Tuesday, December 29, 2015

John Gray's awful review of Dawkins's book

John Gray has a review of Richard Dawkins's An Appetite For Wonder at New Republic here. I review Gray's awful review here.
Gray begins with a quotation from Dawkins that, suggests Gray, exhibits several of Dawkins's 'traits' in his 'campaign against religion'. Here's what Gray quotes from Dawkins:
Intelligent life on a planet comes of an age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilisation, is: “Have they discovered evolution yet?” Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin.
Gray claims this passage reveals three things:
1. Gray says: 'There is his equation of superiority with cleverness: the visiting aliens are more advanced creatures than humans because they are smarter and know more than humans do.'


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Louise Mensch's twitter use of a photo of Jeremy Corbyn

Louise Mensch tweeted this on Jeremy Corbyn. She appears to have taken the image from an article in the Spectator published the day after the rally. In the Spectator article, Corbyn is not even mentioned. So how did Mensch know it was Corbyn in the image? Not from the image, presumably: see the enlargement of his face, which is just pixels (below). Perhaps Mensch just guessed it was Corbyn?

In fact, I think it was Corbyn, given the clothes match ones Corbyn can be seen wearing that day. However, it is NOT a banner Corbyn spoke in front of, as many will have assumed from Mensch's tweet. You can easily find via Google pictures of Corbyn speaking that day 1st May 2014, in which it's clear the offending banner is nowhere in sight (please look here and here).

What's the significance of this? Not very much. Frankly I couldn't care very much if Corbyn had spoken in front of the ludicrous banner. However, he didn't, and in fact it is clear that in the picture he is deep in conversation, that the place largely empty, and that two people are just hand-holding the banner up. The banner was not a rally fixture, even. It's just being waved around by a couple of clowns while Corbyn looks in the other direction.

PS If the picture Mensch tweeted was taken early (and I guess it was - looks like Corbyn has a clipboard and is preparing for the event) then those holding the banner were actually told to clear off! So much for the thought that Corbyn is 'comfortable' about appearing with such banners.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Five morals on how the religious and atheists should approach each other in discussions

I here draw five morals concerning how atheists and the religious might usefully approach each other in debate and argument (from forthcoming book chapter).

1. There's a tendency among the religious to take offence at comparisons drawn by atheists between religious belief and other supernatural beliefs such as belief in ghosts, fairies, etc. No doubt some atheists do just want to belittle and bait the religious by making such comparisons. However, it seems to me that, given that the X-claim explanation of why Peter fails to recognise the unreasonableness of his Christian belief looks fairly plausible and certainly is no 'just so' story (I'll be posting on this shortly, but it's an explanation of religious belief based on drawing a parallel between beliefs in fairies, ghosts, and other invisible persons on the one hand, and belief in gods on the other), drawing such a comparison can be very appropriate. I certainly intend no offence by drawing it. I don't think the religious should take offence...

Continues at CFI blogs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015



TEXT BOX What is an argument? Outside of philosophy, the word “argument” is used in a variety of ways. An argument in a bar may involve little more than people hurling insults at each other. In philosophy, the word tends to be used more specifically. Usually, when philosophers talk about an argument, they are referring to a sequence of one or more premises and a conclusion. The premises are supposed rationally to support the conclusion.
Arguments can be simple. But they can also be highly complex. Often, a philosophical book or treatise consists of one big argument made up of a series of smaller ones, which may in turn involve further subsidiary arguments, and so on. In order to assess the overall argument, you need to check whether each of the component arguments works properly.

Caption. The detective Sherlock Holmes relied on his powers of reason to uncover the truth. Reason, we suppose, has great truth-detecting powers.

Caption – shoes sticking out. It is reasonable to suppose there is someone standing behind the curtain, because that is the best available explanation of what we can observe – an example of inductive reasoning.

Caption – 5 peaches. The more peaches I observe with stones in, the more reasonable it is for me to conclude the next peach will contain a stone – an example of enumerative induction.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Many god beliefs are empirically confirmable and refutable

The theologian John Milbank will be responding to this in a sort of back-and-forth over at the IAI website in January. This is a preview of my first post. We engaged in a heated dialogue that you can see here
Hegel said 'God does not offer himself up for observation'. Many of us seem to think that claims about gods, and other supernatural phenomena, are claims about what lie behind a sort of cosmic curtain or veil. On this side of the veil lies the empirically observable realm, the realm, we are told, that is the proper province of the empirical sciences. But there is a further realm beyond the veil - a realm of non-natural or supernatural beings and forces. This realm, many suppose, is off limits to science. Science cannot adjudicate on what, if anything, lies behind this cosmic divide. Scientists should show some humility, and acknowledge there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in their naturalist philosophies. They should certainly cease claiming, as Richard Dawkins does, that science constitutes a significant threat to reasonable belief in God.
Continues over at CFI blogs.

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