Nov 1, 2018

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135 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION – NOVEMBER 2018

  • The November open discussion thread is now open.

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    The mods


    Trump: Third of Americans see media as ‘enemy of the people’

    Speaking at a rally in Florida ahead of next week’s mid-term elections, he said a third of Americans believed that the media was “the enemy of the people”.

    He did not provide evidence for this.

    . . . but the Trump supporters in that third, uncritically lapped it up .. . . and then continued watching FOX NEWS! 🙂 🙂

  • Meanwhile, – in the UK – money launderers are being investigated:-

    The National Crime Agency is investigating Arron Banks and his Leave.EU campaign for alleged offences committed at the 2016 EU referendum.

    Mr Banks and another senior campaign figure, Liz Bilney, were referred to the agency by the Electoral Commission.

    The watchdog said it suspected money given to the campaign came “from impermissible sources”.

    The Electoral Commission investigation focused on £2m reported to have been loaned to Better for the Country, which ran Leave.EU, by Mr Banks and his group of insurance companies,

    It also examined a further £6m reported to have been given to the organisation, on behalf of Leave.EU, by Mr Banks alone.

    The commission’s legal chief, Bob Posner said: “We have reasonable grounds to suspect money given to Better for the Country came from impermissible sources and that Mr Banks and Ms Bilney, the responsible person for Leave.EU, knowingly concealed the true circumstances under which this money was provided.

    “This is significant because at least £2.9m of this money was used to fund referendum spending and donations during the regulated period of the EU referendum.

    “Our investigation has unveiled evidence that suggests criminal offences have been committed which fall beyond the remit of the Commission.

    “This is why we have handed our evidence to the NCA to allow them to investigate and take any appropriate law enforcement action. This is now a criminal investigation.”

    He said the financial transactions investigated by the Commission had investigated included companies incorporated in Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, which were “beyond the reach” of the watchdog.

    The National Crime Agency, which is able to investigate across international borders, said electoral law offences would “not routinely fall” within its remit.

  • I’m a new member, with an issue I’d like to see Richard Dawkins address. He has gone on record, and influenced others to believe that the Jewish call to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, only applies to fellow Jews. Given that there are over 50 passages in the Torah that refer to ‘caring for the alien (stranger) who lives among us,’ I think he missed the big picture. I love his books and was greatly influenced by them. He tells a story in one of them of a lecturer who discovers that what he has been teaching for years is wrong, and he congratulates the one who corrects him.

    I suggest that Richard read “The Exodus” by Richard Elliott Friedman, a notable bible scholar. Friedman has uncovered evidence for a real exodus – not the Exodus of the bible, but a real exodus, that actually describes how the biblical Exodus, Yahweh, and monotheism itself, may have come to be. The crux of the story is that a small band of exiles or escapees, military, slave, peasants – hard to say – left Egypt and forcibly integrated themselves into the nation of Israel. They were not given land, but instead became the priest class and were provided with tithes. They were called “Levites” which means “attached persons.” There are a number of priests in the Torah with Egyptian names – all Levites. Moses is an Egyptian name. They were the “aliens,” the strangers, who came from Egypt. They forcibly integrated themselves into Israel, then they wrote a story that included the entire nation of Israel, making their story, the story of Israel – uniting the nation. They brought Yahweh with them, or found him on the way, or incorporated him from the region of Midian, and renamed El and Elohim the original Israeli gods, to that name. In the Exodus story, Yahweh kills off all the nature gods, including the sun god. He is outside nature, and he is to be the only one worshiped from there on out.

    To get back to the point, three Levites and one original Israelite (JEPD) wrote the Torah, and the three versions were masterfully edited and woven together. You can buy copies of the Torah where the passages are color coded by author. When you read a single author, it all flows smoothly and you don’t get all the little contradictions and errors that are created by slightly different versions, written by authors with different bones to pick.

    All three Levite authors mention repeatedly the command to care for the stranger, the alien, and even the slave. The Israeli author of the Torah, never once mentions slaves or strangers. The religion, designed by Levites, was firmly based on care for the stranger, and for the first time, provides some minimal protection for slaves. Dawkins is almost certainly wrong on this point, and I’d like to see him read the book, and challenge or acknowledge Friedman’s very compelling story, backed by archaeological, textual and DNA evidence.

    DNA evidence indicates that the Levites were not related to each other. They were not related to the original Israelites. One tribe or member split off early and became the Aaronite priest class. They are not related to other Levites. They are not related to original Israelites. If this evidence holds up, there was clearly an incursion of people into the nation of Israel…. These people, being priests, maintained their genetic blood lines. Fascinating story…

    If Friedman’s evidence holds up – we finally have a cogent explanation for how the Exodus, Yahweh and even monotheism came to be. Atheists believe the Exodus never happened. It looks like a small exodus, if we are to accept the DNA evidence, did indeed occur. Believers are convinced the Exodus happened as written. They are wrong. It’s a myth, and that can be seen very clearly now. Both groups should read the book, because the core message of Judaism, it turns out – is care for the stranger who lives among you….. something that would surely interest the Palestinians!

    Please consider reading the book before attempting to tear apart my extremely brief overview of his new historical explanation. The evidence is both objective and compelling.

  • Pat Gannon #4

    Atheists believe the Exodus never happened.

    Hi Pat, and welcome!

    It’s not really germane to your main point, but I did just want to pick you up on this, because my hunch is that most atheists probably don’t have any views on the exodus whatsoever. There may well have been a movement of people from Egypt to Israel that was later described as an, or the, ‘exodus’. Many stories that have been expanded and immortalised in myth seem to have their origins in some kind of historical event.

    The only thing you can state with confidence about atheists is that we don’t believe in deities. To be honest, I’m not very interested in whether there’s evidence for an exodus of any kind or not, because my lack of belief in a deity isn’t remotely based on that issue. Evidence for an exodus would not be evidence for a god. All I’d say, as an atheist, is that if there really was such a movement of people, large or small, it would have been an entirely human undertaking, undertaken for entirely human purposes (even if the participants believed otherwise).

  • Pat Gannon #4
    Nov 1, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Atheists believe the Exodus never happened.

    Why would you think we care one way or the other? Atheists don’t believe there is evidence for the existence of gods. That’s it. End of. Whether the various so called holy books have some elements of historical fact in them is utterly irrelevant. Even if there are shreds of truth in them it doesn’t make the supernatural bits true. I can’t say I’ve ever given the exodus a moment’s thought and have little intention to. You also perhaps misunderstand that atheists don’t just happen to be opposed to your particular religion. I’ve noticed that christians always seem to think an atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in the god of their bible. We don’t believe in any gods although I suppose the christian and muslim ones get most of the attention. They are certainly the ones who have caused the most harm and human suffering.

  • I’m sorry. I should have said, “many atheists believe the Exodus never happened.” That is my personal experience. I was one of those who believed this until I read the book.

    I mention it because atheists are supposed to care about the truth, and on this issue, I am pretty sure Dawkins is wrong, and it would help his credibility if he were to do the research, and acknowledge it. I posted here, because I know of no other way to reach him.

    While I completely agree that atheism is about a lack of belief, and that it is the responsibility of the one making the claim to prove it – nevertheless people like Dawkins put a lot of time and energy into doing exactly that – debunking the gods. Friedman’s book is another weapon – perhaps a very powerful one – to add to the arsenal of reasons why Yahweh is a myth.

  • Pat Gannon #4

    The religion, designed by Levites, was firmly based on care for the
    stranger, and for the first time, provides some minimal protection for

    If you (or Friedman) are arguing that the Levites originated what are in fact basic principles of human empathy that are found across all cultures, then I’m sure Professor Dawkins and other atheists here would profoundly disagree. Perhaps the Levites’ Egyptian origins made them less parochial in their outlook than the ‘native’ Israelites, but the general tenor of the old testament confirms a people with strong nationalist fervour and belief in their own pre-eminence, rather than any great commitment to a universal humanity.

  • Pat #7

    Friedman’s book is another weapon – perhaps a very powerful one – to
    add to the arsenal of reasons why Yahweh is a myth.

    But most of the supposed ‘history’ of Israel is based on mythical stories for which there is practically no archeological evidence whatsoever! A case in point is Netanyahu’s claim that Israel’s existence is vouched for by the historical figure of King David. In May, 2011 Netanyahu gave an address to the US Congress in which he stated:

    “This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace… No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

    There is NO archeological evidence for a David – King or otherwise!

  • Hi, Pat, and welcome.

    Do you have a link or reference for RD’s comments? I think the specifics are important when offence can emerge from a specific phrasing…

    the Jewish call to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, only applies to fellow Jews

    seems unlike him. I presume you intended “Jewish scripture’s call”?

    The book looks interesting. A pity it isn’t available in Kindle yet. I note also it doesn’t yet figure in Wiki Exodus Talk pages even.

    Friedman does not stop there. Known for his ability to make Bible scholarship accessible to readers, Friedman proceeds to reveal how much is at stake when we explore the historicity of the exodus. The implications, he writes, are monumental. We learn that it became the starting point of the formation of monotheism, the defining concept of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moreover, we learn that it precipitated the foundational ethic of loving one’s neighbors—including strangers—as oneself. He concludes, the actual exodus was the cradle of global values of compassion and equal rights today.

    The conclusion appears quite an overreach in the axial age of philosophers and traders promoting such fellowship also.

    I must agree that this has little significance for atheists, though it might mean more to zionism-critical folk.

    If RD has made a mistake on scripture, that is still a thing to investigate. An RD link or two would help.

  • “f you (or Friedman) are arguing that the Levites originated what are in fact basic principles of human empathy that are found across all cultures, then I’m sure Professor Dawkins and other atheists here would profoundly disagree. ”

    Does it sound like that’s what I’m saying? That is not at all what I am saying. Please don’t straw man me.

    Richard Elliott Friedman, an accomplished textual biblical scholar asserts in his book that Richard Dawkins an accomplished evolutionary scientist, should stick to his area of expertise. That’s the assertion. He asserts that Dawkins is infringing on areas in which he has no expertise, and relying on other people whom Friedman (apparently) debunks. I’m not the expert. That’s why I’d like to hear Dawkins’ response. Dawkins wants to show that the Jews did not care for others outside their own tribe. That simply appears to be untrue.

  • Phil, I quickly found this:

    “Christians seldom realise,” Professor Dawkins declares, that “much of the moral consideration for others which is apparently promoted by both the Old and New Testament was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined in-group. ‘Love they neighbour’ didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only ‘Love another Jew’.””

    It seems the author of that article, also disagrees with Dawkins!

    I’ve heard him say this in more than one video, and I’m all but certain he said it in the God Delusion. Unfortunately my copy is an audible book, so not easily searched.

    I agree that Friedman perhaps gets a little carried away, but his arguments were compelling to me. That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to get feedback – to see if others agree.

  • And here is John Hartung’s thinking regarding “Love Thy Neighbour” .

    This will take me a while but it seems cogent so far…

    His neurological stance is interesting.

    I don’t think the “error” is anything like clear cut as you suggest yet. RD has never yet offered a flip or un-evidenced opinion on a serious matter, much as his critics like to frame it that way.

  • Phil, I will read that. Here’s what Friedman said at the end of the article I referenced above:

    “The same “context” mistake was made by John Hartung, an evolutionary anthropologist8 who was cited and followed by Richard Dawkins in his bestselling The God Delusion, saying, “‘Love thy neighbor’ didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only ‘Love another Jew.’”9 Hartung emphasized the importance of context, but he then used only the one verse (quoted above), seemingly unaware that the joining of its two statements was done by those who created numbered verses centuries after the Bible was written.”

    I skimmed the article you posted, and will take time to go through it more thoroughly, but I don’t see Hartung addressing the points Friedman makes…. and it is Friedman’s area of expertise, after all.

    If there are good reasons to believe RD was correct, then I would like to understand that, but at the moment, I am unconvinced. I think he was wrong.

    Keep in mind Friedman is a scholar of Hebrew and biblical studies. Hartung is a professor of anesthesiology, with a PhD in anthropology. I’m not convinced RD used the best source….

  • I think it is fair to say Dawkins probably used the best sources available at the time.

    Further, I will await the anthropologist’s response to the biblical scholar’s, though it won’t stop me forming an earlier opinion.

    From your suggestion we may assume that the joining of two separately created texts was done by people who failed to appreciate the essential importance of the idea of love thine alien neighbour or did not at that time value the idea?

    I phrase these things with a little added provocation only to draw attention to the issues in play.

    This is actually interesting stuff.

  • @Phil #10

    The conclusion appears quite an overreach in the axial age of
    philosophers and traders…

    I think you’ve struck at the core of the issue, and the Jews were only a part of the general shift of the mindset. The revered Golden Rule can be found in every major world religion.

  • phil #16
    I think it is fair to say Dawkins probably used the best sources available at the time.

    I agree, that’s probably true, but now that Friedman has “called him out” it would be very interesting to see if RD would change his stance. I think if he did the research, agreed that Friedman was right, and acknowledged it, that would reflect well on the atheist community – confirming that evidence matters.

    Interesting question – why did the people who added the verse numbers elect to place them where they did, thus insinuating that Jews only cared for other Jews? Probably for the same reason that Jews don’t care for Palestinians today. Circumstances changed, and the editor perhaps sought to remove some of the emphasis on caring for strangers….. but it’s there 52 times! Hard to ignore. As I recall, the original texts did not have commas and periods, so getting the beginning and ending of sentences correct would have been a challenge, particularly if the editing was done centuries later.

    The idea of love for one’s neighbor became “specific” with the addition of the passage numbers, as I understand it. Without them, it is general. The other laws among which it is listed, are thrown together in no particular order. The unfortunate placement of passage numbers, appears to have contributed to misunderstanding – though it could have been intentional; essentially changing the very nature of the original religion.

    I see this as an issue of importance to modern day Israel, because if the original founders, did indeed create a new, monotheistic religion based on the care of strangers – they have certainly wandered far and wide from that original concept. The book it’self, if the evidence holds up, is critical, because it pretty firmly debunks any real Exodus that would give them divine right to the land, and it’s time they acknowledged that.

  • Vicki #18 The revered Golden Rule can be found in every major world religion.

    Agreed. The question on the table is why RD insisted that in the case of the Jews, it only applied to other Jews. He may have been wrong.

  • …RD insisted that in the case of the Jews, it only applied to other

    I haven’t been following the links you and Phil have been providing, and not being a scientist, my impression is that RD was implying that Jews as a group have historically taken care of their own first. Frankly, I suspect that is why they are still with us.

    Whether that position categorically excludes caring for fellow non-Jews, though, seems to be a little ambiguous.

  • Vicki #21 Whether that position categorically excludes caring for fellow non-Jews, though, seems to be a little ambiguous.

    Here are RD’s own words from “The God Delusion:”

    “Love thy neighbor didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only “Love another Jew.” The point is devastatingly made by the American physician and evolutionary anthropologist John Hartung.” (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 253)

    That seems pretty unambiguous to me!

    Friedman goes on to describe how Hartung and Dawkins were not making use of the latest knowledge. I just found the quote, and had forgotten, that he does admit that Dawkins and Hartung could have “made an honest mistake because they did not know of the tremendous leaps that have been made in the life-times of all of us living now.”

    His book, “The Exodus” is very easy to read. I found it hard to put down, and have read it (listened on audible) to it several times. I finally bought a Nook version so I could search text. I read at least one book a month and this is one of the most important books I’ve read in years – if the evidence stands up. It’s a world-changer, finally, after thousands of years, helping us to understand how the story of the Exodus came to be in the first place.

  • @Pat Gannon #22

    … this is one of the most important books I’ve read in years…

    I’m sorry I can’t share your enthusiasm for the subject. Like the workings of an internal combustion engine, it just doesn’t hold any interest for me. But kudos to your new-found passion! It’s always fun and exciting to take up a new interest!

    As to your quote from Professor Dawkins, again, I think there is more nuance and ambiguity than you are concluding. How much of that position depended on the city-state conditions at the time? And as Phil mentioned, the Axial age was, IMO, an early experience for humankind into the realms of what we later called ‘Enlightenment.’

  • Pat #22

    this is one of the most important books I’ve read in years – if the
    evidence stands up. It’s a world-changer, finally, after thousands of
    years, helping us to understand how the story of the Exodus came to be
    in the first place

    I know you’re making two points here: the first and main one being that you believe Richard Dawkins was wrong to cite Hartung’s claim that “love they neighbour” only extended to other Jews. I can’t comment on that one, not having read either Hartung or Friedman on the subject, and not planning to do so either because – apart from your valid point that if someone is actually proven to be mistaken, it’s honourable to acknowledge it – it feels like a sideshow to me. An argument to be slugged out between those who care – and I am not of their number. That said, a) I don’t get the impression RD follows this website so I suspect he’s unlikely to see your post and b) I don’t think that’s how academia works in any case. When Academic B (Friedman in this case) puts forward an argument that Academic A (Hartung) got something wrong, Academic A doesn’t tend to roll over and say, “Oh yes, silly me.” They just proceed to the next round and continue arguing it out there. And into the round after that and the round after that. My own experience of academia, particularly in the humanities, is that there is very little in the way of research that is ever really accepted as ‘conclusive’. If I had a dog in this fight, I’d be waiting to see how Hartung responds, and how the argument develops from here. No one’s going to abandon a position just because someone else – whose credentials they cannot themselves assess – has written a book.

    I’m more curious about your second point, the one I’ve quoted above: your claim that this story about the exodus is a ‘world-changer’.

    Why is it? How is it?

    I’m racking my brains to think of a single way people’s beliefs about the exodus affect my life, and am failing to come up with anything at all. Again, isn’t this just another argument to be slugged out between those who care? Why should I be one of them?

    If someone had come up with incontrovertible evidence for a deity, that would of course be of interest and would have to be treated seriously. But what difference does a new story about the exodus make? You’ve suggested above that it undermines the biblical Exodus story and hence the argument for the existence of Yahweh – but everything we’ve ever learned about the world undermines the argument for the existence of Yahweh, and yet here we are in 2018 with a sizeable chunk of the world’s population still clinging to the belief. If Darwin didn’t manage to knock it on the head, why should Friedman? Religious belief is evidence-proof. It’s no coincidence that religions place so much emphasis on faith. And the story of modern Christianity is the story of the shift from treating biblical stories as literally true to treating them as figuratively, symbolically, true. And I suspect all the Friedmans in the world won’t alter that.

    Like Vicki, I can see that you’re excited about it, and I’ve felt that kind of excitement myself in other fields, so I’m not knocking it; I just really can’t relate to it in this case. ‘World-changer’? ‘One of the most important books I’ve read in years’? Why?

  • Hi Pat

    Just a quickie to clear up this question of what Dawkins is saying. He doesn’t in the least suggest that ancient peoples behaved badly. Quite the reverse. Humans behave increasingly well out of their own nature because it is beneficial in reproductive and evolutionary terms to do so and that we are aided to do so by the artefacts of evolution, indeed, paradoxically, by the action of the “Selfish Gene” starting a platform for a growing mutualism.

    Our ethical life is first and foremost consequentialist, a pragmatic betterment of ourselves only later being parasitised by those selling (sic) virtue ethics, a dogmatic prescription of actions before the fact.

    Both get woven into culture. The difference is how, pragmatically, or dogmatically by a separate class.

    Hence my initial parsing of “jewish” versus “Jewish scriptural”.

    His point has ever been that religion is late to the party and increasing hijacked by salesmen.

    PS I think a case can be made that the parasitising dogmatists got increasingly bold through the evolution of the Abrahamic religions.

  • Marco #24 World-changer’? ‘One of the most important books I’ve read in years’? Why?

    I think it’s world-changing in the same way any new historical discovery is world-changing. It affects our outlook on who we are, where we came from, how what is came to be. For a long time the sides have been bitterly arguing – “it happened” and “no it didn’t.” Now, it seems we know, and we can put the matter to rest, and then see how it affects our planets of belief.

    It’s momentous for Israel, if the evidence holds up, because it uses their own texts to debunk or at least demystify their place in the world. In one sense, the new information is supportive. Israelite’s have always been there. They didn’t move there; they didn’t come from Egypt, but they were always in the lands they are in now. It seems that it wasn’t even their god who took over, but the god of a band of immigrants, who managed to make it the god of Israel. The idea that they were given the lands by their god, is blown up, given the clear mythological background for the story. Till now, all we could say was that there is no evidence for the Exodus, but the apologists were correct in saying that lack of evidence is only that – a lack of evidence. Now there is evidence (assuming it holds up), for the first time ever. Now we know the basis for the story. That’s pretty amazing to me. Maybe I just like detective stories.

    We could prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was no six day creation, no two-person DNA bottleneck and no global flood. We also know there are no zones of destruction in Canaan, that would confirm the Conquest, but we very little compelling, objective evidence for or against the Exodus. Now, it seems, we do.

    Finally, it is a moral guidepost, reminding them and everyone else that the great Abrahamic religion was not founded on the “hostility to the other” that so defines it today, but on something far better, and it has been lost. It’s a reminder to Israel, that the alien who lives among them should be treated better if they are going to adhere to the original intent of the religion.

    If we don’t care about things like this, why do we care about all the things Dawkins, Hitchins, Harris, Dennett, etc. have done to debunk other aspects of the Abrahamic religion? If their work was notable, why would such works no longer be of interest? If Friedman has helped to further debunk the Abrahamic religions, by telling us how they came to be in the first place, it’s a powerful tool in our arsenal.

    Perhaps you folks all hang out here and talk with people who agree with each other because you’re all atheists. I confess that I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at older posts to get a flavor for the site. I thought there would be interest here, but perhaps I was wrong. I normally hang out on religious blog sites. (Just blocked from my third Catholic site – they do NOT want people reminding Catholics that their Church believes that helpless, unbaptized infants almost certainly go to Hell!)

  • Phil #25 Just a quickie to clear up this question of what Dawkins is saying. He doesn’t in the least suggest that ancient peoples behaved badly…

    Did I say that he did?

  • Pat

    Did I say that he did?

    You effectively concurred so.

    You said to Vicki reflecting back her apparent position.

    why RD insisted that in the case of the Jews, it only applied to other Jews.

    No. I think he is saying the scripture asserts that….not necessarily that the people themselves behave that way as you are (and she was) framing it here.

    His point is about religious dogma…that morally it only eventually reflects back how people are. It is not a preemptive generator of “goodness” merely a slowcoach discoverer of it and which then adds in a self serving spin.

  • @Pat #26

    I thought there would be interest here, but perhaps I was wrong.

    I hope you stick around.

    I confess I don’t share your enthusiasm for the origin of the Exodus, but I enjoy your fresh views (if that counts for anything?).

  • Pat #26

    Ok, I’ve got a clearer understanding now of where you’re coming from, thank you. But do you really think it’s going to make a difference to anyone who a) clings like mad to their religion or b) doesn’t think Palestine has a right to exist? I just don’t think people arrive at these positions by carefully weighing up the arguments for and against. You’ve just been banned from your third Catholic site, so you must have some sense of how resistant such positions are to any kind of reasoning.

    I suspect you’d might have found more interest here in your new argument against Christianity/Judaism a few years back, but yes, you’re right: that kind of thing doesn’t seem to get discussed here all that much these days. Personally I pretty much stopped arguing with religious people years ago. Now they and their beliefs just bore me, to be honest, and I’m much more interested in real-world issues, including the real-world consequences of their beliefs, rather than the beliefs themselves. Your remarks about modern day Israel certainly fall into that category, and if the Friedman book could help in any way with that, that would be greatly to be welcomed – but I’m right out of optimism that anyone engaged in that particular can of worms is remotely motivated by reason, unfortunately.

    Thanks for sharing the info, though – it is a bit off the beaten track for discussions here, but it’s good to have a change!

  • Pat

    Perhaps you folks all hang out here and talk with people who agree with each other because you’re all atheists.

    Really, really, no. I truly think we all have different reasons to be here.

    My only real interest is doing morality better. Most people here think I’m on a paid retainer by the UK Quakers. (They still haven’t paid last years invoice.)

    Got banned from Strange Notions a few years back. I defended ordinary mainstream Catholics from some pretty hideous assertions about their beliefs….by other Catholics…

  • Vicki #28

    Sorry Vicki.

    Could’ve said that a whole lot better. I think the original conversation was set off askew through no fault of yours. Now its all too complicated for my tired brain to disentangle.

  • Pat Gannon #26
    Nov 2, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Marco #24 World-changer’? ‘One of the most important books I’ve read in years’? Why?

    I think it’s world-changing in the same way any new historical discovery is world-changing.

    Did the discovery that the earth and planets orbited the sun make a scrap of difference to the faith of Catholics who had mandated for 1000 years that the earth was the centre of the universe? Did any of them stop claiming that the pope is the infallible mouthpiece of an infallible god despite 1000 years worth of popes being flat wrong about the solar system? Have you ever tried to debate the age of the universe which we know for a certainty by three independent methods is 13.7 billion years with a young earth creationist who says it’s 6000 years because his bronze age book of bullshit has a fake list of who begat whom and how old they were at each begatting? It’s a complete waste of time because nothing gets through to these people when their delusions are threatened.

    The religious don’t give a rat’s arse about truth, facts or evidence. Their goat herder’s guide to the galaxy is always 100% true even when it blatantly isn’t and that gets proven to them. Compared to some of the things that have already been proven to be completely wrong in the bible the truth or otherwise of the exodus is an inconsequential triviality.

    No ones world is going to change in even a slight degree. You seem to be very animated about this but you’re banging your head against a brick wall.

  • @Pat If you want to contact Richard Dawkins you could try doing it via Twitter where he still occasionally tweets. Or he has an official Facebook page so a message via there would probably get to him. Or his wiki page says he is an Emeritus Professor at New College so I suspect a letter written to him care of New College, Oxford (you can find the address online) would eventually reach him. Likewise letters to publishers I think often will be sent on to authors. Even googling “how to contact Richard Dawkins” brings up a page suggesting many of the above methods. If you are really keen and can afford it why not send him the book and ask for his comment!

  • The Washington Post have been patiently fact checking everything Trump says every day of his presidency. A job that would drive me to insanity I think. For the first 18 months he averaged 8 or 9 lies a day. Extraordinary by the standards of any other world leader but just a warm up for Trump it seems. As he’s become more and more terrified that the dems will take the House, get his tax returns and impeach him the lying has increased to an average of 30 a day for ther last few weeks. On 22nd October when he went to stump for his previous enemy Ted Cruz he told 83 lies.

    The Nigerian army has just killed 45 unarmed demonstrators and by way of “justification” they quoted Trump’s tweet about treating migrants armed with rocks as if they had guns. Trump’s words make people unsafe the world over. It’s naive to think they didn’t affect this matter, the killing of Khashoggi and the Florida bomber.

    Trump’s main gripe about the Florida bomber and the Pittsburgh shooter? Their attacks on Democrats and Jews took the headlines away from his attacks on Democrats and immigrants and hurt his “momentum”.

    There are presently 5,500 troops in Iraq and 9,300 in Afghanistan, an actual war zone. If Trump follows through with his plan to send a total of 15,000 troops to the southern border there will be more troops deployed in the USA to keep out a few unarmed migrants who are nowhere near yet than there are troops deployed in actual combat.

  • I wonder why Trump’s denials of election interference have been so determined?

    Twitter has deleted an estimated 10,000 automated accounts that were posting messages discouraging people from taking part in next week’s US mid-term elections.

    Most of the accounts were posing as Democrats, the social media company said.

    They were taken down in late September and early October.

    Twitter was alerted to the accounts by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

    The DCCC was formed in response to the party’s failure to respond to widespread false and negative information on social media about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, Reuters reported.

    Twitter believes that the network of now-deleted accounts was run from the US, CNN reported.

    The DCCC is reported to be working with contractors to identify misinformation campaigns.

    Last month the state of California signed legislation that bans the use of undeclared bots during elections.

    The bill would make it illegal to use the bots to influence voting.

  • @Phil–just an update.

    I found this paragraph in a related article in the WaPo about the class-action lawsuit against the Trump administration regarding climate change brought by the youth, our future voters:


    Later Friday night, the justices refused a Trump administration
    request to halt a novel lawsuit filed by young Americans that attempts
    to force the federal government to take action on climate change.
    Thomas and Gorsuch would have granted the request, but the court said
    the administration should make its appeal to a lower court first.

    While it doesn’t exactly clear the way for the case to be brought to the Supreme Court, it doesn’t categorically close the door, either.

    The article was rather encouraging as well, since it is addressing the constitutionality of citizenship on the census, although any ruling wouldn’t be in time to help the 2020 census.


  • Vicki

    Workings of a combustion engine not interesting?

    I like to see how things work. To see Pat come here and have a moment that I know I had too. That clearing of a log jam in the brain when a piece fits into the jigsaw puzzle. That internet worrior that has a revelation that all is solved but all I have done is won an argument I could not get out of but now can. The need to tell the world. The feeling that others did not understand the breakthrough that I thought would surely be on my side. The slow decent back to Earth from the heady heights I took myself to. I did it on the Cyprus issue because I spent too much time talking with Greek Cypriots who had no intention of listening to me or the facts. Over six years arguing with a wall of opposition but I never got banned. I created a lot of traffic for the host who had to justify the money supplied by the U.N. it was a great educator though. I learned how to research and worked best and I learned not to guess or half research because I would get shot down and stepped on if I did.

    This site is where internet warriors go to die but where I can use my new found abilities to go to another level of understanding. Thanks clear other more stubborn log jams of the brain and no less exciting.

  • Olgun


    Workings of a combustion engine not interesting?

    It’s true. I’d like to be curious about it, and I’ve tried to be curious about it in the past, but the spark just isn’t there (no pun intended).

    But I do have other interests, and this site usually feeds some of them. I rarely walk away without having learned something, or experienced a new perspective. And as contentious as the political scene is right now, this site is a welcome island of calm and rationality for me.

    A little breather.


  • Hi Olgun,

    Replying from October’s thread.

    Reckless #216

    Sorry but how can “stupid” people even try to make the leap with language like that? I can’t do the maths either but I understand other things like Ozone layers and rising see levels and can see the effects. I didn’t like RW saying that “people should step up and not the other way around”. Pulling up the ladder or what!

    I suppose I didn’t see his comments in that manner. I’m not for pulling up the ladder but as a teacher I’m acutely aware that not everyone is born with the same abilities. I teach a year 9 support maths class. They still cannot remember from lesson to lesson which symbol is multiply, add subtract etc. This isn’t their fault of course it’s just that they have profound mental handicaps and their existence puts a lie to the blank slate. We are not all born with the same intellectual potential. What we should do is aspire to do the most with what we have. And many of these kids do that every day. That’s how I took his meaning.

    What I see now around me and I think the point Richard was making was that we should respect expertise, we should aspire to the achieve the best we can.

    We seem now to be living in a society that instead of seeking to have free opportunities to achieve and succeed instead we want everyone to be just like us no matter how dim we might individually be. Hence people will vote for Trump or in my country support one nation (and their fish and chip shop owner and bigot) other people whom they perceive as just like us. Pauline Hansen’s appeal is she’s just like me (If I happen to be someone who struggled to understand a primary school education). I don’t know about you but I want to be surrounded by people of skill and intelligence. I want them all to be smarter than me. I want my doctor smarter, I want my airline pilot smarter, hell I want my plumber smarter. I certainly want politicians who are smarter than me.

    There is an anti-intellectualism about now days driven by the wounded pride of those who they perceive that they have been hard done by. A large measure of the mistrust of people like AGW deniers (in the general public) comes from a form of anti-intellectualism. The extreme left seems to have been infected by another version of this in which facts don’t matter unless they actually align with their political ideologies. We of the left have to fight these excesses too.

    Teachers, and you are one if you engage in conversation were you intend to inform and change opinion, should find a way to teach whoever is in front of them. If those of high IQ are waiting for everyone to reach their level then the battle is lost even before it’s begun. Wish I COULD do the math but not doing so doesn’t get in the way of my understanding or my understanding of my atheism.

    I will engage in debate and attempt to educate if I perceive that the person engaging in debate with me is really trying to understand. Mostly now I find they are not, they are instead trying to evangelicalism a conservative political position or as I stated above trying to tear down intellectual elites. What I am saying is I have respect for the hard work that those who work in the sciences engage in to come to the conclusions they do. I didn’t understand climate change very well and I got the opportunity to do some post graduate study (got a scholarship for teachers wanting to extend their understanding in science). I chose to do a unit climate change to get a better idea of the details. I am by no means an expert, the unit convinced me exactly how hard the subject was and just how much work had gone into it. My lecture spend enormous amounts of time in the oceans dropping buoys, on Glaciers taking ice core samples in the Antarctic months at a time and the rest of his time teaching and analysing data sets. I admire his experience and expertise and I think it is not unreasonable to show some deference to the work that has lead to the conclusions. This does not mean I should have no respect for anyone finding any fault in his (and the many thousands of other climate scientists who do similar work), it just means that I place a measure of respect for the expertise that comes from devoting ones life to a field of study and this commands respect. A respect that is in short supply. So when someone with little education who can’t be arsed to read even the most basic informative books on the subject designed to be consumed by the average reader (Tim Flanneries the The Weather Makers would be an example) or watch an unbiased documentary, but instead watches FOX and listens to nonsense from people who have not put in the hard work to learn the science then I am simply pointing out the foolishness of holding firmly to a position when neither the person complaining that AWG is not real or the deniers pushing the agenda has done the hard work to do so. People like that I do not try to educate other than point out that the people they are listening to have not done the hard work and are not experts. In the rare cases where there is a trained climate scientist who disagrees with the consensus I ask for the support for their alternative hypothesis and if they have no alternative hypothesis I point out that they should come back and comment when they have done the hard work or if they have (very rare) I ask them what the reviewers of their papers said about their positions.

    It’s very revealing when you investigate some of these rare cases. I had a very well educated science teacher try this with me once. He pointed to a peer reviewed paper by this AGW denying climate scientist implying he had the answers. This AGW denying climate scientist was proposing the rise in temperatures was due to the wobbles on the Earths orbit within the plane of the galaxy. A reasonable proposal on the face of it until you do the due diligence of reading the reviews of the authors position. Where you find that his astronomy was in complete contradiction to the Earths position in the Galaxy according to actual astronomers (which he was not), you find that the record of proxy temperature scales do not match the wobbles in the past compared to modern times, you find his got his statistical analysis wrong, you additionally find that he’d raised these same arguments a decade past in the last paper he wrote, was shot down in flames then and has not in this paper met any of the challenges posed in that paper in this. The paper was published in an economics journal for some reason (one would assume it was rejected by the journals involved involved in the field of study in question).

    That was the best this guy who has a much better science education than me could offer? Why is that? The only conclusion I could draw from this was that it was not about the science it was about this guy projecting his political views onto field that neither of us were qualified enough to make judgement on (other than to view the debate from afar). To me his wanton dismissal of a field of expertise is dis-respectful. I through arguing with those who are of this mindset. I will engage with them but not on their chosen playground which is to dismiss without evidence and to fail to engage honestly. I can tell you I have not changed his mind on this by pointing the utter failure of the best evidence he could bring. However he hasn’t tried this again and I’d note that if more people did this around the BBQ or the staff-room lunch table people would be less willing to bring up nonsense in an attempt to influence the room.

    My strategy now is to simply point out that deniers have failed to provide a substantial alternative hypothesis for the temperature rises and merely snipe about the edges dishonestly. When they have done the hard work of building their own data sets which suggest something different then I’ll do the hard work of arguing the minutia. Until then it’s just a stalling game relying on the ignorant to side on ideological grounds.

    So in summary I think Dawkins was merely suggesting that we should all respect hard work and knowledge and we should all aspire to gaining as much knowledge as we can. This is not an arrogant position as Dawkins has numerous times admitted his inability to handle the maths involved in say physics and quantum mechanics, this doesn’t stop his interest in these subjects he just acknowledges his own limitations in these areas.


  • I was browsing and saw this “tweet “ from Professor Dawkins, and thought I’d share it.

    “Good day at American Museum of Natural History. Evolution exhibit marred by revolting pandering to religious lobby: a set of small films in which Francis Collins et al try to argue evolution compatible with God. No such nonsense in @NeilTyson’s splendid Hayden Planetarium.”

    I can’t help but think that the films to which Prof Dawkins refers are related to the current American government. Tuesday is Election Day. Although I always vote, the films are just one more reason I will be voting on Tuesday. I hope my vote will be one of many that will mark the beginning of the end to this nonsense.

  • Reckless #41

    Thanks for taking the time to reply Reckless. I appreciate it and just the reply is part of the point for me.

    I fully understand and agree that the initial comments by RD was that elites are best for the job. Coupled only with the peer review system though. I can find comfort in knowing that other elites are checking and rechecking the work and I can logically conclude it a sound system in which I can depend without a huge leap of faith.

    I took offence to his “stepping up” comment because I already mentioned, elsewhere, that the elite seem to be also acting elitist, if that makes sense. The reason the world seems to have turned upside down is that they have allowed other so called elites to express an opinion and not challenged them at that level. Yes, papers at the top have all the answers but I don’t understand them and asking me to step up just makes me want to give up like I did at school. The elite should be getting their hands dirty is all I am saying. Brian Cox is and so many great science programs on in the U.K. these last few years. Dumbing down and teaching. Trust Me I’m A Doctor, a program on at the moment is dispelling so many myths. RD’s books also provide this care so his comment about stepping up seems contradictory.
    I also think that wanting instant results in a conversation is wrong. People will argue but will also leave with self doubt which is a start. The elite don’t want to argue these small points but I think they may be the most important and the state of people’s thinking could be said to be their fault. Just before this subject came up I wrote that I think the elite have abandoned us simple people and then blame us.

    I will say though that my thinking on this is not complete and maybe my thinking that elites are well rounded all understanding people is just a nonsense I’ve invented for myself.

  • The sense of anticipation here at Arkrid Towers is palpable now as the election approaches. I remember sitting up all night in 2008 watching the live feed on CNN on my pc as the 8 awful Bush years came to an end and Obama beat McCain but tomorrow night seems even more important than that. I can accept that maybe some voters in 2016 were taken in by Trump the liar and conman, they wanted change and didn’t really pay as much attention as they ought to his racist agenda. Obviously that agenda was clear to anyone paying proper attention but the American electorate is renowned for being dumb. However that excuse no longer applies. Everyone knows how revolting he is now so anyone who votes for him a second time is doing so very deliberately and is either as racist as he is or doesn’t care what he’s like as long as he elects judges who will reverse Roe v Wade.

    The lies are so far off scale now it’s hard to measure them. Trump has claimed that Democrats want to destroy America, its health care system, give the immigrants in the caravan Rolls Royces and repeal the second amendment. It’s little more than incoherent screaming but when you see the deplorables at his rallies cheering and clapping you have to wonder just how awful a large segment of American society is.

    The one thing Trump has actually achieved is to remove all our blinkers about how racist and paranoid right wing voters really are. Of course we’ve all known that racism is endemic in American society, that white police shoot unarmed blacks on a regular basis and no doubt it’s a daily reality and slap in the face for blacks living there but even though I’ve studied American politics and society as closely as it’s possible for someone not actually living there I still didn’t realise how bad it was. No presidential candidate has ever actually campaigned on a racist platform before. Even if they really were racists they kept it as tightly hidden as possible but Trump brought it all out into the open. He spent 18 months trumpeting that blacks, muslim terrorists and latinos wanted to invade and destroy America and 50% of the population lapped it straight up without blinking an eye.

    Trump has revealed that every Republican politician is as despicable as himself when it comes to a choice between standing for principles or sticking slavishly with party and leader. Some of them might not have wanted him to win the nomination but they fell in line like good little jackbooted soldiers as soon as he did. The racism directed at Florida’s black gubernatorial candidate Gillum is astonishing. “Don’t monkey-up this election”. “It’s cotton picking important”.

    There won’t be any more second chances. This election is it. If people still aren’t sufficiently motivated to come out and vote against this constant attack on decency then I have to conclude that America is morally lost for at least another generation.

  • The White House has just released the report of the investigators flown down to look at the migrant caravan marching up slowly from Honduras. Most of the caravan is comprised of smallpox ridden zombie brain eaters who want to invade the USA, camp on people’s front lawns and then drive around in their Democrat given Rolls Royces and find Republican babies to eat. It will take at least 3 heavily armed troops per shoeless immigrant child to stop them and their deadly aim with rocks means you have to shoot first and ask questions later.

    The Democrats want to open the borders to these zombie flesh eaters, let them vote, let them get free healthcare and eat as many Republicans as they can get their teeth into.

    If you ever want to stay safe in your beds again then vote Trump.

  • Marco #30

    Thanks for your post. I’m a bit saddened to see that some people seem to be giving up. I can’t do that. My mind was changed by a couple things:

    1) first and foremost the release of fear

    2) learning some science and history.

    I read the bible cover to cover a few times. On my first trip I was looking specifically for Hell, because as an indoctrinated Catholic, I still feared it as a middle-aged adult, even though I said out loud that I didn’t believe in it. So I went looking for it. Instead of my childhood Hell, I found four very different Hell’s in the bible (Sheol, Hades, Tartaroo, Gehenna) – none of which were the pagan Hell I was indoctrinated with. It becomes evident that the Hell I was psychologically abused with as a child was an invention by the Church, not something that comes from the bible.

    I also learned that Hell is not eternal. We get eternal life or we perish – and to perish is to die. See John 3:16, the believer’s favorite passage. The bible says we will be destroyed, burned up, consumed. There is no passage in the bible that speaks of eternal “punishing,” or ongoing punishment. In Matthew there is a passage about eternal punishment, but from context, the passage is easily interpreted as one in which you are eternally punished, by being denied life. If you’re dead – you’re permanently denied eternal life. Big deal. You have to want your god to be evil in order to interpret the bible to say there is eternal punishment in a lake of fire for mere humans. Once your god is that evil, you can offer to save us from him. The lake of fire is eternal, Hell is eternal, but we are simply destroyed there for failing to believe, say or do the right things.

    Teaching believers from their own book, reduces the fear, and that’s 3/4 of the battle. If it worked for me, it can work for others. What’s that line from the movie, “The Edge:” “What one man can do, another can do.” If my fear can be released, so can another’s. So I’m not quitting. Women would still be unable to own property and vote, blacks would still be denied rights, gays would still be in the closet, the disabled would have no accommodations – there’s no quitting!

    I think Friedman’s book is important because it opens a new path to discussion, one in which believers and non-believers talk “to” each other, rather than “through” each other. This book provides a whole new way to look at the development and origins of the Abrahamic religions. We may have a big opportunity to open real avenues of conversation and discussion with believers, if we can get this book “out there.”

    On the other hand, if I have rose-colored glasses on, and there are some objective issues and weaknesses with the evidence and the arguments, then I’d prefer to figure that out before going off the rails – which is why I bring it up in a place like this -hoping some will be interested in reading a very compelling story, and sharing their thoughts on how worthwhile it is.

  • mmurray #35

    Thanks. I’ll do so. I wanted to see if I could get some feedback on the book, and to be honest, I figured if I focused on a contentious point – whether RD interpreted the Jewish idea of r’ea or neighbor incorrectly (and I think he did), that this might be a place to get some feedback on that, and test Friedman’s views. The only evidence offered is what RD used in the first place, and Friedman pretty well demolished that in his book…. so I have nothing new to modify my credence’s.

    I’m being told that I’m wasting my time trying to change minds, by people who appear to have given up. That strikes me as pretty sad on a forum sponsored by Richard Dawkins!

    I mentioned this to Aaron Ra, whom some here may know, in response to one of his videos about Moses – he said it was interesting and that he would look into it. Hopefully we’ll hear more about this book in the future from intellectuals who still care.

    Thanks again for your advice. I did, and do, intend to keep reaching out to those who might still care and make a difference.

  • Professor Dawkins has been posting tweets urging Americans to vote tomorrow. While I’m sure that everyone who takes part in this site will vote for science and reason, I’d like to point out a YouTube clip that provides some good talking points. If you search for “abigail disney tax” and view the most recent clip, you will see what I mean. What Ms. Disney has to say backs up what David Cay Johnston writes about in his book It’s Even Worse Than You Think. I hope we will all vote and urge at least one other person to vote too.

  • Phil #46

    In what have been a truly gobsmacking 2 years, that has to be the most gobsmacking yet.

    The psychology here would be fascinating if it weren’t so utterly incomprehensible.

    Where the hell do these people get their understanding of the man they claim to worship (I’m talking about JC, not DT) from? In all seriousness, how do they get from THAT to THIS?

    This is insanity to the power of n.

  • Pat #47

    I’m sorry, Pat. I can sense your disappointment at the response (or lack of it) you’ve met with.

    I do understand where you’re coming from. I just wonder whether your path out of religion is maybe more recent than my own. In the first few years after I’d seen the light (as it were), it still felt really important to me, and it was something I wanted to persuade others of too. Now, so many years later, it’s just who I am, and my interest has moved on to other things. Maybe, too, the religion I broke free of was always more liberal than your former Catholicism was: I was of course aware that there were other, far more fierce, far more terrifying versions around, but the church I attended was very much of the loving, forgiving, compassionate variety – meaning that when I stopped believing, I just thought it was mistaken, not necessarily something that others needed rescuing from for their own well-being. Thank you for the reminder that many churches actually inflict enormous psychological harm on their followers, and yes, of course, such people will be happier and saner once they’ve realised that there is no reason to think the threats are true.

    Even though the subject doesn’t grab me personally, I do hope you’re right, and that this book really does make a difference to some people: sets them thinking, sets them questioning, sets them doubting.

  • Pat,

    I think you sound gloomier than you need. You’ve come to the home of skepticism and all new ideas need testing. I’m going to be reading this book but your Dawkins’ strategy rather cheapens what is potentially on offer here. Just saying.

    I’ve still to finish about five other books atm. And I don’t have enough train journeys into work.

  • Olgun #54

    That was a good overview. I wonder what the date is on that article. He didn’t mention the DNA evidence, which is what I found to be among the most compelling pieces of evidence.

    Friedman comes across (to me) as possibly being a believer in this article, but then again, it’s a Jewish magazine. In the book, he sticks to the topic and studiously avoids discussion of personal beliefs. In videos, I’ve seen, I got the distinct impression that he’s an agnostic, if not atheist.

  • The Biological Convergence

    In the development of the animate drive, the measure of advance against all resistance, light upon a cellular agent displaces the variance of a fission in a microbial lens, the refraction determining a ascention in limit, inborn upon the threshold between static and displaced, the resistance converging with the static matrice of a single organism to determine the consumption, and at the limit of acceleration of entropy, the overtaking of value into a convergence driven into limited omnidirectional resistance towards the limit of measure of frequency of determined vision of undone and resistant and limitless inertia to the threshold beyond the agency of pressure unjuxtaposed within a field of total limit.

  • It’s looking like Trump has single handedly killed off America’s soybean industry, maybe for ever. Since he started his “easily won” trade war with China and they imposed tariffs on soybeans the exports of soybeans to China have fallen by 94%. Farmers in North Dakota are just piling up this years harvest on the ground and covering it with tarps and hoping the market recovers before the beans rot. Even for those farmers who can find a buyer the price has dropped from $10 a bushel last year to $7 now, well below break even price of $8.75.

    Canada is now profiting by raising its exports of soybeans to China, selling as much as possible of its home grown beans to them at high prices and then buying back cheaper American beans for domestic use.

    Trump is paying subsidies to farmers with unsold beans but that only covers about half of their loss. I thought handouts = socialism = communism but apparently it’s ok as long as the handouts aren’t going to poor people with dark skin.

    Brazil is the biggest winner. It’s already the largest exporter of soybeans to China and is gearing up for even more production. Even if the trade war ends it might be hard for American farmers to break back into the Chinese market once Brazil has established trading agreements.

  • Arkrid

    The presence of your dismissal remains unfounded in the determined measure of the value of your axiom. The presence of a hypothesis does not determine the denial of its invokation.

  • Pat #55

    I didn’t get the religious thing Pat. I thought he sounded like the Jesus that was trying to make Jews live a cleaner life through a proved history. Necessary work for sure but not convinced it’s a world changer. We have always maintained that these books have history in them and have guessed at some of them so nothing new but the deciphering of them is always interesting. Finding out that hell could simply have been a municipal dump in the valley of Hinnom where fires burned and children were sacrificed and diseased bodies were thrown on to the constantly burning trash. Maybe even that leprosy sufferers were imprisoned there for up to a year and if cured, were allowed to re-enter the kingdom of man are all interesting also.

  • Well, America, depending on how you vote today, you are either going to offer a glimmer of help to a groaning and fearful world, or you are going to stamp out every last vestige of it.

    After the horrors of the last couple of years, I don’t think I could bear to wake up tomorrow to find that the Republicans haven’t taken a hammering.

    American or not, we all desperately need an indication that America is beginning to find its way back to decency and sanity.

  • From Twitter:

    Joe Heim @JoeHeim:
    My wife reporting from the local community center
    on the huge number of millennials waiting to vote: “It looks like a
    line for avocado toast.”

    Perhaps it’s all going to be ok 🙂

  • @Olgun #43

    Hi Olgun before I start let me state I think I understand your position and where you are coming from and you have a point but I have a few niggles. That said…

    I took offence to his “stepping up” comment because I already mentioned, elsewhere, that the elite seem to be also acting elitist, if that makes sense.

    There are a couple of things here, one I addressed above in that elitism is something we should aspire to to the degree we can. I think we both can agree there. The niggle I have is about elitists acting elitist. Dawkins is often accused of arrogance I’m not sure he always is. I’m on the spectrum (ASD) and as mainly an ICT teacher you can imagine my classes have a much higher proportion of ASD kids than the rest of the school. Arrogance is a major factor in my day to day. Now this is where I get a bit picky on this. If people are going to accuse an expert of arrogance for stating what they have spend a lifetime becoming an expert in then anyone as soon as they gain more expertise in a field becomes arrogant. Now I understand this is not really you concern you are concerned that Dawkins in his delivery of his suggestion that we should all respect and aspire to elitism is shutting you out. My reading of his statement is this…

    Anyone of reasonable intelligence can become an elite with sufficient hard work and study.
    Our society is a better place if more people put in the time and effort to become expert in fields of interest.
    Those who do not share the level of skill and expertise while not handing over absolute authority to anyone who is an expert (after all other elites may well disagree with other elites so who do you believe?). Should at the very least recognise the work and study that has gone into the position they hold, thus they should not be written off because they have done the hard work and study and if you as a relatively uneducated person in this field find yourself in disagreement with the elite you should consider your position very very carefully (because you are much more likely to be wrong).

    Consider this example you are a trained plumber you have never flown in an aircraft let alone flown an aircraft other than have a quick go once at flight sim on your computer at home. Would you go up to the cockpit and demand to land the aeroplane? Would you consider the rejection of this offer arrogance?

    I can’t play a musical instrument. I did however spend many years learning to draw, paint building up obsessively as a child until I eventually became for a short time (about 6 years a commercial artist). I learnt very quickly that on the spectrum of artists I was much higher than average as a cartoon illustrator but lower on almost every other aspect and I also discovered that in terms of cartoon illustrations working in the industry at the time I was middling to average, perhaps below average. I have due to the hard work that lead me there some expertise compared to the general population. I know I could have done better had I put in more time and I know while I was an elite compared to the general population I was not in comparison to the elites within my field. But having not put in the time into music I know that while I may legitimately express a preference in terms of music any assertion beyond that is over-reach. I am not held back from becoming an elite I just am shy of perhaps some thousands of hours of practice with music to call myself an elite. Should I choose to spend this time I could become an elite. You mentioned Brian Cox. Did you know he struggled with maths? He really is not a natural mathematician and had to work extra hard to overcome his difficulties?

    The reason the world seems to have turned upside down is that they have allowed other so called elites to express an opinion and not challenged them at that level.

    I have known about climate change with since I was a teenager I’m now almost 50. The reason in this case is not lack of communication by experts, the reason is an uneducated public who will not lift a finger to educate themselves have allowed their political ideology to infect their thinking. Ultimately all the knowledge in this area can be resolved on a kitchen sink from convection currents to C02 trapping heat can all be confirmed with simple experiments than a non elite can confirm. How many hours were spend from the time I was 12 to now almost 50 watching rubbish on TV? Watching sport, Drinking down the pub? could not some of this time be spend reading a book or watching a documentary? I find myself surrounded by people in my staffroom who all have a university education but on climate change have not read a single book or watched a single documentary. Some have read climate denier books but never read one from the other side of the point of view. This is not because an intellectual elite has shut them down, anyone with average intellegence could read the weather makers or numerous other books.

    Yes, papers at the top have all the answers but I don’t understand them and asking me to step up just makes me want to give up like I did at school.

    Don’t read them, read a scientific american or new scientist or listen to a good science podcast like the Radio Nation “The Science Show”. These are accessible.

    The elite should be getting their hands dirty is all I am saying. Brian Cox is and so many great science programs on in the U.K. these last few years. Dumbing down and teaching. Trust Me I’m A Doctor, a program on at the moment is dispelling so many myths. RD’s books also provide this care so his comment about stepping up seems contradictory.

    Consider this, every hour spend creating the wonderful documentaries like Brian Cox’s is an hour less he can spend on research and lecturing to the next generation. So there is a balance to be struck. You could add 100% more science content and it will not do jot if people don’t care to watch. Understanding this stuff is hard, you can only dumb it down so much. The likes of Dawkins have devoted their life to this goal and I’m grateful because they act as people who can translate the more complex work to a wider audience. If you read Brian Coxes books you find he goes much deeper into the maths than he does in the TV series too.

    I also think that wanting instant results in a conversation is wrong. People will argue but will also leave with self doubt which is a start. The elite don’t want to argue these small points but I think they may be the most important and the state of people’s thinking could be said to be their fault. Just before this subject came up I wrote that I think the elite have abandoned us simple people and then blame us.

    Consider again what are you thinking if you are a climate scientist you have spend a career studying, measuring pouring over details and coming to unsettling conclusions and what do you get back, denial, avoidance and accusations of fraud and conspiracy thinking. You are literally trying to save the world and are being smacked down by almost everyone. The problem is not the climate scientists the problem is ALL OF OURS, because if we don’t listen we’re F**KED! They haven’t abandoned us many have devoted their lives to trying to communicate their ideas and they have been roundly ignored and shouted down. It’s lack of respect for science and the elitist knowledge it brings that has resulted in our current predicament. Had they been listened too when I was 12 we’d have solved the problem by now.

    I will say though that my thinking on this is not complete and maybe my thinking that elites are well rounded all understanding people is just a nonsense I’ve invented for myself.

    I’d suggest that elites are likely only elites in the fields they are elite in, very few are elites in more than one area.


  • Reckless #66

    Hi Reckless. Thanks again for an extensive response.

    I have never argued that anyone other than elites should be doing said job. Sorry I didn’t make that clear. I’m an electrician. I’ve seen what DIY can do and the lack of respect for the dangers.

    I understand what RD meant by “stepping up” and your explanation of it. I just think that the elites can also step up and become more rounded too. They learn easier, so learn to be more sociable and the skills needed. It has to work both ways. We all work hard. I did what I had to do to pass my electrical exams. Maths and all. Forgot it all because I never went into design but been installing since the age of fourteen. Screwed up my lungs and joints. Don’t want a medal. Just saying. Elites losing research time and me losing earning time at a much lower rate?

    I don’t really know what I am asking them to do but the one way traffic argument doesn’t work for me. Communism of the mind?

  • Hi Olgun,

    thanks for the reply I hope I didn’t come across as hostile (not my intention).


    I just think that the elites can also step up and become more rounded too. They learn easier, so learn to be more sociable and the skills needed. It has to work both ways.

    I’m not sure that is true. I work with kids on the spectrum every day, many are high functioning and very bright ones who are expert (because ASD seems to drive obsessive behaviours they are often very good at computers). But getting them to write an assignment justifying their work is breathtakingly difficult. So I’m not suggesting every elite is ASD but some are I suspect Newton was, I suspect Turin was and I also suspect that if this is the case that many may struggle to communicate.

    I know the feeling of struggling with the maths, I was a commercial artist in my first 6 years after school. When I ended up teaching high school science I had to pick up my skills and when I did post grad study and chose astronomy I had to learn the physics at that level and how to do the various equations to predict orbits work out predicted temps etc. I know how hard that was.

    Anyway all the best.

  • I think women have played a big part in this move. At last some relief and push back on madness.

    The Senate result shows rather more that institutional swamp draining is needed. The judiciary will continue its downhill trajectory.

    In what it substantially changes this is a very good result.

    Thank you!

  • It’s some relief that Dems have won the House. Now let’s see what investigator Mueller has up his sleeve.

  • What a relief to wake up the morning after an election and not feel the world is a darker place than it was the night before.

    Thank you to all of you who helped make it happen.

  • Not exactly a blue tsunami but still a decent night for the Dems. The Senate was never really in play but they took the House which means Trump’s tax returns are on their way to us and he can kiss repealing Obamacare good bye or of ever passing any more of his own legislation. Dems now hold the trifecta (house, senate and governorship) in NY state so they can reform the outdated electoral system. Dems also picked up a lot of state governorships which means they can clamp down on gerrymandering. Yesterday Repubs controlled 33 of the 50 states with Dems holding 16 (Alaska’s governor is Independent). Now the score is 25/22 to Repubs with 3 states left to be decided. It’s looking like the net swing is going to be 6 states to the Dems which is helluva important.

    Some bad news. Lyin’ Ted Cruz beat Beto O’Rourke in Texas and racist Ron DeSantis beat Andrew Gillum in Florida for the governorship despite an appalling campaign directed mostly at Gillum being black. (Don’t monkey this up; it’s cotton pickin’ important)

    Trump is desperately trying to call losing the House a great victory for himself although even he must realise he now has 2 more years of complete frustration being blocked at every turn, getting investigated and maybe even impeached. The Senate will never convict him under an impeachment but the Dems in the House might do it anyway just for shits and giggles and so it goes on his record.

    In Nevada, republican brothel owner Dennis Hof beat his Dem opponent despite having died on October 16th and two more Republican winners, Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter are under federal indictment for insider trading and campaign corruption so they might not be around for too much longer.

    It is still disappointing that so much of the electorate can vote Republican when Trump’s entire message is one of racism and divisiveness and even ignoring all that most of these people are voting against their own best interests but they’re too dumb to understand that. Trump will happily destroy their healthcare system, kill their farming jobs in his trade wars and funnel more of their wealth to the mega rich in tax cuts but hey, they got Brett Kavanaugh and maybe that’ll save one little cluster of cells from being aborted sometime so it’ll all have been worthwhile. They seem to care very much about clusters of cells but not so much about real kids being ripped from their parents and put through psychological torture. I’m pretty sure for redneck religious republicans life begins at erection and ends at birth, or at least if the baby has brown skin it does. I don’t know much about the American education system but I’m pretty sure that in rural areas getting taught the three Rs means how to be Racist, Religious and Republican.

    Oh speaking of tax cuts, anyone remember that tax cut for the middle classes Trump said he’d pass before election day despite Congress being closed down? Well don’t hold your breath for him to ever mention it again now that election day is over and bribes are no longer needed.

    I’ve had an idea. How about Dems now investigate whether Trump’s constant trips to rally with his deplorables are campaign expenses that should come out of his own pocket rather than presidential business the taxpayer ought to foot?

  • Arkrid #75

    The consensus of the news coverage seems to be that Mueller will be next in the firing line, now that Sessions has gone.

    Maybe Trump’s going to try to get rid of Mueller before the newly Democrat House gets its feet under the table?

  • LaurieB #77
    Nov 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Trump was visibly agitated and manic in his press conference today. He needs a sedative.

    He can pretend the midterms were a great victory all he likes but in reality he’s shitting himself now. Trump’s biggest fear is of people thinking he’s a loser and when his tax returns come out we’ll see how much he’s been lying about his wealth. One article I read said that if Trump had just put the $413 million he got from his father into the stock market he’d be worth 10 times as much as he claims he is now and his claims are probably 10 times more than he’s actually worth. In short his entire life messing about with property and ripping people off has been a waste of time.

    So he’s lashing out now the Dems have taken the House. Railing at reporters for asking him tough questions, firing Sessions. I’m not so sure what he’ll do about Mueller now the Dems have the House. Even if he gets Session’s replacement Whitaker to fire Mueller the Dems can set up their own investigation. He knows they’ll never let him off the hook and he also knows that he’s never going to win re-election if he runs in 2020 against a decent Dem candidate. He’s pissed off everyone in the country apart from his deplorable base. I think Cory Booker would trounce him and I suspect Trump won’t even run a second time. Trouble is the second he’s a private citizen again the AGs of New York and Virginia, maybe other states, can come after him for tax fraud, using his charities for personal and campaign finance, duping investors in his properties here and abroad. Maybe he’s got a nice dacha somewhere in Russia and on the last day of his term he’ll fly out there on Air Force One and not come back.

  • A few stats from the midterms for you all. Turnout was a massive 49% of all eligible voters. In 2014 it was only 37% and in 2010 it was 42%.

    In house races Dems picked up a total of about 52m votes to Repugs 46m so twice the margin that Hillary won the popular vote by. In senate races it was even more pronounced. 45m Dem votes and 33m Repug ones.

    Clearly the popular vote is now massively Dem and it’s only by virtue of years of gerrymandering that Repugs are even in the same race. Dems now have 7 more governorships and hundreds of seats gained in state legislatures so it’s time to undo the gerrymandering and make the country reliably Dem for ever more.

    It’s been very clear for a long time that Trump is incapable of learning, especially if it’s anything critical of him. That’s why he’s such an incompetent leader. His take from this massive personal repudiation of him from the popular vote when asked by reporters what he thought of the midterms was “people like me and approve of the job I’m doing”. His racism and divisiveness has turned millions of voters away from him but he’s learned nothing from that either and says he’ll hit back at Dems with investigations into them if they try to investigate him. The self proclaimed great dealmaker is now in a position where the Dems finally hold a good hand of cards and will need to be negotiated with but Trump only knows how to lash out and attack. He only knows how to make deals with people he can bully into submission which is not actually dealmaking. When the opponent can’t be bullied he has no idea what to do.

    The Republican party is not quite dead yet but it seems to be in its death throes. Trump has revealed how corrupt it is from top to bottom. Only voter ignorance and stupidity gives it any chance at all.

  • With Sessions gone the new AG should be his deputy Rosenstein but the president is allowed to appoint a pro tem AG only if the incumbent resigns or dies. Sessions was ordered to resign which is the same as being fired. He served at the president’s pleasure and had no choice to stay. So Trump should not be allowed to bypass Rosenstein and put Whitaker in his place. If Whitaker now fires Mueller that would be illegal too. Trump is maybe banking that if this ends up before the Supreme Court he’s got that rigged now with Beer Bret on it. Roberts might not feel the same though.

  • Good work, Alan. There can never be enough voices for reason and science. It all helps!

    Dan? I see a ghostly presence lurking here, and quite by chance. Hope you are well. Tell us how the Resistance is fairing under the jackboot.

  • Another shocking new low from the most corrupt White House in history. After Trump’s testy exchange with Jim Acosta, the Huckabitch tweeted about Acosta “laying hands” on the female intern who grabbed the microphone off him. Everyone there saw that Acosta did no such thing so the Huckabitch shared a video doctored by Infowars, speeded up and altered to make it look more like Acosta struck the intern.

    So the White House is trying to frame a reporter for an assault that never happened which is conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. I’m not sure that even those of us who have seen how low these people will stoop would have believed they’d try to frame someone for a criminal offence by faking the evidence.

    So my previous speculation that in 2020 Trump might not leave office, he could declare martial law, barricade himself inside the White House with tanks on the lawn. That’s not looking quite so crazy now eh? For 2 years now, every time we’ve thought “nah, he couldn’t possibly do that” yes he’s gone and done it. I really don’t think these people have a bottom of the barrel that’s too low for them to scrape.

    Meanwhile as acting AG Whitaker comes under the spotlight all sorts of skeletons are falling out of his closet. He was on the board of a company closed down for corruption for ripping off its clients, in tv interviews he’s been violently anti the Mueller investigation he’s now supposed to be supervising and he’s espoused some batshit crazy things about the Supreme Court and its past judgements. In short yet another whacko from the shallow end of the gene pool to join the long list of similar that Trump has appointed.

  • Arkrid Sandwich

    So the White House is trying to frame a reporter for an assault that never happened which is conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

    While that may gain them publicity (Trump glories in bombastic notoriety), reporters have long memories – and some of them love to write stories exposing charlatans!

  • Alan4discussion #85

    Good point about journalists writing stories exposing charlatans. Who was it who warned politicians “never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel!”

    A good source for what I consider to be credible political information is Among the journalists who contribute to the site is David Cay Johnston, the author of the book — It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America

  • Alan4discussion#85
    Good point about journalists having long memories and exposing charlatans. Who was it who warned politicians never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. I use to think it was Mark Twain, but a little research on the internet revealed the following information: Former Congressman Charles Brownson, Indianapolis Republican, used to say, “I never quarrel with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” I believe he was speaking about newspaper magnate Eugene C. Pulliam who owned several papers including “The Indianapolis Star” and “The Arizona Republic. The saying has also been attributed to H. L. Mencken, and to Benjamin Franklin. I got this information from:

  • So Trump is in France this weekend, specifically for the purpose of attending official commemorations of the end of WWI exactly 100 years ago and was scheduled to visit a US military cemetery in order to mark the sacrifice made by US soldiers … but calls off the visit because heavy rain meant he’d have had to sacrifice arriving by helicopter. Just imagine the indignity of having to make the 50 mile journey by road, like a normal person.

    How snowflakey these white nationalists are …

  • I know it’s hard to imagine that there’s much left to break inside Trump but it certainly appears as though something snapped inside him during the midterms. He’s lashing out like a cornered animal and I suspect his appalling behaviour for the first two years might turn out to have just been a warm-up for the next two. After his very public spat with Jim Acosta and revoking his press pass Trump is now claiming that the doctored Infowars video is real footage. It’s certainly about as real as the photoshopped photos of his inauguration crowds that Trump has dotted about the White House.

    Meanwhile the backlash against Trump AG pick Whitaker has been so forecful that Donny is trying to distance himself by claiming he doesn’t know Whitaker. It’s hard to know which bit of this is more crazy, that he doesn’t know the guy about whom he said on Fox and Friends last month “I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.” and who he also interviewed 4 or 5 times before sacking Sessions or that he now claims he picked someone for AG he doesn’t know. Maybe it was 3 year old Donny’s invisible friend who he blames for all the bad stuff who interviewed Whitaker. Trump’s lies seem to be getting more and more infantile as he reverts further and further into his fantasy world where’s he’s a superhero and everyone else sucks.

    Trump loves to claim how much he respects the troops apart from when he’s slagging off John McCain’s captivity, veterans with PTSD and war widows but he made his true level of respect very clear in France yesterday. After bad weather stopped his helicopter flight and it would have needed a 1 hour car drive to get to the cemetary he just decided not to bother. Kind of like how he couldn’t be bothered to put his umbrella up when he boarded his plane and just threw it away. Trump only has two kinds of people, those who can be useful to him and everyone else. It’s not like long dead war veterans can be of much use to him so fuck them if it means putting himself out a little bit. So he threw them away like yesterday’s trash.

    I’m sure his narcissism is trying very hard to tell him his crushing defeat in the House and the popular vote is all someone else’s fault but deep inside he knows it was a referendum on him and the verdict was that most of America hates him. I think he also realises that if he runs again in 2020 he’s going to go down as a big fat loser and with the Dems controlling the House he’s got two more years as a lame duck. He has one card left to play. The war card. Place your bets for which country is going to be the lucky winner.

  • just looking for the truth, is darwinism the accepted theory or is it false?
    growing up i was told yes this is true, but in middle school survival of the fittest was false.
    i also look online and see a lot of conflicting things.
    please help. 🙂

  • Paul Azzopardi #90
    Nov 12, 2018 at 2:13 am

    just looking for the truth, is darwinism the accepted theory or is it false?
    growing up i was told yes this is true,

    The Neodarwinian theory of evolution by way of natural selection, is accepted by all modern scientific bodies. – but of course geneticists and biologists debate the details regarding particular organisms.

    but in middle school survival of the fittest was false.

    If this was in a history lesson. it may have been referring to to Hitler’s perverted pseudo-science version, which was invented by NAZI propagandists to support their “master-race” ideology.

    i also look online and see a lot of conflicting things.

    There is a whole load of pseudo-science drivel which is made up by fanatical Young Earth Creationists, who like to believe that the Bible is literally true. “Noah’s ark did sail on a global flood, and the Earth s only a few thousand years old”.

    Basically they are full of themselves on their junk websites, because they are too ignorant to recognise their own ignorance or their science illiteracy.

    They regularly chant, “There is no evidence for evolution” despite the fact that there are libraries full of thousand of studies providing evidence.

    ALL the top biology journals discuss HOW evolution, natural selection, and genetics work. NONE of them discuss IF it works.
    THAT was settled long ago.
    Here is a list of biology scientific journals with academic credentials, that creationists won’t look at, or can’t or won’t, understand.
    For the school student it is probably better to read simpler articles which cite these journals as sources, rather than try to understand post-graduate experiments and studies.

  • Pat #4

    Thought I’d drop another article/review of Friedman’s book. I was referred to a book called “1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed” By: Eric H. Cline, and plan to read it. It describes a time of great disruption in the distant past, when civilizations collapsed around the Mediterranean, and I wondered if the timing matched the Exodus. I couldn’t find any good dates in Friedman’s book, so I decided for fun to write him. He responded and says we don’t have enough information to come up with a date when the Levites may have begun and ended their journey. He said he didn’t know if Cline’s work (he cites Cline in his book on other subjects), has any relationship, but did say he respects him highly and thanks him for writing a review of his book: Great review.

    I’m stepping up my efforts to reach RD. I asked Friedman if he had ever heard from RD in response to the spanking he was given, and he responded that he has not heard from him.

  • Pat #94

    The term ‘biblical archaeology’ is an oxymoron in my opinion for reasons that I outlined in an earlier post (#9). And, as others have pointed out here, the precise nature of any movement of people from ancient Egypt to what is present day Israel will have little historical or other significance to those who hold atheistic views. Your apparent eagerness to take seriously Friedman’s views and others of similar vein will therefore likely fall on deaf ears.

  • Kudos to SNL and comic Pete Davidson for showing everyone how grownups say sorry. Two weeks ago Davidson did a skit where he poked fun at the appearance of Texas republican congressman Lt Commander Dan Crenshaw who lost an eye serving in Afghanistan. It was definitely a bit of a dick move from Davidson and got a lot of flak including from other SNL cast members.

    So last Saturday in the same slot on Weekend Update, Davidson apologised and then was suddenly joined by Crenshaw himself who had been invited to take part in the skit. He got his own back by mocking Davidson’s appearance and taking a call on his cell phone which had an Ariana Grande ringtone. He finished with an impassioned plea to not forget veterans and their service. I reckon Crenshaw just made himself an instantly recognisable public figure to several million more people, showed that not all Republicans are complete dicks and is set for a stellar career in politics. He might well become the new John McCain in the course of time.

  • I wish Hillary would fuck off and go play with her grandkids or something. She’s still a catastrophic candidate who alienates most of the electorate. If she actually loves her country then leave it to someone else in the Dems to run for president rather than risk another 4 more years of Trump.

  • O’Hooligan #97 / Arkrid #98

    I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton and think she’d do a perfectly good, competent job as President. Not earth-shattering, not the root-and-branch shake-up that the USA so desperately needs, but at least democracy would be safe, at least she wouldn’t be deaf to her briefings, at least she wouldn’t be deliberately stirring up divisiveness at every turn, at least she wouldn’t reject the scientific consensus out of hand, at least she wouldn’t make the USA a laughing stock throughout the world and at least she wouldn’t make the world a more dangerous place by the day.

    But I agree with both of you: she’s not the candidate the Democrats need next time around. “At least she wouldn’t be as bad as Trump” is an exceedingly low bar. And in the context of what is clearly a real (if currently misdirected) hunger for real change in the country, the Dems would have to be mad to select as their candidate someone from one of the most established and arguably tired political dynasties.

    I would worry about Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, for a related reason: if Joe Biden were 20 years younger and fresh off the blocks, he’d be superb. Bernie has the vision to make far-reaching and much-needed changes to the whole way the USA works (though I suspect he’d be blocked at every turn, but that’s a different matter), though he always looks and sounds like an old man to me. But we need fresh blood now, fresh faces, fresh visions. Someone who can break through from what feels like nowhere and set the tone of the whole campaign and shake things up – much as Obama felt to do (to me, at least) first time around, or Macron in France (I’m talking about their freshness and energy and ability to inspire, not necessarily their specific policies).

    There are some superb individuals within the Democrat Party: I’ve always like Elizabeth Warren, though I read recently that she isn’t as popular as most of the other Dem candidates that come to mind. But Kamala Harris stands out. And there are others too (the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, has always impressed me deeply, though I’ve never heard his name mentioned in connection with a presidential bid, so perhaps he’s not interested in the top job).

    Anyway, yes, I do agree, whoever stands against Trump next time (assuming he’s not wearing an orange suit by then) needs to be NOT Clinton. (Or Oprah Winfrey, for goodness’ sake.)

    CNN published a good piece on this yesterday: “Here’s why Hillary Clinton 4.0 is a terrible idea”

  • Marco

    Any candidate that doesn’t shake off the “gangsters moll” image, be they male or female, and looks like anything from the “old world order” will leave people undecided right up to putting the tick in the box, IMO! That’s the way it felt here in the U.K. at the last elections. I still see no difference to n what Trump is doing to make America great again and what went on before. It’s just people were more comfortable ignoring the wrongs but feel empowered to point out Trumos tactics.

  • OHooligan #97
    ”…but does anybody else here think this would be the best way to guarantee a second term for the current POTUS?”

    The Clinton’s were never my favorite politicians. In 1992, Bill Clinton was not my first choice to be the Democratic candidate. I have always thought that the Clintons’ organization – the Democratic Leadership Conference – was an attempt to remake the party into something more akin to the Republican Party under President Eisenhower. However, once he got the nomination, I supported his candidacy both in 1992 and 1996. My impression was that his presidency was, on the whole, a success. I have never understood how he could have let his sexual passion blot his presidency. Having said that, he left the country’s finances in the black, and the country was secure during his time in office. And, as Joe E. Brown said in the closing scene of Some Like It Hot, “nobody’s perfect.”

    Hillary Clinton has been serving her country since the 1970s when she was on the staff of the congressional committee(s) investigating Watergate. I know she and Bill worked for Senator McGovern in his 1972 presidential bid. She was first lady of Arkansas as well as first lady of the United States, during which time she did her best to reform the U.S.’s antiquated healthcare system. She was twice elected to the United States Senate from the State of New York. She was Secretary of State during the Obama administration. Probably no one is more qualified to assume the presidency than she. Having said that, I recognize that she is not a perfect candidate. I’m currently reading Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Just like her husband, much of her bad image is self-inflicted. As Arkrid Sandwich #98, wrote: “She’s still a catastrophic candidate who alienates most of the electorate.” — again, a combination of self-inflicted wounds, and, how her political enemies have been able to define her. A long time ago she referred to a vast right wing conspiracy – she was right, and in support of that statement, I would point to The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons (2000). Likewise, when she said that Donald Trump was being supported by a basket of deplorables, she was right on the money, but her words were use out-of-context against her. I could point to other examples of that.

    Given the choice between Donald Trump and any of the other possible Republican candidates, I would not hesitate to vote for Hillary for a second. Having said that, I would hope the Democrats will find a strong candidate with the skill and resources to stand up to the Republican candidate whether it be Trump or someone else. If she decides to run again, I predict a much stronger primary election than in the previous election.

    To answer OHooligan’s initial question, I would hope that by the time of the 2020 campaign, the American people will have had a belly full of Donald Trump and will see through the real Republican agenda. So, I don’t think Hillary’s nomination would “guarantee” Trump’s reelection, but he would probably love to have her as an opponent again.

  • I know that science is humble and does not claim absolute knowledge, but are there really no absolute facts in science? Are scientific theories really falsified as Karl Popper said: “A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified” ? In other words, can a day come when we discover that the theory of evolution is wrong and that there is no evolution in species? Can a day come when we discover that the earth does not revolve around its axis, for example? What do we mean by “Fact” in the scientific language? Do we really mean most likely true or absolute truth? What are the absolute scientific facts that can never be doubted?

  • Hisham ADAM #103
    Nov 13, 2018 at 1:05 pm
    Are scientific theories really falsified as Karl Popper said: “A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified” ?

    What this means is that IF there was some serious flaw in the observations or calculations they COULD be tested and it would be found!

    This is unlike vague religious assertions, which are too ill-defined to be testable.

    In other words, can a day come when we discover that the theory of evolution is wrong and that there is no evolution in species?
    Can a day come when we discover that the earth does not revolve around its axis, for example?

    There are simply too many thousands of observations and measurements for there to be significant probabilities that either of those is seriously flawed.

    There are however possibilities (as with Newtonian mechanics which still run much of the world), for new discoveries (Einstein) to show minor adjustments, or more study of specific details need to be made.
    (For example, the Earth’s axis wobbles a bit.)

  • Olgun #104
    I personally believe that there are absolute facts in science, as science is based on observation, experimentation and mathematical calculations. But some people believe that if we believe in science, it will make science a substitute religion for traditional religions. And I think believing in something is unlike having faith on it.

  • Alan4discussion #105
    What I understand is that Einstein’s theory of relativity does not conflict with Newton’s laws, since Newton’s laws describe the motion and relationship of mass objects within the Earth’s atmosphere, while Einstein’s theory describes the relationship between celestial bodies in space. I mean that each theory has a specific scope to explain, but I think we can still say that Newton’s laws are ABSOLUTELY correct in the range assigned to them, and Einstein’s theory is ABSOLUTELY correct in the range assigned to it

  • Hisham ADAM #107
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    What I understand is that Einstein’s theory of relativity does not conflict with Newton’s laws, since Newton’s laws describe the motion and relationship of mass objects within the Earth’s atmosphere, while Einstein’s theory describes the relationship between celestial bodies in space

    It’s not quite as simple as that.
    Newton is approximately correct, for sub-sonic speeds on Earth, but his formulii need slight adjustment for both gravity and relative velocity.
    If SAT-NAVS did not make these adjustments they would quickly be miles off!
    Because an observer on the ground sees the satellites in motion relative to them, Special Relativity predicts that we should see their clocks ticking more slowly (see the Special Relativity lecture). Special Relativity predicts that the on-board atomic clocks on the satellites should fall behind clocks on the ground by about 7 microseconds per day because of the slower ticking rate due to the time dilation effect of their relative motion

    Further, the satellites are in orbits high above the Earth, where the curvature of spacetime due to the Earth’s mass is less than it is at the Earth’s surface.
    A prediction of General Relativity is that clocks closer to a massive object will seem to tick more slowly than those located further away (see the Black Holes lecture).

    As such, when viewed from the surface of the Earth, the clocks on the satellites appear to be ticking faster than identical clocks on the ground.

    A calculation using General Relativity predicts that the clocks in each GPS satellite should get ahead of ground-based clocks by 45 microseconds per day.
    The combination of these two relativitic effects means that the clocks on-board each satellite should tick faster than identical clocks on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day (45-7=38)! This sounds small, but the high-precision required of the GPS system requires nanosecond accuracy, and 38 microseconds is 38,000 nanoseconds.

    If these effects were not properly taken into account, a navigational fix based on the GPS constellation would be false after only 2 minutes, and errors in global positions would continue to accumulate at a rate of about 10 kilometers each day! The whole system would be utterly worthless for navigation in a very short time.

    It’s the type of small adjustment I was talking about.

  • Hisham ADAM #107
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Alan4discussion #105
    What I understand is that Einstein’s theory of relativity does not conflict with Newton’s laws, since Newton’s laws describe the motion and relationship of mass objects within the Earth’s atmosphere, while Einstein’s theory describes the relationship between celestial bodies in space.

    Then apparently you don’t understand either theory much if at all. Newton’s theory of gravity and his laws of motion have nothing whatsoever to do with just objects inside an atmosphere. They are universal to the whole of time and space however they don’t take any account of relativistic effects such as time dilation in gravitational fields or when there are velocity differences between obervers. Similarly Einstein’s theories don’t just apply to objects in space and it seems utterely bizarre that anyone would think so.

  • Hisham ADAM #106

    But some people believe that if we believe in science, it will make
    science a substitute religion for traditional religions.

    What are their fears?

    And I think believing in something is unlike having faith on it.

    Is that it, faith trumps all?

  • Welcome Hisham ADAM. If your questions are genuinely meant, then I’m sure you can be guided towards better understanding of the nature of science. There’s a lot of expertise lurking on this site, and a lot of generosity and empathy for those who really want to learn.

    Often we see arguments that try to equate science with religion, in that “belief” in science is just another faith, just another denomination, and no more or less valid than methodism, confucianism, catholicism, mohammedenism (to give it an archaic name), hinduism etc, so it’s not surprising if some on this forum react as if your posts are heading somewhere in that direction.

    The difference couldn’t be more stark, if you consider “belief” more in terms of placing a bet. A space probe, to Mars or to a comet or asteroid, is a very high stakes bet that Newton (and Einstein, where applicable) got it right to a a remarkable level of detail. That such probes have been successful at all shows that the “theory” is a lot more than just a wild guess over a beer. Putting up the money for the complex of orbiting equipment that is GPS was a very big bet that both Newton and Einstein got it right to an extremely fine level of detail, and using a SatNav is a lower stakes bet on the same thing. Do you believe your SatNav? Will it guide you to your chosen destination? Or will it try to park you in the sea?

    There are many “theories”. The scientific ones — those that have stood the test of time and the attention of a great many interested parties — are the ones that work. The ones you can bet on. Bet your life on, in fact, on a daily basis.

    You seem to have a misconception over what it means to be “falsifiable”. It means only that a worthwhile theory must be testable. Anyone can think up a “theory”. More properly, a “conjecture”, until it passes some tests at least. So, think up a “conjecture”. Now comes the hard part. Getting it accepted as a Theory.

    Use your conjecture to make a prediction, to place a bet on something that can be observed, and, with as many independent observers as possible, see what happens. Repeat, before different sceptical audiences, don’t take one success as a “proof”. But, do take even a single failure as a possible “disproof”. If observations don’t fit with the theory, change the theory, not the observations. If in doubt about the observations themselves, try again.

    If the bet wins, again and again, then the theory is accepted, at first grudgingly, by others with rival theories, and then, eventually, those who backed the rival theories run out of funds and stop betting on their loser wannabe theories, and take the evidence of your winning streak as a hint that maybe your theory is good for something after all. And then even the cautious betters place massive stakes on the table — all that proof that Newton and Einstein got it right (or right enough).

    So, the path to a successful (scientific) Theory is long and difficult. Every test has to be able to support the theory, or to refute it, show that it is not correct. Those that yield repeatable, practical, valuable results become part of the standard body of knowledge, and all technology is built on this.

    The history of human understanding of themselves and the world around them is littered with cast-off, broken down former theories, that have failed to bring in the winnings to those who bet on them. Astrology, Alchemy, Phrenology, Homoeopathy, Faith Healing. While tried-and-tested theories are daily re-proven by every satellite launch, every GPS-guided journey, every elevator ride, every airline flight, every cellphone conversation, every medical treatment, web post, and much more.

    Only at the frontiers of our knowledge are new conjectures, potential theories, being devised, along with the experiments to test them, weed out the failures. The tried-and-tested stuff is relegated to the classroom, to teach the next generation the story-so-far, those things that have already been settled. That can be trusted, are being trusted, all the time. The frontier is alive and dynamic, there’s always more to discover, more to find out, and each new piece of knowledge either fits with existing theories, or it breaks some of them. Exciting stuff, for those who like that kind of thing. And profitable too, for those who place their bets wisely.

    Stay, explore, learn. Or you could just take somebody else’s word for it all.

  • Donny is apparently whining like a dry bearing now that no one told him it would make him look bad if he didn’t bother attending the memorial service in France. He’s furious that the optics are awful and he’s getting criticised by everyone. He tried blaming the weather, then he tried blaming the Secret Service; now it appears it was him who made the decision not to go so apparently it’s John Kelly’s fault for not telling him he really should go. I thought he was the world’s greatest expert at nearly everything. He knows more about war than the generals, more about Washington than the politicians, more about tax than the accountants but he can’t predict that dissing fallen veterans is bad?

    Here’s a French weather girl pissing herself laughing at him.

  • Hi Hisham ADAM

    It seems to me that while made up stuff can give you power over people only real knowledge gives you power over stuff. You can’t fool stuff.

    We have some real knowledge for sure. Look at how stuff does our bidding for us to talk like this.

  • Welcome to, Hisham ADAM!

    I think perhaps some of the responses to you have been over-defensive, but that’s because we do sometimes get people popping up here trying to tell us that science is really just another form of religion, or just another form of guesswork.

    But that’s not what you’re saying at all, is it? If anything, you’re asking whether science shouldn’t be more definite in some of its claims. And suggesting that there are some things that we really do know for sure and that we could therefore safely declare to be categorical facts. Such as the Earth being round, for instance. Or the Earth orbiting the Sun rather than the other way round, as used to be believed.

    I liked a definition I once heard at a science festival. It was an event by Denis Alexander, an evolutionary biologist (and Christian, as it happens), and he answered the question about the difference between a scientific theory and a fact by saying that, in science, a theory is something that explains a fact or set of facts. So for example (he said) it is a simple fact that organisms evolve from earlier organisms; and the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection explains how that evolution happens.

    But I do agree that, to the non-scientists among us, there doesn’t always feel to be a huge amount of difference between the two. Scientists, though, who are always looking to discover new details and new facts, need to be clear in their own minds that the search for knowledge is never 100% complete. The key, I guess, is to match the degree of confidence in a claim to the amount of evidence there is for the truth of it.

  • Yesterday, I pointed to an article in Business Insider about Matthew Whitaker. Last night Dana Milbank published a column in the Washington Post on the same topic.

    The column explains Whitaker’s proclivity to claim science supports such ideas as DNA evidence proves that Bigfoot exists. Whitaker tried to raise money for time-travel research, which he asserted will be possible in the very near future. At the end of Mr. Milbank’s column there are links to other columns, including one by Ruth Marcus (which is cited by Mr. Milbank) in which she points out that Whitaker is on record as saying that the case of Marbury v. Madison was wrongly decided – Amazing!! Marbury is probably the first case read by law or paralegal students. As Ms. Marcus points out, William H. Rehnquist described Marbury as the linchpin of constitutional law. Now Whitaker has been appointed to be acting Attorney General of the United States. Is Whitaker laughing at those who support Donald Trump – I’m reminded of P.T. Barnum’s motto “There’s a sucker born every minute” – or does he really believe the nonsense that he spews forth? Either or both possibilities are frightening.

  • After my post #116, there is a notice that says my comment was marked as spam. I must have done something incorrectly. Can someone explain to me what I did wrong? Thanks. The last thing I want to do is screw up this great site.

  • Hi Guys,

    was just thinking about Russell’s Teapot. Given that at the time the analogy invented but Bertrand Russell there were no missions to Mars the analogy held very firm. However I can’t help feeling that someone in NASA could have actually sent a teapot up there even a tiny light one (which would still be fantastically expensive). Perhaps Elon when he gets a rocket there might oblige us with a teapot around Mars. He did put a car into orbit around us. I’d really like the idea that there was in fact a teapot orbiting Mars it would give me a nice warm glow in my secular stomach. Perhaps that’s just me though.


  • Michael

    After my post #116, there is a notice that says my comment was marked
    as spam. I must have done something incorrectly. Can someone explain
    to me what I did wrong? Thanks. The last thing I want to do is screw
    up this great site.

    No worries, Michael. Comments with links are quite often picked up by the spam filter and set aside pending moderator approval. We’ll always retrieve them as soon as we’re back online.

    The mods

  • I’ve been revisiting classic sci-fi from the 40s 50s and 60s.

    However imaginative the writers, they never came up with anything as bizarre as Elon Musk’s space-roadster, or Chis Hadfield’s zero-g performance of the David Bowie hit that was current around the time of Kubric’s 2001.

    The future is a whole lot stranger than anyone imagined. Teapot orbiting Mars? Yep, coming up any decade now…

    Ah, wait, it’s a teapot orbiting the sun, having checked with Bertrand. Leading to the questions: where exactly is that Tesla heading? and, is there a teapot in the trunk? Elon might know.

  • I checked, briefly, and it seems Starman is heading for a rendezvous with Russell’s teapot, an elliptical orbit around the sun that more or less fits Bertrands original description. This is far too much of a coincidence, and is clearly proof that some Higher Power is messing with our heads. Or Elon knows his Russell.

    Anyone able to Russell up** some doctored video of the Teapot floating gently past as Starman’s head turns to watch it pass, or maybe his hand catches the handle. I’d Like that til my mouse broke, and then buy another and Like it some more til that one broke too and… and … and I think Laurie would Like it too, a bit.

    ** sorry, couldn’t resist

  • OHooligan

    and I think Laurie would Like it too, a bit.


    I’ve been revisiting classic sci-fi from the 40s 50s and 60s.

    Interesting. That’s what I started with all those years ago. Now can’t say no to every dystopia that comes down the pike. Currently on third book of The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. All three books won the Hugo award. I concur.

  • Is it a teapot around Mars or around the Sun? I’ve heard both. Given that Elon seems determined to get to Mars it seems we should be able to organise a teapot around that, additionally given Mars orbits the Sun then a Teapot orbiting Mars would also be orbiting the Sun. Of course any number of teapots here on Earth are orbiting the Sun including a couple of quaint ones in my kitchen. So I think maybe we need to get in touch with Elon Musk and give him the idea. I shall try to find a contact. I imagine he’s in high demand though not likely to crack on through but will have a search now.

  • From Wiki:

    Russell specifically applied his analogy in the context of religion.[1] He wrote that if he were to assert, without offering proof, that a teapot, too small to be seen by telescopes, orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, he could not expect anyone to believe him solely because his assertion could not be proven wrong.

    Russell’s teapot is still invoked in discussions concerning the existence of God, and has had influence in various fields and media.


    Can we just check, please?

    Is anyone experiencing either or both of the following technical difficulties with the site at the moment:

    1. Difficulty logging in

    2. Pages loading very slowly

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    The mods

  • Mods #129

    Yes and yes.

    Mentioned the slow download a while back and that hasn’t got any better on IPhone and IPad. It’s a bit faster on my Mac. The log on problem happened before but has got much worse. I put it down to page not loading slow and sometimes not fully. Took me two goes this time to log in.

  • I’ve had problems too and been reporting to the mods via email. I seemingly got locked out after repeated usage of the correct current password, but was allowed back in using an old password…

  • I’m going to report back on “Inferior” Angela Saini and the latest Baron Cohen research shortly, but I’ve been slowed down by an important book for we “constructivists”.

    How Emotions are Made.

    Lisa Feldman Barrett.

    Nurture is very much on the return swing.

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