Dawkins Tweets Ahmed Support

Yes, Richard Dawkins really did tweet in support of Ahmed Mohamed (Storify link below). Dawkins tweeted that the arrest was wrong. He also tweeted many questions, questioning some of the points various other people were making.

But, heaven forbid, he was a little too fastidious in pointing out that stuffing a clock guts into a box isn’t an ‘invention’. For that he’s an anti-Muslim racist bigot, apparently. Even though he apologised for being overly sensitive to the correct use of terms (we know what he thinks about ‘Evolution is just a theory’).

Yes, Dawkins tweeted. That was enough for many of his haters.

Except for that awful racist bigoted refusal to accept the clock as a genuine invention of a budding Muslim genius, I was pretty sure, as I read the exchanges in near real-time, that everything Dawkins was saying was indeed in support of Ahmed, a young boy caught up in the not-to-be-squandered SJW opportunity to expose Islamophobia and pronounce oneself free of it.

SJWs went to town on Dawkins. And then went to town on those supporting Dawkins supporting Ahmed. And then they went to town on the political expediency of using Ahmed as a political weapon, using Ahmed as a political weapon in the process.

Yes, Dawkins was quick to support Ahmed against his arrest, and maintained that position throughout. But time went on and things got a little more complex: it was less than an ‘invention’, his father is a well known publicist for himself and his own agenda in Sudan. And Dawkins retweeted and questioned some of the opinions that were being formed.

If Dawkins came to any conclusion at all it was that we are all apt to jump into Twitterland – and Dawkins accepts this charge of himself – when the details of a case are not fully known. At various points from the story breaking we had little actual news about what actually happened, from teachers or police.

And later we found that Ahmed’s father and the notorious publicity machine CAIR were involved. And, coincidentally, this geek who hadn’t realised his simple project might cause concern, suddenly found an excellent SJW voice. It seems Ahmed is being manipulated one way or another, and it’s not clear to what extent.

Dawkins mostly raised questions about all this, asking if it was true, saying, fine, if it’s true. He responded to many tweets, and didn’t endorse any other than the important point that Ahmed shouldn’t have been arrested.

But not everyone sees it that way. Some are determined to see Dawkins as a racist bigot. A few news reports – of course there’s always click fodder if Dawkins can be demonised. And then there’s the usual suspects: Greenwald, Aslan, Myers, …

Twitter is a bit of a pain for teasing out who said what when, but I just had to do it. I was sure Dawkins wasn’t the monster that he was asserted to be:

Dawkins Tweets Ahmed – Storify

Perhaps I could be charged with being a Dawkins fan-boy, too eager to read sugary sweetness into any Dawkins tweet. Well, even if I’ve misread some of his tweets, I’m still pretty sure that his critics have misinterpreted them by miles.

Here’s one example:

Now, it seems to me that Dawkins is questioning Talbot here, challenging him to provide a motive for Ahmed’s supposed mischievousness, but still saying he should not have been arrested anyway. This seems like support for Ahmed. And yet the news reports take a look at the title of the video and say Dawkins is calling Ahmed a fraud. Later, Dawkins does get into the ‘invention’ issue, but is still supportive of Ahmed against his arrest. Is it really so obvious that Dawkins is being Islamophobic or racist here? Or do you have to be a Dawkins hater to have this magically translated in your brain into a hate crime?

Justin Welby Likes To Torture Sick People?

And here we go with another religious justification for torturing people, from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Of course he doesn’t like to torture sick people, or to use his religious belief to justify such torture. I thought, well, if he’s prepared to use ridiculous rhetoric to make his case, I might too. But then thought again, decided that’s basically dishonest, and added this retraction. I’ll leave the dishonest BS to Justin.

With other faith leaders, I have joined in writing to members of parliament, urging them to oppose Rob Marris’s assisted dying bill. We have written, not in an attempt to push “the religious” viewpoint on others …

I’m sorry, Justin, but that’s precisely what you are doing, with other faith leaders. You are indeed trying to push your religious views on us.

but because we are concerned that a change in the current law on assisted suicide would have detrimental effects both on individuals and on our society.

And your view that the effects will be detrimental is biased by your religious views. Now that’s not to say you can’t provide a reasonable argument independent of your religious views, I’m just saying I don’t think you have. But let’s get down to addressing your concerns.

First, a change in the law to permit assisted suicide would cross a fundamental legal and ethical Rubicon.

Yes it will, for the better. For too long the principles of the sacredness of life have been, yes, sacred – i.e. religious. Life is a process. We, that is our mental selves, are along for the ride. Only your religious convictions associate this life with additional notions of souls and minds that are distinct from our physical reality. I don’t share your views. I value this life and the lives of others while they are being lived. I’m all for improving health and medicine to extend enjoyable life as much as possible. I’m even keen on using more advanced artificial means of extending life where it is wanted, perhaps in ways that you might not – if being a cyborg could bring a greater more enjoyable life I’d be for it. Only a presumption of the specialness of human life in some weird mythical sense sees current humans as the pinnacle of earthly creation. See us properly on an extending evolutionary scale and we are just somewhere in there and are not the chosen ones the religious presume we are.

This respect for the lives of others goes to the heart of both our criminal and human rights laws and ought not to be abandoned.

But, look, it is precisely out of respect for the wishes of those of a free and sound mind to maintain self-determination at the end of their lives that I think they should be able to do as they wish. Do we need religious busy-bodies dictating to the slowly dying that their lives are worth more to the living religious than they are to the ones carrying the burden. You’re not helping in the way you think you are – because you are thinking like a religious know-it-all that knows what your god wants when it comes to suffering people. If someone of sound mind, facing long term suffering and incapacity really wants to end it, I respect that wish, and if they can’t do it themselves it seems only humane to assist and not hang around with useless false comfort and a bit of cheering on while watching them suffer.

While it is not a crime in the UK for someone to take his or her own life we recognise that it is a tragedy and we, rightly, do all that we can to prevent suicide. The assisted dying bill requires us to turn this stance on its head, not merely legitimising suicide, but actively supporting it.

This is truly moronic, or dishonest – maybe both. Of course, this bill isn’t about ‘legitimising suicide’ or actively supporting it, because this isn’t really suicide in the usual sense that we’re talking about. This is quite different to, for example, the many cases where people with psychological troubles are looking for an out because they are suffering mental torment.

This is about people who know they are going to suffer the remainder of their lives in some soul destroying diminished capacity, if not abject pain, and they’ve had enough. This is suicide only in a technical sense, and it is only in this technical sense in which your concern here applies – which makes me think it all the more dishonest, that someone supposedly as spiritual as you is missing the spirit of the bill, which is to relieve suffering, to show some respect for self-determination, to have some compassion for a person that understands their own mind. It’s not about ‘actively supporting suicide’ at all – far from it. The bill very specifically guards against suicide, in the spirit of the term.

We are asked to sanction doctors participating in individuals taking steps to end their lives. This is a change of monumental proportions both in the law and in the role of doctors; it is little wonder that it is opposed by the medical profession.

You misrepresent the bill, Justin, because its intent is to make it as fair and as safe as possible. Doctors have never been opposed to this en masse, and those that appreciate the relief from suffering and recognise the brutality of enforced continued suffering, have always had to play stupid games to get around the law. It’s a terrible moral mess that puts doctors through this, as well as the suffering patients.

Currently, those who act wholly out of compassion in assisting someone they know to end their lives will not face prosecution. I feel profoundly the grief and struggle of anyone finding themselves in such a situation, desiring to respond with love in the face of suffering.

So, here you are tacitly legitimising and supporting assisted suicide? And I can only think it’s your religious convictions, that you want to impress on us, that makes you put that aside for the sake of some ridiculous principle. Dishonest. Actually legitimise assisted dying, if you really want to be compassionate. Put your sky-god in his compartment, as you have to do so often as a religious believer dealing with real life.

I know what it is to sit at the bedside of someone you love enormously and yet be torn by fears and worries about their future.

It is your religious belief that presumes there is a future that should be had, in this world or the imaginary next one. Now, if the patient believes the same, and does not want to end their life, then by all means do your religious thing and give them the support they ask for. Nobody is forcing you or dying fellow believers to give up religious principles for yourselves and actively seek or assist in death.

But, Justin, we don’t all think like you or believe in fantasies the way you do. We are capable of self-determination and prefer it to Welby’s-god-determiniation. I don’t want you having a say in my death, or preventing it when I’m ready to go. So, thanks, but butt out.

I agree that the law should take a considered and compassionate approach to caring relatives who are asked by those closest to them to help bring their lives to an end. To change the law, however, to give individuals access to medically prescribed lethal drugs risks replacing the type of personal compassion that is forged in a lifetime relationship for a “process” marked by clinical and judicial detachment.

In other words, despite your religious convictions, you are here justifying lying, pure dishonesty, hypocrisy. What your position amounts to is, “It is wrong to assist you. But hold on, I’ll just look the other way. … Oh, did you die while I wasn’t looking? How sad but noble of you to fight to the end.”

You’re a fraud – even if you don’t realise it yourself. But I don’t find it strange that the religious are able to fool themselves so easily, as it’s a requirement for religious belief in the first place.

As the European Court has noted, the legal understanding of the “right to life” would have to be fundamentally rewritten and for no good effect.

This is plain stupid. The “right to life” is just that, a right, to life; the capacity for me to maintain my life in the face of others that might want to take it. It is my right, not yours or the European Court’s, or the law’s, or my government’s. While our government has a duty to assist in my right to life, to help protect my life against those wishing to take it, it has no rights with regard to my life.

What a “right to life” is not, is a requirement to live. The government should not have the “right to my life” such that they must protect my life against me when I am able to judge it has run its course and is no longer useful to me.

Again, this is not the same issue as stepping in to help someone who is ill and does not have the psychological competence to maintain their own life. If we find someone unconscious after a road accident it is prudent to think they did not want to be in this predicament, and so we actively aid them in their “right to life”. If someone is seriously depressed then it is right to help them recover so that they might re-appraise the worth of their life, to them, not to your religious convictions.

But …

  • My right to my life is not your right to enforce my continued life upon me.
  • your duty to help me maintain my life, when I want it maintained, or when it is safe to presume I would want it maintained is not your right to presume I want my life maintained, when I have, in a state of full competence, specified conditions when I don’t want it to be maintained.

Get your god damned religion out of my life!

On to Justin’s second concern …

Second, a change in the law would place very many thousands of vulnerable people at risk. … It is impossible to ensure that they and other vulnerable people would not be placed under pressure to end their lives prematurely in ways that proposed safeguards cannot hope to detect.

Nonsense. There’s one simple requirement: assisted dying can only be used when the patient has, during a time of mental competence, made a living statement about their right to die wishes, or when, with reasonable precaution, it is thought they would wish it, or, where they protracted suffering is unavoidable. Yes, this is new ground, but it’s not too difficult to come up with clear states of being under which the right to die is complied with.

Make no mistake, MPs are being asked to take a huge gamble that a changed law would protect the vulnerable. There is no need to take such a risk since the current law continues to protect the vulnerable while harbouring no threat for those who act wholly out of compassion.

This is utter rubbish. Of course the law can and would be adapted as circumstances arise. You worry about MP’s, but not my right to self-determination? Religious authority shows too much concern for authority in general – let the MPs do their job and the right thing and give the freedom of self-determination we are asking for.

But more than that. Those that act out of compassion are precisely not the people whose right to die is the subject of this statement. Without a pre-determined statement of conditions in which one might want to die, leaving the burden on those loving family and friends, and the doctors, while there is still the potential weight of a murder charge hovering over their heads, ignores the well-being of all those directly concerned, and totally ignores the wishes of the person that wants to die.

We know from the US states of Oregon and Washington that between 40% and 60% of those who used legally prescribed lethal drugs to end their lives cited concern that they would be a burden on their families as a factor in their decision to bring their lives to a premature end.

The problem here is not with the principle of burden. I, now, in good health and hopefully some time off any miserable death, anticipate the horrendous suffering I’d impose on my family with a drawn out painful end. I value my life greatly, but I know that there could come a time when I submit my family to a dreadful struggle. And it’s no good telling me how much they would want me to struggle on, how much they would not want to lose me – I take those as given, knowing my family. But we’re talking about MY choice here, not theirs. The decision about how much of a burden I want to be is MINE, not theirs; or yours, Justin Welby!

The situation is this, if my dying is such that I would want an assisted death: 1a) I will die at the end of a long, painful illness, in which my family watches me slowly die, and 1b) then I will be dead and they will miss me; 2a) they will see me die quickly, under my own terms, without further suffering, and 2b) then I will be dead and they will miss me. They suffer (b) in either case. Why would I want to put them or me through (1a) rather than (2a)? Only a warped religiously inspired perspective would see any virtue in (1a) and immorality in (2b).

So, since the principle of burden is not the problem, the case of the figures you quoted exposes an actual problem of establishing the subjects’ thinking on the principle of burden prior to their actually becoming incapable of rational decision making.

There is a genuine problem that has to be addressed.

When my second child was born my wife insisted that no matter what she says during childbirth, I must not let the doctors give her an epidural (one of those treatments that still carries actual risk – as a friend having a knee replacement recently found out to her cost). Needless to say, with a breach birth and a long struggle, the air was blue with my wife’s insistence that the doctors should in fact kill the pain – and I of course could not object, seeing her suffering.

So, when it comes to painful end game of life, how do you deal with a loved one who had previously declared their will to live on but who changes their mind and decides, in their pain, they want death? This bill doesn’t solve that problem, but neither does the current state of affairs. It is possible that in such a case the weight of opinion at the time, of the patient and the doctors, would assist dying and be protected under the bill; but not under current law, where there is no process that justifies their action, and where a case could be made that they were killing the patient against the patient’s prior wishes.

The reverse isn’t a problem. With a stated wish to die when suffering a protracted end of life, if a person declares that they have changed their mind, perhaps had some religious epiphany and decided they must suffer on, then by default that wish should be upheld. If the subject swaps and changes over a period of time, by all means default to holding off the deadly injections.

But when the stated wish is continuously and consistently stated and documented until such time that the patient loses all capacity to reason, then uphold the wish and put an end to the suffering.

Once a law permitting assisted suicide is in place there can be no effective safeguard against this worry …

The worry is an unjustified one, Justin. If I don’t want to be a burden on my family when in a state of suffering, then why would you add to my suffering all the more by making me watch them watching me in an indeterminate painful end? Your logic seems clouded by something. I wonder what. A religious presupposition that all cases of choosing death is morally wrong? You are imposing your religious convictions on this conversation in a way you declared you were not.

never mind the much more insidious pressure that could come from a very small minority of unsupportive relatives who wish not to be burdened.

This doesn’t hold much water either. First, if the family is genuinely unfeeling they can just walk away and leave it to the state to look after the subject. If they have some motive for wanting a quick death for their relative, then with or without a declaration from the subject it should not be their decision. Why do we give so much weight to family to make these decisions? Partly because under the current system the burden cannot legally or fairly be put on the doctors, and also because without the right to die and a pre-declared wish to die the family has become the natural go-to people.

Of course there are situations when family may wish the subject dead sooner rather than later despite the subject’s own wishes, and that’s another reason why a clear right to die declaration should be required, and the assisted dying agreed by independent doctors and a court. And as with current (UK) conditions for power of attorney, there should be legal and medical backup to establish the state of mind of someone making such a declaration ahead of time, and the doctors and the court should protect against potential conflicting family interests.

So, that leaves us with a case where the subject has declared their wish to die under some conditions, and those conditions have been met by the subject’s state of health. The fear that the family might now wish that the subject were dead is irrelevant. Their wish is merely coincidental with the subject’s, albeit with different motives. If someone dies in an accident and a family member declares, “Good riddance”, we might censure them, but we would not be tempted to accuse them of murder.

The exhaustion of caring, sometimes combined with relationships that have been difficult for years before someone fell ill, can lead people to want and feel things that they should not.

Religious morality comes to the fore again. Who gets to decide whether one’s feelings are justified or not? Wishing someone was dead, for whatever reason, is presumed to be awful and immoral, ‘sinful’. Does that always apply? Was it wrong to wish Hitler dead? Come on, Justin, do a little philosophy here. When do the religious thought police become justified in deciding what we should and should not think? Do I get to enact laws that prevent you thinking your spiritual thoughts?

Even so, even if you are firmly convinced that wishing someone dead is immoral, having a legal framework in which a subject can state their own conditions for death removes this burden from worriers like you, Justin. No doubt your religious ire will continue to be inflamed, but I reject your stance on this. If I’ve declared conditions under which I want to be put down, then I want my wish upheld no matter how much a family member may wish it for nefarious reasons. Whose death are we talking about here? The subject’s. Whose wishes are we talking about here? The subject’s.

Just as my estate has to be dealt with through the inconvenient process of probate, if I don’t leave instructions, then by not declaring the terms of my own death I’m leaving family and friends in a burdensome position that I know as a sane person I would not wish upon them.

Many people hope they leave this life with a quick and painless end. They hopefully anticipate death in sleep after a good life. I don’t know anyone that thinks it’s a good idea that they live a slow and painful death, have their bodies survive in some diminished totally dependent state. Why you would wish this on others instead of a determined assisted resolution when self-determination has gone, is one of those perverse mysteries of religion.

All of us who have been involved in pastoral care and bereavement care have heard the confusion people feel about how they behaved to a demanding relative.

Yes, and that’s why family members should be removed from the decision making. If the subject has made a wish then that’s what determines that a chosen end of life is on the table. If the subject has not had the opportunity to state their wish, then the suffering should be assessed by doctors, family, and, as the bill requires, independent views. A demanding relative will not dictate the outcome for a subject that has made their wishes clear, because it will be backed up by independent doctors and by the court.

Note here that when it comes to people that are already in a state whereby they wish to end it soonish, and have mental competence, but not the capacity to do it themselves painlessly, they can be pretty far into the incapacitated state and still be competent enough to declare their wishes.

I would suspect there will be more problems where family members object to the death wish of the subject than there are from those colluding to end a life against the subject’s wishes. Even atheists sometimes have interfering religious do-gooders making moral decisions for them. I’m sure many people are forced to suffer a long game when they might wish a shorter one for themselves. Even when they have clearly stated that, they are forced to live on and suffer.

If, Justin, you want to call the right to die ‘suicide’, then I choose to label your version of your right to enforce unwanted life as ‘torture’.

The tests in the bill do not make space, and never could, for the infinite complexity of motives and desires that human beings feel.

The current system does not make space for even finite complexity of the motives and desires of the subjects wishing to be done with their own lives. So, complaining that the fact that some position does not account for infinite possibilities is a bit lame, Justin.

Also, the safeguards are actually stronger than I’d wish for myself. So, “A terminal illness (with a prognosis of six months or less to live)” does not allow me to die under some conditions that I would want to apply. If I was entering a near vegetative state with sever dementia (having got past the stages where I come in and out of self-awareness, suffering confusion and fear) it is reasonable to say that I would no longer be suffering, in my mental oblivion. In such a case I now, while still in a competent state, would wish that in such a future my life be ended for no other reason than that I would be a burden on my family, and the state (i.e. the greater population). My choice.

How come if I run into a building to save a life, but die as a result, I’m a hero, but if I want to relieve my family and the state from caring for an empty fleshy carcass, I’m somehow not quite right in the head when making that decision before that dismal state occurs? Religious presupposition to objective moral correctness, that’s how. To hell with your opinions on what’s right for me!

The law at present does make that space, …

It does not. It dances around it dishonestly.

and yet calls us to be the best we can.

Who the hell gives you the right, Justin, to demand I be the best I can when near death; and who gives you the right to decide what being the best I can amounts to? If I feel my life has run its course and I want to remove myself from being a burden on my family, who are you to moralise that I should not? As it happens, I think I would be being the best I can be in the circumstances. But why expect someone to be at their best in painful death? Your whole perspective is fluffed up with pious ideology.

My third concern is that we need to reflect on what sort of society we might become if we were to permit assisted suicide.

I’m ahead of you here Justin. I’m already reflecting on what sort of society we are for putting up with religious presuppositions to moral authority. Get over yourself. Your fancy hat doesn’t buy you moral authority in my book. Your undue privileged position in the House of Lords is getting you far more say in this than is warranted for believers of fairy tales and myths.

At present, we can show love, care and compassion to those who at all ages and stages of life are contemplating suicide. We can try to intervene, to support them to embrace life once more.

Quite right. But I would put it to you that the right to die is incorrectly conflated with suicidal tendencies brought on by mental distress. It is possible that mental distress could bring on depressive suicidal thoughts in the very subjects of this debate, whereas if they were of sound psychological mind it would not choose assisted death. That’s what the safeguards are for.

We can do all in our power to surround those who are terminally ill with the best possible palliative care, including physical, emotional and spiritual support. We can redouble our efforts to alleviate suffering. We can show that we love even when people have given up on caring for themselves. We can support our doctors and nurses as they act consistently in the best interests of their patients, affirming life and caring for the vulnerable.

Palliative care is an honourable thing is some cases: on the battle field or in an accident, with no hope of assistance; in cases where the subject has decided they have some moral duty or see some virtue to carry on. By all means do what you can to relieve suffering.

And all that means not a jot if the subject has already decided their own fate. What happens to self-determination? You have removed it at a time when they need it as much as any other. Typical of the religious, presuming they know best what others want or need – or what is ‘right’. And if the subject declares they want death, the religious answer is that they couldn’t possibly be right, because God wouldn’t want them to think that way.

Religious presuppositions are crawling all over your opinion on this, Justin. I and many others don’t share them. Even many religious people don’t share them in the same way. You are so far removed from our reality you can’t see it, or choose not to let us have it for ourselves, even though we have no objection to you doing your religious thing when dying.

We risk all this for what? Becoming a society where each life is no longer seen as worth protecting, worth honouring, worth fighting for?

This is about as dishonest as you can get. When you ask, “We risk all this?”, the risks you have outlined are not risky at all, or far less risky than the current state of affairs. And it is your religiously biased opinion about what society should be that is clouding your opinion on what will happen to society. The right to die is actually improving society, acknowledging the wishes of the individual without burdening them with the religiously determined weight of the sanctity of life. Odd that a death cult that sees a better life after death as something waiting in the wings should be so clingy even when the subject knows what they want.

The current law and the guidelines for practice work

They do not! Many people suffer when they should have an opportunity to end the suffering. But they can’t, because a history of religious presuppositions about human life have been battered into us by religion – often literally and fatally, ironically. The current law and guidelines are working for you, so that’s what’s important, eh?

In spite of individual celebrity opinions and the “findings” of snap opinion polls (that cannot hope to do justice to the intricacies of the issue)

Oops, your religious authority slip is showing. Of course, why didn’t I realise that. We need the training of men in clown suits that believe in imaginary beings to get to the real rational fundamentals of a problem like this.

And yes, you can consider that an ad hominem, if you wish, but it is no worse a one than that demeaning statement of yours. Who the hell are you to presume that the people polled do not know their own mind? Who are you to decide that many of them have not got well thought out opinions about their own life and death? And it wouldn’t matter if a minority wanted this change.

The bill helps those that know they are in for a rough ride determine their own end-game, and it helps those that are suffering when otherwise they would be forced to endure, by family, doctors or the law. It’s an attempt to provide more dignity and to relieve more suffering that the current state of affairs does.

You are opposing a bill that would give us self-determination at a time when we wouldn’t have the physical capacity to act on it, and when loving, caring assistance would be appreciated.

Stop the torture, Justin. Support the bill.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis Have A Cunning Plan

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis reveal their cunning plan to bring those dreaded Muslims on side and blame everything on the atheists: In the secular age, it is crucial for people of faith to stick together. Good luck with that.

This is such a brazen plea for anti-secularism, and a worry about Islam disguised as the reaching out of the hand of friendship. Many Muslims will see right through it, as atheists see right through the machinations of all religions.

It really is laughably abysmal to see these men trying to make a temporary truce, like competing Mafia families : Cosa Nostra begets Nostra Aetate: Our Thing In Our Time: the unbelievable things we have to do to survive.

we find ourselves challenged by a new but no less troubling set of global issues which make a reaffirmation of the principles of the document [Nostra Aetate] immensely significant

The global issues that are troubling them are the rise of an Islam that reminds them of their own barbaric history, and a failure of their religions to persist and grow without such barbaric means of repressing dissent.

Today, as we travel together to the Vatican for a historic audience with the Pope, at which we will discuss some of these challenges ..

I’d love to be a fly on that wall at that meeting, because you can bet that what’s said won’t be published, especially when it comes to dealing with Islam.

Jewish and Catholic shared history has been so deeply stained with the blood of innocent men, women and children, whose only crime was a sincerely held personal religious conviction ..

No. The crimes have been many, including the spilling of the blood of innocents and the persecution of each others’ faiths, as well as the persecution of those that don’t share the faith. Judaism is a small sect and inherently insular by the nature of its propagation – they like to keep it in the family – so it hasn’t seen the degree of in-fighting that has plagued Christianity, but it does make a lot of noise for its size. Christians have spilled and burned the blood of many fellow Christians on the grounds of ‘sincerely held personal religious conviction’. And Islam does the same – and as is often pointed out, the greatest number of victims of Islam are Muslims.

Religious conviction is full-square responsible for so much divisive hate and death. And where it isn’t directly responsible, it can be so easily co-opted to any cause, and even turned into the primary motivator that pulls other believers along with it. The Quran and Hadith make excellent ISIS recruitment manuals. Do you live in Pakistan and have a business grievance with a neighbour? Claim he destroyed a copy of the Quran, or that he blasphemed against the prophet. Problem solved.

In many places to be a person of faith can be, in and of itself, an act of courage

The greatest courage required is in the face of fellow religionists. And this has been evidently so for millennia. In fact, except for a few specifically and genuinely peaceful sects, there’s a bloody history to religion, and the Abrahamic religions are the greatest culprits and their own victims. Violent secular threats to religion have been predominantly a 20th century mechanised political phenomenon – but, hey, that’s good enough to blame all atheists for those crimes against humanity.

The worse you get from a humanist atheist is a lack of privileged presumed respect, and occasional derision. Now that seems pretty tame, when you consider how the religious, especially Cardinals, Bishops and Imams have been blaming every natural disaster on the evilness of atheists (and when necessary on other believers that don’t agree with them). How does an atheist pointing out your irrationality compare with your claim to the atheist’s irrationality and condemnation to a fiery eternity? The only reason you get away with it is because atheists don’t believe in your crazy hell – water of a ducks back. Death for blasphemy (or apostasy) has been and still is a repressive force used by religion.

To confess your belief in God no longer commands universal respect for a deep commitment to a lofty ideal, self-discipline and moral conviction.

Damned right it doesn’t. The metaphysical claims of your religions are no more than myths, and yet you build a life and a career out of conning other people into the same belief, taking every opportunity to catch them at birth and indoctrinate them, and you think you deserve respect?


In many societies you are more likely to be dismissed as naïve, unsophisticated and narrow-minded.

Damned right you are. What’s most laughable is the way in which you take some fundamentally flawed premises and heap sophisticated complexity onto it, and you think that results in some sophisticated substantiated truth. It’s built on such erroneous foundations that it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the obfuscating edifice you build on top, the foundations are rotten. And you deserve to be called out on it.

As such, when a view is expressed which is informed by one’s faith on issues such as assisted dying, the value of family life or social responsibility, that view is often treated with scepticism, as though it is somehow less rational or ill-founded.

You have as much right to offer up your reasoning about human suffering and come up with ways to deal with it. But as soon as you tell us your faith informs you of what to think, that makes no difference.

If you think
(a) “assisted dying is a good thing because it releases suffering”,
(b) “I want to relive suffering in a person’s inevitable death”,
(c) “God tells me so”,

then I’m listening to (a) and (b), but (c) tells me nothing, adds no useful information about the problem. However, it does make me suspicious of the reliability of your argument, because there is nothing in (c) that prevents you turning your argument to

(a) “assisted dying is a bad thing because the suffering is necessary”,
(b) “I don’t want to relieve the suffering”,
(c) “God tells me so”.

And all of this amid the alarming increase in the brazen persecution of Christian, Muslim and Jewish minorities which has become one of the most pressing and shameful issues of our time.

Ah, now we come to the duplicity of this statement. You don’t want to inflame your Muslim co-religionists, because they are dangerous – as the link in that sentence shows.

That link, incidentally, is misleading. The article is a little better: “A grim irony of the Charlie Hebdo murders and recent violence in Copenhagen is that Arab Christians endure far more vehement insults at the hands of Wahhabists than do Muslims from secular satirists in the West.” As is generally the case. When ‘secular’ regimes in the Middle East give believers a hard time they do it to everyone, not least the atheist activists, and they co-opt Islam to do it when convenient. But, it does no harm muddy the waters and pretend that the satirical and sceptical rhetoric from ‘militant’ atheists is comparable to the actual death threatened and often carried out by fellow religionists.

That is why it is more important than ever for faith communities like ours to cultivate close working relationships.

You bet. Because the real threat is fellow religionists. There’s no need to suck up to atheists because they only rhetorically abuse your intelligence rather than your earthly body – all of a sudden earthly matters are important.

We share so much in common – a great respect for the tradition that stretches back thousands of years behind us, and a determination to ensure that that same tradition will stretch out long into the future.

Yes you do. But your fundamental differences are a casmaclyptic. The inter-faith stuff is a sham, a band aid over a gushing wound. Christian and Muslim faiths are pretty quick on the draw when it comes to accusations of blasphemy – but there is inherent blasphemy at the very core of the beliefs of your fellow religionists. The core beliefs of Christianity and Islam are far greater blasphemies than any atheists can come up with.

An atheist simply matches the Christian belief with a single non-belief.
An atheist simply matches the Islamic belief with simple non-belief.
A Muslim not only rejects the Christian belief, but adds a blasphemy in turn – a double whammy, a two-pointer.

We are committed to our stewardship of the planet, …

And who gave you that authority? Each of your fictional gods?

… teaching peace and pursuing it, …

If only that was all you did.

… bringing Godliness into the world, …

Whether we want it or not – and if you get us young enough not to know whether we want to not: bonus!

… promoting social responsibility

A good start: stop persecuting people that don’t believe what you believe would be a good start. That would be socially responsible.

… and encouraging society to look after its most vulnerable.”

Having made them most vulnerable in the first place, by subduing them to authority. Get a man to submit to god, then get god to give you the reins. That’s how it works.

These shared objectives became ever more possible after Nostra Aetate. They will be the antidote for negative views of faith that have crept into the world, …

I’m afraid not. You think you’re showing your common ground? That only exposes your incompatible differences that make a mockery of your metaphysical claims to authority.

… and they will make clear its limitless potential for achieving greatness.

Yes, we know power and control of peoples lives is your goal. But thanks for spelling it out.

We pray that the normalisation of Catholic-Jewish relations in recent decades will offer valuable lessons for others around the world consumed by religious and cultural hostilities.

Coded message to Muslims again.

Let this jubilee year in the Catholic Church be a catalyst for all faith communities who are “on God’s side” to work positively and collaboratively and harder than ever before for the sake of all humanity.

Well, yes, for the sake of all humanity let’s hope the co-operation between the faiths gets them to tone down their divisive agendas. Of course as that happens it will be the *secular that you hope to suppress.

* And on we go with this misrepresentation of secularism and the conflating of it with atheism. Secularism is actually a benefit to the inter-faith stuff. It prevents some state religion monopolising the faith arena and persecuting minority faiths. Unfortunately the secular vision of free expression is a tad inconvenient to the religious, particularly if it comes with the rational idea of not indoctrinating children in faith schools. Free thinking is the most dangerous long term threat to any religion, while other religions the internecine conflicts among believers of different sects are temporary struggles for supremacy.

My Atheism

In a comment on the matter of atheists needing faith, Edward Silha gives one of the better responses with the following points:

There is no need to use the terms “faith” or “belief” when discussing the existence or nonexistence of a god or gods. As a scientist, I draw conclusions based on evidence and logic. That leads me to the following conclusions.

1. I cannot prove there are no gods; therefore I am not an atheist.
2. I cannot prove there is a god; therefore I am not a theist.
3. Therefore, I am an agnostic.

The trouble is that the three points are really logical, not evidential points. And this is part of the problem when discussing atheism and agnosticism: while Edward starts talking about both evidence and logic, the three points are entirely logic based, reason, argument, and contain no mention of evidence. So, let me provide a variation on this theme:

1. I cannot prove there is a god; therefore I am not a theist.
2. I cannot find any evidence for gods.
3. Therefore, I am an atheist.

When there is such a lack of positive evidence for something like theism then to be an atheist really is that denial of positive evidence. It’s acting ‘as if’ there is no God, and so coming to believe there is no God.

With regard to the terms ‘faith’ and ‘belief’, there is a distinction that makes ‘belief’ a term we do use and should use. I take it Edward ‘believes’ that power flight using aeroplanes is possible, and further, believes it’s an actuality. It’s worth noting that when using ‘belief’ in the context of religion, believers believe in the actuality of their god, and so it seems reasonable to not believe in that actuality and call oneself an atheist in that context.

But ‘faith’ is quite different, especially in this context of religion and theism. It’s that route to cognitive satisfaction when faced with the lack of evidence and the strong arguments against one’s religion. It’s the ‘faith’ that many intellectual believers resort to even while admitting the empty claims of their own religions.

The original post on which Edward was commenting was headed: It Takes More Faith to Be an Atheist Than to Believe in God? A similar remark is often used by theists to point out our ‘faith’ in science. It’s a false equivalence. One requires ‘faith’ in religion to overcome lack of evidence, but I suggest most supporters of science learn to have ‘trust’ in it from the evidence of its utility, and as such ‘believe’ that science is useful. Though one could have faith in science or anything if one was so minded. Similarly one could have ‘faith’ in one’s atheistic position, but I would suggest that those of us that call ourselves atheists trust the lack of positive evidence in the wake of millennia of religious claims to be good enough have learned to ‘trust’ our disbelief in gods.

Atheism doesn’t require 100% certainty – and indeed, taking up Edward’s point, probabilities aren’t appropriate when one has zero data.

In such cases it’s difficult to distinguish between the degrees of disbelief. Philosophically, epistemically, we have no knowledge and ought to say “don’t know”, but psychologically and sociologically that translates into “no evidence” and “it might as well not exist”. And atheism better describes that than does agnosticism.

The psychological disposition is clearer with regard to fairies and a-fairyism, a-unicornism and so on, and for the specific claims of the major religions.

I don’t believe that astrology works, so I would be an a-astrologist (non-believer as opposed to non-practitioner, though both). But the moon does affect life on earth, and so too to some degree do planets, even if imperceptibly to humans because earthly, lunar and solar dynamics swamp such effects. My a-astrologism is to do with the specific claims of astrology with regard to birth signs and other crazy stuff. Being agnostic about astrology on such grounds would seem to a pointless position to hold.

Being agnostic about theism seems vacuous in a similar way. Translating the “don’t know” about extra-universal matters, origins of the universe, extra-universal ‘physics’, the requirements for intellect and agency on such scales, into agnosticism with regard to religion, seems to be an empty agnosticism.

It seems far more reasonable to be agnostic about the existence of intelligent biological aliens, for example, since we have at least one example of a planet that has produce intelligent life. So the mechanics, the chemistry and physics is at least doable. And what makes us agnostic in this case is both the lack of evidence that such results of evolution are inevitable, and the lack of any sign of alien life so far, let alone intelligent life. The latter isn’t positive evidence against, given the potential for missed coincidental evolutions, and given the vastness of the universe. So agnosticism seems appropriate in this case, for an expression of “don’t know”.

But theistic agnosticism has too many associations with particular religions. And many of the agnostics of history seem to be agnostic about the religion of their birth/culture more than general theism.

It seems to me that claiming to be agnostic has greater religious social connotations than the pedantic meaning of the term Edward ascribes to it with his three points.

I’m an atheist because I can’t see any positive data supporting theism. I don’t believe there is a God as I don’t believe in many things one might dream up. And gods seem to have been dreamt up since some time after humans were able to communicate ideas. Agnosticism gives too much weight to a fanciful idea for my liking.

My atheism is:

1 – An a-theism: not a theist for lack of positive evidence for theism – strictly a “don’t know” position.

2 – Psychological atheism for the futility of thinking of the endless possibilities with regard to gods (monotheistic supernatural god, good and evil gods competing, committee of gods, hypernatural gods creating supernatural gods, …)

3 – Sociological atheism that opposes religion – an anti-theism, anti-religion – for the shear stupidity of taking a fancy and imagining it to be real enough to allow the divisive prescriptions and proscriptions that believers get into.

I’m an atheist. I am not an intellectually piss poor agnostic.

There is yet another distinction to be made, regarding belief, and that’s the matter of believing IN something.

Here are some posts on Atheism.

Dawkins, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

You’re with it by now, right? Lauren Nelson (Lake?) loves Richard Dawkins. She wrote a crappy post, got called out on it, then on her blog told us how we got it wrong, that she loves him but he could do better. It’s all been said, in comments, on twitter, on other blogs, … but … I don’t want to be left out!!!

So, there was this: Richard Dawkins Fails Spectacularly on Feminism and Islam – Lauren Nelson, on Friendly Atheist. This is the Dawkins tweet she gets off on:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsOver 1200 comments and a ton of tweets reject the message of that post, and a large number point out why.

Dear Lauren,

What follows is a list of your fuck-ups, Lauren. I would have posted this on your blog, but you’re screening comments. For ones you think you can deal with? Even if so, you’re still failing (agree to disagree, my arse). I know you’ve put up an abuse deflection shield that Klingons couldn’t break down, so I would have made my responses here kinder. But, fuck it, your own ego (LOL, see below) is preventing you seeing things any way but your way. Even your regular allies are denouncing your post, giving you a swerve, pretending you don’t exist, face-palming so much they have headaches (I know this, because I too have the mind reading powers you seem to have).

Onward: a summary of where you went wrong. I say ‘summary’, but, fuck, nearly every sentence. You’re first two sentences I’d agree with, and I could quibble over the next two, but as for the headline and much of the rest:

  1. Richard Dawkins Fails Spectacularly on Feminism and Islam – No, you failed, right out of the blocks, with the headline.
  2. Dawkins is a wealthy white Western male dictating what just under a billion women – No he didn’t dictate anything.
  3. He’s relying primarily on mainstream media accounts of what it’s like to be a woman living in Middle Eastern countries – No he isn’t.
  4. But what Dawkins, and many critics of Islam’s relationship with women, forget … – Nope he (we) haven’t forgotten – how could we?
  5. There are many more lived female experiences within this far-from-homogeneous culture of faith, and not all of them are ugly or oppressed. – Yet New Atheists like Dawkins are lambasted for comparing religions? LOL.
  6. But beyond the arrogance of assuming all women experience Muslim life the same way – No. That wasn’t assumed in that tweet or anything else he’s said or written that I’m aware of.
  7. .. is the ignorance of assuming that Muslim feminism doesn’t already exist. – No. That wasn’t assumed in that tweet or anything else he’s said or written that I’m aware of.
  8. In other words, Dawkins is way late to the party. – No. He’s been writing about Islam and the status of women in Islam since at least The God Delusion. Longer than you, Late Lauren.
  9. The Muslim feminist revolution is well underway, and even a cursory amount of research (Richard? Meet Google.) would have demonstrated as much. – Oh my fucking great aunt! Lauren, research Dawkins before telling Dawkins to research stuff. And, the ‘well under way’ contradicts other statements you make.
  10. His prior arrogance is compounded by the fact that he somehow thinks he is bringing something new to the table – Arrogance? Or impatience? But that aside, where do you get the idea he thinks he’s bringing something new to the table? Looks like he’s giving support to feminists he’s aware of.
  11. … the implication being that these poor non-Western women of color could not possibly have figured this out before now and without his help. – Nope. Didn’t imply that. That’s your implication Lauren. It popped into your head, and you thought it was Dawkins idea?
  12. In this sense, at least, Dawkins is in good company. Western feminists have historically, erroneously, assumed they are the only ones up to the task. – No he doesn’t, and I don’t know western feminists that do either. Where do these ideas come from? Sometimes outsiders are in a better position to help, when the oppression of the insiders is so great. One commenter pointed out South Africa and apartheid as an example. Even so, that wasn’t in the tweet.
  13. Ignorance was bad. Arrogance was worse. But Dawkins’ biggest offense rests elsewhere: ego. – Nope. To all of those. I think, Lauren, you mistake impatience at this torrent of crap for ego. If there’s any ego here it’s yours, and you’re busted. The ignorance is yours.
  14. He pretended not to hear those informing him of the existing feminist movement – How do you know that? Mind reader? And, if he’s already aware of it what’s the point?
  15. He shrugged off those who pointed out that, as a white Western male, he might not have the best perspective on what non-Western women of color might want. – Shrugged off? Evidence? Or did he ignore demands for what was already in the tweet: “What can we do to help?” is a fucking expression of that.
  16. He was derisive and belittling. – When deserved. I would too. But not in that tweet. And on your blog you only show one additional tweet from him, post your post.
  17. When you offer someone “help” and they decline, it’s hardly productive to berate them for turning you down. – Not when done with the ‘ego’ (yes, Muslim feminists can express their Islamic supremacy ego too) that doesn’t merely decline, but flat out rejects his input entirely. So much for your belated claim that old white men can have an opinion and offer help when you’re using such rejections as support for your case against Dawkins.
  18. If Dawkins wants to help, here are some practical suggestions – Well, you could have written a post that simply started and ended right here. So, even this is late in the post, Late Lauren. But hold on, here come the dumb qualifiers …
  19. He should educate himself … He should donate … He should use his wide network … – Who’s dictating now? Yes, I know your use of ‘should’ is advisory, not demanding, but look how easy it is for you to use terms that can be taken the wrong way, in a post in which you took a decent tweet the whole fucking wrong way. Fuck.
  20. He should use his wide network to signal-boost – In case you missed it (and you did, spectacularly) that is what the tweet was doing.
  21. But most importantly, he should start by listening to the people he aims to assist. – What can we do to help? Listening!
  22. For a man who values logic, you’d think that at least that last part would have occurred to him already. – It clearly has. But not to you. But then you don’t appear to value the logic or reason, or evidence.

And that’s before we get to the Anne Theriault crap.

But, I’ll end on a positive note. You provided links to some people I didn’t know about, and maybe Dawkins didn’t either, who knows (you don’t). Cheers.

On second thoughts, not so positively, you could have just embedded the tweet and said, “Hey, Dawk’s, great tweet. On the money. Here’s some links that might help.”

Is Mehdi Hasan Inciting Hatred Among Muslims?

Mehdi Hasan has been on Facebook, firing up Islamophobia. His statement is simple:

This awful Daily Telegraph piece, from headline to last sentence, is pure Islamophobia, a textbook case of ‘othering’ an entire community of British citizens:

The article?

It is Muslims who must reach out to Britain – David Cameron is right to identify the resentment that young Muslims can feel, but the antidote can only come from within Muslim communities themselves – Philip Johnston.

We know how gullible people are on Facebook. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve posted hoax slaying links under claims about the magic of some weight pill, how storing water in plastic bottles will give you cancer – even the fake one about Tesco refusing to serve a soldier in uniform at a time when dead soldiers were coming back from Afghanistan – that was intended to incite Islamophobia, or more specifically, Muslim-phobia.

So, you’d think some well known journalist would be a bit more responsible in his Facebook posts. Not Mehdi Hasan, who writes the most outrageously biased posts, and then sits back to let easily inflamed west-hating Muslims and British Muslim-phobic non-Muslims start unloading on each other. I’m surprised this last post isn’t classed as hate speech.

Let’s check the claim again, from Mehdi Hasan: “from headline to last sentence, is pure Islamophobia” And let’s have a look at the article, from headline to last sentence.

Well, the headline is pretty straight forward, to the point, but I’m not sure how it can be considered Islamophobic. The trouble is the headline isn’t that clear, by itself. At face value it’s saying what pretty much applies to any community that has a significant number of members that consider themselves to be not British. The same goes for British ‘ex-pats’ that move to Spain to live, where the locals are reasonably disgruntled that many of these Brits try to create a Little Britain, pushing out local Spanish, importing British pub life. But even so, I can see how the headline alone might have Mehdi wondering about what’s coming next.

But what does come next is not only benign, the sub-heading reflects the messages we hear often from Muslims. The message of the headline and sub: “David Cameron is right to identify the resentment that young Muslims can feel.” Well, isn’t that what Mehdi wants? Hasn’t he been banging on about identity? Here’s Johnston saying that.

And, “the antidote can only come from within Muslim communities themselves” – This is just what many Muslims have been saying in an attempt to reject opinions from non-Muslims, who, it is claimed, don’t understand Islam. We’re also told this by #PseudoLiberals that try to protect Islam from criticism (you know, because to criticise Islam is to personally attack and demonise all Muslims).

Nothing Islamophobic here.

Perhaps the problem lies within the body of the article. Already the inciteful Mehdi’s “from headline to last sentence, is pure Islamophobia” is looking a bit thin, but let’s see.

Paragraph 1: Nothing to do with Islam, but a reflection on authors own naive impressionable self in the days of the socialist phenomenon of the seventies Britain. But I can’t imagine many young Muslims demonstrating on the streets of Britain being any different in their passions.

Para-2: More of the same. Personal history.

Para-3: Same subject. Nothing on Islam at all yet.

Para-4: Ah, a quote from Cameron’s speech, and first implied link similarity between extremists of the past and ISLAMISTS (extremists that act in the name of Islam, but which Mehdi likes to think isn’t real Islam). Nothing on Muslims and Islam in general yet. Not a jot of Islamophobia of any kind yet.

So far Philip Johnston has done nothing more than express his own young passionate naiveté and accused older supposedly wiser heads for inciting anti-British, anti-western, passions based on rather simplistic political ideology of the 70’s. Yes, I know, Mehdi is primed to read this as a dig at Muslims, but it’s no more than a dig at the hate preachers Mehdi himself surely disagrees with, when they incite Muslim youth. That’s right, isn’t it Mehdi, you do oppose what the hate preachers say? Only from your rhetoric it’s not always clear.


By contrast, young Muslim men – and, increasingly, girls – have few counterpoints to the warped world view they experience on a daily basis, whether at home, in school, on TV or through the Internet. It is their separation from the mainstream rather than the ideology itself that is the problem.

Holy fuck! He mentioned Muslims! Islamophobe!

Hold, on, what’s Johnston actually saying? Isn’t Mehdi always banging on about identity problems? Isn’t separation from mainstream British culture part of the problem? Can you really demand segregation and special status and complain you’re not treated like everyone else?

Essentially, this has a lot to do with a shared religion, which is why those who say Islam is not the issue miss the point: it is not that its teachings are necessarily at fault, but Islam provides an impenetrable ethical and cultural carapace that repels liberal ideas.

So, he’s not blaming Islam as such, but merely identifying a difference between Islam as lived in some communities and the liberal values of Britain in general. Isn’t that what many Muslims are actually saying, that they are relatively conservative, want to keep their kids away from the influence of the more liberal values observed in many young British non-Muslims? Is Mehdi denying that some Muslims want this sort of segregation, the sort that chooses to have women wear traditional Islamic dress if the wish? I’m not seeing anything Islamophobic here, but an acknowledgement of what many Muslims say.

Where’s the Islamophobia?


It may well be true that some young Muslims feel angry and alienated but that is only because they are fed a daily diet of resentment that other settlers – Jews, Chinese, Indians etc – do not feel.

Fed a daily diet of resentment by Mehdi Hasan and many other influential Muslims playing the victim. The problem is that this ploy masks genuine cases of persecution: actual racist persecution of Muslims, and the persecution of people within Muslim communities by Muslims.

These [other – Jews, Chinese, Indians etc] communities have also often congregated together (just as expat Brits do) but they are more open to the influences of the wider community and much more likely to embrace the values and support the institutions that underpin the nation.

Nothing Islamophobic here. A straight forward comparison of how various communities in Britain have issues arising out of their community segregation. This isn’t a value judgement. It’s quite natural for communities to of like minded, like language, like religion, to want to stick together. That’s what makes communities. But as we see around the world, distinct communities, minorities can often co-exist with a host culture, and can become so well established that most of the time they rub along well, even in their differences. But again, as with many places around the world, there can be a conflict of ideas and practices. There really isn’t anything Islamophobic in what Johnston is saying here.


Here, Johnston is addressing the problems that a British PM faces in trying to keep the nation running smoothly, in the midst of one particular salient fact: too many British Muslims are being radicalised.

… what, specifically, makes a young Muslim susceptible to extremist ideology but not a young second-generation Indian or, for that matter, a young British Christian bombarded with the quack nostrums of Marxist collectivism.

I think Mehdi would agree that these other communities are not experiencing radicalisation the way some Muslims are. It’s a genuine question. What can be Islamophobic about establishing the facts of the matter?

To ignore the cultural confines of Islam and say this is really a political, not a religious, issue is to miss the point entirely as, indeed, Mr Cameron conceded for the first time in his Birmingham speech.

Is Mehdi so naive, or dishonest, not to notice that when the radicalisation of some British Muslims, many from a Pakistani heritage that has nothing to do with Syria or Iraq other than Muslim identity and religion, is so focused on that community’s identity, in Islam, that he really has to try to divert attention from Islam, incite western-phobia, and contribute to the inflaming of British Muslims?

Breaking down these barriers is the real challenge, just as it has been for the past 30 years. We are reaping the whirlwind of the multiculturalist experiment that the Left championed and the Right were too cowed to denounce until the baleful consequences of segregation became apparent.

Again, nothing here that is Islamophobic, because the post-modern relativism that has clouded the vision of multi-culturalism applies right across the board. When Reza Aslan points out that FGM isn’t just an Islamic problem (it isn’t, but look at Aslan’s misrepresentation of the facts), then clearly the recent report on FGM in the UK presents a problem that has not been addressed, and there are specific examples of it not being addressed because post-modern relativist reluctant to offend has overridden the humanist right not to be mutilated.

Seven paragraphs in, and while there’s been mention of Islam and Muslim identity issues, there’s been nothing that we haven’t heard from many liberal Muslims, about the segregation, isolation of their communities. There has been nothing in this that is Islamophobic – unless, as the deeply offended Mehdi Hasan would have it, merely acknowledging and reviewing the nature of the problem for some Muslims is in itself Islamophobia. If it is, then virtually everything coming out of Mehdi Hasan’s pen is western-phobia, British-phoniab, white-phobia. There’s no end to the phobias you can find if you turn your mind to it, and Mehdi Hasan has made a name for himself doing it, for Islam.

Para-8 – It’s not until paragraph eight that we have something of a value judgement on the differences between Islamic and other British cultural influences.

Again Johnston echoes Cameron’s speech. Which, incidentally, surely means that by now Mehdi Hasan is saying that Cameron’s speech is Islamophobic. Of course it wouldn’t suit his agenda to make it that clear, to speak so plainly. After all, Mehdi, by now, has been found out with his poisonous rhetoric often enough. He still wants to play the part of a British liberal Muslim while being free to inciting division the way he does. The plausible deniability of accusing Cameron of being an Islamophobe is something he has to be careful to hang on to, because while he can get away with inciting hatred in his fellow Muslims he can’t risk being seen as an anti-western Islamist by too many non-Muslims.

I still don’t think Mehdi is an Islamist. I still think he’s somewhat liberal. But videos of his hate speech rhetoric exist out there, and it’s difficult to take his denouncements of those episodes seriously when some of the same sentiments sneak in to his current persona. But, still, I’d err on the side of good saying he is well meaning, but genuinely misguided by his Islamic indoctrination.

Of course, his #PseudoLiberal non-Muslim leftist ideologue buddies have no trouble demonising Cameron or anyone else they disagree with. Owen Jones already had Cameron down as a PR man for ISIS, because he was blaming ALL MUSLIMS (not that again): David Cameron, inadvertent PR man for Islamic extremists. So, the Quran and Hadith are not sufficient persuasion for ISIS?

Onward with Johnston. In parapgraph eight, Johnston asks:

Mr Cameron said it was wrong to say Islam was incompatible with British values; yet at the same time he insisted that those who follow minority faiths must subscribe to mainstream progressive views on gay marriage and gender equality. How do those two statements come together when attitudes to homosexuality and women’s rights – and even democracy in places like Tower Hamlets – are so out of sync with the tolerance and values shown by the majority?

Well, has Mehdi not said himself that he is homophobic? He now says he was wrong, but surely Mehdi isn’t trying to tell us all fellow British Muslims have changed their minds too? He can tell himself what he likes about the status of women in Islam, but he’s not fooling anyone but himself and a lot of fellow Muslims. There are real Islamic values, not just Islamist distortions, that are in direct conflict with liberal British. And while many other Britons don’t like how liberal Britain is, they are not being radicalised by their faith quite so often or as easily.

It’s not until paragraph nine, the last one, that Johnston does anything like pointing a finger at the Muslim community in general. But look carefully at what he says:

The Prime Minister said that to face down extremism we all must change our approach; but since support for violent jihadism is confined to the Muslim community, it is patently not true that everyone has a role to play. To pretend otherwise is to perpetuate the cultural cringe that got us into this mess in the first place.

If some members of the British Chinese community started to incite anti-British anti-democratic, homophobic, misogynistic feelings within that community, and some started to consider violent attacks on British civilians or the military, do you really think Mehdi Hasan wouldn’t wash his hands of it. Perhaps even claim that, oh, had they been Muslims, following the religion of peace, this wouldn’t have happened? Mehdi might well have made the same anti-western diversionary claims – it’s Britain’s fault, for, whatever. But he certainly would have made it clear that it’s not an Islamic problem, not a Muslim problem.

Remember my main point here, set out at the top. Mehdi Hasan had claimed the Johnston article to be “from headline to last sentence, is pure Islamophobia”

Let’s see Johnston’s last sentence:

But all his bold statements about cohesion, and the counter-terrorism strategy now being devised, will be immaterial if the Muslims he needs to convince are simply not listening.

That’s the nature of the Islamophobia?

Radical Islam, Islamism, is derived squarely from Islam, and in Britain is leading to many Muslims joining ISIS, some even plotting to carry out attacks here, and occasionally succeeding. And when Johnston says, quite simply, that Muslims need to help us solve this problem, because these radicals and those radicalising them, are embedded in their segregated communities, then in what sense is it not important for responsible Muslims to care and contribute to the solution instead of, as Mehdi Hasan does, only washing their hands of all responsibility, denying Islam has anything to do with it, but also diverting blame everywhere else they can.

This Johnston article isn’t Islamophobic. It’s a fairly simple echo of Cameron’s speech, put, early on, in the context of the Johnston’s own youthful misguided exposure to 70’s radicalisation. It’s a comparison of how radicalisation works within a framework of an ideology. It’s a clear statement that, as the 70’s socialist intelligentsia needed to look to themselves for what they were doing, so too now do Muslim preachers of hate in the Muslim community. Cameron’s speech was a call for decent Muslims to speak up and not let some of these radicalised organisations (mis)represent them. Let’s here your support for democracy and liberal secular values. Even if you personally want to live a more conservative pious life, if you can’t sign up to the secularism that allows freedom of belief for everyone, including minorities within the Muslim community, women, gays, then you really are part of the problem.

For stating this, Mehdi Hasan says this article is “from headline to last sentence, is pure Islamophobia”.

If that’s not incitement to hatred of Britain, of the west, aimed at British Muslims, by Mehdi’s own weak standards of ‘phobia’, then what is?

Cenk Uygur Is Losing His Grip On Reality?

A good show from @KyleKulinski on Cenk Uygur getting his panties in a twist over New Atheists (well, Sam Harris really). Kyle’s show is a ‘TheYoungTurks Partner’, and I’ve seen Kyle raise this issue with Cenk before. In an earlier show I thought Kyle had some details wrong and gave Cenk too much benefit of the doubt. So it’s significant that Kyle gets what the problem is with Cenk, though I don’t know he’s aware of the full nature of the problem.

So, the main point Kyle brings up here is that in criticising someone for making sweeping generalisations about people, Cenk Uygur makes a super sweeping generalisation by including New Atheists in his critique of Lindsey Graham. Yes, that’s Lindsey Graham. The Republican. The Conservative. Yes, Cenk Uygur lumps New Atheists – that’s the liberal bunch of atheists that criticise religion for its conservative oppressive elements and scriptures – with conservative Republicans. You have to keep repeating it to yourself, not because it’s a difficult idea to understand, but because it’s so stupid you wonder why someone could be so wrong.

Sam Harris time and again promotes support of liberal Muslims, acknowledges the variety of Islamic interpretation, goes out of his way to say, ‘not all Muslims’, but still Cenk has to make these dumb accusations; ironically, while Cenk is also telling us how much he opposes Islam too – but, you know, when he criticises Islam that’s not making sweeping generalisations, and doesn’t target all Muslims, because Cenk says so. No matter that Harris is explicit and specific in what he is criticising: Islam.

Wow. Cenk is becoming ideologically obsessed with New Atheists – oh, sorry, sweeping generalisation on my part, because of course he has a problem with Sam Harris specifically. Why? Cenk let himself be sold on the Reza Aslan bullshit, has taken on the ‘Sam Harris is an imperialist neocon’, without reading much at all of Harris. Since then he’s been schooled on his errors, by so many people that had been fans of Cenk and TYT.

Cenk has since been all defensive, to the point of getting really aggressive in his rhetoric.

Cenk really does misrepresent Harris – just as many pseudo-liberals do. He keeps repeating this nuclear first strike nonsense. He rejects flat out that Harris is talking hypothetically, as we’ll see below in one of Cenk’s most ridiculous outbursts.

The criticisms of Cenk by Cenk fans has been spot on.

James MacDonald produced this piece, The curious Case of Cenk Uygur, in which he links to the incredible outburst episode from Cenk, and to the three hour discussion between Cenk and Sam Harris. The message is one of clear regret from a TYT fan that Cenk is so out of touch.

Lalo Dagach made a video on the problem with Cenk regarding the Harris and Maher stuff. Cenk Uygur lies about Sam Harris and Bill Maher (by a TYT fan)

Now some people are jumping on Ben Aleck for calling them racist, and “Islam’s not a race!” – Just calm down, dude, you know he meant bigoted. You know there’s not much of a distinction. So, don’t nit-pick stupid stuff like that.”

As Lalo points out, Afleck was pretty clear that he meant racist. Lao also covers Cenk’s other point, that “there’s not much of a distinction” between bigoted and racist charges.

But also, note how Cenk there defends Afleck, as if he’s made a slip of the tongue. And yet when criticising Harris he’ll cling onto every literal word of Harris in an interview, and even if Harris later corrects himself (which Afleck never has) that’s not good enough for Cenk.

Really, you should listen to Lalo’s video.

James Kirk Wall takes down Cenk in Cenk Uygur’s imaginary war with Bill Maher and Sam Harris, and in plain terms tells Cenk to take the stick out of his ass.

You want more bullshit from Cenk? Get this, from The Noble Savage channel, The Young Turks vs Sam Harris – The Evidence. Again, listen to it all, but here’s a significant point:

Bill Maher challenges Ben Afleck, by asking if all of a billion Muslims DO NOT hold the unsavoury views discussed (and Maher has the figure corrected to 1.5 billion). Cenk Uyghur then states that Bill Maher DOES say all a billion Muslims DO hold those views:

Bingo, right there. That’s the biggest problem in this whole thing. Bill Maher saying, no, over a billion Muslims. All of them. Not a small minority, not even a significant minority, no, he said that’s just not true, all of them hold those opinions [the unsavoury opinions held by many Muslims as just pointed out by Harris]

Yes, Maher is saying SOME Muslims surely do hold these views, but Cenk says Mahers says over a billion Muslims hold those views, ALL of them. Cenk slips in a caveat, with, “He might not have literally said all”, but really does make the greater general claim.

It seems basic logic is beyond Cenk here.

This video chips in with text overlays pointing out many of the places where Cenk gets it dead wrong. I mean so badly wrong you start to wonder if Cenk actually sat down an paid attention to the Maher episode, or if he’d got the anti-Harris script ready and just made the Maher clips fit his agenda. Fucking terrible stuff.

Later the video shows bits from other TYT shows, including the CJ Werleman crap, where he likens Harris to Mao’s intent to wipe out religion. While you’re listening to that, hold that thought, and then listen to the Cenk outrage ‘New McCarthyism’ show linked to below, where Cenk tells us, Moa-like, he’d like to rid the world of religion, if we’re going to use that sort of rhetoric. The fucking hypocrisy leaps out from the screen.

Oh, and on Cenk’s reading of Harris, he says pretty much there, at about 15:30 into this video, that he’s read pretty damned close to fuck all of Harris, if you’re going to get a fair view of what Harris says rather than what others say he says. Cenk, you fucking moron. Get a grip.

Another thing you pick up on in this video, when Cenk interviews Harris, is the body language of Cenk at times – he’s simply not listening.

Another video from TheNobleSavage: Sam Harris – Cenk Doesn’t Understand How to Stay on Point. Worth watching.

Cenk’s low point was the following video, referred to is some of the sources above: Is Anti-Muslim Bigotry The New McCarthyism?

This starts with an attack on anti-Muslim bigotry, but about 1:50 in the target changes – and it’s all about the hurt that Cenk is feeling because so many liberals have called Cenk out on his bullshit misrepresentation of Harris.

When this get’s going we see the three hosts, but watch Anna. I really feel sorry for her as she has to endure this rant from Cenk. At one point, as she appears to look at the monitor, I imagine she’s thinking, “Oh shit, I’m still on screen. I don’t know, perhaps it’s time to get my CV out there before I’m tarnished with this crap.”

Much of this is a whine because Cenk has been criticised by fans of the show.

This whole Bill Maher, Sam Harris thing, they’re rabid man. Online, every day, they’re relentless. “Oh Cenk, you don’t know, you keep sticking up for the Muslims.” Yeah, OK, guilty as fucking charged.”

Well, there’s no doubt, that in comments that Cenk may receive, and Harris too, there are those that conflate their hatred for Islam and Muslims. Yes, there are bigots. But is it possible Cenk here is yet again making sweeping generalisations, that all commenters that support Harris are therefore bigots. Is it not possible that some of these critics have it right and that Cenk is wrong on this?

But yes, I stick up for Muslim Americans. So, you’re gonna have to come through me. If you wanna say, oh, “the Muslims! the Muslims! They’re the bad guys. You know a Muslim. You support a Muslim.” Yes, I know Muslims, I support Muslims. They’re American ‘cause they’re one hundred percent Americans, and you’re goon have to come through me. You wanna fight on it, we’ll fight on it. You wanna call yourself a liberal? You don’t know what a fucking liberal is. You wanna call yourself a progressive? You’re not remotely progressive.

Cenk is just right off the rails here.

Let’s do what Cenk does. So, Cenk, “They’re American ‘cause they’re one hundred percent Americans” Ha! so all Muslim Americans are loyal Americans? Including the ones that aren’t? What about the ones that support ISIS?!! You’re condoning the support of ISIS Cenk! … and so it goes, if you play Cenk’s stupid game.

No, this video is a direct response to the criticism Cenk has received from liberals, real liberals that criticise Islam, liberals that really do not persecute Muslims, liberals that really do support liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims.

But even supporting Muslims and ex-Muslims isn’t good enough for Cenk. Aayan Irsi Ali? Neocon. Harris is writing a book with the Muslim Maajid Nawaz? How convenient for Harris.

This mind-set that Cenk has himself locked into is right up the same street as Glenn Greenwald and C J Werlemen.

Set them [Muslims] aside, make sure we profile them, we watch them, we go into their mosques, we go into their universities, we go into their college groups; and if we need be, torture them; if need be do first strikes against them. If need be, according to Sam Harris’s book, “I’m just being hypothetical. You know, I’m just posing. I mean, what if we did a nuclear first strike on them. I mean, after all, the are Muslims.” If you believe that you are not remotely progressive. You are a foaming at the mouth neoconservative; and yes, you are discriminating against those people. You don’t like? “Oh, no, [mock tears] you called me racist, bigoted, you said I discriminate.” I’m sorry, I called you what you fucking are. So stop pretending you’re liberals. You’re not. You’re not. You agree with the Dick Cheneys of this world. That’s what you are. So, a lot of people gonna get angry at me, including in our audience? Sad day for you. I’m here to say, when you come for them, you’re gonna have to go through us. Because we stick up for all Americans. .. we stand up for all Americans. If you wanna say Islam is wrong, I’m a million percent with you. I want to get rid of all religion on the planet. That’s how serious I am in being against religion. If you want to say, “This group of people, you should treat them differently,” you’re fucking wrong, and I’ll fight you to the death on it.

The first part of that, the setting aside, profiling, …, nuclear first strike – that conflates so many different points, some actually hypothetical. So, does Cenk label all philosophers as murdering neocons whenever they discuss the hypothetical trolley problem. It’s just stupid. And each of the points Cenk piles into one false perspective here has a specific context in which Harris is making a specific point. What Cenk says here in no way bears any resemblance to what Harris says.

To say that someone like Harris, or New Atheists generally, or the many people who agree with Harris, are neoconservative, agreeing with the Dick Cheneys, that is just the most fucking stupid shit I’ve heard.

And Cenk, it seems, when it comes to Islam and religions generally, is just as anti-Islam as Harris. Where does this shit come from that Harris would persecute Muslims? It comes from Cenk listening to what others have been saying about Harris, rather than reading Harris. By the time it gets to the Aslan and Harris interviews he has gotten around to reading some Harris, though we’re not sure what – seems like just a few bits and pieces. But it’s too late. He’s dug his hole and he just keeps on digging.

This is a fucking disgrace. As others have said, how can you trust TYT when this sort of bullshit is an example of balanced reporting.

I still try to watch TYT; but it’s hard to stay focused when you know that the main man has such a hard on for Harris.

Social Justice The PZ Way

As far as I’m concerned Social Justice is a good cause, and one aspect of it that’s still needed is Feminism. There are injustices against women in many areas of interaction with men, and often at work: about work and in personal interactions at work.

The disputes and claims of harassment can be pretty tough to untangle. The people involved may have ‘history’ (that vague term clearly covers many complex possibilities), and often there are few, if any, witnesses to incidents, but often plenty of opinion and gossip. Work is just like that. It’s a freaky combination of professional and social life where the barriers aren’t always clear.

So this is one situation that requires some level headed treatment, the suspension of judgement, and calm reflected analysis all round – especially since those directly involved are likely to be emotionally charged about the conflict.

Librarians Value Social Justice Too

This happened recently:

Team Harpy – Apologies and retractions

It’s an apology from two harpies (their term) for making false accusations about librarian Joe Murphy (no relation). They accused him of sexual harassment, with nothing to go on but hearsay. The original offending blog posts appeared back in 2014, and the above apology and out of court settlement was announced recently, in March 2015.

Both ‘nina de jesus’ and ‘Lisa Rabey’ start with something similar:

I apologize for the false and damaging statements that I have made about Joe Murphy. I ask you to please read the following statement for details from my perspective. …

Here’s Joe’s page on the background, and the outcome:


Joe signs off on this with:

Now, I don’t know any of the people involved in this stuff. I have some vague recollection of ‘librarians’ and ‘harassment’, but up until this latest announcement I wouldn’t have remembered where I saw it initially.

It did come back to me – but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s have a look at how some librarians dealt with this.

One Librarian’s Response

Other people had something to say at the time, some fellow librarians, some not. Have a look at this link. I’m actually linking to the comment by Natalie Binder (as tweeted by Joe) who makes a few good points.

Natalie Binder’s comment, on the post ‘Update: Librarians Embroiled in Lawsuit Alleging Sexual Harassment’

  1. “I’ve seen a lot of people use their impressions, opinions or gut feelings in place of the facts.”
  2. “Joe Murphy, a colleague, was the victim of a public slander that was pretty shocking in its content as well as deeply damaging and painful for all involved.”
  3. “With so many of us living public lives, we are all vulnerable to rumor, innuendo and even malicious lies. “
  4. “..nobody wants to re-victimize (or libel) someone who was abused by calling her a liar.”
  5. “I think (hope?) that is why more in the library community did not speak up earlier [to re-victimize or libel the abused]. It’s why I didn’t say anything until more information came out. Now I feel like that was a mistake.”
  6. “Anyone can be a victim and everyone deserves due process. It should absolutely be safe to say you’ve been victimized, but the accused should also be protected from personal and professional repercussions until the facts are established. That’s true no matter how successful we are, what gender we are, what age we are or even what our reputations are.”

Now, it seems to me that in some quarters I’ve seen plenty of 1, sometimes expressed in terms of 5, or even just outright acceptance of the accuser’s story; and I’ve seen little consideration given to the other important points that Natalie makes. And I’ve seen categorical rejections of any concern with the last sentence in 6 when it comes to the accused.

Some more points well made by Natalie:

  1. “I think that efforts to blame Mr. Murphy for what happened, or condemn him for seeking legal relief, should stop. It is not a SLAPP when someone defends himself against actual libel.”
  2. “What you think or believe about Mr. Murphy’s behavior, personality or job, it doesn’t justify libel.”
  3. “Finally, we don’t get to make a person a scapegoat for a diffuse and difficult social problem like sexual harassment. This is especially if there is no evidence that he did anything wrong, but it’s true even if he (or she or they) did.”


Read the rest of that OP and comments to get a feel for the problems with sexual harassment that seem to be of genuine concern. I know nothing of their world of librarianship and I don’t know any of the characters. But one thing is pretty clear:

This false accusation will not have helped the genuinely harassed, but it may have helped the falsely accused. That isn’t a balanced result, if you think there’s far more harassment than there is false accusation.

Another Librarian

Whistleblowers and what still isn’t transparent, by Meredith Farkas.

  1. “I don’t take back or regret anything I said about my personal interaction with Joe [see below], but I was horrified by the way he was tarred and feathered — by people who had no first-hand knowledge of him or his alleged crimes — on social media.”
  2. “It’s been no secret among many women (and some men) who attend and speak at conferences like Internet Librarian and Computers in Libraries that Joe Murphy has a reputation for using these conferences as his own personal meat markets. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. I’ve known these allegations since before 2010, which was when I had the privilege of attending a group dinner with him.”
  3. “He didn’t sexually harass anyone at the table that evening, but his behavior was entitled, cocky, and rude. He barely let anyone else get a word in edgewise because apparently what he had to say (in a group with some pretty freaking illustrious people) was more important than what anyone else had to say. The host of the dinner apologized to me afterwards and said he had no idea what this guy was like. And that was the problem.”
  4. “When Lisa Rabey and nina de jesus (AKA #teamharpy) wrote about behavior from Joe Murphy that many of us had been hearing about for years, I believe they though they were acting as whistleblowers, though whistleblowers who had only heard about the behavior second or third-hand, which I think is an important distinction.”
  5. “That said, that this information comes second or third-hand does concern me. I don’t know for a fact that Joe Murphy is a sexual predator. Do you? Here’s what I do know. Did he creep out women at conferences? Yes. Did he behave like an entitled jerk at least some of the time? Yes. Do many people resent the fact that a man with a few years of library experience who hasn’t worked at a library in years is getting asked to speak at international conferences when all he offers is style and not substance? Yes.”
  6. “While all of the rumors about him that have been swirling around for at least the past 4-5 years may be 100% true, I don’t know if they are. I don’t know if anyone has come out and said they were harassed by him beyond the general “nice shirt” comment that creeped out many women.”
  7. “As anyone who has read my blog for a while knows, I am terrified of groupthink. So I feel really torn when it comes to this case. Part of me wonders whether my dislike of Joe Murphy makes me more prone to believe these things. Another part of me feels that these allegations are very consistent with my experience of him and with the rumors over these many years. But I’m not going to decide whether the allegations are true without hearing it from someone who experienced it first-hand.”

So, basically there’s this guy that some people find cocky and rude; and maybe some people have been all too eager to prop up rumours, maybe enhance them through the reliable process of gossip – reliable in muddying waters not clarifying them. What these two women did was not whistleblowing. That was rumour mongering.

And, “I’m not going to decide whether the allegations are true without hearing it from someone who experienced it first-hand.” – Good call.

A couple of comments from Meredith’s post:

Chris – “I’ve been following this. I have read both Lisa’s tweets and Nina’s blog posts and neither has first-hand knowledge of Joe’s actions. Rather, they have heard about his actions from others and are “spreading the word.” I have also met Joe Murphy. I was not impressed and thought he was a rude jerk, but he did not harass me. At the risk of being unpopular, I don’t believe this is a clear cut “Lisa and Nina are victims and must be supported against the big mean Joe Murphy.” While it is true that our justice system is unfair at an aggregate level, this is an individual case and for all I know it could be an outlier.”

Anonymous Librarian – “I agree this is sad for everyone. There’s a lot of discussion about this topic so I don’t feel too bad hijacking here… So, “Nice shirt” is creepy now. I don’t know what is safe to say to a coworker anymore. I remember recently saying I liked a coworker’s new hairstyle, and now I’m paranoid I’ll get called into the HR office any day now. When this drama first came out, I immediately stopped personal conversation with my coworkers. It’s strictly professional, now. Not even a “Hey, cool bag!” Because sexual harassment is very serious and, as Meredith points out, there’s often little evidence and things devolve into a case of “he said-she said”. Most might dismiss this as extreme/paranoid, but who can afford to have their career ruined by a misunderstanding? I’d rather my coworkers think of me as impersonal, boring, and overly-serious than a creep.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but all that seems like decent people dealing with a very tricky problem, and actually speaking out about their reservations. They really do want to support victims of harassment, but aren’t prepared to join a lynch mob.

A Lynch Mob

This is an example of a lynch mob:

Librarians, too?


“I love librarians, they always seem to be the most sensible people, and here it comes, a familiar story.”

Any chance a leaf might be taken out of their many sensible books?

OK, so Myer’s is sort of just reporting the issue here. Or so it seems. But he’s not normally shy about actually calling people out directly himself. Is he being circumspect about his own view for the same reasons as the good sensible librarians above? Balanced justice? His reticence can’t be anything to do with the fact that he’s been called out several times by many people for explicit but unsupported accusations? Does he warn his pack of hounds to maybe wait for more information? Not quite:


“Battle on!”

A true Social Justice Warrior!

And battle on his pack do, in their usual style. Myers no longer needs to expose himself to criticism for libelling or smearing someone, he only has to set the bait. Nice move. I can’t see Joe Murphy suing Myers for this.

Pieter Droogendijk:

“What a reprehensible slimeball. If the ladies lose this, my faith in humanity will be officially gone.”

Guilty! Doesn’t matter if the ‘ladies’ lose this because they lied, made shit up, spread rumours and elaborated. Guilty.

Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

“I suspect if the two get enough funds for discovery to happen, the lawsuit will go the way of the great auk. It’s one thing to try intimidation, it’s another to battle the truth and show it is lies, with plenty of witnesses saying you are sexual predator. Good enough for lawsuits, where the preponderance of evidence, not beyond a shadow of doubt, supposedly wins…..”

Plenty of witnesses indeed. How do you know there are plenty of witnesses? A classic theologian’s move: God inspired the Bible. How do I know? Because the Bible told me so. Well, the two harpies told him so?

Tony! The Queer Shoop:

“And this: [lawsuit] is the sign of an asshole trying to silence women. Fuck you Joe Murphy.”

Ah, Tony. Where would PZ be without Tony to do the dirty work. As reliable as ever. So, Tony, nobody starts a lawsuit because they are innocent?

YOB – Ye Olde Blacksmith:

“Fuck you, Joe Mrphy. Money sent.”

And I hope you think well spent.


“The blogpost comments include a remark that he bragged on youtube, creating his own evidence.”

So, echidna (step 1) says the comments include a remark (step 2) that he bragged on youtube (step 3) – hearsay, three steps from the supposed source, not counting any other intermediaries hidden and not yet revealed by the source of the ‘remark’. OK, evidenced based commenting at its best.


“Well, you know what they say. The easiest defense against a libel/slander allegation is the truth. In a just world, all they should need to do is bring forward multiple women who have been harassed by this fucker and/or emails and other correspondence between women instituting the buddy system and other measures they’ve taken to protect themselves from this assclown, and he would be laughed out of court.
Then again, it’s hardly a just world for women. :(“

Yeah, fuck it if there possibly, maybe, might have been actual libel, let’s just focus on doing the right thing, for the accuser presumed victim!

Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought (love theromantic names the FtB commenters give themselves):

“Seconding Alex in #18. What the fuck? It’s absurd that Joe Murphy can do this.” – [about the injustice of being sued]

There are problems when rich people get better access to the law. But WTF, a librarian can’t defend himself if he thinks he’s wrongly accused?

Remember that with all this, it’s not about whether Joe Murphy was actually guilty of harassment, or that the two women made shit up based on rumour – though of course to him that was what it was about.

What I mean is: This is about other people that know fuck all about the case making the accused guilty on the internet.

But, luckily for Joe Murphy he doesn’t live in this world:

Officials: Woman Beaten to Death for Burning Quran Was Wrongly Accused

Yeah, lucky Joe.

Summing Up

Well, where’s this going? In the words of Lisa, one of the two retractors:

“Myself, and I assume everyone involved, want to move on. Please respect that wish.”

I’ve not seen an update from Myers and co, so I guess he must be respecting that wish. Yes, that must be why they’ve not wanted to admit they were wrong to presume the accusers were telling the truth and the accused is guilty. I mean, had Joe’s case gone ahead and failed (yes, simply failed to prove libel, not that Joe had actually harassed) then they would have been all over this like a rash.

The trouble is, outside this crappy behaviour most people think that PZ Myers is probably a good guy – No, Pitters, really, he is. He wants to do the right thing, and he often does. I still read his blog. It’s good enough often enough, when he isn’t a) being a shit of an ideologue with his brand of feminism, b) being a shit with anyone that doesn’t meet his ideal.

Yes, you can still be a good guy while being a bit of a shit from time to time, or when you’re a bit obsessive about unreasonable standards of perfection – ironic given how much grief he gives people for being a bit of a shit occasionally, or simply for persisting in calling out his smears.

That sort of hyperbole just has so many people looking at Myers right now and thinking, WTF?

This is the shit that shows that someone that has a desire for social justice has turned into an ideologue – a Social Justice Warrior!

Frank Jackson, James Garvey, Mary and the Awful Knowledge Argument

James Garvey of TPM has this piece on an interview with Frank Jackson, where Jackson seems to have turned to physicalism, but I still don’e think he gets it yet.

A point to make at the outset: Refuting the Knowledge Argument does not in itself make the case for physicalism. A physicalist point may be used in an explanation of the physicalist understanding of the phenomena the Knowledge Argument is trying to describe, but the refutation of the argument is a logical one, and the physicalist comment only supports that refutation, by offering the physicalist view as an alternative.

The Knowledge Argument

Garvey kindly reminds us of this ‘astonishing’ argument, with a summary of it:

Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specialises in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes…. What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a colour television monitor? Will she learn anything or not?”

The “who is, for whatever reason” is a whopping big clue that the whole thing isn’t well thought out. This argument is using a thought experiment set in a magical world, and so one shouldn’t be surprised when magic comes out the end.

Some practicalities first. These aren’t pertinent to the basic argument but do show how easily philosophers can ditch aspects of reality to invent a magical world factory that manufactures magical worlds that have no bearing on the real world.

Does Mary have a normal evolved human brain and body? Does she have red blood in her vessels and blue blood in her veins? Does any pressure on her eyes not stimulate her brain so that she sees what we take to be red, such that when she comes out the room she recognises red.

Was Mary brought up in this room so that she never experienced colour at all? How did her education proceed? By machines? How well could her brain have developed to engage in the science necessary to show she knows all there is to know about the physical nature of colour as experienced by humans? How exactly do you justify anything in this thoughtless experiment that makes it at all realistic.

I know, much of this isn’t the point of the argument. We are supposed to take it on face value that such a Mary could exist. Well, why come up with any arbitrary un-real conditions at all? The purpose of the exact conditions that Jackson describes has a sole purpose of refuting physicalism, so the conditions are set up to do just that.

But, let’s play the game. The results of playing the game are the following possibilities:

If Mary really did know everything about colour then she knew enough to stimulate in her own physical brain the experience of colour, even though coloured light didn’t enter her eyes. I take it you, dear reader, hasn’t seen pink elephants, but enough imagination, or with psychedelic or alcoholic inducement your brain can conjure them up. Well, if Mary really does know everything then she knows how to experience red internally, and when she sees the red tomato it’s just as she imagined.

Alternatively Mary didn’t know everything, and here we come to what amounts to Jackson’s bad definition of knowledge. We’ll come back to the Mary argument when we see what Garvey and Jackson make of it following Jackson’s conversion.

We have this other troublesome philosophical cock-up to deal with now – knowledge and the rather pitiful philosophical attempts to define it – JTB and all that crap. We have a lot to learn about knowledge, but here’s a simple understanding of it.

Knowledge and Consciousness

I think the problem for Jackson starts with an inadequate view of what knowledge might be. This is my view. I won’t beat about the bush justifying every aspect of this, but here’s a quick attempt to define knowledge, in my terms, as a physicalist. Ask questions if you want more.

Human brains are physical biological systems that react to input signals. These ‘signals’ in a broader sense are more varied than just the sense inputs. There are the DNA signals that contribute to brain development, and the physical-chemical-biological environment in which that development occurs – as food is transformed into chemicals that are transported and processed by cells, for example, or as psychological pressures alter the young brain. The brain is already a dynamic developing system from the start. On top of that comes the stimulation through the nerves: the internal ones from the body, the way they react to the external physical world through our many senses. All this builds a brain.

The brain forms patterns of neuronal connections, and they are a combination of static and dynamic conditions – connections come and go, but some connections are sustained by repeated triggering and maintained by dynamic processes at the junctions. The physics of atoms, ions, electrons, is churning at every point, chemistry is ongoing, the biological processes live on, even in what appear like static neurons that exist over time, and synaptic connections that remain in place for a long time. The static appearance belies the dynamism.

In this system patterns form and can be re-triggered. Memory is knowledge. But at the basic level of neurons and synapses it is only meaningless data. Zoom in on a tiny region of active computer memory and you won’t be able to tell if the states of its bits represent points on an image or parts of a number on a spreadsheet. The bits have meaning only in a ‘context’. So too with neurons in the brain.

And context is what meaning and knowledge is all about.

A person blind from birth has his sight restored. He looks at his wristwatch and can tell the time using sight, because his brain has built a contextual map where this thing on his wrist, through touch, has meaning, and it doesn’t take much for his brain to put the visual stimulus into that context. But someone points out a wall clock to him and it is a meaningless object. He can see the hands on the clock, the figures on it, but the context means nothing, and he does not ‘know’ this object.

As a personal experiment watch that common panel show game of zooming out of a close-up on some object until someone recognises what it is. This is the use of context. What might start as a small patch of colour, becomes a shape, but only a shape of no consequence, but as the zoom out continues other shapes and lines come into play, until BANG!, the Eureka moment, your brain has suddenly found a context for all those lines and shapes, as the image has reached sufficient content to be recognised.

Watch a skilful artist compose a picture with broad messy brush strokes, and then marvel when the picture starts to trigger meaningful components and at last you realise he is painting a landscape. Or watch with comic effect the emerging image as a cartoonist appears to have draw a naked women, only with last few brush strokes it becomes a face and you are shamed into admitting to having a filthy mind.

Knowledge is nothing but data in a larger contextual framework.

Humans emerge into the world knowingly, knowing they have knowledge, through the use of their brains. This feeling of having a mind is our first self-aware view of the world, and we take ‘the mental’ to be the primary way of seeing the world. It’s hard to know when this arises in infancy, because one has to go through lots of preliminary stages to acquire the brain function to be able to contemplate the notion of self-awareness, and by the time you get there you have left behind the unaware self in which that recognition was formulated.

It’s difficult to say how much we rely on language to help us better frame concepts in clear ways – might non-linguistically assisted concepts be more like an animal’s view of the world? Hard to say, because the human brain has evolved the capacity for language – though the specific language may not matter. Some apes can acquire limited language that is not up to the human level of capability, but still goes beyond the the natural capability of their species. To what extent does language contribute to knowledge? It appears quite a lot. But what is knowledge like in an animal without language? The origins of knowledge and of the development of knowledge understanding in the brain is so lost in infancy (and as a species lost in our evolutionary past) that we appear to ourselves as somewhat fully formed thinkers – albeit young naive ones.

We watch our children grow and become independent thinking minds – it’s a fascinating time from about one year old, to maybe about five, from where their learning becomes increasingly more like that of an adult. Repetition is used to fix knowledge in the brain – the words of songs, the names of characters on TV and in books. Working with favourite picture books is fascinating. We see a ‘mind’ evolve and emerge. Is this the process of creating an early context from within which future data takes its place to become knowledge in turn?

What we learn later is that we, the species, evolved from simpler creatures that had an entirely physical interaction with the world: the physical interaction caused by the electromagnetic forces that prevent atoms passing by each other – this is what gives physical contact it’s effect in such a small scale vacuous world of atoms, and later through chemical signals crossing cell and multicellular boundaries.

But, the action of sensory neurons and brain neurons is just more of the same. The brain neurons are, in all significant respects in this regard, the same as sensory neurons, but within the brain their greatest interaction is with similar neurons inside the skull, and there are relatively a few points of contact with peripheral neuron channels. The brain is as much a physically empirical entity as any single celled organism. On mass, they interact in such a way that the brain as a whole senses its own neutrons sensing itself, observes itself observing itself, and the end result is consciousness and self-awareness.

To figure out what consciousness is, don’t ask what it feels like to be a bat. Ask what it feels like to be a self-monitoring complex system that acquires data and stores it in complex contextual patterns such that when a pattern is retriggered by an external sensory event the ‘context’, the knowledge, is sparked into life, and in doing that the system ‘knows’, it is observing its own observing of a pattern, and the context of the pattern gives it meaning, illustrating to itself its knowledge. So, what is it like to be such a system? It is like this, like you and me being conscious, acquiring, reflecting upon and using knowledge.

This is quite different from the philosophical traditional view of knowledge. This sort of knowledge does not have to be true or justified, and I’m not so sure the holder of it has to actually believe it – not knowingly, for we seem to have a lot of knowledge that emerges from the depths, sometimes remarkably right, and often laughably wrong. So that gets rid of the need for JTB in its entirety.

The religious have knowledge when they tell us all about their religion. They use their scriptures to justify it, they believe it, generally, and they think it is true, generally. This is knowledge, about their religion. It may be that the propositions that their religions make about gods, miracles, and other stuff, do not correspond to a reality out there beyond their brains. This is a correspondence theory or truth, where truth relates to how well knowledge in someone’s head (the contextualised patterns that cause conscious ideas to have contextual meaning) corresponds to the external world. But that does not mean they have no knowledge of gods; but rather means that their knowledge of gods are inventions.

I think of religious knowledge and theology debated in seminaries as being nothing more that Star Trek conventions that result in offshoots of comics and stories not in the original, they expand on the original fiction with yet more fiction. Apologies to all the Trekkies I might have offended, because when you listen to what some religious people say you realise that they are in total fantasy worlds rather than science fiction ones – at least in science fiction there is often some requirement that there be some credibility to the inventions.

What about scientific knowledge? Scientific theories and explanations that help us understand the world are our inventions too. But they have that essential correspondence with the world that gives us a far greater claim to their truth and utility.

I accept all the problems of such a contingent correspondence theory. It is entirely contingent on the persuasiveness of evidence. And theists, among others, find it hard to deal with that. Problems for another time. As I said, I won’t justify every aspect of this here. I am simply presenting my view, in order to set a context of what follows. In that context, dualism is a necessary feature of most religions. But I’m amazed that any non-religious scientist of philosopher would fall for it.

The Garvey Interview

As Thomas Huxley vividly put it, such properties don’t do anything in the physical world, just as “the steam whistle which accompanies the work of a locomotive engine is without influence upon its machinery”.

Well, that’s a load of crock. The steam whistle is a very direct influence on the locomotive’s machinery – it’s part of that machinery. It’s effect on the primary locomotive function is simply minor, without ‘significant’ influence, but not without influence.

You can see how this is a simple error for a dualist to make. If you are of a dualist persuasion you can imagine that things and events might not have any physical impact in some situations. One might, for example, dismiss the physical effect of light on an object – light seems far too ephemeral, in that it appears to present no obvious physical force; it does not move objects. But of course it does. It moves electrons into raised energy states, it imparts energy that on a large scale results in motion. A laser of sufficient intensity can quickly burn away surfaces of matter – in effect move by vaporisation – and yet the dull light from a candle in a room appears not to have any physical impact on the room. But it surely does – hold your hand over it and you’ll feel convected heat, but hold your hand close enough in front and you’ll feel the radiant heat.

The ‘mind’ is a model for that aspect of the brain’s working that appears superficially to have no influence on the actual physical nature of the brain, and under dualism the non-influence is mutual – except that as if by magic the mind causes the body to do things. As an abstract model of some functionality of the brain the mind only appears distinct. But the brain consumes energy as it thinks. Thinking is a physical electro-chemical, biological, thermodynamic process of the brain itself. This is more obvious now than it once was, and so it is becoming harder to hold to a dualist detachment. Everything we experience in the world has physical effects on it. The world, the universe, is a total interacting system. Even the vacuum of space is at the very least permitted by photons from the stars, and nobody doubts the radiant power of the sun on a clear summer’s day. Materialism forces itself upon us, and dualism has no supporting evidence.

If you think that Mary knew all the physical facts but learns something when she first sees red, then there’s more to know than just physical facts

No. You simply didn’t include the brain functions of perception of red in the knowledge Mary had. That’s still a physical theory about the brain perceiving – even if as yet still a poorly understood one. This is dualism of the gaps. And it illustrates the fault of the Knowledge Argument. The statement that Mary knew everything there is to know, is false, if physicalism holds.

If there is something extra, then either it’s physical and she didn’t know it, or you have neglected to include the hidden premise of there being some non-material knowledge unavailable to her that isn’t part of the physical science, in which case you are affirming the consequent.

Remarkably, Jackson has since somehow talked himself out of it all.

Not very convincingly if Garvey’s piece is any sign.

He now resolutely rejects dualism. I wonder how hard that must have been …

Why is Garvey not wondering how hard Jackson must have worked his cognitive wonders to remain a dualist for so long, if Garvey is not a dualist? What sort of non-dualist is he?

Jackson explains away his change of heart:

I had been a dualist for years. I was taught by Michael Bradley, and he had some good arguments for dualism. I always thought it was a plausible view. As I say in the beginning of ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’, we dualists don’t really need an argument to say that consciousness doesn’t fit into the physicalist world view. It’s just intuitively obvious.

This is abysmal philosophy. This is going right into my piece on ‘obvious’ screw ups. Stating the Bleeding Obvious. Why do philosophers insist on appealing to the obvious? Have they learned nothing from psychology and neuroscience, let alone a long history of illusions and delusions.

After explaining the origins of the original article Jackson says:

The follow up article (‘What Mary Didn’t Know’) came about after Paul Churchland wrote a not terribly friendly piece about the knowledge argument. I thought it was a bit offhand. I didn’t worry about him saying he didn’t believe it, that’s fine, but he sort of suggested it was making some kind of elementary error which anyone could pick up. Not quite as bad as affirming the consequent but pretty bad all the same.

Well, it is pretty much affirming the consequent when you piece the bits together. But interestingly here we see the very human Jackson responding to a perceived insult rather than a rational criticism.

That riled me slightly, and I regret to say the slight tone of irritation shows in the piece.

And Garvey says:

He actually says that with a slight tone of irritation. He looks a little riled now.

I wonder if that’s irritation at Churchland, or irritation with himself that a purveyor of reason could be so easily moved by inconsequential tone.

Garvey tells us more from a re-read of the papers, and in particular Churchland’s criticism:

Jackson is equivocating, using “knows about” in two different ways, talking about two different kinds of knowledge, and this renders the argument invalid. Once you spot this, Churchland beams, the argument is “a clear non sequitur …. Such arguments show nothing”. God, he even has a bit of fun with a parallel argument about ectoplasm. It doesn’t quite call for pistols at dawn, but I can see how Churchland might be read as being dismissive of the misguided little dualist. Maybe Jackson did well to be merely riled.

I can understand it might be frustrating to have made a mistake, but to be irritated by the fact that the mistake was pointed out, in some ‘tone’?

Garvey gives us a bit more, and includes Nagel’s bat thing:

“That’s the biographical background to it,” he continues. “Now, exactly why that particular version of the knowledge argument popped into my head – I do not know,” he says, genuinely mystified. Maybe he read Broad’s short argument many years earlier, and although he forgot about it, it might have exerted some unconscious influence. But he certainly had seen Thomas Nagel’s 1974 essay, “What is it like to be a bat?”, and maybe that did figure in somehow. There, Nagel writes about batty subjectivity – what it’s like to be a bat and experience a sonar image of the world – which he argues is only accessible to bats. He concludes that “it is a mystery how the true character of experiences could be revealed in the physical operation of that organism.” The conclusion is importantly different to Jackson’s: it’s not that physicalism is false, but that we can’t understand what it might mean to say that it’s true. Jackson says something of Nagel might have been on his mind, maybe he was trying to make a similar point without all of the complexity of Nagel’s piece.

The subjectivity of our personal view of our consciousness is a red herring when it comes to studying consciousness. We can study cosmology, using science to tell us much about the universe, but looking up at the stars, enjoying a sunset, reading the digital data from a deep space observation, …, all that humans do in science is done through the personal perspective of our personal consciousness, but we don’t let that get in the way of finding out how it all works.

Why is the brain any different? Why must one presuppose there is a dualist mind just because it feels like there is one? It is one of the dumbest philosophical remains of pre-scientific times – excusable back then, but not now.

Garvey continues to quote the interviewed Jackson’s take on that original argument:

“Although I now think it’s mistaken,” he begins, “the essential thought behind the argument is simply that when Mary has colour experiences, her conception of the kinds of properties that are instantiated in our world gets dramatically expanded. In theory it’s no different than coming across a new sort of animal. How many different sorts of dogs are there? People think they’ve gotten on top of it, but they turn the corner, and the see a completely different dog from any dog they’ve got on their inventory. So they enlarge their conception of how many kinds of dogs there are. What happens to Mary is that she has a certain view of what the world’s like, a black and white view, and all the stuff that comes to her from the physical sciences. And when she sees colour for the first time I think the plausible thing to say is that she gets an enlarged idea of what kinds of properties there are to be encountered in the world. She comes across new properties.”

And Garvey tells us:

When Jackson lays it out like that, crystal clear, it’s hard not to feel a certain insecurity about physicalism. What else can you say, except that Mary learns about a new part of the world when she sees colour for the first time? But Jackson is a latter day physicalist. How did he talk himself out of dualism?

What? The dog analogy is totally bogus. To use the dog analogy correctly you’d have to use it in the way the knowledge argument puts things: Mary knows all breeds of dogs there are. When she leaves the lab she does not see any breed of dog she hasn’t seen before. But, using the erroneous knowledge argument: Mary knows all breeds of dogs (except the one we are hiding from her) and when she leaves the room she sees a breed she hasn’t seen before, therefore Mary could not have seen all breeds of dog, and so physicalism is false.

The original knowledge argument does some dog breed, sorry, colour knowledge, hiding from Mary. It hides that breed of knowledge called personal acquired experiential knowledge but makes the false claim that Mary knows all there is to know about breeds of colour knowledge. By excluding the experience of colour the argument is presupposing that such an experience is not included in all knowledge, that it is not part of the physical world, and that, hey presto, the argument proves there is more than the physical: affirming the consequent.

Jackson again, reflecting on his dualism:

We know enough about the world to know that these extra properties which I believe in aren’t guiding my pen as I write the article saying qualia are left out of our physical picture of the world. In ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’ I explain why it’s not such a disaster being an epiphenomenalist, but I came to think of this as a triumph of philosophical ingenuity over common sense. This is what someone who’s done a good philosophy degree can somehow make seem all right, but if you look at it in a more commonsensical way it’s actually pretty implausible. So the epiphenomenal stuff was just very hard to believe.

I’m afraid I am stumped by my (our) lack of understanding of brains, a failing that is preventing me from understanding how a supposedly good mind can fall for utter fantasy: “these extra properties which I believe in aren’t guiding my pen as I write the article saying qualia are left out of our physical picture of the world” – No they are not. They are very much in it as a mechanistic view. All that’s missing is an appreciation and an understanding of what complex mechanisms, as instantiated in human brains, can actually do.

For a while I was at the stage of people who say, there must be something wrong with the knowledge argument. It’s not obvious, despite the fact that some people jump up and down and say it’s obvious, because look at all these smart people giving quite different diagnoses of what’s wrong. That tells you it’s not obvious what’s wrong with it.

It isn’t obvious experientially, because we feel dualistic, because the brain’s self-monitoring doesn’t go so deep as to reveal the biological mechanisms to itself. But following science and all it exposes about the nature of the world, and the total lack of anything actually dualistic outside this ‘apparent’ dualism, and with lots of other brain anomalies to give us a clue that feelings on the matter might be mistaken, isn’t that enough to make the dualist stop and think?

Apparently not. Dualists, like their theological comrades, seem to be stuck with inescapable biases. Except now, Jackson seems to be escaping. Let’s see how he’s doing.

I was in that situation, thinking there’s got to be something wrong with it but not sure what it was. And then I decided that the best way out is to think in representationalist terms about phenomenal experience. When you think in those terms, what you’re thinking is that when something looks red to you, don’t think of that as a relationship between you and an instance of some special property. Think of it as representing things as being a certain way. You don’t think of it in relational terms, you think in propositional terms, as a kind of intentional state.

Well, that may be the decline of his dualism, but it’s a long way off the simplicity of physicalism. In physicalism as I see it the brain is a mechanism that monitors itself monitoring the world, and monitors itself monitoring itself, possibly through many channels. What emerges is a process or collection of processes that reports to itself. And, this is what it feels like when the brain does this. Conscious experience is a much higher version of what it feels like to be a bat, or what it feels like to be a computer program, to be a thermostat.

We only label it consciousness in the way we label a storm a storm, without labelling any rain drop or moving molecule of air a storm. The storm emerges as something that human brains can recognise and categorise through experience of seeing storms. Consciousness emerges somewhere as we progress from forming our first differentiated brain cells to the stage of passing the self-awareness test of an infant and going on to be a self-contemplative adult.

The odd thing about consciousness that’s different to a storm is that the storm is categorised by the brain as being something outside the brain, while consciousness is being categorised by the very brain experiencing the consciousness internally, such that it becomes the brains identity, and mistakenly thought of as a dualist mind.

Of course, that early zygote consists of cells that are experiencing their world too – just not in the silly way in which the religious imagine a soul to be inhabiting it, and not with the complexity and self-referential experience of a fully formed brain.

Jackson doesn’t seem interested in any of this real physicalist stuff. His focus is not the brain but this mysterious self-reflective view of a dualist mind trying to think of itself as a physicalist thing. He seems confused to me:

When you think in those terms, it’s a mistake to wonder where the special redness is. What you have to ask yourself is, when something looks red, how am I representing the world to be? And if you’re convinced that you’re representing the world such that it has some special property outside the physical picture of the world, and you think physicalism is plausible, then of course you think it’s a case of false representation. Then you better have some story about how looking red represents things to be, and what that to be is, and how it can be found in a physical picture of what the world’s like.

When I’m talking about representation I’m talking about a state where you’re invited to have a certain view about how things are. Of course you may reject it. When you have those famous perceptual illusions, and you know they’re illusions, you’re in a state which invites you to think that some line is curved. You know perfectly well it’s not curved. Nevertheless you’re in a state which sort of says to you, ‘This is the way things are! This is the way things are!’ That’s what I mean by a representation.

There are two types of effect we think of as optical illusions:

  • Optical Effect – The bent pencil as it passes from air to water. This is a genuine effect of optics that delivers light to the eye in different ways according to the medium. This is just what a telescope does. Light passes through a medium such that distant small looking objects appear nearer and so larger.
  • Brain (Mental) Illusion – These are not strange optical effects. The light coming from the parallel lines that Jackson refers to is genuinely representing parallel lines, but they appear not to be parallel. Dangle a wire frame Necker cube, rotating, at a certain distance, an maintain your view and it will appear to change direction. The former is caused by the brain’s interpretation of the lines as being non-parallel. The latter is caused because the light coming from the Necker cube is consistent, to without our perceptual capacity, with rotation in either direction, and the brain can’ make up its ‘mind’.

The problem I see Jackson having is he’s still trying to deal with this in non-physical terms, in philosophical language terms that do not use any knowledge about brains. He’s working in the wrong domain. And if he can see illusions so clearly, why can’t he see the ‘mental’ nature of illusions such that they make dualism ‘obviously’ and illusion rather than obviously true?

Garvey asks Jackson for his physicalist view of Mary:

Mary clearly enters a new representational state when she leaves the room. That should be common ground. If you’re a physicalist, then you’ve got two things to say. You’re either going to say, why doesn’t she get new knowledge? Well, she already had it. If she already had it then you have to answer the question, what property do her newer experiences represent things as having which she knew about in the room? Maybe she didn’t know about it under the name ‘red’, but if she’s in a new representational state, and things are as they’re being represented to be, and she doesn’t learn anything new about the world, you need to give an answer to what looking red represents things as being, where the content of the representation can be expressed in physical terms. Alternatively, you can say it’s a false representation. Colour is an illusion. You have to say one or the other.

Or, you could say that colour experience is part of colour knowledge, possibly the main part – how could we come to the other colour knowledge that the Mary problem speaks of, formulate theories of colour, understanding the science of colour, had we been blind animals?

When the knowledge argument claims Mary knows everything there is to know while in the room is not only false, it’s missing the biggest physicalist example of colour knowledge, the acquisition through the eyes of colour data.

The other flaw with the Mary problem is that Mary is an evolved human being and as such may well have internal brain experiences that correspond to seeing colour – such as when one has a bump on the head, presses on the eyelid or eye, stimulating the visual areas of the brain. Is it the case that blind people see colour because they have colour capable brains but don’t recognise the colour experience for what it is? Many questions go unanswered with the Mary knowledge problem.

So, another option is that Mary has a colour capable brain and actually does see colour, and that with all the other science data does in fact have a brain that experiences colour, so that when she leaves the room and sees her first colour object she says, “Oh yes, that’s red. I’ve seen that in my internal experiences.” In which case Mary does not learn anything new on leaving the room.

Yet another option is that the science information is so good that it is able, without introducing colour light through the eyes, to cause brain events that Mary experiences as colour, such that when she leaves the room and encounters red she gets has the same sort of brain experience. But, I suspect that furturistic notion of the capabilities of brain stimulation would be too much for a poor old philosopher stuck in the philosophical dark ages.

I’m not impressed with Jackson’s physicalism at all.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I go for the illusion view,…

So, not really clear on it then.

But if we do the physics … but that’s mostly a matter for physics, not philosophy.

Along with neuroscience, biology, psychology, … Exactly.

Garvey chips in with his perspective, and it all sounds very wooish:

That thought about science brings us neatly to another point against physicalism made by Jackson in his dualist days. Physicalism is an extraordinarily optimistic view of our mental capacities – in principle, we’ve pretty much got a grip on all that there is, the physical stuff that makes up our world, and we’re on our way to understanding it. But if our understanding is shaped by the need to survive – our brain is an evolved thing, after all – isn’t it likely that there are vast parts of the universe that we’ll never get a grip on, just because it never mattered in our evolutionary history? Doesn’t this suggest that physicalism almost certainly leaves some of the universe out? Maybe the mental side of us or some part of it?

Oh for crying out loud. Physicalism is neutral, neither optimistic or pessimistic – it’s prersepctive of the reality of the brain-mind issue, weighing up evidence and argument. Why do philosophers cloak their arguments in emotive terms so often?

Show that there is any evidence whatsoever that there might be anything to any ‘mental’ dualist ideas. While you’re doing that, reflect on how our ideas of the mental world probably came about because we didn’t have an understanding of small physical scale large time scale changes such that evolution could result in complex biological mechanisms that do this thing we do.

There never was any need to pretend that consciousness is something fundamentally different from physical stuff in action. We simply made a mistake because that’s the only perspective we had. As a species and as individuals we sort of woke up after a long empirical non-thinking past and started thinking, and one of the things we thought was, wow, I think, therefore I’m a mind.

Yes, there are unknown reaches of reality that we haven’t and maybe can’t ever explore. But we know as much as we do thank’s to the physical sciences. And I include what are perceived to be mental sciences like psychology: psychology is a black box science that came before white box neuroscience. Think of psychology to neuroscience as the ideal gas laws are to particle physics – large scale science based on external appearances without any information on the small scale action. Except that we’re talking about the different between a balloon and a brain, so the brain is far more complex.

Garvey goes on to bring up the ‘slugist’ analogy from Jackson’s past, as Garvey seems keen to rescue dualism. It’s another dumb analogy. The slugists go on to discover more of the same type of physical stuff far above the sea bed. They might even discover very clever human automata. They don’t discover woo. So, no, the mistake the slugists make isn’t the same as Garvey imagines physicalists make. On the other hand the soft-minded sluggists make exactly the kind of mistake dualists make: imagining there’s something for which there is no evidence, and that pulling crap analogies out of their asses to support the idea. Never any actual evidence though. Of course the slugist is yet another sort of affirming the consequent.

And so Jackson responds to Garvey’s prompt for what this story tells us:

i.e. We don’t know everything …

What it says is this. Isn’t it common sense that there are things that we don’t know about the world? Even the most enthusiastic physicalist has to say there are gaps in our knowledge. It’s at least plausible that it goes much beyond that – it’s not just that there are problems in quantum mechanics. It might be that there’s a whole range of properties that we don’t and can’t know about because they don’t impinge on us.

Yes, it is common sense to think that there are things that we don’t know about the world. But dualism amounts to giving up on physicalist on the off chance there might be fairies. This is exactly the game that the religious play.

Theist – We don’t know everything. There might be a God. So I think there is one.

Dualist – We don’t know everything. There might be a dualist mind. So I think there is one.

Fairyist – We don’t know everything. There might be fairies. So I think there are.

Chopra – We don’t know everything. There might be a fundamental consciousness everywhere. So I think there is.

Homeopathist – We don’t know everything. There might be a real beneficial effect of my woo meds. So I think there is.

Repeat, for unicorns, ghosts, the afterlife (religious or not), …

These are exactly comparable positions of picking one’s favourite woo, and from the fact that we don’t know everything assume ‘my’ pet woo is true.

It is embarrassingly shamefully awful philosophy.

There’s an interesting paper by David Lewis called ‘Ramseyan Humility’ … there might be a whole range of properties we can’t know about, because permuting them doesn’t make any difference at the level in which we interact with the world.

Fine, but just as long as you accept that you are letting fairies and astrology. Perhaps fairies are so mysterious that they only interact with this world by moving my keys from where I left them. Perhaps the effects of astrology are so imperceptible that we can live our lives as if it’s total bollocks. Seriously Frank, just play out these silly interpretations of basic epistemological uncertainty the way you do with the dualist mind.

We act as if there are no fairies, not because we have refuted every crackpot notional story about them that makes them sound feasible, but because no positive evidence exists for them.

Astrology has not been proven beyond all doubt not to work, it has been proven beyond all doubt that it appears not to make a blind bit of difference is there’s anything in it. Saying that astrology doesn’t work at all is just a learned shortcut for making this same point but skipping the unnecessary over humility that you are appealing to.

It’s a bit like that thought experiment: maybe there’s a matter version of our world, and an antimatter version, and there are duplicates of you and me, but one’s made of matter and the other’s made of antimatter. You can’t know whether we’re in the matter world or the antimatter one.

No it isn’t!

The matter v anti-matter dichotomy is arbitrary. What we call anti-matter they call matter, and we are their anti-matter (I’m ignoring the total bollocks of ‘other worlds’ that supposes someone like us. Another day.) They are arbitrary by definition. Like 1/0, true/false, +/-.

So the arbitrary nature of that dichotomy is nothing like the scale of epistemological uncertainty about unicorns or minds.

Garvey tries to take it in but remains puzzled at jacksons conversion:

I take the point that a physicalist can be humble, but I’m still left with doubts about Mary. In the end, somehow, I don’t entirely buy Jackson’s new reply to that old question: does she learn anything or not? I’m still back where he was some years ago – I’ve got the feeling something’s wrong with the argument, but I don’t know what it is.

Because he’s right for the wrong reasons. His isn’t physicalism in its strictest sense, but using some vague airy fairy philosopher language with outdated concepts to try to come to terms with the appreciation that the knowledge argument is full of holes.

Jackson might have talked himself out of the knowledge argument’s conclusion, but I still don’t know. I’m no dualist, but there’s something about Mary.

No, there isn’t. It really is very simple. Start with this:

1 – Colour is experiential knowledge. It’s brain states and the conscious processes of multiple levels of feedback recycling signals. It’s the brain knowing what red is.

Then some possible interpretations of what’s going on in the room:

2a – It was incorrect to claim Mary learned everything about colour while in the room, from her black and white screen. Her brain, never having seen red had no knowledge of it, so she was lacking complete physicalist experiential knowledge.

2b – It was incorrect to claim Mary learned everything about colour while in the room, from her black and white screen. Her brain, never having seen colour in the room, did experience rods and cones being stimulated by her rubbing her eyes such that her brain experienced and gained knowledge of red, because she has an evolved brain and eyes with that capacity. This is contestable, based on any experiments about depriving eyes and brains of the correct stimulation during development. However, I know how thought experiments stretch truths to make exactly the point the author wants them to make, so maybe skip this. Hence …

2c – It was correct that Mary knew everything because the screen emitted science included mesmerising signals that stimulated an experience of red.

And corresponding events outside the room:

3a – From 2a, Mary gains the physicalist experience of red on the eyes and its corresponding stimulation of the brain. But since the full knowledge premise was false, the knowledge argument fails.

3b – From 2b, Mary sees red on leaving the room and says, “Oh, there’s some red.” No new knowledge is gained. The argument fails.

3c – From 2c, Mary recognises red on leaving the room. The argument fails.

Is the conclusion of all this that physicalism is necessarily true? No. Because my interpretation above presupposes colour experience is a phsyicalist mechanistic brain effect and that consciousness is a process of such a brain.

All this goes to show is that the Mary colour scientist knowledge argument is entirely useless at showing us anything except how poor philosophy can be. It shows us how philosophers can waste years on such a poor thoughtless experiment.

God Probabilities Are Pointless, Even From Physicists

Physicist Sean Carroll indulges one of his physics colleagues in a post Guest Post: Don Page on God and Cosmology. Sean:

Don Page is one of the world’s leading experts on theoretical gravitational physics and cosmology, as well as a previous guest-blogger around these parts. … He is also, somewhat unusually among cosmologists, an Evangelical Christian, and interested in the relationship between cosmology and religious belief.

From here on I’ll address Don on his piece, by picking up only the statements I think are really problematic. I’m basically repeating what I wrote in the comments section, with some minor mods.

So, Don you say this:

… such as my assumption that the world is the best possible …

Why would anyone make such an assumption? Based on what? Compared to what? What’s a worse world? What are the metrics? The comment by Phillip Helbig says it all:

The optimist believes that he lives in the best of all possible worlds. So does the pessimist.

Back to you Don:

I mainly think philosophical arguments might be useful for motivating someone

Like propaganda? It is clear that theists are manipulating and abusing philosophy, logic, reason, evidence, to make it best fit their beliefs.

… raise the prior probability someone might assign to theism. I do think that if one assigns theism not too low a prior probability …

You shouldn’t have a prior probability about something for which you have zero data. The prior probability isn’t 100%, isn’t 0%, isn’t 50% – it’s unknown. No data. Making a guess, or expressing a bias from personal religiosity and assigning a probability is doing a great injustice to probability.

the historical evidence for the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus

What, like hearsay of Josephus passed off as evidence? There is no historical record of the words or teachings of Jesus. The death? We can barely support his existence, by extensive hearsay, but as ‘evidence’ it’s no better than claims made about Mohammed’s revelations. By the way, how do you set the prior probability that Mohammed was telling the truth about his revelations, or the likelihood he was lying, or that he was delusional? What’s the prior probability that Jesus was a nutty preacher. Using the statistics of what we do know about how common nutty preachers were at the time the best evidence we have is he’s one of many. I’d really like to know on what basis all this is judged remotely true.

Ben Goran in the comments refers to Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus. Good choice.

… can lead to a posterior probability for theism (and for Jesus being the Son of God) being quite high.

This really will not do. For miraculous things to happen, such as a resurrection, you need a God. You presuppose a God. Then you find stuff that’s in a book that says, look, here’s a miracle of that God – without any evidence it happened beyond hearsay, and again I remind you your hearsay is competing with that about Mohammed. Then you say, look, it’s all real, Christianity rules, OK.

But if one thinks a priori that theism is extremely improbable, then the historical evidence for the Resurrection would be discounted and not lead to a high posterior probability for theism.

Don, you are mistaken in that direction too. This is really important! There is no need to think theism is improbable. One has only to be totally open to it, and then look at the evidence. There is none. What is offered as evidence turns out to be: unevidenced hearsay, nothing that can’t be illusions and delusions, lies and propaganda – and all these have at least some actual prior probabilities because we know that these latter human frailties do actually occur.

I tend to favor a Bayesian approach in which one assigns prior probabilities

But Bayesian stuff works only when you have actual statistics to form your prior probabilities. Even if they are as flaky as much statistical evidence is (and we know how we often reach wrong conclusions about the efficacy of medicines in that arena), at least it’s actual data of a sort. But for universe creation and gods it’s no better than a pretence at mathematical credibility when there’s no data to work with.

… when the product is normalized by dividing by the sum of the products for all theories

This is crazy talk. Are probabilities based on the human capacity to imagine ideas, invent fantasies? is the correct probability determined by one’s own credibility? This is not to be treated like some meta-analysis of numerous sets of actual statistical results. It’s a meta-analysis of guesses. It’s pointless.

… since we don’t yet have _any_ plausible complete theory for the universe to calculate the conditional probability, given the theory, of any realistic observation.

So, the correct response to the question of whether there is some sort of intelligent agent creator of universes is to say: I haven’t got the foggiest clue.

From there proceed to act on what we do have. The empirical investigation of the universe and what that tells us. Our understanding of minute physics may still be open to question, but at the level of chemistry, creating medicines, building planes that don’t fall out the sky randomly – and it’s all quite mechanistic, naturalistic.

The working conclusion, then, is to live **as if** this: that what we empirically find is all there is, whether it is or not, because if we cannot detect a god of any kind knowingly then whether there is one or not makes no difference. It really is that simple.

However, since to me the totality of data, including the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is most simply explained by postulating that there is a God …

What? We’ll come back to evidence shortly, but for now let’s just go back to an earlier point, from above:

can lead to a posterior probability for theism (and for Jesus being the Son of God) being quite high

And let’s put these together:

  1. the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is most simply explained by postulating that there is a God
  2. can lead to a posterior probability for theism [i.e. there is a God]

So, postulating a God basically leads to a posterior probability that there is a God. And, while we’re at it, the assertion that the resurrection occurred is used to show that Jesus was resurrected [because he really was the son of God].

Doesn’t that look just a tad suspicious? Don, that looks embarrassing to me.

This is no more than affirming the consequent, invoking a circular argument. Don, you could only make an argument if you had good evidence of a God, and then good evidence of a naturalism busting resurrection. You have evidence of neither. You are presupposing there’s a God that can do stuff like resurrections, taking one of the many myths and taking that to be caused by this presupposed God, and then using that resurrection as the evidence of the divine Jesus, who is God. What? Seriously, What?

But on the matter of evidence, the pretend evidence for the resurrection is most simply explained by being the myth of one of the many myth asserting religions, and that people that believed in gods in ancient times were probably even more gullible than people today. Don, you think they may not have been so gullible. How gullible do you think Scientologists are? What are your probabilities for the existence of Thetans? How about Joseph Smith? Not convinced? Well, a hell of large number of reasonably well educated 21st century people believe that nonsense. Can you see why it’s far more reasonable to think these ancients were duped, or self-duped?

I do believe by faith…

Oh no! Don, please! Not the faith get out of jail card? Well, okay, in which case you can dismiss all you said before this point as it means nothing now in this context. All that effort doing just what William Lane Craig does, pretending to use reason and evidence and probabilities picked out of your nether regions – even though you reject some of WLC’s reasoning. And all it really took is faith. Why not faith in Mohammed? Well, you’re a Christian. Is that how you do your physics?

We simply do not know whether or not our universe had a beginning, but there are certainly models

See, you can do it correctly if you try. We simply do not know. And, for God there are no models that are based on other confirmed models of physics and cosmology. Sean’s work and your work in physics and cosmology does not come out of nowhere, but all religions do: there’s always someone that we know invented a religion, or the origins of the religion are lost entirely in time. You really should be applying this cosmological scepticism to God: we do not know and we have no models and no data. There are no measurements, no mathematic models, nothing but hearsay and the occasional claims of messianic individuals that think they are hooked up with their own god.

In summary, I think the evidence from fine tuning is ambiguous

Ambiguous? It’s down right dumb. What do we know about the extra-universe ‘physics’ of universe creation, such that it does not necessarily cause universes just like this one. What if all universe necessarily must have the physics of this one, because of some as yet unknown extra-universe feature? How do we know that all these universes are not such that only initial conditions determine whether life evolves abundantly, rarely or not at all. We don’t know that the constants that **allow** evolved life actually **necessitate** evolved life. With different initial conditions it could be that the universe evolve without ever experiencing intelligent life that goes on to wonder if the universe is fine tuned. We’d then have a ‘fine tuned’ universe tuned with no tuned products in it. What reason would we have to think such a universe is fine tuned?

There’s a big difference between:

– Speculative interpretations of limited cosmological data with multiple speculatively viable theories


– Believing ancient religious stories based on stuff that’s indistinguishable from all the other stories you too would pass off as myth

That difference is that with physics one does not tend to make assertions about behaviour any morality based on them – unless they very specifically inform our understanding of human behaviour and morality, such as evolution, psychology, neuroscience. There are no moral or behavioural prescriptions or proscriptions associated with Sean’s preference for Everett, but there are real human consequences that result from people believing stuff for which there is no evidence, in religion, and the consequences are all too often not good ones.

Look at it this way:

Problem 1: A company makes bags of 100 black balls, but manufacturing errors cause some balls to be white. We know the limits: 100 black, 100 white. We know from experience that people complain if they have more than 40 white balls. We do some tests and stuff. We play with probabilities. We use Bayes. We run controlled trials. Whatever. It’s real if uncertain data. What’s the probability of getting a bag with 100 black balls? We can start to look into it, come to some conclusions, do more measurements, more sampling, more calculations.

Problem 2: How are universes made? We don’t know. As an analogy for this, this is me telling you there’s a bag out there; possibly an infinitely large bag; and it might have some balls in it or it might not. If it has, then some might be black, or not. Some might be white, or not. The bag might contain refrigerators rather than balls, or not. Now, what are you going to tell me about the content of the bag – the probability that there are 100 black balls in the bag, that there’s God in the bag, ten gods, …? Nothing. Oh, and there might not actually be a bag out there; there might just be this universe.

Problem 1 is the sort of problem we can play with. Problem 2 is God stuff. The former is the reality we have to deal with. The latter is make believe – faith, indeed.