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What's New Archive2008October

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October 26, 2008

The first rebuttals in the Carrier-O'Connell debate, On Paul's Theory of Resurrection, have been posted.

Jake O'Connell's first rebuttal argues that all of the passages Richard Carrier appeals to in his opening statement are either better explained on the view that Paul held a one-body theory of resurrection, or too ambiguous to decide the toss. According to O'Connell, none of the sayings of two-body Christians (like Origen) that Carrier cites are really comparable to Paul's sayings, and neither Carrier's critique of the reliability of the Gospels, nor his analysis of what Acts says about an empty tomb, support his interpretation of Paul.

Richard Carrier's first rebuttal, A Weaker Case Cannot Defeat a Stronger, critiques O'Connell's vocabulary argument, clothing argument, arguments from Romans 8:23 and Romans 8:11, and seed-sowing argument, concluding that each of these arguments fails to establish that Paul held a one-body view of resurrection, before reiterating Carrier's position that a preponderance of the evidence implies that Paul held a two-body view.

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.

October 24, 2008

The Internet Infidels Discussion Board becomes The Freethought & Rationalism Discussion Board.

As previously announced would be the case, the Internet Infidels Discussion Board has evolved into the Freethought & Rationalism Discussion Board (under new ownership and management). The Secular Web Feedback Forums and Formal Debates Forums have been separated out from the former Internet Infidels Discussion Board and now comprise the Secular Web Discussion Forums.

October 13, 2008

Updated Hallucinatory Near-Death Experiences (2003, 2008) by Keith Augustine in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

This essay has been significantly revised to reflect updates that were published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies in 2007. Several points have been streamlined for clarity and to remove unnecessary verbiage. The section on psychophysiological correlates has been rewritten to be much more accessible, and now ends on a discussion of what is implied by the influence of medical factors on NDE content. A discussion of circumstantial evidence of temporal lobe instability among NDErs has been added to the section on the role of the temporal lobe in NDEs. A few points have been incorporated into the main text from Augustine's replies to Journal commentaries where they elaborate on points in the lead essays, such as a discussion of why cross-cultural diversity undermines a survivalist interpretation of NDEs. That argument is followed up by a similar one, cut for space from the Journal discussions, about the meaning of the apparently random distribution of pleasant and distressing NDEs.

Additionally, a large number of new endnotes have been added to this essay. Most of these summarize the most important points of the Journal exchanges (notes 1-6, 10, 17, 20, 23, 28, and 30-32), but a significant number also concern other issues or recent developments (notes 5, 7, 8, 11-16, and 22).

New in the Bookstore: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (2007) by Bruce Bawer.

"The struggle for the soul of Europe today is every bit as dire and consequential as it was in the 1930s. Then, in Weimar, Germany, the center did not hold, and the light of civilization nearly went out. Today, the continent has entered yet another 'Weimar moment.' Europe's Muslim communities are powder kegs, brimming with an alienation born of the immigrants' deep antagonism toward an infidel society that rejects them and compounded by misguided immigration policies that enforce their segregation and empower the extremists in their midst."

October 9, 2008

Added Collins on Cannons and Cosmology (Great Debate) (2008) by Paul Draper and Quentin Smith to the Atheistic Cosmological Argument page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In his opening argument, Quentin Smith argued that universe explains its own existence, without remainder, even if the universe has a finite age, for the state of the universe at any particular moment is sufficiently caused by all of its preceding states. Since this complete explanation makes no reference to God, Smith argued, insofar as God is by definition a part of any complete explanation of the universe, God does not exist. In his response, Robin Collins cited the flight of a cannonball as a counterexample to Smith's line of reasoning, but the counterexample is not analogous; unlike the universe, the flight of the cannonball does not have a historically complete explanation in terms of earlier parts of that flight. Being charitable to Collins, however, it is possible that although the universe has no first moment in physical time, it may in some metaphysical time series, allowing one to make room for God in a complete metaphysical explanation of the universe. Smith's argument, then, might not demonstrate the nonexistence of God, but it nevertheless provides a probabilistic argument against the existence of God. And on Collins' own "likelihood principle," the fact that our best scientific theory of the origin and evolution of the universe supports a self-caused universe is much more likely on naturalism than on theism, and thus provides very strong evidence for naturalism over theism.

October 5, 2008

New in the Bookstore: Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science (2008) by Robert L. Park.

From uttering a prayer before boarding a plane, to exploring past lives through hypnosis, has superstition become pervasive in contemporary culture? Robert Park, the best-selling author of Voodoo Science, argues that it has. In Superstition, Park asks why people persist in superstitious convictions long after science has shown them to be ill-founded. He takes on supernatural beliefs from religion and the afterlife to New Age spiritualism and faith-based medical claims. He examines recent controversies and concludes that science is the only way we have of understanding the world.

October 2, 2008

New in the Bookstore: Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment (2008) by Phil Zuckerman.

Contrary to what the Christian Right argues, religion is not a necessary ingredient for a successful society--in fact, the least religious nations in the world today are the most humane, happy, successful, moral, and sound.

October 1, 2008

The opening statements for the Carrier-O'Connell debate, On Paul's Theory of Resurrection, have been posted.

Richard Carrier's opening statement, Two Bodies: One in the Sky, One in the Grave, begins with Carrier's basic argument that on the Apostle Paul's understanding of resurrection, "God supplies a new body at the resurrection, and that is not the body we bury." Carrier defend this proposition with appeals to Paul's words, how others at the time understood the concept of resurrection, and how Paul's early account differs from the later developments in the concept of resurrection found in the Gospels, as well as how both Paul's words and the Gospels compare to the early history of the Christian Church presented in Acts.

Jake O'Connell's opening statement defends the proposition that the word "resurrection" always denotes a "one-body" notion of resurrection in first-century Jewish sources, and thus probably has the same connotation when discussed in Paul's epistles. O'Connell appeals to passages in 1 Corinthians and Romans which, he argues, make more sense on a one-body view of resurrection.

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.


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