Cracking the Fortune Cookie

A Response to John Searle’s Chinese Room Analogy John Searle. “Minds, Brains, and Programs.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 3, p. 417-424 (1980). In a famous 1980 paper titled “Minds, Brains and Programs”, the philosopher John Searle proposed a notorious thought experiment, now known as the Chinese Room, relating to the possibility of artificial intelligence. Searle has no objection to “weak AI”, the claim that a properly programmed computer can help teach us about the mind; but he opposes “strong… Read more

An Inspiring Story

Sheryl Kay. “Ex-minister walks atheist path.” The St. Petersburg Times, February 17, 2006. His message is clear: Jesus is not coming. Not today. Not ever. At 59, James Young has spent almost a decade sharing his atheist beliefs with the public, driving every Wednesday morning from his home in Lithia to set up a tent at the University of South Florida Bull Market. Even on the coldest morning, Young is there, ready to share, and sometimes debate, his views with… Read more

Christian? Jewish? Who Cares?

Michael Luo. “Reform Jews Hope to Unmix Mixed Marriages.” The New York Times, February 12, 2006. In this age of potpourri spirituality, Anique Olivier-Mason, 25, classifies herself generally as a Christian: she grew up Catholic and often attends a Presbyterian church near her home. But on a recent Friday night, she was attending Sabbath services at Larchmont Temple. This article from the New York Times concerns the efforts of some Reform Judaism congregations to convert the non-Jewish spouses of congregation… Read more

Living Up to the Renaissance Ideal

In my previous post in this category, Know Everything, I expressed my desire to know every fact there is about the universe, to know how to solve every problem that has been solved. This goal is, of course, impossible. We cannot do that, so what can we do? I have always admired the Renaissance ideal – the person who is knowledgeable in many areas, and constantly learning about more. Given that we can never know everything, this is probably the… Read more

Life Without Superstition

It is a common misperception, promoted and sustained by religious leaders, that atheism has nothing good or positive to offer the seeker. Nothing could be further from the truth. It will be one of the major purposes of this weblog, and more specifically of this category, the Garden, to explode that myth, and there is no better time to start than now. To counter this oft-held misperception, here follow some of the benefits of atheism: Atheism quenches the fear of… Read more

The Fallacy of Free Speech

In August 2005, according to a December article in the San Francisco Examiner, the private Calvary Chapel Christian School sued the University of California. The UC’s offense, according to Calvary Chapel’s lawsuit, was in not granting college credit for several courses taught from an explicitly Christian viewpoint; doing so, they claim, constitutes discrimination against the Christian viewpoint. Consider, if you will, the implications of this lawsuit. Calvary is claiming that the UC should not be allowed to set its own… Read more

Better Left Unsaid

Mahatma Gandhi said, “All religions are true.” If you think about it, they all serve the same purpose: comfort the afflicted, explain the unexplainable, provide moral guidelines for living a good life. The differences are primarily cultural — language, place of origin, traditional elements — not spiritual. What does it matter if one person prays to Allah, another believes in multiple deities, and another doesn’t believe in any God, if all three are fundamentally good people who treat others the… Read more

Are Evolved Minds Reliable Truth-Finders?

In recent years, Christian apologists such as Alvin Plantinga have advanced arguments purporting to prove that evolutionary naturalism is a self-refuting worldview. According to these people, if evolution is true and there is no intelligent creator-god, then humans’ sensory and rational faculties were created by a blind process that is not concerned with truth or falsity, and therefore those faculties themselves could not reliably detect truth or falsity. The conclusion, as Plantinga and others would have it, is that if… Read more

Know Everything

Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by the findings of science. It really is true that the world is a more intricate and wonderful place than we can imagine, and even the limited glimpses we have obtained into its underlying workings are more than enough to provoke awe and wonder of the most sublime kind. The more causes we understand, the more connections we perceive, the more incredible a place we see the world to be. Every… Read more

An Atheist’s Creed

Before launching into the weightier topics which this blog will cover, I thought it would be helpful to first establish who I am, what I believe and where I am coming from. This, then, is an atheist’s creed – not in the sense of a dogmatically imposed set of standards, but rather a set of general principles, refined from experience and reflection, that guide how I try to live my life. You are welcome to share them if you like…. Read more

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