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Showing posts from January, 2014

Playing the Mystery Card (including discussion of McGrath vs Dawkins)

PLAYING THE MYSTERY CARD (from my book Believing Bullshit - go buy it!)  Suppose critics point out that not only do you have little in the way of argument to support your particular belief system, there also seems to be powerful evidence against it. If you want, nevertheless, to convince both yourself and others that your beliefs are not nearly as ridiculous as your critics suggest, what might you do? Perhaps Play The Mystery Card . As we will see, this sort of strategy is particularly popular when it comes to defending beliefs in the supernatural – beliefs in ghosts, angels, psychic powers and gods, and so on. By far the most popular version of the strategy – the version on which I focus here – is to say, “Ah, but of course this is beyond the ability of science/reason to decide . We must acknowledge that science and reason have their limits. It is sheer arrogance to suppose they can explain everything.” Some things may indeed be beyond the ability of science and

Religion and Philosophy in Schools

Religion and philosophy in schools (from Hand and Winstanley, Philosophy in Schools , Continuum 2008)) Stephen Law Is philosophy in schools a good idea? The extent to which early exposure to a little philosophical thinking is of educational benefit is, of course, largely an empirical question. As a philosopher, that sort of empirical study is not my area of expertise. But of course there is also a philosophical dimension to this question. As a philosopher, conceptual clarification and the analysis of the logic of the arguments on either side certainly is my field. That is where I hope to make a small contribution here. This chapter is in two parts. In the first, I look at two popular religious objections to the suggestion that all children ought to be encouraged to think independently and critically about moral and religious issues. In the second part, I explain a well-known philosophical distinction – that between reasons and causes – and give a couple of ex

I'm on Iran's 24hr news channel

I was at a philosophy of religion conference in Tehran, Iran last week - invited as an atheist to speak to and engage with assembled philosophers, cleric. etc. I appeared briefly on TV - unfortunately the bit of the interview they chose to broadcast was misleading as they cut the "but"... Go here .

Freewill determinism resource (for A Level etc.)

5. Does Murderous Mick Deserve To be Punished? Here’s Murderous Mick. He’s just been captured trying to rob a bank. 1.ILLUSTRATE: MURDEROUS MICK WITH HANDS UP AND ARMED DETECTIVES (MICK IS A COWBOY AND APPEARS IN TPF1) DEAD GUARD IN BACKGROUND. Mick shot a bank guard in the back, just for fun. Obviously we think very badly of people like Murderous Mick. We hold them responsible for their dishonest, selfish and cruel behaviour. We believe that they deserve punishment. Mick will end up locked up in jail for years. I guess you think, “And quite right too. That’s what Mick deserves.”

What is Humanism?

What is Humanism? “Humanism” is a word that has had and continues to have a number of meanings. The focus here is on kind of atheistic world-view espoused by those who organize and campaign under that banner in the UK and abroad. We should acknowledge that there remain other uses of term. In one of the loosest senses of the expression, a “Humanist” is someone whose world-view gives special importance to human concerns, values and dignity. If that is what a Humanist is, then of course most of us qualify as Humanists, including many religious theists. But the fact remains that, around the world, those who organize under the label “Humanism” tend to sign up to a narrower, atheistic view. What does Humanism, understood in this narrower way, involve? The boundaries of the concept remain somewhat vague and ambiguous. However, most of those who organize under the banner of Humanism would accept the following minimal seven-point characterization of their world-view.