Get a good look before you buy

One of those zany Islamic “scholars” in Egypt has issued a very useful bit of advice in a video. (Is it still called a fatwa if it’s on a video? Is there some different word for it if it partakes of the novel technology? Is there a fatwa for that?)

Men can spy on women in the shower, an extremist cleric has argued in Egypt, prompting outrage from other Islamic scholars.

According to Osama al-Qusi, a Salafist or ultraorthodox preacher, peeping toms can watch a woman wash as long as they are interested in marrying her. [Read more...]

Guest post: Because their religion demands it

Originally a comment by Eric MacDonald on Guest post on Sam Harris and the duties of public intellectuals. (So yes, a meta-guest post.)

I think there are two sides to this story, and Atran’s claims cannot be taken as scientifically confirmed. For example, in the article Ophelia links entitled: “Here He Goes Again: Sam Harris’s Falsehoods,” Atran makes claims which, while true in terms of his own research, do not necessarily subvert some (at least) of Harris’s conclusions.

For example, Atran says: “Harris’s generalizations of his own fMRIs on belief change among a few dozen college students as supportive of his views of religion as simply false beliefs are underwhelming.” This is unquestionably true, as I have said before in connexion with Boghossian’s claims in his book “How to make atheists.” Specific beliefs, as such, are very often either very poorly understood or provide simply the background of religious action. But it does not follow that explicit beliefs do not underlie the actions of many religious people.

[Read more...]

Choose your victims well

The Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists remembers James Foley.

He was already well known to CPJ staff, who along with many other groups and individuals had advocated for his release when he was captured by pro-Qadaffi forces in Libya in 2011 and held for six weeks.

Foley had been with three other journalists when they came under fire near Brega. One, Anton Hammerl, a freelance South African photographer, was killed.

[Read more...]

What can cure Ebola

What can cure Ebola? Apparently if it’s prompt enough and intensive enough, aggressive supportive care has a good chance of curing it. The better the hospital, the better the cure rate. Poverty is key here.

The two American Ebola patients, medical missionaries Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, have walked out of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta infection-free.

They were the first human beings to receive an experimental drug called ZMapp. But they are not the first people to have recovered from Ebola, and good hospital care is likely more responsible for their recovery than any mysterious “serum,” as the charities they work for termed it. [Read more...]

Setting a place for emotion

I’ve been very critical* of Richard Dawkins’s recent Twitter dictats on abortion and Down syndrome, but now I get a chance to defend him, and from some of his own ardent supporters at that.

As you all no doubt know, he posted an apology plus explanation yesterday. What I want to take issue with here is not the post but a comment replying to a pair of comments pointing out the importance of emotions and persuasion in discussions of moral issues.

Do you have a list of topics at hand about which we should avoid talking logically? That would be most convenient for everyone concerned. Even if you can’t see the absurdity of that, consider that your list would differ from everyone else’s list of sensitive topics and we’d end up with very little that we could indeed discuss rationally.

You say that you marveled at the Blind Watchmaker and were thrilled by the God Delusion. Did you find them to be well balanced between rational argument and emotional sentiment? I, personally, did not find any patronizing emotional arguments in those two, and if there had been they would not only be unreadable, but insufferable. Why should your sensitivities trump those who are offended by analyzing religion too closely?

[Read more...]

Guest post on Sam Harris and the duties of public intellectuals

Guest post by Simon Frankel Pratt.

I think that Harris is good at presenting a kind of naive though not completely stupid position that many thoughtful but poorly informed secular Western liberals are likely to arrive at. In a sense, his positions should be the challenge or the foil against which informed experts and public intellectuals frame their answers. For example, Harris’s views on the links between religion and violence are almost entirely wrong, as scholars such as Atran have shown, but they are understandable.

The problem is, of course, that Harris does not engage with the experts. [Read more...]

Like a trucking company

Cardinal Pell is another one vying for the Zero Empathy Remark of the Year Award.

Cardinal George Pell has strongly defended the so-called Melbourne Response as Australia’s first comprehensive redress scheme for victims of clerical sexual abuse at the royal commission.

Appearing at the commission via video link from the Vatican in Rome on Thursday night, Cardinal Pell likened the Catholic Church’s responsibility for child abuse to that of a ”trucking company”. If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, he said, ”I don’t think it appropriate for the … leadership of that company be held responsible.”

[Read more...]


Dawkins is trending on Facebook again, thanks to his Most Recent Tweet of Infamy. At the top of the list I see (I assume the list is different for different people, because of their different Facebook histories) there are a lot of mainstream media stories and some Facebook posts by friends, and then after that…there is a long stream of right-wing, Christian, anti-abortion links.

Fabulous. Very very helpful.

There’s The Blaze.

There’s Christian News Network. [Read more...]