Saturday 28 November 2009

Burnee links for Saturday

Ouch!BBC rejects call for non-religious speakers on Thought for the Day | Media |
Bummer. I'm not surprised though, as I seriously doubted that the BBC would budge an inch on this. Nevertheless I think they should change the name so it more accurately reflects the content. Obviously "thought" is not necessarily religious.

BBC Trust approves continuing discrimination against humanists on Thought for the Day — BHA
Told you.

BHA responds to critics: "take the time to read the adverts and think"
The media response to the "Please Don't Label Me" campaign illustrates precisely why the campaign is needed.

Hey, preacher – leave those kids alone | Ariane Sherine | Comment is free |
Ariane Sherine launches the latest stage in the Atheist Bus/Book/Billboard Campaign.

New Humanist — "Vote rationally with Skeptical Voter"
Should be worth checking out, if you care who represents you.

The Acts of the Apostles (of Science) - Reciprocal Space - Stephen Curry's blog on Nature Network
Ever since I first heard the story as a child, I've been on the side of "Doubting Thomas" — Stephen Curry articulates why.

On Faith Panelists Blog: Influence on equal terms - Paula Kirby
The brilliant and incisive Paula Kirby tells "secular humanist" John Denham precisely what's wrong with his "belief in faith".

How to get inner peace - DC's Improbable Science
One reason why advice should be specific.

Atheism is the new fundamentalism' by Debate - Intelligence Squared -
I'll be there. Expect a report of some kind.

Friday 27 November 2009

Richard Dawkins at Conway Hall (June 2009)

My own effort at recording a snippet of Richard Dawkins' opening talk at the BHA Darwin, Humanism and Science one-day conference at Conway Hall last June was less than successful, so I'm glad to see this at last posted on YouTube. (I imagine the delay might have been something to do with the book tour for The Greatest Show On Earth. Dawkins gave a similar talk at the AAI 2009 convention, but I'm embedding this one, which I actually attended.)

(The day was opened by Richard Dawkins and closed by A. C. Grayling, and I'll be hearing them both in person again at the Wellington Squared debate in Crowthorne on Sunday.)

Saturday 21 November 2009

"News Quiz" discusses "Thought for the Day"

Friday's "News Quiz" on BBC Radio 4 had a couple of minutes on the BBC Trust's decision this week not to allow non-religious viewpoints on the Today Programme's "Thought for the Day" segment. The participants are Francis Wheen, Carrie Quinlan, Jeremy Hardy (who has a go at Richard Dawkins) and Sue Perkins, with Sandi Toksvig in the chair.

Relevant excerpt (2'46" 1.3 Mb mp3):

Podcast episode (28'06" 25.8 Mb mp3) downloadable for seven days:

Audio stream from iPlayer for seven days:

For iPlayer-deprived listeners, download the relevant episode's mp3 here:

Monday 16 November 2009

Burnee links for Monday

Flaming links!The Great Desecration : Pharyngula
This seminal event of the atheist blogosphere in July last year has come up for discussion again recently (it never really went away), so I decided to link to it — for some reason I didn't at the time. "Crackergate" — or the sentiment behind it — is to an extent fueling the controversy over accommodationism, and though some may consider that PZ Myers was unnecessarily provocative in his actions over the consecrated Eucharist that came into his possession, I personally feel that he judged the whole affair pretty shrewdly. If you read the blog post that accompanies the photograph depicting said desecration you can see that the entire incident serves to illustrate much that PZ espouses in his writing and speaking. Even the existence of his hate-mail (including death threats) contributes to the points he made — and continues to make.

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language - By Randall Munroe
Such a simple message.

(Click the image to see the whole strip.)

When antiscience kills: dowsing edition | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
You thought that staring at goats in order to give them heart attacks — and similar nutty stuff — was all in the past? Think again.

A Leicester skeptic visits a business making some strange claims - This is
I'm sure there's a perfectly rational explanation for why two separate tests for 400 allergens came up with almost entirely different results despite using samples taken from only one person ... such as, "it doesn't work".
(Via Jack of Kent)

Off The Wall - JREF
It's disheartening to know that Derek Acorah still commands TV ratings in the UK, despite how obviously fake the various programmes are. Incidentally Derren Brown has an amusing Acorah anecdote in Tricks of the Mind.

'Casey Luskin: Let's restore civility to the debate on evolution and intelligent design ' by Casey Luskin - -
Luskin is being (to put it mildly) disingenuous. But my reason for linking to this is the particular comment by "NiceMrSmith". I share his frustration.

Shoddy Sewell in Sunday Times Shocker — New Humanist
Shoddy indeed, and deserving of the opprobrium this article is getting. (Here's my own opprobrium on it.)

The Meming of Life » [fuehrer221 has logged out] — Parenting Beyond Belief
Made me laugh. And think.

Confessions of a Catholic Atheist: Moral Relativism, or Why Everything Isn't OK
Moral relativism is a dirty word*, but we have to ask: relative to what?

Faith groups to be key policy advisers - Telegraph
John Denham may have his heart in the right place, but one cannot help wondering about his brain. A. C. Grayling follows up:
John Denham's misplaced 'faith group' faith | AC Grayling | Comment is free |

(*Yes I know; two words.)

Saturday 14 November 2009

Charles Darwin and the children of the evolution - Times Online

There's so much wrong with this article.

For a start, whatever these psychopaths are saying about following "natural selection", that's not what they're doing. They are instituting their own kind of artificial selection — trying to give what they see as Darwinism a "helping hand". This is no different from what Hitler attempted with eugenics, which was based not on "random mutation and natural selection" but on the kind of artificial selection that dog-breeders (for instance) have been doing for centuries. All this article shows is that many people don't understand what Darwin's theory says (and have probably learned what they "know" from creationists — who consistently get Darwin wrong).

he author of this article, also seems to fall into the trap of somehow associating morality (or lack of it) with Darwin's theory. Unfortunately for morality, scientific facts are not amenable to opinion. The science is either true or false. Creationists are fond of saying that Darwin's theory leads to immorality, which, even if that were the case, has no bearing whatever on its scientific validity.

All this article shows is not that Darwin's theory has somehow been detrimental to some people's morality, but that some people are appallingly ill-informed about it. The fault lies squarely in the lap of education, and illustrates perfectly why evolution should be part of the primary school curriculum.

One last thing: citing Ann Coulter in support of your argument is, to put it mildly, ill-advised.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Humanist Symposium #45

The 45th Humanist Symposium is now available at Confessions of a Closet Atheist. This is my first time participating in any kind of blog carnival, and I'm proud to be in such varied and interesting company. (For my money the pick of the bunch is Greta Christina's contribution, which is typically insightful and comprehensive.)

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Burnee links for Tuesday

Keep the home fires burning...Review: Unscientific America : The Uncredible Hallq
If you thought the reviews so far were bad....

Letters to the Earth — The First Question
Why is there something rather than nothing?

Can We Talk About Religion, Please? - The Moral of the Story Blog -
Yes we can, but it's still likely to raise disproportionate ire among religionists who think they have immunity from criticism.

'Give us your misogynists and bigots' by Richard Dawkins - The Washington Post -
Linked from rather than the Washington post, to give the piece some context.

U.S. resists anti-defamation resolution - World Faith-
At last the US speaks out against the OIC's insidious UN resolution.
(Via Pharyngula)

Science and free speech go hand-in-hand — British Humanist Association
How inconvenient and irresponsible of Professor David Nutt to point out that scientific evidence isn't something that is subject to a vote.

The internet has done for Scientology. Could it rumble the Christians, too? | Marina Hyde | Comment is free | The Guardian
We can only hope....

Decomposing Humanism: Why Replace Religion? | Religion & Theology | ReligionDispatches
Austin Dacey makes the point that it's not necessary for Humanism (with a capital H) to replace religion.

Guest Voices: The secularist case against "Atheism 3.0" - On Faith at
Here's Austin Dacey again, hoping (probably in vain) that we can focus less on the "atheism vs religion" arguments and more on things that really matter. (Plus there's a book to promote.)

Are the "New Atheists" As Bad as Christian Fundamentalists? | Belief | AlterNet
Frank Schaeffer delivers a diatribe against Dawkins and Hitchens (but Dennet is a nice chap, apparently). But wait! Didn't he forget Harris?

Ray Comfort Replies to Eugenie Scott : Pharyngula
So that misguided people don't simply shut their ears to reasoned criticism one should give them the benefit of the doubt. Some people, however, are willfully, obstinately ignorant and deserve to be ridiculed without mercy.

Sunday 1 November 2009

''The Evolution of Confusion'' by Dan Dennett, AAI 2009

''The Evolution of Confusion'' by Dan Dennett, AAI 2009, RDFRS, Josh Timonen -

For a superb take-down of theology, watch this video of Dan Dennett at the Atheist Alliance International 2009 convention:

I concur with his characterisation of philosophical theology as "a pseudo-sophisticated mug's game" and "willful obscurity".