bookmark_borderLoftus and Reppert on Probabilities

John Loftus stirs the pot with his recent post, “Should We Think Exclusively in Terms of Probabilities or Not?

Victor Reppert responds in, “But How Shall we Follow Probabilities?

I think I agree with Loftus when he writes, we “should think exclusively in terms of the probabilities.” If I understand Reppert, I am pretty sure he agrees also.

I’m not convinced, however, that a Christian’s degree of belief that Jesus rose from the dead must necessarily exceed that which can be justified based on the evidence. I agree with Reppert that “a Bayesian-rational person makes proper conditionalizations on his prior probabilities” and that “a Bayesian-rational person can conclude that Jesus rose from the dead.” Similarly, a Bayesian-rational person can conclude that Jesus was (and still is) dead.

(As an aside: it would be interesting to learn what prior probability Reppert assigns to the Resurrection. By way of comparison, I think Swinburne assumes it is 0.5.)

It is obvious that it is possible that a Christian’s degree of belief that Jesus rose from the dead could exceed that which is Bayesian-rational. It is also obvious that a non-Christian’s degree of belief that Jesus did not rise from the dead could exceed that which is Bayesian-rational. So what? Now what? Unless someone has some way to show that the majority of Christians or non-Christians fit those categories, respectively, this is not a philosophically significant conclusion.

bookmark_borderAtheistic Objections to FFRF’s Winter Solstice Banner

Ophelia Benson blogs about FFRF’s request for an “equal time” display of a “Winter Solstice banner” at a courthouse in Texas. Here is the text of the banner, which I believe is the same text the FFRF has been using on banners and other displays for at least 15 years.

“At this Season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Again, I realize this is nothing new, but I’d like to summarize some atheistic objections to FFRF’s Winter Solstice banner.

  1. While atheists can celebrate the Winter Solstice, it isn’t an atheistic ‘holiday.’ It has nothing to do with atheism. So why should atheists care about or celebrate the Winter Solstice? I, for one, could not care less about the Winter Solstice. (Just to prevent any misunderstandings: I am not criticizing those atheists who do celebrate the Winter Solstice. Rather, my point is that it’s inappropriate to represent the Winter Solstice as if it were an atheistic holiday.)
  2. Is it true that “there are no gods, no evils, no angels, no heaven or hell”? Many of FFRF’s members and supporters are people who merely lack the belief that such things exist; they also lack the belief that such things do not exist. The viewpoint expressed by the FFRF banner isn’t representative of all its members.
  3. The message is unnecessarily adversarial, especially the last sentence. As if it weren’t enough to say that supernatural beliefs are false, the banner says that religion “hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” Notice that religious displays–such as Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and so forth–never or virtually never have banners with disparaging remarks about nonbelievers. When was the last time you saw a Nativity scene with a banner that said, “Atheism is but foolishness motivated by sin to justify an immoral lifestyle”? So why does the FFRF have to end its banner in a way that is so disparaging towards theists?

I do agree with FFRF that the government shouldn’t be showing a preference for one religious holiday display over others–so I can see the value in the request for an “equal time” display–but I disagree with the way they have chosen to make that point. Not only are the banners rude, but I think the banners do far more harm than good to the public perception of atheists.

bookmark_borderGod on a cow

Catholics see Jesus on burnt toast. Muslims don’t do images, so they see “Allah” in Arabic script on various objects. Inside vegetables that have been cut open is a perennial favorite.

Here is one of these miracles from Turkey: a cow, intended for sacrifice in the present Eid, which appears to vaguely perhaps have “Allah” written on its side.

bookmark_borderPaul Kurtz, January 25, 1925 – October 21, 2012

(The following was written by Eddie Tabash and posted with permission)

I take great pride in being the major financial backer of Internet Infidels. The intellectual fire power that this website brings to bear in the quest to refute supernatural claims is a sheer delight in a world so riven with superstition. My actual induction, as it were, into freethought organizations was in 1995, when Paul Kurtz brought me into the three organizations he founded: the Center for Inquiry, Council for Secular Humanism and Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Dr Kurtz died on October 21, 2012, at the age of 86. He also founded Prometheus Books, the largest individual publisher of atheistic and other skeptical books. His best individual writings for atheism, in my view, were contained in two of his books. In The Transcendental Temptation, he made a comprehensive argument that challenges to the paranormal/supernatural were seamless. The empirical method should be applied to all miraculous claims, be they those of religion or those of pseudo science. In Forbidden Fruit, he argued that moral values could be reliably rooted in a naturalistic foundation. His life’s work and his passing should be noted by freethinkers and skeptics, everywhere.

See also:

Remembering Paul Kurtz” by our very own Herb Silverman, published in The Washington Post


Well, monotheistic weirdness is but a subset of the weirdness we humans are capable of. And damn, are we capable of an awful lot of brain-melting, asinine notions that tie into spiritual beliefs. For example:

(Sounds of me banging my head against a wall…)

bookmark_borderMyself, Peter Atkins, Richard Swinburne, Ard louis,(and Richard Dawkins) in conversation

Here is a fairly long video of a discussion between myself, Richard Swinburne (philosopher), Peter Atkins (chemist), Ard Louis (physicist), and also Richard Dawkins (who was in the audience) at one point. The theme was Life, The Universe and Everything – The Quest for Truth.

My main contribution is at 39 mins 30sec.

(nb. Dawkins is at 1hr 18 min 20 sec [he has a pop at Swinburne and me] and my response to Dawkins at 1hr 24 min 30 sec).

I posted on this before, shortly after the recording. Go here.

This included quite a good discussion on the nature and value of philosophy, I thought.

bookmark_borderHalloween: Satan’s Plot To Turn You Gay When you live in a parallel universe where dinosaurs were on the Ark with Noah, and talking snakes crawl into your garden, and vaccinating girls for HPV makes them promiscuous, and the Rapture could happen tomorrow, and the whole universe is 6000 years old, and trick-or-treating is a Satanic plot to make you gay, I can’t help but wonder: How do you manage, in the real world, to dress yourself, drive cars, pay bills, vote (arghhhh), or hold a job? How does someone live half in reality and half in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land? How does a brain manage this without going stark raving bay-at-the moon mad?