Cevat Babuna at Imperial College

As one of my friends is currently in the process of creating an ‘atheist and agnostic society’ at Imperial College (IC), and the most recent copy of the college magazine, Felix, contains several pieces regarding religion I have decided to make a few comments here to open the ideas to a wider audience.

The IC Islamic Ahul-Bayt Society invited Dr Cevat Babuna of the organisation Harun Yahya to talk on the subject of Evolution vs. Creationism (including Intelligent Design). As a bit of background, Dr Babuna is a Muslim neurosurgeon of Turkish nationality.

“The speaker was introduced with the claim that the society wanted to promote an exchange of ideas; he can’t have been listening, because he then proceeded with what can only be described as single-minded, bigoted propaganda.” Pietro Aronica, Felix.

Dr Babuna talked for over an hour, starting with the evils of ‘Social Darwinism’, trying to link anarchism, atheism, racism, fascism, Nazism, and communism to the theory of natural selection. In fact the words he used were more like, “the law of the jungle has killed more than 180million people’. This is clearly nonsense, as one attendee noted by pointing out that atheism and anti-Semitism were around long before Darwin proposed his magnum opus.

More ‘traditional’ attacks on Darwinism included the classic argument of ‘irreducible complexity’, clearly showing that Dr Babuna either does not understand the theory, or is wilfully ignorant of how powerful it can be.

As pointed out by Matty Hoban in Felix: “What made the lecture more interesting is that it was a Muslim speaking as opposed to an Evangelical Christian.” Perhaps Aronica pointed out the only real difference: “Everything was served with a large dose of Qur’an, added here and there to give a credible opinion… The plan backfired when even girls in hijab confronted him on the ridiculousness of his theories.”

Thankfully, many people found his arguments ridiculous (IC is one of the world’s leading science universities after all). Aronica reported, “Sometimes a chorus of dissent from the crowd would cover the speaker’s voice…”.

Pietro Aronica also gives a great example of what I like to call ‘Argument by Incredulous Substitution’. “The argument for Darwinism being the root of all evil was just bad, with no other word required. Maybe you are familiar with the reduction ad Hitlerum, an impressive sounding Latin phrase…basically, if Hitler liked X, X must be evil; other common variants are Nazis or Stalin instead of Hitler. Anybody can spot the fallacy in it, by putting as X something that is not considered unethical and still was supported by Hitler, like dogs, or paintings.

It’s a simple thing to forget, I guess, that anti0Semitism existed for millennia before Darwin was even born, that Hitler liked playing the blame game in a depression-ravaged hunger-stricken Germany, that Socrates had already questioned the existence of the Gods, and that racism is old as humanity itself The sensible, logical people outnumbered and outweighed their opponents, and showed how such idiocy is not appreciated here. Despite claims to the contrary, creationism is declining, and today’s audience was the living proof. Let’s keep it up”


Quote of The Day

"All religions were forged as defences against this virus, chance. Once you have dreamt up a god or a goddess, you can abase yourself, offer up burnt offerings, put your knees to the ground or your bottom to the air, all in the hope that by fawnings and repeated praise you may ward off ill fortune, or gain an imaginary better world."

- Brian Aldiss, Science Fiction Novelist,
"Fiction or Prediction?", 2007

Thanks to Gord for finding this one.

Teddy Bear Games

Why is calling a teddy bear Mohammed so different from calling a child Mohammed. I was speaking to a Muslim friend of mine the other day about this, and he said that it did make him feel "slightly uneasy" and that he wouldn't personally want a child's toy named after the prophet.

What I found strange is that my Muslim friend is actually named after the prophet twice, yes he is Mohammed Mohammed.


Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is an important concept. It means that I am free to write pretty much what I want to on here. But it also means that people can write and speak about ideas that I personally find abhorrent. These two views then enable us, and others to discuss what we have said. This is the principal of debate.

If you live in the UK I assume you have already connected this ramble with a certain event at the Oxford Union recently, where Nick Baker of the BNP and holocaust denier David Irving were invited to speak.

I have never been to the Oxford Union, but I imagine that it is a place where the views of these two men, whose thoughts and agendas I don’t agree with, can be challenged in a rigorous and intellectual way. I have no issue with the open discussion of whatever these people believe.

What is abhorrent to me is the protest against these people being allowed to speak. Would they not protest against religious, sexual, racial or any other form of discrimination in a country where this discrimination is the norm? Just because someone has a different view, however much you personally dislike it, does not mean that they do not have the same right to say it as anyone else.

By letting them speak we can find out what they have to say, and then we can make up our own minds. We may agree, or we may decide they are cretins. Freedom of speech then gives us the freedom to say, if we want to, that we totally disagree and give our reasons.

Let’s not be afraid of these people, let’s give them the rope by which they can hang themselves.


A Response to Aquinas Dad

Recently, as some of the regular lurkers know (at least according to Google Analytics), I have been having an argument with a guy (pseudonym Aquinas Dad) who has been arguing that atheists have killed more people than religious people. His sole argument centres on the atheist nature of communist organisations (in this case focusing on Shining Path in Peru).

Well you’d imagine that Shining Path being a bunch of atheist murderers would make the search “shining path atheism” a good term to Google. Indeed it returns over 360,000 results. However the comments of Aquinas Dad on this blog were ranked 4th in the listings, hardly indicative of a wealth of scholarly study. (I realise this isn’t exactly the best way of rating intellectual ideas but it is indicative of what has been done).

Click to enlarge

I accept communist organisations, such as the Maoist Shining Path, have committed murder on a large scale. But did they do this because they were atheists? Clearly the answer is no. In the same way that most murders by religious fundamentalists often are not done because people believe in this, that or these gods. The problem is that the religious G3 (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) through their acceptance of horrific Bronze Age texts actually condone these actions.

If the Old Testament or the Koran actually condemned violence then many of the most horrific acts in history would have been avoided. These texts gave, and still give, authority to such actions as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust. (The last one may seem far fetched but I was sent a magazine by the Christadelphians which states clearly that “the Holocaust was an essential part of god’s covenant with Israel”).

So yes, there are mentally ill individuals (both theist and atheist) who commit murder. The difference is that the religious person has the authority of religious texts, accepted by millions of people worldwide. They act to support an imaginary being that they believe certainly exists and holds the key to their personal afterlife.

Atheism denies the existence of this imaginary deity and, as a consequence, has to accept the delusions of these people for what they are: delusions. It may not be easy, but it’s the truth.


Homosexuality and Positive Discrimination

An issue that has been in the news (reasonably) recently in this country is the decision to allow homosexual couples to adopt children. This is the current climax of various ‘gay rights’ legislation, but is, understandably, the most controversial.

Normally I have absolutely no issues with equal rights, but the issue here raises questions that go beyond the rights of minority groups (i.e. they affect the children being adopted). Now I left school in 2004, and to be perfectly honest I wouldn’t want to have been adopted by gay parents. It would be an invitation to regular bullying – even in a school that was far from the decadent inner-city comprehensives that seem to be the worry of many parents. I understand that people have different views, and I know some perfectly normally people who have been bought up (for at least part of their lives) by gay parents. I guess I’m still divided on the matter.

I was wondering the other day what would happen if a similar agenda was laid before the American public?

My biggest issue however is the way that minority groups can create their own organisations that exclude, or partially exclude, the majority. The existence of gay nightclubs for me becomes much more sinister when you consider what would happen to somebody who tried to open a heterosexual nightclub. Or what about a white police officers’ association? A male businessmans’ club?

Is this a form of positive discrimination?

A fresh start?

Well it seems I’ve been a bit lazy recently. I don’t mean that I’ve not been posting enough, I post as and when I have time and I’ve been exceptionally busy recently. Instead I mean that I have not been covering a wide enough range of topics: most of the posts so far have been based on religion. Whilst I am keen on having discussions about atheism I am also keen to tackle over issues, most notably things that fall under the rather large umbrella of ‘pseudo-science’.

I also realise I have been quite lazy in interacting with other people sharing the ‘blogosphere’. So hopefully I will be having more debates and arguments with more people over the next few weeks and months.

So what has caused this feeling of laziness? Well I’ve realised that I would like to communicate some more ideas to other people, and to engage in discussions with other people. Also one of my friends (Felicity!) seems to be pursuing an interest in combining science and the media in some way, and it seems pretty cool. For several years I have been collecting a variety of newspaper cuttings, radio programmes and TV clips about things that interest me, and to be perfectly honest, it’s about time I started drawing on this resource!


Prussian Blue

I wonder who many Americans realise that there are a large number of people who look upon them as being religious fundamentalists in a very similar way as they look to countries in the Middle East. Of course this isn’t true for all Americans (in the same way as the entirety of the populations Middle Eastern countries aren’t Islamic fascists). Every now and then though something comes to light that really cuts through the masses and exposes certain sections of society to the rest of the world. For me one of the prime examples of such a cultural knife is the pop duo Prussian Blue.

I’m not sure how many people read what the holocaust deniers have to say. For those that don’t one of the breakdown products of Zyklon B (the gas used in the gas chambers) is the synthetic pigment Prussian Blue. The holocaust deniers claim that there is insufficient residue for the extermination of X number of Jews. What a lovely name for a pop band.

So who is in this duo? Well it’s not the classic neo-Nazi skinhead types, it’s a couple of young teenage girls. As you can probably imagine these views stem mainly from their parents, who are active in the ‘white power’ movement.

Perhaps the best way to expose how sad (and ridiculous) their views are is to let them speak for themselves:

“My racial awareness was always strengthened by my family....and my mom joined the NA when I was 8 years old. I am 12 years old now, I became a White Nationalist when I was 8, but before that I was already racial...."

Lynx Gaede

"I was racially aware ever since I was a baby. The first time Lamb and I saw a black, we were toddlers, and we called him a "Monster Guy". From then on, we called all blacks Monster Guys...of course now, they are known as niggers, but then they were Monster Guys. Anyways, I was racially aware in Kindergarten, I never went near the few blacks that were in my school, I was totally superior towards all of the mexicans, I knew that I was different from them, and that I had more intelligence then they did."

Lynx Gaede on she and Lamb calling black people "Monster Guys"

"I'm a girl! I think the boys should be fighting and the girls stay home!"

Lamb Gaede on fighting in a race war

Cynthia McFadden (ABC News): And what's your opinion on Hitler?
Lamb Gaede: I think that he had ... he wanted to preserve his race.
McFadden: He had 6 million Jews executed.
Lamb: I think that's an exaggeration.
McFadden: You do.
Lamb: Yes.
Lynx Gaede: I hardly believe there are even that many Jews alive back then.
McFadden: Is Hitler someone you admire or someone you don't admire? ... You think he was a great man?
Lynx: Yeah, I think he did a lot -- he had a lot of good ideas.


Carnival of The Godless

Well, here it is - the latest issue of Carnival of the Godless. I have had plenty of submissions, and since many arrived at the last minute it has taken a while to put this together. It seemed to me that the fairest way of arranging everything was to have the posts in chronological order of arrival, so here goes.

I must admit to finding Alister McGrath rather annoying, and so, obviously, does Shalini whose post deals with a few examples of the guy's "buffoonery".

Barry Mahfood takes a look at what can be described as miraculous in his post, and what a religious person can take from the fact that they survived a bridge collapse.

Sometimes the best way to expose somebody as being deluded is just to let them express themselves, and Martin Wagner's discussion in this post shows just how wrong they can be.

BT Murtagh in his post takes a look at the god of both deists and of the Abrahamic faiths and shows that one is false, and the other is useless.

Doug Humphries' post in Eight Hour Lunch hides its moral (albeit loosely) behind a family of Possums. It is amazing how inter-Possum relations can shed light on how pathetic some members of the human race can be!

Chris Flynn-Jones' mini-epic about the meaning of life is certainly worth a read, as is the discussion of homosexuality in Jared's submission. Meanwhile Red Baron uncovers the extremist tendencies of The Sun.

Mike Elias seems to have found something in Buddhism whilst No More Mr Nice Guy is annoyed by the Christian response to the latest Harry Potter offering.

Ryan attacks popular misconceptions about neo-Atheism while Mike Haubrich questions politicians who ask for us to "pray for rain" and John P. asks "Why didn't Jesus Write?".

Ironwolf calls for believers to come clean about the basis of their beliefs. Dikkii has a discussion about cartoon strips and the problems with Pascal's Wager, whereas Cheerful Iconoclast looks at a case where a catholic diocese files for bankruptcy. Barry Leiba has a light-hearted look at the power of prayer.

Andrew Bernardin asks why Christian slaves are to respect their masters; evanescent asks whether believers really believe? The therapydoc looks at the terror of concentration camps.

Hell's Handmaiden writes about de-constructing the works of Stanley Fish. Tobe questions whether the current trend of pro-atheism books is worthwhile or just preaching to the converted, and Phil send us a poem.

Sexy Secularist wonders what can make a new religion while Greta Chrisitina uncovers what Jesus had to say about hell (as well as the bridge collapse). VJack asks the Important Atheism Questions and finally The Skwib looks for further signs of the apocalypse.


Vote for this Blog

I would like to invite you all to vote for this blog on bloginterviewer.com. You can either use the buttons to the right, or click here for a direct link. If you want to leave a comment to say that you have voted then please feel free - it would be good to hear from some of you.


Argument by Incredulous Substitution

I found today an article that I had missed in the Guardian in January. Apparently secular fundamentalists should now be the number one enemy of the politically correct crowd.

I agree that people should be free to believe what they want. But as the 'big three' religions in this country all advocate violence against against people who believe in other gods then some restrictions should be placed on them. Not 'advertising' by wearing religious jewelry is something that needs to be discussed, as it does not really harm anything, but veils and the like are a symbol of oppression rooted in the bronze age.

As for terrorism not being linked to religion: could there be religious extremists without religions?

There is also an example of what I call 'argument by incredulous substitution':

"Witness, for example, Mary Riddell's astonishing sentence in the Observer last month (try replacing "religion" with "homosexuality" to get the point): "secularists do not wish to harm religion or deny its great cultural influence. They simply want it to know its place." In other words: get back in the closet."

Religion is a set of beliefs, inconsistent across cultures, often internally inconsistent and generally mutual exclusive. Homosexuality is a sexual preference. We could insert a particular religion or even another belief system like racism or liberalism. We cannot insert homosexuality in the same way we cannot insert 'albinism' or 'animals'.

Are they waking up?

In an article on Christian Post Michelle Vu reports that Anthony Horvath has made a scathing attack on the way the church does little to promote itself to young people. This, he argues, is responsible for the increasing number of atheists.

The report says that the church should do more to explain why it believes things such as Jesus rising from the dead. Just how this will make Christianity more believable is beyond me. Roll on the next and larger generation of atheists!


Carnival of the Godless

Well, once again it's been a while since I have posted here. The excuse this time is moving house, and other commitments I have had with various organisations and people.

I will now be able to return to something at least resembling normal service. On the 18th of August I will be hosting Carnival of the Godless here - so it would be good to get everything back to normal by then!

I have also had a few contributions from some other people, who although they do not want to contribute regularly have generously offered me a contribution or two. If anybody else wants to send me any then please feel free to either send it, or if you'd prefer we can discuss it first.

I will be placing these submitted articles up over the next month or so - and I hope you enjoy them. They are of topics that I have no or little direct experience of - and should help to broaden the themes of this blog.


Jonathan Edwards Loses God

It is the afternoon of September 25, 2000, and Jonathan Edwards is making his way to the triple jump final at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney. In his kitbag are some shirts, spikes, towels – and a tin of sardines.

Why the sardines? They have been chosen by Edwards to symbolise the fish that Jesus used in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. They are, if you like, the physical manifestation of his faith in God.

As he enters the stadium, he offers a silent prayer: “I place my destiny in Your hands. Do with me as You will.” A few hours later he has captured the gold medal, securing his status as one of Britain’s greatest athletes.

Edwards’s faith was never an optional add-on. It has been fundamental to his identity – something that has permeated every fibre of his being – since his trips to Sunday school in the company of his devout parents; since he went to a Christian youth camp in North Devon and devoted his life to Jesus, tears streaming down his cheeks and his face glowing with divine revelation. Since he decided to risk everything to follow God’s revealed path, moving to Newcastle in 1987 to become a full-time athlete in the belief that his preordained success would enable him to evangelise to an unbelieving world; since he withdrew from the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991 because his event was scheduled for the Sabbath.

By the time Edwards retired from athletics in 2003, he had established himself as one of Britain’s most prominent born-again Christians. He soon landed the job of fronting a landmark documentary on the life of St Paul and also secured the presenting role on the BBC’s flagship religious programme, Songs of Praise. He looked to have made the transition to life after sport with a sureness of touch that eludes so many professional athletes. Perhaps this was another advantage of his bedrock faith in God.

But even as he toured the nation’s churches with his BBC crew, Edwards was confronting an apocalyptic realisation: that it was all a grand mistake; that his epiphany was nothing more than self-delusion; that his inner sense of God’s presence was fictitious; that the decisions he had taken in life were based on a false premise; that the Bible is not literal truth but literal falsehood; that life is not something imbued with meaning from on high but, possibly, a purposeless accident in an unfeeling universe.

Having left his sport as a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical, Edwards is now, to all intents and purposes, an atheist. But why? It is a question that has reverberated around the Christian community since the rumours began to circulate when Edwards resigned from Songs of Praise in February. Edwards a backslider? Impossible.

I am sitting opposite Edwards, 41, in the garden of his large home in Gosforth on the outskirts of Newcastle, but he does not resemble a man whose world has been turned upside down. His boyish face, cropped with sparkling, silver-grey strands, is alert and alive. One gets the impression that he is looking forward to the ordeal of a lengthy interview. Perhaps he regards it as a kind of confessional, an opportunity to bare all and be done.

“I never doubted my belief in God for a single moment until I retired from sport,” he says. “Faith was the reason that I decided to become a professional athlete, in the same way that it was fundamental to every decision I made. It was the foundation of my existence, the thing that made everything else make sense. It was not a sacrifice to refuse to compete on Sundays during my early career because that would imply that athletics was important in and of itself. It was not. It was always a means to an end: glorifying God.

“But when I retired, something happened that took me by complete surprise. I quickly realised that athletics was more important to my identity than I believed possible. I was the best in the world at what I did and suddenly that was not true any more. With one facet of my identity stripped away, I began to question the others and, from there, there was no stopping. The foundations of my world were slowly crumbling.”

Edwards retains the earnest intensity that was his hallmark when he gave talks and sermons at churches up and down the country. He is a serious person who regards life as a serious business, even if he is now unsure of its deeper meaning. But why did someone with such a penetrating intellect leave it so long to question the beliefs upon which he had constructed his life? “It was as if during my 20-plus-year career in athletics, I had been suspended in time,” he says.

“I was so preoccupied with training and competing that I did not have the time or emotional inclination to question my beliefs. Sport is simple, with simple goals and a simple lifestyle. I was quite happy in a world populated by my family and close friends, people who shared my belief system. Leaving that world to get involved with television and other projects gave me the freedom to question everything.”

“Once you start asking yourself questions like, ‘How do I really know there is a God?’ you are already on the path to unbelief,” Edwards says. “During my documentary on St Paul, some experts raised the possibility that his spectacular conversion on the road to Damascus might have been caused by an epileptic fit. It made me realise that I had taken things for granted that were taught to me as a child without subjecting them to any kind of analysis. When you think about it rationally, it does seem incredibly improbable that there is a God.”

Would Edwards have been as successful a sportsman had he been assailed by such doubts? It is a question that the world record-holder confronts with bracing candour. “Looking back now, I can see that my faith was not only pivotal to my decision to take up sport but also my success,” he says. “I was always dismissive of sports psychology when I was competing, but I now realise that my belief in God was sports psychology in all but name.”

Muhammad Ali once asked: “How can I lose when I have Allah on my side?” Edwards understands the potency of such beliefs, even as he questions their philosophical legitimacy.

“Believing in something beyond the self can have a hugely beneficial psychological impact, even if the belief is fallacious,” he says. “It provided a profound sense of reassurance for me because I took the view that the result was in God’s hands. He would love me, win, lose or draw. The tin of sardines I took to the Olympic final in Sydney was a tangible reminder of that.”

The upheaval of recent months has not left Edwards emotionally scarred, at least not visibly. “I am not unhappy about the fact that there might not be a God,” he says. “I don’t feel that my life has a big, gaping hole in it. In some ways I feel more human than I ever have. There is more reality in my existence than when I was full-on as a believer. It is a completely different world to the one I inhabited for 37 years, so there are feelings of unfamiliarity.

“There have also been issues to address in terms of my relationships with family and friends, many of whom are Christians. But I feel internally happier than at any time of my life, more content within my own skin. Maybe it is because I am not viewing the world through a specific set of spectacles.”

“The only inner problem that I face now is a philosophical one,” Edwards says. “If there is no God, does that mean that life has no purpose? Does it mean that personal existence ends at death? They are thoughts that do my head in. One thing that I can say, however, is that even if I am unable to discover some fundamental purpose to life, this will not give me a reason to return to Christianity. Just because something is unpalatable does not mean that it is not true.”

His crisis of faith offers a metaphysical dimension to the inner turmoil that afflicts so many sportsmen on their retirement. Some will say he has journeyed from light into darkness, others that he has journeyed from darkness into light – but none could doubt the honesty with which he has travelled. The Eric Liddell of his generation has sacrificed his religious beliefs on the altar of intellectual honesty, a martyr of a kind.

World of his own

— A committed Christian, Edwards refused to compete on a Sunday until 1993, most notably missing the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. “It is an outward sign that God comes first in my life,” he said at the time.

— Contested the World Championships for the first time in 1993, the first of five successive appearances, winning a medal at each one, including gold in 1995 and 2001.

— There was little hint of his 12 months to come in 1995 when, the previous year, he finished sixth at the European Championships, second at the Commonwealth Games and was ranked No 9 in the world.

— Edwards’s life changed in 1995, when he set three world and seven British records, achieving the unprecedented feat of two world records in his first two jumps of the final of the World Championships in Gothenburg. His 18.29 metres that day remains the world record. His wind-assisted 18.43, to win the European Cup in Lille, is the longest triple jump on record.

— A run of 22 consecutive victories ended when he finished second to Kenny Harrison, of the United States, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Edwards had finished 23rd and 35th in his two previous Olympics and finished second and third at the World Championships between Atlanta and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where he took gold.

Original Article

This should provide hope to all of us! Hopefully this story will become widely talked about, and encourage other people to cast a critical eye over their beliefs.

Unfortunately some people still feel that this isn't a good thing! But this is one, rather public, addition to the free thought cause.


Chastity Ring Ban II

Well it seems theres some more to this story than I have realised, having not read the papers properly for a long time. Apparently Lydia's mother, Heather Playfoot, is a director of Silver Ring Thing (UK) Ltd - which might just be considered as an influence.

And what about the father, Phil? Oh, he's the Parents' Programme Director of, wait for it, Silver Ring Thing (UK) Ltd.

It's been interesting to see some of the views of other 'reason-able' bloggers. One of my favourites was a call for proof of her virginity in court. Others think that Lydia's actions are just over the top.

Some of the fundamentalists across the pond seem to think the whole thing is a disgrace, but for completely opposite reasons than the free thinking.

Intelligent Comments from readers

Thank you to the highly intelligent reader who left "u have the worst fucking site ever. go die and jump off a cliff" on the meebo facility to the right.

Please come back for lessons on how to spell, when to use a capital letter and for some lessons on causality. If I was dead I could not jump off a cliff could I?

When you are prepared to have a sensible argument please come back and we can have a sensible, civilised discussion.

Anyone else who wants to leave a comment either on the blog or via meebo please do so, the site could do with having some more discussions. I know I've been a bit poor at updating for the last few months but everything's back on track now!


Chastity Ring Ban

The "chastity ring" that has led to a deluded teenager taking her school to court.

The "Chastity Ring" has proved to be quite a phenomenon across the pond, but surely in the slightly less christian fundamental UK its just an odd curiosity? Well, no, a 16 year old girl Lydia Playfoot, has taken her school to court for not allowing her to wear one, on the basis that it was discriminatory as other girls could wear jewellery that was a fundamental part of their religion.

Since when has wearing a tacky ring been an essential part of Christianity? It is a triviality, in all likelihood an attempt to swell the coffers, or attract impressionable youths to the church by bribery.

I am not against those people who don't believe in sex before marriage, if they believe it is a good idea for a rational reason - as there are rational reasons. There is also a persuasive argument against it. I don't mind which side you favour, as long as you can argue your corner without recourse to imaginary friends.

So surely this case was thrown out? Well no. It is currently being considered by Mr Justice Supperstone and the result is expected in 4-6 weeks. Hopefully the ban will remain in place - and I fully support the Millais School (Horsham, West Sussex) on their bravery in not backing down to the disillusioned.


Alternative History

Article in The Times 2nd April 2007

"Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed.

It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.

There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.

The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.

The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into 'emotive and controversial' history teaching in primary and secondary schools.

It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.

The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.

The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.

It added: "In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils.

"But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."

A third school found itself 'strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict-and the history of the state of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination'.

The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."

But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness. Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether palatable or unpalatable."

The researchers also warned that a lack of subject knowledge among teachers - particularly at primary level - was leading to history being taught in a 'shallow way leading to routine and superficial learning'.

Lessons in difficult topics were too often 'bland, simplistic and unproblematic' and bored pupils."

This is what happens when people have their views misguided by religion. The job of a balanced education is to present evidence and teach people how to form conclusions fom it. The Holocaust is unique not only in the magnitude of it atrocity, but the magnitude of evidence that we have showing what happened. Everybody who studies this period of world history needs to be presented with the evidence, without it i's impossible to fully understand some of the major conflicts in the present day.

Personally I would like the events of the Crusades to be discussed more often. There can only be one true version of events, and the process of deducing this sequence from the evidence is a worthwhile study for any school child.

If history disagrees with religion, one of them is wrong.
If science disagrees with religion, one of them is wrong.

I think I'll stick with my science and history.


The Theory of Evolution from Gumtree

"It is not a theory

It is called evolution
who is trying to dilute it into just a theory

It states in natural selection
and survival of the fitest

quite simple concepts even the most simple person can understand
that life adapts to its environment

if the bible is to be taken literally
the world is only 10 000 years old

I know which theory has the most credibility

In science, a theory is a mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation. It follows from this that for scientists "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and a theory which explains why the apple behaves so is the general theory of relativity.

the age of the earth can be proven using scientific FACTS that can be proved and reproduced exactly to give the same results.

In common usage, people often use the word theory to signify a conjecture, an opinion, or a speculation. In this usage, a theory is not necessarily based on facts; in other words, it is not required to be consistent with true descriptions of reality. True descriptions of reality are more reflectively understood as statements that would be true independently of what people think about them. In this usage, the word is synonymous with hypothesis.

the age of the world according to the bible is described by this definition of theory perfectly.
and all religion

people who study religion are known as THEOLOGY students


the rest of you
have a GREAT weekend"

Well we could do without people like this vocalising about our cause. Ignoring the rather sloppy structure there are still some horrednous errors in this diatribe.

Evolution is a theory. It happens to have stood the test of time remarkably well, and all experiemntal evidence supports it. It doesn't mean it's totally correct, although the evidence that it is at the present time is overwhelming. Also it is the only theory put forward that matches the evidence. We do not choose between it and an alternative, nobody ahs come up with an equally good alternative.

Also the writer seems to imply that theology is the study of theories. I'm reasonable sure (understatement) that it is in fact the study of theism.

This guy talks as much nonsense as the people is he is trying to put down.


Lack of Service

Apologies for the lack of blogging recently, I have quite a lot on at the moment. Normal service resumes around May 25th!

Mohammed Cartoons

We are not afraid!


Holiday Announcement

I am going to be in Costa Rica for the next week or so, so this blog won't be updated until I return. Apologies!


Who Wrote the Bible? [Old Testament]

I must have missed this being on TV, but I managed to source a copy. It is a documentary by Robert Beckford, a Christian, and his journey to uncover who wrote the bible. I found it interesting to note that Beckford attributes his personal success and in some cases his morality to being raised as a Christian.

Early on in the documentary Beckford said something which I, as an atheist, was relieved by. He said that studying the history of the bible made him doubt his own beliefs. The ability to question religious beliefs is an important liberty.

Traditionally the first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses, although the archaeological evidence suggests that the people at the time were unable to record their history. Interestingly Beckford makes the claim that archaeology tests historical truth. He seems more confused however regarding whether a lack of truth means the bible is wrong. Beckford must be applauded as a Christian for actually seeking sound evidence, and ignoring 'Biblical Archaeology' where evidence is skewed to promote the accuracy of the Bible. Indeed he talks with Israel Finkelstein, a renowned mind from Tel Aviv University, about, amongst other things, the dating of the Solomonic Gate.

Interestingly archaeology has provided no evidence for a Jewish kingdom or the exodus from Egypt, indeed at that time Jerusalem was not the capital of a great empire, but a small village.

The documentary's destruction of the Old Testament focused mainly on the pentateuch (the books of Moses). The Mosaic authorship of the pentateuch is questioned first by the Deuteronomy account of Moses' death - something impossible to write about in the first person. The weight of the evidence however came from Beckford's discussion with Jill Middlemas of the University of Oxford, who explained to him the theory, first advanced in the 19th Century, that the pentateuch itself comes from four separate authors.

This would not be so bad for the authenticity of the bible if these sources agreed on the very nature of god. In the 'J' text god converses with his peoples directly, whereas in the 'E' text god can only talk through intermediaries. There is not even a single word (or name) for god! This leads to the 'revelation' that the "Bible is a big editing job".

The most interesting point made on this is a rhetorical question: why have these details not filtered to the church going public?

The question of dating the Old Testament is left fairly open. A later limit is set at 586BC (the year of the destruction of Judah, which one of the Psalmist believes would stand forever). The Psalmists were also clearly aware of all four of the pentateuch texts.

Beckford then goes on to investigate the various spin-like modifications of the texts' meaning, favouring at various times monotheism, suffering and hope.

Particular mention is made of the prophet book Isaiah, although the authorship is split between more than one author. Perhaps the most important concept introduced by these authors is the prophecy of a messiah. as Beckford puts it; mission+messiah=hope for future.

So where do the Dead Sea Scrolls fit into the picture? These scrolls, found in the 1940s, are from a radical Jewish sect, the Essenes. The 'Temple Scroll' irons out many of the inconsistencies in the Old Testament, so why was it rejected? If it had been written previously it may well have been accepted as the word of god, however the Old Testament had been around long enough to become accepted, and the word of god could no longer be modified.

Well, that's it for now. I will comment on the New Testament soon, drawing from the same documentary. The documentary also reminded me to do a piece on Zionism, so that too should be up here shortly.

Somebody e-mailed me to say that I just regurgitate other articles and sources. That is true, I want to build a kind of mini-library for a while here, and I will add comprehensive personal analysis later when I have added sufficient source summaries. May sound odd but it makes sense to me!


An Update / Carnival of The Godless

Well, it's still well under a month since I started this blog, and already the response is heartening. So far I have had visitors from 26 countries, mainly in Western Europe but also some slightly less unexpected corners of the world. In particular the response in the USA and at home in the UK has been very positive.

There are already a few people coming in from search engines, particularly Google. Technorati has been the main source of incoming links, closely followed by sites on the Atheist Blogroll.

Obviously I'd love you to link here, or to any posts that you find interesting. If you do so drop me an e-mail or a comment and I'll make the effort to have a look through your blog/site and make a few comments.

Also please feel free to make a few more comments, I know that this blog is still in its infancy but I do try and reply to all those where a reply is appropriate. Hopefully the resulting discussions will be of interest to somebody! It's worth noting that although I moderate comments I do this only to remove spam, I have no problem publishing comments which disagree with what I have to say. Open discussion is the way forward.

The final comment is that this blog will host the Carnival of The Godless on the 19th August this year which I am looking forward to already!


Remove Gideon Bibles Petition

For all you UK residents I have made this petition on the Prime Minister's petition site. If you agree that Gideon bibles should be removed from hotel rooms then I urge you to sign up, it only takes a few moments.

If you want to link to the petition the address is http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/removebibles/, or just link to this post.


Confused by Reality?

I am amazed by the number of people I have seen posting on the internet about things such as creationism vs evolution who get the science totally wrong. I was reminded of this by the same podcast as I mentioned yesterday, which I downloaded again to check a few things out.

The most striking thing said was that it may take a scientist hours, or even days to properly explain why the pseudo-science spouted by a preacher is incorrect. The incorrect use of scientific language in these speeches lends an unwarranted authority to the words of these preachers, and makes them more believable to the lay religious citizen.

I wish I could say that I thought these preachers were just misguided. But I think it is more sinister. Backed up with authoritatively delivered, despite incorrect, words and concepts bastardised from the world of science these preachers set out to deceive their congregations and get them to believe in their own world view. Whether is this is morally justified by religion or not is another matter.

Arguments Against Creationism

Here are a few arguments made against creationism a while ago now on the Infidel Guy podcast, when he was talking to Frank Zindler.

Zindler made a huge attack on creationism as it is told in Genesis. Two points that I found particularly interesting (although I'd heard them before) were the fact that a literal interpretation of Genesis requires a flat Earth, and an argument made on that favourite science topic of creationists - the fossil record.

The 'flat Earth' requirement comes from the six days it supposedly takes to make the Earth. Well, if we take this literally it is nonsense, at any time half of the Earth is in day, the other half in night. At the poles day and night are 6 months each! If on the other hand we take 'day' to be a significant length of time, then the order of creation is ridiculous.

My favourite argument is however based on the fossil record. Creationists often use this as a trump card in disproving evolution, even though there are so many intermediary forms in the record that to claim it doesn't support evolution is wrong. But anyway, surely if, as many creationists believe, we lived at the same time as the dinosaurs (who in some cases could breathe fire in order to explain dragons), then there should be fossil records of people ad dinosaurs in the same strata. None has been found. There are also other glaring inconsistencies that support evolution, there is a cut off point for pollen from angiosperms, even though there are other plant fossils before this date.

I just love the fact that one of the creationists trump cards has been turned on them!


Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family in America

Louis Theroux is an undoubtedly talented master of documentary making. Indeed I would have found it nearly impossible to make this film.

It follows the Phelps family and what is effectively their church, the Westboro Baptist Church. The family has gained notoriety for protests at the funerals of American servicemen, blaming their deaths on an increasingly homosexual or homosexual tolerating country.

Theroux managed to cut to the heart of the matter. The family and church is led by 'Gramps,' who has a lot of unresolved anger, and a rather novel interpretation of the bible. Those of his children who do not follow his beliefs are disowned. Theroux couldn't even get an answer out of him for the number of children he has had, or has.

The most shocking part, as for Jesus Camp, was the indoctrination of the children. Theroux questioned several of them at a protest while they were holding up banners. One was only four years old and had no concept of tyranny she was supposedly supporting. The fact that the family allow this, and allow children to protest even when they come under fire from missile attacks shows just how sick and twisted the leaders of this cult are.

BBC Website


More Nonsense Science

"Gravity: Doesn't exist. If items of mass had any impact of others, then mountains should have people orbiting them. Or the space shuttle in space should have the astronauts orbiting it. Of course, that's just the tip of the gravity myth. Think about it. Scientists want us to believe that the sun has a gravitation pull strong enough to keep a planet like neptune or pluto in orbit, but then it's not strong enough to keep the moon in orbit? Why is that? What I believe is going on here is this: These objects in space have yet to receive mans touch, and thus have no sin to weigh them down. This isn't the case for earth, where we see the impact of transfered sin to material objects. The more sin, the heavier something is. "

Well this is clearly a case of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Of all the scientific theories in existence why attack gravity? We have been able to describe it accurately for a long time now!

It's almost not worth doing, but I'm going to dissect it.

Firstly some background, gravity is associated with mass. The exact 'cause' of mass is still under investigation, but we expect it to be discovered in the next few years at CERN (try looking on google for Higgs Boson). We know that masses attract each other. This attraction is very small, and tiny compared to the electromagnetic force. We also know that the attraction weakens with distance (we know by how much too!).

Mountains are large, and do have a gravitational attraction to people (and vice versa), but it is swamped by the gravitational field of the Earth.

I guess it's worth explaining simply how gravity works in relation to orbits. The simplest way to think about this is to imagine throwing a ball in front of you. It follows a parabolic trajectory, falling to Earth because of gravity. But what happens if you are able to throw it far enough that the Earth's surface curves away beneath it. The gravitational field of the Earth still tries to pull it in, and it curves with the surface (unless you throw it fast enough to escape the gravitational field). So, if there is a small enough resistance to its motion (e.g. very thin or no atmosphere) it will keep falling in an orbit around the Earth.

The Earth's field even at the distance of shuttle operations is many, many times larger than the attraction between the shuttle and the astronauts. So small in fact it is safe to ignore it.

To attribute mass to sin is clearly bullshit.


Jesus Camp

I finally got round to watching this film in some free time I had this morning. For those of you who haven't seen or heard about it, it follows a few kids attending a 'Jesus Camp' run by a larger than life evangelical woman. It really does ram home the problem of religion.

Most of the kids are home-schooled, apparently on religious grounds. The lessons seem to make a complete mockery of science, evolution, and who knows what else. I wouldn't be surprised if the whole of history was rewritten to support the Bible.

The camp itself used evocative music, dance, speech, lighting, etc to enchant the children and draw them into the fold. These tactics wouldn't be out of place in the arsenal of many a dictator, and the conviction of the speaker, and her eagerness to convert the people to believe her world-view reminded me of Adolf Hitler than the biblical accounts of Jesus of Nazareth.

That made me angry, but the anger was overcome by sadness for the children. For those of you who doubted Richard Dawkins claim that this form of indoctrination is child abuse you need look no further. The children seem to be converted not just for their own good, but to be soldiers for the cause of evangelism.


The Atheists Nightmare

I try to avoid calling people I have never met stupid, or even ignorant. But sometimes I really have to restrain myself.

The (so called) Atheists' Nightmare is in fact a banana, and the video can be found here. I know this has been lurking around for a while, and it has been debunked many times. But I wanted to include it, and it makes for an interesting post.

Well, I concede that the banana has been designed. It has been selectively bred by humans for thousands of years. In fact a wild banana bears very little resemblance to what you find in the supermarket or green grocers today. Intelligent design? I would say so. Cultivated bananas are much nicer than wild ones. A triumph for Intelligent Design supporters, I'm afraid not (surprise, surprise).

Some of the YouTube guys had a field day with this. I've seen that despite the fact that banana may be well designed, the pineapple and coconut are clearly not.

The IDers came up with another triumph of stupidity. Apparently if evolution is true then every now and then life would spontaneously appear in jars of peanut butter.

I never knew that people could be that stupid.

Of course when this turned out to be nonsense Roy Comfort (the creator of the banana myth) conceded the argument. But why put it out there in the first place?

Ken Miller

I thought I'd post this video of Ken Miller talking about evolution and intelligent design, as some people have asked me about how things like the bacteria flagellum motor could arise by evolution. Miller has been a witness at several trials regarding the teaching of intelligent design in US schools.

I also found this video (a response to the one above) which seeks to remind us that evolution is a Hindu idea. I'm not acquainted with the Hindu literature, but I am pretty certain that if it does agree with evolution it does so by chance. Statistically I guess one religion was going to come up with it eventually. It will not however have come to it by a genuine, reasonable, scientific way.

British Centre for Science Education

I saw on another blog (sorry I forgot which one) about this guy David Anderson who has created a blog solely as an attempt to counteract the British Centre for Science Education, whose aim is to prevent creationism being taught in UK schools.

I must admit prior ignorance of this group, but I have read around their website and I agree with their aims, and have since registered for membership, which is currently free. I would encourage you all to do the same here. Perhaps we can make something positive has come out of David's blog after all.

Alternative Dinosaur Museum

I saw this today.

This is a step way across the line. Giving a religious explanation to accepted science on a scale like this, and presenting it as fact is repulsive on so many levels. The truth of the matter is we KNOW that dinosaurs became extinct millions of years ago, and never walked the Earth with humans. To say otherwise is a lie.

Here in the UK there would be an outcry at such a preposterous idea. But then we have a much greater freedom of belief, or lack of. I also doubt such funds could be raised for a similar venture here.

To me this has really bought home the fact that America is in a Dark Age. We have seen it in Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Within a few generations the architectural feats of the Romans were thought by many to be the work of some higher power. European culture was in a trough. This was a time that religion was a major force in the world, and the influence of the pope over kings led to numerous atrocities. I guess thanks to the Da Vinci Code and the ilk the most famous of these will be the horrendous genocide of the Cathars, and the murder of the Knights Templar.

The Dark Age came to an end with the enlightenment where people were once again able to think freely in the sciences, philosophy and the arts. The Church was however reluctant to give up its power, and we see a period of intellectual conflicts with the established power.

Ever since the enlightenment the power of religion has been waning, and with it the people have become less religious. The French revolution succeeded in separating church and state, and in other countries the influence of Rome over the leaderships reduced.

What America needs is an enlightenment, and it needs it soon before the few lights of the Dark Age have gone forever.


Elton John: "Ban Religion"

This post was originally going to be called "Leviticus: 2000 years of suppression in a nutshell" but then I saw this article where Elton John calls for organised religion to be banned. So I have sort of merged the two.

The focus is now on the Bible's teaching on homosexuality, and the suppression of women and other such horrors will come along in future posts.

Well, I took a look at Leviticus in the Good News (unless your homosexual) translation of the Bible. It appears that god "hates" it when a man has sex with another man. The punishment for this "disgusting thing" is death.

So why are we having debates about gay priests? Surely this will disgust god?

It's time to face facts. The apocalypse is coming, but not as it is told in Revelations. The horsemen of this apocalypse are reason, truth, science and acceptance.

Richard Dawkins Birthday

Happy (belated) Birthday to Richard Dawkins for yesterday. Dawkins is one of the greatest scientists, writers and orators defending reason. As a birthday present I would like to invite you to vote for The God Delusion in the British Book Awards.

Vote here

See birthday messages for Richard here


At Least Understand It

This is typical of posts I see on the internet:

Believe it or not, you were perfect when you were born. You were obviously healthy if you are posting here today, you hadn't sinned, and were making choices and using your free will, though they were small choices. Unfortunately, later in your life you made some bad choices and now you are a sinner, but remember, God MADE you perfect.

One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

From here.

Well, the bit about evolution breaking the Second Law is true, it could only happen if there was a giant energy source outside the Earth, supplying it with lots of energy.

Fortunately for the theory of evolution we have a huge external nuclear fusion based power source, and it is well known to scientists (and everyone else for that matter). It is called the Sun.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!


At Least Make Your Mind Up

I have met so many people who somehow manage to accept not only the history of the Earth being uncovered by science, but also manage to claim to be Christians. This is pure idiocy.

If you believe that the Bible is the word of a god, and you choose to believe and follow the teachings of that god, then surely it's all or nothing? Surely you can't pick and choose?

Well, apparently you can, because what they believe to be the divine word of god they feel free to interpret however they want. The Bible says, explicitly, that god "hates" homosexual men, yet we now have "gay priests". I'm all for equal rights, but equality for homosexuals and Christianity are mutually exclusive. It says it in the book, and the book comes from god.

Similarly I was recently told that the story of Adam and Eve was meant to be metaphorical. A metaphor for what exactly? Was it taken to be metaphorical when it was first written? The only real thing that has resulted from it is widespread misogyny.

Is it possible to combine rational belief with the book of Genesis (we'll ignore the rest for now)? Of course not. You can accept reason, or accept the doctrine. Is it reasonable to expect Noah to build an ark to carry two of every animal? No, and especially not given the dimensions. Is there sufficient water on the planet to cover the near-entirety of the Earth's surface? Obviously not.

There are even people who claim to be able to reconcile the existence of dinosaurs with Genesis, even claiming that they were on the ark. The top trump is yet to come, the dating of the bones by various scientific disciplines (which all agree) are a test of faith by their god.

Isn't this just getting desperate? Isn't their sufficient evidence already to show your holy book to be at best factually flawed?

I'd argue that the case was stronger than that. The Bible claims to be the true words of god. The fact that the words are now wrong surely implies that god was wrong. For a self-declared supreme being this is tragic indeed. RIP.

Some Comments on The Da Vinci Code

Well, first of all this blog is about reasoned arguments, and this book is a novel. The overlap of the two comes not from the novel itself, but from the discussion it has created.

I wont go into the plot, you've probably read it already, but one of the themes is that of a different description of the history of the church and mainstream Christianity. This seemed to awaken a number of sleeping giants in our society. Of course some people came out and denied it was true, and others said it was true without doubt. I expect most people who believe in the power of reason sit somewhere in the middle.

This book (and to a lesser extent several others previously and after) seemed to be a catalyst that encouraged an open debate about the origin of a major religion. All of a sudden millions of people were challenging the official history, in the process uncovering for themselves much of the contradiction, misogyny and violence committed by the church.

Is this a good thing? Of course. It has long been argued by people of reason that religion should be placed under the same scrutiny that we heap on the other disciplines; science, history, economics...

By being a catalyst for open debate, and showing that it is acceptable to challenge the doctrines of Christianity this book has made a not-insignificant stride in the name of reason. All we need now is for everybody to take this willingness to challenge an idea to heart.


How Can You Be Sure Christianity/Islam/(insert others here) Is Not The One True Religion?

I have been asked this on numerous occasions. It is clear to me that there is not one universal god, or one universal set of gods, for all of humanity.

The crux of this argument is the sheer number of different god-centric belief systems, that have been developed in parallel by cultures which for many centuries had no contact with each other. The Aboriginal Australians developed the concept of "dream time", the Native Americans came up with a complicated system of spirits and associated beliefs, the ancient societies of Greece, Italy and Egypt had a plethora of gods, and so on.

Are any of these concepts of "god(s)" mutually compatible. Well, some might be but many are totally beyond combination. The multi-god religion of the Romans is totally incompatible with the one-god teaching of Abrahamic religion. The spiritual unity of the natural world in many religions also clashes harshly with the Old Testament's insistence of the superiority of man over the animals.

Surely if there was only one god, or group of gods, then all religions would have a common focus, even if they were not all identical. Surely the natives of Australia should be as capable as any as following Jesus?

Or, just perhaps, the fact is that the inhabitants of the middle-East around 2000 years ago (and their favourite imaginary friends) didn't know about Australia at the time. It posed no threat to them and did not need to be controlled by the same rules - enforced through the promise of eternity in paradise, or hell.

The sheer number of mutually exclusive belief systems that claim to be the only way to salvation should make the followers of any of them question their beliefs. The strength of their belief is equalled by other believers who believe in a different system that also offers the only way to eternity in paradise.

It wouldn't be half as bad if they just got on with life, but how many times in history has one of these belief systems launched an attack on another? How many millions have died? What a waste of human life and potential!

But the worst is yet to come, these people who stand by an organisation that has committed genocide, murder, robbery and countless other crimes on people who have the audacity to believe in a different fairytale then tell me, as an atheist, that I have no morals.

Well thankfully I live in a society where it is generally acceptable for people of intellect, rather than men in robes, to come up a set of rules to live our lives by. Although that doesn't stop the 'robies' trying to interfere with anything they can get their hands on.

Did We Land On The Moon?

Well, I thought I'd trot this one out early one.

There have been many responses to the conspiracy theorists, who seem to doubt that the Americans made it to the lunar surface. The conspiracy theorists case more often than not revolves around alleged problems with the photographs.

Do they really think that if an organisation with the technical expertise and budget of NASA would make mistakes if they forged photographs? They do, after all, have some pretty impressive brains to put together to come up with something.

The nail in the coffin, for me at least, is a comment that was made by a Space Shuttle pilot I had the privilege of meeting. I summarise it here, he was much more eloquent than my paraphrasing.

We must remember that this was at the height of the Cold War 'Space Race,' which saw the USA and the USSR fighting to a number of space travel firsts. Do you really believe that if the USSR had even the slightest doubt that the Americans had landed on the surface of the Moon that they would have kept quiet? Thought not.


Religion Has A Place In School Science

If we go back in time to the first concept of creation we would find that it would today be put into the category of spiritual or religious.

However the title for most accurate description is not dished out on a first come first served basis. Since that time our knowledge of science has grown from a simple curiosity about the world around us to broad, wide-reaching theories governing not only our everyday lives, but also the behaviour of the very large, the very small, the very slow and the very fast (on scales that are often almost, if not totally, impossible to grasp).

As we have learned more by observing what actually happens, we lessen our need to 'fill the gaps' of our knowledge with tales that if told often enough and believed strongly enough provide some sort of spiritual comfort.

Are these first attempts at explanation truly scientific? Well they could be. A scientific theory has to describe the relevant criteria already discovered, and from it we can make predictions that we can test to see if this theory really does describe the phenomena concerned. In a world with very little knowledge of science a story, however much like a fairytale, could be a scientific theory. Admittedly one incapable of running the gauntlet of experimental evidence to the present day, but a theory nevertheless.

Should this be taught in schools. I would say so, and in science lessons too. Anything that elucidates the application of the scientific method to a given problem has merit. Would the students have the inclination (or perhaps, in many religious countries, the bravery) to extend the application of the idea to modern day religious doctrines? I can only hope so.

The Flat Earth Society

If you think that Creationism (or Intelligent(!?) Design) should be taught in science lessons then you should also be up for the Flat Earth Society.

Yes, before you go on I do understand that it is a joke. It's a parody of the fact that many people think religion has a right to be taught in science lessons. (It does in some situations, I will expand tomorrow.)

The Scientific Method

The methods of science are somewhat unique, and a stark contrast to those used as a foundation by religion.

Religious beliefs generally focus around some agreed framework. Christian belief is controlled by whatever translation and version their sect favours at any point in time. They seek guidance from this framework when living their lives and, most important in this discussion, when searching for evidence of our creation. The framework is there, and neither hell nor high water will change their minds. In fact often external sources of evidence are discounted purely because they do not agree with this framework.

In science an idea, belief or theory is there to be challenged. Scientists do not worship what is 'known', but challenge it. Each challenge (or experiment), assuming the experiment does not fail, either discredit the theory, or let it live to fight another challenge. Discredited theories are either discarded as nonsense, or modified in some way so that they now pass this latest challenge (and, essentially, all previous challenges). A theory can never be proved.

Hopefully this will go some way to discredit those who seem to think that scientists are almost fanatically religious about their theories, a comment made most often about evolution. Evolution in its current state has passed every single challenge thrown at it. It has survived an intense gauntlet for decade after decade. Although we can never know with 100% certainty it is correct, the fact it has survived the gauntlet thus far gives us a great deal of confidence in its correctness. In contrast many contenders, notably Lamarckism, have been destroyed by a challenge along the way, and join the increasingly huge library of failed theories in the history books. If you could show (rigorously) that there was a theory that explained the diversity of life in a different way you would not be shunned from the scientific community as many religious fanatics claim. You would be held up as a hero.


Over the next few weeks, months and years I plan to post short articles in defence of reasoned arguments, and in defiance of nonsense. The targets will be many and varied but will, at least at the start, focus on religion and conspiracy (and not always in a mutually exclusive way).

Make of this what you will. I hope that most people will find the commentary, thought processes and ideas interesting. More importantly I hope that readers will understand that reason, and in particular the scientific method are the only way by which we can even begin to comprehend our world.