Recently I came across the tweet shown below and not for the first or last time it left me wondering if there is something wrong with my critical thinking skills.
Christian Guy (yes that appears to be his real name) is a new Special Adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. He previously led the Centre for Social Justice so must know what he is talking about. However his praise for the quote shown below (taken from Prof John Lennox on faith, atheism and science, from his recent ‘Against the Flow’ lecture) left me puzzled.
As far as I can see the extract starts by attacking some ‘straw man’ arguments based on a misunderstanding of the term atheism and the process of science. It then goes on to quote a made up story that could not have taken place with real scientists and finishes with a statement that is not supported by the quoted text.
My responses to the quoted extract:
Atheism is not the denial of the existence of God it is a disbelief in God. Disbelief is not the same as denial, it’s the absence of belief. It does not involve faith. (Atheism is a faith the way that “not skiing” is a hobby.*)
We do not need faith to do science. We do not need faith that the universe is accessible by the human mind. We may work on this assumption backed up by evidence. Our mobile phones depend on relativity and quantum mechanics. The observable fact that these theories are so successful would seem to be strong evidence that our understanding is linked in some way to how the universe actually works. But we are not naive, science teaches us humility. We can’t be sure that our scientific progress is moving us closer to understanding the universe. We can’t even be sure that human minds are capable of understanding the universe or answering the fundamental questions about the universe. We carry on – driven by curiosity, hope and evidence but not faith. Above all, a good scientist has the humility to accept that he or she may be mistaken.
No one believes that the “brain is the end product of a mindless unguided process” This is not a sufficient description of the process of evolution.
The final few concluding sentences do not seem to be supported by, or related to, any of the points in the selected passage.
I would be grateful if someone would let me know where I have made a mistake in my understanding of the text, or in my logic or reasoning.
In particular I would appreciate it if anyone could explain to me why the extract is “brilliant”.
I am not trying to be rude or offensive or a troll. I am simply puzzled that people who are clearly intelligent, well educated and have positions of power or influence can hold views that, as far as I can see, are self evidently flawed.
Salisbury MP John Glen has been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Business Secretary Sajid Javid. This reminds me of John’s claim back in 2010 when he said: ‘I don’t anticipate any early calls to Government. I’m a white, Christian, married bloke from the Home Counties so I probably don’t fit the description of what the leadership wants at the moment.’
John should indeed be congratulated on his achievement which I can verify from my own experience. However this is little consolation when his replies invariably follow his own party line.
There is more to being an MP than replying to emails.
Salisbury MP, John Glen, has a 100% record of voting with the government. He has never rebelled against his party. The only times he has voted independently was when there was a free vote and he voted against the Equal Marriage Bill and against allowing mitochondrial donation as a treatment to prevent mitochondrial disease.
He voted in favour of the Health and Social Care Bill which, despite the absence of a democratic mandate and despite promises to contrary, is forcing through a £3.5 Billion top down reorganisation of the NHS and its rapid outsourcing to unaccountable international corporations.
He voted for welfare reforms which indiscriminately hit the low paid and vulnerable.
He voted in favour of the current debt fuelled boom in London house prices – yet another bubble that will burst without solving our catastrophic lack of affordable homes.
He was in favour of the appointment of tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby as Tory campaign manager and has done nothing to tone down his party’s vindictive and divisive rhetoric or the accompanying output of misinformation and made up statistics.
He voted to down grade commitments to ‘eradicate fuel poverty’.
He also voted in favour of the lobbying bill, which will do nothing to prevent big companies and wealthy individuals from influencing government but will stifle criticism from grass roots organizations and charities.
In short, the evidence suggests that Mr Glen has put his party before his constituents.
MPs are in parliament to hold governments to account on behalf of their constituents. If they put party loyalty and ideology ahead of the welfare of ordinary citizens I suggest they should be paid from their party funds not the taxes of hard working families who are striving to cope with an unnecessary and deliberately prolonged period of austerity for which they were not to blame.
A man with a history of drink driving offences starts a petition for another man who, in a fit of temper, punched someone at work sending them to A&E. Hundreds of thousands enthusiastically sign the petition. Have I missed something?
Apparently Jeremy Clarkson punched someone at work.
Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) – extreme right wing blogger and a man with a history of repeat drink driving [*] offences starts a petition in support, not of the man who was hit, but in support of Jeremy Clarkson.
Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, who refuses to discuss real issues, rushes to appear on TV, not to support the man who was hit, but to support Jeremy Clarkson – doesn’t even bother to mention the person who was punched.
The establishment of this country takes us for fools. (and make no mistake, Jeremy Clarkson and Paul Staines are the establishment, even though they desperately pretend otherwise).
[*] In 2002, Paul Staines was banned from driving for 12 months for driving under the influence.
[*] In 2008, Paul Staines was again convicted of driving under the influence, his fourth alcohol-related offence and second drink-driving incident since he was banned from driving in 2002. He was also driving without insurance and narrowly escaped jail.
Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris have hit back at the plain packaging vote, calling today’s action “an irrational and unnecessary attack on private property that vilifies products that well informed adults choose to buy”:
“The UK Government is ignoring serious legal issues under UK, European, and international law. Five countries are challenging the legality of plain packaging at the World Trade Organization, and 11 EU Member States have objected to the UK’s proposal at the European Commission – recognising their duty under EU treaties to uphold EU law and free competition. At the same time, the EU Court of Justice is considering whether the UK and other Member States have the power to introduce pack standardisation measures beyond those already required by the EU.
While advocates of plain packaging may downplay these issues, the UK Government should be fully aware of the potential consequences of ignoring them, and of rushing to preempt the legal process.”
It’s clear that Philip Morris regard themselves as above the democratic processes that protect citizens and democratic governments from exploitation and abuse by the bullies of the corporate world. They think they should have an inalienable right to promote carcinogenic products and to indulge in a business model that involves encouraging addiction to that product from a young age and then ruthlessly exploiting that addiction until the day the victim dies. They also believe that their rights trump the right of ordinary citizens to say – no thanks, we do not find this business model acceptable in the 21st Century. We do not want our children to suffer the horrendous and wholly avoidable death rate that Philip Morris products have imposed on so many in the past.
No wonder ordinary citizens are worried about international trade agreements like TTIP that threaten to strengthen the hand of Companies like Philip Morris.
The very point of human rights law is that it stops those in power doing as they will. And that is why those in power hate human rights law.
With the commencement of Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta celebrations it’s worth remembering that our own MP, John Glen, would like to scrap the modern descendant of the Magna Carta – the Human Rights Act. (“I look forward to the Home Secretary’s proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act” John Glen MP: Salisbury Journal, 10th July 2013)
On Thursday 12th March John’s colleague Dominic Grieve is giving a lecture on the Magna Carta and Human Rights today – I hope John will be attending.
In all the furore about the HSBC – Swiss Bank tax evasion scandal let’s remember that it was Dave Hartnett who, as the boss of HMRC (supposedly our tax collection agency) negotiated the notorious tax deal that granted HSBC’s bankers virtually guaranteed immunity from prosecution for any crimes they might have committed relating to tax fraud in Switzerland.
Dave Hartnett is also the man responsible for doing dodgy deals with Vodafone, Goldman Sachs and other large corporations that have cost the taxpayer billions in lost revenue. He has now retired on a very generous pension having suffered no consequences whatsoever for given away billions of pounds of our money.
Ordinary hard working families including the most vulnerable members of our society are bearing the brunt of the government austerity measures because people like Hartnett believe that “only the little people pay taxes”
And where is Dave Hartnett now? Working for HSBC of course. Why don’t we call this what it is – legalised corruption.
Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice, through its “commercial brand” JSi, expect to make £5.9m out of helping the Saudi prison service.
The extract below is taken from page 6 of the Ministry of Justice Mid Year Report to Parliament (just been published) :
Do I need to remind anyone that Saudi Arabia is where Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison after creating a liberal, secular website, ‘Free Saudi Liberals’. He faces lashings every Friday for the next 18 weeks, until the sentence is completed.
Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, a Burmese woman who resided in Saudi Arabia, was executed by sword on Monday after being dragged through the street and held down by four police officers. A video showed how it took three blows to complete the execution.
There have been ten executions in the first two weeks of 2015.
Back in 2006, at the insistence of the Saudis, Tony Blair quashed an investigation into BAe – Saudi corruption.
Saudi Arabia is a a major funder of terrorism and violence in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia funded Al-Qaida.
All but one of the 9/11 perpetrators were Saudi Arabian.
It is a brutal fanatical fundamentalist religious tyranny where torture and execution is the norm and women are treated as chattel.
What is going on – we sell these people arms and fighter planes now we are going to help them run their prisons.
How does Chris Grayling sleep at night????:
Is there nothing the Tories won’t monitise? Do they have no sense of morals or ethics?
They really do know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
The final sentence says it all:[The Global Law Summit to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta] .. will demonstrate the foundation that our rule of law has created for businesses to flourish. Is this what we have in mind when we celebrate the signing of the Magna Carta? Is this the limit of Tory aspirations? No wonder they see the Saudi prison service as a business opportunity. The Tories really don’t get it do they!
Who are “Just Solutions international” (JSi)? This is from their web site: “As the trading arm for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Just Solutions international provides products, services and consultancy to help improve Justice systems across the world. JSi represents NOMS on all commercial issues.” Here is a link: http://www.justsolutionsgroup.com/main/
How do you improve the process of beheading a woman who doesn’t want to be beheaded?
It is was no surprise that in the same week that Tim Adams wrote to the Salisbury Journal commenting on the amount of space given to our MP John Glen to promote his party political agenda (PostBag, 1st Jan) we should find that John was once again doing just that in his “View from the Commons – High hopes for green shoots of recovery”. He justified this headline with a couple of dubious Tory Central Office sound bites.
John’s first claim that the current government will leave behind the fastest growing economy in the G7, is simply not true. This claim is based on the fact that in just one, three month period last year (when the US economy was set back by appalling weather) the US economy grew less than ours, but for the rest of the last four years, including 2013/14, US growth was well ahead of the UK and predicted to be ahead into 2015 and beyond. What John fails to mention is that the US, along with Germany, Canada and even France all regained 2007 levels of GDP per capita three years ago and are now well ahead of us. When you are so far behind, any growth looks good. If you wait long enough after a recession any country will recover. We have had to wait three years longer than necessary because George Osborne stifled the recovery that had just begun when the Tories took over in 2010.
John also reeled off the claim that that there are 1.7 million more people in employment but fails to mention that this is less than the growth in the population over the same period. The employment rate for full time work is only just returning to 2007 levels with all the extra jobs on top of that being part time and self-employed. These will include forced and insecure self-employment, part time work, work fare and zero hours contracts. It’s worth noting that the number of self-employed people earning less than £10,000 has risen from 20% in 2008 to 35% in 2014. Due to the low pay of all these old and new jobs, Government income from tax receipts is so far below target that our deficit is now rising and is the largest in the G7. John calls this living within our means.
The current period of growth coming ‘conveniently’ just before a general election is mainly due to a government sponsored house price boom underwritten by government borrowing plus consumer spending based on escalating private debt – just the kind of growth the Tories claimed to want to avoid. In the meantime the economy is still unbalanced and the financial sector has not been reformed.
It’s great that unemployment and particularly youth unemployment have dropped but why did we have to wait so long. If only the government had built on the recovery of 2009/10 with a programme of investment in our country’s future – affordable homes for rent and buy, infrastructure, NHS, Education, a serious programme to insulate Britain’s homes starting with the homes of those in fuel poverty. This would have pumped money into real, quality jobs for ordinary people. It would have stimulated the economy, particularly benefitting small and medium sized businesses and the money would finally end up back with the government in the form of tax receipts which, along with the resulting reduced benefits bill, would result in the deficit being reduced year on year. Win win all round.
Before the last election David Cameron claimed that Lobbying was the next big scandal and that he would clean up Parliament. What has happened? The government introduced a lobbying bill (aka the Gagging bill) which does nothing whatsoever to limit the lobbying of government by large wealthy companies and individuals or the revolving door between ministers, advisers and lucrative directorships in private business. If this is not open corruption it soon will be with government contracts being outsourced not to small and medium sized British firms with a stake in our community but always to large international corporations. Corporations with dodgy track records, some even facing criminal charges while being allowed to lobby for new contracts.
If the lobbying bill does not prevent any of this legalised corruption what does it do. Well naturally enough it is aimed at inhibiting grass roots organisations, charities and unions from any kind of ‘political activity’ in the run up to the elections – hence its name ‘the gagging bill’.
So we have the situation where newspaper moguls based out side the UK, not paying UK tax, are able to use their papers to brazenly pump what is little more than propaganda at the British people through out the campaigning period. Wealthy individuals and companies can hand over obscene amounts of money to help the Tories buy the election and yet charities that have to deal with the day to day effects of the government’s policies are restricted from raising their concerns. So much for free speech.
Ironically the gagging law is so indiscriminate that it inadvertently affects right wing blogs like the Guido Fawkes Blog run by Paul Staines. I hope he does not mind me pasting the extract below but he sums up the situation much more succinctly than I could manage.
Why are the Tories afraid of free speech? Well perhaps its because their polices are based on dogma, ideology and, let’s not pussy foot around, ignorance of facts and evidence. After five years reality has arrived to trump ideology, as it always does, whether it is the ideology of the left or of the right. The chickens are coming home to roost and the Tories only hope is to continue trying to pull the wool, over our eyes.
You won’t hear me say this very often but I am with Guido on this and won’t be paying attention to any rules and regulations from the government while the right wing press are free to print what they like and the Tory party is indulging in a campaign of half truths, deceptions and outright lies.
Foot note: without anyone noticing and under the eyes of the opposition parties the Tories managed to push through a law that raised party election spending limits from £26.5 million to £32.7 million. That’s a 23% increase when the rest of us are lucky if our income did not go down. The Conservatives did this despite receiving contrary advice from an independent body. The Electoral Commission – that sets the standards for elections – recommended against such an increase for the long campaign (starting on the 19th December). Instead, they advised on a £2.9million increase once the short campaign starts. The Tories entirely ignored this, or, if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt, interpreted it in their own way to mean they should double the number the Electoral Commission suggested and introduce this new law as soon as possible.
 Sodexo, which runs HMP Salford rife with drugs, given £millions contract to run community sentences http://bbc.in/1I455MG