What's New on the Secular Web?
See also: Events & The News Wire
April 22, 2007
Added Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists (2003) by Sean M. Carroll to the Physics and Religion, Argument to Design, and Theistic Cosmological Argument, and Materialism pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Those who closely study the origin, development, and structure of the universe tend to disbelieve in any spiritual dimension to it. Science has inadvertently discovered that religious pictures of the world are false; when speaking to the same questions, science and religion invariably get different answers. Cosmology has no need for a First Cause since the Big Bang might simply be a transitional phase in an infinitely old universe or, alternatively, there may be no "before" the Big Bang anymore than there is a "north" of the North Pole. Appeals to alleged fine-tuning are presumptuous: physicists extrapolating from the earliest well-understood moment after the Big Bang using the laws of physics alone would erroneously deem our universe inhospitable to life. How, then, can we reliably anticipate the likelihood of life arising in hypothetical universes with different laws? Even supposing that physical constants are in fact "tunable" (which they may not be), constants might take on different values in other universes; and as Carroll puts it, "intelligent observers will only measure the values which obtain in those regions which are consistent with the existence of such observers." Finally, cosmology betrays unintelligent design: entire classes of fundamental particles exist that would have no impact on life if they had never existed. Evidently, a simple materialist formalism could offer a complete description of the universe.
April 12, 2007
Added Review of The Hidden Face of God (2007) by Scott Oser and Niall Shanks to the Science and Religion, Physics and Religion, Argument to Design, and Theistic Cosmological Argument pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
After examining Gerald Schroeder's academic credentials, Scott Oser critiques his arguments from Big Bang cosmology, quantum mechanics, and alleged "fine-tuning" for the existence of the biblical God in The Hidden Face of God. Oser tours such perennial issues as what, if anything, came before the Big Bang, various interpretations of quantum mechanics and whether it requires us to believe that atoms are literally "aware" and "make choices," whether entangled states indicate a universe underpinned by Mind, and whether purported fine-tuning is grounded on solid probability calculations or would even require a grand "tuner" if real given the possibility of a cosmic lottery playing out across a hypothetical multiverse. Niall Shanks turns to Schroeder's discussion of origin-of-life studies and purported "intelligent design" on the cellular level, noting that current biochemistry actually reveals substantial evidence of unintelligent design by mindless, trial-and-error processes such as self-organization. Moreover, good scientific hypotheses for such "mysteries" as the origin of sexual reproduction exist but simply lack confirmation at this stage, undermining the need to postulate any guiding supernatural agents. Oser and Shanks conclude that if the history of science is any guide, Schroeder's God of the gaps will be supplanted by natural explanations as our current scientific understanding advances.
April 11, 2007
Added Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion (2007) by Dale McGowan, Ph.D. to the Secular Web Bookstore and to the books listing (under "Adult") on the books page of the Parent's Corner.
It's hard enough to live a secular life in a religious world. And bringing up children without religious influence can be even more daunting. Despite the difficulties, a large and growing number of parents are choosing to raise their kids without religion. Parenting Beyond Belief is a book for loving and thoughtful parents who wish to raise their children without religion. There are scores of books available for religious parents. Now there's one for the rest of us.
April 10, 2007
In Frank Jackson's famous thought experiment, Mary is confined to a black-and-white room and educated through black-and-white books and lectures on a black-and-white television. In this way, she learns everything there is to know about the physical world. If physicalism--the doctrine that everything is physical--is true, then Mary seems to know all there is to know. What happens, then, when she emerges from her black-and-white room and sees the color red for the first time? Jackson's knowledge argument says that Mary comes to know a new fact about color, and that, therefore, physicalism is false. There's Something About Mary collects the main essays in which Jackson presents (and later rejects) his argument, along with key responses by other philosophers.
In his new book, A 21st Century Rationalist in Medieval America: Essays on Religion, Science, Morality, and the Bush Administration, (a collection of his newspaper opinion columns--highly critical of religion, faith, and the Bush administration--published between 2002 and 2006), John Bice demonstrates that it is possible to present religious criticism from an unapologetically secular perspective to a mainstream readership.
April 4, 2007
Added Review of Victor J. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis (2007) by James Levine to the Kiosk.
"Dr. Stenger's learning is vast and he expresses his thoughts with enormous clarity, making them accessible to a large audience. He is a master communicator. One will not find a better book on the scientific evidence for atheism."
April 1, 2007
"Let's see a real test put before the immovable object; the irresistible force; the ultimate omniscience, the omnipotent, omnipresent supremacy of all that the believers in a supernatural being endow that Master Architect with."
In recent years there has been a noticeable trend toward attempting to harmonize the distinct worldviews of science and religion. Many leading scientists remain skeptical, however, that there is much common ground between scientific knowledge and religious belief. Indeed, they are often antagonistic. Can an accommodation be reached after centuries of conflict? Topics discussed include: the Big Bang and the origin of the universe, intelligent design and creationism versus evolution, the nature of the "soul," near-death experiences, communication with the dead, why people do or do not believe in God, and the relationship between religion and ethics.
From the Library: Has Science Proven the "Divine" Health Benefits of Religion? (1998) by Gary Posner, M.D.
On July 25, 1998, USA Today dredged up a two-and-a half-year-old Associated Press article extolling the beneficial health effects of religion--and refeatured it as if it had just been written. But we have come to expect no better from the press. And the article's case isn't any more persuasive the second time around.