Last night I was on a panel discussing religion, as the token skeptic. For me, such events often highlight differences in mentality and temperament, as much as differences in ways of describing the world.There was a Hindu and a Buddhist on the panel, both Westerners following Westernized versions of their traditions. So predictably enough, their views of spirituality came across as a form of therapy mixed in with magical beliefs about minds. Their pronouncements on peace and happiness weren't … [Read more...]

Talks at McGill, Montréal, March 30 and 31

This seems to be my month for speaking on science and religion in Islam. Here's another occasion that is open to the public, the McGill Symposium on Islam and Evolution, where I am one of the panelists. It should be interesting. … [Read more...]

Only a theory

Another talk about science and religion in contemporary Islam to an audience with a high percentage of Muslims, another encounter with the "evolution is only a theory" meme. Sigh.This time it was a hijab-wearing Iranian student. She asked what the problem would be if Muslim scientists were to favor alternatives to evolution. After all, it's only a theory, isn't it? As I understood it, the implication of the question was that disputes about theory shouldn't matter too much, and that scientists … [Read more...]

Talk at the University of Michigan, March 16

Just in case anyone wants to know: I'll be giving a lecture on Science and Religion in Islam at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, University of Michigan, Monday the 16th. The talk will be 3-4 pm, 1636 International Institute/Social Work Building, 1080 S. University. … [Read more...]

Divine certainty

Usually I don't have a huge interest in philosophical wrangling over divine attributes. It's easy to find all kinds of paradoxes concerning omni-whatsit attributes of God, but then again, I figure a determined philosopher can always fix these by restricting the omni-whatsitness of God in appropriate ways.For example, omniscience is a hard idea to make sense of. There is no such thing as a set of all truths, so "knowing absolutely everything" has to be understood differently. And by the time we … [Read more...]

Darwin too controversial for Turkish science magazine

In the US, creationism is a menace that can do real harm to science. But at least the US is not a Muslim country.In the latest news about creation and evolution from Turkey, it appears that the leading, government-supported popular science magazine in Turkey has been prevented from running a cover story on the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. Ömer Cebeci, a high official in the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (who incidentally is an engineering Ph.D. from Iowa State … [Read more...]

Greg Paul on Baylor Religion Study

The Council for Secular Humanism has put out a report by Greg Paul, "Is The Baylor Religion Study Reliable?". It criticizes the recent book published by Baylor, with lead author Rodney Stark, that reported that US religiosity remained stable and that there were no signs of secularization.Paul points out some very serious errors in the report. (I can't say I'm wholly surprised; I've lost a lot of respect for Stark over the last few years.) I'm less confident about the picture of secularization he … [Read more...]

Another faith-based US administration

Before the US elections in 2008, I complained about the Democrats, and grumbled that throwing the Republicans out was looking like it would not improve the prospects for church-state separation too much. So far, events seem to bear me out. In some respects, we have yet another faith-based administration. Yes, informal entanglements with religion have always existed in American politics and government. But this administration is pushing beyond this. The Democrats, as always, are at best … [Read more...]