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Showing posts from March, 2009

New York Times article on those unbelieving Swedes and Danes

Phil Zuckerman spent 14 months in Scandinavia, talking to hundreds of Danes and Swedes about religion. It wasn’t easy. Anyone who has paid attention knows that Denmark and Sweden are among the least religious nations in the world. Polls asking about belief in God, the importance of religion in people’s lives, belief in life after death or church attendance consistently bear this out. It is also well known that in various rankings of nations by life expectancy, child welfare, literacy, schooling, economic equality, standard of living and competitiveness, Denmark and Sweden stand in the first tier. Well documented though they may be, these two sets of facts run up against the assumption of many Americans that a society where religion is minimal would be, in Mr. Zuckerman’s words, “rampant with immorality, full of evil and teeming with depravity.” Article continues... thanks to M Male.

Plantinga Paper

My copy of Naturalism Defeated - essays on Plantinga's argument against evolutionary naturalism , finally got here. The paper by William Ramsey does make the same point as me in the paper I am writing , though in a much sketchier way. Interestingly, Plantinga responds at the end. So I'll redo the paper in light of this....

Scruton: The Return of Religion

Stevec sent a link to this piece by Roger Scruton. The Return of Religion. His main point is, I think, that the new atheists just assume science can answer every question. I don't think they do, but even if they did, they don't need to in order to be able to blow Scruton's God out of the water. See here ... As a rule, I always stress that I do NOT say science can answer every question. That's a hostage to fortune.

SCIENCE AND RELIGION: Simon Singh, Mary Warnock, Jack Cohen, Stephen Law

PLEASE PUBLICIZE! Saturday 25th April 2009 A day exploring the relationship between science and religion, with some very eminent and well-known speakers (plus myself). The day will address, among other issues, such questions as: Are religion and science non-overlapping magesteria? Can science support, or undermine, religious beliefs? If so, how? If not, why not? This promises to be a fascinating series of talks, whatever your views on religion. Simon Singh will talk about Georges Lamaitre (scientist and priest) and the Big Bang, Baroness Mary Warnock about "religion as humanism" Jack Cohen about evolution and belly buttons, and Stephen Law about empirical evidence against the God hypothesis. The cost is £10 (£5 students and national Humanist orgs). BOOK NOW. Send a cheque payable to “Centre for Inquiry London” to: Executive Director Suresh Lalvani, Centre for Inquiry London, at the Conway Hall address (include names of all those coming). Alternatively pay by PAYPAL (c

New Draft Plantinga Paper

A work in progress - posted for comments - NOT TO BE COPIED OR REPRODUCED ELSEWHERE! 3rd draft Plantinga’s Belief-Cum-Desire Argument Refuted In the final chapter of Warrant and Proper Function , Plantinga argues that, if both: (N) naturalism – the view that there are no supernatural beings (E) evolution - current evolutionary doctrine are true, then the probability that: (R) our cognitive faculties are reliable and produce mostly true beliefs must be either low or inscrutable. Plantinga argues, further, that this argument furnishes anyone who accepts N&E with a undefeatable defeater for any belief produced by those faculties, including N&E itself. Hence, N&E has been shown to be self-defeating. One part of this larger argument is what I call Plantinga’s belief-cum-desire argument. The belief-cum-desire argument is designed to show something more specific - that if the content of our beliefs does causally affect behaviour, and N&E, then the probability

Troy Brooks's "Perfect Proof" of God

Here is an example (thanks to Mike J) of the kind of weird insanity that religion can instill (n.b. I am NOT saying all religious people are insane!). This chap has a proof of God's existence and is offering $10,000 to anyone who can refute it. If you would like to make an attempt to disprove the proof for God, there is a forum where you can do so. $10,000 in U.S. dollars (getting cheaper by the day) has been reserved and offered to the first person who can disprove God's proof of Himself. Thousands have tried but failed. Since I am a child of God and thus, set before God with authority in His kingdom and bound for heaven, you can't ask for a better arbitrator. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18.18). The proof of God has been loosed on Earth so it is loosed in heaven: well approved! Lots of attempts have been made on the forums, and also, read here. Yes that's right th

So why did New Scientist pull that article?

NEW HUMANIST ARTICLE: So why did New Scientist pull that article? Now that some of the hysteria has died down over the removal from the New Scientist website of a piece on how to spot hidden religious agendas in science books, it's worth taking another look at the story. Article continues...

Pope says condoms not the answer in fight against AIDS

For the story go here and here . Pope Benedict XVI has said that handing out condoms is not the answer in the fight against HIV/Aids, as he makes his first visit to Africa as pontiff. Speaking en route to Cameroon, he said distribution of condoms "increases the problem". I previously posted on this topic here . Perhaps this is one area where we can say, more or less without qualification, that religion is dangerous.

PUBLIC DEBATE: The God Delusion - Monday 6th April

Marianne Talbot (Brasenose College, Oxford) and Stephen Law (CFI Provost) discuss Dawkins’s book with the audience. Held at the Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford. Monday, 6th April 7-10pm (bar till 11pm) THIS EVENT IS FREE. Address: Lecture Theatre, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA.

Pardon Pervez Kambakhsh

I am sure most of you know about the case of the young student journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, sentenced to death by courts in Afghanistan for distributing literature supporting women's rights (which amounts to "blasphemy"). The sentence was reduced to 20 years. The Independent is fighting Pevez's corner. There is a facebook group to join here . Will the President of Afghanistan issue a pardon?

The dingers

Thought I would get something off my chest. I hate dingers. You know, the people who park up alongside your car, then carelessly open their door into yours, leaving a little ding or dent. Most people aren't dingers. I have never put a ding in a car. I hook my finger round the door so as not to do any damage. But look at any car more than a year old, and chances it it will have numerous little dings in its panels. Who are the dingers? And how do we make them stop! Do they not know they are dinging? Or do they not really care? Now someone close to me who shall remain nameless is, in fact, a dinger. It drives me nuts. I once parked up alongside a brand new £35,000 Audi. Predicting the inevitable, I said "Open your door carefully - that's a brand new..." Ding! And the owners were still in it. Reply: "What's the big deal? It's just a car." Is this a petty and shallow obsession of mine? Should I just get a life? Or is this a TOTAL FRIGGING MENACE?!


I am strongly considering blowing my literary prize money on month long trip with family to Vancouver this August. But is there enough there to keep a 4 year old and 10 year old happy? Any advice appreciated... I have a possible house swap in the pipeline.

Philosopher Roger Scruton lambasts the new humanists

Here . From American Spectator. Scruton laments the passing of his parents' style of humanism, and attacks the "new humanism" of Dawkins and the BHA. "Like so many modern ideologies, the new humanism seeks to define itself through what it is against rather than what it is for. It is for nothing, or at any rate for nothing in particular." The new humanism "seems to have no consciousness of what is clearly announced between the lines of the text [ON THE ATHEIST BUSES], namely that there are no ideals higher than pleasure." The BHA's "publications imply that there is only one thing that stands between man and his happiness, and that is the belief in God. " Bit of "straw man" going on here? I know many humanists but I am not sure I know of any that believe (i) "there are no ideals higher than pleasure" and (ii) "only one thing stands between man and his happiness, and that is the belief in God". I don'

Baggini on Hume (V)

Julian's fifth installment is out , I see, but still no defence of his initial claim that: The most pressing and telling critiques of religion not only cannot, but should not, attempt to deliver any fatal blows...

A Sceptical Inquiry

From Richard Dawkins to the atheist bus, critical thinking has made an unexpected return to popularity. Chris French, editor of the Skeptic magazine, wonders why - here .


Description: A day with some of the world’s leading scientific researchers into faith, many from Oxford University. £10 or £5 students. We’ll be looking at hearing voices, possession, etc. What goes on the brain of someone hearing voices? Come and see the MRI scans. Is religious belief hard-wired into us? Yes, says one speaker, and provides the empirical evidence. One of our scientists was recently featured in NEW SCIENTIST magazine. A unique opportunity to hear and question those working at the cutting edge of this growing field of scientific research. Organized by Stephen Law, CFI UK Provost. Location: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL (close to Holborn tube). To book, send a cheque payable to “Centre for Inquiry London” to: Executive Director Suresh Lalvani, Centre for Inquiry London, at the above address (Include names of all those coming). Alternatively use the “Support CFI UK” button at and follow the instructions (credit and debit cards). £10

For CFI UK info - email me

If you would like to be kept informed of CFI UK events by email, email me and I will add you to our database. I won't pass them on, obviously. For upcoming event info, see:

Designer baby row over US clinic

From BBC website: "This is the inevitable slippery slope of a fertility process which results in many more embryos being created than can be implanted." Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics A US clinic has sparked controversy by offering would-be parents the chance to select traits like the eye and hair colour of their offspring. The LA Fertility Institutes run by Dr Jeff Steinberg, a pioneer of IVF in the 1970s, expects a trait-selected baby to be born next year. His clinic also offers sex selection. UK fertility experts are angered that the service will distract attention from how the same technology can protect against inherited disease. The science is based on a lab technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. This involves testing a cell taken from a very early embryo before it is put into the mother's womb. Doctors then select an embryo free from rogue genes - or in this case an embryo with the desired physical traits such

Baggini on Hume (IV)

Julian's 4th piece on Hume is up on the Guardian website . Still no defence of his claim that: The most pressing and telling critiques of religion not only cannot, but should not, attempt to deliver any fatal blows...

I win the Mindelheim Philosophy Prize

The Bavarian town of Mindelheim has devised a new literary prize (E5,000) for books that encourage young adults to think and question. The prize is awarded by a jury made up of seven 17-18 year olds from the local school, plus a teacher and advisor. They selected from a list of about 100 books . And, amazingly, I won – for the German version of The Philosophy Gym. So I am off to Bavaria in May for 3 days, with my wife, as the guests of Mindelheim and to collect my prize. It’s going to be a very surreal experience, as I am told there will be an evening in my honour with a laudatory speech by a former Bavarian arts and education Minister, plus champagne, a band, and “fire show” in the town square . I also asked if I could arrange to see the amazing Neuschwanstein castle, which I’ve always wanted to see since watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a kid – and they’re pleased to take us. Obviously I’m pretty thrilled to receive any sort of prize, but I should add it’s actually a really

How to spot a hidden religious agenda

Thanks to reason 42 for this link to New Scientist. How to spot a hidden religious agenda Amanda Gefter AS A book reviews editor at New Scientist, I often come across so-called science books which after a few pages reveal themselves to be harbouring ulterior motives... [article continues] Amanda Gefter is an editor for the Opinion section of New Scientist Issue 2697 of New Scientist magazine