Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2012


The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion St Edmund’s College, Cambridge Science, Religion and Atheism Short Course No. 21 Murray Edwards College, Cambridge Friday 30th March – Sunday 1st April 2012 Is the discussion between science and religion affected by its narrator, be they theist, atheist or agnostic? This course is not to debate the existence of God but to explore answers to this question presented by speakers themselves coming from these different perspectives. Speakers and Topics include: A Plague on Both Your Houses: Prof. Michael Ruse Does the Evolutionary Narrative Support Theism or Atheism? Prof. Simon Conway Morris FRS and Dr Fern Elsdon-Baker Is the Universe Designed? Revd Dr Rodney Holder and Dr Stephen Law Perspectives on the Philosophy of Science and Religion Prof. Keith Ward and Dr Mark Vernon Does the History of Science and Religion depend on the Narrator? Dr Allan Chapman and Prof. Ronald Numbers For more details including bursaries and discounts, s

Graham Taylor, England manager, on my footballing performance...

Just stumbled upon this and thought I'd post it again because it's cool....

Interview on The Philosophy Files

The Complete Philosophy Files is The Philosophy Files and The Philosophy Files 2 combined into a single volume. Here is an interview I did for The Guardian newspaper when the The Philosophy Files was originally published way back in 2000. Asking all the right questions Philosopher Stephen Law tells Mel Steel why children are natural thinkers "I've always been struck by how philosophically minded children are," says Stephen Law. "They ask questions and they get an answer, and behind that answer they find another question to ask, and it doesn't take long before they're starting to question some of our most basic and fundamental beliefs. If you repeatedly ask 'Why?', it's not long before you're really hitting philosophical bedrock." The thought of dealing with philosophical bedrock at bedtime might be many parents' idea of hell; but philosophy lecturer Law believes in getting them while they're young. His first book, The P

Poster idea

Any teachers out there....I need some advice. I am thinking of producing a colourful A2 poster for schools promoting philosophy and my college. I was thinking on one side a "what is philosophy?" cartoon-type Philosophy Files thing, and on the other side a couple of discussion topics. However, what we really need is to target the right age group and get the poster put up on walls. Have any teachers out there got any advice in terms if what would be popular with teachers and encourage them to it up? In terms of raising awareness, we could actually aim at slightly younger kids. But is that advisable? Who would you target in the first instance? anyway - interested in your thoughts... BTW I did one like this a few years ago for Teacher magazine and it was quite popular, I think. best Stephen

£500 A level philosophy essay prize - please spread word to your students...

Heythrop Philosophy Essay Prize Competition 2012 Heythrop College University of London is launching a new Philosophy Essay Prize, worth £500 which will be judged by Dr Stephen Law , Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College and the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy's journal THINK: Philosophy for Everyone. The competition is open to all those studying for any AS or A2-level examinations (or equivalent) in 2012. Entries should be no longer than 1500 words including footnotes but excluding references and can take any form e.g. essay, dialogue, etc. All sources must be referenced. The deadline for the 1500 word essay is 5pm on Friday 30 March 2012, and the winner will be announced on the Heythrop website on 29 June 2012. To enter please choose one of the titles below and send your entry to (please note you may only submit one entry to the competition). Entries should be written in the Microsoft Word document which includes the entr

Why a Philosophy degree maybe a better bet than a degree in Business Administration

If you are wondering what kind of degree programme is likely to boost your general smarts, consider these figures. Go here . This is one of several graphs from the above article. Based on GRE test performance ( Graduate Record Examination ) of graduate programme applicants. Quantitative (math) skills on the vertical axis, verbal skills on the horizontal (other graphs include the third component - "analytical writing", at which philosophers also excel, dramatically outperforming all others). Philosophy graduates are pretty damn smart, the various figures suggest, compared to graduates with other degrees, including most - perhaps even all - sciences (though were they smarter to begin with, or did their degree programme make them smarter, compared to other degrees?). Check the article. Here 's the original table of GRE scores of US students completing a variety of degrees. Notice religion also does very well. This data suggests (but falls a long way short of establishin

Why Philosophy is perhaps one of the MOST useful degrees

Here is an excellent resource on why philosophy degrees make especially smart and successful businessmen and women, lawyers, journalists, etc. (you are actually dramatically better off doing a first degree in philosophy than business administration for a career in business). Some very good answers to "Philosophy? What are you going to do with that ?" question. Go here for "testimonials" . Includes GRE test performance (philosophers do staggeringly well - look right), comparative salary information, and various other useful bits of evidence that collectively puncture the peculiar modern myth that philosophy isn't "useful". I previously commented on the GRE scores comparing philosophy students with all other students here . A quote from Fordham: "In addition, as the marketplace becomes more competitive, graduate degrees become more desirable, and that entails a strong performance on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the exam mos

U.S. Christians boo the golden rule

Republican candidates on foreign policy (obviously plenty of Christians will be rightly horrified by some Christians appearing to boo Ron Paul's invocation of Confucious'/Jesus' Golden Rule [though they probably don't even know what it is, to be fair]). Thanks to the atheist missionary.

BLASPHEMY EVENT 28TH JAN - buy your tickets now!

BLASPHEMY - WHO SPEAKS FOR THE SACRED? Come and hear KENAN MALIK, AUSTIN DACEY, ANDREW COPSON, JACOB MCHANGAMA, MARYAM NAMAZIE speaking informatively and provocatively on this controversial topic. Presented by Stephen Law. Saturday 28th January 2012 Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square Holborn Tickets: £10 (£8 student). 10.30am REGISTRATION 11.00AM Kenan Malik Beyond the sacred Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. He is a presenter of Analysis, BBC Radio 4's flagship current affairs programme and a panelist on the Moral Maze. He used to present Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3's arts and ideas programme. He has written and presented a number of radio and TV documentaries including Disunited Kingdom, Are Muslims Hated?, Islam, Mullahs and the Media, Skullduggery and Man, Beast and Politics. Kenan Malik’s latest book is From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy. The book was shortlisted for the 2010 George Orwell Boo

New Scientist - interview with me on bullshit

From New Scientist. The full interview is here . How do people defend their beliefs in bizarre conspiracy theories or the power of crystals? Philosopher Stephen Law has tips for spotting their strategies You describe your new book, Believing Bullshit, as a guide to avoid getting sucked into "intellectual black holes". What are they? Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions - these are examples of intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again. But isn't one person's claptrap another's truth? There's a belief system about water to which we all sign up: it freezes at 0 °C and boils at 100 °C. We are powerfully wedded to this but that doesn't make it an intellectual black hole. That's becaus


BEYOND THE VEIL event on Saturday (Centre for Inquiry UK event). The group shot is (left to right) myself, Hayley Stevens, Richard Wiseman, Paul Zenon, Ian Rowland, Chris French.

Hayley Stevens' blog

Hayley has posted up the audio recordings of "ghosts" on her blog. They weren't quite clear enough due to technical problems at the CFI UK Beyond The Veil event yesterday (not Hayley's fault, I should add). Great blog to visit in any case... Go here .

Paul Zenon on Psychic Sally

Paul Zenon appeared at today's CFI UK Beyond the Veil event (which I organized for Centre for Inquiry UK ) and gave some funny and shocking insights into the work of various psychics. His piece in the Daily Mail on Psychic Sally is here . A video which, it's suggested, may show psychic Sally removing an ear piece is here . Both courtesy of the Daily Mail. Which is ironic.

Sally Morgan threatens libel

I am currently at Beyond The Veil, at which claims of being able to communicate with dead are being subjected to critical scrutiny. I just noticed that Jack of Kent reports... Sally Morgan, the stage "psychic", is bringing a libel claim. This was announced on Friday by Atkins Thomson, a London law firm experienced in media law matters. Given this experience, one must presume that her decision to bring a claim has not been made lightly, and that she is fully aware the reputational damage that can result from a misconceived libel claim. The lawyers' statement is not very informative: "Sally Morgan instructs Atkins Thomson to commence libel action in relation [to] various articles in the press." Indeed, so vague is this statement one would perhaps need their client's uncanny abilities to know what it actually means. First of all, it does not say that any claim has actually been issued. It does not even say that any formal "letters before action&quo

“Blasphemy!” Who speaks for the sacred? 28th Jan 2012

Come and hear KENAN MALIK, AUSTIN DACEY, ANDREW COPSON, JACOB MCHANGAMA, MARYAM NAMAZIE speaking informatively and provocatively on this controversial topic. Presented by Stephen Law. This event focuses on the criminalization of religious hatred, defamation, and insult under European human rights, and how this functions as a de facto blasphemy law. Jointly presented by Centre for Inquiry UK and SPES Saturday 28th January 2012 Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square Holborn Tickets: £10 (£8 student). 10.30am REGISTRATION 11.00AM Kenan Malik Beyond the sacred Kenan writes: The idea of blasphemy is closely linked to the concept of the sacred. Detachment from the sacred, the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor claimed at the installation ceremony for his successor, has been responsible for war and terror, sin and evil. In this view the acceptance of the sacred is indispensable for the creation of a moral framework a

CFI UK events at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival

I have organized the following events. See some of you there I hope... 12.00 Saturday 24th March Prof Steve Jones on creationism 2pm wed 28th March Nigel Warburton on Little History of Philosophy 12.00 noon on Thursday 29th March, David Aaronovitch on conspiracy theories 10.00 Thursday 29th March, Stephen Law on believing bullshit Tickets available from the box office (in some cases, shortly). Go here .


HEYTHROP RELIGIOUS STUDIES CONFERENCE KEITH WARD, JOHN COTTINGHAM, STEPHEN LAW, RICHARD HARRIES Sat 21st Jan 2012 A day conference aimed primarily at A Level students and teachers of RS and/or philosophy, though all are welcome. Free entry. Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square W8 5HN Bookshop by Newham books. Book signings. 11.00 KEITH WARD Life, the Universe, and Everything Keith Ward is a Fellow of British Academy, one-time Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, King's London, Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford, and now Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop. 12.00 JOHN COTTINGHAM Ethics and Religion: How They Fit Together John Cottingham is Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Reading University, and an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford. He is Editor of Ratio, the international journal of analytic philosophy.” 1.00-2.00 lunch 2.00 STEPHEN LAW The Evil God Challenge Stephen Law is

Oxford debate 29th March - myself and Lord Richard Harries

SUNDAY TIMES OXFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL Sponsored by Heythrop College, University of London 4pm Thursday 29th March. Christ Church College, Oxford. DOES GOD EXIST Richard Harries and Stephen Law How reasonable, or unreasonable is belief in God? Are there good arguments for the existence of God? Might belief in God be reasonable even in the absence of good arguments? Can a persuasive case be made against the existence of God, for example an argument based on the amount of pain and suffering the universe contains? Richard Harries is Gresham Professor of Divinity. His latest books include Faith in Politics? Rediscovering the Christian Roots of our Political Values (DLT) and The Re-enchantment of Morality (SPCK) which was short-listed for the 2011 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological writing. Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London and Provost of Centre for Inquiry UK. He has written several popular introductions to philosophy including T

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

From The Atlantic, Dec 29th 2011. As The comprehensive system in the UK is dismantled in favour of private and semi-privatized provision and competition, we might ask - what's the actual evidence on which such policies are based? Is it genuinely evidence based? Or is the policy driven by other factors? When it comes to any major Tory policy, the first question to ask: Cui Bono? Who benefits? The article is below... The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence. Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point. The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- a