Occam’s Razor

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 26th, 2007

I am currently reading “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” by John Lennox. I will post a review in due time but I will give you a sneak preview: he says the answer is no. He is of the view that science can provide evidence of God’s existence. He only mentions Occam’s razor once based on my reading and a check in the index. It seems to me the author has misunderstood the use of Occam’s razor in relation to the anthropic principle.

When comparing the God hypothesis with the many universe hypothesis for the anthropic principle, he states:

“…many scientists feel that an explanation which involves undetectable universes and represents in addition an extreme violation of the Occams’s Razor principle of searching for theories that do not involve unnecessary multiplication of hypotheses, goes well beyond science into metaphysics.”

Setting aside the questionable testability of both of these hypotheses, I will just consider Occam’s razor for the moment. If I suggested the existence of an entity with omnipotence and omniscience, that entity should be regarded as complex. After all, the knowledge of all complexity would itself be complex! This implies an omnipotent God is a highly complex hypothesis and perhaps the maximally complex hypothesis possible. According to Occam’s Razor, any other hypothesis that fits the facts should be preferred. This includes the many universe hypothesis, a powerful but non-omnipotent entity created the universe, the universe had to be in its current form (i.e. creation was non-contingent) or even the brain in a vat scenario. I am very aware that some of those are untestable but I wanted to be clear what Occam’s Razor means in science.

If God interacted with the Earth in an overt and regular way, I think it would be possible to accept physical evidence for Gods existence. Of course this only encompasses a part of the spectrum of beliefs in God – many beliefs don’t include physical manifestation in the modern world or at all.

Anti Citizen One

Why Dawkins thinks he’s not a fundamentalist

Posted by on December 21st, 2007

Here is the famous man himself explaining why he is not a fundamentalist, and defending himself merely as a passionate atheist.

The true scientist, however passionately he may “believe”, in evolution for example, knows exactly what would change his mind: evidence! The fundamentalist knows that nothing will.

An excellent riposte one may think. One problem undermines it, the assumption that theism/atheism can be ‘proved’ or ‘disproved’ by scientific evidence.
Its ironic that he challenges theologians for assuming the existence of God a priori to their ‘proofs’ – which as many theologians will argue are not at all proofs but prerational illustrations that say nothing more than ‘I believe in God heres a good reason why.’ It is ironic because he makes the assumption that the scientific method, which relies on evidence, is the method that proves atheism. How can it be so? Could it be that he did an experiment where he prayed to God for something and neither recieved an answer nor the object that he prayed for? Does this constitute evidence? What are his views on the claims of the mystics who believe they have had an ‘experience’ of God – is this admissable as evidence – is subjective experience in that sense testable? Or does he as I suspect find reasons to render the evidence inadmissable – no cant accept the claims of mystics its just their word against mine!

Altogether relying on scientific method to prove or disprove theism/atheism or any worldview of its kind is liable to be frustrating and disappointing – perhaps that frustration is a reason for his impoliteness? I was reminded by someone of the general applicability of Dawkins theory, can scientific method tell us anything meaningful about other kinds of truth that we take for granted.

is there only one kind of truth – one that is provable and scientific and that is the one by which religion must be judged” and they concluded by asking “what about other kinds of truth – such as artistic, emotional – which we find valuable and enriching?”

I’ve no need to re-write Wittgensteins point on language games that science trying to prove or disprove God is like explaining the game of chess by using the rules of tennis. This quote expressed the point far better than I ever could.

There is no conceptual foothold for trying to prove or disprove the existence of married bachelors or non-physical persons, nor is there one for wondering about metaphysical transcendence. Once this is clear, a great deal of chatter will stop, and a clear-headed silence prevail.

Thus Dawkin’s vulnerability to evidence of the scientific variety -as I assume he does not expect a personal revelation and that he rejects a priori the claims that others have had such experiences- closes him to the possibility altogether and only reinforces the notion (if he is aware of it) that he is a fundamentalist at heart.

Finally his assertion that fundamentalists know that nothing will change their mind is a nonsensical statement. To know something is to be able to test it, verify it and be open to doubt it – do fundamentalists test, verify or doubt their fundamentalisms? If they do then they are not fundamentalists! It would be better if Dawkins had said that a fundamentalist is impervious to even the possibility that their mind could be changed. If he had then he would be on firmer ground, to know something is to make an epistemological statement, fundamentalists go beyond epistemology, beyond knowledge and rest assured in their certainty which is a psychological state of affairs. Perhaps he doesnt want to say this for it would illustrate his own peculiar certainties about knowledge.

Secularization: Elimination of the Other?

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 21st, 2007

Should we try eliminate or enemies? I discussed this in the context of “A Boy Named Sue” – we can benefit from our enemies but my views are not shared by all secularists.

Assuming atheism has certain fundamental truths that need to be held in order to be an atheist, can we object to atheists trying to deprogramme religious believers on the grounds that it is indoctrination? A strong faith in something is after all the belief beyond question i.e. if strong faith is encouraged that is by definition indoctrination. How can we criticise secular indoctrination but allow religious indoctrination?

In fact I don’t accept that deprogramming aims to turn a believer into a secularist. The end goal is more to turn someone to be a weak agnostic (i.e. lack of personal belief one way or the other) or an implicit atheist (i.e. lack of caring one way or the other). How can the introduction of doubt for a belief be an indoctrinating itself? In short, it can’t – it is the reverse of indoctrination. Unless you doubt doubtfulness itself?

In my humble opinion, the attempt to convert a religious believer to a secularist (a sort of reverse Road to Damascus) would probably be unnecessary and counter productive. Introducing doubt into someone’s view and conversion to implicit atheism would be acceptable to me. Subjectively, we can benefit from diverse opinions but there is too much religious baggage in our society currently – we need further secularisation.

I do value freedom of belief but I put a higher value on the freedom of speech. Admittedly they can conflict.

Anti Citizen One

Thomas Becket and the meaning of Words

Posted by on December 21st, 2007

In the last couple of posts we have had a very interesting debate about fundamentalism and the language of intolerance. This has also been supplementary to a number of posts that we have written on free speech and offence. The crucial question that these posts all hinge upon is where is the point of demarcation between the language of disagreement, the language of intolerance and the language of violence?

The problem around which this question revolves is that the boundaries between these different types of language, which have different intentions, seem rather blurred and indistinct. Thus we ask ourselves how sensitive should we be?

In earlier posts AC1 has proposed that we take a literal view of language and assume good faith on behalf of the authors. Thus only when language is explicitly commanding violence to another should we condemn it as the language of intolerance. But this view is highly problematic and overly simplistic, it requires us to assume in the absence of explicit commands to the contrary that the author is benevolent in intent. Furthemore though it completely ignores the role of the reciever and the context in which the language is taken. By ignoring these two key elements we forget the complexity of language and the axiom that its meaning is best found in its use.

In a language game there are three crucial elements. The speaker/writer whose intentions may not be explicitly known, but whose intentions we hope to interpret from his words. Equally important is the person of the listener and reader to whom the words are addressed, the meaning of the words and the consequences rest heavily upon this persons shoulders. The final element is context which can be determined with recourse to history, tone, environment, and circumstances. The meaning of a sentence of words has deeply imbedded and interwoven within it a number of assumptions, evaluative judgements, conditions, intents and so on. Thus the spoken and written word, far from being literally translatable is in fact often deeply complex. Thus only with reference to these three elements of deconstruction can we begin to meaningfully understand and identify the boundaries between the language of disagreement, intolerance and violence. – It is important to note here that the right to disagree is assumed, but that in common judgement it is an abuse of the liberty of speech to be intolerant and to incite hatred.

To give a general picture of how these elements work and how language is extraordinarily complex – how meaning is found not in the words by themselves but in the interaction between speaker and listener and the circumstances of their utterance – I will use an analogous example from history. The words spoken in anger by King Henry II that led directly to the murder of Thomas Becket.

The precise formula of the words used are argued over by historians. The two extremely different versions are as follows.

1- “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”


2- “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household to let their Lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?”

Either way, the historians argue the words were interpreted by Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breto, four Knights of the Kings court eager to curry favour, as an explicit Royal Command. Their execution of this command resulted in the murder and martyrdom of Thomas Becket. On face value: without intepreting the Kings words for ourselves we can say that this was an incitement to violence. And yet, by AC1’s more literal intepretation of meaning if the King had spoken the second formulation above, that in content was an exhortation of anger against the members of his court for not defending the Kings honour – we should say that there was absolutely no incitement to violence and that the murderous Knights had misinterpreted the King – who would then appear to be exhonerated from the crime!

Yet what is clear from history is that in popular opinion the King was held to be directly accountable for the actions of his knights and thus was an accessory (unwittingly perhaps) to the murder itself. It is clear from history that Henry accepted this judgement (either from genuine remorse or political expediency) and subjected himself to a lengthy public penance.

Our interpretation of his words and the violent consquences of them, mean that we should seek to understand the power of language as lying not in their literal meaning but in their use, application and context. In other words when Henry spoke his words of anger, the Knights in the context of that anger directed at them and towards Becket, chose to interpret the words violently. Thus Henry II’s exhortation became (with or without intention) an incitement to violence. And an example of an absence of the sort of respect and politeness that Mencken exemplifies as being characteristic of the language of disagreement.

The power of language lies not only in the speaker but in the hearer and the overall environment in which the words are spoken and heard.

In Ac1’s theory of language had the King said “go and kill Thomas Becket” then the Knights murder would have been an appropriate response to the command, and the King would have been accessory to and the incitement of the murder. Thus if we were to seize the knights post-murder and ask why had they done this, they could reply we were only obeying orders. Although this would not exhonerate them it would provide a contextual meaning for their actions and lay the blame squarely at Henrys door.

If however the King said simply “Beckets challenge to my authority is an insult to my Kingly dignity” then we should take the Knights actions to be wholly disproportionate and innappropriate. They would be condemned severely and the King would be exhonerated as in no way could the words he uttered be interpreted as an incitement to violence – he was simply stating an opinion or a fact and the Knights were mistaken.

But in the context of what really happened, the Kings rage at Becket, the Kings displeasure at the attendants to his court not doing anything to defend his honour, the feudal relationship between King and Knight, and the traditional punishment for treason:- the Knights interpretation of the King was inevitable, even if he spoke the ambguous 2nd formula the context of speaker and listener and the environment in which it was spoken means that Henry was responsible for inciting violence, either by intent or carelessness. And if our judgement be the latter, in the context of the murder his carelessness is no defence and this should serve as a retrospective maxim to reinforce Menckens proposition that in the language of disagreement we be careful to show respect and due politeness lest our words be interpreted any other way.

Disagreeing with Intolerance

Posted by on December 20th, 2007

An impassioned plea but not a convincing one. Indeed to disagree and to be intolerant are seperate actions and should be judged seperately. But your ‘dictionary’ definitions are narrow and incomplete. To provide an alternative definition you could always consider wiki where the very first point in its article on intolerance is:

angry argumentation, looking down at people because of their characteristics or viewpoints, negatively portraying something due the contrast with one’s own beliefs, etc. On a more extreme level, it can lead to violence – in its most severe form, genocide.

Now as with Voltaire I will passionately defend your right to disagree, and this is indeed what respect for the “other” means and precisely what I plead for in my post. I respect that you hold a different view, if in the context of the discussion I say ‘I believe in x therefore y’ and you say ‘I do not believe in x because of z’. As long as the argumentation and the logic is valid there is nothing wrong in this sort of disagreement. But ‘angry argumentation’ of the sort that for example saw Richard Dawkins describe a womans face as being somewhat odd – a woman who happens to have a different belief system from his – is intolerant and transgresses mere disagreement. A disagreement would take this form:

The mere statement on the part of a religion that its own beliefs and practices are correct and any contrary beliefs incorrect does not in itself constitute intolerance.

Likewise when an atheist says ‘I dont believe in God’ this is not intolerance, nor is it intolerant to say I believe belief in God to be wrong or harmful to the individual. Its a highly contentious statement but not intolerant. But to describe it as poison – defined as a substance which kills or injures when introduced into living organisms – and the adherents of religion as poisonous – or to describe it in the terms of pathological illness – or to make scornful comments about the ‘sort’ of person who has these beliefs – that is angry and violent use of language and by most reasonable definitions intolerant.

You have said that to say “view X is poison” is not sufficient evidence for intolerance. But then what is? Actual violence – how far do you have to go to incite something? Language is a precious object easily misshapen and misused, when a journalist like Hitchens describes religion as poison, and uses that word “poison” he is employing hysterical language and that is the spark that lights the tinder. When he says that people of faith are plotting he is using the definite article, he is not saying ‘you never know what they might be up to’ he is saying ‘they are plotting’ and that ‘we are in danger.’ The language they use is explicit and pretty clear.

Neither Dawkins nor Hitchens in their choice of words were merely disagreeing. They were being sensationalist and provocative and to that extent were exhibiting not just disagreement but their intolerance and their prejudices. As you pointed out with Mencken he proposes that we are respectful and polite, not that we do not disagree. Please show me where Dawkins and Hitchens in particular are respectful and polite.

Your final word game about what a persons responses are to a question is interesting, becuase it points out a veyr important point. If I ask what your opinion is of my wife as you said you have three options; evade the question, lie or be honest, and you propose (as I would generally agree) that honesty is best. If then you are an honest fellow and you expect that I should respect your honesty and you choose to tell me that she is the most ugliest woman you have ever seen. Then I must accept that although I may disagree with you, your answer was an appropriate response to the question. If however I ask you what time is it? and you were to respond your wife is the ugliest woman I have ever met, your response would be innappropriate, uninvited and as it is subjective untestable and therefore neither right nor wrong but an opinion – about which we would disagree. The offence taken lies in its innappropriateness.

The leap from stated opinion of disagreement to intolerant opinion and to incitement to intolerance and violence lies as Wittgenstein aptly pointed out in his idea of utterances in its spontaneity – its lack of appropriate context. In those situations he argues “spontaneous utterances have the categorial status of deeds.”

So when Dawkins is asked for his opinions concerning the dispute between BA and its employer who wishes to wear her religious symbol (which they do not permit) it is entirely innappropriate to focus his answer on the aesthetic qualities of her face. Hitchens is even more blatant in his intolerance when he describes ‘people of faith’ as plotting your ‘destruction’. He doesn’t qualify this and say:- I only mean the suicide bombers type, but Quakers and Buddhists are OK. Similarly he doesnt say some people of faith are plotting our destruction in the same way that I could utter some politicians are plotting our destruction – he makes it explicitly clear that he means all people of faith – indicative of his paranoia, ignorance and fear and hatred of the other. Dawkins sadly for a very educated man has as you well know a track record for ‘offensive’ language – and there is no point arguing about what counts as offence and that people should have thicker skins, intolerant language which goes beyond the language of disagreement is indefensible. Intolerant language is itself a deed.

My original post, and my presentation of the postmodern paradigm has no problem with disagreement (that is not the issue). But respect for the “other” involves as Nick Clegg has suggested an open heart and mind. Childish name calling, paranoid conspiracy theories, mocking scorn – this is not open-hearted language.

Disagreements vs Intolerance

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 20th, 2007

I want to separate and clarify the two separate concepts of disagreement and intolerance. In our culture, we have enshrined tolerance to over points of view as a natural right. (The validity of this is a separate issue which has already covered.) Accepting tolerance as a good thing implies that disagreement cannot be a bad thing. We can only exercise tolerance in the face of disagreement. After all, to call disagreement bad would be itself intolerant.

I think of these concepts from definitions I adapted from mw dictionary:

disagreement – the state of being at variance
intolerant – unwilling to grant or share rights, extreme sensitivity

I think we should also be careful of equating one with the other. In some cases, the majority view is to disagree with a fridge view. e.g. The majority thinks “Nazis where bad” but is that what we call intolerance? No, we are not intolerant of Nazis because we don’t necessarily mean “Nazis should be deprived of civil rights, etc”. We should not try to link disagreement with the increase in likelyhood of intolerance without solid evidence. It is obvious that disagreement does not automatically lead to intolerance. Even if someone says “view X is poison”, that is not necessarily implying intolerance without further evidence.

Is there any guidance on how strongly we can disagree within the bounds of tolerance? Consider again the quote of H.L.Mencken:

“We must accept the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

He is advocating respect for their point of view not that we should not disagree. He also implies that if we do disagree, we must do so politely. If asked “what is your honest opinion of my wife?”, we have three options – to evade the question, to lie (which is arguably the worst option) or to be honest. This honesty may lead to disagreement.

If our honest opinion is “she is the ugliest person I have ever met” and we are asked for an honest opinion, the above quote would imply we can voice our strong opinion while being polite.

To conclude, a more concise summary of tolerance than Mencken’s quote is:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Voltaire

Anti Citizen One

News from the Political Sphere

Posted by on December 20th, 2007

In the spirit of perfect timing the Liberal Democrats have elected a new leader who in a brisk q&a declared himself an atheist.

Nick Clegg does not believe in God. I am uncertain whether this is newsworthy – unless his personal beliefs are somehow inconsistent with his politics. But as AC1 has pointed out he is one of the first politicians within this country to have ‘outed’ himself in this way. I guess it was deemed newsworthy as a parallel to Tony Blair who it is revealed was afraid to express his religious beliefs for fear of being labelled a nutter. Bravo then to Clegg for having the courage of his convictions.

Perhaps though the real newsworthy bit, and the part that couldnt have come at a better time in the context of my last post is that despite personally not believing, his wife is a Catholic and he is “committed” to bringing up his children as Catholics. Fortunately for them I suspect they will be brought up in a household and family where they are free to follow their personal convictions and to decide on their beliefs without fear of condemnation.

But perhaps the most interesting and relevant part of the whole news item is that he would seem to be an exemplar of the balanced postmodern ideal that I would wish for in the realm of religion and secularism that isnt afraid of the “other” and certainly isn’t interested to mock, scorn or debase the “other”.

“However, I myself am not an active believer, but the last thing I would do when talking or thinking about religion is approach it with a closed heart or a closed mind.” Nick Clegg.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams shares my view.

“It matters less to me than to know they are honest and reliable and that what beliefs they have they hold sincerely. This isn’t a country where Christianity is imposed by law. It’s a country with a nominally Christian majority. And that’s good. And whoever becomes prime minister has to understand that and work with it rather than against the grain of it.”

Bravo Nick Clegg! With an attitude such as yours I wish you all the best!

Challenging Fundamentalisms

Posted by on December 19th, 2007

I was inclined to write this after reading an interesting article by Stuart Jefferies in the Guardian concerning the great social divide between religion and secularism that is becoming increasingly intolerant.

“We must accept the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.” H.L.Mencken

This perceptive comment by an American Journalist many years ago would seem to provide a compelling argument for respecting other peoples beliefs and disbeliefs and most importantly not allowing disagreements about it (which psychologically rest on matters of taste) to spoil friendships. And yet in the latter 20th and early 21st century it would appear that the ‘argument’ between these two deeply entrenched sides has led to the souring of the relationship and a greater dependence upon the law courts and parliament to seperate and adjudicate.

“You have a triangle with fundamentalist secularists in one corner, fundamentalist faith people in another, and then the intelligent, thinking liberals of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, baptism, methodism, other faiths – and, indeed, thinking atheists – in the other corner. ” Colin Slee – Dean of Southwark

The battle then, for thats what it is, is no longer about people of faith and people of no faith simply agreeing to disagree and living their lives in accordance with their tastes and with respect to the laws of their society, it has become (between the fundamentalists) a war, a desire to eliminate or subjugate the other. But why should this be so? Why should this situation that has previously been timid have become such a violently contentious issue?

According to Tariq Ramadan a Muslim scholar and senior research fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, it is due to a fear of the “other”. Secularists and people of faith particularly post 9/11 and post cold war have grown to distrust and fear the other, and percieve a ‘threat’ where perhaps none exists. This seems to me, along with an intellectually stale uncritical and literal acceptance of the ‘key discourses’ (both religious and secular) to have the ring of truth to it. The “other” so central to postmodern ethics and politics, the object with which we are compelled to identifiy in postmodernism, is now described by otherwise intellectually rigorous scholars with abusive terms and mocking scorn. It seems the “other” has never been so far away as it is now, when people of faith condemn to the hellfires those who are heathen and heretic and when atheists such as Dawkins describe faith as a poison, dangerous to self and society, that euphemistically calls “gerinoil” (an acronym for religion).

But abuse is nothing as compared to the sort of language that borders on incitement to hatred or dogmatic ideology. What is going on, truly, in the minds of the author or the reader when someone reads Christopher Hitchens for example conclude the opening chapter of his book God is not Great with words such as these?

“As I write these words and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything.”

Is this not the language of the crusade? Is this not the language of the rabble rouser and the mob? What is being inferred here? That our way of life is in danger thanks to religion and religious people, they will destroy us… unless. ‘Unless’ what? In response to Hitchens the obvious question is, ‘so what are we to do about it?’ – I don’t think I need to elaborate, hateful polemic and hateful propaganda transform into hateful actions sooner or later. Although Hitchens would despise my comparison I must say it nonetheless; in the late 1920’s many Jews would have been revolted at the fiercely anti-semitic polemic evident in Hitler’s raving manifesto Mein Kampf, but too few would have interpreted in it a warning of soon-to-come pogroms, ghettoization and genocide. Precisely the same criticism can be levelled at people of faith too when their dogmatic and unshakeable belief in the righteousness of their God and their scripture leads them to make such violent statements of intent about throwing homosexuals off of tall buildings, or condemning people for making lifestyle choices such as Gay marriage or abortion. Though some may find such choices not to their taste is this justification for condemning them, describing them as abomination, the worst of the worst, and reason to blow them up?

It is remarkeable to note but both sides feel threatened, and when ones way of life is threatene, then much as one would if your life itself was under threat, moves are taken to build the barricades and defend oneself. But unfortunately the deeper one digs the bunker the further one removes onself from the “other” and the less likely one is to even try to attempt understanding, respect, tolerance and reconciliation.

Perhaps most remarkeable of all is that this battleground is being drawn up by intellectuals who should know better. Whose intelligence is such that they should have learnt the lessons of history regards intolerance and absolutist dogmatism. So what are we to do?

Some say education is the key. But how? At Exeter university the Christian Union was banned from its facilities because membership of the Union required a person to sign up to a testimony of beliefs, which naturally as it is a worldview is liable to offend somebody somewhere. Because of its anti-homosexual opinions it was banned. Rightly so perhaps, for surely homophobia has no place in society – but an educational institution banning a society – has all tolerance and freedom of expression – including the freedom to express unpalatable opinions – been eradicated?

Then of course there are faith schools. I shall say little on these as our blog has covered this topic and the pro’s and con’s more than enough already. But is abolition of a system that at present provides choice the answer of tolerance? John Sentamu Archbishop of York sees more sinister forces at play. The abolition of faith schools on the grounds that they are indoctrinaire is just a cover for aggressive secularist policies. What next? The British Humanist Association thinks that religion has too much of a foothold in politics. Certainly with anglican bishops in the house of lords and public rituals broadcast on tv and religious oaths in use across the lands courts, they may have a point. But, is this evidence of an underground movement to subvert the state and the freedom of its citizens by a religious minority (majority if faith identification rather than practise is the criteria) or is it just emblematic of an anachronistic system that hasnt quite realised that the days of ‘Christian Britain’ and the British Empire have long ceased to be true or relevant?

Of course the media and popular culture has got into the act too. The danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed sparked protests and counter protests, Jerry Springer the Opera has angered evangelicals who want a return to the old strict blasphemy laws. Even childrens authors are having a go, Phillip Pullman argues that atheism should be taught in schools.

“What I fear and deplore in the ‘faith school’ camp is their desire to close argument down and put some things beyond question or debate. It’s vital to get clear in young minds what is a faith position and what is not, so that, for instance, they won’t be taken in by religious people claiming that science is a faith position no different in kind from Christianity. Science is not a matter of faith, and too many people are being allowed to get away with claiming that it is.”

If he is talking about the teaching of a seven day creation as literal truth, or of intelligent design being taught as a challenge to evolutionary science, then yes perhaps there is a problem that needs to be addressed. But is this true of faith schools in general, or is he guilty of the very thing he deplores closing arguments down. Isn’t that what teaching atheism in schools is aimed at doing? Isn’t that what his childrens books hope to achieve? Isn’t that what Dawkins explicitly stated as his intention when he wrote the God Delusion?

I believe it is. From my perspective as a postmodernist, Modernity is now in crisis. The fundamentalist corner of religious and secular thinkers are plunging us into a new dark age. As rigorously dogmatic as each other all emphasis on practise and inner peace is ignored in favour of beliefs.

“It is not just in the rigidity of their unbelief that atheists mimic dogmatic believers. It is in their fixation on belief itself… When they dissect arguments for the existence of God, atheists parody the rationalistic theologies of western Christianity.” John Gray professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.

Science may not be a faith, in the literal meaning of the word, but it is a worldview and its methods nothing more than a toolkit to present and verify it, and is therefore totally neutral regards religious claims (when both language games stay in their respective corners I admit!).

“No scientific method says that there is no doubt. If you don’t accept there’s doubt in all things, you’re being intellectually dishonest. ” Rabbi Nueberger

Would it that the fundamentalists of both sides could see and share this postmodern view. It is bad enough when a society tears itself apart over whether its employers may allow its workers to wear a religious symbol while at work, and to debate the values of faith and secularism. But when ‘believers’ and I deliberately use that word of both sides use the language of hate, scorn and derision then I fear we are building ourselves a huge bonfire that is going to do irreperable damage.

What have we come to when an otherwise respectable intellectual and scientist such as Richard Dawkins can comment publicly – as though it was worth us bothering to listern – his opinions on the worker who wanted to wear her small crucifix to work.

“I saw a picture of this woman. She had one of the most stupid faces I’ve ever seen.” R.Dawkins

Surely we have learnt the lessons of Soviet Russia who tried and failed to eradicate religion forceably. Are not people free to choose, should we not as Mencken asks tolerate with a sense of irony the peculair oddities in the beliefs of ‘others’. If we dont then the divide will only get deeper and the comments of Richard Chatres Bishop of London, will I fear, for both secularists and religious minded people come to be true.

“If you exile religious communities to the margins, then they will start to speak the words of fire among consenting adults, and the threat to public order and the public arena, I think, will grow and grow.”

Tolerance and respect for diversity will cost us substantially less than intolerance, division and hatred for others beliefs.

News Comment: At Least They Are Being Honest About It

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 11th, 2007

AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it. The Times

Retired CIA agent John Kiriakou speaks to ABC John Kiriakou said he felt water-boarding may be torture. A retired CIA agent has said a top al-Qaeda suspect was interrogated using a simulated drowning technique but that he believes it was justified. BBC

So if someone makes a mistake in US law enforcement, you might be falsely abducted and tortured. Due process does not apply since you are not in US legal jurisdiction.

Next time the US demands some hostage should be released or have good treatment, can I laugh ironically?

Did I mention that 2+2=5?


A Boy Named Sue – Master and Slave Morality

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 10th, 2007

Just a quick and not too serious observation on the song “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash. The protagonist, Sue, is victimized because of his name and and he swears to get revenge on this father – this is slave morality.

He does track down his father, fights – wins – and has his father at gun point. His father tells him:

“Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough

And it’s the name that helped to make you strong.

But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you “Sue.’

Essentially the father argues that Sue’s identity is not simply not the “good” and “bad” parts but the totality has to be considered. Without Sue’s tough life, Sue would not have surpassed his father at all. Victimhood as a label (self applied or assigned) is subjective. People can choose to view things in any way they choose – that can be in a positive (master morality) or negative light (seeing yourself as victim). (“From the Military School of Life – Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger.” FN)

It also illustrates the usefulness of enemies. Without challenges in life, we might would be forced to remain sedentary. Without some opposition and risk in life, life would be pointless. We should not seek to eliminate enemies because that would be unnecessary – we can benefit from them (but not through their intent, obviously). Would G W Bush still be in power without terrorist enemies? They certainly benefited someone.

If Sue was not called Sue or If Sue killed his father, it would have rejected this idea completely. And it would not have been a cool song!

“Happiness is the exercise of vital powers, along lines of excellence, in a life affording them scope.” (The Greek Way, 1964) – although will to “happiness” is perhaps misleading. There is sometime broader than happiness that we strive for?

Anti Citizen One