The last few weeks have been a whirlwind centred around the terrorist group knows as the Islamic State. First, several attacks in Paris left 129 dead and countless others injured, then a bomb threat in Germany and a threat by ISIS to attack the rest of Europe and Washington, D.C. Fear grips the hearts of people around the world in an iron vice. And that is exactly what ISIS wants. Right now, they are winning.
It is often articulated in society that Christianity and science/technology are at odds. While most people of faith do not hold this belief, it is imperative that the church universal continue to dispute this negative stereotype. The most effective way that Christians can do so is by actively affirming their support for people called to work in the fields of science and technology.
The following sections are hereby added to the Nevada Transhumanist Party Platform. Pursuant to Article I, Section XXV, these sections are not officially considered part of the Nevada Transhumanist Party Constitution at this time, but shall have equivalent standing to the Platform Sections within that Constitution. It will be possible to officially amend the Nevada Transhumanist Party Constitution to include these statements during periodic biennial filings of Certificates of Continued Existence with the Nevada Secretary of State.
The recent slaughters of hundreds of innocent civilians in Paris, in Ankara, in Beirut, and aboard the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 illustrate without a shadow of doubt that the threat from the barbaric sect known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, and the Islamic State cannot be contained within the Middle East. ISIS is an enemy of humanity, decency, and Western civilization. It will continue killing completely peaceful civilians of Western nations, both in their home countries and abroad, in gruesome ways. ISIS is a cancer upon humanity, and it will continue to metastasize and inflict damage until it is either eradicated or until it completely kills its host. Like cancer, ISIS cannot coexist with a healthy humankind. This cancerous “Islamic State” should be eradicated using the resources of any willing parties.
The Universe can be defined in many ways. What is clear is that there are different levels of realities, which are interacting with one another. Matter is arranged in atoms, which taken together turns into molecules. These molecules arrange themselves in larger objects, such as grains of sand, rock, driplets of liquid, single-cell organisms or cells belonging to larger organisms. This diverse symphony of matter forms eco-systems which form a biosphere that constantly develops through evolution – a neverending symphony of beauty and colours.
Yesterday’s post discussed some problems with grounding the meaning of life on religious beliefs. However, there is another argument which severs the connection between religious truth and the meaning of life. And that argument is that the truth of religion is irrelevant to the question of life’s meaning. In other words, even if some religion is true, it does not matter for our concerns. We can see this if we try to state exactly how it is that religion gives life meaning, something surprisingly hard to formulate.
The main problem with any proposed religious answer to the question of the meaning of life is that, in general, religious beliefs are probably false. After all, there is no convincing evidence for the gods, an afterlife, or other supernatural phenomena that persuades most philosophers. (Only a small minority of professional philosophers are theists.)
In early 2014, Richard Loosemore published a paper called “The Maverick Nanny with a Dopamine Drip: Debunking Fallacies in the Theory of AI Motivation“, which criticized some thought experiments about the risks of general AI that had been presented. Like many others, I did not really understand the point that this paper was trying to make, especially since it made the claim that people endorsing such thought experiments were assuming a certain kind of an AI architecture – which I knew that we were not.
I generally avoid political issues in this blog, but there are a number of very disturbing trends in American politics today that demand attention. The reason for that attention is simple. As both Plato and Aristotle reasoned long ago, one cannot have a good life without a good government; without a good government, few of us will be able to live well.
Around the 5th century B.C.E. the Greek polis of Athens, which would become one of the largest empires of the Mediterranean, instated what was a very novel and advanced system of government. Coming from the Greek word Demokratia, which refers to the entirety of the citizen body, the Athenians created the first real sophisticated direct democracy. This form of democratic governance differed considerably from contemporary systems. The Athenian system provided “equal political rights, freedom of speech, and the opportunity to participate directly in the political arena”. However, this distribution of political power only applied to the free male citizen body that was of legal age (18 years).
Sometimes atheist Transhumanists ask me, “What do imaginary sky masters have to do with Transhumanism?” Of course there’s an appeal to ridicule in the question, so it’s not exactly a shining model of rational engagement. But underlying the ridicule is a real question worth addressing. Here’s my answer:
Thanks to Luke Robert Mason, I’ve now got up to speed on the controversy surrounding Zoltan Istvan’s candidacy for the US Presidency in 2016. Istvan is a Columbia philosophy and religion graduate and author of the science fiction book, The Transhumanist Wager. But he is perhaps nowadays best known from driving a coffin-shaped bus across the United States to dramatize his primary policy commitment – namely, that the US government should work towards extending the life expectancy of its citizens indefinitely.
In recent years, the issue of gay rights in Africa has generated intense debate and discussions. Some countries have tried to tighten the laws against homosexuality and prohibit same sex marriage. They claim homosexuality is an evil, corrupt and immoral lifestyle which western societies are trying to impose on African nations.
You know the shocking story: in January 2015, two masked Islamist gunmen launched a paramilitary attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly magazine. The gunmen murdered twelve people: two police officers and ten of the magazine’s staff, including the much-loved editor and cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier (known as “Charb”).
In the immediate aftermath, many people expressed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo’s staff and their loved ones, and with the citizens of Paris. There were vigils and rallies in cities across the world. Twitter hashtags proliferated, the most viral being #JeSuisCharlie: “I am Charlie.”
Catholic Pro-life organization wants you to just put up with suffering—and actually says so!
The American Life League [ALL] mobilizes devout Catholics against medical options that, to their way of thinking, violate God’s will. If you should drive past a Planned Parenthood and see elderly women fingering rosary beads next to pictures of the Virgin Mary, or young men holding Bibles and praying, American Life League probably had a hand in their presence there. Ironically, ALL also spreads misinformation about birth control, for example via a Pill Kills campaign—which means they feed the line-up of Catholic women waiting for abortion services.
I am against the ongoing efforts and campaign by the Catholic Church to make the late South African schoolteacher, Benedict Daswa, a saint. While I acknowledge the heroic struggle waged by Daswa against witchcraft based violence and exploitation of his Venda people, a struggle that eventually led to his brutal murder; while I understand the need to celebrate and commemorate his life, legacy and achievement, this initiative to make him an object of ‘worship’ or reverence by the catholic establishment is a self-serving scheme and is literally an insult on the memory of this critical and courageous mind.
Thank you Foundation Beyond Belief for selecting me as the recipient of the Heart of Humanism Award for 2015. I believe I have just received the best award the world has to offer.
Superstition confuses the mind. It distorts reality, hardens the conscience and poisons the heart. Irrational belief drains the well of human compassion causing suffering, death, darkness and destruction. As Voltaire once noted, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”.
In the North of Ghana, among the Dagomba, the name for a witch is Sonya, and a wizard is Bukpaha. But in local discourse there is often no reference to Bukpaha. Sonya is commonly used to refer to a person, male or female (though largely female), who engages in malevolent magic.
Another Dagomba term for Sonya is Pakurugu, which means an old woman, or as the English speaking Dagomba say, an ‘old lady’. Among the Dagomba, the notion of witchcraft has a female face. Men are more often perceived as ‘doctors’ with the cure for witchcraft.
In 1984, Aaron Sloman published “The Structure of the Space of Possible Minds,” in which he described the task of providing an interdisciplinary description of that structure. He observed that “behaving systems” clearly comprise more than one sort of mind and suggested that virtual machines may be a good theoretical tool for analyzing mind designs.
Imagine that someone hated you (or your company) and wanted to make you look bad. So, he pretended to be a friend or colleague, went to your events, repeatedly asked you to meetings or lunch, gained your trust, and then spent two years recording private conversations. Could he find stuff that would make you sound like a heartless monster? If you’re like me, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, there’s no way it would take years.
The argument from abandonment and suffering is a specific version of the problem of evil. Erik Wielenberg defends the argument in his recent paper ‘The parent-child analogy and the limits of skeptical theism’. That paper makes two distinctive contributions to the literature, one being the defence of the argument from abandonment and suffering, the other being a meta-argument about standards for success in the debate between skeptical theists and proponents of the problem of evil.
A lot has been said about militant Islam and extreme Christian, traditional religious practices in Nigeria. There has been much focus on violent attacks by the jihadist group, Boko Haram, on the abuses perpetrated by sharia policing agencies and the nefarious activities of homophobic pentecostal churches and witch hunting pastors in the country. Unfortunately not much attention has been paid to the efforts of humanists, atheists, skeptics and agnostics in the country to address these problems. Not many Nigerians know about the campaigns by humanists against witch hunting, blasphemy law and harmful traditional practices. In fact not many Nigerians know that humanists and humanist groups exist in the country.
Theists sometimes argue that God’s existence is essential for meaning in life. In a quote that I have used far too often over the years, William Lane Craig puts it rather bluntly:
If there is no God, then man and the universe are doomed. Like prisoners condemned to death, we await our unavoidable execution. There is no God, and there is no immortality. And what is the consequence of this? It means that life itself is absurd. It means that the life we have is without ultimate significance, value or purpose. (Craig 2007, 72)
This is a letter to the late Christopher Hitchens, disputing his take on the historical role of the concept (not the reality) of monotheism as being utterly evil. It posits that monotheism played a vital role in the development of science, constitutionalism and social justice – that Occam’s Razor (vital to the development of both science and constitutionalism) is historically dependent on theological disputes ‘proving’ the existence of one god.
Now that the U.S., and other countries, have legalized gay marriage, we asked “Should polygamy, polyandry and plural marriage also be legalized?” The Right has long used the argument that the logic for permitting gay marriage would apply equally to plural marriage, and some of us in favor of gay marriage have long agreed. Of the 129 respondents to the IEET poll, the IEET audience favored legalizing plural marriage by an almost 3-to-1 majority.
Meaning is important. People want to live meaningful lives. They want to make a ‘difference’. They want for it all to ‘matter’. Some people think that this is only possible if God exists. They say that if God does not exist, then we are doomed to live finite lives on a finite planet in a finite universe. Everything will eventually collapse, crumble and die. It will all be for naught. But if God does exist, there is hope. He will save us; He can guarantee our eternal lives in the most perfect state of being; He can imbue the universe with purpose and value.
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