How insular are we?

I ran into a former student who once took my Weird Science course. She's pretty religious and a creationist, and she told me that she recently watched a movie featuring Lee Strobel that she liked. It made her think of my course.I've read a couple of Strobel books, and I regularly lend out his The Case for a Creator to students who want to learn more about creationism and intelligent design firsthand. It's basic conservative Christian apologetics. In other words, intellectually dishonest … [Read more...]

A Hindu honor killing

I recently posted a rant concerning honor killings, using an Iraqi Muslim example. Well, I just ran into a Hindu example that is just as horrifying to modern liberal moral sensibilities.Again, note the connection to religion. There should be no surprise here: traditional communities depend on their religion for their sense of moral order. Any moral order is kept in place by a degree of coercion, and one important function for old-fashioned religion is to tell when coercion, including violence, … [Read more...]

Dawkins’ Definition of “God” – Part 2

As I argued in my previous post ("Dawkins' Definition of 'God' ", 5/8/08), Dawkins' use of the word "God" in The God Delusion is idiosyncratic and muddled. I'm trying to work through the muddles in order to determine to what extent, if any, Dawkins' reasoning and conclusions are relevant to the age-old question, "Does God exist?".Sense vs. Reference of the word "God" in The God DelusionDawkins intends for the term "God" to refer not only to God as conceived of by Christians, Jews, and Muslims … [Read more...]

“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...]