Archived blog post

Get The Bunting Out

Posted by Ben on Thursday, June 22, 2006 | Permalink

Now then, I don't want to imply that it was the torrent of criticism that surged her way once The Graun exposed their op-eds to the masses on CiF, but Madeleine Bunting is outta here, having legged it to the safety of a think tank. Well actually, I do want to imply it - I'm sure I'm wrong but the idea makes me happy (mental note: ignore all suggestions emanating from Demos from now on).

Anyway, she left us one last column, and this bit stood out to me.*

Many areas of science are legitimising religious thought in ways regarded as inconceivable for much of the past century and half. Quantum physicists question our understanding of reality and Hindus respond: "So what's new?"; neuroscientists formulate understandings of consciousness and Buddhists retort as politely as possible: "We told you so."

What is she saying here? I'm not as up on Bhuddist and Hindu ideas as I probably should be (the You-Only-Pick-On-Christians brigade please take note - that's why) and Bunting doesn't give any specific details, so I'm not actually sure what claims on their part she's talking about, but I can think of three possibilities.

1) These guys had an inside line to the truth and knew it centuries ago, a religious hare on the side of the track polishing its nails and waiting for the scientific tortoise to catch up. This is evidently bollocks, I think.
2) The ideas she's referring to are philosophical ponderings on the nature of reality and consciousness with no specific truth claims, in which case whoop de fucking do, we don't really need a religious background for that, do we?
3) They got it right by accident. However many hundreds of years ago some bloke pulled an explanation out his arse and it's been vindicated since. Well, sorry, but you don't get any brownie points for that - that'd like me guessing which horse will come in first at the Grand National and claiming I'm psychic when it canters over the line (I could of course base my prediction on form and suchlike, but that's basically science, innit?). You don't stand there waiting for the admiration to flood in when you've made a lucky guess. It's a point that I often think isn't appreciated enough - the truth is important, but so is the method you use to reach it. You only get to retort politely "told you so" if your argument had a better basis than faith, because religious truth claims are far more often wrong than right, as is the wont of stuff made up out of thin air. You could (politely, of course), retort to the Bhuddists "blimey, so how'd you know that?" What do you think the answer would be?

So really, unless there's a point she's trying to make that I've missed (and suggestions are welcome), religion really doesn't have that much to offer us, ethics-wise, does it? Give me rational argument any day.

*although she did manage to somehow divine the contents of a book that's not been published yet.

Comments [ hide comments ]
It was only a matter of time, she always seemed rather out of place there.

"... your prejudice [of her habit of "referencing the religious traditions that have inspired me"] is rooted in a misreading of history and a western cultural hegemony that has formulated a self-serving fantasy of its own superiority" ... o ... kay ...

Dawkins new book looks fun though, can't wait for the backlash on that!
Tim, 23.06.2006, 12:13am #
Think tanks always makes me nervous, especially here in the US because you always have to look at who is funding them to know the reasons behind everything they say.

Religious thought has a way of adapting (evolution) to scientific evidence and current socio-political environments. I've never seen good science be as vulnerable in that area. Good science just doesn't make stuff up i.e laws of physics, to fit the times. But places like the Catholic Church are hard to keep up with. I'm waiting for priests to go back to being able to marry, the ordination of women, and making it easier for them to get a divorce (though it is pretty easy now for them).

I wonder though, not being a Brit, what did Thatcher mean by "the economy is the means, the goal is to remake the soul"? Does she mean that funded religion makes a better country? If so, the middle east would be quite a prosperous place to live.

I don't recall anyone being as pronounced about their moral high ground as the religious and yet their evils are less than athiests regimes? A killer who calls himself a killer is less evil than a killer who calls himself a saint. At least the former didn't lie about it. And just because "violence and despotism" is not the monopoly of the religious doesn't make it any less evil, only more so.

I can't see how you can coerce freethinkers into a "more intelligent" conversation with the religious in a way that the religious would be happy with. I have found that most are only happy when everyone blindly agrees with them.

Ok, so the Hindus and Buddhists are agreeing with science, where are the Christians and their flat-four-cornered 6000 year old Earth here in the center of the universe with the sun revolving around us and the moon giving off its own light to enlighten us Earthlings?
JGJ, 23.06.2006, 4:59am #
You omit a fourth possibility -

That on the basis of their conscious experience and deep and rational meditation on the nature of that experience, that the sages of old reached or intuited some truthful conclusions about reality.

It seems to me that Hindu and Buddhist reflections on these matters are far superior to those of Christianity because the latter was focussed more on a "personal relationship" with God - i..e prayers were very ego-centred, whereas original Hinduism (not the painted parody we know now) and Buddhism both attempted to find an objective, absolute connection to reality.

Anyway, Bunting is right to point out that in the last 100 years, at a fundamental level, it is science that has moved towards religion and not the other way round.

I'm quite happy for both science and religion to co-exist and/or throw mud each other. But I won't support the extermination of either tradition.
field, 23.06.2006, 9:07am #
I wouldn't support the extinction of either myself, as long as people realize the bullshit that happens in both for what it is. No religion is infallable, no science is complete.
JGJ, 23.06.2006, 10:03am #
I conceder myself an evangelist for enlightenment and truth, which can be found in Atheism. Before man used words and was able to create abstract concepts such as "god" we were all enlightened because we only believed what was in front of our eyes, our eyes being measuring instruments. How is it that when our measuring instruments became more sophisticated most of mankind's logic stopped functioning? I'm not a fan of spam but this is the last post on my blog. It is in response to one of the many religious writers that frequent southsiderabbitslayer. I thought it was fitting.

I don't think there should be a laws restricting religion, as that would be infringing on a basic right, freedom to think and express whatever one wants. Even if it is childish, grotesque or Illogical.

To cure the disease religion, the change has to come from within the people perpetuating it. I think the answer is Education. If people are brave, open minded, educated and know the laws of logic, religion will vanish. That is the only way to exterminate the virus Christianity.

It's the same cure for ending the epidemic of "bad" nude art a.k.a. pornography. Education! "People" need to become more critical for that is one of the only things that separates us from the other animals.
Robert Sutton, 23.06.2006, 6:41pm #
The analogy between religion and pornography is an interesting one.

Perhaps religion is to God as pornography is to sex i.e. they are not completely unrelated but they are fantasies, fugues, on the real foundation.
field, 23.06.2006, 11:56pm #
I think there is a big difference. Pornography exists. A living God does not. I hope that pornography never disappears entirely as it is needed as an extreme in the continuum of nude art. "God" does exist as a concept and I think is a much bigger problem them paper being wasted on "bad" art. The person into porn looks at the pictures and has there imagination run wild but when they put the magazine down they are back in the real world, if they don't come back to the real world they end up being sex offenders and will end up in jail because they are a dysfunctional human. The person who believes in god never puts the magazine(bible) down and there for can never see what is right in font of there face, the truth.
Robert Sutton, 24.06.2006, 1:52am #
Robert -

you don't seem to be following this very carefully.

You say "pornography exists". If you were following the analogy you should be saying "sex exists".

To continue the analogy, I think most religious people on the planet do "put down the magazine" when they leave the Church, temple, synagogue etc and indeed it is the ones who don't who cause the trouble!
field, 24.06.2006, 12:56pm #

i think robert was on the right track. most people who enjoy the porn don't seriously believe that they're going to deliver a pizza to some hot sex-starved widow, resulting in a gang-bang.

Most religious folk go on believing despite overwhleming evidence to the contrary. I think that's what he was getting at.
theAntiBush, 24.06.2006, 11:40pm #

I think the Religious Idiots blowing themselves up for their unlimited supply of virgins in heaven, keep the "book" open all the time. I don't see any difference between religious books. They are all based on poor logic and unverifiable "proofs."
Robert Sutton, 27.06.2006, 4:48am #
Robert -

So are Shakespeare's sonnets.
field, 28.06.2006, 1:15am #
Bunting, as usual is talking complete, utter codswallop.

She doesn't understand science, and she comes over (pun deliberate) all warm and cosy when thinking of religion.

Sickening, isn't it?

As the man said, ignore Demos, from now on .......
G. Tingey, 02.07.2006, 4:24pm #

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