Saturday, April 30, 2011

Intellectual Black Holes talk Sunday 8th May

I am speaking at Conway Hall Sunday 8th May 11am. Details here.

Start: 8 May 2011 11:00

Intellectual Black Holes

Dr Stephen Law
Sunday 8th May, 11am

Wacky and ridiculous belief systems abound. The Heaven’s Gate suicide cult promised members a ride to heaven on board a UFO. Advanced students of scientology are taught that 75 million years ago, Xenu, alien ruler of a “Galactic Confederacy”, brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft shaped like Douglas DC-10 airplanes and stacked them around volcanoes which he then blew up with hydrogen bombs. Even mainstream religions have people believing absurdities. Preachers have promised 72 heavenly virgins to suicide bombers. Others insist the entire universe is just 6,000 years old (extraordinarily, polls consistently indicate this belief is currently held by about 45% of US citizens – that’s around 130 million individuals). And of course it’s not only cults and religions that promote bizarre beliefs. Significant numbers of people believe in astrology, the amazing powers of TV psychics, astrology, crystal divination, the healing powers of magnets, the prophecies of Nostradamus, that the pyramids were built by aliens, that the Holocaust never happened, and that the World Trade Centre was brought down by the US Government.

How do such ridiculous views succeed in entrenching themselves in people’s minds? How are wacky belief systems able to take sane, intelligent, college-educated people and turn them into the willing slaves of claptrap? How, in particular, do the true believers manage to convince themselves that they are the rational, reasonable ones and that everyone else is deluded? Cosmologists talk about black-holes, objects so gravitationally powerful that nothing, not even light, can escape from them. Unwary space travellers passing too close will find themselves sucked in.

Our contemporary cultural landscape contains numerous intellectual black-holes – belief systems constructed in such a way that unwary passers-by can similarly find themselves drawn in. While those of us lacking robust intellectual and other psychological defences will be most easily trapped by such self-sealing bubbles of belief, even the most intelligent and educated of us are potentially vulnerable. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers have fallen in, never to escape. If you find yourself encountering a belief system in which several of these mechanisms feature prominently, be wary. Alarm bells should be going off and warning lights flashing. For you may now be approaching the event horizon of an intellectual black hole.

Dr Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, editor of Think and the author of numerous books including Humanism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2011).

South Place Ethical Society, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL ● Tel: 020 7242 8031

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Swinburne and Philipse, May 10th.

I am chairing this event. Hope to see some of you there...












CFI UK and South Place Ethical Society present:

Public Debate

Does Science Support Belief In God?

Prof. Herman Philipse vs Prof. Richard Swinburne

Chair: Stephen Law

Tuesday May 10th, 7-9pm.


Main Hall, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square. Holborn London WC1R 4RL

£3 on the door. £2 students. Free entry to CFI UK friends (i.e. season ticket holders).

An evening with two of the world’s most powerful and respected thinkers from either side of the theism/atheism divide. Topics likely to be addressed include: Does the orderliness of the universe point to a designer? Do discoveries in neuroscience, cosmology and other branches of empirical science reveal evidence of the hand of God?

Richard Swinburne is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Religion at the University of Oxford. Over the last 50 years, Prof. Swinburne has established himself as one of world’s foremost philosophers of religion. He is an influential proponent of natural theology, that is, philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Prof. Swinburne’s “Is There A God?” has been translated into 14 languages.

Herman Philipse Is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, and one of the world’s leading atheist thinkers. Philipse’s 1995 Atheist Manifesto was republished in an expanded edition in 2004 with a foreword by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who partly credits the book for her shift from Islam to atheism. Philipse’s forthcoming book "God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason" will be published by OUP in 2011/12.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Race, Class, Intelligence and Genes - bit more

Following on from previous post I just had an amusing thought.

Assuming anonymous's premises

(1) intelligent people are more likely to end up in high paid jobs, and
(ii) intelligence is partly inherited (genetic)

He (I assume a "he" - don't know why) concludes that the children of the higher paid are more likely to be intelligent, on average. That's true, other things being equal.

However, anonymous then goes on to claim this shows kids of working class people are less intelligent on average. That does not follow. The conclusion certainly isn't "unavoidable", as anon claimed.

If 2 groups A and B (e.g. black and white, working class and middle class, gays and straights, whatever) make a up the population, but group A members are largely or wholly prevented from competing effectively for intelligent, higher paid jobs because of non-genetic factors, then yes, those in such jobs will be more intelligent on average than the members of either group A or B on average.

However there's clearly no reason as yet to suppose that, as the children of group A don't show up much in those jobs, the children of group B are, on average, more intelligent than those of group A.

Moreover, and this is the amusing bit, if there's no independent, prior reason for supposing the members of group B are genetically more intelligent than group A on average, we can also conclude those in group B who are not in intelligent jobs will then be LESS intelligent on average than those in group A.

So, assuming no prior reason to suppose working class people are innately less intelligent, anonymous's premises should lead us to suppose that, other things being equal, those middle class people not in intelligent jobs will be less intelligent on average than working class people. This is because they have actually been weeded out on the basis of lower intelligence, whereas the members of group A - the working classes - largely have not.

So, knowing what we do about the way non-genetic factors prevent both black and working class people from competing effectively for the intelligent jobs, we should conclude that the children of middle class people/white people not in intelligent higher paid jobs will be LESS intelligent than those of working class people/black people, on average.

This would account for Tim, nice but dim, syndrome.

Yet Woodhead claims it's primarily lack of innate intelligence which explains why many kids are uninterested in his lessons, disruptive, etc. Actually, if it's lack of innate intelligence which supposedly produces such problem behaviour, it should actually be the kids of the middle-classes-not-in-intelligent-jobs whom Woodhead should be singling out.

Yet he just ignores the obvious non-genetic factors preventing working class kids from competing effectively for intelligent jobs, and jumps to the conclusion that the children of the working classes are less intelligent, on average.

That does say a lot about him, I'd suggest.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Race, class and intelligence

Following on from previous two posts with many comments - including my interchange with anon - here is a new thread.

Hi Anon

So your argument is:

Premise 1: Intelligent people are more likely to get high-paid jobs.
Premise 2: Intelligence is partially due to genetics.
Conclusion: People in high-paid jobs will have children who are, on average, more intelligent than those of people in low-paid jobs.

In addition you say: “most people in well-paid jobs would be considered middle-class.”

Thus you conclude that middle class children will be more intelligent than working class children, on average. Indeed, I believe you earlier said the conclusion was “unavoidable”.

It is certainly avoidable.

Consider 2 populations A and B, who do not interbreed if at all. They have the same level of inherited intelligence.

Suppose that those getting high paid jobs are drawn almost exclusively from group B. Group A is, for various reasons other than innate intelligence, nobbled when it comes to competing effectively for those high paid jobs.

However, all those in Group B can compete more or less fairly for those jobs. If premise 1 is true, those in group B who are more intelligent will more likely end up in the high pad jobs.

Given premise 2 we can conclude that the children of those in high paid jobs will be more intelligent, on average. In fact they will be more intelligent on average than those in either group A or B. (this is the bit anon is correct about)

Yet group A is not genetically less intelligent than group B. From the conclusion that the children of those in the higher paid jobs are more intelligent on average, plus the fact that those in group A fail to show up much in those jobs, it does not follow that the children of group A are genetically less intelligent on average.

So now we can see why the fact that e.g. black people fail to show up in high aid jobs does not entail their kids will be genetically less intelligent.

Other factors may be preventing black people from competing effectively for the high paid jobs. And in fact it’s pretty obvious what those factors are: cultural baggage, discrimination on basis of culture and skin colour, other factors determining intelligence affecting their final IQ, etc.

Anyone knowing this stuff would be bigoted or foolish to conclude that, given they fail to show up much in the high paid jobs, black people are innately less intelligent, (this would be true even if they have no other data about intelligence and race that led them to think black people are of equal innate intelligence).

But of course exactly the same kind of factors affect class too. There are many obvious reasons why working class kids with high innate intelligence will only rarely show up in the high paid jobs. My contention is anyone knowing that would similarly be bigoted or foolish to conclude that working class kids are innately less intelligent ob average, given their parents fail to show up much in the high paid jobs (even if they have no other data about intelligence and class).

However, this is where you, anon, pull, a fast one, saying, in effect: “Aha! but race is not defined by reference to holding high paid jobs, whereas class partly is. So that’s why it is reasonable for me to conclude – indeed the conclusion is unavoidable – that working class kids are less intelligent on average.”

Right.

So suppose we introduce a new category: black people not holding a high paid job. Call this group BPNHPJs. Note that BPNHPJs are actually defined in part in terms of their not holding high paid jobs (just like working class people). Can we now reasonably conclude that BPNHPJs are genetically less intelligent on average? Is the conclusion is "unavoidable"?

Clearly not. For if black people fail to make into high paid jobs for these other reasons, the two groups (i) BPNHPJs and (ii) black people will have the exact same membership.

And anon has already claimed that black people are not genetically less intelligent.

Clearly, given our knowledge of other factors playing a role in explaining why black people don’t end up much in high paid jobs, we cannot reasonably draw the conclusion that either black people or BPNHPJs are innately less intelligent.

But then the same must be true of the working classes too. We cannot reasonably conclude their kids are innately less intelligent. Not even if we actually partly define “working” class in terms of not holding a high paying job. That's just a bit of semantic sleight of hand from anon.


(PS I am away for a few days so maybe delay before I comment again...)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Edited Telegraph Article

Consider this hypothetical article (NOT genuine: Woodhead has never said the following).

WHITE CHILDREN HAVE BETTER GENES, SAYS CHRIS WOODHEAD.

Children from white families do well at school because they have "better genes", according to Chris Woodhead, the former head of Ofsted.

...

He said ministers should accept that some children were born "not very bright" and stop convincing themselves otherwise.

In an interview, he called for more segregation by ability to prevent average pupils dragging down more intelligent classmates.

The comments are likely to renew controversy over academic selection in the state education system.

A study last week by the Sutton Trust charity found thousands of bright children were being failed in struggling comprehensives.

Research suggested many pupils ranked among the best in the country at the age of 11 dropped back by 16 after being placed in "deprived" secondary schools.

It blamed the "peer effect", saying that top-performing pupils benefited from being educated with other bright teenagers.

Speaking on Tuesday, Prof Woodhead, chief inspector of schools between 1994 and 2000, said many black children background did exceptionally well at school.

But he insisted that some "not very bright" pupils should be taken out of the classroom and given practical training.

"I've taught, and I can still remember trying to interest, children who had no interest whatsoever in English," he said. "They didn't want to be in the classroom. If I'm honest, I didn't want them to be there either because they were disruptive to [other] children.

"What was the point? If we had had a system whereby those young people were able to follow practical educational courses that gave them a sense of worth, a sense that they weren't dull and less intelligent than others, it would have been much better for them."


What do you think about this article? Before you read on, ask yourself, what sort of response does it draw from you? What do you think of the arguments it contains, or implies?

So here's the thing. This article is a real article in which "working class" and "middle class", have been removed and replaced by "black" and "white". Here's the original.

Woodhead's attitude, if expressed about race, would be hugely shocking to almost everyone outside the BNP. We'd certainly be right to be rather skeptical about it. We'd be asking on what evidence these claims about genetic inferiority were being made. However, because Woodhead made the claims about class, an awful lot of Telegraph readers will just shrug and say, "Yes, well obviously. Glad he's got the courage to say it."

This country absolutely reeks of class bigotry. Many people have bought into the genetic inferiority line, at least implicitly, without having actually thought about it very much. There are some good questions worth asking about genetics and class and exactly how they are related. But Chris Woodhead has already made up his mind.

To my mind, Woodhead is just as odious a bigot as if had expressed those racist views.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Woodhead and Hastings: working class kids are innately less able

Peter Saunders is a social scientist who, if I have understood him correctly, maintains that lower class children are less intelligent, on average, than middle/upper middle class kids, that there's likely to be a genetic basis for this, and that this may well be what accounts for the fact that the children of the middle classes tend to go on to occupy the more prestigious and better paid professions and positions generation after generation. Pace Clegg, we may already have something like a meritocracy operating in this country.

I kind of admire Saunders' bravery. He says what he thinks, rather than pussyfooting about like many rightwingers do on this topic. His post is here.

Saunders was expounded approvingly by Max Hastings in his recent opinion piece in the FT, in which Hastings says much of what Saunders claims is "common sense", in contrast to Nick Clegg's recent comments on the need to improve social mobility.

Chris Woodhead has also expressed the view that middle class children are innately brighter than their working class peers. They have "better genes".

I'd like to see much more research into this topic. I am highly skeptical about Saunders', Woodhead's and Hastings' views, but of course they might be right. It's an empirical question - not one on which I am well-placed to comment. It's certainly a good thing that people like Hastings and Woodhead are saying what I'd guess most of those politically right of centre really think, though rarely have the courage to say. This "common sense" view that Hastings supposes many middle class people share, if don't often vocalize for fear of the opprobrium that will rain down on them, needs dragging into the light. Let's find out if it's true...

Read Saunders' paper and it turns out his argument is merely the perfectly obvious one, which I myself pointed out a while back, that social mobility stats do not establish that we don't have a meritocracy, particularly when, on IQ and other tests, the working classes score lower. The upper middle classes can, and will, just suppose that this shows they have, as Woodhead puts it, "better genes".

My earlier 2008 post complaining that the Woodhead/Hastings type view is widespread, but rarely actually expressed is here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

upcoming summer school

Science, Reason and God

This is my summer school course for OUSSA this summer, if anyone is interested. I intend to be balanced and informative over all, though Obviously my own views will become clear...

Type Summer Schools - Oxford University Summer School for Adults
Location Oxford
Dates Sat 9 to Sat 16 Jul 2011
Subject area(s) Philosophy
CATS points 10
Fees From £545.00
Application status Applications being accepted
Course code O10I107HPR
Course contact If you have any questions about this course, please email oussa@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Form letter for religious complainants

NB. this is a bit of fun at the expense of SOME religious complainants (having recently been the target of some complainants of this sort myself). Of course, plenty of religious folk don't write this sort of guff, and do actually take the time to make considered, well-judged points. But there's a certain sort of religious moaning minnie we are all familiar with at whom this is obviously aimed.

Perhaps an atheist version could be constructed - I'll leave it to a theist to do so.


Dear (tick as appropriate)
* potential purchaser of this publication on amazon
* editor of the letters page of the ______ newspaper
* publisher

I recently read ______'s article/book ______ and I must say I am appalled. What were you/the publishers thinking? The author is clearly (tick one or more as appropriate):

* operating with a crude and unsophisticated understanding of religion.
* guilty of attacking a straw man.
* guilty of constructing a grotesque caricature of religion.
* trotting out tired cliches.
* not qualified to comment in this area, being a _____

Only a fool would think that that's what sophisticated theists such as myself believe. In addition, the author is: (tick as appropriate)

* aggressive, embittered and fanatical.
* rude and insulting.
* guilty of mounting unwarranted ad hominem attacks against his/her opponents.

His/her arguments are: (tick as appropriate)

*crude
*fallacious
*of the sort that children/1st year undergraduates can spot the holes in.
* of the sort that would have you thrown out of my undergraduate lectures. (thanks to John D for this one! - SL)

Clearly, the author is wedded to (tick as appropriate):

*scientism,
*naturalism
*utilitarianism
*eugenics

and we all know where that leads, don't we? Remember, atheism is a faith position too.

I cannot be bothered to provide any explanation or indeed justification for any of these accusation, nor to explain what I believe. Instead I say this: that science and reason have their limits!

Arrogant Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr/Prof clever dick ________ should just remember that there are "more things in heaven and earth that are dreamed of in YOUR philosophy!" The author should show a little humility, for goodness sake!

Readers would do far better to look elsewhere for a proper understanding of religion. I suggest works by: (tick as appropriate):

* Mark Vernon
* Karen Armstrong
* Alister McGrath
* William Lane Craig

Yours sincerely


_________

Laureate of the IAH

I have just been told that I have been elected to the International Academy of Humanism (Council for Secular Humanism), which is a very great honour, clearly some sort of mistake, but nevertheless it's quite exciting to see my name on a list featuring such extraordinary figures. Go here...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"despite Lansley's rhetoric there's no disguising what his intentions for the NHS are"

Jacky Davis at The Guardian writes...

What is the connection between Lord Tebbit and a bin man with a runaway rap hit on Youtube? They are unlikely bedfellows in the growing alliance opposed to Andrew Lansley's health and social care bill. They join the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of GPs and the BMA, which has recently called for the bill to be withdrawn. It is difficult to know who supports his proposals apart from the private companies who stand to make billions out of the NHS, and a minority of GPs who haven't been reading the small print.

Concerns expressed by his backbench 1922 Committee combined with a stark warning from Sir David Nicholson about potential chaos have led David Cameron to perform what is being described as a U-turn. But is this a genuine change of heart? Lansley's words to the Commons suggest he has no intention of changing those aspects of the bill that most trouble critics. Rather it seems he believes his challenge is to do a better job of selling his "reforms". His idea of a listening exercise seems to be that we will listen more carefully to him, rather than him paying attention to the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers and patients who have signed petitions, lobbied their MPs and marched against his proposals.

Campaigners' fears are not about pace and scale but about the underlying intent of the proposed legislation. It is clear now that the endgame is to transform the NHS into a system that finances but does not provide healthcare – a national insurance system which pays the bills while care is provided by competing private, publicly owned and voluntary organisations. There is nothing yet to suggest this has changed.

Lansley's professed aims of a truly integrated service with less political interference are belied by the core elements of the bill, which will lead to a NHS fragmented by competition and private provision while subject to the swingeing powers of the commissioning board.

His intention to divest himself of the traditional responsibility to provide comprehensive, universal, population-based healthcare is deeply worrying, and has been nodded through without remark. These elements all remain, and the gap between the rhetoric and the reality is as wide as ever.

GP commissioning, seen by many as the heart of the reforms, is the bait with which Lansley hoped to reel in the GPs. Most have spotted the hook, and believe the price they are being asked to pay is too high. They recognise that they will be held responsible for cuts and rationing, and that that will do irreparable damage to the patient-doctor relationship. As one doctor noted: "Do I want my GP to look at me as a patient, with a focus on curing my ailments, or as a business person focused on reducing costs and maximising income? For me it's simple, I prefer my GP to remain a GP."

Other dangers are becoming apparent. There are already reports that GPs are forming commissioning groups that do not cover a defined geographic area, excluding lower performing practices and cherry-picking healthier populations. There is thus real concern about some consortiums being the equivalent of "sink estates", where all the most difficult practices and the most deprived populations come together.

And the Kings Fund has recently recommended that entire care pathways be outsourced to external providers, as GPs will not have time to design and commission healthcare. Many believe that once the private sector holds the budget and buys care from the private sector the days of a NHS are numbered.

The fact that so many GPs are setting up consortiums has been brandished as evidence of their enthusiasm for the proposals, but that is disingenuous. Lansley has set the changes in motion before any legislation has been passed, and with PCTs unravelling GPs need to make decisions. Many signing up to commissioning are doing so with the enthusiasm of passengers on a sinking ship climbing into the lifeboat. The new suggestion that not all need to join commissioning consortiums only means those practices that opt out will be run by consortiums elsewhere.

As for the patient choice and voice Lansley claims to be strengthening, the facts once again betray him. Foundation trusts and consortiums have no public accountability. The myth that patients will have more control over their care is just that. Referral management centres are already rejecting one in eight general practitioner referrals, making a nonsense of patient choice. With GPs now responsible for making unprecedented savings the emphasis will increasingly be on cutting the range and quality of treatment available, with the inevitable introduction of top-ups and insurance for those who can afford it.

Lansley says no change is not an option, but it is not clear where the crisis lies. Surveys show that the NHS comes out top for equity of access and value for money. Outcomes are improving rapidly, and the misleading statistics trotted out by the coalition about heart attacks and cancer survivals have been shamelessly cherry-picked. What exactly is the problem to which these "reforms" are the solution?
Continues here.

Those amazon reviews...

I checked the amazon page of my OUP Very Short Introduction to Humanism book to see how it has been doing (pure vanity, I know) and spotted the review below. Kind of baffled by it, I actually emailed the reviewer, one Bojan Tunguz, to ask him what he meant when he said I was "dishonest". The resulting correspondence between us is pasted it in below the review [ACTUALLY I HAVE DELETED IT AS IT PROBABLY ISN'T ETHICAL TO REPRODUCE IT].

Bojan, it turns out, is a Croatian now based in Canada. That link provides his biog., which provides some clues as to his general views. etc. I note Bojan has a blog.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars Epic, epic fail, 4 April 2011
By
Bojan Tunguz "Dr. Bojan Tunguz" (Greencastle, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Humanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Imagine you are in a bookstore or are browsing Amazon book pages and you come across a book that aims to introduce you to vegetarianism. The book is published by a reputable academic publishing institution with a long list of similar highly regarded books to its name. You are intrigued. Maybe you are a vegetarian who has never really read up on vegetarianism from an academic perspective. Maybe you are interested in becoming a vegetarian and would like to know more about it. Maybe you have a vegetarian friend, colleague or a loved one and would like to know more about vegetarianism so you can better relate to their lifestyle. Or you could simply be a voracious reader who wants to keep himself well informed on all sorts of subjects. So you buy the book and start reading it, and after a few pages you discover that the book is really not about vegetarianism. Over 90% of the content of the book is dedicated to a polemic on why meat is bad for you, how terrible animal husbandry is, why you shouldn't eat meat, all sorts of dangerous diseases that you can acquire from eating meat, why all the supposedly good things about meat consumption are actually childish superstitions, why butchers are some of the most evil people imaginable, etc., etc. In addition, all the concrete examples of meat-eating avoid any mention of particularly unhealthy fatty red meats, and instead talk mostly about white meat and poultry. After a while you start screaming (hopefully only in your head): OK I GET IT, MEAT IS REALLY, REALLY BAD! COULD WE PLEASE NOW MOVE ONTO DISCUSSING VEGETERIANISM!

The above scenario is exactly what I went through while reading "Humanism: A Very Short Introduction." This book hardly provides any real concrete information on Humanism. The Wikipedia article on Humanism is way more informative. Instead, this short introduction uses almost all of its 141 pages on denouncing religion (and Christianity in particular), theism, God, and all the related topics. Furthermore, the arguments presented in that regard tend to be pretty shallow and familiar to almost anyone who has ever gotten any degree of formal education (of the form that many a college student has encountered in a late-night dorm discussion), the opposing viewpoints are presented in the most straw-man fashion imaginable, on many occasions the author is either intellectually or factually dishonest, and at least two instances he engages in a thinly veiled ad-hominem attacks. The book is written as a polemic, and not as an academic survey that is intended for general audience.

I have read over hundred and sixty of these very short introduction books. For the most part they are really impressive, in terms of both the content and the presentation. I have written an Amazon review for about half of the very short introduction books that I have read, and most of them I have given either four or five stars. So far I have only given a one-star rating to one book, and that was because the book was particularly vague and uninformative. However, even that book for the most part stuck to the topic that it was dealing with. "Humanism," on the other hand, missed its purported topic in the most spectacular way imaginable. If a student of mine turned in a paper that was so off the topic I would have given him or her and automatic F. It is incomprehensible that the editors at the Oxford University Press had such a colossal failure of judgment. I intend to read the upcoming volumes in this series, but I certainly hope that I don't come across books like this one again.


Th review makes familiar suggestions:

(i) the arguments are "straw man" and "shallow". Well, the main argument was recently published in Religious Studies, perhaps the world's best peer reviewed Journal of the Philosophy of Religion. I'd like to see Bojan refute it. I also attack some quite sophisticated variants of theism, such as apophaticism, etc.

(ii) There's an implicit version of the "humanism (my kind at least) is wholly negative" criticism. True the book is polemical. I was asked to write it that way by OUP. It is not supposed to be neutral. It is supposed to argue for humanism. Now the analogy with arguing for vegetarianism is perhaps a poor choice from Bojan, as any book arguing for vegetarianism is going to be arguing against eating meat. So, by analogy, arguing for humanism will involve arguing against religious belief. But actually humanism is not just atheism and the book goes on to explain the various positive views associated with humanism. But of course it does spend time refuting various religious arguments against humanist views. It would be odd not to deal with those arguments given that critics will inevitably raise them in response. [ps see comments below for list of various positive views in the book)

(iii) I am accused of dishonesty etc. Without any evidence at all being supplied (and none was forthcoming in the correspondence).

So I don't think it's v fair but I am sure others will take a different view. Comments welcome...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Finsteraarhorn, Bernese Oberland

Hope to climb the Finsteraarhorn early September with five or six friends (spending a week climbing and walking in the area).

Friday, April 1, 2011

more tickets

more sam harris richard dawkins tickets available but be v quick... more harris dawkins tickets available now if you are quick.....http://www.humanism.org.uk/shop/tickets

Peter Atkins vs myself on limits of science


One of several videos which together are my debate with Peter Atkins on whether science can answer every question, from THINK week. Richard Dawkins is just out of shot infront of me. He chips in later...

Peter refused to stay in shot, which is annoying...