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What's New on the Secular Web?

See also: Events & The News Wire

November 28, 2002

Updated the "Events Page" and the appropriate state events pages with over 25 events, including a number of Winter Solstice parties. Remember, you are not alone! There are numerous organizations out there. One may be close to you. Go to the "Events Page" and take a look.

November 26, 2002

Added The second statements (the first rebuttals following the opening statements) in "The Cooke-Aijaz Debate: Does God Exist?" to the Nontheism/Atheism/Debates section of the Modern Documents section of the Library.

Dr. Bill Cooke, of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, and Imran Aijaz, of the Auckland University Islamic Society, debate the existence of God. These are the first rebuttals, the second of four installments of 1500 words or less, with more to come.

November 25, 2002

Added "Habad--Genesis of a New Christianity" by Shlomi tal to the Agora.

On the walls and signposts of Israeli cities one can see pictures of a great teacher who is heralded as the Messiah, and under those pictures, written in Hebrew, "Long live our Master, Teacher and Rabbi, the King, the Messiah, for ever and evermore." But this teacher, this "Messiah," is not Jesus, of course . . .

Added a link to Review of Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution (Off Site) by Alan D. Gishlick to the Creationist Book Reviews section of Creationism index page in the Modern Documents section of the Library.

In Icons of Evolution, Jonathan Wells, who along with well-known Intelligent Design proponents Michael J. Behe and William A. Dembski is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture, makes the claim in his book that textbooks present a systematic pattern of misinformation about the evidence for evolution. Gishlick, a postdoctoral scholar, analyzes those claims and concludes that "the scholarship of Icons of Evolution is substandard and its conclusions unsupported."

November 24, 2002

Updated the Secular E-mail Lists page.

Added SECHUM-L, an e-mail discussion group for the discussion of Secular Humanism with an international slant. Deleted Freethought Singles International.

November 23, 2002

Updated and fixed numerous broken links on the following subject pages in the Historical Documents section of the Library:

Albert Einstein
Clarence Darrow
Life after Death

Note: Offsite links seem to be constantly evolving.
Better catch these while they are still good.

November 21, 2002

Added "Justifying Methodological Naturalism" by Michael Martin to the Modern Library.

In his book, Tower of Babel, Robert T. Pennock faults the New Creationists for failing to realize that science is committed--not to Ontological Naturalism (the view that only natural processes or events exist)--but rather to Methodological Naturalism (a position which, although it does not deny the possibility of the existence of the supernatural, assumes for the sake of inquiry that it does not exist). Martin considers the question of how one can reject Ontological Naturalism and yet justify that Methodological Naturalism is an appropriate stance in the context of science.

November 18, 2002

Added "Irrational Faith" by David R. Gleeson to the Agora.

The Christian apologist J.P. Holding (a.k.a. Robert Turkel) complains about common misunderstandings of faith in his Internet piece, "Fallacious Faith: Correcting an All-too-Common Misconception." Trouble is, the "true" Biblical definition of faith he espouses is just as irrational as those he derides.

Added "Is the tomb story flawed because the term 'rolled' is used?" (2002) by Glenn Miller (Off Site) to Richard Carrier's author page

Miller rebuts Carrier's argument that the use of the term 'roll' (kuliw et al.) requires a truly 'round' stone (i.e., a cylindrical disc-shaped slab, of the post-70 A.D. era), and that moving a rectangular-shaped slab (or even a boulder) would not be referred to by this term. Consistent with our policy of linking to rebuttals, we are adding links from the Secular Web to Miller's essay.

Added "Was the burial of Jesus a temporary one, because of time constraints?" (October 3, 2002) by Glenn Miller (Off Site) to the author pages of Richard Carrier and Jeffery Jay Lowder

Miller's essay is a rebuttal to Carrier's essay, "Jewish Law, the Burial of Jesus, and the Third Day," and a partial reply to Lowder's essay, "Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story." Miller rebuts the hypothesis that Jesus' body was only temporarily stored in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. Consistent with our policy of linking to rebuttals, we are adding links from the Secular Web to Miller's essay.

November 17, 2002

Updated the "Call for Papers"

Added a request for reviews of two new books, Paul Bloomfield's Moral Reality and Tara Smith's Viable Values.
A great way to get published in the Secular Web's Modern Library is to submit an essay requested in our Call for Papers. We are especially interested in publishing books reviews for the books listed on that page. Also, you do NOT need to be a nontheist in order to be published on the Secular Web. As the posting of Tom Wanchick's new essay (listed below) shows, we welcome submissions from theists also!

Added "Transcendence, Moral Facts, and the God of Theism: Critiquing Vuletic" by Tom Wanchick (a rebuttal to "Is Atheism Consistent With Morality?" by Mark Vuletic) to the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

"Vuletic, in concluding his paper, states, 'The only reason I can fathom for why believers might think transcendental moral facts are better explained by theism than by atheism is because . . . believers have been psychologically conditioned to feel [this way].' I think I have shown otherwise; there are in fact good intellectual grounds for this opinion on the part of believers."

November 14, 2002

Added a link to "Concerning Theodore Drange's Argument from Evil for the Non-existence of God" (2002) by Shandon Guthrie to Theodore Drange's author page

"In the recent past, Professor Theodore Drange of West Virginia University has launched a twofold attack on traditional views of the existence of God. In a seminal article reproduced on the Secular Web's site entitled "Arguments from Evil and Nonbelief," Dr. Drange mounts a case against classic theism predicating its notion of an omnibenevolent God. His shorter articles have been subsequently maturated in his book, Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God. Although I find Drange's approach to be erudite, I believe that his argument is dubious. This article explores the Argument from Evil as presented by Dr. Drange and suggests that the conclusion that God does not exist is not warranted.

Added a link to "Response to the Arguments from Evil and Nonbelief" (1998) by Paul Pardi to Theodore Drange's author page

This essay is not new, but a link to this rebuttal was missing from Dr. Drange's author page. Consistent with our policy of linking to known rebuttals, we are adding a link to this essay from Theodore Drange's author page. Pardi's essay is a response to the main arguments proposed by Theodore Drange in his essay, "The Arguments from Evil and Nonbelief." Pardi did not give a point by point rebuttal of Drange's arguments. Pardi tried to sift out what Pardi saw as the main points and address those. In addition, my responses are not intended to provide thorough explanations for a positive position that theists might espouse.

Added a link to "Theism and Contemporary Cosmology" (2002) by Shandon Guthrie to Michael Martin's author page

Consistent with our policy of linking to known rebuttals, we are adding a link to a rebuttal of Michael Martin's objections to the kalam cosmological argument. In his book, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, Michael Martin offers several objections to the kalam argument. In his M.A. thesis, Shandon Guthrie defends that argument against various objections, including those put forward by Martin in Atheism.

Added a link to The Website of Quentin Smith from Quentin Smith's Secular Web author page

Distinguished philosopher Quentin Smith is Professor, Philosophy Department, Western Michigan University; Western Michigan University Distinguished Faculty Scholar; Editor-In-Chief, Philo: The Journal of the Society of Humanist Philosophers; and Philosophy Editor, Prometheus Books. (We are also very fortunate to have Dr. Smith as an Internet Infidels Supporter.)

Added "Why Cognitive Scientists Cannot Ignore Quantum Mechanics" (2002) by Quentin Smith

Quantum cognitive science is still undergoing its birth pangs and the most pertinent conclusion I can draw at this stage is that the ideas in this paper should either stimulate more philosophers of mind or cognitive scientists to pursue further the various avenues of thought suggested in this essay or else to refute my arguments in an attempt to justify philosophers' continued reliance on nonquantum cognitive science for their understanding of consciousness and its relation to the brain.

Added "The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism" (2001) by Quentin Smith

The metaphilosophy of naturalism is about the nature and goals of naturalist philosophy. A real or hypothetical person who knows the nature, goals and consequences of naturalist philosophy may be called an "informed naturalist." An informed naturalist is justified in drawing certain conclusions about the current state of naturalism and the research program that naturalist philosophers ought to undertake. One conclusion is that the great majority of naturalist philosophers have an unjustified belief that naturalism is true and an unjustified belief that theism (or supernaturalism) is false. I explain this epistemic situation in this paper. I also articulate the goals an informed naturalist would recommend to remedy this situation. These goals, for the most part, have as their consequence the restoring of naturalism to its original state (approximately, to a certain degree, given the great difference in the specific theories), which is the state it possessed in Greco-Roman philosophy before naturalism was "overwhelmed" in the Middle Ages, beginning with Augustine (naturalism had critics as far back as Xenophanes, sixth century B.C.E., but it was not "overwhelmed" until much later). Contemporary naturalists still accept, unwittingly, the redefinition of naturalism that began to be constructed by theists in the fifth century C.E. and that underpins our basic world-view today.

Added "Concerning the Metaphysical Necessity of the Universe Beginning Uncaused: A Reply to George Nakhnikian" (2000) by Quentin Smith

In George Nakhnikian's interesting and stimulating paper, "Quantum Cosmology, Theistic Philosophical Cosmology, and the Existence Question" [Philo 2000 vol. 3, no. 1] he addresses the fundamental issue of whether it is metaphysically possible or justifiable to believe that our universe began to exist without a cause, divine or otherwise. His conclusion is negative, and he argues that, contrary to my views, quantum cosmology is consistence with theism. In this paper, I shall evaluate Nakhnikian's arguments.

Added "Problems with John Earman's Attempt to Reconcile Theism with General Relativity" (2000) by Quentin Smith

Discussions of the intersection of general relativity and the philosophy of religion rarely take place on the technical level that involves the details of the mathematical physics of general relativity. John Earman's discussion of theism and general relativity in his recent book on spacetime singularities is an exception to this tendency. By virtue of his technical expertise, Earman is able to introduce novel arguments into the debate between theists and atheists. In this paper, I state and examine Earman's arguments that it is ration ally acceptable to believe that theism and general relativity form a mutually consistent or even mutually supportive pair. I conclude that each of his arguments is unsound.

Added "Why Stephen Hawking's Cosmology Precludes a Creator" (1998) by Quentin Smith

Atheists have tacitly conceded the field to theists in the area of philosophical cosmology, specifically, in the enterprise of explaining why the universe exists. The theistic hypothesis is that the reason the universe exists lies in God's creative choice, but atheists have not proposed any reason why the universe exists. I argue that quantum cosmology proposes such an atheistic reason, namely, that the universe exists because it has an unconditional probability of existing based on a functional law of nature. This law of nature ("the wave function of the universe") is inconsistent with theism and implies that God does not exist. I criticize the claims of Alston, Craig, Deltete and Guy, Oppy and Plantinga that theism is consistent with quantum cosmology.

Added "Atheistic Versus Theistic Explanations of the Beginning of Spacetime" by Quentin Smith

The thesis of this essay is that it is more likely that a timeless singularity causes spacetime to begin to exist than that a deity causes spacetime to begin to exist. This thesis implies that atheism is probably true, since it belongs to the essence of God to be the originating cause of spacetime if spacetime begins to exist. There is no possible world in which it is the case both that God exists and in which spacetime is caused to begin to exist by a timeless singular point. More important than this atheistic conclusion (a purely negative ontological conclusion, a conclusion that a certain entity--God--probably does not exist) is the positive conclusion that there is an atheistic causal explanation of the existence of spacetime. This counters traditional atheism as much as it counters theism.

Added "The Conceptualist Argument for God's Existence" (1994) by Quentin Smith

The familiar types of argument for God's existence include the cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments. The aim of this paper is to introduce a new type of argument, the conceptualist argument. The argument is that the conjunction of actualism and conceptualism entails Anselmian theism, that God exists in every possible world. According to actualism, possibilities are propositions, and according to conceptualism, propositions are effects of mental causes. The addition of other premises enables the conclusion to be deduced that in every possible world, every true proposition is a mental effect of the same mind, the divine mind. This article also discusses intimations of the conceptualist argument in Leibniz and in contemporary philosophers such as Plantinga. I conclude that the conceptualist argument may be rationally acceptable, but is not rationally compelling.

Added "An Analysis of Holiness" (1988) by Quentin Smith

This inquiry is motivated by the question: if atheism is true, is it nevertheless the case that holiness or sacredness is exemplified? I believe the answer to this question is affirmative, and that the path to its affirmation lies in the rejection of the traditional assumption that holiness is a single and simple property of a divinity that eludes analysis. The opposite view, that there are several complex properties comprising holiness, makes it manifest that there are holy beings, even a holy 'supreme being', even if there is no God and no gods.

Added "Infinity and the Past" (1987) by Quentin Smith

Several contemporary philosophers, like G. J. Whitrow, argue that it is logically impossible for the past to be infinite, and offer several arguments in sup port of this thesis. I believe their arguments are unsuccessful and aim to refute six of them in the six sections of the paper. One of my main criticisms concerns their supposition that an infinite series of past events must contain some events separated from the present event by an infinite number of intermediate events, and consequently that from one of these infinitely distant past events the present could never have been reached. I introduce several considerations to show that an infinite series of past events need not contain any events separated from the present event by an infinite number of intermediate events.

November 12, 2002

Added "Faith and Practice, MO" by Lindell Kay to the Agora.

This short story retells the author's humorous experiences at a Bible college--and his reasons for leaving.

November 9, 2002

Added "Morality and Atheism" (2002) by Ed. Stoebenau and Charles W. Johnson to the Moral Argument page in the Arguments for the Existence of a God section of the Modern Library

This paper shows that the moral argument for theism can be defeated in both of its premises: either there are not objective moral standards or they do not need to be from a deity.

Added "The Problem of Evil" (2002) by Michael Tooley to the Argument from Evil page in the Arguments for Atheism section of the Modern Library

The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains undesirable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable for anyone to believe in the existence of God. This article is divided into four sections. The first is concerned with some preliminary distinctions; the second, with alternative formulations of the argument from evil; the third, with different versions of the inductive argument from evil; the fourth, with important responses to the argument from evil.

November 8, 2002

Updated, and fixed numerous broken links on, the Michael Behe page in the Creationism section of the Science and Religion section of the Modern Library.

This index page provides numerous links to resources on the creation/evolution issue.

November 7, 2002

Added "Atheist Limericks" by Richard Bamford to the Agora.

A baker's half-dozen of limericks for nontheists and freethinkers.

November 6, 2002

Added "Naturalistic Inquiry" by Peter Kirby to the Modern Library

Kirby answers questions regarding naturalism, explaining what naturalism means to him and why he is a naturalist.

November 5, 2002

Added "From the Mouths of Babes" by Bill Hartman to the Agora.

Seven year-old Larry gets himself into a heap of trouble with his irredeemable behavior and impertinent questions.

November 1, 2002

Added "The Story of Bob" by David M. Payne, a featured article, to the Kiosk.

Once upon a time there was this guy named Bob who was omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He was the ultimate authority figure, and the most powerful being in the universe. In fact he created it. . . .

See "What's New? " for past months and years.