Harper’s gives us a peek into the sermons that Palin has been ingesting up there in the coldest state. Their main message? Most of us won’t be cold for long.
All Things Considered recently ran a feature on Camp Inquiry, a summer camp where the the main activity is not rounds of cumbaya but actual philosophical inquiry into the likelihood that there is a higher power. I’m all for it.
Thanks to skepchick.org for the link.
Thanks to the panicky reactions of University of Texas professor Denise Spellberg, outrage about a novel depicting the life of Mohammed’s child bride Aisha has led Random House to nix its publication. I’m so pleased to see that Texas can now claim to be home to idiotic religious zealots of more than one stripe.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal today, Spellberg was asked to read the book for a possible endorsement. But:
But Ms. Spellberg wasn’t a fan of Ms. Jones’s book. On
April 30, Shahed Amanullah, a guest lecturer in Ms. Spellberg’s classes
and the editor of a popular Muslim Web site, got a frantic call from
her. “She was upset,” Mr. Amanullah recalls. He says Ms. Spellberg told
him the novel “made fun of Muslims and their history,” and asked him to
In an interview, Ms. Spellberg told me the novel is a
“very ugly, stupid piece of work.” The novel, for example, includes a
scene on the night when Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha:
“the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I
hardly felt the scorpion’s sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was
the bliss I had longed for all my life.” Says Ms. Spellberg: “I walked
through a metal detector to see ‘Last Temptation of Christ,’” the
controversial 1980s film adaptation of a novel that depicted a
relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. “I don’t have a problem
with historical fiction. I do have a problem with the deliberate
misinterpretation of history. You can’t play with a sacred history and
turn it into soft core pornography.”
This is absurd. It is a little hard to tell whether the quoted section of the novel was cited by Spellberg as one of the offensive parts or not, but it hardly matters. This is an example of an academic betraying the very intellectual freedoms the academy stands for. I’m sickened.
One of the more interesting arguments for the existence of God claims that our universe is “finely tuned” so that life will emerge. In other words, with only slight variations in the physical constants the universe could not bear life, and the best way to explain the aptness of this universe is that the constants were set by an entity that wished for life to emerge. There are problems with the argument, of course, but the basic empirical premise is usually accepted–that the conditions under which a universe would bear life are rare. An interesting result to be published in The Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, however, questions that.
Fred Adams at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor maintains that the appearance of fine tuning is illusory. While it is perhaps true, Adams says, that if you fiddle with just a single characteristic of the universe it would no longer be apt for life, it does not follow that if you generated a host of settings randomly that the resulting universes would only rarely allow for life. When Adams ran a computer model of such a test, however, about a quarter of the universes included stars that result in some sort of life. Thus, even the empirical premise of the fine-tuning argument is substantially undermined.
Read more at The New Scientist.
Dawkins can certainly get tiresome, but this conversation with Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg (at the University of Texas, by the way) is quite good. It provides the simple reason why design and fine-tuning arguments for the existence of God, even on their best days, get you nowhere.