Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Be reasonable about near-death experiences

When I heard that the latest episode of Michael Marshall's podcast Be Reasonable would feature Eben Alexander I wasn't sure I actually wanted to listen to it. But it came up on my iPod while I was cooking dinner this evening, so out of simple inertia I listened. And it confirmed my previous opinion of the neurosurgeon who claims to have been taken on a tour of Heaven while in a coma:
  1. Neurosurgery is to neuroscience as gardening is to botany, or as plumbing is to fluid dynamics.
  2. Despite being a neurosurgeon Eben Alexander doesn't understand the scientific method.
  3. Near-death experiences (NDEs) are evidence of being near death, but not much else.
  4. Presumably writing books that pander to spiritual yearnings is more profitable than neurosurgery.
Alexander's claim that consciousness is independent of the brain is an idea also propounded by Rupert Sheldrake, with a similar lack of actual evidence for it (and a whole lot of evidence to suggest the opposite).

I've blogged about NDEs, and Eben Alexander, and Rupert Sheldrake before:

Incidentally NDEs featured on this morning's Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4, unsurprisingly as if they are good evidence of an afterlife.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Whither the atheist movement?

James Croft on atheism and the alt-right:
Since my earliest involvement in the movement, it has been clear that movement atheism is concerned more with offering a response to religion as it is with crafting a positive atheist identity. It is, in large part, an oppositional movement concerned with the limitations and predations of religion, drawing its energy from the many outrages perpetrated by religious organizations and individuals.
Continue reading at James's Patheos blog, Temple of the Future:

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

A list to keep by your front door

Aaaand... I'm back! (For how long, who knows?)

Anyway, I give you this list, courtesy of Godless Mom, aka Courtney Heard over at Patheos Blogs, of eight times the predictions of the Jehovah's Witnesses have turned out to be less than entirely accurate — for example:
The Watch Tower Society believed that Jesus had been amongst us since 1874 working towards his kingdom on earth. The Watch Tower Society predicted that Christ’s kingdom on Earth would be complete in 1914, and the saints would be carried to Heaven. Essentially, the end of the world as we know it. Of course, 1914 rolled around and the closest we got to the end of the world was a world war. Perhaps the Society meant to say that the world would end for 18 million, but for the rest of us, it would be business as usual. We’d all go on living, man would keep ruling and Jesus would keep up his epic game of hide and seek.
Go to Godless Mom's blog to read the rest, and maybe print them out, because you never know when you'll hear that knock on the door.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

My path to audio stardom - a tiny bit of progress

Hot on the heels of my last blogpost I bring you another narration announcement. Tales To Terrify is five years old, and to celebrate they have published a full-cast audio production of Kim Newman's horror short story, "Where the Bodies are Buried":

It's a long one (nearly an hour) and features yours truly playing a well-known chat-show host (my bit is very short — cough at the wrong time and you'll miss it). But don't let that put you off; it's a fun story with a horror twist.

Direct link to mp3 audio:

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Spooky tale — Lovecraftian shivers from Ramsey Campbell

My latest narration is now freely available for your listening pleasure at Pseudopod.

"Cold Print" by Ramsey Campbell is a story about a solitary gentlemen with a taste for books of a dubious genre. If you love the Lovecraftian this is for you. Enjoy.

Direct link to mp3 audio:

Monday, 12 December 2016

Unbelievably vague mystery

The latest Unbelievable? radio show is a discussion between Mike McHargue (who describes himself as a non-theist Christian) and Ben Watts (an atheist).

What, exactly, is a non-theist Christian? Perhaps it's an atheist who follows the teachings of Christ. Except, presumably, those teachings about God. Definitions aside, you might reasonably ask how someone becomes a non-theist Christian. In the case of Mike McHargue, you'll wait in vain for an explanation — or at least one that make sense. This non-theist Christian has a book to promote, and it would be ill-advised for him to make his position so abundantly clear that reading his book becomes redundant. Both Ben Watts and host Justin Brierley acknowledge that the book is well written, which is good, but I suspect that's as far as it goes. Based on what he did say in response to Ben's and Justin's questions, the book seems likely to be full of woolly mysticism. Mike claims to have found God in the waves on a beach. He agrees that his personal experience isn't evidence that anyone else is likely to accept, but then appears to claim that reason and logic are mired in the “enlightenment view”, and that his personal relationship with God (how does that work for a non-theist?) is “pre-enlightenment” and therefore more … what? … more real?

Here's the relevant blurb from the Unbelievable? website:
Mike McHargue – known as ‘Science Mike’ - was a Christian who lost his faith then found it again through science. He tells his story of coming back to faith through an experience on a beach and how he now puts science and Christian faith together.

Ben Watts is an atheist who grew up with a Christian Faith but lost it after going to university to study science. He engages with Mike on this week’s show.
A civil but unsatisfactory discussion, with many examples of “playing the mystery card”.

Mike's official book-trailer playlist on YouTube is professionally produced but mostly sound-bites — don't expect much insight into his actual position or beliefs. There are, however, words — and some slo-mo striding:

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dear Paul, Darwinism is cultural poison.

I spent some time today clearing my email inbox, and came across this heartening missive:

Dear Paul:

A new survey of more than 3,000 Americans powerfully confirms that Darwinism is cultural poison.

The wide-ranging survey found that evolutionary theory really does undermine many people's belief in God and absolute morality. 

Students-Classroom Behind the statistics are real people. We've all heard the stories. Every year teens head off to college full of hope and promise. Many have been raised in solid homes of faith and were educated in private religious schools. But so many lose their way after getting brainwashed into believing life is just a meaningless evolutionary accident. 

It doesn't have to be this way. Your gift today can help fight this poison

The survey was made possible by you, our financial supporters, and it's a game changer. 

No one with an open mind will be able to read the survey results without realizing how corrosive Darwinism is. The results can persuade more people to stand up against this powerful ideology. 

But for that to happen, your financial support is need to publicize the results to more than 100,000 pastors, faith community leaders, and laypeople

With your support, we'll do targeted social media campaigns, licensed email blasts, media interviews, infographics, short videos, and more. If we can raise the funds. 

Please send a donation today of $75, $150, $500, or more, for this important campaign. 

This is a unique opportunity for your donation to work as a force multiplier. How? 
As a way of saying thanks for giving, we will send you a digital copy of the report when it becomes available later this fall. I hope you will send a gift today and that you will share your copy with someone who needs to hear.

Together we can grow the ranks of the intelligent design movement and turn to flight those who would use Darwinism to drain meaning, purpose, and morality from the world.


Kelley Signature - Blue SM
Kelley Unger
Director, Development Operations
Center for Science and Culture
Discovery Institute

P.S. There's also good news in the survey. Many theists and even some agnostics reported that the evidence for intelligent design strengthens their belief in God.

Help us spread the word
and the evidence.

So yes, the Discovery Institute is once again asking me for money, but I shan't be sending them anything, not least because the trends they are lamenting, and to which they are opposed, are actually good trends that reason and logic should lead us to applaud:
The wide-ranging survey found that evolutionary theory really does undermine many people's belief in God and absolute morality. 
I see that as a positive trend. (I also note that there are three links to their donation page, but no link to the survey report, which will only be available after donation.)
Behind the statistics are real people. We've all heard the stories. Every year teens head off to college full of hope and promise. Many have been raised in solid homes of faith and were educated in private religious schools. But so many lose their way after getting brainwashed into believing life is just a meaningless evolutionary accident.  
Generally speaking it's a good thing to have your brain cleared of erroneous, unevidenced beliefs. Life is, in fact, empty and meaningless. And it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless. So don't sweat it, just get on with your life, a life that will have as much meaning as you care to put into it.
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