April 17, 2019

Postmodernism deserves a better explanation. My buddy Rick Snedeker at the Godzooks blog waved a red flag at me at the end of March, and since I was on holiday I didn’t see it until this week. In his article called “If you’re a postmodernist, this post will probably seem absurd,” Rick makes some really odd claims about postmodern theory. I urge everyone to read his article and judge for yourself whether Rick is on target or not. Rick has discussed his unique… Read more

April 12, 2019

A scientific worldview may be able to provide the advantages of religious belief, but can it avoid the drawbacks? In the Boston Review, an article explores the question “Can Science Deliver the Benefits of Religion?” The title is a little misleading, since author Tania Lombrozo (Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley) is only talking about the personal benefits to accepting the validity of a scientific construct over a religious approach. Specifically, Lombrozo focuses on the theory of evolution by… Read more

March 23, 2019

The fact that Tim Minchin has played the Royal Albert Hall is all the evidence I need that there’s no God. To paraphrase Daniel Dennett, nothing is as disappointing as hearing an opinion you agree with stated badly, then set to music. But being as funny as bad traffic is no obstacle to saying very smart things once or twice, as Minchin did six years ago. A Stopped Clock Is Thought Provoking Once a Millennium Minchin was awarded an honorary… Read more

March 14, 2019

Why do science fans hate social constructionism? One of my finds on my recent pilgrimage to Powell’s in Portland was The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. This classic work of sociology describes a theory of human knowledge that deals with society’s means of establishing and maintaining institutional orders that function as realities for the people who act in them. Though dated in certain ways—the exclusive use of “he” and “man” in the text is… Read more

March 5, 2019

Now can we admit that free speech has become camouflage for the right-wing agenda? President Trump delivered a rambling, two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend. In between engaging in his usual scaremongering about Mexicans and the Green New Deal, he threatened to sign an executive order that will ensure free speech on college campuses. According to the New York Times, President Trump said on Saturday that he planned to issue an executive order that would help… Read more

February 28, 2019

Is paleogenomics poised to rewrite traditional origin stories? Or is it a high-tech update of old biases about culture? The New York Times Magazine recently published a fascinating article called “Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps?” in which Gideon Lewis-Kraus describes how scientists shed new light on the ancestry of the natives of the Vanuatu Islands in the South Pacific. It’s also the story of the different tools we use to establish facts… Read more

February 20, 2019

Is science motivated by a commitment to truth, or are things a little more complicated than that? Michela Massimi is a professor of philosophy of science at the University of Edinburgh, and in a recent article in Aeon magazine, she forthrightly declares that “It’s Time for a Robust Philosophical Defense of Truth in Science.” In this overheated screed, Massimi plays the Chicken Little of the not so new millennium. Drawing a picture of the history of modern science so two-dimensional… Read more

January 26, 2019

Truth is only truth when it fits our narrative. Over at their Patheos blog Another White Atheist in Colombia, M. L. Clark is fond of starting posts, Let’s begin with a story. When it’s a vehicle for communicating ideas for others to interpret and engage (as Clark does), the story is useful and powerful. As the scandal at Der Spiegel shows us, however, this power has a downside. Sometimes when we begin with a story, we’re using its power but we’re not being fair… Read more

January 17, 2019

Beauty in nature goes against our simplistic understanding of evolution. A Thing Of Beauty Is a Joy For Ever The New York Times Magazine recently featured an article that explored how and why nature produces beauty. In “How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution,” we read about how scientists have conceptualized the role of beauty and courtship since Darwin’s day. The way we think of natural selection—competition for scarce resources and the avoidance of predation—makes it hard to explain physical… Read more

January 12, 2019

Why do we only care about animal rights when we can use them to bash Muslims and Jews? The Tip of the Iceberg Belgium recently passed an animal-rights law that prohibits the killing of conscious animals in slaughterhouses, and the controversy was covered in articles here at Patheos Nonreligious. The Freethinker posted an article called ‘A sad day for Jews’: Belgium bans religious slaughter, in which Barry Duke sneered at Belgium’s Jews and Muslims for expecting preferential treatment. Rick Snedeker… Read more

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