No angel

If you were in hospital, what’s the least appealing behaviour you’d expect from the nursing staff?

(OK, I should rephrase that. The “least appealing” thing after “threats to your continued existence” or “carrying out painful and frightening medical interventions.” )

Anyway the answer to the lead rhetorical question was “behaving like a doorstep evangelist.”

Which is what this nurse did. She got suspended from work for it, but was then reinstated.

I’ve linked to the Times story, out of the many links that I could have put here, because it has a photo of the nurse which would win an undisputed Gold in the Semiotic Olympics. (I defy you to look at it without sniggering. If ever a portrait expressed the sitter’s personality on so many levels, this is it.)

Last week Mrs Petrie, who was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, was summoned to a disciplinary hearing on the basis that she had failed to demonstrate a “personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity” by offering her prayers.

Let me refresh your memory. This nurse bothered people with unsolicited offers of prayer, at a time when they were physically at the mercy of her goodwill. How irritating, even distressing, would that be? Imagine being seriously ill and feeling that you had to politely humour a god-botherer – who was, incidentally, getting paid to attend to YOUR needs rather than her own need to proselytise,

Sir Patrick Cormack, the Tory MP for South Staffordshire and a committed Anglican, told Parliament that the case illustrated the “utter absurdities” of political correctness.

Well, “political correctness” had to have gone mad somewhere in this tale, or we might begin to suspect that the “anti-PC brigade” weren’t even trying. Although, I admit that “utter absurdities” makes a refreshing change from the cliched “gone mad.”

Anyway, the Christian Legal Centre, don’t you just love them? They are like a Superman figure to defending people who somehow skipped the Sermon on the Mount stuff and define their “Christian faith” in terms of jewelry, opposition to statues, homophobia and freedom to push their own beliefs onto other people.

Their biggest moment in the spotlight was their failed blasphemy case against Jerry Springer the Opera.

(Which reminds me that the usually-hilariously-funny Stewart Lee co-producer of the Jerry Springer the Opera show has a new series starting on BBC on 18 March.)

A Channel 4 documentary last year showed Christian Voice and their fundy -funded chums in their true horror. It also did the world a major service by showing the incident in which Steven “Birdshit” Green earned his nickname. I mean, if that wasn’t a message from above, I don’t know what is.

Atheist Pride

During a few spare minutes I had today, the Great Toutatis guided me to technorati where I found a link to a blog called “Bible Study for Atheists.” This blog (from Vast Left) is pretty good reading. It is witty enough to entertain and certainly worth a visit. On reading it, I found the shards of a bit of a debate between Vast Left and a blogger called El Borak.

From what I read (and please correct me if I get this wrong), Vast Left made a post “poking fun” at Genesis and El Borak responded with:

Of course, it’s not even a study per se. Rather it’s simply a chance to poke fun and play number games. (read original)

I might be misreading the tone, but this strikes me there has been a sense of humour bypass here. Of course it isn’t a study per se — although I am not sure if El Borak means study in the “Bible Study” sense where a load of Christians sit round and re-affirm each others ideas, or a study in the scientific sense. (Hint: I am poking fun).

Now, broadly speaking, El Borak is actually fairly reasonable and presents his arguments well. I am not sure I want to get involved in the overall debate, so I will not pass comment on that “per se.” One sentence which did leap out at me, though, was: (emphasis mine)

I know I should not expect more from self-proclaimed Atheists, and that’s the problem. I truly don’t.

This is interesting. I am not interested in the attempt at a snide dig, to be honest I don’t expect anything else from any theists (self proclaimed or otherwise), they just don’t know any better. What did interest me was the use of the term “self proclaimed.” I am some what confused as to what it was meant to imply.

Normally, when you see the term “self proclaimed” it tends to imply the following word is a dubious boast. Is this meant to mean that El Borak doubts Vast Left is really an atheist until there is some corroborating evidence? From it’s use it could also be read to mean El Borak is amazed anyone could have the front to actually admit they are an an Atheist, or he could simply doubt anyone is really an Atheist.

I am confused. (extra entertainment can be found from the comments on El Borak’s page, Huckelberry is worth a chuckle)

How to Defend Religion?

(found from Nullfidian’s excellent blog)

I was reading the write up on the various Times Online sites of the “Intelligence Squared” event which tool place recently. Basically this was a debate on the motion “We’d be better off without religion.” On the side For the motion were Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling and Christopher Hitchens. On the side Against the motion were Julia Neuberger, Roger Scruton and Nigel Spivey.

Ruth Gledhill, the Times’ Religion reporter, has written an interesting summary of the proceedings titled “Articles of Faith.” Gledhill describes herself as someone who is sure God exists, yet there is not much in the way of a pro-theist bias in the reporting. All in all, it struck me as a reasonable post (not least because she says the “For” argument was better than the “Against” one 🙂 ).

Towards the end of the piece it gets a bit strange though. When talking about the dangers of creationism, she writes:

Well I’d be upset if my son became a creationist but there is no chance of that, not in the Church of England at least.

Which, while reasonable, is a risky proposition to take. Creationism / ID is a fundamental part of the monotheistic doctrines, so while [insert religion] may not overtly push it, it is there below the surface. I would love to see a Christian doctrine which does not assert the universe was created by God, and that man was not made in his image. Although I may be biased, I find it hard to see how some can reconcile this belief with anything else.

Next she comes to something I find very strange, yet it seems used all the time by “reasonable” people when they want to defend their faith:

[Dawkins] problem is that he takes religion too literally, and as many have pointed out, is too fundamentalist about his own atheistic creed.

Wow. All over the net, on TV, the radio and in papers people try to defend religion, and deflect criticism, by saying the critic is taking religion “too literally.” Personally I am at a loss for any other way to do it. Either God exists or he doesn’t. I assume Christians (and Jews/Muslims) believe God exists – is that taking religion too literally?

Religion is built around doctrine and “rules” which are claimed to be the word of God. If the faithful get to pick and choose which ones they follow, doesn’t that make a mockery of that which is already comical? If the best defence for “religion” is that it is something which gives people the chance to get together with each other and has some vague good ideas (don’t want to take the doctrine literally, do we?) then it strikes me it really is an idea which has passed its sell by date.

If religion is not meant to be taken seriously, what is it?

On a different note, as always, the comments in response to a post like this produce much more entertainment. Gledhill is too good, too reasonable, a writer to really froth properly – unlike those who comment … 🙂

Some examples include:

I agree with Richard Dawkins, we WOULD be better off without religion.
But Jesus… without Him, we are all – literally – lost! (David Smith)

Not sure if that was supposed to be a joke or what.

This kind of format suits both Dawkins and Grayling if they speak in the same way that they write. They like to write controversial bluster which they don’t need to provide references for or explain further. (Phil Craig)

I assume that was a joke. Both write books which are filled with references, unlike the religious apologists or more relevantly the holy books themselves. When the Bible claims that “In the beginning…” where is the reference to back this up? Interesting when Phil Craig is challenged about his comments, David Smith responds:

Mike George:
‘To suggest that [Dawkins] offers ‘controversial bluster’ with no explanation is to ignore the fact that the whole of his writing offer rational arguments and link to scientific study and theory.’

Richard Dawkins:
1.’It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane, or wicked… ‘

2. ‘I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywherein the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection (i.e. evolution).’

Still, at least Dawkins is consistent with Darwin himself.

Having made an exhaustive study of Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’, which set the evolution ball running, American engineer Henry Morris wrote: ‘One can search the whole book in vain for any real scientific evidences for evolution – evidences that have been empirically verified and have stood the test of time. No proof is given anywhere – no examples are cited of new species known to have been produced by natural selection, no transitional forms are shown, no evolutionary mechanisms are documented… One can only marvel that such a book could have had so profound an influence on the subsequent history of human life and thought.’

Which broadly shows a lack of understanding (two references out of context – sounds like Uncommon Descent to me..) about both Dawkins’ work and the actual mechanics of the theory of evolution (and how science works). For some reason, UD may be to blame, anti-evolutionists seem to think that the whole current theory was written by Darwin in Origin. Madness. I suppose this is what comes of being tied to a book which is not supposed to ever change…

There are more, but I could end up spending all month writing about them so I will stop now. Have a look, see what you think and if there are any more howlers please let me know.

We have them here too – Dubious English ID blog

The British Centre for Science Education: Revealed blog is crying out for a good metaphorical kicking.

It exists solely to attack the British Centre for Science Education (whatever that is) on the grounds that it’s basically an atheist plot.

The purpose of this blog is to examine the new group calling itself the “British Centre for Science Education”. We aim to shed light on the available facts concerning its membership, published statements and discussions. In doing so, we expect that you will come to the same conclusion as we have – that anybody taking it seriously needs to take another look.

The blogista’s personal statement says:

I am a graduate in both science (Masters) and theology (Bachelors), and a minister of Grace Church Belper, an evangelical Christian church in Derbyshire, United Kingdom

Well, I am surprised. An evangelical church? Who’d have expected this blog to have an evangelical agenda? That is almost as surprising as there being atheists in an organisation called the British Centre for Science Education. This world is truly full of new and surprising wonders every day. You would almost think there must be an all-knowing designer behind it all. 🙂

It’s hard to pick out any specific posts for your entertainment as the whole site oozes rage. This is mainly directed at the arch-atheists seen as in charge of the the BCSE, as the other members are assumed to be too naive to understand what they have signed up to.

I suspect that some of BCSE members are simply philosophically naive – they really do imagine that a hard materialist approach to science is “neutral” or “value free”.

(I really would be surprised if anyone with any epistemological understanding thought science – or any human endeavour – was “value free”. At the same time, it’s quite difficult to think of much in the realm of science where a “hard materialist approach” wouldn’t be the only option.)

I can only assume that the BCSE must be some organsiation that is seeking to support the teaching of evolution, otherwise how could it have stirred up this blog’s ire to the extent of devoting a whole blog to opposing it.

You wouldn’t think that standing up for rationalism in British science education would even be necessary, would you? It would be like having to set up an organisation to support the value of integrating exercise into PE lessons. Sadly, this blog suggests otherwise.

I’ll resist the temptation to quote any posts from the blog as I would be spoilt for choice. Look at it yourself if you have an obscure sense of humour and a very high boredom threshhold.