Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Internet Censorship Round-up

Posted by Sam D on February 19, 2009

This past week-and-a-bit has seen the Australian newspapers website feature a number of it’s s0-called “Super Bloggers” giving opinion pieces regarding ISP level filtering.

Some of these articles were quite reasonable. However, I’m going to focus briefly on some that aren’t.

Clive Hamilton: Web doesn’t belong to net libertarians

I’m not sure where to begin with this offering. The first few paragraphs are unnecessarily lewd, presumably in an attempt to shock a fearful & conservative audience. In fact the depictions are so graphic that at least one person has lodged a complaint with ACMA. For a more thorough appraisal of this, go to SomebodyThinkof The Children! I’d just like to make one point (again!): Clive Hamilton writes in great detail and at length on the damage that pornography does to society, including adults. His opinions on this matter have never been published in a peer-reviewed journal. If someone has an idea about Climate Change, but this idea can’t survive peer-review, then it’s not considered good science. Why is ‘Public Ethics’ any different?

Stephen Conroy: Filtering doesn’t breach free speech

And why? Because the government says so. I’d apperciate some explanation for this position. This isn’t 15th century France,  Kevin Rudd is not the Sun King, so this ” I am the state” type of attitude is not on.

Seriously though, repetition does not equal truth. Why can politicians never learn this?

The comments on both of these articles came thick and fast, and anti-filter views were predominant for a while. Then a flood of pro-filter/anti-porn views hit the Australian. Many people though this was strange, but an explanation was found soon  enough. Apparently the Jim Wallace & Australian Christian Lobby had emailed their supporters asking them to show post comments in support of internet filtering on both of these articles. This was first reported on WhirlPool and was later picked up by SomebodyThinkOfTheChildren. The point is that the flood of support for the filters to defend us from the ‘filth’ that inhabits the internet was effectively manufactured, not to mention poorly informed. This isn’t a great move for the ACL, as their most effective lobbying was done when the general public not was aware of them. The more they try to influence debate and opinion on this issue, the more attention they will draw to themselves. And despite their standing in the Baptist and Pentecostal communities, they may yet turn out to be a political liability.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I still laugh and other people still don’t

Posted by Sam D on September 28, 2007

I revisited some of the less subtle websites that I used to favor in years past Objective: Ministries and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I have been told that I have an infantile sense of humour, so I still find these pages funny, especially Objective:Ministries. What I find disturbing is that (based on the comments and guestbook signings of both sites) many people still don’t get joke.

I have news for you people: Bobby Henderson does not really think that the universe was created by some divine pasta dish! And you should not be overly concerned if he does. Claiming to pray for him makes you look ridiculous, and heaping abuse on him because you are smart enough to recognise that he is poking fun at your religion or politics paints you in the worst possible light.

Similarly, I am almost 100% sure that Objective:Ministries is a parody site. Now in all fairness this took me a while to work out, but the project to capture a pterosaur in Africa to prove creationism should be a dead give-away. If you are getting upset because this site portrays Christianity inaccurately, then at least take comfort in the fact that no one will get your church and Objective:Ministries mixed up. If you think that this site mixes truth and falsity (like The Da Vinci Code did) in order to divert people from the Truth, then I think you need to re-evaluate what you believe and why you believe it.

Posted in Education, humour, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fundamentalism and Literalism

Posted by Sam D on May 23, 2007

From the 47th Philosophers Carnival I had been giving some thought to The Philosopher Vs the Biblical Fundamentalist. I took Avery Archer to be arguing that to be a Biblical Literalist was a self contradictory position. I won’t get into the detail of his argument, you can read it for yourself. I have discussed this with members of the philosophy club and most agreed that not everything in the bible could be interpreted at face value, as some parts simply contradict each other. I say most, because one participant claimed to be a literalist shortly before stating that a certain passage was “clearly metaphorical”. This contradiction aside, it seems that many people, even those who claim to be interpreting the bible in a literal way, are picking and choosing where they interpret passages as literal rather than metaphorical, allegorical (other than where clearly denoted) or symbolic.

While Avery’s criticism might seem relevant, it misses the vast bulk of Christians. This is because they will simply admit that they are not literalists in the way that he defines, or they will admit the inconsistency, but argue that it is only an apparent inconsistency due to us not understanding the ‘mystery’ of God. I don’t know how to argue with someone who does not worry about being self-contradictory, I suspect that it would be a dead end. But those who are literal in some places and not in others are a worthwhile target for critique and investigation. There are plenty of people who are arguably ‘Fundamentalists’ who fall into this category, and the question of how they justify being Literalistic for some parts of the Bible and not others is a question worth answering.

John F Hobbins of Ancient Hebrew Poetry argues that Avery is too strict in his interpretation and that not all prophesies that a prophet makes have to come true for them to be considered a true prophet. And he might be right. But he never really deals with the fact that this renders the premise derived from Deuteronomy 18:22 and Jeremiah 28:9, that “If a prophet makes a prediction that does not come true, then that prophet is not sent by God” effectively false. And if this derivation is correct, then why do we get to ignore it?

Posted in Philosophy, Philosophy & Religion, Religion | 2 Comments »

Do secular societies breed enough to survive?

Posted by Sam D on January 16, 2006

I read this on the New Criterion a while back. It is interesting, if somewhat caustic and overexcited in places, but does raise a valid question: Will the demographics and more specifically the reproductive habits, of western secular culture be its downfall?

Posted in philosophy & politics, Politics, Religion | 3 Comments »

Excerpt from the Intelligent Design Ruling

Posted by Sam D on December 22, 2005

From Kitzmiller et al versus Dover Area School District et al

“To briefly reiterate, we first note that since ID is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of the ID Policy is the advancement of religion. See McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1272. Second, the disclaimer read to students “has the effect of implicitly bolstering alternative religious theories of origin by suggesting that evolution is a problematic theory even in the field of science.” Selman, 390 F. Supp. 2d at 1308-09. Third, reading the disclaimer not only disavows endorsement of educational materials but also “juxtaposes that disavowal with an urging to contemplate alternative religious concepts implies School Board approval of religious principles.” Freiler, 185 F.3d at 348.” (133 – 134)

Read the Whole Judgment Here

(Thanks to MH @ Epideixis for this link)

Posted in Education, Intelligent Design, Philosophy & Religion, Religion | Leave a Comment »

God and Society.

Posted by Sam D on November 7, 2005

I meant to post this link about a month ago but forgot, so here is is.

Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look”

By: Gregory S. Paul.

Here is the abstract: “Large-scale surveys show dramatic declines in religiosity in favor of secularization in the developed democracies. Popular acceptance of evolutionary science correlates negatively with levels of religiosity, and the United States is the only prosperous nation where the majority absolutely believes in a creator and evolutionary science is unpopular. Abundant data is available on rates of societal dysfunction and health in the first world. Cross-national comparisons of highly differing rates of religiosity and societal conditions form a mass epidemiological experiment that can be used to test whether high rates of belief in and worship of a creator are necessary for high levels of social health. Data correlations show that in almost all regards the highly secular democracies consistently enjoy low rates of societal dysfunction, while pro-religious and anti-evolution America performs poorly.”

This is well worth the read.

Posted in Interesting stuff, Philosophy & Religion, Religion | Leave a Comment »

Societies worse off ‘when they have God on their side’

Posted by Sam D on September 28, 2005

Another article making waves at the moment in the blogsphere, from The Times, September 27, 2005.

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

“RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.”
Read the full article here!

I’ve inlcuded this post here, rather than on Dialectic to avoid the accusations of bias from my fellow Philosophy Club members. While my feeling on this are well known I do think it is timely that this study was undertaken at all, regardless of it’s conclusion.

Posted in News, Philosophy & Religion, Religion | 1 Comment »

Behold the FSM!!

Posted by Sam D on September 21, 2005

This is the funniest thing I’ve read for a while.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it before: Religious arguments fail if they are not specific in their conclusions. Even Keith Devens knows that.
There is a reason that the ID argment has been discarded from so many religions: It’s more or less useless!
So you have ‘proved’ that there is an Intelligent Designer (which you haven’t, but let’s pretend for a second eh?)

Q:Have you proved that they are the Christian God?
A: No.

Q: Can you tell me if they are Catholic or Protestant?
A: No.

Q: Have you proved that they are not Allah ?
A: No.

Q: Have you proved that they have any of the following attrbutes: Omniscience, Omnipotence, Moral Perfection?
A: Um, no.

Q: Have you proved that they are not the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
A: No.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, ID defendors!

PS, I am willing to have a serious discussion about this matter, so please do not take my irreverance to be indicative of a lack of respect.

Posted in humour, Intelligent Design, Philosophy & Religion, Religion | 6 Comments »

Arguments for God fail without specificity

Posted by Sam D on August 26, 2005

If an argument for ‘Theism/generic Deity’ can be equally well applied to different ‘Gods’ ie God or Allah, then it is really useless. I’m thinking of things like the Intelligent Design or Ontological arguments.

Suppose the definitional relationship between God and Allah is one of mutual exclusivity.

p = God exists

q = Allah exists


1. p iff(if and only if) not q, and q iff not p would seem fairly straight forward.

An argument for an un-defined deity could be said to logically implies the premise:

2. p or q

since it works to logically imply either deity equally well.

since we can also say (from 1.)

if p then not q
if q then not p

then it follow that a general argument for an undefined deity logically implies:

p or not p (from 1 and 2 ) (as well as q or not q?)

An argument that is supposed to justify God’s existence that can only produce: ‘ God exists or god doesn’t exist’ does not tell us anything we did not already know.

If we try to extricate the argument, we hit difficulties. There seems to be only two possible escapes. The argument must either be shown to only apply to the specific deity in question or it must be shown that the relationship between different deities is not one of mutual exclusivity. The first response is so difficult I would consider it almost impossible to do without begging the question against reasonable opponents. The second is doctrinally problematic (obviously), and furthermore it seems unclear how two supremely perfect and powerful beings can co-exist and not conflict, unless they are one and the same, which most doctrine says that they are not.

Another possibility (not widely accepted) is that neither p nor q exist, and some other thing: r, which is not implied by the argument, exists.

Posted in Intelligent Design, Philosophy, Philosophy & Religion, Religion | 2 Comments »

Separation of Church and State, Yeah Right

Posted by Sam D on July 5, 2005

A very disturbing development in an already unsettling Australian political environment.
It is this, Peter Costello (Federal Treasurer), Alexander Downer (Minister for foreign Affairs), Helen Coonan ( Communications Minister), Kevin Andrews (Workplace Relations Minister) and Bob Carr (NSW state Premier), all made appearances and speeches (Mr Costello and Mr Carr at least) at the annual Hillsong conference in Sydney this week. Hillsong is increasingly powerful here and these politicians willingness to publicly align themselves with such a group that is well know fo its conservative views does not bode well for the next few years where the federal government has control of the senate. (I might also add, on a more conspiratorial note, it was amazing how fast this story disappeared from the ABC frontpage this morning. )

Brian Houston, Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church, in delivering a paper to the Fabian Society has said: “I believe that Christians have as much right to be involved in the future direction of the country as any other sector of society. We must recognise the difference between churches such as Hillsong encouraging individual Christians to be involved in politics and the church itself being involved.”

I appreciate the former notion. Everyone has the right to be involved in politics, a notion lost on politicians when it suits them. But the difference between churches that encourage people to be involved in politics and the churches themselves being involved is a distiction that seems increasingly blurred, espesically considering the above visitors to the Hillsong conference. Church leaders have so much power over what their flock believe, and over how they could vote. How many left wing activist were giving speeches?

I cannot help but be worried by the increasing power of the ‘religious right’ here. This brand of conservatism, coupled with the now unfettered power of the federal government could spell trouble for those who value their freedom to think and act differently to the stereotypical middle class WASP family all it represents.

Posted in Philosophy & Religion, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | 11 Comments »