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Showing posts from December, 2008

Could it be pretty obvious there's no God?

[This is from forthcoming book edited by Russell Blackford, called 50 Voices of Disbelief]. “Let us say: 'Either God is or he is not.' But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question.“ Blaise Pascal. Like Pascal, many theists believe reason cannot determine whether or not God exists. Indeed, many suppose that, because God, if he exists, transcends physical reality, it is in principle impossible for us to determine whether God exists simply by observing it. Science, and empirical observation more generally, can provide, at best, a few clues. They cannot settle the question beyond reasonable doubt. I reject that view. It seems to me that by observing the world around us, we can answer the question of whether God exists. In fact, I’m going to suggest it’s pretty obvious there’s no God. That last claim may surprise even some atheists. How could it be pretty obvious there’s no God? Surely this is a tortuously difficult and complex question over whic

"Front" lobbying organizations - SOS and the Countryside Alliance

Companies setting up "independent" lobbying organizations might be on the increase, I think. When it was proposed to limit displays of cigarettes in shops, a group called Save Our Shops lobbied MPs (source here ): Over the summer, MPs were inundated with postcards bearing the Save Our Shop campaign logo, urging them not to back the government's proposals, outlined last week by the Department of Health. The cards stated: 'As my local MP, I hope you will protect our independent local shops by opposing this proposal.' More than 100 MPs signed an early-day motion in Parliament agreeing with the proposal that any plan to sell cigarettes under the counter should be firmly 'evidenced-based', a key message pushed by the Save Our Shop campaign. But it has now emerged many MPs were unaware the campaign was the brainchild of the Tobacco Retailers' Association (TRA), an offshoot of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, which represents the interests of th

Lying about Santa

[Repeat of an earlier post - as it's especially relevant tonight] Suppose I visit the wife and seven year old daughter of a colleague who has recently died. Now it turns out that the wife is a Christian, and she has told her daughter that her Daddy is now living in heaven with God and the angels. This is very comforting belief for both the wife and the little girl. Daddy hasn’t gone for ever. He’s merely moved to somewhere very nice, somewhere that they too will go in the end. Now I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God or in any sort of after-life. Suppose that this little girl asks me whether I believe in heaven. What do I say? Do I tell her the truth or do I lie? Of course, if you happen to believe in God and the angels, you can tell comfortably tell her the truth about what you believe. But if, like me, you don’t believe in any of that, you find yourself facing a dilemma. Do you lie? I would avoid telling her the truth if I could, perhaps by changing the subject. But I don

Podcast possibilities

Nigel Warburton very generously gave me a great little Snowflake USB microphone for my birthday, which he uses to make podcasts. He is expecting me to do the same, now. So shall have to think up ideas. Any suggestions gratefully received....

Pope's end of year speech

Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. Go here . Thanks to anticant for drawing my attention to this... POST SCRIPT 24TH DEC: there is a follow up piece here .

McKellen criticises faith schools for religious teaching

Actor Sir Ian McKellen has criticised faith schools, reports the Guardian here . "It [religion] is the one area where people are not frightened to be openly homophobic," he said. He is quite right, and of course right that some faith schools are teaching that homosexuality is a sin. Some promote that view exclusively. Others will present it as one of a range of views. In the print version of this article, it said "The Church of England said its schools explored the issue of homosexuality, rather than promoted one view of it." Ibrahim Hewitt of the Association of Muslim Schools said "A faith school reflects its faith in what is taught, but I would expect other views to be discussed as well." Oh, that's alright then - as long as other views are discussed. Well no it's not all right. The truth is that homophobia (I'd prefer to call it "homosexism", as it isn't a phobia) like racism and sexism, involves demonstrably false beli

CFI event at Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival

I have arranged for CFI to put on three events at the Oxford Literary festival - two adult events and one for kids. The biggest event is a debate between myself and Prof. Roger Trigg on Secularism. Friday April 3rd 2pm in the Great Hall at Christchurch. Tickets from Oxford Literary Festival. Is Britain too secular now? Is it right that British society be explicitly founded on Christian values? Is there something special about religion - and particularly the Christian religion - that justifies giving it a special, privileged role within our society? Should the state fund faith schools? Philosopher Professor Roger Trigg believes secularization now threatens the fabric of British society. He defends the view that our freedoms are rooted in a Christian tradition and that, unless our Christian heritage is explicitly acknowledged and valued by the State, those freedoms may be at risk. Philosopher Stephen Law argues that there is nothing about religious beliefs that justifies giving t

Strictly Come Dancing - the weird maths

My father in law pointed out something very odd regarding the recent controversy about the BBC letting all three contestants go through without any having to face a dance off. Normally, if there are three contestants, they get 3, 2 and 1 points for being ranked 1st 2nd and 3rd by the judges. They then get the same depending on how they are ranked by the public. The bottom two then face the dance off and the couple ranked lowest in the dance off by the judges is eliminated. This time, the judges scored the top two equally, so the scoring was two threes and a one. But it then became clear that there was no point in the public voting to "save" the bottom contestant from the dance off, as they would inevitably face the dance off. This is the reason why the BBC said all three should go through (and the votes carried over to next week). But here is the oddity: even if each couple gets either 3,2 or 1 from the judges, the bottom couple cannot avoid the dance off anyway . Do the

Blair says religion should provide "values" for globalisation

From Ekklesia ... Former British prime minister Tony Blair has completed his first semester as a visiting lecturer at Yale University, an experience he says has strengthened his belief that religious faith and economic and social globalisation are partners - writes Chris Herlinger. In his final appearance on 11 December with students at a seminar he co-taught, and addressing the Yale community, Blair said his time as a part-time academic has convinced him that "globalisation requires values to succeed". Arguing that the process of "pushing people together" has made multicultural and multi-religious societies, Blair argued that "spiritual capital" and "human capital" now need to link. That, combined with an increased need for multi-faith dialogue, he told reporters after he spoke, "will in time be seen as a defining question, and perhaps the leading question of the 21st century". Blair also touted the need for the United States, Bri

British Library Event (II)

I am talking about my book The War For Children's Minds tomorrow evening at the British Library, along with three other authors discussing their books (event sold out, I'm afraid). This is roughly what I will be trying to communicate (taken from an earlier op ed piece I did): In Britain and Australia, faith schools are currently booming as a direct result of Government policy. These schools are popular. British parents have been known to fake religious commitment to get their child into the right school. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has just confirmed that Australian parents are also abandoning public education in favour of the new, government-subsidized faith schools. This rapid rise in religious schooling has, of course, been accompanied by concerns, not least of which is that faith schools can be deeply socially divisive. While I share that worry, my greatest concern is that that the smoke generated by the battle over whether religious schools are a good idea has

Don Cupitt interview

Interesting interview with Don Cupitt - who is a "non-realist" about God. "God doesn't exist apart from our faith in him". I wonder what Rev Sam and others think? I am considering asking Cupitt to participate in a CFI event. Interview is here - thanks to philosophybites and Nigel Warburton. Cupitt's classic book is The Sea of Faith.

Atheism is pretentious and cowardly

I only just found this piece from the Guardian June 2007. It makes a number of points along similar lines to the Rev Sam, though I'm sure Sam wouldn't agree with all of them. Some truth in there (towards the end), but not much. ATHEISM IS PRETENTIOUS AND COWARDLY THEO HOBSON For years I wished that the intelligent media would show a bit more interest in religion. Be careful what you wish for. The resurgence of the discussion of religion has come, sort of, but forgive me for failing to rejoice in it. How odd that there seems to be an endless appetite for militant atheism. How odd that anyone over 17 admires these angry ageing men, scowling at us indignantly, and competing with each other in tough-talking God knocking. How odd that they get such an easy press, that their (usually female) interviewers are so fawning. Now it is Christopher "Hitch" Hitchens' turn. Behold the jowly prophet, staring from endless features and book pages, tremendous in his certainty,

Thoughts on Oktar and lawyers

Adnan Oktar's lawyer (well, so they claim) has been in touch about my blog. Oktar has succeeded in getting many websites shut down in Turkey, including Richard Dawkins', and also news reports, etc. The entire blog system is now blocked in Turkey as a result of Oktar's legal actions. So now Oktar moves onto my minor blog and asks that where I quote allegations made from the Turkish Daily News and a couple of blogs, I remove the quotations, as the original sources have since been blocked by court order in Turkey. Currently, I am showing the entire Daily News report which the newspaper itself has had to remove. I asked whether the request was backed by any kind of legal threat and got this rather baffling response in which no threat is issued but there are repeated references to secret masonic conspiracies, as well as satanism, etc. Not really a standard lawyer's letter. I am guessing it is not actually from a lawyer. So, what should I do? Obviously I

Adnan Oktar - lawyers get in touch (II)

Regarding this previous post, I just received this... Your publication of the contents of websites that consist of immoral and unjust allegations as well as defamation on your blog means that you are in fact writing these. Intellectual struggle is not carried out through such defamation or slanders, but with scientific methods. If you would like to carry out a scientific discussion, you may have this debate with my client at any place you like; he may come to your location or you may go to his, but it is not possible to achieve any results through defamation or slander. This kind of behavior does not suit you and humiliates you. There is a psychological warfare waged against Harun Yahya and Science Research Foundation (SRF) by masonic circles in both Turkey and throughout the world. This is implementation of social engineering, and you may find the evidence of psychological warfare waged against the author and SRF on the website . Since the aut

The Philosophy Files 2 - sample chapter

Here's the first chapter of The Philosophy Files 2 (also known as The Outer Limits). ( The Philosophy Files was no2. bestseller at the Guardian newspaper in 2000.) Aimed at children 12+ and designed to help them become independent, critical thinkers. 1. Astrology, flying saucers and ESP Mysterious World Aisha is slumped in an armchair. 1: ILLUSTRATE AISHA (FROM THE PHILOSOPHY FILES) IN TYPICAL STUDENT HOUSE, SLUMPED READING MAGAZINE. WE CAN SEE OXFORD SPIRES OUT OF THE WINDOW. She’s idly flicking through the pages of a magazine. Suddenly, in rushes Tom, one of her housemates. Tom has been shopping and is rather excited about a book he’s just bought from Big Al’s Discount Bookstore. The book is called Mysterious World and has a big picture of a flying saucer on the front cover. 2.ILLUSTRATE: TOM IS NEW CHARACTER-GIVE HIM DISTINCTIVE LOOK, E.G. BIG SHOCK OF BLOND HAIR). EXCITED TOM LEAVING BOOKSTORE HOLDING THE BOOK MYSTERIOUS WORLD BY DICK ALAN. WITH UFO ON COVER . TOM: I