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Showing posts from August, 2017

What is, and isn't, Islamophobic/anti-semitic?

There's currently a great deal of talk about Islamophobia and anti-semitism in the UK press. You won't be surprised to hear me say I am very firmly against both forms of prejudice. However, I suspect many would consider me guilty of one or other. I suspect many Muslims or Muslim-supporters would consider me Islamophobic because, say, I consider the religion of Islam one root cause of much contemporary terrorism. On the other hand, I don't doubt some Jews or Israeli-supporters would consider me anti-semitic because, say, I think the attacks on Gaza were disproportionate and unjustified, or because I am broadly sympathetic to non-violent methods of Palestinian resistance, such as their BDS campaign - Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It may well be that I'm just mistaken about what is and isn't Islamophobic/anti-semitic, and I genuinely want to be guilty of neither, so I thought I would arrange various claims according to whether I consider them

Why we are entitled to point a finger at Islam on oppression and bigotry

(This is reposted from CFI blogs, where it appeared 2015 - still relevant though) In his recent post at the Daily Dot titled 'Atheism has a Richard Dawkins Problem' , Ben Branstetter criticises Dawkins's targeting of Islam and the Quran as sources of bigotry and oppression. Branstetter writes: Dawkins seems to be targeting the treatment of women in many Islamic countries—which use religion to justify stoning rape victims and criminalize homosexuality. Dawkins is wrong, however, to target the Quran as the source of these atrocities: Atheists shouldn’t hold an entire religious community responsible for the actions of governmnents and fundamentalist state religions. Instead, Dawkins and his followers should attack the structures that allow for the systematic oppression of women and LGBT people. Branstetter follows Steve Neumann in supposing that the root cause of such oppression is a delight in exercising power over others, which is by no means pec

'But it's the best explanation!' - how bullshit beliefs are justified

Folk who believe in fairies, or miracles, or alien visitation, are generally fond of an argument called ARGUMENT TO THE BEST EXPLANATION.   Here's an example of argument to the best explanation (or abduction, as it's sometimes known):   I see shoes poking out from under the curtain and the curtain twitching slightly above them. I can also hear breathing. I infer there's someone standing behind the curtain. Why? Because that's the best available explanation of what I observe. True enough, the twitching might be caused by the breeze from an open window and the shoes were just coincidentally placed in the same spot. But I reckon that's a bit less likely than that there's someone standing there (for what explains the breathing noise?)   Quite what makes an explanation the 'best' is controversial, but there's some agreement that the simpler and more elegant an explanation, the better. So, for example, I could explain that twitching cur

The Christian Legal Centre - and their bullshit claims of religious persecution

This (click for link) seems to me to be the right verdict. In fact the case looks very much like the Olive Jones case (Jones was also represented by the Christian Legal Centre). Here is something I previously wrote about that: At the end of this conference on Religious Freedom and Equality (at which I presented a shorter version of this paper), some of the speakers, myself included, were invited to discuss the issue of religious freedom in a Q&A session organized at the Christian Legal Centre (CLC). On arriving, all those attending were given a double-sided sheet of paper which listed a string of cases in which Christians had, it seemed, been treated unfairly - investigated, suspended, sacked, prevented from fostering, and so on - because they had dared to express their Christian views. To get an impression of the reliability of these anecdotes, I picked one at random and looked it up online while the CLC’s representative was still introducing the event. The CLC’s h

My Paper on Natural Kinds (Aust. J Phil 2016)

Here's my paper on natural kind terms - which combines philosophy of language and metaphysics (essentialism). I defend a Kripkean/Putnamian account of how 'water', 'tiger' etc. function, against the criticism (from Nathan Salmon, Helen Steward, and others) that such accounts presuppose something exotically 'metaphysical'. I actually think it's one of my better papers...and has the added bonus of a reference to Winnie the Pooh and an analogy involving mysterious boxes and a magician. (Australasian J Phil 2016. Go here .

Letter to my MP regarding excessive 'Roam Like Home' mobile charges

Hi Anneliese I live in East Oxford and have raised an issue with OFCOM that I am also now raising with you. I have a contract with VIRGIN MOBILE for my daughter’s mobile phone. Her number is ..... As you know, mobile use abroad is now subject to an EU ‘roam like home’ policy. The phone can be used just as at home, with no additional charge. However there is a ‘fair use’ policy which says that the service provider can make a small additional charge for data use once a reasonable cap set by the service provider has been exceeded. The EU regulation says that the service provider can charge 7.70 Euro plus VAT for each extra GB once the data cap has been exceeded. Now, Virgin have said on the phone, twice (two entirely independent calls about different phones), that this EU fair use policy re using mobiles abroad allows them to charge E7.70 per GB *PER DAY* plus VAT once the cap is exceed. This is very clearly their charging policy. That is surely not a ‘small' charge