Monday, 16 November 2009

It's the Equality, Stupid!

Richard Wilkinson's and Kate Pickett's The Spirit Level is an excellent contribution to 'evidence based politics' (something that they note is more prevalent in more equal societies). Their main contribution is to bring existing evidence of statistical correlations and plausible causal mechanisms systematically together, and their inescapable conclusions seem almost commonsensical to the reader as a result. Yes, we did all sort of know all this, but we hadn't put it all together so forcefully.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Against religion's freedom from criticism

What's so special about religion that it needs special protection either in law or in ethics? How is it that some people are allowed to make stupid, crazy, or repugnant claims that are immune from criticism merely because they preface it with 'I believe' or 'God says'? Does no-one else find this state of affairs ridiculous? Here I want to focus on 3 mythical foundations for religion's special exemption: that religion is 1) individual; 2) ethical not metaphysical; and 3) concerned with beauty rather than truth.