I found this little video very interesting indeed but not for the reasons that many readers of this blog might expect. It’s true that I’m not above laughing at Golding just as I’m happy to poke fun at fascists everywhere. It’s also true that creationism is an easy source of ridicule but not today.
Anyone looking for humour needs only watch this brief video of Britain First’s hapless leader’s attention-seeking behaviour as he tries to use Christianity to justify his anti-social behaviour. For me the most amusing highlight of the video is Golding’s assertion that the bible tells us that nobody knows who created the earth. Presumably he never read Genesis! Whether he read the biblical creation story or not, his amateurish proselytising didn’t prevent him from being arrested.
But I’d like to make a more serious point. I’d like to talk about the very real dangers of superficial thinking and the need to be wary of anyone who invests so much of their lives into a cause they understand so little about. This is not the hallmark of a reliable leader – rather it’s the sign of a fool who can only lead his followers into complete disaster.
As we all know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The world isn’t really made up of simple, black and white, good and bad dichotomies. Only the most immature thinkers pretend that it is. That’s a dangerous ‘thinking style’. You can learn a lot about a person’s individual thinking style by listening to their rationalisations and justifications.
In the video Paul Golding talks about his Christianity before launching into a bizarre and clearly ill-understood commentary on Intelligent Design (ID). I’ve written about Intelligent Design and the fallacy of creationism before and I won’t go into much detail about it here except to point out the really, really obvious points pertaining to thinking style. As you read these points please remember that the point is to analyse the psychology behind ‘the throne’ of this fascist organisation – to understand the superficiality of the mind that treats such nonsense as evidence and who is quite happy to expound about matters he clearly doesn’t understand. Remember also that the result of this nonsensical rhetoric is hostility and violence toward innocent UK citizens. Golding incites violence and hatred and uses notions of group conformity as a way of selling cheap tat to the gullible. And in the psychopathic style of fascists everywhere he cares little who is hurt as a result.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
We all know that it’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick. We all know that some topics and situations require genuine thought to be understood. We also know that some topics are just nonsense. That’s the beauty of scientific thinking. It lets us understand what is likely to be true and what should be discarded.
It was scientific method (the use of real world evidence to make sense of things) that led us to reject old, outdated ideas like homeopathy. It was science that taught us to reject even older ideas such as astrology. Scientific thinking taught humankind to reject the folly of still older ideas like the naturalistic fallacy or the position of the earth as the centre of the universe. The same scientific method that showed Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo that the earth revolves around the sun has allowed us to discard outdated ideas for generations. That’s how mankind progresses.
There’s a pattern here. As we advance we refine our understanding of things and old ideas are discarded in favour of better ways to make sense of the world. This process has many facets from Thomas Kuhn’s famous ‘paradigm shift’ to Karl Popper’s falsifiability criteria and, of course, the work of the brilliant William Gilbert. Gilbert was that rebellious, heretical Elizabethan physician who used observation and reflection not only to dismiss the long-standing assumptions about disease as ‘God’s will’ and ‘the four humours’, he was also the original creative thinker who inspired Galileo’s step by step methodology.
Interestingly enough none of these advances were the result of slavish obesience to earlier assumptions. Mankind advances by developing ever more accurate understanding as old, outdated models give way to newer, more accurate models of the world. Creationists simply say ‘We don’t know how it happened so we’re just going to make something up’. Why then would anyone try to pretend that scientific method is in the least bit interested in the unquestioning acceptance of bronze-age creation myths? And yet that is precisely what Golding would have us believe.
Actually the ‘look at this evidence of intelligent design’ argument Golding quotes was originally proposed by Rev. William Paley in the late 18th century and utterly discredited in the first part of the 19th Century. The idea was that a pocket watch found on the seashore could not have evolved – it needed to have been created. How much more then must man and the rest of nature need a creator?
Paley’s watch, as the argument from design came to be know, was destroyed by philosophers such as David Hume even before Darwin published his ground-breaking book On the origin of species in 1859. And yet Golding in his stupidity believes not only that the argument is valid, but that it’s new. In fact it’s neither. It makes no more scientific sense than Bishop Usher’s assertion that the earth was created at 3pm on the afternoon of the day before October 23rd 4004 BC. And yes – Usher really was that precise. Not only that, the only logical conclusion of Golding’s ID argument is that Usher was correct. The logic is long and convoluted but if Golding believes in ID he must, of necessity also believe that the earth is precisely 6018 years old.
If anyone’s interested in this convoluted thought experiment let me know and I’ll outline the inescapable logistical problem in another post.
The nature of science and ID
The only real point I want to make here is that Intelligent Design has been utterly discredited and there is no reputable scientist working in the relevant fields of biology, archaeology, geology, botany, evolutionary science, linguistics, astronomy, dendrochronology or anthropology who takes it seriously. There are a few scientists working out of the Mormon sponsored Brigham Young University who keep trying to prove creationism (so far without success) because of a form of academic wishful thinking and the occasional furore from the American Bible Belt when schools try to promote ID as science. The most recent in Dover, Pennsylvania resulted in Judge Jones of the US Supreme Court ruling that there was nothing scientific about ID. The case from 2007 made it excruciatingly clear that Intelligent Design is really just Christian creationism repackaged to look like science.
Even in America the difference between true science and the nonsense of Intelligent Design is well known. Here in UK the very idea of ID and creationism is almost universally ridiculed.
That’s all very well but what does it tell us about Golding? Well – several things, none of which are particularly encouraging. It tells us that:
- Golding is prepared to jump on an American populist bandwagon (presumably to attract more funding from Britain First’s large contingent of far right American supporters);
- Golding is either too stupid to understand the problem with ID or he thinks his supporters are;
- Golding is so uncritical of dogmatic ideology he will peddle nonsense in order to further his cause;
- Golding is prepared to use religion to justify the widespread abuse of an increasing number of groups he decides not to like;
- Golding is prepared to make far-reaching decisions based upon the notion that ‘a scientist’ found ‘some signs of something’ without the slightest awareness of who that scientist might be, what that ‘something’ might be or even how evidenced is assessed.
In short, this is not a man to be trusted. He’s either a fool or a liar who treats his followers as fools. Or he might well be both.
Either way, do you want to hitch your reputation (and possibly a criminal record) to someone as arrogant and ill-informed as this?
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