Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee

Here's the BBC's video recording (from Democracy Live) of the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee hearing evidence from Spencer Fildes and Professor Paul Braterman of the Scottish Secular Society in support of their petition PE01530: "Guidance on how creationism is presented in schools."

Written representations to the committee can be seen here (including mine):

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Burnee links catchup from since forever (or thereabouts)

Wow…. failed final observation. « James's thinking space
I know several teachers — I don't know how many of them endured this kind of disincentivization.

Timeline Photos - Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian
Now I see how this works...

Why the faithful need secularism
Say it enough times, maybe it will eventually sink in.

Why the Many-Worlds Formulation of Quantum Mechanics Is Probably Correct | Sean Carroll
Never mind the universe splitting, I think my brain is about to shatter.

Bird & Fortune - Admiral Sir George Parr - YouTube
The benefit of hindsight (or is it...?)

BBC News - Astrology-loving MP seeks health answers in the stars
"...a member of the health committee and the science and technology committee..." Shirley there's been some mistake?

Be Reasonable: Episode #019 – David Boyle « The Merseyside Skeptics Society
The unconnected strands of my DNA have all connected up and my mind has exploded!
Or maybe I've just listened to Michael Marshall interviewing David Boyle. Yeah, that seems more likely (though my brain still hurts).

Twitter / Justinsweh: What does it mean to 'Craig'? Via ...
So true

Why the Aliens Want Earth | Seth Shostak
Is Seth Shostak just making veiled excuses for why SETI hasn't confirmed any positive results yet?

Why You Can't Reconcile God and Evolution | Alternet
Are religion and science compatible? The politically correct answer is yes, but I've always thought it's the wrong answer.

BBC News - China plans its own 'Christian theology'
Wang Zuoan needs to swot up on L. Ron Hubbard.

The god of vapor is hardly any kind of god at all
So someone has tried to rescue the "compatibility of science and religion" from Greta Christina's spot-on critique. And failed, as pointed out here by an actual scientist (someone who's day job is teaching actual science to undergraduates).

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Reviewing James M. Rochford's Evidence Unseen

With a blurb like this:
In my opinion, this is the perfect book for the skeptic as well as the person who is just starting to learn about the role of Christian apologetics. I have already handed out some copies to people in our campus ministry and I continue to give some to seekers as well. I don’t want for one second to say this book is strictly for the young seeker. It can be used as a resource for any age group. My advice is to pick up a copy and give it to a friend. Time’s a wastin! (Eric Chabot—Founder and Director of Ratio Christi at OSU)
...or this:
“In showing the credibility of Christianity, Rochford effectively argues that it is worthy of serious consideration by honest thinkers. By providing so many references to thinkers on both sides of the issue, he invites his readers to explore and play fair with the facts.” (Lee CampbellPhD Neurosciences)
...or this:
“Aimed especially at college students and seekers, Evidence Unseen shows us that Christian faith is not a blind leap in the dark, but a humble dependence on the God of the Bible, who has revealed himself through substantial evidence. The author presents this evidence quite readably under four headings: internal evidence, external evidence, and evidence from Scripture, divided into fulfilled prophecy and the historical reliability of its message. He shows us that humans need God in order to be able to function consistently in this world; that nature universally and locally points to its creator and designer; that this designer has also controlled history to fulfill the predictions of the biblical prophets; and that the biblical narratives (here, the narratives about Jesus) show themselves to be fully trustworthy. I highly recommend Evidence Unseen for your own search for what life is all about, and for helping others in their searches. (Dr. Robert C. Newman—Emeritus Professor of New Testament & Christian Evidences—Biblical Seminary— PhD Theoretical Astrophysics, Cornell University)
...this book seems like it might actually be persuasive. Additionally it's free on Kindle at the moment (I don't know for how long), so I've decided to read it and (if in my opinion it merits a review) to review it here on the blog. I've not seen any reviews so far, and I don't intend to look at any until I've finished at least the first draft of my own.

Be aware, however, that my encounters with supposedly persuasive apologetics books has to date been less than positive, as you will see if you check out my previous reviews of such tomes:

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Spooky story: "Down" by Christopher Fowler

For your listening enspookment, my narration of Christopher Fowler's short tale of the London Underground's otherworldly inhabitants, "Down", is now available for free at PodCastle, the fantasy podcast magazine.

Enjoy. (Then go and post a comment in the forum, and maybe support the Pod with some cash.)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Burnee linkee Saturdee

The official Dilbert website with Scott Adams' color comic strips, animation, mashups and more!
How to be successful.

The Simpsons' secret formula: it's written by maths geeks | Television & radio | The Observer
Simon Singh writes about the subject of his new book in the Guardian/Observer. Nice of him to wait until after his recent talk at Portsmouth SitP.

Why we must not let fundamentalist atheism destroy our Christian education system | Christian News on Christian Today
Ugh. David Robertson continues to use an incorrect definition of secularism despite being repeatedly corrected in the past. Is he merely forgetful or deliberately disingenuous?

National Secular Society - A “religious ethos” is not why faith schools succeed – it’s selection that does it
Terry Sanderson says it again.

Jesus and Mo
Inspired by the final programme of the most recent series of The Big Questions (Sunday, BBC1).

How to Read and Understand a Scientific Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide for Non-Scientists | Jennifer Raff
A useful primer.

My Material Contribution to Materialism | John C. Wright's Journal
This was posted in the Unbelievable? Facebook group with the comment that it's an extended argument against materialism. It isn't. Wright articulates the arguments for materialism, then this:
"I leave the refutation of each of them as an exercise for the reader, and I give them freely to any man willing to arm himself against me."
Presumably any woman willing to arm herself against Wright will have to pay.

NeuroLogica Blog » Inflation Evidence Questioned
Science works. Go see it working.

Is God a vertebrate without substance? « Why Evolution Is True
But, but, but ... God is both apophatic and personal. You may think that's impossible, but that's cos you ain't ineffable like wot God is.

When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ* | The Salt Collective
Slut-shaming satire with a light touch. (No, that's not a euphemism, it's a metaphor.)

Normal Moments In Art History With No Murder
Seems perfectly innocuous...  

UK law is 'intolerant' towards Christians, says cardinal | Christian News on Christian Today
Off we go again. Look, it's really very simple. Just go to the NSS website and look at their definition of secularism:
"Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law."
When Cormac Murphy-O'Connor uses the words "too little" he's complaining that the law is not protecting the rights of Christians in preference to the rights of anyone else. Well, tough. That's what "equal before the law" means.

Science and the Supernatural (II); Why We Get It Wrong and Why It Matters | Eat Your Brains Out; Exploring Science, Exposing Creationism
Second part of Prof. Paul Braterman's examination of whether supernatural causes are a legitimate subject for scientific investigation.

What it's like to own a Tesla Model S - A cartoonist's review of his magical space car - The Oatmeal
This (along with its follow-ups) is quite something.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

How not to encourage civil exchange on Facebook

A new member of the Unbelievable? Facebook group recently posted a lengthy demand for atheists to provide a summary of the applicable standards of evidence and criteria used for applying methodological naturalism to the question of God's existence. The subsequent thread included several explanations that it wasn't the job of atheists to state which of many gods they didn't believe existed, but the poster continued with what appeared a to be a veiled attempt to shift the burden of proof. Observing the protracted circularity I weighed in with the following:
It seems to me that the OP is a ploy to get an atheist to define God, to state what evidence would be apparent if such a god did exist, and then for the OPer to follow up with a statement that the particular god so defined is not the god believed in.

If I were to bite, this is how I would respond: we have two hypotheses — “a god exists” and “no gods exist”. We also have empirical evidence — we observe the world. We can compare the likelihood of the evidence we see given the two hypotheses. Given “a god exists”, how likely is the evidence we see? And given “no gods exist”, how likely is the evidence we see? Is the likelihood of the evidence we see more likely or less likely if “a god exists” rather than “no gods exist”?

Note that I’m not coming down on either side of this question, since that wasn’t what was asked. If we are to assess the evidence we observe using methodological naturalism we are not going to find anything supernatural, merely “unexplained”. If gods are supernatural, science cannot explain them, because methodological naturalism is restricted by definition to natural mechanisms.

Methodological naturalism can be used, however, to assess claimed supernatural effects, but will only be able to provide natural explanations (if any) of those effects. What it can’t do is to say “no natural explanations are currently available, therefore the explanation is supernatural.”

Some might conclude from the above that gods and other supernatural causes are entirely beyond explanation, and may even go further and say that since it’s impossible for science (using methodological naturalism) to explain anything supernatural, we therefore can have no knowledge of the supernatural.

So as far as knowledge of gods is concerned, we are left with “revelation” and nothing else.
This was largely ignored, but I reproduce it here because it summarises my position, and also because it is now unavailable on Facebook. After some further exchanges the thread appeared to be homing in on something, perhaps to a point where a degree of agreement might have been achieved. But eight hours later the entire thread had disappeared, so I posted a query:

What happened to Daniel Ray's thread querying the standards and criteria applicable to methodological naturalism? It was here last night, but this morning it's gone.
  • John Bradbury He's still a member of the group so perhaps he deleted the thread.
    [missing comment here]
  • John Bradbury That's a shame. I was enjoying reading the exchange between you and Paul Jenkins
    3 hrs · Like · 1
    [missing comment here]
  • John Bradbury That's an admirable attitude Daniel Ray but please don't delete your threads, just resist the temptation to keep posting! I usually get to a point, even in my own threads where I stop notifications and that might help you resist!
  • Paul Jenkins Bad form, Daniel. When a thread is deleted without warning, others who contributed to it are less likely to engage with other OPs from the same user.
    [missing comment here]
Even the thread above makes no sense, because after deleting the thread in question (and apologising for doing so) it appears that Daniel Ray's comments above have subsequently also been deleted. He may have deleted his account.

Either stand by your written word, or apologise for it. But don't delete it without warning, especially if doing so will delete everyone else's contribution — or as shown above, eviscerate a thread into nonsense.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Burnee links catch-up

Most of these links are old. But the main purpose of Burnee links is so that I have somewhere to keep links to stuff I'm interested in (so stop complaining about old links). Plus this is my 800th post. Thank you.

Christians aren’t being driven out of public life – they’re just losing their unfair advantages
Robin Ince's reply to Cristina Odone's crazed rant (to which there is a link at the top of Ince's article). An uncharacteristically even-tempered but nevertheless comprehensive rebuttal, to which all so-called "persecuted Christians" in the UK should pay heed.

“The Experience of God” Review – Introduction
James Croft tackles David Bentley Hart's latest tome.

More than just an illusion
This article from Christianity Today Australia demonstrates how religious belief can really mess with your mind. It's asking (and incidentally answering) the question: are stage magicians "of the devil"?

BBC News - Bletchley Park's bitter dispute over its future
Via James Thomas, who asks, "What the hell is this?" Indeed, the last thing Churchill's "golden geese who never squawked" need is to be Disneyfied.

Every Day Things Zoomed in at a Microscopic Level Look Trippy
Fascinating. The weirdest is surely the blood clot.

How “God’s Not Dead” Makes Christians Look Even Worse Than It Makes Atheists Look
Not so much one to miss then, but to actively avoid.

Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On 'Cosmos' -- It's Actually The Focus | ThinkProgress
Although creationism isn't science, it is a belief shared by a significant proportion of Americans. Cosmos is therefore making a point of showing how creationism is utterly wrong.

Cruel and Unusual » A Million Gods
Encapsulating the reasons against capital punishment.

The Creeping Danger of Conspiracy Theorists | Vanity Fair
This would be hilarious if it weren't so depressing.

Why Was Edwina Rogers Fired from the Secular Coalition for America?
It was a controversial appointment but they thought they could handle the fallout. Maybe it turned out they couldn't.

Man Trapped Overnight at Vegas Airport Shoots Ridiculous Music Video

Evolution is a lie says the school. Good curriculum, says England’s School Inspectorate | Eat Your Brains Out; Exploring Science, Exposing Creationism
Outright nonsense being taught in British schools. Until recently I thought this kind faux education was limited to American home-schooling.

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