Showing posts from March, 2015

Is there a greater threat to human rights than religious fundamentalism?

Just a recap of some items in the news so far in 2015:A blogger in Egypt was sentenced to a thousand lashes with a cane (in public) for insulting Islam. Amnesty International, last I checked, is still petitioning for his release. [1] In Afghanistan, a woman was beaten to death after being falsely accused of blaspheming the Koran. [2]Sweden is scrambling to restore relations with Saudi Arabia after a diplomat rebuked the country's treatment of women, and Saudi leaders responded by threatening trade relations with Sweden. [3]Muslim extremists killed several people over a cartoon. [4]Here in the US, conservative religious Indiana legislators passed a law legalizing discrimination of LGBT citizens. [5]In my home state of Oklahoma, legislators are trying to pass a law that would ban non-religious marriages. [6] That's just what I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure with a little digging, I could find much more vile, contemptible inhumanity coming from religious funda…

Hubble is a lie

Surely many of us have marveled at the stunning photographs that the Hubble space telescope has given us. I mean wow, what an amazingly, incomprehensibly huge and marvelous universe we live in! Who can forget amazing shots like the famous Horse Head Nebula: Or the astounding Pillars of Creation: Or, my personal favorite for sheer You are insignificant humility, one of the many Deep Field photographs showing thousands of galaxies in what, to us, would be a barely perceptible speck in the sky: I mean wow. Space isn't just incomprehensibly large — traveling between any two stars in the above nebulae would likely take, with our current technology, tens of thousands of years — it's also beautiful. It's like God is some sort of cosmic artist!

But it's a lie. Space doesn't look like that, at least not to human eyes. I mean the question of what space "looks like" is kind of odd when you think about it — alien creatures who perceived x-ray light would see a very di…

Pre-thoughts on the Rauser/Schieber debate

The audio and/or video for the recent debate and discussion between Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber isn't available yet, but on his blog the other day Randal did a short podcast in which he reflected on the debate and summarized his thesis. With the rather huge caveat that for all I know Randal's more detailed arguments fully address my objections or that Justin had similar thoughts to mine, I wanted to offer some quick thoughts based just on the outline that Randal posted. You can listen to the clip (it's relatively short) on Randal's site here.

First, a point of agreement with Randal: his thoughts on debates echo my own. I think they tend to be rather unproductive, that the audience is rarely comprised of 'fence sitters', and that they often exacerbate an adversarial attitude between believers and non-believers. I suppose the only difference between Randal and I is that in the last six months or so I've come to feel the same way about lengthy internet d…

Arguing on the Internet

Remember this meme (now quite politically incorrect) from the early aughts? Remember that time when you had a protracted debate with someone on the internet, and they thanked you for persuading them to change their views? No? Of course you don't, and there's a scientific reason why such debates — in which we comb through each other's arguments point by point and construct rigorous rebuttals and arguments — are not just unproductive, but counterproductive. With all the news about anti-vaxxers, you've probably heard of the backfire effect.This means that when people are confronted with evidence that undermines their point of view, they actually get more entrenched in their opinion. And by "people", I mean you.And me. Everyone. Nobody is exempt from this phenomenon. Much as haughty thinkers and philosophers would like to think otherwise, humans are not particularly rational creatures; at least, not in the way that philosophers have traditionally believed — tha…

Revisiting 'The God Delusion'

In my a recent post, I dug through a book that had been very influential to my thinking in my early days as an atheist (circa 2008) — Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer, which looks at religion from the perspectives of cognitive psychology, evolution, and sociology. That nugget of nostalgia got me thinking about another book I read around that time — Richard Dawkins' landmark book The God Delusion.

Love it or hate it, there's no denying that TGD has been a monumentally influential book. It spurred apostasies, brought public debate about religion into the cultural limelight, inspired non-believers to speak out, and provoked a backlash from Christian apologists that continues to this day. Dawkins' book didn't accomplish that single-handedly (that might be giving it a bit too much credit), but it was certainly a timely publication that, along with other popular polemics like Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great and Sam Harris' The End of Faith, helped inspire a n…