Posts Tagged ‘edmund standing’

Edmund Standing on The British Labour Government’s Ruinous Approach to Combating Islamic Extremism

13/03/2010

Prolific secular and anti-fascist blogger Edmund Standing has a new article published on Butterflies & Wheels, which can be accessed here.  The clue is in the title.

The approach taken by the Labour Government has been ruinous for community relations and for the integration of immigrant groups. A formula for a successful and cohesive society is found in the promotion of patriotism, individual responsibility within a framework of individual rights, and the entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of this, the Government’s approach has resulted in a disjointed society, collectivism and communalism, demands for a parallel legal system, and the empowerment of a particularly belligerent element in the British Muslim community.

With a prime minister claiming post-9/11 that the Koran is “remarkable, progressive and inclusive… extols science and knowledge and abhors superstition… practical and far ahead of its time in attitudes toward marriage, women, and governance”, you begin to wonder whether our elected politicians appreciate the gravity of the problem they are facing.  Or whether they just need to sack their spin doctors.

New report into militant neo-Nazi group

27/02/2010

manicstreetpreacher is pleased to present the latest salvo in a friend’s war against fascism in the UK.

My good friend, Edmund Standing, a prolific secular and anti-fascist blogger, has co-researched and authored with Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens a report into the activities of the far right extremist group, Blood & Honour (B&H), for Douglas Murray’s conservative think-tank, The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) and There Is Nothing British About The BNP.

The report is entitled “Blood & Honour: Britain’s Far-Right Militants”  (download PDF).   The News of the World carried a story on the report, Harry’s Place has done a guest post and Standing has also published an executive summary on his blog:

B&H is an international neo-Nazi network that has evolved from its original incarnation as a neo-Nazi music scene into a far-right franchise.  Through music CDs and ideological texts, the B&H network reinforces and disseminates a violent ‘white power’ supremacist ideology, encourages terrorism and spreads racial hatred. This ideology derives from Third Reich Nazism and B&H seeks the creation of a ‘Fourth Reich’.  While it is not an organisation with official membership, B&H acts as an effective international network through which to spread violent neo-Nazism.

A number of B&H texts glorify and encourage acts of terror against minorities, and also provide followers with detailed information about how to carry out a successful attack…

B&H’s largest source of income is the sale of neo-Nazi rock music CDs, many of which incite racial hatred and violence, and glorify neo-Nazi terrorism.  Two key UK B&H merchandising operations are Highlander East Coast and Rune and Sword Productions, both of which sell ‘white power’ music and other neo-Nazi material that contravenes UK legislation on racial and religious hatred.

Standing writes his own blog, regularly contributes to Harry’s Place and has written a number of excellent pieces for Ophelia Benson’s website, Butterflies & Wheels, which can be accessed in the articles section.

Standing’s previous report for the CSC, “The BNP and The Online Fascist Network” (download PDF), published in July 2009, exposed the shambolic attempts by the British National Party to clean up their politics in the public eye while secretly maintaining links with Nazis, anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and all-round nasty racist scum.  Make sure you search Google as well as reading the report itself to get a whiff of the stink it kicked up!

Of Moderates

10/01/2010

manicstreetpreacher lets you in on what really makes his blood boil.

By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.

– Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason

A lovers’ tiff

I read this post a few days ago on Edmund Standing’s blog (also cross-posted on Harry’s Place) regarding Norwegian “liberal” Muslims who have come out in support of Kurt Westergaard, one of the Danish cartoonists who caricatured the prophet Muhammad and provoked the fury of Islamists on an international scale in 2006:

A liberal Norwegian Muslim organisation named LIM (Equality, Integration, Diversity) is standing up for free speech and against Islamism.  Shakil Rehman of LIM has spoken in defence of republishing the notorious Jyllands-Posten cartoons in the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen…  Now LIM have challenged the Islamic Council of Norway (IRN) to organise a demonstration in defence of free speech, not that they think this is likely to happen…  Rehman is unimpressed with arguments about it being ‘offensive’ to depict Muhammad…  Muhammad is not God, says Rehman, and he is not above criticism…

Before I go any further, I must make clear that Standing is a personal friend of mine and we see eye-to-eye on a great number of issues.  In fact, he has been an important source of advice and support and without his example I would not have done as much as I have in the one year I have being writing this blog.  Standing has written some truly excellent pieces on the Old Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, the “value” of theology, the Qur’an, the far left’s abuse of the language of racial prejudice and Rage Against the Machine’s UK Christmas Number 1.

Standing has a gift for trawling the darkest reaches of the Internet in his spare time when the rest of us find it depressing enough to read the BBC News homepage.  The result has been a devastating report for The Centre for Social Cohesion which cuts through the British National Party’s attempts to clean up their politics and exposes them for the racist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi scum that they are (download PDF).  Even before we began corresponding, I kept some of his articles in a hard-copy folder alongside Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and (he’s not going to thank me for this next one!) Johann Hari.

However, the concluding paragraph of Standing’s post really made me see red:

Islam, as Rehman shows, can be ‘liberalised’ and can co-exist peacefully with liberal European culture.  Just as Jews no longer stone disobedient children, and Christians no longer burn ‘heretics’ at the stake, so a future is possible in which Muslims in Europe are as ‘European’ as anyone else.

I get it.  So, Muslims are capable of common sense and rationality as much as anyone else and are well able to cherry pick their appalling holy book to exorcise the nasty bits that do not sit well with 21st century Western secular society, right?  Let’s not forget that this is coming from someone who has written of the Qur’an:

I am at a complete loss as to understand how anyone can hold such a high opinion of a book which, it turns out, is so crude, so blatantly a product of a specific time and place, and so filled with childish threats and superstition.  Reading the Qur’an is an arduous task, for in translation at least it is not a book whose literary style naturally commands admiration in the reader; in fact it is an exceedingly tedious book, made up of a collection of disjointed and often self-contradictory texts, filled with tiresome repetition of certain key phrases and themes, and brimming over with threats of torture and torment for those who will not accept its authority…  I hope to demonstrate… quite what a divisive, primitive, and insulting book it actually is…

While Jews may no longer think it acceptable to stone their children to death for drunken insolence, many of them still think it is perfectly kosher to slice off the foreskin of their days-old infant boys in a procedure done without the use of anaesthetic which would otherwise require the subject’s expressed or implied consent in law.  This is clearly one piece of Bronze Age parenting that has survived the Enlightenment.  Similarly, most Christians do not torture or burn heretics at the stake, although they would look rather blushed if you told them that Augustine and Aquinas – still two of the leading lights in theological seminaries the world over – endorsed such practices in their writings.

Islam: the fringe is the centre

Last year I read my copy of Arthur J Arberry’s English translation of the Koran in full and it was an appalling experience.  I started to write my own opinion on the Koran for this blog, but I can’t bring myself to complete the piece, because the prospect of re-reading the central text in greater detail is utterly unpalatable.  On page after page the reader is informed that God will administer a painful chastisement in Hell, Fire or Gehenna to non-believers.  It’s not like we have a choice in the matter either.  The Koran oozes with a particular sinister brand of predestination that would make John Calvin raise an eyebrow: God has blinded and deceived those whom he chooses into disbelief and there is no way that they can save themselves.

In 2007, two years after a well-to-do group of young British Muslims blew themselves up on London transport and took many innocent people with them in the process; Ed Husain published The Islamist, an autobiographical account of how he was transformed from his parents’ moderate Muslim upbringing to become an extremist bent on the Islamisation of the world as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.  As is so often the case, it was only the love of a good woman that brought Husain back from the edge.

I have great praise for Husain’s book.  It is a touching story about how an otherwise sane and rational individual had his mind poisoned by religious dogma.  However, I do have one caveat.  Husain fails to address the intrinsic violence and tribalism in the Koran and the Hadith.  He cherry-picks passages that portray his prophet in a favourable light, while ignoring those that show he was in fact a medieval butcher.  Someone who has not read the Koran for themselves would come away thinking that Hussein’s descent into fundamentalism was a perversion of “true Islam” and that he simply “fell in with the wrong crowd”.  My own experience of the central text shows that exactly the opposite is true.

Now, whenever I see “moderate” Muslims on Newsnight calling for their ilk to come out against extremism and saying that Islam does not mandate such things, I know they being disingenuous.  The actions of the 9/11 hijackers may not be typical of all Muslims, but they were a perfectly rational interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith.  The recent case of Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged as the Christmas Day Detroit underpants bomber, who was a former head of University College London’s Islamic Society and lived in a £4 million house while studying, is further proof, if any were needed, that Islamism is not a movement where the poorest of the poor have risen up against the ills of the Israeli government and US foreign policy.

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.  But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free.  Lo!  Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

– Koran 9: 5

There’s no such thing as “moderation” in religion

I also find Standing’s closing paragraph to be unintentionally patronising to Muslims by applauding them for their liberal approach.  It is like praising a Roman Catholic for admitting that he does not really believe that the Pope is infallible, which shows Standing’s position to be intellectually untenable.

Those passages about insolent children and homosexuals being stoned to death are as canonical as love thy neighbour as thyself.  Religious moderates simply apply their humanistic morality to ignore those unsavoury passages on the grounds of the “context” in which they were written.  However, they do not have the courage to admit to it.  And Christians, please don’t tell me that Jesus rescinds the barbarism of the Old Testament, because he doesn’t.  If anything, the New Testament ramifies much of the Old Testament with Jesus beginning the Sermon on the Mount that he has “not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but fulfil” and “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5: 17 – 18).

I have to concede that religious moderates are far better than religious extremists.  They are not blowing themselves up in marketplaces or flying planes into buildings.  However, one of the most startling ideas to have come from the New Atheists is that religious moderates are actually fuelling fundamentalism by creating a taboo of criticising religious faith as much as social and political ideas.  The Christian dogma that Jesus will return to Earth trailing clouds of glory and judge humanity for 2,000 years of sexual indiscretion may be a ridiculous belief to a non-believer (and certainly a promise that is long overdue!) but it would not on its face appear to be a mandate for extremism.  Until you realise that there are fundamentalist Christians hard at work in the Middle East attempting to incite Armageddon among the warring factions to bring about the return of their Messiah.

In a recent Intelligence Squared debate I attended featuring Richard Dawkins and A C Grayling, theist panellists Charles Moore and Richard Harries denounced “mad creationists” in response to a question I asked.  Fair enough, but are their beliefs regarding the resurrection and the Second Coming any more rational?  Surely these involve scientific claims regarding the decomposition of corpses and human flight without the aid of technology.  Why shouldn’t we laugh at them when they espouse these beliefs?  If Harries was so offended by Dawkins’ comparing the likelihood of the existence of the God of Abraham with leprechauns, he should have spent the rest of the evening defending the claim that Almighty Zeus sent his only begotten son Perseus to Earth via a virgin birth to rid humanity of Medusa and the Kraken, and then he would have realised how much we – believers and atheists alike – really respect religious claims.

I know that Lord Harries is not a creationist.  Indeed, he has supported Richard Dawkins in the fight against creationism entering school science classes.  I am sure he doesn’t take stories such as Noah’s Ark and Sodom and Gomorrah literally and thinks that there is a link between metrological and seismic phenomena and human morality.  Doubtless he disagreed strongly with his colleague in the Church of England, the then Bishop of Carlisle, who’s verdict on the July 2007 floods in Northern Yorkshire was that they were divine retribution were punishment for homosexual marriage.  But if Harries ever said or wrote in public condemnation of the Right Reverend Graham Dow’s decidedly Old Testament take on the bad weather, I have yet to discover it.

If the moderates do not police their religions, then the atheists will be forced to.

Accordingly, I am not prepared to say that a world inhabited only by religious moderates would be a much better place.  That can only be possible in a world with no religious believers at all, moderate or extremist.  Whereas many Roman Catholics may feel uncomfortable with the thought that their Church is lying to people in AIDS ravaged countries in Africa, where around 3 million people a year die of the disease, by preaching the sinfulness and ineffectiveness of condoms, they are inadvertently contributing to the problem by creating a climate in our public discourse that makes it impossible for the Vatican to receive the same level of condemnation that a US president would receive for getting a blow job in the Oval Office.

Moderate atheists and agnostics: more annoying than believers!

I’m an atheist butters like the philosopher Michael Ruse infuriate me more than liberal theologians like Alister McGrath.  Ruse accuses Dawkins of being a poor philosopher and not taking the arguments for God existence seriously enough, but ultimately he agrees with his position on the existence of God.  This is rather like someone in the 1930s saying that while they disagree with Nazism and do not accept the claims of Mein Kampf, they nonetheless respect National Socialism, appreciate its nuances and feel that only a proper and sincere engagement with Nazi philosophy could overthrow Hitler’s regime.

In contrast to Standing’s tolerant approach, my hand-to-throat response was demonstrated by my reaction to a recent edition of Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? Christian apologist to Muslims, Jay Smith, debated Muslim moderate, Muhammad Al-Hussaini, on the Ethical Guidelines for Christian and Muslim Witness in Britain (download PDF), in particular point 6: the requirement not to ridicule or demean other faiths.  I am not the biggest fan of Jay Smith (!), however, the attempts by Al-Hussaini to portray the Koran as a moderate text made me even angrier; especially his quoting of “Let there be no compulsion in religion” at Sura 2 of the Koran.   With my blood still very much up, I fired off a bile-laden email to the presenter and the participants:

[T]he verse constantly quoted from Sura 2 of the Koran by apologists eager to claim that Islam is a tolerant and pluralistic religion, “Let there be no compulsion in religion”, is followed a few verses later with the promise that all unbelievers will dwell forever in the Fire in the next life.  There doesn’t seem to be anything optional about that preachment…

Although I am unimpressed by the gross hypocrisy and double-standards that Jay Smith employs when promoting his own religion over Islam, I agree that the Koran should be “ridiculed and demeaned” at every opportunity, because frankly I am insulted and offended every time someone tries to tell me that it is a miracle of literature that could only have been authored by an omnipotent deity.

As it happens, Al-Hussaini sent me a very civil and respectful response and probably didn’t deserve the full-on MSP treatment that he received.  But the idea that Christians should respect a religion that ineptly plagiarises their own holy book was akin to historian Hugh Trevor-Roper’s reaction to the Rushdie affair:

I wonder how Salman Rushdie is faring these days under the benevolent protection of British law and British police, about whom he has been so rude.  Not too comfortably I hope…  I would not shed a tear if some British Muslims, deploring his manners, should waylay him in a dark street and seek to improve them.  If that should cause him thereafter to control his pen, society would benefit and literature would not suffer.

As Ibn Warraq rightly pointed out in Why I Am Not A Muslim:

Will that “closest hooligan” Trevor-Roper wake up from his complacent slumbers, when those “poor hurt Muslims” begin demanding the withdrawal of those classic Western literature and intellectual history that offend their Islamic sensibilities but must be dear to Professor Trevor-Roper’s heart?

In conclusion – a pragmatic means but far from an end

While Standing may well agree with much of what I have written in principle, he knows that religious faith is not going to be eradicated within our lifetimes and is prepared to play real-politick and endorse religious moderates even if it means making an ideological trade-off.  I certainly see the practical sense in this, but for once I am thinking with my gut and am not yet prepared to compromise my philosophy.  This is one example where integrity is everything for me.  Standing’s approach’s is scarily reminiscent to the “you’ll never get rid of it” line taken by many of the Four Horseman’s atheistic opponents such as Ruse.

And of course if you start thinking like that, you never will get rid of religious faith.  Ever.

YouTube Moment of the Year 2009

26/12/2009

manicstreetpreacher unveils the clip that he has replayed the most in this Year of Our Lord.

It has been a great year for the ‘Tube.  I have watched many brilliant lectures and debates and even appeared in one of them myself.  Certainly, NonStampCollector is the one YouTube user who has provided me with the most joy.  I wish I could include them all.  However, the clip I have played the most is the this wonderful “re-edit” of BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on BBC One’s Question Time on 22 October 2009 by cassetteboy.

At over a million views, I’m probably not the only one who would class it as the cream of the crop for ‘09.

Many thanks to my friend, the anti-fascist blogger Edmund Standing, for forwarding me the link.

A dark face to Rage Against The Machine’s Christmas Number One?

22/12/2009

manicstreetpreacher takes a brief respite from all things theocratic and gives his take on how the cunning stunt of getting RATM to Christmas Number One has a less amusing side to it.

I just couldn’t believe it.  Returning from the gym on Sunday evening checking out my RSS feeds, I saw the news that Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name” had beaten X Factor winner, Joe McElderry, to UK Christmas Number One.  The shock chart result follows a widely publicised Facebook campaign to get the US-based rap punk group to the top of the charts in order to prevent Simon Cowell from ruining the best chart of the year with yet another insult-to-housewives-choice-idenikit-sugar-manufactured-pop-dreck-famous-for-five-seconds-forgotton-just-as-quickly-waste-of-plastic.

My initial reaction was joy.  Although I never got round to downloading the track, I morally supported Rage in beating X Factor.  It was joyful slap in the face to Cowell, regardless of the fact that he is a part owner of Sony, the record company of both McElderry and Rage and therefore a share of the profits will find their way into his high trouser pocket eventually.  However, that is missing the point.  As Charlie Brooker in The Guardian put it writing mid-week before the chart was announced:

But profit isn’t the point – or at least it’s not the reason I downloaded it.  For one thing, I happen to think Killing in the Name is an excellent song, so I’ve already got something out of it.  Most importantly, it contains genuine emotion.  Even if the climactic repeated howls of “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” put you in mind of a teenager loudly refusing to tidy his bedroom – as opposed to a masked anarchist hurling petrol bombs at the riot squad – there is at least an authentic human sentiment being expressed.  Zack de la Rocha is audibly pissed off.

Compare this to the pissweak vocal doodle that is Joe McElderry’s X Factor single.  For a song whose lyrics ostensibly document an attempt to gather the spiritual strength to overcome adversity and thereby attain enlightenment, The Climb is about as inspiring as a Lion bar.  It’s a listless announcement on a service station Tannoy; an advert for buttons; a fart in a clinic; a dot on a spreadsheet.  Listening to it from beginning to end is like watching a bored cleaner methodically wiping a smudge from a Formica worksurface.

But then nobody’s buying The Climb in order to actually listen to it. They’re buying it out of sedated confusion, pushing a button they’ve been told will make them feel better.  It’s the sound of the assisted suicide clinic, and it doesn’t deserve to be No 1 this Christmas.

Hear, hear.

However, the my joy had cold water thrown on it rather quickly with this post from prolific secular, pro-Israel and anti-fascist blogger Edmund Standing who pointed out that far from being mere rebels without a cause, RATM are:

[T]he musical equivalent of the Socialist Workers Party – i.e. they’re ‘revolutionary’ loons who hate the West and wish we were all living in some Soviet hellhole.

Let’s have a look at some of their views.

Starting with the band’s official website, we immediately find images of books including Che Guevara’s ‘Guerrilla Warfare’, ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’, ‘The Black Panthers Speak’, and ‘Malcolm X Speaks’. So, that’s a book on Communist revolution by a vile totalitarian, a terrorist manual, and race baiting material.

Che Guevara is of course the icon of choice for every rebellious teenager, lefty idiot, and pretentious pseudo-leftist celebrity going. The real Che was a walking nightmare…

The Che worship of people like RATM is particularly ironic, given he wanted to ban rock music.

Other influences on RATM include the far-left pseudo-scholar Noam Chomsky and the bloated fake left-winger and propagandist-for-profit Michael Moore.

In an interview with Chomsky, RATM member Tom Morello proudly stated: ‘I want you to know… Noam Chomsky books are the ones most prominently featured on the rage tour bus’.

Zack de la Rocha of RATM considers Chomsky a ‘good friend’ and cited him in an ‘anti-war’ rant at the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival…

500,000 Britons have ‘rebelled’ against Simon Cowell’s chart dominance by buying the records of an extreme left-wing band of wannabe terrorists.  The only thing that gives me hope in this situation is that the majority of those people probably haven’t got a clue about the politics of RATM, which, of course, really makes the whole ‘campaign’ all the more pathetic.

The words, “down”, “Earth” and “bump” spring to mind.  Perhaps if Standing had blogged on RATM sooner he may have stopped the campaign and McElderry would have given us the ninth Simon Cowell/ Louis Walsh manufactured for a TV audience Christmas Number One in a row…

Many of the commenters on Standing’s post have concurred with him.  However, many have begged to differ, calling him “po-faced” and that the stunt was “just a bit fun”.  Who cares about Rage’s politics?  They are a rock group who have some dodgy, hypocritical and inconsistent views.  What punk rock group does not?  Does Standing begrudge The Sex Pistols very nearly successful attempt to hijack the Jubilee Number One in 1977 for their ridiculous cut n paste ethos?

This reminds me of the occasion in 2001 when my favourite band of all time and whose moniker I have purloined for blogging purposes (so far without being slapped with a copyright action, touch wood!), Manic Street Preachers played a live gig in front of 5,000 fans at the Karl Marx theatre in Havana, Cuba in front of Fidel Castro himself.  The album they were promoting was Know Your Enemy (overall rather tepid, still containing some of their best work, quite a few guilty pleasures!) was chocked full of references to Cuba, not least of which was “Baby Elian”, regarding the fiasco in the courts over custody of a little Cuban boy called Elian Gonzalez who was found washed up in Florida following a boat disaster his mother did not survive while she was attempting to escape to America.

Everyone at the time knew that Cuba has an appalling record on human rights (although they have a cracking healthcare system if Michael Moore is to be believed, erm…), but it was the principle of the band speaking out against the relentless Americanisation of the planet in spite of the fact that everyone would much prefer to live in a McUSA rather than a Red Cuba!  The Manics have always been the biggest load of self-contradictory, ill-thought-out, slogan-ripping-off-without-actually-reading-any-deeper-into-their-heroes tools, but that’s partly why I love them so much.

I have a biography of the band R.E.M. called Fiction, first published in 2002.  Guitarist Peter Buck replied rather well to the apparent contradiction of cash-raking, corporate-cock-sucking rock stars speaking out against globalisation and capitalism.  I didn’t have my copy to hand at the time of writing, but he said something along the lines of all of us being guilty of it to an extent.  Most music magazines have adverts in their back pages that are essentially selling prostitution. What are the chances that the clothes we are wearing now were stitched together in some Taiwanese sweat-shop by an eight-year child being paid $1 a day? (Although on a balance of probabilities Mr Standing is exempt from this piece of rhetoric…)  Al Gore obviously hasn’t given up his 4X4 and jet travel as he is shown using them in An Inconvenient Truth!

The realities rendering us all hypocrites shouldn’t prevent people from rebelling against the system on the odd occasion.  If Rage Against The Machine’s politics were more influential, I think the joke would turn sour and people would know where to draw the line.

But this episode graphically demonstrates the inexplicable paradox at the heart of the public’s perception of the left-right divide.  As Boris Johnson pointed out in a piece first published in The Daily Telegraph in 2005:

Cycling through London, I check out the words on people’s T-shirts, and I was amused the other day to see the letters CCCP on someone’s chest.  Yup, folks, that’s what the fashion-conscious British youth is wearing, a celebration of the great doomed Soviet experiment of 1917 – 90.

Remind me: who was the greater mass murderer, Stalin or Hitler?  Well, Stalin is thought to have been responsible for about 50 million deaths, and Hitler for a mere 25 million.  What Hitler did in his concentration camps was equalled if not exceeded in foulness by the Soviet gulags, forced starvation and pogroms.  What makes the achievements of communist Russia so special and different, that you can simper around in a CCCP T-shirt, while anyone demented enough to wear anything commemorating the Third Reich would be speedily banged away under the 1986 Public Order Act?

On that occasion, Johnson was commenting on the death of Melita Norwood, a former Soviet spy whose crimes against the British state were only discovered in 1999 when she was aged 87.  As a result of her advanced years, the Labour government decided she was too old to prosecute.  Compare that to the way that former Auschwitz guards are (quite rightly) hunted down and thrown in the dock when they have to feed through a tube.

I disagree with my father on many political, philosophical, scientific and above all religious matters.  However, the one gem of political insight he imparted to me in my teenage years which I have retained ever since is that that you can quite literally get away with mass murder as long as you are left wing.

Why is it that the figures of the far left are deified while those at the opposite end of the political spectrum like Hitler are remembered as history’s monsters?  Instead of all those students wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “CCCP” a few years back, why didn’t they try wearing a garment displaying a swastika?  Instead of the monochrome profile of Che Guevara hanging from a million student dorm windows, what about the corpulent features of Herman Goering or his rather more gaunt counterpart in the Wehrmacht Joseph Goebbels?

It’s disgusting how Stalin is being made into a hero now.  Earlier this year, a renegade Orthodox priest displayed icons of him alongside Russian saints outside his church in St Petersburg (or Leningrad as it seems to be called again), which the Communist Party rushed to imitate en masse and distribute.  The Communist Party in Russia are petitioning the Russian Orthodox Church to have him made a saint.  The man was voted third greatest Russian of all time in a poll at the end of 2008.  At this year’s worldwide May Protests, Communists were out in force displaying icons of Stalin.

What on Earth were these people protesting against; too much freedom and democracy and a shortage of gulags and slave labour?

I read an article in The Times a few weeks ago that a school history text book has been produced under the loathsome shadow of the Putin administration which airbrushes (literally) Stalin’s crimes against humanity.  In some European countries it is a crime to deny or trivialise the Holocaust.  Why aren’t there laws against doing the same in respect of all the millions communism has killed?

But then again, aren’t we in the West slaves to commercialisation?  Isn’t that the point of Rage Against The Machine and their ilk?  Hasn’t our consumer culture left as emotional emaciated as a gulag prisoner?  For all the paradoxes, the latent contradictions, the childish political posturing, the ghastly nightmare that would ensue if they had their way, I can’t help feeling some affection for people who want to prevent society degenerating into this:

But I still know which I would prefer.  We need hypocrites like Rage Against The Machine and Manic Street Preachers to remind us how lucky we are and how much worse things could be if we had to live under the heel of Stalin, Castro or Mao.

Theistic madness round-up for 14 December 2009

15/12/2009

manicstreetpreacher shakes his head in disbelief at another day of faith-based stupidity on the eve of the second decade of the 21st century.

I have come across quite a lot of the above during my lunch and doss time at work today.

Apocalypse Soon

Kicking off is a trailer to a rather scary movie called Waiting for Armageddon (IMDB / RichardDawkins.net) about the 20 million or so demented members of the American population who are convinced that the End Times and The Rapture will happen within the next 20 years.

My post on the afterlife deals with the religious obsession for this miserable little world to be over, so I won’t repeat my arguments.  Suffice it to say that this is not the kind of thinking that will ensure the long term survival of our species.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins’ Left Behind series of novels are either cashing in on pre-existing public opinion and/ or have a lot to answer for!

Bishop to the UK Forces praises Taliban then retracts comments and pleads “context”

An interview with the Right Reverend Stephen Veneer appeared in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday where he apparently praised the strength of faith of the Taliban:

We’ve been too simplistic in our attitude towards the Taliban.

There’s [sic] a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the west could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation because it’s not honest really.

The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.

We must remember that there are a lot of people who are under their influence for a whole range of reasons, and we simply can’t lump all of those together.

To blanket them all as evil and paint them as black is not helpful in a very complex situation.

Afghanistan is going we hope in the end to find a way to live together with justice and prosperity for all.  In order to do that we have to involve all the people of Afghanistan to find it.

It is that lasting and just peace that will in the end justify the sacrifices our servicemen and women have made.

The uproar was immediate as one can imagine.  Edmund Standing has labelled Veneer as “deranged”:

Disgusting.  This man should be relieved of his post immediately.

What would he have said during World War 2?  That we should admire the conviction and loyalty of the SS?

The Right Reverend Veneer has backtracked immediately and you can view his interview with BBC News from their website here.  Veneer now claims that his remarks were taken out of context by The Daily Telegraph.  Apparently, he was trying to express sympathy with some Afghans who are being misled by the Taliban ringleaders.  I’m not altogether convinced, but he wouldn’t be the first to accuse Jonathan Wynne-Jones of such underhand tactics.

I can kind of see where the Bishop is coming from now he has clarified his comments.  If and when the hostilities in Afghanistan cease, those Afghans who supported and even perhaps fought with the Taliban will have to be included in the peace process in some way, shape or form whether we like it or not.

But perhaps the good reverend’s faux pas today shows that Christ’s edict to “love your enemies” is totally unworkable outside of scripture and therefore quite foolhardy.

Tony Bliar… sorry, BLAIR, hides behind his religious faith now he’s out of Number 10 and the clutches of Alistair Campbell

And finally, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has taped a nauseating and saccharine programme on his religious faith with the fawning Fern Britton, which can be downloaded from BBC iPlayer here.   (RichardDawkins.net has a thread on the programme and the comments are not complimentary!)  Watch out for that Paxman interview in 2003 at 21 minutes, when Tony squirms at the suggestion that he and George W Bush pray together!

UPDATE 29 January 2010

BBC iPlayer has stopped streaming the programme.  The YouTube playlist begins here.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am no supporter of Saddam Hussein or the irrational leftists who have used the Iraq War as an excuse to attack the US, as embodied in Michael Moore’s reprehensible Fahrenheit 9/11.  As Hitch said in his review of the film:

If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia.  Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed.  If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD.  You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture.  Rock the vote, indeed.

Anyone who doubts that Saddam had links with international terrorism, al-Qaeda or committed crimes against humanity on his own watch should read this report by Deroy Murdock, Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University and get acquainted with just what a monster the man really was.

The truth is that I have not made up my mind about the Iraq War.  I don’t support it.  But I can’t bring myself to oppose it either.  My natural tendency is as an historian rather than an investigative journalist.  Hindsight is 20-20 vision: the cheapest form of wisdom.  I like to form my opinions long after the fact.  When the dust has settled, when emotions are not running so high and when a cold sense of objectivity can be maintained.  But one thing I can be certain of is that this world is a better place without Saddam and Iraq will be a better country, I hope sooner rather than later.

I am also certain of my distain of Blair’s recent attempts to use the card of religious faith to wash himself clean of the lies, the hypocrisy and the attempts to manipulate public opinion that took our country to war.  The manipulation of the press and public opinion, the misinformation, not least of which was a dossier into the 45-minute WMD claim partially culled from a PhD paper that was 12 years old has left a taste in my mouth that has been impossible to wash out.  I’m not ready to call Blair a war criminal yet, but I hope the Iraq War Inquiry probes deep and hard.

The programme unwittingly demonstrates the sheer futility of religious faith.  Blair himself admits that his faith was of no help in making the decision to go to war, but at least it helped him through all the heartache that followed.  Just well perhaps; if Blair had thought for a minute that his faith did help him make the decision, he would have to accept that God put him in Downing Street to make what many now see as a terrible mistake.

After life is there more? (And would we want there to be?)

14/11/2009

Stairway2Heaven

manicstreetpreacher muses on the pros and cons of departing this veil of tears to a big theme park in the sky or to somewhere less pleasant…

I was invited to speak at Liverpool University on 18 November 2009 on an inter-faith discussion panel on the topic of the afterlife, called “Follow My Way 2: Life, Death & Beyond”.  Originally, the discussion was to be on the rights and wrongs of religious tolerance.  I was amazed that the University of Liverpool Atheist Society (ULAS) had asked me whether I wanted to speak following the disastrous public reaction to my outspoken views on religion in March earlier this year, about which you can about in piece, “More Than I Could Chew?”

I have had to up sticks and move to the opposite end of the country in order to find employment in a recession.  To travel to Liverpool and return to my new home would have meant a £100 return train fare and my last two days of paid leave which I had been saving to get home ahead of the Christmas rush.  In case you are new to this blog, speaking out against the parties of God is just about my favourite pastime at present and I leapt at the chance.  If nothing else, it would have been an opportunity to repair some of the damage done at the beginning of the year and learn to keep a cool head against a hostile crowd and potentially baiting opponents.

FMW2Poster

However, the topic changed overnight, away from the role of religion in the world and to the rather saccharine topic of the afterlife.  With great reluctance, I declined to speak.  I felt that I only had a very limited amount to say on the motion which essentially boiled downed to:

  1. I don’t believe in the afterlife.
  2. Like telekinesis, Father Christmas and fairies at the bottom of the garden, it would be lovely if we did have a soul separate from our bodies which floats off our brains at the moment of death towards a tunnel of life to be reunited with our loved ones and/ or to wait for our loved ones to join us once their time on Earth is up but there simply isn’t any evidence for it.
  3. The consequences of certain people believing in an afterlife can be truly sinister for the rest of us in this life whether we share their beliefs or not.
  4. We ought to stop looking forward to our deaths and make the most of the one life we do have.

ULAS have managed to persuade a member of The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) to speak and I wish him all the very best of luck.  If I was still living in or closer to Liverpool, I would probably have still spoken despite the change of topic, but it just wasn’t worth the train fare or the holiday time.

However, as is so often the case, the experience of being asked to speak on a topic has made me think deeper about that topic.  I half-regret turning down the opportunity now and present my further thoughts to anyone who cares.

If I was there, I would… apologise for all the offensive things I am going to say

I think it would be best to start off by trying to wash out the bad taste I had left in the mouths of the religious members of the audience after last time by making clear that nothing I say is done deliberately for effect and while I am bound to offend a lot of people in the room, this is not intentional.

I have half a mind to say the most offensive thing I could possibly say right away by quoting Jimmy Carr and saying that it is a shame about all the wounded British soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but at least we would have a cracking team for the 2012 Paralympics.

There’s a more than 50 percent chance of that one going down like a lead balloon…

It would be wonderful if it were true but…

After the apologies and explanation, the first thing to be said would be that there are loads of things that I wish did exist – such as The Force, lightsabres, telekinesis, telepathy and fairies at the bottom of the garden – but there simply isn’t any evidence for them.  The religious instinct is informed by the same mentality as astrology and tarot reading: the human tendency to see patterns in everyday events and infer some greater meaning to them.

I blogged on this at length following a lecture given by Professor Chris French of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College hosted by the Merseyside Skeptics Society in September 2009.  We are swimming in probabilities; it would be more incredible if these coincidences didn’t happen!   There may be some anecdotal evidence for telepathy and reincarnation, but these studies are flawed by what is known as the “Clustering Illusion”, also known as the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy”.   Rather like a marksman emptying his magazine at a barn door and then drawing on the target afterwards, if you repeat the same experiment enough times you are bound to see patterns emerge, but the conclusions drawn from them will be false.

American physicist, Victor J Stenger, touches on the search for a world beyond matter in his 2007 book, God, The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist and describes how the search for a soul, an afterlife, reincarnation and psychic powers has failed miserably.

Professor Susan Blackmore of Plymouth University charts her journey from naïve believer in the paranormal to hardened sceptic after she set out on a mission to prove in the lab that supernatural forces were at work, only to find that the experiments were flawed and the data inconclusive.  The story is told in her book, In Search of the Light: Adventures of a Parapsychologist.  At the time of writing, I hadn’t read Blackmore’s book myself, but she summarises her journey very eloquently in her debate on religion against Christian theologian Alistair McGrath at Bristol University on 13 November 2007.

A few years ago, thirty of the world’s “top” theologians met at the Vatican to discuss what happened to the souls of unbaptised babies after they die and whether St Augustine’s doctrine of limbo was valid.  I am struggling to think of a more intellectually forlorn exercise; did any of those theologians have any actual evidence of what does happen to the souls of said un-baptised babies, or even whether they possess a soul in the first place?

Positing that humans possess a soul separate from our bodies simply commits the philosophical fallacy of begging the question.  When did the soul evolve?  Do non-human animals have a soul?  Why would a deity bother with a mortal life at all and just have the afterlife as the norm so we can all enjoy his or her company straightaway?  How can a soul survive the death of the brain?  In what state is your soul when it leaves your body for good?  It wouldn’t be very enjoyable to be permanently suffering from a stroke for all eternity.

Sounds like hell to me

Most people can’t bear to sit in church for an hour on Sundays.  How are they supposed to live somewhere very similar to it for eternity?

– Mark Twain

I suppose my ideal version of the afterlife would be to live in a temple of knowledge and philosophical discussion with a library where you could read any book you chose for as long as you wanted and have discussions with the greatest thinkers of all time from Plato to Hume to Spinoza to Jefferson, one-to-one or in an auditorium.  But again, there’s just no evidence for it.

I have to say though that the Christian version of the afterlife sounds absolutely ghastly, as Mr Twain summarises so beautifully above.  I’m sorry, but did I miss something?  Spending all eternity singing the praises of your maker?  And you thought I was going to go for one blog post without quoting Christopher Hitchens, but it sounds like hell to me!

In 2000, Hitchens travelled to North Korea under his guise as a university professor and reported on the abject serfdom endured by the wretched population who are expected to wake up in the morning praising the Great Leader, Kim Ill Sung and his son the Dear Leader, Kim Jung Ill, only to wake up again in the morning and begin the process all over again.

Kim Ill Sung became President of North Korea in 1949, the same year as George Orwell published Nineteen Eighty Four.  It is almost as though someone lent the Great Leader a copy of the book challenging him to put it into practice and he gleefully accepted.

According to Hitchens, you will not open a newspaper, turn on a television set or watch a theatrical production, that is not dedicated to worshipping the cult of Fat Man and Little Boy.  However, Kim Jung Ill is only the head of the party and the army.  The head of state is still his father; surprisingly, since the guy has been dead since 1994.  Hitchens dubs the government a “necrocracy, or a “mauselocracy or a “thanatocracy.  Indeed, the son is said to be a reincarnation of his father.  This should strike a chord with the Christian apologist on the night.  It’s just one short of a Trinity.

But at least you can die and get out of North Korea.  Under Christianity and Islam at least, it’s only when you’re dead that the real fun begins.  Who would want this to be true?

Silly souls

Atheists constantly have the charge levelled against them that they cannot justify why they are moral and altruistic.  If we all end up the same way and there is no final judgement for our lives’ deeds, then why should we care what happens in this life?  Leaving aside for a moment my stock retorts about the intrinsic satisfaction of doing one of your fellow mammals a good turn without expecting reward or avoiding punishment, the theistic worldview hardly settles matters more satisfactorily.

Perhaps it is too cheap a shot to ask why religious people don’t just commit suicide rather than bothering with this veil of tears.  But the question still remains frustratingly unanswered: if there is going to be an in-gathering, if there is going to be a magical place where all tears will be dried and all injustices put right, then why do the religious care so much about what happens in this life?  Why do they want to control what people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms?

It would appear that at least Mahatma Ghandi pre-empted my challenge.   Ghandi was undoubtedly the twentieth century’s most influential pacifist with his devastating policy of non-cooperation against India’s colonial masters, which sealed independence for the Jewel in the Crown in 1947.

However, it must be remembered firstly that Ghandi’s command to turn the other cheek only worked because the British Empire had by then been crippled by two World Wars in the space of 25 years and secondly, his ideals took a much more sinister side.   Ghandi’s remedy for the Holocaust was for the Jews to commit mass suicide because this “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.”

Even if we grant Ghandi’s religious dogma of karma and rebirth, is the suffering and agony of millions of people in this world an acceptable price to secure their happiness and freedom in the next?  Ghandi’s world was one where millions of people would have died in order for the German people to doubt the goodness of their Thousand Year Reich.  How would a world full of pacifists respond once they became “aroused” to the evil of Nazism; commit suicide as well?

The concern for human souls seems to have trumped the care for human beings when you consider the Bush administration’s denial of funding at the Federal level for potentially ground-breaking stem cell research.  Apparently a middle-aged father succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease or a young girl suffering from third degree burns are less important than the souls of three day old human embryos in a petri dish comprising no more than 150 cells.  If you think that still sounds like a large number of cells, there are over 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly.  You inflict far more pain and suffering every time you swat a household insect than if you use a three day old human embryo potentially to save another human being’s life.

You lot may be looking forward to checking out, but don’t demand the rest of us to come with you

Opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of the American population believe that Christ will return to Earth someday to judge the human race for 2,000 years of sexual indiscretion.  At least 20% think that this event will happen within their lifetimes.

To an atheist, this might seem like a ridiculous belief – particularly when you consider that we have waited long enough following Jesus’ promise to return to Earth within the lifetime of his followers at Matthew 16 among several other instances – but it does not appear to be a potentially harmful preachment.   Until you consider that there are fundamentalist American Christians hard at work in the Holy Land to this day attempting to incite the already warring religious factions into nuclear Armageddon.

SecondComing

Ronald Reagan brought in Hal Lindsay and Jerry Falwell – a pair of religious lunatics of the first, second, third and fourth orders – to advise the Pentagon on biblical prophesy regarding the end of the world when it looked like he was going to turn the Cold War hot.  Falwell in particular worked hard at inciting the worst and most fanatical elements among Jewish settlers on the West Bank in Israel and was even awarded the Jabotinsky Centennial Medal in 1980 by Menachem Begin.

A former Archbishop of Canterbury (!), Dr Geoffrey Fisher throughout the 1950s and 1960s consistently refused to condemn the apocalyptic madness of Russia and the West during the Cold War.  When some observers were proposing all-out surrender to the Soviets in order to avoid doomsday, sheepish Dr Fisher wrote a tract that could have been produced by Ahmadinejad in the present day:

I am convinced that it is never right to settle any policy simply out of fear of the consequences…  For all I know it is within the providence of God that the human race should destroy itself in this manner.

There is no evidence that the human race is to last forever and plenty in Scripture to the contrary effect.  Though, as you say, the suffering entailed by nuclear war would be ghastly in its scale, one must remember that each person can only suffer so much; and I do not know that the men and women affected would suffer more than those do who day by day are involved in some appalling disaster.  There is no aggregate measure of pain. Anyhow, policy must not be based simply on fear of pain.

I am not being unfeeling. Christ in His Crucifixion showed us how to suffer creatively.  He did not claim to end suffering, nor did He bid His disciples to avoid suffering.  So I repeat, I cannot establish any policy merely on whether or not it will save the human race from a period of suffering or from extinction.

GeoffreyFisher

In a later interview, Fisher commented that “the very worst it could do would be to sweep a vast number of people at one moment from this world into the other and more vital world, into which anyhow they must pass at one time.”

As Sam Harris comments in Letter to a Christian Nation:

According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry here on Earth.  It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen – the return of Christ.  It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves – socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically.  Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the US government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious.  The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.

I don’t even want to get started on radical Islam’s commitment to Jihad, martyrdom, and three score and a dozen nubiles in paradise, so I’ll again defer to a man who is blessed with a far more eloquent turn of phrase:

The irony here is almost a miracle in its own right: the most sexually repressed people found in the world today – people who are stirred to a killing rage by reruns of Baywatch – are lured to martyrdom by a conception of paradise that resembles nothing so much as an al fresco bordello.

Apart from the terrible ethical consequences that follow from this otherworldliness, we should observe how deeply implausible the Koranic paradise is.  For a seventh-century prophet to say that paradise is a garden, complete with rivers of milk and honey, is rather like a twenty-first century prophet saying that it is a gleaming city where every soul drive a new Lexus.  A moment’s reflection should reveal that such pronouncements suggest nothing at all about the afterlife and much indeed about the limits of human imagination.

– Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason

A rather less pleasant place

I could not finish a piece on this topic without a reference to the dark side of an afterlife: that of eternal punishment.  This is an utterly evil concept that has surely ruined the lives and peace of mind of many children and which some have said is a worse form of abuse than the mildest forms of physical and sexual abuse.

Hell

Before the first “Follow My Way” in March 2009, I had read extracts of the Koran as quoted by others, namely Sam Harris in The End of Faith and the excellent treatment by prolific secularist and anti-fascist blogger Edmund Standing on Butterflies and Wheels.

I had also purchased my own copy of Arthur J Arberry’s English translation of the Koran, but I had not read it in full.  I have now done so, cover-to-cover, and it was an appalling experience.  I am currently in the middle of writing my own opinion on the Koran for this blog, but I can’t bring myself to complete the piece, because the prospect of re-reading the central text in greater detail is utterly unpalatable.

Every time I now see someone wearing traditional Muslim dress or facial hair, I can’t stop myself from wondering, “What do you really think about me as an unbeliever, an infidel, a kuffar?  What do you really believe is going to happen to me after I depart this life?  Given that it says on practically every page of your holy book – which you claim is a miracle explained only if it were authored by an omnipotent deity – that I as unbeliever will face a painful chastisement in hell, fire or Gehenna for all eternity?”

I have not had the chance to ask this question of a believing Muslim myself yet, but I would certainly ask it of the Muslim apologist were I speaking on the night.

For the one life we do have

How’s this for an ending?

We’re all doomed.  One way or another we all end up dead.  The party will go on without us and we won’t be able to look down on it from on high.  The human race will go extinct one day.  Maybe at its own hands.  Certainly if the religious fanatics attempting to acquire apocalyptic nuclear weaponry while I write get their way.

But if we don’t finish each other off, then disease, famine or tempest ought to do the trick.  And our goose will be well and truly cooked in about half a billion years time when our sun runs out of hydrogen and swells up into a red giant and consumes half the solar system.  And if there’s anything left of us after all that, then the Andromeda Galaxy, which you can see now in the night sky on a direct collision course with the Milky Way and will be upon us in [theatrical glance at wrist watch] ooooh… four billion years time.

If that doesn’t do it for us, then maybe I’m wrong and there is a God!

We have but a few short precious years of consciousness.  But try to make it count.   Try to enjoy the time you have.  And above all, try to help other people enjoy their time as well.

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones.  Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.  The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara.  Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton.  We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people.  In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

– Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and The Appetite for Wonder

Allan Porchetta attacks Peter Hearty’s defence of Evolution

30/08/2009

EvolutionChrist

manicstreetpreacher schools a creationist after his nonsensical attack on evolution.

The following piece was posted on the Premier Christian Community forum in response to a repeat of a debate between atheist evolutionist, Peter Hearty, of the UK National Secular Society and Christian apologist and Intelligent Design proponent Peter S Williams, which was broadcast on Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable?, Saturday, 18 July 2009.

Below is blogger Allan Porchetta’s piece verbatim, including spelling and grammatical errors:

Pete Hearty’s woeful defence of evolution

Pete Hearty says that science and God are not compatible – why ever not – Newton , Faraday and a host of scientists were bible believers – there are plenty of contempary scientists who are creationists – why does he make a statement like this.

He says he knows the name of a fossil which is 1.2 billion years old.  How does he manage to get a date like this.  We cant carbon date a fossil since the timescale is too large.  He must be using the unscientific circular reasoning that sedimentary layers are dated by the fossils found in them and the fossils are dated by the layers they are found in.

How does he know the small collection of bits and pieces of ape and monkey bones and voluminous amounts of plaster and artists drawings are ancestors of humans up to 3 million years old – what dating system is he using.

He uses the same old trick of implying that likeness means descent – eg because dolphins have similar bones to the human then we must have a common ancestor. Does this mean if I see a old Morris Miinor and a Volkswagon that they are related – both descending from a say a Ford Popular and not manufactured.  That God created DNA and RNA and tweaked it to form different creatures is a more likely explanation.  Likeness implyng descent is not a valid argument – it does not explain the original design of say the dolphins sonar.

He then says that the lungfish is transitional – so if we see an amphibious car we then know it has evolved from a boat and is on its way to becoming a car . Boats and cars must be designed and made.  The lungfish is clear evidence of God’s design – the mechanisms would have to work first time or the fish dies. There should be thousands of clear fossil transitionals or still running about since they would have to be succesful in their own right – there are none and please dont mention the archaeopteryx.

How on earth would a pig design itself into a whale – the Talk Origen site he mentions is an evolutionary front organisation which puts forward ridiculous sequences of impossible chance events.  Eg it will say that whales evolved sonar without explaining how . How would a half pig whale survive – when you even spend a minute or two thinking about it – it is nonsense.

The Talk Origin evolution of the Bombardier Beetle is a laugh – a list of miracles called scientific evidence.

I challenge Peter Hearty to explain the evolution of land pig or cow into a whale in simple stages.  How would the incredible biological mechanisms in the whale design themselves through blind chance and work in harmony.

He says mathematics does not enter the argument since flowers can replicate extra genes ?????  I can assure Peter that the mathematics of probability does come into the argument and if bacteria and viruses can exchange genes then this ability could only have come about by being designed into the creatures. Mathematicians have proved using statistics that evolution by random chance is impossible.

I cant think why he says looking for evidence of Intelligent Design cannot be science.

Where is the evidence that the earth is 4.5 billion years old – this date has been conjured up
to suit the long ages required.  A newly created Adam could not be dated although he would look about 30.  All the rocks and planets that God created must have apparent age. New lava has been dated at around a billion years – radiometric dating is supposition and guesswork.
The salt in the sea would be like the Dead Sea if the world was even a few million years old.

There are lots of para conformities like this such as the amount of carbon 14 in the air which suggest young age.

Peter says that species coming and going is evolution – why ??? An extinct species does not mean evolution any more than scrapped model of car – the species had to be designed just like the car.

Darwins theory only took off because of lack of knowledge about RNA DNA and cellular biology.  He keeps talking about huge evidence – where is the evidence – billions of fossils in sedimetary layers mean that there was a great fllood which killed them and cemented them before they rotted – there is no other way to explain the fossil layers . Plus there are finds of bone and sinew and blood ( now covered up by evolutionary zealots) that could not have lasted millions of years.

The one science where reason is suspended and the mathematics of probabilty is ignored is in the false science of evolution.

The evidence for the Creator is overwhelming – therefore there will be no excuse as the new testament letters say – and it will be sad when unbelievers who are first on the list in Revelation are cast into the Lake of you know what.

manicstreetpreacher replies as follows:

Dear Allan

I apologise for responding so late in the day to your essay against Peter Hearty of the NSS defending evolution against ID proponent, Peter S Williams on Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable?, Saturday, 18 July 2009.

I’ll come straight out with it and say that your piece is an unbridled piece of foolishness that churns out all the well-worn, bogus canards that creationists and ID theorists have been using since Day 1 and have refuted by proper scientists a zillion times.

I’ll deal with your points in order.

Religious scientists

A 1998 poll of the National Academy of Scientists in America showed that 93% do not believe in a personal God who answers prayers and is offended if we copulate with people of our own gender.  Newton and Faraday lived over a hundred years ago or more, when most people were religious.  Newton actually wrote more extensively about theology than physics, but can you name any of his theological works?  And just what the great theological achievements of history?  What would you prefer?  That all scientific works disappeared tomorrow or all theological writings were dispensed?  I think I’ll go for option A!

Read Richard Dawkins’ and Edmund Standing’s opinions if you want definite proof of what a vacuous discipline theology really is.  The latter is a qualified theologian with a first class honours in the subject.

Dawkins states:

What has theology ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody?  When has theology ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious?  I have listened to theologians, read them, debated against them. I have never heard any of them ever say anything of the smallest use, anything that was not either platitudinously obvious or downright false.  If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming.  If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference?  Even the bad achievements of scientists, the bombs, and sonar-guided whaling vessels work!  The achievements of theologians don’t do anything, don’t affect anything, don’t mean anything.  What makes anyone think that “theology” is a subject at all?

From Standing’s article:

The essence of theology is neatly summed up in a well known definition given by St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding).  In fact, as a theological student, this was the first definition of theology that I was taught.  The notion of “faith seeking understanding” demonstrates clearly how intellectually vacuous theology is, and how low its credibility should be as an academic pursuit (in the sense of actively engaging in its production, as opposed to its purely academic study as part of the history of ideas).  Theology turns the scientific method which we have followed since the Enlightenment upon its head.  Where scientific research may start with a reasonable proposition based on prior evidence (a hypothesis) and then examine further data to see if this proposition is factually accurate, or may simply lead to the discovery of data which no-one had previously predicted, theology starts with the acceptance of ideas that have no factual basis or for which the evidence is appallingly weak and proudly proclaims acceptance of these ideas on the basis of “faith” as a virtue, and then goes on to attempt to make these a priori beliefs appear intelligible and rational.  In other words, the “results” of theology have been arrived at before study to confirm them has taken place.  The theologian does not approach the basic tenets of Christian faith as possible truths to be tested for logical consistency; he or she instead begins with the conclusion that a series of internally incoherent, pre-scientific, and fantastic “beliefs” derived from ‘faith’ are true, and then attempts to dress these beliefs up in the clothes of intellectual credibility.  Theology is not in this sense a proper academic pursuit, but is instead the attempt to mask superstition in a fog of pseudo-intellectual verbiage.

I also suggest you read Sam Harris’ recent tongue-lashings against Francis Collins if you want proof that the marriage between science and religion is bogus:

Is it really so difficult to perceive a conflict between Collins’ science and his religion?  Just imagine how scientific it would seem if Collins, as a devout Hindu, informed [us] that Lord Brahma had created the universe and now sleeps; Lord Vishnu sustains it and tinkers with our DNA (in a way that respects the law of karma and rebirth); and Lord Shiva will eventually destroy it in a great conflagration.

Radiocarbon dating and the true age of the earth

Radiocarbon dating does not rest on one method of dating, but many different methods based on mutually exclusive principles.

The oldest rocks which have been found so far on Earth date to about 3.8 to 3.9 billion years ago by several radiometric dating methods.   Some of these rocks are sedimentary, and include minerals which are themselves as old as 4.1 to 4.2 billion years.   Rocks of this age are relatively rare, however rocks that are at least 3.5 billion years in age have been found on North America, Greenland, Australia, Africa, and Asia.

The figure of 4.5 billion for the age of the Earth comes from dating of the Earth’s meteorites and the distribution of matter in our solar system.

Can you please provide evidence to your slanderous accusation that the Talk Origins website is “an evolutionary front organisation”?  A working definition of that term would be useful as well.

Design inference

Did you know that there is a 600 billion to one chance of being dealt any hand in a game of Bridge? We have determined beforehand the combination of cards that comprise a “perfect hand” therefore it’s only after the event do we look back and say, “Gosh, wasn’t that so improbable?”

Consider how improbable your own existence is.  Watch and listen to Christian apologist William Lane Craig’s debate with atheist cosmologist, Victor Stenger, author of the superb Has Science Found God? and God, The Failed Hypothesis.  In particular, take note of this classic from Stenger’s first rebuttal:

Low probability events happen every day.  What’s the probability that my distinguished opponent exists?  You have to calculate the probability that a particular sperm united with a particular egg, then multiply it by the probability that his parents met, and then repeat that calculation for his grandparents and all his ancestors going back to the beginning of life on Earth.  Even if you stop the calculation at Adam and Eve, you will get a fantastically small number.

To use Dr Craig’s own words, “improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.”

Dr Craig has a mind-reeling, incomprehensibly small probability for existing, yet here he is before us today.

What is the probability that the laws of nature will be violated?  I’ve never heard an apologist answer this.

Just because something looks designed, doesn’t necessary mean that it is designed.  Snowflakes under a microscope may look intricately designed, but this cannot possibly be the case, since they are formed by colliding into other particles of snow en route to the Earth.

As is so often the case, I find David Hume’s logic very satisfying in this regard.  We have direct personal experience of how buildings and cars and watches are made; we do not have equivalent experience for eyes, lungs and universes.

Your analogies about why pigs would have designed themselves to be whales do not apply.  Evolution is a blind and purposeless – but certainly not random – process with no set endpoint.

Transitional forms and gradual change

Your assertion that transitional forms in the fossil records do not exist is utterly false.  There are many transitional fossils.  The only way that the claim of their absence may be remotely justified, aside from ignoring the evidence completely, is to redefine “transitional” as referring to a fossil that is a direct ancestor of one organism and a direct descendant of another.   Direct lineages are not required; they could not be verified even if found.  What a transitional fossil is, in keeping with what the theory of evolution predicts, is a fossil that shows a mosaic of features from an older and more recent organism.

For example, there are many fossils of human ancestors, and the differences between species are so gradual that it is not always clear where to draw the lines between them.

Your objections as to why there are no fossils or live species that are crosses between pigs and whales are completely ridiculous and betrayal your fundamental misunderstanding of Darwinism.  Evolution is about slow, gradual changes over many thousands of years, and not instantaneous, giant leaps.

Watch Richard Dawkins’ lecture in reply to an Old Earth creationist and laugh heartily at how ridiculous an idea that we should have “crosses” between different species in the fossil records and in the living world:

Creationism is about scaling a mountain in one enormous leap.   Evolution is about scaling the same mountain via a smooth, steady, ever-climbing path round the back of the mountain.

Like all creationist literature, your argument simply amounts to a “God of the gaps” arguments.  You have not proven a single thing in your essay and I will bet a sizeable amount of money that you and your ilk never will.

Intelligent Design is another form of creationism: a political front attempting to get religion in the science classroom.  ID-founder, Michael Behe, was publicly humiliated in the 2005 “Intelligence Design Trial”, Kitzmiller –v- Dover P A, when he admitted on the stand that he had not read any of the scientific literature regarding the evolution of the human immune system that he had declared (among others) “irreducibly complex” in Darwin’s Black Box.  Behe even admitted that ID could only be considered a theory in the loosest possible sense of the term, placing it on the same shelf as astrology and the phlogiston theory!

I suggest you watch this superb documentary of the Kitzmiller trial for a useful executive summary of the case against ID:

The Second Coming, the Rapture and the Lake of Fire

Take a close look at Matthew 16 and 24, along with numerous others, that clearly state that Jesus promised to come flying out of the clouds, wield his magic powers to bring peace on earth, cast those who don’t convert into a lake of fire and take the lucky few away to his kingdom to live happily every after…  within the lifetime of those listening.

This is a scientifically testable hypothesis that would prove Christianity to the satisfaction of all scientists, theist and atheist, the world over.

Now, I suppose that I could still be proved wrong, but after 2,000 years and the utter lack of extra-scriptural evidence for any of the other Bible’s prophesies, I think that there’s about as much chance of seeing Jesus again as there is David Koresh.

In conclusion – the joke is very much on you

You claim that the evidence for a creator is overwhelming.  I disagree.  Simply examining your own body will show that if we were designed, then the designer would have to be stupefying inept or incredibly callous, capricious and cruel.  Just who is this designer?  Do you have his business card?  For one thing, I’d really love to have a stern word with him over the fantastic “design” job he did on my hairline!

More seriously, the reason why humans often suffer terrible back pain is because our spines support 70% of our body weight on its own; our spines are better suited to a species that should be still walking around on all fours.  The fact that the human oesophagus shares the roles of swallowing and breathing means that humans are very susceptible to choking to death every time they eat.  We have a blind spot in our eye.  We have retained the appendix in our digestive systems from our days eating vegetation on the savannah, and we all know what happens when that goes awry.  The examples are endless.  Some design, I would say.

We share the same DNA as a fruit fly.  We are a half a chromosome shy of being chimpanzees.  Evolution is a fact.  Denying it puts you in the same category as a member of the Flat Earth Society.  I therefore respectfully suggest that you delete your thread immediately and spare yourself any further embarrassment.

Atb

manicstreetpreacher

P.S. Why would an infinitely loving God create me so I was unable to believe in him simply to cast me into a pit of fire when he decides to bring the world to an end?