Archives for March 2006

Negative study on intercessory prayer

Information on the Herbert Benson-led study on the possible health benefits of intercessory prayer has begun to appear in the media. The results appear to be negative.(Disclaimer: the actual journal article appears next week. And I'm a physicist, not qualified to comment on the details of medical research anyway. And as some of the questions raised about prior positive studies show, doing this sort of research properly is very difficult.)It's interesting to see that the news article I link to … [Read more...]

Methodological naturalism revisited

When countering anti-evolutionary views such as those put forth by the intelligent design (ID) movement, anti-ID commentators often refer to "methodological naturalism" as a "ground rule" of science.I'm not entirely happy with this, but I don't see any great problem either -- provided we think of this "ground rule" as a pragmatic rule, not an a priori straightjacket on investigation.We like to stick with methods that have a good prospect of working, judged according to our present knowledge of … [Read more...]

Atheists and nonbelievers, by country has data on the top 50 countries with the highest percentage of people who do not believe in God (though may not self-report as "atheists") and the top 20 countries with the largest number of nonbelievers. The data comes from Phil Zuckerman, "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns," in Michael Martin's The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (2006, Cambridge University Press).The United States is #43 for percentage of nonbelievers, and #7 for absolute number of nonbelievers (after … [Read more...]

Distrust of atheists–further evidence

Internet Infidels executive director Keith Augustine has pointed me to another study which also shows that Americans distrust atheists. This report (PDF) by the Pew Center, issued March 22, 2006, lists Americans' favorability ratings for various religious groups on p. 3 (table 5) from a July 2005 survey:Table 5.--------------------------------------------------Favorability Ratings of Religious Groups--------------------------------------------------Opinions of ... Fav Unfav No … [Read more...]

Slavery and the Bible

Ed Brayton has been carrying on some very interesting discussions on a specific topic of biblical morality, the subject of slavery and why the Bible doesn't condemn it. It's fascinating to see how some Christians have tried to argue about the subject with him.The subject of slavery in the Bible is one of the main reasons Ed came to the conclusion that the Bible isn't the word of God. He sets out his initial statement in a post aptly titled "Slavery and the Bible," where he argues against a … [Read more...]

Our Alleged Fallen State

There is a story that believers like to tell and it goes something like this: everyone is sinful. We are all tainted and filthy. We murder and steal and generally wallow in our lowly state. But religion lifts us up and brings us closer to God. Religious precepts makes us moral, so that we may rise up above our fallen state until the final day that sweet chariot swings low and carries us up to be with God.That’s the story anyway. And it’s also a load of bunk. Since Pythagoras at least, the story i … [Read more...]

The E-Word In Arkansas

"I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are," says an Arkansas geologist and science teacher. "I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old." That and many other absurdities as reported by the Arkansas Times. The Times also reports that "several Arkansas public school districts" have intentionally crippled their science education and have purged the e-word … [Read more...]

The secular oppose torture more than Christians do

Not surprisingly considering the content of the Bible, a Pew poll shows that 57% of those who are "secular" think that torture is never or only rarely acceptable, while only 42% of Catholics and 49% of white Protestants and white evangelicals feel that way. (I'm not sure why the poll only looked at white Protestants and evangelicals.)The survey question was "Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be … [Read more...]