April 2009


I’m in London currently, and I’ll be giving a talk on scientific realism and anti-realism at the London School of Economics on Wednesday, as part of a two-day conference they’re having. My talk is entitled “What Constructive Empiricism Gets Wrong, and What it Might get Right”.

For information on constructive empiricism, see my entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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My housemate Sarah is on the cover of the May issue of Climbing Magazine!

Sarah

I’m happy to report that I’ve recently received a good amount of positive feedback from a number of atheist-minded philosophers about my forthcoming book, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. The general consensus seems to be that atheism isn’t obviously right, and the theistic hypothesis should be taken seriously, and evidence for it examined. Also, the atheist-minded philosophers are unhappy with how some intelligent design opponents seem more focused on emotion and rhetoric than argument — they expect better of people (especially philosophers) who are engaging in this debate. For example, I recently got an email from a philosopher of science at a top philosophy program, which read in part:

I’m also an atheist who thinks that the arguments for ID are far more interesting than philosophers tend to appreciate.  I think it’s lamentable that the climate now is such that you can’t seriously discuss such things without attracting ill will from well-meaning opponents of the religious right.  … Writing a book like yours is a brave thing to do and it might make the world a better place.

I appreciated hearing that.

In other news, my book is slated to come out in July.

An interesting new Newsweek article talks about the striking decline in the number of people who identify as Christians:

To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population. … the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent.

And here’s another interesting statistic:

The proportion of Americans who think religion “can answer all or most of today’s problems” is now at a historic low of 48 percent. During the Bush 43 and Clinton years, that figure never dropped below 58 percent.

And here’s one more:

The number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million. (That is about double the number of, say, Episcopalians in the United States.)

Along the lines of what I’ve suggested before, this decline in the number of self-identified Christians raises an interesting question: are that many people really giving up their personal belief in Christ, or has it just become more culturally acceptable for non-Christians to say that they aren’t Christians? And if it’s the latter, what fraction of the 76% of ostensible Christians are still falsely declaring that they’re Christians, just because that’s the culturally expected thing to say?