Art, schmart

Occasionally I run into the complaint that without the influence of religious culture, art suffers. Modern art, apparently, is the inevitable result of a civilization that has lost interest in God; it is the sort of ugly, purposeless, offensive stuff you get when art loses track of transcendent ideals.I guess if you believe in Beauty with a capital B, and that art (should that be Art?) should be about reaching into the higher Platonic realms to nourish the soul or whatever, some of this might … [Read more...]

Putting religion in schools to defend evolution?

John West, an Intelligent Design proponent, writes that religious liberals and even secularists are injecting religion into public school classrooms. They do this by promoting varieties of theology that are warmer toward biological evolution than ID. West might have a point. I don't trust ID people— in my experience, they're not reliable sources, putting their disagreeable spin on everything they talk about. And I'm way out of my depth when it comes to any law-related issue. But there is … [Read more...]

A cynic’s guide to academic departments

Mathematics: Mathematicians get to make up anything they want as long as it's consistent. They therefore have a tenuous connection to reality and tend to be susceptible to crank notions.Statistics: Supposed to be about nothing in particular: a statistician can tell you how to analyze data gathered from any field of inquiry. This works exactly as well as the notion that you can manage a company without having to know anything about the industry it operates in.Computer Science: There is some … [Read more...]

Materialists and dualists

There's an interesting blog-debate between skeptic Steven Novella and intelligent design proponent Michael Egnor. Both Egnor and Novella come from a neuroscience background, though Novella's materialism is by far the more scientifically mainstream view than Egnor's dualism.I am entirely in Novella's camp, I confess. The materialist position is continuous with the rest of science, is making steady progress, and occasionally comes up with surprising explanations rather than just rephrasing folk … [Read more...]

Reasonable Doubts interview part 1

I got interviewed by the Reasonable Doubts podcast while I was visiting CFI-Michigan last month. Part 1 of the interview, concerning Islam, is available online now.Reasonable Doubts seems to be an interesting program. It started last year, I hope it catches on. … [Read more...]

Another fundamentalist death sentence in Afghanistan

Nonbelievers have to put up with a good deal of nonsense in places where fundamentalist Christians have a lot of influence. But then, there are fundamentalist Muslim environments, where never mind outright nonbelief, you can get your life ruined just for exploring more liberal interpretations of Islam.Afghanistan, which Western powers "liberated," is at it again. According to the UK newspaper The Independent, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a journalism student, "was accused of blasphemy after he … [Read more...]

No Atheists on MySpace

According to the Secular Student Alliance, has deleted what was the largest atheist grouping in the world. They say this was "due largely to complaints from people who find atheism offensive."Interesting. I wonder what to make of this. Conservative Christians demonstrating that they can be as nasty as conservative Muslims? The very existence of active nonbelievers being threatening to some people? Some religious people deciding they need to be more aggressive in the culture war? … [Read more...]


World population growth is in the 1-2% per year range. GDP growth is typically 2-3%; US economists consider about 3% the ideal.Most of what is decent about modern life depends on growth. From biology, we might expect a nasty, Darwinian competition for resources. In Richard Dawkins's words,During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from … [Read more...]