OPEN DISCUSSION AUGUST 2020

Aug 1, 2020

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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108 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION AUGUST 2020

  • Welcome to the August 2020 open discussion thread.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussions, please do so here rather than there.

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  • In The Selfish Gene, our esteemed host wrote:

    “We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. […] We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”

    What is meant by this? Who is this “we” that can rebel against the tyranny of our “program”? Where if not in our very genes and cultural and personal memes would the desire to rebel against them reside? What is left without them? When we feel that we can oppose our nature or act against its imperatives, isn’t it just another part of our nature that’s behind that motivation (in which case there’s an inherent contradiction in the idea of rebelling against it)? How can it be otherwise? I develop the idea a bit further here: https://medium.com/swlh/our-genes-dont-give-a-fig-about-our-happiness-477c4ae9c0b9?source=friends_link&sk=14b5287dc1a526e2c4d79decf142e9f7


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  • Cristóbal de Losada says:

    “We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination.

    I would suggest that if you want to understand “The Selfish Gene”, that you read the book, rather than reading flea-book quotes from it which fail to clearly explain the details.

    https://royalsociety.org/news/2017/07/science-book-prize-poll-results/

    Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, has topped a public poll of the most inspiring science books of all time, commissioned by the Royal Society to mark the 30th year of the prestigious Royal Society Science Book Prize. It is followed by Bill Bryson’s 2003 book A Short History of Nearly Everything in second place, and Charles Darwin’s 1859 classic On the Origin of Species in third place.    

    Participants called The Selfish Gene a “masterpiece” and Dawkins an “excellent communicator”, with many commenting on how the book had changed their perspective of the world and the way they were trained to see science.

    The quality of the scientific explanations is recognised by the prestigious UK Royal Society – the Country’s top scientific body.

    What is meant by this?

    What is meant, is that civilised societies can be educated to accommodate  social support, and the  Humanist ethics of reciprocal altruism, which can over-ride the instinctive selfish biological mechanisms of gene replication for the purposes of the propagation of particular genes.

    Who is this “we” that can rebel against the tyranny of our “program”?

    “We”, are the communities which can draw up laws and cultural traditions, that  put human welfare as a priority ahead of the selfish replication of our genes which callously cause suffering and death to significant numbers of our populations  in the form of infant mortalities and starvation etc. by reckless instinctive activities such as over populating the planet and inflicting the consequences of this on it populations.

    We should also be directing resources to education producing competence and expertise in understanding the workings of nature, rather than the proselytising memetic replication of superstitions and god-delusions in human brains.


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  • Alan4discussion says:

    What is meant, is that civilised societies can be educated to accommodate  social support, and the  Humanist ethics of reciprocal altruism, which can over-ride the instinctive selfish biological mechanisms of gene replication for the purposes of the propagation of particular genes.

    “We”, are the communities which can draw up laws and cultural traditions, that  put human welfare as a priority ahead of the selfish replication of our genes which callously cause suffering and death to significant numbers of our populations  in the form of infant mortalities and starvation etc. by reckless instinctive activities such as over populating the planet and inflicting the consequences of this on it populations.

    Even though I’d be genuinely interested in knowing what precisely Richard Dawkins had in mind when he wrote that paragraph, my question could be considered largely rhetorical. After all, my further questions are in fact answering my “What is meant by this?”. This idea that we can rebel against our nature (which is constituted by nothing but our genes and memes) doesn’t seem too compelling to me. It’s as if a free-willed soul is being invoked. I believe in neither souls nor free will, that’s why I find that passage puzzling. Of course R.D. doesn’t believe in souls either, but perhaps he believes in libertarian free will?

    By the way, I have read The Selfish Gene… I pretty much agree with the results you quoted from the Royalty Society poll: It’s indeed a masterpiece and one of the most inspiring science books of all time.

    On another note, you seem to be suggesting that because our genes are selfish we’re bound to be selfish too. That’s not necessarily so. Selfish genes can create unselfish organisms. The better angels of our nature come from our genes too, not from some sort of Freudian super-ego that hovers above our nature to monitor and suppress our “base instincts”. It’s all part of our nature: the “good” and the “bad”.


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  • Cristóbal de Losada says:
    On another note, you seem to be suggesting that because our genes are selfish we’re bound to be selfish too.

    I don’t say that, but I am very aware that many creationists who have read flea books,  or have looked no further than the title of the book, make that claim, – despite the fact the book itself goes into reciprocal altruism and kin selection, in some depth.

    The sheer brutality of selfish genes, becomes very evident when we look at many aspects of the animal kingdom! – Mortality rates of offspring, parasitism, etc.

     


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  • I don’t want to distract from the interesting discussion started by Cristóbal, but I have been meaning to share this article for several days now: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot

    As you’ll see, it’s over 4 years old now, having been written shortly before the Brexit referendum in the UK and the last presidential election in the US. But the truth of it has only become more acute and more obvious since then, and with the next election looming in the US and an even greater lurch to neoliberalism looming in the UK once the Brexit transition period ends on 31st December, it seems even more important than ever to know exactly what we are dealing with.

    It’s a long article, but every line of it packs a punch and provides a crystal clear explanation for the situation we now find ourselves in, both in the UK and the US. I really do recommend it. And since it is such a long article, I’ll quote a few more sections of it than I normally would, to whet your appetites – there is still far more in the article itself:

    The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.
    Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

    ~~~~

    Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.
    Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

    ~~~~

    Chris Hedges remarks that “fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”. When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

    ~~~~

    The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

    It’s one of the most insightful articles I’ve seen in the English-language press over the last few years, so I do hope I’ve tempted at least a few people to take a look!

  • I’ve ordered the Naomi Klein The Shock Doctrine.

    I always find reading the reviews of books and films telling. US reviews were split, some thinking it cheap propaganda as their own simplistic ideals were challenged. UK reviews rock solid in favour.

    Brilliant and telling article, Marco. Thanks for it.

    I so want neo-liberalism replaced with a much richer and more sophisticated model of what our financial and economic endeavours could be about. It so fails to extract the full juice from a rich and diverse society. It so fails to have answers for all the big threats it faces, in mismanaging the Commons, in not seeing the end of toil through smarts and automation destroy its customer base. It so fails to demonstrate why it slides into short-termism (gambling is more fun than hard work needed by longer-term investments). It only worked when it could be allowed to manipulate consumers desires, making such desires as trite as there own brief dopamine hits, able to be ever swept  away by the new.


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  • Marco

    I just finished reading the important article that you’ve linked to above. I don’t even know where to begin with the mess we’re in and how much we’ve lost over this Neoliberal model.

    What a long con this is. It’s completely disgusting and I believe the author is correct in saying that the public doesn’t know what Neoliberalism is and they have been influenced to admire the very processes that do them terrible harm.

     


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  • @Marco #6

    I add my kudos too, Marco. That article was a nice summation of what we’ve been witnessing for about the last 40 years or so.

    I can’t help but wonder if Libertarianism isn’t Neo-Liberalism on steroids. Or at the least, the logical progression of it.


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  • Phil, Laurie, Vicki

    So pleased you got as much out of the article as I did. And yes, Vicki, I think libertarianism is just neoliberalism by another name. “Libertarian” sounds so benign, doesn’t it? “Pro-freedom” – what’s not to love? And how handy that it makes it sound as if it were OUR freedom those nice politicians were espousing.

    The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. In a world where it’s the exploiters whose freedoms are being promoted at all costs, the freedoms of the exploited must necessarily be curtailed. Because the various protections on which the exploited depend for their freedoms are the very things that constrain the exploiters‘ ability to exploit them more freely.

    The whole thing depresses me enormously. You are so right, Phil: it is such a criminal waste. All that human potential, all that talent, all that creativity, all that potential for joy and fulfilment, all the ways life could be transformed for the better and made more meaningful and rewarding, for far far more people than is the case now; all the ways the world could be improved by creating a more level, less exploitative playing field, by focusing on wellbeing and sustainability and on reducing the obscene inequalities between rich and poor – all blown, all scorned, all shat upon, frankly, because all that matters to those who govern us is continuing to cram the world’s resources – the world’s people included – ever faster, ever more efficiently, ever more comprehensively, into the maw of this grotesque neoliberal monster.

    Brexit was always a project intended to turn the UK into neoliberal USA’s neoliberal little brother. Don’t get me wrong: neoliberalism isn’t new here either: it’s been alive and kicking here ever since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. But it had been kept within bounds by our EU membership, which mandated a host of rights and protections that enshrined the concept that corporations have responsibilities as well as rights. You only had to look at the track records of those who had agitated longest and loudest against the EU to see how their hatred of the EU was just one aspect of a wider neoliberal agenda. Leaving the EU was always going to mean losing our protections – our employment rights, our health & safety protections, our consumer rights, our food standards, our environmental protections. It was always going to mean far greater privatisation of the NHS. It was absolutely inevitable, because getting rid of these protections was always one of the key drivers of the people behind the anti-EU campaign. And we are already getting a sense of how our post-Brexit world is going to map out. 

    It was so obvious to me, long before the EU referendum. But the reality is proving even more horrific than I’d feared, as not even I had foreseen the assaults on the very structures of democracy that would follow in the hands of a Brexit government: government by unelected political advisor (a man lauded by Steve Bannon, no less), systematic attacks on the impartial civil service, attacks on parliamentary democracy (including the unlawful proroguing of parliament at a crucial point in the passing of the Brexit legislation); daily greater centralisation and authoritarianism, including an unprecedented proposed grab on the powers of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; packing the already wholly undemocratic House of Lords with Boris Johnson’s Brexit cronies and Conservative Party donors, including the son of a KGB spy; the granting of multiple multi-million pound government contracts to wholly unqualified companies owned by close associates of members of the government, without any kind of open tender process; and the normalisation of government-by-bluster-and-blatant-lie. 

    For everyone’s sake I am desperate for Trump to be defeated in November, and of course, for all of you in the US most of all. But his influence reaches far beyond the US, so I am desperate for it for the UK’s sake too. Boris Johnson is modelling his government on Trump, just gagging for that lovely juicy neoliberal trade deal with Trump’s America. You can bet your boots Johnson is desperate for a Trump victory in November because, like it or not, the US is always the backdrop against which UK governments act. Trumpery suits Johnson and his neoliberal agenda down to the ground.

    Sorry, this post feels quite rambling, even to me, but everything that’s been happening in the US and the UK these last few years has been so interconnected. Neoliberalism, Trump, Brexit: they’re all part of the same utterly hideous nightmare.


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  • Not rambling, Marco. There is a lot of connected material here.

    What seems remarkable to me is how readily we have accepted the new normal of Covid. Had February me been dropped into the diligently masked queue at Tesco just now I would have freaked out. Not a bit of it. My blood pressure is lower than ever. We in fact acclimate to the novel with surprising ease. What I fear is that we are walking into this shameless right wing push with too few noticing.

    On the other hand we may have had our avaricious impulses a little tempered by realising that we need much more to notice and cherish the essentials.

    My son has been urging George Monbiot on me since 2016, first on eco matters and then on his political commentary. My daughter too. My sense of failure as the responsible adult, makes me feel a powerful need for action, for trying to make up for lost time.


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  • @Marco #10

    For everyone’s sake I am desperate for Trump to be defeated in November, and of course, for all of you in the US most of all.

    I had a yard sign custom made that says, “Bye-Don” For President. I’m thinking of getting another one that says, Biden Trumps the Alternative.


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  • 13
    Cairsley says:

    Marco  #6

    Many thanks for the hyperlink to George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian. It brings together into a chilling, sober conspectus the cynical, stealthy monstrosity threatening our free, humane, democratic civilization. The aim of neoliberalism is neofeudalism — the dispossession and disenfranchisment of all but the top fraction of one percent of the population, and for no other reason than that those at the top of the wealth hierarchy want all the goodies for themselves. One has to be a narcissistic sociopath to be a neoliberal. No-one of balanced upbringing and liberal education would tolerate such inhuman, antisocietal greed and conceit.

    I agree with you that the approaching presidential and congressional elections in the United States matter immensely in view of this neoliberal threat, and one can only hope that the outcome of that opportunity will be better than that of the opportunity passed up in the United Kingdom last December. Living outside the United States in a land where people’s welfare still takes priority over financial gains, I can only watch from afar and wait to see how the “American people” choose, insofar as they can, which way they wish to go. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, the effects of those elections will reach far beyond that nation’s borders.


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  •  I am Ali Rafiee and I live in the Islamic Republic Of Iran, I am forty-two years old now and after nearly 25 years of researching and following scientific discoveries I have created a very important theory which based on evolutionary biology and sociobiology, I need your help to have the opportunity for publishing it but before that lots of things have to be done, first we need to have a discussion on my theory, and I assure you when you get familiar with my theory, you will understand it how much important it is. 
     
    That is something about pay passion for science:
     
     

    That is why I love science
    That’s why I love Richard Feynman and I always try to have a discussion with him with my heart and my brain and understand his cut face and his excitement when he was talking about sciences especially physics.
    I remember he said:
     living with doubt and uncertainty is much more beautiful than knowing the most important question in my life.

    Please help me to move forward, the most important step is getting out of my country because there here there is no one interested in scientific discoveries, moreover, I can trust no one here, because they take my idea and publish it as their own. I have several experiences with it.
    This is a very important idea and helping each other something great is about to happen in scientific discoveries, not only in evolutionary biology but also in sociology as well.

    And most importantly I got a revolutionary idea

    Which based on science and that refers to evolutionary biology and public understanding science but here no one could help me to make it out because there is not any are to listen to and I can’t blame them, as it is so obvious, you know why.

    My ideas are directly related to education which one can revolutionize. There is no doubt about that.

    Have you seen the video which is called ” The Four Horsemen” the discussion between Richard, Christopher, Dan Danette, And Sam Harris, at the end of the discussion Sam Harris proposed a question for constructing new ideas, so I got it? Would you help me out? Because your foundation as Richard Dawkins always mentions, based on, helping people such as me who live in the Islamic Republic Of Iran.
     In order to share my ideas with you and the world would you please tell me what to do?
    Please Sir would you inform Richard Dawkins about my email?
    Do you know how hard is it to talk about this?
    And please if you know the other way let me know.
    I am deadly waiting for your reply.
    Thank you so much
    Best regards


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  • Ali Rafiee says:

    I have created very important theory which based on evolutionary biology and sociobiology,

    If you have developed ideas on sociobiology, It would be a good idea to check out MEMETICS on Wikipedia, and perhaps get a copy of this book by Susan Blackmore to read.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Meme-Machine-Popular-Science/dp/019286212X

    This will allow you to compare your ideas with some of the material which has already been published on that topic.

     

     


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  • Phil #11

    What I fear is that we are walking into this shameless right wing push with too few noticing.

    Are you familiar with the concept of “the culture industry”, Phil? Part of my degree course a million years ago involved engaging with some of the ideas of Marxist critical theory, and I must admit it was a bit of a slog (not that the ideas themselves were particularly complex, but German intellectuals have always tended to get their kicks out of making everything sound as complicated as possible in my experience). That said, the “culture industry” aspect of it has always stayed with me, and has only become more relevant and insightful as the decades have gone by.

    Wiki actually gives a very good, mercifully clear summary of it:

    The term culture industry (GermanKulturindustrie) was coined by the critical theorists Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), and was presented as critical vocabulary in the chapter “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”, of the book Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947), wherein they proposed that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods—filmsradio programmes, magazines, etc.—that are used to manipulate mass society into passivity.[1] Consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by the mass communications media, renders people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances.[1] The inherent danger of the culture industry is the cultivation of false psychological needs that can only be met and satisfied by the products of capitalism; thus Adorno and Horkheimer especially perceived mass-produced culture as dangerous to the more technically and intellectually difficult high arts. In contrast, true psychological needs are freedomcreativity, and genuine happiness, which refer to an earlier demarcation of human needs, established by Herbert Marcuse. (See Eros and Civilization, 1955)

    On this view, it is no coincidence that the masses don’t notice the horrors being foisted on them. It’s not that the information isn’t available: it’s simply swamped out by a veritable tsunami of crap: celebrity this, celebrity that, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Big Brother, who designed this duchess’s dress, who that prince has been seen with, pop stars, the season’s Must Haves, “Everyone’s talking about this amazing blah blah”, faddy diets, the latest iPhone, the latest bonkers Gwyneth Paltrow pronouncement, celebrity love lives (I mean, srsly: I wouldn’t know Amber Heard or Johnny Depp if they knocked at my front door and asked for a cup of tea, and I never read the celebrity coverage, but even I haven’t been able to escape knowing about the ins and outs of their marriage …).

    Then there’s all the emotionally manipulative stuff, the stuff designed to make people well up with entirely manufactured emotion, the soap operas that lure people into living vicariously and deflecting their care and concern away from the real world, the stuff designed to get them angry (though only ever with the victims of the system, never with those actually responsible: think Benefits Street and similar). Even the occasional vehicles for truth (documentaries, Panorama investigations, etc) maintain the overall effect by serving as a vent and creating the illusion that the powerful can be held to account.

    It is certainly no coincidence that almost no one in the UK had (or has) any real understanding of the EU and how it works. I’ve written about this before, but while campaigning for Remain I was staggered at the ignorance I encountered (and I include myself in that: as a passionate pro-European, I knew a reasonable amount, but still learned a huge amount while researching for the campaign). But when talking to people in the street, it became evident that many Leave voters didn’t have the first clue how or by whom they were governed. I am still reeling from the man who was going to vote Leave because he was fed up of the potholes in his street.

    In a wealthy first-world country with compulsory free education, these things do not happen by chance. On the “culture industry” view, we have been manipulated into devoting our attention and our priorities to stuff with no inherent value so that we do not notice what those in power are doing and so that we find politics boring by comparison and so that we seek our meaning and significance in wearing the right brand of trainers or the “in” shade of nail varnish.

    So you’re absolutely right, Phil: we are indeed walking into this shameless right wing push with too few noticing. And I think the concept of the “culture industry” goes a fair way to explaining it.

  • phil #7

    naomi klein’s the shock doctrine

    watch out for the chile shock doctrine section

    see how r c religion played a vital role

    in “the chicago school’s” ideas spread


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  • Alan #18

    Very much so, so far as keeping the populace docile and complacent was concerned. “Culture industry” goes beyond that in a couple of respects, though: the first is in the standardisation of cultural “products” and the consequent marginalisation of “higher” forms of culture (e.g. the dominance of programmes such as Great British Bake-Off on TV, with the consequent sense that “higher” (sorry, I don’t like the term) forms of culture – such as opera, ballet, live concerts, theatre etc – are more difficult and therefore elitist); and the second is the relentless promotion of capitalism, the relentless creation of the sense that contentment is something we buy.

    Bread and circuses was about keeping the populace docile.
    Culture industry is about keeping the populace docile and spending.

    There’s certainly a strong connection between the two, but culture industry goes further. “Bread and circuses” is certainly snappier than Adorno and Horkheimer’s treatise on the subject though!


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  • @Marco 19 and @Alan4discussion 18

    Reading today’s featured article in the NYT, I couldn’t help conflating your ideas of the ‘culture industry’ and ‘bread and circus’ into the political realm. There were so many talking points made by the evangelicals in the article that were full of holes, yet no one connected those dots. Points such as “Obama is going to take your guns” and “Christians are the majority, but we have no power.” Evangelicals seem to have taken those ideas as presented by ultra-conservative media at face value, without really digging into whether or not they are true.

    This is the type of illogical pseudo reasoning we (anti-Trumpers) are up against. I confess I do not see how it is possible to debate evangelicals. To me, their entire line of reasoning is fear-based and irrational, and where do you start?

    As Phil suggests (good idea, Phil!), article to follow…

  • Vicki #20, #21

    Hi Vicki, and thanks for the link to that worrying/insightful/interesting/aaaarrrrggggh article. I do want to reply properly, but it may be a few days before I get chance. “I’ll be back.” 🙂


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  • Vicki  #20:  (I am new here!)  “I confess I do not see how it is possible to debate evangelicals. To me, their entire line of reasoning is fear-based and irrational, and where do you start?”

    I try not to engage evangelicals and/or creationists. My thought is that you cannot argue with a person who cannot evaluate the validity of their own position, which to me, pretty much defines a person of strong faith.

    Paraphrased from a blog post I found a long time ago: (This is why I avoid discussions on faith or evolution with evangelicals/creationists.) “Good post, but challenging the thinking of fundamentalists (such as it is) is pretty much like trying to kick large stones out of the way. It only hurts your foot & rarely moves a cumbersome inert object. Much better to walk around obstacles and go about your way. The boulders will still be there when you return, so have no doubt about that. Stones are stones because that’s their nature and Lord knows they don’t know any better.”

     


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  • I see that “religion of peace” is enforcing its “morality” again!

    Those “evil singer-song writers”  and their “WhatsApp terrorism” are such a threat to society, that those “faithful moral citizens” have to deal with their violent threats – and the call in the Sharia police for back-up!!!!!!

    WhatsApp has the world come to?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-53726256

    A musician in Nigeria’s northern state of Kano has been sentenced to death by hanging for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad.
    An upper Sharia court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of the state said Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, 22, was guilty of committing blasphemy for a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March.

    Protestors had burnt down his family home and gathered outside the headquarters of the Islamic police, known as the Hisbah, demanding action against him.

    Critics said the song was blasphemous as it praised an imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood to the extent it elevated him above the Prophet Muhammad.

     


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  • @ Joe M #23

    Vicki  #20:  (I am new here!)  “I confess I do not see how it is possible to debate evangelicals. To me, their entire line of reasoning is fear-based and irrational, and where do you start?”

    One cognitive dissonance at a time Joe.  I worked until recently with a JW.  He was of course a creationist, nice guy but could not handle criticism of his views.  I noted he was perfectly happy to say things that would offend others but not terribly happy to take any criticism himself.

    So I made it my mission when appropriate to help him understand there were other points of view at the lunch table and we did not all have to respect his views.  I did this with good humor and in a joking manner but it occasionally would blow up.  And it would blow up when I had him nailed on a point he had no way of arguing.

    I’ll expound on the last one I remember.  We were talking about veganism, vegetarianism etc. and he decided this was time to interject.  “I eat meat and I know it’s perfectly okay because the bible says the plants and animals have been put their for our use.”

    I replied with something like “Ah, but that’s not so easy I saw you with some prawns at the last school BBQ.  They are forbidden”.  “That’s the OT he complains you don’t have to follow that we are under a new covenant”.  I replied that “that may be so but Matthew 5:18 says not one jot or tittle of the old word may be changed until all has passed and the stars have fallen from the heavens ….etc. So one interpretation has shellfish still out”.  He then told me I couldn’t comment on the bible because I was not a Christian.  “Ah but I was a Christian and as an literate adult I can parse a sentence”.  I then decided to placate him because he was turning red now.  I said “Look mate I understand there are other Christians who disagree and I’m glad you are one of them because it was passages like this that were used to support biblically condoned slavery and to try to argue against it being abolished”.  “THE BIBLE DOESN’T SUPPORT SLAVERY!” he was now shouting.  “Ah, yes it does.  These passages…” I pulled them up and started reading them out off my phone.  At this stage my fellow staff members were starting to edge away.  Anyway you can imagine where it went from there.  But until that conversation no-one had ever confronted him with the contradictions he was living with as a result of having never really read the bible in full.  What’s more I had not expressed any criticism of him for believing in his faith and all I had done was quote scripture back at him and when he objected I explained that as an atheist contradictions in his book were not my problem but I did note they existed.  “You can choose whatever interpretation you like, but just know that the church down the road considers you a heretic”.

    He now has to live with the knowledge that the bible has some uncomfortable things in it.  What do you think will happen if he asks his minister about it?  Will he leave that conversation more or less comfortable?  He was genuinely a pretty nice bloke although inconsiderate of other beliefs, or wishes to not be bombarded with his religious ignorance every lunch hour.

    What I did achieve was that he was afterwards hesitant to bring god up at the lunch table (which I would have welcomed).  Several other staff members pulled me aside after and thanked be because they were sick of being preached to and they’d been avoiding the conflict of upsetting him.

    So one cognitive dissonance at a time. That’s my opinion anyway.

     

     

     

     


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  • Reckless Monkey says:

    I worked until recently with a JW.  He was of course a creationist, nice guy but could not handle criticism of his views.  I noted he was perfectly happy to say things that would offend others but not terribly happy to take any criticism himself.

    You might find this study helpful.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1174772/

    The present study of 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses admitted to the Mental Health Service facilities of Western Australia suggests that members of this section of the community are more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital than the general population. Furthermore, followers of the sect are three times more likely to be diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia and nearly four times more likely from paranoid schizophrenia than the rest of the population at risk.

     


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  • I am new to this blogging. How do you answer a person’s post with a quote from their post in a highlighted block? Everyone seems to be doing it but I can’t figure out how. I tried to comment on a part of a post by Vicki, and Reckless Monkey seems to have attributed that quote to me.


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  • Hi Joe and welcome

    You just copy and paste the bit you want to quote into your new comment, add a couple of blank lines by hitting return a couple of times, then highlight the text (without the extra lines you’ve added) and click on the quotation mark in the bar at the top of the comment box. Adding the extra lines like this helps make sure that just the quoted text is shown in the quotation box and not your own comment about it. Hope that helps.

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  • @Alan4Discussion

    ta for that, that’s bloody shocking!

    He was a nice guy but very rigid in his thinking.  Moved to another school now – I used to sit next to him in the staff room so you can image it got a bit frosty after a blow up for a couple of days.  Still they need to know they are free to proselytize all they like (as far as I’m concerned) but they should expect some push back if they choose to.

     


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  • Alan4 ~26  The present study of 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses admitted to the Mental Health Service facilities of Western Australia suggests that members of this section of the community are more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital than the general population

    I knew many of them during my 30 years in WA.  All bloody mad.  In my many exalted years as a State Examiner in English subjects (unpaid) in the Tech Ed system, I used to sneak bits of evolutionary stuff into the comprehension sections, purely to annoy the growing plague of fundamentalists who were infecting the State.  If only they could be quarantined!

    When we had parties – a frequent occurrence in the WA Irish community – a JW family often used to attend, with their kids.  God knows how they got on the invitation list!  Videos used to be provided for the kids, to keep them quiet and out of the way of the serious business of drinking and swearing, and somehow, I never knew how, but my brat of an eight year old son always managed to smuggle in a devil centred horror film, just to see the JW parents freak out.

    An inconsequential story, even by my standards.


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  • There seem to have been lots of people injured or dead because of applied stupidity!

    Not only have conspiracy theory idiots and quacks been being giving false medical advice about Covid-19 (with one idiot-in-chief featuring prominently), but scammers have also ben having a field day.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-53755067

    A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene says about 5,800 people were admitted to hospital as a result of false information on social media.

    Many died from drinking methanol or alcohol-based cleaning products.

    They wrongly believed the products to be a cure for the virus.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously said that the “infodemic” surrounding Covid-19 spread just as quickly as the virus itself, with conspiracy theories, rumours and cultural stigma all contributing to deaths and injuries.

    Some governments and media have been slow off the mark, and we have even seen cases on science illiterate conspiracy theorists inspiring attacks on telecommunications engineers.

    The anti-vaxxers have even come up with some new spin fantasies about Bill gates!

     


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  • @eejit

    When we had parties – a frequent occurrence in the WA Irish community – a JW family often used to attend, with their kids.  God knows how they got on the invitation list!  Videos used to be provided for the kids, to keep them quiet and out of the way of the serious business of drinking and swearing, and somehow, I never knew how, but my brat of an eight year old son always managed to smuggle in a devil centred horror film, just to see the JW parents freak out.

    Bless him.  😉


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  • I see the spoiled brat syndrome is undoing more resource conservation legislation!

    Apparently trump can’t get his wet dish mop wet enough using a normal shower!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53761744

    Under a 1992 law, showerheads in the US are not allowed to produce more than 2.5 gallons (9.5l) of water per minute.

    The Trump administration wants this limit to apply to each nozzle, rather than the overall fixture.

    Consumer and conservation groups argue that it is wasteful and unnecessary.

    The changes were proposed by the Department of Energy on Wednesday following complaints by Mr Trump at the White House last month.

    You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair – I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect,” he said.

    Anyway, it looks pretty much like a standard Trump response to the issues of droughts and wild-fires!


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  • Vicki #20

    I’ve just read that article through again and I agree: I wouldn’t know where to start with this lot either.

    I know I keep saying this, but it keeps being the only thing I can say: American Evangelicals have totally redefined Christianity. Their version has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus of Nazareth and everything to do with American exceptionalism, selfishness, bigotry, stubbornness and – to borrow Alan’s phrase from #34 (because it’s spot-on) – “spoilt brat syndrome”.

    They have ringfenced a set of attitudes and labelled them “Christianity”. In reality it’s just an excuse to go on behaving as though they were the only people who mattered.

    And there is so much fear in it. Fear of life, fear of others, fear of change, fear of learning, fear of the new, fear of sharing, fear of compassion. Quite staggering, really, considering they presumably believe they have the protection of an all-powerful god.

    I genuinely wonder if these god-fearing, church-going folks ever actually read or hear anything from the Gospels. I haven’t believed the claims of Christianity for a long time now, but back when I did, it was those parts of the New Testament (the Gospels in particular) that emphasised compassion and inclusion and gentleness and generosity and caring about others as much as we care about ourselves that I responded to. I am of course aware that there’s no shortage of far less appealing stuff in there too, but THESE bits, the Sermon on the Mount etc, are supposed to be at the very heart of it, and I still find it mindboggling that anyone can convince themselves they are leading a devout Christian life while wanting to take an assault rifle to that socially just heart.

    A few bits that especially stood out for me:

    “I guess the biggest concern for me is trying to keep our country the way it was. Conservative. The values. For us, I mean, this is as good as it gets. We can do whatever we want

    Yeah, they’re free to hate, discriminate, exclude, condemn and, if they feel like it, shoot. How could any good Christian resist?

    They want the Christian education for their children “so we don’t have to have them indoctrinated with all these different things,” he said. “We are free to teach them our values.”

    Aren’t words fascinating? Other people would “indoctrinate” their children, these people just want to “teach” them. Note also WHO is free in this scenario: the parents, to teach (but not indoctrinate, mind!) their children their values. In reality, they have that freedom in any case. Of course they do. Who’s going to stop them teaching their children their values over the dinner table, or in their bedtime stories, or when just chatting in the car or in the garden or wherever? How could it even be done? It’s an entirely phoney fear. And dishonest in another respect too, in that they don’t actually mean what they’re claiming to mean. The only people whose freedom is being curtailed in this scenario are the children: their freedom to encounter other people’s ideas and values and make up their own minds is being sacrificed on the altar of their parents’ freedom to teach them theirs: a freedom that isn’t, and never could be in practice, under threat in any case.

    “Obama wanted to take my assault rifle, he wanted to take out all the high-capacity magazines,” Mr. Schouten said. “It just —”  
    “— felt like your freedoms kept getting taken from you,” said Heather’s husband, Paul, finishing the sentence for him.

    What does he need an assault rifle for? Or high-capacity magazines? Earlier in the article another white evangelical from the same place said:

    “You don’t lock the doors,” he said. “I never take the keys out of the car.”

    So not exactly a hotbed of crime, then. Why would anyone need an assault rife in a location where you can safely leave your keys in your car?

    “I do not love Trump. I think Trump is good for America as a country. I think Trump is going to restore our freedoms, where we spent eight years, if not more, with our freedoms slowly being taken away under the guise of giving freedoms to all,” she said. “Caucasian-Americans are becoming a minority. Rapidly.”

    How they give themselves away! Freedom is all-important, but only their freedom, no one else’s. And what exactly are these freedoms that have been curtailed? The freedom to restrict other people’s freedoms, that’s all. The freedom to make other people’s lives a misery. And note the racism too, the worry about caucasian Americans becoming a minority. Why would that even matter, in a society that protected the rights and freedoms of minorities? Yet it’s these same caucasian Americans who are arguing for the ‘freedom’ to treat minorities badly.

    They’re basically just hateful. Selfish. Bigoted. Blinkered. There’s no excuse. I can’t begin to imagine how appalling it would be to live among people like this.


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  • 36
    Michael 100 says:

    Vicki, let me join the others in thanking you for posting the link to the New York Times article about the people who live in Sioux Center, Iowa.  I haven’t had time to compose my thoughts yet, but nearly everything that jumped out at me was captured by Marco’s comments in #35 so I won’t repeat the effort — excellent critique Marco!!  The people of Dutch heritage populate several areas of the State of Iowa.  If memory serves, Sioux Center is in the northwest part of the state, but there are concentrations of the Dutch/Americans in the south central part of the state as well — places like Orange City and Pella as well as Oskaloosa and Ottumwa.  They think they are preserving their Dutch heritage, but they don’t realize what they are preserving is the mind set of the pre WW II (if not before) colonial era.  I wonder if they realize their mind-set is as foreign to people of Holland as it is most of the people reading the article.  As you point out Marco, the overriding emotion is fear — of everything — and they deal with their fears by clinging to provincial prejudices colored by a perverse view of Christianity.


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  • @ Viki,

    Great post.

    I only have minutes before I need to pop off to work but

     

    I haven’t believed the claims of Christianity for a long time now, but back when I did, it was those parts of the New Testament (the Gospels in particular) that emphasised compassion and inclusion and gentleness and generosity and caring about others as much as we care about ourselves that I responded to. I am of course aware that there’s no shortage of far less appealing stuff in there too, but THESE bits, the Sermon on the Mount etc, are supposed to be at the very heart of it, and I still find it mindboggling that anyone can convince themselves they are leading a devout Christian life while wanting to take an assault rifle to that socially just heart.

    I suppose this is the problem with the bible though it’s infinitely flexible to whatever form of morality you choose to approach it with, particularly if you only choose to read it in snippets.

    I once when a much younger atheist would fantasize about  taking all the Gideon bibles out of hotels I stayed in.  This piety act of thief would be futile.  I then though I should deposit copies of the God Delusion or God is Not Great or Letters to a Christian Nation (which is nice and short).  Beside it but perhaps just bringing a set of post it notes and pointing out all the nasty passages?

     


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  • @ Viki,
    Great post.

    To be clear, that most excellent post was Marco’s, which summed up beautifully the thoughts and frustrations I had while reading the NYT article.

    I have fears. I think we all do. And I admit some of my fears can be irrational. I think what galls me about evangelicals is taking their fears and channeling them into a formidable voting bloc that affects so many others, possibly for generations. What struck me so forcibly reading the article was this foundation of fear hiding behind–or maybe built on–religion.

    Religion seems to be custom made for that.


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  • Vicki #38

    Ha! “Most excellent”. Adding that to my CV as we speak 😀

    What struck me so forcibly reading the article was this foundation of fear hiding behind–or maybe built on–religion.

    Personally I see it more as hiding behind. On the part of the followers, anyway. Far more cynical on the part of the leaders.

    Reckless (#37) is quite right that the Bible is full of contradictions, but the core of Christianity – by its own definition – has to be [what are claimed to be] the teachings of Jesus. And the hatefulness of these people, the selfishness, the utter rejection of any kind of responsibility towards others, is simply not compatible with those.

    So I think their religion is just a cynical cop-out. Their attitudes are not defined by core Christianity (as they would realise in an instant if they were really as devout as they claim: how long would it take them to actually read one of the Gospels, for goodness’ sake?); quite the reverse: their version of core Christianity is defined by their attitudes. By sticking the “religion” label on their bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, gun-toting narrow-mindedness, they are exploiting the fact that religion is still widely treated as off-limits for criticism, and thereby declaring themselves exempt from challenge or reproach or any requirement to adjust.

    And I don’t doubt that this is what gets preached at them week after week in their horrible churches, so I suppose we shouldn’t marvel that it’s what they come to believe. But there have to be very real questions about the motivation of those who preach this hatefulness.

     


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  • I have a serious problem with family members who are not only trumpers but fundamentalist “Christians.” I even have a sister-in-law who is a pastor of a small church. She told me (before I unfriended her in Facebook) that being an unbeliever, I had no right to “tell Christians what to do” although I was raised as a devout Roman Catholic, received all the Catholic childhood teachings, got a degree at a Catholic university including 10 semesters of philosophy and theology, and have studied many creationist and evolutionary writings (including a post-grad degree at Michigan in Zoology).


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  • Joe M says:

    She told me (before I unfriended her in Facebook) that being an unbeliever, I had no right to “tell Christians what to do”

    We need to remember that the heavily indoctrinated brain, “humbly” knows better than all those “mere human”  university specialists in the world, because its personal views are endorsed by its imaginary “all-knowing”, god-delusion!

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14743.The_God_Delusion

    This produces the Dunning-Kruger Effect where the ignorant are even unaware of their own ignorance, and so are full of pseudo-knowledge – utterly unaware of the existence of real material knowledge.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2017/01/24/the-dunning-kruger-effect-shows-why-some-people-think-theyre-great-even-when-their-work-is-terrible/#423f47e35d7c

  • LaurieB Oh no, we still have good relationships. It’s only a serious problem in my own mind. I simply ignore her on Facebook, and when we get together (which is very rare), these issues don’t come up. The other relatives are my daughter and her moron husband; and my brothers, who are racist Republicans, fellow hunters and gun enthusiasts (I have plenty of guns, like it or not, and I use them appropriately); and a Born Again Christian niece. I have another brother who is a professor and dean at Fordham, who is reasonable but is an Opus Dei theist although a physicist.


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  • @Joe M #43

    It’s only a serious problem in my own mind. I simply ignore her on Facebook, and when we get together (which is very rare), these issues don’t come up.

    It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it?

    Many of us have friends and/or relatives who support Trump or evangelism, often both. These are people we know intimately. We know their good traits, and we love them for that. It sounds like you’ve struck the most productive balance in maintaining those relationships.

    It’s true what they say: in social gatherings, politics and religion are always two subjects it is wise to avoid.


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  • Vicki,

    Many of us have friends and/or relatives who support Trump or evangelism, often both.

    So true. I’m not happy to be walking on eggshells and putting a few relationships at a distance these days but I see no choice.

    Joe M

    If you’re getting along with them pretty well then count yourself lucky. You can always socialize with the Secular community for stimulating conversation with like-minded fellow travelers like us!


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  • 46
    Michael 100 says:

    Joe M #43. I agree with those who are of the opinion that there is no need to pick unnecessary fights with anyone — especially family members.  It would be interesting, however, to ask a professor of physics if the belief in a deity is based on any evidence.  And, if such evidence is cited, to compare it to opinions expressed by physicists such as Lawrence Krause, Victor Stenger, Steven Hawking, etc.  Has your brother published anything on this subject that can be accessed?  Such a person’s intelligence is obviously above reproach so it would be nice to know how 21st century physics and Opus Dei can be reconciled.


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  •  how 21st century physics and Opus Dei can be reconciled

    I think that the answer to that might be found in personality, rather than in intelligence.  People who are outstanding at physics and maths can often be unidirectional thinkers, more at home with hierarchical, system-based, structural intellectual patterns, than with the flexible, anarchic, multi-faced toleration of irrelevancy and exceptions which characterises other thinkers.

    Thus, such unidirectional thinkers would be drawn to physics and maths, and to the equally hierarchical theology and organisation of Opus Dei, with its belief in the authority of pope, church and Pauline morality.  Just an extra thought – physics is, like all science, based on observation and experiment, but it has a far higher quotient of arcane mathematics than other sciences – hierarchical thought pattern.


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  • I’m not quite so apt to pull words out of the ‘ole hat as once I was.  On re-reading my posting #47, it occurred to me that the words rigid and labile or flexible should have appeared.  Insert them where you want to.


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  • I’m sure you’re right there, eejit (#47 and #48).

    I think we often make the mistake of assuming that people believe because they find their belief rational; and that consequently, if we can just show them the irrationality of it, we’ll be able to reason them out of it.

    I really don’t think it works that way at all. Religious belief doesn’t serve a rational need, it serves an emotional or psychological one. A need for comfort/reassurance/significance/structure or even just belonging. For the non-science-denying believer, whatever we may think about it, it really is a question of non-overlapping magisteria. We like to talk about cognitive dissonance, but very often the believer really doesn’t feel any, because they just don’t feel there’s a disconnect between what they know through science and what they believe through faith. They feel they are talking about two separate things, and the only point of contact between the two is their belief in “God the creator”. But that’s sufficiently vague and all-encompassing to allow plenty of scope for science to explain the processes and mechanisms.

    It may not satisfy us, but it satisfies them. I worry far more about the people weaselling their religion into their politics and their politics into their religion than I do about scientists with religious beliefs – provided they’re actually doing proper science when they’re wearing their science hats, obviously: I’m not talking about the dishonest world of “creation science”.


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  • When I try to post a reply from my brother, including a link to an essay he wrote on his web site, I am blocked from posting, with some kind of prohibition of an unidentified technical something. This has happened several times. What to do?


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  • I’ll try smaller segments.

    My brother wrote an essay on his web site. It concludes with the following:

    In 1893 Pope Leo XIII wrote in an encyclical:

    There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, “not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.” … [T]he sacred writers, or to speak more accurately, the Holy Spirit “who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation.”

    These words echo Galileo’s arguments in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina. Galileo can be given substantial credit for bringing about this reconciliation of faith and science.


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  • Joe #50

    Not sure what’s happening there, Joe. Posts containing links are frequently put aside by the system pending moderator approval, but in that case you will see a message on the screen and the post itself gets put in our Pending folder. But there’s nothing in there at the moment, so it’s clearly not the link that’s the problem.

    The fact you refer to trying in smaller segments suggests you were copying a very large amount of text – so you might have come up against a size limit.

    But we generally discourage users from quoting great long chunks from other people in any case: it’s usually better to provide a link together with a brief explanation of why it’s relevant.

    The other thing to look out for when posting is that you need to stay on the page until your comment has appeared. If you navigate away as soon as you’ve hit “Post comment”, the comment will be lost.

    The mods


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  • That’s a new one on us, Joe.

    If you paste the text of the comment you’re trying to post into an email and send it to us at

    moderator  @  richarddawkins.net

    we’ll ask the website manager to take a look.

    Please also include details of your web browser in your email: i.e. name of browser and version number.

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  • Joe M #51

    There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful,

    Well now, if I only had a dime for all the times that the devoutly religious bunch have served up that self-serving, silly statement. As a science major myself, of course they want me to back off. They have much to lose if I come along and deflate their ridiculous miracles and fantasies of hell, heaven and their perceived special status in our natural world. When we step out of those lines that they’ve drawn for their own self preservation you will see an anxiety attack in the making. This is on a personal level and across the faiths in general. I have no intention of being “careful” !

    No discrepancy? There’s a massive discrepancy!

    As I told my pastor as a teen – You need me but I don’t need you.


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  • 56
    Michael 100 says:

    I just went back and re-read Christopher Hitchens’ forward to Victor Stenger book, God, The Failed Hypothesis.  I also read Stenger’s Preface.  It seems to me that the days of viewing religion and science as non-overlapping magisteria – both of which can be accepted as true – have passed.  Although in days gone by, scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton or Alfred Russel Wallace, to mention only two, could intermingle science and the supernatural, the time has now come to challenge ideas which made sense before the discoveries of the 20th century.  In 1893 when Leo XIII wrote the encyclical quoted in # 51, people had no way to know that our solar system resided in a galaxy which is one of countless other galaxies comprising the cosmos.  It was not until decades later that physicists could explain how the cosmos came into existence – see, e.g. Lawrence Krauss’ excellent books on this very subject.  Although Charles Darwin had published his work a few decades before the 1893 encyclical, it wasn’t until the 1930s that evolution was more fully understood, and even then, DNA had not been discovered.  Likewise, are not the thoughts of St. Augustine or Galileo on this topic irrelevant – while they were among the brightest minds of their time, we know so much more than they could possibly have known.  Galileo had a simple telescope with which he saw moons around Jupiter, and Kepler was only then discovering the laws of planetary motion.  Galileo and Kepler were pushing open the doors of knowledge (doors which I like to imagine were first unlocked by Copernicus), but so much more was learned in the succeeding centuries. Pierre Simon Laplace is said to have had no need of a god hypothesis and how much more true today in the 21st century?  Is there an unsolved problem for which a natural explanation will not be found? 
       
    Why does it matter?  Because if a professor of physics at a prestigious university can accept the “reality” of a supernatural world, then the folks who live in Sioux Center, Iowa are justified in teaching their children that evolution is only a theory, and that the universe was created by a deity who, to quote Christopher Hitchens, “cares who you sleep with, what you eat, what holy day you observe, or how you mutilate your own (or your children’s) genitalia.” 

    It seems to me that when someone with the credentials of a professor of physics opines that such a god exists, it is appropriate that he/she be asked to produce at least some scientific evidence to justify that opinion or admit that it is a belief devoid of any scientific rationale – maybe I ask too much but if such evidence exists it has escaped my notice.  The professor or anyone else is free to believe whatever he/she wants (Congress shall make no law …), but as Hitchens writes, today science compels us to face the absurd consequences of faith.   “In the past millennia of primeval ignorance, pattern-seeking primates proposed a totalitarian solution … and threw all the responsibility onto a supreme dictator who demanded to be loved and feared at the same time.  The story of human emancipation is the narrative of our liberation from this evil myth, and from the greedy, ambitious primates who sought (as they still seek) to rule in its name.” 

    Permit me one more quote, this one is the last paragraph of Stenger’s Preface:  “…Generally speaking, when we have no evidence or other reason for believing in some entity, then we can be pretty sure that entity does not exist.  We have no evidence for Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, and the Loch Ness Monster, so we do not believe they exist.  If we have no evidence or other reason for believing in God, then we can be pretty sure that God does not exist.”


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  • Michael #56

    It seems to me that the days of viewing religion and science as non-overlapping magisteria – both of which can be accepted as true – have passed. 

    I wasn’t suggesting they actually were non-overlapping magisteria where explanations for the questions dealt with by science are concerned, Michael.

    I was very specifically talking about people who do not deny the discoveries of science but are nevertheless religious. I wasn’t using ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ in the Gouldian sense, but as a metaphor for the fact that this kind of believer uses science and religion for different purposes, to provide answers to different questions. Not every Christian is a creationist, though I can see why it might not feel like that to people in the US. But the US is an outlier in this respect.

    Whether we like it or not, whether we understand it or not, whether it fits our picture of the world or not, it is perfectly possible for a Christian to depend on science for knowledge about the world, while depending on their Christianity for psychological/emotional reinforcement. If we simply see Christianity as a competitor to scientific explanations for the world and refuse to see that, for many Christians, that’s not its primary purpose, then we’ll always just be talking past them – and what’s the point of that?

     


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  • @Marco #57

    Whether we like it or not, whether we understand it or not, whether it fits our picture of the world or not, it is perfectly possible for a Christian to depend on science for knowledge about the world, while depending on their Christianity for psychological/emotional reinforcement. If we simply see Christianity as a competitor to scientific explanations for the world and refuse to see that, for many Christians, that’s not its primary purpose, then we’ll always just be talking past them – and what’s the point of that?

    That is an excellent point, Marco. I think Joe’s brother could stand to hear that.



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  • LaurieB says:

    Joe M #51

    There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful,

    Well now, if I only had a dime for all the times that the devoutly religious bunch have served up that self-serving, silly statement.

    Ah!  But they are presenting a deceptive  a Humpty-Dumptyist answer!

    They are talking about “troooo physicists” who are properly indoctrinated and deluded!  and who BELIEVE in non-overlapping magisteria: – Not those “atheist sciency types” who invariably use scientific methodology, and don’t use any  “faith doctrines which the pope says must trump science”! ! ☺

    (The deeply indoctrinated and scientifically uneducated, will buy that semantic sleight of hand!)

    Translated from delusion-speak  into English, it demands, “My god-delusion (which must be obeyed and respected), says: Keep your objective scientific investigations out of my mythological notions and award them an authoritative badge as being “above science”!

     


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  • 61
    Michael 100 says:

    Marco #57, is not the essence of Christianity expressed in the words of their creeds which are recited, at least in the high churches, at every service?  “I believe in one god, the creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible …”  Doesn’t their scripture begin with two creation stories?  How can a Christian not be a creationist?  If the first words of their creed are not the primary purpose, what is?  People are free to pick and choose what they believe, but then are they really Christian, or are they just fabricating their own fairy tales which make them feel good.


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  • Michael #61

    How can a Christian not be a creationist? 

    There are millions of Christians who are not creationists in the evolution-denying sense. Maybe you could try asking one of them? 


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  • Michael #61

    How can a Christian not be a creationist?

    There are millions of Christians who are not creationists in the evolution-denying sense. Maybe you could try asking one of them?

    This is getting into the complex area of Intelligent Design Creationism, with differing degrees of evolution denial or scientific method denial, and maybe even differing degrees of Christianity. Everyone seems to have his or her own version.


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  • I have asked my brother several questions, and have received replies. I have been trying to post them here without success. Trying to contribute but being blocked. He is in the Computer and Information Science Department at Fordham, PhD Physics UC Berkeley & MS Computer Science NYU. Interestingly, he disagrees with the nonoverlapping magisteria. I agree with Michael 100 that the days of NOMA have passed (as I recall, Richard Dawkins helped with that).


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  • Evidence for the existence of God is found in the fact that the universe does not seem to contain the principle for its own existence. It requires a creator. This gets you to the God of the philosophers. To go further to arrive to the God who loves creation (including us) requires, I believe, revelation & faith.  NOT MINE, BUT THE AFOREMENTIONED PHYSICIST’S.


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  • Well, that last post worked OK. I’ll try another.

    There is no contradiction between physics and faith. I have not studied Gould’s nonoverlapping magisteria but I don’t think I would agree about the nonoverlapping part. It’s true that science does not deal with the same questions as religion, but the two domains do overlap. The question of the existence of God is one area of overlap, for the reason given in the previous. I would add another important area of overlap, which is ethics. Most ethical norms can be derived from observation of the world and human nature. One doesn’t need stone tablets to know murder, theft, adultery, etc. are wrong. Science can inform the conclusions on these. For instance, it tells us there is a unique human being present as soon as sperm and egg unite to form a zygote. ONCE AGAIN, NOT MINE, BUT THE AFOREMENTIONED PHYSICIST’S.


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  • I’m typing these into the comments with no copying and pasting, and also not combining them into a bigger comment. For some reason, it doesn’t get blocked. Here is another.

    I have not published anything on this subject. I did post on my website an essay about the Galileo affair, which involves the relationship between faith and reason.

    ONCE AGAIN, NOT MINE, BUT THE AFOREMENTIONED PHYSICIST’S.


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  • 68
    Michael 100 says:

    Joe M #65,   Isn’t that the “god of the gaps” argument.  I would refer you to Lawrence Krauss’ book A Universe From Nothing, Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing.  I, myself, am certainly not qualified to match wits with professors of physics, but I am confident that we have come far enough in our understanding of the subject to know that the solution, it it has not already been found, will be a natural one not requiring supernatural intervention.,


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  • joe m

    are you on a mission for the templeton foundation?

    is it giving you some of its $billions in endowment?

    why are you shouting

    THE AFOREMENTIONED PHYSICIST’S

      ?

    it always amazes how people of faith are never satisfied

    with the natural ‘miracles’ that are all around them

    air   trees   bugs   sound   rainbows    stars   galaxies   life

    but need to invent more miraculous supernatural entities

    and imaginary friends who are above all that


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  • 70
    Michael 100 says:

    Quarecuss, I think “the aforementioned physicist” is Joe M’s brother who he previously mention is a professor of physics at Fordham University.  See # 43 above. Joe mentioned his brother in relation to how it is sometimes difficult to deal with theistic relatives. My impression is that Joe is on our side in this argument, and is simply relating what his brother has told him. At least that’’s my understanding of the thread.


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  • why are you shouting

    THE AFOREMENTIONED PHYSICIST’S

    Just trying to make sure nobody (such as you, Quarecuss) thinks these are my ideas. See #64 above. Maybe I’m shouting because I recently photographed a Stentor thru my microscope.

    And Michael 100: Yes, I agree, and I have read Krause.

     


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  • Re: Joe M’s brother, a physicist and theist.

    He isn’t the only one who has made a career in science and also believes in religion (maybe not necessarily an omniscient/omnipotent creator). My take on it is that they have compartmentalized the two contradictory subjects. I doubt religion controls their thinking, but I’m guessing it serves a useful social function for them that they enjoy in their off-hours, so to speak. I doubt very many of them allow the faith-based aspect of their lives to control how they live and, er, vote.

    Of course, I could be way off base. It’s just speculation on my part.

    Frankly, time spent in efforts of trying to reconcile the two is, to me, a waste of energy. Geez, besides theists who crave validation, who cares?


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  • Marco #57   it is perfectly possible for a Christian to depend on science for knowledge about the world, while depending on their Christianity for psychological/emotional reinforcement

    Totally agree Marco.  It’s not logically possible, but it sure is psychologically possible.  Who cares, provided they don’t force their beliefs down our throats, or impede the march of science and reason to much, or make and enforce cruel laws, shibboleths and exclusions against people whom their religion doesn’t like, who cares what they think or believe?

    Trouble is, that so many of them do all of the above.  Condemn and fight them, otherwise live and let live.


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  • @eejit #73

    Trouble is, that so many of them do all of the above.

    You are conflating run-of-the-mill theists with fundamentalist evangelicals. They are two separate groups. One is virtually harmless, while the other threatens our Constitution and the lives of future generations.


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  • You are conflating run-of-the-mill theists with fundamentalist evangelicals. They are two separate groups

    Not entirely true Vicki!  In this country, Ireland, and in my previous residence, Australia, there are/were still plenty of traditional Christians who maintain the laws on sexual morality, the family etc, as well as controlling large swathes of the education and health systems.  They are still around, with the power of the dying tiger, and they are not protestant evangelicals, but mostly fairly tame Catholics, Orthodox and even some mainstream protestants.  That’s not counting Muslims, Hindu nationalists, Buddhist extremists, all of various levels of piety and commitment.  Quite a lot of people all up.    There’s a world out there beyond Boston


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  • eejit

    There’s a world out there beyond Boston

     As far as I know I’m the only Bostonian hanging around here. If I remember correctly, Vicki is located in Ohio.

    A minor correction. Carry on!

     


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  • @Laurie #76

    If I remember correctly, Vicki is located in Ohio.

    Quite right, Laurie. One the ‘battleground’ states. {{aargh!}}

    eejit–I’d be proud as a peacock to be associated with Boston. I’m just sayin…


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  • Neither quarecuss nor eejit are eejits

    Eejit  and idiot have different meanings, although obviously are closely related in origin.  The origin in fact is Greek, meaning a private or unimportant person; the road to the current English meaning has been long and winding, dum dum.  The Irish have a habit of subverting the English language, which even those who do not have the cúpla focal, still regard as an imposed foreign tongue.  For instance in Ireland grand can mean good, well, happy, enjoyable and pretty much anything else on that spectrum. whereas in England it means simply posh.

    Feck does not carry anything like the meaning of the other f word.  A story is told by the religious affairs correspondent of the Irish Times that once he once heard rumours of yet another spying priest from the Vatican being sent to Ireland on some sort of Apostolic Investigation. The correspondent phoned the Cardinal in Armagh and asked what was going on.  The Cardinal replied:  I don’t know what the little fecker is doing here. Quite a different weight to the other f word.

    Similarly eejit not a derogatory word – well only a bit – it contains affection, liking, amusement and an element of not taking the subject very seriously; He’s an eejit giving her flowers, she’d rather have a bottle of gin.  Often it can contain an element of exasperation, as in: He’s a fecking eejit; if the i in the third word is changed to a u, then the characterisation becomes markedly more hostile.

    So all in all, an eejit is not a bad thing as of which to be thought.  I hope this makes the word’s meaning and usage more clear.  No-one minds being thought an eejit, but an idiot, however, is a much different matter.


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  • Who says I’m not a real one?  Ask my missus.

    chorus

    they think we’re eejits off and on

    but they’ll miss us when we’re gone

    eejit #85

    excellent eejit exposition

    blow your nose and go to the top of the class

    “The Cardinal replied:  I don’t know what the little fecker is doing here.”

    sounds more like bishop brennan

    of course he is probably a primate by now

     


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  • Hello everyone,

    Crooked, here.  I messaged the mods regarding permission to share with everyone the project that I’ve been working on for the last few years.  Many of the names here are new to me, but there are many old friends I’m seeing — heartfelt hellos all around — both to new friends and old.

    So, when my posts here started to taper off and I realized that my presence was diminishing, I think I made sure to let everyone know that I was sidetracked on a project and I promised that I’d share the finished product if/when it ever came to fruition.  Well, we went live!!

     

    The site is https://learn.concord.org/

    The subject matter is the genetic difference that causes different coat colors in mice.  What is unique is our “zooms” — Students get an opportunity to see the macro, micro and molecular worlds weave together and we manage to create and reinforce those “levels” that are all too often lost in traditional coverage of evolution.

    It is pretty darn good stuff — The folks at Concord Consortium, at Michigan State, and a bunch of “master” teachers from across the US worked for four years, under an NSF (I think) grant — It is totally free to use and the science in it is accurate and meticulously computer designed by some genius people!!  The difference in the Mc1R gene and the subsequent chain of events that cause pheomelanin vs eumelanin production in different color mice is explored with rigor.

  • 90
    Cairsley says:

    Hello, Crookedshoes! Thanks for the tip to get the right page. And that is a nifty educational site you and your colleagues have put together. Nicely done!


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  • About the Neoliberalism article, when the Left haven’t innovate a framework, is categorical…

    I feel so frustrated to map political/economical issues with Left-Right conflict – I grasp their symbolism – but the passion indoctrinate to my standpoint (from society) leads to the misconception that both Left and Right are the pols of the universe.

    I haven’t the knowledge to build an ethical theory about the establishment and global expectation, so why not rely on nature?, and how it evolve from natural selection as a driven force, where the best adaptative function help to survive, sound as liberlalism to me, however to enhance the odds we could take some socialism approaches, or perhaps some other times we may rescue from the ostracism the evolutionism view instead.

    To blame the Neoliberalism (liberalism) is unfocused, they are only tools to manage an increasingly population density, for instance, in order to grasp some material behaviour, It’s advantageous to employ Hook’s law (linear-elastic model) at the begining, therefore when you get consistency and convergence in the outcomes, you could try non-linear approaches.

    On social behaviour, the simplest one seems the best adaptitive (“the strongest’s law” if you like), I’m agree when the inequitable conditions (inheritance, systematic bias, etc.) undermines defenseless civilians opportunities, hence to sophisticate the model, It should integrate inheritance and interest (unearned resources) overregulations,  but It’s also advisable to discriminate intrinsic inequitable  and necessary conditions, like the trade-market enviroment.

    It’s right a wild cruel first stage, proper to the current knowledge, with a hint, an attempt to deprived of any kind of religion (natural, economical either political), of course until the Right and Left enlighten us with their solutions…

    There is much to say about this interesting issue, greetings.


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  • Hello i,m ex muslim i am learner i love science do,nt believe in religions can someone please help me how i can gain my knowledge Mr Richard Dawkin is like an angel to me Thanks!!


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  • Waheed,

    Be interested.

    Be curious.

    Read.  Investigate. Ask. Reach conclusions. Follow your interests.

    Richard is a pretty cool guy, and certainly worthy of your attention and interest.  He is not an angel!!

     


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  • Some years ago at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, they had an exhibit of South American art, and there was a large painting of an angel carrying a musket. Until then, I had thought that they only used flaming swords.


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  • Joe M

    an angel carrying a musket.

    So I guess we can conclude that the weaponry of heaven is several hundred years behind the times, just like their morality and their fashion sense. The place is frozen in time!


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  • an angel carrying a musket.
    So I guess we can conclude that the weaponry of heaven is several hundred years behind the time

    According to Milton, Satan invented firearms, at least the canon (see Paradise Lost, bk V1, lns 437-496).  Milton had to blame Evil for their invention, as he personally had an objection to them, comparable to our objection to nuclear weapons today, but of course his boss, Cromwell made good use of firearms in the bloody civil war which saw Milton himself promoted to being the virtual Foreign Minister of the Commonwealth.


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  • Waheed, I wish you well. Never stop learning. However, this thread has somehow drifted over to angels and guns. I looked them up and found that an Angel Arcabucero is an angel depicted with an arquebus, an early type of muzzle-loaded firearm, instead of the sword traditional for martial angels, dressed in clothing inspired by that of the Andean nobles and aristocrats. This art style arose in Peru in the second half of the 17th century. This art form was well received by the indigenous people because they could identify these “winged warriors” with their pre-Hispanic pantheon of gods and heroes.


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  • I originally joined this forum because I am considering asking some useful questions about evolutionary theory. However, this stuff about education, Richard, angels, guns, the doom of the USA, etc is engaging. I just took another brief look at the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, which I had read a few years ago. Besides being a goldsmith, he was an accomplished gunner, and an amazingly good shot with arquebuses and cannons. The Pope gave him a complete pardon and absolution for all the murders he had committed and all that he would commit in the future in the service of the Apostolic Church. I thought that was pretty good.


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  •  this stuff about education, Richard, angels, guns, the doom of the USA, etc is engaging

    Joe, I’m glad that you enjoy the trivia – constant heavy-duty science can get a bit dull if you’re not of that particular mindset, besides which there are many other things in the world worth thinking about, some of them listed above in your post.  And as they say here in Ireland, the craic is mighty on this site.


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  • Craic (/kræk/ KRAK) or crack is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.

     

    New word of the day! (at least for the Yanks around here)


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  • Craic  Laurie B  #102
     

    This poem/song is by Dominic Behan, brother of the famous playwright Brendan Behan.  It tells the story of the Irish workers, mostly country men and women, who left the grinding poverty of post independence Ireland, for well paid, but merciless work in wartime, blitz-bombed UK, the old enemy from which they they were so recently unshackled.

    McAlpine’s were two heavy construction companies, run by two brothers.  The brutality of the itinerant, shiftless lives of the workers, is counterpoised with the outrageous, wild social lives of the workers – suddenly unrestrained by the strict moral and social codes of rural Ireland.  In short, the craic.
    McAlpine’s Fusiliers
    ‘Twas in the year of ‘thirty-nine
    When the sky was full of lead
    When Hitler was heading for Poland
    And Paddy, for Holyhead
    Come all you pincher laddies
    And you long-distance men
    Don’t ever work for McAlpine
    For Wimpey, or John Laing
    You’ll stand behind a mixer
    And your skin is turned to tan
    And they’ll say, Good on you, Paddy
    With your boat-fare in your hand
    The craic was good in Cricklewood
    And they wouldn’t leave the Crown
    With glasses flying and Biddy’s crying
    ‘Cause Paddy was going to town
    Oh mother dear, I’m over here
    And I’m never coming back
    What keeps me here is the reek o’ beer
    The ladies and the craic
    I come from county Kerry
    The land of eggs and bacon
    And if you think I’ll eat your fish ‘n’ chips
    Oh dear then you’re mistaken
    As down the glen came McAlpine’s men
    With their shovels slung behind them
    ‘Twas in the pub they drank the sub
    And out in the spike you’ll find them
    They sweated blood and they washed down mud
    With pints and quarts of beer
    And now we’re on the road again
    With McAlpine’s fusiliers
    I stripped to the skin with the Darky Finn
    Way down on the Isle of Grain
    With the Horseface Toole I knew the rule
    No money if you stopped for rain
    McAlpine’s god is a well-filled hod
    Your shoulders cut to bits and seared
    And woe to he went to look for tea
    With McAlpine’s fusiliers
    I remember the day that the Bear O’Shea
    Fell into a concrete stairs
    What the Horseface said when he saw him dead
    It wasn’t what the rich call prayers
    I’m a navvy short, was the one retort
    That reached unto my ears
    When the going is rough you must be tough
    With McAlpine’s fusiliers
    I’ve worked till the sweat it has had me beat
    With Russian, Czech, and Pole
    On shuttering jams up in the hydro-dams
    Or underneath the Thames in a hole
    I’ve grafted hard and I’ve got my cards
    And many a ganger’s fist across my ears
    If you value your life don’t join, by Christ!
    With McAlpine’s fusiliers
    Dominic Behan


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  • A great ballad, but you should hear the Dubliners singing it – Luke Kelly’s voice of gravel, seems to reflect the materials which made up the concrete which was the navvis’ stock in trade.


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  • eejit

    bringing irish crack to rd site

    have you heard fontaines dc?

    the new dubliners?
    The January markets filled the cold air with the sound
    The boys all full of laughter and their pocket with the pound
    And in the foggy dew, I saw you throwing shapes around
    It was underneath the waking of a Dublin City sky
     


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