Archives for February 2012

Above is a Turkish news photo I include completely without any sort of context. Out of curiosity, how do readers interpret something like this? An illustration of Muslim womens' docility? An image of Muslim women remaining devout and yet claiming a place in the public sphere? That it's annoying that people behave like religious sheep in the 21st century? That it's a wonderful picture of human cultural diversity?  ...? … [Read more...]

The Brain and the Meaning of Life

The Brain and the Meaning of Life, by Paul Thagard (one of my favorite philosophers of science), is worth a look.It's intended for a more popular audience, so it doesn't have citations in the text or detailed arguments for his positions that could convince critics. It's a book that is, however, nicely expressive of a naturalist position without being a fully-fleshed out defense. I especially like how he uses ideas concerning inference to the best explanation to reject both religious claims to … [Read more...]

“False science”

Liberal religious figures baffle me when they make true but irrelevant pronouncements concerning how science does not strictly imply that their God is a fiction. But credit where it's due—at least they don't shit all over science like conservative God-botherers are wont to do. Take, for example, David Barton, the "historian" much favored by the Religious Right, who says things likeThere is science and there is science that is falsely so-called. See, the Bible doesn't have trouble with science, b … [Read more...]

Scandinavian secularity

Next week I'll be traveling to give a couple of talks in Norway and Sweden. As always, I expect the conversations aside from the public presentations will be interesting. I want to ask my hosts about the Scandinavian reputation for deep secularity, the way that for example a sociologist such as Phil Zuckerman portrays Nordic societies as pretty decent places in the absence of any dominant organized supernatural religion, though a kind of cultural religion remains.One reason is that I've run into … [Read more...]

Cheap consistency

The literature on science and religion is dominated, on the religious side, by a desire for establishing consistency between science and (possibly reinterpreted) religious beliefs.I suspect that this whole literature is fatally shot through with a kind of intellectual pathology, assuming that mere compatibility achieves something, while not attempting to make the claims at all plausible to anyone standing outside of a particular community of faith. Cheap consistency means very little.Consider a … [Read more...]

Skepticism and the Multiplication of Probabilities – Part 2

If two events or states of affairs are independent, then the probability that both will occur is equal to the multiplication of the probabilities of those two events.If p is an event (or state of affairs) that is independent of an event (or state of affairs) q, then:P(p & q) = P(p) x P(q)But if p and q are dependent events, then the probability formula is a bit different:P(p & q) = P(p) x P(q/p)Suppose p is 'getting heads on coin toss 1' and q is 'getting heads on coin toss 2'. Assuming … [Read more...]

Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 16

One key factor determining the probability that Jesus actually died on the cross is the probability (or improbability) of the following claim:(NTC) Jesus' hands (or arms) and feet were nailed to the cross. Crucifixion does not necessarily involve nailing the victim to a cross, and the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion don’t indicate how Jesus was attached to the cross. Binding the victim to the cross was more common than nailing. Furthermore, nails were probably used for crucifixions when there … [Read more...]

Strange debate experience

Yesterday I was at REASONFEST 2012 at Lawrence, Kansas, where the organizers had set me up to debate whether Islam and science can coexist.It was a strange experience. My opponent, a Muslim social scientist called Leila Chahine, turned out to be more of an illustration of my thesis than anything else. From creationism to science-in-the-Quran apologetics, she endorsed all the stereotypically conservative Muslim pseudoscientific nonsense. She kind of made my point for me; I should have turned my … [Read more...]