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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy 2010

Be happy in the coming year, the coming decade!

Be sure that the pundits will be mostly wrong - wish I could be more precise.

Know that there is a difference between good and evil and between truth and falsehood. Do your damnedest (trust your instinct or ask a 6 year old) to know which is which.

Forgive everything you can. Park the rest. It's not all up to you.

Visit this blog! Post comments!

Thank you for your existence (real or imaginary) in hyperspace. I have had the most fun talking to you!

Good Night

The Optimum Population Trust

[This needs work. Too many jumps. But clumsy though it is, I'm going to leave it up here.]

I watched David Attenborough the other night on TV. From him I learnt that there is an organisation with the above name. I am deeply suspicious. Suspicious? Read on.

For a start, you wouldn’t create such an organisation with such a name unless you had a policy agenda. You can check the details; but from what I could bear to read, these people think that we should reduce the world population (6,000,000,000) to about half in the next half-century! AH’s Final Solution x 500.

Malthus was Wrong

In fact only one person in the history of the world has been wronger than Malthus – Paul Ehrlich, The Wrongest Person Ever!

Bjorn Lomborg demonstrates from UN figures that we are better fed (as a planet) than ever before. That the planet is cleaner than ever and that natural resources are more plentiful than ever. That species are disappearing at a negligible rate.

And yet... Prince Phillip of WWF wants to be reincarnated as a deadly virus with a view to depopulating the planet.

I am a loyal subject of Her Majesty but...

I am committing myself here to a posting on Malthus/Ehrlich and The Deadly Duke.

No doubt “The Science is Settled”... but what do they propose (OPT)? Apparently, the wickedest deed in History. Evil has been in its infancy till now! Damien's still peddling his trike. Pol Pot was an amateur! Well, as far as his aspirations went - in practical terms, quite a guy. He killed about 1/3 of the population of his country (for wearing specs and similar crimes). So, proportionally, he was the baddest of all time.

Influential though they may be: Attenborough, Ehrlich and the D of E, they probably won’t achieve their foul goal.

No doubt they applaud the achievements of the "One Child Policy" of the Chinese People's Socialist Republic and would cheerfully cough up a Carbon Footprint payment for every aborted Chinese baby. The Chinese are ready to issue you with an invoice!

We can pause here to ruminate on every Chinese woman forcibly aborted under the above policy, of every enforcer obliged to murder a twin (whose only crime was to be a twin), on every Chinese lad for whom there is no corresponding lass (the Chinese choosing male foetuses over females, for the most part).

I Love Islamic Art

As you may have guessed, I have serious problems with many aspects of Islamic culture. I have lived in Saudi Arabia, which I found dreary and intolerant. Islam has spawned Islamicism, which is an abomination. Islam has not yet found an accommodation with Democracy. I hope and believe that Islam will have its Renaissance and its Reformation. I know that in many respects I have more in common with Muslims than with mainstream Western culture.

In spite of my problems with Islam, I have, for as long as I can remember, been ravished by examples of Islamic Art and Architecture. What is it about Islamic Art that gives it its strength and grace? Discipline, I think. Discipline (Strength) and Piety (Grace).

The Koran, I believe, forbids representations of humans and animals, a prohibition which if applied to western art would pretty well wipe it out. The prohibition exists to remove the temptation to idolatry. All very worthy but it leaves me with a few questions. Q1: Are Christians tempted to worship The Boy David by Michelangelo? A: Not this Catholic. Q2: How comes it that portraits of humans are ubiquitous in (most) Islamic countries? Saddam Hussein was on every wall in Iraq. This ought to have been anathema to every Sunni and every Shia in the country. More puzzlingly, witness the photos of Ayatollah Khomeini all over Iran. You would have expected the man himself to rend his clothes and pour dust upon his head at the sight of them.

Perhaps photographs do not qualify as art. All the same, paintings of people are not unknown in Islamic art. There are in fact portraits of The Prophet Himself. Nevertheless, the glories of Isfahan and of the Alhambra and of the Taj Mahal make do without portraiture. They are self-denying. They are thrown back on geometry and calligraphy. And they make the most of them!

Obeying rules is fundamental to art. Free verse is like playing tennis with no net. Who said that? Tracey Emin says that what she does is art because she is an artist. I think that Tracey Emin has a fine pair of tits. Sorry, Trace, but that is the best I can do.

The sonnet is one of the sublime forms of English verse. [Actually, there are several set of rules to which a sonneteer can subject him/herself]. Obedience is the trick!

Here's a link to some beautiful stuff. There's loads more.

Rudolph Rummel

This guy is another hero of mine. His website is not pretty (Sorry Rudy), but it is well worth a visit. See below:

Here is an astonishing fact: No two democracies have ever been to war with each other!

Needless to say, some definitions are in order here. What is a democracy, for a start, when every government in the world calls itself a democracy? For the time being, I am going to say that a country is democratic if it possesses and uses the means to change its government by the ballot box and without violence. A bit rough and ready but it works. North Korea doesn't qualify; Canada does. What is war? Rudy suggests a minimum number of military casualties. I'll go for 100; but it works for 10 or 1000.

You are probably doing the "What about the Neverland vs Utopia conflict of 1822-1824?" thing. Email me; post a comment!

Professor Rummel has spent years in collecting the data. The detail is sickening. He should be better known. More Americans than Europeans know of him.

Other important observations include the one that democracies don't commit Democide (his invention). Totalitarian regimes in the 20th century slaughtered 100s of millions of their own people. Democracies didn't. Also that the bloodbath that was the 20th century featured far far more civilian than military dead.

Democracies do go to war - but not with each other.

What conclusion should we draw? It seems obvious. The democracies should form a club whose sole objective is to enroll all other states. They should do this by incentives, which should be easy because democracies are (almost by definition) richer than other states. Sanctions should play a part, where these do not hurt the innocent - so (perhaps) no arms supplies to tyrants . What about denying visas to tyrants who want sophisticated medical treatment in New York or Berlin? The club should also do it by energetic encouragement of democratic movements - including finance and intelligence.

Don't drink to World Peace without realising that it means Democracy for All!

Stephen C Meyer

I'm reading it!

Meanwhile, here's an article from someone who has read it:

Does it sound like the ravings of an ignoramus or a lunatic?

There are two (main) groups of us in the anti-Darwin camp: those who started here because of their faith in scripture, whether Islamic or Christian (or whatever); and those who have arrived here because the neo-Darwinian account strains credulity to breaking. I grew up assuming that Darwin was right and only began to doubt the orthodoxy when I read Uncommon Dissent (Intellectuals who find Darwinism Unconvincing).

Does it matter? Why should I get into a muck sweat about your world view and what underpins it?

I think it does matter, and for two reasons. Firstly, Truth matters - axiomatic for me. Secondly, although you may be living your largely blameless life oblivious of the implications of Darwinian evolution, some of those most enthusiastic for the theory have been prominent among those responsible for the horrors of the 20th century - materialistic, collectivist, totalitarian perpetrators of mass murder.

The victims of Eugenics (a direct outgrowth of Darwinism) were followed to the grave by countless tens of millions done to death by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and lesser monsters who explicitly owed their scientific materialist philosophy to Darwin among others.

Darwin was not a monster. He was a conscientious scientist, who pointed out the falsifiability of his ideas.

All those who believe that they have a fault-free blue-print for Heaven on Earth are, if they get into power, going to be ruthless. I include the Inquisition and the Christian religious warriors of centuries gone by as well as the National Socialists and International Socialists of the last century and today's Jihadists. They are going to be ruthless whether their actions are supported by divine scriptures or by what they call science.

Science is the Daughter of Christianity. Out of Christianity also grew Democracy. The Christian belief in Original Sin leads inevitably to the conclusion that no human is good enough to be in untrammelled power over his fellows. Thank God for the Reformation, for Methodism and for Thomas Jefferson!

Some of you will groan when I declare my anxiety about another lot of dodgy scientists whose blue-print for the future may (God forbid) lead them to ruthless solutions to overpopulation.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Richard Harries

For Christmas, Sam gave Gabriel Richard Dawkins' latest: The Greatest Show on Earth. In the first chapter he (RD) reproduces a letter sent, I think, to our erstwhile PM, Tony Blair, by himself and various scientists and clergymen. Prominent among them was Richard Harries, sometime Bishop of Oxford.

I am, for this reason, seriously downgrading my overall opinion of Harries.

I am off to Waterstones this afternoon to buy myself a copy of the book. When I have read it, I shall share my thoughts here.

Favourite Movies/Movie Makers/Actors (Work in Progress)

There are movies about which you find yourself thinking the next day. There are movies which you can watch a dozen times, a hundred times, and notice something new each time.

Here are a few movies I have watched a few times. I have enjoyed introducing others to them. Some of them are movies which I have bought and lent without caring whether I got them back (I could always buy another copy). Some of these movies develop ideas which are a million miles from my own mindset.

In no particular order, then, some of my favourites:

[It would be nice to have comments featuring your favourites. If you have watched a movie over and over, then there’s a good chance that I’ll find it worthwhile.]


Pulp Fiction: There are those who think that this is the greatest movie ever made. Well, it is a great movie. I’ve probably watched it more often than any other.

Secretary: A very very strange movie but compulsive.

Groundhog Day:

Green Mile:

Inglourious Basterds:

Reservoir Dogs:

Shawshank Redemption: This seems to be the whole movie in 14 parts, in 10 minute chunks. I assume this is legal?

Team America:

High Fidelity:

True Romance:

Fugitive: Tommy Lee Jones is stunning. Harrison Ford is very good.

Favourite Movie Makers

Cohen Brothers:

Quentin Tarantino:

Favourite Actors

A lot of the above favourites are favourites because they star actors who would be watchable if they were presenting detergent commercials. Acting talent is a difficult thing to analyse, even, I suspect, if you are a top director.

Harvey Keitel: The rest of this list is in no particular order but HK is at the top for a reason.

Tommy Lee Jones:

Christopher Walken: This is such a great scene that it seems churlish not to include...

Dennis Hopper:

Dustin Hoffman:

John Cusack:

Joan Cusack:

Harrison Ford:

Jamie Lee Curtis:

Kevin Bacon:

Sigourney Weaver:

Darryl Hannah:

Brad Pitt:

Meryl Streep:

Mia Farrow:

Uma Thurman:

John Travolta:

Samuel L Jackson:

Morgan Freeman:

Angelica Houston:

Faye Dunaway:

Robert Duvall:

Robert de Niro:

Bill Murray:

Maggie Gyllenhaal:

Friday, 25 December 2009

A Very Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year

Mine has started well. I am now looking forward to preparing and eating Christmas dinner in the company of my two youngest boys. We are going to have pheasant. Never done it before but I have found a recipe by Sophie Grigson. Fingers crossed.

God bless!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


I have got to confess that it is only in the last 10 years or so that I have recognised that film is an art form. So stupid. I hope I am getting LESS stupid.

In the next few days I expect to post stuff about: Favourite Movies, Favourite Movie Makers & Favourite Movie Actors.

The post will contain links to all sorts - in some cases whole movies. This worries me a bit. Is it legal?

A Fabulous Melody, But

I am attaching a link to one of my favourite melodies of all time. It is the main theme of the last movement of Saint Saens' 3rd (Organ) Symphony. It was adapted as the theme of Babe, a lovely movie and was also turned into a song, If I had Words. I absolutely revel in this tune. It featured as the mood music of a delightful but regrettably short incident in my life'

I love it; but (do you agree?) it is badly flawed. The theme is stated quietly and then again powerfully and stirringly. The composer then starts to take the melody apart and he does it interestingly and movingly. All the time, however, the listener, this listener anyway, is expecting that he will put it all back together at the end. But he never does! So I never hear it through without feeling really dissatisfied. In fact, I never hear it all the way through. I wish someone would write the ending I long for.

A clip from Babe with the song:

Monday, 21 December 2009

Daniel Hannan - Leaving the EU

Wise words from one of my favourite parliamentarians. I am pleased to note that all the comments are in agreement with DH.

Something that I never tire of pointing out is that we voted in a referendum to be in the CM (Common Market). This organisation then morphed itself into the EEC (European Economic Community), then into the EC (European Community) and finally into the EU (European Union). All this without even pretending to consult us! As Hannan points out, now 84% of our laws now emanate from this supremely corrupt, anti-democratic, inefficient body of self-serving bureaucrats.

This trajectory was predictable from the speeches and writings of European intellectuals. The British allowed themselves to be conned by Edward Heath - "It's just a Common Market!"

It's a good idea to listen to what our enemies say. Armour Dinner Jacket tells it like it is. He intends to wipe Israel off the map!

Science & Christianity

Notice that I do not say Science & Religion. Nor do I say Science and Catholicism but that would suit my purpose nearly as well.

Listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 this afternoon, I was appalled by the dismal quality of the ‘debate’. The Dean of Guildford, I think, was the ‘Christian’. He led the laughter at the unctuousness of his voice ‘the way a dean should sound’, as though an Anglican clergyman had an obligation to live up to the popular stereotype as well as to be utterly bland and vacuous. He was both. He probably likes being called ‘Rev’.

Anyway, The Vacuous Dean volunteered that ‘religious people’ have a tendency to claim that they have the whole truth, than which nothing could be further from the truth if by ‘religious’ he meant Christian. If anything, this is the claim of the atheistic materialists, who declare that Nature is all there is and that Science is the only means of understanding the World. They know that the Darwinian mechanism (random mutation and natural selection) is how earthworms came to be earthworms and nuns came to be nuns (not just women, but nuns).

Darwinism explains, they tell us, ‘Everything’: earthworms, nuns, fascists, emperors, slavery, tenderness, abortion, Mathematics, rape, heroism, sadism, Democracy, atheism, Music. Everything! Everything and its opposite.

I digress. The atheists on the programme would have it that there was a ‘tension’ between Science and Religion, their way of saying that the former negated the latter. Our clergyman, on the other hand, told a little story about some American students at a service in St Paul’s. He had pointed out to them that Darwin was buried beneath their feet – so they could go back to Arkansas and tell the rednecks that at least Anglicans believed in Science and not creationism. I am paraphrasing; but I swear that he mentioned Arkansas.

Why am I being so rough on the Bland Dean? Shouldn’t I have it in for the atheists, rather than for him? Well, I am pretty contemptuous of materialism and I may return to it in a later post. My contempt for materialists is largely due to the fact is that they have swallowed the myth that Science has defeated Christianity. This is an unconsidered myth, for which there is not the merest scintilla of evidence. ‘Not even close,’ as the non-believer David Berlinski has put it.

My animus against the Unctuous Dean is that he didn’t point out to the unwashed atheists that Science is the Daughter of Christianity, that the Glories of Copernican Astronomy, of Kepler’s planetary Geometry, of Galileo’s observations, of Newton’s magnificent laws and the mindset that underpinned them, were outgrowths of Christianity. The assumptions that gave rise to the Scientific Method were deeply theological. The theology was Judeo-Christian.

Christianity holds that everything emanates from the Mind of God, that humans, made in the image of God, have minds which are fitted for understanding Nature, that the Laws of Nature, products of God’s Mind are, astonishingly accessible to our minds. We Christians expect to be able to make sense of Nature because (as we increasingly discover) Nature makes sublime sense. It is not capricious as an animist would believe. Our minds are capable of getting ever closer to understanding the products of God’s Mind. We wouldn’t have started doing Science if we had not believed that Reason was built into the World’s substance and that Reason is inherent in human thought.

It is anti-scientific to suppose that our ability to detect order in the Universe is the result of random mutations in our brains. Doing science only makes sense if we know what sense is. And we do know; our understanding of things depends upon logic and mathematics being ‘given’ and not random. Coherent thought seems to me impossible if Reason is the product of randomness.

Reason and Faith are absurdly placed in contradiction to each other. We can’t do Science, we can’t think coherently unless we have Faith in the transcendence of Reason.

I can think of no area in which I believe good Science is in opposition to Faith – not one. What we do see is bad Science in opposition to good Science or (more often) honest ignorance in opposition to bad Science, arrogant conjecture or bullying consensus.

I believe that Science is no threat to Christianity and that it never has been. I believe that thoughtful observation of Nature has always been on the side of Faith (see Psalm 19) – more so than ever before. The Big Bang Theory (now, I think, universally accepted) is profoundly theological in its implications. But we still have much to learn about it. What I also believe is that the potential (even the inevitability) of minds existing in Time and Space came into being with the Big Bang, that there are Laws of Nature, which Science may discover, which guide and have guided not only the formation of the galaxies, but the formation of thinking animals with minds and the ability to reason and by Reason and Faith dimly to know the Ultimate Mind.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Wake up to Wogan - The End

On Monday Chris Evans takes over the Radio 2 Breakfast Show and I wish him well. Don't Forget Your Toothbrush was a great show and he is a fine broadcaster. But Terry Wogan is the broadcaster sans pareil (and the Greatest Living Irishman).

I remember one morning in Stockport years ago. I was stuck in traffic going uphill but movement in the opposite direction was free. Wogan was on the radio. All the drivers facing me had silly grins on their faces.

I am defeated by the very thought of trying to describe his magic. Perhaps it boils (I nearly typed 'boiled') down to 'Chemistry'. He has or had it in spades with all his collaborators. With Fran Godfrey (damn the BBC for letting her go), with Boggy, Deadly, Chuffer Dandridge, Edna Cloud, the lamented Paulie Walters, with the Girl from Splott and with his 8 million listeners.

One day he will go to Heaven. I am going record all the tribute programmes (if I survive him). The tears and laughter will be unprecedented.

The man is wise, funny, humane, generous and great! There are great men in many walks of life: science, philosophy, sport, war, business, art, music, politics. Terry Wogan is a DJ(!) and Terry Wogan is a great man!

I believe he is to host a new show starting on Valentine's Day. I'll be there.

I'm adding him to the Heroes and Heroines post - perhaps with an audio clip. Will I be able to find the show when Paulie farted?

Gray's Elegy

This is one of the finest lyric poems in English. Once upon a time a good proportion of Englishmen would have had some or all of it by heart. Do you recognize any phrases in it, used by other authors? It is a total justification of Gray's existence.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

Yet e'en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, --

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'

The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melacholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.

Sailing By

I love this. I don't know how many thousands, quite literally, of times I have heard this and I never tire of it. It precedes the late night Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 every night. It's by Ronald Binge - not a household name, but on the strength of this waltz alone a great composer. The Shipping Forecast is itself abstract poetry. How about this immortal line: From Colwyn Bay to Mull of Kintyre, including Loch Foyle to Carlingford Loch. Enjoy!

Joseph Haydn: Andante Cantabile


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Like God?

Some atheists reckon they have a cast-iron refutation for the Christian belief in an all powerful and all loving God. How come, they demand, if God is all powerful and all loving, that he allows bad things to happen to innocent people?

This, of course, is a question asked not only by atheists, but by Christian and Jewish teachers for much more than two thousand years. It is the theme of the Book of Job. It is a question asked by every child brought up in the Christian faith. If I were God and could do anything, would I allow bad stuff to happen? ’Course I wouldn’t.

It is a very hard question. Funnily enough, it doesn’t seem to do the trick as often as an atheist would expect – that of causing people to abandon faith in a God who is simultaneously omnipotent, good and apparently tolerant of evil. Christians believe that God hates evil. But we still don’t disbelieve – just because he doesn’t wrap a force field around us which repels every evil thing (and he doesn’t program us to behave always in our own best interest). Are Christians just stupid, then? Are they incapable of following a simple syllogism? A good, omnipotent God would not allow evil to exist. Evil exists. Therefore God is not good or not omnipotent or not existent.

Like all thinking Christians, I think about this. It worries me, as it has worried all Christians forever. But it worries me a little less than it did.

Christians believe that God is our Father. Clearly, this is a metaphor. All human parents inhabit Time and Space. God does not. God is the originator of Time, Space, Energy and Matter. When we say, “Our Father...” we are not pretending to be in literally the same relationship with The Creator as we are with our human parents. Nevertheless, we do say it and we do mean it. Christ taught his disciples to say it. Christians who are parents believe that they share, if only to an infinitesimal degree, in the nature of God.

God is omniscient. We are not. However, we are not omni-ignorant. We do know things. We know for certain that when we procreate, our offspring will have to endure suffering. We hate the evil that we know will befall them. We practise varying degrees of self-sacrifice to mitigate their inevitable suffering. But, all the same, we choose to procreate. Knowing what is inevitable, we do not think it would be more loving (of our still un-conceived progeny) not to beget and bear them.

To an infinitesimal degree we are like God. We would not, even if we could, withhold freewill from our children, by genetic modification or brainwashing. Any attempt by others to do so would meet with our fiercest resistance. We abominate the idea of government thought and behaviour control, even when we meet it in fiction, such as in Brave New World.

Having mused on this for a few days, I was surprised to hear Lord Harries of Pentregarth (sometime Bishop of Oxford) developing a similar theme in the Thought for the Day slot on the Today programme last week. It is very seldom that I hear anything in this slot that sticks in my memory. Well done, Richard! Of course, I didn’t expect Humphrys and Naughtie to improve on it; so I switched to Wogan. Terry, don’t leave us!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Charles Geshekter

I'm going to let this man speak for himself. Does he sound like a swivel-eyed lunatic? Is he being self-serving?

Videos of Heroes and Heroines

I have just added some video clips to the Heroes and Heroines posting. I'll be adding more in future.

Crosby Sands

On Crosby Sands the Iron Men stand still.
The windy beach remains unpainted yet.
You’ve still to capture that. So wild so wet.
You will; for I will take you there and will

Perhaps just watch and hold your brushes
And wonder how you can with such few strokes
Do what you do. I’d be the first of blokes,
God willing, cutest Kate, to swap (he blushes!)

A sonnet for a picture, dear… but hey!
Our night is over, not to be replayed.
You’ve twice surprised me, lovely Kate,
Surprised, delighted, then… on the next day

Retreated like the tide on Crosby Sands,
And like your scent now faded… from my hands.

Limiting the Harm

The effects of all recreational drugs can be harmful. Everyone agrees.

Cannabis can lead to psychosis - but not very often. How many of the cannabis users you know are psychotic? Clearly, it's fun.

Drunkenness is responsible for a huge proprtion of A&E attendances. Alcohol makes you unproductive and accident-prone. It's bad news in the workplace and in the bloodstream of drivers. Lots of it over a long period can rot your liver. At the same time it contributes massively to conviviality. There is no way that we would ever contemplate a repetition of the US prohibition experiment.

Tobacco use is unpleasant for non-users and it's really bad for your lungs. All the same, smokers, like everyone else, are living longer. Most smokers don't get lung cancer. I'm a smoker but not an advocate of smoking. Nor do I advocate criminalising smoking.

The use of pure heroin with clean needles is not very harmful. Nearly all heroin users give it up and eventually die of something else. Street heroin is almost never pure. Injectors do not always use sterile needles. I wouldn't want a blissed-out doctor or accountant dealing with my health or my taxes.

Recreational drugs permeate our society. We deal with them in different ways. Some are taxed and regulated. We do what we can to keep even the legal ones away from children.

We are never going to send people to prison just for using or selling booze or fags. Of course, we do send people to prison for smuggling booze and fags.

For centuries we muddled along with all manner of recreational drugs. There were some good effects, some neutral effects and some harmful effects. Common sense prevailed. Drunkenness was tolerated but getting into a drunken punch-up was not. Spending money on gin or opium rather than food for your kids was agreed by all to be bad. Most kids did not starve.

In the twentieth century, while the customs, incentives and laws regulating sexual behaviour were steadily relaxed, the state turned its attention to regulating the way we were allowed to use chemicals for fun. Prohibition in the US was a manifest disaster and was eventually repealed. But more and more drugs which had been legal were prohibited with what I believe were similarily catastrophic effects.

The Eighteenth Amendment did nothing to reduce demand. The same has been true of of other prohibitions. Prohibition of alcohol in the USA had a number of consequences. The first was to put money and power into the hands of the worst people in society, those who were prepared to flout the law for their own profit. The accompanying corruption of the justice system followed inevitably.

Huge resources were ineffectively committed to frustrating the bootleggers. The explosion of violence as the villains fought back and with each other could have been predicted.

Prohibition was repealed. A lesson had been learnt. But the lesson was not applied elsewhere. Anti-marijuana and anti-heroin and anti-cocaine and anti-exstasy legislation rolled on and on with predictable results. Crime and drug use became conflated just as crime and alcohol use had been during the years of prohibition.

Huge numbers of thinking people have concluded that enough is enough. Demand cannot be suppressed by the criminal law. The 'war on drugs' is lost. I don't believe that it is defeatest to admit this. Reforming drugs legislation is overdue. The answer is regulation. Just as we attempt to minimise harm from alcohol by regulating (and taxing) its use, so should we regulate and tax the drugs we now prohibit. Harm will remain but the harms caused by criminalising drugs (money and power to crooks, deaths from impure supplies, massive waste of resources, lives ruined by crime) will be mitigated.

Below is a link to a website dedicated to reducing the harm caused by recreational drugs, Transform Drugs Policy Foundation. It is packed with information.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Knowing & Believing

Don't laugh, please. Well, I won't know if you do.

What is Credible? What is Knowable? What do I Know? What do I Believe?

The class of ‘facts’ (F1) that I claim to know includes among many:
That today is Friday.
That I have a British passport.
That I ate pork tonight.
That I’d like to have more money than I have.
That blue paint mixed with yellow paint will give me green paint.

Of course, I may be lying here or I may be deluded.

F2 facts include:
The Earth revolves around the Sun.
Distilled water in an open vessel at sea level boils at approximately 100 deg Celsius.
No human being has lived to be 200 years old, so far.
All living beings have DNA.

These facts I have on authority. Perhaps I am being gullible. There is scarcely any difference in the degree of certainty with which I ‘know’ F1 facts and F2 facts.

F3 facts include:
The Sun will rise tomorrow morning.
Communism always involves oppression.

You could shake my certainty about F3 facts by, for example, convincing me that a moon sized meteor is going to hit the Earth tonight or that genetic modification of human beings will create a benign communist society. All the same, the difference in the degree of certainty with which I ‘know’ F1 facts, F2 facts and F3 facts is minute.

What do I Believe?
The class of ‘beliefs’ (B1) in which my confidence is 90%+ include:
That space, matter/energy and time were created in the Big Bang (some appeal to authority here).
That, therefore, Something outside space and time caused the Big Bang.
That because all living beings have DNA, all living beings are in some sense related.
That generosity is absolutely morally superior to selfishness (up to 99.999% here).

Is there a disconnect between F1, F2, F3, on one hand, and B1, on the other?

The great thing about publishing a blog is that you can do this sort of thing. I'm not trying to convince anyone here. I'm just asking.

Another time I may well try to convince you that there is more to reality than space, matter/energy and time.

A Habit of Gratitude

I think I have always prayed, even when I had no idea what prayer meant. I am less ignorant now, but not much. Mostly the substance of my prayers has been, "Oh God, it's so ghastly. Make it go away!"

Of late I have spent time thinking fuzzily about prayer and today I decided that it had to be the subject of my next blog.

But now I am uncertain that I have anything worthwhile to say on the subject. The fuzziness has so far coagulated into a few bullet points in Word, as yet to be expanded and uploaded.

One point I think is worth making. Namely, that a Habit of Gratitude is a form of prayer. Not only that but a Habit of Gratitude is necessary to happiness. Therefore happiness is impossible without prayer.

I have argued myself into Catholicism. The reasons for believing in an Infinite Father, a Loving Creator are so strong that such a belief demands a response from the believer, no matter how little emotion I can summon up. So an attempt at prayer is an obligation, an intellectual obligation. Dame Julian I am not. But an Infinite Father, a Loving Creator promises, in her words, that "all manner of things shall be well". So, a Habit of Gratitude is demanded by reason.

How lucky that it is a necessary condition of happiness.

Any comments will be most welcome.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Why do Bad Ideas Take Root so Quickly and Why are they so Hard to Eradicate?

Followers of this blog, if there ever are any, will detect that there are a number of bees in my bonnet. Two of loudest buzzers are: the orthodox HIV theory of AIDS (AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease in which the causative agent is HIV) and AGW (the preposterous idea that human beings are on the brink of a self-induced global catastrophe).


“HIV, the Virus that Causes AIDS.” “HIV, the Virus that Causes AIDS.” “HIV, the Virus that Causes AIDS.”

This mantra is unprecedented. Compare it with: “Shigella the Bacillus that Causes Dysentery” or with “Plasmodium the Protist that Causes Malaria.” You haven’t read these repeatedly in the press or heard them on the radio a thousand times. A fairer comparison would be with: “Religion, the Opiate of the Masses” or with “Patriotism, the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel”! In other words, “HIV, the Virus that Causes AIDS.” is pure propaganda.

It was/is chanted by those who seem to have remembered Goebbels famous words: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State (or self-serving scientific elites) can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State (or self-serving scientific elites).”

In the mid 80s there were other mantras: “Don’t Die of Ignorance”, “AIDS is an Equal Opportunity Killer”, “We are All Equally at Risk”. It’s a great trick! “Four Legs Good! Two Legs Bad!”. Over and over and over.

Well, I’m not so much brainier than average. But even at the time it was plain to me that something was going on. This was so obviously propaganda, and clumsy propaganda at that, that I expected it to be rumbled in short order. Especially, because those who were tragically dying of AIDS continued overwhelmingly to be gay men, against whom I have no animus. I will come to African AIDS later.

The self-evident nonsense was not rumbled. I managed to make myself unpopular among some of my acquaintance. The mantra was working!

Baffled, I speculated. This was before I had read a word by a single “AIDS Dissident” or “AIDS Denier”.

BTW, this is another clever trick (alive and well among the AGW fraternity to associate those who were/are not taken in with Holocaust deniers). Goebbels would have taken his hat off.

Baffled, I started to formulate vague theories. The press loved it. So they would do anything to keep the show on the road. The gay lobby, understandably, much preferred HIV=AIDS to any life style associated theory. So, “We are all equally at risk” suited them. The government liked showing how caring they were by pumping money into propaganda and research. Virologists were at a premium.

As it happened (though I didn’t know at the time), there were far too many virologists around anyway. They had done good by defeating polio and smallpox. All credit to them. And in the 1970s they were going to sort out cancer. Great! Great big grants, gorgeous shiny laboratories and heaps of prestige. Doing well by doing good. But that didn’t happen. Viruses turned out to have very little to with cancer. Bummer!

So, when someone says AIDS is caused by a virus (even though it was a retrovirus, a virus of a type that had never been accused of causing so much as dandruff) the virologists settled down once more to doing well by doing good.

That was quite a coalition: the media, the government, oppressed gays (about whom we all felt bad for the hard time they had had in pre-enlightened times) and those heroic guys in white coats.

But then a very few very naughty little boys began to whisper: “The King is in the altogether, the altogether, the altogether... as naked as the day that he was born. The very least the King has ever worn.”

I think that the first thing I read which cast doubt on the HIV theory was by Jad Adams, ‘AIDS, The HIV Myth’. Subsequently I read ‘The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS’ by Michael Fumento. Neville Hodgkinson started a courageous series of articles in the Sunday Times. I read Peter Duesberg, Kary Mullis, Joan Shenton, Celia Farber and many others.

[I intend to provide links to relevant websites in due course. But this is a new blog and I have got stuff of my own to get off my chest. Gimme a break, willya? Anyway, in the meantime there’s Google.]

I also read stuff by the orthodox HIV=AIDS people. And one thing struck me straight away. They didn’t address the questions of the dissenters. For example, how could AIDS be caused by HIV when some of Gallo’s AIDS subjects showed no evidence of the presence of HIV? Robert Gallo is the man who gave us HIV. He announced it at a press conference. No peer review, no proper scientific protocol. More about Gallo later, perhaps in a separate post. Even more problematical, how could there be a test for HIV when nobody had ever isolated HIV?

No, instead of addressing the questions, they appealed to the consensus (of happy, secure virologists) and slandered the dissenters. They called them murderers and called for their imprisonment. They made sure that they didn’t publish in Science or in Nature, that they didn’t get government money to do research. One unhappy virologist, Peter Duesberg, in fact the man who probably knows more about retroviruses than any other scientist, has not had a grant application approved since he stuck his head above the parapet. He was a man at the top of his profession, an “outstanding investigator”, a potential Nobel Prize laureate. Peter Duesberg will be vindicated; but what a waste of talent!

Catastrophic Manmade Global Warming aka Catastrophic Human Caused Climate Change

The similarities between the HIV theory of AIDS and AGW are instructive and depressing. It almost as if the warmists had taken note of the success of Gallo and his crew and deliberately emulated them. Mind you, they might have been students of Dr Goebbels.

OK. So here is why AGW is self evidently poppycock! The question is: why, oh why have so may people fallen for it?

[On an optimistic note, there are far more people who recognise that AGW is a crock than there are who have not fallen for the HIV line. Perhaps it’s because HIV got rammed down our innocent (though naive) throats before the internet really got going. Isn’t it a lovely irony that Al Gore claims to have been instrumental in creating the Information Super Highway? Another reason may be that the cost of doing what the warmists want is so colossal and promises so little and that it is manifestly, plainly, obviously unaffordable. People know that we haven’t got the money. We’ve given it all to the bankers.]

Poppycock? Right. AGW says that minute increases in one minute constituent of the atmosphere will raise the Earth’s temperature dramatically. Hush your cheering, people of Siberia. You probably have more to worry about from cooling.

The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen. Dry air is 78% nitrogen (which is vital to growing plants), 21% oxygen (enough to keep you and me alive but not so much that things keep bursting into flame spontaneously all the time) and 1% everything else. CO2 forms about 400 ppm (parts per million) or 0.0004% and it’s going up – a bit. So if it were to double, that would be 0.0008%. You can see why they use ppm. Most air contains some water vapour, up to 4% or 40000 ppm. Water vapour is by far the most significant ‘greenhouse’ gas and there is sod all we can do about it. As for the CO2, if there were significantly less of it we would be in trouble because clever plants use water from their roots and CO2 from the atmosphere to make sugars for their own bodies which animals, including humans, eat. This is called photosynthesis because the process requires light. Where does this deadly miasma (CO2) come from?

It nearly all comes from Nature. According to the World Meteorological Organisation 95% of the CO2 would be there if there were no humans on the Earth. So, we are talking about a small percent of a vanishingly small proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere being contributed by us.

Common sense would suggest that since the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere is so tiny, it’s going to have a tiny effect on temperatures, especially because there is so much water vapour in comparison, about which we can do nothing.

“Common sense? We can do better than common sense,” say the warmists, “We’ve got computer models! We create thousands of formulas and plug in thousands of bits of data. And, lo and behold, the computer tells that it’s going to get a bit hotter – anyway, enough hotter to flood London and Bangladesh. Please can we have some more money to continue this vital research and don’t forget that after you’ve paid us, you need to dismantle your economy and pay trillions of money to China and India to help them dismantle their economies. What do you mean by saying that the banks have got all the money you had? We’ve peer-reviewed each other’s articles, so there!”

Well, the Earth’s climate (or rather climates – you might have noticed that Siberia and Saudi Arabia have little in common climate wise) is/are very very much more complicated than the most sophisticated computer climate models – even though Michael Mann (of hockey stick fame) created a model which was so sophisticated that it gave him a catastrophic result whatever data he plugged into it. It even changed the past by eliminating the Medieval Warm Period and smoothing out the Little Ice Age. No wonder Phil Jones at the CRU at UEA was impressed by his tricks.

Time to turn in. But why do these bad ideas take root so quickly and why are they so hard to eradicate?

Short answer: because we are gullible and lazy. A self-serving scientific elite, a press that loves a scare, governments that pander to what they think is the zeitgeist, the likes of Al Gore and Robert Gallo, who have figured out how to make money out of carbon trading and HIV tests.

I’m quite sure that there are things I accept lazily because I haven’t bothered to investigate. I don’t feel I should apologise for accepting Quantum Mechanics, although QM is the graveyard (as David Berlinski says) of intuition and common sense. I’m not smart enough to check it out. I am not smart enough to rant on about Politics and Economics, though it seems self-evident that the way we have done things in the ‘free world’ is better than the way they do things in North Korea.
Good night.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Darwinism: Irrelevant to Hard Science, Pernicious in its Application to Politics and Everything Else Worth Thinking About

Darwinism (the modern synthesis of Darwinian Evolution and Mendelian Genetics) is said to be the cornerstone of Biology. – “Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution”, says Theodosius Dobzhansky. I challenge you to think of a stupider assertion.

How on earth can an intelligent person make such insane pronouncements? Harvey described the circulation of the blood without any reference to evolution. It’s true. It’s useful. They cut my son open at 17 months to repair his patent ductus. We know a lot about mammalian reproduction and none of what we know depends upon us accepting Darwin’s theory.

Darwinism or Darwin’s theory of evolution, to describe it less ideologically, is the idea that random mutation and natural selection are together a sufficient explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

It cannot ever be stressed often enough or strongly enough that Darwinism has nothing to say about the origin of species (the title of his book is The Origin of Species, an outright and palpable falsehood, it pains me to say, as an admirer of the man) ie the origin of Life. But how has that idea ever guided any scientific enterprise in Biology?

Newton, so he said, stood on the shoulders of giants. Succeeding physicists have stood on his. Did Fleming with similar modesty assert that without the great Darwin he could never have discovered penicillin? No. Did Crick and Watson acknowledge their debt to Darwin? No. Who of the great biologists since 1859 would acknowledge any such thing of their own discoveries? None. Some were Darwinians, some not.

When we think of other major theories, the Germ Theory of Disease, say, or The Heliocentric Theory of the Solar System (neither of which is graced with the name of a single progenitor), it is easy to see how these theories have provided a framework for fruitful investigations and technical advances. The Germ Theory of Disease has (through Lister, Semmelweiss and others) saved countless human lives. Space travel (based upon the sciences of Physics and Astronomy) would be impossible if we still believed that the Sun revolved about the Earth.

Evolutionary Biology (as opposed to Biology), in contrast, has not spawned any daughter discoveries at all. All it does is to add a footnote to any discovery (any discovery whatever) to the effect that now that we understand how the circulation of the blood works (for example), we can confidently pronounce that it evolved (by random mutation and natural selection). We/they (evolutionary biologists) are apparently perfectly free to make up a story about the steps by which it might have evolved. Nobody will trouble to prove us wrong. Nobody can. Nobody has the remotest idea what actually happened!

The footnote is an exercise in pointlessness. And yet it takes up space on virtually every page, adding nothing to what we know about the circulation of the blood or any other biological phenomenon. You have to feel sorry for anyone who says they are in Evolutionary Biology (a very different thing from being a biologist who accepts that Darwin’s theory embodies the truth). Dental hygienists, estate agents and bookies should command greater respect.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, for all that it was a brilliant idea and a spectacularly powerful explanation (if confirmed) of how the myriad species of plants and animals developed, has not been the springboard for any scientific discoveries whatsoever. Its contribution to Biology has been nil. Being believers in Darwinism has never aided biologists to come up with breakthroughs of their own. Nor is it easy to imagine that being violently opposed to Darwinism has ever prevented a doctor from curing a patient, or a geneticist from improving a strain of rice.

Fundamentalist Baptists and Moslems (who disbelieve in Darwinism) are not per se incapable of biological innovation. Someone who disbelieved the Atomic Theory of Matter would be per se incapable of groundbreaking work in Nuclear Physics.

The extraordinary thing is that, barren as Darwinism has proved in Biology (where it allegedly holds pride of place, as the cornerstone), it has proved fantastically (ferociously) fertile in a huge variety of non-Biological endeavours. Embraced as “modern”, welcomed enthusiastically for its undermining of religion, Darwinism has had a profound effect on political thinking, thinking about education, society, psychology, sexuality and practically everything else. Hence my title: Darwinism: Irrelevant to Hard Science, Pernicious in its Application to Politics and Everything Else Worth Thinking About.

We conventionally think of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Geology etc as being the hard sciences. In these disciplines (when they are disciplined) the scientific method rules supreme. Theories are eventually replaced by theories which are better supported by the facts or by theories which explain more. Unfortunately, theories hardly ever simply collapse of themselves, no matter how little convincing evidence can be adduced in their support – supply your own examples (“Land Bridges” spring to my mind). There has to be an upstart theory which overthrows the reigning theory (when the old professors retire or die!). Indeed we can describe scientific progress of the hard kind as being evolutionary! Not evolutionary in the Darwinian sense, however. Scientific theories never arise by random mutation. Having been designed, they are selected (or rejected) by the scientific community, not by Nature. The history of hard science has been linear – generally moving forward. We do actually know more about the universe and how it works than Aristotle did, about the human animal than Galen did. Don’t we?

The hard sciences are conventionally contrasted with the soft sciences: Psychology, History, Sociology etc. This is not to decry them, only to say that it is impossible to maintain that in Sociology, for example, the scientific method rules with a rod of iron, that old theories are ruthlessly stricken down by new (and better) ones.

That there are competing schools of thought in Psychology or Sociology is a commonplace. Scientific consensus is the ideal in the hard sciences and frequently achieved (eventually and “by and large”). In the soft sciences it is an impossibility. The histories of these sciences frequently evince circularity, with ancient theories coming back into fashion and “progressive” ideas being abandoned for traditional ones (Phonics in the teaching of reading?). We can say that hard sciences are (or at least ought to be) objective; whereas soft sciences are, to a degree, subjective, and always will be. Needless to say, this is not an argument for abandoning all thought about Education or History.

Subjectivity is characteristic and allowable in the soft sciences. BUT it is in these soft sciences that “the fact of Darwinian evolution” has been so incredibly influential.

It now occurs to me to wonder what Darwinism is for. Of course, if Darwinism were confirmed to be true (and it may be one day – but I’m not holding my breath), then its value will/would lie in the fact that it explains(ed) what it set out to explain (clear “relationships” between species, descent of one species from another – DNA, pentadactyl limbs, etc), though not the origin of life in its most primitive form (in itself a significant lacuna [for which Darwin is not to be blamed unless, like me, you think that the title of his most famous book is misleading in the extreme]).

Whatever Darwin’s intention, then, the main use of Darwinism has been to inspire or support theories not in Biology (of which, remember, it is [supposedly] the cornerstone) but in Politics, Philosophy, History, Sociology Economics, Law and other soft sciences. And it must be admitted that (at least in general, to be extremely generous) the results have not been pretty.

Part 1 of this monograph will deal with the paucity of evidence that Darwinism has been a productive/useful/predictive force in Biology.

Part 2 will address the agendas of the Darwinian faithful.
In short, maybe Darwin had something; but the something which he had (if it was something) is spectacularly and self-evidently unimportant scientifically. You and I might wish that he had snuffed it before he published The Origin of Species. He didn’t; and some one else would have come up with the same idea. Actually Wallace did. The deeper problem (and nonsense) is the growing prevalence of materialism and reductionism which is the hateful legacy of the late nineteenth century.

1. Scientifically Irrelevant

In this section I shall attempt to discredit the idea that Darwinism is “the cornerstone of Biology”. It is my contention that Biology was well and flourishing before 1859 and that the wonderful discoveries of biologists since then (not to mention the incredible and beneficent technological achievements based on these discoveries) owe nothing to Darwinism, whether or not the discoverers/achievers were Darwinian in outlook. In other words, “Don’t tell me you were standing on Darwin’s shoulders when you made this breakthrough.”

2. Philosophically Pernicious

In this section I shall develop the view that “it doesn’t make you a bad person” to subscribe to Darwinism but that in the Darwinian camp there are some very bad people indeed.

Communism: The Triumph of the Proletariat - Led by the Party (Us)

Fascism: The Triumph of the Master Race (Us)

Brutal Capitalism: The Survival of the Fittest (Us)

Eugenics: The Sterilisation or Elimination of the Unfit (Them)

to be continued...

The Great Debate

Part One

The Darwinians say:

Nature is all there is. There is no purpose in the universe. It is unscientific to invoke a creator to account for anything. Therefore something like Neo-Darwinism must be the scientific explanation for life and its diversity.

The Sceptics say:

We grant that the universality of DNA and the fact that many species have similar body plans suggest that all living beings are in some way related. We further grant that that it is possible (or even probable) that all existing species are the descendents of earlier species.

However, speciation has never been observed. The fossil record does not begin to indicate that the "tree of life" grew as Darwin supposed it did. The evolution of spectacularly complex organs by mutation and natural selection strains credulity.

Moreover, Darwinism does not come close to having an explanation for the origin of life. Nobody has the slightest idea of how the first living cell came into existence. That amino acids were spontaneously synthesized from inorganic molecules is speculative in the extreme. Furthermore, even if it were proven to have happened, amino acids are a long way from proteins and proteins are a long way from cells. We have to plead ignorance.

The Darwinians say:

You are simply trying to undermine a proven scientific fact so that you can smuggle in theology/dogma/mysticism/mythology/superstition.

The Sceptics say:

You have had 150 years to assemble the "proofs". Darwinism remains what it was in 1859 - a speculation. As time goes by and as we know more about the almost unbelievable complexity of biological systems and as the rocks continue to withhold the longed-for evidence, steadfast faith in the truth of Darwinism looks increasingly unjustified.

As for having a theological agenda, we sceptics are simply sceptics. The burden of proof is on you. Where is it?

If some of us who are sceptical about Darwinism allow ourselves to speculate about whether science can detect any evidence of design in the universe, we have no reason to be ashamed. We do not claim that science has proved that the universe is designed. Some of us find this speculation intriguing.

Some of us find the application of Darwinian theory to other realms disquieting. Just as Darwinism has been claimed to "explain everything", so there is a danger of its being used to justify anything. The hard men of the left and right have embraced the application of Darwinism to politics, society and history. The hard men have a lot to answer for. Their enthusiasm for the theory in no way invalidates it as a biological theory. But if they act in accordance with faith in a "scientific" theory, that theory had better be well substantiated.

Part Two

Hardline Darwinians frequently seem to believe that they understand the thought processes of the sceptics. They assert that the sceptics are disingenuous. They argue that those who fail to accept that Darwinian evolution is a proven fact do so only because they have an unreasoning and dogmatic (perhaps secret) commitment to 'creationism'. This is simply untrue. Many of us sceptics came to our undogmatic scepticism belatedly, and indignantly, only when we became aware of the fragility of the Darwinian account.

I say 'undogmatic' because most sceptics do not claim to be able to give a rival account. They are content to confess ignorance. Perry Mason always unmasked the real murderer but in law it is, and in science it should be, enough to cast reasonable doubt for the case to be thrown out or for the theory to be reappraised. [I forget to whom I owe the Perry Mason figure - Phillip Johnson?]

I say 'indignantly' because for most of us educated in the twentieth century the Darwinian account was the only serious game in town. We were taught that the only rival (and absurd) account was that of 'fundamentalist' Christians, who believed that God created the world in six days in 4004 BC. They were to be ridiculed and opposed as being anti-scientific.

We were taught evolution without ever hearing about the 'Cambrian Explosion'[1]. We were taught that the 'missing link' was a fossil which (when found) would complete the story of human evolution. We were not taught that the entire fossil record consists almost exclusively of missing links - the 'trade secret of palaeontology'[2]. We were not taught that serious scientists had reservations about the ability of mutation and natural selection to fashion complex organs like the eye. We were not taught that some of the 'evidence' from embryology was simply fraudulent. We were not taught that the Peppered Moths in the photographs had been pinned to the trunks of trees, their preferred place of rest being under the foliage. Nor, importantly, that the phenomenon of a changed preponderance of one shade over another had nothing to do with any new genetic material. It was not drawn to our attention that drought or floods in the Galapagos islands never created a new species of finch. We were given imaginary illustrations of evolution (horses, apelike humans, the 'tree of life') in scientific text books. If these were imaginary, what were they doing in science books?

When subsequently we stumbled upon undeniable facts about the flaws in the case, we smelled a rat; we were indignant.

Self evidently, there are people who are dogmatically committed to a scriptural account. They have, perhaps, been inoculated against 'scientific materialism' by their faith and culture. They are honest about the fact that they oppose Darwinism because of their faith in the literal truth of scripture. They take an admittedly philosophical/theological stance. In this they resemble hardline Darwinians. The difference being that hardline Darwinians protest that their position is not philosophical but scientific. They reject religion on the grounds that it conflicts with science. This is a myth. Whatever you or I may believe, Science has done nothing to disprove Religion. If we did have a complete, authenticated, scientific account of how life in all its myriad manifestations did come to be and it turned out to identical with the first chapters of Genesis, I for one would be very surprised. However, assuming this hypothetical account to be at variance with Genesis, I would not for that reason reject all religion.

I confess now that I, like the hardline Darwinians, believe that I understand their thought processes. I believe their starting point is a dogmatic commitment to atheistic scientific materialism. In other words, I accuse them of exactly the same offence as that of which they accuse us sceptics, and which I deny - that my position (scepticism) is a result of a prior commitment to "creationism". It's not that I want Darwinism to be false. I just don't believe Darwinism holds water.

They want materialism to be true and they want purpose excluded from the universe. They think Darwin is going to help them lock the door against any possibility of God being brought into the picture. Some of them have been frank and honest about why they cannot stomach the idea of God: “If God, then we cannot indulge all the desires we wish to indulge”[3].

Why am I innocent and they guilty? Well, Dawkins seems to me to confirm his guilt: "Darwinism makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist". The accompanying "phew" is almost audible. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were characterised by an increase in agnosticism, atheism and anti-clericalism. Many believed that the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton (pious men all) had already dethroned God, or at least cast doubt on the biblical account. They were anxious to reject the Bible's account of life's beginning and variety. Their relief in 1859 at having a scientific rival was palpable. Huxley was an atheist before he read Darwin. He gratefully seized 'Evolutionism' and swung it gleefully at the church.

Interestingly, most Christians (in Europe, at least) accept Darwinism largely uncritically. They do not find that it compels them to disbelieve. I suppose Dawkins would regard them as being exactly half as stupid as creationists. In their defence, I would say that the great mystery is not how and why we have diverse organisms - grant for a moment that Darwinism is right, as far as it goes - but how and why we have organisms at all, or a universe for them to live in. Dawkins is complacent in entrusting his intellectual fulfilment to a materialistic theory that explains so little.

Hardline Darwinians are convinced atheists who need to believe in a purely materialistic explanation of the universe. Darwin's theory of evolution is the best purely materialist theory anyone has come up with to account for the variety of species; but it's not fit for a convinced young atheist's purpose. It completely ignores the origin of life. Darwin supposed that simple (lower) life forms evolved into more complex (higher) life forms; but he and his cheerleaders are silent about where the simplest life forms came from. There is no 'struggle for existence' among inorganic objects. Darwin's theory not only does not, but cannot have anything to say about the origin of life.

Let us be a bit more charitable to Darwin. It is unfair to blame him for what he didn't deal with in the book and, it must be admitted, his central theory was pretty brilliant actually. The title is misleading, though: the Origin is what he most conspicuously fails to address. Darwin isn't really much help after all to your poor convinced young atheist in search of intellectual fulfilment?

Darwinians (ignoring all internal disputes) claim that Darwinian evolution is a scientific fact, as well established as Newton's laws or the General Theory of Relativity. Well, of course, it patently is not. It is speculation, largely unsubstantiated. In the light of what we now know about complex biological systems, it takes men of Dawkins' and Dennett's heroic credulity to be satisfied that everything that needs to be demonstrated has been demonstrated. We see them leaping from crag to crag of Mount Improbable - they pretend to be inching painfully up the slope; but that's just their modesty. But if you need 'science' to buttress your atheism, what choice have you got?

This is my plea to those who are new to the scientific controversy over the truth or otherwise of Darwinism (and most educated people are scarcely aware that such a controversy exists): Follow the evidence wherever it leads. If further evidence points unambiguously to Darwinism's truth, so be it. If further research detects unambiguous evidence of design, so be it.

The jury is still out. Will we ever know beyond reasonable doubt that Darwinism is true? Perhaps. There may be scads of fossils out there of just the type and quantity that evolutionary palaeontologists would murder their grandmothers for. And make them deeply regret that Alfred Nobel had not had the foresight to endow a prize for palaeontology.

Will we ever know for certain how life arose in the first place? Probably not. The first step would be to create life artificially, following the example of Miller and Urey with their artificially created amino acids. Having got amino acids and having convinced ourselves that our construction was truly a re-construction, then we would then have to get these amino acids to assemble themselves into proteins (in real life this doesn’t happen without a manual – DNA/RNA, molecules of mind-blowing complexity). Then we would have to conjure up a cell wall and invent (and somehow implement) metabolism. All this, remember, without “natural selection” which only kicks in (by definition) when you have conspecifics struggling with each other for survival. We would then, perhaps, be able to say these were, at least some of the steps by which it might have happened in Nature. Of course, if we succeed in this awesome task, we will have to admit that the life created in our laboratory was designed.

Quote from Richard Lewontin – Geneticist, Darwinian and Marxist:

“It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

How embarrassing! Where on earth did this a priori adherence come from. Is it a “meme” that has infected some minds but not all? Or is Lewontin the product of a favourable mutation? In what way, then, will/does/can it favour the perpetuation of Lewontins?

What, by the way, was the initiation ceremony he underwent? Who performed it? Did it hurt more or less than circumcision?

Lewontin has to explain my scepticism and his credulity (or vice versa) in evolutionary terms. Evolution is not, of course, interested in “truth”. So, in his terms, “truth” cannot exist – his or mine. He can’t believe anything is true: that he did not imagine Darwin, that communism is a desirable state of affairs, that water freezes at 0 degs Celsius, that his wife is faithful, that he is not in a padded cell.

In the unlikely event that he asks me, my answers are ready:

You didn’t.
It isn’t.
It does.
She may be.
You’re not but…

In short, you have to ask yourself: not what do I want to believe but where does the evidence point. And if the evidence is inconclusive, your position has got to be: I/we don’t know. Nobody (neither Creationists nor Darwinians) has the right to say of scientific issues, “I don’t know much about Biology; but I know what I like.”

[1] During a very short period, in geological terms, a huge number of species apparently came into being with absolutely no evident precursors.
[2] The term used by Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University, himself an Evolutionist, to describe the absence of evidence for evolution.
[3] Both the Huxleys, Thomas and Aldous, say as much in so many words.

Heroes and Heroines

A growing list

Melanie Phillips: Right about nearly everything. But not drugs policy. Proud to have her topping my list.

Phillip Johnson: Hard to summarise but a great man!

Christopher Booker: Right about the EU. Right about AGW.

David Berlinski: The polemicist's polemicist - erudite and witty.

Daniel Hannan: One of my two favourite parliamenarians. The other is Frank Field. Here Dan's his famous speech in the European Parliament:

Thomas Gold: Twice vindicated in different branches of science. Probably to be vinicated in a third.

Peter Duesberg: A brave scientist who will be vindicated. Listen to him and you will wonder how the nonsense which is the HIV theory of AIDS ever got a hearing. Charles Geshekter is exceptionally good on African AIDS, as is Rian Malan.

Jonah Goldberg: If you haven't read 'Liberal Fascism', you are probably labouring under the same misconception that I was before reading this momentous book. I took Left and Right to be opposite ends of the political spectrum. Communism was extreme Leftism and Fascism was the extreme manifestation of Right wing ideas. Until I read Goldberg. He makes it clear that Communism and Fascism/Nazism were twins. Not only does he quote Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini expressing admiration for each other but he reminds us that Hitler called his movement National Socialism and that Mussolini declared himself to be a lifelong socialist. The antecedents of both were nineteenth century materialism, atheism and anticlericalism. Both forms of totalitarianism owed much to the Darwinian theory of evolution. These dictators were much admired by early twentieth century 'progressives'. It was HG Wells (all purpose progressive thinker and eugenicist) who called for Liberal Fascism.

Stephen C Meyer: Author of 'Signature in the Cell', articulate, lucid and convincing. Watch him in debate with Eugenie Scott. Hear her claim that black is white. The interviewer is a moron.

Michael Behe: Author of 'Darwin's Black Box' He invented the phrase, 'irreducible complexity'.

Bob Carter: Demolisher of the hypothesis that human CO2 emmissions are causing catastrophic global warming aka climate change. On YouTube:

Michael Denton: 'Nature's Destiny' is magisterial. His earlier 'Evolution a Theory in Crisis' will one day be seen to have been highly significant.

Vaclav Klaus: My favourite head of state. On Glenn Beck:

Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels): An essayist of brilliance and humanity. See his essay on Ray Honeyford, another great man. Two unmissable collections: 'Life at the Bottom' and 'Our Culture, What's Left of it'.

James Delingpole: A blogger's blogger and much more.

Christine Maggiore: Here is a link to Alive and Well -

Celia Farber:

Terry Wogan: On Monday Chris Evans takes over the Radio 2 Breakfast Show and I wish him well. Don't Forget Your Toothbrush was a great show and he is a fine broadcaster. But Terry Wogan is the broadcaster sans pareil (and the Greatest Living Irishman).

I remember one morning in Stockport years ago. I was stuck in traffic going uphill but movement in the opposite direction was free. Wogan was on the radio. All the drivers facing me had silly grins on their faces.

I am defeated by the very thought of trying to describe his magic. Perhaps it boils (I nearly typed 'boiled') down to 'Chemistry'. He has or had it in spades with all his collaborators. With Fran Godfrey (damn the BBC for letting her go), with Boggy, Deadly, Chuffer Dandridge, Edna Cloud, the lamented Paulie Walters, with the Girl from Splott and with his 8 million listeners.

One day he will go to Heaven. I am going record all the tribute programmes (if I survive him). The tears and laughter will be unprecedented.

The man is wise, funny, humane, generous and great! There are great men in many walks of life: science, philosophy, sport, war, business, art, music, politics. Terry Wogan is a DJ(!) and Terry
Wogan is a great man!

I believe he is to host a new show starting on Valentine's Day. I'll be there.

Couldn't find the PW fart show. But this is good.


Inland a ways from Newbigin and east of Morpeth lies
The little town of Ashington, where baby Jilly’s eyes
First blinked, and blinking, flashed the bluest ever seen
In Tyne and Wear and far and near and places in between.

The whole North East seems gathered round her birthplace, Ashington.
There’s Bedlington and Cramlington and also Washington
And Abberwick and Bellingham and Urradon and Ulgham
And Amble, Boulmer, Birling, Blythe and Acklington and Alnham.

Not far away are Craster and Cambo, Cambois and, Denwick,
And farther north there’s Rothbury and Guyzance and there’s Alnwick.
The Seatons (Burn, Sluice, Delaval) and Swarland and Old Swarland,
Encircle mining Ashington, as do Scrainwood – Ponteland!

And all those lovely places with names like Eshott, Pigdon,
Or stranger names like Pityme and Snitter and like Togston
And Yetlington and Stobswood too and even names like Thropton

Are happy towns and villages in terrains flat and hilly
To be at least in that North East where came forth precious Jilly!