Thursday, March 28, 2013

Speaker needed

I am looking for a theologian, probably, to participate in an event on scientism, non-overlapping magesteria, etc. on June 8th, with Peter Atkins and philosopher David Papineau. Any suggestions? A woman contributor would be especially welcome given it's all guys at the moment.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Missing Chapter from "The Complete Philosophy Files" (The Outer Limits)

This chapter never made it into the final version of my children's book The Outer Limits (vol 2 of The Philosophy Files, now part of The Complete Philosophy Files). For Whittermarsh Jr.

4. The Mirror Puzzle


Sometimes it is the things that are most familiar to us that turn out to be the most deeply puzzling. Take mirrors, for example. How many times do you see yourself reflected in a mirror each day?

1.ILLUSTRATE: BOY LOOKING INTO A MIRROR

At least ten or twenty times, I should think. Most of us never stop to think about what we see. But, as you are about to discover, mirrors are very strange and puzzling things.

An adventure in the mirror

Aisha and Kobir are visiting Kobir’s auntie. Auntie Anaximander lives in an enormous, fusty old house deep in the moors.


2. THE BIG SPOOKY HOUSE IN THE MOORS. LIGHTNING.


It’s a wild and stormy night and the phone and power lines are down. Auntie Anaximander has gone off in her car to report the powercut leaving Kobir and Aisha all alone in the dark house.

3: ILLUSTRATE: NERVOUS KOBIR AND AISHA AT DOOR OF CREEPY COUNTRY HOUSE. STORY WEATHER. THEY ARE WAVING OFF AUNTIE A WHO IS DRIVING A MORRIS MINOR. NB KOBIR IS OLD PHILOSOPHY FILES CHARACTER WITH GOATIE BEARD HAS A RING ON HIS RIGHT HAND AND WATCH ON HIS LEFT AND A HIS-LEFT-SIDE HAIR PARTING.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Talk in Oxford tomorrow night with Sanal Edamaruku

 


Full details here.

When?
Monday, March 25 2013 at 7:30PM
Download iCalendar file
(e.g. import to Outlook or Google Calendar)
Where?

9 - 13 George Street
Oxford
OX1 2AU

We use the upstairs function room.

To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it will be open, so no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. If you want to eat in the function room then you have to order your food downstairs and then carry it up yourself.

Step-free access is available.
Who?
Sanal Edamaruku
What's the talk about?
Sanal Edamaruku has been a force for reason all his life. As president of the Indian Rationalist Association he’s continually challenged the gurus and godmen who have such a pervasive influence in society. But it’s an uphill struggle: a wave of increasing fundamentalism and intolerance may be responsible for his current predicament: when he returns to India it’s likely that he’ll be arrested for “outraging religious feelings” after he debunked a Catholic “miracle” statue in Mumbai.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Twitter

Twitterers can follow me on twitter here: @stephenlaw60


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tricks of the Mind, March 30th

Illusion Eye Trick
It works for cats too...
Tricks of the Mind

Come and hear leading experts explain how our minds can distort and deceive, including how they often play a role in generating a wide range of paranormal experiences. Discussion will include magic, time distortion, hypnotism and past-life regression.

Presented by Centre for Inquiry UK and Conway Hall. Organized and introduced by Stephen Law.

Book signings and shop.

Saturday, 30th March 2013.

Venue: Conway Hall (main hall), 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, WC1R 4RL London (nearest tube Holborn).

10.30am registration (speakers at 11-1, 2-4pm). Ends 4pm.

Tickets £10 on door (£5 student concession) (and from BHA website shortly)


Daniela Rudloff: Mental ‘Short-Cuts’ - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
11.00

Can we trust our eyes? Why does a footballer’s performance usually drop right after they’ve been sold to a high-paying football club? What exactly is “anchoring”, and why are we doing it on dry land?

Daniela Rudloff will answer these and other questions by giving an introduction to some of the mental shortcuts and biases in our everyday thinking. In her talk she shows how these shortcuts are often useful and sometimes counterproductive, always pervasive and surprisingly difficult to avoid.

Daniela has always had a keen interest in critical thinking, cognitive psychology and the scientific method. After completing her PhD in Cognitive Psychology she now teaches at Leicester University, with a particular focus on research methods and statistics. Daniela has previously presented at Skeptics in the Pubs events and at the Skeptics on the Fringe.

Claudia Hammond: Time Warped 
12.00

We are obsessed with time, but why does it play so many tricks on us? Why does time slow down when you're afraid and speed up as you get older? Drawing on the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience and biology, and using original research on the way memory shapes our understanding of time, the awarding-winning writer and broadcaster Claudia Hammond delves into the mysteries of time perception and how the mind creates a sense of time.

Claudia is an award-winning broadcaster, writer and psychology lecturer. She is the presenter of All in the Mind & Mind Changers on BBC Radio 4 and the Health Check on BBC World Service Radio every week and BBC World News TV every month. Claudia is a columnist for BBC.com and the author of "Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception" and "Emotional Rollercoaster - a journey through the science of feelings" which won the Aoen Transmission Prize in February 2013. 

Martin S Taylor: More Lives Than One?
2.00


Martin S Taylor became interested in hypnosis when he was studying for a PhD at Imperial College, and soon became well known on the student circuit with his science based lecture-demonstration. At first he believed in the traditional view that hypnosis is a special induced state of mind, but discussions with friends and his experience with his own hypnotic subjects led him to subscribe to the 'social-compliance' view, namely that hypnosis is best explained by normal, well-understood psychological principles.

He now makes a living as a lecturer and consultant on hypnosis, talking and demonstrating at schools, universities, and anywhere else they'll pay him. It was at one of Martin's lectures that Derren Brown was inspired to take up his career, and Martin has worked with Derren on a number of recent television shows. Recently he has been working as a hypnosis consultant for Paramount Pictures, producing promotional videos for horror films.

In today’s talk, Martin will be examining the notion that hypnosis can be used to get people to remember past lives, a phenomenon taken by many as evidence of reincarnation.

Robert Teszka: Mind and Magic
3.00

Robert Teszka is a cognitive psychologist, magician, science promoter, and massive geek. He uses the techniques of misdirection to study the psychology of attention and awareness at Goldsmiths University, and has travelled internationally to give lectures on the surprising insights of cognitive psychology.

Mind and Magic is a talk about how our own minds deceive us as readily as any magician, and how magician's tricks can help us understand our minds a bit better. Expect a curated collection of demonstrations, experiments, and original research - and perhaps a magic trick or two - as Rob attempts to convince you that sometimes, you just can't trust your own mind.

Image credit maltesen flickr. Creative commons.



Saturday, March 16, 2013

US TV series "Closer to Truth" - 11 ten minute clips of me.

I am currently appearing on several episodes of "Closer to Truth", the TV series on Cosmos, Consciousness and God. The series goes out in the US and elsewhere and features very many high-profile academics. I was flattered to be included. Online clips of me on the following topics can be found here (click on titles to view):

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blog knicked

Someone has stolen my blog content and mixed their own stuff into it here: http://elbalonenvenenado.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/top-philosophy-blog-apparently.html
not sure what I can do about it. Suggestions?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Philosophy poster for schools - free to teachers

If you are a teacher and would like an A2 poster that has "Why Study Philosophy?" on one side and "What is Philosophy?" on the other, written by myself and produced by Heythrop College University of London, do get in touch (assuming you have not had one sent to you already).

I would need your name and school postal address (and email, plus idea of what you teach would be useful). Here's some text from the "What is Philosophy?" side of the poster.

Three Philosophy Puzzles

Philosophy addresses some of the deepest and most fascinating and questions. Philosophers try to use their intelligence - their powers of reason - to find the answers, much like a detective does when trying to solve a crime.

Philosophers don’t always succeed in figuring out the answer. But sometimes they do. And often they can at least show out that certain answers are wrong.

Here are three famous philosophy puzzles for you to think about.

Could a machine think?

Suppose technologically advanced aliens build a machine that looks just like a human being. The machine looks, talks, walks and sounds just like one of us. It replicates human behaviour perfectly down to the last detail. We are completely taken in by their alien creation. But the truth is, what we are looking at is not another flesh and blood human, but a complex piece of alien technology.

Would such a machine have a mind? Would it really feel pain when we drop something on its toe and it says “Ow!”. Would it really enjoy the taste of an ice-cream when it took lick with its mechanical mouth?

Of course, being designed to act like a human, this machine behaves as if it has a mind. It even says it has a mind. But does it really have a mind? Or does it lack any real thoughts and feelings?

If you think this machine really has a mind, try to explain why.

If you think this machine merely simulates a mind, can you explain how you know that real thoughts and feelings are missing?

IMAGE 1: SOMEONE SAYING TO US “I’M A MACHINE THAT BEHAVES LIKE A HUMAN. I’M DESIGNED TO WALK, TALK LIKE A HUMAN. I EVEN BLEED FAKE BLOOD. I SAY I HAVE A MIND. BUT DO I? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU AREN’T A MACHINE LIKE ME? PERHAPS YOU ARE!

Should I eat meat?

We suppose it’s wrong to kill and eat humans. Many of us think it’s OK to kill and eat other sorts of creature, though, such as pigs and chickens.

But why is it wrong to kill and eat humans, but not wrong to kill and eat other animals?

Is it just because other animals aren’t as intelligent as us? If that were the right explanation, it would be OK to kill and eat very stupid humans. But surely that would be wrong?.

Is it just because animals are bred for the dinner table that it’s OK to kill and eat them? But then what if bred humans to be killed and eaten? Would it then be OK to kill and eat them?

If you think it is wrong to kill and eat humans, but OK to kill and eat pigs and chickens, can you explain why you are justified in treating humans so differently? Could our attitude to other species be just another form of prejudice, like racism or sexism? Are we guilty of speciesism?!

This is a very controversial issue in philosophy. What do you think?

IMAGE 2: CHILDREN BEING LED OFF TO BUILDING MARKED “ABATTOIR”. ONLOOKER SAYS TO FRIEND – “DON’T WORRY, THEY WERE BRED TO BE EATEN”.

How Can I Know This is All Real?

How do you know you’re not a disembodied brain floating in a vat, hooked up to a supercomputer that’s generating a virtual world for you? In thee film The Matrix, Neo discovers that his whole life had been lived inside such a virtual reality. How do you know that you aren’t also living inside a similar illusory world?

But if you don’t know that the world you seem to see around you is real, how can you know anything about the world outside your own mind? How can you know that you have two hands, for example? Maybe your hands are just part of the illusion? How can you know that the Earth goes round the Sun, or that Paris is the Capital of France, or that your parents really exist?

Perhaps you can’t. Of course we think we know these things, don’t we? But do we really? What do you think?

IMAGE 3: … BRAIN FLOATING IN GLASS VAT OF LIQUID HOOKED UP TO SUPERCOMPUTER MARKED “EARTH SIMULATOR”. IN PANEL IT SAYS “LOCATION: AIRPORT”. ONE ALIEN SAYS TO OTHER HANDING OVER MONEY) “OK YOU WIN, HE REALLY IS DUMB ENOUGH TO BELIEVE A JUMBO JET CAN FLY”.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tricks of the Mind event CFI, March 30th.


Illusion Eye Trick
Tricks of the Mind

Come and hear some of the world’s leading experts explain how our minds can distort and deceive, including how they often play a role in generating a wide range of paranormal experiences. Discussion will include magic, time distortion, hypnotism and past-life regression.

Presented by Centre for Inquiry UK and Conway Hall. Organized and introduced by Stephen Law.

Book signings and shop.

Saturday, 30th March 2013.

Venue: Conway Hall (main hall), 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, WC1R 4RL London (nearest tube Holborn).

10.30am registration (speakers at 11-1, 2-4pm). Ends 4pm.

Tickets £10 on door (£5 student concession) (and from BHA website shortly)


Daniela Rudloff: Mental ‘Short-Cuts’ - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
11.00

Can we trust our eyes? Why does a footballer’s performance usually drop right after they’ve been sold to a high-paying football club? What exactly is “anchoring”, and why are we doing it on dry land?

Daniela Rudloff will answer these and other questions by giving an introduction to some of the mental shortcuts and biases in our everyday thinking. In her talk she shows how these shortcuts are often useful and sometimes counterproductive, always pervasive and surprisingly difficult to avoid.

Daniela has always had a keen interest in critical thinking, cognitive psychology and the scientific method. After completing her PhD in Cognitive Psychology she now teaches at Leicester University, with a particular focus on research methods and statistics. Daniela has previously presented at Skeptics in the Pubs events and at the Skeptics on the Fringe.

Claudia Hammond: Time Warped 
12.00

We are obsessed with time, but why does it play so many tricks on us? Why does time slow down when you're afraid and speed up as you get older? Drawing on the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience and biology, and using original research on the way memory shapes our understanding of time, the awarding-winning writer and broadcaster Claudia Hammond delves into the mysteries of time perception and how the mind creates a sense of time.

Claudia is an award-winning broadcaster, writer and psychology lecturer. She is the presenter of All in the Mind & Mind Changers on BBC Radio 4 and the Health Check on BBC World Service Radio every week and BBC World News TV every month. Claudia is a columnist for BBC.com and the author of "Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception" and "Emotional Rollercoaster - a journey through the science of feelings" which won the Aoen Transmission Prize in February 2013. 

Martin S Taylor: More Lives Than One?
2.00


Martin S Taylor became interested in hypnosis when he was studying for a PhD at Imperial College, and soon became well known on the student circuit with his science based lecture-demonstration. At first he believed in the traditional view that hypnosis is a special induced state of mind, but discussions with friends and his experience with his own hypnotic subjects led him to subscribe to the 'social-compliance' view, namely that hypnosis is best explained by normal, well-understood psychological principles.

He now makes a living as a lecturer and consultant on hypnosis, talking and demonstrating at schools, universities, and anywhere else they'll pay him. It was at one of Martin's lectures that Derren Brown was inspired to take up his career, and Martin has worked with Derren on a number of recent television shows. Recently he has been working as a hypnosis consultant for Paramount Pictures, producing promotional videos for horror films.

In today’s talk, Martin will be examining the notion that hypnosis can be used to get people to remember past lives, a phenomenon taken by many as evidence of reincarnation.

Robert Teszka: Mind and Magic
3.00

Robert Teszka is a cognitive psychologist, magician, science promoter, and massive geek. He uses the techniques of misdirection to study the psychology of attention and awareness at Goldsmiths University, and has travelled internationally to give lectures on the surprising insights of cognitive psychology.

Mind and Magic is a talk about how our own minds deceive us as readily as any magician, and how magician's tricks can help us understand our minds a bit better. Expect a curated collection of demonstrations, experiments, and original research - and perhaps a magic trick or two - as Rob attempts to convince you that sometimes, you just can't trust your own mind.

Image credit maltesen flickr. Creative commons.