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Oct 21

If Atheists Ruled the World

Posted on Thursday, October 21, 2010 in religion

They allege that every word is taken literally from Christian fundamentalist forums. Having spoken at great length to wingnuts like @JoeCienkowski, I’m more than ready to accept that. Listen, laugh and worry.


(via atheistineden)

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Oct 19

The Creationist Menace in Scotland

Posted on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 in religion, science

Creationism has been running rampant in America for decades, with its literal interpretation of the Bible, insistence that the earth is no more than 6,000 years old and insistence that science is somehow on their side. Now it’s being exported to Scotland:

A new creationist group that preaches the “scientific” theory of intelligent design has set up in Glasgow with the stated aim of promoting its beliefs to schools and colleges.

The Centre for Intelligent Design, headed by a Northern Irish professor of genetics, a vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians and a former school inspector, has already prepared the ground for a clash with authorities.

The group’s director, Dr Alastair Noble, told the Sunday Herald it was “inevitable” the debate would make its way into schools – even though the Scottish Government says teachers should not regard intelligent design as science.

“We are definitely not targeting schools, but that doesn’t mean to say we may not produce resources that go to schools,” Dr Noble said, adding that he had already been asked to speak in Scottish schools, and agreed to do so.

The C4ID, as it calls itself online, insists its views are purely scientific, but critics have pointed to the leaders’ fundamentalist Christian backgrounds and the leaps of faith inherent in their logic.

Now Noble is basically implying that he intends to target schools, and considering creationism and ‘intelligent’ design represent wilful renunciations of reason and an evidence based approach, I think the philosophy behind his centre needs to be exposed. So…

Intervention1: ‘purely scientific’:

The terms used in design theory are not defined. “Design”, in design theory, has nothing to do with “design” as it is normally understood. Design is defined in terms of an agent purposely arranging something, but such a concept appears nowhere in the process of distinguishing design in the sense of “intelligent design.” Dembski defined design in terms of what it is not (known regularity and chance), making intelligent design an argument from incredulity; he never said what design is.

A solution to a problem must address the parameters of the problem, or it is just irrelevant hand waving. Any theory about design must somehow address the agent and purpose, or it is not really about design. No intelligent design theorist has ever included agent or purpose in any attempt at a scientific theory of design, and some explicitly say they cannot be included (Dembski 2002, 313). Thus, even if intelligent design theory were able to prove design, it would mean practically nothing; it would certainly say nothing whatsoever about design in the usual sense.

‘Critics’ have mountains of 100% conclusive evidence on their side to disprove creationism & ‘intelligent’ design in a heartbeat. No more than 6,000 years old? Erm radiometric dating proves that’s bogus. Adam and Eve were real? Erm we have an entire fossil record that proves that bogus and demonstrates evolution beyond any doubt whatsoever. Humanity was designed by an intelligent hand? We know that’s a complete load of garbage too:


Richard Dawkins, never a man inclined to say nice things about creationism or ‘intelligent’ design, doesn’t just break creationism apart with hard science, he does so by framing the way in which creationists approach the very idea of evidence (also in the cartoon below):


Yet the creationists insist:

Its [president, Professor Norman Nevin OBE – a geneticist at Queen’s University in Belfast – told a meeting in the city earlier this year he believed Adam was “a real historical person”. He also said: “Genesis chapter 1-11, which indeed many Darwinists and evolutionists say is myth or legend, I believe is historical, and it is cited 107 times in the New Testament, and Jesus refers himself to the early chapters of Genesis at least 25 times.” In these books of the Bible, the universe is created in six days, God makes Eve out of Adam’s rib, and Noah saves the Earth by building an ark.

Folks this is a geneticist saying God makes a woman out of a man's rib. Cloning? In Bronze Age times? By a supernatural 'creator' for whose existence there has never been one iota's evidence? It's utterly appalling, but look at his MO:

Professor Norman Nevin, [who was part of our panel on last week's Sunday Sequence,] is one of twelve academics to have written to the Prime Minister and Education Secretary in support of Truth in Science’s controversial schools initiative. Truth in Science believe that children and youth people should be exposed to alternatives to Darwinism and evolutionary theory, and, particularly, to Intelligent Design Theory, and have sent teaching packs to every school in the country.

Take a look at Nevin’s hinted ‘evidence’ – circular logic, insisting that one event referred to in the Bible did happen because it was prophesied elsewhere in the same book. It’s kind of telling that he says he’s not ‘targeting’ schools, yet his history has been to target schools.  But he’s not the only scientist coming out with this:

Dr Alastair Noble is a Glasgow University graduate who became a teacher and later HM inspector of schools. He is currently education officer for CARE, a Christian charity which campaigns for more faith teaching in schools.

Dr David Galloway, C4ID’s vice- president, is also vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a member of the Lennox Evangelical Church in Dumbarton.

C4ID has now set up a base in Glasgow and runs a website. The group is financially based in Guernsey, and apparently funded solely by backers in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Dr Noble denied the theory of intelligent design – that a universal engineer, or god, created the initial spark of life then used physical laws and natural selection to develop it – was religious.

How can a front for creationism not be religious? Preposterous nonsense – these people are the vanguard of those who try to recast science to prove anything they like, when that’s not what science (in this reality at least) does. Talk Origins goes further in proving creationists’ religious agenda, by letting the words of ‘intelligent’ design’s founders and leaders speak for themselves:

The ID movement is motivated by and inseparable from a narrow religious viewpoint. In the words of its founders and leaders:

There’s a difference of opinion about how important this debate [advocating intelligent design] is. What I always say is that it’s not just scientific theory. The question is best understood as: Is God real or imaginary? (Phillip Johnson, “The Search for Intelligent Design in the Universe”,

“We are taking an intuition most people have [the belief in God] and making it a scientific and academic enterprise. We are removing the most important cultural roadblock to accepting the role of God as creator. (Phillip Johnson, “Enlisting Science to Find the Fingerprints of a Creator”,

Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools (P. Johnson 2003).

If Noble is right and ID/creationism does make it into schools then we have a problem. It would be teaching superstition as science, legitimising the misrepresentation of all sorts of fields such as geology and biology and championing ignorance over knowledge. And it’s another example of creationists using ‘established’ scientists to legitimise their fundamentalist nonsense.

“I think people are afraid of this debate because they sense it’s religion from the back door. They see it as an invasion of science with religion, but it most certainly is not that,” he said.

However, critics dismissed intelligent design as “a front for creationism”.

Paul Braterman, an emeritus professor of chemistry, now at Glasgow University, and a founder of the British Centre for Science Education, a campaign to keep religion out of science classes, said intelligent design was simply using God to plug the gaps that science has yet to answer.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, called on the Government to “keep a close eye on this organisation to ensure it doesn’t manage to wheedle its way into schools”.

James Gray, of the British Humanist Association, said the C4ID had a right to say what it liked, but guidelines were needed to “ensure this pseudoscience never finds its way into science classes”.

They should indeed be allowed to say what they like. But observe the resulting problem of what happens when literalist nonsense makes it into schools:

[Teacher] Erfana Bora [disagrees]. In her view, after learning both science and religion “Pupils then do, literally, make their own minds up as to what they believe”. She says pupils in her science class ask her all kinds of questions, such as “Do humans really share a common ancestor with apes?”. But, interestingly, she doesn’t say how she answers such questions. Does she tell them that, yes, humans almost certainly share a common ancestor with apes, or does she say that while scientists argue that this is so, the Qur’an says that it is not? This is important, because if it’s the latter then it’s a classic case of “teach the controversy”, even where there isn’t one. The implication that education is about allowing children to make their own minds up may sound honourable, but it is misleading.

Sure it is, and it’s an extension of the literalist crap littering the American public sphere too. FOX News for example will transmit the most outrageous lies under the auspices of ‘being fair and balanced’, yet what they do is act in a ‘fair and balanced’ way with arguments with no merit (often with no truth). As I’ve said on this blog many times, just because there are two sides to an argument, it doesn’t make them of equal validity. The same is very much true with Biblical literalism – teaching the controversy legitimises superstitious nonsense by equating it with scientific fact.

In 2007 the BHA successfully lobbied the UK Government to publish guidance on how teachers should deal with creationism south of the Border, but no such policy exists in Scotland.

Ann Ballinger, of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, urged ministers here to clarify the situation, while the EIS union said authorities should ensure teachers knew their position regarding intelligent design in the classroom.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said ministers would be against any moves to teach intelligent design in science classes, stating “we do not recognise the teaching of intelligent design in a scientific context”.

However, teaching unions and councils said they were aware of no formal guidance on the subject.

It should indeed be prevented, but considering it’s already de-facto taking place in schools which are quite happily afforded the freedom to do so, I don’t exactly know how. It seems unlikely that a creationist centre will find itself hindered in any way when successive governments are so keen to promote the idea of faith schools. We’re on a slippery slope here, kids. Faith is being given weight in society disproportionate to its weight. By all means we should be concerned by C4ID, but we should see it in context too.

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Aug 19

Should Carbon Dating be Thrown Out?

Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2010 in religion, science

Well of course this is what creationist nutcases seem to think. Watch this video, which proves just how wrong their position on the science is. The world is not 6,000 years old.


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Jan 12

To Champion Speech We Don’t Like

Posted on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 in freedom of speech, human rights, Politics, religion

Padraig Reidy argues against banning Islam4UK at Indexoncensorship:

Are the ban and the convictions really a problem for the group? Their reactions to previous bans would suggest that, organisationally, things will carry on as normal, just with a new title and web domain. Moreover, last night’s and this morning’s broadcast news were filled with Choudary and chums, highlighting how their convictions and banning proved that democracy and free expression are at best a sham and at worst a conspiracy against Islam. It’s not quite free publicity, but it’s exceptionally cheap.

So a mixed week for Anjem, but an exceptionally bad one for justice and free expression. The conviction of the five Luton protesters throws up massive problems. While their slogans were nasty, they called soldiers “baby killers” and “rapists”, they were part of a political protest, of which police had been made aware. Anyone who’s been on a protest knows that the language is rarely of the “rectify the anomaly” variety. How many times has Tony Blair been called a murderer? How many times have “Nazi scum” been ordered off our streets? A protest’s sole function is to get noticed — and strong language gets you noticed.

If there had been a public order issue at Luton, the police could have told the protestors to disperse, or even detained them temporarily; it’s far from ideal, but it beats a conviction.

I couldn’t agree more. There’s no way the banning wasn’t in response to the group’s so-called planned march through Wootton Bassett and banning the group on those grounds is patently ridiculous. Is the right to protest contingent on who you are, what you say or what your political agenda is? From the conviction of the protesters in Luton it would appear so and Peter Tatchell is right when he says:

But I defend their right to express their opinions, even though they are offensive and distressing to many people.

Insult and offence are not sufficient grounds in a democratic society to criminalise words and actions. The criminalisation of insulting, abusive or offensive speech is wrong. The only words that should be criminalised are untrue defamations and threats of violence, such as falsely branding someone as a paedophile or inciting murder.

Some sections of the Public Order Act inhibit the right to free speech and the right to protest. They should be repealed.

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Jan 12

Here’s to You, Mrs Robinson!

Posted on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 in culture, music, Politics, religion

Following hypocritical homophobe Iris Robinson’s spectacular fall from grace, a Facebook campaign has begun in her honour:

Posters have also been placed around Belfast encouraging people to download the song [Mrs Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel] and it is currently at number 45 in Amazon’s download charts. The Official UK Charts Company told AFP yesterday that download sales of the song in Northern Ireland last week were up 1,200 per cent on the week before.

The song was made famous in the 1960s film The Graduate, in which a much older woman seduces a young man. Robinson, 59 at the time of the affair, reportedly took 19-year-old Kirk McCambley into her marital bed while her husband Peter, Northern Ireland’s first minister, was away.

It contains the lines: “It’s a little secret, just the Robinsons’ affair. Most of all, you’ve got to hide it from the kids” and “God bless you please, Mrs Robinson. Heaven holds a place for those who pray”.

Robinson, an evangelical Christian, said God had forgiven her for the affair. She said in 2008 that gays were an “abomination”.

Brilliant. Now if there’s going to be a rigging of the charts, this makes far more sense than a crazy, staged battle by the record label between Rage Against the Machine and X-Factor winner Joe McElderry. Do it! Buy your copy now! Celebrate Iris’ love of hot twinks!

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Jan 10

Homophobe Iris Robinson Justly Expelled

Posted on Sunday, January 10, 2010 in Politics, religion

Iris Robinson gave the impression that she was just an innocent, gay-hating fundamentalist. But she was so much more, and her political career has been obliterated for it:

In an attempt to limit the damage caused by the Iris Robinson scandal,the Democratic Unionist Party moved today to expel her from the party.

Robinson will also leave her Westminster and assembly seats early this week as the DUP punishes her for the furore over her toyboy lover and the £50,000 loan she secured for him.

Her husband, Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland‘s first minister, also came under further pressure tonight in his fight to maintain his position and remain leader of the DUP.

The East Belfast MP has one week to turn his fortunes around as he faces allegations that he failed to report the loan given to his wife, which is a breach of the ministerial code.

The Free Presbyterian church founded by his predecessor, the Rev Ian Paisley, and which is inextricably linked to the DUP, dealt a blow to Peter Robinson today when a senior minister and close confidant of Paisley, the Rev David McIlveen, called on the first minister to step down. “I do believe that his position is becoming increasingly untenable,” McIlveen said. “He has a major problem with regard to solving his own family difficulties and I personally cannot take the view that a person’s private life does not affect their public life.”

Allegedly raising £50,000 for your teenage lover whom you’re committing adultery (and betraying your friend) with, and allegedly choosing to retain £5,000 as a kick-back were never really signs of mental illness were they? They were signs of greed, arrogance and double standards. So next time a Christian fundamentalist politician starts pontificating on the evils of homosexuality you know they’re either a) gay or b) up to no good somewhere. It’s certainly clear who the most moral turned out to be after all. The real danger of course is that her disgusting, hypocritical behaviour actually has an impact on the Northern Irish peace process.

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Jan 8

The Trouble With Iris

Posted on Friday, January 8, 2010 in Politics, religion

Arch moralist and homophobic hypocrite Iris Robinson’s affair was with a teenager young enough to be her grandson:

As Mrs Robinson’s lover was named as Kirk McCambley, a 21-year-old cafe owner, it emerged she was facing allegations over a business venture she supported on his behalf.

The 60-year-old mother-of-three, an MP since 2001, admitted on Wednesday that she had a brief relationship 18 months ago with someone she had been supporting after a family death, and that her guilt led her to try to kill herself last March.

He was named by the BBC as Mr McCambley, a Catholic man, who was 19 at the time of the affair.

He confirmed to the Spotlight Programme that he had an affair with the married woman.

It is understood that the lover set up his business in a building constructed by Castlereagh Borough Council, supported by the EU Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme and administered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

It has emerged that 24 hours before the surprise announcement, a BBC documentary team had confronted her husband, Peter Robinson, at Stormont with questions about the couple’s financial affairs.

Asked if he was confident that neither he nor his wife had done anything illegal, Mr Robinson said: “I am absolutely certain that everything I have done has been done as it should.”

That doesn’t look necessarily true:

According to a BBC Spotlight programme broadcast last night, Mrs Robinson, 60, also demanded a £5,000 kickback from Mr McCambley for helping arrange the transaction.

Today, her husband Peter Robinson, who is Northern Ireland’s first minister, denied he had done anything wrong.

It was claimed he knew about the solicitation and had demanded the return of the money, but had not alerted parliamentary authorities.

So Iris, who famously said gay people were an ‘abomination’ and likened us to paedophiles and murderers isn’t just an adulteress but she’s facing an allegation of corruption too. Talk about pigeons coming home to roost! The allegations against her include:

• that she gained £50,000 for her 19-year-old lover Kirk McCambley from two property developers.

• that she took £5,000 of the money for herself.

• that when Peter Robinson found out about the loan and his wife’s affair he insisted she pay the money back but that he did not inform the authorities about his wife’s conduct.

• that when her relationship with the young man broke down she demanded the loan back and wanted £25,0000 paid into the account of her church, the Light and Life Free Methodist Church in East Belfast.

• that the payments which were used to fund McCambley’s refurbishment of a riverside cafe outside Belfast came from two major property developers, Ken Campbell and Fred Fraser.

• that Iris Robinson lobbied on behalf of Ken Campbell for a building scheme he was involved with in her Strangford constituency.

It doesn’t look good for Iris and her ‘mental illness’.

It’s now pretty easy to see Iris’ attack on gay people as the cynical embarrassment most rational people took it as. It had nothing whatsoever to do with a clash of gay rights and religious rights – it was a vile attempt to legitimise the basest of bigotries – her thoroughly immoral behaviour has proven that – and she should be as condemned now as she was then. Yesterday Iris said God had forgiven her. But what do you think? Vote here.

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Dec 1

Christianist Counsellor Fails Again

Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 in human rights, News

Last January Christianist counsellor Gary McFarlane lost his appeal against dismissal for religious discrimination. McFarlane had argued that as a devout Christian he was entitled not to have to work with gay couples on religious grounds, even though his employer Relate was publicly funded. The tribunal found unanimously against him, arguing correctly that he was fired for not abiding by his employer’s equal opportunities policy, yet he’s tried again:

mcfarlane_1219023c

A Christian relationship counsellor who refused to work with gay couples has lost his appeal for unfair dismissal.

Gary McFarlane, from Bristol, was sacked by Relate last year after saying he would not “encourage sin” in gay and lesbian couples.

He said that he had “overcome” his prejudices against same-sex couples since he began working as a Relate counsellor in 2003, but when beginning training to be a psychosexual therapist, he said his Christian beliefs meant he could not help gay and lesbian couples with intimacy issues.

Let that be the end of the line for this nasty bigot, trying to dress his prejudices up as somehow justified under religious equality legislation. Time for Lillian Ladele to exit the same stage shortly too, I think.

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Nov 4

Sympathy for Lillian Ladele?

Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 in human rights, News, religion

Civil registrar and Christianist zealot Lillian Ladele is at it again:

Controversial claims that Christians should not have to condone homosexuality will be made in the court of appeal today, as a registrar says she suffered discrimination by being required to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

Lillian Ladele, 48, has said she was treated unfairly in her role as a registrar for Islington council, which expected her to carry out the ceremonies despite her beliefs that they were “contrary to God’s law“.

“If this decision is allowed to stand it will help squeeze Christians from the public sphere because of their religious beliefs on ethical issues,” said Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, which is backing Ladele’s appeal.

“The rights of Muslims and homosexuals are protected, but the rights of Christians always seem to be on a lower level,” he added.

Lilllian-Ladele-001It’s a now familiar refrain. Arch Christians, now armed with equality legislation protecting their right to believe from discrimination, trying to suggest that their fundamentalist beliefs should somehow trump the rule of law. And Lillian Ladele failed in her earlier case against dismissal on quite logical grounds, which I don’t believe for a moment will be overturned. Religious equality legislation doesn’t give Christian zealots or anyone else the right to pick and choose who they are prepared to serve in the world of work, and nor should it – it’s quite absurd. Peter Tatchell puts the case against Ladele brilliantly when he says:

“The issue is very simple. Gay people have no right to discriminate against religious people, and religious people have no right to discriminate against gay people.”

Despite the absurdity of legislation protecting belief from discrimination he’s fundamentally right. So why sympathy for Lillian Ladele? As Afua Hirsch puts it:

Ladele told the court of appeal this week that she felt her religious views had been “caricatured”, a claim which deserves some sympathy given passages in the previous judgment like this one: “fundamental changes in social attitudes, particularly with respect to sexual orientation, are happening very fast and for some – and not only those with religious objections – they are genuinely perplexing” a patronising remark that is unlikely to have made this an easier pill to swallow.

I think it’s fair to say her devoutness has been caricatured, also to say  that she should be allowed to have private homophobic thoughts for any reason she chooses. But homophobic behaviour is illegal, we are governed by the rule of law, and Christianity has a unique place in the British constitutional order; to suggest Christians are losing out in the equality agenda is blatant nonsense. I have sympathy for people whose beliefs don’t serve them well in the modern world, but I have no sympathy for anyone who thinks they can use their belief to opt out of having to abide by the rules by which the rest of us are supposed to treat one another. That way after all leads to the fate which befell Ian Baynham and nearly befell James Parkes.

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Oct 9

Another Christianist, Another Council

Posted on Friday, October 9, 2009 in human rights, News, religion

Another Christian zealot is taking legal action against her local council employers, after they sacked her for homophobic behaviour:

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Denise Haye, 25, worked at Lewisham Council’s legal services department.

Last September, she used her work email address to send an email to Rev Sharon Ferguson, head of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

She wrote that Rev Ferguson should be “ashamed” of herself and that homosexuality was “not normal” and a sin. Citing the importance of repenting in the “last days”, Haye added, in capitals, “the wages of sin is death”.

Speaking to The Voice, Haye admitted she had used her work email address but said she did not realise her name would be visible and claimed she had sent the message out of working hours.

She added: “It wasn’t with any malicious intent and it wasn’t with any hatred, it was out of sheer concern.”

I think we’ve had enough instances such as this to know she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Sending emails from her work account during work hours, with homophobic and threatening content should be more than enough to get anyone sacked, regardless of their religious affiliations. There are other zealots posting around the Internet in her defence, claiming religious persecution, but  their arguments don’t stand up either – you simply can’t morally relativise hatred, and defend it as ‘sheer concern’. I may not be a religious man, but I’m fully aware this is not what Christianity is supposed to be about, and fortunately Rev Ferguson understands this as well. Andrea Minichello Williams, founder of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Ms Haye, has a different view:

“It is wholly disproportionate to end someone’s working career for the mere expression of orthodox Christian beliefs.”

What utter nonsense. We’re governed by the rule of law – it’s entirely appropriate.

(photo source – The Voice)

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Sep 26

Creationist Kirk Cameron – Slapped Down!

Posted on Saturday, September 26, 2009 in culture, religion

If you haven’t already, watch (and love) the greatest slapdown of modern Christian fundamentalism I’ve yet seen:


“Your God-rights, Kirk, aren’t given by God but by other people. That’s why when you need to know what liberties you have, you don’t open the Bible, you open the Constitution!”

Ray_Comfot_Kirk_Cameron_Todd_Friel

Cristina is referring to the video former teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron has made for evangelical Christian Ray Comfort, in support of his reissuing of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ but with a ‘special’ insert (read: one which tries to subvert the theory of evolution). Now I’d love to have a good bitch about the intellectual failures of creationism in general, but Cristina does it far better than I ever could. Just enjoy and have a particularly great time laughing as Cameron rails about the overwhelming prevalence of professors self-identifying as atheists or agnostics amongst university biology and psychology academics. Reason and logic – terrible things, eh?

(image source)

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