Charlie Hebdo

These are great reads:

and

Shame on these PEN members. Freedom and reason rejected.

Jeff Coyne’s blog post cuts through the BS of certain PEN members. Roll of shame indeed.

Peter Carey
Michael Ondaatje
Francine Prose
Teju Cole
Rachel Kushner
Taiye Selasi

I have said, and will continue to state, that religion deserves no special privilege, and that it is a right for everyone to criticise religion, to mock it. Those who deny others this right deserve no respect.

Don’t forget the Hebdo victims. Don’t forget the monsters that carried out the massacre. Don’t forget those support the massacre. Don’t forget those that refuse to condemn the massacre.

At New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/27/nyregion/six-pen-members-decline-gala-after-award-for-charlie-hebdo.html

But Salman Rushdie, a former PEN president who lived in hiding for years after a fatwa in response to his novel “The Satanic Verses,” said the issues were perfectly clear. Mr. Ondaatje and Mr. Carey were old friends of his, he said, but they are “horribly wrong.”

“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

The origin and development of the Old Testament

I love how certain universities make available a number of free resources such as lectures. One resource, in particular, that I’ve really enjoyed has been Yale University’s “Introduction to the Old Testament” by Christine Hayes. There are many hours of video material from this introductory course, and I would recommend that these are augmented through further personal research.

The course description:

This course examines the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) as an expression of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel, and a foundational document of Western civilization. A wide range of methodologies, including source criticism and the historical-critical school, tradition criticism, redaction criticism, and literary and canonical approaches are applied to the study and interpretation of the Bible. Special emphasis is placed on the Bible against the backdrop of its historical and cultural setting in the Ancient Near East.

Fascinating stuff!

According to Wikipedia:

Christine Hayes is the Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and one of the foremost American academics focusing on talmudic-midrashic studies and Classical Judaica. She is also a specialist in the History and Literature of Judaism in Late Antiquity. Before her appointment at Yale, she served as the Assistant Professor of Hebrew Studies, Department of Near Eastern Studies, at Princeton University from 1993 to 1996. She has published several books and numerous articles in American and international academic journals, and has received academic accolades. Her class on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was selected for the pilot program of “Yale University Open Courses,”  and has subsequently been one of the most watched online courses about Classical Judaica.

Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA)

It is easily demonstrated that non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is an invalid construct; science is the process used to gain an understanding of the world and, as religions claim superstitious phenomena interact with the world, then that phenomena is subject to scientific analysis. The religious deny this, of course, and cling to NOMA. Those particularly fond of NOMA are the so-called accomodationists who want to claim the beauty of science alongside the irrational and the nonsense of religion. Their cognitive dissonance, or delusion, can be highly ingrained. I, therefore, try and link to resources that highlight the nonsense that is NOMA.

Jerry Coyne’s recent article is quite apt:

Also, just for the delight in seeing him perform again, here is a short clip of Christopher Hitchens talking about the incompatibility of religion with reason.

The enemy of your enemy

Razib Khan’s thoughts on the Islamic states in the Middle East and their fundamental failings in modernity and morality. He also expresses the dangers of partnering with various states and groups.

I am not a fan of allying with an enemy of your enemy. We can be better than that.

Victor Stenger – January 29, 1935 – August 27, 2014

Sad news of the death of Victor Stenger.

He was a big influence on me, particularly with respect to clarifying that science is a methodology of explaining observations, an explanation of reality through analysis of evidence, and that this encompasses all phenomena whatever their classification, be they so-called “supernatural” phenomena or other. In order words, the concept of “non overlapping magistaria” is a pile of crock.

Stenger’s book “God: The Failed Hypothesis” is one of those books that everyone should. A real classic.

Gapminder- a brilliant world statistics resource

I recently came across Hans Rosling’s Gapminder. This site has some of the best statistics, videos and other resources that provide realistic representations of global population growth, life expectancy, health, wealth, etc. In the last couple of days it has certainly displaced quite a few myths that I was harbouring. Gapminder has also reinforced my optimism for our future. Certainly challenges remain, but we are an adaptable and intelligent species.

This is a good Gapminder video to get you started!

Gapminder is at http://www.gapminder.org/