Archive for the ‘News and politics’ Category

Should the morals of doctors impact their patients?

October 8, 2008

Abortion bill’s rights ‘breach’

You’ll find a link to a petition at the end of this article. This is a plea to offer women in Northern Ireland the same rights available to those in the UK. If you are a UK citizen, please consider reading and signing if you agree with it.

Catholic groups in Australia have recently issue threats to withdraw their medical services, and most recently claimed a bill requiring doctors unwilling to perform abortions to refer to a doctor willing to carry out the procedure is a breach of their human rights.

Catholics have the fingers in a lot of pies around the world. They run quite a few services, such as schools an hospitals, and they receive government funding or subsidy, even if just in the form of various tax exemptions.

The question is, should a doctor be able to deny a patient treatment because their own moral compass tells them to do so? The answer to this is a firm no. The doctors aren’t being legally required to carry-out abortions, they are simply having to refer elsewhere.

Why shouldn’t we respect their moral decisions?

Actually we should. Doctors shouldn’t be the blind tools of the state, or any other organisation for that matter. This is an important principle, since to require doctors to always obey the state would be to absolve them of any personal responsibility.

What if the state passes a law requiring that all an undersirable section of society should be sterilised? Doctors are morally required to refuse to carry out such a procedure, but then it’s quite right that they expect to be dismissed from their positions. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and there’s often a sacrifice to be made.

In the same vein, doctors should not be forced to perform abortions or euthanasia, but they should expect that if the law requires them to do so, they should refuse and be fired.

Doctors offer invaluable advice to their patients, since they have a great deal of education and experience that most patients lack. Abortion is an unpleasant and mentally damaging procedure. No-one in the right mind uses abortion as a substitute for contraception, and it’s silly to claim that legalised abortion somehow makes it desirable. Legalised abortion is the lesser of two evils in many cases. Do you force a woman to carry a baby to term if it’s known that the child is going to be unable to survive outside the womb? What about the case of a rape victim? The mother and the doctor need to discuss this, with the doctor making all options available and offering expert advice, not their own superstitious beliefs. God will not punish you for having an abortion, mainly because God probably doesn’t exist.

Catholic doctors who believe that referring to another doctor for an abortion is a violation of their religion should stand by their convictions, but they should not expect to retain their job. A vegetarian couldn’t train to become a butcher, and then object to handling meat, so why should a doctor be any different?

What happens if doctors are allowed to let their morals guide their patients’ treatment?

Patients will not receive the treatment they deserve. What’s to stop a Jehovah’s witness from refusing to offer blood transfusions to patients? Could a Muslim doctor refuse to treat a female patient?

You could argue that Jehovah’s witnesses and Muslims would go ahead and treat the patient, since the general consenus in their religions may allow for that, but that’s not always true. Even within a single religion, followers do not agree on all aspects of it. Not all Catholics believe that contraception is a sin, but some do. Not all Hindus believe that dalits are entitled to fewer rights, but some do. It’s impossible to agree on the one-true rule, since religion is not a rational thing.

But patients can just go to another doctor

That’s not always possible. Consider small towns, or people who can’t afford to travel across the state or county. What do they do? The same problem is seen in Catholic-run schools. Yes parents can look for alternatives, but what do they do if the alternative is impractical?

Who should have the rights here? The teacher/doctor who is refusing to do their job due to their personal superstitions, or the student/patient who is trying to seek the services that their taxes paid for? Should a police officer chose between the law of the land, or could they decide to enforce Sharia law?

Why should religion be treated any differently?

What if I as a doctor decide one day that germ theory is blasphemy, so I stop offering treatments based on it, and I refuse to refer my patients to a doctor who is a little more sensible than I? I have no religion to back that up, but surely that’s just as valid as the stance that some Catholic doctors wish to take.

What if I don’t like asians? Should I also be free to refuse treating those soulless devils? No, my job is to provide impartial and expert services. If those services should conflict with my moral beliefs, I need to get out of the way and hand over my position to someone who is willing to do the job.

This situation is yet another example of why we shouldn’t farm out these services to religiously motivated groups, unless they can offer their services without strings attached. There should be no such thing as a Catholic hospital, it is simply a hospital.

If churches want to run schools and hospitals according to their own rules, then they should stop applying for funding and tax exemptions. Pay for it themselves, and then decide their own rules. The money could instead be given to organisations willing to offer services in a rational manner that puts the patient first.

Northern Ireland Abortion Rights


Happy Birthday to the EU, the Pope is miffed

March 29, 2007

The EU, being a secular organisation, is issuing a 50th birthday statement – failing to mention religion at all.

The Pope is unhappy.

The Pope says..

“If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify,”

So, in order to get closer to the citizens of Europe, he’s suggesting that the EU endorse one particular religion that some people in Europe believe in? Statistics in Europe tend to show a downward trend in Christianity. Although many people will mark that as their religion, few attend church, have read the Bible or even follow the most basic rules of Christianity. Ireland has a strong Catholic heritage but if I were to venture out on to the street and ask a few simple questions, I doubt I would get many correct answers.

1) Name the 12 apostles.
2) As well as Jesus, who else rose from the dead when he did?
3) Describe the beast that will be seen in the sky according to revelations?
4) What does Jesus say about paying taxes?

All of these are pretty important if you’re taking Christianity serious. Surely if you believe Jesus to be the son of God, you’d study the texts closely to ensure that you’re following his teachings correctly.

Anyway, the Pope is missing something. Was the European continent always Christian? No it certainly wasn’t. If the statement were to mention Christianity, surely it should pay homage to those fine ‘pagan’ beliefs such as the Norse gods? How about Celtic beliefs?

Christianity has been part of Europe’s history and it continues to affect Europe to this day. However, in a secular society there is no reason why the state (or the EU in this case) should endorse a particular religious belief – particularly when it’s a slap in the face of European citizens who belief in other gods, not to mention the atheists who consider all religion to be superstitious twaddle.

The Pope is perfectly entitled to his delusions, indeed he can throw himself off a bridge to see if his god intervenes if we so wishes. There is no reason we should comfort him by pandering to those delusions.

Conservapedia – I reject your reality and substitute my own

March 2, 2007

Tired of Wikipedia’s liberal bias? How about the newly launched Conservapedia. The Conservapedia complains about the liberal bias of wikipedia and to combat this they have created their own biased encyclopaedia. Interesting idea.

The site has a set of rules known as The Commandments (seriously, I’m not joking).

1. Everything you post must be true and verifiable.
2. Always cite and give credit to your sources, even if in the public domain.
3. Edits/new pages must be family-friendly, clean, concise, and without gossip or foul language.
4. When referencing dates based on the approximate birth of Jesus, give appropriate credit for the basis of the date (B.C. or A.D.). “BCE” and “CE” are unacceptable substitutes because they deny the historical basis. See CE.
5. As much as is possible, American spelling of words must be used.[1]
6. Do not post personal opinion on an encyclopedia entry. Opinions can be posted on Talk:pages or on debate or discussion pages.

Most of the Ten Commandments, sorry, The Commandments are pretty sensible. Number four is a bit strange and as you read more of the Conservapedia, you’ll see that they are absolutely obsessed with the usage of BCE and CE as being a terrible threat to Jesus.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I don’t consider Wikipedia to be perfect. I’ve personally contributed to a few articles and made some corrections. I may well have introduced errors of my own which someone else must fix. Most wikipedia articles do show a decent level of balance.

Since Conservapedia is simply a vehicle for the dissemination of extremist right-wing views, let’s start with a topic close to the conservative heart. Creationism.

Wikipedia – Creationism

You’ll notice several differences.

1) The Conservapedia version is remarkably short considering the complexity of the subject.

2) There is no criticism of Creationism, none at all. No mention of the fact that evolutionary theory, geology and physics all provide strong evidence against young earth creationism in particular. Wikipedia provides both sides.

3) A lack of references. While Wikipedia includes an impressive list of sites to visit, from both sides of the debate, Conservapedia provides five links, four of which are pro-creationism.

4) No analysis of the politics of creationism. No mention of the push to have creationism taught in US schools – a deliberate attempt to breach the separation of church and state.

The Conservapedia is going to achieve what it set out to do. It will provide a warm and fuzzy feeling for the fundamentalists who feel that their way of life is being threatened by the liberal conspiracy.

It is true that bias exists in the media but this ‘liberal conspiracy’ simply doesn’t exist. Couid anyone honestly claim that the Guardian and Fox News are pursuing the same agenda?

The reason why there appears to be a liberal bias is because the fundamentalists see their cherished yet irrational and dangerous beliefs being challenged by cold facts and this scares them. When a magazine prints an article about evolution, a theory that is almost universally accepted and proven within the scientific community, it is seen as an attack on their sky god. The conservative Christians will come out in their droves to denounce this shameless un-American atheism.

Conservapedia is aimed at conservatives, with an emphasis on the millions of children who are being home-schooled. I pity these poor sods and moments like this make me understand why Richard Dawkins considers the indoctrination of children to be a form of child abuse. If the deliberate stunting of the intellectual of children and the perpetuation of bronze-age myths as fact isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is.

For further reading, I suggest you visit the following Conservapedia links. Compare them to their counterparts on Wikipedia and note the Conservapedia’s abuse of hearsay, selective evidence and the assumption that the Christian God of The American People is the one true god.

CE (Enjoy the paranoia)

My apologies to Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame for abusing his quote in the title of this post.

Protecting religious views

February 5, 2007

Normally I tend to believe that religious symbols have no place in schools but here is a cause worth fighting for.

Gillard’s diver

This concerns the tale of a classroom assistant who was given a terrible decision to make. Either he abandons his heart-felt religious convictions or he loses his job.

As a staunch member of The Fraternity of Neptune, he must wear full diving gear and oppose the heretical notion of fishing. Just as Christians leaders in the UK are currently fighting hard for their right to consider gays to be abominations, he cannot in good conscience participate in a classroom containing children of fishing families.

As Ruth Kelly, the staunch Catholic and government minister for Women and Equality, is arguing that Catholics should be allowed to send gays to the back of the bus, I hope she intervenes on behalf of this man.

What kind of society are we living in that allows such terrible discrimination to continue? I personally lost my job as a teacher when I refused to teach Dalits. I mean, how can I teach them when there is a serious danger of their shadows falling on and contaminating me?

Well, I wasn’t really a teacher but it was a very vivid dream.

Randi makes a psychic squirm

January 27, 2007

In politics, there is an art in answering questions. When it’s a simple yes or no, there are some great steps you can take to blur the issue. See this wonderful Paxman interview for a quick lesson in evasion.

Redirection is a good step. Introduce new elements to the conversation, even if they are not relevant to the topic (the chewbacca defence). Try to redirect the conversation by asking a question instead of asking the one posed to you. Lying is a good one, dispute the facts that have been put to you. If the other person tries to prove you wrong, simply move on to a new subject. You don’t have to a politician to do this, you simply have to be someone who either knows they are wrong or someone who is unaware that they are wrong and cannot accept this to be the case. Randi has posted his recent Larry King Live appearance on his site. Following on from the recent Silvia Browne debacle, he is a guest on the show along with Rosmarie Altea, self-proclaimed psychic. Click here to view the videos.

Watch as she evades his questions regarding the million dollar challenge, she can’t give a simple yes or no answer. Randi’s face is a picture when she begins to advise scepticism when working with psychics. Kind of like an alcoholic advising people on how to drink moderately.

Accusing children of witchcraft

January 27, 2007

Why would we need a law specifically making it illegal to demonise a child, i.e. accuse them of witchcraft? Seems like a silly idea for a law, kind of like having a law that specifically makes it illegal to kill John on Tuesday.

Who would be mental enough to accuse a child of being a witch? Pastor Dieudonne Tukala would, according to this article article.

The good pastor came to join us from Africa, where the absurdity of Islam and Christianity are multiplied to the power of buffoon. When he came, be brought some habits of the old country with him. A BBC investigation linked him to a case where a father branded his son with a steam iron because he believed him to be a witch. He is reported as telling parents to send their children to Africa so he can pray for them to die.

Police were unable to prosecute because there’s no law against accusing children of being witches and then praying for them to die. Arguably the pastor should be taken care of using the Mental Health Act.

Perhaps the pastor will petition Ruth Kelly to be exempted from laws forbidding murder? After all, we can’t allow the right to superstition and violence to be trampled by human rights.

Scarlett Johansson. Harlot or role-model?

January 25, 2007

Alive, the Catholic newspaper has arrived on my door step. On the front page they have a picture of Scarlett Johansson, the popular actress. Under the photo, they ask the question Why is she tested for HIV twice a year.

Some people, myself included, applaud someone in the public eye who is drawing attention to responsible behaviour. Remember that HIV doesn’t just affect people who sleep with a new partner every week. You could sleep with someone without realising they have been infected through any one of many routes. A bad blood transfusion or poor sterilisation of medical implements is one example.

Alive doesn’t seem to share this view. They follow the Catholic Church line. Alicve says

Attractive she may be, but it’s doubtful if guys would see a woman with whom they could easily get AIDS as “sexy”.

They are careful to avoid making allegations about her sexual conduct but they seem to be suggesting that she is quite immoral. While criticising her and Siobhan O’Connor, of the Sunday Independent, they ask for people to avoid risky behaviour in the first place, “after all, we are talking about free people, not dogs in heat.”

You see the implied meaning there? Since Alive is conservative Catholic newspaper, I’m assuming that they are suggesting we follow the guidance of the church. i.e. no funny business until you’re married. Which is more sensible?

1) Someone who has a regular AIDs test, tries to be monogamous in a realistic way?

2) No sex until you’re married.

The second is obviously not workable. If there are any Catholics who can meet the following conditions, please post a comment here.

1) You never had sex before marriage
2) Your spouse also never had sex before marriage

I’m not expecting many comments here but I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised. I also invite Catholics who fail at least one of the above conditions to post here.

If you are one of those who fail at least one of the above, how do you feel about AIDs testing. Don’t you agree that it’s a sensible precaution if you or your spouse slept with someone else before they met you? How do you know the person they slept with doesn’t have AIDS?

Is Scarlett’s testing a sensible precaution or is she “far from the kind of example that young women need today”, as Alive thinks.

Three cheers for Lord Falconer

January 23, 2007

Three cheers for Lord Falconer. In the recent battle over equal rights in the UK, he’s shot down the requests from Ruth Kelly to allow Catholics to discriminate against gays. Ruth Kelly may or may not be biased in this request. She is not just a Catholic, she is a ‘super Catholic’ as a member of Opus Dei. Putting her in charge of ensuring equality under the law is like placing Michael Dell in charge of deciding whether or not the government should use Dell computers.

I’m hoping this law and the resistance to exemptions is a turning point for equality in the UK. Catholic organisations have argued that they will shut their orphanages and other ‘charitable’ ventures rather then stop discriminating. This is an excuse for the exemption that has been used by Kelly. If the Catholic Church is allowed such an exemption, I wonder what happens if the a racist group were to found a church open splendid orphanages that refuse to take black babies for ideological reasons?

I’m sure the BNP could use the same excuse that Cardinal Murphy O’Connor used in his letter to Downing Street.

“act against the teaching of the church and their own consciences”

Imagine the storm as Bishop Dave of the Church of The One Pure Race congratulates the government on allowing them to keep their “no blacks, no Irish and no Jews” policy in their orphanages.

Tony Blair could re-use the statement he’s made regarding the Catholic Church.

“The key thing we have to remember in all of this is the interests of the children concerned and that there are arguments on both sides.

Oh but we can’t complain since they do such wonderful work for white kids, well, white kids who come from good aryan stock. Arguments on both sides my arse. These people can’t be allowed to claim to be doing charitable work while blatantly violating rationality and human rights on the other. Better to stop giving money and tax-breaks to the church, just allow the state or secular organisations to take the money instead.

Psychics are harmless?

January 21, 2007

It doesn’t seem very harmless to tell a couple that their abducted child is dead, only for the child to be found safe.

I doubt it would happen but I’d hope that the parents are able and willing to sue Syvlia Browne for the distress caused, not to mention the time wasted searching the area where she said the body would be found. The parents must have been desperate to go on Montel’s show too seek the advice of this self-proclaimed psychic.

This isn’t the first time she has been dramatically and disturbingly wrong. The Stop Silvia Browne web site has a pretty decent record of her antics.

Stop Syvlia Browne

Randi changes the rules

January 21, 2007

The James Randi Education Foundation, famous for it’s million dollar challenge, is changing the rules for the challenge.

The proposed changes are sensible. First of all, they are making applications a bit more exclusive. Under the current rules, any crank can enter. In the vast majority of cases, these cranks would drop out after wasting the a lot of time.

People applying for the challenge will need to already have a media presence. Appearing in a national newspaper or a television chat show would cover this. This rule keeps the lone cranks out of the picture.

The foundation appears to be planning a serious offensive against the frauds and charlatans who make a comfortable if dishonest living. They will issue public challenges to prominent self-proclaimed ‘psychics’. It should be good, I like to see people like Silvia Browne squirm in the spotlight.