News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 5, 2010 in News

Why did nobody tell me about the Inspiring Naturalism podcast? What is wrong with you people???

Very good video critical thinking tutorials.

Why God Did Not Create the Universe” by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.

Epic Mandelbrot set zoom.

Does Chomsky’s “universal grammar” argument rely on intelligent design thinking? is “something like what The Onion would be if the writers cared mainly about God, gay people and how both influence the weather.

Philosopher Keith Parsons gives up on philosophy of religion, calling it a “fraud.” John Beversluis quit the subject, too. Robert Gressis comments.

Reading and Critically Reviewing the Bible in 365 Days.

America is a religious outlier (with handy-dandy chart).

The Secular Web, en español.

This video makes me very happy.

Muslims hack off lecturer’s hand for insulting Mohammed, and university fires lecturer for hurting Muslims’ feelings.

Finally, the following email in my inbox made me beam with pride:

I just wasted 30 min of my life going through all your [self help guru ratings] to find that there are only 2 you like. How do you really call yourself not biased? You dont like anyone or anything.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

JS Allen September 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I don’t think Parsons ever recovered from your critique of his genetic fallacy.

One wonders how one can obtain a masters degree in philosophy, yet not realize that it’s futile to try to argue people out of irrational beliefs. Seriously, he’s just figuring that out now? What do they teach at philosophy school?


Hermes September 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

For fans of The Atheist Experience, Jen and Matt mentioned Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. You can get an audio version of the book as well as other notes and the text here;

Today’s Atheist Experience show is available on Ustream;

Atheist Experience channel:


JS Allen September 5, 2010 at 5:54 pm

The mathematical precision needed to pull off that Mandelbrot zoom is staggering. The sequences around 3:15 and then from 8:36-9:10 seemed oddly simplistic, and from 11:30 on I was suspicious that the math was losing precision, since it’s so regular. But then at the very end… Great job!


Hermes September 5, 2010 at 6:16 pm

A good quote from the book I mentioned;

“Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder’s welcome.” –Charles Mackay

Sounds familiar, eh?


svenjamin September 5, 2010 at 7:17 pm

That Hawking and Mlobinow article was a bit of a let-down..Right when I was expecting to reach the end of the preliminaries and reach the main content of the article..Bam! The End. But the it was otherwise good.


lukeprog September 5, 2010 at 7:20 pm


Great quote.


lukeprog September 5, 2010 at 7:21 pm


Yeah. Just a trailer for the book.


Reidish September 5, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Fantastic Mandelbrot zoom, thanks for the link.


ildi September 5, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Re. dog/deer vid: I love it when you realize at the end in the final camera pan that two cats have been watching the action from the porch.


svenjamin September 5, 2010 at 9:33 pm

y’know, I was really hoping that was the case. Thanks for making it all better.


cl September 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm

“Why God Did Not Create the Universe” by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.

Misleading title. The article utterly fails to support that claim.


Justfinethanks September 5, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Misleading title.

If you think that he should have went with the somewhat more precise “How One Can Acknowledge the Fine Tuning of the Universe Without Holding to Theism” then clearly you’ve never worked as a newspaper editor.


cl September 5, 2010 at 11:24 pm



g September 6, 2010 at 12:58 am

Parsons’s actual announcement is at (Loftus gives only part of it). JS Allen, unless Parsons is totally misrepresenting his reasons and motives it’s nothing to do with Luke’s critique: the problem he says he has isn’t that some atheistic arguments aren’t good enough but that all the *theistic* ones are rubbish and he can no longer take them seriously.


G'DIsraeli September 6, 2010 at 1:40 am

Did you actually read all those shitty self=help books? I cannot believe it


Hermes September 6, 2010 at 4:37 am

When I was young I read quite a few fluff help books, and I’m impressed that Luke was able to find two that were worth reading. Some are towers of bad, vague, contradictory, or impossible to perform advice. They won’t be read in later generations, unlike many of the practical classics.


svenjamin September 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

I just started looking through your self-help guru list. This is an hilarious and ambitious side projecct to all. However, Deborah Tannen’s work pre-dates John Gray’s sludge, and she actually has some academic standing. So I suspect Gray is derivative of Tannen, and not the other way around, as you suggested.
Also, as extensive as your list is, I don’t see Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” on the list. It’s the O.G. 20th century self-help book! Maybe I will send you a copy of that one…


JS Allen September 6, 2010 at 9:00 am

@g – I was joking.

Although, I don’t really believe his explanation for quitting is the whole story; and I’m especially skeptical in the case of Beversluis.


lukeprog September 6, 2010 at 9:05 am


Note that the self-help books list is an old, abandoned project from several years ago. I’ve read Carnegie’s book and many others but not taken to review them.


Cyril September 6, 2010 at 9:44 am

I was fascinated to see what the “Enchanted Naturalism” podcast is like, but seeing that it’s put out by Michael Dowd gives me pause.

I read his book “Thank God For Evolution” a few years back, and I must say that I’m not all that impressed. He seems fond of inventing useless jargon like “day language” and “night language” and “creatheist” when we already have words to describe what he’s talking about (“literal”, “metaphorical”, and “pantheist” respectively).

Even worse than just making up words was when he would redefine words that people already know. For example, he chooses to define “God” as “the highest level in the nested hierarchy” (so either the universe or the multiverse). And then he uses that to tell us what the Bible means when it says to love God.

Um…. no? It doesn’t work that way.

Basically the book is several hundred pages of THAT: gutting old religious traditions (mostly Christianity) and mashing them up until you’re left with a wishy-washy metaphorical mush.

Not that I accept their literal truths, but people who use the label of a religion for themselves while ignoring its content are the worst kind of pretenders imaginable, IMHO.

So yeah, a grain of salt for that podcast. And by “grain” I mean several kilograms and “salt” I actually mean marmalade. Because that’s totally what the expression means. *roll eyes*


Bjarne September 7, 2010 at 7:09 am

Re: America as religious outlier, you may want to take a look at this article:

Political Math is great at looking critically at published statistics.


Hermes September 7, 2010 at 7:27 am

Bjarne, thanks for the link. Some comments…

The lack of reliable details available in the countries listed (minus possibly Taiwan and Singapore) seems to be a reasonable justification to not guess.

North Korea is not non-religious but mainly Juche religion; a religion with more adherents than Judaism.^

As for Buddhism, it depends how it is divided up. Is the issue religion/no-religion or theism/no-theism?

^ Source:


Reginald Selkirk September 7, 2010 at 10:15 am

You may recall that my response to the historical Jesus supporters (aka myth deniers) is to ask whether there was really a lumberjack named Paul Bunyan, and whether the question matters. Apparently Hollywood is so desperate for fresh ideas that they have been combing your blog for material.

Bunyan: The Legend as Monster


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