Today, from 4-6 PM at the University of Utah’s Orson Spencer Hall (OSH) Auditorium, Dr. Victor Stenger will be giving a talk partly based on his latest book, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning.
Stenger, a philosopher and physicist, is a among the foremost “new atheist” thinkers. He has written several books about atheism and science, including the bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis and the critically-acclaimedThe New Atheism.
The event, which is being organized by our sister group SHIFT, will be free and open to the public, with free parking available in the visitor parking lot just east of the Union building (just north of OSH). Seating will be first-come-first-served. The doors to the auditorium will be opened 30 minutes before the event.
The science of spirituality intrigues me. One of my first posts at this blog was about that topic. When I was a Mormon, I was very prone to powerful spiritual experiences. I’d often cry during prayer or scripture study, I saw ghostly apparitions, and, on several occasions, I experienced what I then thought were demonic possessions. These phenomena anchored my testimony for years until I discovered naturalistic explanations for them. (That isn’t to say, though, that all spiritual experiences are necessarily reducible to the brain.)
Neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger has done a lot of pioneering research concerning the brain and spiritual experiences. He is perhaps best known for his ‘God helmet’, an electro-magnetic device that is able to induce spiritual and out-of-body experiences in patients.
On Thursday, September 23rd, BYU biology professor Dr. William Bradshaw will discuss the significant role that genetics plays in homosexuality. He will also argue that homosexuality is not a choice and cannot be changed.
It will be an interesting lecture, and I’m thrilled that BYU is hosting it. Here is the event info:
When: September 23rd @ 7:00 PM
Where: Thomas S. Martin building (MARB), rm. 445
(Search “MARB” in the BYU campus map and you’ll find it.)
Dr. Bradshaw gave a similar lecture back in 2004. Read this Daily Universearticle (originally entitled “Professor gives scientific evidence of homosexuality”, but changed to “Professor claims scientific evidence of homosexuality”) about his 2004 lecture if you want a preview of Thursday’s presentation.
For those in Logan: SHAFT will have a presentation of its own this Thursday. At 6:00 PM in Old Main 201, SHAFT officer Chris Gardner will discuss ancient creation myths and how they evolved into modern day religions.
On Saturday, Evergreen International held its annual conference at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Evergreen is a non-profit organization that ‘helps’ LGBT Mormon youth “diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.” Each year, a general authority of the LDS Church gives the keynote address at the conference.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke at Evergreen last year. His address was widely regarded as a step backward for the LDS Church on homosexuality. You can read his address here. This year, Bishop Keith B. McMullin delivered the keynote address. Details from The Salt Lake Tribune:
An LDS general authority on Saturday comforted Mormons who are attracted to people of the same sex but want to live by the church’s chastity rules, which bar sexual acts outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
“Each of us has problems,” said Bishop Keith B. McMullin, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Together, we shall overcome them.”
On Saturday, McMullin said people with same-sex attraction should not call themselves “gay” or “lesbian.” He offered advice to LDS ecclesiastical leaders in the audience of about 200 people.
“If someone seeking your help says to you, ‘I am a homosexual,’ or, ‘I am lesbian,’ or, ‘I am gay,’ correct this miscasting,” McMullin said. “Heavenly Father does not speak of his children this way and neither should we. It is simply not true. To speak this way seeds a doubt and deceit about who we really are.”
He said every individual is a “son or daughter” of God. Jesus Christ, McMullin said, has the power to lift the “burden” of every “man and woman, boy and girl.”
The most enduring challenge to science has come not from religion, but philosophy. David Hume, an 18th-century Scottish philosopher, articulated what we now call “the problem of induction,” and it has wreaked epistemological havoc on the foundation of science for centuries.
Induction, for the purposes of this post, is a form of reasoning that makes inferences about what will happen from what has happened. Science relies heavily on induction in making generalizations and predictions. But Hume believes that we can reason absolutely nothing about the future from the past. To do so presupposes the uniformity of nature—that the future will resemble the past.
There is a temptation to respond that we know that the future will resemble the past, because past futures have resembled past pasts. This begs the question, however. It assumes the very thing it attempts to prove, and is thus circular.
Atheists need to understand the implications of Hume’s argument. Hume is not saying that we cannot know with a certainty that, for example, the sun will rise tomorrow. He instead says something far more radical: that we have no reason whatsoever to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. The fact that the sun has risen every day of recorded human history is immaterial; again, the future need not resemble the past.
So are we atheists who trust science guilty of the same faith that we accuse religious people of having? In a later post, I’ll introduce a few possible solutions to the problem of induction. But I’d first like to hear your thoughts.