Category Featured

The terminal decline of Christianity in New Zealand

The results of the 2013 New Zealand Census has Christianity down to 47 per cent. Retired scientist, Ken Perrott’s, accompanying graph charts Christianity’s decline in every recent census and projects its decline to just above 20 per cent by 2030 and further, beyond that date. It is, of course, very unlikely to disappear altogether, but, equally, the chances of a major Christian revival in New Zealand are very remote.

Cracking review of The Nativity: A Critical Examination

I’ve never written a book review before. Occasionally I’ve considered reviewing books and essays I found to be not only interesting, but enjoyable and enlightening.

So I’ve decided that once in a while, when I’ve read something I consider really well done, I would write about it here that I might convince a few of you to spend your money and time trusting that you would have a similar experience as I have.

“Why I am an atheist” – Guest Post by The Thinker

The Thinker has guested here in the past and has been a frequent visitor to these commenting shores. Check his “Why I am an atheist” post out which comprehensively sets out his reasons for adopting his worldview. Excellent stuff, as ever, from him. Please check out his great blog (Atheism and the City), which I often do (if I could sort out a proper blog roll on this website, he would be on it, but I am struggling). My post in this (so far) short series can be found here.

Meaning is an Illusion

The “meaning” of life comes purely from emotional experience, which is chemically based. We know that emotion, and even spiritual experiences, are chemical in nature. It is already possible, using current science, to use drugs and/or direct manipulation of the brain in order to induce “spiritual” experiences.

Whitman, tumours, the neurotypical and moral responsibility

There was a famous case of a terrible shooting in 1966. Charles Whitman, an otherwise intelligent (138 IQ), ‘normal’ man, did a very abnormal thing. Charles Joseph Whitman (June 24, 1941 – August 1, 1966) was an American engineering student and former U.S. Marine, who killed seventeen people and wounded thirty-two others in a mass shooting rampage located in and around the Tower of the University of Texas in Austin on the afternoon of August 1, 1966.

A Syllogism for Determinism

I would like to put together a logical syllogism which really expresses the denial of free will through the denial of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. The idea is that the ability to choose otherwise is rendered incoherent by lacking fundamental grounding reasoning since all deliberation and causal reasons are taking into account when choosing, say, A, so that what could possibly ground choosing B, rationally, in that identical scenario? As Ted Honderich states in the Oxford Handbook of Free Will:

Do you love your mother? Freely?

Another thing I wanted to add was the idea that the mental, the experiential, supervenes on the physical. This means that the physical in some way defines and is necessary for the mental.

This is becoming more and more evident. Let me exemplify:

How much do you love your mother?

Psychology, neuroscience and a fundamental lack of free will

I am presently reading an absolutely superb book by David Eagleman called Incognito:

The book is a popular foray into psychology and neuroscience and synthesises a host of different studies into things brain. I wanted to just bring up a few fascinating studies which cast doubt upon the idea that we have fully fledged, or even remotely authored, conscious free will. It even talks about chicken sexers, which is nice. Rather than produce notes, I have tried to directly link the claims.

Slaughter of the innocents

Surely both, that the star appeared and the wise men knew to follow it to find the baby Jesus, was a miracle. Can there be any doubt? So why did it lead them to Jerusalem, the wrong town — and much worse — to Herod, who only became aware of His rival after the wise men inquired about the new born King of the Jews? It was then that Herod resolved to kill Jesus.

How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do?

This is essentially the point, I believe, which has come out of, or driven, much of the conversation over the last few days between labreuer, Andy Schueler and myself on another thread. We popped down many rabbit holes, including free will, slavery, epistemology, history, the problem of evil and oughts. The conversation was quick and frenetic, so I decided to move it here, and start not afresh but with a streamlined trajectory. Here is what I think was labreuer’s core gist (his own comment):

I am rationally Islamaphobic

This may be an oxymoron because a phobia is often, though not always, seen as an irrational or disproportionate fear of something, I contest that my fear of Islam is either disproportionate or irrational. I have a fear which is, I argue, perfectly rational; empirical, even.