The Harm of Junk “Studies”

As a cat lover, this article from Huffington Post caught my eye:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cats-mental-illness-toxoplasma_us_58adc06ae4b03d80af714072?The "study" debunked here is just one example of many, many such junk "studies" that come out all the time. This junk science does enormous harm. There are all sorts of ax-grinders that sit in waiting for some purportedly scientific "study" to confirm their obsessions. Then we never hear the end of it, even after the junk has been t … [Read more...]

More Dangerous Silliness from the Religious Right

I just got this in a message from the Center for Inquiry about measures before the Florida Legislature:"Legislation that would grant special privileges to religious beliefs in public schools has been introduced by Florida Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville), and Sen. Dennis Baxely (R-Ocala).The sponsors of the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act” (HB 303 and SB 436) claim the measures would protect the religious liberty of students, parents, and teachers. In f … [Read more...]

A Qualified Defense of Contempt

I was pleasantly surprised to see an op/ed by a professional philosopher in Sunday’s (1/29) Houston Chronicle. Karen Stohr’s essay “Our new age of contempt is on full display,” was first published in the New York Times. Stohr is an associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown and a senior research scholar at Georgetown’s Kennedy Center for Ethics. Professional philosophers, like other academics, tend to communicate eagerly with their peers, less eagerly with students, and less eagerly still wi … [Read more...]

If Jesus had been a Republican…

It seems like a good time to re-post and update this.If Jesus had been a Republican...He would have said:“Render unto Caesar. And if thou catchest an illegal immigrant, render him also, yea, limb from limb.”“Blessed are the rich, who are the ones who REALLY inherit the earth.”“Love thy neighbor, unless he criticizeth thee. Then shouldst thou treat him scurrilously, yea, even unto mocking his disability.”“Woe unto ye parasites who work in the public sector—ye instructors of … [Read more...]

Science and Religion: Four Models

I recently spoke at Christ the King Lutheran Church near the Rice University Campus. The topic was “Science and Religion.” This, of course, is a very big topic. How to deal with it in a single short presentation? I think the first thing to do is to some models for simplifying the multifarious complexities here. Also, by “religion” I will mean “monotheistic religion.” I offer the following four models:1) Warfare: This is the view given classic expression by T.H. Huxley (paraphrasing): “Extingu … [Read more...]

The True Cost of Fundamentalism: Women’s Health

In an editorial titled “Women at Risk,” today’s Houston Chronicle presented some very alarming facts:Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world according to a report in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Between 2010 and 2014 the rate at which Texas women died from complications related to pregnancy doubled…” Texas has the highest number of people without medical insurance in the country. In Texas, Medicaid, for the few that qualify for it, only covers a wo … [Read more...]

A Puzzle About Morality and Rationality

NOTE: This post has been edited since it was originally published in light of a very important observation from commenter Angra Mainyu. His comment revealed that I made an error in my original presentation of the puzzle. If you would like more information about this issue, please see the third footnote at the end of this post.In the comment thread for my post about Derek Parfit, many of us have been talking about whether a person can ever deserve to suffer. In one comment, Keith Parsons made … [Read more...]

In Memoriam: Derek Parfit (1942 – 2017)

Very sad news.Derek Parfit was one of the most influential moral philosophers of the last 50 years. But saying that, I suspect, undervalues his contributions to the field of philosophy. It is certain that his work will continue to be read and to influence future philosophers for a very long time.Parfit’s work had a very great effect on my own development as a philosopher. In my junior year of college, I read his Reasons and Persons and was overwhelmed by the lucidity and compelling n … [Read more...]