A Scientific Question? Part 6

In Rocks of Ages, Stephen Gould places a heavy emphasis on the fact vs. value distinction. According to Gould, science is concerned with facts, and religion is concerned with values. Values don’t imply facts, and facts don’t imply values, so there can be no conflict between a given set of facts (scientific teachings at a given point in time) and a given set of values (religious teachings at a given point in time). This is how Gould reasons about the relationship of science and religion.Given t … [Read more...]

“Ground Zero” Islamophobia

Surprising though that may be, I still run into people who think that "Islamophobia" is an illegitimate term. I don't see how anyone observing right wing politics in the US can seriously say that deep-seated irrational hatred of Islam is not a widespread problem.Mind you, Islamophobia does get used by Muslim groups and Muslim-majority countries as an excuse to attempt to stifle criticism. But then, every ethnic and religious group does that. To some supporters of Israeli nationalism, every … [Read more...]

A Scientific Question? Part 5

More hints about the concept of a “scientific question” from the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science …In The God Delusion, Dawkins gives a couple of hints about what constitutes a scientific hypothesis.A scientific hypothesis is an idea that is either true or false.Dawkins is more favorable towards TAP style agnosticism, than PAP style agnosticism:TAP, or Temporary Agnosticism in Practice, is the legitimate fence-sitting where there really is a definite answer, one wa … [Read more...]

Oppression? False Consciousness?

Many nonbelievers are convinced that Islam subjugates, even oppresses women. Now, there's a certain carelessness in such blanket descriptions. The Islam of the Taliban and that of the Bosniaks are quite different. Still, we can identify a historical mainstream within Islam, and observe that this mainstream upholds patriarchal social ideals.I guess for many of us, traditional Islamic practices concerning women come close to our defining examples of oppression: the condition of slaves, or battered … [Read more...]

Catholic monarchism

This video is getting attention on some secular blogs now. I must say, it's surprising to see that Catholic anti-democracy views still survive, in the US especially. But here it is: a four-minute defense of rule by a Catholic monarch as a political ideal.It has a kind of semi-insane coherence characteristic of some of the worst political ideas. Randroid atheism would perhaps be a nonbelieving analogue.Update: this looks real. Visit realcatholictv.com. … [Read more...]

A Scientific Question? Part 4

Although the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University does not provide a single sentence (in the first four chapters of The God Delusion) defining or explaining what he means by a “scientific hypothesis” or by a “scientific question”, there are a few comments and phrases here and there that give a hint at what he had in mind. It is difficult, however, to assemble a complete definition or explanation out of the few crumbs that Dawkins leaves behind.A … [Read more...]

A Scientific Question? Part 3

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserts some interesting and controversial claims about the epistemology of religious belief, especially the belief that God exists. He asserts that this belief is a scientific hypothesis, that the question at issue is a scientific question, and that the correct answer to the question is a scientific fact.A Scientific Hypothesis...’the God Hypothesis’ is a scientific hypothesis about the universe…(TGD, p.2, emphasis added)…the existence of God is a scientific … [Read more...]

Why I am a Retributivist (sort of)

Philosophers, even when old dogs (well, I’m 57), should be able to learn a few new tricks. My mind has changed on a number of issues in just the last few years. For one thing, two books, Hilary Kornblith’s Knowledge and its Place in Nature and Robert Fogelin’s Walking the Tightrope of Reason, disabused me of my former naïve, knee-jerk internalism, and I am now an unabashed epistemological naturalist and externalist. Another change of outlook was not brought about by philosophical reading. I t … [Read more...]


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