The Delusional Demos Director

Before getting round to their director, Polly Mackenzie, let’s start with Demos.

Demos on Wikipedia

Their Twitter Bio

The last bit, “Based in London”, and it’s name, “Demos”, might be the only true parts of that bio line.

Think tank? Well, I’ve a couple of other posts related to their thinking. I’m not impressed. These were about a really sloppy piece on the Victoria Derbyshire, on the BBC News channel, and Carl Miller, of Demos, and their dubious ‘research’ milking the ‘Islamophobia’ craze.

BBC Victoria Derbyshire – Sloppy Islamophobia Journalism

Carl Miller of Demos Still Misfires on ‘Islamophobia’

Britain’s leading independent cross-party think tank? Really? Independent and Cross Party?

Well, they have done work for more than one party, but to say they are cross-party is a bit of a stretch. Independent? Not of thought.

From the Wiki page:

Demos was founded in 1993 by former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques, and Geoff Mulgan, who became its first director.

In the run-up to the 1997 general election it was seen as being close to the Labour Party, in particular its then leader Tony Blair.

On 9 August 2006, in a speech at a Demos conference, British Home Secretary Dr John Reid stated that Britons ‘may have to modify their notion of freedom’, as a result of his plans, claiming that freedom is ‘misused and abused by terrorists.’

Take a look at their 2018 accounts, here.

https://demos.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/application-pdf.pdf

And, after you’ve tried to work out the flow of money in and out, go to page 30 for some of their funders.

The Open Society Foundation. And who are they? You want to know what George Soros funds? Demos is one of his pets. Independent?

Don’t like the George Soros conspiracy theories? OK, let’s try another.

The Politics and Economics Research Trust. Did you know this report was produced by Charity Commission for England and Wales?

You can read more here: Politics and Economics Research Trust: case report

And here: Charity alleged to have illegally funded Brexit campaign groups – Questions over grants given by the Politics and Economics Research Trust to anti-EU groups, with potential for tax relief.

I can’t pretend to know everything Demos get up to, but to me, and having seen the work of the fabulous Carl Miller, it looks like a bunch of people that can’t get proper jobs so they sell their souls to anyone that will buy them and enjoy playing around in the dubious charity money-go-round, and call the work ‘research’.

So, what about their director, Polly Mackenzie? How much thinking does this head of a think tank do? More to the point, what’s the quality of this thinking?

Polly Mackenzie joined Demos as the new Director in January 2018. She previously worked for Nick Clegg from 2006 to 2015, helping to write the 2010 Coalition Agreement, and served as Director of Policy to the Deputy Prime Minister from 2010-15

Well, that didn’t go too well did it.

Just curious, but did Polly have anything to with forming Nick Clegg’s opinions on the EU. Yes, I know her time with him was up to 2015, before Brexit EU Ref, but, well, ideas aren’t formed over night, are they, and when Nick Clegg laid into Nigel Farage about how saying there would be an EU Army was a dangerous fantasy, Nifty Nick had buggered off to Facebook just before Merkel and significant EU figures started telling us that not only was the EU starting an EU Army, but political and military fusion ought to be a future goal.

Anyway, whatever contribution Polly made towards Nicky Know Nothing’s demise, at least she is able to put her own thoughts down. Sadly, it doesn’t get any better.

Case 1 – Letting Children Vote – And Proxy Parental Votes

This is Polly’s recent piece in Unheard …

What if we gave children a vote? – The electoral system is inherently biased towards the 83% of the population who are over 18

Here are some of Polly’s bright ideas:

  • Children 10 and above should be able to vote. How hard is it for a ten year old to make a cross in the right place on a piece of paper?
  • Children under 10 shouldn’t be able to vote (come on, Polly’s not mad, you know). Instead, their parents should be able to cast a proxy vote on behalf of the infant (I presume only one parent gets to vote for each child, but which one? Not sure Polly has think-tanked this through).

You can read the delusional reasoning yourself. But here, for Polly’s benefit, are some objections.

The notion of a proxy vote is entirely counter to the principle of one-person-one-vote. Large families, religious conservative families, would in fact give multiple votes to the parents, as proxies. To say that such proxy voting parents were casting a vote for the children themselves is delusional. They would be casing a vote for themselves and their of how the world should be.

Childless people will be disenfranchised, because parents get 2 or more times their vote.

As for children themselves voting, there are several reasons why they should not, not least of which are the following.

We have limits on parent power. Parents cannot abuse their children. An anathema to this is the indoctrination of children into political and religious ideologies. We are not raising independently minded adults, but pre-programmed adults. It takes a lot of learning to realise the extent to which you’ve been indoctrinated, and some never get out of it. Jess Phillips, Labour MP, describes how she was taught a visceral hatred of Tories. The indoctrination of children into our main religious cults is a disgrace to civil society. Until both political and religious indoctrination are criminalised, and a rounded education in reason and science becomes the standard, we will not be producing independent minded rational adults, but victims and perpetrators of the tribal party and religious politics we have today.

Young teenagers are naturally rebellious, and are wide open to the political indoctrination by extremists. Labour’s Momentum know this – Corbyn’s Kids is not a neutral educational programme but a mind programming school. Many young people were so easily indoctrinated into extreme Islam, and left home to join ISIS. The Orthodox Jewish communities keep a tight control of their children, as do Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholics, and even ‘moderate’ Islam.

Why do you think the Humanists UK and National Secular Society are campaigning to stop and reverse the growth in faith schools.

Read Poly’s article. But just for fun, here’s a sample of Polly’s think-tanking.

“Will you let them drink and smoke, too?” – This is usually the first response I get when I propose enfranchising all citizens under the age of 18. The answer is, obviously, no. We have laws that prevent young people from drinking and smoking because these things are harmful. voting, by contrast, is not harmful; drawing an X on a ballot paper is substantially less dangerous than inhaling toxic smoke into your lungs.”

What? So, coerced voting of ten year olds, indoctrinated ten year olds, isn’t a danger? To society, and the better judgement of those children that have to live in the world they were coerced into voting for?

Polly, putting an unlit cigarette in a child’s hands and to a child’s lips is no more dangerous than putting a pencil in the mouth after drawing a cross on a piece of paper. However, to the child personally, the former could have longer term implications for the individual, if they were coerced to light it; but the latter could cause a far wider danger to themselves and society, if they were coerced to vote a particular way.

There are now many people that were indoctrinated into voting Labour – “I’m a life long Labour supporter.” But many such supporters are overcoming their own indoctrination because they can see before their eyes how Corbyn and Communist McDonnell are changing the party, and they have figured out that in their opinion they don’t like it. The same has been true of may Conservative voters. Many adults learn to change their minds for themselves. 

Children cannot. Do you imagine a ten year old having a conversation about the subtleties of Labour’s Socialism, McDonnell’s Communism, the entryism that’s been going on in the Labour Party for generations? No. They won’t even take an arbitrary lucky dip vote. Their parents will coerce them into voting for the parent’s preference.

And all the above doesn’t even begin to take into account the actual issues of brain development and maturity.

We should be worried about the indoctrinating abuse of children and their use in political vote rigging only somewhat less than psychological child abuse.

No, children should not be allowed to vote, and their parents should definitely NOT get extra votes because they have kids.

This piece by Mackenzie is idiotic. Yet she’s the director of Demos? And Carl Pilkington, sorry, Carl Miller (apologies to Carl Pilkington) is their Research Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media? Would you trust ANY of their output?

I can see why conspiracy theorists look to Soros. Throwing money at this bunch of clowns is top rate trolling.

Case 2 – Free Stuff Utopian Dreams

It was at this point I thought I’d have a look at Polly on Twitter. Interesting. Following what was obviously a quick lesson in economics by Labour’s John McDonnell’s free stuff promises, Polly gave it a critical eye.

Tweet – Nationalising Openreach is perfectly plausible. But why should broadband be free and not – for example – water, food, heating, clothes, all of which are rather more essential to the human condition.

You’d think Demos might have a director that have some feel for economics. Apparently not.

But, not to worry, Utopia is within reach for Polly …

Which manifesto? Only given Polly’s eagerness to indoctrinate voting children there are several to choose from.

So, for Polly’s benefit, what’s wrong with free stuff, state control and the removal of wages?

  • Eventually, workers don’t need money because everything is free. 
  • But workers are then dependent on the state alone. 
  • Result: oppression of workers that can have no independent means of survival so must comply with the state.
  • Check out some history. Hint: Soviet Union and its oppressed satellites; Moa’s China. The brutality of the party and the Dear Leader.
  • Political Utopias are no better than religious fantasies – they are used to control people.

Giles Fraser’s Homeopathy Christianity

It’s not uncommon for Giles Fraser to take an opportunity to have a pop at atheism and the dreaded Strident New Atheists, and this little foray into excuses for believing in imaginary friends is not untypical: The Battle to Believe in God

According to Giles, according to atheists, God …

“… was killed by thinkers: philosophers and scientists, especially those associated with the Enlightenment.  First, God died in theory, only after which He died in practise, when ordinary people eventually caught up with the ideas that were first formulated in the study and the laboratory. The only problem with this, as Alec Ryrie astutely observes in a new book on the rise of atheism, is that “death-by-philosophy … is a poor fit with the actual chronology of western secularisation”. Atheism, he asserts, was alive and well before the Enlightenment.”

This is not news to atheists that have done their homework, particularly the ones that Giles names later. In fact, Dawkins and others insist that everyone is born an atheist, and most only have a very specific religion thrust upon them in childhood, and a rare few invent religions (rare, relatively speaking, of course, since there are many thousands of religions and sects). Given evolution’s description of human origins and our emergence among and from other animals, Giles would have to assert that animals are religious, unless only Humans invent gods, … or gods are choosy about which animals they reveal themselves to, though they don’t seem so choosy about how often and in how many ways they reveal themselves, if indeed they do.

The article title and sub-heading sum up the problem with the article.

The battle to believe in God

Don’t kid yourself that atheism is a modern invention — it’s as old as religion

Correction. It’s older than religion. It’s what humans and pre-humans and other animals with brains had going on in their brains before some humans invented religion. It’s a-theism:not theism, like a-symmetry is not symmetry.

Having poorly characterised atheism, Giles at one point, in this part book review, part dig at atheists, gets around to telling us what Christianity is about, according to Spufford (and Ryrie and Giles).

“The proper starting point is not the question of God’s existence, but what he calls “the HPtFtu” – or, “the human propensity to fuck things up”. The propensity extends to our relationships, our attempts to be good, even to our rationality. Emotionally, Christianity begins within the unfixable realities of human life, its tragedies and absurdities. Even its blood-soaked history, including that of the Reformation, is just yet another example of the HPtFtu. … Christianity grows out of the broken and unfixable. Its USP is to be found within and alongside the stuff that doesn’t work … Virtuous and idealistic atheists are at work all over the place, but it is observable that a surprisingly large number of believers are at work with the dying, the demented, the addicted, the institutionalised and the very impaired and afflicted, where the best that can be done is to love for the sake of it”

It doesn’t take religion to realise that HPtFu, or that humanity is Fubar. It does take religion to milk suffering for all its worth to the coffers of the church. Too often the religious agenda has been to fix the sinner’s soul rather than fix the problem the sinner is suffering from, the latter being a means to an end. Not to say there aren’t genuinely nice, thoughtful compassionate believers out there, but are the same people so limited they need God to do it? Or has religion simply acquired the monopoly on helping the suffering. (Hint: it hasn’t – medicine cures people more than prayer does.)

And I’m not sure how Giles thinks Dawkins managed a career in Evolutionary Biology if he and Spufford really do think “Virtuous and idealistic atheists are at work all over the place“, as if they had no time for anything but to rebut religion’s fantastical and often harmful claims.

The Hippocratic oath requires doctors do no harm when healing. The hypocritical oaths of religion requires no such commitment, and religion has been known to be quite enthusiastic about saving souls by condemning bodies to death. Allahu Akbar, for good or ill.

“I suppose that is why I read the New Atheist critique of Christianity as often obviously correct, and yet strangely irrelevant. What they take to be a kind of philosophical or quasi-scientific explanation of things is often much more like a cry for help. And to accuse a cry for help as being intellectually confused is a peculiar kind of response.”

I find it a confused kind of response to pain to tell the sufferers, “Pretend to believe in this fake stuff and it might make you bear the suffering a little more easily,” distracting a child that’s about to receive an injection by waving a cuddly toy in front of its face.  An elixir salesman’s fake medicine.

Homeopathy for the soul.

And, Giles ends with …

“Now, of course, you may completely disagree with my characterisation of Christianity. Many will. But what Ryrie’s engaging book suggests is that the battle over God is really a battle about a certain sort of emotional literacy. For the Christian life is as much dependent on arguments about God’s existence as birds are dependent upon ornithology.”

Many will” – Yes, including many religious people.

Giles makes a mockery of the religionist rejection of the analogy of religious belief that atheists often put forward: a belief in fairies. Yes, Christianity as described by Giles does not depend on the existence of God, so emotional literacy could just as easily depend on the non-existent fairies, … or Allah, or any other imaginary friend that Giles does not believe in. So, what makes a Christian? Not believing in Christ as much as not believing in Odin or Allah, but pretending to believe in Christ anyway?

And of course this conception of religion that Giles presents is dishonest … he knows full well that many believers really do believe God exists. Try following people that have suddenly realised they’ve been scammed, how that shocks them when they self discover religion’s empty promise.  The “many will [not accept his characterisation of Christianity]” plausible deniability card up his sleeve is just another cheat.

Let’s translate Ocham’s Razor into Giles-Speak: You better believe there is a God that doesn’t exist, because if He were to exist, though He doesn’t, you’d be good to go, but if there isn’t such a God, which there isn’t, you’ll be disappointed when you don’t end up in the literal hell that doesn’t exist?

And it’s no more than a perverted intellectual elitism that supposes the naive child-like plebs will be satisfied with the emotional sweeties, while the epicurean geniuses of theology dine on the sophistication of arguments for God’s existence. The religious intellectuals HAVE dedicated themselves to arguments for God’s existence. It’s only in the 21st century that theists like Giles are pretty much forced to concede “New Atheist critique of Christianity as often obviously correct, and yet strangely irrelevant” – yes, quite, “It doesn’t matter that I believe in BS, because I don’t care.

Giles may be sincere. But then he has no choice in the matter, because being aware of one’s own intellectual bloopers, or giving up religion, are the unbearable painful cracks that religion, as he elucidates here, is well equipped to paper over

But it’s intellectual duplicity, even if self-imposed. A greater intellectual sophistication should be seeing the irrationality of religious belief, and helping the plebs get wise to the fairy tales. The intellectual failure of the theists is they ought to know full well how silly it is to latch on to just one of the myriad of gods that have been invented.

To speculate about origins, to wonder if all reality is an impersonally causal series of events, or a teleological invention, is a reasonable metaphysical exercise. But to choose one of the many supposedly revealed fantasies, to call oneself a Christian or Muslim, as if some ancient goat herder really did receive a message from a creator of the universe, and play out that game, while keeping atheists at bay by saying you don’t really believe in the literal claims, is no better than the fraudsters that caused the financial crash.

If you want to be ‘mystical’, there’s another option. It’s not beyond the wit of an intellectual to take up the selected cherry picked nice philosophy of Jesus, along with that of the Buddha, as well as atheist philosophers, and disassociate them totally from the fantasy. They could give up the religious mumbo jumbo and to stop conning the plebs that there’s some mystic truth they are incapable of seeing, so they’d better giving up quizzing the literal reality of this God thing. Trouble is, if they were honest with the flock they’d have no justification to dress up on a Sunday.

Not content with merely pulling The Lamb’s wool over the eyes of parishioners, Giles’s and other theists have to demonise the opposition, with what amounts to no more than propaganda about angry atheism.

“What Ryrie’s account achieves is an explanation as to why atheism often remains so angry. That it is angry seems undeniable — from the vituperative nature of exchanges on social media, to the hardly concealed fury of its leading lights, Dawkins, Hitchens etc, there can be little doubt it is driven as much by passion and righteous indignation as by following the consequences of cold clear dispassionate rationality. “Reason is a slave to the passions” as David Hume rightly noted”

This is a dishonest use of Hume’s ‘passions’, which isn’t about anger, but merely the idea that is now a fully credible understanding of consciousness: the lack of free will, that ideas appear as if from nowhere, but actually from the stimulation of the brain by bodily functions. The ‘passions’ in this understanding are well presented by neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio (The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness).

And where atheism is angry it has every right to be. Religion is the quintessential bully that persecutes and brutalises victims, then cries foul when the victim bloodies the nose of the bully.

For millennia witches and heretics have been burned at the stake, while hapless parishioners were scared out of their wits and manipulated by parsons, priests, monks and mullahs.

Civil wars were fought over religious differences – and it’s no good claiming that there were other political reasons, not religious ones. It doesn’t help religion’s cause to point out that a supposedly benign or even beneficial belief system can be put so easily to division and death as it was during the Christian Catholic and Protestant wars, the Crusades, the Islamic invasions from Spain to India, and the later ‘Troubles’ of Ireland, the Islamic terrorism.

Even now, throughout the Islamic world, atheists are persecuted, and in too many states, atheism is a crime punishable by death at the hands of believers that believe nothing like Giles’s theological scam on a scam. In the UK homophobic Islam patrols school gates and justifies the grooming of young girls, as Mohammed did. Damned right atheists are sometimes angry.

Speaking of Islam, reading Giles’s representation of atheism and atheists is very much like reading that of other popular believers, like Mehdi Hasan. Yes, the Mehdi Hasan who really does believe Mohammed split the moon, and in other miracles. Yes, the Mehdi Hasan who revealed that to the not so angry more astonished Dawkins. Yes, the same Mehdi Hasan, who, like that other fraud, Reza Aslan, will tell you you don’t understand Islam, because it’s nothing like atheists present it, … all the while his co-religionists butchering gays in the name of Allah for exactly the reasons atheists say they do. Oh, yes, what happened to Reza Aslan and his lovely Indonesia, where lashings à la (Allah?) Quran 24:2 are a regular occurrence?

It’s odd that these fake theists declare that only atheists and extremists believe in the literal truths of the holy books. No, atheists do not believe in the literal truths of these books. Atheists merely point out the obvious fact that too many theists do. Only the fake theists try to square the circle, by claiming the truth of the holy books (the inerrant truth of the Quran), while simultaneously denying the very words written therein – but only the inconvenient words, remember. The nice worlds can be read as-is.

Whatever this piece says about Christianity, it contains the usual mischaraterisation of ‘angry’ atheism, while it unironically tells us all about the greater angers of the religious.

“For Ryrie, a scholar of the Protestant Reformation, the passion in question has its roots in the protest against the abuses of the church of Rome, of well-padded priests feathering their own nests, of the bullying authority of the Papacy…”

Yes, quite. The ‘angry’ passions of the religionists have always been more ideological, more pathological, more psycopathic than any atheist, simultaneously defrauding the plebs.

Oh, and let’s head this one off at the pass before Giles or some other theist manages to slip some whataboutery through … “But, Stalin!” Not so fast. Yes, Stalin was an angry brutal ideologue. But it was not his atheism that drove the brutality of his ideologically inspire psychopathy. 

While Stalin and other communists and fascists had the benefit of 20th century weapons of death, religions have been killing millions with the ultimate deity of doom, the authority of the autocratic arbiter of heaven or the abyss.

Not that the lovely Giles is a religious madman that would go in for the sort of cruelty that has been the mainstay of religious power for millennia. On the contrary, he’s one of my favourite public theists, and can be rational enough, on other topics.

But there are plenty of his coreligionists that are madmen, and religious ideologues can find all the justification they need in their holy books … you know, the holy books that tell of the gruesome demands of a God that doesn’t need to exist, the same God of passions that Giles’s parishioners don’t require.

You don’t find suicide bombers citing the Humanist Manifesto. Angry atheists. Ha!

But Giles’s fake of a fake God is in truth, as Steven Weinberg pointed out  …

“The god of traditional Judaism and Christianity and Islam seems to me a terrible character.”

Unless, that is, you cherry pick the relatively sparse interesting and nice stuff, and ignore the vast amounts of hell, damnation and slaughter, and the boringly obvious nice stuff.

Tell me. How, in these horror shows of belief, do the nice believers pull off that particular scam on a scam? Based on what theologically obtuse reasoning do they justify their claims that the nice stuff in these books is the real deal, while the bad stuff is history, metaphor, old hat, from ignorant times, myth, allegory?

The trouble for the nice guys like Giles is that the same game can be played by ISIS: all the grotesque punishment is literally true, and the nice stuff is metaphor for what happens after death, after you’ve met the punishments prescribed in the holy book here on earth.

Both tacks seem equally plausible readings, as does the irrational but obvious requirement that belief in a God that revealed a book requires you accept all his words as-is, contradictory or not.

The consequence of this intellectually conflicted nonsense that is religion is as Weinberg also pointed out in his thoughts on God’s believers, that Giles thinks don’t really require a God to exist …

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

And Giles has the nerve to complain as ‘angry’ any atheists that point this out.

To repeat Giles’s point …

“For the Christian life is as much dependent on arguments about God’s existence as birds are dependent upon ornithology.”

Yes. You don’t need arguments for God’s existence when blind faith and duplicitous rhetoric is quite sufficient for self delusion. You may be fooling yourselves, but you don’t fool us. 

To try and pass this whole religion thing off as a benign homeopathic remedy, God diluted so there’s not an atom of him left, yet the water holds his memory, … is a scam. It is put on the shelves of therapy with the real medicines of the sciences of the brain-mind-life; and on the shelves of genuine religious belief in existent fantasy friends. It’s sellers ought to be intellectually prosecuted for fraud.

The Moderate Muslim Scam

Moderate Muslims, there are only so many ways you can twist this, only so many hoops you can jump through …

Perhaps there really is only one true Islam …

“There’s only one Islam, and all self proclaimed Muslims are Muslims, including ISIS, and Ahmadis, … and we all agree on the punishments prescribed in the Quran and Hadith, for apostasy, theft, sex outside marriage, adultery, …. I just don’t like to admit it to non-Musims.”

Except, of course, you don’t all agree. So, maybe there isn’t one true Islam …

“There’s diversity in Islam. ISIS are Muslims, but not practicing my kind of Islam. I don’t agree with … and I don’t agree on the punishments prescribed in the Quran and Hadith, for apostasy, theft, sex outside marriage, adultery, …. I know better than Mohammed, and I think that Allah has changed the rules.”

But usually, it’s something like this …

“ISIS aren’t Muslims, Ahmadis aren’t Muslims, … all those other self-proclaimed Muslims that happen to be an inconvenience to my claim that there is only one true Islam, while trying to distance myself from those other ‘Muslims’ that follow aspects of Islam in ways I don’t like (or don’t like to admit to) … well, they are not Muslims.”

Who gave you the right to say they are not Muslims or that they are doing Islam wrong?

Because I AM a Muslim. I should know. Whereas you, non-Muslim, are ignorant about Islam.

Who gets to decide who are true Muslims? What qualifies YOU to decide?

The scholars tell me!

How do I know which scholars are the right scholars to listen to?

Because they are the ones that I happen to think fit the kind of Muslim I want to be … err, though there is only one kind of Muslim, the kind that fits into the narrow band that I think won’t embarrass my religion.

Pity. This is all so embarrassing.

A Muslim Embarrassing Himself

This morning, as I started to write this, I thought I’d better go an dig up some examples, knowing there are plenty. I opened Twitter, and bingo! A gift from Allah?

First, Dawkins, one of the people I follow, had a tweet at the top of my feed, and the very first reply …

This seems like a reasonable response …

And, in turn, we have the usual nonsense …

Let that sink in …

“Not minimising anything. Just pointing out that any sane, moral, rightminded, peaceful individual can recognise …”

So, why do sane, moral, rightminded, peaceful individuals need Islam?

“The punishment for blasphemy in Islam is not death.”

Maybe not in YOUR version of Islam. But you know it is in some versions … which sort of makes a mockery of ‘one true Islam’, or any claims by ANY Muslim to understand Islam, when clearly, different Muslims have different understandings of Islam.

The One True Islam Embarrassment

K T Shamim’s bio reveals he’s an Ahmaddi Muslim … not allowed to call themselves Muslims in Pakistan, opposed by many other Muslims. But still, he thinks he knows the one true Islam.

“The true religion [Ahmadis claim there’s is the one true Islam] …. Don’t know which Islam these Muslims follow …”

 So, there are multiple Islams? But how does K T know that his is the true one, and not the Islam of ISIS?

Hold on! It’s all very nice that K T likes the love and peace Islam, but how does he know that’s the right one? How come punishment and intolerance aren’t the one true Islam? Or why not both?

Really, why not both the peach and love AND the punishment and intolerance? Why are the nice verses taken literally and the nasty verses require excuses?

It’s not like I’m advocating this all inclusive Islam as system to follow. My point is, why can’t you just do peace and love WITHOUT Islam? Why stick with and try to a system in which so many declare the Quran inerrant and have to go to all this trouble to defend it … and let’s be honest … to LIE for Islam, to escape its violent nasty clutches.

Fallible Heroes – Alice Roberts

This is the first of a series on Fallible Heroes – where people I follow, support, and respect, get it wrong sometimes. This may seem like a trivial case, but the last tweet in the final image expresses the importance of it – “I too want everyone to feel protected but discussion gets shut down with cries of ‘bigot’. “

[Feel free to tweet this … since I’m blocked for opposing extremists.]

I’ve followed Alice Roberts (not in a creepy way, honest) since her days on the UK TV programme Coast. Seen some of her other TV documentaries … and now she’s president of Humanists UK.

So, it was a bit of a disappointment to see the following exchange, since Alice’s response, in blocking rather than engaging – at least providing a link to some ready presentation of her views on the matter of transgender issues – leaves a vacuum that actual bigots could fill.

My interest here is not to support any positions that her interlocutor, Michael, might take, but to wish for a better response from the president of Humanists UK in trying to reach those that disagree with her. And, it is clear from other responses that Alice’s decision to block has not helped any case she might wish to make, but has simply affirmed, in the minds of those that disagree, that she has no position worth making. Bit of an own goal.

Yes, I know, she’s busy and can’t engage with every actual transphobe on the planet. But, the current understanding of trans issues is not a done deal, and there are many people with mixed views on the issue, and I expect quite a few in Humantsts UK.

So, what was the exchange? Here is part of it (link to the thread), which began with a question regarding trans issues … and in particular the conflict of interests that exist between cis women and trans women in some specific scenarios.

Alice responded to an assertion in another tweet (from someone else) about the binary nature of sex …

This is the point where it might have been helpful, in spreading the Humanist scientific, rational and kind message, had Alice pointed to some useful information that she thinks lays out her position on this complex subject. After all, Twitter is hardly the place, and surely this isn’t a new topic for Alice.

Actually, he did. It was pretty clear from the start that what was being discussed was the human issue of gender identity with regard to the issues that are currently hotly debated. And, if anything, Alice could be quizzed here about whether she was attempting to slip in the appeal to nature fallacy.

And then …

And, why is this block a problem? Because it leaves other’s with their echo chamber and promotes the idea that Alice isn’t really as committed to trans issues as she might have tried to imply.

Alice Roberts cannot be expected to engage in debates that will probably go nowhere, so that she chose not to carry on, seeing the lie of the land in the thread, her disengagement might have been the best option … but, it could have been done with more dignity and less of what appears to be petulance (whether it was or not in Alice’s mind). For example …

This is too complicated for Twitter, so I’ll leave you with Humanists UK on trans issues … LGBT Humanists responds to Gender Recognition Act consultation

However, Alice does continue to subject, when it suits …

Sense indeed. But it still doesn’t address the actual issue, about humans, that eventually incited Alice to block. Those questioning Alice on this issue would really like to know how you square the circle here – which is, socially, how do we deal with the two conflicting (not always, but not never, either):

  • Allowing trans people to live the lives they choose.
  • Allowing women to live the lives they choose.

Do you remember when safe spaces for cis women to protect them from men – even though not all men are a threat to cis women?

Why can’t cis women have safe spaces from trans women – even though not all trans women are a threat to cis women?

Are there any trans women who fear other trans women? After all, some trans women are very much like traditional cis women, and those trans women need safe spaces from men too, … and by extension, from some trans women.

These are complex issues, and Alice Roberts cannot be expected to have all the answers (indeed, answers that would satisfy everyone are mythical beasts). But the block was disappointing, if only for the reason that the blocked person will not see a more reasonable debate going on.

Alice doesn’t say how she thinks this circle might be squared. Which I think is precisely the point Michael was trying to make, and which Alice avoided.


Nevertheless, Alice is a great president of Humanists UK, and this criticism on this particular matter of this block will not change my opinion on that.