What's New Archive ● 2006 ● September
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September 20, 2006
This is a general review of the last four chapters, the chapters that deal with evolution, of Ann Coulter's book Godless. "She is a lawyer and a journalist, and the research techniques she uses to study political and historical subjects, which in this case amount to 'quote mining,' are not suitable for studying issues in biological science. What makes her account bearable is her acid wit. She is genuinely funny."
September 18, 2006
Added What Can We Infer from the Present about the Past? (2006) by Richard Carrier to the Resurrection, Argument from Miracles, and Historicity of Jesus pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In "No Miracles Today Implies None Then," a section of the "General Case for Insufficiency" of "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story," Richard Carrier develops an argument against the reliability of historical account of miracles. In response, Amy Sayers argues that negative analogies from the present to the past are logically invalid. But, as Carrier shows in this rebuttal, Sayers herself commits the fallacy of false generalization in arguing against negative analogies. Moreover, she incorrectly formulates Carrier's argument that the current absence of miracles implies none in the past--an argument which is deductively valid when formulated correctly.
In her critique of Richard Carrier's "On Musonius Rufus: A Brief Essay," Amy Sayers' misunderstands several of Carrier's actual points, such as those concerning the ambiguity of passages attributed to Jesus or the brutish nature of his parables. In this rebuttal, Richard Carrier clarifies his earlier comments, explaining various instances where Sayers misses the point of his original arguments that Musonius Rufus was a better person than the biblical Jesus.
In her critique of Richard Carrier's "The End of Pascal's Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven," Amy Sayers offers several objections to Carrier's conclusion that belief in God is not the best bet on any form of Pascal's wager. However, as Richard Carrier proceeds to show in this rebuttal, Sayers only demonstrates that she does not understand either the logic of Pascal's Wager or Carrier's actual argument.
September 13, 2006
Without dwelling on deep theological issues and arguments, Holsteinson details his journey from Catholic to naturalist, outlining the reasons that led him to give up his belief in God and the supernatural, and to ultimately come to the conclusion that metaphysical naturalism is most likely true.
September 12, 2006
Updated code and formatting, and added an editorial note that this article has been entirely superceded by material in Richard Carrier's book, Sense and Goodness Without God (2005), pp. 291-348. No other revisions to content were made, so the original date of the article remains.
September 4, 2006
Clear, concise, and persuasive, Atheist Universe details exactly why God is unnecessary to explain the universe and life's diversity, organization, and beauty. The author thoroughly rebuts every argument that claims to "prove" God's existence--arguments based on logic, common sense, philosophy, ethics, history and science.
September 3, 2006
Well written in an artistic but critical style, Günther Bornkamm's Paul attempts to outline Paul's life and work before finally turning to his theology and gospel. While drawing on the work of several New Testament scholars, Bornkamm largely relies on his own interpretation of the Pauline epistles, Acts, and the interplay between them, leaving the reader to evaluate his arguments primarily on their own merits. Against source-critical methods, Bornkamm occasionally uses the texts he has judged as inauthentic as reliable sources of information without recourse to any clear criteria, and dismisses uncomfortable passages attributed to Paul as inauthentic without offering any supportive arguments. This ad hoc pick-and-choose methodology leaves his presumptions open to criticism where the texts are silent or in conflict. But otherwise Paul is a great book, generally utilizing critical evaluation of the sources to unravel Paul's ingenious and enigmatic character.
September 1, 2006
Current Feature: Beauty Is Not an Argument: The Three Moral Commands of the Gospels (2006) by Daniel June
The legitimacy of the three main commandments of the Gospels--"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," "Love your neighbor as yourself," and "Love God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind"--are accepted not only by believers, but the first is admired by many unbelievers as well. However, although they may sound pretty, they do not pass philosophical scrutiny, and they must be rejected by a morally-minded and reasonable person.
Book-of-the-Month: Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origin of Rights (2005) by Alan M. Dershowitz
Where do our rights come from? Does "natural law" really exist outside of what is written in constitutions and legal statutes? If so, why are rights not the same everywhere and in all eras? On the other hand, if rights are nothing more than the product of human law, why should we ever allow them to override the popular will? In Rights from Wrongs, Dershowitz puts forward a wholly new and compelling answer to this age-old dilemma: Rights, he argues, do not come from God, nature, logic, or law alone; they arise out of particular human experiences with injustice. Rights from Wrongs is the first book to propose a theory of rights that emerges not from a theory of perfect justice but from its opposite: from the bottom up, from trial and error, and from our collective experience of injustice; human rights come from human wrongs.
There is a common and justifiable lament that atheists are so preoccupied by naming and arguing what they are against, that people rarely hear what atheists are for. This is not only heard from the religious critics of atheism, but can be found in the voices and private thoughts of atheists themselves. Even the very names we take emphasize what we are against rather than for: atheist, agnostic, nonreligious, etc. In this short essay, however, Carrier enumerates the values that he feels should be held by all atheists.