Posted inDeep Dive

Who or what is a person? Elephants, A.I., abortion, and personhood

Reading Time: 4 minutes The question of personhood is central to a variety of current controversies. American courts recently considered the question of whether elephants are persons. Google fired an engineer for suggesting that a machine is sentient. And the U.S. Supreme Court argued that Roe v. Wade failed to adequately consider fetal personhood. These disputes involve a conflict […]

Posted inPhilosophy

God is not great at seeking informed consent

Reading Time: 4 minutes No, I will be not talking about the dubious circumstances involving Mary’s pregnancy while Joseph was out carpenting, though I could. Instead, let’s talk about skeptical theism as a mechanism for excusing all of the suffering in the world. Skeptical theism is the “God moves in mysterious ways” gambit that believers provide in the absence […]

Posted inReligion

Phenomenal conservatism: It seems like suffering is gratuitous

Reading Time: 5 minutes Skeptical theism is defeated by phenomenal conservatism. Big words, phrases, terminology, jargon. But also, big ideas. If you’re not familiar, skeptical theism is the philosophical term for “God moves in mysterious ways.” When confronted with the problem of evil (why does so much suffering exist given “OmniGod” is all-knowing, -powerful, and -loving?), the theist often […]

Posted inPhilosophy

The art of conversion

Reading Time: 5 minutes Like most Afghans, Rahim was born a Muslim. Not that he cared much about religion. What he did care about was flying.  And being a bright adventurous young man, he became a pilot. With Aryana, the Afghan Airlines, that flew, among other routes, from Kabul to London. The line started operating three years before I […]

Posted inEducation

What’s the point of education?

Reading Time: 6 minutes No, really, what is the point? I ask this in light of recent UK government potential demands on universities that they are putting out to consultation. Known as “public comment” in the U.S., this is where the government seeks input from the public and stakeholders concerning a proposed change of policy or similar, partly to […]

Posted inCritical thinking

The atheist case for free speech

Reading Time: 10 minutes It was about 15 years ago, at Pitzer College, a small liberal arts institution in California, in my Sociology of Religion class. The morning’s lecture was “The Origins of Mormonism.” A main point of the lecture was to illustrate the way in which this recently-established world religion emerged not because of any supernatural magic, but […]