The Skeptic Canary

The blog of Dr Tom Williamson, atheist, humanist, skeptic and Norwich City fan!

Archive for the ‘humanism’ Category

Nadine Dorries using flawed logic against humanists

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Nadine DorriesYou’ve just got to love Nadine Dorries. The conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire has been in the sights of people like Tim Ireland for quite awhile now, thanks to her irrational stances on issues such as abortion, and for claiming that her own blog is “70% fiction”.

As a result of Dorries stance on abortion and her position on sex education, New Humanist magazine have included her as a nominee in their annual Bad Faith awards. Naturally, Dorries hasn’t taken too kindly to it, and the other day squeezed out a short post on humanists on her blog:

I am not sure why anyone would admit to being a humanist and part of an organisation which has such extreme views. A humanist recently commented that, not only did he believe that abortion was acceptable right up to the moment of birth, but that termination of a child’s life was acceptable up until the point where the child had the ability to reason, understand and justify life.

At first, it looks like Dorries is basing her opinion on a rather large group of people based on nothing but rumour (and I’m not editorialising, that one quote is about half of the whole blog post). Obviously it’s easy to tell the glaring logical errors Dorries is making at this point, but it gets worse. Dorries felt the need to clarify her position and even name the person in question as the philosopher Peter Singer:

In 1979 he wrote, “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons”; therefore, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

In 1993 he stated that no newborn should be considered a person until 30 days after birth and that the attending physician should kill some disabled babies on the spot.

OK, a few issues here. Firstly, this is Peter Singer we are talking about, it’s very involved and complicated philosophy, it’s not something you can dip your feet into and cherry pick as Dorries has done. I can’t claim to be particular au fait with Singer’s work, although some of you might know that I’ve criticized his stance on animal rights in the past. Second, Dorries says that “a humanist recently commented”, and the most recent citation she comes up with is from 1993. She also tells people they can read more on Singer and directs them to the Christian Research Institute, an evangelical apologetics group. Quite a source!

So far, so much fiction. However, my main beef his her extremely warped thought process. Even if Singer did advocate infanticide, why does that mean that all humanists would agree with him? I find it amazing that Dorries can get away with this stance, because I believe that if she tried it with a religious group she’d be in very hot water. Imagine if she’d said something like this:

How can anyone subscribe to Judaism when Baruch Goldstein was Jewish? He committed a massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs. It’s scary to think how many people out there hold such extreme views.

Yet when an MP such as Dorries has a go at humanists, no-one bats an eyelid. Perhaps it’s time for us humanists to get just a little bit pissed off?

 

 

Written by Tom

October 26th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

BHA’s Census Campaign hits Liverpool buses

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Whilst out and about in Liverpool today, I spied a few much-anticipated adverts for the BHA’s Census Campaign on the sides of a few buses. It’s always great to see humanist causes championed, but immediately I noticed something wrong. Rather than the snappy, humorous phrase on their website:

If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so

I was instead presented with the rather blander:

Not religious? In this year’s census, say so

Apparently, The BHA have done this after being advised by the Committee of Advertising Practice that the adverts had the potential to cause offence. However, Dr Emma Chung and the Leicester Secular Society have decided to go against the BHA’s decision by keeping the adverts on Leicester buses with their original wording.

Now it may seem a little silly to argue over some wording, but there are bigger issues here. You could argue that the BHA are right to er on the side of caution. After all, no-one wants to fight any unnecessary legal cases. But, the rewording certainly gives the adverts less impact, and anyway, how likely is it to offend? After all, the CAP is merely advising, not adjudicating.

Personally, I think the BHA are wrong to make the change, but I can certainly see why they did. I am a firm believer of “You don’t have the right not to be offended”, and I’m with the Leicester Secular Society on this issue. However, let’s not forget the point of the campaign: if you are not religious, then for God’s sake say so when you fill out your census forms!

Written by Tom

March 5th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Posted in campaigns,humanism

Supporting the BHA’s “Census Campaign”

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The good BHA (the British Humanist Association) are campaigning for a change in next year’s national census. The problem? The question “What is your religion?” leads to a very distorted picture of the state of religion in the UK.

As the BHA explain on their website, asking “What is your religion?” implies that you DO have a religion, and it prompts people to tick a religion, regardless of how strongly they hold their beliefs. For example, someone who goes to church every week may tick the same box as someone who was baptized but never thinks about church. Consequently, people of religion are hugely over-represented, and all thanks to this one biased question.

This over-representation of the religious population has been used to justify various detrimental religious policies, including the expansion of faith based schools and keeping the 26 Bishops in the House of Lords as of right. To help stop this, if in doubt choose ‘no religion’ in 2011!

Written by Tom

October 13th, 2010 at 7:23 am

Posted in campaigns,humanism