May 1, 2019

Dog whistle alert! More free speech shenanigans from the Islamophobia crew. Want Ethnocentrism With That? Recently, the owner of a sandwich shop in Illinois, an establishment rather appropriately named Gross Burger, got into hot water over a bumper sticker on his restaurant’s wall. Next to a snippet of Arabic script, the sign reads, “If you can’t read this, thank a Marine.” In the face of criticism from offended patrons, restaurant owner Brad Gross defends the sign as merely an appreciative… Read more

April 27, 2019

When exactly did we live in the “Truth” era? It’s been a long time now that “post-truth” has been a thing: the Oxford English Dictionary made the term word of the year in 2016. Here at Patheos Nonreligious, lots of blogs have discussed the “post-truth” society, either criticizing people for being susceptible to fake news or mocking them for wanting to live in an alternate reality. The consensus in the blogosphere is that there are lots of people who just think the wrong things. The… Read more

April 25, 2019

I was on the west coast for a couple of weeks, enjoying books & beer galore! Did you miss me? I visited Seattle, Bellingham, and Orcas Island, and had great fun. I didn’t just do the Bellingham Tap Trail, folks, I also drank a lot of coffee and visited the many bookstores in the area. Here’s a rundown of the books I brought home: The Post-Modern Reader – Charles Jencks, ed. Two of my wife’s old friends run Eclipse Books… Read more

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

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