Wednesday, January 18, 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, January 15, 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, December 12, 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, November 16, 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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Where is God hiding? (warning: contains sarcasm)

“Atheists often object that God should just make himself clearly obvious if he exists. So why doesn't he?”
The above is how a link on Facebook introduces an article in Premier Christianity magazine entitled “Why is God hidden?” with the strapline “Joshua Parikh tackles the tricky question of why God's existence isn't more obvious to nonbelievers.”

The article begins by exposing the author's bias from the outset, so at least we know where he's coming from:
“The so-called hiddenness of God has been an existential problem for believers and non-believers alike for thousands of years.”
“So-called hiddenness” — so you know, not really hidden.

After a brief introduction to the problem of God's “perceived” absence (so you know, not really absent), Joshua Parikh outlines three arguments:

1. The context of hiddenness

The reason why you think God's hiddenness is a problem is that you've been cherry-picking. You've only looked at places where evidence for God is absent, and ignored places where there is evidence. What is this evidence? Miracles, of course! For example, miracles related by “highly regarded” scholar Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, and an ordained minister. Not that he has any stake in this, naturally.

2. The problem on our end

Non-believers are resistant to the idea of God, so they can't see him, or his works. “...if the argument is that non-resistant non-believers exist, then this is not obvious.”

3. What God's hiddenness brings

Hiddenness is apparently a good thing, for several reasons:
  1. Hiddenness builds character.
  2. Hiddenness gives Christians opportunities to preach at non-believers.
  3. Hiddenness allows God to throw his revelations into sharp relief, which he couldn't do if he was obvious.
The author concludes this meagre bowl of unbelievably weak sauce with the following paragraph:
"For more answers, I recommend Blake Giunta’s excellent website, but I think these all point to a story by which Christianity can fully answer the difficult question of why God remains apparently hidden, however troubling it may seem."
Probably a good idea, as this article on its own is nowhere near good enough.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Belief in God is not "properly basic"

Stephen Law's undercutting defeater for “properly basic” belief in God held no sway with his debating opponent Tyler McNabb on last week's Unbelievable? radio show.

Stephen Law presented sound philosophical arguments demonstrating that Tyler McNabb's belief was not justified. But Tyler McNabb announced that he was nevertheless going to continue believing it anyway. Towards the end of the discussion host Justin Brierley suggested that perhaps the popularity of “properly basic” belief was that it allowed believers to continue believing while avoiding any requirement to present compelling evidence.

In as much as they have a choice (given the unlikelihood of doxastic voluntarism), I think believers can choose between belief on the basis of evidence, or belief on the basis of faith. One or the other, you don't need both. In my view, however, neither will give you a rational basis for belief in God.

Direct link to mp3:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What the hell is "Darwinian Eugenics"?

For reasons, I'm on the mailing list of Creation Ministries International. Their latest e-missive comes with this subject-line, "Darwin's death-camp doctors — and dwarfs", with the following body:

During the 1930s and 40s, the Lilliput Troupe family of singers dazzled audiences with their unique vaudeville performances. The only all-dwarf show then, their small stature earned them fame—and, ironically, ultimately saved their lives in Auschwitz.
As Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev wrote in their recent book Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz (reviewed by Jerry Bergman in the latest Journal of Creation), these entertainers who were formerly “showered with flowers and besieged for autographs, were now declared a genetic error that the state set out systematically to erase.”
After descending from the cattle train in the Auschwitz death camp, the Ovitz family—seven of whom were dwarfs—were separated from the other victims on the orders of Dr Joseph Mengele—a Nazi SS officer and physician with a Ph.D. in anthropology and an obsession with eugenics. Dr Mengele’s reason for being at Auschwitz was so he “would have continual access to an unlimited supply of human specimens” for his genetic research. His “enthusiasm, ambition, charisma and cruelty set him apart from the other death-camp doctors”, and he rose to the position of First Physician of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
When Mengele learned “that a large family with dwarf traits had just arrived he did not waste a moment. ‘I now have work for twenty years,’ he said joyfully.” He ordered a series of loathsome experiments on the Ovitz family. “Mengele was only one of dozens of doctors who felt no compunction about experiments conducted upon the Jews. He argued that since they were all doomed to die anyway, it would be a waste for science not to use them” for his brutal research to better understand evolution. In the end, “thousands of prisoners suffered in these experiments. Those who did not die in the name of German science often ended up gruesomely maimed.”
When the Russian army liberated Auschwitz, the entire Ovitz family was still alive, having been preserved for ongoing ‘study’. Mengele went on the run in Europe, before moving to South America in 1949. He successfully evaded capture for the rest of his life. The authors conclude that “the biggest crime in history was carried out under the direction of leading scientists and distinguished institutions” who, Jerry Bergman points out, were under the spell of Darwinian eugenics.

We know Josef Mengele did some terrible things, but implying he was inspired by Charles Darwin is disingenuous to say the least. Darwin formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection. What eugenicists advocate is artificial selection, which has been going on for centuries with selective breeding of, for example, dogs, goldfish, and pigeons. Extending selective breeding to humans may be undesirable, but it has nothing to do with Darwin.
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