The child-like faith in reason

At the end of last week, BBC News Magazine posted an article titled A Point of View: The child-like faith in reason by political philosopher John Gray. Gray’s basic assertion is that “believing in the power of human reason requires a greater leap of faith than believing in God” and “to believe that human beings can be much improved by rational argument is to assume that they are already reasonable, which is obviously false”.

He starts with the claim that ‘evangelical atheists’ are constantly ‘promoting’ the idea that religion is childish, but the real truth of the matter is that it’s the other way round, “belief in human reason is childish”. And within just a few paragraphs he brings in the Nazis as proof (oh, Godwin) and has a little anti-EU rant.

The basic argument is easy to refute. Belief in a god or gods relies entirely on faith – there is no supportable evidence for any kind of supreme being that created the world or life on it, who watches us, interferes in our lives, answers prayers, causes events to happen, or who guides and judges our morality. On the other hand, the application of reason has  given us the answers for how the world came to be and how we came to live on it, and why certain events happen, as well as being the most successful method of developing a better moral society. Reason requires far less faith than religion.

What Gray seems to be getting at, however, is that relying on reason is foolish (a more accurate word, I think, than Gray’s provocative childish) – humans are incapable of applying it and improving. This may be partially true (but I’d like to refute that too, in a moment), but to say it is more foolish than religion is plainly daft.

The crux of his argument is that if we applied reason to our past experiences then we should improve, but we don’t, we just keep making the same mistakes. But is religion a better method? Religion is dogma, law set in stone, it doesn’t change. The same rules that were laid down for a set of Bronze Age goat-herders in the Middle East are true, today, for an inner-city banker in central London.

It is the discarding of these ancient, often morally abhorrent (even for their time) ideologies, and the increasing utilisation of reason, I would argue, that has improved our society. Even religion itself cannot ignore the power of reason – all major religions have been tempered by the secular and humanist ideals of equality and justice over the past two or three centuries, and they continue to be influenced today, in direct opposition to many of the laws within their supposedly immutable holy books.

It is, of course, true that human beings are not rational – we know that. In fact it is through the use of reason that we know it, and are often able to distinguish between a rational act and an irrational one. And true, this knowledge doesn’t necessarily stop us from acting irrationally.

Gray says, “science may yet confirm what history so strongly suggests – irrationality is hard-wired in the human animal”. I think science has already confirmed that. We all know of the idea that a person who runs away from a noise in the tall grass, nine times of out of ten of which is merely the wind, will survive and pass on their genes, whereas the person who ‘reasons’ (usually correctly) it is most likely the wind, so doesn’t run, will get eaten by the tiger who was hiding there the one time it wasn’t. Of such evolutionary behaviour are religions made.

Pure human reason would be as robust as the scientific method. Emotion would not get in the way, neither would confirmation bias, herd mentality, programmed habit, or ideological allegiance. All these can play a part in our decisions, personal or social, and none of them are entirely reasonable.

But I know of no atheist or humanist (‘evangelical’ or otherwise) who actually believes we can have some utopian society based entirely on reason. What a reasonable person knows and is aware of is the very fact that humans have these often irrational traits. The improvement has come in recognising them, and applying a better standard to our decisions despite them. It’s gradual, but society has benefited immeasurably.

Expand your human view and we’re better off, largely thanks to reason, in nearly all areas – health, education, equality and justice. Yes, there is still slavery, torture, war, revenge, prejudice and even genocide, but these things are no longer acceptable to society at large, and united international justice is far more effective and fair now than in the past.

The societies who still foster hate along ‘racial’ or sexual lines are generally ones where some form of irrationality (often faith-based) still holds sway at government level. The Nazis, to use Gray’s rather tired example, did not apply reason to their (bad) scientific policies, but prejudice and hate that was born of myth. It is mainly religion that condemns women, homosexuals, and those who are not the ‘chosen people’ of whatever faith – whether it’s Islam, Christianity or Aryan Supremacy.

Gray is very negative. An attitude like his will result in exactly what he propositions – no improvement in human benevolence, social conditions or morals. As individuals we are all subject to our various human follies, but striving for our governments to apply more reason to their policies, small steps – sometimes three forward and two back – will eventually lead to real overall improvements.

Sense About Science have a campaign to Ask For Evidence. The more people who take up this challenge, the fewer places companies and policy-makers who promote pseudo-science have to hide. This is the kind of thing that starts small but eventually reaches the halls where laws are forged. On a bigger scale, Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature uses statistics – and reason – to show that violence has declined and that this is almost certainly due to an age of enlightenment that has gradually and successfully spread.

Our personal experiences are comparable to anecdote and Gray carries out the equivalent of using individual studies to make his point. We should be looking at the meta-analysis, the Cochrane report, to see how we’re doing, and we’re doing relatively well. Reason can be applied as a scientific method to correct our choices. Reason does not require faith. Reason works.

I responded to another BBC Point of View article back in May 2014 – Is it Better to be a Humanist than Religious?

If you go chasing rabbits …

Conspiracy theorists are in seventh* heaven at the moment and new recruits are donning their tin-foil hats almost daily. How many times have I read recently, on blogs and on Facebook, “I’m not normally into conspiracy theories, but this is getting weird …”

Disaster has befallen a second Malaysian Airlines flight within months, the Middle East seems to be brewing up towards WWIII, and number one enemy of the reptoids, David Icke, has been ‘proved right’ as the British establishment – particularly its two central pillars, parliament and the BBC – turns out to be one massive paedophile ring.

But which truth is true? In the case of flight MH17, shot down in Ukraine on 17 July, no one can quite decide, with a whole host of conspiracy celebs, wannabe celebs, and Truther Google-researchers offering up every little possibility that leaps into their pattern-seeking, dot-connecting, unplugged from the Matrix minds.

The most obvious is that it’s a false flag operation (of course), perhaps by the Ukraine government to gain Western sympathy for their ongoing conflict with Russia. Or maybe by Mossad, to draw attention away from their murder of Palestinian children in Gaza, or even the US government to draw attention away from their border and illegal immigration problems. But let’s get serious, it’s most likely the work of the Illuminati/New World Order, to spark off World War Three in this, the 100th anniversary year of World War One.

It could be any of these, or even multiple of these. Or perhaps something else … a failed assassination of Putin, whose own plane was supposedly following closely behind and was similarly marked in the same colours. But who’d want to kill Putin? Why, Ukranians, the CIA, the New World Order, or all three, of course!

The New World Order could also be behind the shooting down of the plane to prevent the cure for AIDS (or its hidden man-made CIA-backed origins) from being revealed at the 20th Annual AIDS conference in Melbourne, and if it wasn’t the NWO then it was Big Pharma itself that fired the missile (or launched an F15 from a secret US base in Azerbaijan) – after all, they don’t want us to get cured, they want to keep us sick so they can continue selling us high-priced but ineffective unnatural treatments for our ‘dis-ease’.

But maybe we’re missing the obvious here? Don’t forget flight MH370 that went missing back in March, what happened to that? MH17 is MH370! Filled with dead bodies and exploded over Ukraine in a sneaky yet brilliant yet, um, irrationally complex plan to get rid of the evidence.

But that might not be it … we mustn’t forget the Rothschilds, those evil NWO, Nazionist string-pullers. The Jewish bankers are running an insurance scam on Malaysian Airlines to recoup financial losses made recently. Either that, or they’re making a dirty bomb to be used in a future false flag operation … yes, they’ve kidnapped engineers from MH370 and biologists from MH17 and now they’re all working for the One World Government on an ingenious bio-weapon on the remote island (and US Naval base) of Diego Garcia. Haven’t you read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? What? It’s a forgery? Hah … that’s what they want you to think!

Of course, everything is connected. As Mossad detonated the plane they kidnapped from the Malaysians back in March over Ukraine, their government masters in Israel continue their indiscriminate destruction on the people of Gaza.

It all started with the kidnap and brutal murder of three Israeli teens. By Palestinians? No, by Israelis! It was another false flag, so they can attack Palestine and steal all that gas they’re sitting on. Or it could be that darned New World Order again, the one run by the Rothschilds and the Rockerfellers (and probably the Ramones too, before they were all murdered) – using Gaza as a flashpoint to launch the world into WWIII and accelerate their depopulation agenda. You, know, the one that Bill Gates is helping to fund. Come on White Dragon Society, we need you now!

But wait, it could be ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) who set up the false flag murder of the teenagers – there’s nothing they’d want more than war in Gaza. Well, maybe there is one thing – they plan to infiltrate the US through the Mexican border! If only Obama didn’t want to take away our guns (precipitated by a number of false flag school/cinema/shopping mall shootings played out by a cast of Masonic crisis actors), then we could actually defend ourselves, just as the Second Amendment stipulates (or not).

That is, if ISIS really are Muslims. But they’re not, you know … ISIS were created by Israel to draw the US further onto the Middle East. But wait, even that’s not true … ISIS are actually a secret wing of the CIA, based in Turkey and launched to destabilise the Arab nations and/or to give the US an excuse to go into Syria. Problem, reaction, solution – it’s all so obvious.

The Illuminati certainly have a lot to answer for. And they’re all paedophiles too. Peaches Geldof knew that, and that’s why they had to murder her after she started revealing their names on Twitter. Jill Dando had to go as well. Just as she was about to hand in her dossier on the BBC paedophile ring … bang!

Proof that the BBC are a paedophile organisation is blatantly hidden in plain sight in the form of the occultish Prospero and Ariel statue on Broadcasting House, sculpted by known-paedophile, Eric Gill. In fact anyone using his most famous font, Gill Sans, is probably a paedophile too. The BBC’s logo uses Gill Sans – case closed.

But at last they’re being exposed. The establishment can no longer hide because they’ve ordered an enquiry into themselves to uncover their own cover-up! It all goes back to Satanist-paedophile Jimmy Savile. He had connections with Cyril Smith (paedophile); he had connections with Thatcher and her government (a cabinet of paedophiles); he had connections with the royal family (lizard paedophiles); and he even had connections with Israel (probably paedophiles – they gave him a medal). Basically, if you can find a photo of someone, anyone, with Jimmy Savile and post it on Facebook, they’re a paedophile.

But why children? Well, our reptilian overlords love to feed on the flesh of innocent children – for one thing, children’s bodies do not have the accumulation of pollutants that adults have, and, secondly, the energy field of a child in extreme fear is very tasty, and gives the Draconian Lizard Lords a huge rush. The Queen is well known to eat children, something she probably discussed with convicted paedophile Rolf Harris while he painted her in human form.

The far right have another theory – the establishment have introduced an epidemic of paedophilia in order to destroy the fabric of Merry Old England, to allow it to be taken over by thieves, mobsters, and, worst of all, foreigners.

So wake up, sheeple, stop taking the blue pill, stop swallowing everything the mainstream media are feeding you, and find out what’s really going on. They might try to indoctrinate us with their chemtrails, fluoride, aspartame, vaccines and reality television, but we know a false flag when we see one fluttering in the Matrix. Just follow the money, then you’ll see who’s really behind the curtain … the Illuminati-Zionist-Nazi-Masonsic-CIA-lizard-cabal, that’s who. And if you happen to think this is all rubbish, well, that’s just what they want you to think and you’re part of the problem.

Every conspiracy theory referred to in this article is one that I have actually found on the Internet in the last day or two. Except that bit about the Ramones. But then, that’s what they want you to think.

*It’s no coincidence conspiracy theorists are in 7th Heaven … flight MH370 and flight MH17 were both Boeing 777s; MH17 crashed 17 years to the day of its maiden flight, on 177-97; Remember 9/11? 1+1=2, 9-2=7, also flight 77 (Pentagon) and flight 175 (south tower); not to mention London’s 7/7! Illuminati frontman (and rapper) Kendrick Lamar wore a shirt with 777 on at the 2013 MTV Awards, a ceremony that also saw a whole cast of Cabal-funded entertainers show off Masonic Illuminati one-eyed symbolism; 777 was also the name of Isis-tattoo’d Rihanna’s 2013 tour documentary; Illuminati lizard-person Christine Lagarde gave a large chunk of her 2014 IMF forecast speech over to the number seven … 2014, 2 x 7 = 14, 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 2+5=7, the G7, G= 7th letter of the alphabet; and it all ties in with the work of the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley, and his 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings. What more proof do you need that the number seven … um, exists?

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GM maize could be growing in Europe next year

Over at global campaign website SumOfUs there is a petition to try and persuade MEPs not to allow new legislation to “open the floodgates for Monsanto to grow its genetically modified crops across the continent”.

This petition, currently standing at over 100,000 signatures, has been doing the rounds on social media and has attracted all kinds of comments in support of the petition’s claims: that GM crops are deeply unpopular with European citizens, that Monsanto will be given the power to overturn decisions made by democratically-elected governments to ban GM crops; and that usage of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide will increase, bringing devastating effects to health and the environment. “Take a stand for bees, birds and democracy”, says the petition text, “and vote down the proposal to allow GM crops to be grown in Europe.” Should you be in any doubt of the stance taken by the petitioners, an image of a sliced tomato revealing a skull and crossbones sits at the head of the page.

Let’s have a look at these points, starting with the idea that GM crops are deeply unpopular in Europe. This opinion is indeed supported by some polls, but they tend to be polls that ask leading questions, such as ‘how worried are you about GM food?’ A more professional approach does not take the consumer by the hand and show him or her which path to take, and those kinds of polls tell a different story: European citizens have other food-related priorities – pesticides, food poisoning, diet-related diseases, obesity, freshness of food, additives and preservatives – all come before GM. And when it comes to GM, the biggest problem is a lack of knowledge on the subject which leads to uninformed opinion. But even there the mistrust of GM foods is diminishing, and even the badly-set polls reflect that.

But never mind all that, whether something is popular or not does not say anything about the science, and argumentum ad populum has no bearing on the truth of the safety of GM crops.

So what about the idea that Monsanto will be able to override the decisions of democratically-elected governments who wish to ban any particular GM crop from its land?

First, you should know that this petition is not against some directive that’s giving free reign to the wild sowing of GM seeds all over the European continent. It’s in response to a new piece of legislation that will offer Member States the chance to ban or restrict any EU-approved GMOs on an individual basis. I don’t see the part where Monsanto are given the power to veto this option. It states on the European Commission’s website that “the Member State retains the right to ban or restrict cultivation of the GMO via an opt out measure, regardless of the company’s views”.

There are some who fear that isolated national governments will be weaker in the face of companies such as Monsanto, but it should also be remembered that the European Commission has set very high scientific standards for the safety and testing of any GM crop submitted for cultivation, and there is no legislative power given to the GM corporations to overturn either scientific findings or opt-outs. Monsanto has said itself that they will seek other market territories in the face of a ban on their crops.

Now onto the claim that Monsanto’s Roundup will devastate people’s health and the environment. Roundup is a herbicide that has been used since the 1970s and, apart from a generation of real-world usage, it has been well-studied and no such devastating effects have been found. It is one of the milder herbicides and its increase in use can often mean it replaces a variety of far more toxic farm chemicals. So far, the science shows that the only way to get a devastating health effect from Roundup is to drink a lot of it – and yes, this can kill you.

There are three main studies that most anti-GMO campaigners cite where Roundup is concerned: Seralini’s 2012 rat-cancer study (just republished by the authors, unchanged, on the Internet after being heavily criticised and withdrawn by the original publishers); the 2014 Moms Across America breast milk study (shown to be heavily biased bad science); and the 2013 Samsel and Seneff P450 enzymes study, which links Roundup with everything from cancer and Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s, autism and depression (and has also been roundly debunked as biased and faulty).

“Take a stand for bees” cries the petition. But Roundup has no link with bee colony collapse, and other GMOs, for instance ‘Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) crops’ not only don’t harm bees, but actually result in a diminished role for the insecticides that do harm bees. Even the famous neonicotinoids have their widely-reported ‘bee-killing’ reputation in doubt (though certainly not discounted) – but we’re getting off the subject of GM crops now.

There are things I don’t like about GM foods, mainly related to private corporation control over the means to feed the world’s population. And I’d much prefer that herbicides and insecticides did not have to be used in farming and that we could live in an idealised garden of organic splendour with local markets providing everything the community requires.

But the reality is not so simple and GM foods offer a chance to improve the world’s food supply through crops that are bred to provide enormous health benefits (eg. beta-carotene-infused Golden Rice and vitamin A-enriched bananas) and to help the environment (with crops that require fewer pesticides and more successful harvests from less acreage, leading to more room for forestation and lower carbon emissions).

Petitions such as the one promoted by SumOfUs are weak on facts and strong on scaremongering. It is biased propaganda – something anti-GM campaigners themselves denounce as underhand and despicable. If Europeans are to become better-informed on both the advantages and disadvantages of GMOs, then we need honest, open discussion and good science in order to move forward.

Update: In Aug 2014 SumOfUs changed the text of their petition, and the text outlining the ‘facts’ of the case, to better represent the actual proposals (as detailed in my article above). In Nov 2014, with the petition 33,000 signatures short of their target, they announced a “major victory” for their campaign after the proposals – the ones SumOfUs initially wanted EU members to vote against (and after gathering well over 100,000 signatures to this end) – were agreed.