Saturday, January 31, 2009

HASSERS to redefine our statement 'Sceptics'

In the first 2 draft of HASSERS statements (December 2007 & May 2008) I defined Sceptics - HASSERS are Sceptics who suspend judgment because knowledge is rarely final. More

The rating was 57% (lowest score of all May 2008 statements).

The Sceptics statement (January 2009) will be defined as:
HASSERS are Sceptics who are disposed to incredulity & doubt hence suspend final judgment; are intellectually cautious & continually test their knowledge.

Anonymous said "

2 Comments - Show Original Post Collapse comments

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A skeptic should not be an atheist. A skeptic 'suspends judgment' whereas an atheist has made a judgment and claims to know what is not known, just as a theist does. A skeptic should be an agnostic not an atheist. The scientific approach should be based on doubt, uuncertainty and probability especially since the arrival of Quantum Physics.

30 January 2008 15:53

and I replied
Blogger Chris Street said...

It depends on what you mean by Atheist. As an atheist I have found there to be insufficient evidence for me to subscribe to the idea that God exists. I do not know that God definitely does not exist. In this sense I am agnostic. For all practical purposes however, I am an atheist.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

BHA mourns Harold Blackham (1903-2009): 'architect of the humanist movement'

Harold John Blackham (born 31 March 1903), philosopher, lecturer, writer, ‘architect of the British and international humanist movements’ and ‘founder of the British Humanist Association’, has died at the age of 105 (on 23 January 2009).


Obama cites non-believers

Monday, January 19, 2009

MPs in call for new public holiday for Darwin Day


MPs are being urged to give their support to an Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons to make Charles Darwin’s birthday – 12th February – an annual public holiday.

The motion, tabled by Ashok Kumar MP, which has already received the support of ten other MPs says:

That this House notes the extraordinary achievements of Charles Darwin; notes that 2009 marks both the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species; welcomes proposals for the creation of a Darwin Day in recognition of the ground-breaking work of the British scientist responsible for the theory of evolution by natural selection; and calls for Darwin's birthday, 12 February, to be designated a public holiday in honour of one of the fathers of modern science and one of Britain's greatest, if not the greatest, scientific minds.

2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’ and campaigners are making use of these anniversaries to redouble their efforts to have the day marked officially. In 2003, over 40 distinguished academics, philosophers, scientists and writers called for a new public holiday, including philosopher Simon Blackburn, biologist Richard Dawkins, co-discoverer of DNA Francis Crick, author Philip Pullman and writer and broadcaster Claire Rayner. Members of the public are being urged to write to their own MP to request their support for the motion.

Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs said, ‘Charles Darwin is one of the greatest and most influential thinkers who ever lived and one of Britain’s greatest scientists. In the middle of February we could all do with an extra public holiday and recognition of this particular day would be a great way of celebrating Britain’s great contribution to science, reason and freethought.’

The British Humanist Association supports the campaign to have Darwin Day made a public holiday and is running its own series of events in 2009 to celebrate Darwin’s anniversary.


You can read the EDM (number 377) here

You can email your MP and urge him or her to sign EDM 377

For further comment, contact Andrew Copson by email or on 020 7079 3584 or 07534 248596

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing the interests of the large and growing population of ethically concerned non-religious people living in the UK. It exists to support and represent such people, who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Personal Genome Project

source: via,3509,n,n

The Personal Genome Project is an initiative in basic research, not personal discovery. Yet the technological advance making it possible — the plunging cost of genome sequencing — will soon give people an unprecedented opportunity to contemplate their own biological and even psychological makeups. We have entered the era of consumer genetics.

At one end of the price range you can get a complete sequence and analysis of your genome from Knome (often pronounced “know me”) for $99,500. At the other you can get a sample of traits, disease risks and ancestry data from 23andMe for $399.

Like the early days of the Internet, the dawn of personal genomics promises benefits and pitfalls that no one can foresee. It could usher in an era of personalized medicine, in which drug regimens are customized for a patient’s biochemistry rather than juggled through trial and error, and screening and prevention measures are aimed at those who are most at risk.

Today, for the price of a flat-screen TV, people can read their essence as a printout detailing their very own A’s, C’s, T’s and G’s.


Thought for the Day - the BBC responds


Read the BBC response to opening up 'Thought for the Day' to Atheists etc ... and over 200 comments.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Atheists launch bus ad campaign

via RichardDawkins

Ariane Sherine

This content requires the QuickTime Plugin. Download QuickTime Player.

Already have QuickTime Player? Click here.

Click on the image above to play video.
quicktime Video requires QuickTime Player 7. Download the free player here.
11.7 : 2:03
This file is available for download here.
Ctrl-Click and 'Download Linked File' (Mac)
or Rt-Click and 'Save Target As' (PC) the link above.

(Video from The Guardian)

Another video from the BBC (click to play)
Bus campaign vid 2 has a listing of media and internet coverage of the campaign. shows a map of Britain with locations of buses.

The official campaign site invites spotters to send bus sightings in to

The Official Atheist Bus Campaign Website:

Photos from the launch
launch photos

More on Flickr


(Proceeds go to the bus campaign)

The atheist bus journey
by Ariane Sherine, Guardian

Thanks to you we raised enough money to put ads on 800 buses across the UK, and the campaign has gone global

Today, thanks to many Cif readers, the overall total raised for the Atheist Bus Campaign stands at a truly overwhelming £135,000, breaking our original target of £5,500 by over 2400%. Given this unexpected amount, I'm very excited to tell you that 800 buses – instead of the 30 we were initially aiming for – are now rolling out across the UK with the slogan, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", in locations all over England, Scotland and Wales, including Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Cardiff, Devon, Leeds, Bristol and Aberdeen.

From today's launch, two hundred of the buses will run in London, because the campaign was originally started as a positive counter-response to the Jesus Said ads running on London buses in June 2008. These ads displayed the URL of a website which stated that non-Christians "will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell … Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire prepared for the devil". Our rational slogan will hopefully reassure anyone who has been scared by this kind of evangelism.

In addition, we're running adverts on two further types of media. In my last Cif blog on the campaign, I asked Cif readers for ideas on alternative ways to spend the funds, and also for thoughts on different slogans. Commenters WoollyMindedLiberal, PaoloV and Catch22 suggested that we use quotes from famous freethinkers, and we've done just that: from Monday January 12, 1,000 tube cards will run on London Underground featuring atheist quotations from Douglas Adams, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Katharine Hepburn (see above), alongside the original campaign slogan.

An animated version of the slogan will also appear on two large LCD screens on Oxford Street (opposite Bond Street tube station), so that you can see the advert live without having to wait for an atheist bus. And, to thank all donors and show the strength of atheism in the UK, every ABC advertisement will contain the line "This advert was funded by public donations".

Amazingly, the campaign has now gone international. Spain's Union of Atheists and Freethinkers are launching buses across Barcelona today with a translation of our slogan, Italy's Union of Atheist, Agnostics and Rationalists are also planning to roll out atheist buses, while the American Humanist Association have been inspired to launch a campaign, and buses carrying their slogan "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake" have now been running for over a month in Washington DC. Sadly, not every country has been so open to the idea: the Atheist Foundation of Australia tried to place the slogan "Atheism – celebrate reason" on buses, but were rejected by Australia's biggest outdoor advertising company.

The campaign's success is thanks to Cif and Cif readers. If Matt Seaton hadn't allowed me to run with the idea here, and so many of you hadn't been so enthusiastic about it and donated generously to it, it would never have happened. There may be further campaign developments, and the campaign website and Facebook group will be regularly updated with the latest news; but for now, I hope you enjoy seeing the adverts on the streets, and that they brighten these bleak January days just a little bit. As Charlie Brooker – one of the first people to donate to the Atheist Bus Campaign – says: "Public transport in Britain suggests there isn't a God anyway, but in case anyone hasn't noticed, or feels isolated for thinking such a thing, this campaign should help." I hope it does.

Atheists launch bus ad campaign by the BBC

RD and busAn atheist advertising campaign has been launched on buses across Britain.

A fund-raising drive for the promotion, carrying the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", raised more than £140,000.

The campaign, which will also feature on the Tube, is backed by the British Humanist Association and prominent atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins.

The Church of England said Christian faith allowed people to put their life into a "proper perspective".

A spokesman said: "We would defend the right of any group representing a religious or philosophical position to be able to promote that view through appropriate channels.

"However, Christian belief is not about worrying or not enjoying life."

Pressure group Christian Voice has questioned the campaign's effectiveness but the Methodist Church said it would be a "good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life" and suggested it showed there was a "continued interest in God".

The advertisements will run on 200 bendy buses in London and 600 vehicles in England, Scotland and Wales.

The British Humanist Association said the buses carrying the slogan outside London would operate in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, York, Leeds, Newcastle, Dundee, Sheffield, Coventry, Devon, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Swansea, Newport, Rhondda, Bristol, Southampton, and Aberdeen.


Four posters featuring quotations from the likes of Douglas Adams, Albert Einstein, and Katharine Hepburn will also be placed at 1,000 London Underground locations.

The campaign was devised by comedy writer Ariane Sherine.

She was inspired to seek donations after objecting to a set of Christian advertisements on a bus.

When people went to a highlighted website address, they were told that whose who rejected God were condemned to spend all eternity to "torment in Hell".

Ms Sherine said she sought donations for a "reassuring" counter-advertisement.
She said: "I think there have been a lot of people out there who have been looking at evangelical advertisements and not saying anything and thinking that these advertisements have been approved and just shrugging it off.

"Now finally they have an opportunity to express this feeling of exasperation."

Professor Dawkins made a donation of £5,500 himself.

He said: "Across Britain we are used to being bombarded by religious interests, not just Christians but other religions as well...

"In the House of Lords we have bishops sitting as of right and we are still very much dominated by religious interests."

Other supporters at the launch of the poster campaign included philosopher A C Grayling, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, and Graham Linehan, co-writer of the Father Ted TV comedy series.

Also See: (thanks to Quine)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


From Atheophobia via

"It always does annoy me when people say about atheists that they are amoral and heartless. The opposite is true." - Ricky Gervais

"...the religious paint unbelievers as poor desiccated rationalists, not only without values, but joyless, lacking a sense of mystery, devoid of awe." - Polly Toynbee

Atheists have long been looked down upon and criticised for their lack of religious beliefs. While open debate as to whether God exists is widespread, so are prejudiced views that paint atheists as lesser people. These views lead to insulting comments and occasionally downright hateful attacks aimed at atheists, the majority of whom are happy to live alongside religious peoples.

What Is Atheophobia?
Atheophobia is an irrational fear or hatred of atheists that manifests as a strong prejudice against those who do not believe in a God. It helps support a minority in their anti-atheist bigotry, where generalised, incorrect statements are made about atheists at large.

This bigotry includes incorrect claims that atheists:

- are morally inferior
- are a cause of evil
- have rejected God and embraced sin
- intend to destroy religion and religious holidays
- have meaningless or decadent lives
- should not be allowed to express their beliefs
- are unsuitable for positions of responsibility

While open debate about atheism is perfectly acceptable, it is absolutely unacceptable for religious persons to denigrate atheists for their lack of religious beliefs. This site aims to put an end to atheophobia and anti-atheist bigotry once and for all.

What You Can Do
This site encourages everyone, regardless of their belief, to reject atheophobia just as they would reject any other form of intolerance. Please do all you can to campaign against anti-atheist bigotry, and encourage others to do the same.

Using this site:

- Please let others know about the site.
- Email links to any bigoted websites to atheophobia-nomore [at] so they can be added to the Hall of Shame
- Forward the 'leaflet', which explains what atheophobia is and why the reasons for it are wrong, to those who may be liable to atheophobia.


- Criticise intolerant views wherever you find them.
- Don't let bigoted remarks go unquestioned.
- Demand equality and respect for atheists and their way of life.
- Encourage greater understanding between atheists and believers. rid society of atheophobia and anti-atheist bigotry once and for all.


HASSERS or HASSNERS? Vote for 'Naturalistic'

Are you Naturalistic? The natural world (i.e. the Universe) is all that exists. All observable events in nature are explainable only by natural causes. Nothing supernatural or mystical exists.

We have had 13 Votes For and None against (in a few days) the statement 'Naturalistic'. The name of this group will be changed from HASSERS to HASSNERS with immediate effect.

Thanks to everyone who voted and to Naumadd for his idea.

HASSERS Associate member Naumadd (Seattle, USA) joined on 2nd January 2009. He suggests "a statement that appears missing - NATURALIST - HANSSERS affirm that "nature" is synonymous with "exists" in that nature is all that exists, all that ever has, and all that ever will exist.

Some positive statement regarding the nature of reality or "all that exists" must be made which provides the basis for all other positive statements. More clearly, one needs a positive metaphysical statement that supports one's positive statements regarding epistemology (the nature of knowledge), ethics (the nature of values), politics (the nature of human relationships) and aesthetics (the nature of beauty and ugliness). Granted, in the seven statements there are hints as to one's position in these categories, however, in the least, a clear statement regarding one's belief on the nature of reality must set the stage for the rest.

For secular humanist atheist ethical rationalist sceptics there is a very clear difference between their answer as to the basic nature of reality and the answer of theists. That basic difference sets the stage for all other disagreements."

Naumadd suggested 'Naturalistic be  added
I replied ..
"Thanks Naumadd for your Naturalist statement suggestions. Naturalistic is a term used by Brights - & I do think it captures an important element of the HASSERS statements which is not explicitly stated. I'm going to create a poll to see what others think of Naturalistic as an addition to HASSERS to form acronym HASSNERS or HANSSERS.

From Wikipedia, "Philosophical naturalism is, as a position, the idea that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. In its broadest and strongest sense, naturalism is the metaphysical position that "nature is all there is and all basic truths are truths of nature."[1] This is generally referred to as metaphysical or ontological naturalism. Any method of inquiry or investigation or any procedure for gaining knowledge that limits itself to natural, physical, and material approaches and explanations can be described as naturalistic."

This is the meaning of Naturalistic in the HASSNERS statements.

NB. Another basic form, called methodological naturalism, is the epistemology and methodological principle which forms the foundation for the scientific method. It requires that scientific hypotheses are explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events.[2] Yet another form of naturalism is the idea that the methods of science should be used in philosophy.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Atheists have moral reflections too

by Sue Blackmore


An online petition is hoping to persuade BBC editors to open up Thought for the Day to non-believers

I've always enjoyed Thought for the Day (TFTD), that two-minute spot in the middle of Radio 4's Today programme, which seems to be a brief respite from the hard news, and a chance for someone to give moral or ethical reflections on current events. The trouble is that only religious speakers are invited. Rabbis, priests, imams, chaplains, and monks are there, but never humanists, agnostics, or atheists.

Why not? Wouldn't it be better if they were? Morality is not the sole prerogative of the religious – there are even reasons to think that the irreligious are more moral. So why shouldn't we be invited to speak on TFTD?

This week Today will, according to Gavin Orland, get about 1,500 letters of complaint. He has set up a scheme in which people have pledged to write to the BBC and demand that TFTD either be abolished or opened up to non-believers.

I signed his pledge because I think the faithless have lots to contribute, but the issues are not as simple as some have suggested.

I have contributed to the equivalent spots on local radio – to TFTD on Radio Bristol and, now that I have moved, to Pause for Thought on Radio Devon. The two were very different.

Radio Bristol recorded live and the editor demanded that it be topical – not just vaguely topical but right up to the minute. The brief said, "Try to use the news agenda of the day as your theme". This meant preparing the night before, and ringing him for approval, which often he did not give, and then rewriting it ready to cycle off in the early morning to the studio. His objections were confusing; "No bad-mouthing religions" sounds fine, until you discover that you cannot say something like
"we don't need God to make us act morally" or "psychology explains why we can be moral creatures without being religious". 
OK, I managed to rewrite my pieces avoiding such things, but it was tricky. And it seemed so unfair, when the vicars and rabbis could go on about God's will, heaven and hell, and what Christ wants for his people. Needless to say, this editor was a Christian.

When doing my last Bristol TFTD, I learned from the studio manager that others had found it difficult too, and Radio Bristol now had only one other atheist left to call on, happily the bright and articulate Julian Baggini.

Devon is, so far, quite different. The editor is very relaxed, the show is pre-recorded and the brief is to say something relevant, but not necessarily based on today's news. I have only done six so far, but am hopeful that this will work out better.

These troubles raise the basic question of what TFTD is for. At Bristol we once had a day-long meeting with the contributors and editor to discuss TFTD. And did we argue! The written brief says "religions have some deep and challenging things to say about the way we live our lives" and "express these eternal truths in the modern vernacular". It goes on … don't be "homespun or folksy", "Don't be safe or trite. It is called 'Thought for the Day' for a reason" – but I am not sure that any of us was ever clear what that reason is.

And here is the challenge for Radio 4. Yes, please do keep TFTD. I don't want to see it axed. Yes, please do invite we atheists, humanists and brights to contribute, but first let's work out just what TFTD is for. If it's to bring a moral bearing to current events, then let the atheists talk about evolved altruism, how to live well without believing in God or fearing eternal retribution, and how to make decisions about abortion, death, suicide, love or pain without religious guidance. If it is to be inspiring, then let unbelievers use the eternal questions of philosophy without any assumed eternal answers.

When I hear the words "Thought for the day" I imagine someone giving me a thought to take me through the troubles of a typical day; a thought that will help me see myself, or others, or the world around me more constructively or more truly. Others may have other ideas, but 
I hope the editors at Today will take this challenge seriously, work out what TFTD is for, and then decide whether we non-believers have something worthwhile to contribute. I think they'll find we have.

Humanists4Science Logo Competition

Hi Chris, could we hold posting this for a bit - I want to allow the previous post some 'airtime'. Cheers, Tom.

Tom, I'll publish this post here on 12th January. Is that OK?

The H4S Committee has decided that the new name better reflects our independant views whilst still being affiliated to BHA.

We need a new logo. My first draft is above.

Make a logo for Humanists4Science - win a years sub to BHA!

The winning logo which will be decided by Humanists4Science Committee on 1st March 2009. The prize, donated by Crabsallover (H4S committee member), will be one years Full Subscription Membership of British Humanist Association - worth £35!

Email your logo to: crabsallover at
Latest date for entry: 28th February 2009.

The childish beliefs of Dr Justin Barrett

Tom Rees at Epiphenomen says ....

Justin Barrett is a .. a devout Christian who believes that we have an inbuilt predisposition to believe not just in superstitious stuff, but also in a monotheistic god. And he takes this as evidence that god is real, and not invented.

Back in November, he gave a talk at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge in which he said a few things (such as: "You have to indoctrinate someone into being an atheist")


Julian Baggini wrote: Thought for the Day - On Chris Patten

Julian Baggini wrote:

Thought for the Day - BBC Radio Bristol

Text of this morning's thought.

Last night I went to St Georges in Bristol to hear a talk by Chris Patten, the former MP for Bath and the last governor of Hong Kong. Patten was talking about his book, What Next?, which has the sobering subtitle, “surviving the 21st century.” His list of what we might euphemistically call challenges included terrorism, the global economic crisis, war, water shortages and environmental degradation.

Patten said he wrote the book without being suicidally gloomy because all these problems are soluble. His optimism was grounded in a belief that things have been much worse in recent history, yet progress has still been made.

For example, when Patten went to university in 1962, the globe was facing nuclear destruction as Russia and America squared up to each other over Cuba. And we think the world is dangerous now.

He also talked about when he first went to America in the sixties. In Montgomery, Alabama he discovered two civil rights activists had recently been shot, and the police often set dogs on black would-be voters. Now Barack Obama is president-elect.

Events in Mumbai are a reminder that “Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment,” as Franklin D Roosevelt said in 1932, as he became president during a much worse depression than the one we are currently facing. But, he continued “We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it.”

Patten reminded me that the human race has come a long way, through darker days. Remember that, and belief in progress is not only possible, but rational.