“Even Nonbelievers Need To Have Faith”

A few days back, Andrew Brown at the Grauniad posted a little article under the unpromising heading, "Scepticism gets you only so far. Even nonbelievers need to have faith."

Yes, I can already hear the groans and mutterings of "Oh no, not that old saw again" from the back row. And yes, Gentle Reader, it is that old saw again.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't try to imply that Mr Brown is some kind of fundamentalist loon, convinced that the Bible is literally true in every jot and tittle, that The Evil Gay Illuminati™ are to blame for everything from a stubbed toe to an earthquake, and that Adam and Eve spent their evenings joyriding on Spiky, their pet triceratops. On the contrary, he's a warm, liberal, fair-minded, intelligent man, who can definitely sling a pleasingly well-formed sentence together; and what's more, usually—on any topic but the one in hand—manages to construct an argument free of fallacies or fuzzy thinking. On most topics, even if I disagree with him, I usually find that, as it were, we're travelling in the same direction and merely disagreeing over the route. But, like many religious people, straddling the whole spectrum from whacko fundy to whatever the complete absence of whacko-fundiness is called, he seems to struggle somewhat with the idea that atheists don't have a "god-shaped hole" in their minds, which just has to be filled with some sort of spirituality.

That atheists, to put it another way, are actually atheists.

So, anyway, the article in question…

Continue Reading »

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday was an interesting day as I infiltrated the Donald Trump rally here in Virginia Beach. I had thought about wearing a Hillary button but in light of how some Trump supporters have treated anyone thought to be protesting I decided not to create a scene. Instead I tried to blend in, watch, and observe the crowd that I estimate to have been around 3000, maybe 3500 people, about the same number that might attend an early season weekday game at our local minor league affiliate. Since I have been to quite a few of those games I’m pretty good at estimating crowd size. The Trump Campaign will said that was around 10,000 which seems to be their standard answer, as they routinely over inflate attendance numbers, but I digress.

Since I wanted to fit in without wearing any Trumpware I decided to wear my…

View original post 1,333 more words

Jacob Bronowski: Knowledge Or Certainty

From Jacob Bronowski's excellent nineteen seventy-three television series, The Ascent Of Man, episode eleven: Knowledge Or Certainty. Still, to my mind, one of the most simple yet articulate and moving discussions of the dangers of dogma, of claims to certainty—both religious and secular—ever broadcast.

You may use these HTML tags in comments
<a href="" title=""></a> <abbr title=""></abbr>
<acronym title=""></acronym> <blockquote></blockquote> <del></del>* <strike></strike>† <em></em>* <i></i>† <strong></strong>* <b></b>†

* is generally preferred over †

Regarding The Ched Evans Rape-Trial

No one should need to say this. It should be blindingly obvious.

It should not matter a jot if the complainant in a rape trial has had consensual sex with the entire football league, the band of the grenadier guards, the Pontypridd male voice choir and a handful of randomly chosen bishops—or if she's never had sex before.

The question in hand at such a trial is not—or at least should not be—"How many times has this person given consent?" It is "Did the person give consent on this occasion?"

Next week in Statin' The Bleedin' Obvious, we answer the question, "Should a driver's twenty-year history of not drink-driving be taken into account when they're put on trial for killing a pedestrian whilst driving drunk?"

Continue Reading »

“10 Points Of Fascism:” 1933

I had a conversation the other day regarding the futility of trying to fit political stances into a neat left-right-centre scheme. Fascism provides a good example, in that although its ultimate outcome and over-all message is just about as right-wing as you can get, much of its rhetoric is couched in left-leaning, often socialist, terms. Trying to fit conservatism, which by definition wishes to preserve tradition, and fascism, which is revolutionary, into the same box by labelling them both "right wing" seems to me an exercise in label-obsessed pigeon-holing rather than accurate or useful description. (Libertarianism is another good example, though it's often a little unfairly tainted by an assumption that the version predominant in the US—fiscally conservative, anti-taxation, pro-capitalism—provides the only definition.)

That's part of the reason I wanted to post, by way of illustration, the pamphlet below, originally published by Oswald Mosley's British Union Of Fascists in 1933. Then Robert Nielsen at Whistling In The Wind put up a good article, How Fascism Takes Over, which I urge you to read, and which, by good fortune, this pamphlet provides a good illustration for.

Two birds, Gentle Reader, one illustrative stone!

Continue Reading »


It's Blasphemy Day. A fact which I'd forgotted.

"What the Hell," some of you might be thinking, "is Blasphemy Day?"

Continue Reading »

Is There A Mathematician In The House?

So, what it is; I'm hoping for help from a mathematician, should one happen to read this. But first, a complaint, the discussion of which may well end up taking longer than the actual topic…

The commonly given definition of a mathematical exponent (rather than an exponent of mathematics, which would be an enthusiastic maths teacher; I'm here all week, folks!) is that it represents how many times a given number should be multiplied by itself. Even as a child—a rather pedantic child, I should admit, but I know for a fact that I wasn't the only one—when I was given this explanation by a maths teacher, I found it both misleading and ambiguous.

Continue Reading »