Archives for August 2009

More on Naturalism and Consciousness

Dianelos Georgoudis replied at length to my earlier posting on metaphysical naturalism and consciousness, and I would like to continue the conversation. I characterize metaphysical naturalists as committed to the causal closure of the natural universe, i.e., to the claim that natural phenomena, to the extent that they are caused (and not, say, random or brute facts), are caused by natural entities, forces, processes, etc. In other words, to parody the slogan about Las Vegas, what causes things … [Read more...]

Liberals for religion

Reading Liberalism for a New Century (Jumonville and Mattson, eds.) recently, I was struck by the backward-looking nature of allegedly cutting-edge liberal thought.I'll admit a certain bias: I keep a distance to American liberalism, though I invariably end up grudgingly voting Democratic. Liberals are far too conservative for my taste. And in this book too, liberal writers complain that liberalism has been marginalized in US politics because it has been insufficiently nationalistic, associated … [Read more...]

Religion in College

Inside Higher Ed reported on a study looking at how different major choices in college affect attendance at religious services.There is little in it that is surprising. Business and education majors show an increase in religiosity. Humanities and social science majors show a decrease. None of these effects are large. Science majors remain more or less the same.This possibly fits in with previous observations. Postmodern relativism, many have suggested, is corrosive of traditional religiosity, … [Read more...]


In disputes between supernaturalists and naturalists, one of the minor themes has to do with uniqueness and identity. Naturalists inclined toward functionalism usually think that the mind, for example, is what the brain does, while religious people tend to believe in souls and spirits. But functionalists then also have to think that copies of minds might also be made, since another physical system that realizes the same functions would be equivalent. A soul, on the other hand, conveys a kind of … [Read more...]

Against community

I just finished another book that's an example of postmodern Muslim blather, Anouar Majid's Unveiling Traditions. Typical of the genre, it's full of moral posturing against colonialism, capitalism, Orientalism, secularism, and the modern world in general. It presents itself as politically leftist, but it's the sort of anti-Enlightenment left that traffics in romantic nostalgia about peasant societies rather than any substantial politics.After that, I feel like I should say something good about … [Read more...]

Theistic Evolutionists

I often suggest that there are at least cynical reasons to encourage those scientists who proclaim the compatibility of modern science and traditional faiths. The need for such a protective coloration to present to the public is especially plausible when trying to keep creationists out of the hair of scientific interests.Still, I admit that there are reasons to feel uncomfortable about some varieties of theistic evolutionist and other compatibilists as well. For example, Karl Giberson and Darrel … [Read more...]

Rabbis against swine flu

According to Haaretz, recentlyDozens of rabbis and Kabbalah mystics armed with ceremonial trumpets took to the skies over Israel on Monday to battle the swine flu virus. . . About 50 Jewish holy men chanted prayers and blew shofars (ritual rams' horns) in an aircraft circling over the country in the hope of stopping the spread of the virus. . . "The aim of the flight was to stop the pandemic so people will stop dying from it," Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri was quoted as saying.Read the full story.For the … [Read more...]

Separate spheres

In educated, liberal circles today, the conventional wisdom about science and religion is that they are compatible. Each belongs to a different sphere. In one popular formulation, natural science produces naturalistic explanations of natural phenomena, while the sphere of religion is knowledge about an entirely different realm, the supernatural. Or, possibly, science is about a narrow subset of reality that can be empirically probed by a "scientific method," while other kinds of knowledge, such … [Read more...]