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Free Will and the Leap of Faith

I have been engaged in an ongoing discussion with several friends about the concept of human Free Will, a cornerstone of all Abrahamic religions. If humans do not have Free Will, the whole scheme of sin and salvation collapses.

Christmas Busybodies

Busybody: noun; a person who mixes into other people’s affairs; meddler; gossip

Every year at this time, as predictable as snow in Saskatchewan or icicles in Idaho, it happens. The bleating about the “oppression” of Christians starts anew. Usually, it is triggered by some evangelist group that wants to place a nativity crèche on a courthouse lawn or a public park.

Where I stand with Islam and violence now

I have been quite outspoken in recent times about what I believe to be a necessary and inescapable connection between Islam, as properly understood (yes, that notion is wrought with issue) and violence (and intolerance). I have even debated this publicly and given a public talk on the topic (at the University of Exeter).

The Star of Bethlehem: Lecture by Aaron Adair at Merrimack College

I was lucky enough to edit Aaron Adair’s superb book The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View which looks at the claims within the Gospel of Matthew concerning the Star of Bethlehem. Over the many hundreds of years, various people have advanced theories to explain the apparent phenomenon, to triple conjunctions of planets and stars to comets, from hypernovae to UFOs. Yes, UFOs. Aaron has started getting on the speaking circuit to talk about his favoured subject, and may even be compiling a book looking into the Bible and astronomy

My letter to Goldsmiths in support of Maryam Namazie

For what it’s worth, I wrote a letter to the Goldsmiths Student Union and University Communications team in support of Maryam Namazie. If you are unaware of what has recently been going on, Namazie, an atheist ex-Muslim secularist was asked to speak to the Goldsmiths Uni Atheists and Humanists. However, she was hounded at the talk by members of ISOC, the Islamic Society. Amazingly, and this is pretty shocking, ISOC’s actions and stance was then supported by Goldsmiths Feminist Society and the LGBTQ Society!

Parenting – why it might not much matter. Nature vs nurture!

I want you to consider the possibility that your parents did not shape you as a person. Despite how it feels, your mother and father (or whoever raised you) likely imprinted almost nothing on your personality that has persisted into adulthood. Pause for a minute and let that heresy wash across your synapses. It flies in the face of common sense, does it not? In fact, it’s the type of claim that is unwise to make unless you have some compelling evidence to back it up. Even then it will elicit the ire of many.

US Politicians’ “thoughts and prayers” after massacres: Igor Volsky and gun control

What looks to be a result of terrorist activity is still another mass shooting eased in its execution by some of the most lax gun rules in the world, and certainly in the developed world. In reaction to the San Bernardino shootings, there has been a marked difference between the political statements made by politicians in the US. On the Democratic side, there have been renewed calls for action, for tangible changes to be made to gun legislation. The Republicans, on the other hand, offer mere “thoughts and prayers”.

Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Value of Life

Life has value, we would intuitively claim. But what is it about life which gives it its value? Does life have value in and of itself, or is the value derived by things which life can give us, that we can do with it? The first is intrinsic value, that life is inherently meaningful and valuable in and of itself. The second is extrinsic value, where the value is derived from other things which life facilitates.

Computers, Brains and Accountability

I spent a good part of my working life programming computers. I started in the late 60’s, almost fifty years ago. Back then, computers were the size of houses, and the programs were punched on cards. Data storage was on magnetic tape. Processors were slow and memory was small. But in the early 70’s when the microelectronics explosion happened, memories grew from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes to terabytes. Processor speed accelerated from kilohertz to megahertz to gigahertz. And of course the cost went down and down and down. Today, most kids carry one around in their pocket.

Update on my zombie fiction book

I am happy to say that the final edit before it goes back to my partner in crime, Rebecca Bradley, of my zombie book is going really well. The great thing is that I have really enjoyed re-reading it. It is in parts tense, in parts gruesome, and in others intellectually stimulating and funny.

The Atlantic vs The Nation on ISIS

Two of the most interesting pieces concerning what has happened with regard to ISIS have come from The Atlantic and The Nation. I advise reading both, especially as The Nation’s piece is an attempt to rebut the first article.

“True Islam” and violent extremism – redux

I am reposting this in response to the terror attacks in France last night, resulting in the deaths of over one hundred people. As ever, the internet is awash with right-wing shouts to “kill all Muslims” and refugees, to the left-wing shouts that it is the Imperial West to blame and not Islam or Muslims. Neither of these positions are correct. It is obviously thoroughly complex, indeed involving international politics. However, to deny the Qu’ran, Muhammad and the Hadith causal responsibility in these atrocities is to deny the self-determination of those very terrorists who claim that they are doing these actions in the name of Islam and their god.

The Problem with Divine Command Theory #3

I have previously talked about Divine Command Theory (DCT) in detail a couple of times before (here and here). I have been reading a paper called “Can God’s Goodness Save The Divine Command Theory From Euthyphro?” by Jeremy Koons. It’s a cracking paper and worth reading. The abstract reads: