TV Review: Planet Earth

I recently finished watching Planet Earth, the award-winning BBC nature documentary series narrated by David Attenborough. As its title implies, Planet Earth is an effort of considerable ambition: the filmmakers set out to produce a series that would provide a survey of our world's natural grandeur and biodiversity. To a remarkable extent, I think they succeeded. Of course the full richness of Earth's biosphere could not be exhaustively chronicled, but this series touches on many of the high … [Read more...]

The Keyhole

For much of human history, information was a rare and precious commodity. In pre-literate societies, the collected wisdom of the tribe - when the rains come, when is the best time to plant crops, what plants are best for illness - was passed down in oral format, requiring much diligent work of recitation and memorization. If the only person who knew something died in an accident, that bit of information was lost.When writing was invented, the situation improved somewhat. Now important facts … [Read more...]

Little-Known Bible Verses VIII: Priestly Celibacy

Today's edition of "Little-Known Bible Verses" is specific to the Roman Catholic denomination of Christianity. This is because, of all major Western denominations, Roman Catholicism is the only church that still requires that its clergy members remain celibate. The Catholic church to this day believes that this is a biblically supportable doctrine. But in fact, the opposite is true, as we can see from two little-known Bible verses.Both the verses in question come from the epistle of 1 Timothy, … [Read more...]

Thoughts on the Expelled Affair

By now, I assume, the entire blogosphere has heard about the public-relations fiasco which the producers of the creationist film Expelled have brought upon themselves. If you haven't, here's a brief rundown: last week, everyone's favorite fire-breathing atheist blogger and biology professor, P.Z. Myers, went to see an advance screening of the film. It seems only fair that he'd get to see it - he was deceived into appearing in it by the producers, who told him it was going to be called Crossroads … [Read more...]

Belaboring the Obvious

When it comes to theist-atheist debates, one sentiment I hear frequently is that there's no point arguing either side of the controversy, because no one's mind is ever changed by such arguments. Last summer, in "Be Hot or Cold", I pointed out two reviewers who both dragged out exactly this same assertion in response to two different atheist books.There's no doubt that conversions are rare, on both sides. And I also don't think there's any doubt that rational persuasion is usually ineffective. … [Read more...]

The Good Book?

Recently, an offended Christian left this comment on my satirical post "Footprints":Call me close-minded, but am I the only one who looks at the whole text of Scripture, and not just the parts that deal with eternal damnation?Because, if we're playing a game where we take the Holy Word of God out of context, I can alter His meaning to say just about anything, really.....why does everyone fail to mention all the times that God blessed His people? Why is everyone so quick to point out where … [Read more...]

Do You Really Believe That? (V)

Anointing the SickThe New Testament's Book of James gives some very unusual instructions on how to treat illness:"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."—James 5:14-15In eras when human knowledge was far less advanced, it's not surprising that … [Read more...]

Book Update

I've finished chapter 9 of my book, which is titled "Stardust" and concerns how we should handle death from an atheist viewpoint. As in the past, I'm making this chapter available to regular commenters on this site for editorial review and critique. If you fit that description and would like to review it, please let me know.We're moving into the home stretch now! I have one more chapter tentatively planned, then an afterword. I'm soon going to begin work on pulling together a draft of the … [Read more...]

Three Objections to Objectivism

I recently finished reading Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness, and I wanted to offer some comments on her moral philosophy.There are several good reasons why I ought to like Ayn Rand. She was an atheist, and proudly so, and argued for the supremacy of reason as the only valid way of knowing. I agree with this. She denounced communism and supported capitalism. I agree with this as well. Her works are still very popular in some circles and offer a vision of a rational, productive life which … [Read more...]

Atheists at 75%?

Not in the general population, alas. But a poll in a recent front-page post at Daily Kos, Hobbits 2.0?, had some stunning numbers:The poll was about which viewpoint best fits the site contributors' positions on human evolution, with four options corresponding to young-earth creationism, old-earth creationism, theistic evolution, and non-theistic evolution (i.e., no god involved). Not surprisingly for a progressive political site, the two creationist options received negligible support. But … [Read more...]


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