Hope Not Hate: Fascist and Holocaust Denial Literature on Sale at Mainstream Bookshops

March 19, 2018

I got this disturbing email today from the good peeps at the anti-racism/anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, reporting that some very nasty and notorious pieces of Fascist, anti-Semitic and Holocaust Denial material are being sold by this country’s big booksellers. They’d like this scandalous situation to be brought to more people’s attention on Facebook and Twitter. The email went


I’m not sure you’re going to believe this… these antisemitic, Holocaust-denying, and fascist books are listed right now for sale online at Waterstones, Foyles, WHSmith, and Amazon.co.uk:

Do you think huge, reputable booksellers should profit from hate content — not to mention lend credibility to hardcore racist views? We don’t.

Last week, we contacted these retailers to bring it to their attention. Only Foyles and Waterstones even responded and neither made any commitment to pulling down these extreme materials. So we’re going to take action.

If you agree that major booksellers should stop making hate readily available, let them know. Join us in kicking up a storm on social media now:

These booksellers are acting dangerously. Despite our queries, Waterstones and Amazon’s sites continue to list The Turner Diaries, a book explicitly credited with inspiring the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people.

It looks like our pressure is already working – over the weekend, a number of these titles, including famous Holocaust denial book Did Six Million Really Die?, disappeared from Foyles’ website. If we can make some noise, they’ll listen, and ultimately, act.

Let’s make it clear these booksellers can’t ride this out. Join together to create public outcry at this very urgent concern.

If the images are too small for you to see clearly, they include pictures of the covers of David Irving’s The War Path, with a picture of Adolf on the front, the notorious Tsarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, two notorious pieces of Holocaust Denial, Did Six Million Really Die? and Curated Lies – The Auschwitz Museum’s Misrepresentations, as well as the Turner Diaries and Oswald Mosley’s Fascism for the Million.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are a very notorious piece of the type of bogus conspiracy theories I was talking about yesterday. They were forged by the Tsarist secret police to encourage the already anti-Semitic Nicholas II to persecuted the Jews even harder. It purports to be the minutes of secret meeting of global Jewish leaders discussing their plans to rule the world and enslave gentiles. It successfully deceived many people in the 1920s, before it was very clearly shown to be a fake, with articles demonstrating that this was so in the Times and other parts of the press. Even so, some of the people, who were convinced by it still continued to protest that if it wasn’t factually true, then it was still somehow symbolically true. It’s been a significant influence promoting anti-Semitism and Fascism.

This isn’t the first time there’s been an outcry at it being on sale in a mainstream bookshop. It was quoted at length by Bill English, an American conspiracy theorist, who believed the Illuminati were running things secretly behind the scenes, and aliens were really coming down to abduct and experiment on us. English claimed, however, that where the passages he included referred to the Jews, they were really referring to the Illuminati. This led to a branch of Waterstones in one of the northern cities stocking it. It was also quoted by David Icke in his book, The Robots’ Rebellion. This is why there have been protests and accusations that Icke is an anti-Semite, although Jon Ronson in his Secret Rulers of the World, where he covered one such demonstration in Canada, said that he believes Icke isn’t anti-Semitic, but really does believe the world is being run by evil reptoid aliens.

David Irving is the notorious Holocaust Denier, who ended up losing a libel case against an American academic, who showed up page by page how his book on Hitler and the Holocaust misquoted and distorted the works it cited and falsified history. The last I heard of him, he was serving a jail sentence in Austria, one of the countries where Holocaust Denial is a crime.

The Turner Diaries is a bizarre piece of SF that also became notorious in the 1990s, after it was revealed that it influenced Timothy McVeigh, the America militiaman, who blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City. It’s written as a series of diary entries by a White race warrior, who is part of violent uprising against ZOG – that’s the Zionist Occupation Government, not Ahmed Zogu, the former king of Albania. The hero and his fellow Nazis are also determined to stop the ‘Zionists” planned destruction of the White race through racial intermixture. There’s an infamous passage in there, where he talks about hanging a whole load of college girls for this ‘crime’, as well as making sure that America becomes a pure White homeland, and Blacks and other non-Whites are either cleansed or put firmly in their place.

Mosley was, of course, the leader of the British Union of Fascists during the Second World War, who then tried briefly to come back into politics as the leader of the Union Movement in the 50s and early 60s. Despite his best efforts, we’re very lucky that his Fascism very definitely did not appeal to millions.

I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, but I’m very happy to publicise this noxious state of affairs.

None of these books should be sold by any reputable booksellers. They are evil and very dangerous, and should be taken off their on-line shelves now.


Lobster on Real Conspiracies Versus Conspiracy Theories: Part Two

March 18, 2018

Bale then goes to contrast the non-existent groups of the bogus conspiracy theories, with real conspiratorial groups, which have exerted a genuine influence, such as the Afrikaner Broederbond, the extremist Afrikaner nationalist group that was ultimately responsible for the adoption of apartheid. He writes

No Monolithic Conspiracy
There has never been, to be sure, a single, monolithic Communist Conspiracy of the sort postulated by the American John Birch Society in the 1950s and 1960s. Nor has there ever been an all-encompassing International Capitalist Conspiracy, a Jewish World Conspiracy, a Masonic Conspiracy, or a Universal Vatican Conspiracy. And nowadays, contrary to the apparent belief of millions, neither a vast Underground Satanist Conspiracy nor an Alien Abduction Conspiracy exists. This reassuring knowledge should not, however, prompt anyone to throw out the baby with the bath water, as many academics have been wont to do. For just as surely as none of the above mentioned Grand Conspiracies has ever existed, diverse groups of Communists, capitalists, Zionists, masons and Catholics have in fact secretly plotted, often against one another, to accomplish various specific but limited political objectives.

No sensible person would claim, for example, that the Soviet secret police has not been involved in a vast array of covert operations since the establishment of the Soviet Union, or that international front groups controlled by the Russian Communist Party have not systematically engage in worldwide penetration and propaganda campaigns. it is nonetheless true that scholars have often hastened to deny the existence of genuine conspiratorial plots, without making any effort to investigate them, simply because such schemes fall outside their own realm of knowledge and experience or – even worse – directly challenge their sometimes naïve conceptions about how the world functions.

They Do Exist
If someone were to say, for example, that a secret masonic lodge in Italy had infiltrated all of the state’s security agencies and was involved in promoting or exploiting acts of neo-fascist terrorism in order to condition the political system and strengthen its own hold over the levers of government, most newspaper readers would probably assume that they were joking or accuse them of having taken leave of their senses. Ten years ago I might have had the same reaction myself. Nevertheless, although the above statement oversimplifies a far more complex pattern of interaction between the public and private spheres, such a lodge in fact existed. It was known as Loggia Massonica Propaganda Due (P2), was affiliated with the Grand Orient branch of Italian masonry, and was headed by a former fascist militiaman named Licio Gelli. In all probability something like P2 still exists today in an altered form, even though the lodge was officially outlawed in 1982. Likewise, with the claim that an Afrikaner secret society, founded in the second decade of this century [the 20th], had played a key role in establishing the system of apartheid in South Africa, and in the process helped to ensure the preservation of ultra-conservative Afrikaner cultural values and Afrikaner political dominance until 199. (sic). Yet this organisation also existed. It was known as the Afrikaner Broederbond (AB), and it formed a powerful ‘state within a state’ in that country by virtue, among other things, of its unchallenged control over the security services. There is no doubt that specialists on contemporary Italian politics who fail to take account of the activities of P2, like experts on South Africa who ignore the AB, are missing an important dimension of political life there. Nevertheless, neither of these to important organisations has been thoroughly investigated by academics. In these instances, as is so often the case, investigative journalists have done most of the truly groundbreaking preliminary research.
(pp. 21-2).

He then goes on criticise the attitude of historians like David Hackett Fischer, who have identified those theories that attribute too much power to secret organisations as part of the ‘furtive fallacy’, but then go too far the other way in insisting that the only significant influences are those that are above board and public, and that nothing of any significance has ever been by clandestine groups. He writes

To accept these unstated proposition uncritically could induce a person, among other things, to overlook the bitter nineteenth century struggle between political secret societies for, at least, between revolutionaries using non-political secret societies as a ‘cover’ and the political police of powerful states like Austria and Russia, to minimise the role played by revolutionary vanguard parties in the Russian and communist Chinese revolutions, or to deny that powerful intelligence services like the CIA and the KGB have fomented coups and intervened massively in the internal affairs of other sovereign states since the end of World War II. In short, it might well lead to the misinterpretation or falsification of history on a grand scale.

It is easier to recognise such dangers when relatively well-known historical development like these are used as illustrative examples, but problems often arise when the possible role played by conspiratorial groups in more obscure event is brought up. It is above all in these cases, as well as in high-profile cases where a comforting ‘official’ version of events has been widely diffused, that commonplace academic prejudices against taking covert politics seriously come into play and can exert a potentially detrimental effect on historical judgements. (p. 21-2, my emphasis).

He concludes

There is probably no way to prevent this sort of unconscious reaction in the current intellectual climate, but the least that can be expected of serious scholars is that they carefully examine the available evidence before dismissing matters out of hand.

The proposals by YouTube, the Beeb and the Tory Party to set up monitoring groups to rebut ‘fake news’ go far beyond normal academic prejudice against taking real secret politics seriously. They are an attempt to present a very comforting official version of politics, which in the case of the Tory party means suppressing and falsifying the horrific assault their policies have had on British institutions, industry, and people since Maggie Thatcher. They are trying to shore up the decaying economic edifice of neoliberalism by presenting its opponents as wild-eyed radicals in the grip of loony conspiracies, producing ‘fake news’.

And the same is true of Israel lobby, which tries to hide its attempts to pervert British and American politics through lobbying and the sponsorship of leading politicians. It also uses the existence of malign, anti-Semitic conspiracies as a weapon to smear genuine historians and activists, who support the Palestinians in their struggle for dignity and equality, or simply want to correct their lies, as anti-Semites. People like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and so many, many others. They need to be stopped. Now.

The article is available at the magazine’s website. However, early issues, like 29 are behind a paywall. The editor, Robin Ramsay, has also written a book on conspiracies, where he makes the same distinction.

Lobster on Real Conspiracies Versus Conspiracy Theories: Part One

March 18, 2018

Florence, one of the great commenters to this blog, alerted me the other day about a decision by YouTube. Apparently they’re planning to link any posts about conspiracies to pages in Wikipedia debunking them. She’s understandably very concerned about this because it is the first step to policing our minds, and telling us all what we should or should not believe.

There are indeed some very pernicious conspiracy theories around, which do need debunking. Like the stupid, murderous ideas that the Jews are conspiring through their control of the banks, media and Communism to destroy the White, ‘Aryan’ races. Or that they have been actively trying to destroy Islam and the Arabs since the days of Mohammed. And then there’s all the nutty ideas about the US government being in cahoots with evil reptoid aliens from Zeta Reticulum. And so on.

But there are also real conspiracies. Lobster as a magazine is dedicated to exposing them. Mostly these real conspiracies are about clandestine groups of activists, ideologues, business leaders, lobbyists and various intelligences agencies conspiring towards distinct short-term goals. Like the implementation of a set of policies, like neoliberalism, and attacking and undermining Communism during the Cold War. Or producing suitable pretexts for more western imperialism, like the Neocons in the US and Britain started faking material to suggest Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

These conspiracies certainly exist. And when Al-Jazeera showed Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy discussing with various Friends of Israel the people he wanted in May’s cabinet, Mike rightly called it a conspiracy. But because he used the term, the Blairites and Zionists in the Labour party have accused him of being anti-Semitic, because ‘conspiracy’ = the bogus, malign conspiracy theories of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other malign lies of that sort.

Lobster had published a number of articles over the years on the difference between real and fake conspiracy theories. One of these was by Jeffrey M. Bale in issue 29, entitled ”Conspiracy Theories’ and Clandestine Politics’, on pages 16-17, 19-22. It’s part of the introductory chapter to his Ph.D. thesis, The ‘Black’ Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the ‘Strategy of Tension’ in Italy, 1968-1974, University of California at Berkeley, 1994. He begins by discussing why mainstream academic writers ignore real conspiracies. He writes

Very few notions generate as much intellectual resistance, hostility and derision with academic circles as a belief in the historical importance or efficacy of political conspiracies. Even when this belief is expressed in a very cautious manner, limited to specific and restricted contexts, supported by reliable evidence, and hedged about with all sort of qualifications, it still manages to transcend the boundaries of acceptable discourse and violate unspoken academic taboos. The idea that particular groups of people meet together secretly or in private to plan various courses of action, and that some of these plans actually exert a significant influence on particular historical developments, is typically rejected out of hand and assumed to be the figment of a paranoid imagination. The mere mention of the world ‘conspiracy’ seems to set off an internal alarm bell which causes scholars to close their minds in order to avoid cognitive dissonance and possible unpleasantness, since the popular image of conspiracy both fundamentally challenges the conception most educated, sophisticate people about how the world operates, and reminds them of the horrible persecution that absurd and unfounded conspiracy theories have precipitated or sustained in the past. So strong is this prejudice among academics that even when clear evidence of a plot is inadvertently discovered in the course of their research, they frequently feel compelled, either out of a sense of embarrassment or to defuse anticipated criticism, to preface their account of it by ostentatiously disclaiming a belief in conspiracies. They then often attempt to downplay the significance of the plotting they have uncovered. To do otherwise, that is to make a serious effort to incorporate the documented activities of conspiratorial groups into their general political or historical analyses, would force them to stretch their mental horizons beyond customary bounds and, not inadvertently, delve even further into certain sordid and politically sensitive topics. Most academic researchers clearly prefer to ignore the implications of conspiratorial politics altogether rather than deal directly with such controversial matters.

A number of complex cultural and historical factors contribute to this reflexive and unwarranted reaction, but it is perhaps most often the direct result of a simple failure to distinguish between ‘conspiracy theories’ in the strict sense of the term, which are essentially elaborate fables even though they may well be based upon a kernel of truth, and the activities of actual clandestine and covert political groups, which are a common feature of modern politics. For this and other reasons, serious research into genuine conspiratorial networks has at worst been suppressed, as a rule been discouraged, and at best looked upon with condescension by the academic community. An entire dimension of political history and contemporary politics has thus been consistently neglected. (P. 16).

The article goes on to discuss some of the classic, bogus conspiracy theories, like those around the Bavarian Illuminati, or Prince Clemens von Metternich’s claim in the 1880s that there was a central committee in Paris directing all the radicals in Europe in their campaigns to overthrow their governments; and the murderous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He distinguishes the common elements amongst these malign conspiracies. These theories state that the members of the conspiratorial group are evil incarnate. They are monolithic and unerring when pursuing their goals. They are omnipresent and virtually omnipotent, and are the motive force of all history.

He contrasts this with real conspiracies, whose members are recognisable human, and very definitely not monolithic. These conspiracies are in competition with many other similar groups trying to pursue their goals. They are also restricted in time and space. He states

There is probably not a single secret organisation anywhere which has existed continuously from antiquity to the present, and only a small number could have had a continuous existence for more than a century. And, with the possible exception of those which are created and sponsored by the governments of major nations and the world’s most powerful business and religious institutions, the range of activity of specific clandestine groups is invariably limited to particular geographic or sectoral arenas. (Pp. 20-1).

Continued in Part Two.

The Zionist Persecution of the Indigenous Arabs in Palestine under the British Mandate

March 18, 2018

I found this description of the apartheid and maltreatment inflicted on the Palestinian Arabs by the Zionist settlers in History of the World: The Last Five Hundred Years, general editor Esmond Wright (Feltham: Hamlyn/W.H. Smith 1984), page 629.

The most serious long-term problem bequeathed by Britain’s devious wartime diplomacy in the Middle East arose from its promise to the Jews. The terms of Britain’s mandate in Palestine made it responsible for putting this promise into effect by the establishment in Palestine of a ‘national home from the Jewish people.’ The Arabs, who made up more than ninety percent of the Palestinian population, were at once assured by Britain that the Jewish national home would not become a Jewish national state and that their ‘civil and religious rights’ would be respected. A national state, however, was precisely what the Zionist movement (which was responsible for the idea of a ‘national home’ in Palestine) intended to achieve – a state which, in the words of Dr. Weizmann, its leader, would be ‘as Jewish and England is English’.

As a first step towards this goal, Zionists insisted on the strict separation of Arab and Jewish communities. Jewish parents refused to send their children to mixed government schools. Arab tenants and farm workers were evicted from all land bought by the Jewish National Fund. David Ben-Gurion, later the first prime minister of the state of Israel, organised a series of strikes against Jewish employers of Arab labour. The Jewish Agency, which coordinated Jewish settlement in Palestine, sought, with some success, to make itself a state within a state. Until the First World War the Arabs had been the only people living in contact with the Jews who had never persecuted them. The birth of Arab anti-Semitism between the wars was the work not of Adolf Hitler but of the Zionists.

This last statement has to be revised somewhat, as the Nazis sought to exploit Arab resentment against the Zionist settler through the creation of a vicious conspiracy theory tailored towards Islam similar to their own monstrous delusions about the Jews being responsible for the exploitation and enslavement of White Aryans. In their spurious history, the Jews had been conspiring against Islam and the Arab people since the days of Mohammed. It’s completely bogus, but because of the establishment of the state of Israel and its seven-decades long persecution of its indigenous Arabs, has understandably become widespread in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

This page also mentions the way the British tried to contain some of the pressures by limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine by imposing a quota and turning away emigrant boats. This meant returning Jews fleeing Nazi persecution back to their deaths in Germany and occupied Europe. Apparently the policy was to take any illegal prospective settlers to Jerusalem, so they could see it, before returning them to their boats and sending them away. I’ve known elderly members of my church, who were young sailors in the British navy at this time, and they very much did not like what they had been ordered in turn to do to the Jewish immigrants. And in particular this was the use of tear gas against refugees from the Nazi gas chambers. This left them very upset as they spoke about it nearly seventy or so years later.

This whole, shabby affair is another blot on the history of the British Empire.

But the Zionist lobby automatically smears and reviles anyone, who suggests that Israel is an apartheid, racist state which persecutes the Arabs as anti-Semitic. So I’ll guess they’re going to have to smear W.H. Smith now, for what they rightly published back in the 1980s.

China Mieville’s The City and The City Coming to BBC

March 17, 2018

Yesterday I caught a very brief trailer for what looks like a forthcoming Beeb adaptation of China Mieville’s The City and The City. This is a murder mystery set in a fictional eastern European country, and the Amazon review of it declares that stylistically it resembles Raymond Chandler and Orwell’s 1984, amongst other classic authors. Mieville’s an SF author, so it’s no surprise that this not going to be a straightforward thriller, but involves weirdness.

I’ve got a feeling that the book won at least one SF fiction award, though I could be wrong. Mieville himself is actually very left. He edited a book on Marxism and Science Fiction, which I found in the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s a couple of years ago. He and the late, great Ian M. Banks also gave a very interesting interview to the small press SF/genre fiction magazine The Edge back in the 1990s, where they made it very plain that they disliked the Tories and had absolute contempt for New Labour for their cuts to the welfare state.

Some of the attempts the Beeb has made in recent years to do proper SF or Fantasy dramas have been rather disappointing. But this could be worth watching.

Books on God and Religion

March 17, 2018

On Thursday, Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, asked my a couple of questions on the nature of the Almighty, which I tried to answer as best I could. I offered to put up here a few books, which might help people trying to explore for themselves the theological and philosophical ideas and debates about the nature of God, faith, religion and so on. I set up this blog about a decade and a half ago to defend Christianity against attacks by the New Atheists. I don’t really want to get sidetracked back there, because some of these issues will just go on forever if you let them. And I’m far more concerned to bring people of different religions and none together to combat the attacks by the Tories and the Blairites on the remains of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the impoverishment and murder of the British public, particularly the disabled, in order to further enrich the corporate elite. Especially as the Tories seem to want to provoke war with Russia.

But here are some books, which are written for ordinary people, which cover these issues, which have helped me and which I hope others reading about these topics for themselves will also find helpful.

The Thinker’s Guide to God, Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss (Alresford: John Hunt Publishing 2003)

This book is written by two academics from a Christian viewpoint, and discusses the Western religious tradition from Plato and Aristotle. It has the following chapters

1. Thinking About God – Plato and Aristotle
2.The God of the Philosophers
3. The God of Sacred Scripture
4. Religious Language
5. The Challenge of Anti-Realism
6. Arguments for the Existence of God
7. The Attributes of God
8. Life After Death
9. Miracles and Prayer
10. Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian Theology
11. Faith and Reason
12 Attacks on God, Darwin, Marx and Freud
13 God and Science
14 Quantum Science, Multi-Dimensions and God

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, (Oxford: OneWorld 2003)

1. A Feeling for the Gods
God, literalism and poetry, A world full of Gods, Descartes and the cosmic machine, Wordsworth and Blake, the gods and poetic imagination, Conflict among the gods, Friedrich Schleiermacher: a Romantic account of the gods; Rudolf Otto: the sense of the numinous; Martin Buber: life as meeting, Epilogue: the testimony of a secularist.

2. Beyond the gods
Prophets and seers; The prophets of Israel and monotheism; Basil, Gregory Palamas and Maimonides: the apophatic way; Thomas Aquinas: the simplicity of God; The five ways of demonstrating God; Pseudo-Dyonysius the Areopagite; The doctrine of analogy; Three mystics.

3. The Love that moves the sun
The 613 commandments; Pigs and other animals; the two great commandments; The Ten Commandments; Jesus and the Law; Calvin and the Commandments, Faith and works; Theistic morality as fulfilling God’s purpose; Kant, the categorical imperative and faith, God as creative freedom, affective knowledge and illimitable love.

4. The God of the Philosophers

God and Job; Plato and the gods; the vision of the Good; Appearance and Reality; Augustine and creation ex nihilo, Aristotle and the Perfect Being; Augustine and Platonism; Anselm and Necessary Being; Evil, necessity and the Free Will defence; Creation as a timeless act; Faith and understanding.

5. The Poet of the World

The timeless and immutable God; The rejection of Platonism; Hegel and the philosophy of Absolute Spirit; Marx and the dialectic of history; Pantheism and panentheism; Time and creativity, The redemption of suffering; History and the purposive cosmos; Process philosophy; The collapse of the metaphysical vision.

6. The darkness between stars

Pascal: faith and scepticism; A.J. Ayer; the death of metaphysics; Scientific hypotheses and existential questions; Kierkegaard: truth as subjectivity; Sartre; freedom from a repressive God; Heidegger and Kierkegaard: the absolute
paradox; Tillich: religious symbols; Wittgenstein: pictures of human life; Religious language and forms of life; Religion and ‘seeing-as’; Spirituality without belief; Non-realism and God; The silence of the heart.

7. The personal ground of being

God as omnipotent person; The problem of evil; Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: beyond good and evil; Omniscience and creative freedom; God: person or personal; Persons as relational; The idea of the Trinity; The revelatory roots of religion; Conclusion: Seven ways of thinking about God.


Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion, by Mel Thompson, (London: HodderHeadline 1997)

What is the philosophy of Religion?
Why study religion in this way?
What is involved?
The structure of this book
What this book aims to do.

1. Religious Experiences
Starting with experience
What happens when you experience something?
What is religious experience?
Induced religious experiences
Charismatic experiences
Some features of religious experience
What can we know?
Authority and response

2.Religious Language
A private language?
Knowledge and description
Faith, reason and beliefs
The rational and the non-rational
Interpreting language
Cognitive and non-cognitive
Language games
The limitations of language

3. God: the concepts
God as creator
Transcendence and immanence
Theism, pantheism and panentheism
Atheism, agnosticism and secularism
Nietzsche: God is dead
Secular interpretations of God
A postmodernist interpretation
The Christian concept of God: the Trinity
Beliefs, language and religion
Religious alternatives to theism
Basic beliefs

4. God: the arguments
The ontological argument
The cosmological argument
the teleological argument
the moral argument
the argument from religious experience

5. The Self
Bodies, minds and souls
Knowing our minds
Joining souls to bodies?
Identity and freedom
Life beyond death
Some conclusions

6. Causes, providence and miracles

7. Suffering and evil
The challenge and the response
the problem
God as moral agent
Suffering and the major religions
Coming to terms with suffering
The devil and hell
Religion and terrorism

8. Religion and Science
The problem science poses for religion
the key issues
the changing world view
the methods of science and religion
the origin of the universe
evolution and humankind
Some conclusions

9. Religion and ethics
Natural law
absolute ethics
Morality and facts
How are religion and morality treated?
Values and choices

Postcript, Glossary, Taking it Further

God and Evolution: A Reader, ed. by Mary Kathleen Cunningham (London: Routledge 2007)

Part One

1. Charles Hodge ‘The Protestant Rule of Faith’
2. Sallie McFague ‘Metaphor’
3. Mary Midgley ‘How Myths work’
4. Ian G. Barbour ‘The Structures of Science and Religion’.

Part Two
Evolutionary Theory

5. Charles Darwin, ‘On the origin of species
6. Francisco J. Ayala ‘The Evolution of life as overview
7. Michael Ruse ‘Is there are limit to our knowledge of evolution?

Part Three

6. Genesis 1-2
7. Ronald J. Numbers ‘The Creationists’.

Part Four
Intelligent Design

10. William Paley ‘Natural Theology’
11. Michael J. Behe ‘Irreducible complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution’
12. Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Answering the biochemical argument from Design

Part Five

13. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker’
14. Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s utility function’
15. Daniel C. Dennett, ‘God’s dangerous idea’
16. Mary Midgley, ‘The quest for a universal acid’
17. Michael Ruse, ‘Methodological naturalism under attack’.

Part Six
Evolutionary Theism

18. Howard J. Van Till, ‘The creation: intelligently designed or optimally equipped?’
19. Arthur Peacock, ‘Biological evolution-a positive theological appraisal’
20. Jurgen Moltmann, ‘God’s kenosis in the creation and consummation of the world’.
21 Elizabeth A. Johnson, ‘Does God play dice? Divine providence and chance’.

Part Seven:
Reformulations of Tradition

22. John F. Haught, ‘Evolution, tragedy, and cosmic paradox’
23. Sallie McFague, ‘God and the world’
24. Ruth Page, ‘Panentheism and pansyntheism: God is relation’
25. Gordon D. Kaufman, ‘On thinking of God as serendipitous creativity’.

The Klan in 1981 Showing the Fascist Reality of Anti-Migrant Boats for the Med

March 17, 2018

I found the above picture in Morris Dees and James Corcoran’s book, Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat (New York: HarperCollins 1996). it shows an anti-immigrant vessel crewed by members of the Texas Emergency Reserve, a 2,500 man paramilitary army set up and headed by Louis Beam, The boat terrorised Vietnamese fishermen by running ‘gunboat’ near the docks and their fishing fleets. Dees is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an anti-racist groups which prosecutes Fascists and right-wing extremists. The book states that the SPLC brought a lawsuit against them, which forced Beam to disband his army of racist fanatics. As you can see, a couple of these Nazis are wearing Klan costumes.

I’m putting this up, because there have been demands for similar boats to deal with the migrant ships crossing the Mediterranean. Lauren Southern, a Canadian Alt-Right propagandist, was involved with a project by a group of European Fascists to set up an anti-migrant patrol boat, until it was scuppered by a campaign by Hope Not Hate. But other Fascists groups are making the same demands, like CasaPound, an insignificant Italian Fascist party, a video on which I put up about a week ago. And Katie Hopkins, the rightwing bigot and loudmouth, whose career on this side of the Pond spectacularly imploded a few weeks ago when she became too toxic for even the Scum and the Mail to employ, was responsible for a particularly odious tweet in which she recommended gunning down migrants and their boats without remorse. She then dared the TV presenter, Philip Schofield, to challenge her on these monstrous sentiments. This came a day or two before the bodies of the migrants aboard one such ship, which had sank, washed ashore, including the infant son of a man, who had stayed behind in Turkey.

Although this photo is from another time and place, it shows you exactly the kind of Fascist patrol boat the Fascists are demanding today. And it isn’t pretty.

The Jimmy Dore Show on the Smears against Corbyn for his Response to Salisbury Attack

March 15, 2018

Mike over at Vox Political has already put up a piece commenting on the Tory and right-wing Labour attacks on Jeremy Corbyn for his response to the government declaring that Putin is responsible for the nerve gas attack in Salisbury on Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Corbyn stated in his speech that he totally condemned the attack, but wants absolute proof that Putin is responsible before blaming Russia and retaliating. This is just too much for the Tories, who when they find themselves confronted by a real statesman, rather than someone who just sabre-rattles and strikes nationalistic poses, immediately start lying. So the Labour leader has been vilified as Putin’s puppet, and for failing to condemn Russia for the attack in Salisbury. Despite the fact that Corbyn has condemned the attack. And the Beeb in their coverage was absolutely delighted when they showed the Tories cheering on the Labour backbenchers, who attacked Corbyn. This must have been music to the ears of their news editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who presented that piece. But Mike’s article shows how Corbyn is absolutely right, along with the support he has amongst thousands of people online sick and tired of Tory and Blairite lies, people who also make extremely good arguments in the Labour leader’s favour.

In this piece from the Jimmy Dore show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, also discuss the smears against Corbyn. They make the same points Mike has made, and then apply it to the situation in America, where the Republicans and the Corporate Democrats are doing their level best to smear Bernie Sanders. And so Sanders has been reviled as racist, misogynist, wearing expensive clothes, you name it, they’ve flung it at him. This is, Dore states, how the establishment deals with anti-war progressives. It’s also, as they point out, the way the Democrats are attacking Trump. He’s being attacked as Putin’s puppet by that section of the Democrats that is now even further right than the Republicans.

He goes further, and describes his own vilification and smearing by his right-wing opponents. He has 300,000 subscribers to his channel, which is much smaller than The Young Turks’ 3 million. But he’s been smeared, his videos edited to make it appear that he’s saying things he isn’t and misquoted. He states that mostly he doesn’t respond to the smears, as this would elevate them and bring them to more people’s attention. With the exception of the Washington Post, when he decided he’d have a little fun. He makes the point that when Bernie announces his candidacy for the presidency, the abuse against him is going to make that against Corbyn pale.

Dore also makes the point that all this material from the intelligence community, like MI6, which supposedly points in the direction of Putin, really isn’t convincing either, given the way the intelligence services lied about there being weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And Steffi Zamorano also finds it very strange that the British government is leaping to attack Putin, but has declared that everyone in Salisbury is safe, and has not called the incident a terrorist attack.

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was sacked and smeared because he was too honest, is also very critical of the identification of the nerve agent used in the attack. This has been identified as Novichoks, a toxin created by the Russians. But he presents evidence that casts considerable doubt on that identification, and the assertion that the Russians must be responsible. He concludes

1) Porton Down has acknowledged in publications it has never seen any Russian “novichoks”. The UK government has absolutely no “fingerprint” information such as impurities that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.
2) Until now, neither Porton Down nor the world’s experts at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were convinced “Novichoks” even exist.
3) The UK is refusing to provide a sample to the OPCW.
4) “Novichoks” were specifically designed to be able to be manufactured from common ingredients on any scientific bench. The Americans dismantled and studied the facility that allegedly developed them. It is completely untrue only the Russians could make them, if anybody can.
5) The “Novichok” programme was in Uzbekistan not in Russia. Its legacy was inherited by the Americans during their alliance with Karimov, not by the Russians.

His article on this explicitly compares it to Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. See:

Some of the commenters on this blog have also pointed out that with an election coming up, and May seven points behind Corbyn, she definitely needs to start sabre-rattling to get the nationalists on her side. Plus, international tensions are delight to the arms industries, who want to sell more kit to our forces. And Porton Down, our chemical weapons research centre, has now been £50 million to build a new research factory. Which is just amazing, considering the government is pleading that there isn’t enough money to support the NHS, the sick, disabled, unemployed, the poor, schools or provide anything like the funding a really civilised society needs.

And as for supplying money to Porton Down, this comes rather late. As Mike points out, Labour set up a special regiment to deal with chemical weapons attacks. But this was closed down by Cameron in 2011.

And the backbench Labour rebels, who were attacking Corbyn seem mostly seem to be members of the Labour Friends of Israel. So the Israel lobby in the Labour party is seizing its chance to attack Corbyn, and try to get back into power that way. More smears by those, who manufactured the smears that Labour is full of anti-Semites and Nazis. I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised. They’re very strongly connected to the corporatist Blairites, and it was Blair, who put pressure on MI6 to ‘sex up’ the dossier so it would provide a pretext for the Iraq invasion. So more lies from them.

Putin is a thug. In Russia he actively stamps on and persecutes opposition parties and politicians. Journalists and other critics of his regime are regularly beaten, and many have died in very suspicious circumstances. 14 other Russians have also died in similarly suspicious circumstances over here. But we have to be absolutely sure that he is responsible, not jump to conclusions, and make sure our response is proportionate and reasonable.

But May’s hysterical nationalism will play well with the jingoistic hordes of the Scum, Fail, Express and the rest, who will even now be salivating at the thought of making her into another belligerent Thatcher. Even if that means precipitating another, dangerous crisis in international relations.

Physics Textbook on Cosmology and Gravitation

March 15, 2018

M.V. Berry, Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation (Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing 1989).

Yesterday came the news of the death of the great British physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking at the age of 76. Hawking had suffered for most of his adult life from motor neurone disease, since he was diagnosed with it in his early 20s. He was given only three years to live, but instead managed to live out a very full lifespan working on his theories of the origin of the universe and Black Holes. He was a great ambassador for science. His book, A Brief History of Time, was a bestseller when it appeared in 1980s, although he admitted that it was probably a book few finished. And he showed that it was still possible for a disabled person to do cutting edge research, provided they had the necessary technical and medical support. In his case, it was his wheelchair and the machine that allowed him to speak, first of all by keying in the words, then by twitching just a single muscle. Some of the praise seemed a bit too fulsome to me. Like when they started saying that he was the greatest scientist since Newton and Einstein. I don’t think he was. And Hawking on his own didn’t unlock the secrets of universe or Black Holes, as the Beeb’s presenters also claimed. As for his great sense of humour, well, it existed, as his appearance on shows like The Simpsons demonstrated, but my memory of it is marred by him turning up with the TV critic, Victor Lewis Smith, telling fart jokes and laughing on the 1990s series, Inside Victor Lewis Smith. But it really was inspiring to see how he was a great hero to the ‘A’ level students at a science fair yesterday, and how he had inspired them to become interested in science.

One of the complaints Richard Dawkins has made about popular science programmes is that they’re too ‘dumbed-down’. He points out that they have to have lots of explosions, and they mustn’t include equations, in case that scares people off. There’s a lot with which I don’t agree with Dawkins. I’m not an atheist, and have argued on this blog against him and the other militant atheists. But he is right here. Scientists writing the popular science books have said that they’ve been told by their publishers to leave equations out, because every equation in a book damages sales.

I think this is the wrong attitude to have. It’s why I’ve put up this piece about the above book by M.V. Berry. It’s an undergraduate physics textbook, which does contain the fundamental mathematical equations for this area of physics. Its contents include

1. Introduction

2. Cosmography
2.1 What the universe contains
2.2 The cosmic distance hierarchy and the determination of galactic densities
2.2.1 Parallax
2.2.2 Distance from velocity measurements
2.2.3 Distance from apparent luminosity
2.2.4 Weighing galaxies
2.3 The red shift and the expansion of the universe.

3. Physical base of general relativity
3.1 The need for relativistic ideas and a theory of gravitation.
3.2 Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: gravity
3.3. Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: inertial frames and absolute space.
3.4 Inadequacy of special relativity.
3.5 Mach’s principle, and gravitational waves.
3.6 Einstein’s principle of equivalence.

4 Curved spacetime and the physical mathematics of general relativity.
4.1 Particle Paths and the separation between events
4.2 Geodesics
4.3 Curved spaces
4.4 Curvature and gravitation.

5 General relativity near massive objects
5.1 Spacetime near an isolated mass.
5.2 Around the world with clocks.
5.3 Precession of the perihelion of Mercury
5.4 Deflection of light
5.5 Radar echoes from planets
5.6 Black Holes

6 Cosmic Kinematics
6.1 Spacetime for the smoothed-out universe
6.2 Red shifts and horizons
6.3 Apparent luminosity
6.4 Galactic densities and the darkness of the night sky.
6.5 Number counts

7 Cosmic dynamics
7.1 Gravitation and the cosmic fluid
7.2 Histories of model universes
7.3 The steady state theory
7.4 Cosmologies in which the strength of gravity varies

8 In the beginning
8.1 Cosmic black-body radiation.
8.2 Condensation of galaxies
8.3 Ylem.

Appendix A: Labelling astronomical objects
Appendix B: Theorema Egregium
Solutions to odd-numbered problems
Useful numbers.

there’s also a bibliography and index.

I’m not claiming to understand the equations. I struggled at both my ‘O’ level maths and physics, and what I know about science and astronomy I learned mostly through popular science books. But in the mid-1990s I wanted to see at least some of the equations scientists used in their explorations and modelling of the universe. One of the popular science books I was reading said at the time that this book was at the level that people with ‘A’ level maths could understand, and this didn’t seem quite so much a jump from my basic maths skills. So I ordered it. I’m afraid I can’t say that I’ve read it properly, despite the fact that I keep meaning to. Some of the equations are just too much for me, but I can follow the explanations in the text. I’m putting this notice of the book up here, in case there are any budding Stephen or Stephanie Hawkingses out there, who want to go a bit further than the pop-sci explanations, and see for themselves what the maths behind it all is like.

The Beeb also said in their eulogy for the great man, that Hawking hoped that the people reading his A Brief History of Time would come away with one point, even if they hadn’t finished it: that the universe is governed by rational law. Actually, this ideas isn’t unique to Hawking by a very, very long way. It actually comes from the Middle Ages, and is the assumption that makes science possible. Hawking was an agnostic, I believe, and many scientists are atheists. But this assumption that the universe is governed by rational laws ultimately comes from Christian theology. The founds of modern science in the Renaissance pointed to the passages in the Bible, in which God’s Wisdom creates the universes and establishes the boundaries and courses of natural phenomena, like the tides and stars. And the anarchist of science, Feuerabend, pointed out that the assumption that the laws of the universe all form a consistent whole come from Christian doctrine, quoting the 13th century theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas: ‘We must believe that the laws of the universe are one, because God is one.’

Hawking has passed away, but it’s clear that he has inspired many more people to become interested in this rather arcane branch of the sciences. I hope this continues, despite the Tories’ attack on education and science and research for its own sake.

Radio 3 Programme on Internet Threat to Democracy

March 15, 2018

Next Tuesday at 10.00 pm Radio 3 is broadcasting a programme about the threat to democracy in the age of the internet. It’s part of the Free Thinking Festival, and is entitled ‘People Power’. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

Democracy was the most successful political idea of the last century but can it survive the digital age? Anne McElvoy chairs a discussion with Rod Liddle, associate editor of the Spectator, David Runciman, author of How Democracy Exists, Caroline MacFarland, the head of a think tank promoting the interest of “millennials”, and geographer Danny Dorling. Recorded in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead as part of Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival. (p. 130).

McElvoy recently presented the excellent short history of British Socialism on Radio 4. Now, I might be prejudging the programme, but it looks like very establishment thinkers once again trying to tell us that the Net, bonkers conspiracy theories and electoral interference from the Russians are a threat to western democracy as a way of protecting entrenched media, political and business interests.

The Net isn’t a threat to democracy. What is destroying it, and has caused Harvard University to downgrade America from a democracy to an oligarchy, in the corporate sponsorship of politicians. Because politicos are having their electoral funds paid by donors in business, they ignore what their constituents want and instead represent the interests of big business. Which means that in Congress they support the Koch and the oil industry, and the arms companies against 97 per cent of Americans, who want greater legislation over guns to prevent any further school shootings.

As for the press, they’re aiding the collapse of democracy because they’ve become part of massive media and industrial conglomerates, and represent the interests of their corporate bosses. They are most definitely not representing ‘truth to power’, but are instead another layer of power and ideological control. They promote the policies their bosses in big business want, even when it is actively and obviously impoverishing ordinary people. Like the way the right-wing press is constantly pushing neoliberalism, even though this as a doctrine is so dead it’s been described as ‘Zombie Economics’.

In this case, the internet really isn’t a threat to democracy, but the opposite. People can check the lies their governments and media are telling them, and disseminate real information to correct it, as well as go further and identify the people and organisations distorting and corrupting our politics from behind the scenes.

And this is obviously scaring the political and media elite. Otherwise they wouldn’t be transmitting programme like this.