The first US national election I got to vote in was 1988. I was disgusted with Reagan, and worried about the 1980s incarnation of the religious right. So I voted Democratic, and they lost.In the 1992 presidential elections, I voted Democratic again. I was now thoroughly sick of the American right wing. The Democrats won: we got Clinton, Republican-lite. That was an improvement, I suppose. The Religious Right had less direct influence. Still, it was a center-right government, and all… Read more

The New Scientist reports on a British imam (prayer leader) who is in hot water in his religious community because he defended evolution as being compatible with a non-literally interpreted Quran.A few notes:I would guess that Usama Hasan defends a version of guided evolution—intelligent design through common descent. Even watered-down compromises like guided evolution are very controversial in some Muslim communities. Explicit (rather than unconsidered default) creationism tends to be stronger in immigrant Muslim communities rather than majority-Muslim countries. The… Read more

One thing I appreciate about more conservative varieties of supernatural belief is that it is, sometimes, false. Oh, ordinary religion has plenty of vagueness, indeterminacy, and various unclarities of meaning. But it also has enough anthropomorphism, allegedly historical stories, and similar linkages to ordinary cognition that, with some work, it can be patched up to achieve some form of intelligibility.What follows is disappointing, since invariably such supernatural-claims-made-respectable turn out to be false. Wildly incongruous with modern science. Often, bronze-age superstition…. Read more

I don’t consider the Intelligent Design movement of much intellectual interest anymore. It remains, however, fascinating from a political and cultural point of view.So, make what you will about this latest political flap. The ID movement has brought some influence to bear on a usually well-respected philosophy of science journal, Synthese. Brian Leiter describes a boycott effort being organized as a consequence.This is likely to remain largely an issue in academic circles. Still, it bears watching. Read more

Victor Reppert and I have had a long series of exchanges (thirty five years) dating back to when we were both graduate students at Emory University. I do not think that we would come to agreement even if we were granted another thirty five years to debate, but I am determined at least to get clear on the grounds of some of our disagreements. As always, philosophical debate is impeded by the slipperiness of definitions. You think that you have… Read more

It’s a common observation in psychology and behavioral economics that normal human reasoning often violates formal norms. Many people might, for example, judge it more probable that a librarian will be an introvert and wear glasses compared to a question about librarians just wearing glasses. It should be the other way around, since among librarians that wear glasses, some will not be introverts. Vivid conformity to a stereotype, compared to a more generic situation, can make a description seem more… Read more

Well-known novelist Richard Hoyt has written Twisted Script, a novel that satirizes both Evangelicalism and Islam. Apparently he’s had trouble getting it published through conventional means. (Surprise, surprise.) So he’s making it available very cheaply online. If anyone is interested, take a look. Read more

Apparently, probable US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich just declared that”I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9,” Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”It’s interesting to see how at… Read more

1. Don’t Criticize what you don’t understand. I have been following this principle in my approach to Richard Swinburne. For more than a year now I have studied his case for God in The Coherence of Theism and The Existence of God. As an atheist the objective of finding significant problems in his case for theism is of interest to me, so that I can refute his case as part of a defense of my own viewpoint. But I’m not… Read more

I highly recommend a review article by Scott Atran and Joseph Heinrich, “The Evolution of Religion: How Cognitive By-Products, Adaptive Learning Heuristics, Ritual Displays, and Group Competition Generate Deep Commitments to Prosocial Religions.” It’s a great summary of current thinking about scientific explanations of religion. (Thanks to Konrad Talmont-Kaminski)Sample quotation:In sum, religion, as an interwoven complex of rituals, beliefs, and norms, plausibly arises from a combination of (1) the mnemonic power of counterintuitive representations, (2) our evolved willingness to put faith… Read more

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