miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
A conversation just occurred in this house:

James: Oh for fuck's sake!
Me: What??
James: "Soccer star Fabrice Muamba's recovery has sparked a group of Christian MPs to try and reverse an ad ban on saying that worship works. Three Christian MPs are trying to overturn an advertising ban on claiming that ‘God can heal’." (Source)
Me: Please tell me one of them's not Tim Farron
James: "Gary Streeter (Con), Gavin Shuker (Lab) and Tim Farron (Lib Dem) say that they want the Advertising Standards Authority to produce "indisputable scientific evidence" to say that prayer does not work"
Me: Oh for fuck's sake.

I really like Tim Farron, but sometimes he makes it really difficult for me to do so.

Firstly, the very idea of indisuptable scientific evidence is a contradiction in terms. The whole point of scientific evidence is that it's disputable. That's how science is made. The difference between a scientific paradigm and (for instance) a Christian doctrine is like the difference between Lib Dem policy and Tory policy. A Lib Dem policy is proposed by an activist (scientist), run past FPC and FCC (the ethics committees), experimented upon (consultative sessions), examined from every angle (peer review), and finally voted upon at conference (becomes accepted as a paradigm). A Tory policy goes like this: one of the top rank Tories has an idea, possibly after a very expensive meal with David Cameron (God issues an edict via holy book/prophet/visions/whatever).

Just like there is no such thing as an indisputable Lib Dem policy, there is no such thing as indisputable scientific evidence. But that does not mean that there is not Lib Dem policy that pretty much everybody agrees on, and that's how science works too. For instance, pretty much every Lib Dem agrees that imprisoning people without charge for long periods of time is a bad thing; there might be the odd one that thinks there ought to be exceptions to this priciple, but mostly, we are in accord, and we don't bother discussing it much because it's something we all agree on. Similarly there is no indisputable scientific evidence that I exist; but I think we can work on the assumption that I do, given that I'm typing this blog post, and although it might be fun to try and prove that I exist, it's not really a valubale use of anyone's time. There is no indisputable scientific evidence that computers or blogs exist, for that matter. But pretty much everybody agrees that they do. Science, like Lib Dem policy, is all about consensus, not people doing what they are told*.

With all that in mind, we can see that the very idea that there might be indisputable scientific evidence that prayer does not work is a bit silly, and that's even before we go into the difficulties of proving a negative (it seems quite appropriate to me, especially in this case, that the logical fallacy which covers saying that something must be true because it hasn't yet been proven false is called the argument from ignorance). However, in the realm of disputable scientific evidence, there are some things that Gary Streeter (Con), Gavin Shuker (Lab) and Tim Farron (Lib Dem) might find instructive.

There are HUGGINS of scientifc studies that have been done by Christians to try and prove that prayer DOES work (example article talking about this phenomenon). And not one of them has made a reliable conclusion that prayer is anything other than a placebo. Every one that has purported to do so has been found to be cheating in some way. Now, in terms of the Advertising Standards Agency, they generally require proof of a positive: that is, in order to advertise a thing, you must be able to prove that what you are saying is true. Why should Christianity be held to a lower standard than L'Oreal or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter? If prayer actually works, Christians, I think it's up to you lot to prove it, not to demand that the rest of us prove that it doesn't.

Apart from anything else, it flies in the face of your own stated principles. Christianity is supposed to be about love and compassion and stuff, right? In what way is it loving or compassionate to give ill people false hope that you talking to your invisible friend on their behalf will have any measurable effect? Surely that's cruel and evil, not loving and compassionate?

I really have no beef with Christians who believe in God and want to worship him and all that jazz, SO LONG AS THEY DON"T IMPINGE ON MY NOT WANTING TO JOIN IN. I am utterly pig sick of the current vocal minority of Christians in this country and the rest of the Western world who are trying like blazes to impose ridiculous Christian doctrines on the rest of us, and shore up the stupid privelege that Christianity has in our legislature all the while trying to claim that they are being discriminated against; and I am incredibly sad that someone who is the president of a supposedly Liberal party keeps trying to enforce Christian conformity on the rest of us.

Tim, please, you're a nice lad and a good speaker, but Just. Stop. It.



*this is, of course, why the entire activist base is so pissed off with the leadership trying to be religious instead of scientific, and going their own way instead of listening to Conference. This isn't what we signed up for. It's also not what this blog post is about, though, so...

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bagpuss
hear hear

All I can say is when I read that I hope that the people at the ASA turn round and say I am sorry you have misunderstood for us to change the rules you have to provide sound evidence that prayer does work not the other way round

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
innerbrat: (full of shit)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat
Dammit dammit EVIDENCE DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:28 pm (UTC)
innerbrat: (opinion)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat
Although personally I'd like L'Oreal held to a higher standard than they are now. Ever actually listened to what those ads say?

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bagpuss
yep, pointless grandstanding is annoying, especially when it gives any sort of backup to the very funny articles that the daily thump writes because while they are very funny I do wish there were further from the truth

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
innerbrat: (i'm mocking you)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat
It's true. Personally I'd like them held to the standards that medicine commercials are over here. Five seconds of ad, half a minute of voiceover telling you that it might not work, it shouldn't replace actual medicine, and the side effects may be worse than the symptom.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
innerbrat: (muahahaha!)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat
I would be all over that.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:47 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] magister
Never mind L'Oreal, have you ever met this fabled person who can't believe it's not butter?

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: Ostrakon against Themistocles. (ostrakon)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
I'm sure if they stopped to think about it a moment they'd realise that having the burden of proof that way round is not good for consumer rights. This makes me rather sad, since it suggests they *didn't* stop to think about it for a moment. Sigh.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
drunkwriter: Me in South Park form. (Default)
From: [personal profile] drunkwriter
Quite apart from my atheistic aversion to the whole proposition, as someone who has flogged ad space for a living, I guarantee that successfully overturning this ban would open the floodgates for all manner of dreck. The ASA would have no grounds for its other restrictions on quack health products, for one thing. Media owners would be as happy as pigs in, well you know, with oodles of the ads they've been forced to turn away over the years, but you would never ever want to pick up a magazine again.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
nadriel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nadriel
Adding some more people to the "get off my team" list. *sigh* There are times when I wonder if I'm in the same faith...

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
nadriel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nadriel
Although admittedly, having userpics like mine probably doesn't help my case :-P

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
ext_390810: (Default)
From: [identity profile] http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/
And that's why I'm glad I didn't vote for Tim Farron for President. Seriously pissed off by this - if he was a backbencher doing it, it's one thing, but he's President of the sodding party and signing up to ignorant shite like this demeans us all.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
sir_guinglain: (UKPolitics)
From: [personal profile] sir_guinglain
Dismal in all sorts of ways. We deserve a better politics than a faded photocopy of that of the United States; and the United States deserves a better politics than the one it suffers.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
blazingskies: (Rover Demands)
From: [personal profile] blazingskies
Oh for the love of Isis and all her aspects...

Being religious does NOT make you special. It means you have a belief-set that differs from that of many other people in this world. It does not make your views automatically more valid. It does not make your outrageous claims automatically less stupid.

Is there a petition somewhere I can sign that says 'I don't want this country to become a mini-me version of the US, thanks all the same.'

*headdesk*

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Actually i think Tim has a point. As a Christian I object to be told that my view is less valid than anyone else's. I wrote it better here http://spiderplantland.co.uk/im-just-a-christian/

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
softfruit: (Default)
From: [personal profile] softfruit
"I really like Tim Farron, but sometimes he makes it really difficult for me to do so."

This.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
ginasketch: (smirk)
From: [personal profile] ginasketch
*grin*

I think it helps your case a great deal.

Heaven knows I take you more seriously because of it. ;)

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
ginasketch: (smirk)
From: [personal profile] ginasketch
The more religious people get offended by harmless shit the more I want to troll them.

I do not understand how the most dominant religion the world acts like the most oppressed organization on earth.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
ginasketch: (Blasphemy)
From: [personal profile] ginasketch
It's fairly easy to be a Christian and NOT push it onto other people

This.

And please for the love of all unholy can they stop whining that the gays/feminists etc are oppressing them.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
bagfish: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bagfish
Just saw this on Liberal Conspiracy and went WTF. As you say, Tim's a nice bloke, but FFS STOP IT with the religious nuttery. This sort of thing makes me embarrassed to have him as my MP.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
From: [personal profile] davegodfrey
They want to rule the world, and you're repressing them by not letting them. They're a bit like Men's Rights Activists.

Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
el_staplador: (Default)
From: [personal profile] el_staplador
Does it help to know how horrendously embarrassing this is to those of us who believe in Christianity and evidence?

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
telegramsam: Walter hates you. (wallyhate)
From: [personal profile] telegramsam
This. Honestly.

Any time I see commercial-style advertising for churches, religious organizations, etc, it always kind of turns my stomach. It's just so... trashy. Cheap. There've been some billboards around town here in Nashville, Tennessee for one of the creepy megachurches with some football player and a cheesy slogan I have blocked from my memory.

I absolutely want to puke every time I drive past one.

Where's Jesus when you need some money-changers' tables flipped over....

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 01:42 am (UTC)
telegramsam: John Byers Disapproves (Disapproving Byers)
From: [personal profile] telegramsam
It's always the knobheads who screech the loudest in any group, it seems. *sigh*

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 06:28 am (UTC)
el_staplador: (Default)
From: [personal profile] el_staplador
*snuggles back*

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 08:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fabulousblueporcupine.wordpress.com
As a result of this I have witnessed someone on twitter suggesting there should be an ASA code for matters of faith and actually *resisting* the idea that this constituted special treatment for matters of faith.

It has nudged me into joining the BHA. I thought nothing on the internet could surprise me any more.

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 08:39 am (UTC)
pmoodie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pmoodie
I can't believe it's not bollocks!

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 11:19 am (UTC)
el_staplador: (Default)
From: [personal profile] el_staplador
It's quite fun being all three (well, bi, but also Christian and feminist).

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 12:05 pm (UTC)
redbird: congnitive hazard, one of those drawings that can't work in three dimensions (brain broken)
From: [personal profile] redbird
Let's see: an ASA code for matters of faith, with the standard being that claims must satisfy a Hindu priest, the Archbishop of Canterbury (or an Anglican priest appointed by him), the Chief Rabbi, an imam, a Sikh religious leader, and one of the Druids who gather regularly at Stonehenge. Anything that any of them says is false or unproven fails the standard.

I think I'd be happier with an ASA code that didn't allow them to claim that there is one god, or that Jesus rose from the dead, than they would. A sort of least-common-denominator "ritual is good, and prayer may work, but we can't say anything about what ritual or who you're praying to, or promote specific holidays or rituals." It would still annoy me as an atheist, but maybe less than it would annoy most of the believers.

(I'm here via one of Andrew Ducker's links roundups, by the way.)

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
chess: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chess
Can we include some kind of Buddhist? I think they have a usefully different PoV to all of those...

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
Sure. That was a top-of-my-head list while drinking my first cup of tea.

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
gwenhwyfaer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gwenhwyfaer
Ah, but that's a name, not a claim. It's been years since I last saw an advert, but I think they were quite careful to avoid actually asserting that it tasted indistinguishable from butter.

(I wonder if you could get away with calling a homeopathic product I Can't Believe It's Not Drugs?)

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