Candide

catholic by birth; scientist by choice; sinner by merit. gaidhlig-speaking neuroscience student at oxford. likes to question everything! @di_macd

There is no such thing as a Little Scotlander

Vote yes for Scottish independence because Scotland would be one of the most progressive countries in the world.

Why (ironically enough) I am not an "Internet Atheist"

As I now actually have serious nationwide campaigning responsibilities, I’ve decided to move off Tumblr to a “proper” blog on wordpress. I thought I’d begin with a statement of intent, to explain why atheist (shorthand for atheist, humanist and secular) activism is necessary in the UK, and why it is different from so-called “internet atheism,” I haven’t had time to sort my theme and widgets out yet so the blog looks pretty shabby, but I think this longish essay is a reasonable defence of my new role, although its certainly coloured by own political views.

Why Humanist Marriage Is Important

The passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013 means registry offices and religious organizations will be able to marry two people of the same sex. Religious organizations must opt in to be able to do this while the Church of England will be banned from doing so altogether. We can predict that nearly all religious organizations (except e.g. The Society of Friends) will NOT opt in.

So, in reality, this bill gives gay people the right to marry in a small state-approved registry office by a registrar with only a few guests. Thus gay people will be unlikely to be able to have the large “big day”-style ceremony so popular with people today because the religious organizations which provide these will just refuse to marry them.

That is one of the reasons it is so important to support the campaign for Humanists celebrants in England/Wales to be able to officiate at marriage ceremonies - as they are able to in Scotland. This gives irreligious people the same right as the religious to a personal marriage ceremony which isn’t just a legalistic act run by the council. It hence also gives gay people the (practical) right to an actual marriage ceremony they control.

Personally I don’t like the idea of the state sanctioning and sponsoring certain relationship choices over others. However, so long as people want to get married, then I believe they should have the right to marry who they want, in a ceremony under their own control - and not controlled by the wishes of a priest or a registrar, of the Church or State. That is why it is so important to support the equal marriage campaign for humanism - it is inextricably linked to that of same sex marriage, because without humanist marriage, in practical terms, gay people will have no choice but to marry in an official state-chosen setting such as a registry office. The bill passed this week provides for a review into humanist marriage - it needs to be supported. 

(NOTE: When people have humanist ceremonies in England/Wales at the moment, they aren’t actually having a marriage ceremony. They have already had to go to the registry office to get married by the registrar. The humanist ceremony is just a celebration. Humanist marriage means the celebrant marries the couple, without any need for a servant of the state or church.)

A friend’s very funny, very feminist and very fucking awesome song! 

Thatcher and Oxford

My facebook feed is full of privileged private-school-educated Oxford students eulogizing Margaret Thatcher for her political achievements,

Conservative is the default political opinion in this university.

Even the lefties admire her “as a person.”

One day these red chino-wearing idiots who have never been north of Watford gap will be running the UK. They’re the bankers whose greed caused a financial crisis, they’re the politicians hellbent on destroying welfare state, they’re the future Little Englanders and Margaret Thatchers of this world.

Oxford is a great place to study with academics, but its also ridden with the kind of entitled right-wing Southerners who produced Blair, and Cameron, and Osborne, and the fucking Milibands - and even Thatcher herself: she might have been a grocer’s daughter but it was the Oxford wankers of this world she cared about, not the kind of people who’ll suffer because of the Bedroom Tax.

In the UK, you know you’re working class if you own one of these…

In the UK, you know you’re working class if you own one of these…

Atheists more distrusted than rapists?

mypetrockbernard:

candide94:

“atheists are, alongside rapists, the most distrusted group of people.” Maybe in your privileged world, they are. Um, have you heard of race?

MY REPLY
There a number of independent studies that have shown this to  be true. I know it sounds surpising, but here are the links, so u can see for yourself:
Scientifc American article on a University of British Colombia study:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=in-atheists-we-distrust
The original paper:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22059841
Here is an article on a University of Minnesota study, it states the conclusions, but I can’t find the original paper:
http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheitsHated.htm
I’m sorry but this isn’t my “privileged” world. These are peer-reviewed studies carried out with the highest degree of scientific and statistical reliability. Of course there ia a degree of uncertainty in the sample, but it is only small, or else the papers wouldn’t be published. If you can provide me with some studies that point to race being the greatest indicator of distrust, I would be quite happy to read them.
On another note, we must always remember that the modern USA was willing to elect an African-American president, but never an atheist one. This is just anecdotal evidence, so we can’t read to much into it, but I think it gives some backing to my point, However, as I say, better to read the studies.

I hate people. People are more willing to trust those who believe in the supernatural than those who follow a more scientific standing?

Well, I think the fact nearly half of all Americans surveyed find atheists the least trusted people stems from the idea that not believing in God means you have no basis to act morally. If that were true, then I can understand why they distrust atheists policy-makers or doctors…

Of course this isn’t true. We know very few moral decisions are derived from authority. The neuroscientist Joshua Greene has done some excellent work to show that moral decisions are usually instictive and driven by emotional involvement with the concerns of others. And when we do try and reason through our moral decisions, rarely is quoting an authority sufficent justification. Even when Christians interpret the Bible and decide that Old Testament commands to stone adulterous women ought to ignored, they are appealing to a set of moral concerns, over and above that supposedly provided by God. They are depending on a moral sense we all have, atheists included.

Moving on, I think the person who replied to me was just basing her objection on the commonsense notion that most Americans would distrust black people - I mean, we know there is racism, and we know crime-figures are high in the ghetto, so it would be reasonable to believe many Americans were prejudiced against their fellow black Americans. Of course, gathering the data has shown that intuition to be unwarranted.

(via bhamiseanlochlannaichaonuair)

Atheists more distrusted than rapists?

“atheists are, alongside rapists, the most distrusted group of people.” Maybe in your privileged world, they are. Um, have you heard of race?

MY REPLY
There a number of independent studies that have shown this to  be true. I know it sounds surpising, but here are the links, so u can see for yourself:
Scientifc American article on a University of British Colombia study:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=in-atheists-we-distrust
The original paper:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22059841
Here is an article on a University of Minnesota study, it states the conclusions, but I can’t find the original paper:
http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheitsHated.htm
I’m sorry but this isn’t my “privileged” world. These are peer-reviewed studies carried out with the highest degree of scientific and statistical reliability. Of course there ia a degree of uncertainty in the sample, but it is only small, or else the papers wouldn’t be published. If you can provide me with some studies that point to race being the greatest indicator of distrust, I would be quite happy to read them.
On another note, we must always remember that the modern USA was willing to elect an African-American president, but never an atheist one. This is just anecdotal evidence, so we can’t read to much into it, but I think it gives some backing to my point, However, as I say, better to read the studies.
agreatbigbagofdicks:

moff—ucked:

str0ngenough:

jeremypaxmanspants:

str0ngenough:

England isnt a country, its part of the UK omg

I hate to break this to you but england is a country…

you cant get English passports or be and English citizen, passports say United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England isnt a country its a region of the UK


If that isn’t proof, ask anyone in the UK. They’ll tell you the same.


The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is one country made up of two kingdoms: Scotland and England, one principality: Wales, and one province: Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a separate country. This is if we take country to mean a sovereign state that is a member of the UN.
However, this isn’t always the best definition. Historically, there is undeniably a nation called England, a nation called Scotland, even if they aren’t independent nation-states in their own right. Its up to people whether they want to consider England a country in its own right - because of its history, it would be silly not to. Just because its not a real political entity on the international stage doesn’t mean it isn’t a cultural or historical country…
People worry too much about definitions. Meanings exist outside the words. Okay if you’re an international lawyer you might not class England as a ‘proper’ country but that’s irrelevant when it comes to following the England football team, or attending the Church of England, or learning about the history of England…

agreatbigbagofdicks:

moff—ucked:

str0ngenough:

jeremypaxmanspants:

str0ngenough:

England isnt a country, its part of the UK omg

I hate to break this to you but england is a country…

you cant get English passports or be and English citizen, passports say United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England isnt a country its a region of the UK

If that isn’t proof, ask anyone in the UK. They’ll tell you the same.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is one country made up of two kingdoms: Scotland and England, one principality: Wales, and one province: Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a separate country. This is if we take country to mean a sovereign state that is a member of the UN.

However, this isn’t always the best definition. Historically, there is undeniably a nation called England, a nation called Scotland, even if they aren’t independent nation-states in their own right. Its up to people whether they want to consider England a country in its own right - because of its history, it would be silly not to. Just because its not a real political entity on the international stage doesn’t mean it isn’t a cultural or historical country…

People worry too much about definitions. Meanings exist outside the words. Okay if you’re an international lawyer you might not class England as a ‘proper’ country but that’s irrelevant when it comes to following the England football team, or attending the Church of England, or learning about the history of England…

(Source: youknowyourebritishwhen, via thepubertaddamsfund)

raptorific said: It's interesting that you mentioned creation vs. evolution, (although, point of order, that quote is from the Declaration of Independence), because Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, meaning he believes the universe was created, but continued from that point without intervention from the creating being. I like the idea of "created" because it works as saying that what's important is equal OPPORTUNITY rather than literal equality, meaning everyone should start life with the same doors open to them.

Well, most theories of justice (John Rawls and friends) imagine that this whole idea of equality of opportunity is indeed something created by humanity. We confer equality of opportunity on each other, so that kind of equality is only real because we believe it so. Its like the role of President of the US, there’s no real thing called a President, but by virtue of a general perception (whether you voted for him or not) Obama accrues this identity president. So the idea of giving each other equality of opportunity stems from a social aggreement among people to treat other people as objects in of themselves, with freedoms rights etc. Thats the basis of social contract theory.

Thus this kind of equality is independent of wherever humanity came from. It stems from the rules governing the interactions between people all over the world.

However, I have to admit, I have little time for this kind of theorizing. Social contract theory imagines this tacit aggreement to treat others equally somehow spontaneously arising from ingroup interaction back in the prehistoric. John Rawls actually uses the metaphor of a bunch of cavemen sitting down together by the fire and hammering out this contract to treat others equally.

However, I ask the question where does this willingness to treat others equally come from? The social contract isn’t so much a social aggreement, but a set of behaviours that were selected for within evolutionary time. I believe that there is an genetic predisposition within humanity to treat other people we perceive as humans as objects in of themselves - that is, the Golden Rule was selected for by natural selection. I’ve blogged about this before, in far more eloquent fashion and with supporting experimental evidence, so I’ll refer anyone interested to this essay:

http://candide94.tumblr.com/post/11787388815/evolutionary-psychology-and-morality

My only gripe with what I wrote there is that after reading Terrence Deacon’s work on language coevolution, I would tend to see moral codes as undergoing a kind of memetic evolution to best fit in with human nature. That is, the behavioural codes that are best adapted to being expressed within the context of natural human behaviour are more likely to survive than those that aren’t so (e.g. the attempt to create new family relations rules in the kibbutz). I think, then, you can rescue social contract theory and say that there is a human predisposition to treat people we perceive as being human as objects of moral concern, and that moral codes that encourage such behaviour (i.e. golden rule within the group of people we consider human) such as Christianity, Islam, Humanism are more likely to survive in what I guess I must call the meme pool. 

And after that longwinded rant, I must say I agree with you. We should strive to allow all people to start life with the same doors open to them - especially in education. But that doesn’t imply we ought to force them to walk through those doors!

P.S. I know Jefferson was a Deist. I think that kind of Deism is rather dodgy position though. Its the whole idea of a clockwork universe, whereby everything that happens is predermined in the systems (ie. Universe’s) initial conditions. And that therefore, if we knew the initial conditions, holding the laws of physics are constant, then we can know the future. This is one of those bland statements testosorone fuelled physicists (e.g. Brian Cox) like to make when they wanna sound profound. Yeah, if we knew every detail of how the quarks etc interacted we could know how to predict a heart attack, but we’ll never know because that kind of computing power is physically unattainable. (more points of interaction than there are atoms in universe). So instead of spouting truisms, these physicists should be helping develop imaging technology so squishy biologists can study the heart, or they should be put their differential equations to good use in statistical analyses of heart attack incidence.