Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Appearing in St. Louis

I'll be in St. Louis, Missouri the first week of May on a whirlwind tour of four events on three days. I'll be selling and signing my books at all three venues. And all do ask for small donations.

(1) First is a debate in the Responsible Public Debate series held by the Ethical Society of St. Louis (which I hear is the largest ethical society in the nation) on Tuesday, May 3, from 7pm to 9pm. I'll be debating "Is Happiness the Goal of Morality?" arguing in the affirmative against Mike McKay, president of the Skeptical Society of St. Louis. This will take place at the Ethical Society itself on 9001 Clayton Rd. (St. Louis, Missouri).

(2) Second is a reprise of my recent San Francisco talk for Skeptics in the Pub (sponsored again by the Skeptical Society of St. Louis), on Friday, May 6, from 7pm to 9pm, at Jack Patrick's Bar & Grill (downstairs), 1000 Olive St. (St. Louis, Missouri), on the corner of 10th and Olive. Topic: "From Robots to the Moon: Amazing Science and Technology of the Ancient World" (Same as last week: Dr. Richard Carrier, a specialist in ancient science and technology, surveys just a few examples of amazing achievements in scientific and technical knowledge among the Greeks and Romans, including computers, robots, automated factories, the invention of latitude and longitude, controlled medical experiments, and discovering the elliptical orbit of the moon).

(3) Third is an educational all-day event: two seminars, broken by lunch, which I'll be giving at the behest of the Rationalist Society of St. Louis (which also maintains a meetup site for event planning and information), on Saturday, May 7, at a venue still to be determined (possibly Hoops Hall on 1806 Allen Ave., St. Louis, MO, but check the dedicated meetup page the week before, because if they get more than twenty RSVPs they'll need a bigger place--so also be sure to RSVP if you plan to go). You can attend one or the other, or both (and make a day of it). The first will be run from 11am to 1pm, followed by an hour for lunch. The second will then be run from 2pm to 4pm. The two events are:

Mastering Logical Reasoning (11am-1pm): An interactive class covering how formal logic works, and why it's useful even if you only think and argue informally. Different modes of logic will be discussed, with entertaining examples. Learn about such weird, exotic animals as disjunctive syllogisms and Bayes' Theorem. And how to use them to think soundly, spot errors, and argue effectively. Everyone should bring one or more actual arguments (for god or against naturalism--or on any subject at all--from books or online) for us to break down and analyze. Print or jot down as much of the formal structure as you can and bring it on in.

Ancient Christian Hostility to Science (2pm-4pm): Learn with shock and horror what the first Christian intellectuals said about science and scientific values, and see how starkly it contrasted with the religious values expressed by pagans. Excellent companion piece to the previous night's talk for Skeptics in the Pub, which will have covered the achievements of ancient pagan scientists (and nothing else). So some of you might want to catch both, as the Pub talk will discuss the actual scientific knowledge and achievements of the ancients, while Saturday's talk will then discuss the Christian response to those achievements (and what the pagans thought about them, too).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Obama a War Criminal?

I'd like to post today some (hopefully) educational and philosophical thoughts on a major current event of considerable importance, on which every American should be well informed.

There has been much said of late (by both liberals and conservatives, even on the usually well-informed Daily Show) to the effect that Obama is a war criminal, because his aerial assault on Libya was unconstitutional and had no legal standing. Simply because he didn't get congressional permission first. This keeps getting repeated, by members of congress no less (who of all people ought to know better), even though it's obviously false to anyone actually aware of the law (much less its precedents: Reagan and Clinton both did exactly the same thing, multiple times, despite being icons of an "ideal president" for both the right and the left).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Appearing in Orange County

A day after my Riverside appearance I'll also be speaking to the Orange County Backyard Skeptics in Villa Park, California (at 7pm, Thursday, April 14). To attend (and get the venue address--it's held literally in a member's private but lovely backyard) you must be a member of their meetup group (which you can join here), or personally invited by a member. Suggested donation is $5 (or $10 if you'll be enjoying food provided during the event). I'll be selling and signing my books as usual. The topic will be "How Christianity Began Is Proof Enough It's Bunk," in which I'll discuss some of the essential features of how and when the Christian religion began and why it looks exactly like just another religious cult of its time and place, and not at all like the idea of a universal god.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Appearing in Wichita

That's right, I'll be speaking on Rapture Day! What's that, you ask? Here's the official announcement, from the event organizers (the Air Capital Skeptics and the Secular Student Alliance):
Rapture Day is going to be a day of great speakers giving presentations with a focus on religion and how it relates to various doomsday claims. The event will be held at the Wichita State University CAC theater on 21 May 2011. This is the date that Harold Camping, a Christian broadcaster, has claimed will be the day of the Rapture. We are putting this event on for two primary reasons. The first and most important is to have some fun and let other secular thinkers in the area know that they are definitely not alone. The second is to help educate people on the nature and history of these types of claims and help expose how this fatalistic thinking is a danger to our modern society.
Learn all about this event at its official website (RaptureDay.org). It will last all Saturday, 9am to 5pm (see the whole event schedule). The talks all sound like they'll be entertaining. The venue is located at the campus of Wichita State University on Isely Lane (off Perimeter road), near the corner of 17th and Yale (in Wichita, Kansas). I will of course be around and my books will be for sale all day. I'll be happy to sign anything you buy, anytime, as long as you don't interrupt the speakers when approaching me.

Speakers include myself ("You’re all Gonna Die! How the Jews Kept Failing to Predict Doomsday and Caused Christianity Instead"), Blair Scott of American Atheists ("The End Is Near! (Again)"), author and psychologist Darrell Ray ("Exposing the God Virus: Religion as a Mental Infection"), controversial author and activist David Fitzgerald ("The Ten Thousand Christs and the Evaporating Jesus"), the notorious and beloved rabble-rouser J.T. Eberhard ("Dear Christian"), and the always hilarious (but kidding on the square) Brother Sam Singleton ("Patriarchs and Penises").

If you plan to attend, please register so they can be sure to accommodate everyone! And if you want to help out, or even just ensure that more events like this will happen in the region, please donate to their cause. If enough donations come in for events like this, other groups will be encouraged to launch such efforts themselves, and hey, it's just a great way to show your support for organized atheism in the United States, giving it a public profile that shows the people and the politicians that we are not an unmotivated fringe group, but a major demographic that really believes in the cause of reason.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why I Am Not a Christian

A donor who wishes to remain anonymous has commissioned on my behalf a print publication of a slightly updated version of my 2006 essay "Why I Am Not a Christian." All proceeds will go to me. He just wanted it to exist so he could hand it out to door knocking evangelists, and make other handy uses of it in his own atheist evangelism. At the donor's request (and generous payment) I made several minor additions and some changes, to get its content up to date. It is available in print and kindle.

For those unfamiliar with the original, it explains the four reasons I do not accept the Christian religion, describing four facts of the world that, had they been different, I would believe. Those four reasons are God's silence, God's inaction, the lack of evidence, and the way the universe looks exactly like a godless universe would, and not at all like a Christian universe would, even down to its very structure. I address all the "usual" replies to these claims, in ways you might not have heard before, relying on my wide experience in debating and studying these issues all over the world for more than fifteen years.

In this version I am brief, clear, and down to earth, covering the whole topic in under ninety pages of easy-to-read explanation. My donor is right, it does make a perfect book to introduce yourself, or your friends, to why fewer educated people are embracing Christianity than ever before, and is ideal for handing out to door-to-door missionaries. I don't expect everyone will want one (it's content isn't new), but for the above uses it's handy and cheap, and makes for an easy read. I'll be selling copies at all my upcoming venues.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Moral Ontology

Ontology is the study of “being,” i.e. what it means for something to “be” or “exist.” I have discussed on other occasions the ontology of time and the ontology of logic and mathematics (among other things, in numerous places). A couple weeks ago for a Christian youth group (Stand to Reason) I was asked to discuss the ontology of moral facts, expanding on questions that remained after last year. A crucial section of my Sense and Goodness without God on all this is III.5 (pp. 119-34), esp. III.5.4-5 (pp. 124-34).

From the questions that I heard this year I can provide a new summary of my view on this subject, which I will support with formal, peer reviewed arguments and references to the leading scholarship in a chapter soon to appear in The End of Christianity, edited by John Loftus (the sequel to The Christian Delusion), which I'll blog about as soon as it is released. Of course much of the informal argument and bibliography already appears in my book Sense and Goodness without God (and I've blogged about this subject colloquially before: see the amusing Darla the She-Goat).

Moral realism is the view that there are moral statements that are meaningful and true, and true independent of your opinion or culture. I am a moral realist. That means I must be able to ontologically ground the existence of moral facts, and in things other than popular opinions or merely cultural facts. When I say they "exist" I have to explain what I mean by that: in what sense, and in what way, do they "exist," particularly as I am a first-order physicalist (I believe everything that exists is solely and entirely caused by physical things and events: see Defining the Supernatural), so I must be able to reduce moral facts to physical facts in some way.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Appearing in Riverside

I will be speaking in Riverside, California on Wednesday, April 13 (2011), for the Inland Empire Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics, from 7pm to 9pm (doors open at 6pm), at the Universalist Unitarian Church on 3657 Lemon Street (see the meetup page for the event). Admission is $5 (but free to students and the unemployed). I will be selling and signing my books afterward.

Topic: Defending Naturalism as a Worldview: Why We Should Care. I will talk in plain terms how to win the culture war through greater attention to worldview theory. We should all study the philosophy of naturalism because every element is interrelated and stands in direct opposition to supernatural worldviews used to attack us and make our society dysfunctional, yet on every point naturalism is obviously correct. This is a weapon you need to know how to use in order to win the culture war. Otherwise you are going to be outgunned by the Christian elite and their mindless flock, who are aware of this weapon's importance and are already very good at using it. You should be too. Come see why--and how.