News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 4, 2010 in News

A few weeks ago, I changed my mind about posting a list of sexy scientists. Greta Christina changed her mind about Girls Gone Wild.

Useful and hilarious: Arguing with Non-Skeptics, a discussion panel: Part 1 and Part 2.

Peter Singer vs. Tyler Cowen on how to most effectively reduce poverty. I tend to come down on Cowen’s side, but we can only guess at the calculations involved.

Awesome videos from Edge conference on “the new science of morality.”

Slow motion lightning strikes. Lightning is crazy!

One of the producers of This American Life tells of how for two years, she went through an experimental phase during which she thought she was gay, until she finally had to admit she had been confused and was really straight.

Oh, and: “Godless America” – This American Life episode on the separation of church and state. I learned a few things. Also see episode 304: “Heretics.”

Top 16 ways to get a woman/wife, according to the Bible. Also: Top 7 Ways Christianity is Debunked by the Sciences.

News that matters:

  • New international treaty bans cluster bombs, signed by 38 nations but not the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan.
  • Severe flooding in Pakistan kills over 1,000.
  • Judge overturns California’s anti-gay Proposition 8; fight will probably go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Kenya’s new constitution reduces executive power, containing checks and balances.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Hermes August 5, 2010 at 4:08 am

California Proposition 8 has been overturned.


cl August 5, 2010 at 6:37 am


I’m confused: did you change your mind about your Sexy Scientists post, again? As in, are you now telling the feminists to kick rocks and retracting your apology? If so, I’m with you. Or, were you just reminding us of your change-of-heart as a rhetorical lead-in to announcing Greta’s?


lukeprog August 5, 2010 at 6:55 am


I’ve clarified my post now.


Martin August 5, 2010 at 7:32 am

Re: Top 7 Ways Christianity is Debunked by the Sciences.

Why am I always forced to play God’s Advocate? Brief summaries of each of the 7 points:

1. we’ve learned there are many forgeries in the canonized Bible

Only problematic if one adheres to Biblical inerrancy.

2. we do not live in a geocentric universe

Only problematic if one adheres to Biblical inerrancy.

3. Darwinian evolution

Only problematic if one adheres to Biblical inerrancy.

4. Archaeology has debunked many stories in the Bible

Only problematic if one adheres to Biblical inerrancy.

5. Psychology shows us we are largely products of our environment

Genetic fallacy.

6. many people are embracing multiculturalism

Association fallacy.

7. There is therefore no need for the supernatural explanation of the soul.

Perhaps not, but Google “giving dualism it’s due” for an interesting perspective from a materialist.

This just confirms my contention: that most modern atheists are just a reaction to the fundies and not much more.

Smart modern theists should adopt a God-down approach instead of Bible-down. I.e., just as Plato imperfectly recognized the existence of an Absolute Good, so too did the Jews. Both wrote down their thoughts through their primitive filters, human imperfections and all.


Chris August 5, 2010 at 8:27 am

So, Martin, if many of the major supernatural events of the bible didn’t happen, it’s only a problem for biblical inerrantists? If falsifiable prophecies did not come true, they’re only problems for biblical inerrantists? If the texts that are used to formulate doctrine were written by frauds, that’s only a problem for biblical inerrantists? The theory of evolution, which created life through a natural, slow, violent process, is only a problem for biblical inerrantists?

No. It’s funny, though, that shouting “that’s just fundamentalism!” has become an apologetic tool.


al friedlander August 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Although this may be a quirky way of looking at things, though I used to be not-so-fond of the saying ‘that’s just fundies’, after a bit of inner-reflection, I’m actually…-maybe- OK with it (not entirely, but I’ll elaborate)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the fundamentalists the more ‘rigid’ Christians that are more fond of strict rules and hellfire? This may be an entirely ignorant notion, but maybe…just maybe, it’s mainly the fundamentalists I have issue with. Although I am by all means an agnostic atheist, are liberal Christians less ‘threatening’? Do they themselves push their beliefs aggressively unto others, and are they also guilty of meddling with political affairs? If even liberal Christians for the most part also believe fundamentalism is flawed, does that means fundies are in double-doggie-doodoo? Is the enemy of your enemy your friend?


Matthew D. Johnston August 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm

5. Psychology shows us we are largely products of our environment

Genetic fallacy.

It’s only a genetic fallacy if it is irrelevant to the argument, and it is only irrelevant to the argument if we are debating the existence of a god who does not care how we arrive at our beliefs.

That is to say, it is a genetic fallacy to respond to the cosmological (or ontological of fine-tuning, etc.) argument with an appeal to human psychology and the distribution of religious belief around the world, since it is not assumed that the deistic sort of god these arguments are intended to imply would necessarily care why we come to believe what we believe. The concepts are independent of one another.

If one is arguing in favour of specific God-concept – and specifically one who takes an interest in our beliefs – the fact that religious experience, genesis, and transmission can be explained very well by the same processes which define many other cultural experiences does demand a response. For instance, you have to explain why God has (apparently) appears to some cultures and not others, or, if you believe that he does in fact reveal himself to everybody (e.g. Calvinism), then you have to explain why enculturation is such a good predictor for religious demographics. You may think these are very easily answered, but I think you would hard pressed to say they are irrelevant.


Ronnie August 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm

“Why am I always forced to play God’s Advocate?”
God could advocate for himself if he existed.


Mo August 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm


Do you know anything about this:

I don’t get it. Does it mean that sites like yours will be slowed down while other sites are sped up? I’m confused.


lukeprog August 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Yeah. This is the net neutrality issue.


cl August 5, 2010 at 9:53 pm


I’ve clarified my post now.

Did you retract the apology or not?


This just confirms my contention: that most modern atheists are just a reaction to the fundies and not much more.

While I’m hesitant about ‘most,’ I tend to agree. Thank you for speaking up.


Bram van Dijk August 6, 2010 at 12:27 am

Martin, you write:

“This just confirms my contention: that most modern atheists are just a reaction to the fundies and not much more.”

There is some truth to this statement, but in a different way than you seem to think.

One way to think of atheists is as those who deny the beliefs of theists. The fundies have very clear beliefs and there are many christians who do believe in inerrancy for example. So atheists will show reasons why they do not believe in those things.

Now, if we look at liberal christianity, their beliefs are much harder to specify. Some liberal christians are almost indistinguishable from deists. So without a clear specified belief, it is also very hard for atheists to say why they don’t believe what the liberal christian believes.

So yes, atheism is a reaction to theism. There are no a-unicornists, precisely because there are no unicornists.

So to conclude, if liberal christians would be more explicit in what exactly they believe and why they believe this, only then would they receive as much attention as the fundies are getting now from the atheist community.

Hope this made sense…


James Onen August 6, 2010 at 4:25 am

“So to conclude, if liberal christians would be more explicit in what exactly they believe and why they believe this, only then would they receive as much attention as the fundies are getting now from the atheist community.”

Exactly. Well said, Bram van Dijk!


nonchai August 6, 2010 at 5:48 am

Luke dude – i listened to several of the video and audio links you mentioned. fascinating stuff. Particularly the Edge ones and the “heresy” piece.

keep it up! sorry i have nothing to “opine about” –

well maybe one thing :- “Top 7 Ways Christianity is Debunked by the Sciences.”

even as an atheist, i think Loftus’s post was a bit weak and an easy target. I do agree with the poster/s here who call out the guy who trotted out the usual “weasly” excuse of “thats just the fundies”.

As we all know, the number of theists who are just “pure” theists and not some kind of xtian or musilim or jet are in reality very few.

How many xtian “liberal” and self proclaimed “non-fundies” reject the idea that jesus is
at the very least in some way god – or divine ?

I think t might be helpful for mr Martin to list here ( since Luke likes lists ) those tenets of belief ( or opinion ) that Martin DOES ascribe to.

Is his theism in ANY WAY guided by the bible or will any book do ?

Personally i dont find liberal xtians or believers to be so harmful to society as fundies so that is where one needs to focus attention.

After all its the by at large fundie xtian and jew who supports taking over land owned by palestinians. Its the fundie that attacks science.

As Sam Harris and other New Atheists have rightyl pointed out though it seems to be only us N.A crowd that are regularly willing to publically condemn these things. Seems to me the xtian liberals mostly stay in the public “background” – effectively cowed by the fundies around them – and muhc more concerned it seeems to me – to keep their “broad church” in some mealy mouthed way “unified” – even though their fundie “bothers in christ” condemn these same liberals for being heretical, not true believers etc.

Seems particularly telling to me that it mostly ONLY when us atheists get a little more vocal about the absurdities and dangers of fundie xtians – that the liberal wing FINALLY comes out -and admits to sharing some of the same concerns.

The number of people like John Shelby Spong ( or the guy in the “heresy” piece ) are a minority.


nonchai August 6, 2010 at 6:45 am

Having said i like the EDGE talks, did no one here find Sam Harris’s talk and Q&A session
a little infuriating and wishy washy ?

When asked “if science showed that american fundie conservatism actually DID lead to maximal human flourishing – would he then take the next logical step of encouraging the scientific community to advocate such things” he really floundered and seemed to just assume that everyone in the room “felt” such and such cultural “atrocity” was wrong, even though the first speaker made great efforts to point out that so much of phsychology and its research has up to now been so heavily affected by western/US bias ( liberal ) that we really cannot assume other cultures have anything near the same values as us.

Much though i loved Sam Harris’s efforts in the early N.A years, i cant help but feel that he comes across here as somehow naive, idealistic and a little lightweight.

I would have preferred him to present the panel with the results of HIS recent research, instead he really just seemed to be trotting out a modified form of his earlier talks elsewhere.


cl August 8, 2010 at 1:13 pm


I think I see what you mean now. When you said, “I’ve clarified my post,” you meant that you clarified this post, right? As in, you added, “A few weeks ago…” to the opening line, intended to indicate that you’d only changed your mind once – right?

Last time around, I thought you were referencing the original apology post – because – well, it just wasn’t clear. At any rate, I don’t think you should have apologized at all – but that’s just my opinion.


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