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Showing posts from May, 2012

Heythrop College ranked no.2 in Push University Guide

Heythrop College University of London is ranked no.2 in the Push university guide (the top English university). Push ( ) is the leading independent guide to UK universities, student life, gap years, open days and student finance. Universities are assessed on the basis of five factors: finance; job prospects; academic standards; ease of entry and demand; and the level and range of extra-curricular activities and support. If you are considering a BA in philosophy, get in touch. I am tutor for admissions. think AT

Say three "outrageous" left-wing things a day

I'm pulling on my Dave Spart hat for this one... Look across the North Sea and you find Scandanavian countries doing well, economically, socially, artistically and in many other ways. They are riding out the economic storm much better than we. They also have excellent free-health care, maternity and paternity benefits, free university education, free schooling, and so on. Every child gets the same spent on its education in Sweden - you can't buy your kid a leg-up through private schooling. Finland has a fully comprehensive school system (no selection before age 16) which produces some of the best-educated children in the world. These countries have high rates of social mobility as a result (very much higher, ironically, than the "land of opportunity" USA, which should perhaps now be relabelled "land of least opportunity" ). But Scandanavian taxes are very high. We used to have some of these same State-funded benefits too, of course, but even what w

The exam question on antisemitism that Gove condemns

The Guardian reports today that Michael Gove, the education secretary, has said that that the inclusion of the question, "Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews" in a Religious Studies GCSE paper was "bizarre". Gove adds "To suggest that antisemitism can ever be explained, rather than condemned, is insensitive and frankly bizarre. AQA needs to explain how and why this question was included in an exam paper." Personally, I find Gove's reaction bizarre. I believe all children should gain some understanding of how such prejudices arise. Surely, that's one of the best defences against such prejudices. If you don't know why they arise, you are much more likely to be vulnerable. In this case, it seems to me, it is particularly important that we understand how this violent prejudice arose. Many millions of people were killed as a result of it. And it's still around. Suppressing such questions for fear of being &qu

The Disturbing Celebrity Illusion

In case you missed it... (and what explains it?)

Study BA Philosophy at My College

Re posting this, for your information. We are still accepting applications . Recent news is our very good score for student satisfaction, again, on the National Student Survey. I happen to be tutor for admission for the BA in philosophy at Heythrop College University of London. If you want to find about more about our BA programme, or an evening MA in philosophy, get in touch (email address is in the header to this page). Obviously with the new fees system, all colleges are focusing on recruitiment, and so are we of course. Obviously we're not as well known as some other colleges. But we are quite exceptional. So here are a few facts about Heythrop you might be interested in, if you're thinking about pursuing a degree in Philosophy or Theology. (1) Heythrop is the University of London college that specializes in just Philosophy and Theology. It's all we do. (2) Heythrop students achieve remarkably good results, despite our comparatively modest entry requ

What Craig said... (II)

Thinking a bit more... I suspect a real problem question for a Craig type Christian is, if the atheist knows God exists, and knows the penalty for denying God exists is infinite punishment, and the reward for acknowledging belief is infinite bliss, why does the atheist "suppress" their knowledge of, and deny, God's  existence? Motive? Sure, Craig thinks the atheist's denial is born of "wickedness". But that's not a motive . A wickedly selfish and self-serving person, when given an "offer they can't refuse" by a mafia boss, will take the offer, not refuse it. Craig's God gives us atheists a choice - admit what we clearly see and know to be true, and get a pass to heaven, or deny what we know, and receive infinite torment. Why do we freely and knowingly choose that latter? How does Craig make sense of that choice? Surely,  a selfish, self-serving person would choose the former? I'm genuinely interested.... when it comes

What Craig said....

Craig (PS correction: one of Craig's Reasonable Faith guys) has said about that quote that Craig never meant that reason alone leads to atheism.  Go here . Thanks to the Uncredible Hallq . We should take Craig at his word of course, and put down what Craig actually said to an uncharacteristic lapse of clarity. Here by the way is another piece by Craig in which he maintains that atheists know God exists and, by the end of their lifetime, also the great truths of the Gospels. Notice that Craig talks below about how God reveals himself in nature, but also that nature provides "evidence". Is the idea that atheists can just see that God exists, as they look upon nature? Or is it that they should merely infer God's existence on the basis of evidence that nature furnishes? If the latter, then they don't necessarily know God exists - they may fail to spot the evidence or make the inference. And why is infinite punishment an appropriate penalty for failing t

Do atheists know God exists?

I r ecently noted that William Lane Craig takes the view, apparently, that atheists know in their hearts that God exists. It would seem to follow that atheists are liars when they claim not to know that God exists (assuming they know they knows God exists, and that to lie is to assert what one knows to be false). Theist Andy Everist, in an independent post , sees that this conclusion is implausible, and writes: The Bible claims all men (atheists and skeptics included) have a knowledge of God. Romans 1:20-21 states, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Many atheists find such a claim both wrong and offensive. This is because i

Why a degree in philosophy may be a better bet than a degree in business

This previous post bears repeating in the current economic climate... 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

What is "Character Education"?

"Multi-million pound award to support first research centre dedicated to understanding the UK's character and values." University of Birmingham News Release. This is an interesting announcement from the University of Birmingham. The Professor in charge of this Templeton-funded project, James Arthur, says he wants to influence policy in this country, and is clearly being taken seriously already (he mention that DEMOS have expressed interest in his research). Character education can be a very good thing - and there's much of interest to say about it (going all the way back to Aristotle, in fact - see below) - but whenever you see the phrase, approach with caution. In the United States, "Character Education" has been used as cover for the promotion of fairly conservative (usually conservatively religious)  educational methods. It was part of the  No Child Left Behind policy funded under George W. Bush. Here's a chapter from my book "The Wa

Me on Think Atheist Radio

I am on Think Atheist Radio. Podcast available here .  On bullshit, evil, God, etc....

Daily Mail and the art of ad hominem

Here is an article in Daily Mail that nicely illustrates that newspaper's tendency to make ad hominem attacks. The suggestion seems to be that a rich person who is leftwing is a hypocrite. It is a standard Daily Mail smear, of course, to attack lefties for being hypocrites and champagne socialists. However, isn't someone who fights for policies that are not in their own self-interest actually demonstrating real integrity , rather than hypocrisy? And what's wrong with a rich person "disliking the rich"? I imagine we'll see an awful lot of this sort of ad hominem attack directed at Hollande , who clearly rattles the DM, which, I imagine, is fearful of someone similar gaining power over here. Of course a poor person who expresses left-wing views will be accused of "the politics of envy" (example here ) - another ad hominem. Either way, if you're a lefty, the Mail will get you with an ad hominem! Here's the start... New

Gay marriage: three key factors behind voting for bans

Interesting Guardian article here with research into why people vote against same sex marraige. It's not just about religion... Gay marriage: three key factors behind voting for bans With high levels of religious adherence, North Carolina voters followed a predictable pattern. But that's not the whole story North Carolina voters passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions Tuesday night . The reaction in the Twitterverse can be described as anger and hurt. Many probably thought to themselves that such a decision by the voters was "backward". I have discussed how voter opinion on same-sex relationship issues is complex , but there isn't anything difficult to understand why Amendment 1 or any other constitutional ban on same-sex marriage pass. Support for bans between states is highly predictable simply by knowing the percentage of religious voters . Many times, howeve

Craig: reason leads to atheism or agnosticism

"The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic." William Lane Craig. Yes, Craig really did say that. The source is here . A very interesting article. Thanks to this forum . But does Craig really mean what he appears to mean? You should make your own mind up about that. These other quotes from Reasonable Faith re. the role of reason may be relevant: "Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa." [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics , (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.] "Therefore, when a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come becaus

Big Questions comment

I was on BBC1 Big Questions yesterday. Go here . The whole hour was devoted to religion and children. I argued early on that children should be encouraged to think and question and all schools should be forced to meet minimum standards on that. I got a big round of applause on that from pretty much everyone - religious and non-religious (about 15 mins). Later in the programme, a young man to my right called Nick explained how, on the last day at his Catholic school (he was Head Boy), "came out" as an atheist in his speech. The Monsigneur patted him on the shoulder and said he was "brave". Again, some approving applause and comment about this from the religious (at about 39.20 mins) But hang on: why did this pupil have to wait until the last day of school before he could admit what he believed? Why, even at that point, was this acknowledged to be a pretty "brave" thing to do? The answer is fairly obvious, isn't? Because the school had managed to c

Howthelightgetsin 2012

  The following is from Spoonfed , written by Hilary Lawson founder of Howthelightgetsin. In the closing pages of  A Brief History of Time , Stephen Hawking takes a sideswipe at contemporary philosophy, arguing that it has been reduced to an analysis of language. In  The Grand Design  he goes a step further. “Philosophy,” he tells us, “is dead”. As a philosopher and founder of the world’s largest philosophy and music festival,   HowTheLightGetsIn , I’m not convinced by Hawking’s vision. Excluding philosophy and any other strategy one might employ to tackle life’s big questions seems a careless dismissal of forms of human enquiry. The reality is that science has no monopoly on truth. Scientist and broadcaster Baroness Greenfield has spoken of the “smugness and complacency” of science and has called for a return to curiosity and open-mindedness. If science gave up its metaphysical pretentions and stopped supposing that it was uncovering the essential character of the world