Combs-Port Interview

Chris Combs and Daniel Port interviewed me recently on my life and work, as well as my thoughts about cinema as an art medium and on specific films they asked about because they’re my recommendations in my video store (like Pulp Fiction, the Cohen Brothers, my taste in teen films and romantic comedies), and various other related topics (from William Lane Craig to Jesus, philosophy, racism, the Coast Guard, and 80s movies and arcade games). It’s mostly me just rambling on about myself and my thoughts about things as they asked me to do. There was some sound editing that I think removed or compressed some breath pauses, so it sounds a little more frantic than it actually was when we recorded. It’s almost an hour long, and it kind of sounds a lot like an NPR radio interview. If you’re interested, the audio is here on YouTube.

Free Will in American Law: From Accidental Thievery to Battered Woman Syndrome

For my last class on naturalism and free will I composed some readings on Sam Harris’ mistreatment of the concept of free will in American law. I already deal with the legal aspects of “free will” in some detail in Sense and Goodness without God (III.4.5, pp. 109-14), and really any discussion of the subject here must begin there (where I cite and explain key Supreme Court rulings as well as standard concepts like the criteria of guilt and the insanity defense, things the public often gets wrong because they think TV legal dramas accurately portray them). I also cover the whole free will debate generally (in the whole of section III.4, pp. 97-118), and explain the reasons compatibilism provides a more fruitful understanding of free will than any alternative. (I have also blogged on free will several times before.)

But to supplement all that, I’m here reproducing one of those course readings I composed, where I address cases not mentioned in SaG (United States v. Grayson – 438 U.S. 41 (1978) and Morissette v. United States – 342 U.S. 246 (1952)) as well as a legal concept also not mentioned there, “Battered Woman Syndrome” (as a legal defense), which supplements my discussion of the insanity defense in SaG. All of this was compiled in response to Sam Harris’ (IMO awful) book Free Will. I have a lot of problems with that book. But here I’ll be addressing only one claim in it. (For those who are curious, much better books recently on free will, though still flawed, are Gazzaniga’s Who’s in Charge? and Kane’s A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will.) [Read more...]

Not the Impossible Faith Now an Audio Book!

Cover of AudioBook Not the Impossible FaithMy 2009 book Not the Impossible Faith is now available as an audio book. As I did for Sense and Goodness without God and Why I Am Not a Christian, I voiced the text for Pitchstone Publishing. You can buy NIF now through Audible.com or Amazon.com and also iTunes.

As usual, this is a somewhat “abridged” version, in the sense that it contains none of the chapter endnotes (and thus the sources are not there, nor any of the note anchors in the text itself). So for the visually impaired I have assembled those as a single PDF which you can run through a text-to-speech reader if needed (although you’ll have to guess where the notes refer to in the main text; the PDF only segregates them by chapter): see NIFaudiobookNotes.pdf.

There is also a PDF edition of the whole book for under three dollars [here] or an eBook edition for under six dollars [here] or kindle edition for about the same [here]. A voice-to-text on any of those will presumably include the note anchors as well as the notes, but alas it won’t be a human-voiced main text.

How to Do Men’s Rights Rightly

Ever wonder why MRAs promote hatred or hostility toward women when they actually could be doing at least something worthwhile instead? I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this in the last few days (perhaps because of speculations that MRA affiliation had something to do with Justin Vacula being asked to resign from SkepticInc, but that’s not my network so I can’t speak to that).

I’ve said before that MRA groups could have chosen to work as allies with feminists, respectful of women and women’s issues side by side with their own, even sharing contacts, resources, and models for action, just as many other special interest groups do. But that’s not the road they took.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, MRAs are Men’s Rights Activists. MRA can also mean Men’s Rights Activism collectively, but that is more commonly known as the MRM or Men’s Rights Movement. I shall be distinguishing that category (of those who specifically identify as or with men’s “rights” activists) from another, that of men’s issues advocates. There are many of the latter who are exactly what MRAs should be but aren’t: respectful and sensible campaigners for interests unique to men or affecting men in gender-distinct ways. They just don’t pompously describe what they do as advocating for men’s “rights.”

So what went wrong with the MRAs? Instead of acting like other special interest groups of merit, by and large (there may be exceptions; I rarely see them) the MRM has historically developed as a de facto hate movement, specifically in opposition to feminism (MRAs are often explicitly anti-feminist, and almost always at least implicitly so). In every organized instance I know, self-described MRAs endorse or promote sexism or misogyny in some form, and (of interest to skeptics) promote pseudoscience and conspiracy-theory-style claims about the world that are demonstrably false or dubious, but believed because they support a desired narrative or worldview.

And yet, there are those men’s issues organizations that do not identify with the MRM and are not hate groups, but actually do it right. So today I’m going to talk a little about both sides of this divide, to illustrate what “doing men’s rights rightly” would actually have looked like, if the MRM took its cue from those meritorious men’s issues organizations (and other special interest movements altogether), rather than from a baseline hate-filled worldview of delusional anti-feminism. [Read more...]

Transcript of Sobrado Podcast on Atheism+

A few months ago the Tony Sobrado podcast aired an episode in which Sobrado interviewed me skeptically on Atheism+ and I said the following at the time (when I posted about my American Atheists Convention video on the same subject):

I also did a podcast last month on Atheism+ that went up just recently, in which I have a reasonable conversation with someone who disapproves of it, UK political scientist and Huffington Post blogger Tony Sobrado (listen to his Interview with Richard Carrier on Atheism Plus). No hating or flaming, and no straw men or other fallacies. He had concerns based on misunderstandings and missing or incorrect information, asked about them calmly, and gave me the opportunity to answer them. All without any atmosphere of hostility. A model for how to do this. In fact, we covered so much great ground that this is a really good conversation on A+ that could use a written transcript. If anyone has the time and gumption to create one, I will publish it on my blog, with credit.

That podcast was inspired by Sobrado’s Huffington Post article against Atheism+ “What Is Atheism Plus and Do We Need It?” and you can see how we addressed everything in his article on that show. So anyone who may have read that and wondered how we might respond (or was angered by it and wished someone would answer it), this is the podcast for you. But the AACon video is a good introductory piece to start with. The two together tell you pretty much all you need in order to understand what we’re really advocating in the Atheism+ movement and why.

Subsequently, Rachel Hawkes [@RachelHawkes] produced a good transcript of that podcast, with permission, so anyone who prefers reading to listening (and anyone who is hard of hearing) can now follow that podcast from start to finish. See The Tony Sobrado Interview with Richard Carrier on Atheism Plus (6 March 2013). I’d be delighted if anyone maintaining the A+Scribe account [a-plus-scribe.com] entered that in the collection there.

Hey, Free eBook! Christian vs. Atheist Intellectual Cage Match

Cover of the book God or Godless.Today (and today only!) you can get a free eBook, containing a written (and thus carefully thought-out) debate between an Atheist and a Christian. John Loftus (an atheist with two masters degrees, in theology and philosophy, who studied under none other than William Lane Craig) and Randal Rauser (a Canadian evangelical with a doctorate in philosophy) engage in an organized back-and-forth debate on twenty topics in the book God or Godless: One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions.

You can, of course, buy it in print [here]. But this very day (July 1st) a special is on for the kindle and nook editions [although, it appears, only in the U.S. and select other countries]: if you grab it today, the book is free [see kindle and nook]. If you prefer the more generic eBook format, you can get that for free, too, at a Christian vendor [here]. (Although if you missed today, it’s still available on all three platforms for cheap through the end of the month).

Loftus and I have worked together on projects in this field over the years and he made use of my work and advice for some of the positions he takes. But overall, what you get here is what my blurb for the book says:

This is a fascinating and sometimes humorous intro to twenty common debates between atheists and theists. You’ll find countless rambling and confused versions of such debates online. But here you will find a clear, concise, well-written exchange on each. Keeping it short, the authors can’t include every point to be made, but they make a good show of where each side stands on these questions and why. If you want to continue these debates further, start with this.

Indeed, this book is an excellent starting point for any of the twenty debates included. I’d recommend starting any debate online, for example, by having both sides read the corresponding mini-debate in this book, and then continuing from there. And if you just want some ideas for how to debate these topics in general, or even to help you think about them in building your own philosophy of life, this book is well suited as a primer for the task. Even if you don’t think either side is making the very best possible defense of their position, it’s even a useful task to think through how you’d do it better, since both are representative of some of the best approaches. So even then it’s a good place to start.

The twenty questions debated (alternating between the philosophical and the biblical) are (1) the meaning of life, (2) whether early Biblical Judaism was actually monotheistic, (3) the reason to be moral, (4) whether the Bible promoted child sacrifice, (5) the value of religion in respect to science, (6) whether the Bible justified genocide, (7) whether theism or atheism explains the universe better, (8) whether the Bible promoted slavery, (9) whether human reason and knowledge require God, (10) whether the Bible is sexist, (11) whether love can exist without God, (12) whether the Biblical God cares one whit about animals, (13) whether even atheists “just have faith,” (14) whether the Biblical God was scientifically illiterate, (15) whether the power of music can prove God exists, (16) whether the Biblical God was a lousy prognosticator, (17) whether any miracles are real, (18) whether God is an incompetent creator, (19) the resurrection of Jesus (of course), and (20) whether God is an incompetent redeemer.

All interesting questions to see hashed out this way. Each side makes their case, then gets a short rebuttal, and then a quick closing statement, before moving on to the next. And today, you can get an electronic edition for free (links above).