Are Cameron’s opponents f****ing a dead pig?

Anyone who uses Twitter and is vaguely on the left will no doubt have spent much of last night and this morning revelling in #PigGate – the reaction to the accusation made by Lord Ashcroft’s book and splashed on the front of the Daily Mail that during an initiation ritual for a drinking club in his college days David Cameron ‘put a private part of his anatomy’ into a dead pig’s mouth. To say that Twitter went wild would be an understatement, maybe some would see it as more evidence of “mob rule”, but for others it showed Twitter at its best, demonstrating just how inventive and downright funny it can be when users collectively sieze on a theme, run with it and share the results (there are some good examples here).

Mind you, not everyone found it so funny – certain right wing commentators took to Twitter to tut-tut and wag their fingers in disapproval.
Of course to an extent they’re right. We are being entirely partisan and having fun at our opponents’ expense. That’s what most people do when they get the chance, in fact if we’re honest this kind of partisan sniping isn’t really a drawback of Twitter, it’s (at least partly) what it’s for, and that’s why I’m not as outraged as some that the MSM hasn’t given the subject so much prominence. But that doesn’t mean we are wrong to have our fun. Continue reading

Mel says “Yes 2 ID”

Those of us who are familiar with the views of Melanie Phillips are aware that she is nothing if not a champion of unpopular causes, and can only admire her persistence in continuing to fight her corner even when all of the available evidence is stacked against her. For example she still steadfastly refuses to believe that there is no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and will pounce on the most tendentious and discredited “evidence” to try to ridicule the notion of man made global warming (see the comments to the piece for why this is rubbish). Furthermore, I have previously documented her strongly held belief that Barack Obama was not just the second best candidate in the US presidential election but a serious threat to Western civilisation as we know it (and especially to Israel).

Well now Mel has turned her attention to the theory of Intelligent Design and is most upset at the Today programme for “misrepresentation of Intelligent Design as a form of Creationism”. Now those of us who believe that ID is in fact Creationism dressed in fancy trousers in order to give it a veneer of respectability may scoff, but Mel is most insistent

the fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it. This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science.

Yes, Intelligent Design is in fact a bona fide scientific theory. And how does Mel justify this claim?

Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days. Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.

So in part it is a scientific theory because many of its advocates are scientists. Well maybe they are, although Mel offers no evidence for this, but then many scientists are Christians but this does not in itself make Christianity a scientific theory. What is relevant is not just whether an advocate of a particular belief is a scientist but also whether they are qualified in the particular field under discussion and whether they are able to back up their views with actual evidence. AGW skeptics such as Mel always point to petitions signed by lots of “scientists” who support their view but very few of them have any kind of qualification in climate science.

Yes, there are certainly questions still to be answered around the beginning of the universe and the origin of matter, the big bang, the existence of dark matter etc. but there is no serious body of scientific opinion proposing ID as an answer. There is much excitement about what secrets the Large Hadron Collider might yield (once it is fixed) but there is no suggestion that it will reveal the hand of a hidden designer (Mel does know that the “god particle” is named ironically, right?).

As for evolution, the main target of ID-ers. well it is one of the most successful scientific theories devised by mankind. Not only can we see the evidence in the world around us but with the discovery of DNA and the nature of heredity we understand how it works at the molecular level. There is simply no need for an Intelligent Designer and not the slightest bit of evidence for one.

In fact Intelligent Design does not, even by Mel’s own reasoning, ”come out of science”, it is a rejection of science. If you hold that “the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter” then you are explicitly rejecting the possibility that science will itself provide an explanation of those complexities we do not yet fully understand. There are questions to which science cannot currently provide an answer but that doesn’t mean we have to consider any other superficially attractive proposition when there is no actual evidence to support it. The US National Academy of Sciences puts it well

Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science. These claims subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates. These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error. This contrasts with science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge

So if ID is not science is it really of a different nature to Creationism as Mel claims? Not really - many religious believers do not take the creation myth as a literal description of how God created the earth, but they still believe there is a creator and this belief relies on faith, not evidence. As does the existence of Mel’s Intelligent Designer – he may not be the same as the Christian/Jewish god (although given that Mel is a devout Jew it would be rather odd if this was the case) but his existence still requires a leap of faith. And it is this reliance on faith which separates both ID and Creationism from science.  That is not to paint all people with religious beliefs as “anti-science” - most of them understand perfectly well the distinction between religion and science. What advocates of ID do is try to blur those boundaries – in fact they go further than trying to explain what science cannot, they (like the Creationists) try to provide alternative explanations for that which science itself can explain perfectly well.

That is why Intelligent Design is irrational, anti-science and anti-intellectual. And the irony is that this is from someone who sees themselves in the forefront of the battle to defend Western civilised values and rationalism from the forces of barbarism (i.e. Islam). One of the commenters puts it succinctly -

In the World War over religion, between the allies of Modernity and the axis of Mediaevelism Melanie Phillips is actually on the same side as the Iranian Mullahs, the Saudi princes and the Taleban

The thin blue line

Once again Britain’s finest have come under attack after it was revealed that claims that 70 police officers were injured in clashes with climate change protesters at Kingsnorth power station were not quite accurate

Only four of the 12 reportable injuries involved any contact with protesters at all and all were at the lowest level of seriousness with no further action taken.
The other injuries reported included “stung on finger by possible wasp”; “officer injured sitting in car”; and “officer succumbed to sun and heat”. One officer cut his arm on a fence when climbing over it, another cut his finger while mending a car, and one “used leg to open door and next day had pain in lower back”.
A separate breakdown of the 33 patients treated by the police tactical medicine unit at the climate camp shows that three officers had succumbed to heat exhaustion, three had toothache, six were bitten by insects, and others had diarrhoea, had cut their finger or had headaches.

Personally, I think that people are far too hasty to criticise the police, and those that do so should put themselves in the place of our brave upholders of law and order and ask whether they would be so quick to put their own safety at risk by sitting in cars, climbing over fences, braving the threat of sunstroke, toothache and “possible wasps”, shooting innocent Brazilian electricians in the head, opening doors with their legs and other such dangerous activities.

Our fearless police officers in action

Two of our finest show no fear by sitting in their car

Are you being served?

The Independent is running a campaign against restaurants who do not pass on tips and service charges to their staff in full, or use them to top up basic wages which are below the minimum wage. It seems obvious to me that the latter practice is indefensible and it was craven of the government to allow this loophole when they brought in the minimum wage legislation. The LibDems have tabled an amendment to the Employment Bill currently going through parliament which will close this loophole and I hope it is carried.

Continue reading

A silly woman…but not a bigot

There is a spat going on here about the case of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who won a discrimination case after she objected to performing civil partnership ceremonies for homosexuals.
Now I have certainly had little sympathy for Ms Ladele up to now; I don’t agree with the tribuneral’s decision (on the discrimination issue anyway, it does seem that her employers treated her pretty badly in other respects) and I don’t think that public employees should be able to pick and choose which duties to perform according to their religious views, or other prejudices. It is also absurd for this case to be portrayed as a victory for Britain’s quiet majority as some on the right have done – there may well be a “quiet majority” who object to those with strong religious views getting special treatment.
However, neither do I think it is fair to portray Ladele as a nasty bigot. Continue reading