Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2010

Naturalism conference

Centre for the Philosophy of Religion, Heythrop College, University of London Religion and Naturalism Saturday 12 June 2010 The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines ontological naturalism as the assertion that reality has no place for supernatural or other ‘spooky’ kinds of entity. Much of current philosophy operates within a naturalist paradigm, and therefore starts from a position that seems inherently hostile to traditional religion. How should defenders of religion respond to the naturalist challenge? Is naturalism a coherent outlook, or is it an illegitimate attempt to extend the scope of science to the whole of reality? Is a theistic worldview – in its implications for ethics,for psychology, for cosmology – on a collision course with naturalism? The distinguished speakers at this one-day conference, organized by the Centre for the Philosophy of Religion at Heythrop College, University of London, will be debating an issue that has become central to contemporary philosop


Monday, 21 June 2010: Is a Secular Society a Better Society? Saleem Chagtai (Clarity Institute & iERA) & Adnan Rashid VS (Hittin Institute) Dr Ed. Buckner & Stephen Law (British Humanist Association) Venue: Friends House, Main Hall, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ TO ATTEND YOU MUST REGISTER HERE .

Introduction - first draft for comments please

Here's the most of the introduction the new book on Intellectual Black Holes. Comments please. INTRODUCTION Intellectual black holes Wacky and ridiculous belief systems abound. One cult promises members a ride to heaven on board a UFO. Another insists the Earth is ruled by lizard-like aliens. Even mainstream religions have people believing absurdities. Preachers have promised 46 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 its 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, and that the Word Trade Centre was brought down by the US Government. There is even a handful who continue to

David Roberston quote

I am reading Robertson's The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths . Thought this quote from one of his letters to Dawkins was very interesting: “Do you seriously think the evidence for the God of the Bible is on the same level as the tooth fairy? You have not, for example, written a book on the Tooth Fairy Delusion. The evidence for God is on a completely different level. I suspect you know that but again in your rhetorical style the sound-bite put-down works so much better. Let me put it another way – if the only evidence that existed for Jesus Christ was the same as that which exists for the Flying Spaghetti Monster then I and millions of others would not believe in him.” p51. The idea seems to be that if lots of people believe something, well then the evidence for what they believe must be, if not conclusive, then at least much better than that for e.g. the tooth fairy. However: (i) I don't remember Dawkins denying Jesus Christ existed. (ii) When it comes to super

Witchcraft and the law in Central African Republic

Hex Appeal From The Atlantic. Ge here . June 2010. Witches are overwhelming the courts in the Central African Republic. And that may be a good thing. By Graeme Wood Snaking around the outer wall of the courthouse in Mbaiki, Central African Republic, is a long line of citizens, all in human form and waiting to face judgment. It’s easy to imagine them as the usual mix of drunks, reckless drivers, and check-bouncers in the dock of a small American town. But here most are witches, and they are facing criminal punishment for hexing their enemies or assuming the shape of animals. By some estimates, about 40 percent of the cases in the Central African court system are witchcraft prosecutions. (Drug offenses in the U.S., by contrast, account for just 12 percent of arrests.) In Mbaiki—where Pygmies, who are known for bewitching each other, make up about a tenth of the population—witchcraft prosecutions exceed 50 percent of the case load, meaning that most alleged criminals there are suspec


COMPETITION - NEW LOGO CFI UK needs a new logo. Winner gets life membership (free entry to Conway Hall events). The rules are: - Your design should be created in vector format, but emailed for judging as a 400x400 pixel JPG or PNG file no bigger than 300Kb in size. - It must include the letters CFI UK. - It should reflect the ethos of the Center for Inquiry. - It should look good in both colour and greyscale, and be suitable for use in the website masthead, letterheads, t-shirts, publicity posters and banners. - The design must be your own original work, and not contain elements which are subject to third party copyright. Something with a candle (Enlightenment, Prometheus, etc.) would obviously be suitable, but anything considered as long as it looks cool. Submit entries to me at think (at) Deadline June 15th.

Graham Taylor on my footballing performance

Graham Taylor (former Watford and England manager) commenting on my footballing prowess at the philosopher's football match (he managed my team - the Greeks). He was a really great guy. He gave me two comments. I will leave you to guess which version is more accurate. Also includes opportunity to see Prof. Stephen Mumford semi-naked (with his permission)!

Philosopher's Football Match Sunday

Date: Sunday, 9 May, 2010 Location: The Harry Abrahams Stadium, Finchley, N12 0PD (nearest Tubes: East or West Finchley) Gates open 1.30pm. Commentator: Laurie Taylor. John Humphrys (Today Prog R4) will be there, as will Terry Jones (Monty Python), Graham Taylor (former England manager)... The Match kick-off takes place at 3pm and will last 110 minutes in total and thus with final whistle (allowing for extra time at the referee's discretion!) is at 4.50pm. We anticipate getting 500 spectators on the day, including families, on the day, and there is extensive media interest as well. £10 web (collect your ticket at the gate) or £20 on the day. Kids £1. Website: Germans Philosopher Simon Glendenning voted Most Creative Goal Celebrator 2008-09 season is in goal for Nietzsche Albion, Philosopher Julian Baggini in the back as Nutter Tackler with a strong mid-field duo of Philosopher and Journalist Mark Vernon and Comedian Arthur ‘Schopenhauer’ Smit


Prepare to see the owners of the Mail, Telegraph, Sun, Express, Standard, etc. unleash the forces of hell as they face the distinct possibility of a Lib-Lab deal on electoral reform that would mean that the party of the rich few will never again have a working majority! I wonder if Labour will really do it, though? For they'll be unlikely ever to get a working majority either. I guess the decision for Labour is: should they sacrifice the Labour Party's chances of ever again being the single party of government in order to lock the Tories out forever (and also ensure our government will in future reflect the country's broadly liberal-left character)? Have I got this right?

Oh dear....

Front cover of THE SUN newspaper today. And one M Thatcher... I was struck by the similarity. Creepy. Almost as if they deliberately Thatcherized him.

EKKLESIA: Telegraph chooses to ignore its own poll

FROM EKKLESIA... Two weeks ago, the Telegraph ran a column by Frank Field entitled: 'Why is there no talk about immigration?'. The answer may have now come to light, as the Sunday Telegraph seems to have failed to highlight findings from its own polling. In the ICM poll it commissioned, which was released on Saturday night, was a question about an amnesty for illegal immigrants (p10): Would you support/oppose: Allowing illegal immigrants who have a clean record and have been in Britain for 10 years or more, to become full British citizens? The findings: Support: 55% Oppose: 40% DK: 6% The apparent support for the Liberal Democrat policy for a migrant amnesty wasn't mentioned in its reporting. Instead, they decided to focus on the study released by MigrationWatch UK which suggested that more than a million illegal immigrants would be granted citizenship. This has been followed up in the Telegraph today with a column by Matthew Moore entitled 'Nick Clegg struggles

"Help me, help me!"

Many kids films make a filmic reference to "help me, help me" said in a tiny squeeky voice. E.g. the bloody awful Furry Vengeance that I saw with my kids yesterday. It crops up in lots of kids cartoons too. My kids, and perhaps no one under thirty, has any idea what the reference is to, so today I showed them. Here it is, in case you missed it. Possibly a mistake - I don't think they'll sleep so well tonight...

The "It's hopelessly impressionistic!" response to the evidential problem of evil

The suggestion that the evidential problem of evil is pretty useless as an argument against the existence of God because it is based on claims about suffering, etc. that are hopelessly "impressionistic" has come up several times recently. David Hart made the move in response to my contribution to 50 Voices of Disbelief (see this post ). And now "Fun with Formal Ideas" runs the same move in a comment on the preceding post . So it's worth dealing with. Here's the comment on the preceding post (nb by "Eth" commentator means the God of Eth ): "Eth is impressionistic, Stephen, it is not founded in any facts, data or evidence where these may be considered synonymous or statistically significant and relies finally upon a appeal to common sense." David Hart said: "Nicholas Everitt and Stephen Law recycle the old (and incorrigibly impressionistic) argument that claims of God’s omnipotence seem incompatible with claims of his goodness.&

Podcast of myself and Denis Alexander on science and religion

The podcast of my hour long discussion of science and religion with Denis Alexander of the Faraday Institute is now available as a podcast. Go here . It was broadcast on Premier Christian Radio on Saturday.

Review of 50 Voices of Disbelief

There's a review of this book (to which I contributed) from David Hart of First Things available here . BELIEVE IT OR NOT By David B. Hart I think I am very close to concluding that this whole “New Atheism” movement is only a passing fad—not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and The Bridges of Madison County. This is not because I necessarily think the current “marketplace of ideas” particularly good at sorting out wise arguments from foolish. But the latest trend in à la mode godlessness, it seems to me, has by now proved itself to be so intellectually and morally trivial that it has to be classified as just a form of light entertainment, and popular culture always tires of its diversions sooner or later and moves on to other, equally ephemeral toys. Take, for instance, the recently published 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We