe-Inspiring Power,' which offers scientific evidence that the Genesis account of creation is true. Paul Hutchins is the author of the book, 'Hubble Reveals Creation by an Awe-Inspiring Power,' which offers scientific evidence that the Genesis account of creation is true. While doing research for a book about the imagination of man, Hutchins came across images of the Sombrero Galaxy. It is about half the siz

“YOU CAN’T PROVE A NEGATIVE”

[From my new book "Believing Bullshit".] Let’s now turn to a variant of “it’s beyond science/reason to decide.” One reason why some suppose science and reason are incapable of establishing beyond reasonable doubt that certain supernatural claims—for example, that fairies or angels or spirit beings exist—are false, is that they assume you can’t prove a negative. Indeed this is widely supposed to be some sort of “law of logic.” For example, Georgia minister Dr. Nelson L. Price asserts on his website that “one of the laws of logic is that you can’t prove a negative.” If Price is correct and this is indeed a law of logic, then of course it immediately follows that we can’t prove that there are no fairies, angels, or spirit beings, or, indeed, that there is no god. We will have established that the nonexistence of God is indeed beyond the ability of reason and/or science to establish! The fact is, however, that this supposed “law of logic” is no such thing. As Steven D. Hales

Scientists who reject evolution?

This is an excellent video by someone who has put time and effort into exposing a typical bit of Discovery Institute propaganda.

Sally Morgan reported as covertly receiving information on stage

FROM THE RTE RADIO ONE WEBSITE, TODAY Monday 12th September 2011 Listen Back "Sue went to see psychic Sally Morgan last night in the Grand Canal Theatre. She was great in the first half but during the second half Sue began to hear somebody talking loudly at the back of where she was sitting. She thought it was somebody heckling but she soon realised that everything he said Sally was repeating on stage. He would say a name like David and she would repeat it onstage. Other callers who were also at the show tell of similar experiences." Can be heard this week on listen back here (you need realplayer). Scroll down to "Liveline podcast- Psychic". My thanks to anonymous. £40 a ticket. "There were people there that were really grieving". Confirms my earlier suspicions. Here's a video of her doing her highly lucrative thing a while ago.

Secularism

This guy gets it. It's not an anti-religion thing, as he explains very well.

Upcoming debate with William Lane Craig

For tickets go here: http://www.premier.org.uk/craig

Finsteraarhorn

I am just back from Switzerland (midnight yesterday) after great week glacier trekking and climbing in Bernese Oberland. Started at one end of the massif and worked out way across to the other. Got to see the Jungfraujoch where I went sledging with my 5 year old just a few weeks ago while staying in Wengen. We had a shot at the Finsteraarhorn at 4200 metres, but there was too much snow on the ridge for us to get right to the top in time available. Frustrating but it was a cool day out and spectacular scenery. It was like a Grade 2 Scottish winter climb, not a PD scramble. Unfortunately I must now get back to work. Here's the first video clip I took high on the ridge visible in the above photo. Howard on another bit lower down... This vid shows the route - up the top slanting glacier from the right and up the final rock ridge.

Newsweek magazine article on my book...

Philosopher of B.S. Sep 4, 2011 10:00 AM EDT British academic Stephen Law is intent on warning people about the perils of bullshit. First, a credulity test. Do you believe the Bible foretold the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Or that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy? Or that, despite the fossil record, the world is less than 10,000 years old? If so, the news is bad. Chances are you’ve tumbled into “an intellectual black hole,” the favored term of British philosophy professor Stephen Law for a mental accident that’s dangerously common and is “capable of sucking people in and holding them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap.” Your wacky belief may seem reasonable to you; be assured, it isn’t. Now, the good news. Law’s latest work, Believing Bullshit, sets out a spotter’s guide to the standard techniques of intellectual quackery, to help the unwitting among us. Continues here...

The riots-not-linked-to-poverty fallacy

Did poverty play a significant causal role in the riots? Those who would prefer this was not true often employ the following argument - they say, "ah, but these other poor people didn't riot, so poverty cannot be the cause." So for example, David Cameron: "These riots were not about poverty. That insults the millions of people who, whatever the hardship, would never dream of making others suffer like this." Letter to Newsweek magazine: " Saskia Sassen blames conditions in disadvantaged areas for the UK riots, ignoring urban areas for the UK riots, ignoring that other deprived regions - Glasgow, Tyneside, South Wales - didn't riot. " By the same logic we could also show that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer. "Smoking clearly wasn't the cause of Dave's lung cancer. After all, Mary, John and Peter also smoke and they didn't get lung cancer, did they?" Poverty may or not be a causal factor re the riots (obviously it wa