25/12/2008

Christmas


A Skeptical Christmas to You All

22/12/2008

A message from AC Grayling

In the Guardian:

"I wonder whether, in the dialogue of the deaf that this quarrel has become, a few reminders might be in order. Secularism is the view that religious outlooks, though perfectly entitled to exist and have their say, are not entitled to a bigger slice of the public pie than any other self-constituted, self-appointed, self-selected and self-serving civil society organisation. Yet the religious persistently ask for special treatment: public money for their "faith-based" schools, seats in the House of Lords, exemption from laws inconvenient to their prejudices, and so endlessly on. They even have the cheek to ask for "respect" for their silly and antiquated beliefs; and in Geneva at the Human Rights Council the Islamic countries are trying to subvert the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it is inconvenient to their medieval, sexist, intolerant outlook.

Secularists in the west say to the apologists of the religions: your beliefs are your choice, so take your place in the queue. They also say: you've had it your own way for a very long time - and committed a lot of crimes in the process - and you still fancy yourself entitled, but you aren't. You don't smell too good at times, so don't try to tell me what I can read, see on TV, do in my private time, think or say. In fact, keep your sticky fingers off my life. Believe what you like but don't expect me to admire or excuse you because of it: rather the contrary, given the fairy-stories in question. And when you are a danger to the lives and liberties of others, which alas is too frequently the wont of your ilk, we will speak out against you as loudly, persistently, and uncompromisingly as we can."


Sometimes I don't feel the need to say more.

Rhys Murder?

I will admit to being disgusted by the fact that the innocent child, Rhys Jones, was killed by Sean Mercer. But I am appalled that he was found guilty of murder. I assume that this will require some explanation.

To be convicted of murder you must have committed 'Actus reus' (guilty act) with 'Mens rea' (guilty mind). In other words you must have killed somebody with the intent of doing so.

As it happens Sean Mercer had no intention of killing Rhys Jones. He had the intention of killing somebody else, but failed. Reading news accounts Mercer was guilty of numerous crimes, but this does not make him guilty of murder.

Is this an abuse of our legal system? I have commented before about how the incarceration of an innocent is worse than the freedom of a criminal. In this case, despite the absolute hideousness of what happened, has true justice been applied?

08/12/2008

99% Ape

The Natural History Museum has recently released this book about evolution. I'm all up for educating people about evolution, however I've always considered myself to be 100% ape. Am I wrong?

04/12/2008

I'm a PC....

Microsoft's recent "I'm a PC" advert is pretty annoying on several levels. First of all I must admit to being a PC - "I'm a PC and I use Ubuntu" - just not quite in the way they mean it.

Secondly is the appearance of the spiritualist-medic Deepak Chopra. That's almost more annoying than writing HTML for Internet Explorer 6!

Also "Life without walls" - no walls, no need for Windows!

24/11/2008

Irrational Britain


Somebody sent me a link to this page, thinking that I'd be happy that religion was the loser. Well I'm not - I'm worried. Believing in UFOs, ghosts, god, faeries, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and that Paddington Bear is the saviour of the world are all the same thing. The irrational - it hurts!

Sofa Idiocy

When you hear an increasingly loud squeaking noises coming from your sofa would you immediately jump to something paranormal? The Telegraph has a story about two nutters, who have the surname Strange!

"It could be an alien for all we know"

"The noise is getting louder and louder. I'm scared it's going to come bursting out one evening while we're watching TV."

It is unclear whether they have ruled out rodents."

God Trumps


More here.

Idiots of God Unite


Click image to enlarge.

Originally posted here.

Homeopathy Harmless?

Well it would be, if only people didn't use it instead of real medicine. Otherwise it may be partly responsible for easily avoided deaths.

Crucifix Rape Advert Causes Controversy



See here. perhaps there is an organisation "Christians for the prevention of awareness about rape", who knows?

Godless Services

I'm rather disappointed that Eight Lessons and Carols for Godless People sold out so long ago - I would have gone. Oh well - the idea's good at least!

Measuring God

See Andrew Brown's (slightly old now) Guardian post. Biblical literalness gone to far?

Russian (Un)Orthodox


I sometimes say that religious people are backward. By this I tend to mean that they engage with a belief system that is no longer consistent with the wealth of knowledge that is science (there was a time when something creating the Earth and people was the best explanation going).

This guy has recently been demoted from a bishop to a monk for, amongst other things, "prohibiting churchgoers from using cell phones and internet."

I see this as a desperate attempt to prevent people accessing information that might make them cast doubt on there beliefs. Thankfully he church seems to have a put a stop to it, I imagine out of fear for getting a bad press.

Naturist Christians

It appears that some Christians don't like the idea of other Christians having a naked mass. So much for Christian good will and tolerance.

"Christian naturists take the tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as the model for their beliefs and ceremonies.

When God created man and woman, Adam and Eve were both naked and "felt no shame", according to the Bible."



Cult Database

The Rick A. Ross Institute has a ton of information on various cults and movements - well worth a dig through if you want to get some background on groups such as Followers of Christ (parents who prefer faith-healing their children than using real medicine).

Should we explore space?


I am one of those people who believe that the exploration of space is important. I believe in gaining knowledge by finding out how the universe works by looking at the universe. In order to find out what we want to know, sometimes we need to leave the safety of our home planet.

Yes, it costs a lot of money. A huge amount of money. Some people will argue that technological insights developed by necessity by the space program may have benefits to everybody else too. I agree with this. But I do not think that it is the way to justify the exploration of space. We need to do it out of an enlightened curiosity.

See this article by Stephen Hawking.

War Heroes

I haven't said much on my views on war, and the military in general. But I have been getting a bit annoyed with the automatic assumption that 'soldiers are heroes'. I would agree that sometimes some soldiers heroic. At the same time some soldiers are power mad murderers, rapists, homophobes, racists etc.

I found this post which has some arguments that I like, particularly this bit:

"Soldiers are not heroes. They can be heroes, they can act heroically, they can do heroic things - but the act of putting on a uniform and agreeing to put your conscience in a lockbox for the next so many years does not make your life more important than others, it does not make your opinions and insights more worthy of respect than others, it does not exempt you from moral judgment [sic]. It does not make you a hero."

Typealyzer

I have just put this blog through Typealyzer, and this is what it has to say about me:

"The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters."

20/11/2008

Homeopathy on the NHS

Sometimes I get quite disappointed with he Great British public. Such as the fact we, as a nation, somehow seem to tolerate homeopathy (witch doctery) being offered as a bona fide treatment on the NHS. The same NHS which we all pay for, and has enough problems funding real treatments based on real science.

I suggest that UK readers should sign this petition.

13/11/2008

No Gnomes


The Diocese of Bath and Wells (of Blackadder fame) has banned gnomes from cemeteries because they are "unnatural creatures". How crazy (and hypocritical) is that?

12/11/2008

Church of Maradona

If this story is true then it is rather sad. It seems that fans of Maradona have created a church based on the footballing legend.


What would happen if, in 2000 years, people still believed this? Would people be murdered in the name of Maradona? Would "In Maradona We Trust" be printed on currency? Would I be unwelcome in some people's homes because I didn't believe?

Bad Faith

The New Humanist folks have opened a poll for their very own Bad Faith Awards. Well worth a trip over to cast your vote, and as Caspar Melville says in the Guardian "here's a vote [Sarah Palin] just might win".

Units

I have, over the years, developed something bordering obsessive when it comes to units. They have to be be right, and it's better if they're in some way metric. So this graph made me smile.

song chart memes

Good to see us physicists and biologists at the top!
more music charts

11/11/2008

Wrecking Britain?

Quentin Letts thinks that Richard Dawkins is one of the top 50 people who have wrecked Britain, giving his reasons as follows:

"Anti-religionist Dawkins, the best-known English dissenter since Darwin, is the merciless demander of provable fact.

He is the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and tours the world lecturing the elites of the West that they are stupid to believe in any god.

He proselytises against the proselytisers, most of his targets wishing they had a fraction of his apparent certainty.

He is the anti-preacher whose sermons are designed to erode churchgoing and, with that, weaken our happiness.

A man less obsessed with himself and with the narrow calculations of men in white coats might realise that religion, although never offering proof of God's existence, can sugar catastrophe and brighten chasms.

In times of turbulence, the human being is little different from the vole or the dormouse. It will take shelter where it can.

No amount of superior lecturing from an anti-Christ, not even one with so important a title as his, will alter that."

I would argue that religion can create catastrophe and create chasms. As for "demand[ing] provable fact" I would much rather base my life on things that are true than folly.

Golden Statues

As part of a huge back-list of things to blog about there is this. Chrisitans averting the financial crisis by doing something to a golden bull on Wall Street.


Caution! - There is an extended quote from The Bible below (Exodus 32:1).

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.

And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

So what are these people doing?

New Zealand Education Standards


I find it hard to imagine why someone of this age has such strong views on such a thing. There has to be a nudest beach, and I see nothing wrong with a nudist beach (and you shouldn't too - whether you'd use one or not). Live and let live, or force your irrational beliefs onto your children. I know what I'd prefer!

Please send in your contributions for the new thread, New Zealander of the Week.

Spelling Bee American of the Week


Well done you, Sir!

Obama vs Fundamentalist Christians



The woolly thinking surrounding this has already been debunked by PZ Myers.

Escapee from Westboro

This is a rather sad story, but one with a positive ending. It's an interview with Nathan Phelps, yes - of Westboro Baptist Church fame, one of those who managed to escape from the unimaginable evil of Fred Phelp's gang of mentally ill "Christians". He makes some poignant points, not least:

“In so many different ways we have abused children with religion over the centuries.”

Nathan (Nate) is now an atheist. Interestingly Shirley Roper-Phelps has written the first reply.

"Amazing stuff. At the end of the day, rebel Nate who is a man of the flesh according to the Bible, cannot get it into his head the the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The child crying over a fear of hell is exactly what is intended by the plain language of the scriptures. You can love that and live that and own that and be one with that, as they say, or you can foolishly fight against that. WHO thinks they can beat God? YIKES! He never one time mentions HIS duty to teach HIS children every day in every way with every thing that does and says what the Lord their God requires of them. God is a consuming fire. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, WE PERSUADE MEN! Just look at the way you two brutes got together and tried to put a fluffy spin on rebellion AND the consenquences thereof."

What a lovely woman! I'd rather quote Bertrand Russel:

"Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main causes of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom."

10/11/2008

Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown seems to be one of the Guardian writers to watch out for (incidentally, so many of the new stories I mention are from the Guardian due to the fact they do good work, compared to the opposition, with RSS feeds).

This little quip was originally published here.

"I notice from Niall Fergusson's long piece on the financial crisis in Vanity Fair that since 1957, when the US Dollar was adorned with the motto "In God we trust", its value has fallen by 87% relative to the consumer price index. This is no more than a measure of inflation, I know. But it is still a fun statistic."

Teachers and Creationism in the UK

A selection of links from Teachers' TV and The Guardian relating to a survey in which 29% of teachers said creationism should be taught as science. As a statistic this is truly appalling. James Randerson dives a little bit further into the statistics here.

Perhaps the best bit is this video, a must for all those teachers who are apparently unable to teach evolution well!

Thames Valley University

It seems that a University in the next town North (the wrong side of the Thames and M4) is teaching lies! Not that Thames Valley University is world-class or anything, but actually teaching a BSc course in Homeopathy is ridiculous. How can you award a Bachelor of Science in a discipline that is anti-scientific? How can a university get away with teaching something that isn't true?

Some hot monk on monk action

The Guardian showed this video online under the headline 'Bless me father for I have chinned'.



If this is how they behave in one of their most holy places is it really surprising that fewer and fewer people are taking them seriously?

Tolerant American of the Week


Tolerance, rationality, love - just three character traits preventing me from becoming an evangelical Christian!

American of the Week


This is just crazy. 'Obama does not support our flag' - why would he? It's a symbolic piece of cloth! If he didn't support freedom, liberty, America, or something else important then feel free to make a point. I also like the kind hearted public service announcement 'Obama's middle name is Hussein' - thanks, that might come up in a pub quiz!

Jesus rode a Dinosaur

Religion and Child Abuse II - Christianity


Yet another sickening story. This is the kind of absurd cruelty that can be entirely avoided by abandoning unsupported belief systems and embracing reason. As someone who doesn't believe in the Christian god, or witches, I find it hard to believe that this happens in the modern world.

Religion and Child Abuse

I had a discussion with somebody recently about how I could not possibly be moral as I didn't believe in a god. The woman I had the conversation with was a devout Christian, but said I could have been Jewish, Muslim, or whatever (as long as it wasn't an atheist). After going through the usual Leviticus quotes and a kind and benevolent god causing suffering she quipped back with something along the lines of "this all happened long ago, things have changed".

Yes, things have changed. But not religion. The BBC reports of a woman (perhaps as young as 13) being stoned to death for being raped. This is a kind of cruelty that I find unimaginable. I find it hard to believe that these people share some of my genes. But then again, I must be wrong, I can't possibly be the moral one.......

06/11/2008

Obama Victory

Well, it seems the scrawny-armed, half-black guy from Illinois won. Despite being pretty happy about this, and very happy considering the other possible outcome, I do not have particularly high hopes. There are a huge bunch of issues that Mr Obama needs to sort out, the continued destruction of our planet being high on the list. Only in time can we judge whether Mr Obama can deliver on his pledges.

However there were some good things to come from this election. It seems that United Sates of America have finally pulled themselves out of a united state of apathy when it comes to politics. Heck, they even managed to interest school children over here. The morning after Obama won you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Europe, and the rest of the world.

I look forward to seeing if all of this change we've been talking about does happen.

25/10/2008

Am I Miserable

According to Mary Kenny in the Guardian chances are that I'm a miserable git. Which isn't true, and isn't true ot the vast majority (all?) of the atheists that I know. Perhaps she just knows a lot of boring people?

07/10/2008

QuickLinks 7/11(2)

As I wrote on my personal blog I am currently going through a wealth of stuff I have mentally or physically tagged as 'blog about this'. Having had a day off today I have decided to clear the 'To Blog About' folder of ny browser's bookmarks, so here is your second dose today of QuickLinks!

Lily Cole, Playboy and the Church



It perhaps says a lot that I have only heard of Lily Cole by reading the free-thought media. Turns out she's a British (super)model who has recently posed nude for the French version of Playboy, and also works for that bastion of Britishness, Marks & Spencer.

Apparently, because of her posing for Playboy, an organisation known as Christian Voice has advised everybody to boycott Marks & Spencer. This raises a few issues.

1) Is nudity still that much of a taboo in modern Britain? I assumed that we had grown up and allowed people their own views on the subject, and the right to act on them. If you don't want to see Lily Cole nude, don't go and buy a copy of French Playboy!

2) Where do these issues come from? I would argue religion, nothing else seems to dehumanise the nature of humans as much or as often. The religious notion of nudity being associated with sin is unnecessary in the modern world.

3) What else does this 'Christian Voice' believe in? Head over to their website to be scared! They seem to be homophobic, hate other religions, support the anti-choice movement and generally be lovely people. Thankfully they seem less well funded than some of their US counterparts, as you have to pay for them to send you literature. Which is a shame, as if it was free I would give it a good slating on here!

100th Post: Pattern Finding

Welcome to the 100th In Defence of Reason post! Over the last year and a bit I have seen this blog gain popularity quite rapidly, although it seems that the majority of people just come to read the odd post. I'm slightly disappointed with the number of people who leave comments.

The photo is thanks to Hank Fox!

Someone Agrees With Me!

It seems that this guy shares my views on teenagers being teenagers. Perhaps I have something in common with the nudism crowd!

On a related note, the Australian photographer Bill Henson has come under fire for recruiting models in schools. Henson came under fire earlier in the year for making nide photographs of children, although he has recently been vindicated in the courts and the photos are once again art, not suspected pornography. (Thanks to Jennie for commenting on this).

There are a few things going at the moment that make we wonder if we are heading towards a police state: restricted freedom of expression, 42 days detention without charge,..... need I go on?

QuickLinks 7/11

In an attempt to share more ideas with you I intend to follow the lines of SkepChick and every now and then give you a selection of links to posts that don't quite warrant commenting on individually, but are worth checking out anyway.

See also:

Phelps to Picket Biden Mother-in-Law's Funeral

Fred Phelps is a disgusting, evil and pathetic man. Through the Westboro Church he plans to 'protest' at the funeral of Democrat Vice-Presidential hopeful Joe Biden, quoting:

"Abington Presbyterian Church - Joe Biden's Mother-in-law 1082 Old York Rd We are going to picket the funeral of a very evil woman named Bonny Jean Jacobs. "Why?" you will ask. Because she is the Mother-in-law of Joseph Biden, Democratic Candidate for Vice President of DOOMED america. That's right, she lived a lot of years with a little influence over that evil bastard, and never by all appearances said one word of correction or warning to him. She is in hell, and Joe will soon follow. However, our words are for the living, not the dead. And here are the words, to wit: Ac 13:50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. They say that behind every "great man" is a "great woman", so there you go. She had the influence over the evil witch married to Joe Biden. The evil witch living with Joe Biden did not do a thing to stop him from passing laws against God's servants, and in fact (like her foremothers before her) probably has egged him on this whole time. She did not stop him from saying blasphemous things about God, time and time again. This woman is responsible for her daughter's conduct. That's all there is to that. Pr 6:24 To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lu 17:32 Remember Lot's wife. AMEN!"

This is incredibly offensive, and clearly constitutes a doctrine of hatred. Although what would you expect from a person whose website is www.godhatesfags.com? I would hate the man, but his life is so petty that I really do not give a flying f**k about him!

Problems in India

I don't have a particular favour of the Guardian, despite the fact that lots of my news articles have been coming from there recently. They just make it easy for me to add their religious stories to Google Reader.

Sunny Hundal wrote a piece that sums up the problems between rival factions in India. Note that all of these problems are rooted in religion!

Pope wades in on Economic Crisis


The Pope has made his views clear on the current economic crisis. Apparently the banking system is like the proverbial house built on the sand. It's a good job that the Christian faith is built on such a strong rock. Oh, wait...... it isn't!

The lives of teenagers

A few stories have come to my attention recently about the antics of teenagers. Such as this girl from Newark, USA who sent photos of herself nude to some of her classmates. Fair enough, it's not the best plan in the world, but a criminal record?

The law exists to protect the rights and property of individuals. If somebody has their rights removed, or their property unlawfully damaged they are a victim. Where is the victim in this scenario? Who is the law protecting? And from who?

The fact that this girl may get a criminal record, and may have to sign the register is ludicrous. She has been forced into being the victim of a victimless crime.

The other story relates to a 15 year old boy streaking at a sports match. Again, not the best of plans, but why is he being held in a juvenile detention centre?

Teenagers need to make their own mistakes. They do not need to be criminalised for them. Experimenting, and even exhibiting, their new found sexuality is normal, and should not offend you. Unless, of course, you are scared by sexuality.

06/10/2008

Opus Dei

Opus Dei received a bad press from Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, but in all fairness it is probably deserved. Especially so if what these film makers have to say is true. Perhaps Opus Dei does 'protest too much'?

On a more positive note the article suggests that the Spanish government, long a bastion of pro-Catholicism, may be succombing to secular ideals.

Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown's new Guardian blog seems to have a refreshing view on religion - no holds barred. He's also not scared of pointing out their stupidities.




A recent example is this one, where the fundie urges people to boycott Google for coming out against a plan to ban gay-marriage, but links to Google news pages from his site!

Bible Advisory

This is an old image, but still amuses me!

01/10/2008

YouTube Eucharist Desecration

This guy seems rather upset by the activities of FSMDude desecrating the 'most holy eucharist', calling it a hate crime. He genuinely believes that a rather tasteless cracker transforms into the actual body of a god. Now this fantastical process does not need me to offer any evidence to disprove it, if you believe it becomes the body of christ then you won't accept my evidence, and if you don't the idea will be inherently absurd to you anyway.

I was thinking of creating a flagging campaign to remove his work on the basis that it encourages canabilism, but that would mean accepting his irrational beliefs.


25/09/2008

Comments Wordle

I wasn't going to post this until I saw it, now I kind of like it!

Tags Wordle

A Wordle of all the tags applied to posts in this blog. Click to enlarge!

Religion and Finance

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have been having a go at the bankers that apparently caused the collapse of HBOS. Why these people have a right to comment on the morals of those not necessarily subscribed to their own world-view is beyond me.

Eamonn Butler of the Guardian sorts them out in this story. The regulators are to blame and the ban on short-selling is unlikely to have a lasting result. A voice of reason in this issue at last.

Anti-vaccination

The US anti-vaccination movement is something I've been keeping an eye on over the last few weeks and months. Immunisation against deadly diseases is something that I'm in favour of. It's something I'd be in favour of even if there was a small risk of a very small percentage of people getting autism (to draw on the MMR example). a handful of people with autism against a lot of people dying - I know what I'd favour.

I find it disgusting that people try to prevent it from taking place. May the loss of life be on their concious. The story of one Catholic school (St Monica's High School) preventing the new cervical cancer immunisation is pathetic. Metro this morning quoted the school as saying that the jab could 'encourage sexual promiscuity'. Well I do not know of anybody who is not being sexually promiscuous solely because of the risk of cervical cancer, and I doubt that you do either.

A little bit further in today's Metro is a story under the headline 'Measles alert as half of children miss MMR'. if you don't have the jab then you are at risk of a nasty disease, with a fatality rate of about 1 in 100. Worse, you are putting other people at risk by spreading the disease. These people need to grow up. Sadly it may take a number of people to suffer and die before people are willing to return to vaccination.

Dogs and mosques

Is this a positive step towards Islam becoming more tolerant? Or is it a travesty that a religion has bent its own rules?

Neither. It is plainly ridiculous that a dog is in some way 'unclean' in the first place. Is that not just saying that an all-powerful being made a bit of a mess of it when creating our canine companions?

Science and Religion (again)


This article by Mark Lawson was originally posted here. It contains some things that need to be commented on.

Religious believers, when mentioning heaven, have traditionally cast their eyes skywards, but the possibility of an afterlife may now be proved by looking down towards the ground. Doctors at Southampton University are placing pictures in resuscitation areas that can only be seen from the ceiling. These will test the stories of defibrillated patients, who claim they have looked down on the crash teams attending to their lifeless bodies.

This is a pretty good experiment, as long as everybody besides the researches has no clue what the pictures are. Proper double blind trials and all....

The theory is that any of the chest-thumped who successfully play this posthumous game of Where's Wally? must have had an out-of-body experience, rather than the final flashing fantasy of a dying brain.

I's put money on the fantasy, but hopefully this will set the matter straight once and for all. However even if the fantasy theory is the one that fits the evidence I doubt whether some people will change their tune to match.

And this attempt by a scientific profession to test the claims of religion coincides with a less constructive standoff between rationalists and supernaturalists, namely the forced resignation of Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, after it was reported that he was in favour of "creationism" being discussed in school science lessons. What's whiffy about this incident is the strong suspicion that Reiss, an ordained minister, has been brought down by atheists in the Royal Society who consider religious belief incompatible with scientific practice.

I think that there are plenty of people who consider the two incompatible. If you claim to be part of any religion that I have so far had the misfortune to hear about then the beliefs are incompatible. If you just claim to have some sort of personal god then they may not be.

A fair interpretation of his comments is that he was addressing a serious issue affecting education in a culture which is largely secular, but where a small core of students may profess certain religious beliefs. He was suggesting that scientists should engage and argue with believers, rather than mock or ignore them.

I'm sure we've tried to engage with them before. The greatest thing about science is progress - ideas and theories change with new evidence. The same cannot be said of organised religion.

Such an attempt to subject supernatural beliefs to empirical testing lies behind the resuscitation unit art show. But an objection to the project is that it suffers from the scientific tendency to believe that anything can be proved one way or another. If any of the patients do prove to have seen art from on high, sceptics will hint darkly at collusion with a hospital cleaner. If they don't see them, church-goers will conclude that God cannot be trapped by a brain scan.

I said about double-blind trials, that would eliminate this source of error.

Many people, whatever happens, will remain "don't knows", and this is a smart group to belong to. Both the theories of evolution and quantum physics stumble over the question of first cause: the process by which nothingness became something. It's this zone of unknowability that leads to physicists using such loaded language as "the God particle" and has made evolutionists, especially in the US, vulnerable to the counter-dogma of "intelligent design".

at least scientists are attempting to solve the problem. Religion does not. If there is a god and he was half as intelligent as I am regualrly told, then he would be pondering the reason for his own existence. Religion does not attempt to solve the problem, it just passes the buck to a fictional figure.

Dr Sam Parnia, one of the curators of the crash room gallery, has said: "This is a mystery that we can now subject to scientific study." But, in that sentence, "mystery" is the crucial word. Religion speaks of the "sacred mysteries" - to which an explanation is promised after death - but it has always seemed vital to me that those who reject the sacred continue to respect the mysteries of how and why we are here.

It is mysteries that creates scientists. Scientists love mysteries. Then they try and solve them, which almost inevitably leads to more mysteries.

An interesting experiment in this context involves Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough. They have almost identical beliefs on Darwinism and religion, but their attitudes are radically different: the naturalist retains an element of wonder at the beauties and cruelties of existence that the biologist seems to lack. The possibility of doubt is an important part of belief and unbelief.

This is bollocks of the highest degree. Dawkin's 'Unweaving the Rainbow' shows a genuine love for the natural world, and the science that tries to understand it. If you didn't love the natural world then you would find it very hard to be a scientist.

The novelist Terry Pratchett is exemplary in this respect. Long a proud trophy of the British Humanist Society, the writer recently had the experience of hearing the voice of his dead father telling him all will be well. The fact that this followed diagnosis with a variant of Alzheimer's must increase the possibility that Pratchett's brain was playing tricks on him, but his recent interviews reflect a dent in his scepticism. Both the religious and the scientific should admit to the gaps on their canvases.

Science does admit the gaps. That is the primary difference between it and religion. Scientists are fully aware, and readily admit, that they don't know everything. That is why they still have jobs, there is still stuff to be found out. Yes, we have no explanation at the moment for the cause of the big bang, but that's no reason not to look for one!

Opus Dei University?

It seems that Opus Dei (those of Da Vinci Code fame) have created a Biomedical university near Rome. Rather ironic really, given the Catholic antipathy toward progress in science, and progress in general.

23/09/2008

Why God Never Received a PhD

1. He had only one major publication.

2. It was in Hebrew.

3. It had no references.

4. It wasn't published in a refereed journal.

5. Some even doubt he wrote it by himself.

6. It may be true that he created the world, but what has he done since then?

7. His cooperative efforts have been quite limited.

8. The scientific community has had a hard time replicating his results.

9. He never applied to the ethics board for permission to use human subjects.

10. When one experiment went awry he tried to cover it by drowning his subjects.

11. When subjects didn't behave as predicted, he deleted them from the sample.

12. He rarely came to class, just told students to read the book.

13. Some say he had his son teach the class.

14. He expelled his first two students for learning.

15. Although there were only 10 requirements, most of his students failed his tests.

16. His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountain top.

17. No record of working well with colleagues

18/09/2008

Of Mice and Muslims



I have no idea why some religions seem to have obsessions with avoiding certain kinds of animals. Perhaps it originates with a basic knowledge of the fact that some may damage food and spread disease.

Steve Wells from Dwindling in Unbelief did some digging, and found that although not mentioned in the Koran, mice are permitted to be killed in the Hadith. The Old Testament god also seems to have had some issues with them, despite (as it happens) the fact that he surely created them?

Religious people more moral?

Check out this example from the post-bag of Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins banned in Turkey


Another example of 'they've got a better argument then we have, better censor them', again taken from the Guardian. You don't get many atheists trying to censor religious works, probably because most atheists have an intellectual freedom that is unchallenged by dogma.

Creation myths belong in History Lessons


Head over to the guardian.co.uk website to see AC Grayling's latest. He argues that the only place that creation myths belong is in the History lessons of secular schools. He is right that much of our culture is based upon these myths, and the study of literature (for example) depends upon a certain basic knowledge of Christaniy as well as Greek and Roman gods.

Some good quotes too:

"...it is only an accident of history that religion is regarded as somehow more respectable than astrology or ouija boards, despite being no different in degree of credibility than they."

"..now everyone wants your and my tax money to bring up their children in their own version of the religions that sit on the creation myths that no sensible person wishes to be passed off on a child as any part of the truth about the world."

"The best solution is to put religion where it belongs: in the history curriculum of non-faith-based schools where religion is no longer a compulsory observance at assembly or any other time."

Right to bare breasts?

One huge problem with society is the fact that we are all told we are equal, when we clearly aren't. Mathematics and quantum physics don't make me squeamish, but I am truly terrible at football. I see no reason why I have the right to force my way onto a football team, just as I don't think someone who is mathematically 'as thick as two short planks' should start probing the fundamental properties of the universe.

I also think that some races, on average, are better at others than certain things. Certainly some sports are dominated by people of certain ethnicities. I doubt anybody argues with that. So why would there be an uproar if anybody of sufficient importance suggested, even with evidence, that people of a certain ethnicity were, on average, terribly poor at mathematics? These abilities would be down to genetics - something that we can't change - so why not embrace them? Or at least let them guide our decision making.

Men and woman are clearly biologically different. Intellectually they may be equal, but physically men are generally stronger. There is nothing we can do about this. But what about equal rights when it comes to going bare chested in public? Should women be allowed to if they choose?

I take the line of Jessie Whitfield, it really doesn't bother me if they do. If we take equal rights to its obvious conclusion then it seems inevitable. So what is stopping women from legally being allowed to?

I bet that there is a large slice of Bronze Age values courtesy of the Old Testament thrown in somewhere! I find it hard to see why people need to be protected from breasts - people suckle from them as children, so when does it suddenly become offensive to see them?

16/09/2008

Apply the scientific method to other disciplines

The Church of England's Director of Mission an Public Affairs, Malcolm Brown, has recently made the following statement on the church's website.

"Darwin was, in many ways, a model of good scientific method. He observed the world around him, developed a theory which sought to explain what he saw, and then set about a long and painstaking process of gathering evidence that would either bear out, contradict, or modify his theory. As a result, our understanding of the world is expanded, but the scientific process continues. In science, hypotheses are meant to be constantly tested. Subsequent generations have built on Darwin’s work but have not significantly undermined his fundamental theory of natural selection."

The scientific method is in fact a bit of a misnomer. It could easily be the "hisotrians' method", assuming the historians in question did their job properly. Or the "archaeological method". Or the "engineers' method". Or the "cacti cultivation method"

The scientific method is the process by which theories are generated from the facts and by which predictions are made that are compared to facts discovered in the future. The process of finding these 'future facts' is experimentation.

If you think that historians don't do experiments then you are wrong. They do! But even they might be unaware of it. A concept in history is a prediction: 'given the evidence that I have I think that what happened was...'. The acquisition of new facts, after the prediction has been made, is an experiment. You are testing whether your prediction stands up to this new found knowledge.

So any discipline that generates empirical facts, and evidence based theories uses the scientific method. The writing of literature does not. Art does not. They may comment on them, but they do not generate them.

Religious scholarship can, and should, be part of this scientific method. Predictions can be made about biblical texts: 'if this flood happened we should expect flood debris over this part of the Earth, let's look'. When religious scholarship is done properly it undermines the authenticity of any religion it has so far covered.

15/09/2008

More Darwin!


Darwin certainly seems to be in vogue today! Thanks to the Beagle Project blog I now know that today is the 173rd anniversary of Darwin's arrival in the Galapagos!

Pictures


The blog seemed to be short of pictures, so I thought I'd add this. While you can buy these, I would prefer a subtly different version - without the fish.

Surely that would ruin the joke? Only if taken in isolation. I want the text and the legs only - so that I can then add them to other people's fish!

Royal Society soft on god?

Following some rather poor appointments (at least on a religious basis) Robin McKie ponders the place of the oldest scientific institution, the Royal Society, in the battle to keep religion out of science teaching.

"We badly need our premier scientific society to stand firm and present a clear vision of how our planet, our species, and the cosmos came into existence. It needs to be unequivocal about the wonders of nature as revealed through rational, scientific investigation. As Douglas Adams put it: 'Isn't enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe there are fairies at the bottom of it too?'"

Church apologises to Charles Darwin

The Church of England has made an apology to Charles Darwin, and has admitted "getting our first reaction wrong" and "encouraging others to misunderstand".

This is one small step of progress, however there is a long way to go. I can't imagine this coming from other, more fundamental, sections of Christianity.

Spore Lunacy

I did consider making a critique of this woman's website. But I decided that anyone with half a brain will find it ridiculous anyway. So go forth and laugh.

12/09/2008

Christian Retardism

The Theos think tank has been awarded money by the John Templeton Foundation to do some work about Darwinism and Christianity. The aims of the project are, to put it mildly, ludicrous.

They plan to issue a report saying that: (1) Darwinian evolution does not necessitate atheism, and (2), Christianity and Darwinian evolution are compatible.

On point (1) they have a small point, a god or gods could have created the universe, or even given life a kick start. Although as a scientist this idea is plainly ridiculous. If this universe has a creator then he or she would be pondering their own origins in the same way we are. The god hypothesis just creates another level of complexity in the quest to discover the origins of life and the universe - apply Occcam's razor and just don't believe in it.

Point two is absurd, unless you ignore the bible. Correct me if I'm wrong but right at the start it says that the big man created all life forms, and gave man dominion over them. This is clearly not the Darwinian line.

This is a religion destroying its own foundations so that it might fit in with empirical truth.

23/08/2008

Cucumbers and Islam: Way Beyond Belief?

There are regions in the world where the prominence of Islam as the dominant power controlling peoples' lives is being challenged. This is a good thing, it is far better to be governed by a system that is modern, and designed is to operate in the modern world. Democracy has its problems, but give me democracy over religion any day.

The problem with creating a working, fair, democracy is the fine-tuning on the 'checks and balances', ensuring that no one individual or interest group has disproportionate control over any other. The US system is, in theory at least, a fine balance between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. In the Westminster system the executive is dependent on the support of the legislative branch, so the balance is effectively between the legislative and judicial branches, with the legislative process being steered by the executive.

Why all this discussion on legislative branches and whatever else? The answer is that it shows the flexibility of the systems to govern the people. To create a new law requires the approval of the legislature, it's enforcement depends on the judiciary. Without checks and balances the executive could take control of both the law making and the law enforcement.

Now if the executive also has a firm belief in a certain well known Bronze Age text the results can be one hand comical, but in the bright light of day 'ludicrously tragic'.

Hence we have Al Qa'eda in Iraq banning women from buying cucumbers. Perhaps the most ridiculous of religious laws I've heard in a long time.

21/08/2008

Bigfoot ?

Surprise, surprise! The 'bigfoot' turned out to be a hoax. There are some people who will believe anything. Unfortunately the reporting around the issue didn't put it to rest. Below is an article from the BBC Website (in italics) with some commentary by me.

Two men in the US state of Georgia say they have found the body of a Bigfoot, the legendary ape-like creature that has been subject of decades of hoaxes.

Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer say they stumbled across the 2.3m-high (7ft 7in), 226kg (500 pound) corpse in a wood in the north of the state in June.

A photograph on the men's website shows what appears to be the body of a large, hairy creature with an ape-like face.

Bigfoot experts reacted suspiciously to the men's claims.

Bigfoot experts? Anybody can be a Bigfoot expert, there is absolutely no evidence that it exists. An expert opinion would be along the lines of "I am as confident as I can be that it does not exist. If it does exist we know absolutely nothing about it."

"What I've seen so far is not compelling in the least, and I think the pictures cast grave doubts on their claim," said Jeffery Meldrum, a Bigfoot researcher and Idaho State University professor.

"It just looks like a costume with some fake guts thrown on top for effect," he told the Scientific American magazine.

I know nothing about Jeffery Meldrum, hopefully he agrees with my views and uses the term 'Bigfoot researcher' as a quaint joke.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service also said its officers were not taking the claim seriously and would not investigate it.

The most sensible view that we have heard so far!

At a news conference in Palo Alto, California, Mr Whitton and Mr Dyer said they had found the body of a male Bigfoot with reddish hair, "blackish-grey" eyes, and human-like feet and hands while out hiking.

"I recognised it was unusual right away," said Mr Whitton, a police officer. "The first thing that pops into your head is that it's Bigfoot."

They also said they saw three other live creatures while carrying the corpse away.

Perhaps one of these was a bird?

"They were silent," Mr Whitten added.

The two men also brought what they said were the results of DNA tests on the corpse's body tissue which were undertaken by Curt Nelson, a biologist at the University of Minnesota.

According to Mr Nelson, one test showed human DNA, another was inconclusive, while a third came back as the DNA of a possum, which he said could have been from something the Bigfoot had eaten.

If Mr Nelson was told that he was working on the DNA of an alleged Bigfoot he should have realised when the results came back that it was now a fraud.

Bigfoot is a humanoid creature said to wander the wooded wilds of the Pacific Northwest.

Bigfoot is not a humanoid creature, it is an alleged humanoid creature.

Stories of a giant ape roaming the forests of North America date back to before European settlement. But despite occasional footprints and photographs, there has never been much proof of Bigfoot's existence.

There has never been any proof!

09/07/2008

Advertising Religion

I get very, very annoyed by people advertising religion. Last Saturday I was making my way to Hampstead for coffee with a friend when somebody entered the tube carriage I was on and started giving out leaflets. Quickly realising they were of a Christian nature I tried to avoid the man, and firmly, but politely, said my 'no thanks' when offered one. My reward for not starting an argument? A promise that I would burn in hell.

There is also an advert bearing some Bible message at Slough train station, and I do have a strong, but not uncontrollable desire to deface it. Does anybody really read any of this 'literature' and suddenly believe in either a) an imaginary friend, or b) an imaginary friend other than the imaginary friend they already believed in?

Admittedly none of these are quite as annoying as Phil Howard's 'Be a winner, not a sinner' speech that used to plague Oxford Street., but it seems that I am not the only one that gets upset by these things. It seems that the revenge of the atheists might just be on its way, see here and here.

Religion and Capitalism

Surely you can't just make a religious product and exploit those ethical Christians by selling it to them?

Well if you have doubted Christian Capitalism then look no further.

26/06/2008

Anonymous witnesses and 42 days

The British legal system is falling to pieces, and it worries me. Worse still, when talking to a close friend the other day, I realised that they didn't understand the purpose of having a legal system in the first place.

The legal system is not there to incarcerate or otherwise punish criminals, it is there to protect the freedom of the majority. It protects our freedom by punishing people who break rules that we, as a society, have, willingly and rightly, imposed on ourselves.

The legal system is there to ensure that we can retain as many freedoms as is feasibly possible while allowing large numbers of us to live together in something resembling order and harmony.

So we come to 42 days of detention without charge. You have to wonder if it takes 42 days to gather evidence to charge somebody what the quality of the evidence leading to their arrest was like. 42 days is a ridiculously large amount of time for this process. Canada has 24 hours. Even China, well known for being a bit over the top, 'only' has 37. Welcome to police state Britain.

Then we come to the decision of the Law Lords (those peers that are legally qualified) that evidence given by anonymous witnesses is to be disallowed as the prevention of cross-examination means that the trial is unfair. This is the right decision. It is the only sensible decision. Imagine you are incorrectly accused of a crime, and the majority of the weight of evidence against you comes from an anonymous witness. Shouldn't your lawyer be able to ask questions that would expose them as a fraud?

But the UK government wants to rush laws through making this kind of evidence acceptable.

Letting somebody get away with a crime is itself less of a crime than imprisoning an innocent person. It is time that people realised that the law is there to protect our freedoms, not make it easier for others to take them away.

20/06/2008

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is a topic where a lot of nonsense has been spouted by both sides. The greens keep giving us worst case scenario situations you could make a Hollywood blockbuster about and the the 'evil nasty capitalists' say it's not worth the effort.

Lots of the arguments focus on climate change, but that is not to say the argument for using renewable energy collapses if it is ignored. Renewable energy sources have two other major advantages.

Raw Materials
Or the fact you don't need to buy them. Oil (and hence gas) prices are rising, and the planet has finite reserves. Renewable sources such as wave, wind and solar energy do not require the purchase of such things. This tends to reduce running costs, and hence consumers' bills.

Security
We need not worry is another country stops selling us coal/gas. We would be self-sufficient in terms of energy production. This would mean that the cost of energy would be more stable.

So in the long term consumers could save money if the government invests heavily in renewable energy (oh, and we may just save the planet too).

11/06/2008

Jeremy Kyle and the Lie Detector Test

I would like to make it perfectly clear that I hate, with a passion, talk shows. Why these people need to use television as a medium to air their laundry is beyond me. I know lots of people want to be on the TV, but I wouldn't want to share anything that personal, and generally anything that embarrassing/pathetic, with the world at large.

But that's not the aim of today's rant. No, today we focus on that Jeremy Kyle staple, the lie-detector (aka polygraph) test. There is much argument on the reliability of these tests, generally somewhere between 60% and 97% is quoted (however a great deal of this evidence is unreliable).

The physiological effects recorded by the polygraph are not unique to deception. Surely this should set off alarm bells?

Well no, these people on what seems to be a daily basis put major decisions in the hands of a machine which is at best 97% accurate. Kyle is guilty, as others are, of making this seem almost infallible.

What I do in a situation like this is turn the statistics around. 97% accurate means 3% inaccurate. For every 100 tests done, 3 (on average) will give the incorrect result (remember that this is the best case scenario!).

If you were a jury member would that be accurate enough for you to convict? If you were a judge would you accept that if the average accuracy of the evidence before you was 97% then for every 100 people you convicted 3 would have been denied their freedom for no reason at all. I hope not.

Innocent people will unfortunately be imprisoned under any system of law and order we have, as a species, yet envisioned. But for me the number of innocents convicted would have to be, as a minimum, somewhere around 1 in 10,000 (99.99% accuracy). If the evidence was any less convincing than that I would, personally, have to call that reasonable doubt.

But Kyle commits a worse sin. An inconclusive test is just that, it is impossible to draw a conclusion from it. Yet the daytime demigod, facing four possible thieves who had undergone the polygraph, three of which got an all clear and one of whom got an 'inconclusive', picked on that 'inconclusive' person as the culprit. An inconclusive result, even given the fact that the others pass the truth test, does not mean that person has failed to tell the truth, it means that the test has failed to discriminate.

Of course this would require Kyle, the juror/judge, the people on the show, etc. to have a sound basic knowledge of mathematics and scientific reasoning. Which given the fact we live in the Jeremy Kyle generation is sadly unlikely.

21/05/2008

Just In Case You Were Complacent

For those UK readers who think that the problem of creationism entering the education system as science is an American phenomenon there is bad news. Such teaching is going on daily in the UK too, mainly thanks to Tony Blair's great belief in 'faith schools'.

What Not To Teach

The right to home-school your children is something that i find myself uneasy with. I kow some parents are more than capable, but it should not be used as a method of indoctrination. Being taught proper science, and being able to discuss the implications of ideas such as evolution, creationism, etc with their peers exposes children to the idea that not everybody believes the same things, and will hopefully cause them to turn to the evidence.

This article from the Telegraph highlights the problems when parents do the wrong thing. No child should have a link between 'The Wizard of Oz' and atheism, it is a FICTIONAL story, it says nothing about religion. The twisting of fictional fantasy to fatastical beliefs continues with Harry Potter 'the Lord is in charge of your life, and in Harry Potter the characters are interested in gaining power for themselves'.

But worse is yet to come...

'We don't want people teaching our children that they come from monkeys,' says Michelle McKissick, 40, from Houston, who teaches her four children at home. What happens in biology classrooms is 'a lie', she says, before instructing me in the 'correct' view: Genesis 1.11 – not a metaphor, or a story, but fact. She firmly believes that the world is only 6,000 years old and that, consequently, man and dinosaurs (created on Day Six, along with Adam and Eve) once lived together quite happily – the creationist view of the universe. 'Dinosaurs weren't all these great big huge monstrosities,' she smiles, 'and they weren't all ferocious. Probably most of them were, in fact, plant-eaters.' It is Noah's flood, she points out patiently, that is responsible for the existence of fossils. And as for the vexing question of how Noah got a brachiosaurus, an animal that could have weighed up to 33 tons and eaten 3,000lb of green plants a day on to the Ark – 'He took the young ones. That would make the most sense.'

Why would herbivorous animals have teeth perfectly designed for tearing into animal flesh and practically useless for chewing plants? Perhaps she should be denied the right to decide what makes 'the most sense'?

A ramble on the scientific method

Scientific ideas are out there to be attacked by scientists. If a theory survives an attack it lives to fight another day, if not it is either thrown onto the pile of rejected ideas (phlogiston) or it is used although it is kown to be incomplete (Newtonian mechanics is known to be wrong, however it agrees with relativistic mechanics so closely for 'everyday' situations that it used regularly as the mathematics is simpler). It is also possible to alter the theory so that it survives the attack.

These attacks need to be scientific attacks (i.e. they require empirical evidence). Attacks from revealed sources such as the bible are totally unacceptable. The process of attacking an idea is to develop an experiment that will either prove the theory wrong, or let it survive to be attacked by another experiment.

It is not possible to prove a scientific idea, but scientists have a lot of confidence in ideas that have withstood a large number of attacks.

Evolution as work in progress

This article by Tim Radford in the Guardian nicely illustrates an important point.

There's more to science than big names and their big ideas. Darwin's discovery is important, but it was co-discovered by Alfred Russel Wallace, and many people have helped to fill in gaps in the theory ever since. Scientific ideas are rarely totally complete.

20/05/2008

Scientology not a cult

Perhaps one of the craziest organisations on the planet there exists plenty of debate on whether the Church of Scientology is a religion, business or 'just' a cult. However the fact that you can be arrested and face prosecution for calling the organisation a cult is plainly ridiculous. (See this article).

07/05/2008

NCSE

The American National Centre for Science Education seems to be a lot better funded than our own British Centre for Science Education, although the situation is a lot worse the other side of the Atlantic. They have produced these videos, shown on www.expelledexposed.com, which are worth watching for people who aren't creationists, or perhaps worse, IDiots.






The Bible and the Koran agree!

Yes, two of the most influential texts of the last millennium do actually agree on some things. This brings joy to my heart, as the last thing we really need is any of this ridiculous Muslim/Christian. Islam/Christianity, Koran/Bible rivallry. So, you may ask, what do these two 'great' texts agree on? well the answer comes from Steve Wells over at Dwindling In Unbelief.

1) A woman is worth half as much as a man.

2) Insects have four legs.

Great! Good to see that recent advances in equal rights and insect morphology have filtered down into the core of some of the world's major religions!

02/05/2008

Vegetables Proof of Inteligent Design (?)

As PZ Myers said, I really don't see how citrus fruits resemble human mammary glands. I still find it amazing that people can be this deluded!

The video is originally from GodTube (yes, really), which a mine of information coming from those challenged by coherent thought.

video

Ben Stein's ramblings

"When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you," - Ben Stein.

This originally came from here. Thankfully it seems that Stein's film hasn't made it to this side of the Atlantic, we're generally not quite as extremist as the United States. It's not relly a good opinion, science leads to vacuum cleaners, computers, medicines, and a whole lot of other things too. Extremist opinions lead to events such as the Holocaust, and I for one would rather trust in science than trust in Stein.

22/04/2008

Press Release regarding Expelled

This came to me via the British Centre for Science Education

Expelled
flunks the test

www.ExpelledExposed.com finds new creationist “documentary” lacking accuracy on many levels


Oakland, California, April 15, 2008 — Millions of dollars have been spent promoting Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed to fundamentalist church groups, but that money would have been better spent on fact checkers. www.ExpelledExposed.com, a website launched today by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), reveals the truth behind the creationist movie’s misrepresentations.

“Creationists have been making the same arguments for decades,” says Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education. “They’ve gotten better at marketing these claims, but they’re no more valid now than during the Scopes trial of the 1920s. Creationists have been predicting the death of evolution for over a century, yet it is constantly affirmed by evidence from fields Darwin could never have imagined.” Given the damning assessment at www.ExpelledExposed.com, Scott adds, “Perhaps the filmmakers should have spent more time hitting the books, instead of beating up on hardworking scientists.”

Throughout the movie, Ben Stein claims that “Big Science” represses intelligent design to advance an atheistic agenda, but Peter Hess, from NCSE’s Faith Outreach Project, doesn’t buy it. “There are many successful evolutionary biologists who are also people of faith,” he observes, “and a host of people of faith who regard intelligent design as a misconceived and harmful rejection of science. In attempting to pit Christianity against science, Expelled misrepresents both.”

“We reviewed public records and reports on the intelligent design promoters who were supposedly discriminated against, and we discovered that the claims that they lost their jobs over intelligent design are unsupported,” explains Josh Rosenau, a biologist at NCSE. “That said, professors who aren’t making advances in their field, editors who disregard their journal’s established practices, and lecturers who repeat creationist falsehoods shouldn’t be surprised if they have trouble holding jobs. These people weren’t expelled; they flunked out.” www.ExpelledExposed.com contains information about the “martyrs” from Expelled, and also of real scientists who successfully challenged established science. “The difference,” NCSE researcher Carrie Sager observes, “is that real scientists back their challenges with experimental results. Results are what changed minds, forced textbook revisions, and earned Nobel Prizes.”

More insidious are the movie’s attempts to link evolution to the Holocaust. Susan Spath, a historian of science at NCSE, comments: “The implication that Darwin led to Nazism and the Holocaust is an irresponsible misrepresentation of a terrible history. Hitler abused many things, including science, and Expelled is wrong to shift blame off his shoulders and onto evolution.” www.ExpelledExposed.com quotes the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman, who described similar claims in a previous creationist movie as “an outrageous and shoddy attempt ... to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust.”

The National Center for Science Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools. The NCSE maintains its archive of source material on the history of creationism at its Oakland, California, headquarters. On the web at www.ncseweb.org. www.ExpelledExposed.com is a resource for journalists, teachers, and curious moviegoers who want the full story behind Expelled.

Contacts:

Eugenie C. Scott, scott@ncseweb.org, 800-290-6006

Josh Rosenau, rosenau@ncseweb.org, 800-290-6006

Susan Spath, spath@ncseweb.org, 800-290-6006

Carrie Sager, sager@ncseweb.org, 800-290-6006

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