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Showing posts from April, 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 bel

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 p

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

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 comp

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", s

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 t

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

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

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 ...

"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 bette

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 a

Finsteraarhorn, Bernese Oberland

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

more tickets

more sam harris richard dawkins tickets available but be v quick... more harris dawkins tickets available now if you are quick.....

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...