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Showing posts from July, 2013

Pressing Your Buttons (from my book Believing Bullshit)

PRESSING YOUR BUTTONS One way in which we can shape the beliefs of others is by rational persuasion. Suppose, for example, that I want someone to believe that Buckingham Palace is in London (which it is). I could provide them with a great deal of evidence to support that belief. I could also just take them to London so they can see with their own eyes that that’s where Buckingham Palace is located. But what if these kinds of method aren’t available? Suppose I have little or no evidence to support the belief I nevertheless want people to accept. Suppose I can’t just show them that it’s true. How else might I get them to believe? I might try to dupe them, of course. I could produce fraudulent evidence and bogus arguments. But what if I suspect this won’t be enough? What if I think my deceit is likely to be detected? Another option is to drop even the pretence of rational persuasion and to adopt what I call Pressing your Buttons . Belief-shaping mechanisms All

Pope Joan - National Youth Theatre Production

Dear Stephen, I’m writing on behalf of the National Youth Theatre to let you know about an upcoming production that we think would be of interest to CFI London as well as your students. Pope Joan will be performed at St James’s Church, Piccadilly and tells the legendary story of the world’s first and only female pope. Controversial, moving and enthralling, audiences can witness an unfolding of unbelievable and prescient events that have profound parallels today. Playing for a strictly limited season 31 August – 15 September, tickets start from just £12 and can be booked via the National Theatre:

Response to Randal Rauser's response to my response to his shoddy review

Randal Rauser has responded to my suggestion that his review of my book Believing Bullshit was pretty shoddy (though not as shoddy as Martin Cohen’s in the THES ). Go here . Understandable, I suppose. By combining selective quotation, misdirection and quite a lot of bluster, Rauser is quite successful at generating the impression I have been unfair to him. A preliminary point re not responding to Rauser’s entire review. After disclaimers about what follows being nothing personal, Rauser moans that I only respond to 10% of his review. Sure I did. Because it is, to use Rauser’s own description of it, “bloated”. I didn’t cherry-pick which bit to respond to. I just started at the beginning of the review and kept going till I felt I had expended enough effort in terms of hours and word count. Given the way Rauser packs in the muddles, misrepresentations, bad arguments, etc. it took me 2,500 words to unpack what was wrong with just the first 10% of Rauser’s review. I stopped at that

Videos from the CFI Conference on Scientism.

Are available on youtube. For some reason I cannot embed them. The links are:

My response to William Lane Craig's review of my paper on the existence of Jesus

A while back, William Lane Craig responded to an argument of mine that was published in 2011 in Faith and Philosophy in a paper called “Evidence, Miracles, and The Existence of Jesus”. (Craig’s response appears on his Reasonable Faith website here ). In fact, Craig largely ignores the various arguments in my paper, and focuses instead in refuting arguments it does not contain. If you want to read the paper to check, it’s available here . Richard Carrier has also produced an online breakdown of Craig’scritique of my paper . Worth reading. I reference it a few times below. Below is Craig’s critique with my comments added in bold. 

Randal Rauser's review of my book Believing Bullshit - my response

A while ago the well-known Christian apologist and blogger Randal Rauser posted a very long review of my book Believing Bullshit on his blog. You can find Rauser’s review here . While making a few nice comments about the book, Rauser was generally very negative. He posted the same review on the amazon page for my book and gave the book just two stars. A negative review is fine, of course. However, Rauser’s review is academically poor (it was written in haste, I suspect). Such is the length of Rauser’s review that I didn’t, at the time, have time to go through all of it, line by line, pointing out the numerous misrepresentations, muddles and errors that it contains. I told Rauser I would get round to responding. I still don’t have time to respond to Rauser’s entire review in detail. But, being on sabbatical, I have  devoted a couple of hours to dealing with points Rauser made regarding just the first chapter of the book. Were Rauser’s review more academically robust

My Plan to Destroy The NHS

I am reposting this post from two and a half years ago (Feb 2011). It's prompted by the Chief Exec of NHS England on BBC Radio 4 this morning saying - after praising the Government - that the NHS is unaffordable (massive funding shortfall 30bn in next decade). This prompted a BBC Radio 5 Live phone discussion on "What Should be Cut to Save the NHS?" Various top ups and additional charges were then mentioned by callers. My Plan to Destroy The NHS Suppose I am very very rich, and very very selfish. The NHS annoys me intensely. It costs lots in tax revenue to run, and being very rich, I pay proportionately more of my income on it, and of course far more in terms of hard cash, than almost anyone else. I also resent the fact that my business empire is unable to cash in on providing the services that people would buy from my private businesses if the NHS was not there. BUT, the public loves the NHS, even many Tories are fond of it, and to propose scrapping it w

On Trolling with Logic Tonight - 8pm I think

to watch the show:

Wittgenstein reading Group - Heythrop event tomorrow

On Friday July 5th at 4pm, Dr. Daniele Moyal-Sharrock will be joining the Wittgenstein Reading Group at Heythrop College to answer questions relating to her paper 'Logic in Action: Wittgenstein's Logical Pragmatism and the Impotence of Scepticism'. This is a real privilege and a chance to engage with one of the finest contemporary interpreters of Wittgenstein's philosophy. For more info (including a copy of the paper) email Adrian Brockless:

Heythrop College - Open Day welcome speech

Welcome speech I have been teaching philosophy at Heythrop College for seventeen years. This was my first full-time teaching appointment after leaving Oxford. Unlike many academics keen to climb the career ladder - and who consequently tend to migrate from one institution to another at the beginning of their careers - I have stayed put. I have remained here at Heythrop for my entire career. Why? The answer lies in what I discovered when I arrived here. I quickly discovered just how unique and valuable an institution Heythrop College is. We are small , which means that students and staff are known to each other. This is no vast and anonymous academic factory. This is a friendly place populated with familiar faces. We are also a specialist college focussing on just philosophy and theology. Wander the corridors of Heythrop College and you’ll find people deep in conversations about philosophy and theology. Irrespective of their religious belief - or lack of religious beli