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Austin Cline

Newsletter 12-17-04

By December 17, 2004

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Welcome to issue #6.50 of Free Thought Now!, the Agnosticism / Atheism site newsletter. This week we have an extended analysis of the meaning, history, and implications of each of the Ten Commandments. There is also an interesting quote about the difference between facts and faith, a look at the top reviewed books from the past year, some commentary on the kerfuffle over Antony Flew, and recent news on several matters involving America's "culture wars."

Analysis of the Ten Commandments
Most people know the Ten Commandments -- or perhaps it is better to say that they think they know the Ten Commandments. The commandments are one of those cultural products that people imagine that they understand, but in reality, they frequently can't even name all of them, let alone explain them. People who already think they know all they need are unlikely to take the time to research the subject with any great care and precision.

Weekly Quote: Don Boudreaux on Facts and Faith
"A belief that is founded upon a compelling theory and that is consistently supported by plenty of empirical evidence is not properly described as "faith." As I understand the meaning of the word "faith" - especially when this word is used in an attempt to discredit a proposition - it means belief in something for no rational reason and without sufficient supporting empirical evidence." Follow the link for analysis and discussion...

Top Books Reviewed in 2004
Selected here are the best books reviewed during the year 2004. Qualities which helped books stand out include providing an interesting/unusual perspective on long-running debates, offering a real enduring value to readers (i.e., worth reading more than once), and being an invaluable resource on its topic.

Antony Flew, Atheism, and Theism
What's the story?

Assessing Justice Clarence Thomas
Is he an embarrassment?

Culture Wars Continue
Left vs. Right?

Judge's Robes Display Ten Commandments
Alabama. AGAIN.

Stand on Pledge Spurs Recall Effort

Bush Monkey Exhibition Closed

Secularization & American Religion
Assessing the situation


Discussion Forum:

1) Superstition & Evolution
"I suspect that superstitious behavior is the result of evolutionary adaptation even though it seems counter productive now. Consider an animal which has either a positive or negative experience (finds food or encounters predator). Without the logical machinery to analyze how its actions lead to the result (or if they did) the simplest potentially beneficial behavior modification mechanism would be to either avoid or repeat whatever it was doing at the time of the event."

2) God Pulled from Pullman Films
"So, the director has decided toremove references to killing god from the 'His Dark Materials'trilogy (which was about...er...killing god) from the film versions in order not to offend the USA's delicate sensibilities. A quick couple of questions for those from the US. Putting the religious aspect to one side - do you get narked off with this sort of thing?"

3) Crimes of Passion
"In a recent Australian (Victorian) case, a husband killed his estranged wife by bashing and strangling her after she told him that she had met someone else and that sex with him repulsed her. The jury acquitted him of murder and found him guilty of manslaughter on the basis of the defense of provocation, and he was sentenced to eleven years' imprisonment. ...Do you think that the defense of provocation is justified in this case, or in any circumstances?"

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