YouTube – Charlie Brooker – How To Report The News

Every news report you've ever seen.
(tags: news video funny journalism parody bbc media charlie-brooker)

The Devil Rides Out | Features | Fortean Times

Dennis Wheatley: "virtually invented the popular image of Satanism in 20th-century Britain, and he made it seem strangely seductive. If the appeal of Black Magic in popular culture was ultimately erotic, then this was largely due to Wheatley’s writing, with its reliable prospect of virg­ins being ritually ravished on altar tops." Via Metafilter
(tags: satan satanism occult magic dennis-wheatley devil fortean-times)

Tales of a Wayward Classicist: Latin Tattoos

Latin tattoos gone wrong. Probably SFW, shows a lot of skin (obviously) but no rude bits. Via Stoat.
(tags: tattoo funny latin language)

Luke on reformed epistemology and moral realism : The Uncredible Hallq

Nice: "A better response to Plantinga is just to point out that belief in the Christian God isn’t very much at all like most of the common-sense beliefs commonly cited as threatened by Descartes & Hume-style skepticism (like belief in the reliability of our senses), but is an awful lot like beliefs most Christians wouldn’t accept without evidence–namely, the beliefs of other religions."
(tags: philosophy plantinga hume descartes alvin-plantinga epistemology religion reformed)

Signature in the Cell | The BioLogos Foundation

Darrel Falk, a Christian and a professor of biology, finds problems with the science in Stephen Mayer's "The Signature in the Cell". Via Jerry Coyne.
(tags: evolution intelligent-design science religion creationism dna rna stephen-meyer darrel-falk biology discovery-institute)

The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion – This Britain, UK – The Independent

Indy journalist goes undercover to Christian counsellors who try to cure him of Teh Gay. Apparently, gayness can be caused by Freemasonry: who knew?
(tags: psychology uk homosexuality quacks lolxians religion)

Harriet Harman defends equality legislation following Pope’s criticism – Home News, UK – The Independent

No pot pourri, as Ian Paisley would say.
(tags: pope catholicism catholic bigot homosexuality religion lolxians)

Why It’s So Tricky for Atheists to Debate with Believers | Belief | AlterNet

Greta Christina lists some "heads I win, tails you lose" arguments against atheism: not criticising serious theologians, fatwa envy ("you wouldn't say that to Muslims"), "atheism is a religion" and so on.
(tags: religion atheism argument debate abiogenesis greta-christina)

Airbrushed for change – MyDavidCameron.com

Remixed Tory campaign posters. I like Hoodie Cameron.
(tags: politics funny uk government election david-cameron conservatives tory)

Stephen Meyer’s Bogus Information Theory

Criticism of Stephen Meyer's "The Signature in the Cell" based on Meyer's mistakes in information theory (or rather, the way he uses a made up definition of "information"). HT to Leonard Richardson, who rightly says it's a good introduction to what "information" does mean, regardless of what you think of Meyer's book.
(tags: information shannon entropy mathematics maths kolmogorov signature cell stephen-meyer intelligent-design creationism)

Pat Robertson is not unchristian

"This Jesus dude, and the new testament in general, is not all sweetness and light and "love thy brother" though those things definitely appear in more abundance than in the Old Testament. But still, according to the Gospels, Jesus spoke more about hell than about any other subject."
(tags: haiti pat-robertson hell christianity religion jesus)

Know Your Godless Heathen Positions

"It has become common, especially for the critics of atheism, to conflate atheism, materialism, naturalism, evolution, and natural selection. Then, an objection to one of these positions is taken to undermine all of them. This would be a mistake since there are several distinct positions here that the atheist may or may not also accept. And much of the energy that has been expended to knock them down is wasted because several of them turn out to be compatible with theism. Let’s clarify:"
(tags: science philosophy atheism matt-mccormick materialism naturalism evolution)

Russian Commuters Treated to Free Roadside Pornography

According to FOX News, "traffic jerked to a standstill". Via comp.risks.
(tags: funny traffic russia road porn pornography)

How to Think About Science

Metafilter links to a bunch of podcasts from modern historians and philosophers of science. I've linked to Mefi rather than the podcasts as there are some interesting comments from valkyryn in the thread, on what Shapin and Schaffer were saying about the role of trust in the scientific community.
(tags: audio science metafilter history philosophy)

The late, mannerist years of identity politics

"I am X, and I am different from Y. Other people are ignorant of the difference between X and Y. They must be educated. People, you must call me X and respect my difference from yourself, and from Y. You must refer to me by the term I have chosen to refer to myself by, and stay tuned for any changes I choose to make in this label, and new terms you must use to describe me — those new terms which the stigma treadmill or reclamation of previously-taboo terms may, from time to time, make it necessary for me to substitute."
(tags: identity politics gender feminism transexualism)

A gay witch hunt in Uganda

Andrew Brown: "A bill currently before the Ugandan parliament (pdf) proposes seven year prison sentences for discussing homosexuality; life imprisonment for homosexual acts; and death for a second offence. Sober observers believe it will be passed. The Anglican church in Uganda appears to support it, and the Church of England in this country is absolutely silent."
(tags: homosexuality morality anglicanism religion christianity sex uganda john-sentamu sentamu)

Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name

Christian commenter on Unreasonable Faith: "All ex-Christians are in league with Satan and are fully aware of it, don’t let yourselves be fooled into believing otherwise." Bugger, I've been rumbled. Time to buy a red cape…
(tags: atheism ex-christian de-conversion satan lolxians christianity religion)

Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World.

Peter Watts on the email leaks from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. "That’s how science works. It’s not a hippie love-in; it’s rugby."
(tags: global-warming climate science peter-watts politics environment email leak)

Richard Norman – Beyond belief

Richard Norman on the "New Believers": Terry Eagleton, Karen Armstrong and such like, the people who say religion is not remotely about believing stuff. "I cannot see how, in the end, a distinctive religious identity can be possible unless it is based on the acceptance of at least some non-metaphorical factual beliefs – beliefs about the existence of a personal deity and about how his intentions and purposes explain our world. Those beliefs do, inescapably, need to be rationally defended. And they can’t be. On that point, certainly, Dawkins is right."
(tags: richard-norman belief religion karen-armstrong terry-eagleton eagleton richard-dawkins)

‘The Evolution of Confusion’ by Dan Dennett, AAI 2009

Dennett on his project to interview clergy who no longer believe but are closeted (Dennett explicitly makes the analogy with gay people in the 1950s), on "deepities" in theology (interestingly, he rejects criticisms that other 3 horsemen don't know enough theology or philosophy), and on how we needn't suppose some people sat down and conspired to make up religions.
(tags: religion video dennett evolution daniel-dennett theology memes deepity)


"This is the smoking iceberg that fires a polar bear of truth between the eyes of hysteria and communism."
(tags: funny climate environment satire global-warming science)

Why the Big Bang Singularity Does Not Help the Kalam Cosmological Argument for Theism — Pitts 59 (4): 675 — The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Paper on whether the Big Bang supports theistic arguments for creation ex nihilo, and particularly the Kalam argument. Notably, the author points out that if the singularity in the past requires a Creator, surely singularities in the future (such as black holes) require a Destroyer.
(tags: science religion creationism kalam bigbang big-bang Singularity philosophy)

August and Everything After (San Francisco, 2004)

Adam Duritz singing the Counting Crows song whose lyrics are on the album cover of August and Everything After (but which doesn't appear on the album itself). There are a couple of live versions of this: this one's better because the crowd aren't yelling through it.
(tags: counting-crows adam-duritz music)

Gastronomic Realism—A Cautionary Tale

Loeb's charming paper comparing Moral Realism and Gastronomic Realism (the idea that some foods are simply better than others, independent of individual tastes).
(tags: philosophy morality food realism gastronomic don-loeb system:filetype:pdf system:media:document)

“The Collapse Of Intelligent Design”

Ken Miller demonstrating why ID is not backed by evidence. Miller's a Catholic, not a neo-sceptical atheist neo-rationalist.
(tags: ken-miller intelligent-design id evolution creationism science biology dna)

Don Loeb – Moral Irrealism

Philosopher Don Loeb in conversation about moral irrealism, the view that there are no moral facts independent of our beliefs about them. Touches on whether introducing a God would help moral realism: Loeb thinks not.
(tags: philosophy morality atheism don-loeb)

Mr. Deity and the Identity Crisis

"any time anyone's said anything comprehensible about the Trinity the Church has declared it a heresy." – Gareth
(tags: funny video religion christianity trinity mr-deity)

The Non-Expert: IKEA by Matthew Baldwin

A walkthrough of the various levels of the IKEA game: "As you continue through the main SHOWROOM you will see groups blocking the walkways while chatting and others moving against traffic. These people should be killed immediately."
(tags: funny humour culture parody games ikea furniture shopping)

David Nutt: Governments should get real on drugs – opinion – 04 November 2009 – New Scientist

David Nutt's opinion piece in New Scientist.
(tags: drugs science badscience government law medicine politics david-nutt)

A life changed by evidence

Series of videos by a former evangelical Christian explaining why he became an atheist. Well produced and informative stuff. The chap makes a palpable effort to show how he was a Christian and how, for much of the time before his deconversion, he thought the things he was learning could be incorporated into Christianity rather than working against it.
(tags: video youtube de-conversion christianity evangelicalism bible morality)

Was our oldest ancestor a proton-powered rock? – life – 19 October 2009 – New Scientist

Of course not, God did it. Still, it's a fascinating theory, and a well written article from New Scientist.
(tags: evolution life science dna research biology ocean bacteria abiogenesis)

Zelazny, “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”

Zelazny's classic short story.
(tags: roger-zelazny ecclesiastes SF scifi mars)

The death of death… « The Saint Barnabas’ Blog

The blog entry of the Anglican priest and goodwill diplomat who's been railing against secular funerals and Tina Turner songs at religious ones, who found himself reported on in the Torygraph and Daily Fail. Choice quote: "Whereas the best our secularist friends (and those they dupe) can hope for is a poem from nan combined with a saccharine message from a pop star before being popped in the oven with no hope of resurrection." Well, Christians certainly have the *hope* of resurrection, I suppose. And we can all agree that Tina Turner is a bad thing.
(tags: religion death funeral christianity anglicanism secularism)

Overcoming Bias as it Suits Us

When Eliezer met the feminists: an old thread on mswyrr's LJ which got started when Robin Hanson wondered why the Overcoming Bias community was so male. It's an interesting precursor to the Pickup Artist debates over on Less Wrong.
(tags: feminism cognitive-bias overcoming-bias eliezer-yudkowsky robin-hanson)

What Is Evil For The Darwinist, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan posts some well-reasoned letters from readers on the question of what a non-theist would call "evil" (presumably responses to the old "how can you say God is evil when you don't have a basis for morality?" question). Bizarrely, he then describes them as showing "contempt" for religion. There's no pleasing some people. The letters are good, anyway.

seek and ye shall find…. but what?

“If you REALLY had been a Christian you would have never de-converted.” vs the observation that many de-converts are former Christian ministers.
(tags: de-conversion religion christianity)

Buddhism and the God-idea

Interesting. I liked: "Whether we call those superior beings gods, deities, devas or angels is of little importance, since it is improbable that they call themselves by any of those names."
(tags: buddhism god religion)

Why it’s so hard to quantify false rape charges. – By Emily Bazelon and Rachael Larimore – Slate Magazine

False accusations probably account for 8 to 10% of all accusations, though the research isn't conclusive, and it's not clear how this compares to false reporting of other crimes. Interesting story about the falsely accused man who found support from his girlfriend who had been raped some time ago: emotions were similar on both sides.
(tags: feminism research rape crime)

Justice with Michael Sandel – Home

Harvard has put Michael Sandel's justly popular "Justice" course on the web. Well worth watching.
(tags: education philosophy morality ethics video community politics harvard justice)

Messy Revelation: Why Paul would have flunked hermaneutics

Susan Wise Bauer in Christianity Today, writing about Peter Enns, who noticed that the NT authors don't interpret the OT the way evangelicals would. I liked this bit: "This is the exactly the kind of exegesis that terrifies most evangelicals. The man who admits that meanings can be "read into" Scripture stands on the fabled slippery slope, right above a sheer drop-off, while below him churns a sea of relativism, upon which floats only a single overloaded lifeboat, captained by a radical feminist gay & lesbian & transgender activist who is very anxious to make the final decision about who gets pitched overboard."
(tags: bible hermaneutics peter-enns christianity religion paul old-testament)

What’s so great about being an ex-Christian? Intellectual integrity.

This sounds familiar.
(tags: ex-christian de-conversion atheism christianity religion)

Omnipresent G-d (LORD_YHWH) on Twitter

God's on Twitter, with some new commandments. I don't know why these atheists complain about divine hiddeness. "My word is a knife made white by heat, such as that which one uses to cut pastrami." – wisdom for us all there.
(tags: god yhwh religion funny satire christianity judaism twitter)

Science, Pseudoscience and Bollocks

An interesting essay which talks about the demarcation problem in science and argues that we should be against creation science because it's wrong, not try to argue about what science is. I'm shocked he referred to a Christian belief as "bollocks". I got told off for that once.
(tags: bollocks science pseudoscience epistemology empiricism logical-positivism karl-popper popper creationism dover)

Thunderbirds will grow a generation of mad engineers

FAB, Mr Ellis.
(tags: warren-ellis thunderbirds tv)

On The Possible God Of Philosophy And Cosmology Vs. The Personal, Historical God Of Faith

Camels With Hammers links to Dennett's remarks on hearing William Lane Craig's cosmological argument, and then talks about the gap between the source of the universe (which we should properly be agnostic about) and the gods of major religions.
(tags: daniel-dennett dennett william-lane-craig craig cosmology kalam philosophy physics)

Rock-Bottom Loser Entertaining Offers From Several Religions | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Cruel but funny
(tags: onion religion funny satire humour)

“A Different Way of Knowing”: The Uses of Irrationality… and its Limitations

Greta Christina talks about "other ways of knowing" and their uses, as applied to the theism/atheism debate.
(tags: religion epistemology science atheism greta-christina empiricism)

Understanding Sarah Palin: Or, God Is In The Wattles

Peter Watts gives his grand theory for why religion hasn't died out. It's all about preventing free-loading once societies get above a certain size.
(tags: peter-watts religion evolution sarah-palin politics psychology signalling)

Whence Rationality?

Some responses to the evolutionary argument against naturalism. The point that evolution is unlikely to come up with the sort of elaborate errors Plantinga mentions is new to me.

Link roundup and browser tab closing time…

Expel the evildoer from among you

If you’re not reading back over my old entries (why not? I used to be much better before I jumped the shark), you might not have noticed that there was some LJ drama over the last one. robhu conclusively won the debate on whether complementarianism is sexist by the cunning ploy of banning me from commenting on his blog: an innovative rhetorical tactic, and undeniably a powerful one. But it’s not over yet. I’ve realised that he may have made a Tone Argument, which might enable me to reject his ideas out of hand and advance three squares to the nearest Safe Space, so I’m awaiting the results of a steward’s inquiry. It’s possible I may have too many Privilege Points to make a valid claim for Tone Argument, but I’m hopeful the powers that be will see things my way.

Could out-consume Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Down on the Premier Christian Radio boards, they’re talking about science and religion again, specifically whether science can ignore the possibility of God’s existence. I’ve been sticking my oar in, as usual.

Red Ken again

When I reviewed Ken MacLeod’s The Night Sessions, I reckoned that he had something to do with Christianity himself at one point, as the observational humour was too keen to come from a total outsider. It turns out he’s the son of a Presbyterian minister. At an SF convention in 2006, MacLeod spoke about his childhood, discovering that creationism was wrong, and the social contract. This old speech of his was linked from his recent blog posting on the changing meaning of evolution. MacLeod says a change occurred in the 1970s when Jacques Monod and Richard Dawkins introduced a thoroughly materialistic theory. This replaced older ideas that evolution is progress up a sort of secular Great Chain of Being, ideas which C.S. Lewis grumbled about, though not for the same reasons as the biologists. “Evolutionary Humanism was no doubt troubling enough to believers, but at least it wasn’t a vision of blind, pitiless indifference at the heart of things.” It’s the latter vision which MacLeod says has so riled modern creationists. I’m not sure whether he’s right, but it’s an interesting speculation.


Some people argue that if there’s no God, you can’t have real morality. We’ve discussed this previously here (and also here). The debate seems to boil down to which definition of morality you find psychologically satisfying, since as far as I can tell it has no practical consequences: almost everyone thinks that Bad Things are Bad, whether or not they also think there are moral absolutes.

Anyway, Jeffrey Amos over at Failing the Insider Test has an interesting post specifically about the idea that morality shows there’s a God. Firstly, he argues that all moral systems have the problem of where you start from, so the Euthyphro dilemma isn’t introducing a new problem for theists. Nevertheless, it does show that the problem isn’t solved by introducing God, either. Secondly, he argues that a theist must either say that God’s ideas of morality are not similar to ours, in which case pretty much everyone is wrong about morality and once we allow this, it’s no stretch to say that they might be wrong about it in a different way (for example, maybe true morality doesn’t have to be absolute). Or a theist must say that God’s morality is similar to ours, but this runs into the problem of pain: a God whose morality was similar to ours wouldn’t allow there to be so much suffering in the world. The standard response that God allows suffering for inscrutable reasons doesn’t help: if God is inscrutable, how can we know his morality is similar to ours? The second prong of the second argument isn’t new (gjm11 makes it here, and I doubt he was the first), but I think Amos’s article states it very clearly.

Gambling at Rick’s Bar

According to New Scientist, Francis Collins’s BioLogos site (wherein Collins, an evangelical Christian, advocates theistic evolution) not only faces the wrath of the neo-militant atheist secularists like Coyne and Myers, but has also been criticised by the Discovery Institute, who advocate Intelligent Design. They have a new site at Faithandevolution.org where they explain why Collins is wrong by quoting the Bible.

I’m a bit puzzled by this, as I thought that Intelligent Design was a hack get around the firewall that is the United States judiciary. The courts say you can’t teach religious opinion as fact in state schools, so if you want to get creationism into public education, you attribute creation to an anonymous Designer. You can then claim that you’re shocked, shocked I tell you (your Honour), that some kids might reach the conclusion that the Designer is the Christian God. I don’t want to tell these people their business, but setting up a web-site full of New Testament quotes gives the game away, doesn’t it?

Sun, moon and bumper sticker cry “Jesus is Lord”

Anyhoo, as it happens, the Discovery Institute quotes Romans 1:20, which I’ve mentioned before as a verse that supports the common evangelical belief that everyone knows there’s a God really, even if they don’t want to admit it. The DI say that Collins’s argument that God could have made stuff happen in such a way that his intervention was undetectable goes against the Apostle Paul’s statement that God’s existence is visible from what has been made.

I got into a discussion of undetectable divine intervention over on gerald_duck‘s LJ. gerald_duck had criticised atheists for saying that evolution proves there is no god, which is a valid criticism (if indeed there are any atheists saying that), but he’s oddly attached to the idea that it’s desirable to be agnostic about unwarranted beliefs, like Collins’s belief that the Christian god did it and carefully hid his tracks. I don’t really understand this. I accept that evolution is sufficient to explain the history of life after abiogenesis, because I think there’s good evidence for it. If evolution is sufficient, I require further evidence before I can conclude that, say, a god was involved. Without that evidence, I do not believe a god was involved (if gods there be: again, this isn’t an argument about their existence), just as I do not believe that any Flying Spaghetti Monsters were involved. I can’t strictly rule it out, but gods and FSMs are one of an infinity of possible additions to the hypothesis which I don’t seem to need, so why bother with any of them?

Over at the Discovery Institute, the cdesign proponentsists part company with Collins on whether evolution is in fact a sufficient explanation. If they could show that it isn’t, and further show evidence of design, they’d be on firmer ground than Collins is. Unfortunately for them, they can’t, but they were really following the evidence (which there’s some reason to doubt), their methods would be more rational than Collins’s.

New Scientist‘s Amanda Gefter has summarised it well:

Watching the intellectual feud between the Discovery Institute and BioLogos is a bit like watching a race in which both competitors are running full speed in the opposite direction of the finish line. It’s a notable contest, but I don’t see how either is going to come out the winner.

Ken again

Andrew Brown went to the lecture on God and evolution by Ken Miller, the one which robhu mentioned in the comments last time. Brown was impressed by Miller. I commented using the same arguments as my previous posting.

The wonderful thing about standards is

In other news, top geneticist Francis Collins has started his own Christian apologetics site, Biologos.org. Collins is a theistic evolutionist. He’s got answers for those awkward creationist questions (mentioned last time) on evolution and the Fall and death before the Fall. Not just one answer, in fact, but several, which could all equally well be true, because as far as I can see there’s no possible way to chose between them on the basis of evidence (except possibly on the evidence of a strong inner conviction, I suppose). Still, several answers are better than one, right?

Atheists can be wrong too

The usual suspects in atheist blogland are having fun with Biologos: here’s Jerry Coyne, P. Z. Myers, and P. Z. Myers. The latter P. Z. Myers refers to a post at Evaluating Christianity. Myers says this article at Biologos is making the argument that evolution is impossible because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a (badly mistaken) argument that is popular among creationists.

This is unfair to Collins, who knows the creationist argument is wrong. Collins is actually making a God of the Gaps argument. The low entropy condition of the early universe is an unsolved problem in physics, as Sean Carroll explains in Scientific American (Carroll commented at Evaluating Christianity confirming this). Unsolved problems in physics are fertile ground for Christians looking for something for God to do.

I hope Myers will issue a correction, because I think it’s important to get stuff like this right.

Following on from his review of two books by theistic evolutionists, Jerry Coyne recently wrote an article criticising the US National Academy of Sciences for saying that evolution and Christianity are compatible. Richard Hoppe at Panda’s Thumb disagrees with Coyne, but P Z Myers supports him. Atheist fight!

Is evolution compatible with Christianity? Well, yes and no. I was a Christian who believed in evolution. This means not having good answers to some stuff Christians might care about: was the Fall a real event, and if not, where does original sin come from? Did physical death really enter the world through sin? If, as Christians usually argue as part of their theodicy on natural disasters, creation itself was corrupted in the Fall (whatever the Fall was), how exactly does that work? If you’re a Christian who accepts evolution, you don’t need atheists to ask these awkward questions, your creationist brothers (and sisters) will do a much better job of it.

But that doesn’t show incompatibility. If you keep running into these problems and have to keep adding ad hoc patches to your theory, you should consider discarding it, but there are things I don’t have good answers to as an atheist, and that hasn’t stopped me being one.

I was a student of science who was a Christian. That seems to be where the real problem lies. Theistic evolutionists tend to say stuff like “Evolution could have been the way God did it” or “Maybe God nudges electrons from time to time”. They might make a wider point about “other ways of knowing”. At some point, someone is probably going to say “well, Science cannot prove your wife loves you, but you believe that, don’t you?”

The Less Wrong crowd recently discussed whether their community is and should be welcoming to theists. Theism, Wednesday, and Not Being Adopted is a good post which deserves reading on its own merits, but I was particularly interested in Eliezer Yudkowsky’s comment about compartmentalising rationality.

If Wednesday [the child of Mormons mentioned in the article] can partition, that puts an upper bound on her ability as a rationalist; it means she doesn’t get on a deep level why the rules are what they are. She doesn’t get, say, that the laws regarding evidence are not social customs that can be different from one place to another, but, rather, manifestations of the principle that you have to walk through a city in order to draw an accurate map of it.

Sam Harris mocks this compartmentalisation in his satirical response to Coyne’s critics (the paragraphs following “Finally, Kenneth Miller, arrives” are the key ones). Science is one manifestation of the principle that you draw a map by walking the streets, not by sitting in your room and thinking hard about it. There are other legitimate forms of cartography, such as the one you apply when you conclude that someone loves you (assuming you’re not actually a stalker). Perhaps, like the Tube map, they’re not doing quite the same precise measurement as you’d expect from science, but they make useful maps.

Recall the original point of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, before it developed into a cod-religion for annoying Christians with, like the worship of Invisible Pink Unicorn (PBUHHH). The FSM’s inventor used it to point out that if you’re going to say your god created the universe because you sat your room and had a strong inner conviction about it, on your own argument, the FSM revealed to me as a Pastafarian is as legitimate as the creator your conviction revealed to you. This point is not lessened if you say your god sometimes happens to do stuff in a way which isn’t directly incompatible with known science.

Perhaps theism isn’t incompatible with evolution, but it is incompatible with good cartography.