Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

New Book by Alvin Plantinga on Science and Religion

Plantinga takes on the New Atheism in his upcoming book, Where the Conflict Really Lies. Stay tuned for more information.

A friend recently made me aware of this book in which one of the worlds foremost Christian philosophers will seek to address many of the arguments being proffered by New Atheists like Dennett and Dawkins. According to the Oxford University Press website, the book,

illuminates one of our biggest debates--the conflict between science and religion. Plantinga examines where this conflict is said to exist--looking at areas such as evolution, divine action in the world, and the scientific study of religion--and considers claims by Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. He makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive, but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science.

I’ll post more information here as I get it and will write a review of the book as soon as I’m able. Stay tuned.

See the OUP listing here.

Is Religion to Blame? Part 2

The last installment of Table Talk examined the popular notion that religion has been the cause of more wars and conflicts than any other factor. The conclusion included a statement by Dinesh D’ Souza, Christian apologist and author. D’Souza argued that atheists have "greatly exaggerated the crimes that have been committed by religious fanatics while neglecting or rationalizing the vastly greater crimes committed by secular and atheist fanatics."

Many atheists and secularists have presented arguments that attempt to demonstrate that “religion has been the cause of more wars and conflicts than any other factor.” Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Denett, and Sam Harris have led the modern resurgence of these types of arguments. These “four horsemen” have argued that religion is evil and its effects have been felt in history particularly through its role in global conflicts. Dawkins has stated that religion (particularly monotheism) is a bad thing which is described as “the great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture….Religion causes wars by generating certainty” and “…such absolutism nearly always results from strong religious faith and it constitutes a major reason for suggesting that religion can be a force for evil in the world.” Sam Harris contends that “faith inspires violence in at least two ways. First, people often kill other human beings because they believe that the creator of the universe wants them to do it. Second, far greater numbers of people fall into conflict with one another because they define their moral community on the basis of religious affiliation…The conflicts are not always explicitly religious. But the hatred that divides one community from another are often the products of their religious identities.”

As mentioned in the last installment of Table Talk, these statements have been accepted as truisms not only in academia but are starting to be repeated in popular treatments. Are Dawkins and Harris’s arguments sound? Dawkins’ point that monotheism is “the great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture” stems from his perspective about the causes of war and religion’s role in them. But consider the following.

History, specifically 20th century history, shows that numerous anti-religious regimes have caused much bloodshed. RJ Rummell, professor of political science from the University of Hawaii, created the term “democide” which means the murder of any people or person by a government. He has done extensive research in the area of democide and he has concluded that there were more deaths by democide in the 20th century than deaths by war. This means that more people died in the 20th century as a result of recognized governments who unjustly incarcerated people in camps where they died of malnutrition and forced labor or deported people into lands where they would die of exposure and disease. Many of those 20th century governments who committed democide were regimes that committed massacres in the name of anti-religious ideologies such as communism. These regimes included the Stalin regime of the former Soviet Union which killed an estimated 20 million people, the Mao Zedong regime of China which killed an estimated 65 million people, the Pol Pot regime of Cambodia which killed an estimated 2 million people, and other communist regimes in Latin America, North Korea, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique.

In addition to Rummell, other sources such as Jonathan Glover’s powerful book, Humanity, and The Black Book of Communism compiled by a group of French scholars attest to these numbers and atrocities. The 20th century has been considered the bloodiest century mankind has ever known and anti-religious regimes have been the most significant perpetrators in this century. This does not mean that religion played no part in these atrocities as can be seen by recent events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Israel, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite this, much destruction has been caused by anti-religious and militant atheistic governments. Which provides at least prima facie evidence that religion may play a secondary role when it plays a role at all.

From these historical facts, is it justified for one to conclude that all anti-religious ideologies and anti-religionists are corrupt and violent? No, this is not justified and the facts do not permit this conclusion. These anti-religious regimes do not represent all anti-religionists out there and someone who judges all anti-religionists and their ideologies in this fashion is wrong. But why do men such as Dawkins and Harris conclude that religion is evil from the premise that there have been conflicts influenced by religion? They do not draw the same conclusion from the non-religious conflicts that have occurred. They do not conclude that anti-religionists and their ideologies are forces of evil in this world. Dawkins and some of his fellow atheists are guilty of special pleading because they utilize different standards when assessing wars and conflicts with anti-religious elements and when assessing wars and conflicts with religious elements-religion is to blame but anti-religion (e.g. atheism) is not to blame. Why? Dawkins and company have argued that regimes such as the Stalinist, Mao, and Pol Pot regimes were misrepresentations of atheism, but they have not extended this same charity to religion.

If they did, perhaps the current conversation would move in a more productive direction.

Article on The New Atheism on the Huffington Post

I just published my second article on The Huffington Post. In this article, I take a brief look at whether the New Atheist movement really deserves the adjective “new.” I argue that it does but not for the reasons you might think.

The general consensus on the part of professional philosophers on all sides of the question is that the popular arguments being made by new atheists like Dawkins and Dennett are not all that new. Some argue that neither are they particularly strong versions of their classic cousins. At the very least, many find that the new atheist polemic is not being delivered in a way that is particularly winsome or compelling -- a problem that seems to have plagued atheists for as long as there has been atheism.

See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-pardi/whats-so-new-about-the-ne_b_824918.html

CFP: Formal Epistemology Meets Experimental Philosophy

First Pittsburgh -Tilburg workshop on  Formal Epistemology Meets Experimental Philosophy

Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science

29-30 September 2011

http://www.uvt.nl/tilps/FEMEP2011/

*********************************************************************

Over the years, the methodological toolbox of philosophers of science has widened considerably. Today, formal and experimental methods importantly complement more traditional methods such as conceptual analysis and case studies. So far, however, there has not been much interaction between the corresponding communities. Formal work is all too often conducted in an a priori fashion, drawing on intuitions to substantiate various assumptions and to test their consequences. Experimental work, on the other hand, is often limited to testing various assumptions and intuitions, and often does not identify or create new phenomena that can subsequently be integrated into a formal framework. The working assumption of this workshop is that philosophy of science can gain a lot from combining formal and experimental studies. By doing so, philosophy of science will become increasingly scientific as a crucial aspect of the scientific endeavor lies in the combination of formal theories and experimental insights.

This workshop aims to explore the relation between formal and experimental approaches to the philosophy of science. We invite meta-theoretical papers, but especially papers that fruitfully combine both methods to problems from the philosophy of science. This first Pittsburgh-Tilburg workshop will pay special attention to the philosophy of the social sciences, but a focus on other subfields of philosophy of science is also welcome.

We invite submissions of both a short abstract (max. 100 words) and an extended abstract (1000-1500 words) by 1 May 2011. Decisions will be made by 15 May 2011. Submission details here.

Keynote Speakers

Christina Bicchieri, Philadelphia

Mark Colyvan, Sydney

Ralph Hertwig, Basel

Publication

Selected papers will be published in a special issue of Synthese (subject to the usual refereeing process). The submission deadline is 31 December 2011. The maximal paper length is 7000 words.

More information

Cognition, Conduct & Communication

Cognition, Conduct & Communication CCC2011
06.10.11-08.10.11
University of Lódz, Poland

The Chair of Pragmatics at the University of Lódz, Poland is starting a new conference series: Cognition, Conduct & Communication. CCC2011 is the first international conference devoted to a complex yet integrated and consistent study of cognitive approaches to pragmatics and discourse analysis, language learning and use, and language disorders.

Conference focus

  • interdisciplinary yet synergical research in diversified cognitive and pragmatic phenomena and processes pertaining to communication in native and second/foreign language in normally developing as well as disordered individuals
  • cognitive, pragmatic and discourse analytic concepts at work across the contexts of first, second, foreign language acquisition, learning, processing, comprehension and production
  • pragmatic competence and pragmatic awareness development in naturalistic and educational settings, including the effectiveness of educational interventions undertaken to enhance pragmatic skills
  • individual learner/language user differences and pragmatic disorders

Conference discussions will proceed at the intersection of the following areas: cognitive pragmatics, societal pragmatics, clinical pragmatics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, educational psychology, cognitive linguistics, cognitive psychology, applied linguistics, discourse analysis
Research scope/Conceptual instruments/Submission keywords:

  • deixis
  • semantic/pragmatic presupposition
  • speech acts, activity types, genres
  • implicature/impliciture/implicit meaning
  • context
  • relevance
  • (im)politeness
  • intentionality
  • pragmatics of interaction
  • conceptual metaphor
  • rhetorical figures, in particular: irony, metaphor and metonymy
  • persuasion and manipulation
  • humour
  • gendered language
  • non-verbal communication
  • language and emotions
  • interlanguage pragmatics
  • pragmatic development and pragmatic awareness in first/second/foreign language context
  • pragmatics and language teaching; developing communicative competence
  • developing teaching materials for function-focused/pragmatics-driven L2 instruction
  • disorders of language learning and cognition
  • clinical pragmatics; pragmatic disorders

The list is NOT exhaustive

institution: University of Lódz
Chair of Pragmatics (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics)
participants: Piotr Cap (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics/faculty/pcap)
Joanna Nijakowska (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics/faculty/jnijakowska)
Marta Dynel (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics/faculty/mdynel)
contact person: Joanna Nijakowska
email: ccc2011conference@gmail.com

Click link for more information…
http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/CCC2011/

2011 Thomistic Seminar at Princeton

The 2011 Thomistic Seminar:
Themes in the Philosophy of Peter Geach and Thomas Aquinas
John Haldane, Director
August 7-13, 2011

The 2011 Thomistic Seminar is the Witherspoon Institute's sixth annual, week-long, intensive program for graduate students in philosophy and related disciplines. The seminar is devoted to exploring the intersection between analytic philosophy and the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition.

Faculty:
John Haldane, University of St. Andrews
E. J. Lowe, Durham University
Anthony O'Hear, University of Buckingham
Candace Vogler, University of Chicago

Click here for details

A Puzzle Even Harder Than The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever

Certain Doubts has posted a new version of The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever complete with new gods and new responses. It starts out as follows:

Three gods, A, B, and C are called in some order, True, Random, and Devious. True always speaks truly, and whether Random speaks truly or falsely or whether Random speaks at all is a completely random manner. . .

Get the rest here.

The Online Consciousness Conference

What is it?

The Online Consciousness Conference was founded and is organized by Richard Brown and is dedicated to the rigorous study of consciousness and mind. The goal is to bring philosophers, scientists, and interested lay persons together in an online venue to promote high-level discussion and exchanging of views, ideas and data related to the scientific and philosophical study of consciousness. A subsidiary goal is to promote and facilitate interaction between online venues and traditional print venues.

How does it work?

Presentation materials will be posted on the third Friday in February and will remain open for discussion for two weeks (that being ‘the conference’). During this two weeks discussion takes place in the comments section. It is much like blogging, only during a specific two week period. As such it can be done from anywhere at any time! After the conference the comments section will be closed (unless requested to be left open by author). Presentations, videos, papers, etc and discussion are left for people to view (unless the presenter requests otherwise) but no new comments are approved. The best way to get a feel for what goes on here is to browse previous conferences by going to the program for that year and clicking on the title of the talk you want to “attend”.

When is it?

The 2011 conference runs from February 18th -March 4th 2011.

For more information and to read the papers, visit their website.

Philosophy News on The Huffington Post

logo_religion_hpI recently got an article published to The Huffington Post in which I talk about the change American religion is undergoing. It took some core concepts I developed in an article I wrote in the summer of 2010 and put them into a format digestible for a wider audience. I would appreciate your visit to the article and post a comment or Facebook Like it if you’re inclined!

Paul

Epistemic Norms & Values Symposium

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville

March 25th-26th, 2011

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee (with generous support from the Humanities Initiative within the UTK Office of Research) is pleased to announce the upcoming Epistemic Norms & Values Symposium, which will take place on Friday and Saturday, March 25th-26th, 2011.  The speakers will be Robert Audi (Notre Dame), EJ Coffman (Tennessee), Thomas Kelly (Princeton), Jonathan Kvanvig (Baylor), and Linda Zagzebski (Oklahoma).

For more information, including the conference schedule, please visit: http://web.utk.edu/~ecoffma1/epistemic_norms_values_symposium.htm

Visitors to the symposium are welcome, and attendance is free.  If you are interested in attending or have any questions about the symposium, please contact EJ Coffman at ecoffma1@utk.edu.

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Interview with

Dr. Robert McKim
  • on Religious Diversity
  • Professor of Religion and Professor of Philosophy
  • Focuses on Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

Interview with

Dr. Alvin Plantinga
  • on Where the Conflict Really Lies
  • Emeritus Professor of Philosophy (UND)
  • Focuses on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

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Dr. Peter Boghossian
  • on faith as a cognitive sickness
  • Teaches Philosophy at Portland State University (Oregon)
  • Focuses on atheism and critical thinking
  • Has a passion for teaching in prisons
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