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  • Conspiracy Theory and Scepticism

    Conspiracy theories are a phenomena that has always intrigued me. They appear to break all the rules of reason and rational thought. Those who believe them hold to them so strongly there is little one can say to convince them of their irrationality.

    The problem is that they can be quite destructive and dangerous. For example, here in Australia we, like many other countries throughout the world, are trying to deal with the covid19 virus. The government is promoting vaccination as an obvious strategy to defeat the virus spread. Yet there are quite a number of individuals and groups who believe that vaccination is a conspiracy. Many different quite absurd claims are being made, such as a deliberate attempt by some secret group to kill those vaccinated in the long run. The side effects have been deliberately incorporated into the vaccine to damage the body and so it goes on.

    In this presentation i will discuss the nature of conspiracy theory, what makes such theories so appealing to individuals and groups and what if anything can be done to counter their destructive impact on society.

    It appears, probably with the assistance of the internet, that conspiracy theories have increased. These include the World Trade Centre attack, the Corona virus, the corona virus vaccine. Also, global warming, the death of Princess Diana, the Kennedy assassination and the 2020 presidential election and many more. 

    Irrationality and malicious intent are the main features of conspiracy theories in most cultures. They explain many events as the actions of hidden, unidentifiable enemies. These anonymous perpetrators are powerful and malicious and are destructive of opposition to them.

    Both psychologists and sociologists have studied the nature and impact of conspiracy theories. There are several types of conspiracy theories some more destructive than others. I will discuss briefly two of the major conspiracy theories of the last 50-60 years relating to US presidents. I will not cover all major conspiracy theories due to space restrictions. Here I will briefly examine the Kennedy assassination and then the recent conspiracies around the 2020 US Presidential election.

    The Kennedy Assassination
    See the source image
    The Kennedy Motorcade Dallas 1964

    The Official Government Warren Report, a t

    horough going evidence-based report on the Kennedy assassination of 1964, found that the assassination was performed only by Lee Harvey Oswald himself alone without the support of another person or persons or any organisation or government body. The commission was extensive consisting of pages of evidence and interviews with experts, witnesses, government and military personnel, eyewitnesses, and many others. The evidence presented for this was very strong. It was however difficult to get firsthand evidence from Oswald as he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby a day or so after the assassination.

    According to the Official US Government Warren Report on the Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone without the support of another person or any organisation or government body. The commission was extensive, consisting of pages of evidence and interviews with experts, witnesses, government and military personnel, eyewitnesses, and many others. No evidence was given by Oswald as he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby two days after the assassination. However, The evidence presented for this was very strong despite this.

    See the source image
    Lee Harvey Oswald

    However, to be acting alone appeared to be too simple an explanation for many people and groups and it spawned many doubts and sinister interpretations, many of them quite bizarre. The Mafia, US military leaders, and even the new President Lyndon Johnson were said to be involved. The continuing questioning of the report lead to another congressional investigation in 1979 and it came up with the same conclusion as the Warren report.

    However, the conspiracies continued and some more bizarre scenarios accused the Israeli government. The Soviet government, the US Federal Reserve, the limousine driver, wound alterations on Kennedy’s body and many others. Almost 2000 books have been published on the assassination conspiracy and many polls even recently ones showed the majority of the American population believed Kennedy was killed by some sort of conspiracy. A 2009 CBS News poll found In 2009, 76% of people polled believed the President had been killed as the result of a conspiracy, see. [1]

    Thus the Kennedy assassination remains as a conspiracy for most US citizens. More than twenty movies and documentaries have been produced over the years since then most of them on conspiracy taking issue with the official original Warren Report See[2]. Below we will discuss some of the major features of conspiracy theory.

    US Election 2020

    Image result for Trump Images PNG. Size: 139 x 105. Source: pngimg.com
    President Trump

    Most readers will be aware of the Trump claim of fraud in the 2020 Presidential election. He and his immediate staff and followers claimed a conspiracy to ‘steal’ the election from him. The problem basically with the vote conspiracy was Trump himself who promoted it. He in fact encouraged the idea of fraud and contributed to the notion of an election conspiracy.

    The President Trump and his close colleagues asserted fraudulent practices in the election mostly by democratic supporters. These included the submission of unusually high numbers of votes in bulk for the Democrats. They republicans claimed the inclusion of democratic votes from those who were illegible to vote. Also, the use of faulty or manipulated computer voting machines favouring democrat voters and illegal manipulation of votes favouring Biden. Fraudulent hand counting of votes to favour Biden were said to occur. Republican ‘poll watchers’ or ‘election authorities’ complained they were not permitted to get close enough to observe counting.

    The focus was on states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan and Arizona that favoured Trump in the last election. They now showed a majority for Biden. Literally dozens of cases of fraud were presented to courts with most of them thrown out without being heard, (see a summary of such cases [3]). No significant frauds or corruption by voting officials were found. Fact checks show that statistics presented to courts were misleading and false. Trump claimed,for example, that in Detroit (Michigan) there were more votes than people. In fact the official election results show a 50% turnout in Detroit – this claim was false.

    None of this deterred the Trump camp who to this day claim fraud was rampant; even broadcasters and public figures favouring Trump who are normally quite rational in their presentations talk of a conspiracy. A fact check of the major fraud clams can be found here[4].

    The conspiracy also leads to more serious actions by Trump supporters who invaded the US congress on Jan 6th, 2021. Five people died in what is now referred to as an insurrection or an insurgency and much more damage was inflicted than was thought at the time as new videos[5]  have appeared to show the actual violence of the event. It is not clear whether Trump deliberately encouraged this insurrection. Trump initially appeared to support the insurrection, though as time went by and public outrage at the riot was expressed, he asked the insurgents to return home peacefully.

    The Insurgency

    Initially the media saw rioters as uncoordinated and disorganised with no plans of attack. Though video footage shows organized groups among the larger mob. Many of the rioters wore military assault-style uniforms, with flagpoles, batons, hockey sticks and chemical spray. Some carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs, suggesting they hoped to seize elected officials. It appears many militant groups were there. One of them know as QAnon, a major conspiracy theory movement was obvious in its presence in the election.

    QAnon

    Said to be a haven for conspiracy theorists, the QAnon group has supported a bizarre range of claims held and directed by democrat/liberal groups. QAnon believe the world is controlled by a group of malicious elites. The group has embraced everything from baseless associations linking 5G to health risks to the central Also, a child sex-trafficking ring has also been added as has inferences of cannibalism. They make special reference to ‘ritual sexual abuse’ though do not elaborate on what it actually is. This term is important for the discussion below in relation to QAnon in Australia.

    It has been difficult to track the leader/leaders of the organisation as they remained anonymous.Though recently a video series by HBO called ‘Q: Into the Storm’, has claimed the leader is not a high-ranking Trump official but a person named Ron Watkins – the long-time administrator of the group’s online home. Watkins who now lives in Japan has said he is in retirement as administrator. This move has been said to weaken the group as its posts have diminished since the congress insurgency. However, many disagree with the claim the group has weakened, it is strong in Germany (with connections with Neo Nazis).  As we shall see below, Australia also has connections with QAnon. In the US the Anon group has been seeking to explain Trump’s loss with reinterpretations of voter conspiracy.

    The Horned Man

    The horned man among protesters who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday has been revealed as actor and hardcore Trump supporter, Jake Angeli. Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP Dressed as a ‘horned man’ in a fury native American type head dress with bare chest showing tattoos and carrying a megaphone, Angeli refers to himself as the QAnon Shaman and the Yellowstone Wolf. Angeli is a regular protester in his native state of Arizona, appearing in various guises other than as the horned man. He is a Trump supporter, an actor and professional protester. He was famous for making the claim in a radio interview that the corona virus is an act of high-ranking government officials who used false information to defeat Trump..

    Australian Prime Minister and QAnon advocate Tim Stewart

    QAnon is known as having Australian members. One of these is Tim Stewart a member of QAnon and a friend of the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.  Stewart and Morrison have been mates for 30 years having first met at a local Baptist church in Sydney’s south. Morrison’s wife Jenny and Stewart’s wife Lynelle are best friends.  The Australian government had employed Lynelle to assist the Prime Minister’s wife. It was later announced that she no longer works for the government.

    The Prime ministers Office has been quiet about the PM’s friendship with Stewart and some members of his family. Though Stewart himself is quite open about his connection with Morrison. Stewart has claimed to have influence on the prime minister when it came to the 2018 national apology to the survivors of institutional child sex abuse. According to David Hardaker of Crikey.com in a text message on Twitter.

    ‘Stewart promised that “disturbing information” he had been given on school sex education would go “straight to Scott”. [6]

    Stewart has boasted to friends using his Twitter persona “Burn Notice” under the Twitter handle @BurnedSpy34, that Morrison in the Apology did refer to ‘ritual sexual abuse’. This was a supposedly coded term Stewart is allegedly said he suggested the PM use. In fact in the Apology Morrison did use the term ‘ritual sexual abuse’ to Stewart’s glee. Though Morrison’s office commented when asked about this term that it is a commonly used reference – which it isn’t. While the National apology went over very well, use of the term ritual sexual abuse of children has raised some questions as it is not often used at all about child sexual abuse. Morrison has distanced himself from QAnon after an ABC (The Australian Broadcasting Commission) report on ‘Four Corners” on Stewart and QAnon. He does say Stewart was a fiend of his even though he rejected QAnon’.

    Meanwhile Patriot Transition Voice (PTV), a leading QAnon site in the US has organised. Last month according to a Crikey article PTV,

    organised a rally in Dallas, Texas — the “For God and Country Patriot Roundup” — giving a platform to key Trump supporters including former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, a leading proponent of the false vote count conspiracy. Flynn argued that there should be a Myanmar-style coup in the US to reinstate Donald Trump, while Powell collected more funds for her pro-Trump not-for-profit organisation “Defending the Republic”.[7]

    At the beginning of this year, Stewart, using a new Twitter name, tweeted his support for the storming of the US Capitol in which QAnon adherents played a prominent role. He has since been silenced on mainstream media.

    Discussion

    This limited overview of conspiracy theory raises a few questions about why and how they take hold without much questioning. Psychologists and some sociologists have investigated the phenomena of conspiracy theory and have come up with a few suggestions.

    It is important to aim to be accurate in the reporting and causes of social and natural crisis as many individuals are impacted by them. Accurate reporting and investigation take time and require attention to the detail and complexity of facts. This is not the case with conspiracy theories, they are simply assertions of destructive intentions by hidden forces.

    Having said this, as absurd as some of the claims are, it is important to understand why some individuals find conspiracy theories believable.

    In the case of sudden and unexpected crises many people get anxious and even fearful of things to come. The World trade Centre attack caused great anxiety and fear and people sought answers to allay such anxiety. Among the answers were attacks by aliens, a precursor to an atomic attack by an ‘enemy’ nation (China, North Korea, Iran and so on) even an attack by US agents. Many will find some sort of resolution to their anxiety with these explanations – they provide a sort of closure. Also, in the face of limited realistic explanations some feel safer with believing conspiracies.

    Psychologists have identified a pattern of thinking they refer to as Illusory Pattern Perception associated with the human brains tendency to find patterns in the world that aren’t actually there. An example in Western Astrology is the night sky that shows twelve patterns of the Zodiac. These patterns include animals such as the Goat (Capricorn) The Bull (Taurus) as well as other phenomena such as the Archer (Sagittarius) and twins (Gemini) and so on. These images provide some meaning to the otherwise random distribution of stars and each sign is associated with birth dates and related personality traits and even providing predictions of individual futures.

    In other cultures, signs vary from the Western Zodiac such as in the Chinese Zodiac that consisted of animals, each one representing specific birth years. In ancient Australia there have been numerous star signs dating back thousands of years (these in the same night sky position of the Zodiac) for Aboriginal Australians. This has been recognised in a silver coin by the Royal Australian Mint. It features “Gugurmin: The Emu in the Sky”, from the sky lore of the Wiradjuri people of central New South Wales.

    While I am not suggesting that Astrology is a conspiracy theory the attribution of meaningful signs to random events shows a tendency of humans, or the human brain, to seek order in randomness or what appears to be chaos. A website on mental health discusses the relation of illusory pattern Perception to conspiracy theory making the point that:

    A study published in the European Journal of Psychology concluded that illusory pattern perception is an important cognitive factor involved in conspiracy theories. The study found that both conspiratorial thinking and supernatural beliefs were strongly correlated with each other and with the tendency to find patterns within randomness. Seeing patterns in chaos but no pattern in structured stimuli was a predictor of irrational beliefs.[8]

    Trump supporters found it difficult to believe that the election was lost (Trump in fact encouraged this), it caused uncertainty, and unexpected disorder. The idea it was fraud brought some sort of order to the anxiety. There were many reasons why the election was lost, and some were discussed publicly but for many, including Trump supporters, this complexity was too vague, confusing and unacceptable, so the simple explanation of fraud was appealing to them.  Fraud provided a more believable solution a single common-sense cause and brought about an enemy very difficult to detect, but powerful and evil. This idea of a malignant enemy would reinforce the notion of fraud. The postulation of fraud gives some sort of meaning to the result they want – and it provided them with a motive to defeat the conspirator.

    The notion of fraud also gave Trump supporters a sense of camaraderie and a feeling of control of the situation. There was convincing evidence against any fraud, this was ignored saying that the truth will come out in the long run. Many right wing media personalities agreed with this. For example, U Tube personalities such as Dave Rubin (The Rubin Report) Ben Shapiro (The Shapiro Show) both conservative and mildly right wing have indicated support for the fraud conspiracy by implying the truth will eventually come out. Despite all this the so-called facts or truth never did come out in the long run.

    Are Conspiracy Theories Destructive or Dangerous?

    The short answer is yes as historically most of them have been seriously destructive. Conspiracy theorists of the past include Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot and they were responsible for terrible atrocities. Other serious impacts relate to health care such as anti-vaccine conspiracies. All are to a certain extent destructive and the greatest problem is that they are almost impossible to dispute in believers. Rational discussion is generally not possible and, as argued, seems to increase their irrational claims, and make discussion virtually impossible as any evidence against them is construed as evidence for them.

    It is important to ask whether there is any action that can be taken to change minds. Psychologists studying conspiracy theory almost all indicate the strength of conspiracy belief and the very strong psychological investment in such beliefs. Thus, direct challenges (evidence against them) do not have an impact. Some theories do tend to weaken over time when predicted outcomes do not appear. The US Presidential election is now over, Trump has been replaced by Biden and talk of fraud has faded somewhat. No more fraud applications are going to courts. Also some of the main advocates of fraud have been sidelined and ridiculed. Rudy Giuliani, lawyer to Trump, had his law license suspended after a New York court ruled he made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” in the 2020 election of behalf of Trump. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary who made outrageous clams as press secretary has also been sidelined and ridiculed. Trump’s son Donald Jr. has made conspiratorial type statements that have been dismissed by the press.

    Probably the most successful way of reducing conspiracy theory is education. This means education on the role of scepticism and its demand for evaluating belief with reliable evidence. Some knowledge of scientific method also would assist. According to Douglas, Sutton, and Cichocka psychological research has,

    thus far has sampled from populations (under-graduate students and survey panelists) that are not particularly disadvantaged or threatened and that gen-erally do not endorse conspiracy theories. For these people, conspiracy theories are likely to be experienced as unsettling, destabilizing, and potentially alienating.[9]

    Thus, education may have an impact on reducing belief in conspiracy theories but for many such information does not reach them.


    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_assassination_conspiracy_theories#cite_note-Knight-23 retrieved 16/6/21

    [2] https://www.imdb.com/list/ls032836549/?sort=moviemeter,asc&st_dt=&mode=detail&page=1 accessed 20/06/21

    [3] https://standupamericaus.org/complete-list-of-significant-claims-errors-fraud-of-2020-presidential-election/ accessed 20/06/21

    [4] https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-55016029 Accessed 25/06/21

    [5] https://img-s-msn-com.akamaized.net/tenant/amp/entityid/BB1cFmPZ.img?h=720&w=1123&m=6&q=60&o=f&l=f accessed 20/06/21

    [6] https://www.crikey.com.au/2021/01/22/australia-qanon-conspiracy-joe-biden/

    Accessed 4/0721

    [7] Ibid

    [8] https://mentalhealthathome.org/

    [9] Karen M. Douglas, Robbie M. Sutton, and Aleksandra Cichocka, (2017) The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories, sage pub.com/journals accessed 10/07/21

  • Free speech Issues Translated from English by hafid ouayahou

    حرية التعبير وخطاب الكراهية والدين
    مرحبًا أيها الأصدقاء ، مرحبًا بكم في مدونتنا. في هذا العرض التقديمي ، أود مناقشة القضايا المتعلقة بحرية التعبير ومزاياها وقيودها والمواضيع ذات الصلة مثل خطاب الكراهية والتمييز. تهديدات خطيرة لهذا التقليد من الحرية الذي هو حجر الزاوية في الديمقراطية.
    قبل أن يصيبنا الفيروس ، كنت أحضر شيئًا عن حرية التعبير والذي كان في ذلك الوقت موضوعًا هنا في أستراليا حيث تخطط حكومتنا الفيدرالية للتشريع بشأن التمييز الديني. جاء الدافع لمثل هذا القانون نتيجة للجدل بشأن الزواج من نفس الجنس. تم إجراء التصويت البريدي أو الاستفتاء على المستوى الوطني بين 12 سبتمبر و 7 نوفمبر 2017 وأعاد 61.6 في المائة التصويت بـ “نعم” لصالح الزواج من نفس الجنس.
    كما هو متوقع ، أدى الجدل إلى بعض اللغة القوية من كلا الجانبين. فمن وجهة نظر دعاة مناهضة الزواج ، كان هذا الارتباط غير طبيعي ، والزواج كان مخالفًا لقوانين الله التي لا تنطبق إلا على الرجل مع المرأة.  كما تم في إجراء للتنبؤات.أصر الطرف الآخر على أن إعادة المساواة مع الزواج مؤسسة اجتماعية يجب أن تكون متاحة للجميع بغض النظر عن التوجه الجنسي.
    كان هذا الجدل مدنيًا نسبيًا وإن كان عدوانيًا في بعض الأحيان من كلا الجانبين ، وصُنف بعض المعارضين على أنهم كارهون للمثلية الجنسية وأنصارهم على أنهم أشراروخطاءين.

    كان أحد أكثر المعارضين صراحة لمشروع القانون معروفًا  لاعب كرة القدم الأسترالي الشهير للرجبي ؛ اسمه إسرائيل فولاو.
    تم عزله من قبل هيئة الرجبي الأسترالية الحاكمة لإدلائه بتعليقات عامة سلبية حول الشذوذ الجنسي. والسبب هو خرقه لعقده الذي وافق فيه على عدم إصدار تعليقات سلبية أو إدانة حول مجموعة المثليين والمثليات ومزدوجي الميل الجنسي ومغايري الهوية الجنسانية (LGBTI) حيث أرادت هيئة الرجبي الحاكمة تجنب الاتهامات من رهاب المثلية الجنسية.ليس واضحًا ما إذا كان القيد مكتوبًا في العقد أو ما إذا كان اتفاقًا شفهيًا أبرمه مع لعبة الركبي الأسترالية.
    Folau هو مواطن أسترالي من أبوين  من أصول مملكة تونغا (وهي أرخبيل تضم 176 جزيرة في المحيط الهادي)، وقد لعب في جميع قوانين كرة القدم هنا ، ودوري الرجبي ، والقواعد الأسترالية واتحاد الرجبي ، ويُنظر إليه عمومًا على أنه أحد أفضل اللاعبين في البلاد والأكثر ربحًا أيضًا. أولئك من الدول الجزرية الأخرى في جنوب المحيط الهادئ نشأ من قبل الآباء الذين اتبعوا شكلاً من أشكال المسيحية الإنجيلية الصارمة. إنهم يدافعون عن الحقيقة الحرفية لكل من العهدين الجديد والقديم باعتبارهما الشكل الوحيد للسلطة.  وبذلك فولاو هو ناقد متسلسل للمثليين وشعر بأنه مقيد لكسر هذا الصمت في’أستراليا الان” َAustralia time ، حيث يشير استطلاع الزواج من نفس الجنس إلى أنه لن يدعم أبدًا “زواج المثليين”.ويشير اليهم علئ أنهم الخطاءين مثل “اللصوص واللواط والسكارى وغيرهم كثيرون” هم حتما في  الجحيم “ما لم يتوبوا عن خطاياهم”.
    أدى ذلك إلى نقد عام ووسائل التواصل الاجتماعي لـ Folau – على الرغم من أن رد الفعل لم يحدث في المرحلة التي قال فيها إنه اقتبس فقط من ST.Paul في كورينثيانز
    ١ كورنثوس ٦ : ٩-١٠
    أَمْ لَسْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لاَ يَرِثُونَ مَلَكُوتَ اللهِ؟ لاَ تَضِلُّوا! لاَ زُنَاةٌ وَلاَ عَبَدَةُ أَوْثَانٍ وَلاَ فَاسِقُونَ وَلاَ مَأْبُونُونَ وَلاَ مُضَاجِعُو ذُكُورٍ وَلاَ سَارِقُونَ وَلاَ طَمَّاعُونَ وَلاَ سِكِّيرُونَ وَلاَ شَتَّامُونَ وَلاَ خَاطِفُونَ يَرِثُونَ مَلَكُوتَ اللهِ.
    هذا الاقتباس موجود أيضًا في الرباعية القديمة التي من الواضح أن بول قد استمد منها.
    كان بإمكانه أيضًا استخدام هذا الاقتباس الأكثر رعبًا leviticus 20 13 الذي يفرض عقوبة الإعداملاويين ٢٠ : ١٣

    وَاذَا اضْطَجَعَ رَجُلٌ مَعَ ذَكَرٍ اضْطِجَاعَ امْرَاةٍ فَقَدْ فَعَلا كِلاهُمَا رِجْسا. انَّهُمَا يُقْتَلانِ. دَمُهُمَا عَلَيْهِمَا.

    ​جاء الاحتجاج ضد Folau من وسائل الإعلام وممثلي LGBTI وإدارة قانون الرجبي الخاصة به. هددت شركة الخطوط الجوية الأسترالية كانتاس بسحب الرعاية واضطرت لعبة الرجبي الأسترالية إلى التصرف ، باختصار قاموا بطرده لخرقه عقده. لقد كان لديه أنصاره الذين قالوا إنه يجب أن يكون حراً في التعبير عن آرائه.
    فواو ، على ما يبدو لم يعتذر على الإطلاق عن تعليقاته ، مع مجموعة من المؤيدين قرروا استئناف قرار طرده أمام المحكمة الفيدرالية على أساس الاضطهاد الديني أو التمييز. كانت قضية فولو هي حقه في حرية التعبير والحق في القيام بذلك. وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي أو instagram أو twitter أو facebook أو أي مكان آخر في هذا الشأن

    في الاستئناف الذي قدمه إلى المحكمة الفيدرالية ، أراد فولاو اعتذارًا من لعبة الركبي أستراليا ، حيث تمكن من الحصول على دعم العديد من الشخصيات العامة وأراد بشكل أساسي أن تحكم المحكمة بحق  علئ أي شخص في التعبير عن آرائه الدينية. أيد رئيس الوزراء الخماسي القضية ، ويمكن القول إنها كانت حافزًا للحكومة على الخروج بمشروع قانون يدعم الحق في الحماية من الاضطهاد الديني والقدرة على التعبير عن الآراء الدينية دون تمييز.
    ليس الغرض من هذه المدونة هو الخوض في تفاصيل دعوى Folau القانونية ولكن Folau حصل على اعتذار من نوع ما ، وحصل على تعويضات كبيرة تقارب 4 مليون دولار أسترالي لكنه لم يسترد وظيفته. كان هادئًا ضعيفًا. ومع ذلك ، لم يردع ، لا يزال فولو يواصل التعبير عن آرائه السلبية حول المثليين إلى حد جعل زواج المثليين مسؤولاً بطريقة ما عن حرائق الغابات التي كانت في ذلك الوقت تدمر البلاد. ومع ذلك ، فهو يقول إنه لا يكره  أي فرد كان يقتبس  من الكتاب المقدس.فشل مشروع القانون المتعلق بالتمييز الديني الذي أعده المدعي العام الاتحادي المسيحي الحمال في الانطلاق مع رفض جميع الأطراف تقريبًا جوانب مختلفة منه. كما ذكر أعلاه ، لم يتضرر ماليًا ، فقد حصل الآن على عقد جديد مع الفريق الإسباني ، التنين الكتالوني”catalan dragons”.

    نزلت الحلقة بأكملها إلى الانقسام في المجتمع حول الحرية الدينية وحرية التعبير. كان للانقسام مدافعون غريبون ومفاجئون إلى حد ما من كلا الجانبين ؛ دعم حق حرية التعبير عن آرائه الدينية (في الواقع كانت معظم تصريحاته عبارة عن اقتباسات انجيلية وإعادة صياغتها). كان أنصاره من رجال الدين رفيعي المستوى وشخصيات عامة أخرى معروفة مثل آلان جونز (ساءق الفورمولا 1 المشهور جدا)وبث ذائع الصيت (والمثليين)(and Gay).

    أيضا ، مارغريت كورت ، واحدة من أنجح لاعبي التنس في أستراليا (فازت بـ 24 مباراة سيدات في جراند سلام لا مثيل لها من قبل أي شخص) معروفة بآرائها الدينية الإنجيلية وكراهية LGBTI (خاصة المتحولين جنسيا) واصلت الإشارة إلى أعضاء LGBTI على أنهم أشرار. تسبب في عاصفة من الجدل ولكن النقد لم يردعه.ومع ذلك ، كان ضد فولاو العديد من زملائه في الفريق ، والعديد من الرعاة من الشركات الكبرى بما في ذلك كما ذكرنا ، كانتاس ، بقيادة رئيسها مثلي الجنس والمدافعين عن حقوق المثليين.ما نفهمه من كل هذا ؟هل الاعتداء على من يقتبس من الكتاب المقدس يشكل اعتداء على الحرية الدينية؟
    هذا رأيي.
    يقتبس فولاو من الكتاب المقدس أو يعيد صياغته ، إنها حقيقة وليست كلماته الخاصة. ومع ذلك ، فهو يستخدم هذه الكلمات لتوضيح وجهة نظره حول الخطيئة ، ويبدو أنه يركز بشكل أساسي على المثلية الجنسية ، وليس كل الخطايا الأخرى المذكورة. كان الاعتراض على هذه الاقتباسات هو تحديد الشذوذ الجنسي (مثلي الجنس) كجريمة بنفس الطريقة التي تعتبر فيها السرقة والقتل جرائم .. كونك مثليًا ، يُقال إنه ليس مسألة اختيار مثل السرقة ، إنها الطريقة التي أنت عليها. والتي ليس لديك خيار بشأنها. هذا بالتأكيد ما يقوله معظم المثليين (وغيرهم في مجموعة LGBTI) عن أنفسهم ، أن هذا هو حالهم وأن الاختيار ليس له دور في هذا. إنها ظاهرة برامج الأجهزة.
    يصارع الكثيرون مع هذا ، وخاصة المراهقين الذين يعتبرون أنهم قد يكونون مثليين ويحاولون التعامل مع هذا الأمر. إنها مسألة تحديد هوية ويمكن أن تكون بالنسبة لهم وقتًا لأزمة شخصية يمكن أن تؤدي إلى مشاكل نفسية. القلق من المرض والاكتئاب: تظهر العديد من الدراسات أن المراهقين الذين لديهم جاذبية نفس الجنس هم أكثر عرضة للانتحار من أقرانهم من جنسين مختلفين.
    الانتحار هو السبب الرئيسي للوفاة بين الشباب الأسترالي – حوالي 250 شابًا تتراوح أعمارهم بين 150 و 24 عامًا ينتحرون كل عام – أكثر من يموتون على الطرق. مقابل كل انتحار شاب ، هناك 100 إلى 200 محاولة أخرى. يشير راسل وكارا جوينر 2001 إلى ؛أنه من بين عوامل الخطر الأولية لانتحار المراهقين ، تم الإبلاغ عن مستويات أعلى من الاكتئاب وتعاطي الكحول من قبل الشباب الذين لديهم توجه جنسي من نفس الجنس. وقد أشار بحث آخر إلى أن المراهقين المثليين والمثليات يبلغون عن مستويات عالية من الاكتئاب . وتعاطي المخدرات وإساءة استخدامها  وقد تم اقتراح أنه بالنسبة للشباب المثليين والمثليات الذين يقدمون المشورة بشأن هوياتهم الجنسية ، يمكن استخدام الكحول لتخدير القلق والاكتئاب المرتبطين بهما. وينبغي أن تركز جهود البحث والوقاية مع هذه الفئة من السكان على الاكتئاب وتعاطي المخدرات كمقدمة للانتحار.​

    العديد من الدراسات الأخرى تدعم هذا ، ويبدو أن فولاو لا يفهم هذا ، فهو بطل رياضي ربما يحظى بإعجاب العديد من الشباب المثليين ، وهو يدينهم تمامًا ولا يقدم أي تعاطف أو مساعدة.
    أن يتم إخبارك أنك ذاهب إلى الجحيم لا يتطلب منك الإيمان بالجحيم ولكنه يجعلك تشعر بأنك بلا قيمة وغير مرغوب فيه. كلمة أو مفهوم الجحيم هو مصطلح محمّل في مجتمعنا وحتى لو كان معظم الناس يرفضونه الآن على أنه المفهوم الوسيط لا يزال بإمكانه استحضار القلق للكثيرين. لا يزال العديد من المتدينين يستخدمونه لاستحضار الخوف ومع الأطفال على وجه الخصوص يمكن أن يؤثر بشكل غير واعٍ على نفسنا خلال مرحلة البلوغ.
    النقطة هي الآن ، هل هو خطاب كراهية؟ من الواضح أن فولو وآخرين مثله لديهم الحق في التعبير عن هذه الآراء. لم يتم اتهامه بأي جريمة قانونية ومن المشكوك فيه للغاية أنه لن يشرع أي هيئة تشريعية ضد الاقتباس أو إعادة الصياغة الكتاب المقدس.علينا أن نقول إن هناك أي عدد من المدافعين عن الكتاب المقدس الذين يسعون إلى تخفيف أو تفسير العبارات المعادية للمثليين وكراهية الأجانب وكراهية النساء والعبيد في كل من العهدين القديم والجديد. معناه الحقيقي ، هناك مسيحيون لا يأخذون الكتاب المقدس حرفيًا ويمكنهم رفض هذه القواعد البغيضة والقاسية باعتبارها إعلانًا قديمًا لا علاقة له بالظروف الاجتماعية الحالية ، ومع ذلك يصر الكثيرون على أن كل آية في الكتاب المقدس موحى بها من الله وبكلمة الله. يندرج إسرائيل فولاو على ما يبدو في هذه المجموعة الأخيرة.

    لا أعتقد أن مناهج المدافعين تعمل كسياق تاريخي فهذه واضحة ، فهي عبارة عن كتابات لثقافة بدوية صحراوية تعود إلى العصر الحديدي 3000 سنة ، ولم يكن لديهم فهم لعلم نفس المرض العقلي أو العلم أو أسباب المرض أو أي فكرة عن المساواة أو حقوق الإنسان ، ومع ذلك يتم الاستشهاد بها على أنها ذات صلة بثقافة القرن الحادي والعشرين. كما ذكر العهد الجديد ليس مختلفًا ، فهو يواصل تقليد رهاب المثلية الذي لا يمكن تفسيره بعيدًا.
    قد يقول البعض أن Folau له الحق في التعبير عن آرائه حول المثلية الجنسية كمواطن عادي ولكن كيف يمكنه ذلك؟ إنه ليس في الحقيقة مواطنًا عاديًا ولكنه لاعب كرة قدم مشهور وقد وافق بعد كل شيء على عدم الإدلاء بمثل هذه التصريحات أثناء عمله في Rugby Australia. نقض الاتفاق وقد تم طرده ، كما ينبغي.

    كما هو مذكور أعلاه ، فإن التعليقات على المثلية الجنسية لا معنى لها على أي حال وكما ذكر أعلاه ، فقد أشار الكثيرون إلى أن المثلية الجنسية ليست خيارًا كما هو الحال بالنسبة للسرقة القتل والاغتصاب كما يقول فولو والكتاب المقدس. أن تكون قادرًا على القول بحرية أن مثل هذه العبارات معادية للمثليين.
    إذن ماذا يقول التشريع الفيدرالي في أستراليا فيما يتعلق بخطاب الكراهية والتمييز؟ إنهم يندرجون تحت قانون التمييز العنصري لعام 1975 الذي يحظر خطاب الكراهية لأسباب عديدة. والقانون الذي تمت إضافته في منتصف التسعينيات يجعله “غير قانوني بالنسبة لأي شخص القيام بعمل ما ، بخلاف السرية ، من المحتمل أن يكون مهينًا ؛ إهانة أو إذلال أو ترهيب شخص آخر أو مجموعة من الأشخاص ؛ ويتم الفعل بسبب العرق أو اللون أو الأصل القومي أو العرقي للشخص الآخر ، أو بعض أو كل الأشخاص في المجموعة “.
    في يونيو 2018 ، قامت حكومة نيو ساوث ويلز بتعديل قانون جرائم نيو ساوث ويلز ليشمل تشويه سمعة جميع الجماعات التي تنتمي إلى مجتمع الميم(LGBTI) وحددت هذه المجموعات.
    تم توجيه عدد قليل من الاتهامات بموجب أي من هذه الأفعال ، ففي عام 2010 ، تم استخدام الصحفي أندرو بولت في محكمة اتحادية بسبب منشورين على مدونة هيرالد صن الخاصة به في عام 2009 ، وتبين أن بولت خالف قانون التمييز العنصري الفيدرالي لعام 1975. ووجد قاضي المحكمة الفيدرالية أن بولت قام بتشويه سمعة السكان الأصليين عنصريًا من خلال فصل هؤلاء من “البشرة الفاتحة” عن أنهم من السكان الأصليين لفضح وتشويه النظام.

    في النهاية ، أود أن أوضح بضع نقاط ، وإن كانت مختصرة ، فيما يتعلق بمشروع قانون التمييز الديني الموعود به في الانتخابات الفيدرالية الأخيرة ، وكان هذا نتيجة لما يسمى بالتمييز ضد التعبير عن الآراء الدينية. الأشخاص الذين لديهم آراء دينية من التمييز ، ومع ذلك ، فإنه لا يحمي فحسب ، بل يمنح أصحاب الآراء الدينية الحق في التمييز ضد الآخرين ، وبالتالي ؛ لدينا مشروع قانون للتمييز يسمح لمجموعات معينة بالتمييز.

    وفقًا لفرناندا دالستروم ، (انظر أدناه);
    (إذا تم تمرير مشروع القانون ، لا يمكن مقاضاة الشخص الذي يدلي بتصريح له تأثير في تشويه سمعة شخص على أساس جنسه أو توجهه الجنسي أو أي صفة أخرى بموجب قانون مكافحة التمييز إذا كان البيان مستندًا على أساس ديني الاعتقاد ما لم يتم البيان “بقصد خبيث”)

    هذا غريب ، كنت أعتقد أن التشهير ينطوي على نية خبيثة. يبدو أنه ليس كذلك إذا كان رأيًا دينيًا. يسمح هذا القانون أيضًا بالتمييز في التعليم في المدارس القائمة على الدين ، ويمكن فصل أو طرد كل من المعلمين والطلاب على أساس الجنس التوجيه بغض النظر عن أدائهم في الوظيفة أو في المدرسة. يمكن للممارسين الطبيين أيضًا رفض الأدوية والعلاج للمرضى في الظروف التي لديهم اعتراضات دينية عليها. يمكنهم على سبيل المثال ، رفض علاج المرضى من معتقدات دينية أخرى أو عدم وجود معتقدات وعلى أساس الجنس التوجه فقط: هناك أحكام أخرى تسمح بالتمييز في مكان العمل ، ويبدو أن مشروع القانون يتجاوز تشريعات التمييز الأخرى ويمنح الحقوق الدينية امتيازًا.
    أعربت لجنة فكتوريا لتكافؤ الفرص وحقوق الإنسان عن قلقها من أن مشروع القانون يعطي امتيازًا للمعتقد الديني على أشكال الحماية الأخرى من التمييز ، وأنه يقيد حق أصحاب العمل في تعزيز أماكن عمل آمنة وشاملة للجميع ، ويقوض الوصول إلى الخدمات الطبية الشاملة ويوسع دون داعٍ المجال الديني. الاستثناءات بموجب قانون مكافحة التمييز الحالي.
    لم يكن هناك شك في أن مشروع القانون هذا لا يحظى بشعبية ولكن له أيضًا تأثير في حماية مجموعة أقلية على حساب الأغلبية. آمل أن يتلاشى.

  • What is Intelligent Design?

    It probably can be said that Darwin’s proposal of evolution by natural selection as an explanation for the diversity of life on earth is one of the most fruitful scientific theories ever. This idea has spawned many scientific disciplines in addition to the biological sciences, and the discovery of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid which contains genes, and its function of replication that are the building blocks of all organisms has further enriched Darwin’s idea.

    However, there exists a small coterie of those who refer to themselves as scientists who take issue with the entire fundamentals of Darwin’s theory. Most of them are active Christians of the protestant variety (though not exclusively Christian or protestants) argue that evolution by natural selection cannot explain the diversity of life on earth without the intervention of a creator or a supernatural being. Their work is taken up trying to expose anomalies in natural selection. They distinguish themselves from the creationists who, mostly Christians also, reject the idea of natural selection and argue that all natural species were created separately and within the last 10,000 years. Intelligent Design (ID) advocates, accept a limited version of natural selection though they say the complexity of species requires the work of a supernatural intelligent designer. The ID movement have managed to gain significant financial support enabling them to establish institutions to promote their cause. One of the best-known institutes concerns itself with the publication of literature on Intelligent design and advocates to teach it as a science in US state schools is The Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington.

    This presentation is about ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID) whose origins are said to be found in the works of the British clergyman and philosopher William Paley (1743-1805) who produced many works on the natural world – Paley’s argument a precursor to intelligent design appeared in his, Natural Philosophy [1]where he argued for the existence of;

    “… an intelligent designing mind for the contriving and determining of the forms which organized bodies bear”[2]

    Paley was, of course, writing this prior to Darwin though Darwin himself was said to have read this work and was initially impressed by it though later rejecting it specifically in his own work. Paley was also famous for his use of the divine watchmaker analogy to explain the regularity of the solar system.[3] .

    More recently one of the most significant publications on Intelligent Design is titled Of Pandas and People: The central question of Biological origins”. Edited by Charles Thaxton.[4] This volume was produced as a high school text teaching Intelligent Design as a science alongside evolution. The editor Charles Thaxton is a creationist theorist and was an important person in the development of the idea of intelligent design. The volume consists of arguments against evolution by natural selection in favour of a theory of special creation by an intelligent designer. Some of the arguments ID put forward against evolution are mostly the same those of the creationist position and include the usual so called shortcomings – gaps in the fossil record and a lack of transitional forms. The emphasis of ID however is evolution’s inability to explain the abrupt appearance of new fully formed species.

     

    The adoption of the term intelligent Design rather than creationism was basically to avoid using the term God implying ID is not a religion. Recently the Arkansas house of representatives again ( a similar legislation was defeated in 1981) enacted a law virtually accepting ID as a science to be taught alongside evolution. The law was rejected by the State Senate in a close vote. Fortunately it does not now have to be heard by the US supreme court that is now loaded in favour of conservative judges who may be inclined to approve the move which would be a ground-breaking decision. Also, it would dumb down science teaching in the US.

    The belief in Creationism and Intelligent Design and a rejection of evolutionary theory is surprisingly popular in the US and some other countries in the West. In a recent Gallop Poll in the US (2019) 40% of those polled believe in creationism. They believe that God created life roughly within the last 10,000 years and reject evolution as that unproven theory. However, more Americans continue to think that life evolved over millions of years — either with God’s guidance (33%) or, increasingly, without God’s involvement at all (22%).

    In Australia the belief in creationism/Intelligent is surprisingly high though not as high as in the US. A 2011 poll by the Australasian Science magazine found 31% believe in creationism, 27% believe God guided evolution and 42% believe in natural evolution, without God.

    Following is a list of the major arguments of the creationist/intelligent Design movement.

    The Basics of Intelligent Design

    A) Irreducible Complexity

    • Irreducible Complexity is like that of ‘holism’ developed by psychologists who argue that a holistic or cybernetic system is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, if one element of the system breaks down so does the entire system as each element in the system is integrated with all the others and must be present for the system to operate. Evolutionary scientists do not deny complexity in organs but insist that such complexity can be shown, as Dawkins does, to evolve in small steps over considerable time, without the need to postulate a design.The flagella motor of certain bacteria are often use by ID to illustrate irreducible complexity and the need to invoke an intelligent designer to explain its complexity.
    • The flagella motor of bacteria (a sort of tail that dives the organism like an outboard motor) is favourite example that ID advocates constantly trot out to prove their point of irreducible complexity. The motor tail or tails of a single celled bacteria can move it to places at extraordinary speeds to environments that are advantageous to it.[6] The bacteria also can sense the advantageous environment (where it can absorb nutrients/chemicals for example) where it directs itself so is has movement and sensory functions. The bacteria can also change its structure to enable it to reach goals. This minute bacterium is very complex to the point that Intelligent Designers consider it is so irreducibly complex that it could not have evolved in the usual step by step accumulation of small mutations as it has to be a fully functioning system and can’t function as it does in an incomplete form as evolutionary theory advocates it was. Thus, it must have been created as a fully functioning system – by the supernatural designer.
    Bacteria showing flagella

    The solution to this so-called anomaly was in fact partially given by Darwin himself in that accumulation of function is not the only track evolution follows it also involves, as shown in many examples, by fundamental changes in function. This seems not to be taken into account by ID advocates. Whilst biologists agree it is the case that the bacteria in question requires all its parts to be functioning to operate as it does, they argue that evolution has many examples of changes in function as well as complexity. Thus, organs evolved for one function can change to perform another. Thus, before evolving onto its current form such bacteria it may have evolved from an ancestor whose function was altered in later forms.

    Penguin Wings

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Penguin-3.jpg
    Penguin Swimming

    To make this notion of evolution by means of change of function clearer we can look at the functional changes in wing function in birds. Wings evolved in birds and enabled them to take flight in the air, however in the case of a penguin its wings changed function to serve as flippers to swim (or fly) through the water not the air. The wings serve as flippers though they are, anatomically, wings and as birds their ancestry was through evolution as a wing, an organ that allowed many organisms to fly in the air. The penguin’s ancestor probably was able to fly in the air and maybe also swim as is evident in some birds currently. In some sea birds such as the cormorant the wings serve both as organs of flight and as flippers to fly through the water and they are adapted to do both though cormorants after swimming have to dry out their wings after diving in the water before they can fly.

    Vestigial Organs

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Flightless-commorant-10.jpg
    Galapagos Flightless Cormorant Drying its Wings

    A species of cormorant from the Galapagos (this is pointed out by Darwin) is the flightless as its wings have atrophied (they are referred to as vestigial organs) to almost useless appendages, but it is a consummate swimmer and has developed very strong unusually large webbed feet that propel it strongly through water and it appears to be able to hold its breath for a considerable time. This is unlike the penguin that has changed the wing function to that of a flipper while in the case of the Galapagos cormorant the webbed feet have increased strength to enable ‘flight’ through water. [7]  The vestigial wing has not disappeared as it appears not to be too much of a limitation for survival though some biologists find it serves some function in swimming. However, vestigial organs are difficult for ID advocates as they indicate faulty design.

     

     

     

     

     

    B. Intelligent design does not conform to the accepted scientific methodology of Methodological Naturalism

    It is important to make the point that both creationism and Intelligent Design break the accepted rule of scientific methodology, called Methodological Naturalism that is accepted implicitly by most scientists. It is that science is a study of the natural world by natural means and it cannot consider supernatural causes, divine intervention, or supernatural agency as an explanatory principle. Most scientists would agree (even many of those who are followers of a religion) that scientific explanations restrict themselves to the natural world. The reason is that supernatural cause is not an empirical phenomena and cannot be observed, measured, or recorded and if invoked would break a convention that has distinguished science from other forms of knowledge. [8]

    Clearly, advocates of creationism and Intelligent design disagree with this methodological principle. Stephen Myer of the Discovery Institute, (a sort of ID think tank) in a paper defending criticism of his position takes issue with the principle of Methodological Naturalism.[9]He claims (correctly) that normal science deliberately excludes reference to the supernatural and this is a problem for him as he claims (and most scientists disagree with him) certain phenomena can only be explained by supernatural means and that the convention of methodological naturalism unfairly excludes his own explanation of the explosion of life forms in the Cambrian period that he considers can only be explained by invoking supernatural intervention. (Meyer’s contention of a Cambrian explosion has now been rejected by most scientists though Meyer rejects this claim). I think Meyer misses the point as science has always operated on the basis of excluding supernatural explanations and it has worked by doing just that. He is correct in pointing out that many scientists are religious, however few if any of them refer to supernatural causes and explanations in their scientific practice. Even going back to Newton who was certainly a committed Christian and even claimed he was doing god’s work did not use supernatural cause to explain his theory of gravity.

    Whilst there are other critiques of both creationism and its modern form of intelligent design I will allude to in the next section, as a final comment it has to be said that neither position shows it can be referred to as scientific. They propose a designer in the places where they consider evolutionary theory is deficient and can’t be explained by an evolutionary process (the God of the gaps). In fact most of the work they do is to find limitations to evolution without undertaking much research of their own: basically this is due to the theory itself being limited in generating hypotheses to test. They are not able, or don’t consider it necessary, to provide evidence on the nature of the designer. The proposal of a divine designer appears also to suggest that no mistakes are made, and every design is perfect. This is far from the facts as we have seen as they suggest very imperfect or flawed design, and this for a non-material super intelligence?

    Another point to make about supernatural intervention is that ID advocates only focuses on cases they consider can’t be explained by evolutionary theory. Are they implying that an intelligent designer has to be invoked only in those instances where evolutionary theory is deficient? In those cases where evolutionary theory provides satisfactory answers is an intelligent designer still at work? What is the role of a designer in these cases; does the ID just let nature take its course in these cases? ? Thus logically it would follow that ID advocates have to also explain the the role of a supernatural intelligence in all cases even those that can be answered without invoking supernatural intervention. Is it not the case that if a supernatural intelligence can explain everything relating to the diversity of life then we do not need science at all? This is the conclusion that some creationists support – evolution is a myth as all life was created by supernatural forces in10,000 years, we need no further explanation than that.

    In the next section I will present an account of two highly evolved species both of whom have extremely sophisticated anatomical and sensory adaptations. I hope this will emphasis the raw nature of evolution its lack of a designing (and a beneficent) intelligence.

    The Cheetah and the Impala

    The following is inspired from an example in Richard Dawkin’s book “The Greatest Show on Earth’, of what he refers to as the arms race between the evolution of the cheetah and its prey (gazelles). This interaction raises issues relating to ID’s notion of God’s purposes in design.

    The Cheetah

    To observe the beauty of a cheetah and to see it in action makes it difficult not to speak of a perfect design. It is built for speed and every part of the animal is modified to that end. It is the fastest of all land animals able to reaches 96-127Kph.

    Cheetah

    The cheetah is a member of the family of big cats though it is quite distinct from the more robust Panthera species that includes the Lion, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard (now a distinct species) and the Jaguar. Anatomically it is structured for speed rather than brute strength characteristic of the Panthera species. It is now rare in Africa and is found in east and North Africa there is also a very rare Asiatic species though few are still are to be found in the wild – some hundreds in Iran and some perhaps in India though this latter is disputed.

    Anatomically and physiologically the cheetah is built for speed. It is the greyhound of the big cat family, being the same size and weight as the leopard but with a much sleeker aerodynamic appearance; small head and a very flexible elastic spine allowing it to make bounds of 3 – 7 metres, it has also a large long rudder like tail that serves as a sort of counterbalance assisting it to maintain balance and change direction at high speeds. Its paws a semi retractable unlike other members of the big cat family whose claws are fully retractable this feature allows the cheetah more traction. Though slim in body it has a deep chest to accommodate a extra-large heart and lungs with wide nostrils that allow a fast flow of air and increased oxygen intake for explosive speed. It also has exceptional sight compared even with the larger cats.

    However, as is common in evolution, advantages are accompanied by limitations. It can only maintain bursts of speed for minutes as it can overheat very quickly and must rest after this time to recover. Its slim build and small head result in limitations in strength, it is easily killed by lions if they are caught unawares. It also has a weaker bite with few smaller teeth than the other cats and can only overcome smaller prey such as gazelles. Also, it can’t climb as can a leopard to escape a possible predator.

    I would like at this point to raise the issue of design in relation to the cheetah. It is as indicated not a perfect design there are inbuilt weaknesses and disadvantages because of its advantages of speed. Is it possible that a human designer could do better? The question also arises relating to the purpose of the cheetah’s design as this is crucial to human design planning. In evolutionary terms, the purpose of the cheetah’s speed is clear to survive and to survive it needs to be fast as its prey are basically antelopes and other small prey who have evolved to survive as well and outwit the cheetah. A major prey of cheetah’s are smaller members of the antelope family gazelles. I will now address the features of the largest of the cheetah’s prey and equally magnificent, the Impala

    The Impala

     

     

    The Impala is a member of the Antelope family and it is only found in Southern and part of Eastern Africa. It is probably the largest prey of the cheetahs and can reach 92 centimetres (nearly 3 feet) at the shoulder and up to 80 kg (168 pounds) in weight. Males have impressive horns up to 1 metre. There are two species the Black Faced Impala being significantly larger than that shown above. The impala’s physical abilities are as impressive as that of the cheetahs. It has two types of features in speed that are impressive – it can jump up to 3 metres (9.8 ft), over vegetation and even other impala, covering distances of up to 10 metres (33 ft); the other type of leap involves  jumps (called stotting) in which the animal lands on its forelegs, moves its hind legs mid-air in a kicking fashion, lands on all fours and then rebounds and it can change direction fast in different directions. Of all the antelopes it is the fastest and highest leaper.

    Impala

    One of the Impalas’ major predators is the cheetah which can run faster and change directions almost as effectively though Lions, leopards and hyenas catch them if they surprised them unawares. While the cheetah can run faster the impala has more staying power and can outdistance a cheetah if alerted soon enough. The impala has a very acute sense of smell and hearing and a healthy adult Impala if alerted of the presence of a predator is almost impossible to catch.

    Richard Dawkins talks of an evolutionary arms race between the cheetah and the sleek small members of the antelope family especially the Impala that has evolved traits of speed and other senses that enable them to mostly out run and outwit fast predators such as cheetahs. The cheetah’s traits of speed and maneuverability must keep up with that of the impalas. The cheetah’s success in running down impalas is only successful infrequently and, most chases end in failure. The “arms race” analogy is apt as each animal, the cheetah and the impala, have an evolutionary history of each keeping one step ahead of each other. He balance is crucial as if one achieves an advantage then there is imbalance to the detriment of both.

    I think it is relevant to ask what purpose does this arms race serve an intelligent designer? Is the designer conveying some sort of message to us – what is it? Is the designer supporting the interest of the Impala or the Cheetah? Or is he simply playing a game?

    The ‘arms race’ analogy is perfectly in line with evolutionary expectations. The genes of both species are being passed on. It is at some cost to individuals of both species. Healthy impalas may escape predation for a time though those who grow old, become disabled and the young are more prone to be taken. The same applies to the cheetah individuals who are old, sick or disabled and especially cubs are vulnerable with only about ten percent surviving to maturity. It is in a sense a precarious existence for both species, as it was for early humans, but does the creator care? Why does the benevolent creator allow this misery to prevail for most species most of the time?

    Is this the answer we must accept?

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

    “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    So are My ways higher than your ways

    And My thoughts than your thoughts.[10]

    So there is an explanation we humans are not permitted to know about.

     

     

    It is up to us human beings not gods to act to preserve the magnificence of the diversity of life and ensure the survival of species.


    [1] Paley, William (1809), Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (12th ed.), London: J. Faulder

    [2] Retrieved 13/5/21 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Paley

    [3] Richard Dawkin’s ’The Blind Watchmaker’ was inspired by the Paley watchmaker analogy

    [4] Thaxton Charles (1989) (2nd edition 1993) Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, Foundation for Thought and Ethics TX USA

    [5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X1iwLqM2t0 Retrieved 15/5/21

    [6] See https://research.csiro.au/synthetic-biology-fsp/evolution-or-intelligent-design-the-story-of-the-bacterial-flagellar-motor/ Retrieved 14/5/21

    [7] The photo shows a Galapagos cormorant drying out its wings though it doesn’t need to, it is a function of its previous ancestry as a flying bird which remains as a habit.   

    [8] This is an excellent and clear paper on both methodological and philosophical naturalism https://infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/naturalism.html accessed 19/5/21

    [9] https://biologos.org/series/reviewing-darwins-doubt/articles/reviewing-darwins-doubt-response-by-stephen-meyer accessed 15.5.21

     

     

     

     

  • Scepticism and Evidence

    As indicated in previous blogs I am here presenting an overview on the nature of evidence. It is important to understand what constitutes evidence for a sceptic as this is what we turn to for validation of claims and assertions. The topic is quite complicated to cover as there is so much material around, I can only cover what is relevant to an everyday sceptic which I am assuming most of us are. Evidence is necessary if the claim or assertion is either complex, questionable, or maybe counterintuitive – however the claimant is obliged to supply the evidence. If they can’t supply evidence, then we can validly reject the claim. In many cases the evidence is weak, taken from a questionable source, – so sometimes the evidence itself needs checking.  We don’t really expect the everyday sceptic to make such complicated checks, but often other experts make evaluations that are available so it’s a matter of checking all sources.

    As we have said the question of the nature of evidence or what constitutes evidence is central to the practice of scepticism. However, there appears to me to be a considerable lack of knowledge and even misinformation on what constitutes evidence. Often you find, especially in religious blogs, that quotation from some authority is regarded as sufficient. Religious blogs tend to use the bible or some other religious text as evidence to support their assertions. As I have said in other blogs it is not acceptable to support a claim by reference to statements made by the author of the claim. This is common in religious texts as they hold to the assumption that the bible is the literal word of God and you can’t quote a greater authority. This is circular and unacceptable for many reasons including the lack of evidence indicating that the bible is the literal word of god. Also, and obviously, the bible and biblical writers are biased in favour of their own assertions. If you’re going to use authorities, then you try to use disinterested authorities who have no bias either way. My point is that a sceptic not only has to demand evidence to support a proposition, but they also must check that evidence.

    It is important for us to understand that we don’t have to check for evidence for all that we do in everyday life as we would end up doing nothing but checking evidence. But it is important to check assertions or claims that are controversial or otherwise important for us. Below I have listed different types of evidence as the type of evidence used depends on the nature of the claim.

    What are the essential features of valid evidence?

    I want to outline several the important features of evidence that are required by a sceptical stance. The discussion is not by any means exhaustive of the topic as there are several issues that we will not cover. Rather my aim is to present the nature and forms of evidence in as simple a form as I can.

    1. Avoid Bias

    A crucial feature of all evidence is that it is objective, meaning not subjective such as unsupported claims by authorities or personal views. To be objective means the evidence lacks bias or the favouring of a certain result over another. The important aspect of this is that bias is often unconscious and the researcher may not be aware of their own bias. To counteract this, science in general aims to avoid bias by the adoption of methods that eliminate its possibility, in experimental science double-blind trails of medication are an example of this as the researcher has no idea of who is getting what. In fact, even outside of experimental science researchers of all stripes aim to eliminate bias.

    2 Repeatability

    This is a demand for example, that a repeat of the experiment will come up with the same result. This is essential in experimental science – if a different result is derived from a repeat of the experiment then the finding is seen as questionable.

    Types of evidence

    Evidence requirements vary according to the science or nature of the claims or assertions made.

    1. Experimental evidence

    An experiment is a procedure (or a method) conducted under controlled conditions that enables one to determine the truth or otherwise of a hypothesis or assertion. Findings of an experiment are presented as a statistical analysis of the data acquired. Thus in medical science, for example, an experiment on the effectiveness of blood pressure medication may involve providing the medication to a selected group of individuals and a placebo (e.g a pill that does not contain the medication but looks like the ones that do) to a second (control) group in controlled conditions. The outcome sought is whether the group taking the medication experienced a drop in blood pressure whilst no such change was recorded for those receiving the placebo (the control group). These experiments can also be so constituted to show difference in gender, age etc. The value of the experimental approach is that it avoids bias by the experimenter by using controlled conditions.

    b non-experimental evidence

    This may also be what can be referred to as qualitative research, (though many scientists don’t like that term nowadays as many research projects include elements that can be referred to as both quantitative and qualitative). The subject matter of this research is not only the natural world but the world of customs, practices, values, viewpoints, and ways of thinking. This is research that seeks subjective information on individual’s opinions, choices, voting orientation and so on. It uses questionnaires, telephone polls, interviews to ascertain personal views. The information is collected and analysed mostly statistically to ascertain such information as trends in fashion, in thinking, people’s voting intentions, purchasing practices and opinions on certain issues. Statistical procedures are often used to collect data from interviews, polls, questionnaires Such research also has to beware of bias because in this area bias is sometimes harder to detect than in natural science research. The repeatability criteria can be checked by comparisons with other similar research for consistency etc.

    C Anecdotal Evidence

    Things to Know About Anecdotal evidence - YouTube

    An anecdote is a story told by an individual about themselves; of an event that they experienced. It is sometimes referred to as a testimony in which the individual talks about such personal experiences. Normally, It is a personal experience story that another person cannot corroborate. For example, advertisements for certain products often include testimonials from people who claim they have successfully used the product. The goal of such testimonials is to encourage others to buy the product.

    Anecdotal evidence is mostly unreliable in scientific studies as there is no way of objectively checking the story. One has to exercise a sceptical approach to advertisements and other media that contain testimonials as they are biased.

    However, anecdotal evidence can be used as data in certain studies that ask for personal views or opinions. In these studies researchers may ask questions about personal views from a group of randomly selected individuals. Statistical techniques can be used to collate the data collected and then it can be analysed for trends and differences between individual groups such as by age, gender and so on.

    In courts witnesses give evidence that is mostly anecdotal. It is the responsibility of defense lawyers to question witnesses about the evidence given to bring out any biases, forgotten facts, even lies. All this is done under oath so lies and deliberate fabrications can be regarded as perjury, a crime  that can result in jail terms.

    d. Legal evidence

    Documents and expert witness testimony can provide legal evidence. I will not deal in detail with all aspects of legal evidence as information is available on the web. I want instead to address the way we should deal with legal evidence as sceptics. Often legal decisions are met with considerable controversy mostly because there is considerable ignorance by the public of court processes and the use of evidence in convicting.

    In courts there are rules of what counts as evidence (are admissible) in legal proceedings, as well as the quality and quantity of evidence that are necessary to fulfill the legal burden of proof. The types of legal evidence differ from scientific evidence somewhat. Testimony is evidence gathered from individuals that have observed the crime or have some personal knowledge of the person charged. The testimony is normally also in written form and signed in front of witnesses and given under oath. The witness can be charged with perjury if found to be lying. Types of legal evidence as well as testimony include documentary evidence, and scientific evidence. Expert witnesses can testify to the legitimacy of, for example, DNA samples. The courts can also use physical evidence (e.g. objects such as knives, guns).

    The point I wanted to make here for an ordinary sceptical approach, the judge or jury making the judgment of guilt or otherwise must be convinced that the evidence indicates that the crime was committed beyond reasonable doubt.  Such a requirement is to protect an innocent person from being charged with a crime they did not commit. Reasonable doubt is a recognition that there was some doubt in the evidence given that they might not have committed the crime for which they were charged. Sometimes for the ordinary person in the street this may appear unfair as the general view is that the person charged was guilty. It is the case that the general view reflected in the media and especially social media is that the courts were wrong and biased or influenced by some authority.

    To illustrate this, I will look at a recent case in Australia. This was trial of Cardinal Pell arguably the most senior catholic in the world accused of a sex crime. In fact, of two sex crimes on two young boys a month apart. The crimes were said to be committed in the same robing room (the sacristy) of the church where the cardinal was officiating. Evidence was taken from the victim of one of the ‘crimes’ the other victim unfortunately had committed suicide. The prosecution claimed that after the service the cardinal slipped away from the procession and entered the sacristy saw two boys there and managed to sexually assault them. The evidence from the surviving victim was said to be compelling however other witnesses such as the churches’ priest testified that the cardinal could not have committed the crimes as he was never alone and was in his company all the time when the crimes were supposed to have been committed. Despite this claim by the priest, the jury found the cardinal guilty and he was jailed. The case was subsequently appealed to the state Court of Appeal of three judges with two of them upholding the jury verdict the third arguing that there was reasonable doubt that the crime was not committed.

    Subsequently, the case was appealed to the High Court of Australia the highest court in the land. They found unanimously (all 7 judges agreed) to many people’s surprise that there was indeed a reasonable doubt that the cardinal may not have committed the crimes due to the evidence that he was in the company of people all the time. The high court found that the victims account was credible but that the appeal court (and the County Court) had virtually disregarded evidence from those accompanying the cardinal at the time of the ’crimes’. Without going into detail, as the case is well covered by media, the high court found basically that too much credence was given the victims testimony while they did not take fully into account other evidence that the cardinal could not have committed the crimes. The case was quashed, and the cardinal was out of jail.

    It was not found by the court that the cardinal did not commit the crimes, but the evidence was not adequate to convict him – beyond reasonable doubt.  The high Court decision was very controversial dividing the community. There were those who considered Justice was done and the cardinal was innocent. Others suggested conspiracies by the high court. It was claimed the judges were biased in favour of the cardinal as they were all Roman Catholics. Most of the social internet media considered him guilty.

    What does a sceptic do in this case? A sceptic must be logical and make a judgement on what is available that is reliable. Let’s look at this.  

    On reading the Judges decisions they were remarkably in agreement – all seven of them tended to note the same inadequacies of judgement. Secondly, I do not think the judges are all Catholics though I was unable to check this fully. However, my view is that if there was bias it could be bias in both directions for and against the cardinal.

    This decision of the high court does not mean that the cardinal was innocent of the crimes but that in view of the evidence presented there was a reasonable doubt that he was not. We must be satisfied with that. This tells us something about evidence. That is it is not 100% conclusive. In most cases some doubt remains as evidence basically rules out conclusions rather than prove them.

    To conclude this presentation, I will mention briefly a relatively new approach to evidence in the areas of professional practice.

    Evidence based practice (EBP)

    The beginnings of this approach can be traced back to the 1990’s in medical practice where is was known as Medical Based Practice. It is a process of transferring new medical research onto clinical practice. It was based on the view that medical practitioners and other health professional did not always translate new research finding about medication and practice approaches on the newest scientific evidence.

    EBP came about after research indicated that many health practitioners were caught up in older practices and did not seek to integrate new research into best practice.  The idea is that new research can provide information or data that has relevance for professional practice and shows the best outcomes for users, patients and clients. Information presented by research cannot automatically translate into practice or clinical decision making but provide the latest information be used by professionals to enhance their practice and outcomes for patients. Evidence does not make or provide decisions or suggest outcomes for specific patients it simply provides the latest data on which such decisions can be based. A number methodologies have been developed to guide the translation of data into specific contexts. [1]

    Two new forms of refereed articles have been developed for those who may not have the resources or time to look at all the research. The first is referred to as ‘systematic reviews’. Briefly these are articles that review the research literature on certain specific issues relevant to practice. They begin by setting up a research question (e.g. what is the outcome for using medication x and/or y for reducing symptoms of blood pressure?). The process involves using filters to eliminate research that is not fully relevant to the questions. Thus, they may sift out outdated research, only look at certain age groups and so on. Also, they look at the research methodology used and have a hierarchy of methodologies with random control trials at the top of the list. This latter, however, may not apply to qualitative type research that cannot use Random Controlled Trials, RCT’s.  It may result in the analyses of 30 articles from an original 200. They become a rich resource as professionals can see precisely what criteria was used for the analysis. Normally, the analysis is carried out by experienced researchers. Also, it is not difficult for non-professionals such as us ordinary sceptics to access and use these reviews. I will not go into this in detail but some RCT’s fall into a category of Meta-Analysis where the combined effects of studies are analysed. [2]

    We will probably have to further address the nature of evidence in future presentations but hopefully we can now get started when we are confronted by some unsupported claim.


    [1][1] See https://www.nomanis.com.au/single-post/what-does-evidence-based-practice-mean-in-education-in-2019

    [2] See https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33247016/

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