Tuesday, January 31, 2012

FARADAY INSTITUTE appearance


The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion
St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

Science, Religion and Atheism


Short Course No. 21

Murray Edwards College, Cambridge

Friday 30th March – Sunday 1st April 2012

Is the discussion between science and religion affected by its narrator, be they
theist, atheist or agnostic? This course is not to debate the existence of God
but to explore answers to this question presented by speakers themselves
coming from these different perspectives.

Speakers and Topics include:

A Plague on Both Your Houses: Prof. Michael Ruse
Does the Evolutionary Narrative Support Theism or Atheism?
Prof. Simon Conway Morris FRS and Dr Fern Elsdon-Baker
Is the Universe Designed?
Revd Dr Rodney Holder and Dr Stephen Law
Perspectives on the Philosophy of Science and Religion
Prof. Keith Ward and Dr Mark Vernon
Does the History of Science and Religion depend on the Narrator?
Dr Allan Chapman and Prof. Ronald Numbers

For more details including bursaries and discounts, see
www.faraday-institute.org
or call +44 (0)1223 741281

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Graham Taylor, England manager, on my footballing performance...


Just stumbled upon this and thought I'd post it again because it's cool....

Interview on The Philosophy Files


The Complete Philosophy Files is The Philosophy Files and The Philosophy Files 2 combined into a single volume.

Here is an interview I did for The Guardian newspaper when the The Philosophy Files was originally published way back in 2000.

Asking all the right questions

Philosopher Stephen Law tells Mel Steel why children are natural thinkers


"I've always been struck by how philosophically minded children are," says Stephen Law. "They ask questions and they get an answer, and behind that answer they find another question to ask, and it doesn't take long before they're starting to question some of our most basic and fundamental beliefs. If you repeatedly ask 'Why?', it's not long before you're really hitting philosophical bedrock."

The thought of dealing with philosophical bedrock at bedtime might be many parents' idea of hell; but philosophy lecturer Law believes in getting them while they're young. His first book, The Philosophy Files, goes straight to the heart of some of the most vexed questions there are to ask: What's real? Where do right and wrong come from? How do I know the world isn't virtual? Should I eat meat? And not forgetting: Does God exist?

Accessible, entertaining, and plentifully illustrated by Daniel Postgate, the only question it doesn't tackle head on is why nobody's written a book like it before. Unlike Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World or Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy, this is no dinner-party roll call of the great and the dead. It's philosophy in action rather than philosophy in aspic.

What Law shares with Gaarder and de Botton, though, is the irresistable impulse to popularise. "Which is considered to be career suicide," he says. "At least that's what I've been told. But then I'm not particularly ambitious in the sense of working my way up the academic ladder. I mean, the average philosophical journal article is read by a total of eight people. And while I do write journal articles, I don't think that's going to change the world, really. Whereas a book can, in some subtle but important way, change people's lives. And I do passionately believe that it's important that people think about these big questions in the course of their everyday lives. Moral questions, especially. It's slightly depressing, I think, if you live in a society where people don't."

He's been interested in the big questions for as long as he can remember, he says; but it took him a while to figure out that repeatedly asking "Why?" might actually amount to a legitimate occupation. Academia wasn't alien to him - he grew up in Cambridge, and his father had a doctorate in sociology - but he messed up at school, thought he'd blown any chance of further study, and had no idea that philosophy existed as a subject in its own right.

The first time he embarked on A-levels, he says, he was asked to leave - "basically because I was lazy and good for nothing. I don't blame them at all". A year or so later he tried another subject combination at another college, but found himself too irritated by the exam-oriented mentality of the syllabus to see it through. "You weren't allowed to do anything other than regurgitate," he says, "when what I really wanted to do was ask the questions."

So, after a couple of brief spells as a sand-blaster and damp-proofer, he settled into four years as a postman in Girton, just outside Cambridge. He was the only one on the job who never got a Christmas tip. "I wasn't a very accurate postman," he concedes now. "In fact I was a very bad postman. Possibly the worst postman Girton ever had."

But those four years gave him a lot of time to think, and to read. Left to his own devices, he consumed books. "One book would lead me to another, and then another, until eventually I ended up reading nothing but philosophy books. And I suddenly realised that that's what I'd always wanted to do - but that I'd never known what it was called."

He was 23: just old enough to qualify as a mature student, which meant that he didn't need A-levels after all. So he ditched the post office, bummed around India for a few months, and - "like a miracle" - was accepted to read philosophy at London's City University. Some of the papers he'd written for himself in the course of his reading helped persuade them that he was serious about doing a degree. Very serious, in fact. He got a gratifying first, went on to secure the coveted BPhil at Trinity College, Oxford, and then netted himself a prestigious junior research fellowship at Queen's, before taking up a teaching post at London University's Heythrop College four years ago.

It's precisely the maverick combination of passion, rigour, patience and sedition that makes Law such an engaging writer and teacher. But it's only now, reaping handsome praise for The Philosophy Files, that he's finally given up worrying that he might not be clever enough, posh enough or cynical enough to be a proper academic. "I did go through a major crisis of confidence at Oxford," he says. "I felt that I didn't fit into that mould particularly, and for a while I just couldn't produce any papers at all. But the fact is, I'm doing what I'm doing now because I enjoy it. It's good fun. I don't care any more what people think about me."

Now 39, he's delighted that the book he has been conjuring in his head for so many years - a real philosophy book for kids, which students and adults could enjoy too - finally exists. A kind of career suicide note with knobs on, complete with cartoons and dayglo cover.

"I wanted it to be an adventure in thinking of the sort I wish someone had written for me when I was younger," he says. "I would never have appreciated someone giving me a textbook which explained what Descartes had to say about this or what Plato said about that. But if someone had actually engaged me in my own language and on my own terms, talking about questions in the way that I wanted to talk about them at that age, then I would have lapped it up."

Original is here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Poster idea

Any teachers out there....I need some advice.

I am thinking of producing a colourful A2 poster for schools promoting philosophy and my college. I was thinking on one side a "what is philosophy?" cartoon-type Philosophy Files thing, and on the other side a couple of discussion topics.

However, what we really need is to target the right age group and get the poster put up on walls. Have any teachers out there got any advice in terms if what would be popular with teachers and encourage them to it up?

In terms of raising awareness, we could actually aim at slightly younger kids. But is that advisable? Who would you target in the first instance?

anyway - interested in your thoughts...

BTW I did one like this a few years ago for Teacher magazine and it was quite popular, I think.

best
Stephen

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tickets for my events at the Oxford Literary Festival - buy here...

You can buy tickets for my debate with Lord Richard Harries (Bishop of Oxford) at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on 29th March at 4pm here: box office.

There are also tickets for my talk on Believing Bullshit, 10.00am the same day here: box office.

£500 A level philosophy essay prize - please spread word to your students...


Heythrop Philosophy Essay Prize Competition 2012

Heythrop College University of London is launching a new Philosophy Essay Prize, worth £500 which will be judged by Dr Stephen Law, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College and the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy's journal THINK: Philosophy for Everyone.

The competition is open to all those studying for any AS or A2-level examinations (or equivalent) in 2012.

Entries should be no longer than 1500 words including footnotes but excluding references and can take any form e.g. essay, dialogue, etc. All sources must be referenced.

The deadline for the 1500 word essay is 5pm on Friday 30 March 2012, and the winner will be announced on the Heythrop website on 29 June 2012.

To enter please choose one of the titles below and send your entry to essayprize@heythrop.ac.uk (please note you may only submit one entry to the competition).

Entries should be written in the Microsoft Word document which includes the entry form (please see below). Entries will normally be acknowledged within 5 days.

Heythrop College/Dr Stephen Law reserve the right to publish entries but entrants will retain copyright over their work.

Title 1: Is there good evidence for or against the existence of God?
Title 2: What is the mind-body problem? Can it be solved?
Title 3: Under what conditions can someone be said to know something?


Go here to download the entry form.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why a Philosophy degree maybe a better bet than a degree in Business Administration

If you are wondering what kind of degree programme is likely to boost your general smarts, consider these figures.

Go here. This is one of several graphs from the above article. Based on GRE test performance (Graduate Record Examination) of graduate programme applicants. Quantitative (math) skills on the vertical axis, verbal skills on the horizontal (other graphs include the third component - "analytical writing", at which philosophers also excel, dramatically outperforming all others).

Philosophy graduates are pretty damn smart, the various figures suggest, compared to graduates with other degrees, including most - perhaps even all - sciences (though were they smarter to begin with, or did their degree programme make them smarter, compared to other degrees?). Check the article. Here's the original table of GRE scores of US students completing a variety of degrees.

Notice religion also does very well.

This data suggests (but falls a long way short of establishing) that if we want to produce graduates with general, across-the-board smarts, physics and philosophy are disciplines to encourage [and possibly also that accountancy and business administration should be discouraged (this confirms all my prejudices, I am pleased to say!)].

Note some very weird stats on this graph, such as business administration's woeful performance, doing less well than even "art and performance" on quantitative skills and verbal skills (which is staggering). And accountancy grads less good on quantitative skills than philosophy grads (!) and the worst performers of all on verbal skills. Both business and accountancy are also weak on the analytic writing component.

Of course, as the new business-friendly, market-led Tory vision of degree provision kicks in, we'll probably see philosophy departments up and down the country closing and business administration degrees expanding. Brilliant.

P.S. Just added a second graph comparing analytical writing and verbal. Check out e.g business administration. And where's philosophy?

Why Philosophy is perhaps one of the MOST useful degrees


Here is an excellent resource on why philosophy degrees make especially smart and successful businessmen and women, lawyers, journalists, etc. (you are actually dramatically better off doing a first degree in philosophy than business administration for a career in business).

Some very good answers to "Philosophy? What are you going to do with that?" question. Go here for "testimonials".

Includes GRE test performance (philosophers do staggeringly well - look right), comparative salary information, and various other useful bits of evidence that collectively puncture the peculiar modern myth that philosophy isn't "useful".

I previously commented on the GRE scores comparing philosophy students with all other students here.

A quote from Fordham:

"In addition, as the marketplace becomes more competitive, graduate degrees become more desirable, and that entails a strong performance on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the exam most business schools require their applicants to take. Philosophy majors consistently outperform other majors on the GMAT, including all business majors, all humanities majors, and all social sciences majors. Philosophy majors enjoy enormous advantages going into business."

The first and last testimonials are especially good. Opening quote from the final "testimonial" on linked page:

"Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

U.S. Christians boo the golden rule

Republican candidates on foreign policy (obviously plenty of Christians will be rightly horrified by some Christians appearing to boo Ron Paul's invocation of Confucious'/Jesus' Golden Rule [though they probably don't even know what it is, to be fair]). Thanks to the atheist missionary.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BLASPHEMY EVENT 28TH JAN - buy your tickets now!

BLASPHEMY - WHO SPEAKS FOR THE SACRED?

Come and hear KENAN MALIK, AUSTIN DACEY, ANDREW COPSON, JACOB MCHANGAMA, MARYAM NAMAZIE speaking informatively and provocatively on this controversial topic.

Presented by Stephen Law.

Saturday 28th January 2012
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square Holborn

Tickets: £10 (£8 student).
http://www.humanism.org.uk/shop/tickets

10.30am REGISTRATION

11.00AM Kenan Malik
Beyond the sacred


Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. He is a presenter of Analysis, BBC Radio 4's flagship current affairs programme and a panelist on the Moral Maze. He used to present Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3's arts and ideas programme. He has written and presented a number of radio and TV documentaries including Disunited Kingdom, Are Muslims Hated?, Islam, Mullahs and the Media, Skullduggery and Man, Beast and Politics.

Kenan Malik’s latest book is From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy. The book was shortlisted for the 2010 George Orwell Book Prize.

12.00 Andrew Copson
Blasphemy laws by the back door


Andrew Copson has been chief executive of the British humanist association since 2010 before which he spent five years coordinating the association's campaigns work including on blasphemy and free speech issues.

1.00-1.30 Lunch

1.30 Austin Dacey
The Future of Blasphemy


Austin Dacey, Ph.D., is a representative to the United Nations for the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the author of The Future of Blasphemy.

2.30 Jacob Mchangama
Between blasphemy and hate speech: How hate speech laws are being used to enforce blasphemy norms


Jacob Mchangama is director of legal affairs at Danish think tank CEPOS and an external lecturer in International Human Rights law at the University of Copenhagen. Jacob has a special focus on freedom of expression and has published articles in international newspapers such as Wall Street Journal Europe, Jerusalem Post, Spiked, Globe and Mail, The Australian and Jyllands Posten. His work on human rights and free speech has been mentioned in The Economist, CBS.com and Courrier International.

3.30 Maryam Namazie
Blasphemy, Offence, and Islamophobia limiting Citizen Rights


Maryam Namazie is Spokesperson of the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Equal Rights Now - Organisation against Women's Discrimination in Iran. She is also National Secular Society Honorary Associate and the NSS' 2005 Secularist of the Year award winner and was selected one of the top 45 women of the year 2007 by Elle magazine Quebec.

4.30 end

Jointly presented by Centre for Inquiry UK and SPES

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Scientist - interview with me on bullshit


From New Scientist. The full interview is here.

How do people defend their beliefs in bizarre conspiracy theories or the power of crystals? Philosopher Stephen Law has tips for spotting their strategies

You describe your new book, Believing Bullshit, as a guide to avoid getting sucked into "intellectual black holes". What are they?
Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions - these are examples of intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again.

But isn't one person's claptrap another's truth?
There's a belief system about water to which we all sign up: it freezes at 0 °C and boils at 100 °C. We are powerfully wedded to this but that doesn't make it an intellectual black hole. That's because these beliefs are genuinely reasonable. Beliefs at the core of intellectual black holes, however, aren't reasonable. They merely appear so to those trapped inside.

You identify some strategies people use to defend black hole beliefs. Tell me about one of them - "playing the mystery card"?
This involves appealing to mystery to get out of intellectual hot water when someone is, say, propounding paranormal beliefs. They might say something like: "Ah, but this is beyond the ability of science and reason to decide. You, Mr Clever Dick Scientist, are guilty of scientism, of assuming science can answer every question." This is often followed by that quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy". When you hear that, alarm bells should go off.

But even scientists admit that they can't explain everything.
There probably are questions that science cannot answer. But what some people do to protect their beliefs is to draw a veil across reality and say, "you scientists can go up to the veil and apply your empirical methods this far, but no further". Behind the veil they will put angels, aliens, psychic powers, God, ghosts and so on. Then they insist that there are special people who can see - if only dimly - through this veil. But the fact is that many of the claims made about things behind this veil have empirically observable consequences and that makes them scientifically testable.

Continues here. The best thing about this interview is the photo which makes me look like a moody Clint Eastwood.

Quaker Universalist Fellowship - review of Believing Bullshit

There's a pretty fair-minded review of my book Believing Bullshit by a quaker here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

BEYOND THE VEIL event CFI UK



BEYOND THE VEIL event on Saturday (Centre for Inquiry UK event). The group shot is (left to right) myself, Hayley Stevens, Richard Wiseman, Paul Zenon, Ian Rowland, Chris French.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hayley Stevens' blog

Hayley has posted up the audio recordings of "ghosts" on her blog. They weren't quite clear enough due to technical problems at the CFI UK Beyond The Veil event yesterday (not Hayley's fault, I should add). Great blog to visit in any case...

Go here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Paul Zenon on Psychic Sally


Paul Zenon appeared at today's CFI UK Beyond the Veil event (which I organized for Centre for Inquiry UK) and gave some funny and shocking insights into the work of various psychics. His piece in the Daily Mail on Psychic Sally is here.

A video which, it's suggested, may show psychic Sally removing an ear piece is here.

Both courtesy of the Daily Mail. Which is ironic.

Sally Morgan threatens libel

I am currently at Beyond The Veil, at which claims of being able to communicate with dead are being subjected to critical scrutiny. I just noticed that Jack of Kent reports...

Sally Morgan, the stage "psychic", is bringing a libel claim.

This was announced on Friday by Atkins Thomson, a London law firm experienced in media law matters. Given this experience, one must presume that her decision to bring a claim has not been made lightly, and that she is fully aware the reputational damage that can result from a misconceived libel claim.


The lawyers' statement is not very informative:

"Sally Morgan instructs Atkins Thomson to commence libel action in relation [to] various articles in the press."


Indeed, so vague is this statement one would perhaps need their client's uncanny abilities to know what it actually means.

First of all, it does not say that any claim has actually been issued. It does not even say that any formal "letters before action" have been sent. We could even still be at preliminary stage, without there having been any correspondence yet at all.

Second, it does not say who the defendants will be. Will Morgan be suing just one media organization? Or many? Will she even adopt the illiberal tactic of threatening the individual journalists? (This was the approach followed by the now discredited British Chiropractic Association in their claim against Simon Singh.)

And, third, it does not state what the supposed libels are. Morgan makes considerable amounts of money out of her audiences believing that she talks with dead people. However, it cannot be defamatory to say that Morgan does no such thing.

"Sally Morgan, the stage "psychic", is bringing a libel claim. This was announced on Friday by Atkins Thomson, a London law firm experienced in media law matters. Given this experience, one must presume that her decision to bring a claim has not been made lightly, and that she is fully aware the reputational damage that can result from a misconceived libel claim. The lawyers' statement is not very informative: "Sally Morgan instructs Atkins Thomson to commence libel action in relation [to] various articles in the press." Indeed, so vague is this statement one would perhaps need their client's uncanny abilities to know what it actually means. First of all, it does not say that any claim has actually been issued. It does not even say that any formal "letters before action" have been sent. We could even still be at preliminary stage, without there having been any correspondence yet at all. Second, it does not say who the defendants will be. Will Morgan be suing just one media organization? Or many? Will she even adopt the illiberal tactic of threatening the individual journalists? (This was the approach followed by the now discredited British Chiropractic Association in their claim against Simon Singh.) And, third, it does not state what the supposed libels are. Morgan makes considerable amounts of money out of her audiences believing that she talks with dead people. However, it cannot be defamatory to say that Morgan does no such thing.


Continues at http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2011/10/sally-morgan-is-bringing-libel-action.html I cannot make an active link for some reason...

Monday, January 9, 2012

“Blasphemy!” Who speaks for the sacred? 28th Jan 2012

Come and hear KENAN MALIK, AUSTIN DACEY, ANDREW COPSON, JACOB MCHANGAMA, MARYAM NAMAZIE speaking informatively and provocatively on this controversial topic.

Presented by Stephen Law.

This event focuses on the criminalization of religious hatred, defamation, and insult under European human rights, and how this functions as a de facto blasphemy law.

Jointly presented by Centre for Inquiry UK and SPES

Saturday 28th January 2012
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square Holborn

Tickets: £10 (£8 student).
http://www.humanism.org.uk/shop/tickets

10.30am REGISTRATION

11.00AM Kenan Malik
Beyond the sacred
Kenan writes: The idea of blasphemy is closely linked to the concept of the sacred. Detachment from the sacred, the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor claimed at the installation ceremony for his successor, has been responsible for war and terror, sin and evil. In this view the acceptance of the sacred is indispensable for the creation of a moral framework and for the injection of meaning and purpose into life.
I want to deconstruct the concept of the sacred and to challenge the idea that without a notion of the sacred there can be no boundaries to human behaviour, no anchor for our ethical beliefs, no meaning to our existence. The sacred, I want to argue, is less about the transcendent than it is about the taboo. ‘The sacred order’, as Leszek Kolokowski, the late Polish Marxist-turned-Christian philosopher, observes, ‘has never ceased, implicitly or explicitly, to proclaim “this is how things are, they cannot be otherwise”.’
The certainties of the sacred, I will argue, provides false hope and in so doing undermine our humanity by denying human choice.

Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. He is a presenter of Analysis, BBC Radio 4's flagship current affairs programme and a panelist on the Moral Maze. He used to present Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3's arts and ideas programme. He has written and presented a number of radio and TV documentaries including Disunited Kingdom, Are Muslims Hated?, Islam, Mullahs and the Media, Skullduggery and Man, Beast and Politics.

Kenan Malik’s latest book is From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy. The book was shortlisted for the 2010 George Orwell Book Prize.

12.00 Andrew Copson
Blasphemy laws by the back door
Andrew Copson has been chief executive of the British humanist association since 2010 before which he spent five years coordinating the association's campaigns work including on blasphemy and free speech issues.

After decades of campaigning the criminal offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel have been abolished but censorship of blasphemous content and even threatened prosecution of blasphemes continues in the UK. Andrew explores how corporate interests, opaque advertising regulations and new criminal laws continue to stifle free expression and free criticism and mockery of gods and religions.

1.00-1.30 Lunch

1.30 Austin Dacey
The Future of Blasphemy

Austin Dacey, Ph.D., is a representative to the United Nations for the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the author of The Future of Blasphemy. He writes:

If blasphemy is an affront to values that are held sacred, then it is too important to be left to the traditionally religious. In the public contestation of the sacred, each of us—secular and religious alike—has equal right and authority to speak on its behalf and equal claim to redress for its violation. Laws against blasphemy and "religious hatred" are inherently discriminatory because they give traditional faith communities a legal remedy that is not available to religious minorities and secularists when their sense of the sacred is violated.

2.30 Jacob Mchangama (to be confirmed)
Between blasphemy and hate speech: How hate speech laws are being used to enforce blasphemy norms

Most European states have abolished or ceased enforcing blasphemy laws. Yet “controversial” criticism of religion still risk falling afoul of speech restrictions in the form of hate-speech laws prohibiting incitement to religious hatred. A term which is defined differently in many jurisdictions and may include anything from satirical religious cartoons to harsh criticism of religions. Rather than securing tolerance and social peace modern hate speech laws reinforce group identities and illiberal religious norms to the detriment of freedom of expression and conscience.

Jacob Mchangama is director of legal affairs at Danish think tank CEPOS and an external lecturer in International Human Rights law at the University of Copenhagen. Jacob has a special focus on freedom of expression and has published articles in international newspapers such as Wall Street Journal Europe, Jerusalem Post, Spiked, Globe and Mail, The Australian and Jyllands Posten. His work on human rights and free speech has been mentioned in The Economist, CBS.com and Courrier International.

3.30 Maryam Namazie
Blasphemy, Offence, and Islamophobia limiting Citizen Rights

Maryam will be speaking on how accusations of blasphemy, offensive speech and ‘Islamophobia’ censor and restrict free speech, limit citizen rights, and aid and abet Islamism.


Maryam Namazie is Spokesperson of the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Equal Rights Now - Organisation against Women's Discrimination in Iran. She is also National Secular Society Honorary Associate and the NSS' 2005 Secularist of the Year award winner and was selected one of the top 45 women of the year 2007 by Elle magazine Quebec.

4.30 end

CFI UK events at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival






I have organized the following events. See some of you there I hope...

12.00 Saturday 24th March Prof Steve Jones on creationism

2pm wed 28th March Nigel Warburton on Little History of Philosophy

12.00 noon on Thursday 29th March, David Aaronovitch on conspiracy theories

10.00 Thursday 29th March, Stephen Law on believing bullshit

Tickets available from the box office (in some cases, shortly). Go here.

KEITH WARD, JOHN COTTINGHAM, STEPHEN LAW, RICHARD HARRIES 21st Jan London

HEYTHROP RELIGIOUS STUDIES CONFERENCE

KEITH WARD, JOHN COTTINGHAM, STEPHEN LAW, RICHARD HARRIES

Sat 21st Jan 2012

A day conference aimed primarily at A Level students and teachers of RS and/or philosophy, though all are welcome. Free entry.

Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square W8 5HN

Bookshop by Newham books. Book signings.

11.00 KEITH WARD
Life, the Universe, and Everything

Keith Ward is a Fellow of British Academy, one-time Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, King's London, Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford, and now Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop.

12.00 JOHN COTTINGHAM
Ethics and Religion: How They Fit Together

John Cottingham is Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Reading University, and an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford. He is Editor of Ratio, the international journal of analytic philosophy.”

1.00-2.00 lunch

2.00 STEPHEN LAW
The Evil God Challenge

Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, university of London, editor of THINK (journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy) and author of The Philosophy Gym (Headline) and The Philosophy Files (Orion).

3pm RICHARD HARRIES
Justice for hedgehogs: Ronald Dworkins’ ‘value holism’ in theological perspective

Richard Harries is Gresham Professor of Divinity. His latest books include Faith in Politics? Rediscovering the Christian Roots of our Political Values (DLT) and The Re-enchantment of Morality (SPCK) which was short-listed for the 2011 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological writing.

Heythrop reserves the right to change the programme at short notice. Book here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Oxford debate 29th March - myself and Lord Richard Harries

SUNDAY TIMES OXFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL

Sponsored by Heythrop College, University of London

4pm Thursday 29th March. Christ Church College, Oxford.
DOES GOD EXIST

Richard Harries and Stephen Law

How reasonable, or unreasonable is belief in God? Are there good arguments for the existence of God? Might belief in God be reasonable even in the absence of good arguments? Can a persuasive case be made against the existence of God, for example an argument based on the amount of pain and suffering the universe contains?

Richard Harries is Gresham Professor of Divinity. His latest books include Faith in Politics? Rediscovering the Christian Roots of our Political Values (DLT) and The Re-enchantment of Morality (SPCK) which was short-listed for the 2011 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological writing.

Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London and Provost of Centre for Inquiry UK. He has written several popular introductions to philosophy including The Philosophy Gym (Headline) and The Philosophy Files (Orion, for children). His latest book is Believing Bullshit (Prometheus).

Tickets available shortly from the Festival box office, online. http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

From The Atlantic, Dec 29th 2011. As The comprehensive system in the UK is dismantled in favour of private and semi-privatized provision and competition, we might ask - what's the actual evidence on which such policies are based? Is it genuinely evidence based? Or is the policy driven by other factors? When it comes to any major Tory policy, the first question to ask: Cui Bono? Who benefits? The article is below...

The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation's education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn't clear that Sahlberg's message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about...

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