Can "God" be used as a name for whatever created the universe, while not actually meaning the "God" that exists in religion? Just a quick example, if the Big Bang was caused by a massive black hole that eventually absorbed all existing matter before imploding, could we call that process "god"? Or is "god" a defined word?

With a term like 'God' there is no single meaning that you must use, soyour own intellectual and perhaps religious interests should guide you on this.Depending on your exact interests, you may or may not find yourself ininteresting conversation with others! For example, using the word in the way you describe won't allow you tocontribute much to conversations about how many religions have conceived of thedivine, so if you are interested in doing that this probably isn't a promisingway to proceed. If you want to contribute to conversations about the origin of the universe,there's probably no harm in using the term 'God' you do in your example,although this may appear idiosyncratic to other cosmologists and so may not bethe best word choice. Finally, if you are interested in spirituality more generally, perhaps youcan flesh out the idea of the divine in the manner you suggest and reach someinteresting conclusions. This sort of exploration may turn out to be a usefulalternative to, on the one hand...

It was once claimed by a lecturer of mine that, if he were alive today, "Marx would not be a Marxist". Being relatively badly-read when it comes to Marx, could anyone explain to me why this might be the case?

I don't know what your lecturer had in mind, but I too have heard several varations on this theme from students and colleagues. Tomy mind, the strongest reason to assert something like this goes asfollows: "Marx underestimated the extent to which capitalism could'grow around' the internal contradictions he describes and alsounderestimated the extent to which capitalism could co-opt the forcesthat he thought would drive its overthrow." This style ofresponse leaves open the possibility of substantive academic dialogueabout the strengths of Marxism while acknowledging some importantweaknesses. On this line, a living Marx would revise his theories insignficant ways and so would eschew "classical" Marxism for an"improved" version. A weaker argument goes something like:"History has proven Marx wrong, so if Marx were alive today and hadhalf a brain he would never be a Marxist." This sort of answer gesturestoward some possible problems with Marxism, but not in a manner thatallows for much...

Is it sensible to think that time is more fundamental than space, because one can just close one's eyes and relive memories, going back in time or prospectively go forward in time to predict something, without actually changing your position in space?

Our experience of objects (including ourselves) in space and time seems vital to our human existence, and I'm not sure what it would mean to say that either spatiality or temporality is more important than the other. Since thinking about events that may have happened in the past or events is not literally time travel, so spatiality seems to "beat" temporality with respect to ease of travel, which your question refers to. The difficulty of self-directed travel through time doesn't mean that temporality is unimportant, however.

If Cheese is made of bacteria culture, and bacteria is alive, is it wrong to eat cheese and yogurt? Or plants and anything else that is alive? If so, why do we have laws to protect people, animals, and other multi-organism beings, but not bacteria, which plays just as inportant, or even a more important role, than say a cat?

I think Peter is right that the philosophical answer to your question depends on finding a principled way to make judgments about moral considerability: since our energy and time are finite, we need to decide which things are most worthy of our consideration as we decide what we ought to do. Suppose that we decided that all living things were equally worthy of moral consideration. Given the sheer number of living things we interact with every day, it would be impossible for us to pay sufficient attention to all of them. In that case, we would either suffer "moral paralysis" or would have to make arbitrary, unprincipled decisions about which beings' moral interests we should care about. This practical problem is worse, of course, if one was inclined to consider non-living things worthy of moral consideration. So, there is a strong practical need to develop and defend criteria for moral considerability. Environmental philosophers who have investigated this include Richard Sylvan, Peter Singer,...

Why do I ask questions that I already know MY answer to? Why would I change my mind if I am already sure that, for example, 'knowledge comes from experience' or that, 'there is no life after this one'? Are there any instances in which any of the philosophers on this site have radically changed their minds or caused others to change theirs?

What often drives change in my own beliefs about important issues like those you mentioned (knowledge, life, death, ethics, etc.) is learning that I didn't understand those complicated topics as well as I thought I had. That this sort of intellectual growth is possible, in turn, motivates me to test my own beliefs and to continue to investigate issues that matter to me even when I already have my own clear beliefs about those issues. Many things cause this the sort of growth, including my own thinking about philosophical issues, my historical investigations into the history of crucial philosophical concepts, and many cases where my research or teaching leads me to pay close attention to others' philosophical perspectives. The growth commonly leads to small changes in my beliefs, and occasionally to radical ones (those are often extremely exciting moments); I think that, as an educator, I can lead many of my students to have the same same sort of change for the same reasons.

Is it possible to determine whether the laws of Physics as they are currently perceived will last indefinitely? Is there anything to prevent the nature of the universe changing so much tomorrow that reality as we know it breaks down?

Kant thought he had a strong answer to Hume, but this answer requires embracing a strange metaphysical doctrine of transcendental idealism that few have found palatable. Kant' s best discussions of this occurs in his Critique of Pure Reason . Suppose, however, that we reject "strange" answers like Kant's idealism, and suppose we also admit that we cannot prove that the laws of physics will remain unchanged in the future. There may still be strong reasons why we ought to believe that the laws of physics will be invariant, for example because this belief is necessary for motivating people to be moral or for motivating humans to conduct scientific investigations of the world. There are strands of both strands of argumentation--the "strange" idealistic one and the "practical" one about human motivation--in Kant's discussion of the systematicity of nature and the regulative use of reason in the first introduction to the Critique of Judgment.

How does one respond to the argument that the danger to our troops is misguided because a citizen of Washington D.C. has a greater chance of being fatally shot than an American soldier does of dying in Iraq?

That there are problems in Washington DC by no means undermines our reasons for caring about the Iraq war and its dangers. With respect to caring about people in danger: Shouldn't we have concern for the welfare of those involved in the Iraq war (Americans and others) as well as those who live in areas with high rates of violent claim (U.S. citizens and others in Washington DC and elsewhere)? Likewise, with respect to discussions about public policy I think both these problems are important and worthy of discussion and debate.

I'm not sure who made the claim, but I read that during the 1970s feminist movement some claimed that all sex was rape. Why did that person think that women could never have consensual sex?

I associate recent defenses of this claim with criticisms of "sex positive feminism," which stresses ways that embracing and affirming their their own sexualities can help feminists to resist the patriarchy and can empower themselves and others; the basic criticism by MacKinnon and others is that the immoral consequences of patriarchy are so intense and pervasive in our culture that they undermine this sort of sexual liberation. So, for example, in some articles Catherine MacKinnon's position is stronger and more radical than the one Alan describes because her pessimistic view extends to all expressions of sexuality, and is not limited to heterosexuality. In "Sexuality, Pornography, and Method: 'Pleasure Under Patriarchy'", MacKinnon argues that there exists in our patriarchal society a "rape culture" that is so strong that it is internalized even by those who oppose the patriarchy most strongly. Her pessimistic conclusion is that this makes morally problematical all sexual activity, including...

Is there a moral difference between killing a newly born baby and having an abortion? To be consistent, do we have to say either abortion/infanticide is morally wrong OR that abortion/killing a newborn can be morally permitted if the circumstances are right?

The view that Matthew articulates--that the moment of birth is not morally significant in a way affects deeply the moral status of the newborn infant--is a popular one, but it has been challenged by some. For example, the feminist philosopher Mary Anne Warren argues that birth is morally significant in virtue of the newborn's expanded social relationships. To say that newborns have a different moral status than nearly-borns does not mean that late-term fetuses ought not to be protected from harm -- but Warren's line of thought might provide a philosophical basis for concluding that newborn infants and late-term fetuses are not entitled to exactly the same degree of legal protection. To answer your question more directly: If there is a substantive question about whether newborns and late-term fetuses have significantly different moral status, there is even a stronger case to be made that there are big differences in the moral status between newborns and fetuses that can be legally aborted. If...