Sunday, 19 June 2011

Things Can Only Get Better (sing along now...)

The lunatic fringe of the local Zombie Carpenter movement have another annual exercise in pointlessness on July 2nd.
It need not trouble the sane or rational amongst us, and as it involves getting up early probably won’t attract many Christians either - apart from a few die-hard masochists who are prepared to not only get up but stump up an admission fee.
Each year, as close to Tynwald Day as they can manage to pass it off as a tied event and roping in as many superstitious politicos as possible to pad out the delusion, these hopeless zealots hold a 'Prayer Breakfast' during which a Famous Faith-Head tells fairy stories.
Last year it was Richard Dannatt, who emphatically demonstrated why (with superstitious numpties like him running the show) so many British lives are being wasted and foreign civilians dying in the crossfire of pointless oil wars. This year it is John Lennox (see, a notorious Oxford philosopher of science cum creationist with a book to market (two actually), as did Richard Dannatt last year.
The funniest thing is that, actually, there are excellent philosophical reasons why scientists need to acknowledge that ‘science’ is as much of a social construct or a ‘myth’ (in the sense of a self-perpetuating story whose ‘truth’ or ‘falsity’ are similarly irrelevant) as ‘religion’. Dawkins and his chums have great difficulty with this, so much so that they prefer to ignore it. But Lennox, as far as I know, has never explored this either, probably because he cannot without also acknowledging the mythical basis of religion, or religion’s primary purpose as a method of social control which discourages democracy or dissent.
Also, interestingly, much of the groundwork for this was set by Willard Van Orman Quine, an American philosopher of science and mathematician who was of Manx origin. As it happens, it may also be of interest to atheists that Quine supervised Daniel Dennett’s Ph.D.
In theory, this early morning pantomime is underwritten by 200 paying punters. In practice, most of the tickets are given away because faith leaders and politicians have to be there to foster the fantasy that it is an ‘important’ shindig involving the great and the good, and they never pay to impose their fatuousness on anyone.
After the event I am sure the press will be primed with reports of how important and popular it all was, especially amongst young people. As none of the press will actually be there, they will be unable to substantiate this.
But there is a fair comparison, because Brian Cox, physicist superstar and former pop musician (oh, you all know the guy, no need to outline his career to anyone) is also coming to talk to schoolkids around Tynwald Day (see for more). The difference is that Cox not only sold out within hours of his lecture being announced, but had substantial numbers of the local adult population clamouring for either a seat anywhere in the house or a repeat performance at a bigger venue we could all get to. Cox, I suggest, could fill Nobles Park at midnight on a wet winter day.
Now, funnily enough, us ‘militant atheists’ know that Cox blows Dawkins off stage at the annual New Humanist ‘Nine Carols for the Godless’ bash. He makes no big deal of his lack of religion, though he does politely dismiss creationist nonsense as the naive foolishness it is if asked.
His enthusiastic explanations of the mysteries of the universe work, on whatever level you care to consider them, without once dwelling on religion. They are simply more colourful, more complex, more satisfying and more truthful than any bible story.
Science (given half a chance) trumps Superstition every time, even on the Isle of Man. More colourful than Manx fairy lore, more logical, more interesting and more useful than Manx religion.

No comments: