Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh dear.

13 comments:

Iain said...

Hmm.

A very significant concession is made in the article:

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: "I have difficulty understanding why people with particular religious beliefs find the expression of a different sort of beliefs (sic) to be offensive.

In other words, atheism is being described effectively as a belief system. I think a lot of the hard line atheists like Dawkins would not assent to this; atheism is supposed to be an absence of belief in god(s), not a different sort of belief.

Political Scientist said...

Mr. Rilstone, I was rather hoping for:

"There's probably no God, but there is certainly no driver".

Bit bizarre, really. I can't really see a scriptural basis for his objection, and there is no reason to assume a bus driver is an advocate for what is advertised on his bus.
OTOH, the bus company seems pretty sensible:
"As a company we understand Mr Heather's views regarding the atheist bus advert and we are doing what we can to accommodate his request not to drive the buses concerned."

Andrew Rilstone said...

Yes. I wish I'd thought of that. Damn.

I thought the whole point of the bus campaign was that one particular atheist affected to find the expression of Christian beliefs offensive?

Is there a generally principle that says that drivers can object to the advertising on their buses -- can feminist drivers refuse to drive busses with sexist bra adverts on the side; can members of the Courtesy Society object to those childish French Connection U.K ads? Did atheists refuse to drive busses with adverts for "The Passion of the Christ" (perverted, barking, even worse than child abuse) or "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (irrational, likely to damage your brain.)

I'm guessing not.

Some sort of boycott of very offensive advertising my be valid, of course. I'd quite like to live in a country where bus-side adverts by the British Racist Party were perfectly legal but where drivers simply refused to take out those busses.

But I feel that the individuals probably shouldn't be allowed to have their cake and eat it: they should have to say "I refuse to drive the racist bus - but I fully accept that that means you can fire me as a bus-driver."

(c.f Mr. Lewis's remarks about conscientious objectors: one pilot executed for refusing to bomb civillians would make the point better than a hundred C.Os in jail for refusing to join the army.)

John said...

Obviously his obligation would be to resign if he had no option of refusal. He may have very well been ready to do that. But it's good to know he is being given the same courtesy as Muslim cab drivers who refuse to take dogs.

Shortly after Sep 11, there was a policy here in the US that interceptors would be allowed to shoot down airliners that threatened cities. I thought targeting civilians in this manner was absurd moral arithmetic, and I campaigned (in my local paper anyway) for the pilots to be able to opt out of any such mission.

Ian McDonald said...

I think Christians/believers need to learn to "turn the other cheek" at provocative stunts like these bus ads. Ignoring them strips them of their power. Dawkins and company are no doubt thrilled when people get upset over these ads.

If we're going to get upset, it should be over those who kill in the name of God, try to convince us that God hates those of a different race, color, creed, or sexuality, abuse their power within their church/temple/mosque/whatever. These are the real blasphemers and do more to turn people in to atheists than Dawkins and his ilk could ever hope to accomplish.

I really enjoy your blog, Andrew! Keep up the good work!

Andrew Rilstone said...

I believe that religion of Islam has a specific prohibition against coming into contact with dogs (or, if I recall correctly, the saliva of dogs.) So far as I know, the religion of Christian has no specific prohibition against driving buses with anti-Christian messages on the side.

The right to "practice your religion", ought to be respected wherever possible. This shouldn't be extended to mean "the right to do whatever I feel like doing if I say it has to do with my religion." Right of a Sikh to wear a turban: very nearly absolute. Right of a Christian to wear a base ball cap saying "Cliff Richard is quite good actually": very nearly non existent.

Iain said...

Ian McDonald wrote

If we're going to get upset, it should be over those who kill in the name of God, try to convince us that God hates those of a different race, color, creed, or sexuality ...

I'm 100% behind you there, Ian!

It is of interest to know that the fundamentalist pressure group "Christian Voice" are trying to get the adverts banned. Christian Voice are noted for their anti-homosexual hate language. Furthermore, they indulge in dirty tactics to propagate their agenda.

There exists a pro-gay evangelical organisation called "Accepting Evangelicals", consisting of both gay and straight Christians. A few weeks ago, I mis-typed their web address and typed .org.uk instead of .org. What I found was a web-page that superficially seemed to be "pro-gay" with the banner "homophobia - together we'll crack it". However, careful examination of the page revealed that it was a spoof website that had been set up by Christian Voice, with links to anti-gay propaganda.

(Note this does not work any more, the .org.uk address now directs to an entirely different and unrelated web address).

Christian Voice, in doing this kind of domain name hijacking are indulging in precisely the same tactics as pornography-pushers.

In fact it is difficult to resist indulging in schadenfreude in noting that Christian Voice suffered the same fate themselves - I mis-typed the Christian Voice web address by accident and got my screen covered with gay pornography of the most graphic kind. Not a pleasant experience at all, but it's hard to resist the temptation to say that it served them right!

Another interesting scandalous fact about Christian Voice is that I did a little detective work on the IP address of their website, which is a .org.uk address, which one would therefore think to be sited in the UK. However, it transpired that the host for the website is in Annapolis, Maryland, and the ISP is one that is usually used to provide large scale data solutions for US big businesses. No prizes for guessing where CV's funding is coming from then! Funds from fundieland, it seems.

dagonet said...

Ian McDonald wrote:
"These are the real blasphemers and do more to turn people in to atheists than Dawkins and his ilk could ever hope to accomplish."

Instead of them both attracting hordes of Islamophobes & Family Value cultists (that Dawknins brand of Glorified Reproduction has slightly different taboos being a minor detail) that seem to regard actual theology as, at the most, a colourfull side effect?

Iain wrote:
"No prizes for guessing where CV's funding is coming from then! Funds from fundieland, it seems."

Hm, wonder why CV does not mention that particular sponsorship more?

Iain (also) wrote:
"atheism is supposed to be an absence of belief in god(s), not a different sort of belief."

As a possibly too personal side note, I have never worried about believing in God, or even Hell: or had worries arise from these beliefs.
Some Protestants, in fact, hold such an attitude to be obligatory to salvation. I do not.
Though I understand 1 or 2 other people have felt differently.

Jacob? Have posted answers to your mail on the "definitely no bus" (second post of 01/09) thread.
Just in case you are still there?

Sam Dodsworth said...

Family Value cultists (that Dawknins brand of Glorified Reproduction has slightly different taboos being a minor detail)

I'm not sure I follow you here?

dagonet said...

Mr. Dodsworth:
Dawkins has, at one point, expressed admiration for the catholic system of celibacy, as an example of Memeology in action; he even expressed regret that ít was wasted on reproducing malignant catholicmemes.
Logic dictates that special orders of professionally Memeticians ought to follow: though one would willingly agree logic may not have much to do with it.

Sam Dodsworth said...

If you're thinking of "The Selfish Gene", then I wouldn't call Dawkins' view "admiration", exactly. He's taking celibacy as an example of a meme that seems to have no adaptive value on its own but whose persistance suggests that it has a useful function as part of a complex of related memes. This is by way of an analogy with his view of the way genes work. I'm not wholly convinced (there's a note of "this exists and therefore must have adaptive value"), but it's not really a controversial idea. Lots of ideologies include the idea that commitment to the cause comes above all other attachments.

The proper term for the study of memes is 'memetics', and there were quite a lot of would-be memeticists on the net at one time. The whole topic is no longer as fasionable as it once was - probably because the genes/memes analogy, although interesting, isn't really good enough to be the basis for actual science. But the basic idea (that beliefs propagate and compete and can therefore undergo something like evolution by natural selection) doesn't seem obviously stupid to me.

dagonet said...

Mr. Dodsworth wrote:
"If you're thinking of "The Selfish Gene"...."

Right, that was the title! Feared that it might have been a mere vision, brought about by overmuch fasting & prayer.

"....then I wouldn't call Dawkins' view "admiration", exactly."

On such points of exactitude, one can but bow bow to a supirior authority on the texts.

"....but it's not really a controversial idea."

Translated into, say, Catholic terminology involving "children of the spirit", slightly more so.

Am actually aware of that, just chose to ignore it (Hence "professionallyohdearwaitasec CELIBATE Memeticians". Hm, thats what I deserve for being "cute", eh).

"But the basic idea (that beliefs propagate and compete and can therefore undergo something like evolution by natural selection) doesn't seem obviously stupid to me."

Not to me, either: it seems, indeed, quite clever, & very obviously wrong.

Many fields of humantistic study - and others, at the stage of conceptualization at least - find themes, metaphors, & imagry: such as classical mythology, or the marketplace, or astronomy, to be quite essential. However, it also gives rise to the constant temptation of confusing such themes with the field of study itself - of thinking that litterature, say, is "really" Freudian psychoanalysis, or marxist propaganda, or the astrological influence of the stars.
Not to be alarmist, but there is a tradition in the West that confusions of this sort that involve biology have quite lethal results. Pretty regardless of whether they happen to be Darwinist or not.
(After all, they involve misunderstanding matters of life & death).
Dawkins has already suggested that evolution should influence ALL fields of human understanding, up to & including astrofysics. Indeed, he has made definite statements, based on this approach, about the latter: such as that things can not exist outside time, because that would mean they would also be unevolutionary.

If a theory is not even usefull to its related fields of study in the natural sciences, why in the world would it be more usefull for completely different ones in the humanisties?.

"....although interesting, isn't really good enough to be the basis for actual science."

I find many fields of biological study quite interesting, myself-arachnology, for example. But that does not make me want to insist that they can contribute anything to, say, networking.

After reading about certain Christian American conspiracies against our English (even Anglican, not to mention Moslem) way of life, one wonders why they do not also try to fund the Atheist (or, apparently, Agnostic) version of Brother Theilhard de Chardin?

dagonet said...

Er, & make that 1 "bow".
Yes, I am definatly a sober & reliable source, me.