Saturday, 25 May 2013

To you the lucky finder...

It has been just over a year since I published my book, and since I haven't posted anything for a long old time, I thought it would be appropriate to do so now, and to tell you about how I am going to mark the occasion. I have no idea if this is going to work or not and I can't decide whether it's a silly idea or a brilliant one, but time will tell on both counts I suppose.

The idea is this:

I am shortly going to be spending a few days in London, and I thought it might be a nice idea to give away a few free books. I have, this very day, taken delivery of a few copies of 'Unbelievable', and I intend to leave them lying around the various places that I visit in the capital.

Inside the front covers I have penciled in a code word, a different one for each of them, and drawn attention to this blog. The idea being that anyone who finds them can visit this site and leave a comment on where they found the book, whether they intend reading it or not, whether they like it, or hate it, and, most importantly, whether they will be telling their friends about it.

So, if you are reading this post because you have found a copy of my book, please leave a comment, quoting your code word so I know that you are genuine, and let me know what you think.


Many thanks.


Thursday, 31 January 2013

Center for Inquiry

Center for Inquiry is an educational organisation in the US that promotes evidence based reasoning and secular ethics in the face of pseudo-science and religious propaganda.

They have very kindly provided a link to my book on their website.

Thanks chaps and chapesses. I'm much obliged.

Friday, 11 January 2013

My radio interview

I was invited to be interviewed on my local BBC radio station, BBC Guernsey, last week. I can't tell you how nervous I have been, but it's all over now, and I must say I think it went quite well. I haven't had the courage to listen back yet, so I hope my nerves didn't come across too much.

The interviewer, Jenny Kendall-Tobias, put me at ease almost immediately, and I actually found myself enjoying the experience.

I've never done anything like this before, but I figured that if I am serious about marketing my book, I ought to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

Anyway, you can listen to the show here. I start at about 30 minutes in and I'm on for about an hour. If anyone is reading this, please let me know what you think.

Thanks

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Stocking filler






Just to let you know. There is 25% off the print version of Unbelievable until Christmas, if you buy it from Lulu.com.

It would be an ideal stocking filler for a friend or family.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Poking the bear


A couple of weeks ago, just for giggles, I decided to tweet Shirley Phelps-Roper from the Westboro Baptist Church, telling her about my book, linking to my blog and asking for a retweet



Strangely enough, I've not yet received a response. 




Today, I tweeted a similar request to the Pope. I sent two tweets, one in German and one in English. *





I wonder if, unlike that Phelps-Roper woman, the Bishop of Rome; the Vicar of Christ on Earth; the Holder of the Keys of Saint Peter, will do the right thing. We'll see...

*EDIT
After some advice from a friend, I have sent another tweet in Latin.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Appetizer #5: Intellectual Dishonesty






One of the most pernicious and objectionable things about the concept of religion is its tendency to creep into the education system. When my son was five years old, he came home from school one day and announced that God had made the world in six days!

It is still the law in the United Kingdom that some form of religious instruction be present in the school curriculum, and whilst I have no real objection to a comparative and historical study of religion in schools, I would have thought that a five-year-old could manage quite well without it until he or she is older. Of course, there is an argument to be made that the kind of religion taught in British primary schools only serves to inoculate children against religious belief in later life. For my son, however, I would prefer that the inoculation be forgone, and the balance of time yielded to extra reading, writing and arithmetic.

In any case, the issues at stake are much wider than that of primary education. It would appear that, left unchecked, faith would eventually make its way in to secondary school science classrooms as well. It hardly needs to be said that there is no room for faith in the field of scientific inquiry; there can be no greater affront to science, and the scientific method, than the acceptance of unsubstantiated dogma on the grounds of faith. You do not hear people talk about their faith in the theory of evolution say, or in the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. One either accepts the evidence or one does not; faith has nothing to do with it. So it should be with the teaching of science.

When faith does rear its ugly head in the scientific arena the results are invariably disastrous. Take for example the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. This movement appears to be most prevalent in America, although the idea is gradually creeping into Europe as well. Using the teleological argument, proponents of ID argue that the complexity of the biological world, as well the wider cosmos, imply some kind of creator or intelligent designer. Of course the arguments are couched in more 'scientific language', with words such as God, creator and faith judiciously left out. This is because the main bone of contention in the ID community seems to be that their theory is not represented in American school science classes. The inclusion of words like God or faith in the ID literature would preclude the theory at the outset from being taught in schools, because to do so would be an infraction of the constitutional 'wall of separation' between church and state, an eminently sensible idea which unlike in the United Kingdom, exists in the United States.

In order to get around this constitutional obstacle, the Intelligent Design ‘theory’, as it is publicly presented, makes no claims to the identity of the designer and proponents are fond of pointing out that he/she/they could in fact have been some kind of ultra-intelligent alien. However, it would appear that the majority of ID proponents are in fact religious believers, and it is a safe bet that behind closed church doors the Intelligent Designer is positively identified as the supernatural Judeo-Christian God.

The inadequacies ID theory are really laid bare when it is stacked up against real science. Mainstream science begins with observation which, through experiment, can be used to describe a model. As evidence is gathered, a hypothesis can be suggested to explain the model. Any hypothesis must make predictions which can be tested by further observation and experiment, during which time the hypothesis can be modified or abandoned in favour of another one. Only once a hypothesis has survived rigorous testing may it be used to formulate a scientific theory, but even then it must, unlike a mathematical proof, be open to falsification should any conflicting evidence come to light. ID on the other hand begins, and ends, with a hypothesis, with its proponents merely interpreting the evidence to fit their conjecture. This has meant that whenever it has been tested in court, the ruling has been that ID is not science. Indeed, one of the chief criticisms directed towards the ID camp is the distinct dearth of peer reviewed papers emanating from it. In its efforts to ‘debunk’ the neo-Darwinian paradigm of evolution by purely natural selection, ID does not appear to undertake any science of its own. The game plan appears to be to cast doubt on a well established and rigorously tested scientific theory and then to replace it with, at best, unimaginative guesswork, or at worst, pseudoscientific garbage.

Intelligent Design can best be thought of as a contemporary manifestation of the Creation Science movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, the only real difference between them is that proponents of Creation Science make no secret about who the Intelligent Designer is. ID is therefore, merely a denomination of Creationism, and so words like Creationist and Creationism can justifiably be used to reference both groups—something that I intend to do from now on.

Evolution by purely natural selection and Creationism are not just at odds with one another, they are wholly incompatible; the findings of evolutionary biology threaten the perceived ‘truth’ of the teachings of bible. However, when one listens to the Creationists one gets a very different impression. It is as though they think they have uncovered overwhelming inconsistencies in current scientific dogma, inconsistencies that are an affront to science, and must be countered with ‘real’ science. The picture painted is that of avenging heroes that have, against all the odds, reopened the debate on the origins of life on earth. In the real world though, the sole motivation of the Creationist movements appears to be not genuine scientific inquiry at all, but rather the desperate reaction of those who know that they are in a weak position.

Let me expand upon this a little. The book of Genesis states quite clearly that God made all the creatures of the earth, creatures that would bring forth only after their kind, and then as a separate enterprise he created humanity in his own image. Imagine instead that Genesis 1:20-31 said something like this:

And God planted the seed of life upon the earth.
Then, God said “From this tiny seed may life be set in motion, undirected by me, across the face of the earth”.
And so it was that the seed brought forth a menagerie of creatures, each generation, to a tiny degree, different from the one before. Each minuscule difference being utilised by life itself, according to its ability to survive.
Then, when life had achieved a form that most represented God’s image, God said unto it, “Thou art my most important creation and thou shalt be called man and woman.
Listen up; I’ve got a few ground rules for you”

I would like to bet that if that is what the bible had said, the Creationist movements would never have got started. There would be no need for them. When Charles Darwin put forward his exciting discoveries in 1859, far from being attacked as a heretic he would have been hailed as some kind of saint; a hero of the faithful. The theory of evolution would have been seen as scientific proof of the veracity of Genesis and Christianity in general.

Of course, you may think that I am being a little frivolous here, but the serious point to be made is that if Genesis had been written differently, then what are now perceived to be ‘errors’ or ‘lies’ or 'gaps' in evolutionary theory would be overlooked, perhaps even ‘covered up’ by the very people who attempt to 'expose' them today. Ironically though, their beliefs about the way of the world would not be based on anything even approaching science; stubborn faith in a few words of ancient scripture would be more than sufficient to convince them.
Sound familiar?

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REVIEWS


Appetizers

#1: On god and science
#2: Apartheid in Eden
#3: Sacrifice
#4: The end is nigh
#5: Intellectual Dishonesty