Away with the fairies (with Polish translation)

153

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies. In an age of pre-Photoshop innocence, Doyle was fooled by a pair of mischievous schoolgirls who fabricated cardboard cutouts and photographed them.

With Polish translation – see end of article.


How should we react to such gullibility? As a minimum we might simply call attention to the paradox that the creator of the unfoolable Sherlock Holmes, and the belligerently sceptical scientist Professor Challenger, could be so credulous. “It’s a rum do” or some such cliché might occur to us, and we might make a mental note to increase our own scepticism of other causes that he might espouse, for example his unshakeable belief (even Houdini himself couldn’t shake it) that Harry Houdini had supernatural powers. We would not, I think, stop reading Doyle’s excellent fiction simply because he was, in one respect, a credulous fool.

Lord Dowding,  Head of RAF Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain, also believed in fairies. Once again we might be moved to comment on the paradox that a man silly enough to believe in little gossamer-winged human creatures seemed to be rather good at managing squadrons of  Hurricanes and Spitfires with machine guns in their wings – and of winning a major victory with them.

Yesterday, on Twitter, I wrote of the British journalist Mehdi Hasan’s belief that the Prophet Muhamed flew to Heaven on a winged horse.  It is a belief at least as silly as Doyle’s belief in fairies, and it merits the same “It’s a rum do” comment on the paradox that Mehdi Hasan is simultaneously a very good journalist and political editor, who writes penetrating and sensible articles on current affairs and world politics. That such an effective critical intellect should simultaneously be capable of  believing in winged horses seemed to me to merit some sort of wry comment, comment of the “It’s a rum do” variety:  isn’t it odd, what a paradox, like Conan Doyle or Dowding and the fairies.

Unfortunately, I phrased it poorly. Instead of saying “Isn’t it quaint that such a successful journalist can simultaneously believe something so daft”, I wrote, “Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.”

I cannot deny that this sounds horribly like a call for New Statesman to sack him, and it is not surprising that it was taken in that way and became controversial as a freedom of speech issue. Even worse, some respondents went overboard and thought I was saying that no Muslim should ever be employed as a  journalist, or even that no religious person should ever be employed as a journalist.

I certainly never intended any of those meanings. Twitters’s 140-character limit is notoriously inimical to nuance. If I were to attempt a nuanced account of what I really intended to say, it would be a rather confused mixture of the following three – admittedly not wholly compatible – spellings-out:

 

  • Isn’t it an odd paradox that a journalist good enough to be employed by no less a journal than New Statesman is capable of simultaneously holding a belief at least as absurd as Conan Doyle’s belief in fairies?
  • Given that he believes something at least as absurd as Conan Doyle’s belief in fairies, is it possible that I’ve over-estimated Mehdi Hasan? Could it be that he’s not such a good journalist as I had thought?
  • Conversely, it seems so odd that a good and intelligent journalist should believe obvious nonsense, that I can’t help wondering whether he really does believe it, or whether he only pretends to out of loyalty to a loved tradition.

 

None of those three meanings was well conveyed by my ill-judged words, and I withdraw them with apologies.  I’m grateful to the many tweeters who came to my defence and saw no problem with my original formulation. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that my words were carelessly chosen.

I remain genuinely curious about the human mind’s capacity to hold silly and sensible beliefs simultaneously, sometimes even flatly contradictory beliefs. The best example of the latter that I know was told me by an astronomer colleague at Oxford. He spoke of an American professor of astronomy (he didn’t tell me his name) who publishes competent mathematical papers in astronomical journals, theoretical papers that assume that the universe is more than 13 billion years old. Yet at the same time he privately believes, on scriptural grounds, that the universe is less than ten thousand years old. Mehdi Hasan’s belief in a winged horse doesn’t contradict his sensible journalism in quite the same literal way. But I think it could fairly be said to run badly afoul of the spirit of critical thinking that we expect in a 21st century journalist.

There is a distinction between the Doyle/Dowding belief in fairies and Hasan’s belief in a winged horse. Hasan’s absurdity stems from a major religious creed and is for this reason treated with an over-generous portion of respect. Doyle’s belief in fairies was an individual eccentricity, fit only for mirth. People would blithely write off Doyle among the fairies as a comic nutter while agreeing that he was a very good storyteller; or laugh behind Dowding’s back while agreeing that he was handy with an Air Force. But if you describe a religious believer as a nutter because he believes in a winged horse (or a follower of another tradition because he believes water miraculously turned into wine) you will be in for trouble.

It was an additional intention of my tweet (spelled out in subsequent ones) to emphasise, yet again, this remarkably widespread double standard. It is a double standard that is applied, with peculiar vitriol, by some who call themselves atheists but bend over backwards to “accommodate” religious faith. If you were to suggest that Conan Doyle was a gullible fool among the Cottingley Fairies, I doubt that anyone would call you a “vile racist bigot”; or say to you, as a British Member of Parliament tweeted to me,  “You really are a gratuitously unpleasant man.” The difference, of course, is that Doyle’s ridiculous belief was not protected by the shield of religious privilege. And perhaps that is the most important take-home message of this whole affair.

 


Precz z duszkami

Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins
Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wierzył w duszki. W wieku niewinności przed Photoshopem Doyle dał się nabrać parze psotnych dziewczynek, które sfabrykowały duszki z kartonu i sfotografowały je. 

Jak mamy reagować na taką łatwowierność? Co najmniej możemy zwrócić uwagę na paradoks, że twórca niedającego się nabierać Sherlocka Holmesa i wojowniczo sceptycznego profesora Challengera mógł być tak łatwowierny. Na myśl może nam przyjść słowo „dziwactwo" i możemy zanotować sobie w pamięci potrzebę wzmocnienia własnego sceptycyzmu w innych sprawach, za którymi mógł się opowiadać, na przykład jego niezachwiana wiara (nawet sam Houdini nie mógł jej zachwiać), że Harry Houdini miał moce nadnaturalne. Nie uważam, że powinniśmy przestać czytać znakomitych książek Doyle’a tylko dlatego, że pod jednym względem okazał się łatwowiernym głupcem.

Czytaj dalej

 

Written By: Richard Dawkins
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153 COMMENTS

  1. “I remain genuinely curious about the human mind’s capacity to hold silly and sensible beliefs simultaneously, sometimes even flatly contradictory beliefs.”

    I follow a person who believes in all kinds of crazy things, like fairies, elves, visiting aliens etc., but I don’t “believe” in any of it myself. The reason I follow this person is because they’re intelligent, interesting, original, and most importantly, STILL EVOLVING. Some of their personal discoveries and studies in that evolutionary process lend puzzle pieces(even if only metaphor) that unlock mysteries I myself am trying to solve. I’d rather listen to people who buy into some unscientific theories then an echo chamber of repeated norms. I hate religion, with a passion, because it’s the ultimate echo chamber and it’s echoing lies. Simple man-made, man-serving lies. But I wouldn’t take away someone’s right to believe those lies, because beliefs are clues to a person’s personal evolution. It tells you where they are, and if they’re in a perpetual echo chamber, or not.

  2. Professor Dawkins,

    Conan Doyle had lost his wife, son, and most of his family in World War I and was in a state of deep depression when he came to believe in faries. Isn’t it a little insensitive to ridicule a depressed and bereaved man?

    Hugh Dowding was a vegetarian and animal rights activist who believed that fairies are “essential to the growth of plants and the welfare of the vegetable kingdom”. Surely he couldn’t have been that bad?

    • In reply to #2 by MadMonk:

      Professor Dawkins,Conan Doyle had lost his wife, son, and most of his family in World War I and was in a state of deep depression when he came to believe in faries. Isn’t it a little insensitive to ridicule a depressed and bereaved man?Hugh Dowding was a vegetarian and animal rights activist who believed that fairies are “essential to the growth of plants and the welfare of the vegetable kingdom”. Surely he couldn’t have been that bad?

      I think it was clear it was during his childhood (and then adulthood) that Sir Conan Doyle believed in fairies (no reason to suppose it was because of depression).

      Any way, no one seems to be ridiculing, just wondering, and that´s a fair interrogation I would think.

      (People who usually ridicule other beliefs are commonly people that hold regilious beliefs themselves,and only see something common when they join together to be against gay rights. That´s not the case of Prof. Richard Dawkins, not even that there´s is something that you could call “gratuit” in the question.)

    • In reply to #2 by MadMonk:

      Professor Dawkins,

      Conan Doyle had lost his wife, son, and most of his family in World War I and was in a state of deep depression when he came to believe in faries. Isn’t it a little insensitive to ridicule a depressed and bereaved man?

      Hugh Dowding was a vegetarian and animal rights activist who believed that fairies are “essential to the growth of plants and the welfare of the vegetable kingdom”. Surely he couldn’t have been that bad?

      I think you miss his point- ridicule applies to the belief, not the individual; lack of respect goes to people who believe this stuff and rightly so.

      However, for me there is no controversy in terming ‘fools’ those who believe in foolish lies. Until a real Buraq is produced, his existence is a LIE.

      “Surely he couldn’t have been that bad?” Well, well- here’s rational thought in action.
      Look, every human on this planet has to cope with tragedy and many do it with religion, fairies, whatever.
      Many have the emotional fortitude to reject all that. Shit happens- Fairies/Gods seemingly don’t care.

    • In reply to #2 by MadMonk:

      Professor Dawkins,

      Conan Doyle had lost his wife, son, and most of his family in World War I and was in a state of deep depression when he came to believe in faries. Isn’t it a little insensitive to ridicule a depressed and bereaved man?

      Hugh Dowding was a vegetarian and animal rights activist who believed that fairies are “essential to the growth of plants and the welfare of the vegetable kingdom”. Surely he couldn’t have been that bad?

      Do 7 guests REALLY like this? An unashamed appeal for the sympathy vote??

    • In reply to #2 by MadMonk:

      Professor Dawkins,

      Conan Doyle had lost his wife, son, and most of his family in World War I and was in a state of deep depression when he came to believe in faries. Isn’t it a little insensitive to ridicule a depressed and bereaved man?

      Hugh Dowding was a vegetarian and animal rights activist who believed that fairies are “essential to the growth of plants and the welfare of the vegetable kingdom”. Surely he couldn’t have been that bad?

      There is a very large difference between having sympathy for a person who is in a disturbed mental state, and accepting deluded thinking and allowing it to intrude into decision-making which affects other people.

      When such people widely propagate their deluded thinking in the media, or push it into political decision making, it needs to be discredited and ridiculed.

      There is nothing wrong with being entertained by fiction. It is when people cannot tell fiction from reality that it becomes a problem.

      • In reply to #141 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #2 by MadMonk:

        Professor Dawkins,

        Conan Doyle had lost his wife, son, and most of his family in World War I and was in a state of deep depression when he came to believe in faries. Isn’t it a little insensitive to ridicule a depressed and bereaved man?

        Hugh Dowding was a vegetarian an…

        In his book (the name of which ,escapes me for the moment), James Randi devotes quite a lot of space to the ‘Cottingly Fairies’ and Doyles belief in them. He postulates that, at that period, class distinctions were far more pronounced than at present. Doyle , (even though he knew that the two girls frequently helped out in their father’s photography and postcard production business), refused to believe that ; due to their ‘lower class’ status, they could be capable of the subterfuge needed to fake the pictures : therefore they must be genuine!

  3. Richard; Do I contradict myself? I am vast, I contain multitudes.

    Yours is obviously not the first excellent brain to contemplate this paradox. My Italian born grandmother would call a person who has great ability in one area and is an idiot in another “smart-eh-domb” (you have to kind of impersonate an Italian speaking broken english to get the full effect of her wisdom!). She often leveled this exact accusation on me. Ironically she thought I was “domb” for NOT believing in her other worldly bull shit.

    Sorry for the shit storm that has ensued, but then, twitter is a strange place. Your explanation should settle it, but since it is complex and longer than 140 characters, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any or all of your opponents to accept or understand.

  4. I wonder if Richard felt antagonised by Mehdi’s retweet on Sunday shortly prior to Richard’s controversial one:

    “RT @ajcdeane: @mehdirhasan takes on Dawkins. Beats him, politely. http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2012/12/god-best-answer-why-there-something-rather-nothing … >> Ha. Thanks. :-)”

    Richard has clarified that he doesn’t hold the view suggested by his tweet. I can’t help, however, wondering if his meaning at the time was exactly what it looked like, but that it was a throwaway, heat of the moment reaction to Mehdi’s tweet, which he soon regretted as soon as he reflected upon it, not just in the phrasing, but the intention at the time.

    • In reply to #4 by bubbub:

      I wonder if Richard felt antagonised by Mehdi’s retweet on Sunday shortly prior to Richard’s controversial one:

      “RT @ajcdeane: @mehdirhasan takes on Dawkins. Beats him, politely. http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2012/12/god-best-answer-why-there-something-rather-nothing … >> Ha. Thanks. :-)”

      Richard has clarified that he doesn’t hold the view suggested by his tweet. I can’t help, however, wondering if his meaning at the time was exactly what it looked like, but that it was a throwaway, heat of the moment reaction to Mehdi’s tweet, which he soon regretted as soon as he reflected upon it, not just in the phrasing, but the intention at the time.

      Here’s a scribble about it.

      Really?

  5. “I remain genuinely curious about the human mind’s capacity to hold silly and sensible beliefs simultaneously, sometimes even flatly contradictory beliefs”.

    One does not have to look far for examples – the most influential, greatest, most prolific man of science ever – Isaac Newton ‘gravitates’ to mind. On one hand, a first class rationalist whose scientific legacy took humanity to the Moon centuries later, on the other, total religious quack devoted to alchemy and believing himself to posses a divine purpose.

    It is often Newton who is quoted by the religious as a scientist who nonetheless was a great believer in their God. What they forget, of course, is that he lived 300 years ago in a very religious world, and was simply a man of his time (possibly also indoctrinated when very young). They forget that science has moved on since his time, that three centuries later we have many more, better explanations for various phenomena which were unexplained and ‘magical’ in his time. Even he, I daresay, would have to laugh at his attempts at ‘transmuting metals’ in the face of modern chemistry.

    In Conon Doyle’s or Lord Dowding’s day, strong early indoctrination could have made intellectual pulp of even their adult ideas, today, however, in the 21st century, to believe in the flight of a winged horse with a holy rider astride, is not really easily excusable. That is why I entirely support what you have written on Twitter about Hasan, Professor, and I agree with you when you state that he surely cannot expect to be called a ‘seious journalist”

    • In reply to #5 by HenMie:

      It is often Newton who is quoted by the religious as a scientist who nonetheless was a great believer in their God. What they forget, of course, is that he lived 300 years ago in a very religious world, and was simply a man of his time (possibly also indoctrinated when very young). They forget that science has moved on since his time,

      You are being way too generous here by using the word “forget”. That implies that when those who make use of the Newton example to make the claim that science has no conflict with religion – who have to sidestep these facts you bring up in order to make that argument – that they do this sidestepping quite accidentally.

      I don’t give them that benefit of the doubt. The facts you bring up are not exactly deep mysterious secrets only known to a few historians. They’re things everybody knows.

      So no, I don’t use the word “forget” to describe what they do. I use the term “pretend”. They didn’t forget these facts. They just pretended they weren’t there.

  6. I think it’s overly aggressive for a prominent atheist to name a good journalist & ridicule his beliefs. By all means ridicule beliefs generally & also specific believers if they are writing / campaigning for religious privilege but this kind of twitter “discussion” does nothing to help secularism. It probably hinders it because reasonable people start defending the target of the ridicule & it perpetuates the myth that atheists are bigots. I was disappointed to see RD’s tweets but not at all surprised at the negative reaction from many people.

    • In reply to #6 by Emmeline:

      I think it’s overly aggressive for a prominent atheist to name a good journalist & ridicule his beliefs. By all means ridicule beliefs generally & also specific believers if they are writing / campaigning for religious privilege but this kind of twitter “discussion” does nothing to help secularism. It probably hinders it because reasonable people start defending the target of the ridicule & it perpetuates the myth that atheists are bigots. I was disappointed to see RD’s tweets but not at all surprised at the negative reaction from many people.

      ‘Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot: someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats other people with hatred, contempt, and intolerance on the basis of a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, RELIGION, language…’

      Here it is again- preferencing bloody religion! We need a new and rational definition for Bigot, excluding you-know-what.

    • In reply to #6 by Emmeline:

      Yes! Those journalists are so sensitive! We should never subject them to the same sort of scrutiny which they employ in their own occupation!

      Gosh! Think of it. Singling out a journalist and pointing out how backward his beliefs are whereas the poor fellow himself would never dream of publicly pointing out fallacies or errors in other public figures! Never! I mean, that’s not what journalists do! They are so thin-skinned by and large and we shouldn’t be aggressive toward them.

      The poor fellow.

      And this particular journalist was so respectful and not at all confrontational when he interviewed Dawkins! How disrespectful of Dawkins not to do likewise!

      I think it’s overly aggressive for a prominent atheist to name a good journalist & ridicule his beliefs. By all means ridicule beliefs generally & also specific believers if they are writing / campaigning for religious privilege but this kind of twitter “discussion” does nothing to help secularism. It probably hinders it because reasonable people start defending the target of the ridicule & it perpetuates the myth that atheists are bigots. I was disappointed to see RD’s tweets but not at all surprised at the negative reaction from many people.

  7. Bingo, Professor Dawkins. That’s the crucial point. Why should we turn a blind eye to a ludicrous belief simply because it is labeled “religious”?

    Mehdi Hasan then tweeted back to you: “thanks Richard. Now, can you pls clarify, should NS stop publishing me because of my Islamic religious beliefs? Yes or no?”

    To which I replied: “Scratch ‘Islamic religious’ from your question. Irrelevant. If your beliefs include flying horses… yes.”

    Hasan’s reply clearly shows that he himself thinks that labeling a belief “religious” renders it more legitimate, worthy of respect, sacrosanct, untouchable, immune to judgment and criticism. To hell with that. For crying out loud: flying horses!?

    In his so-called “interview” with you (which was actually a rude, orchestrated attack), Hasan also revealed an inability to distinguish scientific inquiry from religious faith. He jumped on the notion that some physicists theorize about a mulitverse to claim that said mystery is no different than that of flying horses. Whoa…! Is he really unable to see the difference?

    The theory of a multiverse is a mere hypothesis that those physicists would love to prove or disprove one way or the other, via observation, experimentation, mathematical modeling, etc., in their quest to find the definitive answer. That is the way science works.

    Is this what Hasan is saying? That the notion of “flying horses” is only a hypothesis that he –and all other Muslims– and trying to prove or disprove one way or the other? Nope. It is a belief, a question of faith, end of story, case closed –despite all the evidence that horses do not have wings!

    Wake up and smell the reality, Hasan.

  8. Richard, while I presently believe in neither fairies nor winged horses, I am open to persuasion by the use of logic. Your assumption that you are right about these things strikes me as inordinately pompous, but it is another issue that I have humility enough to consider unproven.

    • What logic would persuade your “openness” to think that horses fly? Flying horses??

      The assumption of being right WHEN YOU ARE is not pompous. The demand that people who are correct should accept ideas that are clearly bullshit is pompous. You need to get your “pompous meter” calibrated properly before you go aiming it at things.

      This is a tired hackneyed objection that, when carried to it’s end, results in everything being equally true. Now, you do not think that everything is equally true, do you?

      BTW, new evidence can result in anything being proven wrong, but until horseshit starts falling from the sky (which it seems to be doing regarding this OP) I am going to stick to the assertion that horses are not currently being picked up on any air traffic controller’s radar screens.

      In reply to #9 by DustyRoads_:

      Richard, while I presently believe in neither fairies nor winged horses, I am open to persuasion by the use of logic. Your assumption that you are right about these things strikes me as inordinately pompous, but it is another issue that I have humility enough to consider unproven.

      • My pompous meter is calibrated to register when someone considers that they know better than someone else, but they have no proof – or even evidence – to put forward. What proof is there that there are no fairies or flying horses? Until I am presented with such proof, my mind is open. It is certainly not as closed as to limit my logic to horses of the kind I am familiar with. We are not talking Dobbin with wings here. A little thinking outside the box can broaden the mind. But once one comes to accept the wonder of Dobbin as we know him, who know what else can exist? I certainly don’t. Do you? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
        In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

        What logic would persuade your “openness” to think that horses fly? Flying horses??

        The assumption of being right WHEN YOU ARE is not pompous. The demand that people who are correct should accept ideas that are clearly bullshit is pompous. You need to get your “pompous meter” calibrated properly before you go aiming it at things.

        This is a tired hackneyed objection that, when carried to it’s end, results in everything being equally true. Now, you do not think that everything is equally true, do you?

        BTW, new evidence can result in anything being proven wrong, but until horseshit starts falling from the sky (which it seems to be doing regarding this OP) I am going to stick to the assertion that horses are not currently being picked up on any air traffic controller’s radar screens.

        In reply to #9 by DustyRoads_:

        Richard, while I presently believe in neither fairies nor winged horses, I am open to persuasion by the use of logic. Your assumption that you are right about these things strikes me as inordinately pompous, but it is another issue that I have humility enough to consider unproven.

        • In reply to #14 by DustyRoads_:

          Amazing lack of logic here. Could you explain to me how to prove a negative please? How on earth do you prove something doesn’t exist? Do you believe in Zeus? If not, why not?

          Tell you what, choose anything you like that you do not think exists and give me the proof that it doesn’t exist. I guess I will be waiting for a very long time. Otherwise you must admit anything must exist. If so: a god more powerful than the Christian one called Norbert who is very fond of custard, mountain biking and cheese. And can arm-wrestle Jesus with his little flipper. Oh, and destroyed Allah a week ago during a game of twister.

          My pompous meter is calibrated to register when someone considers that they know better than someone else, but they have no proof – or even evidence – to put forward. What proof is there that there are no fairies or flying horses? Until I am presented with such proof, my mind is open. It is certainly not as closed as to limit my logic to horses of the kind I am familiar with. We are not talking Dobbin with wings here. A little thinking outside the box can broaden the mind. But once one comes to accept the wonder of Dobbin as we know him, who know what else can exist? I certainly don’t. Do you? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
          In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

          What logic would persuade your “openness” to think that horses fly? Flying horses??

          The assumption of being right WHEN YOU ARE is not pompous. The demand that people who are correct should accept ideas that are clearly bullshit is pompous. You need to get your “pompous meter” calibrated properly before you go aiming it at things.

          This is a tired hackneyed objection that, when carried to it’s end, results in everything being equally true. Now, you do not think that everything is equally true, do you?

          BTW, new evidence can result in anything being proven wrong, but until horseshit starts falling from the sky (which it seems to be doing regarding this OP) I am going to stick to the assertion that horses are not currently being picked up on any air traffic controller’s radar screens.

          In reply to #9 by DustyRoads_:

          Richard, while I presently believe in neither fairies nor winged horses, I am open to persuasion by the use of logic. Your assumption that you are right about these things strikes me as inordinately pompous, but it is another issue that I have humility enough to consider unproven.

          • “How on earth do you prove something doesn’t exist?”

            I have no idea. That is just my point. So the possibility that it does exist – because it can’t be proved that it doesn’t – remains open.

            What I take issue with is the concept that something does not exist simply because it has not been experienced. Surely that is like saying that nothing exists until it is discovered. Isn’t that rather unscientific?
            I have not, as far as I am aware, seen fairies or flying horses, but that gives me no logical ground for denying their existence. I simply do not choose to believe that they exist. If I am later proved wrong I shall accept that gracefully. How about having the good grace to keep an open mind about things beyond our current understanding, and treating others and their beliefs with respect?

            Have a nice day.

            In reply to #19 by singlespeeder:

            In reply to #14 by DustyRoads_:

            Amazing lack of logic here. Could you explain to me how to prove a negative please? How on earth do you prove something doesn’t exist? Do you believe in Zeus? If not, why not?

            Tell you what, choose anything you like that you do not think exists and give me the proof that it doesn’t exist. I guess I will be waiting for a very long time. Otherwise you must admit anything must exist. If so: a god more powerful than the Christian one called Norbert who is very fond of custard, mountain biking and cheese. And can arm-wrestle Jesus with his little flipper. Oh, and destroyed Allah a week ago during a game of twister.

            My pompous meter is calibrated to register when someone considers that they know better than someone else, but they have no proof – or even evidence – to put forward. What proof is there that there are no fairies or flying horses? Until I am presented with such proof, my mind is open. It is certainly not as closed as to limit my logic to horses of the kind I am familiar with. We are not talking Dobbin with wings here. A little thinking outside the box can broaden the mind. But once one comes to accept the wonder of Dobbin as we know him, who know what else can exist? I certainly don’t. Do you? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
            In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

            What logic would persuade your “openness” to think that horses fly? Flying horses??

            The assumption of being right WHEN YOU ARE is not pompous. The demand that people who are correct should accept ideas that are clearly bullshit is pompous. You need to get your “pompous meter” calibrated properly before you go aiming it at things.

            This is a tired hackneyed objection that, when carried to it’s end, results in everything being equally true. Now, you do not think that everything is equally true, do you?

            BTW, new evidence can result in anything being proven wrong, but until horseshit starts falling from the sky (which it seems to be doing regarding this OP) I am going to stick to the assertion that horses are not currently being picked up on any air traffic controller’s radar screens.

            In reply to #9 by DustyRoads_:

            Richard, while I presently believe in neither fairies nor winged horses, I am open to persuasion by the use of logic. Your assumption that you are right about these things strikes me as inordinately pompous, but it is another issue that I have humility enough to consider unproven.

          • In reply to #50 by DustyRoads:_

            “How on earth do you prove something doesn’t exist?”

            I have no idea. That is just my point.

            It is very evident that you have no idea about the basis of evidenced thinking or logic!

            So the possibility that it does exist – because it can’t be proved that it doesn’t – remains open.

            Err no! Every whimsical notion does not have credibility because it is impossible to prove a negative.

            What I take issue with is the concept that something does not exist simply because it has not been experienced. Surely that is like saying that nothing exists until it is discovered.

            Err no! There is a difference between possible things which have not been discovered and confused whimsical notions which only exist as confused semantics.

            Isn’t that rather unscientific?

            Scientific methodology works from evidence to rational conclusions, with testing for consistency with known science.
            Believing unevidenced whimsical stuff is categorically NOT SCIENCE!

            I have not, as far as I am aware, seen fairies or flying horses, but that gives me no logical ground for denying their existence.

            You really need to work on you concepts of evidence, science and logic!

            I simply do not choose to believe that they exist.

            Clearly, you have still not studied the subjects I recommended @23, so are just making vague whimsical choices without definitions or evidence.

            @23 – Could I recommend a serious study of vertebrate and equine anatomy, along with a study of aerodynamics and Earth gravity, rather than the mythology of Pegasus etc.!

            If I am later proved wrong I shall accept that gracefully.

            Science has already proved that horses on Earth cannot fly, so those who actually look at evidence, already know the answer.

            How about having the good grace to keep an open mind about things beyond our current understanding,

            I think you mean, “Beyond YOUR current understanding”!

            @23 – Ah! Like a bucket with no lid, where any uncritical nonsense can be poured in! Similarly “logic”, does not start with defining what you are NOT talking about!

            and treating others and their beliefs with respect?

            Why would anyone want to treat with respect, asserted ignorance, from those too lazy to do their homework on readily available information, before considering that they know better than someone else, when they have no proof – or even evidence – to put forward, – then contradicting informed people and making silly psychological projections about pompous posturings?

            Respect has to be earned!

          • You and I are clearly not singing from the same hymn sheet. I question the content of your homework, while observing that your studies and mine obviously differ significantly. Would you like to suggest some common ground – besides our agreement that respect has to be earned – on which to base any future debate? In reply to #54 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #50 by DustyRoads:_

            “How on earth do you prove something doesn’t exist?”

            I have no idea. That is just my point.

            It is very evident that you have no idea about the basis of evidenced thinking or logic!

            So the possibility that it does exist – because it can’t be proved that it doesn’t – remains open.

            Err no! Every whimsical notion does not have credibility because it is impossible to prove a negative.

            What I take issue with is the concept that something does not exist simply because it has not been experienced. Surely that is like saying that nothing exists until it is discovered.

            Err no! There is a difference between possible things which have not been discovered and confused whimsical notions which only exist as confused semantics.

            Isn’t that rather unscientific?

            Scientific methodology works from evidence to rational conclusions, with testing for consistency with known science.
            Believing unevidenced whimsical stuff is categorically NOT SCIENCE!

            I have not, as far as I am aware, seen fairies or flying horses, but that gives me no logical ground for denying their existence.

            You really need to work on you concepts of evidence, science and logic!

            I simply do not choose to believe that they exist.

            Clearly, you have still not studied the subjects I recommended @23, so are just making vague whimsical choices without definitions or evidence.

            @23 – Could I recommend a serious study of vertebrate and equine anatomy, along with a study of aerodynamics and Earth gravity, rather than the mythology of Pegasus etc.!

            If I am later proved wrong I shall accept that gracefully.

            Science has already proved that horses on Earth cannot fly, so those who actually look at evidence, already know the answer.

            How about having the good grace to keep an open mind about things beyond our current understanding,

            I think you mean, “Beyond YOUR current understanding”!

            @23 – Ah! Like a bucket with no lid, where any uncritical nonsense can be poured in! Similarly “logic”, does not start with defining what you are NOT talking about!

            and treating others and their beliefs with respect?

            Why would anyone want to treat with respect, asserted ignorance, from those too lazy to do their homework on readily available information, before considering that they know better than someone else, when they have no proof – or even evidence – to put forward, – then contradicting informed people and making silly psychological projections about pompous posturings?

            Respect has to be earned!

          • In reply to #73 by DustyRoads_:

            You and I are clearly not singing from the same hymn sheet.

            This site debates logical reasoning and science, so I gave you honest and competent answers to your questions.

            I question the content of your homework,

            I would have to ask on what basis? (apart from them being a variance with your mistaken preconceptions.)

            Did you have some insight to offer on the study of vertebrate and equine anatomy, along with a study of aerodynamics, Earth gravity and logic, which would show I was mistaken?

            while observing that your studies and mine obviously differ significantly.

            That would seem likely, given that I am a biologist and space scientist.
            I was commenting of your obvious absence of scientific studies or logical reasoning, in your inability to recognise the impossibility of proving a negative, and the illogicality of trying to draw a conclusion from this inability.
            I even pointed out the specific subject areas (twice) which were letting you down.

            Would you like to suggest some common ground –

            There is no honest fudged position between evidenced scientific laws, and wishful thinking. They do not share common ground.
            (The global Earth does not become saucer-shaped to compromise and accommodate the feelings of Flat-Earthists.)

            besides our agreement that respect has to be earned – on which to base any future debate?

            If you wish to produce some evidenced and reasoned debate others will participate, but ignorant assertions are refuted on this site. People are expected to research their information properly and present it as a reasoned view.
            Expert opinion trumps made-up nonsense, ignorance, or incredulity.
            Science is about how things work in the real world. Its laws do not have fudged versions.

          • I respect your position, Alan, as a biologist and space scientist, and realise that my personal comprehension of these disciplines is – at least by comparison to yours – zilch. But my questions, which stem from the initial proposition of this debate, are not primarily seeking learned answers. What I would like to understand is why a significant number of those gifted with scientific skills are averse to exploring an equally significant number of beliefs held by others.
            All this started with flying horses; which I would suggest has little of nothing to do with horses with wings, but much to do with something that science has yet to explain. I have no personal experience of flying horses or the like, so have no axe to grind here. Carousel horses are probably my closest encounter. But the fact that this phenomena is causing such controversy here just makes me wonder. I would be interested to know if, were evidence for such an entity be found, the presently entrenched position that this matter currently appears to hold would be reconsidered?
            In reply to #85 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #73 by DustyRoads_:

            You and I are clearly not singing from the same hymn sheet.

            This site debates logical reasoning and science, so I gave you honest and competent answers to your questions.

            I question the content of your homework,

            I would have to ask on what basis? (apart from them being a variance with your mistaken preconceptions.)

            Did you have some insight to offer on the study of vertebrate and equine anatomy, along with a study of aerodynamics, Earth gravity and logic, which would show I was mistaken?

            while observing that your studies and mine obviously differ significantly.

            That would seem likely, given that I am a biologist and space scientist.
            I was commenting of your obvious absence of scientific studies or logical reasoning, in your inability to recognise the impossibility of proving a negative, and the illogicality of trying to draw a conclusion from this inability.
            I even pointed out the specific subject areas (twice) which were letting you down.

            Would you like to suggest some common ground –

            There is no honest fudged position between evidenced scientific laws, and wishful thinking. They do not share common ground.
            (The global Earth does not become saucer-shaped to compromise and accommodate the feelings of Flat-Earthists.)

            besides our agreement that respect has to be earned – on which to base any future debate?

            If you wish to produce some evidenced and reasoned debate others will participate, but ignorant assertions are refuted on this site. People are expected to research their information properly and present it as a reasoned view.
            Expert opinion trumps made-up nonsense, ignorance, or incredulity.
            Science is about how things work in the real world. Its laws do not have fudged versions.

          • In reply to #112 by DustyRoads_:

            All this started with flying horses; which I would suggest has little of nothing to do with horses with wings, but much to do with something that science has yet to explain.

            No, science would only have to explain whatever beasts these are, if such creatures were shown to exist, The onus for doing this lies lies fully on those religious people who dream up such nonsense.

            But the fact that this phenomena is causing such controversy here just makes me wonder. I would be interested to know if, were evidence for such an entity be found, the presently entrenched position that this matter currently appears to hold would be reconsidered?

            I think that if such a fabulous creature should ever be shown to exist, you’d find the scientific community fighting to get their hands on one to study. Biologists would marvel at not just its ability to fly, but its ability to survive without air on its way to the heaven, on its ability to extend its legs as far as it can see, on its quite remarkable woman’s head. Theoretical physicists would wonder how it came to travel at or beyond the speed of light as, IIRC, devotees of “Koranic Science” sometimes claim. There would be enough papers written about it to fill the pages of Encyclopaedia Britannica. There would probably be Nobel Prizes to be won. But if, and only If such a preposterously bizarre creature existed.

          • In reply to #112 by DustyRoads:_

            I respect your position, Alan, as a biologist and space scientist, and realise that my personal comprehension of these disciplines is – at least by comparison to yours – zilch. But my questions, which stem from the initial proposition of this debate, are not primarily seeking learned answers.

            The “learned answers” are what answers your next question.

            What I would like to understand is why a significant number of those gifted with scientific skills are averse to exploring an equally significant number of beliefs held by others.

            This is a mistaken assumption on your part.

            If you look over the archives on this site, you will find the views of a whole range of beliefs held by others are thoroughly explored. Many atheists here are ex-theists from many different religious persuasions,and are well versed in their practices. The views of many theologies are discussed, often with theologians participating.

            All this started with flying horses; which I would suggest has little of nothing to do with horses with wings, but much to do with something that science has yet to explain.

            Science has already explained it in terms of psychology. It is fanciful thinking in the minds of believers in mythologies. As others have explained in this discussion. – Horses do not have wings or six limbs. Cannot have six functioning limbs, and have the wrong size and weight to fly. If some animal has six or more limbs, it is not a horse. The ancestry and anatomy of horses is well known. Beliefs in flying horses are mythical fantasy, which rational adults should have grown out of.

            I have no personal experience of flying horses or the like, so have no axe to grind here. Carousel horses are probably my closest encounter. But the fact that this phenomena is causing such controversy here just makes me wonder.

            There are of course animals which can fly or glide, but most of these are known to science. The biologists on this site probably know many more of them than the myth paddlers can imagine. (Flying fish, flying squid, flying frogs, flying squirrels, flying pterosaurs, flying insects – bats – birds etc.) On Earth, certain biological structures fly – others don’t! In space everything flies – without wings!

            I would be interested to know if, were evidence for such an entity be found, the presently entrenched position that this matter currently appears to hold would be reconsidered?

            If such an entity was found, it would not match the definition (or the genetics) of a horse. The comments here are informed opinions, – not fanciful thinking! Any made up story is not possible in the real world. That is what science is about. Identifying what works in the real world (and universe). On a huge range of issues (such as landing operational vehicles on Mars), it is very good at it.

            The anti-evolution creationists are usually the ones who claim particular animals or particular organs don’t exist- not because (like flying horses) they are functionally impossible, but because they have denial agendas based on stuff like biblical literalism.

            We often have a laugh at them when someone posts photographs of the animals or organs they claim don’t exist!

            As I said earlier:-

            Expert opinion trumps made-up nonsense, ignorance, or incredulity.
            Science is about how things work in the real world. Its laws do not have fudged versions.

            We seek out links to reputable university expert studies, to build up discussions containing reliable information.
            It is part of scientific methodology, testing, and ethics, to recognise and dump flawed thinking and nonsensical claims, while retaining useful information.

            If someone claims 2 +2 = 5,. The socio-paths will be “nice” and assure them they are correct, The “nicey” accommodationists will accept the compromise of 4½ as the agreed answer, while the scientists and mathematicians will tell them 5 and 4½ are both wrong!

            NASA lost two space shuttles and their crews, because sociopaths ignored engineers hard warnings, and told the top managers and finance directors, what they thought they would like to hear!

            Scientists need to be honest and check information properly, or stuff blows up or breaks down.

            If people want to feel-good about being wrong, and learn nothing, that is their problem. People who encourage then in illogic or wishful thinking, do them no favours.

            If you look around some of the discussions here, you will find some atheist posters know a lot more about particular religions, than most of those religions’ own followers!

          • OK. I’m aware that study is made of a range of beliefs on this site, but I contend that while debate still exists there must also be unresolved questions; questions that are either not answered or misunderstood.
            The suggestion that horses, as we know them, cannot fly is one that I fully support. But is it not possible that things have been seen that were beyond the scope of the observers’ understanding, and that those who claimed to have been seen these inexplicable things described them in terms of what they did understand: horses and flying. Not all of us have the necessary breadth of vocabulary to use the right word at the right time. Is it not possible that, in the mists of time, the description of a space craft – more advanced even than we in the current era can imagine – would have been described as a flying horse? In view of your expertise in the field of space science I appeal to you, with your superior knowledge of this particular subject, for an answer to this question.

            In reply to #117 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #112 by DustyRoads:_

            I respect your position, Alan, as a biologist and space scientist, and realise that my personal comprehension of these disciplines is – at least by comparison to yours – zilch. But my questions, which stem from the initial proposition of this debate, are not primar…

          • In reply to #131 by DustyRoads_:

            Is it not possible that, in the mists of time, the description of a space craft – more advanced even than we in the current era can imagine – would have been described as a flying horse?

            Well of course! I can even show you the evidence.

          • Are you implying that the Prophet was an alien in a spaceship? Or that the Koran predicts that we will see the Prophet in the future in a spaceship? This is getting weirder and weirder, is it because some of the posters are weird or because I have just had a can of cider?

            In reply to #131 by DustyRoads_:

            OK. I’m aware that study is made of a range of beliefs on this site, but I contend that while debate still exists there must also be unresolved questions; questions that are either not answered or misunderstood.
            The suggestion that horses, as we know them, cannot fly is one that I fully support. B…

          • In reply to #131 by DustyRoads:_

            OK. I’m aware that study is made of a range of beliefs on this site, but I contend that while debate still exists there must also be unresolved questions; questions that are either not answered or misunderstood.

            Of course there are questions as yet unanswered. Science seeks these out and investigates them – dark matter – anti-matter, quantum physics, cosmology, genetics and biochemistry. . . .

            The suggestion that horses, as we know them, cannot fly is one that I fully support.

            As crookedshoes, said, – you should have stopped before the “but”!

            But is it not possible that things have been seen that were beyond the scope of the observers’ understanding,

            There are millions of things which are beyond many observers understanding, but using the wisdom of Occam we choose the most likely options, not the least likely ones. Observers and fiction writers, make up wild stories about things they don’t understand all the time. Only the gullible believe them all!

            and that those who claimed to have been seen these inexplicable things described them in terms of what they did understand: horses and flying.

            The most likely scenario is that they did what other story tellers do in making mythical beasts. They cobble together parts from animals they know, – to make up a monster or magical creature so as to impress an audience.

            Not all of us have the necessary breadth of vocabulary to use the right word at the right time. Is it not possible that, in the mists of time, the description of a space craft – more advanced even than we in the current era can imagine – would have been described as a flying horse?

            You really are going for the billions to one against odds, as an exercise in stretching incredulity!

            In view of your expertise in the field of space science I appeal to you, with your superior knowledge of this particular subject, for an answer to this question..

            There no evidence whatever that any alien spacecraft has ever visited Earth.

            If it was not simply made up, they may have seen some cloud formation, a meteorite, a flock of birds or something similar and used it in the story.
            A story teller made it up, looks like the most likely option.
            Like the faked fairy photographs storytellers like mysterious contrived imponderables.
            Scientists like real imponderables.
            All probabilities or uncertainties are not equal.

            There are thousands of more likely explanations of mythology, which are much more probable than it being true.

            There is of course a more recent example of a large flying animal!

            There are also photographed examples of humans riding into the sky !

          • In reply to #131 by DustyRoads_:

            The suggestion that horses, as we know them, cannot fly is one that I fully support. But is it not possible that things have been seen that were beyond the scope of the observers’ understanding, and that those who claimed to have been seen these inexplicable things described them in terms of what they did understand: horses and flying.

            You started off by saying that because it hasn’t been proven not to exist then a flying horse might very well exist. Now you’re saying that you fully support that horses cannot fly and it might have been something else. Well, yes. That’s what everyone else has been saying for the last hundred or so posts. You used the example of a spacecraft where the more likely explanation is a total fabrication but that’s by the by – you’ve still completely flipped what you were originally claiming.

            If you backpedal any faster you’re going to moonwalk out of the discussion.

          • In reply to #131 by DustyRoads_:

            But is it not possible that things have been seen that were beyond the scope of the observers’ understanding, and that those who claimed to have been seen these inexplicable things described them in terms of what they did understand: horses and flying.

            Well, there are always people like von Daniken and the chap who concluded that Ezekiel’s wheel was a spaceship, but they are adding fanciful explanations to a myth. There are far simpler explanations for Mo’s ride on a burkha: For instance:

            Complete fabrication

            Embroidering of a half-remembered tale

            Hallucination due to temporal lobe epilepsy (a medic claims to have diagnosed this condition)

            Hallucination due to ergot or similar

            Vivid dreams.

            Delerium tremens – he did tell people to stop boozing :-)

            None of these require the supposition of unidentified flying objects.

          • In reply to #50 by DustyRoads_:

            . . . I have not, as far as I am aware, seen fairies or flying horses, but that gives me no logical ground for denying their existence. . . .

            The point is that, if someone makes an assertion, the onus is on him to provide reasons for accepting that assertion. Mehdi Hasan asserted that Mohammed flew to heaven on a flying horse. If Mr Hasan would like anyone to credit this assertion, he needs to substantiate it. Otherwise, he leaves himself open to the charge of superstition, or at least whimsicality.

        • Until I am presented with such proof, my mind is open.

          Careful now, open your mind too far and your brain might fall out!

          We are not talking Dobbin with wings here.

          Actually, we are. The one Mohammed rode to heaven.

          A little knowledge of aerodynamics, as applied to birds and other animal flight, might be applicable here. The concept of an flying animal big and strong enough to carry a man in flight is total bollocks.

          As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

          Here we go, “Godmightdidit” bollocks.

        • In reply to #14 by DustyRoads:_

          My pompous meter is calibrated to register when someone considers that they know better than someone else, but they have no proof – or even evidence – to put forward.

          Could I suggest that if you want a proper reading you point it away from yourself towards the person you claim to be measuring!

          What proof is there that there are no fairies or flying horses? Until I am presented with such proof, my mind is open.

          Ah! Like a bucket with no lid, where any uncritical nonsense can be poured in! Similarly “logic”, does not start with defining what you are NOT talking about!

          It is certainly not as closed as to limit my logic to horses of the kind I am familiar with. We are not talking Dobbin with wings here.

          Could I recommend a serious study of vertebrate and equine anatomy, along with a study of aerodynamics and Earth gravity, rather than the mythology of Pegasus etc.!

          A little thinking outside the box can broaden the mind. But once one comes to accept the wonder of Dobbin as we know him, who know what else can exist? I certainly don’t. Do you? Alt text

          For factual information, some of us read science papers, not children’s farm animal cartoon stories, or Greek fairy-tales!

        • HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH…

          Did you really just assert that there might be flying horses??? I have no proof that horses can’t fly? AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA…

          Can turtles fly? Can my balls hold pencils and draw replicas of Michelangelo’s masterpieces??? Do farts sound like symphonies? Your world is a twisted place full of abject absence of thought. You are holding up a smiley face, drawn by a 4 year old and claiming it is “art” as good as a Van Gogh…. because you say so.

          Absolute silly nonsense, and , none the less, DELIBERATE NONSENSE. So, because you need your nonsense to be “probable”, you allow other people’s nonsense to be “allowed”…. I have censored myself here repeatedly to get past the mods because if I were to tell you the real truth, I”D BE SILENCED.

          Does dogshit smell like roses??? Your answer to my straightforward criticism illustrates more than I’d ever have imagined you could provide me with. You live in a world where trees talk and clouds are made of cotton candy.

          Your creator is unproven and your logic would make a puppy cry.

          I could continue smashing your bullshit into sand, but, I’ll relent, allowing others to judge our exchange.

          Allow me to summarize: I am silly for asserting that horses do NOT fly. You are in the right for asserting that horses MIGHT fly (in order to allow your bullshit to be “possible”).

          In reply to #14 by DustyRoads_:

          My pompous meter is calibrated to register when someone considers that they know better than someone else, but they have no proof – or even evidence – to put forward. What proof is there that there are no fairies or flying horses? Until I am presented with such proof, my mind is open. It is certainly not as closed as to limit my logic to horses of the kind I am familiar with. We are not talking Dobbin with wings here. A little thinking outside the box can broaden the mind. But once one comes to accept the wonder of Dobbin as we know him, who know what else can exist? I certainly don’t. Do you? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
          In reply to #10 by crookedshoes:

          What logic would persuade your “openness” to think that horses fly? Flying horses??

          The assumption of being right WHEN YOU ARE is not pompous. The demand that people who are correct should accept ideas that are clearly bullshit is pompous. You need to get your “pompous meter” calibrated properly before you go aiming it at things.

          This is a tired hackneyed objection that, when carried to it’s end, results in everything being equally true. Now, you do not think that everything is equally true, do you?

          BTW, new evidence can result in anything being proven wrong, but until horseshit starts falling from the sky (which it seems to be doing regarding this OP) I am going to stick to the assertion that horses are not currently being picked up on any air traffic controller’s radar screens.

          In reply to #9 by DustyRoads_:

          Richard, while I presently believe in neither fairies nor winged horses, I am open to persuasion by the use of logic. Your assumption that you are right about these things strikes me as inordinately pompous, but it is another issue that I have humility enough to consider unproven.

    • Your claim to “humility” has an unmistakable flavour of pomposity in itself.

      In reply to #9 by DustyRoads_:

      Richard, while I presently believe in neither fairies nor winged horses, I am open to persuasion by the use of logic. Your assumption that you are right about these things strikes me as inordinately pompous, but it is another issue that I have humility enough to consider unproven.

  9. Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1920, given our level of knowledge then coupled with the undoubted skills of the clever con spiritualists, believing in spiritualism and fairies was probably not as stupid as people are making out. After all didn’t several scientists, including Alfred Wallace (of evolutionary biology fame) believe it as well? After investigation.

    As for Mehdi Hasan, as I really don’t know what he believes and only have this one source to go on for the moment I’ll reserve judgement.

  10. Professor, let’s not play weasel words here. Medhi Hasan never asked you to respect his beliefs and that is not what this controversy was about. It was perfectly obvious what you were insinuating and you took us for idiots in your subsequent tweets in denying what was there for all to see, which is a bit rich for somebody who espouses an evidence-based approach. Let’s be clear here, you have played space invaders with a good man’s livelihood simply because he is Muslim. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. It’s the tweeters who challenged you who deserve your gratitude not the ones who uncritically supported it, because otherwise I doubt you’d have retracted. I’m glad you apologised, albeit with a series of excuses, and I hope this doesn’t happen again.

    • Let’s be clear here, you have played space invaders with a good man’s livelihood simply because he is Muslim.

      RD would have done the same to a Christian who admitted literal belief in Jesus walking on water. The issue is not with the brand of bollocks, but with the bollocks. The livelihood implication is regrettable, for which RD has rightly apologised.

      • “RD would have done the same to a Christian who admitted literal belief in Jesus walking on water. The issue is not with the brand of bollocks, but with the bollocks.”

        I took Dawkins’ version of events in good faith but was wrong to do so. In fact there’s an ambiguity in the original conversation. Medhi Hasan implies he believes he winged horses but never explicitly confirmed or denied it. Transcript:
        “Do you believe that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse? I’ll do you the compliment of assuming that you don’t.”
        “No I do. I believe in miracles.”
        “You believe that Mohammed went to heaven on a winged horse?”
        “I believe in God. I believe in miracles. I believe in revelation.”

        Yesterday Hasan tweeted “My own last word on @RichardDawkins – not sure if I even do believe in winged horses but I do – Hot Chocolate! – believe in miracles”

      • In reply to #18 by God fearing Atheist:

        Let’s be clear here, you have played space invaders with a good man’s livelihood simply because he is Muslim.

        RD would have done the same to a Christian who admitted literal belief in Jesus walking on water. The issue is not with the brand of bollocks, but with the bollocks. The livelihood implicat…

        The walking ON water more than likely a miss-translation of BY the water. Though the whole Jesus business a nice piece of fiction by Paul.

        • In reply to #147 by John.P.Loft:

          In reply to #18 by God fearing Atheist:
          he walking ON water more than likely a miss-translation of BY the water. Though the whole Jesus business a nice piece of fiction by Paul.

          Twas in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but not in Paul.

    • In reply to #13 by God fearing Atheist:

      Dear Prof.

      If the Twitter format causes you to jam your foot in your mouth, please give up Twitting.

      Good advice. Artificially shortened communication systems remove the advantage of being good at using language. A common belief is that it is a sign of brilliance to be able to express your thoughts as tersely as possible. I think that’s a myth. Some thoughts are inherently impossible to express tersely because they are NOT simple enough. Using a terse communication method hands the advantage in framing issues over to those who’s ideas are so simplistic that they can be expressed correctly and accurately in 140 characters.

      It’s like Einstein is quoted as saying, “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.”

      Do NOT use twitter to try to make an important point. Doing so is trying to make things simpler than they really are.

  11. The reason why Mehdi hasan can be viewed as an excellent reporter/journalists whilst confessing to believing in winged horses etc is because he is protected by societies inability to rightly ridicule or even to question such ridiculous statements its possible mr hasan is under pressure from friends and family to maintain such a statement. At least Doyle’s belief in fairies was brought on by the prank carried out by the school girls photo. I think any journalist who claims to be of “faith” is putting his/her hand out to be slapped.

    • In reply to #17 by Dublin-atheist:

      The reason why Mehdi hasan can be viewed as an excellent reporter/journalists whilst confessing to believing in winged horses etc is because he is protected by societies inability to rightly ridicule or even to question such ridiculous statements its possible mr hasan is under pressure from friends and family to maintain such a statement. At least Doyle’s belief in fairies was brought on by the prank carried out by the school girls photo. I think any journalist who claims to be of “faith” is putting his/her hand out to be slapped.

      Actually I think he’s seen as an excellent journalist/reporter because his articles/journalism are not actually usually about his religious beliefs. I’m sure New Statesmens readers would be ok with ridiculing them if they were presented as journalism there.

      Just like Conan Doyles books are a rip roaring read because they aren’t actually about his belief in spirtualism.

  12. I must disagree with Richard that his original tweet was so poorly phrased – it takes a pretty malicious reading to twist it as his opponents did. Nevertheless, hats off to him for making the sort of gracious apology that one rarely sees in public discourse.

  13. Richard, if it’s any consolation regarding the Mehdi Hasantwitter confusion, you did manage to make Andrew Brown (over on the Grauniad) look like a total arse (again!); all the while generating over 2,500 comments in eight hours.

    Kudos.

    • If anyone is wondering what Hassan believes you can try and read this article

      http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2012/12/god-best-answer-why-there-something-rather-nothing

      A rather terrible defence of “faith” that anyone here could chew up in about 30 seconds. For example:

      So what did I do? I confessed. Yes, I believe in prophets and miracles. Oh, and I believe in God, too. Shame on me, eh? Faith, in the disdainful eyes of the atheist, is irredeemably irrational; to have faith, as Dawkins put it to me, is to have “belief in something without evidence”. This, however, is sheer nonsense. Are we seriously expected to believe that the likes of Descartes, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Rousseau, Leibniz and Locke were all unthinking or irrational idiots?

      Did he not wonder why all these people are from previous centuries? Is it not possible that our knowledge of reality has moved on since their time ? Oh well I guess when you are clutching at straws any flea-bitten old bit of grass will do.

      Michael

  14. Most important take-home message is that you need to be very careful what you tweet. I am an Atheist , follow you on twitter. I have great respect for you but on twitter sometimes I wonder if you are same person whom I admire so much.
    Thing is its not you but twitter being a medium where you can not present one argument with nuance and context that sometime it requires. I would prefer you to just tweet normal stuff , anytime you are trying to be cheeky or controversial you need to think for a moment if you can actually make the comment in 140 characters , anytime you will need to justify your tweets or present several more tweets just give out context of your original tweet , you are actually defeating the purpose of your original intention to tweet.

    Yes twitter is great medium to make witty comments , some thought provoking conversations can be had but it would suit you more if you would actually write even a small post like this one and then share using twitter, because u will have reach of twitter but space of putting your thoughts and arguments coherently.

    Applause for you apologizing but it was embarrassingly naive of you to think people would let you comment something so innocent but with potential of as much spin as possible. Hopefully you learnt a lesson. You get annoyed when people quote mine you but on twitter you are presenting them with gifts so easily that they don`t even need to read a book , watch your debate or read a lengthy blog to find quotes to twist them to their own meanings.

    And with this new Atheist bashing bandwagon thats in fashion these days , you can not keep of giving them ammunition to present “new Atheist” as Islamophobic ones.

  15. New Scientist recently did an article attempting to understand such ‘human stupidity’ as they called it.
    I also find it endlessly fascinating, but RD has an advantage over me. He used to believe in invisible friends and magical lands of the dead. I used to vaguely believe in santa claus until I was about four but I felt embarrassed when I realised that it was my parents.
    Never believed in any of the gods, I have no idea what it is like to hold onto ridiculous beliefs.

  16. Oh, AND,
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….etc…..
    Jesus Christ, this is a site dedicated to reason and logic. My head hurts upon rereading our exchange. Did you really try to nail me for asserting that horses cannot fly? I just cannot get my head around it. I’d like to close by quoting Dr. Seuss or unicorns or bigfoot or or or… but, after all, you clearly have the firmer grasp on reality.

    BTW, I just ate a chocolate cake that had the same nutrient profile as celery. I look like Brad Pitt and am as smart as Stephen Hawking. I have the largest male part of all men to have ever existed and am reincarnated from King Arthur and Vlad the Impaler. I am not fat. I am not running out of sarcasm or vitriol but fear I have flogged a dead horse (which, luckily will rise from the dead) and will have lost the readership of the people I value — those here at Dawkins.

  17. Ha Ha, Bravo Dusty Roads! That was the one of the best jokes done here in a long time. I will remember the “winged horse and fairy argument” but don’t think I would be able to pull it off so convincingly.

    Fairies – Something we really don’t think much about here in the US.

    Winged Horses – a fascination generally limited to girls under the age of ten (especially if they are a pretty shade of lavender or pink.)

    • In reply to #33 by QuestioningKat:

      Winged Horses – a fascination generally limited to girls under the age of ten (especially if they are a pretty shade of lavender or pink.)

      Yeah but according to “The Prophet” a girl that age is at least mature and mentally developed enough to consent to marriage, so stop dissing her beliefs, right?

      But seriously, if you know a girl under the age of ten who is a pretty shade of lavender or pink, please take her to a hospital immediately. That’s not normal.

  18. Doyle’s father was a skilled painter who specialised in……………faries. Unfortunately he developed mental problems and ended his days in an asylum. I wonder how this affected his son Arthur?

    • In reply to #34 by zeerust2000:

      Doyle’s father was a skilled painter who specialised in……………faries. Unfortunately he developed mental problems and ended his days in an asylum. I wonder how this affected his son Arthur?

      Interesting !

  19. Careful with the words belief and faith.

    These are non-religious words that used when there was prior evidence with evidence of persistence.

    Religious use of “belief” and “faith” is actually blind belief and blind faith. Used without evidence.

    Many arguments in favour of religious thinking confuse these two forms… e.g. “Why can’t I have faith in god, you have faith in the big bang, you believe in love, etc etc”.

  20. I concur with the point about religious privilege.

    But, despite that, I do see a worrying Western anti-Islam bias in Richard’s side of this exchange. Not Islamaphobia – that word has rightly been rubbished as a nonsense word – but I question the focus on a Muslim journalist instead of one from a religion more accepted in Western society.

    If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles? I can’t see Richard doing that to any Christian journalist about any of the many, many silly Christian beliefs. This disturbs me.

    Richard, I am a huge admirer of your work, but I think that in this case you have failed to check your own cultural bias here.

    • If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles?

      yes, he would, and he has in the past., and rightly so.

    • If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles?

      yes, he would, and he has in the past., and rightly so.

      • Thanks Peter :)

        In reply to #106 by bewlay_brother:

        If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles?

        yes, he would, and he has in the past., and rightly so.

        Any examples?

        • In reply to #106 by bewlay_brother:

          If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles?

          yes, he would, and he has in the past., and rightly so.

          Any examples?

          I cant think / find a specific example at this time, as i dont have the time to look. But im sure a search around google or you tube or this site would reveal an example or two, or perhaps someone else on here could provide a link. But we may be being bogged down by semantics anyway, my response was to the implicit allegation as i saw it, that RD was taking an anti Islamic stance at present, and thats patently not true as he has criticised mircles and in particular the belief in transubstantiation in the past, but not mocked the individual who holds the belief, as he is at great pains to point out in the video linked by Peter. and also in the artcle above, where he realised his twitter comment has been misconstrued, and has more or less printed an apology / correction on here. HHe is only human, and mkes mistakes like the rest of us, me in particular! :-(

        • In reply to #108 by Kieran:

          Thanks Peter :)

          In reply to #106 by bewlay_brother:

          If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles?

          yes, he would, and he has in the past., and rightly so.

          Any examples?

          I can’t think of any Catholic journalists off hand, but he did have a pop at an old German Catholic priest once – Protest The Pope

        • In reply to #108 by Kieran:

          Thanks Peter :)

          In reply to #106 by bewlay_brother:

          If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles?

          yes, he would, and he has in the past., and rightly so.

          Any examples?

          Again, I can’t find any specific examples, but I’m pretty sure Richard mentions one himself in the God Delusion, but he has often made a point of questioning catholics on their belief in transubstantiation and the resurrection.

          The point being, as in this case with the ‘flying horse’ issue, is to try and get these people to admit publically either that they do believe in these miracles, or, more damningly from a doctine point of view, that they don’t.

          I’m fairly sure he’s never had a straight answer, except for perhaps in the case of Cardinal George Pell on Q&A, but he demonstrated himself to be a Class A moron all the way through that programme, so I’m not sure he counts.

          I think the debate focussing too much on the flying horse thing is a waste of time. The real issue is how apparently intelligent and educated people can hold these ludicrous beliefs. Or, how they can continue to call themselves religious when really, privately, they do not, cannot believe. Exposing this would be a step forwards. And that what Richard has (clumsily, in this case) tried to achieve.

  21. I think that notions of fairies at the bottom of the garden and winged horses going to heaven are offensive in so much as they are an insult to one’s intelligence. Perhaps it pays to be diplomatic when one is in the public eye, but that’s all it is, diplomacy.

    An medium like Twitter make it difficult to convey a tone of voice, or the nuances of direct speech, which can be unfortunate.

  22. This whole discussion is fatuous and futile. Mohammed (peace be upon him) did not travel on a “winged horse” as alleged but on Al-Buraq, a totally different animal:

    “Then he [Gabriel] brought the Buraq, handsome-faced and bridled, a tall, white beast, bigger than the donkey but smaller than the mule. He could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. He had long ears. Whenever he faced a mountain his hind legs would extend, and whenever he went downhill his front legs would extend. He had two wings on his thighs which lent strength to his legs. He bucked when Muhammad came to mount him. The angel Jibril put his hand on his mane and said: “Are you not ashamed, O Buraq? By Allah, no-one has ridden you in all creation more dear to Allah than he is.” Hearing this he was so ashamed that he sweated until he became soaked, and he stood still so that the Prophet mounted him”

    (Muhammad al-Alawi al-Maliki, al-Anwar al Bahiyya min Isra wa l-Mi’raj Khayr al-Bariyyah)

    Thus you can appreciate that there is no conflict at all between Richard and Hassan as there is no need whatsoever to invoke any mythical creatures or any supernatural events.

    For those of you who may have forgotten your Qur’an and Hadiths:

    “While he was resting at the Kaaba, the angel Jibril (Gabriel) appeared to him followed by the Buraq. Muhammad mounted the beast, and in the company of Gabriel, they traveled to the “farthest mosque”. At this location, He dismounted from the Buraq, prayed, and then once again mounted the Buraq and was taken to the various heavens, to meet first the earlier prophets and then God (Allah). Muhammad was instructed to tell his followers that they were to offer prayers 50 times per day. However, at the urging of Moses (Musa), Muhammad returns to God and it was eventually reduced to 10 times, and then 5 times per day as this was the destiny of Muhammad and his people. The Buraq then transported Muhammad back to Mecca.”

    (Thanks be to Wikipaedia)

    • In reply to #41 by Aussie:

      This whole discussion is fatuous and futile. Mohammed (peace be upon him) did not travel on a “winged horse” as alleged but on Al-Buraq, a totally different animal:

      “Then he [Gabriel] brought the Buraq, handsome-faced and bridled, a tall, white beast, bigger than the donkey but smaller than the mule. He could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. He had long ears. Whenever he faced a mountain his hind legs would extend, and whenever he went downhill his front legs would extend. He had two wings on his thighs which lent strength to his legs.

      And you say it’s fatuous to confuse this with a flying horse? The horse only requires believing one impossible thing before breakfast (if you ignore the woman’s head). This creature demands the full platter of six, with lunch and dinner to follow! To believe in a flying horse may be excusable. To believe in this complicated nonsense requires a deliberate discarding of reason.
      Incidentally, it also exhibits the sort of elaboration that has shown many hadiths to be fabrications,

    • In reply to #42 by mmurray:

      And the fun has moved over to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website for religious nutters

      http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2013/04/23/3743221.htm

      Michael

      Well, in a more pacific way of understanding the question that has been made, comparable with “do you really believe that wine turns into the blood of Christ?” or “do you consider yourself religious because you consider yourself as a good person’?” does not have any tone of offense necessarily, not even for religious people. I do remember when I was 11 and had “Moral and Religion Education” at school (what´s optional, and not necessarly religion), I remember the teacher telling us that the bible was not literal, but symbolic, so I see no point to get offense from such questions.

      The same goes for me if some religious person asked me “you are not a believer, but you do have “religion”?” -that actually happened-why should I feel offended ? (I do feel myself amazed because once someone told me that I look like a god fearful person (did the person really meant I looked like a conscious person ?)

    • In reply to #43 by Peter Grant:

      Prof, you have nothing to apologise to Mehdi Hasan for. This is the same chap who refers to atheists as “cattle”, he should have been sacked long ago.

      Why? People here regularly use the word sheeple to describe the religious. It seems to me to be a silly and juvenile ad hominem for a site supposedly populated by adults, but it’s not exactly beyond the pale.

      Why should this Medhi Hasan fellow lose his livelihood just for turning the insult around and employing it against us?

      • In reply to #83 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #43 by Peter Grant:

        This is the same chap who refers to atheists as “cattle”, he should have been sacked long ago.

        Why? People here regularly use the word sheeple to describe the religious.

        Perhaps you should reflect on the accurate “sheeple” description of sheepish-people followers of their “good” shepherds! – and then explain how atheists can be reasonably compared to cattle!

        It seems to me to be a silly and juvenile ad hominem for a site supposedly populated by adults, but it’s not exactly beyond the pale.

        ” Cattle” is just an ad-hominem! (or if you prefer – a load of bull)

        • In reply to #84 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #83 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #43 by Peter Grant:

          This is the same chap who refers to atheists as “cattle”, he should have been sacked long ago.

          Why? People here regularly use the word sheeple to describe the religious.

          Perhaps you should reflect on the accurate “sheeple” description of sheepish-people followers of their “good” shepherds! – and then explain how atheists can be reasonably compared to cattle!

          It seems to me to be a silly and juvenile ad hominem for a site supposedly populated by adults, but it’s not exactly beyond the pale.

          ” Cattle” is just an ad-hominem! (or if you prefer – a load of bull)

          I’m still at a loss to understand why Medhi Hasan should lose his job, even if his description of us as livestock doesn’t make a lot of sense.

          Six people here apparently think he should recieve his pink slip from the New Statesman.

          Maybe I just have thicker skin than other non-believers and am less sensitive to insults. I’ll be sure to tread more carefully myself now I know that some of our number are such delicate flowers.

      • In reply to #83 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #43 by Peter Grant:

        Prof, you have nothing to apologise to Mehdi Hasan for. This is the same chap who refers to atheists as “cattle”, he should have been sacked long ago.

        Why? People here regularly use the word sheeple to describe the religious. It seems to me to be a silly and juvenile ad hominem for a site supposedly populated by adults, but it’s not exactly beyond the pale.

        But the sheep, shepherd imagery is part of Christianity — Lamb of God, The Lord is My Shepherd, etc. So sheeple is a reasonable sort of joke.

        Where do cattle come in to atheism ?

        Michael

        • In reply to #90 by mmurray:

          But the sheep, shepherd imagery is part of Christianity — Lamb of God, The Lord is My Shepherd, etc. So sheeple is a reasonable sort of joke.

          Where do cattle come in to atheism ?

          Michael

          Yeah, I know what the joke refers to, and it is harmless. So is calling someone a doo-doo head; and I’d be equally embarrassed if I saw that insult regularly appearing here to describe those we take umbrage with. My beef isn’t with the internal logic of this put-down.

          I became a little obsessed last year in the run up to the US presidential election with what people were saying on message boards about the two candidates; their personalities and policies and so on. What struck me most was how many comments from the pro-Romney camp reduced the debate to insulting the Prez and those who supported him. The Obama supporters got in a few epithets of their own – Mittens, Etch a Sketch – but didn’t come anywhere close to the invective spewed by the other side.

          Whenever someone here uses terms such as sheeple and, my own particular favorite, musloid, it just reminds me of all that Oblamer, Obummer, libtard, baby killer obloquy.

          I thought we were supposed to be brighter than that.

          Besides, if the sheeple thing is a joke, can I just say that I think we’ve probably all heard it by now. If I want to hear tedious material rehashed for the umpteenth time, I’ll get tickets to a Jimmy Carr gig.

          • In reply to #99 by Katy Cordeth:

            Yeah, I know what the joke refers to, and it is harmless. So is calling someone a doo-doo head; and I’d be equally embarrassed if I saw that insult regularly appearing here to describe those we take umbrage with.

            I’d don’t have a great liking for these kinds of insults myself. But I figure that there are people here carrying a lot heavier weight of past and present religious oppression and maybe it helps them. One of the important roles this place has I think is as release valve for people in those situations. But it’s hard to balance that with projecting a public image of carefully thought out rational atheism sometimes.

            I thought we were supposed to be brighter than that.

            Yes and no. You might argue that the people who read Richard’s books and come here are but atheists in general ? Really all we are supposed to do is hold no beliefs in gods.

            Michael

  23. I won’t Tweet, since there are too few characters – and too many ‘characters’ – for me to transmit ideas clearly to an audience with so many different agendas.

    Criticizing faith beliefs that are publicly admitted by a supposedly rational adult in 140 letters just isn’t easy. In fact, The God Delusion took 420 pages to do it proper justice – and too many people still can’t get those realities past their religious blinkers and filters.

    Their inability to learn from reason, science and evidence doesn’t get any respect from me – although I do have pity that they were cruelly infected with a dangerous virus by those close to them…. Mac.

    • In reply to #45 by Rikeus:

      I just have one question…
      What the hell is a rum do?

      It’s a fairly common British saying, meaning it’s an odd or strange thing.

      Just paste it into your browser for multiple explanations….

    • In reply to #45 by Rikeus:

      I just have one question…
      What the hell is a rum do?

      I think the historical origin was in the British Navy where sailors were issued with half a pint of rum a day.

      A “rum do”, was a gathering of drunken sailors filled with rum! – The term has later been applied to other strange gatherings.

  24. To briefly explore the question, why the double standards in the general credibility awarded to a person, I’ll compare major world religious worldview with 2 other examples, a paranomal worldview (ghosts etc.), and reptilian-illuminati conspracy lore.

    —Degree to which their analysis of current affairs, or typical journalistic topics is premised on their worldview

    Religion: Moderate to very little, and not very often (journalists who have faith do not tend to be literalists, salafists, extremists etc.)

    Paranormal: Hardly at all

    Reptillian-Illuminati: A lot, due to conspiracy theories about current events

    —People’s statistical experience of adherants’ general intelligence

    Religion: Considerable proportion can be very insightful on topics not closely touched by their worldview

    Paranormal: Far fewer seem to have such insight

    Reptillian-Illuminati: Far fewer seem have such insight

    —People’s statistical experience of adherants’ general credulity

    Religion: Considerable proportion weigh evidence reasonably in matters unrelated to their religion. Popular (false) belief that while a religious person’s faith lacks evidence, there is no evidence or valid arguments against it either.

    Paranormal: More likely to be poor weighers of evidence in general. More likely to be a “convert” to the worldview based on alleged “evidence” than to be raised with the belief. Popularly known that such evidence has been repeatedly debunked, and that the paranormal believer ought to know this.

    Reptillian-Illuminati: More likely to be highly gullible concerning conspiracy theories about current affairs, generally seem to be extremely poor weighers of evidence.

    One final observation. If a journalist has a highly uncommon religious worldview, I predict that a similar criticism of their journalistic credibility would be frowned upon almost as much as if they followed a major world religion. I.e. it is unjust dismissiveness towards the religious in general that is frowned upon.

  25. Well Richard you are making a statement that has always puzzled me!
    Some gifted people remain resolute in their belief in religious nonsense.
    A very gifted gastroenterologist with an almost genius ability on diagnosis is irrevocably tied to Catholicism .
    How that occurs has me gasping!

  26. Twitter is the monster here. I’ve never understood its utility. It might be fine for saying things like, “I took Aunt Martha to the store today. She seems to be recovering rather well.” It is also a reasonable place for comedic one-liners and well suited to the likes of Bill Maher.

    As a journalist in my regrettable youth, I can appreciate the principle of “economy of thought.” But tackling matters of complexity in 140 characters is asking for trouble.

    The most telling part of the apology to me was Richards wondering if he really believed what he espoused. When otherwise intelligent people cling to childishness it can be nigh on to impossible to tell the padres from the panderers without a scorecard.

    For example, I can imagine William Lane Craig or Dinesh the Sousaphone going home after a performance, counting their money and musing, “As long as they keep buying this shit, I’m gonna keep on shoveling.” Maybe this Hasan fellow just doesn’t care for the notion of having to churn out his prose from a safe-house ala Rushdi.

  27. It is called collusion. Group A wants their silly nonsense to be treated “with respect” (which means you cannot question it). They, therefore collude with Group B and agree to treat their nonsense “with respect”. So every group that espouses silly nonsense is in cahoots with every other group so that when anyone questions any of the nonsense, it is the questioner that appears to be in the “out group”.

    Yeah, I am the asshole for asserting that horses can’t fly. But, as long as fantastical thinkers keep upholding each other’s nonsense, they get a sense of security and they get to pontificate about how we (the questioners) can’t absolutely rule out the fact that we can’t prove it does not exist and every electron in the universe has not been heard from so the jury is still out on flying horses… etc….

    So, here is the way it works. Live in your fantasy and then wake up one day realizing you have pissed years away obsessing on nonsense. And, understand that if there is a god and a heaven, you probably earned your way into hell by wasting the time and brain you were “blessed” with supporting a point about fucking flying horses.

    Or live your whole life without waking up. When your posture is as such, who really gives a shit? There is no contribution to the betterment of the world even possible. So…. what’s the big loss if another believer in nonsense goes to oblivion believing nonsense? Leave the heavy lifting to someone else. You are incapable.

  28. Richard is a sensitive soul; in spite of being ‘militant, abrasive, antagonistic, arrogant’ and all the other qualities the religidiots like to tag him with. Medi Hassan is no doubt highly intelligent and educated yet IN SPITE OF THIS great gift, spurns it in favour of utter rubbish. He is not only a fool but an ungrateful one, to boot.

    http://www.harekrsna.de/artikel/islam-al-buraq.htm

    As with everything else in Islam, the story repeats earlier myths- including winged steeds (Pegasus, etc)

  29. This happens a lot, really. How often do you meet somenone or read/watch/listen to someone’s work and find it great, only to discover that someone believes in something you don’t agree with? Worse, sometimes the work itself has elements of what you don’t like in it. I could be the rest of the day spewing examples here. For me, those discoveries leave a bitter taste in my mouth, a sense of disappointment. As a Fantasy literature fan this is particularly noticeable. While I think there is nothing wrong with reading fantasy works (as long as we realise they are fiction), it comes to my attention that most fantasy authors are amazingly anti-scientific. So you have these really talented people, writting really entertaining stories with really absurd “messages”.

  30. In reply to #38 by Kieran:

    I concur with the point about religious privilege.But, despite that, I do see a worrying Western anti-Islam bias in Richard’s side of this exchange. Not Islamaphobia – that word has rightly been rubbished as a nonsense word – but I question the focus on a Muslim journalist instead of one from a religion more accepted in Western society.If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles? I can’t see Richard doing that to any Christian journalist about any of the many, many silly Christian beliefs. This disturbs me.Richard, I am a huge admirer of your work, but I think that in this case you have failed to check your own cultural bias here.

    This is sounding a lot like the recent thread on Sam Harris, and my response will be similar.
    For years Dawkins has been criticised for being culturally biased against Catholicism, and his valid response to this was that he was brought up surrounded by Catholicism and so it was familiar to him when he came to criticising blind religious beliefs.
    You can’t therefore claim he has a cultural bias against Islam after a single bout with a Muslim without ignoring years of criticism of his anti-Catholic bias.

    • In reply to #67 by Seraphor:

      I have seen that thread, or a similar one, and I am not referring to the same thing. I am aware that Dawkins and others, including myself, are often criticised by followers of the religion we are criticising for having bias against their religion and not others – simply because they don’t see the criticism we level at other religions.

      My point is not a wider one about Dawkins’ balance of religious criticism. It is about the specific point he was making in that tweet and in this article. I have never seen Dawkins make this point about individual moderate Catholics or other Christian denominations who are secular employees in the public eye, even though it applies equally. Such moderates would probably use a similar weasel response as I understand Hasan used when questioned about his beliefs and, rather than explicitly admit to a belief in a specific absurd miracle, claim a less controversial, marginally less silly general belief in miracles. I somehow can’t see Dawkins trying to manoevre them into such a reponse in the first place; I certainly can’t see him then excoriating them for this vague reply.

      If you have any examples of Dawkins picking out absurd “miracles” from the Bible and using them to attack a moderate Christian secular public figure (by that I mean, say, a Christian journalist for a secular newspaper rather than clergy etc) then I will be happy to retract my point.

      In reply to #38 by Kieran:

      I concur with the point about religious privilege.But, despite that, I do see a worrying Western anti-Islam bias in Richard’s side of this exchange. Not Islamaphobia – that word has rightly been rubbished as a nonsense word – but I question the focus on a Muslim journalist instead of one from a religion more accepted in Western society.If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles? I can’t see Richard doing that to any Christian journalist about any of the many, many silly Christian beliefs. This disturbs me.Richard, I am a huge admirer of your work, but I think that in this case you have failed to check your own cultural bias here.

      This is sounding a lot like the recent thread on Sam Harris, and my response will be similar.
      For years Dawkins has been criticised for being culturally biased against Catholicism, and his valid response to this was that he was brought up surrounded by Catholicism and so it was familiar to him when he came to criticising blind religious beliefs.
      You can’t therefore claim he has a cultural bias against Islam after a single bout with a Muslim without ignoring years of criticism of his anti-Catholic bias.

      • In reply to #93 by Kieran:

        In reply to #67 by Seraphor:
        But Hasan didn’t make a ‘weasel’ response, but ‘explicitly’ admitted to believing that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse. Have you not seen the video about which you speak? >
        I have seen that thread, or a similar one, and I am not referring to the same thing. I am aware that Dawkins and others, including myself, are often criticised by followers of the religion we are criticising for having bias against their religion and not others – simply because they don’t see the criticism we level at other religions.

        My point is not a wider one about Dawkins’ balance of religious criticism. It is about the specific point he was making in that tweet and in this article. I have never seen Dawkins make this point about individual moderate Catholics or other Christian denominations who are secular employees in the public eye, even though it applies equally. Such moderates would probably use a similar weasel response as I understand Hasan used when questioned about his beliefs and, rather than explicitly admit to a belief in a specific absurd miracle, claim a less controversial, marginally less silly general belief in miracles. I somehow can’t see Dawkins trying to manoevre them into such a reponse in the first place; I certainly can’t see him then excoriating them for this vague reply.

        If you have any examples of Dawkins picking out absurd “miracles” from the Bible and using them to attack a moderate Christian secular public figure (by that I mean, say, a Christian journalist for a secular newspaper rather than clergy etc) then I will be happy to retract my point.

        In reply to #38 by Kieran:

        I concur with the point about religious privilege.But, despite that, I do see a worrying Western anti-Islam bias in Richard’s side of this exchange. Not Islamaphobia – that word has rightly been rubbished as a nonsense word – but I question the focus on a Muslim journalist instead of one from a religion more accepted in Western society.If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles? I can’t see Richard doing that to any Christian journalist about any of the many, many silly Christian beliefs. This disturbs me.Richard, I am a huge admirer of your work, but I think that in this case you have failed to check your own cultural bias here.

        This is sounding a lot like the recent thread on Sam Harris, and my response will be similar.
        For years Dawkins has been criticised for being culturally biased against Catholicism, and his valid response to this was that he was brought up surrounded by Catholicism and so it was familiar to him when he came to criticising blind religious beliefs.
        You can’t therefore claim he has a cultural bias against Islam after a single bout with a Muslim without ignoring years of criticism of his anti-Catholic bias.

        • In reply to #104 by RichardC:

          No, because it’s not linked to above – I carefully said “I understand” he’d only admitted to a general belief in miracles, as I was aware I was relying on second hand info as that’s what I remember reading somewhere (one of the earlier comments?).

          Since I don’t know his exact words I’ll grant, till I have time to google and watch the video, that he said he specifically believes in a flying horse as this is a side issue that doesn’t undermine my central point: plenty of moderate Christians in secular employ as public figures would admit to believing in the feeding of the five thousand, or the resurrection, etc etc – and yet I still don’t believe Dawkins would use that against them as individuals as he has done with Hasan. If there are examples of him doing this (and there ought to be with the number of heated spats he’s had with Christians and others) then I would love to be proved wrong.

          In reply to #93 by Kieran:

          In reply to #67 by Seraphor:
          But Hasan didn’t make a ‘weasel’ response, but ‘explicitly’ admitted to believing that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse. Have you not seen the video about which you speak? >

  31. “Mehdi Hasan is simultaneously a very good journalist and political editor, who writes penetrating and sensible articles on current affairs and world politics.”

    Only he’s not – he’s yet another in a very long line (along with Owen Jones) of fact-free emoticons on the political left who are head deep in deficit denial and causally smears all critics of Islam with the ridiculous label of “Islamophobia”.

    Medhi is a well known Islamist who thinks that atheists and all non-Muslims are mere “cattle” and has only ingratiated himself with the useful idiots and feeble-minded apologists on the left in order to curry favour with those who really should know better:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utckFfsgeO0

    His so-called “journalism” is utterly worthless and only proves Richards original point that you can’t expect someone who actually believes in winged horses to be a sound, reliable source of factual reporting.

    Try reading and listening to his garbage one time and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

  32. Just in case anyone here does not know why we know a horse can’t fly, the weight of an object increases with the cube of the length, most other properties (the strength of a muscle or bone) increase with the square of the length.

    If you halve the linear size of a 1.6 meter long, 400Kg horse, you will get a 0.8 meter long 50Kg horse. An animal of similar weight could fly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentavis). But that is a half linear size horse.

    The bollocks about Mohammed alleges the horse carried him in flight. The nominal weight of a man is 70Kg. Assume Mohammed was only 60Kg, he still represents a load that would approximately double the maximum weight of any plausible flying animal. i.e. the poor beast wouldn’t have been able to fly with Mo sitting on it.

    If you examine the skeletons of a group of animals of different sizes, but with a recent common ancestor, the thickness of the bones increases faster than the length of the bones, to compensate for the increase in weight with linear scale.

    Brian Cox explained all this in his recent “Wonders of Nature” series on BBC.

    It is never as simple as this, and there are (if I remember) “rigged” structures, which essentially means you grow longer, without growing fatter/wider, and strengthen with tendons like a rigged sailing ship. But there is still a limit to the length of a long thin bone before it will snap too easily under real world conditions.

  33. Horses, that is any sort of an animal that has the attributes of a horse cannot fly. To say they do violates everything we know about horses. People who believe such violations should at the very least bear the burden of our incredulity. Whether they shouldn’t be journalists is another matter but in issues of reporting the truth we should be able to rely on them making reasonable judgements about the veracity of things they report as facts?

  34. Dusty,

    while observing that your studies and mine obviously differ significantly.>>

    What have you studied? This is a site dedicated to logic and reason. You employ neither.

    Again, it comes down to collusion. We all see right through it.

    If you scroll all the way down to your first comment (comment #9) and my reply (comment #10), didn’t you stop to wonder how I picked you out as a troll? How could i possibly sniff out the bullshit peddler? It is because you all peddle the same heap of crap.

    Now you seek to be on the same intellectual footing with Alan4? He should ACCEPT that you have “studies that differ significantly”? Damn. You simply do not get it. Like telling a noseless man that he smells bad.

  35. DustyRoads_

    You and I are clearly not singing from the same hymn sheet. I question the content of your homework, while observing that your studies and mine obviously differ significantly. Would you like to suggest some common ground – besides our agreement that respect has to be earned – on which to base any future debate? In reply to #54 by Alan4discussion:

    I suppose as good an admission of failing to meet Alan’s excellent points as we are likely to receive from the person who leaves his /her mind open to the possibility of a horse flying using its own wings.

    No bloody hymn sheets around here my friend.

    I just wonder if Dusty leaves his / her mind open to the dragon in Sagan’s garage, an invisible one of course !

    As usual with religios, instead of showing the veracity of the flying horse story, they instead attack the person, the methodology, the colour of the hair etc, of the person who doesn’t believe it ! Smokescreens all the way to bloody heaven !

    • No hymn sheets, eh. Someone’s mind is obviously closed in a certain direction. No smokescreens for me; sunshine. And, as you were not to not know, I am female. Have a nice day. In reply to #77 by Mr DArcy:

      DustyRoads_

      You and I are clearly not singing from the same hymn sheet. I question the content of your homework, while observing that your studies and mine obviously differ significantly. Would you like to suggest some common ground – besides our agreement that respect has to be earned – on which to base any future debate? In reply to #54 by Alan4discussion:

      I suppose as good an admission of failing to meet Alan’s excellent points as we are likely to receive from the person who leaves his /her mind open to the possibility of a horse flying using its own wings.

      No bloody hymn sheets around here my friend.

      I just wonder if Dusty leaves his / her mind open to the dragon in Sagan’s garage, an invisible one of course !

      As usual with religios, instead of showing the veracity of the flying horse story, they instead attack the person, the methodology, the colour of the hair etc, of the person who doesn’t believe it ! Smokescreens all the way to bloody heaven !

  36. DustyRoads_

    No hymn sheets, eh. Someone’s mind is obviously closed in a certain direction. No smokescreens for me; sunshine. And, as you were not to not know, I am female. Have a nice day. In reply to #77 by Mr DArcy:

    Dusty, I must admit my mind is closed to the possibility of a horse with wings, flying with a man on it. My mind is also closed to the possibility of a man walking on water, the same man being executed, and then coming back from the dead and levitating to heaven. So yes, guilty as charged. Until anyone shows me good reason to believe such things then my credibility level is low, pretty dam low !

    But unlike the religios, I will change my mind in the face of evidence. I’m with Richard Feynman when he said that nothing fools reality, and that the easiest person to fool is yourself.

    So, Dusty, perhaps a considered response to Alan’s points? And have a nice day yourself.

    • Thank you Mr DArcy. As you ask so nicely I shall indeed consider the points that Alan has made, and I may well respond.
      In reply to #79 by Mr DArcy:

      DustyRoads_

      No hymn sheets, eh. Someone’s mind is obviously closed in a certain direction. No smokescreens for me; sunshine. And, as you were not to not know, I am female. Have a nice day. In reply to #77 by Mr DArcy:

      Dusty, I must admit my mind is closed to the possibility of a horse with wings, flying with a man on it. My mind is also closed to the possibility of a man walking on water, the same man being executed, and then coming back from the dead and levitating to heaven. So yes, guilty as charged. Until anyone shows me good reason to believe such things then my credibility level is low, pretty dam low !

      But unlike the religios, I will change my mind in the face of evidence. I’m with Richard Feynman when he said that nothing fools reality, and that the easiest person to fool is yourself.

      So, Dusty, perhaps a considered response to Alan’s points? And have a nice day yourself.

  37. If Mehdi Hasan was born into a Muslim family, and thus became a Muslim without any choice on his part, he is in an unenviable position. If he were to admit publicly to disbelieving in the winged horse story, or any other such nonsense, he would be disrespecting Islam, and would be fair game for any true believer who wanted a fast track to paradise. So from the point of view of self-preservation, he has no choice but to keep silent. On the other hand, he may well be suffering from terminal cognitive dissonance.

    The fact that any attempt of a former believer to leave Islam may well result in the apostate’s death, is, in my opinion, why while other religions, such as Christianity, have become relatively house-broken over the last few hundred years, while Islam remains such a threat. .

  38. In reply to #69 by God fearing Atheist:

    Just in case anyone here does not know why we know a horse can’t fly, the weight of an object increases with the cube of the length, most other properties (the strength of a muscle or bone) increase with the square of the length.

    Hi GFA,

    True, and the ability to fly is also limited by the ratio between surface area and volume, which your length explanation is closely related to.

    Another obvious problem is that there has never been an animal with six limbs, and there are no viable evolutionary pathways to developing the extra two required for any type of flying horse.

    Then there is the flying skeleton, which must be of very lightweight construction – which wouldn’t be able to support any horsey lifestyle – plus the musculature and wingspan required for a large animal to fly would be enormously too heavy to ever get airborne, even without the other four walking limbs.

    The possibility that a four legged equine animal with two wings could evolve is near zero, so even if one can’t be scientifically disproven, it is entirely reasonable to refute – even ridicule – anyone pushing old myths that include them…. Mac.

    • Well, he makes a fair amount of sense, and at least he’s withdrawn his original comment. It was still a badly thought-out move, though. I don’t understand why he doesn’t just post an article here and then tweet a link to it, considering what a shambles he makes of his twitter account.

      In reply to #86 by CdnMacAtheist:

      Another obvious problem is that there has never been an animal with six limbs, and there are no viable evolutionary pathways to developing the extra two required for any type of flying horse.

      I’m going to assume you meant “there has never been a mammal with six limbs”. You do realize insects and other hexapods are animals, right?

      In any case, it is theoretically possible that evolution could have produced six-legged vertebrates if the ancestry of the tetrapods had not taken its current path, but had gone down a different route. For instance, the sarcopterygians that hauled themselves up onto the land could have used three pairs of fins modified to let them crawl onto the land, and then the lineage that resulted could later have gone through similar evolutionary pressures in order to evolve into winged horses. The resulting Hippopteryx pegasii would have to be ridiculously tiny, lightweight, and fragile, though, and a human certainly couldn’t ride it any more than a human could ride an albatross.

      • In any case, it is theoretically possible that evolution could have produced six-legged vertebrates if the ancestry of the tetrapods had not taken its current path, but had gone down a different route. For instance, the sarcopterygians that hauled themselves up onto the land could have used three pairs of fins modified to let them crawl onto the land, and then the lineage that resulted could later have gone through similar evolutionary pressures in order to evolve into winged horses. The resulting Hippopteryx pegasii would have to be ridiculously tiny, lightweight, and fragile, though, and a human certainly couldn’t ride it any more than a human could ride an albatross.

        I agree, but there is another wrinkle. Our concept of “horse” includes its hooves and long legs. They evolved for life on grasslands. Why would a flying horse also evolve running legs?

        • In reply to #121 by God fearing Atheist:

          I agree, but there is another wrinkle. Our concept of “horse” includes its hooves and long legs. They evolved for life on grasslands. Why would a flying horse also evolve running legs?

          Because Al-Burāq, no fleas be upon him, was created by Jehovah and not by Harrier.

          • In reply to #139 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #121 by God fearing Atheist:

            I agree, but there is another wrinkle. Our concept of “horse” includes its hooves and long legs. They evolved for life on grasslands. Why would a flying horse also evolve running legs?

            Maybe Al Buraq was able to fly due to something he fed upon?
            Because Al-Burāq, no fleas be upon him, was created by Jehovah and not b…

          • In reply to #139 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #121 by God fearing Atheist:

            I agree, but there is another wrinkle. Our concept of “horse” includes its hooves and long legs. They evolved for life on grasslands. Why would a flying horse also evolve running legs?

            Because Al-Burāq, no fleas be upon him, was created by Jehovah and not b…
            Congratulations ! The only one who knows the name of the horse I fed apples when a small kid with wings of my own. Well I was mother’s little angel – metamorphosized into something QUITE different later. You don’t believe ME ? Can’t be a mother then, oh ye of little faith. Love from OGD = Old Grand Dad………..NOT the other one !

      • In reply to #100 by Zeuglodon:

        Hi Zeuglodon,

        Thanks for the correction, pointing out that insects are also animals and that I meant mammals. You spotted that I was a couple of levels off on the taxonomy while assembling my Comment from memories of book readings.

        That’s one more thing I’ve learned, from you and many others, which is why I enjoy the time I spend here. Thanks for keeping me on track, and strengthening more of my synapse connections…. Mac.

  39. And, once again I guess I play too rough. I seem to have scared another one away (or at least to the point where i am being ignored)!!! I feel like Lenny Small in the Steinbeck novel.

    At least this time I didn’t have to endure being told how angry I was and how I need anger management and all that.

    You’ve heard of Darwin’s bulldog??? I guess I am Dawkins’ asshole!!!!!
    HAHAHAHA…… I cracked myself up!

  40. I have thought for some years that Richard Dawkins is rather drawn towards the cool and the trendy. Twitter is the latest bauble to attract him.

    Other examples? Computers and hi-fi.

    Computers. He’s a Mac user, and the Mac has always tried desperately to be trendy. Never mind the operating system (which many consider to be crap) – see how cool it looks! Indeed it does, if coolness is defined as retro 1960s futuristic. I was for a time the unhappy owner of a Mac Mini, which looked very cool but was hell to use.

    Hi fi. In “The God Delusion” Dawkins, speaking of the brain’s simulation powers, says “When we hear a sound, it is not faithfully transported up the auditory nerve and relayed to the brain as if by a high-fidelity Bang and Olufsen.” B & O products are, much like my Mac Mini, designed to look cool. They certainly aren’t bad in terms of hi fi, but I have never seen a book or magazine devoted to serious audio,which listed B & O as the best. Yet Dawkins clearly thinks of them as the ultimate sound system.

    Dawkins himself is certainly cool, but as Twitter has now shown, this is not always to his advantage.

  41. In reply to Alan4discussion

    In reply to #83 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #43 by Peter Grant:

    This is the same chap who refers to atheists as “cattle”, he should have been sacked long ago.

    Why? People here regularly use the word sheeple to describe the religious.

    Perhaps you should reflect on the accurate “sheeple” description of sheepish-people followers of their “good” shepherds! – and then explain how atheists can be reasonably compared to cattle!

    Er sheep as in blindly following a leader whether categorised as a good shepherd or not. Have you ever read some of the stuff here. It sometimes feels as if Richard Dawkins were to appear on TV and fart the National Anthem people here would faint with delight and write reams of praise about it. If Richard Dawkins were to categorise mowing the lawn as a religious activity you’d all be up in arms about the sale of lawnmowers.

    There are a disturblingly large number of atheists who seem to be incapable of making decisions without blindly referencing what RD allows them to think first. Not all but a disturbing number are blindly uncritical of everything he does. Much in the manner of religious folk and their dieties.

    It seems to me to be a silly and juvenile ad hominem for a site supposedly populated by adults, but it’s not exactly beyond the pale.

    ” Cattle” is just an ad-hominem! (or if you prefer – a load of bull)

    Yeah well RD is human. Sometimes a towering intellect appears when he knows what he’s talking about. Other times most thinking people would suggest a load of bull has appeared. When you’re capable of seeing human flaws in your own leaders and critical thought about them then criticise blind faith in the religious.

  42. There are a few scattered passages where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes Sherlock Holmes totally out of character and his own foolishness shows plainly through. The results are somewhat jarring and discordant. For example, while contemplating the beauty of a rose Doyle has Sherlock spouting the following drivel:

    Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.

    • In reply to #107 by Peter Grant:

      Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist

      Why are we worrying about flying horses? At the same time, Hasan confirmed that he also believes that Mo split the moon in two. That needs believing in a whole Ritz’s kitchen of impossible things!

      • In reply to #111 by oeditor:

        …At the same time, Hasan confirmed that he also believes that Mo split the moon in two.

        Maybe that’s a euphemism and Mohammed was partial to a bit of ‘backdoor romance’.

    • In reply to #113 by Peter Grant:

      Mehdi Hasan, senior editor of the New Statesman magazine, attacks non-Muslims and atheists as “kufaar” and says they are like cattle…

      He sounds as though either he means it or he’s putting on a dramatic voice for quoting it, prior to further discussion, Without context and/or more of the video, we can’t be sure. It would be pretty damning if he does mean it.

      • Hm, he does sound pretty passionate about Islam in that clip, more so than in the conversation with Richard where he seems to be putting on the half-jokey attitude that Muslim debaters sometimes assume in front of an audience. I think he means all he is saying in the clip – the miracles, the truth of the Koran, the lot. He is certainly not denying his beliefs – a true believer for whom we are all indeed kufaars, truly damned cattle in his eyes.

        In reply to #114 by oeditor:*

        In reply to #113 by Peter Grant:

        Mehdi Hasan, senior editor of the New Statesman magazine, attacks non-Muslims and atheists as “kufaar” and says they are like cattle…

        He sounds as though either he means it or he’s putting on a dramatic voice for quoting it, prior to further discussion, Without context and/or more of the video, we can’t be sure. It would be pretty damning if he does mean it.

      • In reply to #114 by oeditor:

        In reply to #113 by Peter Grant:

        Mehdi Hasan, senior editor of the New Statesman magazine, attacks non-Muslims and atheists as “kufaar” and says they are like cattle…

        He sounds as though either he means it or he’s putting on a dramatic voice for quoting it, prior to further discussion, Without context and/or more of the video, we can’t be sure. It would be pretty damning if he does mean it.

        There is some more discussion about this on his wikipedia page

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehdi_Hasan

        Michael

  43. I just watched the Mehdi Hasan interview again. Is this Bizarro World? The fellow took a very aggressive stance in defending his ludicrous beliefs. Surely deep down, in his heart of hearts somewhere, he knows that “a winged horse flying to heaven ” is an absurd concept. I don’t think the Twitter comment was an overreaction at all!

  44. I have been quiet, here, for a long time because I sensed I was overly caustic. At the risk of having that same feeling:

    I respect your position, Alan, as a biologist and space scientist, and realise that my personal comprehension of these disciplines is – at least by comparison to yours – zilch. But >>

    DustyRoads,
    we started this exchange with me telling you to get your “pompous meter” calibrated. Never before has this need been so clearly demonstrated. Aim it at yourself. This statement is the ultimate in pomposity.

    Remove the “but” and you have a perfectly good statement. Add the “but” and you clearly are missing the very point you are trying to make.

    If Richard is being “pompous” decrying flying horses and those that espouse their existence; what are you being when you clearly state that you know ZILCH about a topic and then go on to posture that you can challenge the experts?????

    Get educated on the topic, read, ask questions and listen to answers, keep an open mind…… you’ve got much to do before you can start throwing around expert opinions.

    • Hi crookedshoes
      In lieu of a direct response to this post of yours, please refer to the one I am about to make to Alan-4-discussion. Must go and do the dishes. Good night.

      In reply to #125 by crookedshoes:

      I have been quiet, here, for a long time because I sensed I was overly caustic. At the risk of having that same feeling:

      I respect your position, Alan, as a biologist and space scientist, and realise that my personal comprehension of these disciplines is – at least by comparison to yours – zilch….

    • In reply to #127 by This Is Not A Meme:

      Wait, those were cardboard?!

      Well, I don’t know whether it’s been determined exactly what they were painted on, and I think some say they were cut-outs rather than painted specially, but they were indeed fakes. Fakes made, moreover, to substantiate a lie about the supernatural. (Now where has that happened before?) The Cottingley Fairies are well known. For instance, http://www.unmuseum.org/fairies.htm

  45. bob-e-s

    In reply to #108 by Kieran:

    Thanks Peter :)

    In reply to #106 by bewlay_brother:

    If Richard found that a New Statesman journalist was a Catholic, would he have publicly questioned that journalist about his belief in transubstantiation and then publicly mocked him for his vague response about a belief in miracles?

    yes, he would, and he has in the past., and rightly so.

    Any examples?

    Again, I can’t find any specific examples, but I’m pretty sure Richard mentions one himself in the God Delusion, but he has often made a point of questioning catholics on their belief in transubstantiation and the resurrection.

    In the God Delusion and the Ancestrors Tale RD references devout Catholic Ken Millers work on the Bacterial Flagellum and his role in the Dover trial, and mentions his religion and is …..complimentary about his work!! He makes no reference at all to daft beliefs like transubstantiation. So seems not to be an example really.

  46. Is it not possible that, in the mists of time, the description of a space craft – more advanced even than we in the current era can imagine – would have been described as a flying horse?

    And if we traveled back into the bronze age with our technology and demonstrated what we could do with it we would be hailed as gods. But, we wouldn’t actually be gods, would we?

    If 2 people observed the same odd phenomena and had no explanation, they are likely to both come up with different versions of what happened. And if neither examine the event critically, neither would be right.

    What I’m saying is that this isn’t about a singular perception. Anyone can look at a contraption and see it as a flying horse, but to find an explanation for what you’re seeing you must do far more than make something up.

    Faith and belief don’t stand up very well to peer review I’m afraid. Mohammed flying off on horse or anything else didn’t happen. The difference between your positions on these matters and science is examining the facts and peer review. Your perceptions can be fooled, so more critical thinking must happen to make sense of unknown phenomena.

  47. Apologies for no Polish translation with my comment!

    I accept Richard’s point that his comment was meant to be wry, reflecting on this curious double-standard, but I think there is a very serious issue here.

    I submitted a discussion topic a couple of days ago (don’t know if it’s going to be accepted) that compares the public reaction to Richard’s “mockery” of this man who holds a religious belief in a supernatural winged horse to the public reaction towards 2 parents who hold a religious belief in the supernatural power of prayer to heal their sick child.

    The reaction of the public to Richard’s comment was very mixed, with many people extremely angry at him for even daring to challenge anyone for their religious beliefs.

    Yet I have not heard anyone leap to the defence of the couple who have been challenged for their belief in the power of prayer to heal their sick child. The tragic reason for this is that this couple appear to have actually acted upon their belief (they really really believed it) and their child has died as a result of being denied medical help.

    It is logically inconsistent to think someone should be absolutely protected from any criticism for holding one particular ludicrous belief in the supernatural, while another person can legitimately be subject to all kinds of abuse for holding another equally ludicrous belief in the supernatural. Belief in the supernatural is either ludicrous and ripe for mockery, or it is not.

    The issue that follows on from that is that if certain beliefs in the supernatural are regarded as sacrosanct, immune from any criticism, and in fact even something to be admired or considered the highest possible demonstration of morality (as they often are), then this can lead to terrible consequences. While belief in a winged horse or fairy may appear harmless, if people are told such beliefs are admirable, then how are people to know that belief in the power of prayer to heal is not also admirable? Let’s be honest, a lot of people are not that bright, a lot of people suffer from mental illness, or are ignorant through no fault of their own. A lot of people, often very vulnerable people, really believe these things, and they dont have the capability to hold opposing beliefs or play the subtle game of claiming to believe something when they actually don’t believe it. So anyone who regards belief in a winged horse to be beyond mockery is playing a major part in enforcing other really dangerous beliefs that can and do actually kill people. This is why I think any kind of belief in the supernatural, even if it appears relatively harmless, is fair game for very strong ridicule or criticism.

  48. Mehdi Hasan is held in too high a regard by you if he believes that crap and the New Statesman should be ashamed of itself. Although he’s probably just trying to stop himself from being killed on the street by assholes who like to kill people because they get high thinking they’re hard men spreading fear.

  49. In which case Richard will never believe that I AM Ray Bradbury’s spaceman, who, when stranded on the Planet of the Congenitally Insane, where everyone without exception was crazy, was caught and locked up and exhibited as being the crazy one.
    ” Insanity,” as the old watchman in the story said, ” is relative, it all depends on who is holding whom in what cage.”
    If the godbotherers are a bunch of lunatics, isn’t the prof another with his denunciations that can never cure the incurable ? Do YOU deny that this is the Planet of the Congenitally Insane ? If so it only makes you right at home ! UBK Only a tourist here, thank God !

  50. The way it was explained to me by ordinary Muslims (mostly from North Africa), when I asked about jdinn (demons) was that what you actually believed did not matter. You simply could not publicly challenge the existence of jdinn. Being gay was similar. So it is probably not really true that Mehdi Hasan thinks horses can leap up to heaven, just that he publicly asserts that to save his skin. The story is backed by a claim in the Qur’an that witnesses saw Mohammed in two different cities with far too little time between the sightings for him to have travelled conventionally. (It is the typical quoting the bible to prove the validity of the bible tactic.)

  51. During the 70s I read a number of bizarre stories about the Findhorn community in Scotland. They gave a recipe for attracting fairies. I thought, “I suppose I could try the experiment even if I don’t think it will work.” The city however did not like my “fairy sanctuary” and demolished it and sent me a bill. (They mistook it for a compost heap). I never did see any evidence of fairies. Somewhat earlier an acid fried musician had shown me the fairy photos that fooled Doyle and Haia (the musician). To me it was obvious they were not. I think this so often is a matter of wishful thinking.

  52. “Go right to the source and ask the horse, he’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse…”

    /Pendant – ‘crocoduck’ does not belong in the category of mythological creatures. Kirk Cameron coined that ridiculous phrase as part of an asinine argument against evolution.

  53. Long Live Sherlock!. I enjoy the Holmes stories, and Conan Doyle wrote some excellent – if maybe not quite so appealing to a girl – fiction in addition – but this was a very big ‘blind spot’ in his career, sadly. We are all prone to them, though!

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