Archives for May 2008

“The Stupidity of Dignity”

Steven Pinker has a very good essay on The New Republic online, "The Stupidity of Dignity." It examines the uselessness of the concept of dignity in bioethics, particularly the Catholic-inflected "theocon" version of bioethics that has become very influential in the US government. … [Read more...]

Skeptical Approaches to Miracle Claims

I can think of at least four different skeptical approaches to miracle claims. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. There is no need to settle on just one approach. The best option is, no doubt, to make use of all of these approaches.The Big Guns - AtheismThe first approach is to argue that there is no God, and thus no such thing as a miracle. One advantage of this approach is that it not only eliminates the specific miracle claim in question, it eliminates all alleged miracles, past, … [Read more...]

Honor killings

Here is a gut-wrenching story from The Guardian about a young Iraqi woman brutally killed by her father and brothers because of an infatuation with a British soldier. The police did not detain the father, and even supported him. By and large, the local community considers such honor killings right and proper. Honor killings, indeed, are quite common throughout the Middle East, and are carried out in Muslim immigrant communities in Western countries as well.Now, as far as I'm concerned, honor … [Read more...]

Richard Purtill “Defining Miracles”

In confronting miracle claims skeptics and naturalists look for flaws and weakness in the evidence put forward for specific miracles, and ask critical questions like, "Do we have eyewitness testimony for the event?", "Are the eyewitnesses credible and reliable?", "Are the accounts of the eyewitnesses consistent with each other?", and "Is there physical evidence that confirms or disconfirms the testimony of the eyewitnesses?" Such questions are of obvious relevance to rational evaluation of … [Read more...]

Harun Yahya sentenced

Adnan Oktar, the public face of the very successful Harun Yahya Muslim creationist phenomenon based in Turkey, has just been sentenced to three years in prison, on a racketeering charge.If carried out, I doubt it will put a dent in the popularity of Islamic creationism. It may even give Oktar, who has always had a shady public image, an aura of martyrdom. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens. … [Read more...]

Philosophers Without Gods

Here's another book I want to recommend: Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, edited by Louise M. Antony (Oxford University Press, 2007).Half the book is taken up by informal descriptions by philosophers of why they don't believe. Many are very interesting, and the more informal reflections are, I think, a good way of bringing out a distinctly philosophical sensibility leading to nonbelief. Plus, mercifully, no one goes on about ****ological arguments or other … [Read more...]

Dawkins’ Definition of “God”

The Conclusion of Chapter 4In the final paragraph of Chapter 4 of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins draws one of his main conclusions:If the argument of this chapter is accepted, the factual premise of religion - the God Hypothesis - is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist. This is the main conclusion of the book so far. (p. 189, Mariner paperback edition).Based on this paragraph one might think that Dawkins has provided an answer to the age-old question "Does God exist?". But it is … [Read more...]

Never swear at God…

A Turkish barber working in Saudi Arabia has been condemned to execution, based on testimony that he had sworn at God during a personal quarrel. (Think of it as a Muslim equivalent of denouncing the Holy Spirit: completely unforgivable.)You can read about it in the Arab News or Turkish Daily News. … [Read more...]