Articles

Welcome to our articles section. The articles below either have been written specifically for ButterfliesandWheels or are appearing here having been published elsewhere previously.

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Faith is a Moral Failing

Jan 29th, 2006 | By George M Felis

Let’s be brutally honest. To describe FAITH as a “failure of reason” is a half-truth at best.

There are those who assert that their religious convictions are grounded in reason and evidence alone. But I’ve never actually met such a rare creature myself. Even the most cunning Jesuitical sophistry seeking to rationally justify religion does not entirely leave out faith as a component. And not faith in the sense of “hope” or “confidence” or any other wishy-washy alternate definition. By “faith” in this context, I mean (and honest believers also mean) believing something because one chooses to believe it, without regard to the absence of evidence/reasons to believe. (Sometimes, faith even entails believing something without regard to the presence of … Read the rest



When Theology Met Postmodernism

Jan 26th, 2006 | By Edmund Standing

Obscurity and vagueness of expression is always and everywhere a very bad sign: for in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it derives from vagueness of thought, which in turn comes from an original incongruity and inconsistency in the thought itself, and thus from its falsity … Those who put together difficult, obscure, involved, ambiguous discourses do not really know what they want to say: they have no more than a vague consciousness of it which is only struggling towards a thought: often, however, they also want to conceal from themselves and others that they actually have nothing to say.

Arthur Schopenhauer

While the narrative and interpretation are my own, all the block quotes in the essay that follows are … Read the rest



The Kitzmiller Decision

Jan 25th, 2006 | By Dawkins, Dennett, Kurtz, Jones, Ridley, Forrest, Haack

B&W is asking various rationalists, scientists, biologists, zoologists, philosophers and the like for their reactions to the Kitzmiller decision. New ones will be added as they come in, so keep reading.

Susan Haack

GOOD SENSE IN DOVER

The question before Judge Jones, of course, was not whether “Intelligent Design Theory” should be taught in Dover public schools, but whether the School Board’s proposed “evolution disclaimer” is constitutional. His arguments on this point were, for me, a lesson in the complexities of Establishment-Clause jurisprudence. His belt-and-braces approach results in a convincing argument that the proposed evolution disclaimer constitutes an improper state endorsement of religion, and that both its purpose and its effect would be improperly to advance religion.

But what I … Read the rest



Theory’s Empire

Jan 14th, 2006 | By Daphne Patai and Will H. Corral

Our anthology, Theory’s Empire, appears at a moment when not only have theoretical discussions of literature become stagnant but articles and books are published in defense of the conceptual stalemates that have led to this very immobility. In the early years of the new millennium, theorists are busily writing about the impasse in which theory finds itself, discoursing on the alternatives as portentously as they once wrote about the death of the novel and of the author. But there is one revealing difference between the predictably cyclical revisions of theoretical notions before structuralism and those present developments that can today be referred to simply as Theory, emblazoned with a capital T: the proponents of the latter tend to avoid … Read the rest



Reactions to the Dover Decision on Intelligent Design (with special attention to the unfortunate intervention by Professor Alschuler)

Jan 2nd, 2006 | By Brian Leiter

This blog has a rather lengthy compendium of links pertaining to yesterday’s court decision. The New York Times, meanwhile, has run a pleasingly direct editorial:

Judge Jones’s decision was a striking repudiation of intelligent design, given that Dover’s policy was minimally intrusive on classroom teaching. Administrators merely read a brief disclaimer at the beginning of a class asserting that evolution was a theory, not a fact; that there were gaps in the evidence for evolution; and that intelligent design provided an alternative explanation and could be further explored by consulting a book in the school library. Yet even that minimal statement amounted to an endorsement of religion, the judge concluded, because it caused students to doubt the theory of

Read the rest



Trading Faith for Spirituality: The Mystifications of Sam Harris

Dec 9th, 2005 | By Meera Nanda

Spirituality at Faith’s Funeral

There is something decidedly weird about this business of spirituality. Just say the word “spiritual,” or, if you prefer more gravitas, “mystical,” and you will witness a strange phenomenon. You will find many tough-talking, God-is-dead rationalists morph into Mahesh Yogi lites, peddling sweet-nothings about merging the “self” into the universe, and promoting world peace and reason while they are at it.

In his much acclaimed The End of Faith, Sam Harris declares the death of faith, only to celebrate the birth of spirituality. He wants to convince us of the proposition that “Mysticism is rational…religion is not” (p. 221). Traditional Judeo-Christian and Islamic conception of God who heeds your prayers is a mere leap of … Read the rest



Godless States in God Lands: Dilemmas of Secularism in America and India

Dec 1st, 2005 | By Meera Nanda

God and Politics in America and India

This essay tells the tale of two religious nationalisms: Christian nationalism in America that has found a welcome home in the Republican Party and George W. Bush’s two administrations, and Hindu nationalism in India which always had a welcome home in BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), the party that ruled the country, off and on, through the 1990s until 2004. Christian nationalists declare the United States of America to be a Christian nation, its land God’s New Jerusalem, and its destiny to spread liberty around the world. Hindu nationalists, for their part, proclaim India to be a Hindu nation, its land the body of the mother Goddess, and its destiny to spread spiritual enlightenment … Read the rest



Fear and Loathing in Lacania

Nov 28th, 2005 | By Filip Buekens

Abstract How do his interpreters explain and justify Jacques Lacan’s baroque and unintelligible rhetorical strategies in Ecrits and the Séminaires? Many philosophers, cultural critics and psychoanalysts begin their project of elucidating Lacan with explanations and justifications of their master’s obscure voice. I argue that all these arguments are either circular, unsound, inconsistent or – what is perhaps the worst feature they all share – that his readers are taken hostage: ‘Only if we take what he says as revealing the truth about the unconscious will we understand Lacan’ seems to be the conclusion of many scholars desperate to ‘understand’ Lacan. [1]

‘Parfaupe orecluspa nannanbryle anaphi ologi psysoscline ixipad anlana – égnia kune n’rbiol’ ô blijonter têtumaine ennounç…’ [2]

Countless readers … Read the rest



Intelligent Design or Natural Design

Nov 23rd, 2005 | By Raymond Bradley

I’m going to begin by taking you on a personal tour of my own
thinking about intelligent design over the past 60 years.

It began in 1945 when I was a 14 year old at Mt Albert Grammar.
Our Fourth Form English teacher decided we should learn the skills of
debating. The topic chosen was “Creation versus Evolution”. And I, as an
ardent young Baptist, volunteered, along with a Seventh Day Adventist,
to take up the cudgels on behalf of Creation.

But even before the debate began, I found myself cast in the role of
devil’s advocate.

While preparing, it dawned on me that the case against evolution
foundered on an ambiguity between two meanings of the simple word
“creation”: … Read the rest



Religion, Uncertainty and My Mother

Nov 15th, 2005 | By Paula Bourges-Waldegg

There are people who are very dear to you, a childhood friend for instance, that you’ll never see again in your life. You don’t know you are never going to see them again so that doesn’t hurt much, or doesn’t hurt at all. You think there’s always a chance of bumping into them someday even though that’s never going to happen. However, when you consciously know that you will never again see someone you love it’s different. That simple fact is like a great big wall. A wall that seems impossible to surmount.

My mother passed away a few weeks ago. Since then, some persons have tried to convince me that religion is the best way to jump that wall. … Read the rest



Was Freud a Pseudoscientist?

Nov 9th, 2005 | By Frank Cioffi

The following is an extract from an essay titled “Are Freud’s Critics Scurrilous?”, translated and published in Le livre noir de la psychoanalyse (Editions des Arènes).

WAS FREUD A PSEUDOSCIENTIST?: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION

‘He thought it wrong of Rank to propagate ideas that had not been properly tested.’ (Sigmund Freud: Life and Work, E. Jones, 1957, Vol.3 p.71)

It is a pity that the word science was ever introduced into the dispute over Freud’s claims to knowledge, though it is worth remembering that the term was introduced by Freud himself and that his critics employed it in order to counter his pretensions It would spare readers much tiresome rationalisation of Freud’s deficiencies if it were clearly understood … Read the rest



A Zero Theory

Nov 5th, 2005 | By Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen; introduction and translation by Frederick Crews

Five weeks ago, an article on this site introduced habitués of Butterflies and Wheels (among whom I enthusiastically count myself) to Le livre noir de la psychanalyse (Éditions des Arènes), a book that has had all of intellectual and therapeutic France in an uproar throughout the fall season. France is one of the few remaining countries whose psychiatric establishment remains committed to Freudian—in this case specifically Lacanian—notions, and until now no critique, most notably Jacques Bénesteau’s powerful but largely boycotted Mensonges freudiens of 2002, could make a dent in the reigning complacency. The ambitious, massive, and well-publicized Livre noir, compiled from original and reprinted contributions by forty authors, has changed all that. The book has already run through three … Read the rest



Does Relativism Matter?

Oct 18th, 2005 | By Simon Blackburn

September 11th, we are told, changed the world. That may be true, at least because it has changed how many people perceive the world. And a change in peoples’ ideas is a change in the world. We should not, however, expect many of those changes to be for the better, since it must be a general rule that when people are angry and afraid their ideas and actions go worse. In 1726, we may recall, Voltaire was exiled from France to London, where he was amazed and enchanted by the freedoms of the English. He was lucky not to be exiled here in the twenty-first century, and still less to the United States of America. As a foreign national, he … Read the rest



Afghanistan: Women’s rights editor Mohaqiq Nasar arrested for blasphemy

Oct 13th, 2005 | By Rationalist International

Mohaqiq Nasar (50), editor-in-chief of the magazine Hoqooq-i-Zan (Women’s Rights), has been arrested on 29 September 2005 on charges of blasphemy. He was detained on instructions from the religious adviser to President Hamid Karzai, a government official said. President Karzai’s religious adviser – though not explicitly named in this connection – is Mohaibuddin Baloch. The editor’s arrest is violating the press law of Afghanistan, which clearly demands that a journalist can only be arrested after the government appointed media-commission has studied the case, questioned him personally and recommended his arrest. This has obviously not happened. In a letter to President Karzai, Rationalist International strongly condemned the illegal arrest of Mohaqiq Nasar and the act of violation of press freedom and … Read the rest



Secularist of the Year Award

Oct 9th, 2005 | By Keith Porteous Wood, Maryam Namazie

Maryam Namazie wins the NSS Irwin prize for Secularist of the Year award

Yesterday, October 8, 2005 Maryam Namazie, adjudged to have made the most significant contribution to the promotion of secularism in the preceding year, was awarded the National Secular Society’s (NSS) first Irwin Prize for “Secularist of the Year” in London. The £5,000 annual prize, sponsored by NSS member Dr Michael Irwin, was presented by Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee at a lunch at the Montcalm Hotel in London. The event also featured cutting edge cabaret from stand-up comedian Stewart Lee, who is also co-author of the controversial “Jerry Springer – the Opera”.

In introducing Namazie, Keith Porteous Wood, NSS executive director stated: ‘Maryam is an inveterate commentator and … Read the rest



Freud and his Critics: a Discussion

Oct 1st, 2005 | By Allen Esterson, Richard Warnotck, Paul Power

From B&W’s Letters page, a discussion of Freud, Webster, Masson, the unconscious, the seduction theory. Allen Esterson is the author of Seductive Mirage: an Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud.

Richard R. Warnotck, 25/09/2005

Understanding history may not be absolutely essential to understanding psychology but it is at least very helpful. The truth is that Webster gets some of Freud’s ideas just wrong, so his arguments are directed not so much against Freud as against his caricature of Freud. Consider the issue of ‘unconscious emotions’.

Here is Webster, page 250:

“One of the central objections to Freud’s methodology, however, is that by positing the existence of an Unconscious he effectively deepens the very mysteries which he claims to … Read the rest



French Connection III?

Sep 28th, 2005 | By Robert Wilcocks

A year and a half ago Catherine Meyer, a bright young Normalienne who had served her publication apprenticeship with the small and daring independent firm of Odile Jacob (their offices are a stone’s throw from the French memorial mausoleum to great writers, Le Panthéon – they braved the French politically correct and intellectually ridiculous classes by daring to publish the decisive opening of the French mind to critical inquiry, Alan Sokal’s and Jean Bricmont’s Impostures intellectuelles) … as I was saying, Catherine Meyer served her apprenticeship at Odile Jacob. The lessons were learnt. She is today a Senior Editor at the newly established adventurous publishing house, Les Arènes and a year and a half ago she conceived the idea of … Read the rest



Political Spirituality

Sep 26th, 2005 | By Sean McCann

I’ve been reading Foucault and the Iranian Revolution by Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, and the picture it paints is not pretty.

As Afary and Anderson note, although Foucault’s particular fascination with the revolution is well known in France, the full range of his writing about it has never been translated into English. In fact, since much of that writing was originally published by the Italian daily Corriere della sera, and until now was not republished, the full extent of his thoughts has rarely been taken into account even by Foucault’s French readers. Foucault made two, week long trips to Iran in the fall of ’78. He interviewed a number of prominent political actors, wrote nearly a dozen … Read the rest



Open Letter: Don’t ghettoize women’s rights

Sep 11th, 2005 | By Margaret Atwood, Maud Barlow et al.

In support of the “No Religious Arbitration Coalition”

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Dear Mr. McGuinty:

An important tenet of Canadian democracy hangs in the balance of your response to the matter of religious arbitration in the province of Ontario. While many Canadians may assume that we are all governed by one system of laws, created by publicly elected officials who are accountable to the electorate, your government is poised to shift the ground under this cornerstone of liberal democracy.

While our public system of law is not always perfect, it is designed to recognize the realities of all citizens and is open to public scrutiny and improvement. Such is not the case with private systems of law, such as religious … Read the rest



Islamic [In]Justice

Sep 2nd, 2005 | By Maryam Namazie

The ‘Islamic Institute of Civil Justice’ or what has become known as the Sharia Court has been heralded by proponents as a multi-cultural way of determining personal and family disputes for those who ‘choose’ to abide by Sharia law in Ontario, Canada. We are told it will promote ‘minority rights’ and that it is equitable, tolerant, and fair. We are told that if it is not established, the ‘Muslim minority’ will be marginalised and discriminated against. That anything less is racism pure and simple.

This is not the case.

Deceptively sugar-coating an Islamic Court in civil rights terms cannot and will not conceal the stark realities of Sharia law and its regressive implications for human beings and Canadian society.

To … Read the rest