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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...
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Meme from [personal profile] cmc42

Saturday, September 1st, 2007 12:20 pm
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cut for meme )

Following links of links from the F-list this morning, I came across this. I had very strong feelings of empathy and recognition while I was reading it. And then I realised... I haven't felt that way for a long time. cut for extreme soppiness )

About This Blog

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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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