‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

James Lovelock on Science and Climate Scepticism

James Lovelock believes that there is a place for scepticism in science, especially when it becomes overbearing and monolithic - although he doesn't have confidence that human beings will stop climate change from happening.
James Lovelock: 'humans too stupid to stop climate change', says maverick scientist

As reported in the Telegraph "that the recent events surrounding the topic had left his thoughts about climate change “sceptics” thawing. ...“What I like about sceptics is that in good science you need critics that make you think: 'Crumbs, have I made a mistake here?' If you don't have that continuously, you really are up the creek,” he said....“The good sceptics have done a good service, but some of the mad ones I think have not done anyone any favours. ..."You need sceptics, especially when the science gets very big and monolithic." "

and in the Guardian - James Lovelock: 'Fudging data is a sin against science' he comments that "I don't know enough about carbon trading, but I suspect that it is basically a scam. The whole thing is not very sensible.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Science and uncertainty

Scientists need the guts to say: I don’t know - From climate change to swine flu, we must rebuild trust by being honest about risk

David Spiegelhalter writes; "Acknowledgement of uncertainty may even increase public confidence in pronouncements. Recent events, whether the justification for the Iraq War or “Climategate”, have reinforced the fact that trust is the crucial factor — although this may be even more difficult to achieve than certainty. "

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Jonathan Chaplin on the Equality BIll

Chaplin of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics argues robustly that there is a need for Christian Churches and organisations to retain their freedom to hire people on the basis of their beliefs. This he believes is a matter of conscience and it is not for a secular state to prohibit such freedoms. He wonders why political ideology is not subject to the same campaign.

Chaplin also wonders why the liberal para-church 'think-tank' Ekklesia is campaigning for Christians to be denied their freedom in this way. He writes "But [Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia] is not entitled to call upon coercive law to force churches to conform to his views of sexual ethics – getting the state to succeed where he has failed. It's incredible that such a position should be advanced in pursuit of the principle of equal regard."

These amendments should stay: The equality bill must not be used to undermine the right of religious organisations to govern themselves

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Is Michael Ruse flogging a Dead Moral Horse?

Ruse asks us to believe that morality is subjective, a product of our genes. We only believe it is objective because our genes determine that is better for us. Let’s be frank, atheism kills morality, and any attempt to get it up and running in a godless system is futile. He writes in this article; God is dead. Long live morality: Morality is something fashioned by natural selection. That doesn’t diminish its usefulness, or its comfort

‘God is dead, so why should I be good? The answer is that there are no grounds whatsoever for being good….Morality then is not something handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is something forged in the struggle for existence and reproduction, something fashioned by natural selection….Morality is just a matter of emotions…So morality has to come across as something that is more than emotion. It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective.’

There a number of angles to respond to Ruse. Firstly, what is moral? It isn’t enough to say that evolution can make us moral, we have to ask what is good morality. Why should we consider murder to be wrong at a foundational level. As Ruse notes lion’s are often multiple murders so Darwinism doesn’t help us decide. Is morality just about social cooperation? In Hobbes state of nature every man is against every man, or with Darwinian filial affections, every tribe is against every tribe in a state of nature. But that doesn’t stop tribes fighting, whether they be football supporters, Africans or Caucasians. In a state of nature how do we determine what is moral? Darwinism could lead to family or tribal cooperation in exterminating a rival tribe, but not to good morality. Morality has to transcend human emotions to be at all real.

Secondly, what of truth? A commitment to tell the truth is good morality. But if our genes have evolved to lie to us, then how can we know anything moral with confidence, or trust that what our genes are telling us really is the good? This is an argument for relativism and confusion in ethics. Modernism opens the door to post-modernism. Ruse would do well to read Phillip Johnson’s article Nihilism and the End of Law

"Arthur Leff had a deeper understanding of what the death of God ultimately means for man. He saw modern intellectual history as a long, losing war against the nihilism implicit in modernism’s rejection of the unevaluated evaluator who is the only conceivable source for ultimate premises. Leff rejected the nihilism implicit in modernism, but he also rejected the supernaturalism that he had identified as the only escape from nihilism.”

Posted also at Uncommon Descent

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Greens under attack

Environmentalists have come under some unpleasant attacks in the press following some research that shows that they are meaner than others and more likely to break important social rules.

Liars, cheats, thieves: the terrible truth about the mean greens: The right-on brigade has been unmasked. About time too, says Iain Hollingshead

He writes "Do Green Products Make Us Better People?, a paper in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science, argues that those who wear what the authors call the "halo of green consumerism" are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. Faced with various moral choices – whether to stick to the rules in games, for example, or to pay themselves an appropriate wage – the green participants behaved much worse in the experiments than their conventional counterparts. The short answer to the paper's question, then, is: No. Greens are mean"


"We've always suspected they were bullies. In the Seventies British film Nuts in May, Mike Leigh hilariously skewered the sort of couple whose supposed love of the environment ... is really just a device to stop everyone else having fun."

Perhaps this is a bit over the top. But one thing I have noticed is that green campaigners often seem to have little interest in upholding rights and benefits for people and society, but instead over emphasise the need to protect some animal or plant that could live just as well somewhere else. Sometimes it seems that stopping a social benefit is more imortant than protecting nature. There can then be an anti-social lack of balance in their work.

I do wonder whether the need to be alternative and dictatorial towards others in this way is perhaps due to a repressed desire for recognition and acceptance in the community.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Dawkins gets it so wrong Down Under

The Uncommon Descent blog is reporting Dawkins' activity in Australia. Dawkins down Under

Dawkins is up to his usual trick of attacking Christian belief with little substance and fore-thought. He makes out that a world full of atheists would be sweetness and light, while religion is responsible for all the bad things that happen. He carefully overlooks the fact that atheistic regimes top the league table for numbers killed. This is because a world without transcendent values must make up its own, and who is to decide? The Humanist society, or a new Hitler or Stalin, or is it everyman for himself in a Darwinian utopia? Dawkins adopts broadly Christian ethics, although he doesn't admit it, but that need not be the case for atheists. If Dawkins and friends manage to get rid of Christian belief, then what moral conscience is going to stop the new pagans from banning atheism? Atheism attacks rational faith and merely opens the door for all sorts of irrational beliefs where people pray to trees and idols made by a craftsman.