Posts Tagged ‘Lembit Opik’

Never Mind Jess Phillips, How Much Are Tory MPs Paid on HIGNFY?

February 8, 2022

As readers of this blog will know, I have very little respect for Labour MP Jess Phillips. She’s a dyed in the wool Blairite, who was very open and unambiguous about her hatred of Jeremy Corbyn when he was Labour leader. She said she’d like to ‘stab him in the front’, a remark about which she was naturally questioned a few years ago when she appeared on Have I Got News For You. She’s another Thatcherite, who apparently believes that privatisation have been wonderful for the national utilities and that life must be made even harder for all those feckless people out of work because they were laid off, are long term sick or disabled. The only aspect of her that strikes me as being at all left-wing is her feminism, for which she has had more than her fair share of abuse on line. This included Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, now of the Lotus Eaters, sending her a text informing her that he ‘wouldn’t even rape her’. But now I feel I have to defend her, as she’s been targeted by mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield over the amount of money she was apparently paid for appearing on Have I Got New For You.

Belfield has put up a video claiming that she was paid £15,000 at the rate of £5,000 an hour, for three hours work. He seems to have lifted this story from the Heil, which I gather has been the source of so much of his content. Belfield was annoyed that she was receiving this money on top of her MP’s salary. He felt she should have considered this simply as part of her outreach work as an MP, and just been paid expenses only.

This looks to me like a bit of tit for tat because of the way Tory MPs have particularly come under criticism for raking in the money from their second jobs. This is to me a fair criticism, especially as the amounts they are paid are well into the tens of thousands and there is often a very clear conflict of interest between their role as an MP regulating or overseeing a particular industry and their involvement through their commercial interests. This is rather different to appearing on popular television panel shows.

There’s also the issue of Belfield’s and the Heil’s selectiveness in criticising Phililips, because it’s not as if she’s the only politico who’s appeared on the programme. Not by a long chalk. Over the decades the show’s been on their guests have included politicians like Lembit Opik from the Lib Dems, Derek Hatton of the Labour party, Cecil Parkinson, a former member of Maggie’s cabinet and Boris Johnson, amongst others. My guess is that they would all have been paid the same or similar fees for their time on the show according to the pay rates at the time. I don’t see Phillips’ fee of £15,000 as anything extraordinary or remarkable.

But it does two things that please the Tories. It allows them to make it appear that the BBC really is biased towards the left and that its presenters are massively overpaid. This supports Murdoch’s demands for its privatisation. But always be aware that, as Murdoch’s networks are private, the amount he pays his presenters and executives is kept very secret.

Thus, as much as I despise Phillips, I have to say that this time she’s undeserving of the criticism that’s being thrown her way. She’s almost certainly been treated no differently than every other politician that’s been on the show.

One of whom, a former motoring journalist and editor of the Spectator, has shown himself to be far more greedy, not to mention incompetent and malign, than Phillips.

Canadian Space Medic Celebrates International Cooperation in Space

October 27, 2019

As I discussed in an article last week, the I carried several stories about the Asgardia conference in its edition for Wednesday, 16th October 2019. Asgardia is an international organisation dedicated to the colonisation of space, and its establishment as a new, independent nation on the High Frontier. It’s somewhat like the artificial nation created by Laibach and their parent artistic collective, NSK earlier this century. Fans of the group were encouraged to join, receiving a special passport identifying them as citizens of the new state when they did.

The organisation was founded by Igor Raufovich Ashurbekli, the former director of one of the Russian state armament companies. However, Asgardia seems to aim at the peaceful, civilian conquest of space. At the conference Ashurbekli denounced Trump’s intention of establishing a military Space Command, pointing out that this violated the 1967 international treaty against the militarisation of space.

One of the other speakers at the conference was a Canadian medical doctor and astronaut, Dr. Robert Thirsk, who had conducted research in space and hailed space research’s role in bringing people of different, competing nations together in peace. This was reported in an article by Michael Day, ‘Space has to be for everyone’, in the same edition of the newspaper. This ran

As an astronaut who s pent six months on the International Space Station, Canadian medic Dr Robert Thirsk, achieved major medical breakthroughs in zero gravity and survived the thrill of take-off and re-entry. But his greatest satisfaction was working in harmony with colleagues from states that were once Cold War foes.

“I still think that the ISS is a research platform with no earthly peer,” he told Asgardia’s Paving the Road to Living in Space Conference.

“It’s brought together former Cold War enemies to pursue a common vision of extending human capability in space and of inspiring the public to take on some of these tough social problems that we still face today.”

The Asgardia micro-nation, which aims to swell to 150 million citizens within 10 years, is committed to including all nations in the development of space. It’s leaders note that only 20 nations now have space capability.

“At the moment you either have to be a billionaire, friendly with a major space agency or you join Asgardia,” said the space nation’s parliamentary speaker, the former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik. “Space has to be for everyone.”

As a medical researcher, owrking with American, Russian, Japanese and German colleagues on the ISS, Dr Thirsk achieved breakthroughs in protein chemistry that could lead to new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and robotic advances that have helped hundreds of cancer patients.

Britain’s first female astronaut, Dr Helen Sharman, made the same comment back in the 1990s after her historic mission with the Russians to their space station, Mir. The Russian station’s name translates as ‘world’ or ‘peace’ in English. Her mission was intended to be a landmark breakthrough in international space cooperation following Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost campaign and the attempts to end the Cold War.  In an interview following her mission, Dr Sharman drew attention to the positive benefits of space research in fostering peaceful cooperation between countries. Because of this, astronauts were the least racist people.

It’s interesting to see that Lembit Opik is now Asgardia’s parliamentary speaker. It’s fitting. Opik was not only a Lib Dem MP before losing his seat a few years ago, he’s also the grandson of an Estonian astronomer and himself has an intense interest in space. He was one of the many space experts concerned about the threat of world destruction from asteroid strikes. I met him well over a decade ago at an event on ‘Asteroid Armageddon’ at the Cheltenham Festival of science. He was part of a panel of astronomers and representatives of space corporations, who made it very plain that the threat to our world from rogue asteroids is very real. However, Opik’s justified concern was a source of amusement to the press, who naturally dubbed him ‘the minister for asteroids’. He’s clearly moved into space activism after he lost his seat. I don’t know if he’s still a member, but he’s probably better off with Asgardia than with the Lib Dems, who are now transforming themselves into the Europhile wing of the Tory party.

I also found a plea for the peaceful exploration of space as an alternative to war in a book I read on space technology years ago. This stated that space research provided an outlet for the desire for danger, competition and sacrifice without the mass carnage of conflict. This is true, and regardless of what you make of Asgardia, it has helped bring nations together, and its should be open to everyone, of all nations, in the world.

We don’t need Trump’s – or anyone else’s – dangerous and idiotic space command. We need more peaceful cooperation and the opening up of space and its immense resources and opportunities for all humanity.

Lembit Opik Goes through the Papers on RT: Loss of International Agencies, Cruelty to Animals and Tory Austerity Deaths

November 22, 2017

This is another great piece from RT. It’s their version of that section on the British mainstream news shows, like Andrew Marr and the morning news, where they go through the papers with a guest commenting on stories of interest. In this piece from RT’s Going Underground, main man Afshin Rattansi’s guest is Lembit Opik, the former Lib Dem MP for one of the Welsh constituencies. Opik lost his seat at the election some time ago. Before then he was jocularly known as ‘the Minister for Asteroids’ by Private Eye, because his grandfather was an astronomer from one of the Baltic Countries, and Opik himself took very seriously the threat of asteroid Armageddon in the 1990. I can remember meeting him at a talk on ‘Asteroid Impacts’ one year at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, where he and the other panellists, including Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer who now teaches over here urged the world’s governments to set up an early warning system to defend Earth from such catastrophes.

Here, Opik picks out the stories from the papers about how Britain has lost its position as the seat, or with a member on, three international regulatory agencies as a result of Brexit. We no longer have a candidate sitting at the International Court of Justice. The European Medical Agency will go to Amsterdam, and the European Banking Authority will go to Paris. Opik makes the point that all these agencies are leaving Britain, as there’s no point in them being here if we’re not in the EU.

There’s a bit of lively, spirited disagreement between Opik and Rattansi, which doesn’t seem to be entirely serious. And in fact, the tone of their conversation makes me wonder if they didn’t have quite a good lunch with liquid refreshment. Rattansi is something of a ‘Leave’ supporter, and says in reply that they can go. We don’t want them. And perhaps if the International Court of Justice actually worked, we could prosecute some of those responsible for war crimes.

Opik’s next story is about a ruling by the Tories that animals don’t feel pain, and have no emotions. Which he points out will amaze anyone, who’s ever had a dog or seen one howl. He and Rattansi then comment about how this is all about the Tories trying to make it easier for themselves to go fox hunting, and for Trump and his children to kill more animals.

Opik then goes on to a funnier story, which nevertheless has a serious point. Documents released to Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act have shown that Britain lobbied Brazil over obtaining the rights for Shell and BP to drill for oil in more of the Brazilian rainforest. This is a serious issue. What makes it funny is that the government tried to redact the information. However, they got it wrong, and instead of blacking out the embarrassing pieces of information, they highlighted them instead in yellow marker. Which they then sent to Greenpeace’s head of operations. Opik then goes on to make the very serious point that this is information, that the government was trying to hide from us.

The last story is from the Independent. It’s about the finding by one of the peer-reviewed British medical journals that the Tories’ austerity policy is responsible for 120,000 deaths, in what has been described as ‘economic murder’. Opik’s sceptical of this claim, as he says he’s seen stats misused like this before. Rattansi counters in reply by saying that it does come from a peer-reviewed medical journal. Opik does, however, accept that Tory austerity policies have harmed some people, but is sceptical whether its 120,000.

These reports show that Britain is losing its influence on the world stage as a result of voting to leave the European Union. There’s even the possibility that we will lose our place on the UN Security Council if Scotland breaks away. It’s also interesting to hear Rattansi remind Opik that David Davis, the Tory MP, claimed that Britain wouldn’t lose her position as the base for various international agencies and ruling bodies if we left the EU. This is another failed prediction from the Tories. Or another lie, if you prefer.

As for the Conservatives ruling that animals don’t feel pain, the Independent states that this is ‘anti-science’. Absolutely. I think anyone, who has ever kept a pet knows that animals do feel pain, and do have emotions. Or at least, creatures like birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. My guess is that they’ve passed this ruling not just as a way of making the return of fox hunting easier, but as part of an attack on a whole range of animal rights legislation, which they probably see as a burden on farming and industry. Like whatever legislation there is protecting the wellbeing of farm animals or regulating vivisection. And it is very definitely an ‘anti-science’ ruling. It seems that new discoveries are being made regularly showing how animal cognition and mental abilities are much more sophisticated than we previously believed. For example, crows are able to make and use tools. They’ll use sticks to open tin cans, for example. This amazed scientists when they first discovered it, as tool use was previously considered to be confined to primates. And in yesterday’s I there was a report on the finding by scientists that sheep can recognise human faces. And yes, the I has also carried several stories over the years about how scientists have found that dogs really do have emotions. When I read these, my reaction was ‘No sh*t, Sherlock!’ It’s very obvious that dogs do have emotions. But not, apparently, to the baying anti-science morons in the Tory party.

Mike put up the story about medical researchers finding that Tory policies have killed 120,000 people in the UK. I don’t entirely blame Opik for being sceptical, as there have been similar claims made that have been vastly inflated. However I don’t doubt that this is true in this case. We have over a hundred thousand people forced to use food banks, and millions of people living in ‘food insecure’ households, where they don’t know when they’ll eat again. Even if poverty and starvation do not directly cause their deaths, they are a contributing cause by leaving them vulnerable to other factors, such as disease or long-term illness, hypothermia and so on. And there are at least 700 people, who have been directly killed by the Tories’ austerity. These people died of starvation, or diabetic comas when they could not afford to keep their insulin in a fridge, or in despair took their own lives. They’ve been commemorated and their cases recorded by Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Mike at Vox Political, and the great peeps at DPAC.

Many of these poor souls actually left notes behind saying that they were killing themselves because they couldn’t afford to live.

But the DWP has refused to accept it, and blithely carries on repeating the lie that there’s no link between their deaths and austerity. And certainly not with the murderous sanctions system introduced by David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith.

Rattansi was right about the failure of the International Court of Justice to prosecute the war criminals, who led us into the Iraq invasion and other wars in the Middle East. But nevertheless, there was an attempt to have Bush, Blair and their fellow butchers and liars hauled before international justice for their crimes against humanity. A group of British, Greek and Canadian lawyers and activists tried to bring a prosecution, and the lawyer in charge of looking into the case was, at least initially, interested. Then American exceptionalism won out once again, and the US placed pressure on the court to throw out the case.

Being tried for war crimes is just something that happens to other, lesser nations, you see.

If there were any true, international justice, Blair and the rest of New Labour and Bush’s vile neocons would find themselves in the dock, like the other genocides and mass-murderers who’ve been punished. And I’d just love to see Cameron, Smith, Damian Green, Esther McVie and Theresa May join them for their ‘chequebook genocide’ against the disabled.

But unfortunately that ain’t going to happen. However, we can at least get them out before they kill many more people.

Preaching Christ During the Festival of Science

June 15, 2008

Last Friday, the 6th of June, was the last day of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, held annually in Cheltenham, in Britain. It’s been going for a few years now, and is pretty much like the annual Festival of Literature held in the same town every October, with the obvious difference that it’s about science, while the other festival is about literature. Both feature leading figures in their respective areas talking about their subject, and particularly their latest work, or the latest issue to grab the national attention and be debated. In the case of the Festival of Literature, it’s obviously writers discussing their latest book, while in the Festival of Science it tends to be scientists talking about the latest issue in science.

Scientists and Writers at the Cheltenham Festival

As it’s an event aimed at getting the general public involved with science and more aware of contemporary research and issues, the scientists appearing at the Festival tend also to be the authors of books on popular science, or the hosts or producers of TV and radio programmes on science. For example, this year one of the guests at the Festival was Dr. Robert Winston, a fertility expert and the presenter of a number of science and factual programmes, such as Walking with Cavemen and The Story of God. Walking with Cavemen was a series the Beeb screened a few years ago now about human evolution, tracing the origins of the human species from its earliest ancestors up to the emergence of modern humans, Homo Sapiens, on the plains of Africa. The Story of God, on the other hand, was a straightforward history of the various religious faiths around the world. While he definitely isn’t a Creationist – the Story of God showed him debating Creationism in a radio studio in America – Winston is an observant Jew. There was a bit in the series where he appeared to leave the militant atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins momentarily speechless. Dawkins had just declared that he really couldn’t understand how any intelligent person could possibly believe in religion, to which Winston simply said quietly, ‘I believe it.’ Dawkins looked amazed, and said to him, ‘You do?’

‘Yes,’ said Winston, ‘I honestly do.’ Winston then went on a few months after the series and the publication of Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, to criticise Dawkins publicly at a festival of science in Edinburgh for trying to associate atheism with science, politely stating that while he respected Dawkins personally, he thought he was profoundly wrong to do so. The title of Winston’s speech even suggested that in his attempt to connect science to atheism, Dawkins was deluded.

Other speakers who have appeared at the Festival in the past have included the australian astronomer, Duncan Steele, and the Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who were on a panel with a number of other scientists talking about the dangers of collision from asteroids; the physicist Jim al-Khalili, giving a brief introduction to Quantum physics to coincide with his book, Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed, and the mathematician Simon Singh talking about codes and ciphers through history. It can be a really great, fascinating, fun event, depending on who’s speaking at the Festival and your particular interest in science. It’s run in association with a hands-on science centre in Cardiff, so there’s a series of scientific games and fun experiments in the main hall, and some of the events and speakers are definitely not solemn, dry lectures. They had one tent set up as an arena for Robot Wars one year when that was on British TV.

Problems of Presenting Atheism as Science

While it’s a great event generally, I have some real qualms about the very reductionist materialism preached by some of the speakers. While the vast majority of the speakers and events at the Festival don’t touch on religion, some of the scientists and writers who have appeared have very strong atheist views which they articulate as part of their general views on science. Richard Dawkins is one such guest at the Festival who talks about science in terms of a general atheist worldview. Other atheist scientists who also view science and atheism as strongly linked, and are very hostile to religion, who have appeared at the Festival of Science include Steven Pinker and the philosopher, A.C. Grayling.

The Christian Origins of Experimental Science

Now modern experimental science first emerged in Europe through the belief of medieval and Renaissance Christian natural philosophers that nature was available to rational study as, being created and established through God’s divine and transcendent Wisdom, it was therefore itself rational and ordered. These early scientists believed that nature and Scripture comprised two books, which together revealed God’s glory, although while nature demonstrated the existence of God, it could never give as full a revelation of God as Scripture. The pioneering scientists of the Renaissance – Copernicus, Galileo, Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton were all devoutly religious, even if, like Newton, they held unorthodox religious views. Boyle, for example, in his book The Christian Virtuoso, made it very clear that he believed, in contrast to Rene Descartes, that the universe clearly showed evidence for teleology, and pointed very much to the existence of God. He also endowed a series of lectures to be preached annually to prove the existence of the Almighty. All this is often forgotten in the contemporary view of the history of science, which tends to view it in very Positivist terms as an intellectual endeavour opposed to religious belief, and which emerged to challenge religion and the supernatural to replace it with rationality and materialism.

Presenting the Christian Origins of Science During the Festival, and Great Resources on Christianity and Science

I’d like to challenge that perception of science and its history. I’d like to hire a church hall or similar venue one day around the time of the Festival to present a lecture on the history of science, showing that it was based very much on the Christian conception of an ordered nature established by the divine reason. I’d also like to make the point that, contrary to the views expounded by Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett and other atheist scientists and philosophers, science is not intrinsically atheistic, and there is much in science that points away from atheism and towards the existence of God. It’s just an idea, and really should be done by someone like the awesome Bede, who’s a historian of science and whose website, Bede’s Library and blog, Bede’s Journal, are superb resources for science and Christian faith. At the moment it’s just an idea, but I think, given the intense debate between science, religion and atheism at the moment, it needs to be done, and the case clearly presented for the Christian creation of and support for science. I also thoroughly recommend the ‘Scientists of Christian Faith’ project over at J.P. Holding’s awesome Tekton Apologetics site as another great resource giving brief biographies and descriptions of the lives and work of numerous scientists, including the above founders of this part of the human project to understand the world, who are also Christians, and whose work often reflects and strengthens their Christian beliefs.

Problem of Distinguishing Scientific Fact and Personal Views of Scientists

One other point needs to be made about some of the scientific views presented as the latest research, or as predictions of what will occur in the future, at science festivals and in the press generally. Scientific views in particular areas are changing all the time as new evidence emerges and old evidence re-examined. Moreover, scientists in their interpretation of particular facts aren’t immune from the influence of their own personal beliefs and general cultural attitudes. Some philosophers of science have stated that there are no ‘brute facts’ in science, that is, no facts whose meaning is immediately self-evident, independent of other facts. All scientific facts are interpreted through a network of related scientific facts and models by a human mind. This means that while most of the material and research presented as scientific fact at such festivals can be trusted as well-established science, some of it should also be treated with a certain scepticism as the researcher’s own personal opinions. Thus, Jim al-Khalili’s treatment of Quantum physics in his book will be a more or less trustworthy account of the main ideas and debates in that science, even if there is also considerable differences of opinion between scientists on the wider philosophical implications of the theory. However, the view presented by one scientist, the author of the book, The End of Time, that time does not exist and is illusory, while cogently argued and intellectually respectable, is an extreme view that is far less likely to be objectively true.

Commercial Pressure and Exaggerated Scientific Claims

Moreover, some of the descriptions of the progress made and what can be expected in particular areas of science in years to come have struck me as being more like a commercial advertisement than an impartial description of the current state of that science. Scientific research can be expensive, and the universities and companies engaged in it depend on government funding and private investment for their financial support. Thus it appears to me that there’s a financial incentive for some scientists to exaggerate publicly the results they expect of their research, while being much more cautious in private. Consciousness research is a good example. In a piece published in the British newspaper, The Guardian, just before the Millennium, various scientists in Britain and America were interviewed giving their views on what science would discover in the future. This included a couple of neurologists declaring that the solution to the problem of consciousness would be found, and that it would be much simpler than previously considered. Yet philosophers have also noted that despite the optimism of some materialist philosophers and neurologists, like Daniel C. Dennett, the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness has not been solved and many materialist philosophers themselves do not consider that a materialist solution will be easily found.

Differing Views on the Development of Intelligence in Robots

This tendency for scientists to exaggerate the results they expect of their particular branch of science can also be seen in some of the statements by AI researchers developing robots. The British cyberneticist, Kevin Warwick, of the University of Reading very strongly feels that AI will be a genuine reality, and that we are on the verge of creating truly intelligent, autonomous machines. He’s extremely pessimistic about this, however, arguing that such robots will be a very real threat to humanity. In the first chapter of his 1997 book, March of the Machines: Why the New Race of Robots will Rule the World, he paints a grim picture of the fate of humanity fifty years in the future. By 2050, according to the book, if current progress in robotics continues, the robots will have taken over and what remains of humanity will be reduced to complete servitude, farmed and controlled by the machines.

The robotics experts Mark Tilden and Dave Hrynkiw, who specialise in developing very simple robots that can be built by the amateur enthusiast at home, are far more sceptical about the development of AI and the potential for robots to become truly autonomous, intelligent machines. In his preface to their book Junkbots, Bugbots & Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots with BEAM Technology, Tilden gives an hilarious account of his attempt to create a robot butler, an excessively complicated machine that gradually proved to be a complete failure until it was finally outwitted by his pet cat. He describes coming home one day to find it spinning uselessly in the middle of the carpet. When it came out to vacuum, the cat had learned to block it with play furniture, until the machine thought it was completely surrounded and so was reduced to spinning helplessly, leaving the cat to go back sleeping in peace. After seeing his five thousand dollar robot beaten by his cat, Tilden switched it off, and turned instead to developing far simpler, much less intelligent, but far more reliable machines. Regarding the problems in developing truly conscious machines, he states

‘Alas, unlike in the movies, and despite all wishes to the contrary, the ability to make a conscious robot creature doesn’t happen by just throwing electronic bits together. Even the best minds and budgets haven’t managed it outside the usual nonclassroom biology. True, sophisticated computer characters have been made that appear to have some aspects of life (they’re a prime seller of the video game market), but their responses are limited. Even real goldfish show more life than the best screensavers made in their image. However, the general mass-belief in “automatic consciousness” is a problem for robotics researchers because popular media keeps implying it’s not a problem.’ 1

Now Warwick, as an expert in his field, clearly knows what he’s talking about and it would be unwise not to pay attention to his warnings, particularly as arms companies have developed a battlefield robot, which some observers fear is a real threat to human life and the continued existence of the human species. On the other hand, from what Tilden and Hrynkiw say, it’s clear that the machine aren’t going to take over soon, and that the human race needn’t fear an army of robots all looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger rising up against it any time soon.

Pressures from Funding and Exaggerated Claims of Future Results

Beyond this particular debate in robotics, my point is that in certain areas of science scientific opinion may be very divided, and present a far different picture from the one an individual scientist may wish to promote. Undoubtedly the scientists working in particular areas genuinely believe that their research will yield important results, but in their public statements commercial and financial pressures may lead them to play down any difficulties or problems, which may be considerable, that they also face. After all, government funding bodies aware of the need to give the public value for the tax money they’re considering spending, banks, and entrepreneurs looking for a useful and commercially viable product that will give a good, reliable return on their investment, are going to be reluctant to put money into a project in which the leading researchers believe that it might yield some interesting results, eventually, but it’ll be several decades, if at all. Hence, in my view, the various confident predictions by materialist neurologists that the problem of consciousness is about to be explained and that very shortly mind will be found to equal brain. They undoubtedly believe it, but few people and organisations are going to fund their research if they present a much more sober, far less confident picture of future progress.

Confusion of Atheism and Science in Popular Science Writing

Tilden’s view that popular science has created false expectations is also shared by the Christian writers Paul Marston and Roger Forster, who have backgrounds in science and mathematics. They comment that much of the popular science in bookshops around Britain, especially that written by Peter Atkins, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Steven Pinker and John Gribbin, ‘is metaphysics not ‘science’, popular or otherwise, and their books are full of extended analogy and parables’ to the point where they suggest that ‘we might call them ‘Penpops Fables’ since Penguin ‘popular science’, books are especially full of them’. 2 Dawkins in particular has been criticised for confusing his own ideas with generally accepted, good science, and presenting them as the view of science in general. Fraser Watts, a former President of the British Psychological Society and Starbridge Lecturer in Science and Religion at Cambridge, stated that Dawkins

‘purports to be speaking for the whole of science as though all scientists think what he thinks, but they don’t … I think there is undoubtedly truth in Darwin’s theory of evolution, but it is not a complete explanation of everything as Dawkins makes out – and he muddles up what is validly established science and the ideas he had in the bath last night, and he presents this as though it is a seamless robe and it is actually quite misleading.’ 3

Conclusion: Some Scientific Statements Need To Be Viewed with Scepticism

Thus, there are very good reasons, such as the commercial pressures on professional science writers and their own, personal ideological and professional biases, why some of the statements about the nature of science and state of research in popular science should be taken with a degree of scepticism. The whole point of science is that its findings and statements can be subjected to critical testing and scrutiny, and that critique should also include atheist metaphysics when this is presented as an intrinsic part of science itself.


1. Tilden, M., and Hrynkiw, D., Junkbots, Bugbots & Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots with BEAM Technology (New York, McGraw-Hill/Osborne 2002), pp. XIV-XV.

2. Forster, R., and Marsden, P., Reason, Science & Faith (Crowborough, Monarch 1999), pp. 42-3.

3. Fraser Watts, in the Christian Students in Science video Encounter, cited in Forster and Marsden, Reason, Science and Faith, p. 53.