Monthly Archives: March 2008

Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights

I have usually argued in favour of interfaith dialogue – but with the proviso that the dialogue should also include the non-religious. What is the point of discussing issues like human rights, terrorism, etc., without including representatives of all ethical beliefs?

In fact, interfaith dialogue which specifically excludes the non-relgious could have dangerous consequences.

This possibility is raised by the appeal of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for “a dialogue among monotheistic religions.” He sees this dialogue as having the purpose “… to come up with ways to safeguard humanity.”

This sounds all well and good – until you discover what he wants to safeguard humanity from: “the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world – a frightening phenomenon that all religions must confront and vanquish.”

According to the King this “is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Koran, the Torah and the Bible. We ask God to save humanity. There is a lack of ethics, loyalty and sincerity for our religions and humanity.”

“Disintegration of the family” are codewords in some religious traditions for the extension of human rights to women.

So we have an appeal for interfaith dialogue with the express purpose of removing the human rights of women and the non-religious – or preventing establishment of these and similar rights in many countries.

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The real climate change swindle?

The issue of global climate change seems to polarise people. I was amazed how strongly some of the participants in a recent discussion expressed their views. Especially in the criticism of the current understanding of human contributions to climate change.

The willingness of some people to reject scientific findings, and even to slander the scientists for their discoveries, concerns me. However, I will return to this subject in a later post.

For now I just want to raise the necessity of proper assessment of evidence when confronted with this sort of discussion.

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Religious education should include secular humanism

Humanism for schoolsThe New Zealand discussion around the issue of religious eduction in school curricula suffers from the usual problem – exclusion of the non-religious life stances. The situation appears better in the UK where secular beliefs appear to be included by some schools. In fact the government recommends the study of humanism as an example of a secular philosophy.

The Humanism in Schools web site is an interesting resource provided by the British Humanist Association. It provides teaching toolkits which include teaching notes, lesson guides, worksheets and class presentations. It also provides a collection of humanist perspective documents for classes at different levels and a library of videos and class worksheets.

Now wouldn’t it be great to see a similar resource specifically for the New Zealand situation!

Related articles:
Secular believers
Secular alternatives to relgious communities
Putting the Bible in its place
Why do we believe?
Thank God or Thank Goodness?
Society’s ” Christian values”
Discrimination at school
Religion and Schools
What do we teach our children?
“Let us pray . . . “
Special rights for religion?
Christian prayer problems
Teaching religion
Should we teach creationism?

Moral viagra

I reject any suggestion that one cannot be moral without religion.

You probably do too.

However, is that true for everyone? After all, individual variation within a species is a fact of life.

We shouldn’t assume other humans have the same relationship with morality that we have.

DennettPerhaps some people find morality without religion difficult or even impossible. After all, some people make that claim and perhaps we should believe them.

Maybe its a bit like erectile dysfunction in men. Most men have no problems. Others have arterial sclerosis or some other condition which interferes with normal functions. Fortunately there are medications like viagra which alleviate the condition and enable such men to have normal sex lives.

Daniel Dennett suggested that religion may be a sort of moral viagra (see atheist tapes). He suggested that if this is the case religion serves an important purpose for these people and he would not want to deny it to them.

An interesting thought.

However, if religion does serve this purpose for some people is belief in a god essential? Could a non-theist religion like Buddhism work just as well (or even better)?

And what about a non-religious moral and ethical philosophy? Would humanism be just as effective as a moral viagra?

Related Articles:
New atheists or new anti-dogmatists?
Moral authority
Christian problems with morality
Religion and the “New Atheists”
Morals, values and the limits of science
Is religion the source of morality?
Crimes of Communism and Christianity
Religion and morality
Arguments against atheist morality

So what does Dawkins think of “Expelled”?

Here’s a chance to hear Richard Dawkins’ first comments on the film “Expelled.” In this short video Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers discuss their experiences with attending the recent pre-release showing of this film (see Should Dawkins have been Expelled?)

Discussing the Expelled experience (9 min)

Greg Laden provides a list of bogs writing about this “creationists own goal” in PZ Myers Expelled, Gains Sainthood.

Thanks to for the video link.

See also Lying for Jesus? for Richard Dawkins’ article reviewing the film “Expelled.”

Related articles
Scientific dissent from . . . science?
Intelligent design and depression
A respectable man with a dangerous theory
Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?
Dissenters from Darwinism in context
Intelligent design and the threat to Christianity
Religious opposition to “intelligent design”
Intelligent design and scientific method

Should Dawkins have been Expelled?

Have these intelligent design/creationists lost the plot?

For a long time they have identified evolutionary biologists Richard Dawkins as their prime enemy. I would think they would recognise the man (although their habit of publishing edited videos and manipulated images of him on their websites may have blunted their recognition.

But have a look at this ironic story from Prof. P. Z Myers. Myers was today turned away from a pre-release showing of the creeationist propaganda movie Expelled. When it came for his turn to sign in and show his ID an official told him that he had been denied permission to attend by the film’s producer. Myers was expelled form the Expelled showing.

However, this official was so busy evicting Myers they did not notice his guest – Richard Dawkins. Prof. Dawkins was admitted to the showing.

Or was the ‘oversight’ due to Dawkins impending retirement?

Now, Dawkins was one of the scientists who was dishonestly interviewed for this film (the interviewers misrepresented their purpose) and his comments were no doubt be badly misrepresented in the film. So his comments on the film will be interesting.

Go to P Z Myers blog (Pharyngula) and his positing EXPELLED! for more on this unfolding story.

Also, keep your eyes on for a possible interesting review of Expelled.

Have a look at So what does Dawkins think of “Expelled” for Richard dawkins initial comments.

Arthur C. Clarke dies

Arthur C. Clarke, the British science fiction writer, died on Wednesday at the age of 90.

Clarke wrote more than 80 fiction and nonfiction books (some in collaboration) and more than 100 short stories — as well as hundreds of articles and essays. He is best known for his book “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But science-fiction fans of my generation could mention many more. Books like “Childhood’s End,” “Rendezvous With Rama” and “Imperial Earth.”

He had a better grounding in science than most other science fiction writers. Consequently his stories have a better sense of realism than many today.

Physics professor Gregory Benford said in 2005 that Clarke “was the major hard science fiction writer — that is the writer of science fiction that is scientifically scrupulous — in the second half of the 20th century.” Benford is an award-winning science fiction author who collaborated with Clarke on the 1990 science-fiction novel “Beyond the Fall of Night.”

But Clarke was also a great visionary and had a remarkable record of imagining future technologies. Isaac Asimov once commented about Clarke: “Nobody has done more in the way of enlightened prediction.” For example Clarke wrote a 1945 article outlining a worldwide communications network based on fixed satellites orbiting Earth at an altitude of 22,300 miles — an orbital area now often referred to as the Clarke Orbit.

He also foretold an array of technological notions in his works such as space stations, moon landings using a mother ship and a landing pod, cellular phones and the Internet.

See also
Science fiction books by Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C.
Arthur C. Clarke Foundation

Intelligent design/creationism and climate change

What is it with the intelligent design (ID) people and climate change?

I can understand the attacks they make on evolutionary science. After all, that is meant to be there reason for existence.

But why the attacks on the science of climate change? This seems to be organised and consistent. There must be a reason for it.

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Exercising your brain

We are all aware of the advantages of exercising our body. But how many of us think about exercising our minds – which means exercising our brains? Well, there are good arguments for this. Newspapers these days often run articles about the advantages of exercising the aging brain – something I can relate to. But this may be a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Or putting the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Like the body, the brain should be exercised all our life.

Dr Ginger Campbell has some interesting articles on these subjects on her site The Brainscience Podcast. I’m indebted to Damian for recommending this site to me – and I recommend it to anyone interested at all this fascinating area of science.

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Expelled – the movies

Intelligent design proponents are currently promoting Ben Stein’s film Expelled. There are campaigns in the USA offering financial inducements to get the film shown to students. And many religious web sites are advertising the film, even in New Zealand where 75% of the population accept evolutionary science.

While the film has not yet been officially released it is being shown to specially selected audience in the USA, usually at Churches. Anybody likely to review the film has to sign a non-disclosure “statement of confidentiality”. However, have a read of the review by Roger Moore who was invited to a showing by mistake and managed to avoid signing the agreement.

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