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April 26, 2010
Supposing that atheism is true, is it important to defend its truth? Ryan Stringer emphatically answers in the affirmative. Stringer argues that if atheism is rationally held to be true, that alone is sufficient reason to defend it, for truth and rational belief are intrinsic goods, and it is generally noble to try to change others' minds when they seem to hold false beliefs. In addition, Stringer considers a number of secondary, supplementary reasons for defending atheism. These range from fighting religiously motivated mistreatment, developing beneficial public policies, redirecting resources going to religious institutions to benefit those in need, understanding our place in the world, and fostering thinking freely as rational and autonomous beings, among other things. Stringer wraps up by considering whether anything indispensable to the good life is lost when we abandon traditional theistic belief for atheism, concluding that the purported benefits of theistic belief over atheism typically evaporate on closer inspection.
April 24, 2010
The question is, how does consciousness arise in biological systems? There are at least two theories that account for consciousness. One is the idea that something is added to the body—an élan vital, a soul, or an independent mind (mind/body dualism). The other idea is that complexity (i.e., consciousness) emerges from the interactions of simple parts. Is there a way to choose one of these as being correct? Yes, by hypothesizing an emergent consciousness in a system that is not yet conscious—the computer. If we hypothesize that consciousness will emerge in a computer, given enough component parts, we can determine by rigorous testing if the hypothesis is proved. If the test proves that consciousness emerges in a computer, we will have proved that a soul is not necessary for consciousness—neither in computers nor in humans.
April 19, 2010
In this anthology of recent criticisms aimed at the reasonableness of Christian belief, former evangelical minister and apologist John W. Loftus, author of the critically acclaimed Why I Became an Atheist, has assembled fifteen outstanding articles by leading skeptics, expanding on themes introduced in his first book. Central is a defense of his "outsider's test of faith," arguing that believers should test their faith as if they were outsiders with the same skeptical standards they use to evaluate the other faiths they reject. Experts in medicine, psychology, and anthropology join Loftus to show why, when this test is applied to Christianity, it becomes very difficult to rationally defend.
April 5, 2010
New in the Kiosk: Julian Jaynes' Theory of the Evolution of Human Consciousness (2010) by Khalid Sohail
Julian Jaynes was one of the original psychologists, philosophers, and scholars, of the 20th century. While Charles Darwin connected human consciousness with biological unconscious, Sigmund Freud with psychological unconscious, and Karl Marx with social unconscious, Jaynes connected evolution of human consciousness with the breakdown of the bicameral mind, the Half God/Half Human mind. Although his theory did not become as popular as other theories it is nevertheless worthy of serious consideration.