A Skeptical Christmas to You All


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?


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?


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!