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Showing posts from October, 2011

Economic quackery: the entirely illusory "skill" of the traders

A bit more on economic quackery. This is from an article published yesterday . The associated book by Kahneman looks very interesting. I previously noted this suspicious "skill" . It's non-existent character is increasingly well-documented. But incredibly well rewarded! Mutual funds are run by highly experienced and hardworking professionals who buy and sell stocks to achieve the best possible results for their clients. Nevertheless, the evidence from more than 50 years of research is conclusive: for a large majority of fund managers, the selection of stocks is more like rolling dice than like playing poker. Typically at least two out of every three mutual funds underperform the overall market in any given year. More important, the year-to-year correlation between the outcomes of mutual funds is very small, barely higher than zero. The successful funds in any given year are mostly lucky; they have a good roll of the dice. There is general agreement among researchers th

Britain's harmful "quack" economic cure

Editorial from the New York Times, Oct 14th. For a year now, Britain’s economy has been stuck in a vicious cycle of low growth, high unemployment and fiscal austerity. But unlike Greece, which has been forced into induced recession by misguided European Union creditors, Britain has inflicted this harmful quack cure on itself. Austerity was a deliberate ideological choice by Prime Minister David Cameron’s ruling coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, elected 17 months ago. It has failed and can be expected to keep failing. But neither party is yet prepared to acknowledge that reality and change course. Britain’s economy has barely grown since the budget cuts began taking effect late last year. The most recent quarterly figures showed the economy flat-lining, with growth at 0.1 percent. New figures released this week reported Britain’s highest jobless numbers in more than 15 years. Independent analysts expect unemployment — now 8.1 percent — to keep rising in the months a

Thanks for all the feedback re WLC debate

Apologies if I do not respond to every comment. There have been a lot. I'm genuinely grateful for all the feedback - positive and negative. I want to believe what's true, of course. So counter-arguments are to be welcomed - especially if they're good ones! Apparently I will burn in hell for all eternity for failing to believe in Craig's God, if he exists . So would prefer not to get this wrong. I'm in Sweden for a few days from tomorrow, so won't be posting much if at all. POSTSCRIPT I was asked to prepare some questions for Craig for the Q&A session at the end. In fact I was never given the opportunity to ask any. But I had prepared a couple. Here they are: NUCLEAR QUESTION You claim to just know in your heart, with utter certainty, that God exists and Christianity is true. I want you to imagine that you have become President of the United States. Imagine also that there’s a red button on the table. You know that pressing the button will bring abou


Help needed. I quickly need some examples of celebrities buying into or endorsing, e.g. miracles cures, new age philosophers, psychics, mediums, ghost stories, homeopathy and other alt. medicines. Any examples and/or links of celebrity woo v gratefully received. Bigger the celebrity and the more recent the better. Thanks!

My remaining notes from the Craig debate

Here are my remaining notes prepared for the debate on God's existence with William Lane Craig. These anticipated Craig's likely responses to my attacks on hos moral and resurrection arguments. I didn't really use this stuff on the night, except a little in Q&A session at the end. Notice I was also ready for the ontological argument. 2. CRAIG’S POSSIBLE DEFENCES OF MORAL ARGUMENT IF NO GOD, THEN WE’RE NOT SPECIAL. WE’RE JUST ANIMALS, LIKE OTHER ANIMALS. THEY HAVE NO MORAL DUTIES TO EACH OTHER. SO NEITHER DO WE. It doesn’t follow from the fact that we are animals that we are not special. We can still be, and are, special in all sorts of ways. Unlike other animals we can write poetry, contemplate the great questions of philosophy, derive a profound sense of meaning and enjoyment from great works of art. We are rational agents capable of reflecting on the moral consequences of our actions. In fact, it’s this last difference between us and other animals that explains

Brief sketch of my overall argument in the debate

Some have said they struggled to follow my line of argument in the William Lane Craig debate. So here’s a brief overview (check my closing statement too) [post script - after presenting the evidential problem of evil ] I asked Craig to explain why belief in a good god is significantly more reasonable than belief in an evil god - given an evil god is absurd (and Craig agreed it is absurd). Most people will happily conclude there’s no evil god purely on the basis of the evidential problem of good (whether or not there are other reasons to reject the evil god hypothesis). So why isn’t the problem of evil similarly fatal to belief in a good god? After all, most standard methods of explaining away the evil can be reversed to explain away the good. E.g. appeal to an afterlife and playing the sceptical, God-has-his-ultimate-reasons-of-which-we’re-ignorant card. Now Craig, quite amazingly, actually chose to play that sceptical card on the night, endorsing the (highly counter-intuitive

Notes for responding to Craig's possible criticism of my evil god challenge

Finally (having provided all my other notes in postings below) here are my notes prepared for whatever Craig might have said in response to the evil god challenge. You can see I prepared for a much wider range of moves than he actually made. In fact, this is where I was weakest. I floundered a bit. I did nail him on his silly "evil proves there is a god" move (which he later acknowledged is not really a good objection to the problem of evil). But I failed to nail Craig him on the "earthly happiness" move, despite having it down here. Nor did I explain clearly enough that even if Craig did accept (as he did, amazingly) that there's no observational evidence at all against an evil god or good god, he is STILL stuck with the challenge of explaining why belief in a good god is more reasonable belief in an evil god, the latter being absurd (all Craig had left were his moral and resurrection arguments, which I did then go on to demolish). I should also have picked up

My closing statement

From yesterday's debate with William Lane Craig. I removed a few phrases from the beginning. My opening statement and my refutations of Craig's moral and resurrection arguments are posted below. As we look back across the hundreds of millions of years of sentient life on this planet, we find suffering on a stupendous scale. For example, we humans have - over many hundreds of thousands of generations before before either Jesus or the idea of Prof. Craig’s god were known to us - had to watch a third to a half of our children die painfully in our arms. Immense suffering and horror are built into the fabric of the world we are forced to inhabit. My contention is this suffering constitutes powerful evidence against Professor Craig’s god. Even many Christians acknowledge it constitutes a very powerful intellectual threat to their belief. I’ve challenged Professor Craig to explain why, given this mountain of evidence, belief in his God is supported by the evidence and arguments.

Opening speech - Craig debate

The opening speech from my debate with William Lane Craig last night. My criticism of his moral and resurrection arguments are posted immediately below. Interestingly, Craig ran only three arguments instead of the usual five - those two and his cosmological argument. Possibly he dropped the fine-tuning argument because it would be as irrelevant as his cosmological in dealing with the evil god challenge. Possibly he dropped the appeal to his personal experience - "I just know" - because of this . My thanks to the organizers of this debate for the invitation to take part – I’m genuinely honoured to share the stage with Professor Craig. We’re here to debate the question “Does God exist?” We’ve just heard various arguments that are supposed to justify an affirmative answer. I’ll address those arguments in the first rebuttal period. I’m going to devote my opening speech to sketching out an argument against the existence of God. There are many such arguments. I’m going to make

My criticisms of Craig's Moral and Resurrection arguments

This is what I used against Craig's moral and resurrection arguments for the existence of God in last night's debate. His only other argument was the cosmological, which I ignored as irrelevant to Craig's showing that his good god exists as opposed to say, an evil God (for which a "cumulative case" based on the cosmological argument could also be based, and which we all nevertheless know can be justifiably rejected on the basis of observational evidence) Craig pretended that this was an amazing concession that it was a good argument and that my view was deism was true! THE MORAL ARGUMENT Let’s start with Craig's moral argument. It runs: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God exists. The vast majority of philosophers reject this argument. Take, for example, the Christian philosopher Professor Richard Swinburne of Oxford University. Swinburne says, “I cannot see any force in an argument t

Please support...

Go here . I think this is very well worth supporting, though I personally think the emphasis should be very much on the giving, compassion, etc. and not on the being godless (otherwise it makes it seem like it's a donation made to make a political point; "Here take this - that'll show those darn Christians!"). Though of course I do see there are good reasons for demonstrating the godless can be compassionate, generous etc. too. Here's the blurb... Non-Prophet Week is the AHS's annual charity drive, and will be running on the 7th-13th of November this year. There will be a variety of events at many universities with AHS societies, all over the UK and ROI. AHS President Jenny Bartle said: "Non-Prophet week is run to prove that non-believers are just as charitable as religious people. For too long have people believed that the religious have a monopoly on caring. This is wholly untrue, which is why we are encouraging our members to get out there and do so

William Lane Craig vs me, October 17th

Promotional video for the upcoming William Lane Craig tour (I'm his first opponent, of course). The feel is a little like a boxing promo. "William Lane Craig! Undefeated Heavy Weight Champion of The World! Against - some other guys! Come watch Craig smash his atheist opponents! Those that aren't too cowardly!" I like it (the video I mean). All good knock about fun.