Simon Conway Morris still thinks “God did it” is a scientific statement

I’ve just picked up Larry Moran’s teaser “Can You Guess Who Wrote This?” on his Sandwalk blog. As the words are a restatement of Paley’s classic but long ago debunked Watchmaker analogy and the Sandwalk article is accompanied by a photograph of the paleontologist and champion of theistic evolution, Simon Conway Morris, there isn’t much of a mystery.  There original article by Conway Morris, Darwin was right. Up to a point, appeared in Thursday’s Guardian as part of its Darwin 200 coverage.

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Philip Pullman celebrates his “most challenged” book with glee

The Guardian reports that Philip Pullman felt “glee” on hearing that his novel Northern Lights, marketed as The Golden Compass in North America, is near the top of the “most challenged” list issued by the American Library Association, behind three other books.  Apparently 420 written complaints about the book’s content have been received by the Association.

He is quoted as saying: “”Firstly, I had obviously annoyed a lot of censorious people, and secondly, any ban would provoke interested readers to move from the library, where they couldn’t get hold of my novel, to the bookshops, where they could…Religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good,”

He credits religious objections to the film, The Golden Compass with increasing sales of his first novel.

Meanwhile the film continues to defy expectations.  Despite a disappointing domestic performance, The Golden Compass has a worldwide gross of $372 million on production costs of $180 million.  The 2004 hit, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events made £209 million on production costs of $140 million. Both films were rated PG in the home market.

Religious decline in United States following Western European pattern

America seems to be following the same trajectory as Western Europe, but forty years later.

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Religiosity appears to correlate negatively with social health

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Does God exist?

What better way to settle the big questions of the day than by the most reliable method of scholasticism: a swimming pool cat fight between two pretty girls in bikinis.

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Is your religion up to it?

Bitch PhD has an interesting article, “How I got to be an atheist”, which I think will ring a bell with many who found the faith within which they had been raised intolerant and inflexible, and just not up to the job of supporting a humane and loving sense of human morality.

The first moment when, in my teens, the Christian brother who taught me religion argued that God must be the source of all morality because if there was no God there would be no reason not to kill or steal, my eyes glazed over and I knew there had to be more to morality than such a nonsensical argument. We have an innate sense of fairness, and at the time as a teenager I naturally assumed that humans evolved that way.  Finding Dawkins’ work on this (for instance Nice Guys Finish First in The Selfish Gene) was nice, but it only confirmed what was already obvious: the rules of the bible exist because humans have this sense of fairness and humans wrote the bible.

The savage barbarism of Deuteronomy itself shows how human standards have changed over the millennia, but also in Deuteronomy there is that same sense that fairness should apply.  It is a very human code, full of faults that are visible to us because we no longer have the way of life that made the nonsensical rules and laws of that code make any kind of sense.  We should not look to the hidebound and often quite barbaric religions for a moral code.  We’re doing just fine without them.

Larry Moran’s belief charts: rationalism wins over superstition

Larry Moran is a longtime net user, a veteran of the Usenet newsgroup, and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto.  His blog “Sandwalk” is named after the path along which Charles Darwin used to walk every day at noon behind Down House in Kent after a morning working on his revolutionary theories.

A recent posting by Larry showed some striking and entertaining graphics showing the contrast between the diversity of “Beliefs held as a result of the accident of where an individual was born” and the coherence of “Beliefs based on logic, reason and critical thinking”.

Sandwalk: Superstition vs rationalism charts

There is a strong tendency to buy the fiction that religion has a strong hold over human thought.  I think that’s exaggerated both by atheists and believers, and these charts present an alternative view in an attractive, amusing, and thought-provoking way.