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MumboJumbo

When deciding who might be right on this, first take a look around at your friends and family, then your home, then your country, then your planet and finally the universe. Think how this makes you feel when you see all these wonders, then think (carefully, not a quick fire reaction) if all what you see could really have come from absolutely nowhere and for no reason just appeared and over time a pond full of micro organisms so small you can’t even see them turned into all the amazing people, animals and plants. And before you cite “science” please look at all the science, not just the bits that are used to support your view. You might be really surprised

And finally, please remember, just because the so called “experts” agree, doesn’t mean they are right. After all, where is the ice age, bird flu and sars pandemics they were all predicting not so long ago

Andrew Lilico

Peter is quite right here, *unless* one considers it an important policy matter to oppose the teaching of Intelligent Design (or Creation Science) in schools. Presumably Huckabee would be unlikely to do that.

Personally, I would think that it would be possible to teach debates around Intelligent Design in schools in a way that made clear how standard evolutionary theory is superior, and so it could be used as a device to develop greater clarity in children's understanding of evolution, whilst giving them exposure to important ideas - such as the role of teleological explanation and why they are problematic in standard Western science.

It would be odd to start thinking that we couldn't have a leader with whose views we disagreed in one area. I'm sure that, if push came to shove, I would find that Cameron's views about certain economic questions seemed to me to be "ridiculous" and "a load of mumbo jumbo", but so what?

Graeme Archer

OK I'll stick my head above the parapet in order to get a kicking. I think everything in Peter's elegantly expounded thesis is nonsense. I'm awfully respectful of people with religious sensibility, and am aware of that gap within me where it might have been, but to say that it doesn't matter if the leader of the free western world decides that evolutionary theory is a fiction and that creationism should be taught in schools, to say that this doesn't matter is stretching tolerance beyond a region I find politically comfortable. You know how we're always saying to people 'freedom of expression works both ways - you can't say that (for example) it should be illegal to draw cartoons of an Islamic nature' - well, this topic makes me feel the same. I can be as accommodating as you like about the religious beliefs of any politician, up until the point that it gets in the way of teaching our accumulated knowledge about the universe, based on empirical reasoning and the scientific method (I make no claims for objectivity in science).

Note, Peter, you have some strange bedfellows. The post-modern nonsense taught in universities about the equivalence (in terms of value) of different cultures' belief systems is also used to degrade the value we attach to scientific knowledge. Sociology 101 at Glasgow Uni in the 90s taught undergraduates that there was no value difference in 'knowledge' obtained through scientific method and that obtained by a witch examining the entrails of a goat - both were 'internally coherent'. That may be, but it is demonstrable (mathematically) that the only way to maximise the utility of decision-making is via the integration of empirical knowledge with prior belief; such a metric, of course, values scientific evidence and hypothesis testing much more than it does the examination of goat entrails; just as it does, I fear, and without intention of offence, with respect to religious belief in creationism.

Should an intentionally irrational (with respect to the metric for decision-making which I glancingly refer to above) be a bar from seeking political office? No, of course not; but neither should we pretend that the rational voter ought to ignore such an irrational belief, both because of what it tells you about the candidate's reasoning ability, and, more importantly, about the warnings it should give you about how he or she would oversee a nation's education system. I've had enough postmodern relativism to last me a lifetime; I don't want that sort of stuff taught to the nation's children as having an empirical equivalence to Darwin's theory.

Mike Routhorn

MumboJumbo is right. It's taken as a 'given' that evolution is true and therefore the Bible not.

Take a look at the awfully shaky science behind it. Take a look at the circular reasoning that is the bedrock of the thesis. Observe, if you will, the physical evidence being crowbarred into the theory. Take a look (well actually you can't because they haven't found any) at the marvellous catalogue of transitional fossils and take a look at some of the rather articulate and logical websites that pull evolution apart with some ease.

I could go on and on and post a load of links but then I'll be marked down as a nutter (if I haven't been already).

The more you look into it the more you start to question every 'truth' science has told you.

Personally I'm glad a public figure has had the courage to pull away from the pack.

Malcolm Dunn

Neither do I.

James

MumboJumbo @ 0958

I take the complete opposite view.

Take a look around at your friends and family, then your home, then your country, then your planet and finally the universe. Consider the sheer scale and wonder of the world we live in.

Ponder on the fact that WE ARE MADE FROM THE DUST OF DEAD STARS! Our planet and our solar system is a second generation sun. Every atom in you and the planet was forged in the firery furnace of an earlier sun that lived, died, exploded and spewed it's matter out into the space where it coallesced, condensed in a dust cloud and formed our current solar system.

Now ponder how all this came about. The trouble is, you ponder it with a brain that evolved to work out how to reach that bit of fruit on the high branches, and whether that leapord is looking a bit too close for comfort. You (and all of us) struggle to comprehend the sheer mind-boggling complexity of what little we can observe of the universe around us, and we struggle to make sense of it.

So we duck it. We fudge the questions we don't understand. We stick our fingers in our ears and say "God Made It". Problem solved. No need to wonder at theoretical particle physics or the human genome. God did it all, so that's all right. What's for tea?

The trouble with the Creationist (and the Intelligent Design) argument is, they don't apply their own logic to their answer (ie to God). Their argument says 'the universe is so staggeringly beautiful and complex it cannot have formed without some sort of guiding hand. It must have been created.' They then fail to apply the same logic to the creator. Such a creator must be just as complex (or more so) than the universe he/she/it apparently made...SO WHAT MADE THE CREATOR. Apply your same logic, Creationists. Don't be selective. By your logic, the Creator must also have been created. But by who/what...?

This fundamental inconsistency is where the so-called 'science' of Intelligent Design breaks down. They apply an apparently logical thought process to come up with the existence of a Creator, then they fail to apply the same logical thought process to the Creator itself.

As Douglas adams said: "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"


(Many of Douglas Adams' thoughts on religion are beautifully expressed. He also said:

"If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; it is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; 'life', something that had a mysterious essence about it, was God given, and that's the only explanation we had. The bombshell comes in 1859 when Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species'. It takes a long time before we really get to grips with this and begin to understand it, because not only does it seem incredible and thoroughly demeaning to us, but it's yet another shock to our system to discover that not only are we not the centre of the Universe and we're not made by anything, but we started out as some kind of slime and got to where we are via being a monkey. It just doesn't read well.")

James

Mike Routhorn @ 1036

Please post at least one or two links to "...some of the rather articulate and logical websites that pull evolution apart with some ease" because I'm afraid I have never yet heard an articulate and logical argument that succeeds in pulling apart the theory of evolution, or advances the case for Creationism, without either ignoring/discarding some known scientific principles, or making some decidedly dodgy scientific claims of their own.

For example, many Creationists like to quote the 'law of entropy' to support their arguments, but they misquote it by missing out the key phrase 'in a closed system' (which the Earth manifestly is not - it is bathed in energy from the sun).

Andrew Lilico

Some of the commenters above (on both sides of the discussion) are conflating belief in Intelligent Design (or Creation Science) and belief in Creation. I take it that *no-one* serious objects to our having leaders that believe in Creation - As far as I am aware all US Presidents and the vast majority of British Prime Ministers have believed in Creation. The question here is not whether it is legitimate to have political leaders that believe God created the Universe, but rather those that explicitly reject the propositions of modern evolutionary biology.

Now surely it is the case that all leaders have many technical areas about which they are not personally expert and for which they lean on the expertise of people they trust. In the areas that do not fall within their special skills (if they have any) it will typically be the case that if you investigated closely you would find they believed some odd things. For example, my guess is that many politicians (like most of the public at large) have some belief in ghosts. I consider such beliefs "ridiculous" and "mumbo-jumbo" in the light of all serious science and theology. But I wouldn't want to disqualify someone from being President or Prime Minister just because he believed in ghosts.

Similarly, a number of those that are of a scientific background have philosophical and theological opinions that I consider "ridiculous" and "mumbo jumbo" (for example, I had the recent misfortune to read Dawkins' The God Delusion, whose philosophical and theological errors are so numerous and fundamental that those writing counters (such as "The Dawkins Delusion") have barely known where to begin). But again I don't think that should disqualify them from holding high public office.

All of us probably believe some pretty stupid things, but so what, provided that they aren't going to impact on any material policies we adopt?

Graeme Archer

Mike wrote MumboJumbo is right. It's taken as a 'given' that evolution is true and therefore the Bible not.

Of course that's completely untrue. Scientific method is not a method for establishing the 'truth' of a proposition; it is a method for weighing the evidence in favour of, or against, a scientific hypothesis. It is the weight of evidence which leads one to support the theory of evolution (or believe in it, if you like): the trouble for creationists, of course, is that there is no evidence at all to support their theory. Creationism - or its bastard son, 'Intelligent' Design - is entirely belief, unpolluted by anything as crass as evidence. That is why - without disrespect - I hold such beliefs to be irrational. I would hold any belief to be irrational if it were to be utterly immutable by evidence - that is, empirical observation - because it implies a willful dismissal of our experience of existence. We exist and we observe the universe: this must do something to our beliefs about it. Beyond, that is, the realm of childish wonder at nature, which was mumbojumbo's 'evidence' in favour of creationism.

All well and good: if you believe in creationism, you will prove my point by dismissing the evidence about evolution out of hand. But not germane to this ghastly Republican's candidacy, I guess. For that I reapply my filter of a threshold in the ability to reason in a demonstrably rational manner. Creationists fail that test, and they don't improve their score by pretending that they're not really creationists, that Intelligent Design isn't just a cover for creationism, that they just want a 'level playing field' (between creationism and evolution -- not between creationism and inspection of goat entrails -- though they can provide no rationale for such a distinction, other than the repeated reference to their revealed truth. To which, of course, they don't apply their own creational 'logic' (amply elaborated by James; the recursion problem is simply ignored by Creationists)). If this bloke gets the Republican nomination, despite being proud of his irrationality, I shall despair. On what basis shall we advance the supremacy of our cultural values, when they cannot be used to differentiate between evolution and the inspection of goat entrails?

Peter - thank you for your thought-provoking article - had not realised how much I cared about this!

Mike Routhorn

Well you could try http://rae.org/ for starters (click on essays)

Mike Routhorn

I tried to post a link but TypePad's antispam filter stopped me. So, in an effort to outwit the software try r a e dot org (taking out the spaces) and click on essays.

James

Thanks Mike Routhorn, I shall have a look (with my mind as open as my skepticism allows!!)

Andrew Lilico

Incidentally, Graeme is certainly correct to say that how people reason about issues is a *relevant* factor in our judgement of their fitness for office. I do want to say, though, that it would be foolish to deem people unfit for office on the basis of one or two funny views they have on iconic issues. Saying that your opinion of someone is affected negatively by the fact that he believes in Intelligent Design is not the same as saying that such a belief renders him unfit to be President.

Jon Gale

Denying evolution in favour of creationism/intelligent design isn't a "threat" or has any direct impact on the job of president, nor should it be 'automatic' disqualification, but it should be used as an indicator of the candidate's ability to make sensible decisions on the basis of evidence.

Would you be comfortable electing a president who firmly believed in astrology/fairies/flat earth/sun orbiting the earth/odin/zeus/conspiracy theories about the illuminati/cystal healing/homeopathy/magic-wielding Atlanteans/ley lines/dowsing for water/televisions have little imps inside them/trial by combat/etc

None of them directly affect "the job". All of them suffer from the same glaring lack of anything resembling supporting evidence.

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:24

How significant an impediment to being President (or Prime Minister) would you consider belief in ghosts?

Tony Makara

There is so much unexplained about the universe, the mind, the mystery of instinct, the miracle of nature, that it would be foolish for anyone to rule out a superior creative force or even forces. A concept so great as to be beyond the comprehension of man.

Some of the greatest intellects to walk this earth has embraced faith, not as a negation of logic but rather as a way of extending logic. We have to remember that science can only record empirically that which can be measured by mans's self-created tools of measurement. There may well be levels of existence way beyond what can be measured and understood.

Evolutionary science does has some consistency of argument but it also throws up many inconsistencies. It is not an exact science, not a closed book. For man to arrogantly assume that science is the answer to everything when it is only a self-made tool of measurement is naive. Science is a tool that can only measure what can be measured and interpreted by the brain of man, which itself is subject to inconsistencies. Science is useful, but it is only a measuring stick, it doesn't tell us why? Why anything is anything and what its reason therefore are.

Jon Gale

Denying evolution in favour of creationism/intelligent design isn't a "threat" or has any direct impact on the job of president, nor should it be 'automatic' disqualification, but it should be used as an indicator of the candidate's ability to make sensible decisions on the basis of evidence.

Would you be comfortable electing a president who firmly believed in astrology/fairies/flat earth/sun orbiting the earth/odin/zeus/conspiracy theories about the illuminati/cystal healing/homeopathy/magic-wielding Atlanteans/ley lines/dowsing for water/televisions have little imps inside them/trial by combat/etc

None of them directly affect "the job". All of them suffer from the same glaring lack of anything resembling supporting evidence.

Jon Gale

Sorry for double post.

Andrew Lilico - same as the others. If someone has shown themselves capable of ignoring evidence and fabricating their own reality I regard giving them positions of great power to be risky.

But as I said, not an automatic disqualification by itself.

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:44

Thanks for the straightforward answer. Now would you share my suspicion that many - probably most - MPs believe in ghosts? Isn't the only difference between them and the Intelligent Design crew that the ghost-believers tend only to share their nutty views after a pint or two at the pub whilst the Intelligent Design crew are forever urging their confusions upon the rest of us?

Andrew Lilico

Well... perhaps not the *only* difference. The Intelligent Design crowd probably have a bit more basis for their view than the ghost believers, to be honest - perhaps appealing to theological grounds. I'd say it was rather more worthwhile attempting to refute an intelligent-design believer than a believer in ghosts. But you take my point anyway...

Tony Makara

I personally have never seen a ghost, or convincing evidence of a ghost. Yet the Christian religion is built on the existence of ghosts and spirits. So all Christians have to believe in ghosts as a matter of course. We even have to ask what would we mean by a ghost? Its a complex issue and one that its impossible to defend. Can we ever have a concrete argument about faith-like concepts? Again its down to empiricism only being able to measure that which can be measured.

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:54

The Christian religion does not require the existence of ghosts as usually conceived - indeed it denies their existence.

Also, one can of course have all kinds of concrete arguments about faith-like concepts. Political theorists and philosophers and theologians and moralists and religious folk have such arguments all the time.

Geordie-Tory

No, no, no, No-OOOOOO!

This is so wrong-headed as to be alarming.

They are clearly elements of the Christian Right that want to have influence in our wonderfully secular Conservative Party (& in fairness secular political system) in the same way that the Christian religious Zealots have wielded undue influence in the Republican party.

If a man seeks to become President who denies basic scientific truths then what is he believing in .....fairytales? Adam & Eve?

Surely the last thing the World needs is a US President believing in the Rapture (an epoch-ending calamity when all righteous believers will be lifted up to heaven!) which is not too dissimilar from Muslim Orthodoxy believed by the Iranian President Am-Mad-On-Jihad (I believe that's his name, its what we call him in Newcastle any rate), anyone see any dangers here.

I am "a non-believer", "but (to quote George Bernard Shaw) I have my doubts" everytime sometime religious loon puts up fairytale as belief this pushes me further towards the Richard Dawkins camp.

Under no circumstances can we allow the bigots, zealots and fantasists who masquerade as those "of faith" to be instrumental in our political process in any way.

Tony Makara

Andrew Lilico, having read the bible all the way through I can assure you that spirits do form a starring role in those books.

Geordie-Tory, Jesus Christ himself said that the stories in the bible are allegorical and not to be taken literally.

The debate today is taking us all into angels-dancing-on-pins territory!

James

Well, several comments:

Tony makara @ 1129
I don't accept your contention that those of us who believe ourselves to be rational and logical "...arrogantly assume that science is the answer to everything..." I often argue with Christian friends who try to start a point by claiming science to be akin to a religion. It is not. I entirely agree with your description that "...science can only record empirically that which can be measured by mans's self-created tools of measurement." (see my first post near the start of the thread).

However, just because there is much about the universe we don't understand, is no reason to start believing things for no reason (ie with no evidence). I entirely agree with your sentence that: "There may well be levels of existence way beyond what can be measured and understood." But unless and until there is some evidence for such lelves of existence, there is no reason to belive in them. You can conjecture and postulate. You can accept them as a possibility. But it is guesswrok, nothing more.

My main problem with religion is the link between 'the unknown', and superstition. And why anyone would want to burn incense and light candles to "...levels of existence way beyond what can be measured and understood" is beyond me, any more than I would want to light a candle to time or the fourth dimension.

Jon Gale @ 1136
Exactly. I want the leader of the free world to believe in rational thought and evidence based decsionmaking, not superstition and the supernatural. I would be worried too if he believed in ghosts or faeries.

Andrew Lilico @ 1146
You wrote: "Now would you share my suspicion that many - probably most - MPs believe in ghosts?"
On what basis do you write this? I have no idea how many MPs believe in ghosts and I sincerely hope that the majority of them do not.

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