Currents in Naturalism
~ Center for Naturalism Newsletter ~
~ Living in Light of Naturalism - personal accounts of discovering yourself a completely natural creature.
~ Motivating Naturalism - wanting objectivity and explanatory transparency motivates naturalism, militates against supernaturalism.
~ Misrepresenting Naturalism - naturalists aren't bent on subverting moral responsibility, only naturalizing it.
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~ Freethought events, courtesy of the Secular Web.
~ Experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe discusses free will and the metaphysics of the hangman with Will Wilkinson at Bloggingheads.
~ Naturalist credo: this video by Unassimilated pretty much nails it.
~ Paul Breer, sociologist, author of The Spontaneous Self: Viable Alternatives to Free Will and a man of many parts, is now on the Web.
~ Physicist Sean Carroll and philosopher David Albert discuss the strange implications of quantum mechanics at Bloggingheads.
~ WBAI, New York presents Equal Time for Freethought.
~ Susan Blackmore takes the naturalistic side of a debate on free will, scroll down to the August 4 program.
~ Automated hilarity: angling for clicks, web bots re-write an article about a new chair at Harvard Divinity School.
~ Now we're really in trouble: Chuck Norris, Mike Huckabee's campaign sidekick, inveighs against naturalism in a piece purporting to show that our nation's founders were creationists.
~ Books of note:
~ Short take: Pierre de Fermat, step aside. In lyrical prose that could almost fit within the margin of a page, Steve Converse takes dead aim at the ultimate questions and humbly proposes one surprisingly simple answer, though he suspects there will always remain some who either thoughtfully reject his conclusion or, more likely, never even bother to consider it.
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Open Letter: Can Ray Tallis Be Reined In?
I see from your April Voltaire lecture for the British Humanist Association, "Is Human Freedom Possible?," that you do in fact think thereís something contra-causal about us. Iíve appended below some comments on your talk, the thrust of which is that we donít evade determinism (put otherwise, we donít have libertarian, contra-causal free will) and donít need to in order to secure any human good. You will of course disagree, but at least my critique might stand as an example of a humanistic, progressive naturalism thatís perfectly at peace with the absence of libertarian freedom. We don't need to resort to what I see as your metaphysical extravagances and obscurities to defend Enlightenment values. Btw, I should say that I like many of your points about the complexity of the self and its actions and our embeddedness in the social context. I just donít think that this makes us first causes...
Not to Panic, Everything's Under Control
In a Scientific American article on free will, philosopher Shaun Nichols defines free will as being incompatible with determinism:
He goes on to worry that ďIf people come to believe that they donít have free will, what will the consequences be for moral responsibility?Ē
He then discusses a study by two psychologists, Kathleen Vohs and Jonathan Schooler, that bears on this question. Their study purports to show that if people cease believing they are exceptions to determinism, then they're more likely to act immorally, in this case, cheat. (See here for a detailed discussion and links.) Vohs and Schooler suggest that to maintain moral responsibility, it might be necessary to promulgate the belief that that we have a kind of ultimate control over ourselves that transcends cause and effect: a contra-causal free will. But this would require a systematic campaign of mass deception since thereís no good scientific evidence that we have such free will. Maintaining the fiction of ultimate control and contra-causal freedom would be a grand exercise in anti-science brainwashing, not exactly the hallmark of an open society. Of course the Bush administration tried something similar in its fight to discount the reality of global warming (see Chris Mooneyís book, The Republican War on Science), so thereís precedent for a deliberate disinformation campaign that would pit moral responsibility against determinism.
~ Naturalism Meetups - monthly get-togethers for those wanting to explore and meme naturalism.
~ Philosophy Cafe @ Harvard Book Store - monthly philosophical discussions on any number of topics; moderated, with refreshments. No worldview commitment required.
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For those interested in learning more about naturalism, or in participating in outreach, research, and writing in collaboration with the CFN, here are a few resources, online and otherwise.
New: Causality Consulting - practical philosophical consultation that's science-based, short-term, and results-driven.
Naturalism: The Next Step for Humanists? - online video presentation about naturalism for the Freethought Association of Western Michigan; works as a spoken introduction to the philosophy and its implications.
Applied Naturalism Group - a forum to explore the personal and social applications of naturalism; membership by application.
Naturalism Philosophy Forum - to facilitate the investigation of scientific naturalism, its assumptions, structure, and logical implications; open membership.
Garden of Forking Paths - a free will/moral agency blog with knowledgeable contributors on the leading edge of current academic debates.
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