Category Archives: philosophy

My podcast on free will at Left at the Valley

Left at the Valley is an atheist/science/politics podcast emanating from the Fraser Valley of Western Canada. I’ve been on it once before, talking about evolution, but this time they wanted to discuss free will. Before you get all het up and ready to pound the keys, I defined the kind of free will I’m discussing […]

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ morals

Here’s the new Jesus and Mo strip, called “say”. The accusation is quite familiar to many of us; not only are we, as secularists, not supposed to have any “grounding” for our morality, but are also said to be arrogant and evincing morally superiority. Well, if “morally superior” means that we think about how to […]

Edinburgh Coursera lecture equating evolution and creationism as equally “faith based” vanishes from the web, but the science-bashing continues

Three days ago I put up a post showing a short lecture by philosopher S. Orestis Palermos that was part of a University of Edinburgh Coursera course on Science and Philosophy. His lecture basically equated evolutionary biology with creationism, dismissing both as “pseudoscience”. (The course was also sponsored by—to its eternal shame—the John Templeton Foundation.) […]

Tom Clark on the upside of determinism

Reader Tom Clark, who runs the site and comments here on that topic, gave a lecture last winter on determinism, and I’ve put the video below. The YouTube notes say this: Talk given for the Campus Atheist and Secular Humanists at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Nov. 2, 2017. For a related article, see “Fully […]

Why do intellectuals avoid discussing free will and determinism?

One thing that’s struck me while interacting with various Scholars of Repute is how uncomfortable many get when they have to discuss free will. I’m not talking about Dan Dennett here, as of course he’s a compatibilist and is glad to cross swords with anybody—while admitting sotto voce that yes, we could not have chosen […]

Raoul Martinez on free will and the implications of determinism

I’ve published related talks by polymath Raoul Martinez before (see here), but not this one: a 17.5-minute talk delivered in 2013 and called “Creating freedom.” It has only a bit more than 36,000 views, and given the importance of its message, it deserves more. I suppose it’s because it’s delivered in a very low key manner, […]

A free course on Effective Altruism, taught by Peter Singer

Coursera is offering a free course in “Effective Altruism“—taught by the famous (and controversial) philosopher Peter Singer—starts on January 22.  Here’s the summary: About this course: Effective altruism is built on the simple but unsettling idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good one can. In this course you will examine […]

E. O. Wilson: confused about free will

An article in the September 14 Harper’s, “On Free Will (and How the Brain is like a Colony of Ants”), gives an excerpt from Wilson’s book released that year, The Meaning of Human Existence.  In the piece and the passage below, Wilson appears to be a sort of compatibilist, but I find his discussion so […]

The myth of responsibility and the lottery of life

This four-minute video on free will and responsibility, narrated by polymath Raoul Martinez, was posted by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA). Martinez’s point is one I’ve made here many times, and will surely get pushback from: determinism rules human behavior, and our “choices” are all predetermined by […]

Robert Sapolsky takes on free will in “Behave”

I wasn’t able to finish Robert Sapolsky’s relatively new book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, for two reasons. First, I found the opening several hundred pages pretty boring. Despite Sapolsky’s valiant attempt to write engagingly—and he can do so in places—the material was a tedious disquisition on hormones, neurons, and other material […]