The Purview of Skepticism

I may have mentioned that, at Skepticon IV, JT Eberhard gave a fantastic talk on why the skeptical community must concern itself with mental illness. For the most part, the response from the community has been enthusiastically supportive - but there were a few sharp notes of dissent, like this post by Gina Colaianni. Most of Colaianni's criticisms are so off-base, I can't help wondering if she saw the same talk as the rest of us. (She thinks that JT, of all people, is calling for us to stop … [Read more...]

Worshipping the Holy Hair Dryer

My previous post, "The Blinding Fog of Religious Moderation", drew some criticism from people who felt that I was unjustly lumping moderate believers together with fundamentalists. So, in this post, I'm going to try (again) to illustrate why I find even moderate religious beliefs to be wrong-headed, by means of an analogy. I'd like to take credit for this analogy, but it isn't mine: the concept originally came from Sam Harris in his book Letter to a Christian Nation, though the proximate source … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically XI: The Null Hypothesis

So, you may have heard that Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, has a new book on the same subject, called The Power. Personally, I'm bewildered. Her first book promised to tell you how to get everything you've ever wanted. What possible room could there be for a sequel?You might also have heard of the famous athletes who are wearing this bracelet, which, according to its makers, uses "processed titanium and holograms" which are "designed to interact with your body’s natural energy", improving … [Read more...]

The Language of God: Prelude to Cosmology

The Language of God, Chapter 3By B.J. MarshallPart 2 of this book, "The Great Questions of Human Existence," covers topics of cosmology, life on earth, and unpacking the human genome. Chapter 3 begins by tackling cosmology, but Collins throws in a little prelude - a little homage to science. We should keep in mind that Collins' point through all this is to find a way to reconcile faith and science. He's not big into NOMA, but rather argues that science complements faith. Although he gets … [Read more...]

The Language of God: A Doubtful Belief

The Language of God, Chapter 2By B.J. MarshallCollins starts off this chapter noting that, if we've followed him this far, we've no doubt begun to form numerous objections. That's an understatement to be sure! He gives us some of his own: Isn't belief in God just a case of wishful thinking? Hasn't a great deal of harm been done in the name of religion? How could a loving God permit suffering? How can a serious scientist accept the possibility of miracles? We'll upack those questions in a few … [Read more...]

The Language of God: And So It Begins

By B.J. MarshallIn The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Francis Collins presents what he believes to be the strongest arguments for theism: what he calls the "Moral Law," the origins of the universe, and life on earth. In a nutshell, Collins sees the ubiquity of morality to be the work of God on our hearts; he sees the marvelous universe and the nature of reality to be "an insight into the mind of God" (p.62); and he sees life on Earth to be the handiwork of God. … [Read more...]

Two Responses to the Theist’s Guide

Earlier this month, Greta Christina published a piece on AlterNet, based on my essay "The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists", that listed things that would convince her of God's existence. She also repeated the challenge I posed to theists - prove that your beliefs are falsifiable by posting a corresponding list of things that would convince you to become an atheist.The AlterNet post got hundreds of comments, and netted a total of two responses. In this post, I'll briefly analyze them … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Redefining Science

The Case for a Creator, Closing ThoughtsThe theory of evolution not only explains and unifies a vast range of scientific observations, it's given rise to an enormous, fruitful research program by predicting where we should look in order to find all kinds of phenomena of interest. One of the most famous examples is how Charles Darwin predicted that the earliest human ancestors would be found in Africa, which turned out to be 100% correct. Based on observing flowers from Madagascar, Darwin also … [Read more...]

What Is Freethought?

I've often used the terms "freethought" and "freethinker" on this blog, but I've never explicitly defined them. In this post, continuing my efforts at defining words that are important to the atheist movement, I want to speak briefly about how I use these terms and what I understand them to mean.As the Freedom from Religion Foundation defines it, a freethinker is a person who forms their opinions about religion based on reason, independently of established belief, tradition, or authority. I … [Read more...]

The Poisoned Cup of Theodicy

The world has seen and heard enough about the misery and destruction in Haiti this past week that I don't think I need to dwell on it. But I do want to take some time to address the perennial question of theodicy, which comes up in the aftermath of every disaster like this.To an atheist, for whom the Haiti quake was nothing more than the result of tectonic plates slipping - a disaster caused by impersonal natural forces and random chance - there is nothing to explain. The laws of the cosmos … [Read more...]


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