When secularism collapses

It's commonplace to note that secularism and secularity are not the same worldwide. Secular politics and secular society means somewhat different things in France and the UK, never mind India or Turkey or the USA.Still, there are commonalities, and I think social scientists who speak of secularizing trends in the modern world draw a decent broad-brush picture of a process driven by technological and economic changes. But there is also a political aspect of secularization. For example, increasing … [Read more...]


I often rant on science and religion here, and one subset of science and religion issues I have a special interest in is how such matters play out in an Islamic context.If you happen to have an interest in science and religion in Islam, I highly recommend Salman Hameed's Irtiqa blog. Hameed is an astronomer teaching at Hampshire College, who comes from a Pakistani background. He also has his ear to the ground concerning a wide variety of pseudoscientific nonsense in the Islamic world, and … [Read more...]

Blobs of substance

One of the both frustrating and rewarding things about teaching physics is how much I have to work against the grain of everyday common sense thinking.The obvious example is how almost everybody, unless they're corrupted by having physics beat into their head for years on end, has an Aristotelian conception of force, inertia, and motion. But I also run into a more subtle obstacle. Most everyone has a quasi-Aristotelian conception of matter, of substance. And I run into traces of this not just … [Read more...]

Taibbi on Fish and Eagleton

Stanley Fish reviewed Terry Eagleton's atheist-bashing book in the New York Times this week. I read the review, and emailed a friend that "it seems to be about a book talking nonsense about science, written by somebody clueless about science, reviewed by someone equally clueless about science."I was going to leave it at that, since I had (and have) no intention of reading a book that promises largely to be drivel, and academese drivel at that. (I like drivel, but other varieties.) Still, Matt … [Read more...]

A disproof of God

Since at least the European Enlightenment, there have been defenders of a distant, remote version of God. Deists don't generally have a lot of influence on popular religion, but mainly provide a way of maintaining both intellectual respectability and the ability to call oneself devout.A common argument in the service of deism is that a miracle-performing God actually works against himself. After all, God is responsible for the Laws of Nature that miracles violate. Wouldn't it be a more … [Read more...]

Overdoing Origins

In public controversies over science, there's a lot of interest in questions concerning the origins of things. Evolution, cosmology, the origin of life—these are considered big questions. I see this in the classroom as well. I like to devote a fair bit of time to questions by students, which can range far beyond what's in their textbooks. I often get questions about the big bang. This is good; I get to take them on a whirlwind tour of some interesting physics, starting with general … [Read more...]

Atheism and intelligence

There's some research out there concerning correlations between intelligence as psychometricians understand it and atheism. I've come across (thanks to Prem Dhanesh) another example: "Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations," by Richard Lynn, John Harvey and Helmuth Nyborg. The abstract:Evidence is reviewed pointing to a negative relationship between intelligence and religious belief in the United States and Europe. It is shown that intelligence measured as psychometric g … [Read more...]

The Trilemma Argument – A Preliminary Evaluation

I have been mostly defending the Trilemma argument against various objections for the past few weeks, so I have not spent much time thinking about how to refute it. I reject the conclusion, of course, on the basis of various other reasons unrelated to the Trilemma.God, as understood in Western theism, is an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good person, and Jesus was none of those things:God is, by definition, a perfectly good person.Jesus was not a perfectly good person.Therefore,Jesus was … [Read more...]