Atheists have no basis for morality

"Atheists have no basis for morality"—this has to be one of the most common charges laid against nonbelievers.There is a sense in which the accusation is correct. It just happens to be incomplete. No one has any basis for morality, at least not in the otherworldly sense of "basis" that informs many conversations about the topic.Note that theists put their emphasis on a basis for morality. If they have any level of sophistication, they do not argue that nonbelievers are bad people. Instead, … [Read more...]

“Why Women Are Bound to Religion”

R. Elisabeth Cornwell has an interesting article online, "Why Women Are Bound to Religion: An Evolutionary Perspective."Women are, statistically speaking, more religious than men. Cornwell speculates that this has to do with female social conservatism, tendency to avoid risks, and higher dependence on social networks for reproductive success. I don't understand why the article favors women emancipating themselves from religion. The more obvious step, I would think, would be to adopt more … [Read more...]

Barr dialogue piece from DINA

[ My dialogue piece responding to Stephen M. Barr, from Divine Action and Natural Selection, pp. 479-80. ]Much of what Dr. Barr says is theological. I have no competence to comment on how it fits in with his particular religious tradition. It also strikes me as irrelevant to those not already committed to his tradition; it certainly has little bearing on scientific matters.That being said, I think there is some confusion about randomness exhibited throughout the article, and that might be worth … [Read more...]

Random thoughts

I would say that theists have a hard time dealing with randomness, but that would be misleading. Quite a few nonbelievers also dislike randomness. Randomness offends against the intuition that everything has a cause, whether this eventually means supernatural ultimate causes or a universe where every event has a natural cause.Still, religious thinkers seem to have a particular animus against randomness, continually speaking about the absurdity of it all coming down to chance. Those parts of … [Read more...]

Creationist scientists

It's easy to suspect that characteristically philosophical questions are irresolvable. And not just in the sense that there are no final and incontestable answers, but in the sense that you can't even make progress on them. The main reason to suspect this is that philosophers don't in fact seem able to resolve their disputes. (You might think that this indicates that a lot of philosophical questions are really pseudoquestions. But whether this is so is itself a philosophical question, and … [Read more...]

Divine Action and Natural Selection

The major intellectual sin of science is that it can get boring. Let's face it, most of us bang away at research that might be useful, even important for others in our subsubdiscipline, but it's hardly a big deal. (Do you want me to talk about the effects of stratospheric relaxation in radiative forcing calculations? I didn't think so.)But our routine-but-boring usefulness can obscure the way us science-types can go off the deep end as easily as anyone else. And religion, as always, is the great … [Read more...]

British Creationism

In the last couple of years, I have been hearing a lot more about creationism in Europe, particularly Britain. A recent poll apparently has that among the British, "More than half of the public believe that the theory of evolution cannot explain the full complexity of life on Earth, and a 'designer' must have lent a hand." Compare that to the notoriously low rate of church attendance in Britain.In some ways, I am surprised. In others, I am not.I am surprised because I am more used to creationism … [Read more...]

Russell vs. Copleston on the Moral Argument

On his Dangerous Idea blog, Vic Reppert asks for comments on who won the famous debate between Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston, S.J. on the existence of God, broadcast by the B.B.C. in 1948. I recently commented on this debate in the chapter "Bertrand Russell" in Icons of Unbelief, edited by S.T. Joshi and recently published (2008) by Greenwood Press. My scorecard is: Russell clearly won the first round on the argument from contingency. The second argument, on religious experience, is … [Read more...]