What's New Archive ● 2006 ● January
What's New on the Secular Web?
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January 31, 2006
Added Evidence for the Big Bang (2006) (Off Site) by Björn Feuerbacher and Ryan Scranton to the Big Bang Cosmology section of the Cosmological Arguments page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Many modern versions of the cosmological argument appeal to the Big Bang as the origin of all matter and energy, and indeed space-time itself. This in, turn, is argued to be evidence of the creation of the universe ex nihilo by God. Consequently, it is important for those evaluating such arguments to be aware of both the evidence for the Big Bang and what the Big Bang represents. Prior to extensively surveying the former, on the latter the authors argue that Big Bang theory is "not a theory about the origin of the universe. Rather, it describes the development of the universe over time." The implications of correcting such common misperceptions are also discussed.
January 26, 2006
Added Review of Jordan Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism (2006) by Theodore M. Drange to the Ontological Arguments, Cosmological Arguments, Arguments to Design, and Argument from Miracles index pages in the Modern Library, as well as the Logical Arguments for Atheism, Evidential Arguments from Evil, Logical Arguments from Evil, and Pascal's Wager pages.
Jordan Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism is long, abstruse, and technical, but valuable for those who have an interest in its topics. Those looking for arguments based on empirical phenomena said to be best explained by the God hypothesis should look elsewhere. Sobel's focus is, rather, issues of definition and logical structure. He addresses everything from the ontological argument to the fine-tuning argument, demolishing all of the main arguments for God's existence. Moreover, he argues that the kind of omnipotence and omniscience that theists ascribe to God is incoherent, and defends both evidential and logical arguments from evil against the existence of God. Finally, he turns to a discussion of practical reasons for belief in God, such as those invoked by Pascal's wager. No cutting-edge research on these topics should omit Sobel's work.
Added Review of Michael Ruse's Can a Darwinian be a Christian? (2006) by Keith Parsons to the Creationism Book Reviews page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Philosopher of science and zoologist Michael Ruse answers the question posed in the title his book Can a Darwinian be a Christian? in the affirmative. Ruse argues that a conflict only arises from a literal reading of Genesis. If Christianity actually depended upon such a literal reading, Ruse concedes, the resulting conflict with science would simply be all the worse for Christianity; but, pace Alvin Plantinga, Christianity does not depend upon such antiquated literalism. Although Ruse thinks that conflict can be avoided by merely adopting methodological naturalism without conflating it with the metaphysical variety, Parsons has his doubts, particularly when it comes to the issue of design. Parsons notes, for instance, that a loving Creator could've done much better than create us through a process that depends upon the vast waste, pain, and ugliness of natural selection, and that apparent design has increasingly given way to naturalistic explanations in biology--forcing theists to look for other gaps for God to fill.
January 25, 2006
The opening statements for the Carrier-Wanchick debate on Naturalism vs. Theism have been posted.
Richard Carrier's opening statement, Naturalism is True, Theism is Not, begins with a discussion of method followed by five arguments for naturalism and two arguments against theism. Tom Wanchick's opening statement offers six main arguments for theism outlining some specific variations on some of the arguments. Per the rules set forth prior to the debate, both debaters now have 2 weeks to submit their first rebuttals for publication on the Secular Web.
January 20, 2006
Corrected Did Jesus Exist? Earl Doherty and the Argument to Ahistoricity (2002) by Richard Carrier.
Changed the paragraph discussing the preposition kata in response to readers who misunderstood it as originally written. Points have been made clearer, and irrelevant digressions removed. Plus other minor editing elsewhere in the article (removal of superfluous spaces, abbreviations, etc.).
January 19, 2006
Change in policy regarding offsite links.
Barring exceptional circumstances, we no longer link to offsite essays. Ever since we implemented our peer-review policy, material submitted for publication in the Modern Library has been refereed. Unfortunately, it has been our experience that offsite links often become invalid and/or the content changes. Thus, our peer-review efforts have sometimes been wasted. Consequently, offsite rebuttals to material in the Secular Web Modern Library will no longer be linked. Those who wish to rebut such material should submit their rebuttals for publication on the Secular Web itself. See the Submission Guidelines & Instructions and rebutting essays on the Secular Web.
Apart from several minor corrections of wording and citation throughout that have taken place over the past year, Carrier corrected his evaluation of The Patriot-News as an "obscure newsletter." It is a newspaper, not a newsletter, and thought not a national paper, it should not be described as "obscure." Carrier apologizes for the error.
January 5, 2006
Added Review of Robert Merrihew Adams's Finite and Infinite Goods (2006) by Stephen Sullivan to the Divine Command Theory index page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In Finite and Infinite Goods Adams gives his defense of a modified divine command theory its fullest elaboration, defending it against a number of standard objections. This material is essential reading for anyone interested in whether morality does or could depend on religion. Moreover, Adams thoughtfully argues for the need for several forms of moral faith, including faith that morality "is not a massive socially induced delusion." Along the way, he also offers a striking defense of liberty of conscience and church-state separation, with an emphasis on the value of critical thinking in both ethics and religion. Although Sullivan finds much to agree with here, he offers two particular criticisms of Adams's version of divine command theory. Nevertheless, Sullivan concludes that intelligent nonbelievers and believers can only benefit from carefully and critically working their way through this important book.
January 4, 2006
Added The Kuzari Proof — Three Million Witnesses Can Be Wrong (2006), by Martin Winer, to the Agora section of the Kiosk.
"The Kuzari Proof is a famous proof of the validity of Judaism and is commonly used in outreach programs to convince estranged Jews to return to the fold of observance. The author will demonstrate the logical flaws in this proof in hopes that it leads all parties to conduct discourse on a higher level of understanding."
January 3, 2006
Per the rules both debaters agreed upon ahead of time, both Richard and Tom now have 2 weeks to submit their opening statements for publication on the Secular Web.
January 1, 2006
By simply being reactive, nontheistic debaters have allowed religious organizations to set the agenda. The time to create a freethought debate circuit, where both sides have fair legal representation and adequate debate preparation, has finally arrived! With the help of a $2000 grant from the Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS), Internet Infidels (II) has launched a project to facilitate oral debates on the existence of God and similar topics.
Book-of-the-Month: The Secular Bible : Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously (2005), by Jacques Berlinerblau
Berlinerblau suggests that atheists and agnostics must take stock of that which they so adamantly oppose. Defiantly maintaining a shallow understanding of religion, he argues, is not a politically prudent strategy in this day and age. But this book is no less critical of many believers, who--Berlinerblau contends--need to emancipate themselves from ways of thinking about their faith that are dangerously simplistic, irrational and outdated.
"In Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig makes a sharp distinction between knowing that God exists and being able to show this. He maintains that one knows that Christianity is true 'by the self-authenticating witness of God's Holy Spirit.' I will argue that Craig fails to make clear what an experience of the Holy Spirit is and does not justify his thesis that this experience is universal, veridical, and unmistakable. I will further maintain that, even if one grants his position, his claim that nonbelievers are without excuse for nonbelieving must be rejected unless one assumes that all beliefs are actions, and that he gives no reason to accept this assumption."