Healthcare, Islam, Racism, Socialism – why I really shouldn’t bother watching the BBC

A young woman on a BBC question programme this morning was asked if she’s happy to pay for other people’s healthcare. She said yes, of course. No matter how much tax? Yes, of course. Aww, how very noble of you. But wait, isn’t there already a way for individuals to help others if they CHOOSE to? Yes. It’s called charity! Please think about that before assuming that other free citizens are happy to have their property taken by force to support your sense of altruism.

Of course, being a BBC program, it’s stacked with lefties none of whom would ever ever ask the question as to WHY the NHS consistently fails in the first place. Why prices rise, service declines, healthcare is rationed… whereas the exact opposite happens in non socialised markets… because the answer is unthinkable in their ideology.

And on BBC Sunday Politics, Andrew Neil interviewing Tommy Robinson, leader of the English Defence League. Now, leaving aside what you may or may not think about the EDL, the questions being raised are: Is Islam terrorism a serious threat in this country? Is Islam a religion of peace? Is the British way of life being threatened by religious fanatics, whilst political correctness is a shelter for the latter and a club of “racism” for the former? Those are very important questions, and need to be bravely asked and talked about.

Which is why, naturally, Andrew Neil spent the entire time questioning the EDL’s motives, actions, gestures, speech – bringing up criminal offences from 10 years ago of some individual members. Of course, when a Muslim murders a British citizen, we are told that we shouldn’t judge the Islam community by the actions of a few of its members. But when an EDL member does something bad, once, in his entire life, that means the EDL is fascist and rascist… Mr. Neil ignored all the rebuttals of Mr. Robinson, talked over him, repeated refuted statements, and made the discussion a personal attack on Tommy Robinson himself, and avoided the actual issues being raised.

I’m not supporting the EDL, but this was clearly another example of the multicultural politically-correct Left-wing agenda that the BBC has pushed for decades. They don’t want a discussion on religion. Who seriously believes the BBC is a fair honest British institution that we can trust? It never was, and it never will be. And WE are forced to pay for it.

And as for the issue at hand: yes, Islam extremism is a problem, and it is encouraged by left-wing politics. The cure is a free society of limited government that protects the rights of ALL citizens equally.

And to top it all off, we have a young Socialist on the programme claiming that capitalism caused the global financial meltdown years ago, which it didn’t, that Statism cured it, which it didn’t, and that the public sector gave us the internet… The free-market supporter tried to explain why the Financial Crisis was actually caused by US socialised institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but the subject was immediately changed and he couldn’t continue.

I really shouldn’t watch political programmes, especially on the BBC. I come away angry, frustrated, and incredibly depressed that so many people actually believe this nonsense.

Privileged Planet? Yeah right…

Imagine receiving a gift from a long-lost relative: a great mansion; on the outside the most beautiful house you could conceive. Unfortunately, over 80% of the mansion is uninhabitable, partly due to flooding, partly due to mould or razor sharp rocks. Other parts of the mansion are closed off from collapsed roofs and other areas have dangerous animals infesting them. Of the 20% of the mansion that you can actually live in, most of that is too cold in the night and too hot during the day – you have to wear protective gear most of the time. There are insects carrying diseases around it and invisible viruses and bacteria that can make you very sick, if not kill you. Worse, parts of the mansion are prone to structural collapse at any moment with harmful or even fatal results. Even this 20% of the house that can you get by in was only re-conditioned that way by countless previous owners, each struggling to improve it over the course of their entire lives; the work even costing many their lives. Outside the house is an unbreathable expanse, entering which even for a split second means certain death.

Now imagine being told that the state of this mansion is no accident, but a wonderful gift that hasn’t simply fallen into disrepair – no, this great house was designed specifically for you, and its current condition is exactly how the designer wanted you to receive it! This is just the look he was going for! This is the best house that could possibly be imagined! There is simply no improving this building, you are told. More so, the designer expects you to be eternally grateful for this gift every day – but if something goes wrong with the house, it’s your fault. Worse, if you can’t understand why on earth anyone would specifically design a house like this, you aren’t intelligent or spiritual enough to grasp his higher motives. Finally, imagine being told that the designer was the most intelligent individual who’s ever lived, the greatest structural engineer of them all, the master of building design, an expert in human biology, and someone who truly cares about his work and the people who live in his homes…

How many people on earth today accept creationism?

The ‘good of The Game’ and other ‘Higher Purpose’ fallacies

One of the most common pieces of rhetoric I hear is what I’ll call the “greater good” fallacy – though it comes in many forms. You even hear it in football circles when people refer to this mysterious and supernatural force called “the good of the game”. Outside of football it’s “the good of society”, but it’s all variations on a theme: some transcendent higher cause external and beyond us. “Us” of course can only mean some limited number of individuals, you and me.

Here’s an example of this nonsense in action. The details are irrelevant here and I’m paraphrasing: a football manager recently was denied permission to speak to another club who wanted to hire him, which they had every right to do. He resigned, but they rejected his resignation. One commenter essentially said: ‘yes he has a contract there and yes they have the right to reject approaches for him under contract, but at some point you have to think about what the manager wants and what’s best for the game.’ What does that even mean? What is this “game” being referred to? Football. Ok…so what does “football” want? What does “football” like and dislike? What is its favourite meal? Does it like music?

Absurd? Yes I think so too. But notice how this “good of football” rhetoric can be applied to just about anything and make as much sense. In the example above let’s flip the comment to: “yes the manager wants to leave and yes he has a right to resign and accept another job if he wants to, but at some point you have to think about what the club wants and what’s best for the game.”

“A club can in theory pay as much as they like for a player and they can pay that player whatever wages they want…but at some point you have to think about what’s best for football”. Ok, so salary caps then. But hang on a second, couldn’t we just say: “You might not like to see such disproportions in salaries and exorbitant fees exchanging hands over one player…but at some point you have think about what’s best for football.”

Here’s another example: “yes a man has the right over his own mind and body, and yes he has a right over his own property and choices, but at some point you have to think about what’s best for society”, and you can justify taxation. But that exact same sentence could be used to justify conscription or anything else you can think of. (Hell, it could be used to justify cannibalism). And that’s why it’s fallacious: there is no logical connection, no necessarily chain of reasoning from the premise to the conclusion. The “greater good” fallacy rests on an unspoken assumption implicitly accepted by all parties (unless they are shrewd enough to reject the bankrupt ethics at work): that there is actually a higher purpose at work. Even if there were, it would still not necessarily follow that the Higher Purpose™ demanded this, that and the other from us – not without a sound argument. The examples above prove this: you can twist the “good of the game” or “best for football/society/community/whole” to mean whatever you want it to mean. I could say that I don’t expect you to buy beggars on the street meals for the rest of their lives, but at some point you need to think about what’s best for society.

As it happens, there’s no such force at work anyway: there is no Higher Purpose. There is no such thing as the “good of football” and don’t be taken in by the ignorant who spout this rubbish on TV to justify their particular subjective opinion. In football, there are only fans, players and owners, each of whom are individual human beings with their own values. But there is no such thing as a value disconnected from an individual person – and whenever you hear anyone imply differently the alarm bells should be going immediately! Only living entities have values, so when you hear someone talk about a “good” above and beyond any individuals, what they’re really saying is that this thing is value…but to no one in particular!

What do all these “good of the [insert higher purpose higher]” fallacies have in common? What do they play on? As I said above, they rest on the unspoken (and wrong) premise of a value external to us (which is a contradiction in terms). But this is really transparent when we break the assertions down: they all ask for a sacrifice; they work by saying ‘your personal interest might be this…but you must give it up’. And this works because it’s just assumed that a “higher purpose” is necessarily beyond our petty selfish individual values – and this is actually true, in the same way that no one has ever seen the Invisible Pink Unicorn – but it isn’t because she’s invisible! Everything that is a value in this reality is a value to someone. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be a value! (Who would value it??) So the only way to get someone to accept this garbage concept of Higher Cause is to define it as being of no personal value. In other words: ‘it’s a Higher Value precisely because you don’t value it.’

Once you understand this fallacy you will see it everywhere, especially in politics. The reason it’s so popular is because if your audience accepts it, you can get them to do anything without any argument. It’s so simple: tell them it’s for a Value they don’t hold, and if they don’t see how that benefits them tell them that’s precisely the point! If it benefited you (i.e. any individual), well, it wouldn’t be “Higher” then would it?!

Cheating and hypocrisy in football

Did he dive? Didn’t he dive? Did he exaggerate a tackle? Was it inside the box or not? Did he use his hands deliberately to control the ball? Do two wrongs make a right?

Football is rife with cheating. But the worst part is that almost everyone involved in the game is either deluded or a hypocrite.

To take just one recent example: the weekend before last Liverpool played Arsenal at Anfield. Luis Saurez, not exactly everyone’s favourite player at the moment, skipped through several Arsenal challenges in the penalty box and dramatically tripped over Czechny the Arsenal goalkeeper. The referee awarded a penalty. Replays showed barely any contact, yet Suarez went down theatrically as if shot in the back. Subsequent replays however showed that there was contact, and thereby by the letter of the law it was indeed a penalty. (Indeed, there doesn’t have to be contact for a penalty to be correctly given, but that’s off-topic). Incidentally, a friend of mine made the point that Suarez was looking for the dive and was on his way to ground anyway, before contact was made. The contact made it a penalty, but it was already a dive. It’s hard to disagree with this argument.

The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently criticised Suarez, saying “It was no penalty. Nobody touched him”, despite contact having occurred. He added “then when they roll down the sock, take the shin pad out like he has been kicked like mad. It is a bit overboard. We don’t need that.” What Wenger means here is that exaggerating a tackle (or lack thereof) to con the referee into punishing an opponent more than they otherwise would (or deserve) is a form of cheating and is therefore wrong. I totally agree. However, this would be far less hypocritical coming from a manager whose teams historically haven’t had the constitution and integrity of wet paper bags. In the same game, every slight Liverpool touch was met with dramatic collapses from Arsenal players, lying on the ground in agony, taking ages to recover from the horrendous aggressive assault on their person…for about 10 seconds after which a miraculously recovery was made. (The only actual harm caused in that game was by an accidental collision between Henderson and Arteta, the latter needing to be stretchered off…because that’s what real physical harm causes.) Surely a dive is a dive, no matter where it happens on the pitch?

Now, I’m not criticising Arsenal here particularly, and I’m not defending Luis Suarez, what I’m saying is that pretending to fake reality to gain an advantage is cheating. Trying to circumvent the rules of the game to gain an advantage is cheating. To take another example which also happens to involve Arsenal (but only because they’re the most recent ones I’ve seen do it): last night’s game against Newcastle saw Arteta take several corners when the ball was quite clearly and deliberately not inside the quadrant. This is an invalid corner and an attempt (albeit a pathetic one) to gain some distance on the set piece. This is cheating! And if you say “there’s a bit of a difference between trying to sneak a foot on a corner and diving in the box to win a penalty” then I’m sorry but you’ve missed the point. Please, tell me which forms of cheating are acceptable or not? Or do we shrug and say “that’s life” or “everyone does it” when it happens in our favour? Who am I kidding – that’s exactly what happens in football! It’s funny how every football manager is a bastion of truth and integrity when his team have been hurt due to cheating, but it’s “I didn’t see it” when it goes in their favour. Worse, they’ll just side with the player despite the cheating, as if it’s just a matter of subjective opinion anyway.

Trying to sneak extra distance on a free kick? Trying to sneak closer than 10 yards to the taker before the whistle has gone? Pulling an attacker down to prefer the red card over a certain goal? Taking the corner outside the quadrant? Pretending to be injured or have been touched in a manner that didn’t happen (inside or outside the box)? Deliberate hand-ball? Kicking the ball away to waste time? Taking advantage of the clock and certain rules (i.e. the goal kick) to waste time? Why is any one of these more acceptable than another?

Again, I’m not defending anyone or singling anyone out for criticism here, because almost everyone involved in football is a hypocrite, prepared to look the other way or sneak any advantage when the ref isn’t looking, protecting their cheats one week whilst criticising the enemy’s the week after. Whatever we’d like to think about cheating or what should be done about it, it happens. Perhaps there are varying degrees, but it’s still cheating. If you really want to stamp it out, start with the only actions you can actually control: those of yourself and your own club. Otherwise, shut up and stop being a hypocrite.

Aliens exist, but you shouldn’t care

Do you believe in aliens?

This is a really vague question. If a “believer” asks you, they want you to say “no” so they can follow up with “how can you believe we’re the only life in the universe?!11one”. But of course – that wasn’t what the question was. The question really means “do you believe we are being visited by aliens?”

I maintain that the same logic that makes alien life so overwhelmingly likely is the same logic that makes me thoroughly disbelieve in alien visitors. In short, aliens DO exist – but you shouldn’t give the matter a second thought.

Why do I believe that aliens exist but that we are most definitely not being visited? It’s quite simple and brief to be honest:

Evolution: if you understand it in any reasonable detail, you’ll appreciate that it’s not luck-based at all. Given the right conditions, and time – evolution is bound to happen. Of course, there are no guarantees over what form that life will take.

Probability: It doesn’t matter if earth-type worlds are rare or common in the universe. Earth is certainly unique of all the planets we’ve charted so far and the solar systems we’ve scanned to date. I think it’s fair to presume that earth-type worlds are rare – but however rare you want to make them you have to appreciate the vastness of the universe. It is a statistical certainty that somewhere out there, amidst the quadrillions upon quadrillions of stars, that an earth-type planet orbits a star like our own. (To be honest, quite a variety of star-to-planet distances/compositions would probably be acceptable.)

So vast is the universe it would actually be a statistical impossibility to not have any other life out there! And if you have life, and time, and enough planets – at least one of them should produce intelligent life – perhaps even rational.

But, this is where the alien fun ends. Remember how vast the universe is. In order for us to make contact with alien life, you not only need another species to be alive, be intelligent, develop space-travel, but do so within observable range of the earth.

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Try to appreciate just how quick that is. It would still take 100,000 years travelling at that speed to cross our galaxy. Beyond that, at the same speed, the next closest galaxy is 2,540,000 years off. In fact, even the closest star to us would take over 4 years to reach at this speed.

Humans have only been sending out EM transmissions into space for a century. The very earliest transmissions which are nowhere near as powerful as those we send now are only 100 light years away. That’s one 1/1000th the diameter of the galaxy. In order for aliens to even be aware of our existence they’d have to be within 100 light years of earth. As we know, it’s an inconceivably-gigantic universe, and the odds of that life out there being within such a ridiculously tiny radius of earth don’t bear thinking about.

But the real killer, and for me the totally unassailable argument against alien contact (let alone visitation) is time: the universe in its current state of existence is about 15 billion years old. The earth is over 4 billion years old. Life has only been on earth for a few million years. Humans have only been on earth for a couple of hundred thousand. We have only been using electricity for just over a century. We’ve been sending out EM waves for a shorter time than that. We only achieved space-flight 50 years ago. We have only been actively looking for other worlds by scanning a tiny fraction of the heavens for a few decades. Now, even if another intelligent space-faring species actively looking for life existed, or will exist – you need them to be at least at our level of technology, give or take 50 years for either of us, and within 100 light years of earth (at a stretch). And, however we communicate with each other, that signal cannot travel faster than light.

To put this in illustrative terms, let’s use what I’ll call the time-overlap thought experiment: pick a number between 1 and 4 billion: that number is how many years back in time you will travel to a random place on earth. Another person does the same. What are the odds that the two of you will now meet up? And even if luck be damned, and incredibly you both picked the same number, and live at the same time on earth – you need to make contact before you die of old age – but let’s say you’re both different ages, both or either of you could be very young or very old. Where do you look? Which direction do you start out in? What do you look for?

It’s the same with aliens. Maybe they existed but died out ages ago? Maybe they are only now discovering the internal combustion engine? Maybe somewhere out there a CO2-laced volcanic world orbits a yellow star that will evolve intelligent life in many eons to come? Or maybe they are just like us typing blogs on their internet right now, but are just too far away. Who knows?

It’s fascinating to consider, but it’s speculation without resolution. Ultimately, the notion of alien visitors (especially given the total lack of proof) should be dismissed out of hand. The existence of alien life, either good or evil, is totally irrelevant to us. So although it’s overwhelmingly likely they are out there, by the same principle it’s overwhelmingly certain we will never ever know about each other.

Sportsmanship and honesty

I was asked recently: “is deliberately missing a penalty cheating?” This came in the wake of several discussions I’ve had about the morality of recent events in football.

A footballer (or any player in a team sport) is employed to play for his club and no one else. There is an implicit and explicit understanding between the player and his employers, and indeed between the player and the fans, and the club and the fans – that there are certain expectations to be realised. To deliberately withhold your obligations is an act of moral embezzlement, and under the right circumstances, perhaps even legal culpability (for example, being bribed to miss a penalty.)

But what if a penalty taker doesn’t believe the penalty has been awarded fairly? Should his conscience tell him to deliberately miss, or tip off the opposition goalkeeper how to save it?

I believe the moral course of action for a penalty taker is to always attempt to score, regardless of the circumstances or his opinions on the penalty decision.

For one, even a striker who genuinely believes the penalty was incorrectly awarded, for example if he saw a defender make a legitimate tackle – cannot be certain he observed the incident correctly. When playing football I have been fouled and got up believing the challenge on me was actually fair – even apologising to my opponent, only to be convinced by everyone including him that it was a foul. The reverse has also happened.

Secondly, by deliberately missing a penalty a striker is appointing himself as referee and moral executioner, something he has no right or authority to do. He is saying “I have considered the incident and decided that it was not a penalty” – a position that only the referee has the power to take.

Thirdly, it is not the duty of a footballer to compensate for a perceived lack of justice or accuracy on the part of the referee. The referee, and only him, is responsible for his decisions, and players should not try to balance scales. It’s precisely because the game needs an objective party with final authority and the best vantage point and advice that we have a referee.

To deliberately aid the opposition is not noble nor virtuous, but treacherous. Intentionally missing a penalty is an act of altruism.

Incidentally, broadening the issue of morality to all areas of the game, in particular deliberate acts of rule-breaking and foul play – illuminates some gross double standards. Diving seems to be the number one moral crime in the game to pundits and fans, but how is this any different to sneaking a few extra yards on a free-kick, or kicking the ball away to waste time, or dragging a striker to the ground if he is clean through on goal? If you deliberately pervert the natural course of a game by stepping outside what is allowed, you are cheating. It doesn’t matter how big or small the offence.

Do this or you will die

If someone were to say this to you, and you replied “do what?” – what you would expect, no, demand – as a reply?

If you are going to ask someone to act as if their life depended on it, or perhaps even change their entire lifestyle, isn’t it fair that you be damn sure what you’re talking about – and even more sure about the criteria required?

When performing brain surgery, a surgeon doesn’t play ip-dip as to where to start the incision – or follow the vague direction “cut into the head”; if the operation was on me I’d like him to be a little more specific than that. A successful businessman when negotiating with traders doesn’t guess the lowest price he can go to, or rely on gut feeling; he calculates his entire margin taking into account all available factors and works out the variables. These two examples demonstrate how, in the real world, reality is uncompromising and makes certain demands on human beings, such as: specificity, accuracy, logic. Most normal people tend to demand these standards in their everyday life, whether they realise it or not. For example, we don’t cross the road without looking both ways; we don’t jump a wall without knowing what’s on the other side; we don’t drink unlabelled bottles without being reasonably sure they’re safe.

Imagine a less mundane situation, like a hostage crisis; a criminal leaves a message iterating his demands. If the demands aren’t met he will kill a room full of people in one hour. Worse, imagine that the message he left was garbled and barely decipherable; you are able to discern demands for some exact amount of money – but how much you don’t know. He wants a helicopter from a specific location – but you can’t tell where – he wants you to forward on a political statement, only he forgot to include the statement in the message. Worse still, you have no way to get back in touch with him. Imagine the frustration and panic you would feel as the minutes tick away.

Bare this in mind, and consider that earlier today I had a conversation with a fundamentalist Christian who was unable to give me a list of criteria required for approval by God, and therefore acceptance by him and survival when The End comes. Think about that… these people who preach repentance to and belief in God, who are asking you, on behalf of this God, to change your entire lifestyle and become a member of this particular belief system that has hundreds of thousands of competing systems in the world, because your life depends on it – cannot even tell you the exact requirements. I was able to dissect this person’s beliefs and assertions to the point they admitted that it wasn’t necessary to be a member of their sect, it wasn’t necessary to read the bible, and it wasn’t even necessary to believe in god… so then, what is the point of belonging to any religion? What extra “good” would I gain by being part of a faith, as opposed to being a good person but not being part of the faith? If the end came today would I die? Staggeringly, no answer was forthcoming. I was told “I don’t have the right to judge.” Which opens up another gaping contradiction in this faith: if you know what is right and wrong, how can you not evaluate something to determine whether it is good or bad? If you cannot judge right from wrong, you cannot know that you yourself are on the right track! How are these people, presumably the ones to be saved come The End, to know they not forgetting something themselves? They either don’t know what it takes, in which it makes no sense to identify yourself as part of a specific faith – i.e. this particular thing and not that, or they do know but have been brainwashed and conditioned through doubletalk and faith that it’s not acceptable to talk about or acknowledge the grim truth that is too horrific to mention yet is tacitly believed: if you are not part of this particular faith, you can’t be saved.

Of course, that would mean that “being good” isn’t enough. It’s not enough to be good or live by an objective moral code – no, you must add on all this extra stuff to it – like meeting several times a week during which point it is never clarified why you are there. You must knock door to door and talk to people about your faith, whilst never being able to specify the most basic tenets of it. Live a strict, self-effacing, and conservative lifestyle, yet not acknowledging nor identifying exactly what this lifestyle should and shouldn’t consist of. On top of all this, you want other people to do the same as you, because you believe their life depends on it!

Of course, the reason all this extra stuff is tacked onto the notion of simply “being good” is because without all that extra stuff, cults and sects and religions wouldn’t exist. After all, as this person and I managed to agree on: if just “being good” was enough to be saved, what would be the entire point of the faith? The irony was lost on them. And when I asked why all this extra stuff was necessary or whether I could have a complete list of this extra stuff, I couldn’t get an answer.

And this is the mental harmony and peace of mind that we are often told religious people have? This is the stuff that “keeps them happy”? This is what gives believers “meaning”?

As I closed in saying to this person, if you are going to hold beliefs and act on them – and integrate them fully into your life, and also ask or expect that others do the same – and insist that not only your life depends on it, but the lives of every member of the human race – it is not just reasonable, but necessary for your own intellectual honesty, respect, self-confidence, reputation and credulity, that you can back these words up. We expect it from doctors, businessmen, hell – even terrorists – so why not the loving all-powerful creator of the universe and his most privileged spokesmen on earth?

We all know the answer.