Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Return to Civilisation.

Yep, I'm back, well I was back yesterday but in no fit state to type in any kind of organised fashion. I'm sure those who didn't go to Leeds wish everyone would shut up about it and all those who did don't need to hear it again, but stuff you all, here's a summary.

It was awesome.

Silent disco, heaven on earth.

And now a slightly longer summary.

Despite the fact I thought the line-up was pretty horrific it was really good, purely for the campsite shenanigans, as Leeds always is. It has to be said, many stories involve just one person, and I'm sure he'll appreciate the honourable mention, Greg Roscow you fool. No-one else would consider urinating (keeping it clean lest I get any young readers) on yourself and being branded on both arse cheeks a successful week, but it kept things entertaining.

We also managed to get 27 campers from a different camp site to do a spontaneous Oky Koky and completed the invisible Olympics at the silent disco (complete with medal ceremonies this year) which involved swimming, shot put, rugby, hurdles, penalty shoot-out and finished with invisible chess. We even had a small crowd for our ground breaking games.

Me on the 'knobhead chair'
And the rest of the weekend had a distinct Lord of the Rings theme to it, although our plans to storm Isengard (the fire point tower) were unsuccessful. We were successful in burning the 'Green Dragon' song forever into the minds of our camping neighbours though, I imagine it will haunt their sleep forever more.

And as a final mention, when Greg wasn't around, his brother steeped in to fill the void. After spending a good hour throwing sausages shouting 'Sausages for all!!' (When throwing anything 'for all' had to be added) a steward came over and had a hissy fit that went a little like this:

"Shut the fuck up, shut it all of you! All this stops now, next person to throw something, gets chucked out, no warnings no nothing, out! Got it?!" and walked off happy that his sexual frustrations were released by shouting at people like a dick. Immediately after this pretty stern warning, Clint (who hadn't heard it because he was in his tent) comes running out throwing a bucket of water over everyone screaming 'Water for all!' at the top of his voice. Pure comedy gold. (If you were wondering, he didn't get thrown out, but the guy looked like he was about to punch him full in the face.)

So yeah, that was Leeds, brilliant as ever. Normal blogging service shall be resumed soon, as soon as I can find something remotely interesting to talk about.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Leeds Fest Time!!

Goodbye internet world, time for Leeds fest in the morning so you won't be getting your fill around here for a little while.

The line-up might be pretty shit this year, but Leeds would be great even if it wasn't for the music, so long as they still had DJ OD at the silent disco. Ridiculously muddy camping, massive amounts of alcohol and plenty of shit food, what could be better?

Here's a sample of what we made last year, we were rather proud of this actually, it took a good hour of cooking somehow:

So yeah, see you in a week, if I make it out of the mud!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Welcome to the Premier League.

Well, Blackpool have had an interesting two weeks in the Premier League, 10 goals isn't a bad start, and the fact that 4 of them were ours is good indeed. With three points we're already ahead of what I thought we'd be doing, but then expectations were always going to be low.

There's a lot to be optimistic about after the opening games. Holloway seems to have stuck to his promise of playing open, attractive football and not resorting to the ugly, defensive Sam Allardyce style of play. I know some people will claim it gets results, but I don't see the point in picking up the odd draw whilst playing thoroughly ugly football, it's supposed to be entertainment.

After all the rigmarole of pre-season where we seemed to be signing no-one, we now have several new players in, all of whom looked like they fitted nicely into the side and Grandin and Cathcart especially look to be great players.

The win at Wigan 4-0 was amazing, and all the more so because it was completely unexpected. We may have hoped to give them a good game and even maybe snatch a win, but not to demolish them. Harewood was brilliant and the whole team managed to play the nice, flowing football that served them so well last season, all be it against higher quality opponents.

Then it was back down to earth with a thorough drubbing at the Emirates. We went expecting nothing, and got exactly that. But the great thing was that I don't remember another away game (bar the play-off's maybe) where we sang as much as we did there, mainly when we were 5 and 6-0 down. It was great to see the fans stick behind the players because we knew they were just completely outclassed, and that's no embarrassment  against Arsenal, the best footballing team in the country.

After we conceded the 5th, the fans started a 20 minute rendition of 'Don't want to go home', whilst the Arsenal 'fans' were deadly silent, you'd have thought the scoreline was completely the other way around. 3,000 Blackpool fans (at a push), thoroughly out sang the 57,000 Arsenal fans in attendance, and it made for a great day. Probably the best 6-0 loss in history.

We'll move on from it pretty quickly I hope, and target the games we can win whilst not being too disheartened by the big losses that are bound to come our way.

'10-0 to the Blackpool fans!'

In Memory

This blog is somewhere for me to write down things in my head, I think putting things down in words can help a lot sometimes. That's exactly what today's will be for. This isn't going to be a nice, cheery and fun post, if you'd like that I have countless others here to read.

It's been a year to the day since the worst day of my life, and outside my family I don't think I've really talked about it to a single person. This time last year my Grandma died from cancer, it was the first time I've lost anyone that I was close to. She was one of the most amazing people I've known and I still miss her.

You'd have been hard-pressed to find another grandparent who doted on her grandchildren as much as she did, she lived and breathed for family, nothing else seemed to matter. I remember when I was little I would ride round on my bike in summer to see her and my Grandad and if I was ever upset with Mum and Dad it was her that I cried for.

The last time I ever saw her I told her I'd got a place at medical school, the last thing she told me was 'I'm so proud of you.' To the very last she was selfless and thought other people's happiness was just as important as her own, if not more so. It might be a cliche, but if I could be half the person she was, it would be my greatest achievement in life. I'd give anything to talk to her just one more time.

I love you.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

War on benefit cheats + Cameron's bare-faced lies.

It may have been around a week ago now, but I thought I'd get around to talking about David Cameron's tough stance on benefit cheats. It's not new, as the poster below shows, but it is interesting what he chose to include, and more interestingly what he left out.

Here's some of what he wrote:

“Simply shrugging our shoulders at benefit fraud is a luxury we can no longer afford – which is why Iain Duncan Smith is working on the radical steps we can take to deal with it.”

Powerful stuff as he declared a war on these frauds. I don't think anyone will argue that it isn't wrong for people to illegally claim benefits which they aren't entitled to, and we should do all we can to root them out. But what he seemed to happily skip over is that we have a much larger two problems which combined costs us the amount we lost to benefit fraud many times over.

Firstly, of the £3 billion pounds that wrongly goes out in benefits each year, only £1 billion is because of fraud. the rest is because of system failures. And of the £2.1 billion wrongly going out in tax credits, less than £500 million is because of fraud. The rest of the losses from both is due to system failures, nothing to do with individual fraud.

And then we have a bigger problem still. The problem of tax avoidance. In the UK, the difference between what we should make in taxes and what we actually receive, the tax gap, was £40 billion in 2007-2008. (The latest figures that are available) Of that, only £3 billion is down to system errors, with £5 billion from criminal attacks, £7 billion from tax avoidance and £7 billion from tax evasion. The gap includes a £9 billion gap from corporation tax and £3.1 billion through avoidance from 'very big business'. Indeed, these figures may be optimistic, some accountants have put the tax gap at closer to £120 billion.

Now there were a lot of numbers there, so I'll put it into context in a graph:

Just to point out, the bit David Cameron insists is so important is the red bit on the left hand bar. The whole of the right hand bar and the blue from the left was ignored when it came to talking about losses through tax and welfare.

Now it's right to tackle fraud, but let's have a sense of priority shall we? The Lib Dem's even included several billion pounds worth of anti-avoidance measures in their manifesto but have been pretty quiet ever since. It might appease the Daily Mail, but David Cameron's definitely going after the small fish in this case.

Edit: Whilst I'm at it talking about politics maybe now would be a good time to include this, David Cameron's latest 'promise' which has gone tits-up:

“And let me say very clearly to pensioners if you have a Conservative Government your Winter Fuel Allowance, your bus pass, your Pension Credit, your free TV licence all these things are safe. You can read my lips, that is a promise from my heart. Don’t believe the lies you’re being told by the Labour Party just because they’ve got nothing positive to say.”

Well, just over 100 days into government and it seems that a 'promise from David Cameron's heart' means absolutely f**k all. I was anxious at the time when Labour carried on talking about winter fuel payments despite Cameron being so clear on the matter, but it seems we were justified.

And to all those Tory's who will no doubt complain that 'we're in a financial mess and can't afford these benefits to be going out to the middle class', I say this. It is one thing to question whether you would make these benefits universal as Labour did, it is quite another to unequivocally promise that they are in no danger of being removed and then put them in a review! He will no doubt wriggle and squirm but the fact of the matter is that David Cameron is a bare-faced liar.

The bit at the end only makes it worse, he makes absolutely clear that not only will they be kept, but they won't be altered in any way, 'we will keep what we inherit'. Like I said, bare-faced lies.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Life before Profits.

In most of the developed world, we have come to a common consensus that health care is a human right. People deserve to free from the fear that accident or illness could cripple them financially even if it doesn't end up killing them first. Through this approach it actually works out to be cheaper to keep people healthy, as money comes back in the form of what that person can earn as a result of being in work. Health care is the major proof of the fact that some things just don't do well at the mercy of the markets. Yet in another crucial area of medicine we don't seem to be learning the same lessons. Right at this moment, millions of people are dying because they can't afford the drugs that would keep them alive, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Here's how things work at the moment. A new drug can be very difficult to create indeed. Much of the initial research takes place in universities and research foundations, before a major drug company comes onto the scene and buys the rights to all the research that has been done. The drug company can then put its vast resources into paying for the costly but mostly uncreative part of the manufacture including buying the starting chemicals and paying for the vast trials. Once a drug has been made and shown to work the company can apply for a patent. Once this has been approved that company has complete monopoly over its manufacture for 20 years. For those 20 years no-one can make the drug without permission, regardless of how much cheaper or more efficient they claim they can make it.

The downside of this should be clear. With a monopoly on anything a company can jack prices up as much as they please, and drugs are no different. Most of the world who would most benefit from the drug miss out because they simply can't afford it. Some drugs are given at cheaper prices to the developing world in an attempt to gain some good publicity but this only happens some of the time, and not nearly enough to stop millions of needless deaths.

The argument for the status quo is made by the major companies and they pay a heavy price to keep politicians on their side. They argue, rightly, that making a drug is costly, many drugs that have investment poured in fail to make it to patent and that without the promise of profits there won't be any companies willing to invest in manufacturing new drugs. This is all true, but assumes that there are no other ways in which we could produce new drugs, and big pharma would like to keep it that way. I'm going to suggest two, either would be a huge improvement and save millions of lives, its up to you to decide whether you think its worth the cost of slightly less money flowing into the pockets of CEO's.

The first is supported by Medicins Sans Frontiers, an international aid organisation which has been struggling for years to provide the drugs it needs to to save lives. Their idea is the creation of a patent pool, which would need all companies to participate, but could solve multiple problems in one fell swoop. What would change is that drugs would continue to be developed by researchers and big pharma, but when it came to patenting, the company would hand the patent into the hands of the patent pool. This patent pool would act as a one-stop shop for developers and researchers who wanted to create cheaper generic versions of the drug or who wanted to combine the drug with others such as is needed in HIV treatment. Every time someone used a patent they would pay a set royalty to the drugs company to pay for its development. With many people coming in to produce cheaper versions the competition would soon drive down prices to a level that was affordable to the poor.

The second has been suggested by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, it consists of a multi-national prize fund which rewards researchers whose drug's do the most good. It would mean that many nations come together and all contribute to a prize fund (about 0.6% of GDP each) which awards cash to researchers who develop new drugs. The more effective the drug, the more money is awarded. No patents would be needed as the researcher has already been rewarded and so cheaper generic versions could be quickly developed and drive down prices for the poor. The countries contributing to the fund would gain through the reduction in prices as their health care costs plummet. Another bonus of this system is that it addresses one more of the major problems with the current system, the fact that illnesses that mainly affect the poorest are not likely to be big money-spinners and so are neglected. This fund wouldn't discriminate by ability to pay, and so would reward researchers producing drugs which help those most in need.

Both have many merits in my opinion, but we need more than just ideas, we need action. It won't be easy to overturn the pharmaceutical companies iron grip on its cash flow, but the whole world will benefit if we succeed.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Steer clear of the American style.

There seems to be a fascination in the UK about just how close our country is to the US. There is plenty of talk of 'Special Relationships' and how the two country's share some kind of unique bond. Our leader's, whoever they may be at any time, are always eager to look like they're great friends and I get the feeling that people tend to feel closer to Americans (possibly simply because of the shared language) than they do to our much closer neighbours in France and Germany. Indeed, to say you like the French or Germans is very unusual indeed, however tongue-in-cheek the animosity is. But exactly how close are we, and should we really be looking across the pond for a friend and inspiration? (Edit: I've just noticed I've been getting quite a lot of visitors from the US, I'd love to know what you guys think?)

I'd suggest that whilst we might want an ally, we certainly don't want to be looking for inspiration.

A lot of commentators seemed to get very excited by the American presidential election back in 2008. Look how exciting it is, they would say, look how much people care. They wondered why it wasn't like that in the UK.  There are probably many reasons why, but I think one that really screams out to me is how completely divided their politics is. None of our main political parties are as right-wing as the Republicans and despite the fact that you could hardly call the Democrat's left-wing by any reasonable measure there remains a huge void. In the UK our party's have been pulled toward the centre, not least by the fear of losing votes to the Lib Dem's. Not so in the US.

To see what I'm talking about you need only look back as far as the health care bill which caused such a stir in America. It was a country mile short of being anything close to Universal Health Care, if someone had suggested replacing the NHS with what they now have after the bill they'd have been labelled a right-wing nut job. Yet to Americans, this clearly sensible first step was outrageous. Thousands took to Capitol Hill protesting against 'Socialised Medicine' and all the evils it would bring. Completely ignoring of course the fact that America languishes far behind the rest of the developed world in every published ranking of national health systems despite spending three times as much per citizen as the UK. It's inefficient, two-tier, completely indefensible, yet even the American Medical association, who should have patients interests at heart, refuse to accept it needs changing.

Much of this comes from another frailty in American politics, its complete openness to corruption from big business and pressure groups. With their seeming devotion to free markets it is a natural extension that if you have enough money, you can pay for a politician to do what you want. So if money talks, who's doing the paying out? Well, in 200, the year George Bush Jr. was elected, oil and gas companies splashed out $34 million, with 78% of that going to their right-wing chums in the Republican party. And in a three-year period from 2003-2006, they contributed an extra $58 million to state campaigns. How much say did companies providing alternative, clean energy get? About as much as you could buy for $500,000. Not very much at all in comparison. Maybe enough for a passing reference in the senate with a free lollipop thrown in for good measure.

But I mustn't pretend it's only big business that's influencing how the American system is set up. Oh no, they have other all powerful forces. The two that spring fastest to mind are the gun lobby, and the religious right. Fail to appease them, and your political career will come to a sudden and abrupt end.

God gives you morals. Just like the ones he gave these guys.
It's a mystery in itself that the US has such a massive religious presence. In the UK where we have a state church, 63% of us say we 'Are not religious', including half of those people who said they were Christian. It seems that in Britain, we can be a cultural christian, without actually believing in a God. A massive 82% of us also said that 'religion was a cause of division and tension'. This paints a picture of an increasingly secular society which is very wary indeed of the ill effects of religion. Now to cast our eye across the pond and the picture is striking. Despite the American separation of church and state and it clearly being stated by American founders that 'the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion', only 16% of people are not affiliated to a religion. (Though that still marks a massive increase on previous figures.)

These religious groups wield massive power and have in the past stopped stem cell research going ahead and made liberalising abortion laws near impossible, and generally halting the advance of science at every possible junction. The greatest act of suicide a politician could make would be coming out as an atheist, with some speculating that Obama himself only follows religion so as to prevent him being kicked out of politics.

He has a similar name, ergo he's the same person.
We in Europe have a rather different way of doing things. We strive for equality and aren't afraid to go left in our politics. Whilst the Americans scream socialism we simply debate. It may not be a perfect system we have, but I certainly think we have the balance much better than our friends over the atlantic. If we're going to look for inspiration, lets look to Europe, not the USA.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

EU: What is it for?

I'm a staunch Europhile, as I've alluded to in many other posts, so I thought I would let people know why I think the EU is so essential, both idealistically and practically.

First, it speaks to my idealism. Nationalism, with each country trying to go it alone, is dead. In our inter-connected world, any single country which tried to do without international cooperation would commit financial suicide. So, it is obvious that good relations with other countries are important, but the question is how close do you get.

People can travel much further than was traditionally the case, and what we've seen is that foreign countries aren't alien, they're full of people, people just like us. Each country may have evolved different traditions and practises but their is no reason why the citizens of any two countries shouldn't get along quite happily side-by-side. It's summed up beautifully by George Orwell in '1984', which I've mentioned in a previous post:

"It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same — everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another's existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same."

So, if we as people are essentially the same, what sense does it make to impose these arbitrary divisions, to brand us with one nationality and refuse to allow us to work closely with one another? It made sense in the past, when people didn't know that other lands existed and it was impossible to liaise easily across land masses, but it makes no sense now.

It may seem a digression, but this idealism is the starting point of my opinions on Europe. To me, a united Europe is the starting point for a united world. The EU is an essential tool for bringing people together and finding ways that the collective power and qualities can do more good than the individual efforts of single nations. As a country, we have a much louder voice when we at the heart of a united, strong Europe, bound together by more than fragile trade agreements. Already, we have seen that on issues like climate change, it is only through  collective efforts that real change can be made and Europe continues to lead the way in fighting global warming.

As a collective, Europe also has much more power for good than it would fragmented. The lure of EU membership has transformed Turkey into the most liberal, democratic Muslim nation in the world. All this without even the beginnings of a thought toward invasion and conquest. Contrast that to the American position on its neighbours such as Cuba and Columbia. After attacking and funding civil war the country is ravaged and little good has come from it. The carrot is mightier than the stick.

As Europeans, we have different views, but surprising levels of similarity. We're certainly collectively more similar to each other than we are to the Americas or Asia and as a collective we can extol the virtues of our shared values.

You may not feel like a European, more someone who happens to live in a country which is in Europe. But as Johann Hari reminds us in his excellent blog, in 1871, the year of Italy's unification, only 5% of its citizens had even heard of the word 'Italy'. They created Italy, then made the Italians. We've made Europe, now we must make the Europeans.

The Causes.

So, after a couple of efforts and the screwing up of much metaphorical internet paper I've finally got a new blog, happy days. Keener eyed readers will have witnessed some hideous redesigns for which I can only apologise. So, on with the show.

Down the right hand side you'll hopefully have noticed some lovely new buttons, which link to posts on specific subjects, all are causes I'm interested in. Here's the rundown:

Like I mentioned, I'm a fan of Left Foot Forward, a great political blog for progressive's. They work on a system of labelling posts according to what they're fighting for and against. I've taken parts of what they've done and put it in mine, so that I now have 5 'for' causes, and 4 'against'.


Free, Effective Medical Care - I've left this one intentionally a little vague so that I can include both stories about health care in general, and stories about my course which I'd want to share. Basically, anything to do with healthcare or medicine goes here.

Progressive Ideals - If you've read any of my stuff before you likely know I'm a Labour-supporting lefty. This is where anything to do with my progressive ideals will go, mostly to do with politics.

Scientific Advancement - I like arguments to be based on fact, and the only way to get solid fact is through science. This is for stories about the advance of science and stories about the use of it in arguments.

Environmentalism - There is little doubt amongst serious scientists that out climate is changing at a dangerous pace and that human activity is a major factor. This is for stories both defending that view and of the efforts to reverse the damage.

Multilateral Foreign Action - The world is getting to be a smaller and smaller place. Individual countries can't hope to prosper unless they work within the international community. This is for stories about closer integration with the world, including the EU and international efforts to help fight poverty and terrorism.

And fighting against:

Racism and Intolerance - If there's one thing I hate more than any other, it's intolerance of other people. Racism and Intolerance are just the manifestations of ignorance, and as such are a completely unnecessary evil in the world. It's not political correctness, it's being a decent human being.

Market Fundamentalism - I dislike the notion that pervades some that market's are the answer to all our struggles to better ourselves. There is a place in our world for markets, and they are essential in some areas, but without regulation and tight control they turn ugly fast. This is about unregulated markets and keeping them out of our health care and education.

Religious Dogma - Religion is the opposite of science. It doesn't start with evidence and look for answers, it starts with answers and looks for evidence. I have nothing against personal faith but I stand strongly against that faith seeping into our society and damaging it, especially the indoctrination of children through faith schools. Religion is divisive, we shouldn't force our children to accept it.

Injustice and Inequality - We live in a rich world, but so much of that is concentrated to just a tiny percentage that massive numbers of people struggle to find food and water each day. Many more live under tyrannic regimes which stifle their freedom. This is for their story.

The links on the right may not have many posts for a while, simply because I haven't written enough posts on each topic yet, but they'll fill up with time. As well as all these I'll continue to throw in the odd story about football, interesting events in my life and other tidbits that don't fit in here. I hope you enjoy.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Changing Times..

 In my ever-lasting quest to stave off boredom I've decided that the way this blog is at the moment has fallen into the category of boring me. Which means it's time for a change, though not exactly massive amounts. I'll still write about the same kid of things, although maybe they'll be a bit more refined. The idea for my new style will come from two places, the blogs of 'Left Foot Forward' and of Johann Hari. Incidentally, if you want to read about the same kind of things I write about but in an infinitely more refined writing style then those two are good places to start. If you despise my opinions and don't even know why you're reading this right now then I suggest the Daily Mail.

So what are the changes? Here's my initial ideas:

  • New categories. The four at the moment are fine but they can sometimes be a bit too broad and I have to compromise with where I put posts. Taking the idea from the two blogs mentioned I'll instead seperate them into areas that are narrower and core ideals of mine. So some of these might be 'Public healthcare, free at the point of use', 'Against pure, unregulated market forces', 'Freedom of individuality', 'Against religious dogma' and some more I've yet to decide on.
  • As I suggested above, more of a ideal centred posting rather than the reactionary blogging to current events, although obviously that will still form some of my posts.
  • A clearer two-sided argument, even if my purpose is to try and debunk the opposite view.

Also, I might change the layout to make it new and shiny, I like new and shiny.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Climate: Gates and Melting.

After my last post I learnt two things:

  • The best posts are those you write just on the whim in the middle of the night. I can't remember who it was but a very famous author said "You never have to go back and edit what you get up to write at 2 in the morning."
  • People have an aversion to leaving comments around here. I got messages and texts and all manner of comments about it, but none were left here. Leave it here biatches.
Anyway, on with the show. After preaching about the evils of preaching yesterday, I'll today be preaching about climate change. Well, not so much preaching as talking about, but the two sometimes blend.

Climate change, it's the modern day evolution. Most serious scientists who study it agree it's happening, but it doesn't sit well on the stomach for others so they decide to flat deny it or put it down to 'natural cycles'. Please try to stick this through because even if I can persuade one person that this is a real threat it'll be a victory, though only a small one if its just the one. So here's what the IPCC say and what I'll be arguing is true:

"An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities."

Now it says something on how strong the argument is that on one side you have the scientific societies of many countries, whole dedicated organisations and nobel prize winners, whilst on the other you have a handful of scientists who usually don't even study a hugely relevant subject.

But still, we have to keep making the argument because in the most recent survey I could find on YouGov only 28% of people agreed with the majority of scientists that global warming was an urgent problem, whilst another 29% thought it was happening but we had plenty of time. Amazingly 33% of people thought scientists were divided on the issue and another 7% thought it definitely wasn't happening. Some of you might point out that even if I say only a few scientists disagree with the orthodox view, that's still a divide. Well, it is, but you can never expect every scientist in the world to agree on anything. I'm sure there's a few somewhere in the world that think the earth is flat and the moon is just the back of the sun. They are massively stacked on one side of the argument, unlike the public it would seem.

Maybe that's starting to change now, even the disgusting, xenophobic, horrifically written piece of dirt newspaper that is the Daily Mail, which has long been the home of the sceptics, seems to have changed its mind. (Can you tell I'm not a fan of that particular 'news' paper?)

But anyway I promised some evidence, that is if anyone is interested enough to bother following the links, but they're there if you want them:
  • The largest study into changes in global temperature found that it was 'very likely' that man was responsible for the bulk of observed climate change. - "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."
  • This warming does not fit into the so called 'natural cycle' of a warming and then cooling earth over millions of years which some people claim is the real driver behind climate change. - "Palaeoclimatic information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years."

  • Even if we keep levels even or only reduce them down to year 2000 levels, warming will still continue at a fast pace. i.e. We need drastic action. - "Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century."
So there you have it, here's some of the other places that say man is the major contributor to global warming and its devastating effects - The IPCC, United States Global Change Research Program, Arctic Council as well as the royal and scientific societies of these countries: UK, US, Germany, France, Japan, China, Canada, Italy, Malaysia, Ireland, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, Zambia and quite a lot more.

I'd say that was a pretty conclusive consensus. I certainly can't find this 'divide' that the UK public seems to think is present.

Well done if you made it this far, I appreciate it might not be the most interesting topic, but it's certainly an important one. And whilst a lot of the time it may seem like scare-mongering, that's because without emphasising the risks, no one would ever take an interest before it was too late. This isn't something you can wish away with money once its happened, you have to sort it before the event, and that can be a tricky thing to sell to the population.

Monday, 9 August 2010

My Atheism

I'm into the hundred of posts now but I've realised I've not written one on something which to some people defines who they are. My faith, or rather, my lack of it. I thought I'd write about why I'm an atheist despite having a Christian upbringing.

Warning, this could end up being pretty long.

First of all, let me make it clear, I'm an atheist, not an agnostic. I'm not unsure about whether or not there's a God/Gods, I actively don't believe there are. I know that in science you can never fully prove that something doesn't exist, you can only fail to find evidence for it, but you can be very confident that something doesn't exist if there is absolutely no evidence for it. So, technically, I'm not sure there is a God, but only in the same sense that I'm not sure whether there's a tooth fairy or Santa, to me all three are equally as likely to exist.

On the face of it I really should be a devout catholic. I was baptised, went to catholic primary and secondary schools, did the whole communion and confirmation polava, was even an altar boy in my earlier days. I first started doubting my faith when I was in about 15 I think, but it was by no means a sudden jump. It went something like this: Believing in Catholicism - Believing in the Christian god - Believing in a God - Believing in some kind of deity I couldn't ever understand - Being agnostic - Reading around the subject quite a lot - Bordering on atheism - Being certain in my atheism. Not exactly a quick transformation that some people seem to have, but by about 16/17 I was sure of my atheism.

Wise words as ever from House

So what turned me from altar boy to heathen? I'd say it was probably starting to understand how science works and beginning to question things I'd never questioned before. I didn't want to lose my faith, it wasn't something I'd aimed for, in fact I was looking for some way to defend it, but in the end I just couldn't keep it up and it had to go.

All the argument's that used to keep me sure came crumbling down. First of all the old watchmaker argument. 'If you found a watch on a planet you'd assume it must have been designed because it's too complex to be an accident. The earth is much more complex than a watch, so someone must have designed that too.'

Powerful stuff, right? Wrong. First of all, we don't think that life on earth happened by accident, we know exactly how it happened, evolution. Evolution isn't an accident, and equally it doesn't need any designer. (As a side note, if anyone doesn't believe in evolution, let me know and I'll do you a very nice, long post on exactly why you're wrong.) Second, anything that was complex enough to have designed the earth would surely fall into the category of being complex itself and so would too need a designer. Then you've just got this horrible never ending spiral of designers, hardly the image of God we're used to. Lastly, the earth isn't designed for us, we're designed to live on the earth, and the universe certainly isn't designed for us. Out of all the billions and billions of stars so far we've only found one with one planet that can sustain us. That's pretty inefficient design for an all-powerful guy.

I also think that it's odd that people can believe that someone would create a whole planet of people, demand they worship him alone, but then give some of them a massive head start. I'm talking about the fact that even if a religion was to be true, only one could be so, and depending on which one it was only a tiny number of people would have been born into that religion or even know it existed at all. What makes people so sure that the only religion they've ever really looked into or known must be the right one and the rest of the world must be wrong? I'd have a little more sympathy with people who looked around all the religions before settling for one which seemed most plausible but I doubt this happens very much at all.

There are plenty more reasons why I think religion is highly suspect, but this post is long enough already and I might get back to them at a later date.

For all its talk of inclusiveness and common decency religion can be traced as the root of massive attrocities all over the world. It has held back the advancement of race relations, women's equality and still has its claws dug firmly into denying gays equal rights. I don't think we should accept the excuse that its a good thing even if it isn't all true without question any more. The bible (along with other texts) is one of the most racist, xenophobic and violent books I've ever read, if you look closely at what it says. (I'll do another post on this but amongst other things it encourages rape of prisoners, mutilation and infanticide)

People often say that without religion what would make people do good, why would they not turn to sin if there was no punishment? I think this is a disgustingly wrong idea. It assumes that the only reason people don't go around stabbing everyone is that they might end up going to hell. If that's the only reason you don't stab people then there's something wrong with the world. If you don't do something bad because you're afraid of punishment it doesn't make you a good person. You're a good person when you don't do those things just because its not something you'd want to do. I don't think anyone needs religion to be a good person, and the ones who do are likely to be able to find a way to use to justify doing evil because of their religion.

I'll leave with a favourite quote of mine from Douglas Adams. When people say that life is much more beautiful when you imagine it with a loving God behind the scenes, this is fitting:

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

I'd love to get some other viewpoints so by all means tell me if you disagree with any of this, I'm not a 'militant' atheist as some would like to believe everyone without faith is.