Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Thing in TJ's Brain Part 4: Third Time Lucky?

My birthday came up, but two days before hand, I received another call from the hospital.

“I’m very sorry Mr. Jones, but we’re going to have to cancel your appointment.”

“This is the second time it’s been cancelled.”

“Oh, I am sorry. You’ll receive a new date shortly.”

“Oh, but-“




At least they’d given me a little more notice (48 hours rather than 24), and as an upside, I got to open my presents on time, and we went out for a meal and saw a film in the evening, which was nice.

More depreparation at work, more emails sent out to cancel the emails I’d already sent, uncancelling the cancelled emails I’d emailed before.

A couple of days later, I got a date, only a couple of week down the line. However, I did have to go back in for another pre-assessment, since the previous one was now too previous. Another trip down into London, and again I was presented with the enormous cotton wool buds and made to swab my nose and groin. Another trip down to the haemomancy department to be stabbed and drained of a hand’s worth of blood or so. I will say though that the vein-stabber was one of the most skilled I’ve yet encountered, and the insertion of the pipe into my vein was little more than a slight pinprick.

Happily they didn’t feel the need to repeat my errant tectonics, so I was able to escape relatively quickly.

At the time of writing, I am due in tomorrow, and they have not recancelled the uncancelled cancelled cancellation that I had to cancel due to the cancellation of my cancelled operation.

I have a checklist of things I need to remember to do:

  • Ask the person fitting the spine drain if they’re a lumbar jack.
  • Upon waking up post-op, ask if the brain tumour has been successfully removed. When told yes, say, ‘Well that’s a weight off my mind.
  • Upon my first encounter with the consultant after the operation, say ‘Don’t take this the wrong way Doc, but you really get up my nose’.
  • Say, ‘Well it’s not exactly brain surgery is it?’ every single time they tell me something about my operation. They probably won’t have heard this before, and it will no doubt amuse them greatly, and endear me to them, guaranteeing excellent treatment, swift recovery and speedy escape from the hospital.

So, it’s (currently…) on for tomorrow. Wish me luck, and I’ll file a report once I’m feeling up to it.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

False Science and False Religion

One of the frequent attacks made against religion as a whole is that it is essentially just a scam run by manipulative fraudsters to cow the great gullible unwashed into obedience, and to give the fraudsters (i.e. priests) power and wealth in exchange for promises of pie in the sky. A quote from Mark Twain is frequently trotted out; ‘Religion was born when the first conman met the first fool.’

It is, unsurprisingly, an assertion that I do not agree with. However, a story on the BBC website this week made me sigh, because it appeared to bolster this assertion. It regards the church in Nigeria, and the fact that certain clergy are trying to enforce the (shaky) biblical injunction that all believers should tithe at least ten percent of their earnings to the church. In a country as poor as Nigeria, many of these clergy seem to be very (perhaps even suspiciously) well off indeed, with personal fortunes well into the millions of pounds.

The story quotes one of them as saying "Anyone who is not paying his tithe is not going to heaven, full stop." This makes me incredibly angry. Not only because it is appallingly untrue, is a disgusting theology and flies utterly in the face of the teachings of Christ, but because, as I said, it seems to be confirming all the worst assumptions and assertions of the angry online anti-theists. It is abundantly clear that these preachers are little more than conmen using religion as a scam to make themselves rich, and in the process driving a great many people away from God. Honest, sincere clergy end up tarred with the same brush due to the crimes of these frauds.

However, it also made me think. It’s true that these ‘preachers’ are no more than conmen, but they are nonetheless used as an admittedly unusually stark example of what religion ‘really’ is.

Doing so though is surely something of a double standard. The problem is that you can apply this argument to science too. These preachers, and their counterparts across the world, demanding that their followers send money to assure their salvation, are merely the theological equivalent of the stereotypical snake-oil salesman. Dr Andrew Wakefield was an accredited medical researcher, until he was found guilty of deliberately falsifying information on the safety of vaccines in order to make considerable personal profit.

As a result, a great many people around the world now erroneously believe that vaccines are linked to autism. Most avowed atheists tend to be very scientifically-minded, and rail against disbelieving the vast majority of modern science and medicine due to a few fraudulent assertions by a now disgraced scientist. Similarly, they’ll argue against ‘scientists’ funded by oil companies whose researches seem to show that climate change isn’t happening, in the face of the vast weight of scientific evidence. For some reason though, they don’t seem to realise that they’re doing exactly the same thing with regards to Christianity. They are taking manipulative frauds as being representative, rather than realising that they are, or ought to be, a disgraced minority.

Now, it’s very true that not all wealthy churches and clergy are conmen or grasping, greedy manipulators. Many have quite rightly pointed out the vast wealth of the Catholic Church, and the Church of England, and I am in total agreement with them. I see very little of the teachings of Christ in the gold and marble of the Vatican. Being neither an Anglican nor a Catholic, I don’t feel I need to work too hard to defend these, and certainly historically, the Catholic Church had become corrupt and money-driven. It’s largely what sparked the Reformation after all.

Sellers of fake medicine do not disprove the validity of the scientific method. To suggest that they do is obviously ridiculous. Sellers of false theology do not disprove the existence of God or the teaching of Christ. Apparently this is less obviously ridiculous for some reason. I’ll end with a slight mis-quote from G. K. Chesterton on exactly this when discussing miracles. “I hope we may dismiss the argument against wonders attempted in the mere recapitulation of frauds, of swindling mediums or trick miracles. That is not an argument at all, good or bad. A false miracle disproves the reality of miracles exactly as much as a forged banknote disproves the existence of the Bank of England- if anything, it proves its existence.”