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Not Only Faith Schools

I just watched Faith School Menace1 and as you can probably tell from the length of this, I am appalled by almost every opinion displayed by the religious 'educators' featured. Here’s partly why... About 20 minutes into the programme, Richard Dawkins is informed by the headmaster of Madani High School, that the students are "thinking critically, understanding the world in a very critical fashion." All well and good you'd think but then a group of Muslim girls, school pupils, displayed their complete misunderstanding of evolution and their teacher was, appallingly, similarly handicapped by her faith based perceptions. The poor befuddled Muslim science teacher could not answer a simple question about evolution. "If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?" SHE COULD NOT ANSWER! Dawkins enlightened...
"It's not that we've evolved from chimpanzees. Chimpanzees and we have evolved from a shared ancestor who lived about 6 million years ago and who was neither a human nor a chimpanzee."
I, a mere layman, with only state comprehensive science education could answer the question but her students had obviously never heard the explanation before which, of course, they could not have, because they are being mis-educated in a Muslim school by a 'science' teacher who clearly did not know her subject.
But WHY did she not know?
Seems simple. Because she is Muslim? I can only assume her own Muslim schooling had never included the full answer, her Islamic tutors had deliberately concealed the most important information because of its faith destroying nature. That would be bad enough, but she is a 'science' teacher, surely she should have come across the reality of evolution in her further education? Apparently not.
Her disgusting display of ignorance was a disgrace to the teaching profession. If this is an example of Muslim education, I can only pity those under its totalitarian control.
We can only assume that all other faith schools have a similar policy of misrepresenting the facts to suit what their church wants them to mean, so check these numbers… There are usually about ¾ million kids in each UK school year. The programme told us 1 in 3 schools are faith based. Therefore UK faith schools are producing a couple of hundred thousand deliberately mis-educated students EVERY year! In the Muslim school featured in the show, the totally unashamed teacher happily admitted that all of her 60 pupils had come to the opinion that evolution was false. I felt sick. Had she, a Muslim, never heard of the scientific method, or its pioneer, the Muslim scholar Ibn al-Haytham (965 - 1040). More disturbingly though, neither the teacher nor the headmaster seemed to have any idea that they were misinforming their students about the facts of reality.
That’s the facts of reality mind you! You know, the really important stuff!
And this is because, as we all know, the purpose of a Muslim school is not to produce properly educated adults who understand what it is to think rationally but merely to produce good Muslims. Might I point out here that we in the free thinking democracies have always mistrusted regimes that prohibit and limit knowledge and information, currently Communist China, North Korea and Tehran, and previously, Nazi Germany and the old USSR instantly spring to mind. Totalitarian regimes control their population by delivering to their people only the version of reality that matches the leaders' agenda. Mis-education is key for the longevity of the regimes control and it is done because all totalitarian regimes are fearful of full comprehension. In Faith School Menace Islam has clearly displayed its method of retaining power, the nuts and bolts of how it delivers its brand of totalitarian fascism to its children. Let me make it clear here though, I am making the same statement for every faith school. All faith schools present evolution as opinion (which it is not) rather than fact (which it is) and they do this because full comprehension destroys all totalitarian systems, not just the novel the Qur’an!
Makes you wonder...
When so many of our fathers and grandfathers died fighting against exactly this style of non thinking, why are UK politicians in favour of embracing Islam?

However, before I'm accused of the anti-Islamic stance, which I do take, but by no greater degree than against any other groundless method of social control, let's press on with an example from a 'secular' comprehensive from just a few years ago.

Disturbing teaching practice is not only limited to faith schools.

I was recently in conversation with a 20 year old woman. I have known her for the whole of her life and when she was primary school age I considered her potentially one of the most inquisitive and analytical minds I'd ever met. Anyway, we were discussing the concept of wishing and she said she believed in wishing. I was astonished. She had gone through GCSE's! She must have been taught the basics of science! Surely! "You know of the scientific method?" I asked.
After a moment, she remembered "Oh yeah we did that once."
Once!! I thought, this is the scientific method! It's not an 'oh yeah and some scientists work like this' type of concept! The scientific method explains how rationality works; it is the core of science! I persevered… "You know... it goes something like 'postulate, experiment, evaluate, re postulate'?"
She looked blank then remembered. "Oh yeah, yeah, that's what it was about! That’s what we did, everyone did it. And everybody came out with different comprehensions, so that proved that scientists can be wrong and they are only telling us their opinion, and most scientists are paid to tell us what their employers want us to know."
I was gobsmacked.
It concerned me greatly that this young woman with a very sharp mind had obviously managed to draw the wrong conclusions from the point of the lesson. To be honest, the more I thought about it the more furious I got, but it wasn't the fault of the student it was the fault of the teacher. Instead of taking the opportunity to teach the students that the scientific method which, in essence, is a foolproof way of how to think rationally, a key way of testing the validity of any concept and, I'd suggest, a valuable life lesson for the class, the teacher had chosen to deliver the twisted message - "you can't trust scientists, they make it up to suit themselves."
How many teachers overlay their ‘need to believe’, even if only subconsciously, onto the way they teach the lesson? And as a result, how many children are leaving science class with the mis-comprehension that evolution is only an opinion? When the truth conflicts with the dogma that the teacher likes to pretend in, can any science teacher, that is also a person of faith, be relied upon to tell the whole truth? They are capable of pretending in god after all! The poor regulation of science means that the deluded (religious) who enter teaching are delivering a view of reality which is equally as skewed towards the paranormal as the Muslim school of the show.
Perhaps science teachers’ opinions should be removed from the classroom and they should be prohibited from straying from the full evidence.
Perhaps, for the teaching of evolution, the curriculum should be set at government level, and by an expert like maybe, Richard Dawkins?

And now, thanks to our lilly-livered, politically correct politicians we are going to have more faith schools!!
We Are So Doomed!

As a final thought, does anyone else see a similarity in the words of the Buddha and the scientific method? Seems to me that the scientific method is merely the Buddha's words applied to scientific study.
Siddhartha Gautama [Buddha] 400 BC Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, accept it and live up to it.
I've been quoting this for years but at some point I've lost the link to where on the internet I found it. (If you know, let me know). However, it's bullet points of the Criterion for Acceptance from the Kalama Sutta The best explanation of the Kalama Sutta I've found is here.
Faith School Menace - Originally broadcast on Wednesday 18 Aug 2010 9pm on More4. You may be able to Watch it here but it’s not available everywhere. More Commentary on the Faith School Menace independent schmusing metro A further article on the human rights of children in faith schools Here
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1Faith School Menace - this a link to UK 4OD - it may not work for everyone.
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A Wish Upon A Bone

Have you ever wished upon a bone?
Ever considered by whom, or what, the wish may be granted?

The Wishbone experiment:
The wishbone experiment is a suggestion for a simple, ongoing, practical and cheap (free) exploration of the power (or lack thereof ) of the supernatural. However, before I venture into the substance of the experiment, I think I should first make an attempt at defining a wish.

Firstly, for any successful wishing ritual there are a number of components which must be present.
The Components
The wish legend - the story of how the wishing 'lens' got it's power.
The wisher - the invoker or maker of the wish.
The wishing lens - the conduit to the wish granter (Wishing well etc.).
The wish granter - the 'power' which grants the wish.
The wish beneficiary - the recipient of the wisher's desire (wisher not excluded).
The wish effect - the wisher's desired outcome.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly there is the substance of wishing.
The Substance
As mentioned in the wishing components there is always a wish legend which primes the potential wisher's psyche with hope or belief of success. However, it is rarely clear from where the power to grant the wish effect comes. The granter of the effect is often unnamed, unknown, shapeless and the wisher is almost always putting faith for the wish's success in this unspoken power.
So, I think it's fair to suggest that the substance of a wish is...
A silent appeal to an unnamed 'greater' force of magic, or to some universal Gaiia, or a God, to grant 'this' small change in the space-time continuum to fulfil 'this' specific request.
Or, more succinctly, a tiny silent prayer is probably a sufficient definition.
If you disagree let me know.

Right, you've likely forgotten, but this is all a preface to an experiment.

We have all heard that if two people take hold of the wishbone of a chicken with their pinkie fingers and pull until it breaks, the one winning the largest piece gets a tiny silent prayer granted.
The wishbone experiment is simple in essence, whether you are a wishbone wrestler who presumes a supernatural level to the universe or not I suggest that next time you pull a wishbone, or every time, at your discretion, you wish 'wishbone be whole again.'

It's a nothing wish; not really a stretch for any mighty wish granting power worth wishing to. And it's just a little bone that's never going to have any impact on anything important in the universe. However, if even one 'wishbone be whole again' wish were to be 'granted' it would, I think, be evidence for the supernatural. And with millions of chickens consumed every day, so millions of wishbones pulled, would this not give us millions of chances every day of discovering if there is anything to this wishing lark?
Providing everyone is honest about their wishing failure rates, as the experiment progresses, the true 'power' of wishing would become clear.

For any of those who believe in the supernatural but choose not to make the wish, this is evidence that you do not want your magical fantasy to end, you do not want the 'power' exposed as fake, you want to keep living in your little bubble of pretend.

If, as those of us who are reasonable would assume, it will become clear that wishing on a wishbone is nonsense, I suggest it would also be safe to assume that for all other traditional wishing situations, first star at night, shooting star, birthday candles etc. the same 'nonsense' tag would also apply.

Merely repeating the 'wishbone be whole again' wish to others, as either a helpful suggestion or, for those who believe, a dare, doesn't sound like much...
'what good will that do?' I've been asked.
I say maybe nothing but what if it were to engender an irresistible supernatural challenging meme, a subconscious confrontation of the wish ritual which has the possibility to become entangled with, even, eventually, strangle the wish legend itself?
Bit of a stretch? Maybe, but considering that religiously motivated suicide bombers are made from the same substance whence wishes come, if there's even a chance of 'wishbone be whole again' crushing some small portion of the all pervasive fallasphere(1), it has got to be worth promoting, hasn't it? Every little helps etc.

While we are here, there's an option for a secondary experiment but I can't quite get my head around it, or what it would achieve. Anyway, for a laugh check this, it's a bit of a time loop paradox...
If one were to not simply wish 'wishbone be whole again' but rather to wish for the wishbone to have never been torn asunder, then the wish for it to have never been torn asunder could not have worked because the wishbone was never split, so the wish cannot have started, so it must not have worked...
However, would it not also, and simultaneously, be proof that the wish did work because the wishbone is whole again? Would that not be proof that wishes both do and don't work?
Hurts your head this supernatural nonsense!!

Anyway next time you pull a wishbone give it a try.
Wish for 'wishbone be whole again' but most importantly enjoy your chicken.

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All Pervasive Fallasphere

Diagram showing the steps of the scientific me...
Whilst writing A Wish Upon A Bone I had a problem, I was searching for word to encapsulate a pervasive human condition. The great majority of the global population seem incapable of living rational, reasonable lives; almost everywhere people feel the need to add to reality an element, to say the least, of what skeptics would call 'woo'.
Woo-woo (or just plain woo) refers to ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers.
Here's a dictionary definition of woo-woo:

adj. concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific; mysterious; new agey. Also n., a person who has mystical or new age beliefs.
While Woo has been, and is, a more than fine description of the collective elements of the pseudo-truths, it is difficult to incorporate Woo or Woo-woo into a sentence in a document or blog. Apart from the possibility of the word raising, at least, a subconscious titter (or is that just me?), it is also first and foremost, in the UK at least, a term of courtship. Call me an old romantic if you must but I think it would be a shame to usurp a term of friendship (there's so little of it about!). Another problem is in Woo's lack of extensibility. Is someone who professes woo a wooist or wooer? If you have been indoctrinated by woo, one cannot say you have been wooed, or further, are you the wooee? You see the problem.
Anyway, after some pondering, and finding that pseudosphere was already in use, I came to the conclusion that, as far as I, a natural sceptic, am concerned fallacy is the default position in all situations. All concepts or notions remain fallacious until proven.
Oxford Dictionaries defines a Fallacy as a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound arguments
I settled on Fallasphere as a collective noun for all things fallacious.
Fallasphere encapsulates that which is believed by some but for which there is very little, if any, evidence. It includes every concept or condition that could be termed as Woo, the spiritual, magical, mythical, paranormal or supernatural etc. Or, alternatively, for which there is no conclusive evidence via standard scientific method. Every notion from the Dreamtime to Voodoo, from Ghosts to Allah, could all be described as fallaspherical concepts. People who profess values which fall within the Fallasphere, would be professing fallaspherical views and perhaps those people, including all members of all mono or poly theistic religions, could be described as fallaspherics. You get the picture.

Use it if you wanna!

The Fallasphere is deliciously displayed by almost every entry in 
Crispian Jago's beautiful crafted Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense.
Crispian Jago's Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense.

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Disaster Appeal

Always, somewhere on our globe, there's a dire situation where our brothers and sisters are injured and displaced, from where we here the news,

 "It's already a disaster and it's just getting worse."
There are always appeals for aid of this or that sort, we are constantly reacting to the worst disasters befalling our fellow humans and right now is no different, so give up that second helping of pie for a couple of weeks and help save some lives. Go on ram your hand down into the sofa and collect all that small change or raid your beer fund and send it off - you'll feel better for it. If you can help there are links below
But why do we merely react, why can't we have systems in place?
Disasters always make me wonder...
Why we don't already have a real 'International Rescue' to bring aid at a moments notice?
Our governments always manage to mobilise for war fast enough!
Why is that I wonder?

More profit in taking life than in saving it?

Anyway, please give what you can.
There's many donation routes here's a few...

Disaster Appeal Funds
Disasters Emergency Comittee
Oxfam GB
British Red Cross

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If you enjoy what you read here
you will also enjoy my novel
21 days in May

Please be aware this blog may be considered Illegal almost anywhere!

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