Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Power of Prayer

In light of Kevin Friery's and Hayley Stevens' joint appearance on last Sunday's The Big Questions on BBC1, I'd like to draw attention to the final episode of the second series of BBC Radio 4's Out of the Ordinary, in which Jolyon Jenkins (no relation) investigates "The Power of Prayer". It's available on iPlayer until (almost) the end of the century:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03xd3hl/Out_of_the_Ordinary_Series_2_The_Power_of_Prayer/

Jolyon Jenkins
This sober and essentially skeptical investigation of the phenomena is hampered by the lack of hard evidence — a lack that in my view indicates the true nature of miracle healing.

Relevant also is a recent Unbelievable? episode from Premier Radio featuring Robby Dawkins and David Beebee:

http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={FE862DAB-D422-40C6-B684-E98EC81DD15F}

The title of the above programme is "Do healing miracles happen?" Given that I think the supernatural claims of religion are untrue, you can guess my answer to that question.


EDIT: David Beebee blogs about his appearance on Unbelievable? here:
http://www.manofcarbonnanotubes.com/blog/2014/3/14/reflections-on-my-unbelievable-debate-with-faith-healer-robby-dawkins

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Burnee links for Saturday

New cross put up in window at Haycombe Cemetery | Bath Chronicle
The crematorium provides a cross if you want one, or it can be removed if you don't. Secularism in action — a Christian symbol is not imposed on non-Christians, and Christians are not denied such a symbol. (Though one might query who is paying for the cross — non-Christians pay Council Tax too.)

Not doing it for the kids | Julian Baggini | Comment is free | theguardian.com
Some good points, but it's been suggested that this attitude could explain why the non-religious appear to reproduce less than the religious. Baggini, however, makes no such correlation in this article.

Rise of the exorcists in Catholic Church - Telegraph
The need for exorcisms is “rare, very rare”, said Fr Vincenzio Taraborelli...
Infinitesimally so, I'd say. The supernatural claims of religion are untrue.

xkcd: Photos
That!

15 ways atheists can stand up for rationality - Salon.com
Say no to the “master-slave” ethos, among other things. No doubt "serious theists" will proclaim this agenda as simplistic, yet their sophisticated theology[TM] — when examined — will be revealed as the epitome of vacuity.



Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Which God don't you believe in?

Here's Father Robert Barron on the God he doesn't believe in.

http://youtu.be/1zMf_8hkCdc


Strip away his smug denunciations of those ignorant New Atheists[TM] and what have we got?

Nothing. After claiming that atheists don't understand God, don't know who he is and generally aren't worthy to occupy the same thought-space as genuine sophisticated "serious" theists among whom he is clearly a splendid exemplar, Father Barron tells us precisely what he means by God (for extremely nebulous values of "precisely"). The short version of his piece is this: "Atheists don't know who God is, and neither do I."

Religionists often complain that the God atheists claim not to believe in is a God they don't believe in either. The God they believe in isn't so crass as to exist in any way that mere mortals can apprehend. The God they believe in exists beyond or outside space and time, which means for all practical purposes he exists in a way that can only be described as "non-existent". And yet theologians expend hundreds of thousands of words on what this being is like. I think we've already established, beyond reasonable doubt, what this being is like. It is most like non-being, non-existence, nothing — it's a being without attributes.

I do not deny that it may be possible for something to exist beyond or outside space and time, but our access to such a realm is hampered by our cognitive facilities, which necessarily operate within space and time. Cause and effect are similarly confined to the space-time continuum (causes act in space and effects occur in time), so anything outside space and time must be non-contingent as well as lacking in the ability to cause effects. Since cause and effect operate only within our realm and not beyond it — they require space and time — it is impossible to establish if this other spaceless and timeless realm exists. Since we cannot know that it exists — even if it did exist beyond our knowledge of it — we cannot have access to it, or any knowledge of it, and we therefore have no reason to suppose it does exist. The lack of compelling evidence for something that is by definition inaccessible from the realm in which we exist, within space and time, strongly suggests that to all intents and purposes such a realm is in fact non-existent. If you want to believe it exists, however, be my guest — but understand you have no reason to do so, other than irrational desire.

Nevertheless, once you have decided to believe in a non-existent realm, you can populate it with whatever you wish: gods, angels, demons — or if you're so inclined, some kind of amorphous "ground of all being". Bear in mind, however, that no matter how many learned theological tomes are written about a non-existent realm, it remains non-existent.

So maybe I should make this my New Year Resolution, at least as far as discussions with theists are concerned: henceforth I will not engage with any theists about the God I don't believe in, unless they tell me — unequivocally — which God they do believe in.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A brace of Skepticules

Two cracking Skepticule episodes for you, both with guests...

First we have Ariane Sherine on Skepticule 060:

http://www.skepticule.co.uk/2013/12/skepticule-060-20131207.html

This episode also has bad science, primary school proselytising and grateful but futile prayers.

Then there's our National Secular Society AGM special, Skepticule 061:

http://www.skepticule.co.uk/2014/01/skepticule-061-20131222.html

This has separate interviews with the NSS President Terry Sanderson and NSS council member Robert Stovold, while Dan Bye — another council member — guests on the show.


Christmas walks

A few shots from a walk on Christmas Eve and another on Boxing Day













All taken in Chilton Polden, Somerset

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Inevitable derailment (insults taken as read)

Yet another example of why threads in the Unbelievable? Facebook group aren't much use for rational discussion. Derailment appears to be inevitable, and some people seem incapable of posting anything without insult.
A victory for common sense and the British art of compromise. The National Secular Society please take note.

http://www.bathchronicle.co.uk/New-cross-window-Haycombe-Cemetery/story-20358114-detail/story.html?ito=email_newsletter_bathchronicle

  • Joel Flynn likes this.
  • Paul Jenkins Not sure why the NSS should "take note" — it seems to me that this is the kind of choice they already support.
  • Tom Tozer The British are insane.
  • Martin Davies If it was up to the NSS there wouldn't be anything at all. And that 'choice' would be imposed on everybody.
  • Paul Jenkins Secularism is about not having such choices "imposed" on anybody. What the Haycombe Crematorium has done in regard to this acrylic cross is entirely in line with secularism.
  • Kevin Bruce “The expertly-designed cross adds to the peaceful surroundings in the chapel and will be used for generations to come to celebrate the lives of family and friends.”

    um... what? it looks like something any layman with the basic skills to do the work could design...
  • Dean Rbertson Most of the funerals that I've been to other the last few years have been humanists or Christianity lite (no mention of afterlife, just nice vicar). Most were in the same crematorium and had a huge gold cross at the front and didn't suit the service. Crosses, crescents, star of Davids or pentangles should be removable.
  • Dean Rbertson "Tom Tozer
    The British are insane"... Why? If all your local crematoriums or places of burial were equipped with a star and crescent I guess you'd prefer them taken away for your service?
  • Paul Orton I note the article says that the cross is there for faith services and can be removed for non-faith services. I can see Muslims, Hindus etc finding this less than inclusive.

    But it means that Christianity isn't being imposed on everybody, which is a very good thing.
  • Martin Davies But if they had their way there would be no cross at all.
  • Kevin Bruce //But if they had their way there would be no cross at all.//
    and thats what is great about secularism.... the bad thing about secularism.... is an even playing field that religion cant win on

    sorry i cnat help it that bad ideas dont do well on level playing fields...
  • Paul Orton I wonder whether the council should be providing the religious paraphernalia. I would rather see the cross being funded by those who want it, not people's taxes. I'm all for letting people bring in the things that are important to them though.
  • Martin Davies At last - the truth - "an even playing field that religion cant win on". If it's an even playing field Kevin then surely that means that we all can 'wi'n or take it in turns to 'win'? The only people that win under a situation where all symbols are banned are the NSS and its type of secularism.
  • Paul Orton I interpreted Kevin Bruce's comment to mean that a level playing field would remove the privileges that religions rely on. Without those privileges they might struggle.
  • Kevin Bruce yes what Paul said save for this bit
    //Without those privileges they might struggle.//
    there is no "might" only "will/do"

    the most secular countries are those where non-belief has grown the greatest

    // If it's an even playing field Kevin then surely that means that we all can 'wi'n or take it in turns to 'win'?//
    in any sport if the rules apply to all and the referees are officiating fairly we could say the teams are playing on a level playing field. both teams in theory have equal chance at winning but this does not mean that all sides will win. the best team will on average win more often on a fair playing field .

    and when it comes to the arena of idea a unbiased playing field presents a venue where religions losses on average.
  • Tom Tozer The British are insane because Christianity was an enormous part of what made them a great people and a great Empire. They will wither and die with the rest of secular Europe. Congratulations!
  • Paul Orton I'm not sure that all religious organisations would struggle in a secular society. The US is a case in point.
  • Kevin Bruce ///The British are insane because Christianity was an enormous part of what made them a great people and a great Empire.//
    name that fallacy....
  • Kevin Bruce lol //The US is a case in point.//

    thats funny...
  • Tom Tozer The "your empire disappeared and you're a nation of wuss-assess now" fallacy?
  • Kevin Bruce nope sorry you lose the correct answer was post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy
    (Latin for "after this, therefore because of this")
  • Paul Orton Good one Kevin. I was struggling to find the answer.
  • Tom Tozer Oh for Krauss' sake, The List O' Fallacies!! Naming everything according to a list of fallacies doesn't mean the relationship isn't there or that the statement isn't true. That would be the "I named it a fallacy therefore it's not true" fallacy.
  • Paul Orton True. It's a fun game though
  • Kevin Bruce //Naming everything according to a list of fallacies doesn't mean the relationship isn't there or that the statement isn't true.//
    no it only means you need to show the causation and not simply assert one...
    there have been several non-christian empires
    your claim
    // Christianity was an enormous part of what made them a great people and a great Empire.// is not well supported. there were great people and great empires that were non-christian as such the is no need to conclude that Christianity made any empire or people good.
  • Kevin Bruce tom feel free to actually give evidence that Christianity is the cause and not a spurious correlation.
  • Tom Tozer You're not a smart fellow, Kevin Bruce. You have all the lingo and none of the actual brain activity.
  • Robert Green Ingersoll <<"I named it a fallacy therefore it's not true">>
    The "gross ignorance of what a fallacy is" fallacy?
  • Paul Orton Tom: we're waiting for an explanation of how Xianity was an enormous part of what made ... a great empire.
  • Kevin Bruce tom feel free to actually give evidence that Christianity is the cause and not a spurious correlation. or i guess you could call me stupid .... i mean clearly that would be better than giving evidence for your claim....and very christian of you...

    Tom said some stuff
    and then
    John 11:35-ed
    for wasting his life
  • Tom Tozer Read Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. Then get back to me.
  • Kevin Bruce and how is Churchill a qualified expert on the matter?
  • Kevin Bruce also we asked for evidence for your claim not a reading assignment for a book, what claims does this book make and what evidence backs the claims of this book.
  • Tom Tozer "How is Churchill a qualified expert" on British history. Sweet Baby Dawkins you are a thick-headed twit.
  • Kevin Bruce //"How is Churchill a qualified expert" on British history. Sweet Baby Dawkins you are a thick-headed twit.//
    projecting?
    yes its great and all that he was an important leader in British history but lacks formal education when it comes to being a historian.to be actually an expert, but lets look at the ideas not the man as the ideas are what matter do any historians agree that Christianity caused the greatness of the British empire? is there a consensus?
  • Kevin Bruce i ask again for evidence which you seem to be confusing with a request for insults i would hate to have to report your activity as being against the rules of this page.
  • Charles Parker I think you'll find that the main factor in building the empire was sheer violence.
  • Tom Tozer And that's because you're a trained historian, Charles Parker? How, Kevin Bruce, would you know whether someone was "qualified" to speak about history? What qualifies you to judge historical expertise? Does "consensus" make truth in any discipline?
  • Tom Tozer Seriously, you've memorized some lingo and think that means you're wise. It doesn't.
  • Dean Rbertson "Tom Tozer
    The British are insane because Christianity was an enormous part of what made them a great people and a great Empire. They will wither and die with the rest of secular Europe. Congratulations!"...... How did Christianity help us gain an Empire? Wasn't it our great navy, a knowledge of our superiority over the savages and our guns that did it?
  • Paul Orton And an understanding that the best way to build an empire was on trade.
  • Kevin Bruce // How, Kevin Bruce, would you know whether someone was "qualified" to speak about history? //
    Churchill lacks formal education in areas that would make him an expert in the history of Great Briton. this is a simple fact if you wish to assert he is an expert then you should give rason why the fact he was PM has little bearing on this matter
    Obama said he had been to 57 states and he is president of the USA yet he is incorrect in the statement

    see honestly what i would really like to do is look at evidence for the claim in question WC said so is not evidence.
  • Paul Orton "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." - Winston Churchill
  • Kevin Bruce //Seriously, you've memorized some lingo and think that means you're wise. It doesn't.//
    says a man who is asserting what he could not possibly know
    you have read some Churchill that seemingly agrees with your personal views and seem to be asserting the fact that WC holds a view that you find favorable to your own POV as evidence for the validity of your views
    but you have yet to provide actual evidence as to the importance of Christianity in the formation of the British empire.
  • Kevin Bruce PS i do hope my continued request for actual evidence for your claim is not seen as an invite to insult me tom
  • Paul Orton I'm also looking forward to hearing this evidence Tom.
  • Robert Green Ingersoll While I am not an expert by any means I seem to recall God was on the side of anyone looking to take land and money from the people who lived at any desirable location. Nor have I heard a single man woman or child say: "No god save the queen."
  • Charles Parker Churchill was an obsessive historian and wrote quite extensively with particular focus on his own family. He was, of course, an ancestor of the great general John Churchill Duke of Marlborough. So I think we can say that Churchill was well informed about British history.

    Tom appears to be labouring under the overly romantic illusion, long forgotten through it's absurdity, that our empire was a blessing for all of it's inhabitants and that if only they would accept our Christianity (at gunpoint) they would eventually thank us. It didn't really work out that way.
  • Paul Orton Er, Churchill was a descendent of John Churchill actually
  • Charles Parker Forgive me, I must stop talking to Americans it's starting to affect my grammar.
  • Robert Green Ingersoll You are aware Mr Parker that some of our rules with this rather insane language differ from yours.
  • Charles Parker You mean the English language? Interesting.
  • Paul Jenkins Despite risk of further derailment of this thread (which is a lost cause, alas), I'll just point out that many of the American rules of grammar and spelling are closer reflections of the development of English than modern British English. (I make that point, incidentally, as a Brit.)
  • Paul Orton Only partly true, I understand that Noel Webster deliberately created spellings such as color and center to create a simplified American English.
  • Andrew Tucker Its our language and we'll do what we want with it.
  • Paul Jenkins "...and we'll do what we want with it."

    Just like Chaucer did. And to a lesser extent, Shakespeare.
  • Andrew Tucker To be fair though Chaucer was a flibblegimp
  • Tom Tozer Unfargetablingedly.

There may be more by the time you read this, but I doubt it will be edifying.
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