Religion, Freedom of Expression and Evidence

A couple of articles drew my attention recently: Religion Takes Offence Too Easily in the Urban Times and a short note on the debate in the House of Lords, International compliance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning freedom of belief.

From the Lords’ debate:

… Lord Singh of Wimbledon: ‘Religions do not help themselves by claims of exclusivity or superiority. This simply demeans other members of our one human race and suggests that they, the others, are lesser beings. We all know what happens in the school playground when one boy boasts—it is usually boys—that, “My dad is bigger or stronger or cleverer than your dad”. The end result is fisticuffs. My appeal to our different religions and the leaders of religion is to stop playing children’s games.’

From the Urban Times piece:

… offering my two cents. I wrote that therein lies the bane of religion. When confronted with fact, the religious deem it a mockery of their beliefs. They expect their irrational points of view to be treated with the same respect as all facts, neglecting the FACT that their claims have been proven unable to stand up to rational, realistic, or critical scrutiny. [On second thought, they demand that their points of view be treated better than facts, because you can make fun of facts, but you apparently can’t make fun of theological assertions.]

Both of these remarks seem to me to make entirely valid points. In the UK, society is certainly becoming more secular, and the suggestion that religion is needed to maintain morals and standards of behaviour is not acceptable. The argument that use of the scientific method and the requirement for evidence is some form of bullying is no less sound. I realise, of course, that not everyone will change their views despite overwhelming evidence—anthropogenic climate change, creationism/intelligent design, vaccination, the Decision Review System.

The real romance in the stars

Scientific truth is too beautiful to be sacrificed for the sake of light entertainment or money. Astrology is an aesthetic affront. It cheapens astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles. By existing law neither Beethoven nor nature can sue, but perhaps existing law could be changed. If the methods of astrologers were really shown to be valid it would be a fact of signal importance for science. Under such circumstances astrology should be taken seriously indeed. But if – as all indications agree – there is not a smidgen of validity in any of the things that astrologers so profitably do, this, too, should be taken seriously and not indulgently trivialised. We should learn to see the debauching of science for profit as a crime.

via The real romance in the stars – Voices – The Independent.

After yesterday’s post, I did some more web-wandering, and came across this 20-year old article by Richard Dawkins. Here’s another line that I like:

There are some stupid people out there, and they should be pitied not exploited.

I also discovered that Dawkins and I share the same birthday… which makes us both Aries.

Astrology-loving MP seeks health answers in the stars

BBC News – Astrology-loving MP seeks health answers in the stars.

I’m struggling to find words to express my opinion of this idiocy.

Christopher Hitchens: Religion Poisons Everything

Here’s a very good video of the late Christopher Hitchens’ talk and subsequent on-stage interview at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, 2009. It’s called Religions Poisons Everything and deals with the same topic as Hitchens’ book God Is Not Great that had been published a year or so earlier. It is a long video, but worthwhile viewing.

There’s a lovely “encore” right at the end (101:02) when Christopher sings the Pythons’ Bruces’ Philosophers Song.

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The Jiro Dreams of Sushi of Bread & Butter: Razza Pizza Artiginale

Delightful little film about a bread and butter nut.

via The Jiro Dreams of Sushi of Bread & Butter: Razza Pizza Artiginale on Vimeo.

Jimmy Anderson and the eleven legends

Until you know what it is like to walk out on the field as a No. 11, with the opposition sniggering, and your team preparing to take the field behind you, it’s impossible to know what batting at No. 11 is really like. It takes a special person to bat last.

via Jimmy Anderson and the eleven legends | cricket with balls.

Great piece by Jarrod Kimber.

Laugh At Creationists

I’ve spent a large part of today watching videos on YouTube, and not cat ones. I happened across a set of videos created by a guy known as Thunderf00t called Why Do People Laugh At Creationists?. There are 42 videos (the link goes to the master playlist), mostly about 5 to 10 minutes long, uploaded from September 2007 to the present. By and large, each video deals with the daft assertions of creationists. Thunderf00t explains the science that invalidates the creationists’ claims: Science, bitches. It works!

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Wimbledon: Tech behind world’s most prestigious tennis tournament

Wimbledon: Tech behind world’s most prestigious tennis tournament.

Terrific photo gallery by Andrew Hoyle for CNET.

The 10,000 Hours Myth

It’s easy to see why the message that anyone can do anything if they try hard enough might be popular.

Unfortunately it’s not true.

via The 10,000 Hours Myth: Practice Predicts Only 12% of Performance — PsyBlog.

No more guilt about not putting in the 10,000 hours.


Opening A Bottle Of Red Wine

Oh, and then this: Opening a Bottle of Red Wine. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s five minutes of a master sommelier called Ronan Sayburn opening and decanting a bottle of fine wine, perfectly. It’s such a joy to watch him and experience the pleasure of seeing something done really well…

via Sediment: YouTube Wine.

He’s right.