Category Archives: Unreason

The Universal Terrorist God

Robert Henderson

God, who goes by a large number of aliases including Yaweh, Jehovah,  Allah, The Almighty and Him, has been on the run since the beginning  of   time as men have sought to bring him to book for his innumerable  terrorist   actions, including all “natural” disasters, wars, famines and diseases.

All attempts to treat with God over many millennia  have failed and the question is being asked “Does God have any coherent or  realisable  demands of  Man?”

Taxed with this problem, the Rev Dr I M A  Believer   said “God’s ways are mysterious and not for Man to question.  It is all part of  His divine plan”.

An unbeliever, Mr  Thomas  Doubting,  would have none of this. “One only has to look around the world to see what a nonsense this God idea is. Christians say he is a loving God, a good Shepherd and  Muslims say he is all merciful, while Jews have believed just about everything about their God  at some time in the past 3 millennia,  including believing He has chosen them as His favoured people.  Try squaring that with these disasters.

“As for the rest of religion, you run the gamut from folks believing that rocks and rivers have spirits in them to the likes of Buddhists who say there is no God, merely states of existence. If all that’s sending a coherent message to Man I’m Charlie Chaplin.”

A UN spokesman said: “Vast attempts have been made to appease God by  slavish worship and sacrifices over the past millennia, but all that  has achieved is to show the truth of Kipling’s verse ‘Once you have  paid the Danegeld/You never get rid of the Dane’. Our major problem is that it is not clear what God’s demands are as He sends out so many conflicting messages. It is unclear whether he has any rational or  consistent demands. “

Dissenting voices have also been heard regarding the causes of “acts of God”.  A structural engineer Mr Al Putogether  blames the  series of disasters on poor design. “Just look at how poor the construction of Man is. He   can only walk upright by adopting a permanent falling tactic  and   women   often die in childbirth because the baby’s head is too big for the mother’s pelvis.  And what about viral  diseases? They just mutate all on their own.  Then there’s the big one: genetic coding which is mistranslated to give mutations.  And is it beyond the wit of an omniscient being to avoid the ageing process and senile dementia?   Clearly no one is in proper control.”

Mr Putogether was backed up by a fellow engineer, Mr Lou Tension. “Everything we see is jerry built.  You’ve got  a planet where molten lava keeps breaking through the  crust. What  kind of safety cover is that? Hasn’t God heard of negative feedback? Then there are these damned tectonic plates which just keep slipping about and causing earthquakes. And what about the oceans and the weather? Where’s the quality control? Where are  the safety fail-safes?  How come we have tidal waves and hurricanes?  What’s so great about things like the last Asian tsunami?  Jeeez… that  was just a low technology action using nothing more than crude  earth shifting and water. Hell, I could come up with something better over lunch!”

 

Following  the  media claim that God  is  in frequent communication with the one-time  President of the United States of Moronica, George W Moron,  ex-President  Moron said “God talks ter me plenty but he don’t tell me everythin’ an’  sometimes he tells me things I ain’t ter tell anyone else.”

Retired British PM Margaret Thatcher told BBC News that “Terrorists must never be   appeased,   even if they are God”.

Questioned on the latest “act of God”, all religious leaders said it  was  either “His mysterious will” or the consequence of “bad karma”.

A Papal spokesman issued a statement denying that the Catholic Church was merely “the temporal arm of God” and had no control over God’s actions.  However, the spokesman refused to condemn God and said that His  actions must be put in the context of Man’s past behaviour. The  spokeman  ended by emphasising that “He will not be going away”.

Last night the digital TV station Angelspan broadcast a message they  claimed was from God: “My will be done, whatever it is, and ‘acts of  God’ will continue until it is done!”

Angelspan said that the message had been left in the mind of their  political editor by the well established God method of transmission: Revelation.

Experts are agreed that future acts of terror by  God were certain, it was a case not of whether but when.

Islam is simply incompatible with liberal democracy

Baroness Warsi’s attempt to portray Britain as a nation of Islamophobes* raises an interesting question: is it unreasonable to be an Islamophobe or is it simple self-defence? To be afraid of a genuine danger is not bigotry.

  The problem with Islam is that the Koran itself is incompatible with our society, a fact that is made double difficult because  for Muslims the Koran is the  literal word  of  Allah.  Therefore,  the Muslim does  not  have  the opportunity so common within Christianity to “interpret”  the  more inconvenient texts into a harmless banality.

From  the  point of view of English law  the   problem   with  Islam  is  this,  the religion promotes  behaviour  which  is    illegal  in England.  Hence,   it is not a question of a  few  Muslim   extremists   falsely  believing  things  which   are   incompatible with English law,  but the  Koran itself   which  is the source of the belief. let me illustrate this with a  few quotes from the Penguin translation of the Koran   by Nessim Joseph Dawood.

Dawood was an Iraqi Jew brought up in Baghdad. Arabic was his first language. His translation was made in the mid-1950s before the present extreme animosity between Jews and Muslims existed.  It is reasonable to see Dawood as someone who is not hostile to Islam and consequentlty has nbon axe to grind by producing translations designed to show Islam in a bad light. .  His introduction to the translation makes this clear:  “The Koran is the earliest and by far the finest work of Classical Arabic prose. For Muslims it is the infallible word of God, a transscript of a tablet presereved in heaven, revealed to the Prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel.” Now for the quotes:

 ‘Because of their iniquity, we forbade the Jews the  good  things  which  were  formerly  allowed  them;   because  time after time they debarred others  from the  path of Allah;  because they practice usury  -   although they were forbidden it – and cheat  others  of their possessions.’ (Chapter (sura) entitled ‘Women’ - sura 4).

 ‘Men  have authority over women because  Allah  has  made  the  one superior to the other,  and  because    they  spend  their wealth to  maintain  them.  Good    women are obedient.  They guard their unseen  parts    because Allah guarded them.  As for those from whom  you fear disobedience,  admonish them and send then  to  beds  apart and beat them.’  (Chapter  entitled   ‘Women’  – sura 4). 

  ‘As  for the man or woman who is guilty  of  theft,    cut  off  their  hands to  punish  them  for  their   crimes.  That is the punishment enjoined by Allah.’    (Chapter entitled ‘The Table’ – sura 5).

 ‘As  for the unbelievers,  the fire of Hell  awaits  them.  Death shall not deliver them,  nor shall its   torment be ever lightened for them.  Thus shall the  thankless  be  rewarded.’  (Chapter  entitled  ‘The  Creator’).

 ‘Prophet,  make  war  on the  unbelievers  and  the   hypocrites and deal vigorously with them.  Hell  is  their home.’ (Chapter entitled ‘Repentance’ – sura 9).

  ‘When the sacred months are over slay the idolators wherever you find them. Arrest them,  besiege them,   and  lie in ambush  everywhere for them.’  (Chapter               entitled ‘Repentance’ – sura 9).

“Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends. Whoever of you seeks their friendship shall become one of their number. Allah does not guide the wrongdoers.” (Chapter  The Table – Sura 5)

“Believe in none except those that follow your own religion.” (Chapter The Imrans - sura 3)

‘Believers, do not  choose the infidels rather than the faithful for your friends. ‘ (Chapter Women – sura 4)

‘Unbelievers are those who declare: ‘Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary.’ (Chapter The Table – sura 5)

“The unbelievers are your inveterate enemies.” (Chapter Women – sura 4) 

“The only true faith in Allah’s sight is Islam.He that denies Allah’s revelations should know that swift is God’s reckoning.” (Chapter entitled The Imrans –  Sura 3)

  ‘You shall not wed pagan women, unless they embrace  the faith. A believing slave-girl is better than an  idolatress…’ (Chapter entitled ‘The Cow’ – sura 2).

  ‘Believers,  retaliation  is  decreed  for  you  in  bloodshed: a free man for a free man, a slave for a    slave,  and  a  female  for  a  female.’   (Chapter entitled ‘The Cow’ -sura 2).   

  ‘Remember the words of Lot, who said to his people : “Will you persist in these indecent acts which no other nation has committed before you? You lust after men instead of women. Truly, you are a degenerate people.”‘(Chapter  The Heights -sura 7).

In  that small selection – and the Koran is  jam-packed  with similar  injunctions  – we  have  anti-Semitism,  homophobia,  sanction for the subordination of women and the right to beat  them  and   general calls to strike  down  non-Muslims.   In   short  the Koran contains much which is illegal not  only  in  terms of the behaviour  it sanctions for Muslims, but also in terms  of  breaching the laws  regarding  racial  incitement.

The genesis of  Christianity and Islam are very different. Christianity spent several centuries as a persecuted religion. This eventually resulted in a quietest mentality whereby the religion was practised in the main  as a private devotion which did not challenge the state. The emperor Constantine  then made it the state religion of Rome in the early fourth century   whereby it became an instrument of state. This brought it under another form of control.

Islam’s development was the reverse of Christianity. From the first it was an aggressive, expansionist religion which spread itself through war. It was an elite ideology which  lacked the refining period of persecution experienced by Christianity to make it meek.  It remains so to this day.

*http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/8272933/Baroness-Warsi-Islamophobia-seen-as-normal.html

Reason is not the primary driver of Man

Man, at least in his modern secular First World form, has the illusion of free will. That is unsurprising because he is a highly intelligent and self-conscious entity with a discrete personality and an ego and it is natural for such a being to think that the choices they make are free choices insofar as they act without overt constraints from other people, their biology or brute circumstances. In fact, free will is an illusion not as a consequence of the constraints of human biology or the nature of the universe Man inhabits but as a consequence of the fact that the concept is a logical nonsense.

Imagine the most powerful entity which can exist: the omnipotent, omniscient god. Such a being can not have free will because it must have a discrete intelligence which is conscious of its existence, in short a conscious mind. Any such mind will require motivation otherwise it would never act, it must have desires, it must have what we would call a personality. Consequently, the omnipotent, omniscient god would be in the same general existential position as a man, that is, bound by its own mentality.

Of course Man is in vastly more constrained circumstances than the omnipotent, omniscient god. Human beings live within the general constraints that apply to every other organism. We copulate, eat, drink, and sleep, fight, respond to weariness perform our bodily functions in the same way that an animal does, without any great thought. We feel desire or necessity and act on impulse.

Within our bodies a great system of checks and balances – repair mechanisms and the automatic systems needed for an organism to function – continue without our conscious control or even our awareness of the functions being accomplished. Hormones and enzymes control not only essential functions but our emotions and desires. Physical illness or wellness determines how we behave.

What we experience in our minds is a very different thing from what actually comes through our senses. All we can perceive is what our biology and experiential “programming” allows us to perceive. We can only see or hear within certain wavelengths of light and sound. Our senses change in their efficacy throughout life. All external stimuli are filtered through our brains and are the brain’s best guess at what has been perceived, hence the ease with which we mistake things either through insufficient data (for example, something seen in shadow) or through the brain matching sense data with something we already know, for example, when we see a man’s face in a cloud.

Our mental world is subject to congenital differences which affect behaviour. These range from differences in mental capacity and special talents to brain defects and injuries. Someone born with Downs Syndrome, severe epilepsy or autism perceives the world very differently to someone born without such conditions. Their capacity for rational behaviour is much reduced because their level of understanding is reduced. The most severe example of innate disablement of the rational are those people born without the development of the frontal lobes, the acephaletic. These unfortunate individuals occasionally survive and behave in a manner which seems to be entirely without conscious reason.

We also know from much experience that injuries to the brain or the effects of disease or ageing can have the same effect as innate abnormalities. Those who suffer brain injuries sometimes develop behavioural traits which are completely different from what they had before. They may become more violent or more subdued, lose their initiative or develop new talents or inclinations such as artistic impulses. Frontal lobotomies subdue behaviour. Age leads to declines in rationality ranging from loss of short term memory to full blown senile dementia.

In our brains we store a myriad of memories which act as both primers for action and the means to take action. We see someone we do not like and respond with open hostility or caution. We meet a situation which appears to be dangerous because we have previously met it or a situation which resembles a danger we have imagined and feel fear and act accordingly. We see someone we love and act favourably towards them. Of course, our memories do much more than provide immediate or particular behavioural responses for they also shape our general character within the confines of the basic, genetically determined personality.

What constitutes a learned response? Not a simple thing to define. Keeping your hand away from fire after you have been burnt is obviously such. Going from A to B along a familiar route is another. Putting a cake in an oven at a particular heat for a particular time a third. But suppose I  master the philosophy of Kant. If I explain his philosophy without commentary to someone that might reasonably be described as a learned response in the sense that I am merely regurgitating what I have learnt. Yet it is also true that the act of comprehending Kant goes beyond mere memory and the effort of remembering what Kant’s philosophy is after it has first been learnt is a very different thing from recalling a piece of “inert data” such as the date of the Battle of Hastings.

Mental calculation is, of course, more than prolonged self-conscious intellectual consideration. It is what happens when someone calculates the distance to throw a ball or how to place pieces in a jigsaw or spontaneously comes up with a clever pun, as well as the sustained mental thought which led Newton and Einstein to develop their physics or Aristotle his logic.

Somewhere in between lies the great mass of considered utilitarian mental  calculation such as computer programming and applied mathematical  computation and the everyday  ability  to  see contradictions and connections  and to generally engage in  logical reasoning.

We function as organisms at various levels. We do some things without conscious thought: we breathe, produce hormones and enzymes, and circulate the blood, digest food and so on. Our biology produces basic states of mind such as hunger, fear and sexual desire over which we have little control although we are conscious of the states of mind. Then come conscious choices which are designed to give us pleasure or at least satisfaction; we decide on an activity which we know will produce pleasant sensations or avoid unpleasant ones. Finally, we have rational thought designed to solve particular problems.

Man, or at least Man in advanced modern societies, flatters himself that he is a rational being whose behaviour is the consequence of consideration. (Even without free will, a self-conscious being could still operate rationally within the confines of its existential circumstances). In fact, most human behaviour is not rational in the sense of being self-consciously decided after having weighed the pros and cons of what to do or of trusting what we perceive to be the rational decisions of others, whether by engaging in self-decided emulation or through the suggestion or order of another.

Most of what we do falls into three classes of behaviour: the repetition of rational behaviour which has previously proven successful, or at least not harmful, what our biology tells us to do, for example to drink, or as an unconsidered response which is a consequence of whatever constitutes an individual’s basic personality, for example, traits such as timidity, aggression, affection. Even when we self-consciously decide on future action, our decisions are mediated by our knowledge of what has happened before, our biology and our personality traits, both innate and developed.

Men are frequently faced with conscious decisions which they are unable to decide rationally because they lack the knowledge or intellect to do so. Sometimes they fail to make a decision because of fear. In all these circumstances the individual does one of three things: (1) he makes a decision simply to make a decision, (2) he follows the herd or (3) he allows himself to be manipulated by another individual.

Most of this (to various degrees) automated behaviour is at worst harmless and at best positively desirable – it would be an impossible world if we had to seriously consider every deliberate action before acting, not least because it would be utterly exhausting. But it can be damaging. Even when acting self consciously, humans are quite frequently in the grip of ideas which are in themselves objectively wrong or at least have no certain truth. Moreover, those afflicted with such ideas often know at some level their beliefs are suspect – the reason that believers in religions or secular ideologies are generally very keen on suppressing any questioning of their beliefs is because they know in their heart of hearts that they will not stand up to questioning. Yet men adhere to such ideas and act upon them  even though their reason tells them that they are questionable or even plain wrong because they are emotionally satisfying in themselves or they are group values from which the individual gets emotional satisfaction from sharing in the group experience.

Alternatively, group pressure may produce a state of mind whereby the individual does not actually believe something but is conditioned not to question it because at some level the mind has marked such questioning as dangerous or inappropriate. In our own time political correctness produces such feelings in many.

Where a set of ideas form an ideology the effect is particularly pernicious, both because of the multiplication of error and because the tendency to adopt a religious attitude towards the ideas is heightened, for to deny one part of the ideology is to question its general veracity. (By an ideology I mean a mental construct which consists of a menu of tenets which the adherent applies without regard to their utility or truth). The observance of the ideology becomes an end in itself. All ideologies are inadequate to a lesser or greater extent, because they are menus of ideas which are (1) incompatible and/or (2) based on premises which are objectively false or at least debatable.

An example of (1) is the attitude of libertarians to immigration. On the one hand they complain of the illiberal consequences of mass immigration – political correctness, laws which discriminate against the majority, restrictions on free speech and so on – on the other they advocate an  open border immigration policy. The two policies  are self-evidently incompatible.

An example of (2) is Marxism, whose claims of objective truth were routinely and consistently demolished by reality, the consequences of which were ever more fanciful revisions of Marxist theory to fit the evolving non-Marxist world.

 Sociological Constraints

Man is constrained by sociological laws of which he is only dimly aware. When a general election is held in Britain Members of Parliament are elected for one of 646 constituencies on the very simple basis of who gets the most votes in the constituency. There is no multiple preference voting, just a single vote for one candidate. As a platform for the study of human behaviour it is splendidly uncluttered.

Because people are voting for an individual it might be thought that the voting pattern throughout the country would vary tremendously because people would be voting on the record of the government and opposition in the previous four or five years, the parties’ stated policies if they form the next government, local interests, how the sitting MP has performed and the perceived quality of the other candidates in the constituency. In fact the voting pattern is always remarkably uniform throughout the country. If the swing from the Government is on average 5% throughout the country, there will be few if any constituencies which show a swing of less than 4% or more than 6%. This uniformity does not vary greatly with the size of turnout.

It is impossible to supply any plausible explanation for this behaviour based on the idea that Man is rational. One could see how a small population might be influenced by peer pressure and word of mouth but not a country of sixty million. Nor is it the consequence of modern mass media because the phenomenon predated television and the Internet. If I had to hazard an explanation it would be this: different personality types are distributed throughout populations in certain proportions as the consequence of natural selection working to ensure that human society functions. Each personality type will tend to behave in the same way. Hence, the aggregate societal effect in response to a particular stimulus will be relatively stable. When people vote in a General Election they produce similar voting effects because the personality types are distributed similarly throughout Britain and consequently people throughout the country respond to circumstances in a similar fashion. In other words, personality traits trump reason.

A less obvious example is the trade cycle. There is no certain explanation for why such a cycle should exist, but it is possible to provide plausible explanations for the ebb and flow of economic activity, for example, that there comes a point in the trade cycle whereby most individuals have purchased everything they want within the constraints of what they can afford and consumption lessens which in turn reduces economic activity which creates a further impetus to reduced consumption as people worry about the future. Equally, it is plausible that when the down side of the cycle has gone on for a while demand increases because goods need replacing and as consumption slowly grows confidence increases triggering further growth.

What is not so easy to provide is a plausible explanation of why the population acts uniformly enough to regularly create such a cycle. How could it be that the large majority of a population routinely respond in the same way? The answer again probably lies in a stable distribution of personality within a population.

What evidence is there for personality being so distributed throughout a population? Well, from our own everyday experience we all know that there is a range of personality types who are met in any reasonably large group, but quantifying such knowledge in an objective manner is to say the least problematical. Whether we have any “objective” statistical evidence at present largely depends how much credence is placed on psychometric tests which supposedly determine personality. Having seen them used to select people for employment I am sceptical of their predictive power, because all too often their assessment of personality fails to match the person‘s performance. More trustworthy although less focused is the information from psychological experiments. Many psychological experiments show personality differences obliquely, for example, the famous experiments of Abrahams in the 1950s on peer pressure and The Stamford prison experiment of the early 1970s. They showed recurrent patterns of obedience and disobedience and of a willingness to abuse and to accept or resist abuse.

A prayer and a reading for the laissez faire religionists

The Lord Mammon’s Prayer

Our Invisible Hand

Which art in the Market,

Hallowed be Thy name .

Thy economic Kingdom come

Thy will be done In Earth,

As it is in the Chicago School textbooks.

Give us this day our daily profit

And forgive us our losses,

But allow us to dun

Those who debt against us.

Lead us not into protectionist temptation

And deliver us from state intervention

For Thine is the economic kingdom

and the Market power and selfish glory

For ever and ever

Amen

Exodus from reason verses 1-17 King James’ version

1. And God Market spake all these words, saying:

2. I am the Lord thy God Market, which have brought thee out of the land of national interest, out of the house of safety.

3.Thou shalt have no gods before me.

4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image of state intervention or any likeness of anything that is in the theoretical imagined market above or that is in the market on earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5. Thou shalt not not bow down down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God., visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and foruth generation of them that hate me:

6. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my market commandments.

7. Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God Market in vain; for the Lord Market will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain.

8. Remember the trading day, to keep it wholly profitable.

9. Six days shalt thou labour, and make all thy profit unless that profit is not enough

10. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God Market: in it thou shalt not do any work, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates except when there is profit in it.

11. For in the six days the Lord Market made the Adam Smith, the Manchester School and free trade , the open borders for goods and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord Market blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it for the purpose of counting money. .

12. Honour thy wealth and thy economic advantage that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord Market giveth thee.

13. Thou shalt not kill and get found out.

14. Thou shalt steal if thou can get away with it legally.

15. Thou shalt commit adultery with the power money gives you.

16. Thou shalt bear false witness against thy neighbour when there is profit in it.

17. Thy shalt covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt covet thy neighbour’s wife provided she is fit, and his manservant and his

maidservant provided she is fit, and his ox, his ass and anything that is thy neighbour’s.

Intelligent Design is creationism in pseudo-scientific disguise

In the beginning was the argument from design.  This claimed that God’s existence was made manifest  by the intense intricacy, utility and beauty of the world, a state of affairs its advocates said could never have happened by blind chance but only through an intelligent creator. Analogies with God and watchmaker were most popular. The most famous advocate of this idea in the English-speaking world was the Rev William Paley who spent immense time and effort  either side of  the year 1800 attempting to prove his case.

The argument from design crashed into the intellectual  roadblock of Darwinism and the general growing rationalism of  the nineteenth century. The religious responded by covering  the argument with  a carapace   of metaphysical explanation  couched in scientific language . Their arguments took two forms. They either ran along the lines of “the human eye  cannot  possibly have evolved because how do you get from no eye to an eye through  natural selection?” * or claimed that the world, including apparent examples of evolution,  could be perfectly well explained by either God setting off a system which evolved to His plan.

However, some still hankered after immediate creationism. Some just left it at that and said faith proved it to be true. But some  decided to justify the creationist argument using rational  forms if not rational means. So they began to say that it was a theory just like Darwinism. They began to produce   arguments couched in   scientific language  but essentially non-scientific because what they claimed could never be objectively tested. Often what they claimed required the Darwinists to prove a negative, for example, to show that this or that feature could not have arisen by means other than natural selection.  In short, scientific creationism bears the same relationship to science as democratic centralism does to democracy, the answer in both cases being none.

But the scientific  creationists had a problem – they just could not keep God out the picture. But the more intelligent amongst them realised that introducing the Christian  God and  Genesis into the argument made them and rationality strangers in the eyes of most and so they  re-packaged the belief without  Jehova and the Bible and called it Intelligent Design  (ID). It  is scientific creationism in disguise, Christianity without the Bible as it were.

Contrary to what  the  ID/creationists claim, there is ample evidence that Darwinism is correct.   We have the fossil evidence of  long runs of evolving organisms such as the horse and pig – an ID advocate would have to believe either that the intelligent designer created each individually or that the intelligent designer set the world off on a course in which everything would evolve to a pre-ordained pattern.

We also know from organisms occurring naturally that variations in a species are commonplace and from animal breeding that organisms are quickly malleable and can be manipulated through selective breeding within a few generations to enhance desired traits. Controlled experiments have also demonstrated  that agents such as radioactive materials and heat can create mutations.  In addition, geneticists have begun to identify the genes which control biological development and behaviour, which explains how  variation occurs.

Rapidly increasing understanding of genetics has  shown that all organisms are genetically linked, in some cases surprisingly very closely.  This  strongly suggests but does not prove evolution – it is conceivable but improbable that each organism could be individually designed. .

Common observation tells anyone that  the natural world has at the least not been directly  designed by an intelligent creator. We can tell this from the Heath Robinson nature of organisms. These, far from being highly engineered examples of organic perfection, contain within themselves just the type of development one would expect from evolved organisms: structures which are clearly adapted from structures with different functions. Look at a flatfish such as a plaice. Its mouth and eyes etc  have been twisted round through about 90 degrees to allow the fish to place its previously vertical body  sideways in the water. The twisting is very obvious and the result crude and not as one would expect from something deliberately designed.

It is of course possible, as I have mentioned above, that every organism is individually created or that the whole of evolution has been the consequence of an event such as the working out of a computer programme. However, there is no evidence whatsoever for this and in principle there could never be because it would be impossible to provide objective evidence that it was the truth for the same reason one cannot provide evidence of a God: there is no way of demonstrating that such knowledge was more than a fantasy.

The God problem for ID/Creationists

Imagine that ID is the truth. The ID/Creationists have a bit of a problem. They are, to the best of my knowledge, all Christians. Yet if their God is responsible for creating the world he cannot be the God of love, whose first priority is the wellbeing of Man.

When Darwin was an old man he  said something along to the effect that when he contemplated the natural world he shuddered at the thought of a mind who could have created something so barbaric.   What God of love would create predators, many of which eat their prey alive? What God of love would  visit so much suffering by way of disease? What God of love would make organisms grow old and defunct rather than letting them die when vigorous? What God of love would create natural disasters such as floods, droughts, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes?

If the ID/creationists are truly sincere  in their belief in a creator they must conclude that their god is, in human terms, psychopathic.

* The mechanism for the evolution of the eye by Darwinian means is easily demonstrated.  The starting point are a few light sensitive cells (some living animals have such things). . These  prove useful and more cells develop in succeeding generations. Then a protective cover develops. This gradually develops into a lens and so on until the eye as we know it is formed.

The geneticist Steve Jones (D Tel 31 August)  described research on the nerve transmitter serotonin. The research shows that a receptor for serotonin  on the surface of brain cells  varies in quantity from individual to individual. The fewer you have the more likely you  are to be anxious and nervous. Strong correlations exist between schizophrenics and religious believers and the number of receptors they have – the fewer the number of receptors, the greater likelihood of either state of mind existing.

As Jones puts it “The molecular lock into which serotonin key fits is, it seems, Beezlebub’s own protein, for to inherit a decent dose of  it is as good a vaccine against belief as was compulsory school assembly.”

What is the rational position on religion?

With believers and avowed atheists energetically  locking horns as a consequence of events such as the Pope’s visit and Stephen Hawking’s latest offerings on  God to no certain purpose what, if anything, is an  objectively  rational position to take with regard to religion?

 It is reasonable to dismiss all religions as man-made artifacts because (1) they all rely on the supernatural, something for which there is no objective evidence, (2) particular varieties of religious belief tend to pass from parents to children, for example, Roman Catholic parents will tend to have children of the same faith, (3) religions tend to congregate in specific territories and (4) religions tend to reflect the cultures from which they arose. 

Atheism is intellectually unsound because like religious belief it is being dogmatism based on assertion.  The strongest philosophical position on whether there is a being we might call God is agnosticism. 

What is not reasonable is to assert is that there is definitely not a being with the attributes of a God. This is so for a beautifully simple reason: the very fact of existence.  That fact demolishes the argument that it is up to the believers to prove there is a God for the fact of existence creates the possibility of one, a possibility which has the same status as the possibility that there is not a God.

 The question of whether there is a God is unanswerable rationally. We could in principle discover if our universe had been created by an active intelligence, but that would not answer the question ultimately for the problem would then arise of who created the creator and so on ad infinitum.

There are further problems: while it might be possible to prove that the universe had an immediate creator, it would be impossible to prove that it had no beginning or end or that it came into existence at a particular point through no directed agency, that is, it simply arose. The former case would fail because it would involve proving that the universe had lasted for an infinite period and the infinite cannot be measured, and in the latter case,  no proof could be produced which would rule out the possibility of acreator, because there would be no way of demonstrating that what was perceived to be the spontaneous and undirected production of the universe was not in fact the result of a creator whose existence was as yet hidden.

 Because of these considerations the rational position is that the universe may or may not have been the result of active creation by an intelligence with the attributes we assign to the concept of a God.

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