Friday, 30 November 2012

Thank You. Be Humankind. Feed The World

Thanks to everyone who clicked on the ads and bought things from Amazon. Together you have raised a nice little donation to Oxfam:





Keep up the good work.

More can be given at: Oxfam - Give.
Be Humankind. Feed The World.



Graveyard Of The Gods

Just imagine if you went to your doctor with a problem and he consulted a 2000 year old book to find out what the problem was and what treatment to give you. Would that be the professional thing for a doctor to do?

Imagine if you went to a lawyer with a legal question and he consulted the laws of Rome or the laws of the Goths from 2000 years or more ago to see what your legal rights are. Would that be what you would expect a professional lawyer to do?

Imagine someone standing for election as your representative in government and she was advocating a return to the tribal laws of, say, fifth century BCE China or Zimbabwe, or at least making them the basis of your legal system. Would she earn your vote and be taken seriously as a professional legislator?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Spot The Loonies

Here's a good game.

According to Christians, Christians are good people who love others, never judge because they believe that's their god's prerogative, and always try to forgive. Because their god is watching over them, they can be relied upon to always be honest and truthful, and never to try to mislead with misinformation because bearing false witness is a sin and their god sees everything and never forgets. People, being the creation of their perfect god are all of equal worth, obviously.

Atheists, on the other hand, are evil people who have no way of telling right from wrong and so can't be trusted to be honest. Because they don't believe a god created everything, they have no respect for it and give nothing any value beyond its utility value.

So, if Christians are right, it should be easy to guess who said the following.

Give it a try, then hover over the word 'Show' to see who said it.

(If you don't agree with Christians, you may find this easier.)

AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh's charioteers. AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals. It is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.

Show
Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.

Show
Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

Show
There is no such thing as separation of church and state in the Constitution. It is a lie of the Left and we are not going to take it anymore.

Show
[T]he Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

Show
We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.

Show
Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism... She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.

Show
What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?

Show
We take nothing from the womb but pure filth. The seething spring of sin is so deep and abundant that vices are always bubbling up form it to bespatter and stain what is otherwise pure.... We should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only but are buried in innumerable impurities.... all human works, if judged according to their own worth, are nothing but filth and defilement.... they are always spattered and befouled with many stains.... it is certain that there is no one who is not covered with infinite filth.

Show
Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians! It's no different! It is the same thing! It is happening all over again! It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians! Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today! More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history! ... And it is happening here and now! Same thing, but directed against Christians by the liberal government and media! Send money today or these liberals will be putting Christians like you and me in concentration camps!

Show
This is indeed a clash of civilisations, not between Islam and Christendom but between reason and superstition.

Show
The true Negro does not want integration... He realizes his potential is far better among his own race... It will destroy our race eventually... In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife... It boils down to whether we are going to take God's Word as final.

Show
I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God's word becomes corrupt. Because of this we can see what kind of people they become in the universities and what they are like now. Nobody is to blame for this except the pope, the bishops, and the prelates, who are all charged with training young people. The universities only ought to turn out men who are experts in the Holy Scriptures, men who can become bishops and priests, and stand in the front line against heretics, the devil, and all the world. But where do you find that? I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell.

Show
I'm sure there are all sorts of higher powers like electromagnetism and gravity, and things like that. But I don't believe in a deity, no. I see no evidence for that in my life or anywhere else in the universe. Personally, people can believe what they will and they will believe what they want. I find that most deism, and certainly most theisms take a fairly narrow view of the universe, and most people’s views of God or gods seem to be rather impoverished. The universe itself, the physical world that we can perceive with our senses and grasp with our minds, seems to be far more wondrous then most people's conceptions of a deity.

Show
It is clear that God is saying, 'I gave man dominion over the earth, but he lost it. Now I desire mature sons and daughters who will in My name exercise dominion over the earth and subdue Satan, the unruly, the rebellious. Take back My world from those who would loot it and abuse it. Rule as I would rule.

Show
Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.

Show
You can look at any painting ever done of Jesus over the centuries, and you can spot immediately that he's not English, 'cos he's very often shown wearing sandals, but never with socks. I think that would be an English Messiah's look, wouldn't it? - socks, sandals, khaki shorts skimming the knee, little Fair Isle slipover - in case it turns, 'cos it's deceptive, the desert - and I think, instead of all that camp and rather beautiful 'Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?' business - instead of all that - I think he'd be up there trying to make the best of it - 'cos moping doesn't help, does it? I think he'd be up there going, 'Cor, here's a pretty pickle. No, I didn't do it either, but you don't like to say, do you?'

Show
How many do you suppose of those hundred [sic] and thirty soldiers died [sic] in the Pentagon last Tuesday were fags and dykes? And how many do you suppose were working in that massively composed building structure called those two World Trade Center buildings, Twin Towers? There were five thousand or ten thousand killed and, counting all those passengers in those airplanes, it's very likely that every last single one of them was a fag or dyke or a fag enabler, and that the minute he died, he split hell wide open, and the way to analyze the situation is that the Lord God Almighty, pursuant to His threatenings and warnings, killed him, looked him in the face, laughed and mocked at each one of them as He cast each one of them into Hell!

Show
All of those pictures in textbooks where it shows the ape developing into a man, those are not true. Those are made up. There is no development that has been found. And if evolution was a fact, then we would somehow still be developing…When something is something, it stays that.

Show
I often get letters, quite frequently, from people who say how they like the programmes a lot, but I never give credit to the almighty power that created nature. To which I reply and say, "Well, it's funny that the people, when they say that this is evidence of the Almighty, always quote beautiful things. They always quote orchids and hummingbirds and butterflies and roses." But I always have to think too of a little boy sitting on the banks of a river in west Africa who has a worm boring through his eyeball, turning him blind before he's five years old. And I reply and say, "Well, presumably the God you speak about created the worm as well," and now, I find that baffling to credit a merciful God with that action. And therefore it seems to me safer to show things that I know to be truth, truthful and factual, and allow people to make up their own minds about the moralities of this thing, or indeed the theology of this thing.

Show
Thank God for the tsunami, and thank God that two thousand dead Swedes are fertilizing the ground over there [in Asia]. How many of these two thousand, do you suppose, were fags and dykes? This is how the Lord deals with His enemies. And the Lord has got some enemies. And Sweden heads the list. You filthy Swedes. You filthy Swedes!

Show
Did you spot all that non-judgemental Christian love and honesty? Me neither.





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Friday, 23 November 2012

Order From Chaos

One of the things which seems to baffle people is how order can come from a chaotic system without help. After all, if the system is truly chaotic, what could give it direction, assuming of course that order implies some sort of direction?

This confusion is often seized on by people who push religions for a living, to sell the idea that there must be some sort of directing intelligence doing it, with the implication that this directing intelligence must be the locally popular god in which ever culture they are marking their snake oil. This predominates in Creationism where it's the single most used argument by Creation 'scientists' to keep their normally scientifically illiterate market buying their books and voting they way they are told to vote. But it can also be found in other areas of science where professional religious apologists tend to go to find confusion, ignorance and misinformation to exploit.

I'll take a few simple scientific principle to illustrate how order can and does emerge spontaneously from chaos in ways which we often take for granted.

1. The Gas Laws

Most people will have heard of the Gas Laws. These Laws are regarded as some of the most basic fundamental laws of physics, explaining how volume, pressure and temperature of gasses are related.

There are two such laws complimenting each other: Boyle's Law and Charles's Law. They explain much of how internal combustion engines and steam engines work. Don't worry about the technical stuff too much. That's not the point of this blog. There isn't going to be an exam at the end of it.

Boyle's Law.

Boyle's law (sometimes referred to as the Boyle–Mariotte law) states that the absolute pressure and volume of a given mass of confined gas are inversely proportional, if the temperature remains unchanged within a closed system.[1][2] Thus, it states that the product of pressure and volume is a constant for a given mass of confined gas as long as the temperature is constant. The law was named after chemist and physicist Robert Boyle, who published the original law in 1662.[3]




Charles's Law

Charles' law (also known as the law of volumes) is an experimental gas law which describes how gases tend to expand when heated.

A modern statement of Charles' law is:
At constant pressure, the volume of a given mass of an ideal gas increases or decreases by the same factor as its temperature on the absolute temperature scale (i.e. the gas expands as the temperature increases).[1]

It was first published by French natural philosopher Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac in 1802,[2] although he credited the discovery to unpublished work from the 1780s by Jacques Charles.


To understand what's going on with these gasses in closed systems, we need to understand what pressure is. Pressure is the total force exerted by all the molecules of the gas as they hit to wall of the container. Some of their kinetic energy, depending on their velocity and the angle at which they strike the wall, is transferred to the walls of the container which would be pushed outwards if it could move - which is why balloons get bigger as you put more gas into them.

The total force exerted on the wall of the container will depend on the average energy transferred multiplied by the total number of molecules striking the walls of the container per unit of area at any one moment, which is proportional to the density of the molecules in the container. If we reduce the volume of the same mass of gas (by making the container smaller) we increase the density of the molecules in that mass so there are more of them to strike the walls of the container per unit area of wall. (Boyle's Law)

But, molecules of gas are moving randomly and chaotically within the body of the mass of gas in the container. When they strike the wall of the container, nothing is directing them to; they simply happen to be randomly moving in a trajectory which hits the wall (of course, if they didn't strike other gas molecules on the way, they would eventually strike a wall because they are in an enclosed system. As it is, they are zig-zagging about chaotically because they are also striking one another. The probability of any one molecule striking a wall at any one moment is randomly distributed somewhere between certainty and impossibility.

So, individual molecules are randomly striking the walls of the container in a truly random and chaotic, therefore unpredictable, manner.

How much energy they have will depend on the temperature, which is why pressure rises when the temperature rises (Charles's Law). However, not all molecules will have the same energy; the distribution of energy amongst all the molecules will fit a bell curve, with some having more than the average and some less. When the temperature increases, it's the shape of the bell curve which changes as the average energy increases. For any individual molecule, however, it's energy will still be random. The angle at which they strike the wall is also randomly distributed between 0 and 180 degrees to the surface of the wall.

So, the amount of energy individual molecules transfer to the walls of the container which they randomly and chaotically strike is also random and chaotic, therefore also unpredictable.

And yet, from a chaotic system, we get emergent order, which is so dependable we even call it a Law - which in science means we can be certain it will happen under normal circumstances such as the universe continuing to exist.

There is no magic or direction, nor intelligence required to produce the Gas Laws, merely the chaos of randomly moving gas molecules with randomly distributed kinetic energy. What we have there is an example of a 'law of mass action' where we can only predict what the average outcome will be from properties which fit bell curves, like the kinetic energy of gas molecules and their direction of travel.

So, the Gas Laws, upon which steam power and motor car engines depend, are emergent properties of chaos.

2. Clouds





The thing about clouds is that they look different depending on how far away from you they are.

Normally, when you look at them from the ground and they're up in the sky, they look like distinct things. We talk about them as though they are distinct objects. They can even look like solid objects, at least solid enough for ancient superstitious folk to imagine gods and angels standing on them.

When we fly into them in a plane, we realise they have no real outline; no edge as such.

When they are at ground level, or we are up a mountain at cloud level, we realise they are just microscopic droplets of water suspended in the air. Inside this fog we don't see the cloud as a thing at all; it's just different air which is difficult to see through.

And yet, in these pictures on the right we can see shape and form; we can see structures, even patterns. Surely there is order in clouds, isn't there? And this is not the usual humans looking for patterns and seeing faces and castles in the air, Jesus in toast and virgins in dropped ice-cream, sort of structure. (It's a pity for Muslims that there aren't more pictures of Mohammed otherwise they could see him in their toast as well.)

And yet the individual droplets of water or particles of ice which make up clouds are randomly distributed and randomly moving about and were formed from a chaotic weather system.

So clouds have no definable outline and are composed of chaotically moving particles formed in a chaotic system. And yet they look like discrete objects and have structure.

Again, structure is an emergent property from chaos. Not quite such predictable order as the Gas laws, but we can be fairly sure that, given certain meteorological conditions like wind direction and speed, temperature gradients as we go up through the atmosphere and humidity, we will get particular 'types' of clouds (in other words, clouds with different structures). We can also make a fairly good guess about what the weather is going to be from this emergent order from chaos, which took no direction and no intelligence to emerge.

There are other structures which flow from the emergent nature of clouds from chaos, of course.

Under the right conditions, the microscopic water droplets start to join together into larger droplets which become too large to stay in suspension in the air, and fall out as rain. They may also form the incredibly ordered snow flakes, the precise form of which is also random and emergent from chaos.

The next section deals with this.

3. Flowing Water

Falling rain eventually reaches the ground where it erodes the land into river valleys, chalk hills into caves and gorges, wears jagged rocky mountains into rounded hills and rough stones into smooth pebbles. Flowing rivers carrying eroded silt form sand bars, oxbow lakes, river beds and mud flats. All emergent structures out of chaos.

In Southern England we have a wonderful structure called Chesil Beach (from Old English ceosel or cisel, meaning "gravel" or "shingle") made entirely from pebbles. This entire 18 mile long structure was an emergent structure formed by the chaotic action of water molecules. As you go from one end to the other, the pebbles change in size. They have been graded into order by the same chaotic actions of water molecules.

Rivers, seas and oceans are composed of countless billions of water molecules all moving chaotically. It would be impossible to take any single water molecule and accurately predict its movements even for a few seconds because that depends on what the water molecules around it are doing, whilst what they do in turn depends on other water molecules. And yet, give something directional like gravity, order will begin to emerge and structures will appear in the water, some brief and transitory, some longer-lasting, but all being unpredictable. An order of sorts emerges from chaos.

Look at this video of a gentle stream. It's worth watching anyway. You will see little eddies forming, ripples on the surface of the water, peaks and waves and splashes. All of these are emergent structures, emerging from the chaos of mass action responding to gravity alone.

No intelligence and no direction save the natural force of gravity is required.

All of these examples of order emerging from chaos, and especially the latter of order emerging under a natural force giving a direction such as gravity, illustrate a basic principle of evolutionary biology.

They illustrate how order can emerge from randomly imperfect replication of genes under the directing influence of natural selection to give structures and forms best able to replicate genes in that selecting environment. Evolution by natural selection is an iterative process, complete with directing feedback system which requires no more direction nor intelligence than does water flowing down a stream.

And it is as mindless and majestic as flood water washing away bridges, cars, buildings and people.

Further reading:

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Stacking Up The Odds

How come Evolution can create such hugely unlikely things that it's hard for people who don't understand, wilfully or otherwise, how Darwinian Evolution works without being directed?

To understand this you need to understand a few simple ideas.

  1. How many ancestors have you got?
  2. This should be quite simple to calculate. You have two parents, four grand parents, eight great grand parents, etc, etc. So, for every generation you go back, the number of ancestors doubles. You can imagine this as a fan shape going back in time, starting with you, each line splitting in two at every generation. Suppose we want to know how many ancestors we had a thousand years ago, we need to know how many generations there have been in a thousand years - approximately forty, assuming the mean age of parents at child birth is about twenty-five years. Then, we start with two and double it, forty times. In other words, 240 (2 raised to the power of 40), which is 1,099,511,627,776 (a little over one trillion) ancestors who lived in the year 1000 CE.1

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

No Women Allowed!

The great thing about the Bible is, with only a little imagination and creative reinterpretation, it can mean just whatever you want it to mean. Whatever excuse you're looking for, for whatever you need to excuse, can usually be found with only a few minutes random search.

Take for example today's news that the General Synod of the Church of England has voted against allowing female bishops.

Firstly, I can't think of any reason at all why any self-respecting woman would want to be a leader of a church which doesn't want her. For that matter, I can't think of any honest reason why anyone would want to be a member of any organisation which specialises in pushing superstition onto gullible and vulnerable people and children, but that's neither here nor there.

For some reason some women do want to be Anglican bishops but those who have already made it through the stained-glass trapdoor have decided to slam it shut and pile tea-chests on top of it to keep it all for themselves, in their kind, caring, compassionate, Christian way.

Where did they turn to to find the excuse they needed? Why, the bigot's handbook, aka, the Holy Bible, of course! Where else?

And in this case, there wasn't even much creative re-interpretation needed. The medieval, and almost certainly sexually confused, misogynists who wrote it never even tried to hide their contempt for women, nor did the founders of the Christian church who seized on their bigotry and elaborated on it with enthusiasm.

No doubt they were inspired by:

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Genesis 3:16



Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And doth thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.

Job 14:1-4



I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

1 Timothy 2:8-18



Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Ephesians 5:22–23



Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

Colossians 3:18



For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

1 Corinthians 11:7-9



Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 24:34-35



Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You should always go in mourning and in rags.

Do you not know that you are Eve? The judgment of God upon this sex lives on in this age; therefore, necessarily the guilt should live on also. You are the gateway of the devil; you are the one who unseals the curse of that tree, and you are the first one to turn your back on the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the devil was not capable of corrupting; you easily destroyed the image of God, Adam. Because of what you deserve, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die.

Tertullian, the father of Latin Christianity and founder of Western theology.



Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders.

St Augustine of Hippo, considered to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time.



Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children… If a woman grows weary and at least dies from child bearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing - she is there to do it.

Women have narrow shoulders and wide hips, therefore they ought to be domestic; their very physique is a sign from their Creator that he intended them to limit their activity to the home.




For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

1 Peter 1:24-25

Of course, it might not be just misogyny, or the fear that, if they had to work closely with a woman, they might not be able to keep their hands to themselves. It might be genuine repulsion similar to that felt by the person who wrote Revelations:

These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

Revelation 14:4

I mean, who in their right mind would want to be defiled by a filthy woman? Certainly not anyone who agreed with John Calvin's view of what comes from a female's body:

We take nothing from the womb but pure filth [meras sordes]. The seething spring of sin is so deep and abundant that vices are always bubbling up form it to bespatter and stain what is otherwise pure.... We should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only but are buried in innumerable impurities.... all human works, if judged according to their own worth, are nothing but filth and defilement.... they are always spattered and befouled with many stains.... it is certain that there is no one who is not covered with infinite filth.

In John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait, 1989, William J. Bouwsma, Oxford University Press, USA, p. 36.

So, why on earth would we expect people who admire these works and believe them to have been divinely inspired to regard women as their equal and entitled to equal opportunities?

The whole idea of women priest is so un-Christian.

Remember, this is the church which thought it would be a spiffing idea to have an Old Etonian nob with hardly any experience but jolly good breeding and loads-a-dosh, to lead it, just like in the good old days before all this liberal nonsense about democracy, equality and human rights.





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Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Power Of The Story

Once upon a time, in a continent not far away, there dwelt a puny ape who had learnt to walk upright so it could see further than other men without needing to stand on the shoulders of giants.

This little ape wanted to find dinner and wanted even more not to be dinner. But, the trees it once lived in had mostly gone away because the rains which used to come very often now came less frequently, so it could no longer shin up the nearest one to avoid the lions or swing from branch to branch to escape the leopards. Instead, it had to learn new skills if it was going to leave any descendants - and if it hadn't, how would we know about it now?

One of the things it acquired was the ability to recognise patterns. How useful it was to recognise the tracks of the animals they were hunting, and to recognise the tracks of the animals who were hunting them. They were probably the only animal which could look at animal tracks and read the information in them - what made them, which direction they were going in, how long ago they were made, and how many there were. This ability may have created the environment in which a large brain could evolve because the puny little ape could now make good use of a large brain and could catch the high protein dinner needed to grow it.

With pattern recognition came the ability to recognise sequences of events and to arrange them into a story. They could tell the story of those two leopards that came down to the water hole two hours ago, and then went up near to trees. They could also tell the story of how that gazelle was walking with a limp and would be easy to catch, and they could tell the story of how they would be welcomed home if they caught it and 'invited' it home to dinner...

Maybe it'll earn the opportunity to pass those pattern-recognising genes on to more offspring - though they wouldn't have known about the genes of course. They would have known the value of a good meal and their mate would have known the value of a good provider of good meals when it comes to rearing the children, and how to reward and keep a good thing when she saw it.

And so they evolved the ability to tell stories because those with that ability contributed more genes to the gene pool. They interpreted the world they saw in terms of stories. They worked out what would happen next and they worked out what probably happened before. The leopards came from that rocky outcrop. Best not go there. The world of these creatures became a world of a past and a future with the future caused by the past and they lived in the story they wove from the patterns they saw all around them.

And we've inherited these pattern-recognition genes because they helped our East African ancestors to pass on their genes and we are the descendants of those who left most descendants. It has even been said that, rather than Homo sapiens (thinking Man) we should be called Homo narans (story-telling Man) because so much of our thinking is actually storytelling.

We develop this ability very early in life. Show a three year-old a series of pictures and ask then what is happening, and they will joint them together with a story. They will even make up a story to explain what's happening in a single picture and they will tell you what will happen next. They do this because they assume there is a story. We see stories in everything.

We looked at tall mountains and said, "Some day a man will climb to the top." and so we climbed to the top of tall mountains and fulfilled our prophecy.

We looked towards the North and South Poles and said, "Some day someone will go there!", and so we went there and fulfilled our prophesy.

We looked up at the moon... and, because we couldn't allow it to be a Russian, it had to be an American. And it was so, and the prophecy was fulfilled because the prophesy said it would be.

So Homo narans has evolved another ability - the ability to create self-fulfilling prophesies.



Once upon a time, when we were in the childhood of our species, at a time before we had discovered iron or invented the wheel, a small tribe of Homo narans wanted to justify driving some people off their land and taking it for themselves, so they invented a story of how it had been given to them by a spirit in the sky who had chosen them for special treatment. Later on a scribe wrote it down, then someone included it in a book of tales and origins myths.

After many years they in turn were driven off their land by invaders but they remembered the tale of being the 'chosen' people and being given the land by a magic spirit in the sky and joined it to another story that one day a magic king would come to 'save' them when they get their god-given land back, build a temple, cast some magic spells and sacrifice a bull. Then they can have the whole world all for themselves, just like their magic spirit in the sky promised.

Another version of this story said the magic king had already appeared but had now gone away to wait for the chosen people to build the temple, when he would come back and kill them and everyone else who doesn't believe he's already been once, so some other specially chosen people will have the world all for themselves instead.

Two thousand years later, some people who believe they are the special people (how could it be anyone else?) are still working to ensure this prophecy from the infancy of mankind is self-fulfilled. One group is ensuring that the most powerful nation the world has ever known is on side and helping to fulfil the prophesy by supporting Israel as it wages genocidal war against the people who have lived in Palestine for thousands of years, on the land the story says a magic spirit gave to its chosen people.

The Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel The Elder
They are doing this in the hope that the legendary magic king will come back and kill everyone so they can have the world all for themselves. It's that thing we call Armageddon, in which we all get to die!

The worry is, that many people think this would be a good thing and have a lot of influence on people who could do it tomorrow if they wished.

We do not have to fulfil this insane prophecy, people!

It's a story we made up when we were too ignorant to know any better! We can change the story.

We have to change the story, or the very ability that allowed us to conquer the world, to climb the highest mountains and go to the moon could be the very thing which ensures our extinction.

Imagine!

"We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better." - J. K. Rowling





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Friday, 16 November 2012

Is Religion A Mind Virus?

Look at the lovely viruses!
Ever since Richard Dawkins introduced the idea of memes in The Selfish Gene people have speculated on the nature of religion when seen as a memeplex. There are two ways to view the religion memeplex:
  1. Is it a meme which has evolved within the human cultural memome (the memetic equivalent of the genetic genome) because it conveys benefits to the carrier and is thus differentially selected for in the evolution of cultures
  2. It like a virus in that it conveys no benefit to the carrier and may even be harmful but it subverts the replication mechanism and converts the host to a machine for producing viruses.

Why Creationists Lie To Us

Having written a number of blog posts on how creationists lie to us, it only seems fair to take a look at why they do it.

First, a little background:

Creationism as a political movement is largely a late nineteenth / early twentieth century American invention; it's often forgotten that Darwinian Evolution, when it was first presented as a scientific theory, did not cause a major outcry in mainstream Christianity, at least in England.

Most educated people had come to accept that the universe was a changing place and was not created as is a few thousand years ago; that the earth had a long geological history, though they estimated this in tens of thousands, perhaps millions, rather than billions of years. Evolution was just an extension of this principle of change and development into the realm of biology.

Most people didn't seem to understand it well enough to realise how thoroughly it undermined the notion of divine creation. In fact, mainstream Christianity had become more deist than theist.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Misguided Evolution

Here's a strange claim from theologian and Christian apologist, Alvin Plantinga. One seriously wonders if he thought it through before writing it down, or whether, as with so many religious apologists, he wasn't writing to persuade doubters and convert non-believers but to help believers cope with the cognitive dissonance caused by trying to hold on to faith in the teeth of reality.

Plantinga is one of the Christian apologists who has accepted the overwhelming evidence for Darwinian Evolution but has also accepted, unlike some other apologists like Francis Collins, that Darwinian Evolution, properly understood, abolishes the need for a god in any theory of the origins of life - that in turn utterly destroys the nonsensical doctrine of original sin and causes the entire Christian religion to collapse under the weight of its own absurdity in fact.

But Plantiga has a vested interest to defend, so that logic can't be allowed to get in the way; a work-around has to be found, even if that work-around is as absurd as the superstition it is designed to defend.

The claim that God created human beings in his image… is clearly consistent with evolution…. God could have caused the right mutation to arise at the right time. He could have preserved populations from perils of various sorts, and so on; in this way, by orchestrating the course of evolution, he could have ensured that there come to be creatures of the kind he intends. What is not consistent with Christian belief, however, is the claim that evolution and Darwinism are unguided — where I'll take that to include being unplanned and unintended.

What is not consistent with Christian belief is the claim that no personal agent, not even God, has guided, planned, intended, orchestrated, or shaped the process. Yet precisely this claim is made by a large number of contemporary scientists and philosophers who write on this topic.

Dennett, Daniel & Plantinga, Alvin; Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 4.
(Quoted in Stenger, Victor J. (2012-04-03); God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion
(Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition), p. 110.)

Laughable though Plantinga's daft notion might be, we shouldn't forget that he is by no means alone in believing it. These notions are actually mainstream opinion in modern-day USA.

The United States is a remarkable anomaly on the question of the public acceptance of evolution. In a 2005 survey of thirty-four nations and their beliefs in evolution, only Muslim Turkey scored lower.[26] Unfortunately, this survey did not ask the key question: guided or unguided evolution? Perhaps the most telling response in the survey was to the question of whether evolution was “definitely true, probably true, probably false, definitely false.” Only 14 percent of American adults thought that evolution is “definitely true.” A third said it was “definitely false,” compared to just 7 percent in Denmark, France, and Great Britain, to 15 percent in the Netherlands who said evolution was definitely false.

Stenger, Victor J. (2012-04-03). God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion (p. 111).
Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

These 2005 US figures were born out by a June 2012 Gallup poll:

Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.


Do believers in this most idiotic of views on the established scientific principle of evolution by descent with modification from a common ancestor never consider what it would mean?

Apparently, Plantinga's intelligent designer merely gave a little nudge here and there, ensuring just the right mutation happened in the right place and the carrier of the mutation somehow lived a charmed life, somehow avoiding getting eaten and managing to find a mate and reproduce. The descendants of this favoured organism also all managed to produce more offspring than carriers of the non-mutated form of the gene.

Did this process start way back with the first replicators, or did God just pick a random phylum of the animal kingdom for special favour? And what about all the other evolving classes, orders, geni, etc? Did they somehow manage to evolve unaided, or was Plantinga's god nudging them along too? If so, in what way were humans special?

But more to the point, given the very gradual nature of evolution, where exactly did the evolving humans become Plantinga's god's special creation with the special responsibility to worship this god, and worthy of being given souls and free will and so committing the 'original sin' so essential for the Christian dogma to work? Did all of them commit this original sin or was it only necessary for one pair of them to eat some 'forbidden fruit'?

Early Christians?
Was this when they were marine vertebrates, mammal-like reptiles, tree-dwelling tarsier-like animals, early simians, proto-apes? Did 'Lucy' (Australopithicus afarensis) have a soul? How about Homo habilis or H. erectus? Had humans acquired a soul and original sin before Neaderthals evolved or did this only happen some time after H. heidelbergensis diverged to become H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis (or should that be H. sapiens neanderthalensis?)

In other words, did other, more primitive species need to accept Jesus to get into Heaven, or did that only become necessary recently? If earlier, why did Plantinga's god wait until just 2000 years ago before telling anyone and then do it in such a way that it took another almost 2000 years before everyone could know about it, and why is there no record of this god giving them this news?

If the latter, when exactly, and how did Plantinga's god decide when evolving humans had reached the right stage? Did it happen one day when all members of the evolving species had all got all the right mutations or did it include some who still carried the non-mutated form of the final mutation which turned us at last into the H. sapiens which this intelligent designer had always intended?

So many questions and no hope of an answer ever coming from the 'guided evolution' notion which is untestable, therefore unfalsifiable, hence not a scientific hypothesis.

Compare the above figures to those for Americans who have received a scientific education to degree level:

The vast majority of the scientific community and academia supports evolutionary theory as the only explanation that can fully account for observations in the fields of biology, paleontology, molecular biology, genetics, anthropology, and others.[22][23][24][25][26] One 1987 estimate found that "700 scientists ... (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) ... give credence to creation-science".[27] An expert in the evolution-creationism controversy, professor and author Brian Alters, states that "99.9 percent of scientists accept evolution".[28] A 1991 Gallup poll of Americans found that about 5% of scientists (including those with training outside biology) identified themselves as creationists.[29][30]


Clearly, what's happening here is that apologists like Plantinga are catering for a market in books to 'confirm' prejudice for those who aren't really interested in truth so much as wanting to feel superior to those who bother with learning. But then who would buy a book by a theologian if they wanted to learn about biology anyway?

For theologians, there is nothing to be gained by trying to educate people in science when, for many of their readers, that's the last thing they want. In America, for many people, it's almost as though ignorance is considered a virtue. It's almost as though the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of opinion have become confused with the idea that one opinion is just as good as another, no matter on what that opinion is based. An opinion based on complete ignorance is considered just as valid as one based on learning, reason, logic and evidence - so what's the point of bothering with the learning, reason, logic and evidence?

It's a strange view of reality which can only be produced by the distorting lens of religion and especially a religion which considers it a sin to question dogma and whose founding fathers had such contempt for reason. (See Christians! Should You Be Reading This?)





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Seriously Weird Stuff

One of the things science teaches us is humility.

We can't really begin to understand things unless we are prepared to put aside our vain ego and resist the temptation to dismiss things just because they don't 'seem' right, or we find them hard to believe. This is the classic mistake Creationists make with Evolution, or often, with nearly all science - "You can't tell me... blah... blah... blah!". For some reason they seem to believe the universe must be easily understandable so anything which is hard to understand can't be right.

As someone once said (and I can't find who!), "Relativity is not hard to understand; it's hard to believe". I mean, it just doesn't seem right that no matter how fast you are moving, the speed of a beam of light coming towards you is the same as the speed of light going away from you. And yet every measurement ever made confirms that this is true and that it is time which changes when you go faster or slower.

The reason Einstein was able to conceptualise this idea was because he was able to ignore intuition and trusted the maths instead. Einstein allowed the evidence to lead him instead of assuming a right of veto over reality. Very many people, especially religious people, find it difficult or impossible to be that humble. That doesn't seem right to me so it can't be true; I don't know how to explain it so my guess must be right; that conflicts with my belief so the fact must be wrong.

Take, for example, the 'size' of the universe: we know when it started and that it started very small - as near to nothing as it's possible to get - and we know how long it's been expanding for, so we should be able to calculate its size - shouldn't we?

But the problem is, the space we are trying to measure isn't flat; it's curved.

Another thing we know about the universe is that it's not infinitely big. How do we know this? Simply by looking up at the sky. If the universe was infinite then every line you can draw from your eye would land on the surface of a star, and so the sky would be uniformly bright, even at night. It isn't, so the universe is not infinite. (This has been argued against on the grounds that it could be that the light hasn't had time to reach us yet).

But the universe is not like a balloon being inflated. A balloon is being inflated into something. Not so the universe. The universe is expanding into itself because all time and space are inside the universe. When the universe expands, it's the amount of space inside it which increases. There is no outside because there is no time and/or space for an outside to exist in 'outside' the universe, so the universe has nothing to expand into.

Because it has no outside, this means the universe doesn't have an 'edge'. In other words, the universe is finite but unbounded.

It also means that, if you could somehow stand outside the universe, the universe would not exist for you. It could not exist because there is nowhere outside the universe for it to exist in and no time for it to exist. Physical existence only has any meaning in terms of occupying space and time. Nothing can exist without space and time.

This is the reason we couldn't detect other universes. They don't exist in our Universe's spacetime so, so far as this Universe is concerned, they don't exist at all.

The universe only 'exists' inside itself. Asking what is outside the universe is as daft as asking what what is north of the North Pole. A bit like an ant walking endlessly round a wheel, wondering when it's going to get to the end.

It's also as daft as asking what there was before the Big Bang. (See now how the so-called Cosmological Argument so beloved of religious apologists depends on your intuitive rejection of what the evidence tells you? But why the need to explain a 'before' when your explanation implicitly accepts an arbitrarily designated cause that had no 'before', and logic tells you that there could not have been a 'before' without space and time?)

So, like Doctor Who's Tardis, the universe is very big inside but very small outside. In fact, 'outside', the universe is still the same 'size' it was at the moment of the Big Bang.

So what size is the universe?

Here's another thing to think about that just doesn't seem right:

The further you look into space, the older is the space you are looking at, because it takes time for the light you are seeing to travel from what you are looking at. But we know the universe is expanding and once occupied a point of infinite density and (almost) zero space 13.8 billion years ago.

This means, if you could see far enough to see light which started out 13.8 billion years ago, you would be seeing the Big Bang. But, the Big Bang wasn't a very long way away; it was here. In fact, it was everywhere. It was inside you, or rather inside the space you occupy, just a long time ago.

So, the further you look into space, the closer what you are seeing gets to you - but the longer ago it was. You are not so much looking further, you are looking back in time.

So, what is this massive universe with no edge and which doesn't exist outside itself made of?

Well, empty space really. Most of the universe is empty. By far the largest part of you is empty space. In fact, if it wasn't for the electrical charges carried on the electrons surrounding the atomic nuclei of the atoms you are made from, you would be invisible. Photons would mostly go right through you unmolested. It's actually the repulsion forces between atomic orbital electrons which makes things feel and look solid.

Take for example a hydrogen atom consisting of a single proton as a nucleus with a single electron around it (I say 'around' because it doesn't really exist as a single particle like a miniature planet orbiting a sun, but as a kind of a cloud surrounding the nucleus - yes, electrons really are in all possible places at the same time like a wave, or a probability function of being in any particular location).

So where is this empty space? Imagine the hydrogen nucleus magnified up to the size of a football and sitting on the centre spot at Wembley Stadium (for non-Brits, that's the English national football ground in the western suburbs of London, which is in South-east England). The electron 'cloud' on the same scale would be a sphere with its edge in Durban, in South Africa. The empty space is not only the space between atoms but the space inside atoms.

So, only a minuscule portion of the universe is in the form of particles or quanta of energy; the rest is 'empty' space. And yet that empty space is not 'nothing'. It exists in space and time.

And that's where it starts to get really strange and full of electromagnetic 'fields', like radio waves, magnetism and gravity, and vibrating 'superstrings', branes and other weird stuff like coiled-up micro-dimensions, and where virtual particle-antiparticle pairs spontaneously generate without cause and then annihilate one another.

Very strange and hard to believe - but well worth the effort.

So much more honest than settling for 'magic' and giving up trying, and then just pretending you know best like so many people who use religion as their excuse do as they pretend it gives them a short-cut to knowledge and wisdom, but usually end up looking scientifically illiterate and intellectually dishonest.





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Friday, 9 November 2012

How Christians Lie To Children

Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander
For sheer repugnant nauseatingly mawkish sentimentality and the grotesque sentiments it explicitly advocates, this Anglican hymn probably takes some beating - though I am open to persuasion on that point if you can find an even more repugnant one...

It is still sung in primary schools and Sunday schools, though there have been attempts to ban the third verse from state schools.

Refrain
1. All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.


2. Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

Refrain...

3. The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Refrain...

4. The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;−

Refrain...
It trolls on for another three equally odious verses but readers may like to read that third verse again...

It was written by Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (nee Humphreys), who was born in Dublin, the third child and second daughter of Major John Humphreys (of Norfolk, land-agent to 4th Earl of Wicklow and later to the second Marquess of Abercorn) and wife of William Alexander, later Bishop of Armargh and Anglican primate of Ireland.

It was written especially for children whom Mrs Alexander felt needed to be reminded not only what a lovely little planet God had provided for them but how he had thoughtfully provided them with a neat social order with the rich in their castles and the lowly at their gate.

Skibbereen, Ireland, 1847
This charming little piece of unashamed combined social and anti-science propaganda was written in Ireland in 1848, the third and most devastating years of the Great Famine when upwards of 500,000 'lowly' Irish men, women and children were starving to death outside the gates, whilst their wealthy land owners in their castles were exporting food.

Meanwhile the English gentry parliament in London was refusing to distribute relief supplies for fear it would destabilise the laws of supply and demand which God had also thoughtfully provided to help ensure the social order was maintained and the rich continued to get richer by living off the labours of the lower orders. What did a few hundred thousand dead Irish matter when there were plenty more where they came from?

Particularly pleasing is the way it sets impressionable little children up with a twee little rhyme about flowers and little birds, before equating them with a rigid and god-given class system so these lucky little children would know their place and understand why they should stay in it.

Of course, this was a sincere eulogy to God and had nothing at all to do with the French Revolution of February 1848, the publication if the Communist Manifesto in the same month, workers uprisings throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a massive Chartist rally in London, audaciously demanding universal adult male suffrage and paid MPs so you didn't need to be rich to represent people in parliament, all within a few weeks of one another; events which had simultaneously concentrated the minds and slackened the bowels of the English ruling class.

How fortunate we were to have such a thoughtful ruling class to explain these things to us simple plebeians and such a kind, caring Anglican Church to promulgate it down to the lower orders and ensure we got the lesson early in life.

Apropos of nothing in particular, our present government is led by the rich son of an aristocrat. Most of his senior ministers have similar backgrounds. Their political party is known colloquially as 'The Nasty Party'. Some of their families still own castles although many of them were thrown out of Ireland by a curiously ungrateful people almost a hundred years ago. I don't suppose we'll ever really understand why.

[Edit] The day after writing this, the Old Etonian with aristocratic connections and relative of former Tory grandee Richard Austen (RAB) Butler, Justin Welby, was confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury (pastoral head of the Anglican church) by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, an Old Etonian with aristocratic connections.

It is not clear whether either of their aristocratic families still live in castles but it's reassuring to see how the English class system so beloved of the Anglican Church of 1848 is still very much alive and kicking, even if almost no one now takes any notice of the church and its vicars spout their weekly sanctimonious snobbery at almost empty pews in return for their wages.





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A Big Welcome To New Atheists

So you've finally admitted to yourself that you're an Atheist!

The first thing to understand is that you're not alone; you are part of a very rapidly growing world-wide 'community' of Atheists. I use the term 'community' loosely here because Atheism is not an organised movement. It doesn't commit you to believing in anything in place of gods so there are no dogmas, axioms or tenets of faith (how could there be?). Atheism is not an alternative faith. Atheism is an alternative to faith. It has been said that the only certainty is that there are no certainties.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

God's Nob

Justin Welby
Next Archbishop of Canterbury
BBC News - Justin Welby 'to be named as new Archbishop of Canterbury':

Exciting news that Justin Welby, a rich Old Etonian with aristocratic connections and a relative of former Tory grandee Richard Austen (Rab) Butler, is to be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, by rich Old Etonian with aristocratic connections and current Tory grandee, Prime Minister David Cameron.

Justin Welby is current Bishop of Durham, a post he has held for less than a year.

In case anyone was under any illusions that the Anglican Church has any hint of democracy about it, it is worth looking at how this widely leaked decision was made.
[The] Crown Nominations Commission (known until 2003 as the Crown Appointments Commission), ... consists of:
  • The Archbishops of Canterbury and York (in the event of a vacancy in either post, then the House of Bishops elects another bishop to take that Archbishop's place)
  • Three members elected by the General Synod's House of Clergy from within itself
  • Three members elected by the General Synod's House of Laity from itself
  • Six members elected ad hoc by the Vacancy-in-See Committee from itself
Beyond these fourteen voting members, the Prime Minister's appointments secretary and the Archbishops' appointments secretary meet with the commission and help supply it with information on possible candidates. Normally the archbishop in whose province the vacancy lies chairs the commission.

When meeting to nominate an archbishop, the commission is chaired by a fifteenth voting member, who must be an "actual communicant lay member of the Church of England". He or she is appointed by the prime minister (if an Archbishop of Canterbury is being appointed) or by the Church of England Appointments Committee (if an Archbishop of York).

The commission meets several times in secret. The commission then forwards two names to the prime minister, who chooses one of them, or (exceptionally) requests additional names from the commission. In recent memory, the only prime minister who has not accepted the commission's preferred candidate was Margaret Thatcher, who opposed James Lawton Thompson’s nomination as Bishop of Birmingham, due to his (perceived) liberal and left-leaning views. If the chosen individual accepts the office, the prime minister advises the Sovereign, who then formally nominates the prime minister's choice. Thereafter, the diocese's College of Canons meets to 'elect' the new bishop. (This stage of the process was mocked by Ralph Waldo Emerson thus: "The King sends the Dean and Canons a congé d'élire, or leave to elect, but also sends them the name of the person whom they are to elect. They go into the Cathedral, chant and pray; and after these invocations invariably find that the dictates of the Holy Ghost agree with the recommendation of the King" [Emerson, English Traits, XIII, 1856].)
It must be reassuring to members of the worldwide Anglican Community that the British Prime Minister (head of government) is in charge of the whole process. As you can see from the current membership of the Crown Nominations Commission, over-seas interests and opinions are well represented (not!):

The current (May 2012) members are:
  • Professor Glynn Harrison - Diocese of Bristol - elected by General Synod to serve as member of the Commission for a five year period.
  • Mrs Mary Johnston - Diocese of London - elected by General Synod to serve as member of the Commission for a five year period.
  • Mr David Kemp, elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their Vacancy in See Committee.
  • The Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Primate of The Church in Wales, elected by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
  • The Rt Revd James Newcome, the Bishop of Carlisle - elected by House of Bishops.
  • The Very Revd Andrew Nunn - Diocese of Southwark - elected by General Synod to serve as member of the Commission for a five year period.
  • The Rt Revd Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester - elected by House of Bishops.
  • The Reverend Canon Mark Roberts, elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their Vacancy in See Committee.
  • Mrs Caroline Spencer, elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their Vacancy in See Committee.
  • The Revd Canon Peter Spiers - Diocese of Liverpool - elected by General Synod to serve as member of the Commission for a five year period.
  • The Revd Canon Glyn Webster - Diocese of York - elected by General Synod to serve as members of the Commission for a five year period.
  • The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their Vacancy in See Committee.
In addition, the Archbishops' Secretary for Appointments (Ms Caroline Boddington), the Prime Minister's Appointments Secretary (Sir Paul Britton) and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion (Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon) are non-voting members of the Commission.
Of course this elaborate process is in place to ensure the right types get appointed to these important posts, untrammelled by the attendant risks in allowing the hoi poloi a say.

Do sheep get to elect their shepherd? Whatever next!

For example, one pitfall this process has avoided is appointing John Setamu, as Archbishop of York, the natural successor to the Archbishop of Canterbury and a person who, on the face of it is admirably suited to the job both academically and in terms of his experience. He had been widely tipped as the next Cantuar by naive commentators, however, as the token African Archbishop, both the CNC and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, obviously felt it wasn't worth the inevitable disintegration of the world-wide Anglican Community which would certainly have followed the appointment of an African as its head.

Phew! What a good thing these things are so tightly controlled by the ruling classes!
Further reading: Christian Democracy.

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