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

If you’re interested in writing an article for ButterfliesandWheels, please click here for our information for contributors page.

The New Humanism Yet Again

Apr 6th, 2007 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

At the end of April 2007 a “gala celebration” is being staged at America’s oldest University – the one in Cambridge, Massachusetts – to honor thirty years of the Harvard Humanist chaplaincy. The event designs to bring together friendly but competitive visions of the unruly congeries of ideas we call, for simplicity’s sake, “humanism.” To spice things up, the Harvard organizers have decided to use the sexy phrase “New Humanism” to describe the agenda. and while I do not know at the time of this writing precisely what will be said by the wise and wizened who attend the conference, I can guess, and I can guess I’ll be right.

The new humanism will be called a bright and bold … Read the rest

Truth Still Matters

Mar 29th, 2007 | By Jeremy Stangroom and Ophelia Benson

This article started life as a post by JS on Talking Philosophy, The Philosophers’ Magazine’s new blog. The post criticised the shortcomings of an opinion poll commissioned by the British Humanist Association. David Pollock and Jemima Hooper of the BHA later commented on the post, and Casper Melville posted a comment on the New Humanist blog, to which Julian Baggini replied. JS and OB then wrote separate comments on the BHA reaction – a reaction which gave them an odd feeling that they would have to write Why Truth Matters all over again, or at least give the BHA a tutorial in its subject matter.

The Opinion Poll

The recent opinion poll commissioned by The British Humanist Association (BHA) … Read the rest

‘Honour’ Killing Victim Could Have Been Saved

Mar 23rd, 2007 | By Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation

Women from the London-based Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation have been attending the trial currently in session at Court 10 of London’s Central Criminal Court. Mahmod Mahmod, father to Banaz Mahmod Babakir Agha, and Ari Mahmod Babakir Agha, a wealthy business man and her uncle, are accused of her murder in the name of so-called ‘honour’. The case has been much covered by the media over its first few days. Banaz’s boyfriend, Rehmat Suleimani, a Kurd from Iran, has given his account, including a heartbreaking video recorded on his mobile phone in which Banaz herself accuses her father of trying to murder her, which reduced her former lover to tears. Her father and uncle remained stone-faced.

Rehmat himself reports … Read the rest

A Dialogue with the Diggers

Mar 22nd, 2007 | By R Joseph Hoffmann

Scene: At the tombs, outside Jerusalem:

Professor T: It’s got to be here somewhere. The map the antiquities people gave us says there’s a housing development on the site.

Jacob.: It doesn’t matter. You’ve seen one tomb….

Prof. T: No, we have to get this right. The archaeology has to support my theory….

Jacob: I know, the caliphate. What’s that about?

Prof T: Jesus was married. Maybe had a son. Heirs—but James took over from him when he died.

Jacob: James who? There was a James Christ?

Prof T: If I am right, we are literally standing on top of the tomb of the Jesus family.

Jacob: It is exciting. But there’s nothing left in the tomb, right?

Prof T: … Read the rest

An historic 8 March in Iran

Mar 10th, 2007 | By Maryam Kousha

People in Iran welcomed 8th March this year by organising many events well ahead of the actual day in different cities all over the country. It culminated in major gatherings on Thursday, international women’s day. People were passionate about the day, had prepared manifestos, resolutions and banners demanding equality, condemning gender apartheid and women’s oppression. As usual the Islamic regime tried everything to halt and prevent these events. Despite massive paramilitary and secret police presence, many pickets and gatherings took place.


Several thousand people gathered around Tehran University by 4 pm Tehran’s time to start an 8 March rally which was called by 8 March organising committee, endorsed by OWL. However, this gathering was prevented from commencing by the … Read the rest

“Faccidents”: Bad Assumptions and the Jesus Tomb Debacle

Mar 7th, 2007 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

So much will have been written about the Discovery Channel presentation of the James Cameron extravaganza, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” that a further dissenting voice will neither be needed nor missed, In my initial preview of the program, published within hours of the CNN “announcement” and public unveiling of the alleged Jesus and Mary Magdalene matrimonial ossuaries, I wrote that the entire project was based on bad assumptions, and that since “following the science,” as the logorrhoeic Simcha Jacobovici says he was doing, can only take one where assumptions lead, let me spell out why the assumptions underlying this project are not only flawed but positively malicious to good scholarship and science. It seems to me uncontroversial and … Read the rest

The Bones of Our Lord

Feb 26th, 2007 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

Happily coinciding with our Lenten observances, CNN and the Discovery Channel have colluded to bring us startling news, just ahead of the feast of the resurrection: namely, that Jesus lay for two thousand years in a family tomb next to his beloved bride, Mary (or Murray) Magdalene, and their little son, Judah, also known as Timmy. “The Lost Tomb of Christ” will air on March 4th. The miracle of the millennia has become the love story that could not be told.

“The Lost Tomb of Christ” will air on that paragon of scientific rectitude The Discovery Channel, home of such mind benders as “The Miracles of Jesus,” “Da Vinci’s Code,” and “Mysteries of the Bible.” Essentially the hoopla is all … Read the rest

William Paley’s Wonderful Watch

Feb 21st, 2007 | By Ian MacDougall

Socrates, though all too mortal, gave us a reasoned argument that the soul is immortal. It is all there in Plato’s Phaedo.

I first read Plato in 1957, as a sixteen-year-old student of one of the most formidable intellects Scotland has ever produced: John Anderson, Sydney University’s Challis Professor of Philosophy.

Anderson had studied mathematics and physics at the University of Glasgow before switching to philosophy rather late in his time as an undergraduate. The son of a village schoolmaster, he spoke with a well-modulated Scots burr, and with his grey hair and a thick moustache was to my mind the very model of a professor. His contemporary Bertrand Russell had also started in mathematics and physics, but where Russell … Read the rest

Let’s build an international secular movement!

Feb 17th, 2007 | By Azar Majedi

I am very pleased to be part of this movement. Coming from the Middle East, living under the Islamic Republic in Iran, one of the most brutal regimes of the 20th century, I feel very passionate about the aims of this movement. As a first hand victim of political Islam, as a woman who has lived under the rule of Islam, I have experienced first hand the brutalism and suppression of an Islamic regime and political Islam. As a left activist fighting for freedom and equality I experienced this brutal regime and this reactionary political force, loosing many friends and comrades.

I have devoted my life to fight for a better world, a free and egalitarian society, where there exists … Read the rest

Goldenbridge II

Feb 1st, 2007 | By Marie-Therese O'Loughlin

“The Children Act allowed destitute children to be sent to industrial schools, even if they hadn’t committed a crime.” Paddy Doyle.


This “destitution” lark was a ruse used by the judiciary and the religious in order to obtain convictions. I was, for example, in a feeder institution, known as The Regina Ceoli, Mother and Baby unit for over four and a half years. So how could I have been even considered “destitute” by the judiciary? “Destitution”, this terminology, was in my estimation “illegally used” on my committal order to Goldenbridge Industrial School – where I was incarcerated until I was sixteen years old. There was no limit on my stay in the “hostel”.

It is imperative for people to … Read the rest

Global Warming, Intelligent Design and the Re-Ascendancy of the Pro-Scientific Political Left

Jan 31st, 2007 | By Steven Gimbel

In his State of the Union address, President Bush said something that was sadly remarkable:

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment – and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.

In a major speech, the President of the United States openly acknowledged global warming, the fact that human activity is having an effect, and that we face a challenge in dealing with it. This should not be news, but that this President has done so, in light of his previous tap dancing around the scientific consensus around the issue, … Read the rest

Howard Gardner’s reading of Freud: A case of wilful ignorance?

Jan 10th, 2007 | By Allen Esterson

In the Washington Post of 7 January 2006 is a review by Howard Gardner of Peter D. Kramer’s book Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind. One sentence in particular of Gardner’s is worth closer examination:

No reader of Kramer alone would appreciate the extent to which Freud airs doubts, responds to criticisms, admits his changes of mind and presents extensive transcripts that readers can judge for themselves.

Now Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds positions as adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University, and adjunct professor of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine and Sciences. So how come … Read the rest

The Goldenbridge Secret Rosary Bead Factory

Dec 27th, 2006 | By Marie-Therese O'Loughlin

Making rosary beads

From the middle 1950s to the late 60s, after ‘school’ at 4pm, children from the age of six were issued one slice of bread and margarine and then sent into St. Bridget’s classroom to make rosary beads. The classroom did duty as a mini-factory for the manufacture of rosary beads.

Each day of their lives children had to reach a quota of sixty decades and twelve threes. The task of rosary bead making is a very skilled one, and it required strict deliberation. Beads are strung onto a length of wire and are looped into the relevant beads very intricately, with the aid of heavyweight pliers. There were variations in the thickness of the wire. Silver wire, … Read the rest

Religion’s Role in the Expansion of AIDS

Dec 18th, 2006 | By Arash Sorx

Note: this article was published for the first time in Persian by “Sekoolar” (the Secular), a publication of Anti-Religion Society. Hereby we translate it to English and publish it again in the event of AIDS day 2006. The final two paragraphs, which were specific about Anti-religion society, have been omitted from the text.

Among the numerous burdens of capitalism that are taking away human lives everyday, some are seemingly “natural” burdens, the result of the tension between nature and human; in some theories these are even nature’s reaction to human violence against it.

Of these burdens we can name deadly diseases in general and AIDS in particular.
AIDS has put its shadow on the entire world like a spectre. … Read the rest

Globalisation and the Civil Society

Dec 6th, 2006 | By Rajesh Kumar Sharma

The happy spell of economic growth has endured for a surprisingly long period and shows no sign of coming to an end very soon. Led by services, manufacturing and business, and reinforced by infrastructure development and the impetus to scientific and technological research, the economy has become the engine and symbol of a resurgent India. It is indeed a cause for self-congratulations that our democracy has proved its great resourcefulness in supporting our economic empowerment in a globalizing world. But one may be forgiven for asking a sobering question: Would the democratic dissent over issues such as the Special Economic Zones and the Right to Information have been tackled in the same way if there had been a single-party majority … Read the rest

Are we rational self-interested choosers?

Nov 30th, 2006 | By H E Baber

The fact is that most of the people engaged in political violence today—from the Basque country to the Philippines—are not fighting for individual rights, nor for that matter are they fighting to establish an Islamist caliphate. Most are fighting for a national homeland for the ethnic nation to which they belong. For most human beings other than deracinated north Atlantic elites, the question of the unit of government is more important than the form of government, which can be settled later, after a stateless nation has obtained its own state. And as the hostility towards Israel of democratically elected governments in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon shows, democracy can express, even inflame, pre-existing national hatreds and rivalries; it is not a

Read the rest

Einstein’s Wife: Open Letter to PBS Postscript

Nov 27th, 2006 | By Allen Esterson

A Postscript to my Open Letter to PBS.

In the comments solicited by PBS from Geraldine Hilton, writer/producer of the “Einstein’s Wife” documentary, she writes of the three academics who have dissociated themselves from the film, John Stachel, Robert Schulmann and Gerald Holton, that “not one has come forward and claimed they were misrepresented because they weren’t”: Defending Einstein’s Wife Film.

However, the historian of physics Gerald Holton responds in an email to me:

As to my ‘not coming forward’, as you report them to have said: I sure did, as many of my friends and colleagues will confirm. I told them how I felt to have been tricked into appearing in this awful film, because the film

Read the rest

Einstein’s Wife: An Open Letter to PBS

Nov 23rd, 2006 | By Allen Esterson

In March 2006 I sent a detailed complaint to the PBS Ombudsman about the numerous factual errors on their Einstein’s Wife
webpages. Due to a communications mix-up at PBS I only received a response on 20 November, although it was ready for sending in July. It comprised a reply to my
of the “Einstein’s Wife” film, solicited from the writer/producer Geraldine Hilton, of which more below.[1] First let me note that the lack of disinterestedness on the part of PBS is indicated by the fact that the only person consulted was the writer/producer of the “Einstein’s Wife” film, who naturally will defend her product however flawed, and that the three Einstein scholars with considerable knowledge of the documentary evidence … Read the rest

New Office of Public Policy in Washington, D.C.

Nov 17th, 2006 | By Center for Inquiry


Contact: Nathan Bupp
Phone: (716) 636-4869 x 218
E-mail: nbupp@centerforinquiry.net

Washington, D.C. (November 14, 2006)—The Center for Inquiry/Transnational, a think tank devoted to promoting reason and science in all areas of human interest, announced today that it is opening a new Office of Public Policy in Washington, D.C. This initiative will mark an unprecedented drive to bring a rigorous defense of science and secular values to policy makers located at the focal point of America’s political and cultural battleground.

Paul Kurtz, chairman and founder of the Center for Inquiry/Transnational and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says that the foundations of our democratic society are now under attack. “The social … Read the rest

Revisiting the question of the veil

Nov 16th, 2006 | By Azar Majedi

The question of the veil has become a heated debate in the British media. In this debate some fundamental principles seem to be at stake: individual freedom to practice one’s religion, freedom of choice, freedom of clothing and discrimination against a particular community, that is, the so-called Muslim community. Islamists and some human rights activists maintain that the so-called Muslim community is being stigmatized and has been under racist attack since September 11th. They argue that the latest attempts to ban the burqa or the niqab are a violation of individual freedom and another racist attack on Muslims. Let’s examine these issues more closely.

Two events following one another brought up the question of the Islamic veil in the British … Read the rest