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On Being a Mitigated Sceptic

Jun 9th, 2005 | By Philip Stott

To be a sceptic is a difficult and dangerous business. To be what the philosopher, David Hume, called a “mitigated”, or moderate, sceptic is, in addition, deeply frustrating. In the first case, sceptics are seen as enemies of ”religion”; in the second, the moderate sceptic is constantly misunderstood, because one is dealing with carefully-modulated degrees of questioning and doubt that do not conform easily to the modern world of sound bites, shallow interviews, and pressure-group action. The media inevitably favour the religious fanatic who can encapsulate into a single sound bite simple articles of unquestioned faith that mesh readily with the prevailing public mood, which they themselves so often – too often – share.

In the UK, ”global warming” is … Read the rest

Gravity, or Paranoia II

May 30th, 2005 | By David Hadley

Here it is, another day. Well, I must admit, we were all quite surprised. None of us expected it. For quite a while now all the old certainties have been collapsing – as you well know. After all, none of us is ever likely to forget that day when it was realised that gravity was merely a part of that Social Construct of the Western Male Patriarchy called ‘Science’.

Now, things no longer fall to Earth as they used to in the bad old unreformed days and everything floats as freely as possible. We are no longer bound to the Earth by the patriarchal dictates of the White Male Industrial-Military-Scientific Hegemony and all float free in perfect equality, whatever our … Read the rest

Wallification, or Paranoia I

May 29th, 2005 | By Ophelia Benson

Bottom in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ playing Pyramus says, more shrewdly than he or Shakespeare had any idea of, ‘O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss,/ Curs’d be thy stones for thus deceiving me!’ Shakespeare surprisingly often anticipated the insights of postmodernism in this way; it is quite poignant and heart-rending to realize he wasn’t in a position to know he was doing so. We are more fortunate.

We are in a position to understand the insidious sublimated power of the wall in all its forms and manifestations, we can problematize its taken for granted status in our culture, we can interrogate the way it does its work, and thus come to an understanding of the regimes of … Read the rest

We expect that Ontario should do the same

May 28th, 2005 | By Homa Arjomand

TORONTO, Canada – “We are very pleased, and to be honest it’s a cause for celebration when we heard that Quebec has upheld human rights for all its citizens… we expect that Ontario should do the same”, said Homa Arjomand, Coordinator of the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada.

“Quebec has taken a brave, bold and necessary step, a step that assures all Quebecers will now enjoy not only fair and equal treatment under the law, but also the right to be governed by the same laws as other Canadians.” said Ms. Arjomand.

This decision was a positive move towards elimination of interference of religion in the justice system.

We thank all progressive organizations and individuals that supported us … Read the rest

Separation of god & science

May 26th, 2005 | By Azar Majedi and Bahram Soroush

In January 2005 David Bell, a School Inspector, delivered a speech which was published in The Guardian about the rise in the number of religious schools in the UK. His comments have raised opposition by the Institute of Islamic Organisations in the UK. This interview aired on TV International. Bahram Soroush hosted the programme whilst Maryam Namazie was away.

Bahram Soroush: You may have heard statements by David Bell and also the response by the Institute of Islamic Organisations in the UK. They have said he is picking on Islamic schools. Do you think this is discrimination?

Azar Majedi: No I don’t. Actually my position is to ban all religious schools. I think education must be separate from religion and … Read the rest

Mayor of London, Political Islam, and Us

May 14th, 2005 | By Maryam Namazie

Maryam Namazie: Ken Livingston, the Mayor of London, has published a dossier called ‘Why the Mayor of London Will Maintain Dialogues with All of London’s Faiths and Communities’. Basically, this report is in response to a criticism of his love affair with Qaradawi – a so-called Islamic scholar – by a coalition of several individuals and organisations, including the three of us. We have spoken a lot about this issue, so we won’t go into details here. But I do want to briefly, as an introduction for people who haven’t heard our other discussions about Qaradawi, ask both our guests why they are critical of Livingston’s relationship with Qaradawi? What’s wrong with having a dialogue with him in the … Read the rest

Apostasy, Human Rights, Religion and Belief

May 2nd, 2005 | By Ibn Warraq

The very notion of apostasy has vanished from the West where one would talk of being a lapsed Catholic or non-practising Christian rather than an apostate. There are certainly no penal sanctions for converting from Christianity to any other religion. In Islamic countries, on the other hand, the issue is far from dead.

The Arabic word for apostate is murtadd, the one who turns back from Islam, and apostasy is denoted by irtidad and ridda. Ridda seems to have been used for apostasy from Islam into unbelief ( in Arabic, kufr ), and irtidad from Islam to some other religion.(1) A person born of Muslim parents who later rejects Islam is called a Murtadd Fitri – fitri meaning natural, it … Read the rest

We Need to Fight the Battle for Enlightenment

Apr 27th, 2005 | By Azam Kamguian

I am delighted to be here today to speak at such a wonderful conference. Here, I talk as an apostate, an atheist who left Islam and religion altogether at the age of 15, a veteran activist of women’s rights who survived the atrocities committed by political Islam in Iran.

My being a Muslim, like all other children who are accidentally born into Muslim families, was hereditary. My parents were ordinary Muslims. My father was relatively open-minded but my mother indoctrinated us and used religious rules for protecting her children. In my childhood, faith meant that I had an all powerful all knowing father figure watching over me. Anything bad that happened to me – he’d take care of me. To … Read the rest

Campaigning against the Sharia Court in Canada

Apr 25th, 2005 | By Homa Arjomand

The reasons given for a Sharia Court in Canada by Islamists and their multi-culturalist supporters are not what they seem. They say Muslims do not want their family problems to be made public; these tribunals will deal with civil disputes not criminal matters; one can choose not to go before the Sharia tribunal; and that it will take less time than a Canadian court and cost less.

Let me address each one separately. Why do the initiators of the proposal not want family disputes to be publicised outside of their ‘communities’. In communities where Sharia law interferes with people’s lives, family problems are not simply disagreements between a man and a woman and who gets what. In fact, private matters … Read the rest

Different Ways Of Thinking And Thinking In Different Ways

Apr 22nd, 2005 | By Paula Bourges-Waldegg

We all have different ways of thinking but do we actually think in different ways? In other words, is cognition universal? The question of what is universal and what culturally specific is a classic issue in the nature vs. nurture debate. Those on the side of nature tend to see everything as universal and those on the side of nurture think that people from different cultures are fundamentally distinct. However, beyond this already tedious and sometimes artificial polarization, the reality is that both nature and nurture have some bearing on most of the things we do and the extent to which a phenomenon is universal or culturally specific can often just depend on how you define it.

When psychologist Richard … Read the rest

No, No Way, You Mooks

Apr 15th, 2005 | By Nick Slater

A furore was set off here last year with the news that parts of New Jersey’s sizeable but non-homogenous Wise-guy community intended to use an obscure law to set up arbitration tribunals for disputes involving hoodlums’ ladies running numbers, shaking down and generally behaving like low-bred mooks when they should be attending to the kids.

Wise-guy and non-Wise-guy critics alike protested that the 140-year-old body of Cosa Nostra-inspired laws considers Non-Sicilian broads inferior to Goodfellas and would infringe their equality rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, a six-month study by former Teamster’s Moll Maria Pantonello concluded in December that, with new safeguards in place, Wise-guy women would still be protected by the ‘Mob law’. Her … Read the rest

A fresh breeze in the labour movement in Iran

Apr 11th, 2005 | By Fariborz Pooya and Bahram Soroush

Fariborz Pooya: What’s the news in the labour movement in Iran?

Bahram Soroush: There are many strikes that are taking place. They follow the recent successful textile workers’ strike in the city of Sanandaj, western Iran, which we have talked about on the TV previously.

Fariborz Pooya: What were the demands of the strikers?

Bahram Soroush: They had a series of demands: reinstatement of six sacked workers; payment of overdue wages, improvement of health and safety, an end to contract work, and the revoking of the disciplinary rules. Those were the main issues around which the strike took place. An important point to bear in mind is that this was a long-running strike; it went on for 17 days. It … Read the rest

The University of Minnesota is Touching

Apr 5th, 2005 | By PZ Myers

Yesterday, I was alerted by my wife about some announcements on the state of the University of Minnesota. We are a public institution, you know, which is synonymous with “cash-strapped and struggling to make ends meet” in these days of Republican antipathy to higher education. The university is cutting some substantial programs to save money, which is bad news, but what caught my eye was a related news item in the Star Tribune: the University of Minnesota is being sued for promoting religion.

As you might guess, my interest was pricked. It seems we are being sued by Wisconsin’s Freedom From Religion Foundation for mingling religion with our health care.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday, March 25. It

Read the rest

Why so much fuss about ‘a piece of clothing’?

Mar 28th, 2005 | By Azam Kamguian

Why so much fuss about ‘a piece of clothing’? In France and elsewhere in the west, teachers have a hard time with girls who come to school wearing the veil, who refuse to attend gym or biology courses, and who won’t read Voltaire because he was a non-believer.

In my speech, I will argue for banning the veil for young girls. I will refute views that promote and support veiling for young girls and try to demonstrate how banning the veil is vital for the advancement of children’s rights and the progress of our civil society.

Some feminists oppose the law to ban the veil in state schools and institutions on the grounds that the ban will strengthen Islamism. But … Read the rest

A Moratorium on ‘Public Intellectuals’ Opining About Nietzsche?

Mar 15th, 2005 | By Brian Leiter

Might we declare a moratorium on “public intellectuals” with no relevant scholarly competence opining about Nietzsche? The latest to embarrass himself is John Gray in the pages of the New Statesman. While Gray (on the Politics Faculty at the London School of Economics) may be most notorious among philosophers for his spectacular hostility towards John Rawls, it seems, on the evidence of this review, that he may be more qualified to talk about Rawls than Nietzsche. The parade of errors packed in to just a couple thousand words is quite remarkable; I’ll single out just five examples, ones that suitably betray the breadth and depth of Professor Gray’s ignorance of the subject matter:

(1) Professor Gray says the “aim” … Read the rest

An Interview with Rebecca Goldstein

Mar 9th, 2005 | By Ophelia Benson

Rebecca Goldstein has a new book out: Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel.

Readers at Science Daily call Incompleteness
’Outstanding’ and ‘Superb’.

Butterflies and Wheels: Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont call chapter 11 of their book Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science: ‘Gödel’s Theorem and Set Theory: Some Examples of Abuse.’ They give a quotation from Régis Debray as an epigraph: ‘Ever since Gödel showed that there does not exist a proof of the consistency of Peano’s arithmetic that is formalizable within this theory (1931), political scientists had the means for understanding why it was necessary to mummify Lenin…’ The chapter’s first sentence starts, ‘Gödel’s theorem is an inexhaustible source of intellectual abuses…’

Sokal … Read the rest

Islam, Political Islam and Women in the Middle East

Mar 6th, 2005 | By Maryam Namazie

The situation of women living in Islam-stricken societies and under Islamic laws is the outrage of the 21st century. Burqa-clad and veiled women and girls, beheadings, stoning to death, floggings, child sexual abuse in the name of marriage and sexual apartheid are only the most brutal and visible aspects of women’s rightlessness and third class citizen status in the Middle East.

This is Nothing but Islam

Apologists for Islam state that the situation of women in Iran and in Islam-stricken countries is human folly; they say that Islamic rules and laws practised in the Middle East are not following the true precepts of Islam. They state that we must separate Islam from the practice of Islamic governments and movements. In … Read the rest

A Curious Accident in Space-Time

Mar 5th, 2005 | By Paula Bourges-Waldegg

Despite the lack of evidence to support the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, many people firmly believe in it. If you are skeptical on this matter you are likely to be accused of being arrogant, anthropocentric or even a religious fanatic. However, to consider the possibility that we might be alone in the universe doesn’t necessarily make you any of those things. You can believe both that humans are rare or unique and at the same time that they are a purposeless arrangement of matter or a curious accident in space-time.

In 1961 the astronomer Frank Drake announced that the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy that might contact us could be calculated with the following equation:

N = R … Read the rest

Old News You Can Use: the denaturing of history

Mar 2nd, 2005 | By Barney F. McClelland

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell, 1984

If there were a poll assessing the least favorite subject taught in high school, I would have to put my money on history or its more au courant euphemistic title, “social studies”. If history is not the clear cut winner, it would certainly be among the top three – my choice, mathematics, I suppose, would also be a strong contender.

The chronic complaint against history as a subject, you will hear from most Americans, is that it is “old news”. In our up-to-the-minute media saturated culture this is an undeniable fact. “That was soooo last year,” is perhaps a bit exaggerated, … Read the rest

‘More Than a Stretch’

Feb 24th, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

The first casualty of David Horowitz’s effort to impose ideological “diversity” on American campuses has been the truth. Horowitz initially supported his proposal for an Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) with “independent” studies pointing to a vast predominance of “leftists” on American campuses. As I pointed out last September, neither of the studies in question seems to be independent of Horowitz’s own Center for the Study of Popular Culture. (Nor does the help of the notoriously mendacious Frank Luntz serve as any guarantee of credibility.) In a subsequent exchange with me, Horowitz underwent breathtaking contortions in an effort to back out of bogus claims he had made in support of his ABOR campaign. For instance, in order to deny … Read the rest