New Found Faith in Science

Newton by William Blake: Have scientists really turned their back on religion?

Atheists, look away now; scientists are not on your side. Or at least not as much as one might expect, according to recent evidence. In a study conducted by professor Elaine Howard Ecklund of Rice University, Texas, 1700 scientist were surveyed, along with 275 who were interviewed, as to their religious persuasion. Around 50% were admittedly religious in the traditional sense, and a further 20% were “spiritual” in a nonsectarian way. While religion amongst scientists is shown to be less prevalent in comparison to the population of the nation the data was collected in (the USA), this remains a surprising result. Continue reading “New Found Faith in Science”

Dutton on Darwin: The Biology of Art

Image: The Yorck Project 2002

The world of digital media rested its scrutinising eye on philosophy late last year, as the late Denis Dutton, philosopher of art, delivered a talk to TED, the American-based conference organisation dedicated primarily to its eponymous fields of technology, entertainment and design, as well as more broadly business, global issues and science. Dutton, who held the position of professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand until his death last month after losing his fight with prostate cancer, gave a taster of the evolutionary theory of art appreciation developed in his 2009 book The Art Instinct. Since 1984 the TED audience have been addressed by speakers such as Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Al Gore and Michelle Obama, and even Jamie Oliver. In keeping with the theme of the aesthetically pleasing, the whole lecture has been stylishly illustrated by animator Andrew Park and released for all to admire on YouTube.

Continue reading “Dutton on Darwin: The Biology of Art”

Interview: Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers

Eric Reitan’s latest book, Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2009. Here he tells us how he was motivated to write the book partly in response to the misrepresentations of religious thought he discovered in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, but also by a very personal desire to reconcile his deep intuitions about ultimate reality with open intellectual inquiry.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Is God a Delusion?

Eric Reitan: One day a few years ago, a colleague of mine handed me a photocopied page from a book, without any identifying information, and asked me to evaluate it as I would a student paper. On that page the unknown author attempted to summarize and then critique the first three of Aquinas’ “Five Ways” for proving God’s existence. I say “attempted” because the author got the arguments wrong Continue reading “Interview: Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers”

Altruism – a ‘timed’ trait?

In a recent article in the New York Times, a study published in the PNAS was discussed, that looked closely at altruistic behavior in the face of a catastrophe. The events in question were the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and of the Lusitania in 1915. The former sank in the course of three hours while the latter only needed 18 minutes. The outcome of the study was that on the Titanic, more women and children were saved while on the Lusitania more men were saved. So, on the Titanic the ‘women and children first’ was heeded. The conclusion seems to be, that altruistic behavior has something to do with time. Nietzsche claimed Continue reading “Altruism – a ‘timed’ trait?”

In Defence of Lost Causes?

401px-University_of_Warwick_flag_2007Warwick University announces the creation of a new post in the Philosophy department: ‘Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy’. The role will be taken up by Angela Hobbs, and will involve her ‘bringing Philosophy to as wide an audience as possible both domestically and internationally’. As Mark Vernon notes, this parallels Richard Dawkins position with regard to Science at Oxford. Obviously any attempt to make Philosophy engage with the world/society in general, and to make the world/society engage with Philosophy, is a good thing. However, if the following comment on Vernon’s article by ‘smellthecoffee’ is anything to go by, Hobbs has her work cut out:

‘There are two types of philosophers
1. The bullshit peddlers: academics from universities who have no real experience of life outside their hallowed halls and dining rooms, but can quote a million words and call it debate.
2. Academics from the university of life: (except the above) from dishwashers to billionaires whose philosophy comes from personal experience.’

Good luck to her.

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Atheist Delusions

Atheist DelusionHart, David Bentley, Atheist Delusions, Yale University Press, London / New Haven, CT £19.99 Hardback: ISBN 978-0-300-11190-3

Review by Matthew Feldman, University of Northampton

The battle has finally been joined. For Atheist Delusions is the frontal counter-attack that intelligent persons of faith have been long awaiting. Poor arguments against belief are simply swatted away (e.g. “the truth is that religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant”, 13). But the main target of attack is the “New Atheism”, particularly those ‘devoutly undevout’ academics evangelizing what David Bentley Hart calls ‘the Gospel of unbelief’. Hart is certainly not alone in his criticism – even if he goes further than most, to the extent that his hyperventilating apologia for Christian humanism might leave more mild-mannered readers somewhat uncomfortable. A taste of his assault on a group he dubs ‘manifestly moral idiots’ is enough to make one blanch; extending to the ‘extravagantly callow’ Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and the ‘borderline illiterate’ Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code); to the ‘intellectual caricature[s]’ and failure of ‘consecutive logic’ by Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great); let alone Hart’s disdain for the High Priest of Atheism, Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), that ‘tireless tractarian’ with ‘an incapacity for philosophical reasoning’ (236, 3-4). Continue reading “Atheist Delusions”

Time to say ‘sorry’?

Turing_PlaqueIt is unusual for a philosopher to be the subject of headline news. However, in recent days the media has widely covered a high-profile campaign seeking an apology to Alan Turing from the British Government .

Of course, Turing was not just a philosopher: in academic terms, he was primarily a computer scientist, although he is perhaps most widely known outside of academia for his work at the code-breaking institute Bletchley Park during World War II, where he was a major contributor to breaking the Nazi ‘Enigma’ codes. Nevertheless, his contribution to the study of artificial intelligence provoked much debate in philosophy by way of his Turing Test. Continue reading “Time to say ‘sorry’?”