Monday, 17 February 2014

Estranged Notions: Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice

Oh dear. Today we have a reprint of Flynn's ridiculous blogpost on Adam and Eve from some time ago, which has probably been linked over a dozen times from the SN comments:

Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice

The poisoning of academic study of religion

From the Guardian Higher Ed., via Ophelia:

Teaching religion: my students are trying to run my course

The author is an anonymous atheist academic at a major UK university. Excerpt:

[At] my institution, the fee-paying culture has given rise to a predominantly white, economically-privileged, middle class student body, in which any diversity of religious or non-religious students has been overpowered by a particularly influential form of evangelical Christianity. It is a belief system that is uncomfortable with the academic study of religion, and which will often explicitly resist it.

Students' membership of this society is flattening the dynamics of lectures. Buying into the current claim that Christians suffer persecution in the UK, many appear compelled to resist the academic critique of the traditions and texts they hold dear. Recently, a group of students in a lecture refused to undertake the work set because they didn't want to apply postmodern perspectives to what for them was a sacred text.

A female colleague was accused of being "stupid" and "lacking authority" by those who believe a woman has no right to teach others about religious texts.

Other colleagues have been marked out as heretics in lectures. Of the students who remain outside this group – identifying as atheist, agnostic, Catholic or Jewish – a number have confided they feel intimidated or silenced by the louder, assertively evangelical students in the class.

Academic rigour, research-inspired teaching and independent, critical thinking are the hallmarks of today's university culture. And yet many of us have found ourselves diluting or softening the topics of our modules, and the intellectual and critical content of our lectures, for fear of poor student feedback (which is carefully monitored by the university). And to take account of the personal preferences of our evangelical students.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Estranged Notions: Cosmology and Creation: Contrasting Notions

Today's post is the response to Paul Rimmer's:

Cosmology and Creation: Contrasting Notions

Rosenhouse on Plait on Ham/Nye

Jason Rosenhouse (author of Among The Creationists, which I highly recommend), responded to Phil Plait's response to the Ham/Nye debate:

It’s Not Just Fundamentalist Religion That Has A Problem With Evolution

Rosenhouse's viewpoint is that evolution really is incompatible with many religious positions—not just the crazy Genesis-1-literalist ones espoused by Ham and the YECs, but much more. Key paragraphs:

So, after all, that, let us return to Plait’s argument. He tells us that the problem is too many people perceiving evolution as a threat to their religious beliefs. Indeed, but why do they perceive it that way? Is it a failure of messaging on the part of scientists? Is it because Richard Dawkins or P. Z. Myers make snide remarks about religion? No, those are not the reasons.

It is because these people have noticed all the same problems the scholars of Darwin’s time were writing about. It is because evolution really does conflict with their religious beliefs, but not because of an overly idiosyncratic interpretation of one part of the Bible. It is because the version of evolution that so worried the religious scholars of Darwin’s time, that of a savage, non-teleological process that produced humanity only as an afterthought, is precisely the version that has triumphed among modern scientists. And it is because the objections raised to that version of evolution in the nineteenth century have not lost any of their force today.

So I think the issue is just a tad more complex than Plait suggests. It manifestly is not the case that only the most narrow of fundamentalists has a problem with evolution. Evolution challenges the Bible, refutes the argument from design, exacerbates the problem of evil, and strongly challenges any notion that humanity plays a central role in creation. These are not small points, and Plait needs to acknowledge them.

(Do read the whole thing; quite a bit of it is Catholic-related)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Role of Philosophy

Having bashed philosophy a bit, time for a slightly different viewpoint.

Dawkins (who should probably stay away from Twitter) tweeted:

PZ replies.

I think there's a couple of things going on here. One is the historical trend which has separated "philosophy" from "science". Some philosophers, but only a few scientists that I've seen, seem to be fighting against this trend and trying to reclaim the position that science is a branch of philosophy.

Plantinga and the weak EAAN

While looking up the subject of Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) I found this exchange of posts in 2012 between John Wilkins and Plantinga himself. But my interest was mainly in this form of Plantinga's argument:

The argument has at least two forms, one with a stronger conclusion and one with a weaker. [...] The weaker argument has the conclusion that one who accepts N&E has a defeater for any philosophical or metaphysical beliefs he has—beliefs such as that Plato was right (or wrong) about the forms, or that there is (or isn’t) such a thing as objective right and wrong, or that there is no such person as God, or (Darwin’s example) that “the Universe is not the result of chance”—or naturalism itself. These beliefs are of such a sort that it doesn’t seem to matter, for fitness, for survival and reproduction, whether you hold the belief.

For reasons which will become obvious, I won't discuss the validity of the argument. Instead, let's see where the possible conclusions take us:

Plantinga on "Is Atheism Irrational"

(An original post by me for a change.)

For all the Catholic blog-verse's infatuation with Feser's work, in terms of his significance as a serious academic philosopher of religion Feser is pretty much nobody. The top dog in that particular kennel is generally considered to be Alvin Plantinga, who was just interviewed on the NYT's Opinionator blog by Gary Gutting under the title "Is Atheism Irrational?".

(No prizes for guessing Plantinga's answer to that one.)

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

New (I think) Disqus feature

Disqus apparently updated the "dashboard" page, and one thing I noticed is that you can now find your old posts on it even if they were deleted from the original discussion. (Though it only seems to go back about 3 months.)

It also shows when a post was marked as spam.

(I'm declaring this the new open thread, since the old one is getting a bit long.)

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Estranged Notions: Come, Let Us Do Science Together

An old post from back in July, linked here by request:

Come, Let Us Do Science Together

The Denial of Relativity and/or QM thread

This post is for discussing or objecting to the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics (including the standard model of particle physics).

On posts other than this one, it is acceptable to discuss the predictions or interpretations of relativity or QM to the extent that they bear on the original post under discussion, but it is not acceptable to raise new or unrelated objections to those theories anywhere other than in this single post. This will be enforced as stringently as required.

A post limit on this thread may be set in the future if it seems desirable to eliminate repetition.