All entries by this author

Is Islam Gay-friendly? *

May 23rd, 2004 | Filed by

Not quite as friendly as the Vatican.… Read the rest


May 22nd, 2004 9:19 pm | By

And some more serendipitous reading that makes the same point I’ve been making. I happened to pick up a collection of essays by Richard Rorty and found ‘Religion as Conversation-stopper.’ Just so – my point exactly. And Rorty takes issue with Stephen Carter’s The Culture of Disbelief.

The main reason religion needs to be privatized is that, in political discussion with those outside the relevant religious community, it is a conversation-stopper. Carter is right when he says: ‘One good way to end a conversation – or start an argument – is to tell a group of well-educated professionals that you hold a political position (preferably a controversial one, such as being against abortion or pornography) because it is required

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Ideas via Import-Export, not Creation *

May 22nd, 2004 | Filed by

People with cohesive social networks tend to think and act the same.… Read the rest

What Has a Bad Survey to do With Paleontology? *

May 22nd, 2004 | Filed by

Nothing, but paleontology sounds impressive, so stick on the label.… Read the rest

What Has Theology to do With Homosexuality? *

May 22nd, 2004 | Filed by

Nothing, but theologians weigh in all the same.… Read the rest

David Aaronovitch on ‘Honour’ Killlings *

May 22nd, 2004 | Filed by

And facile moral equivalency.… Read the rest

Hari on Galloway on Saddam *

May 22nd, 2004 | Filed by

Describing mass murder as civil war.… Read the rest

Proof of Astrology?

May 22nd, 2004 | By Ivan W. Kelly

The British astronomer Percy Seymour has recently published a new book entitled The Scientific Proof of Astrology (2004). Two reviews of the book were published in the mainline press—Ian Sample’s “Written in the Stars” (The Guardian, May 18, 2004), and Johnathan Leake’s “Top Scientist Gives Backing to Astrology” (Sunday Times, May 16, 2004). Both articles are misleading in some ways in which they present the information.
For a start, Seymour’s recent ideas aren’t overly different from those he published in Astrology: The Evidence of Science (1988), revised edition (1990), and The Scientific Basis of Astrology (1997). Seymour is not interested in star -sign horoscopes so popular with much of the astrological community. You will also look … Read the rest

A Basic Tension

May 21st, 2004 8:24 pm | By

The discussion continues. Norm Geras continued it with a post yesterday.

Twice during recent years I tried to engage people I know well, and whom I also like and respect, in a discussion about religion – this with a view, not to challenging their beliefs, but to trying to see if my own assumptions about the way in which they held them were even half-way right. Both conversations ran, pretty well immediately, into the ground…I don’t report this as proving that all conversations between the religious and the irreligious must go the same way. I hope not, in fact. My own reason for embarking on these two conversations was to explore what levels of mutual understanding are possible across the

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Sign-up now, OB!

May 21st, 2004 6:20 pm | By

I’ve just received a bit of Spam email that really should have been sent to OB, so I’m reproducing it here.


Become a legally ordained minister within 48 hours

As a minister, you will be authorized to perform the rites and ceremonies of the church!

Perform Weddings, Funerals, Perform Baptisms, Forgiveness of Sins
Visit Correctional Facilities

Want to start your own church?

Click here to sign-up!


I wonder what’s involved in performing forgiveness of sins?… Read the rest

The Nation on The New York Review of Books *

May 21st, 2004 | Filed by

Radicals and liberals, politics and literature, dangerous and safe, trends and ends.… Read the rest

The Hot Air Never Stops *

May 21st, 2004 | Filed by

Carlin Romano reviews a stiflingly ethnocentric take on Pushkin.… Read the rest

Time, Time, Time

May 20th, 2004 8:57 pm | By

One side effect of all this blathering I do at B&W is that I get a lot of correspondence, and get tangled up in protracted email discussions and debates. In fact, having said that, I’m reminded that Jerry S told me that would happen, a couple of years ago, after he’d thought of B&W and invited me to participate but long before he’d created it. There was an interval of a few months when B&W was an Idea but not yet a Reality – and sometime during that interval he had an amusing exchange with some indignant reader of TPM Online (someone in Prague, it seems to me, but that could be wrong – my memory isn’t up to much). … Read the rest

GM Food Could Help Poor If *

May 20th, 2004 | Filed by

If biotetech focused on staple crops rather than cash crops.… Read the rest

Probability not Worth Two Million Pounds. *

May 20th, 2004 | Filed by

Epistemology at the auction house.… Read the rest

Christie’s Should Have Been Less Certain *

May 20th, 2004 | Filed by

Questions about evidence and doubt arise even at art auction houses.… Read the rest


May 20th, 2004 12:12 am | By

So there’s this new show on US public tv, ‘Colonial House,’ another in the series that included ‘Pioneer House,’ ‘1901 House,’ and ‘Manor House’ (though that one was called something else in the UK, wasn’t it…). At least I think it’s all the same series, but I could be wrong. I must say I find them all highly compelling – the combination of interpersonal tensions, acute discomfort and exhaustion, and missing shampoo and hot running water and supermarkets – fascinating.

The conceit of this one is that it’s a group of settlers on the coast of Maine in 1628, and the governor of the colony is (in real life) a Baptist minister from Texas. He seems like a very decent … Read the rest

Shaun Williams – AKA STAMP

May 19th, 2004 5:46 pm | By

OB mentions below that Shaun Williams, aka STAMP, long-time cartoonist of The Philosophers’ Magazine, has died.

Here are a few examples of his work, including the Hume, constant-conjunction cartoon I told her about.

Cartoon 1

Cartoon 2

Cartoon 3

Cartoon 4

He really was a good cartoonist. The major academic Waterstone’s bookshop in London liked his work so much that on one occasion they decorated their front window with his TPM cartoons. … Read the rest

Thinking too much with my wrong head

May 19th, 2004 4:01 pm | By

As some of you will know, at The Philosophers’ Magazine we have a number of online interactive type things which are designed to flag up some of the possible difficulties with religious belief (problem of evil, that kind of thing).

And since it is always amusing to tease the religiously afflicted, I thought I’d post an email I received yesterday about one of the activities. It kind of teases itself, so I won’t say any more.


Your message is stupid as well as your test. There is a all loving, all caring, all knowing and all every where at one time God who truely exists. You think too much with your head and it is the wrong head. You … Read the rest

The Use of Intellectual Obsessives *

May 19th, 2004 | Filed by

Teachers should forget being nice, and be opinionated instead.… Read the rest