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science, religion, conspiracy and philosophy

Divining for Guilt and Innocence

All religious cultures get involved with divination, at some point in their histories.The 1952 edition of the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge defines “divination” as ‘the supposed art of discovering the will of the gods, of forecasting the future from indications ascribed to them, or of deciding from phenomena supposedly supernatural the correct course of action to be followed.’ (450) There is some object of the divination that acts as a sign. This object and its behaviour is taken to impart special knowledge to the practitioner of the divination.

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Is Michelle Obama a Man?

Yesterday, conspiracist radio show host Alex Jones raised a theory that had hitherto only been percolating in the deep and dark recesses of internet conspiracy forums. Despite the recurrent lunacy of Jones’ rants, he has a large following in the United States, especially among the so-called “patriot” movement and survivalists. It will be interesting to see what effect Jones’ words will have on public opinion.

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Wittgenstein and Religion

Ludwig Wittgenstein is often regarded as the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century. He wasn’t.

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Fazale Rana and the Hand Holding Twin: Facebook Squabble

Recently, Christians have been more than a little excited by the following CNN article titled Dying Twin Holds Sister’s Hand in Sonogram. Why would they be excited by this news story? For the obvious reason that it appears to show an act of compassion or support from one twin to the other.

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Conspiracy Theories of the Presidential Candidates

With the presidential election looming, and with candidates ramping up their campaigns during the primaries, let’s take a look at some of the candidates’ more wonky beliefs. Continue reading “Conspiracy Theories of the Presidential Candidates”

Forgotten Falsifications pt 2: Extinction

Another looming intellectual development was about to shake the foundations of creationist theory even more strongly than the discovery of antipodean peoples. In 1665, Robert Hooke published his humble little book Micrographia, which is mostly a collection of descriptions of scientifically interesting objects under the microscope. In this book, a theory was proposed that would utterly change biology and theology alike. Continue reading “Forgotten Falsifications pt 2: Extinction”

Forgotten Falsifications pt 1: Antipodeans

In the 1st and 2nd century Greek and Roman geographers, such as Crates of Mallus, Pomponius Mela and Strabo described the world as a sphere divided into four quadrants, each with an island of dry land surrounded by ocean. At the poles were zones of uninhabitable frigidity and at the equator was an uninhabitable and unbreachable torrid zone. In between these there were two temperate zones, one northern and one southern. The hypothesis that humans may exist at the antipodes was discussed by ancient writers, such as Aristotle and Plato. This hypothesis was an unproblematic one for the early Greeks and Romans to put forward, given that there was no religious injunction or taboo against such a speculation, and it was in keeping with a notion of geographical balance that the Cratesian model suggested. But in any case, the hypothesis was believed to be an unprovable speculation, given that, as the theory said, the torrid zone was so hot that to breach it was an impossibility. The existence of antipodean peoples, then, was an acceptable, if purely speculative, hypothesis. It was an indulgence of the imagination, never to be certainly established.
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Noah’s Ark Back on Track (Again?)!

 

For those outside the loop, Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis (AiG) ministry has been building a full-sized replica Noah’s Ark in the heart of Kentucky. The Ark Encounter, as it is called, will hold an interactive museum full of biblical displays and animatronic animals (so-called ancestral kinds or baramins)including, of course, dinosaurs and behemoth.

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Pseudo-Fallacies: I’m Not Racist, But Some of My Best Friends are Hitler

Recently, I have noticed that there are a variety of what might be called pseudo-fallacies that have steadily made ground in popular culture. One is expected to avoid these turns of phrase, or methods of reasoning, on the grounds that they are in some sense “illegal moves” in a debate or heated discussion. However, the three that I will look at today are not obviously fallacious despite being treated as such by many people. They are not formal fallacies, and not always informal fallacies either. These pseudo-fallacies are just unfashionable phrases that often get misused.

Continue reading “Pseudo-Fallacies: I’m Not Racist, But Some of My Best Friends are Hitler”

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