Russell Blackford on The state, religion and the need for rational scrutiny *

Dec 23rd, 2010 | Filed by

Isn’t Australian religiosity rather unobtrusive and undemanding? Actually, no.… Read the rest

Ruse says Eugenie Scott called him “dumb”

Dec 23rd, 2010 12:41 pm | By

The ubiquitous Michael Ruse has yet another post explaining about non-overlappings and the new atheists and atheism is religion. (Jerry Coyne has already explained what’s wrong with Ruse’s explaining.)

Ruse says another word for NOMA, favored by “those who work on the interface between science and religion,” is independence. He says it’s the position of the NCSE and also of him.

 It is also my position, as I argued in a recent book…Basically, I argue that science is inherently metaphorical, that today’s science has at its core the metaphor of a machine, that metaphors rule certain questions out of court—not wrong, just not asked—and that it is legitimate for religious people to try to provide answers.  Religious answers not scientific

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David Barash says no thanks to NOMA *

Dec 23rd, 2010 | Filed by

Science and religion overlap whenever religion makes truth claims about the world.  When that happens, religion has a long track record of being wrong.… Read the rest

Children publish bee study in Royal Society journal *

Dec 23rd, 2010 | Filed by

Children from Blackawton Primary School found that bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought.… Read the rest

Ben Goldacre offers the year in nonsense *

Dec 23rd, 2010 | Filed by

It’s been a marvellous year for bullshit.… Read the rest

If you must exist, do it in private

Dec 22nd, 2010 4:28 pm | By

Greta Christina points out what I’m always noticing – that there’s a mob of people out there calling atheists every kind of name and it’s pretty much always just for existing. The mob says it’s for being shrill strident mean fundamentalist rude zealous you can finish the song, but in fact by “shrill strident mean fundamentalist rude zealous” they really just mean atheist, period. Don’t ask don’t tell, know what I mean? The only decent atheist is a secret atheist.

And if these op-ed pieces and whatnot were all you knew about the atheist movement and the critiques of it, you might think that atheists were simply being asked to be reasonable, civil, and polite.But if you follow atheism in

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Greta Christina on atheistophobia *

Dec 22nd, 2010 | Filed by

Atheists are called offensive, intolerant, disrespectful, extremist, hostile, confrontational and generally horrible, just for existing.… Read the rest


Dec 22nd, 2010 12:43 pm | By

What about Paul Sims’s question? Should atheists be talking to believers? Well sure. But should atheists be talking to Catholic Voices? That’s a different question.

Around the time of the Pope’s visit to the UK, I wrote a couple of posts on here (notably this and this) in which  I questioned the tone of the Protest the Pope campaign and the debate around Catholicism and the Pope…An unexpected outcome of my posts was an invitation from the Central London Humanist Group to take part in a small round table discussion with representatives of Catholic Voices, an organisation set up to argue the Catholic case during the Papal Visit.

I had a look at Catholic Voices. Until I looked, … Read the rest

The grave scandal to the Christian faithful

Dec 22nd, 2010 11:56 am | By

Bishop Thomas Olmsted is helpfully forthright. He’s up front about the fact that the Catholic church is adamant that women must die rather than terminate their pregnancies. He’s also up front about his absolute rule over Catholic hospitals.

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz., will be stripped of its Catholic status on Friday unless Catholic Healthcare West meets several demands outlined in a Nov. 22 letter from Bishop Thomas Olmsted…The issue stems from the 2009 decision by the hospital to authorize an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Catholics are not allowed to save a woman’s life at the expense of an 11-week-old fetus. They have to say No, and let her die. … Read the rest

Catholic church to expel hospital over abortion *

Dec 22nd, 2010 | Filed by

The Catholic church insists that a “Catholic” hospital must let a woman die rather than end her pregnancy.… Read the rest

Vatican clarifies condom policy *

Dec 22nd, 2010 | Filed by

Condoms may not be used to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. No no no no no no. Women must get pregnant whether they want to or not.… Read the rest

Ratzinger blames everyone else again *

Dec 22nd, 2010 | Filed by

Says society considers child porn “normal.” Survivors of priestly child-rape react with fury.… Read the rest

Daryl Bem replies to a skeptical critic *

Dec 22nd, 2010 | Filed by

James Alcock critiqued Bem’s article “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect.”… Read the rest

Nick Cohen on the hounding of M F Husain *

Dec 22nd, 2010 | Filed by

India’s censorship laws have allowed extremist Hindus to compete with extremist Muslims in tit-for-tat censorship campaigns.… Read the rest

Berman on Qutb on the Caliphate

Dec 21st, 2010 5:07 pm | By

From Paul Berman’s The Flight of the Intellectuals, p. 146:

Qutb, in launching his anarchistic odes to freedom, means to say that, under his proposed resurrected Islamic Caliphate, human beings will no longer be tyrannously ruled by other human beings, but only by God, as interpreted by God’s representatives.

As interpreted by God’s representatives, who of course are other human beings, but free of the restraints and accountability that secular politicians are subject to.… Read the rest

The one thing needful

Dec 21st, 2010 12:28 pm | By

I was amused to see that former bishop Richard Holloway has the same objection to Karen Armstrong’s book on compassion that I do.

The bishop:

The second plank in her platform is that compassion is, as it were, the distilled essence of the world’s great religions…

But is she correct in suggesting that, au fond, the essence of the main religions boils down to compassion? It is probably correct where Buddhism is concerned and it is from Buddhism that her best insights and examples come. I think she is on shakier ground when she applies it to Christianity and Islam. Christianity and Islam are redemption religions, not wisdom religions. They exist to secure life in the world to

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Ours is not to reason why

Dec 21st, 2010 11:40 am | By

To expand on the point about the difference between checking the world and not checking the world – to repeat –

Science has to check itself against the way the world is, and religion doesn’t. Science is about what is there whether humans can figure it out or not, and religion isn’t. (It claims to be, but it isn’t.)

What you get with an institution that doesn’t require itself to check against the world, is authority. You get the fiat, the Bull, the decree, the encyclical, the Index, the excommunication, the anathema, the charge of blasphemy or apostasy. You get the arbitrary.

Science has to show its work, and religion doesn’t.

This difference certainly doesn’t cash out as the first … Read the rest

Fistula *

Dec 21st, 2010 | Filed by

One frequent outcome of very early marriage for girls.… Read the rest

Jesus suits up for the war on Christmas *

Dec 21st, 2010 | Filed by

“We must arm ourselves against the secularists, the nihilists, the humanists, and the liberals.”… Read the rest

My review of Karen Armstrong’s new book *

Dec 21st, 2010 | Filed by

In the New Humanist.… Read the rest