Archives for May 2009

Atheism and Naturalism

Nicholas Covington asked me to review his new book, Atheism and Naturalism.So I'll give it a mention. It seems interesting enough. Most of the material is based on the sort of exchanges familiar from debates on various Internet venues concerning atheism and the Christian version of theism. There's also some wandering over familiar territory from the philosophy of religion. If you enjoy Internet-style wrangling over religion, you may like the book.That said, I'm probably not the best person to … [Read more...]

When secularism collapses

It's commonplace to note that secularism and secularity are not the same worldwide. Secular politics and secular society means somewhat different things in France and the UK, never mind India or Turkey or the USA.Still, there are commonalities, and I think social scientists who speak of secularizing trends in the modern world draw a decent broad-brush picture of a process driven by technological and economic changes. But there is also a political aspect of secularization. For example, increasing … [Read more...]


I often rant on science and religion here, and one subset of science and religion issues I have a special interest in is how such matters play out in an Islamic context.If you happen to have an interest in science and religion in Islam, I highly recommend Salman Hameed's Irtiqa blog. Hameed is an astronomer teaching at Hampshire College, who comes from a Pakistani background. He also has his ear to the ground concerning a wide variety of pseudoscientific nonsense in the Islamic world, and … [Read more...]

Blobs of substance

One of the both frustrating and rewarding things about teaching physics is how much I have to work against the grain of everyday common sense thinking.The obvious example is how almost everybody, unless they're corrupted by having physics beat into their head for years on end, has an Aristotelian conception of force, inertia, and motion. But I also run into a more subtle obstacle. Most everyone has a quasi-Aristotelian conception of matter, of substance. And I run into traces of this not just … [Read more...]

Taibbi on Fish and Eagleton

Stanley Fish reviewed Terry Eagleton's atheist-bashing book in the New York Times this week. I read the review, and emailed a friend that "it seems to be about a book talking nonsense about science, written by somebody clueless about science, reviewed by someone equally clueless about science."I was going to leave it at that, since I had (and have) no intention of reading a book that promises largely to be drivel, and academese drivel at that. (I like drivel, but other varieties.) Still, Matt … [Read more...]

A disproof of God

Since at least the European Enlightenment, there have been defenders of a distant, remote version of God. Deists don't generally have a lot of influence on popular religion, but mainly provide a way of maintaining both intellectual respectability and the ability to call oneself devout.A common argument in the service of deism is that a miracle-performing God actually works against himself. After all, God is responsible for the Laws of Nature that miracles violate. Wouldn't it be a more … [Read more...]

Overdoing Origins

In public controversies over science, there's a lot of interest in questions concerning the origins of things. Evolution, cosmology, the origin of life—these are considered big questions. I see this in the classroom as well. I like to devote a fair bit of time to questions by students, which can range far beyond what's in their textbooks. I often get questions about the big bang. This is good; I get to take them on a whirlwind tour of some interesting physics, starting with general … [Read more...]