It’s often said by atheists something along the lines of “science flies us to the Moon, religion flies us into buildings”. In truth, the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center were a triumph of the application of science, and religious fanatics, while deprecating what they call the scientific /atheist worldview, have no compunction when using the fruits of scientific endeavour to further their own beliefs, when it suits. If Mohammed Atta had simply wished the WTC to collapse, or punched it, it would still be there, and he wouldn’t.
But what this does show is that applied science can be used to do great harm as well as great good. This isn’t really an issue. Science has given us sophisticated and devastating weaponry, it has facilitated communication among paedophiles as well as the general population, it has allowed “Big Brother” to watch us.
Gun advocates in the US rightly point out that it is the human relationship with science, not the science itself, that poses the greater danger. More people are killed in road accidents – even in the US – than are shot dead, and this isn’t generally held to be an argument against cars. Nevertheless, the feeling persists among some that in some respects science is leading us down a path that can only hurt us as humans. In this view, science changes things that are better left unchanged. If science exposes truths it sometimes does so against our human interest and therefore should be curtailed. Continue reading
To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.
Just a recap from the last post on truth. In common discourse we like to think of truth as correspondence with reality. Yet it’s commonplace to hear such things as “that’s a matter of opinion”, “it’s true to them”, etc. etc. The implication here is that either there are a number of competing truths, of which only one’s own, or none of which, has any special privileges, or that objective truth as correspondence with reality is an illusion. In fact (should I even be saying that?) it seems that this is how most people view truth – as something that corresponds not with reality as much as their own pre-existing beliefs or ideology. It’s much easier to see this (or as an argument-stopper) to imply or infer it in others while denying it for oneself. You don’t much see people basing their arguments on such grounds as “believing that is useful to me” or “that corresponds with my other beliefs”, although I do recall a poster on the FFF denying the validity of theistic evolution on the grounds that sin could not then have entered the world through Adam and therefore it was untrue on the basis that it contradicted his previous belief. More commonly one hears such things “I’m a Catholic and therefore I believe that…”. True beliefs will not contradict other true beliefs, of course, provided that the truth of at least one of them can be rationally established.
Moving on, for an example of how other peoples’ view of truth is pejoratively compared to one’s own, see the Jim Denison’s comment below, from here via the FFF:
You state that there is no such thing as absolute truth, which is itself an absolute truth statement. You remind me of the ancient Skeptics three centuries before Christ whose philosophy could be summarized: “There’s no such thing as truth and we’re sure of it.”
I could assure Denison that not all of us subscribe to that position, and I strongly suspect that what it is that he calls true in this matter is but a mere convenience. However, although he is probably equivocating, he is correct in his analysis of scepticism as long as he means universal scepticism – some other forms of scepticism are completely honourable and a reasonable approach to truth-seeking. Like simple relativism, universal scepticism is untenable in that to claim it’s truth would be to claim that it isn’t true, and therefore there aren’t really any universal sceptics, even if they so label themselves. Even Denison recognises this. Continue reading
I’ve been a republican as long as I’ve been a non-believer – that’s pretty much all my life. Similar thoughts about iniquity went through my mind at a similar time. I’m not sure whether I’m a British republican, or an English republican, or whether I just want an end to a system where the only qualification required for Head of State is who’s womb you passed through.
That said, the British political system isn’t the worst in the world though by no means the best. The Head of State does have useful functions, maintaining political neutrality being one of them. All parliamentary legislation is done in the name of the Head of State, and government is, nominally at least, accountable to that Head of State. Personally I don’t see why the Speaker of the House of Commons can’t fulfil that role as well as his own.
Every year, the government has to list its planned legislative programme prior to the start of each Parliamentary session. The agenda is read out by the sovereign in a document known colloquially as the Queen’s Speech – obviously once the Prince of Wales or his son assumes the role that will change.
Considering the current problems in double-dip Britain, and the strains within the Conservative-Liberal coalition this year’s speech didn’t set the world alight – most of it worthy, some of it welcome. However, there was one proposal that didn’t make it to the mainstream news, and it won’t affect many of us directly, but is a massive boost to freedom of speech, provided it doesn’t end up being diluted. The English libel laws are to be reformed, and not before time. Given that all political parties have ostensibly supported reform for many years it’s surprising (or perhaps not) that it took so long. Continue reading
In the post entitled Prayers work, say British Politicians, I got the following response from scripturesearcher. (His blog is here, and it’s well worth a read)
I have to disapprove strongly with a government agency making any regulation on religious advertising. Even if these people were outright lying, which is doubtful, there would have to be some sort of money or binding committment at issue in order for a government agency to step in.
That’s just my opinion, of course. I do think it’s important to stay with individualism and religious freedom in order to create a society built on freedom of thought.
Buyer – and prayer – beware. The responsibility is on the individual.
Now the post wasn’t primarily concerned with government censorship or regulations as much as the laughable attempts by some politicians to get government support and approval for the claims in question, which was that prayer is a legitimate form of medical assistance. Incidentally, I’m pleased to see that the main evidence for the politicians’ claims, the footballer Fabrice Muamba, now seems to have recovered enough to leave hospital and give interviews. Although Muamba does give credit to the medical teams that helped him, he has joined the politicians, his girlfriend and countless others in claiming that the paramount reason for his recovery is intervention by God following prayers. While he’s welcome to his view, I note that at least two footballers, to my knowledge, have died following heart attacks during games, including one in a minor from the same county as one of the MPs. Continue reading
I left the last post of this series as a committed, yet indifferent, non-believer – indifferent in the sense that I recognised that both factually and morally, Christianity had nothing to offer me. Yet both facts and morals are inescapably features of the world, so something is true even if something else is believed.
As school students we were encouraged, commanded even, to accept as truth things which were obviously missing from our experience or conceptually dubious. The only thing one can say for sure about God is that he never shows up. People say he does, of course, and attribute all sorts of things to his presence, but all these things have other, more plausible, explanations. Of course we’re told that if we only believe in his existence and his function as a pre-requisite, then we will somehow understand it all in that light. It’s hard to think where to begin with this nonsense, save to say that if it was anything else that we were considering, then we would dismiss it with no more than a belly laugh. No test for God outside the subjective exists, and therefore there is no convincing or plausible evidence for the existence of such a thing. Theology – otherwise known as worthless drivel – and apologetics – otherwise known as dishonest dissembling – have for centuries duly engaged the minds of some of the smartest of scholars as well as some of the most gullible or most devious or most dumb. Continue reading
Donald Rumsfeld famously said:
There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.
But are there also unknown knowns – things we know we can’t know? In practice we don’t know a lot, but does this mean we know nothing in principle?
Believe it or not this blog has a loose theme. I’ve posted on Christianity and Orwell, because they both represent different facets of this thing we understand as truth. It seemed to me that Christianity was manifestly based on something that just we have no right to believe to be true. Orwell’s writings throughout, and especially the documentary Homage to Catalonia and his later novels, were about the subversion of truth for other ends, and how this would lead, inevitably if unchecked, to man’s descent into ignorance. Whether we’re talking of religion or ideology, there are powerful forces working against truth, and therefore against progress. So I intend to write quite a bit about truth. I have started this post several times, and abandoned it on the basis I changed my mind on exactly how to approach the subject – would it best to approach the subject of truth for what it is or what it isn’t? For now, I chose the latter.
People don’t believe what they don’t think is true, obviously enough. But maybe they don’t have the right reasons for thinking the way they do. But whatever they do, when arguing they make an appeal to truth. Even those that seek to deny the reality of truth argue for the truth that there is no truth, or that truth has varying meanings.
At the very least, truth has elusive qualities. Something ostensibly so simple to comprehend has an extensive history in philosophy. Continue reading
Or. Why I am not a Christian. I suppose that Bertrand Russell is past caring by now.
I’m not sure who, if anyone, will ever read this. If someone does see this who isn’t familiar with the Fighting Fundamental Forum then the names and some of the arguments in this series of posts will be unfamiliar. My apologies in advance.
As I said in my introduction, I’ve spent the last five years in the enemy’s citadel, the place known as the Fighting Fundamental Forums (the FFF). I began there following an appeal in an atheist forum by a poster looking for a bit of help and stayed there for well over 4000 posts, although latterly – over the last two years – I’ve not posted as much. My last post was nearly five months ago. I suppose that the main reason for giving up were the cynical attempts by the new owner to make the forum monetising-friendly, and his clumsy efforts to do this resulted in my being unable to post using Firefox. Although it’s possible to get round this it’s hardly worth the bother, and the forum breakage merely pushed me into something I should have done anyway.
As anyone who’s debated William Lane Craig will testify, it takes one second to make an unsubstantiated claim and a hundred minutes to rebut it. I’m also the type that doesn’t make an argument in a hundred words where a thousand will do. Hence, my posts were getting to be so long that it was difficult to maintain any sort of interest – they were boring even me. Although there are over a hundred posters with a higher post count, few have as much content. This wouldn’t have been so bad if anyone – I make an exceptions for the unfairly-derided ALAYMAN and Stasis Point, although he couldn’t stay on topic to save his life and had a talent for addressing what I didn’t say.
This post will be a bit long and will barely mention the FFF. However, it is part of a series in which the forum will come more to the fore. I need to put my own actions there into some context. Continue reading
Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.
The post “Totaalvoetbal” recounts a memorable episode in my life – an epiphany of sorts. We all have these, where to sense something, which could be of any nature, leaves such a mark that things never again seem quite the same. Although to some it might seem trivial, seeing the Dutch football team in 1974 is an example. And there are others.
When I was at school I abandoned the study of English literature, without even telling my family, and therefore received one less “O” level than my contemporaries. This didn’t seem a big deal at the time, and doesn’t now. However, even in those days I was a prodigious reader, so that decision does come across as a little incongruous even to me. The problem I had was the selection of texts that we had to study, which to me at the time were the dullest bunch of books ever written, and at the discretion (from a set selection) of the particular teacher. I was in the top set, and the class just below got Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and My Family and Other Animals. All of these, I read in my spare time. But we were expected to study Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, A Tale of Two Cities and the like. I would read them and not remember a thing about them five minutes later. The tipping point came with Silas Marner by George Eliot. Again I read half of it which didn’t register – this was the last straw and I went to the teacher and asked her if I could drop down a set. Her response was no, but I could drop down three sets and just take language only. I agreed to do this. I was now relegated to the company of those of lower expectations. But the teacher, Mr Hawley, was rare in that I responded to him, and the class, in my last year before sixth form, was just about the happiest I was ever in. Continue reading