Facing death-2: My own attitude to aging and death

Like everyone, my view of death is shaped by my own life experiences. I became seriously ill with polio at the age of six and it was only as a result of the heroic efforts of my family and the skill of the physicians who treated me that I have had a full life. But as a result of that illness I always felt, even before my teenage years, that the permanent damage that the disease had inflicted on my body would take its toll over time, leaving me with a shorter lifespan than that of other people.
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Facing death-1: Why think about it?

I have been thinking about death quite a lot recently. Circumstances have forced this topic to the forefront of my mind. Don’t get me wrong. There are no signs that any time soon I will be shuffling off this mortal coil, checking out, kicking the bucket, snuffing out the candle, or any of the other euphemisms we use to avoid the word death. As far as I can tell, my body is ticking along nicely.
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The compatibilism puzzle

I am a hardline materialist. I think the material world is all that there is and I have no reason to believe in the existence ofany nonmaterial entities. I did not start out with this view as an a priori philosophical premise. Rather I have arrived at it over time as the only way that I can make sense of the world as I see experience it. [Read more...]

Thought experiments on the historicity of Jesus-1: The contamination principle

Readers may recall an earlier post on the question of whether the Jesus of the Bible is based, however loosely, on an actual historical figure living in that region of the world at that time (as claimed by the historicists) or whether he is an entirely fictional character based on myths and legends (as asserted by those labeled as mythicists). It should be noted that this particular debate does not involve religious people and has nothing to do with whether Jesus did miracles, rose from the dead, and all the other things that signaled that he was divine, which both sides are willing to dismiss as fictional. [Read more...]

Is philosophy science?

In general, questions such as “Is (subject X) a science?” are not very useful. After all, what does it matter what label you assign to something? In certain situations though, the label matters quite a lot. In the US, because of the Establishment Clause, the answer to the question of whether a theory is scientific or religious can determine if it can be taught in public schools. This is why religious people constantly seek to either label their religious beliefs (creationism and intelligent design) as science or seek to have those theories that threaten religion (like evolution) be classified as something other than science. [Read more...]

Reason Rally report

I attended a portion of the Reason Rally yesterday in Washington DC. It drizzled or rained gently most of the time, which cast a bit of a damper on the proceedings but people were in good spirits. The crowd that attended should dispel the notion that the nonbelievers movement consist of old, white guys. It was gratifyingly diverse in all categories (gender, age, and ethnicity) with the large majority being young people. I felt like an old fogey and that was great, just as it should be. [Read more...]

Existence and universal claims

An interesting discussion has broken out in the comments section of the post The weak historical evidence for Jesus that is related to the question of where the burden of proof lies when promoting or refuting a claim.

Those who started reading my blogs only after I moved to Freethought Blogs have been (so far at least) mercifully spared the many multi-part series on some topics that those [Read more...]

Why agnostics may find the religious more congenial than atheists

A regular reader of my former blog, who describes himself as a fence-sitting agnostic, commented in response to one of my posts at my previous site:

One objection I do have against this blog is the sense of superiority it conveys and the derision with which it refers to the religious. Atheism somehow seems to bring out the not so nice qualities of its adherents. A great pity. In my experience, being an agnostic among Atheists is more daunting than being one among the religious.

Actually it should not be at all surprising that he finds that that the company of the religious to be more congenial than that of atheists. This is because for some time, the more sophisticated religious people have been feeling the heat that the new atheists have been putting on them. Our relentless demands for evidence to substantiate their belief in a god have put them in a quandary because there is no evidence, other than the evidence from ignorance that there are some major things (the origin of life and the universe for example) that science has not yet fully explained. It has resulted in them resorting to the position that god is not an empirical entity and so evidence is not relevant to the question of his/her/its existence. If you look at the arguments of theologians, much of it now consists of finding reasons for why there is no evidence of god although, oddly enough, they seem to have no difficulty ascribing a whole range of properties to something for which they have no evidence. [Read more...]