Catholics Sacked in Intelligence Squared

Bridget & I had the pleasure of attending the Intelligent Squared Debate last night. at the Central Methodist Hall in London.

The Motion: The Catholic Church is a Force For Good in The World.

For: Anne Widdecombe & Archbishop Onaiyekan.

Against: Stephen Fry & Christopher Hitchens.

Chair: Zeinab Badawi

Oh what a night, a packed audience were treated to the highs & lows of debate, truly enjoyable.

Fry was impassioned, earnest, charming & powerful. Hitch was annihilating. The Archbishop or ‘Grace’ as he likes to be called floundered badly, and didn’t seem to have access to any pertinent knowledge (such as the Catholic Church’s wealth, charitable donations, basic science & the current UN issues) nor any experience making a point in front of a non-sheepish flock. Widdie had some fight in her, but was surprisingly clueless,and often misrepresented the questions posed to her. For example Hitch presented a ‘summary’ of crimes for which he argued the RCC needed to apologise unreservedly; starting at the crusades & culminating with the present popes actions. Widdecombe said something to the effect of “How telling that he had to go all the way back to the Crusades” completely disregarding all later crimes.She also rolled her eyes in mock boredom at any mention of condoms.

Other low points included the archbishops suggestion that condom use would increase AIDS by promoting promiscuity, (together with Widde’s cherry-picked quotes supporting this stance) My point is this: Given condoms offer at least 99% protection against AIDS infection, this would mean that the provision of condoms must lead to over 100 times more sexual activity for their argument to hold water. I’m not sure the brand of condoms they are referring to, but get me some of those.

The swing in the vote was staggering, particular given the presence of some vocal & devoted catholics.

But the real coffin-nail was Widdie arguing that the RCC shouldn’t be judged for crimes in its past, as it was no worse than the prevailing morals of the day. Fine, maybe, but she then tried to argue that the Catholic faith had access to an immutable eternal absolute moral law. Can’t have it both ways. When called on such matters neither defender had any answer, nor it seemed any appreciation of the problem.

If I had the misfortune of debating Fry & Hitchens on this topic (maybe in a terrible dream) the only lifeline would be to apologise unreservedly, but plea that with reform, the power & loyal following of many (I guess) well intentioned minions, is a POTENTIAL force for good in the world. But they didn’t do that at all, and they lost badly, it must have hurt. To drop over half of your supporters in 90 mins of debate is no mean feat, but some source of hope. Just goes to show that a little reason can go a long way, and maybe faith is a little more shakable than I’m led to believe.

So what were the scores, Thomas Moores?

Pre-debate:

For the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Undecided: 346.

Post Debate: For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34

The debate will be aired on Nov 7/8 on BBC World. I don’t think I make an appearance despite my best ‘Hmmm’ face.


Amaz!ng

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) – perhaps the greatest skeptical organization in the world, hold a kinda-annual conference called TAM – The Amaz!ng Metting. Past speakers have included Richard Dawkins, Penn & Teller, James Randi etc. Not big names to all, but big deal to me.

They are holding their first non-US meeting on October 3-4 2009 in…London.

Of course I rushed to buy tickets just 2 hours after the lines opened. But that was too late. Sold out.

So after a TAMtrum, I explored other avenues (begging, hassling, extortion – normal stuff) but to no avail.

However, I came across a scholarship competition, asking for essays (1,500 words max) from students (Check! Thanks to my laziness with PhD) 16 yr and older (Check!! By some margin) and on anything related to skeptical inquiry (CHECK!!!)

Me being me, I started the essay on the day of the deadline. I started at 10am, and had to leave for a friend’s wedding at noon, then straight on to another wedding gig 250 miles away. This was my only chance, and I hadn’t had my eggs or coffee. But I whipped something up and sent it to some dear people for proofreading while I set about my day. The excellent John Gregson took instructions while I drove up to my distant gig, eventually forwarding a pdf to me, which I relayed on to JREF with the last drops of my iPhone battery, and 12 minutes to spare.

Long story short.

I won.

So Bridge & I will be attending, the essay ‘A Life Examined’ will be published at TAM and online, and I will meet some wonderful people as a consequence.

Honoured & thrilled. and also for one grateful for my sloppiness: If I was more organized, I would have bought tickets sooner, If I was more dedicated I would no longer be a student (& ineligible) and if I had the luxury of time to write the essay, my self-doubt would have prevented me from finishing it. Yay for my imperfection.

I will of course tweet (@miltonline) & report back.

m


No Butts, Kicking Butts, Ashes to ashes, No smoke without being fired, Filter Coffin, Eschewing Tobacco etc.

You get the subtle humour- today is the first day of England’s Public Smoking Ban and a step forward for civilization as we know it. I will need to research how long the scientific evidence of the dangers of passive smoking has been available, but I would be surprised if it is less than 30 years. This creaking lethargy of goverment legislation is another example of how inept we humans are at dropping our irrational thoughts even when we should know better – and it is of course this same dopiness that allows bigotry, inequality, religious tyranny, pseudoscience, New Age frauds and celbrity worship to thrive. We just let things slide, don’t rock the boat, don’t make a fuss. Strangely, people seem more angered by the inconvenience of spam e-mail than someone breathing poison in their children’s faces. Oh well.

Well I welcome the ban wholeheartedly. The irony that some whinge about an affront of civil liberties is all too clear. What about the right to breathe without ingesting poisons? I couldn’t care less if anybody wants to harm themselves in whatever way they choose so long as they keep it away from others – including their own children- (I unfortunately need to add). If we condone indiscriminate public poisoning, then why make a fuss if terrorist sprinkles around some poison in a public place (“Don’t take away his freedom, man!”) or someone willfully infects others with HIV (“Hey! don’t cramp his style) But enough negativity, it’s happened now (albit very late) and humanity will adapt soon enough. Since my illness has compelled me to give up almost all my teaching, I plan to play a lot more gigs in public places, the ability of me to do my work in an enviroment that doesn’t harm my health, challenge my compromised immunity or make my clothes stink is indeed a (very) civil liberty.

And the government legislating to support the health of all of us, is truly a breath of fresh air.

And exhale…

milt x


Love is in the Air

Admittedly when asked at age 8 about my aspirations, “World Air Guitar Championship Judge” wouldn’t have ranked very highly. (Astronaut, Marine Biologist, Photographer, Artist, Explorer, Dinosaur Hunter, Journalist, Ghost-Hunter and Musician made up the list If I recall)

So it was with a great sense of surrealism (and excitement) with which I arrived in the city of Oulu (“Oh, Loo”), Finland. Incidentally, Oulu is an intriguing blend of cold war austerity and cutting-edge technology (and one of the only places on earth to have reached the level of civilization to offer FREE wireless broadband internet to ALL in it’s city centre.

The 6 days that ensued would fill a book in themselves- if I could remember them that is. But in short, the melange of enormous fun, an opportunity to share my story (“Healing Power of Music” Lecture) and be heard, immense hospitality, new great friendships and surprising emotional involvement made up one of the BEST trips in my life. I am REALLY hoping that I am invited out again.

For a peak of the winning air-guitarist, together with a half-second of me giving a score (5.9!) click here Browsing the site should satisfy any air-head.

A life-enhancing experience. What did I know when I was 8 anyway?

FYB,

Milt

P.s. Air Kisses to Alex Lipsitz (Director of the great movie “Air Guitar Nation”, Dan Crane aka Bj


Underground Lines 2 : Day +343

Bond Street-Holland Park: Male early 20’s in white leather jacket with a Vespa badge and a ‘USA’ Cap.

Heeeeeeey, I’m…….

Vespa Man! Vespa Man!
Taking those corners as fast as I can.
Vespa Man! Vespa Man!

Don’t call it a lotion, it’s a tropical tan.

Rip in my jeans in a place just right,
You can’t take ME down in a fight.
Badges on white leather,
Cream baseball cap,

Nano-slick with the ladies,
Now THAT is a fact.

Vespa Man’s TOP!
Vespa Man’s COOL!
Vespa Man’s HOT!
Vespa Man!

Fool.


Underground lines : Day +340

Hello again. I invented a new pastime today designed for tube journeys. For every person that sits opposite you, write a quick poem, not a twee limerick. But an honest, stream-of-consciousnees reaction to that person that you will probably never see again. Just a reflection on two lives momentarily crossing. Don’t try to be clever or force anything, just let it flow out. I include my efforts for today. I believe they have the veneer of respectable poetic lyricism but also know they are basically crap and I don’t really know what they mean. However I found it intriguing what emerged. Please guestbook in your creations:) Till the next time, follow your bliss. milt 🙂

Euston-Oxford Circus: Elderly Gentleman with Hat (70+)

So this is life, so coloured/so dull.
Into hollow’d meaning my senses lull,

Over? Is it now?
Only the clucking bell,
and menac’d sea can tell.

Oxford Circus- Stuck Train: Gay Fashion Student (22ish) and Female Friend.

Plaid. Fancy.
Though he ekes a familiar fag-hag smile we must ask,

Does gay & happy make a happy gay?
Lay swatch over swatch and compare to your father’s twisted disapproval,
Now with matching bald head glistening in desperate ease.
Make your dress, my friend. I wish you well.

Marble Arch to Notting Hill gate: Stern Japanese Lady (38ish)-

Ice.
A billion year curse places us in this knotted web.
I fold like Origami.
You continue to stare, unmoved.

Notting Hill Gate-Shepherd’s Bush:

Giggly Arabic Teenage girl gossiping inanely with her taller, thinner friend

Izzit. Innit.
Innit. Izzit.
Izzit? Innit?
Izzit? –

No.

It is Not.