A breezy piece on celebrities, woo, and warning signs of bullshitDecember 11, 2016
Do you believe in ghosts? In psychic powers? In communication with the dead? In alien abduction?
If you do, you’re not alone. Belief in the weird and wacky – or “woo” as some sceptics disparagingly call it – is as strong as ever. Science is taking huge strides forward. Yet many of us continue to believe in stuff that, according to science, is at best dubious and often downright absurd.
Trump and the who-to-blame gameNovember 9, 2016
So Trump is elected. He was not my preferred candidate. At times like this, I find that I, like all human beings, want SOMEONE TO BLAME (revised 12th Nov ’16)
Islam – No Mockery Allowed: A New CaseNovember 3, 2016
Athlete Louis Smith has been disciplined by British Athletics for mocking Islam.
Evil God Challenge: The MovieOctober 13, 2016
A new animated video asks: If belief in an evil God is absurd, then why isn’t belief in a good God?
‘But…but…it’s the best available explanation!’ Part 3October 12, 2016
A final post on dodgy arguments to the best explanation. An amazing UFO encounter!
‘But…but…it’s the best available explanation!’ part 2October 12, 2016
In my preceding post I introduced a popular form of inference called argument to the best explanation, and illustrated how it is popular with folk arguing for the existence of weird, wacky, and supernatrual stuff. Now we start to diagnose what’s gone wrong…
‘But…but…it’s the BEST AVAILABLE EXPLANATION!’September 1, 2016
Folk who believe in fairies, or miracles, or alien visitation, are generally fond of an argument called ARGUMENT TO THE BEST EXPLANATION.
Here’s an example of argument to the best explanation:
I see feet poking out from under the curtain and the curtain twitching slightly above them. I can also hear breathing. I infer there’s someone standing behind the curtain. Why? Because that’s the best available explanation of what I observe. True enough, the twitching might be caused by an open window and the shoes were just coincidentally placed in the same place. But I reckon that’s a bit less likely than that there’s someone standing there (for what explains the breathing noise?)
What’s so great about the sword of reason?July 26, 2016
There are (at least) two ways in which we can attempt to influence the beliefs of others:
(i) We can use reason. We can provide scientific and other evidence to support beliefs, subject them to critical scrutiny, reveal contradictions and inconsistencies, and so on.
(ii) we can appeal to such mechanisms as peer-pressure, emotional manipulation, humour, sarcasm, repetition, fear (especially of uncertainty), tribalism, vanity, and so on.
Now, we free thinkers put a lot of emphasis on (i) rather than (ii), don’t we? Why is that?
The X-Claim Argument Against Religious BeliefJuly 25, 2016
You can read a prepublication draft of my forthcoming paper here.
Religious Freedom and Gay Rights, OUP book, just published. Read my chapter.July 14, 2016
A new book – Religious Freedom and Gay Rights – has just been published by OUP. I have a chapter in it. You can read the pre-publication version of the chapter here.