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Robert Firth's Profile

Robert Firth's Avatar Joined about 3 years ago
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Go to: An Asian Origin for Human Ancestors?

Robert Firth's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Robert Firth

"Petite primates" from Myanmar? I could have told you that - we get about 20 or 30 every year joining our diploma course.

Seriously, though - a great find. Makes one wonder just how hard or easy long-distance migrations were back then.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 00:11:03 UTC | #945612

Go to: Stop female genital mutilation in the UK! - Avaaz.org petition

Robert Firth's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Robert Firth

If this petition were to stop infant and child genital mutilation, I would sign it in a heartbeat. But a petition that ignores 95% of the victims of this barbaric practice is one that I will not sign. First, because it is sexist and morally wrong. Secondly, because it denies or diminishes the suffering of half of humanity. And finally, because it will be almost completely counterproductive: it will only confirm among the practitioners of FGM the disgusting hypocrisy of us Westerners, who condemn them for doing to girls what we routinely do to boys.

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 03:52:14 UTC | #945390

Go to: Robert Wright promotes accommodationism, disses Dawkins

Robert Firth's Avatar Jump to comment 84 by Robert Firth

Please allow me to add a little personal experience, as a religious skeptic. I have often "ridiculed" religious beliefs, but whenever possible in a light or humerous manner. Two examples: when talking with a believer in Noah's Ark, I sometimes ask "How did Noah find a pair of kangaroos?" This doesn't cause offense. And, when a (devout?) Catholic asserted that "Jesus' material body was inherited entirely from the Virgin Mary", my response was, as you might expect, "Where did his Y chromosome come from?"

A mild mockery of absurd beliefs, in my experience, rarely causes offense. Where I have really got into trouble, though, is attacking beliefs that I consider not absurd, but evil.

"Telling children they will go to Hell is simply child abuse" - Howls of outrage.

"Saying you won't go to Heaven if you're not married is a wicked doctrine" - Mormon blowback.

And the absolute worst? "Genitally mutilating baby boys is a filthy barbarism" - wow, the heavens opened and I was buried under a mountain of rocks.

In sum - the religious are far, far more sensitive to the evils they believe, and have far stronger emotional defences against contemplating them dispassionately. Which I find sad, and indeed discouraging.

Sat, 31 Mar 2012 07:09:00 UTC | #931498

Go to: Russel Blackford reviews Attack of the Theocrats

Robert Firth's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by Robert Firth

Really good, thought-provoking article and dialogue, folks: many thanks.

And now my take. I'm most unhappy with the phrase "state and superstition". By all means, refer to "reason and superstition", but the former -phrase implies that the "state" is free from superstition, which it emphatically is not. History is full of secular superstitions, from "Manifest Destiny" to the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat", to "Ein Volk, ..."

Please do not clear away the theocrats simply to make room for the secular fanatics.

Sat, 31 Mar 2012 06:21:19 UTC | #931496

Go to: Before Wolves May Be Hunted, Science, Faith and Politics Clash

Robert Firth's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Robert Firth

I would support allowing anyone to hunt wolves, subject only to two simple conditions. First, they can only use a weapon they have made themselves, and second, the weapon must rely only on individual muscle power.

Or maybe a third: I get to bet on the wolf.

Wed, 14 Mar 2012 05:47:38 UTC | #926839

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