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Comments by David Blackwell

Go to: A C Grayling: Why no Asbo for the Pope?

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by David Blackwell

Thanks, AC Grayling, for this. Of course, what he says is absolutely right on, and needs to be drawn to public attention as widely as possible. And seemingly from here across the pond, thank goodness the U.K. has the Guardian and Independent newspapers.

Sun, 02 May 2010 12:26:00 UTC | #464922

Go to: Pope 'could cancel UK visit' over 'offensive' Foreign Office memo

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 188 by David Blackwell

Re 187. Comment #483813 by Hugh Caldwell:

You're kidding about Cardinal John Newman and his homosexual lover?

(Tell me you aren't.)

Mon, 26 Apr 2010 14:14:00 UTC | #463040

Go to: Pope 'could cancel UK visit' over 'offensive' Foreign Office memo

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 186 by David Blackwell

Senior papal aids suggesting that the British Foreign Office hadn't taken strong enough disciplinary action against those responsible for the offensive document in question: the mind boggles. Does this offence even begin to compare with complicity in the widespread cover-up of the sexual abuse of children? Unbelievable. (Or is it, given those involved?)

Meanwhile the British government and its officials continue their despicable snivelling vis-a-vis the Vatican. Again, again and again, why are senior Roman Catholic Church officials complicit in the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children not before a court of law?

Mon, 26 Apr 2010 14:04:00 UTC | #463037

Go to: Colombia cardinal defends church's abuse policies

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 54 by David Blackwell

If this doesn't constitute a smoking gun as regards Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger being party to the cover-up of child sexual abuse, then what would constitute it?

Mon, 26 Apr 2010 13:46:00 UTC | #463033

Go to: Christopher Hitchens: Arrest The Pope!

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 97 by David Blackwell

A further irony of this abysmal saga is that instead of the Vatican ‘fessing up to its horrific wrongdoing, it’s now appealing to, wait for it, secular (i.e. earthly) law to squirm out of things.

If the Vatican manages to evade justice by having the pope declared a head of state, one positive thing is that the public will widely view this for what it is, i.e. a guilty person who got away with being a party to a horrible crime.

Not a great tag for the Vicar of Christ on earth to have hanging from his neck over his crucifix.

Wed, 14 Apr 2010 16:28:00 UTC | #459394

Go to: AP EXCLUSIVE: Future pope stalled pedophile case

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by David Blackwell

"The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. "It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger's signature."

The Vatican's last stand, it would seem.

How pathetic. Even now they continue to attempt to cover up and lie.

Fri, 09 Apr 2010 21:14:00 UTC | #457641

Go to: Two articles - Fossil skeletons may belong to an unknown human ancestor & Yet Another 'Missing Link'

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by David Blackwell

How enormously exciting. As Richard says, this sort of stuff gives real meaning to life.

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 18:36:00 UTC | #457261

Go to: The Greatest Show on Earth – The Evidence for Evolution

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by David Blackwell

To be honest, though Richard's The Greatest Show on Earth and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True, may well, as the reviewer here says, be the best overall books on the evidence for evolution (though assumedly for a non-specialist readership), I have a strong suspicion, having purchased it for a child and looked through it, that the book Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton, drawn to attention on this site, would, because of its reading level, be understood by and "reach" many more adults than Richard's and Jerry Coyne's books would. The pity is that it's identified on the dust cover as being for children, not as for an age range that includes both children and adults, and has been published by Kids Can Press. I hugely recommend it, though. On four occasions it cites Richard appropriately, which enhances its credibility.

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 18:20:00 UTC | #457257

Go to: How can you derive an 'ought' from an 'is'?

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by David Blackwell

So well-being, whatever it means, and to whomsoever and whatsoever it applies, is a given. That evidence-based thinking and practice can help hugely and indispensably in achieving desired ends is of course true, but surely not very original to point out or continue to harp on. Or is Sam’s fervour here because he sees a lack of recognition of the value of clear thinking and science in relation to achieving desired ends? And yes, science may well help give insight into what could constitute well-being and clarify notions about it. But again, are people tending to deny this? O.K., maybe they are, and if so, Sam may indeed be justified in his fervour.

Mon, 05 Apr 2010 21:53:00 UTC | #456249

Go to: John Paul ‘ignored abuse of 2,000 boys’

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by David Blackwell

Joann Hari of the British Independent newspaper on Dateline London, BBC World Television, April 30, 2010. (I taped it.)

In 2001 then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to Roman Catholic bishops worldwide (these were Ratzinger's exact words):

"Cases of child abuse should be dealt with in the most secretive way restrained by perpetual silence and everybody is to observe the strictest secret."

As Hari pointed out, this amounts to international criminal conspiracy.

It's good that attention is now also turning to Ratzinger's predecessor, the browbeating John Paul ll.

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 21:57:00 UTC | #455907

Go to: Moral confusion in the name of 'science'

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 204 by David Blackwell

So exactly why should one do what promotes one’s own “well-being” and “human flourishing” generally—even given that notions of what constitutes well-being need elaboration and can be expected to change (perhaps dramatically?) over time? It’s something we inherently seek, seems to be the answer, even though we may be messing it up, like psychopaths do. We’re just that way. But if so, this is still an “is.” The question remains, How does an “ought” derive from this “is.”

In answer to the key question of a critic, “Why should human well-being matter to us?” Sam responds by asking, “Why should logical coherence matter to us?” Why should “historical veracity”? “Experimental evidence”? For many these may have value in and of themselves (as in the case of Richard’s often repeated respect for factuality). They can be seen as personal preferences that some people happen to have and that others don’t (or more accurately, do and don’t have to varying degrees). However, they are in addition derivatives as “oughts” from the fact of being necessary, or at least desirable, in achieving sought ends (e.g. relating to determining the details of how species evolved), i.e. have utility value. And, despite any impression Sam may be giving that things are otherwise (is he in fact saying this?), the same applies here to the oughts and ought nots of morality and ethics.

I doubt I feel any less revulsion than Sam does at, for instance, the treatment of women in many Moslem countries. However, I can’t rationally justify my “ought” that people not be treated this way, or that the consequences of such treatment in terms of “human flourishing” at a more general level, are wrong. From whatever rolls of the dice resulted in my coming to be the way I am and to have the sort of value system I do, I label (again for example) the treatment of women in many Moslem countries as wrong, and those who condone such treatment as wrong--this from what could perhaps be viewed as an expression of empathy and identification, but not an outcome of rational deduction.

Which values will ultimately prevail in the world? An empirical question. But qui sait?

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 21:54:00 UTC | #455109

Go to: Shame on the National Academy

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by David Blackwell

Re: Comment 471547 by LWS

Many thanks to LWS for drawing attention to the article on A.J. Ayer's death and resuscitation. I owe a huge debt to A.J. for helping me think far more clearly about things than almost certainly would otherwise have been the case--for me he's a main intellectual hero, turning me into what, thanks to the article, I now know goes by the name "ignostic." Richard, though likely I won't still be around at the time, please don't let us down when you are casting off this mortal coil, especially if the tape recorder is turned on!

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 17:12:00 UTC | #451867

Go to: The faith trap

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 59 by David Blackwell

Regarding Richard’s joking in relation to the late A.J. Ayer, it’s important to keep in mind, nonetheless, that Freddie and Richard are using the word “meaningless” differently. The words “God exists” may have much emotional meaning for people, i.e. they have feeling associations. However, for Ayer, the words “God exists” (and “God does not exist”), however grammatically correct, more often than not would be meaningless in the sense that they didn’t constitute a factual claim. In The God Delusion Richard treats them as being claims of fact and argues against “God’s existence” on this assumption. On balance, I’d side with Freddie on this one.

Sun, 21 Mar 2010 01:02:00 UTC | #450715

Go to: Ahern proposes Autumn referendum on blasphemy

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by David Blackwell

It's interesting, and from my perspective, to the great credit of the Irish, that some years ago they voted in a referendum to change the Irish Constitution to outlaw the death penalty. Let's hope that this time they'll be equally enlightened.

Sun, 14 Mar 2010 20:35:00 UTC | #449374

Go to: How paedophile priest was allowed to evade justice

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by David Blackwell

"Papacy on verge of crisis: Pope's brother admits to slapping choirboys, ignoring abuse at school," ran the headline of a news item I saw in a regional paper in Canada today. Here are few extracts from the the news report: "Church abuse scandals in Germany have reached the older brother [a priest] of Pope Benedict XVI and are creeping ever closer to the pontiff himself...Benedict, 82, was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982 when he was brought to the Vatican to head the body responsible for investigating abuse cases. During that time, he came under criticism for decreeing that even the most serious abuse cases must first be investigated internally...German church officials said Wednesday they will examine what--if anything--Benedict knew about abuse during his time as Munich archbishop...The Pope has been working on a letter to be read to Catholics in Ireland, where a government report detailed decades of physical and sexual abuse in church-run schools. The letter is expected to be released shortly." [It's taking him a long time to write that letter!]

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 21:33:00 UTC | #448617

Go to: A religious but not righteous Judge: Cherie Blair

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 83 by David Blackwell

Prejudice and ignorance at work here in what Mrs. Blair said? Seemingly yes. But could something else I think so far unmentioned been at work in this, something akin to that labelled political correctness? Let me put it this way: Had the jaw-breaker not been a Moslem but a fundamentalist Protestant Christian, how likely is it that Mrs. Blair would have said what she did? (Of course, as Mark Jones notes in Comment 460210, even if this was unlikely, could she actually have been referring to previous good works by the jaw-breaker explicitly associated with his religion? If so, she needs to display more professional competence and be clear about what she means?)

Thu, 11 Feb 2010 18:29:00 UTC | #440638

Go to: Hear the rumble of Christian hypocrisy

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 372 by David Blackwell

"...and I have nothing to say that makes sense of this horror." Given the mind--boggling nature of his accompanying verbiage, John Sentamu was at least right on this one.

If reports coming out of Haiti are true, it's indeed saddening how many Haitians are blaming their own "sinfulness" for the tragedy that's occurred and believing they need to "repent" and "do the will of the Lord" to prevent such tragedies. This mainly with reference to the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) and its "God."

Sat, 06 Feb 2010 22:43:00 UTC | #439295

Go to: Hear the rumble of Christian hypocrisy

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 360 by David Blackwell

In his recent and in many respects excellent book, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus (which, being intrigued by the disarray among scholars about who the historical Jesus was and wasn't, I've just read), theodicean (thanks Richard) Dale Allison argues that in face of suffering in the world the existence of an all-loving God could only make sense were there an afterlife to compensate for this suffering. Interesting reasoning, though, come to think of it, hardly novel!

Thu, 04 Feb 2010 22:34:00 UTC | #438594

Go to: If anyone's a real Christian, it's Pat Robertson

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 94 by David Blackwell

Rex Murphy seems to be getting worse with the passage of the years, in this case unctuously spouting off in Canada's neocon (and, cheers, virtually bankcrupt) newspaper The National Post. I was delighted to see Miranda Celeste Hale take him apart the way she did.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 23:21:00 UTC | #432409

Go to: ‘Aye, those be slighting words against the Lord:' Ireland's blasphemy law

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by David Blackwell

For those interested in a sharper article, also in a Canadian newspaper (and a less right wing one), here's the link:

And a printed letter of mine in response:

"Paul Schneidereit’s column on continuing medievalism in the country of my birth is right on (“Luck won’t help blasphemers in Ireland,” Jan.5, A7). And congratulations to The Chronicle Herald for again extending its vistas beyond Canada’s shores.

"An apt illustration of the hypocrisy of Ireland’s new blasphemy law has been the opposition of the Irish government to the ongoing attempts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to criminalize 'defamation of religion' worldwide.

"Here are the words spoken by Michael Martin, Irish minister of foreign affairs, at the UN, just months before Ireland’s blasphemy law was introduced: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.”

"The beliefs of atheists and agnostics are not protected by blasphemy laws. Nor should they be, any more than religious beliefs should."


Sun, 10 Jan 2010 23:34:00 UTC | #430813

Go to: Atheist Ireland Publishes 25 Blasphemous Quotes

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 77 by David Blackwell

Surely an illustration of the theatre of the absurd at its best (from Irish Atheists website):

Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.”

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 14:21:00 UTC | #427657

Go to: Whatever happened to secular democracy?

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by David Blackwell

What is happening to Australia, that seemingly bastion of the masculine cult? And I had thought things were bad enough in Canada with its current Cheney-Karl Rove-Bush Jr. government's behind-the-scenes pandering to the religious fundamentalists and evangelicals, whose support it needs to retain to become a majority government after the next election.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 16:13:00 UTC | #426448

Go to: Biocentrism Demystified: A Response to Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza's Notion of a Conscious Universe

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by David Blackwell

Apart from Lanza and Chopra whom I haven't read, Irish Bishop George Berkeley several hundred years ago made the claim esse est percipi (to be is to be perceived). I suspect he was essentially right (though completely off the mark and contradictory in using it as an argument for the existence of "God," which was his agenda). Can one say something exists, has existed, might exist, etc. if it is not at least hypothetically experienceable in one way or another? The world of experience not only referring to what we label the world outside us, but to our inner world (moods, thoughts, etc.) also. The objective world, the world "existing outside or independently of us," including the probabilities it exhibits, referring to the constants of experience. Nothing to worry about regarding the integrity of evolution. At least trying to intimate the essential case off the top of my head. I'm pretty sure I once read Russell say that when he was honest about it, he had to admit that he couldn't come up with a satisfactory answer to Berkeley. Ask what one is referring to when one says that such and such is (might be, will come about to be, etc.) an existent, and what one is actually referring to when one says that something exists when I'm not present or am not aware of its presence? What do you mean, what are you ACTUALLY REFERRING TO with your words when you say the tree made a noise when it fell and you weren't there to hear it make the noise? There are a multitude of things you could be implying, one of them being that if you had been there, you would have heard it fall; another possibly, though usually unlikely, but used as an example to illustrate, that someone else told you they'd been there and heard the tree fall, and that you had no reason to disbelieve them. Yea, strange, disturbing stuff, but it's not impossible to learn to live with it. In reality we've been doing so all along, even if not aware of it.

Tue, 15 Dec 2009 20:04:00 UTC | #423678

Go to: The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by David Blackwell

Re comment 439179 by God fearing Atheist: Yes, this is the paper Jerry Coyne referred to in his AAI 09 talk.

I'm glad to see it posted here, but sorry it wasn't more clearly written, as it seems to be potentially dynamite stuff.

Sun, 06 Dec 2009 21:12:00 UTC | #420738

Go to: Have your tax dollars helped Evangelicals set stage for gay execution bill in Uganda through Bush's ''AIDS Relief ''program?

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by David Blackwell

Good for Sweden, as is so often the case in these kinds of situations. But Rachel's mention of protest by the present Cheney-Karl Rove-Bush Jr. Canadian government--or by whoever its media manipulator may have been on this occasion--merits no feeling of reassurance.

Sun, 06 Dec 2009 20:52:00 UTC | #420733

Go to: The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by David Blackwell

I suppose the thing that renders the listing comprehensible is the recognition that poor, wretched or evil thinkers (Ratzinger, Cheney, etc.) frequently influence others more than do quality thinkers such as you-know-who. At one time Hitler would surely have been atop that list, wouldn't he?

Wed, 02 Dec 2009 20:55:00 UTC | #419591

Go to: Atheism is the new fundamentalism

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 207 by David Blackwell

In his introductory remarks, the moderator stated that more people might be viewing this debate than would have seen any other debate in history. I wonder about this given how few people who were not present voted. However, if what the moderator said has turned out to be true, this is surely an enormous feather in Richard's hat. It's questionable that such a debate would even have taken place had not Richard been making the "noise" he has in recent years.

I like to see Richard paired up with a philosopher in these sorts of events to lend a hand with epistemological subtleties and obscurantism. I wish Grayling would take elocution lessons, though. It could help increase his effectiveness. He's a smart and knowledgeable guy, with much to offer.

I felt a bit sorry for the bishop, who comes across as a decent guy. He was out of his depth, and I had the sense that, if not already there, he's teetering on the realization that his religious beliefs with which so much of his self-identity is tied up just don't hold water. I'm pretty sure he's said elsewhere that he believed in the miraculous (praeternatural) physical resurrection of Jesus. And that other guy who'd been with Britain's Daily Telegraph...nuf said.

Incidentally, how come the former Bishop of Oxford is now Lord Harries of Pentregath, and Richard, former Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, is not even a "Sir"? Needless to say, a mainly rhetorical question.

Mon, 30 Nov 2009 21:44:00 UTC | #418609

Go to: The Brothers grim

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by David Blackwell

And indeed the pope should personally apologize, as the victims' supporters are demanding that he do. Joseph Ratzinger should have been on a plane before this, Vatican documents previously requested but denied the investigators in hand, and, upon arrival in Ireland, in sackcloth, with head shaved, prostrate himself on the ground before the surviving victims and their families, begging their forgiveness.

Sun, 29 Nov 2009 21:56:00 UTC | #418110

Go to: Let's get it straight: Irish child abuse was perpetrated by the trendy, modern post-Vatican II Catholic Church

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by David Blackwell

A peek at the infamous Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. The scene is High Mass in the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, c. 1950, as depicted by a former Irish Minister of Health who crossed the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in attempting to provide free health care for mothers and their babies, and paid for it:

“The Archbishop approached in procession, with all the panoply of the church en fete: the demure child acolytes, the robed clerical students, the imposing shining gilt crucifix carried by its tall standard bearer. Scented incense rose from the gently moving thurible. Embroidered vestments glowed, bejewelled, ornate and colourful, on the supporting clergy, the distinctive insignia of office of ascending seniority and importance. They contrasted with the stark archaic chalkwhite of the formidable Dominicans and Carmelites, the reassuring benevolent brown of the Fransciscan friars. And at its heart walked the Archbishop of Dublin.

“A broad white shawl covered his frail bent shoulders, falling down on each side to cover his hands, in which he clasped the glinting gold processional monstrance. His dark eyes, glittering in a masklike face, were transfixed on the shimmering white sacred Host. He had a long, straight thin nose and a saturnine appearance, with an awesome fixity of expression, and the strong mouth of the obsessional. One shoulder was slightly raised; it was said that he had had a major surgical operation for tuberculosis (possibly a thorocoplasty). Drowsily fantasizing on the imposing and fearful procession in a mixture of dream and nightmare, I was nudged into wakefulness by L__. ‘What an impressive figure, Noel: would he not make a notable addition to the distinguished company of Spanish Inquisitors?’”

Sat, 28 Nov 2009 20:18:00 UTC | #417712

Go to: Irish Church accused of abuse cover-up

David Blackwell's Avatar Jump to comment 93 by David Blackwell

Let's keep an eye out for how serious the Irish government really is about holding accountable those responsible for these obscenities. A good test will be whether or not we see Cardinal Desmond Connell, the previous Archbishop of Dublin, in the dock. And congratulations to BBC World TV for showing mug shots of the last four of Dublin's archbishops (three of them now dead), and stating the name of each in turn, on its newscast yesterday evening. (A Nova Scotian bishop in Canada has made his first appearance in court on charges relating to child pornography.)

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 18:43:00 UTC | #417419