The Case for a Creator: Belief and Decision

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 10The essence of science isn't test tubes or lab coats, but a special kind of scrupulous intellectual honesty. It's the willingness to try to prove yourself wrong, to subject your own ideas to the most rigorous, make-or-break tests you can conceive of. Equally as important, it's the willingness to consider every plausible alternative and weigh them all fairly - and if a competing hypothesis explains the data better than your own, to acknowledge that and respond … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions: Out-of-Body Experiences

Most religious people believe in the soul, an ethereal locus of consciousness that separates from the body upon physical death and travels elsewhere to receive its reward. To people who hold this belief, it's a natural next step to guess that the soul or spirit could sometimes leave a person's body while they're still alive and travel to distant places on its own initiative. Such is the belief in out-of-body experiences, the subject of today's Popular Delusions post.Belief in OBEs is probably … [Read more...]

Mystery Does Not Equal God

By Sarah BraaschWhen I was about seven years old I almost died. It wasn't the only time I almost died, but it was one of my most colorful near death experiences. I had acquired some sort of flu bug or food poisoning or I don't know what, but my mother, in her either infinite ignorance or indifference, failed to procure anything in the way of medical attention for her ailing child. In all fairness, at first, I attempted to minimize my illness in order to be able to participate in a planned trip … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically: Memory & Confabulation

The reliability of eyewitness accounts is one of the bedrock beliefs of our society. In ancient cultures - and in some modern cultures that still follow ancient laws - some crimes could only be proven by eyewitness testimonies. One of the most infamous examples was Pakistan's Hudood Ordinances, which mandated that allegations of rape could only be proven by four eyewitness accounts; otherwise, the woman was to be punished for making false accusations. Even in our supposedly more enlightened … [Read more...]

A World in Shadow VI

In 2006 and 2007, I wrote several entries in a series called A World in Shadow, bolstering the atheist's argument from evil by describing particularly shocking or egregious instances of natural and moral evils. However, I haven't written any new entries for this series in some time.To be honest, I stopped writing these posts because I found them too upsetting. There are more than enough - far too many - examples of tragedy and catastrophe in this world to make the case against a benevolent … [Read more...]

The Happiness Machine

As any regular reader of Daylight Atheism knows, the topic of morality is a major concern of mine. In essays on Ebon Musings, I've sketched out a secular moral theory I call universal utilitarianism. Here on this site, In the past, I've written about the roots of this morality and the virtues that can be derived from it, as well as musings on what UU has to say about some controversial moral topics. In 2009, I plan on taking these explorations in a new direction.This year, I intend to write … [Read more...]

Forms and Essences

In the past, I've written about the origins of religion and how belief in gods likely arises from one of humanity's most common psychological fallacies, the tendency to attribute agency where none exists. (When was the last time you got angry at your computer and felt as if it was trying to balk you? It happens to me much too often - even when I know there's no one inside there.)There's another, related tendency that often manifests in religious belief, which is that human beings are concrete, … [Read more...]

On Agent Causation

Among the band of philosophers who hold that free will is supernatural, one of the reigning ideas is called agent causation. This hypothesis states that volitional acts are a special category of event, one that is caused not by any other event but - in some deeply mysterious way - by the agent itself. Philosopher Roderick Chisholm describes this as follows:If we are responsible... then we have a prerogative which some would attribute only to God: each of us, when we act, is a prime mover … [Read more...]

Dawn of the Dead: Are Zombies Possible?

Inspired by a recent post on Philosophy, et cetera, I want to talk a little about zombies and what they imply for a materialist theory of the mind.When I say "zombie," I don't mean the shambling, flesh-eating undead of horror films. This thought experiment is about philosophical zombies, which are a different beast altogether. The philosophers' zombie is a hypothetical creature which, to all outward appearances, is indistinguishable from an ordinary human. The difference is that they lack … [Read more...]

The Default

Back in March, I commented on a Beliefnet debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan. In part 4 of that debate, Andrew Sullivan made what I thought was an astonishing concession:But I can say that [this experience] represented for me a revelation of God's love and forgiveness, the improbable notion that the force behind all of this actually loved us, and even loved me. The calm I felt then; and the voice with no words I heard: this was truer than any proof I have ever conceded, any … [Read more...]