Thursday, April 23, 2009


Monday, April 20, 2009

When is faith not necessary?

Secularists would agree that we should all endeavour to minimise the influence of faith in our lives. After all, faith is the belief in things unseen, belief without measurable physical evidence.

When a belief is presented for examination, the bar that needs to be cleared is Falsifiability. As Karl Popper originally put it, “it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience”.

Falsifiabitlity has been a ridiculously successful test on the validity of any belief/explanation. The success of which is evident from the usefulness of the scientific process, as opposed to the comparatively negligible amount of knowledge gained from metaphysics and religion.

This criterion humbly acknowledges that none of us are in extraordinary communion with the forces of nature. There is no revelation.

But what if we were to apply the scientific process to every part of our lives? Should we force our friends to go through various tests to certify their loyalty? Should we secretly and repeatedly conduct experiments on our partners’ to measure their fidelity? Should we not wake up from our beds in fear that our senses could be deceiving us on the existence of such a bed to wake from?

Even scientists receive their zeal and hunger for knowledge on the faith that the external world behaves un-arbitrarily, and eventually nature is fully understandable using reason and empirical knowledge alone.

Faith permeates our daily life and reason does not illuminate a great swathe of decisions that we make. Faith is necessary in maintaining relationships, keeping hope, taking courage, and simply getting out of bed.

So to what extent is faith acceptable? Is it really just a matter of degrees? Are we ‘enlightened’ rationalists merely on the same spectrum as the fundamentalist flat-Earthers, albeit slightly less laughable?

Surely there is a quantifiable demarcation as to when we should abandon faith. When is it necessary to act on faith alone, and when is it harmful and against our self-interests?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some cool Minority Report gadgetry

via John


Rene Benthien

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flowchart: The Scientific Process

This flash driven flowchart by UCAL's Museum of Paleontology is an invaluable resource. This should be shown to every high school science student.

Science is not just a body of facts.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Atheism or Secular Humanism

Over at the Eye of Polyphemus, the blogger differentiates between straight up Atheism and Secular Humanism:

There is a simple way to decide whether one is an atheist or secular humanist. If you think the world would be a better place without religion, you are a secular humanist. You may call yourself just an atheist, but you are not. You have gone beyond a non belief in deities to a set of arguably cultish beliefs.

Leaving aside his claim of Secular Humanism being a cult, that differentiation is quite interesting.

I am a secular humanist, and I wish everyone else was too. Intellectually I understand the position that someone who believes in the supernatural cannot be trusted to make sound moral decisions in complex situations. The fact that there is even a stem-cell debate is evidence of this.

We are all aware of the ill-effects of religious belief, but there are also benefits. Is society on the whole better off without such superstition? Are we overestimating the rational capacity of humans?

I have personally witnessed someone very close to me seeking solace in religion when her child was seriously ill. Without her belief she would not have had the continual strength and hope to battle on through the great many hardships that were presented to her. Having seen such evidence of the benefits of faith, it is rather difficult for me to indulge myself in the righteous zeal of the Anti-Theists.