Responding to Tim Ireland

Two days ago I got into a twitter conversation with Tim Ireland, better known online as @bloggerheads. Tim is widely recognised as a search engine guru, but on the side he’s not a great fan of the Conservative, and in particular Nadine Dorries MP. That’s how we got into conversation, because I supported Nadine Dorries in response to another tweeting friend, and Tim jumped in to point towards one of his blog posts as an example of Nadine’s alleged deceit. I dismissed it “as not very substantive” and, naturally, Tim requested that I flesh that out a bit. Here’s his pound…

The post that Tim pointed me to was criticising Nadine on a number of counts. I found it not very substantive on the grounds that it was full of misrepresentations, inaccuracies and plain old ad hominem. This disappointed me, because Tim is capable of so much more. Let me jump straight in to show what I’m talking about.

It’s election time, and disappointingly, David Cameron has shot out of the gates seeking to rally his right-wing Christian base with a promise to lower the abortion limit to 20 or 22 weeks.

The Conservatives had their chance to make their scientific and political case on this in 2008 and they blew it.

They not only blew the vote, they exploded a dirty great hole in the side of their shiny new facade, as the following examples will show…

David Cameron allowed Nadine Dorries to run with the ball on her 2008 ‘Alive & Kicking’ campaign, and that MP used as her ‘evidence’ several dubious claims about events she claimed to witness as a nurse, including this one repeated today by Christian Concern for our Nation (1, 2):

At the time of the 2008 vote, former nurse Nadine Dorries, now MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, told fellow MPs how she had held a foetus that gasped for breath and took seven minutes to die after a botched abortion. Ms Dorries said: ‘What I thought we were committing that day was murder.’ (source)

Nadine Dorries has a long track record of relying on apocryphal evidence to elicit an emotional response in her favour (see suicide/expenses for her most famous example to date), so I have reason to doubt this event ever really happened as described to begin with. Further, my lead example not only shows Nadine Dorries using apocryphal evidence during the abortion debate, but reveals an alarming level of ignorance about maternal medicine and basic human biology that should cast doubt on the specifics of any medical procedure Dorries claims to have witnessed:

OK, Tim opens with an argument based not on fact but on emotion. His first point is that there is a “right-wing Christian base” in the Conservative Party. I hate to break it to Tim, but such a base doesn’t exist, or at least not this side of the Atlantic. I’m on good terms with members and senior officials of two constituency parties and trust me, there are very few Christians amongst them. That’s not to say that there isn’t a healthy Conservative Christian Fellowship, but the idea that the Tory Party is still the Church of England not at prayer is ridiculous. A large majority of Conservatives are nominally Christian at best and frankly don’t darken the door of their parish church even for Christmas and Easter. Trust me, I should know – I stand at the front of church week after week and they’re not coming here.

Tim argues that Nadine’s reports of what happened while she was a nurse are “dubious” or “apocryphal”. I’m not sure what he means by that. By “dubious”, does he mean that he doubts they actually happened. Does he think that these kind of things don’t go on in hospitals? Only this week, a report in Melbourne, Australia said that some children born as late-term abortions (i.e. into the third trimester) were being left to die or even dropped in formaldehyde to kill them. At the same time, children exactly the same age were being helped to live in neo-natal wards in the same hospital. What is that about?

Dr Mark Durie, minister of St Mary’s Caulfield, said staff were finding it hard to cope with a reported six-fold increase in late-term abortions at the Women’s since abortion was decriminalised in Victoria two years ago. He said because conscientious objection by medical staff was now illegal, the hospital could employ only people who endorsed late-term abortions.

He said in one case – not at the Women’s – a trainee was deeply traumatised when she was told to drop a living foetus in a bucket of formaldehyde. Dr Durie said even in 2007, 52 babies survived late-term abortions, according to government figures. In some clinics they had simply been put on a shelf and left to die, and the public deserved to know what was happening now. He said no figures had been officially released since abortion was decriminalised. ”Because of the deep ethical conflict involved, there will be pressure to suppress the reality of what is going on,” he said. ”I’m deeply concerned for the traumatising effect it has on doctors and nurses.”

Now let’s be clear – just because this is reported by an Anglican minister doesn’t mean it can be discounted. It joins reports up and down this country of similar events like the one that Nadine Dorries experienced, where aborted children who survived the procedure (and are therefore legally born alive) are left to die. A cursory search brings us stories here, here and here, run by significant media operations in the UK. These stories are not just rumours and whispers in the wind – they are hard facts compiled and collated and presented for digestion. They cannot be dismissed as “apocryphal”, the kind of thing that gets handed down from one person to the next. They are being reported by the eye witnesses who were there at the time – they are anecdotes but anecdotes are what make up a large volume of evidence in the legal system of this country. A judge does not dismiss evidence because it is only one person’s account of the events that they saw – no (s)he admits it into the record because we accept that people reporting things they have seen and experienced (unless they are perjuring themselves) is the way we build a picture of historical events in this day and age. If Tim wants to dismiss Nadine’s account of what she saw in a delivery room on the basis that he only accepts facts produced in a laboratory then I suggest he also goes down to his local book store and destroys most of the history books there are the same time, for the reporting of events in the past is what they do as well.

If Tim wants to continue suggesting that such evidence as Nadine’s personal story is “apocryphal”, I suggest he demonstrates it to be so. A court of law would demand nothing less.

In this post on her pretend-blog during the abortion debate (and on the main campaign website) Nadine Dorries presented this image of a foetus ‘reaching’ out of the womb as evidence that life begins earlier than science says it does. When it was put to her that the attending surgeon’s version of events completely contradicted those of her witness (the photographer who describes the event as “God’s message to the world”) Dorries, in a further post laughingly titled ‘Hand of Truth’, none-too-subtly implied that the doctor changed his story because feared violent pro-choice lobbyists (!), showed complete ignorance of how pregnancy works and what a placenta does, and claimed that the “jiggered edges” of what she described as a “tear in the uterus” most likely resulted from a “hand unexpectedly thrust out”… by a 21 week old foetus.

I’ve heard some MPs talk bullshit in my time, but the idea that a 21-week-old foetus could punch its way out of the womb (with or without a starting incision) reached new heights for me.

Full post: Bloggerheads – People of Mid Bedfordshire; your MP, Nadine Dorries, is a muppet

Much of this is simply ad hominem. While I’ll agree with Tim that the design qualities of Nadine’s blog leave much to be desired, and the lack of the ability to comment means it is oh so not Web 2.0, it is hardly “pretend”. That’s the kind of language that Section 28 used to label gay relationships – “pretend families”. Nadine doesn’t pretend to write a blog, she does write one.

As to the “hand of hope” – yes it is controversial and yes, some claims are made about it that are unsubstantiated. However, the actual photographer has written his account of the events (warning – graphic pictures of surgery if you follow that link) and they are a fascinating read.

The tension could be felt in the operating room as the surgery began. A typical C-section incision was made to access the uterus, which was then lifted out and laid at the junction of the mother’s thighs. The entire procedure would take place within the uterus, and no part of the child was to breach the surgical opening. During the procedure, the position of the fetus was adjusted by gently manipulating the outside of the uterus. The entire surgical procedure on the child was completed in 1 hour and thirteen minutes. When it was over, the surgical team breathed a sigh of relief, as did I.

As a doctor asked me what speed of film I was using, out of the corner of my eye I saw the uterus shake, but no one’s hands were near it. It was shaking from within. Suddenly, an entire arm thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor’s finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! It happened so fast that the nurse standing next to me asked, “What happened?” “The child reached out,” I said. “Oh. They do that all the time,” she responded.

The surgical opening to the uterus was closed and the uterus was then put back into the mother and the C-section opening was closed.

It was ten days before I knew if the picture was even in focus. To ensure no digital manipulation of images before they see them, USA Today requires that film be submitted unprocessed. When the photo editor finally phoned me he said, “It’s the most incredible picture I’ve ever seen.”

I agree with Tim that the idea of a 21 week old child punching his way through a uteral wall is far-fetched, but if you read carefully that’s not actually what they photographer observed. He simply reports a hand thrusting out of the opening that was already present, the doctor lifting the hand and having a gentle tug of war with the baby. Nadine might be incorrect about “jagged edges”, but the photographic evidence is very clear, as the photographer himself points out.

Please study the three frames that were taken in sequence in the slide show. These frames were taken at 1/60th of a sec. as fast as my Canon 1N motor drive could shoot. The motion blur in the third frame explains what is happening. Watch Dr. Bruner’s fingers, compare the first two frames to the third frame. The doctor’s fingers are blurred because he is shaking them up and down in the third frame. The motion blur on Samuel’s hand transfers to the upper part of his wrist as he grasps the doctor’s finger. The only possibly way Samuel’s fingers are sharp, (in focus), are for Samuel to be winning in this exchange of human energy.

Notice in the third frame, the right side of the surgical opening. The edges are smooth. Now notice above Samuel’s hand. You can see the surgical edge was damaged as Samuel thrust his hand out.

The tear is very easy to see and so is the way that the incision flexes when Samuel’s hand moves. The photograph matches the eye witness report that the hand reached out to grab the surgeon’s finger. Now, elsewhere it is reported that the surgeon contradicts this account, but then that leaves us with one eye witness giving a different account to another. We are then working on the grounds of trying to decide who is nearer the truth, a matter of subjective judgement for there is no objective evidence to support that decision. We cannot reject the photographer’s account simply because we don’t like its conclusions.

It is also worth pointing out that some patients under general anaesthesia can remain awake and conscious of events around hem, and even able to respond. A fascinating article describes the medical causes of this and this one explores how some “paranormal experiences” during anaesthetic may be linked to the curious effects of the drugs used on some humans. The one thing that comes through both is that patients who are “asleep” under anaesthesia may still be capable of conscious activity. For example, I can go into my son’s bedroom while he is asleep and place my hand next to his fingers. Though he is completely in deep sleep he will still grab my finger and squeeze it. How very different is this from a child in a womb under anaesthetic responding in the manner described above? Whilst the surgeon is reported as saying that “The baby was anaesthetised”,  his follow up that “The Baby was not aware what was going on” is simply a subjective opinion, not an objective fact. There is too much evidence that shows that humans under anaesthesia can still respond to external stimuli to automatically discount the idea that the child’s hand movements were not intentional.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Tim Ireland is correct. Let’s assume, as the surgeon now claims, that the mother and child were actually both fully anaesthetised and, crucially, incapable of any conscious or reactive action at this point. That would then beg the question, why has the child been anaesthetized?  Because it feels pain is the obvious answer, but then that blows a massive hole (uterine incision?) in the argument that it is acceptable to abort children of a later age then 21 weeks in a manner that causes pain because their nervous system is not fully developed. Why anaesthetize if no pain is felt? Tim, what do you think?

One final thing at this point – when Tim writes that arguing for lowering the abortion limit using this evidence wants to suggest that “life begins earlier than science says it does”, he is himself scientifically incorrect. Any respectable doctor or biologist will tell you that “life” begins at conception. The debate in abortion is not whether human beings in the womb are alive in any sense, the debate is at what point do humans (a) become sentient, (b) develop a nervous system that means that due consideration must be taken for the affect of pain inducing procedures on the child, (c) become legally viewed as independent human beings due the same rights as other people and (d) become spiritually recognisable as a human (ensoulment). I recognise that for Tim the fourth of those points is irrelevant, but at the moment the abortion law only makes a (moral) statement on (c) (when a child legally becomes a human). Whilst (a) and (b) are factors that contribute to the discernment of (c) (and (d) in religious circles) they are not themselves given a specific answer in the abortion act.

No, the simple fact of the matter is that scientists agree that life begins at conception and certainly by the time the abortion limit is reached (24 weeks) there is no question that the child has been alive for several weeks. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

MPs really don’t like being called on this, but Nadine Dorries clearly misled the House when she made this claim:

“The public do not say that they want the limit to come down from 24 weeks; the public – including three quarters of women – say that they want 20 weeks. They specify what they want.” – Nadine Dorries (source)

“Three quarters of women” did no such thing. Nadine Dorries either completely misunderstood the data or (more likely in my experience) deliberately misrepresented it in order to give the false impression that she enjoyed a popular mandate. As the raw poll data showed, it wasn’t 75% of women specifying 20 weeks, but 15%, and then only because it was fed to them as an option. After literally inviting scrutiny of her assertions in the House, Dorries has never returned to this point.

Full post: Bloggerheads – Nadine Dorries: unbelievable

This is just semantics and Tim is making a ridiculous point. The data is from a ComRes survey in May 2008 and the data is shown below. The respondents were asked which of these upper limits they would approve for abortion.

All Male Female
Extended above 24 Weeks 3% 5% 2%
24 Weeks 32% 43% 21%
20 Weeks 11% 7% 15%
16 Weeks 13% 9% 17%
12 Weeks 21% 17% 24%
Less than 12 Weeks 10% 6% 14%
Banned 3% 3% 3%
Don’t Know 7% 10% 4%

Now, it’s clear from that there were a wide range of options presented, enough for everybody’s opinion to be accounted for fairly. Yes it’s perfectly true that only 15% of the women questioned responded with the 20 weeks answer, but it is stretching credulity as Tim suggests that all those who answered 16 weeks and below would not also support a reduction to 20 weeks. A total of 73% of female respondents obviously supported a lowering to 20 weeks, its just that some wanted it even lower.

To settle this I emailed Andy Hawkins, the boss of ComRes, the polling firm that undertook this research, and this is what he had to say.

Polling is remarkably consistent in showing that women are significantly keener than men to bring the upper limit down.  In studying our 2008 survey the most popular view among women was to bring the limit down to 12 weeks, although around three-quarters overall supported a reduction to 20 weeks or below.

That’s that settled I think, unless Tim wants to suggest that polling guru Hawkins is wrong on this front.

Recently Dorries insisted that religion should be kept out of Parliament… but only because she feared it might lead to sharia law:

While the votes may come from secular Tories, the ringleaders of any abortion-tightening attempt will be Christians. In 2008, when parliament was debating embryology, Nadine Dorries, a high-profile backbench Tory MP, led the charge against abortion – and says she is informed by her Christianity (though “if you mention God in an argument in the UK, you lose,” she says). One leading anti-abortion activist noted that behind the scenes the Christian Medical Fellowship and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship were “absolutely indispensable. They did most of the heavy lifting on research. But we could never acknowledge their role. Never. People would never take us seriously again.” (Dorries says another reason she avoids talking about faith in parliament is out of fear it will set a precedent by which Muslim MPs could express – and impose – theirs. “There is no place for sharia law in Britain and as politicians we have to be aware and vigilant to ensure that we don’t ease or facilitate its acceptance,” she says.) (source)

Obvious bias/bigotry aside, how does Nadine Dorries explain/justify her attempts to introduce into law legislation worded by Christian fundamentalists? Does she now think she was wrong* to do so, or does she think it’s OK when it’s ‘our’ fundamentalists?

This is a fundamental category error. Putting aside the continual use of “fundamentalist” as a pejorative in what Tim writes, the two issues are entirely separate. The issue around Sharia is the encompassing into British law of a fourth source of authority beyond the present ones of civil, common and canon law. By recognising Sharia as a source of law, the British State would allow authoritative judgements to be made by a judicial authority unaccountable to Parliament. For example, Islamic Sharia divorce law is dissimilar to English and Welsh common law on a number of crucial issues. There are some good summaries here and here. For example, Sharia does not recognise the right of a woman to ask for a “no fault” divorce, but a man can do so. But beyond these contradictions to English common law, there is the issue as to why the state should allow some people to have a different standard of law applied to the than others. Introducing Sharia would produce a second branch of common law in this country that would contradict in places the one established in this country for nearly 800 years. It would produce a situation where you could apply to the court of your choice for arbitration, the equivalent of picking the magistrate or judge that best suited your opinions.

The situation of lobby groups helping MPs to frame legislation is distinctly different. Here, lobbyists aim to alter the currently existing common or civil (or occasionally canon) law in a manner that would affect everybody. In practice the only objection that Tim Ireland has to the CLC and others supporting Nadine is that he doesn’t like what they propose. But that is the same with any number of lobbyists presenting any number of positions. Greenpeace versus the oil companies. Anti-Smoking campaigners versus British-American. If Tim Ireland was presenting a case to ban all lobbyists from interacting with MPs then he would have a point, but given that the issues of implementing Sharia and lobbying to work within the current legal parliamentary framework are so different, it appears to this reader at least that the simple fact of the matter is that Tim Ireland doesn’t like traditional Christianity. Now, he’s perfectly entitled to that view, but one cannot ban particular lobbyists just because you don’t like them.

As I wrote in my tweet to Tim, his criticism of Nadine Dorries has very little substance. The only point (ironically) where he is close to landing a punch is on the “hand of hope”, but even here the logical outcome of his argument is to undermine another part of his position (namely that foetuses do not feel pain so it is acceptable to abort them). Aside from this though, the piece is full of ad hominem, stretched credulity and ill-applied bias. That’s not to argue that Nadine Dorries is a saint, but it is to say that this attempt to demonise her fails miserably.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Comments on “Responding to Tim Ireland

  1. Hi Peter. Thanks for taking the time to outline your thoughts, present your arguments and open yourself to challenge. My initial response is as follows…

    Anecdotes:

    I have good reason to dismiss anecdotal evidence to begin with, but this anecdote came from a nurse who does not know what role the placenta plays in pregnancy see below) and when challenged on that chooses to say nothing, allowing a falsehood to stand (see: 'dubious', 'apocryphal'). This, quite apart from the occasions I know and can prove that Dorries has knowingly tried to use a lie for political advantage.

    Were a court to consider this anecdote this as evidence, they would also be expected to take such factors into account.

    Hand of Hope:

    Let's adopt the position for a moment that the photographer's account is the more accurate than the surgeon's (i.e. it is as you contend, with the 'torn' flesh resulting from the arm pushing out of the incision in the uterus). It would still be wrong of Dorries to contend or even speculate that the surgeon had changed his story as a result of intimidation, as his story has never changed. Further, the photographer is on record as describing it as a miracle, while Dorries attempted to present it as scientific evidence of early viability.

    A miracle is not science; a miracle, by definition, defies scientific explanation. It is not safe to let toddlers loose in the pool unsupervised because Jesus of Nazareth was witnessed walking on water, for example.

    You also ask; "That would then beg the question, why has the child been anaesthetized?"

    Like Dorries, you make the mistake of assuming it was deliberately, individually anaesthetized. It wasn't. The mother was anaesthetized, and the anaesthetic travelled via the bloodstream/placenta into the child.

    Subsequently, none of this has any bearing on the debate about when life begins.

    Stats:

    It is not semantics. Dorries clearly makes out that "three quarters of women" specified 20 weeks. Not supported or potentially supported, or broadly supported bringing the limit down, but specified. This was not the case. She misled the House, challenged people to correct her, and then did not respond to subsequent challenge(s).

    Fundamentalism:

    You immediate set out to "(put) aside the continual use of “fundamentalist” as a pejorative in what Tim writes"

    It is not pejorative, it is accurate. Andrea Williams is a fundamentalist. I don't describe her as such merely because she is a Christian (that would be pejorative/inaccurate), I describe her as a fundamentalist because she is a fundamentalist.

    I will happily return to this point and explain my position if you can accept this or successfully argue that she isn't.

    • Hi Tim,

      Let me respond point by point.

      i) Anecdotes – The point in what I was writing is that you cannot dismiss what someone says simply because it is their report of their experience rather than a double blind gold standard clinical trial. Our entire legal system and historical tradition relies on anecdote in order to make judgements.

      As regards Nadine not understanding what purpose a placenta serves, I can't see what you are criticising. Perhaps you could link to the specific piece? I am in agreement with you that it is incorrect for Nadine to suggest that Samuel's hand caused part of the tear, but that is not the same as saying that Nadine has no understanding of basic gynaecological anatomy. If Nadine's account of the hand tearing the incision was true, it would be the womb wall and not the placenta that was damaged. Indeed, it makes no sense that the incision was through the placenta – the surgeon would have sought if at all possible to prevent such an event in the first place.

      ii) Hand of Hope – Tim, when you write "if it is as you contend, with the ‘torn’ flesh resulting from the arm pushing out of the incision in the uterus" you have not read me carefully. I wrote

      [The photographer] simply reports a hand thrusting out of the opening that was already present, the doctor lifting the hand and having a gentle tug of war with the baby. Nadine might be incorrect about “jagged edges”, but the photographic evidence is very clear, as the photographer himself points out … The tear is very easy to see and so is the way that the incision flexes when Samuel’s hand moves.

      I cannot actually see the secondary tear that Nadine and the photographer refer to (I'm referring to the original incision) so I don't suggest that it happened. What I do suggest is that the hand reached out through the already present incision in the wall of the womb (which is not the same thing as the placenta) and the surgeon had a "tug-of-war" with the child.

      Yes, the photographer describes it as "a miracle" and I think that is far-fetched, but then that's because I happen to believe in miracles and they tend to be super-natural rather than natural events (which is what this was). Clearly the use of miracle is a superlative and is an ill-matched usage, but the bad use of adjectives does not and of itself invalidate the witness.

      iii) Anaesthetic – You are quite right in suggesting that the child was anaesthetised as a secondary effect of the anaesthetising of the mother. I am not in any way suggesting otherwise. However, whether the child has secondary anaesthesia or primary, it does not change the issue that despite this it may have been conscious or able to perform a subconscious reaction to the events happening around it. I am willing to concede the point that not separately anaesthetising the foetus means that it is not been deliberately prevented from feeling pain, but that it is a natural consequence of the anaesthesia of the mother. It would be interesting to hear from surgeons their opinions of the need to perform such anaesthesia were the transmission of such maternal anaesthesia to the infant somehow prevented by the placenta. Certainly, one cannot make a case that a foetus doesn't feel pain simply because surgeons choose not to anaesthetise it separately.

      iv) The problem with "fundamentalism" is that it is used continually as a pejorative in our society. What do you mean by fundamentalism? In Evangelical Christianity it means someone who holds to the fundamentals of the faith. How is that a disbar to being part of a lobby group? On that basis you should be calling for the ban of all lobbyists, because they are all fundamentalist in some sense.

      If however you want to use fundamentalism to refer to some kind of whacky beliefs then you need to be clearer what those beliefs are. I can't think of anything Nadine Dorries believes which isn't the official position of most mainstream denominations in the UK. Are you saying the Church of England is officially fundamentalist?

      Perhaps you need to define what you mean by "fundamentalist" a little better. At the moment you don't do so in your piece, and that leads me to assume you are using the term as a perjorative.

      Finally, my apologies for the delay in getting your comment published – it got stolen by Askimet. Now I've given you the seal of approval you should get through straight away next time.

      • Anecdotes:

        Any account by Dorries of any medical procedure is undermined by her declaration that the baby was separately anaesthetized (see: What a Placenta Does), and that's just one aspect that leads me to be deeply suspicious of her account and what it adds to the debate, but I'm happy to work very hard to stay on the point to keep this tidy; if Dorries does not instinctively understand that anything that enters the mother's bloodstream will also enter the bloodstream of the child/foetus, she has no business presenting herself as having any understanding of prenatal care, and her account of an abortion or any other relevant medical procedure needs to be seen in this light. I could tell you that I have witnessed hair and nails 'growing' on corpses, but it would add nothing to the debate of how long we live after we die, because what I claim to have witnessed and what really happened are going to be two very different things.

        (To be clear: at no stage was I trying to prompt any kind of discussion about making incisions in the placenta)

        Hand of Hope:

        No matter what you believe about who tore what, a miracle does not equate to science, because a miracle, by definition (its primary definition), defies rational explanation. You suggest the word 'miracle' was intended as hyperbole and sometimes Michael Clancy does speak of the event in such terms, but it is clear that he regards it to be a supernatural event; "It's God's message to the world," he says

        In any case, the person with the most relevant medical expertise who witnessed this event contradicts the account of the photographer, so even if we are to stretch the benefit of the doubt all this way, as far as then weighing it up as potential science goes, it doesn't add up to much.

        Also, you say this:

        "You are quite right in suggesting that the child was anaesthetised as a secondary effect of the anaesthetising of the mother. I am not in any way suggesting otherwise."

        But earlier you said this, where you certainly do appear to be suggesting otherwise. Specifically, you appear to be suggesting that the doctor needed/decided to dose the child independently, and that this somehow supports your argument:

        "That would then beg the question, why has the child been anaesthetized? Because it feels pain is the obvious answer, but then that blows a massive hole (uterine incision?) in the argument that it is acceptable to abort children of a later age then 21 weeks in a manner that causes pain because their nervous system is not fully developed. Why anaesthetize if no pain is felt?"

        Fundamentalism: I contend that Andrea Williams is a fundamentalist, not least because what she believes fits any reasonable person's understanding of what one is, and she agrees herself that she holds fundamentalist views:

        "Williams says that the Human Fertilisation bill is the work of the devil, because it rejects basic biblical principles. She believes that abortion should be illegal, homosexuality is sinful and the world is just 4,000 years old. Her views on other religions, particularly Islam, are so offensive they're barely printable. When I ask if it's fair to describe her views as fundamentalist she agrees unselfconsciously." http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/dispatche

        Anyone who regards the Bible to be a literal historical record is going to at least have a credibility gap when it comes to lobbying on matters of science.

        Quite aside from this, Nadine herself claims that she wants to keep religion and law some distance apart, though this could be a bigoted view that she only holds about faiths other than her own. I should stress I cannot be sure about the latter; I only know that Dorries' actions with regards to Christianity contradict her stated position on things like Sharia law.

        I was quite clear then (and will repeat now) that I do not regard Dorries herself to be a fundamentalist, but rather someone who allowed herself to be influenced by fundamentalists (while trying to hide/downplay their involvement; not an acceptable position to take in lobbying in my view, regardless of the church/state argument).

        • Anecdotes:

          Any account by Dorries of any medical procedure is undermined by her declaration that the baby was separately anaesthetized (see: What a Placenta Does), and that’s just one aspect that leads me to be deeply suspicious of her account and what it adds to the debate, but I’m happy to work very hard to stay on the point to keep this tidy; if Dorries does not instinctively understand that anything that enters the mother’s bloodstream will also enter the bloodstream of the child/foetus, she has no business presenting herself as having any understanding of prenatal care, and her account of an abortion or any other relevant medical procedure needs to be seen in this light. I could tell you that I have witnessed hair and nails ‘growing’ on corpses, but it would add nothing to the debate of how long we live after we die, because what I claim to have witnessed and what really happened are going to be two very different things.

          (To be clear: at no stage was I trying to prompt any kind of discussion about making incisions in the placenta)

          Tim,

          I think we're now confusing two events which is causing problems. We have Nadine's own account of experiencing late term abortions and the separate "hand of hope". Her misunderstanding of who was anaesthetised in the second does not necessarily invalidate her own testimony. As I've explained above in my reply, accepting that the baby is anaesthetised secondarily does not affect the argument as to whether said anaesthetised child could respond during the operation. That's not to say that Nadine was entirely correct in her understanding of the "hand of hope" surgery, but it is to say that such an incorrect view does not lead one to automatically reject her other testimony. The mistake she makes is an easy one to make.

          Hand of Hope:

          No matter what you believe about who tore what, a miracle does not equate to science, because a miracle, by definition (its primary definition), defies rational explanation. You suggest the word ‘miracle’ was intended as hyperbole and sometimes Michael Clancy does speak of the event in such terms, but it is clear that he regards it to be a supernatural event; “It’s God’s message to the world,” he says <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkoLSJMbd_k#t=1m44s” target=”_blank”>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkoLSJMbd_k#t=1m44s

          That's a really interesting video – thank you for linking to it. Clancy appears to suggest that the act of the child responding under anaesthesia was miraculous and used by God as a sign. I'd want to suggest that we have already seen that human conscious and subconscious response under anaesthesia is a widely understood concept. One might argue (as Clancy does) that God used the child in this way; he used a natural event to cause this media response. In that sense this is a miracle – not that the action itself was miraculous because it is something that we know is scientifically possible, but rather the supernatural act of God to make this natural event occur during the time it was being photographed is the "miracle".

          Of course, such a miracle couldn't be scientifically recorded or analysed by its very nature (though you could record and analyse the effect of the miracle), but that doesn't discount it.

          Also, you say this:

          “You are quite right in suggesting that the child was anaesthetised as a secondary effect of the anaesthetising of the mother. I am not in any way suggesting otherwise.”

          But earlier you said this, where you certainly do appear to be suggesting otherwise. Specifically, you appear to be suggesting that the doctor needed/decided to dose the child independently, and that this somehow supports your argument:

          “That would then beg the question, why has the child been anaesthetized? Because it feels pain is the obvious answer, but then that blows a massive hole (uterine incision?) in the argument that it is acceptable to abort children of a later age then 21 weeks in a manner that causes pain because their nervous system is not fully developed. Why anaesthetize if no pain is felt?”

          Yes, that's me conceding the point that actually the baby was not separately anaesthetised (you win!) but also stating that does not in itself allow a clear moral judgement on the *need* for anaesthesia OR the likelihood of conscious or subconscious activity under anaesthesia.

          Fundamentalism: I contend that Andrea Williams is a fundamentalist, not least because what she believes fits any reasonable person’s understanding of what one is, and she agrees herself that she holds fundamentalist views:

          “Williams says that the Human Fertilisation bill is the work of the devil, because it rejects basic biblical principles. She believes that abortion should be illegal, homosexuality is sinful and the world is just 4,000 years old. Her views on other religions, particularly Islam, are so offensive they’re barely printable. When I ask if it’s fair to describe her views as fundamentalist she agrees unselfconsciously.” <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/n…..30550.html” target=”_blank”>http://www.independent.co.uk/n…..30550.html

          Aaah, but just because someone claims to be something doesn't mean that they actually are. I could claim to be a duck, but biology tells you or me otherwise. Nadine would be a fundamentalist if she fitted the criteria for fundamentalism.

          Which are?

          Anyone who regards the Bible to be a literal historical record is going to at least have a credibility gap when it comes to lobbying on matters of science.

          Why? Because you say so? There are plenty of us who do so to a greater and lesser extent. I for one am not an ardent creationist, but I certainly have many issues with Darwinian evolution, not least the lack of a credible explanation as to how the first single cell life forms emerged. My wife who has a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford University and is one of the leading experts on certain parts of the HIV protein structure absolutely rejects evolution as a "biological nonsense" and as an unobserved phenomenon. Is she and hundreds of other PhDs mad?

          Can you honestly say that the universe was created out of nothing? What credentials do you have to support such a view? Were you there at the start?

          Sorry to be so to the point, but often those who criticise the Bible for being un-scientific can't actually point out one thing in the Scriptures which is so. Perhaps you'd be so kind?

          Quite aside from this, Nadine herself claims that she wants to keep religion and law some distance apart, though this could be a bigoted view that she only holds about faiths other than her own. I should stress I cannot be sure about the latter; I only know that Dorries’ actions with regards to Christianity contradict her stated position on things like Sharia law.

          I was quite clear then (and will repeat now) that I do not regard Dorries herself to be a fundamentalist, but rather someone who allowed herself to be influenced by fundamentalists (while trying to hide/downplay their involvement; not an acceptable position to take in lobbying in my view, regardless of the church/state argument).

          But wouldn't you expect anybody in politics to want to promote some views and not others? Why are Christian ethics and morals not acceptable? Why shouldn't there be Christian lobby groups? Why no to Christians but yes to those fundamentalist environmentalists, global warming fundamentalists, tobacco industry fundamentalists, road safety fundamentalists? You haven't answered this point.

          Your turn. :-)

          • My wife who has a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford University and is one
            "of the leading experts on certain parts of the HIV protein structure absolutely rejects evolution as a “biological nonsense” and as an unobserved phenomenon. Is she and hundreds of other PhDs mad?

            The problem with that, of course, is that it raises the question whether all those who support the consensus are mad. Claiming, as creationists do, that (say) 200 scientists have signed a document supporting creationism only raises the question of why *that* should be accorded respect but the thousands (millions?) of scientists who 'accept' evolution should not. The implication – that ten scientists who (there will be always be cranks) 'reject' evolution are worth 100 (or a thousand? or ten thousand?) Where are all the peer-reviewed (in respectable journals) articles on the merits (!) of Young Earth Creationism? Happily evolution – like all scientific theories – is falsifiable so it's curious (or not so much) that the millionaires of the creationism lobby devote their resources to pumping out quasi-religious dogma like Intelligent (!) Design, rather than, say, finding a measly ONE mammal fossil in the pre-Cambrian that would cause evolution theory to collapse…

            Peter, I think it's to your credit that you honestly self-describe as a fundamentalist rather than worrying about the negative (worldly) connotations of the word, but are you saying that fundamentalist and orthodox are essentially the same thing? Surely there must be 'open' or 'moderate' evangelicals whose ideology you wouldn't conflate with that of the liberal heretics?

            (for the record: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Chris… )

            • Nadine's account of late term abortions she claims to have witnessed are, at best, anecdotes told by a misinformed layman, and should be presented as such. I personally reject them as significant for this reason and others (an example of another that I have already mentioned; I have repeatedly watched Dorries knowingly relying on a false accounts to get her way or make her case).

              Hand of Hope is based on a highly subjective account from a lone witness, is contradicted by the surgeon, a 'miracle of timing' is really stretching things and pretty damn subjective if not speculative itself, and – regardless of all of this – Dorries was wrong to smear the surgeon and her opponents on this issue by suggesting he had changed his story in the face of intimidation, and – I cannot stress this enough – it is her use of deceit in debate that has always been the primary issue for me.

              In your post, you appeared to take the position that the doctor specifically took the time/effort to use anaesthesia on the baby, implying that this proved that he acknowledged that it would feel pain. Or am I wrong about that? I would like to be clear on the specific point you concede here.

              As for fundamentalism, you cannot suddenly move the goalposts to people who believe things to "a greater and lesser extent" and your position as "not an ardent creationist". Similarly, what you expect/project to be my position about creation is neither here nor there. Once we get into this area, we are no longer talking about fundamentalists.

              To my mind (and according to the dictionary), a Christian fundamentalist is someone who regards the Bible to be a literal historical record. Calculating the Earth to be 4,000 years old certainly fits that criteria, and Andrea Williams both confirms this belief and has no objection to the description of this type of belief as fundamentalism.

              Now, to my contention that such a person is going to lack credibility when lobbying on scientific matters, you said this in response:

              "Sorry to be so to the point, but often those who criticise the Bible for being un-scientific can't actually point out one thing in the Scriptures which is so. Perhaps you'd be so kind?"

              Joshua 10:13

              Though the moon could be described as behaving in this way, our sun, Sol, did not stop in the sky. If Sol stopped moving through space, our perception of this event would be far different from the event as described. If this miracle took place, what actually happened was that the Earth stopped turning and the moon stopped orbiting. The passage cannot be taken literally.

              Even if I am to step into your shoes long enough to adopt your position of faith; men are fallible, and for this reason alone it would be wrong to have an unfailing belief in the Bible as a literal description of our history.

              And I did not say that there shouldn't be Christian lobby groups, but I would return to the point that, like any lobby group, they should be prepared to be transparent and honest in their efforts. Dorries and Williams were not.

              You keep on trying to drag me to a place where it is my beliefs against yours; this risks misrepresenting my position. My primary objection to Dorries' conduct throughout her abortion limit campaign was her knowing use of deceit, which made a mockery of the whole debate, no matter which side you were on.

              If we are going to discuss life and death issues, let's at least do it honestly and honourably.

              • Nadine’s account of late term abortions she claims to have witnessed are, at best, anecdotes told by a misinformed layman, and should be presented as such. I personally reject them as significant for this reason and others (an example of another that I have already mentioned; I have repeatedly watched Dorries knowingly relying on a false accounts to get her way or make her case).

                I'm going to have to disagree. You may have problems with Nadine's interpretation of the "hand of hope" incident, but that does not invalidate her testimony of what she experienced as a nurse supporting late term abortions. Furthermore, her testimony of these events matches hordes of similar reports from this country and abroad (as I referred to in my post). That fact strengthens her account of watching children being left to die rather than weakening it.

                So I am happy to accept that what Nadine reports about her experiences around abortions is true. That doesn't mean that I accept other things that she has said, but then those other things were not the subject of the specific blog post of yours that this comment thread is about.

                Hand of Hope is based on a highly subjective account from a lone witness, is contradicted by the surgeon, a ‘miracle of timing’ is really stretching things and pretty damn subjective if not speculative itself, and – regardless of all of this – Dorries was wrong to smear the surgeon and her opponents on this issue by suggesting he had changed his story in the face of intimidation, and – I cannot stress this enough – it is her use of deceit in debate that has always been the primary issue for me.

                Or to view from another angle, "hand of hope" is an incident that is widely argued over. Nadine takes one side in interpreting the photos and the two contradictory eye-witness statements (though in doing so makes one specific claim about the action of Samuel's hand contributing to the tear or incision, a claim that the photographer does not himself make, or one that I can see clear evidence for) and you take another. You accuse Nadine of lying (and by implication also the photographer) to support her agenda in interpreting the events in a certain way, but one could equally suggest that the surgeon lied about what happened to protect his position. There is no way of knowing which is so (if any) bar viewing the pictures again and coming to some kind of conclusion about what we can know.

                In your post, you appeared to take the position that the doctor specifically took the time/effort to use anaesthesia on the baby, implying that this proved that he acknowledged that it would feel pain. Or am I wrong about that? I would like to be clear on the specific point you concede here.

                I am conceding the point that the anaesthesia was delivered to the child in a secondary manner through the placenta. To suggest otherwise (that it was delivered directly) is clearly medically incorrect.

                As for fundamentalism, you cannot suddenly move the goalposts to people who believe things to “a greater and lesser extent” and your position as “not an ardent creationist”. Similarly, what you expect/project to be my position about creation is neither here nor there. Once we get into this area, we are no longer talking about fundamentalists.

                To my mind (and according to the dictionary), a Christian fundamentalist is someone who regards the Bible to be a literal historical record. Calculating the Earth to be 4,000 years old certainly fits that criteria, and Andrea Williams both confirms this belief and has no objection to the description of this type of belief as fundamentalism.

                Which dictionary? It's a serious question, because different dictionaries give different definitions. For example, Wikipedia defines it as :

                a belief in a strict adherence to specific set of theological doctrines typically in reaction against what are perceived as modern heresies of secularism

                That then begs the question, which doctrines. You raise the issue of a 6,000 year old earth (which I think is what you meant when you wrote 4,000), but I know very few young earth exponents who argue for such a thing. Some argue for the age of the Earth in a matter of tens of thousands of years, so argue it is in fact billions of years old, but humans are only a few thousand years old. Or you might have those like myself (often labelled a fundamentalist and quite happy to accept such a pigeon-hole) who believe that Genesis 1-2 are poetic mythic texts and, though they might be an accurate account of creation, do not necessarily have to work theological on the basis that they are literal. Now that's an argument which I can unpack further if you want, but it probably needs another blog post.

                I consider myself a fundamentalist because I hold to the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy as outlined in the Scriptures and the Ecumenical creeds. Do I handle snakes? No. Do I believe in miraculous healing? Yes. Do I think gays are going to hell? Well, that's why I started this whole blog on the first place…

                Now, to my contention that such a person is going to lack credibility when lobbying on scientific matters, you said this in response:

                “Sorry to be so to the point, but often those who criticise the Bible for being un-scientific can’t actually point out one thing in the Scriptures which is so. Perhaps you’d be so kind?”

                Joshua 10:13

                Though the moon could be described as behaving in this way, our sun, Sol, did not stop in the sky. If Sol stopped moving through space, our perception of this event would be far different from the event as described. If this miracle took place, what actually happened was that the Earth stopped turning and the moon stopped orbiting. The passage cannot be taken literally.

                I could respond with some kind of cosmological explanation like this or a meteorological one like this, but actually there's a much better explanation which is in the text itself. The Hebrew in verse 12 literally says "Sun, over Gideon be dumb" (shmsh bnvyl dm) and then in verse 13 says "and grow dumb did sun" (wydm hshmsh) and then "moon stood" (dch ymd).

                Since the peoples of the surrounding tribes worshipped Gods of the sun and moon, Joshua is simply proclaiming the power of YHWH over those false gods. "Sun be dumb, moon be still" is a proclamation against the false gods and yes, they were dumb and still until a great victory was won. The end of the verse reads literally (from the Hebrew) – "The sun stood in the heavens and did not press to go in the complete day". I'm quite happy to accept that as indicating that the sun god didn't enter the battle (mainly because he doesn't really exist). The Hebrew "lv'" (go in) occurs through out scripture and takes a number of meanings, mainly to do with entering a circumstance (eg Gen 35:16 – "go into labour", Gen 41:54 – "famine began to come in", Jos 10:19 – just a few verses after our passage – do not let them "come in" their cities) and no where does the text explicitly say that the sun stayed still (or the moon for that matter).

                Even if I am to step into your shoes long enough to adopt your position of faith; men are fallible, and for this reason alone it would be wrong to have an unfailing belief in the Bible as a literal description of our history.

                But then, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16) so not merely the product of humans under their own steam. I have a sermon here from a year ago that examines this if you're interested.

                As for faith, well faith is not blind but rather rests hope in that which is unseen on the basis of that which has already been seen. I trust God because I have seen him at work in my life already and am happy to trust that he will do so again. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead not because I just blindly believe it but because, on examining the evidence, I find no other reasonable explanation to explain the events of the Sunday morning. Having then stepped out on the basis of that discernment, I have discovered that it is actually so.

                And I did not say that there shouldn’t be Christian lobby groups, but I would return to the point that, like any lobby group, they should be prepared to be transparent and honest in their efforts. Dorries and Williams were not.

                Well, I think they give good explanations why though don't they? To be honest, it's not as if it was a secret that the CLC were working with Dorries on drafting the necessary amendments. What Dorries intimates is that she didn't publish it here and there who was helping here, because that might have put some people off. As it was, the greatest deceit on the night of the abortion vote was not Dorries' employment of lobbyists to help her draft suitable amendments, but the shameless abuse of a free vote by the Labour whips and the Deputy leader herself, guiding Labour MPs into the "right" lobbies in order to defend the status quo.

                You keep on trying to drag me to a place where it is my beliefs against yours; this risks misrepresenting my position. My primary objection to Dorries’ conduct throughout her abortion limit campaign was her knowing use of deceit, which made a mockery of the whole debate, no matter which side you were on.

                If we are going to discuss life and death issues, let’s at least do it honestly and honourably.

                It was not my intention to drag us to such a place, and if that is the impression I gave I'm sorry. That said, once we start raising issues of theology and belief, sometimes I'm quite happy to "go in hard" and challenge assertions with a call for clear facts. And yes, I think abortion is a life and death issue – thousands of children are murdered every month in this country and the law permits it. It's shameful Tim, simply shameful.

                As regards Dorries, you may well be right that she has deceived on other matters – I cannot say as I have not examined them – but on this issue (the 2008 abortion vote) the worst we can charge her with is over enthusiasm in interpreting the "hand of hope" incident. Certainly the figures she quoted from the ComRes poll were correct (as the boss of that company himself says) and the fact that she had the aid of lobbyists to help her frame the amendments is something that goes on all the time in Parliament. I think you should consider that there are better corners to fight when criticising Dorries then the one you have chosen here.

            • The real problem is that no one can prove that evolution did or didn't take place. Macro evolution is an unobserved hypothesis and nothing short of a time machine will ever prove it. It might be a good theory, but it has plenty of problems.

              As to your pre-Cambrian fossil, such a challenge rests on the uniformitarian supposition that the Cambrian layer is defined by its age and not its location in the strata. What I mean by this is that if you approach geological strata as a record of the flood, it makes sense that the lower strata contain only small marine lifeforms, for the strata comes from the lowest reaches of the oceans.

              I don't claim to be even vaguely an expert in the field, but there are fascinating conversations on this subject as to where the strata actually come from in places like this.

              As to the last point, naturellement!

              • Peter,

                Dorries made a key assertion about a prenatal procedure that clearly showed she doesn't even know what a placenta is for.

                (You made the same error, and rested a similar assertion on it; i.e. that the doctor acknowledged the foetus could and would feel pain.)

                For this reason alone, I have cause to distrust any further assertions she might make or accounts she might share while trumpeting her status as a former nurse, as we cannot guarantee that she is giving an accurate description of the procedure she describes, or in any of the relevant detail she offers. This, quite apart from the fact that she is a proven liar (in that she has been caught repeatedly relying on emotive arguments based on what she knows to be outright lies).

                But getting on the three main points in the body of the post that you describe as less than substantive:

                The ComRes stats do not show 75% of women polled specifying a reduction to 20 weeks, as Dorries quite clearly claimed in the House.

                You accuse me of playing semantics on this quite clear matter, and then go on to play semantics on the presentation of a purported miracle ('Hand of Hope') in support of a scientific argument. And even if it happened exactly as the photographer described, the surgeon never changed his position as Dorries contends, and she is wrong to speculate about the reasons why he changed his story, not least because… he didn't change his story.

                Collins Dictionary:
                fundamentalism
                n
                1. (Christianity) the view that the Bible is literally true

                Oxford English Dictionary
                fundamentalism
                n
                a form of Protestant Christianity which upholds belief in the strict and literal interpretation of the Bible

                Andrea Williams is a fundamentalist, Dorries tried to downplay if not mask her role in writing the exact wording of the changes to legislation that she campaigned to introduce as law, and this is only one aspect of her deceit in a highly deceitful campaign.

                Williams, who is on the record as regarding the Bible to be literally true and recognising her views as fundamentalist, will lack credibility in any scientific debate. I suspect Dorries knows this (thus the effort to mask her role in the abortion campaign) though elsewhere she seeks to portray the credibility gap as a result of blind prejudice and not reason. Minus the context, obviously.

                • Dorries made a key assertion about a prenatal procedure that clearly showed she doesn’t even know what a placenta is for.

                  (You made the same error, and rested a similar assertion on it; i.e. that the doctor acknowledged the foetus could and would feel pain.)

                  For this reason alone, I have cause to distrust any further assertions she might make or accounts she might share while trumpeting her status as a former nurse, as we cannot guarantee that she is giving an accurate description of the procedure she describes, or in any of the relevant detail she offers. This, quite apart from the fact that she is a proven liar (in that she has been caught repeatedly relying on emotive arguments based on what she knows to be outright lies).

                  Right, but I quickly conceded the point to you once conferring with my wife who is much more knowledgeable about these things then I am. I'm not sure what you aim to achieve by repeating the fact that initially I got it wrong. That's almost as though you're saying, "Look, you got it wrong initially, so it doesn't matter that you corrected yourself when your error was pointed out".

                  As for Dorries, if I was being a pedant, all you have demonstrated is that she was incorrect about the specifics as to whether the foetus was separately anaesthetised or as a secondary consequence of the anaesthesia of the mother.

                  But, have spoken to a consultant gynaecologist this weekend, I now discover that even in the event of this secondary anaesthesia, there is often a great deal of work done to monitor the status of the child in as careful a manner as possible (i.e. the use of ultrasound monitoring of heart beat and blood flow). This indicates that as much care is taken to manage the anaesthesia of the child as it is the mother. It is clear from this that the surgeons do acknowledge that the child feels pains and attempt to minimise it.

                  You are quite correct that Nadine appears to misinterpret where the source of anaesthesia was from, but that is far from saying she is ignorant about the workings of the placenta. You have no evidence to support such a fact – all you have is her misinterpretation of the sources of anaesthesia in a particular individual case.

                  Such an approach wouldn't hold up in a court of law. For example, the equivalent would be for you to accuse a builder of bodging all his jobs based on the evidence of one project. A judge would throw such a claim out unless you could demonstrate repeated incidents of poor work. Now, I am happy to accept the fact that you believe that Nadine shows a pattern of such behaviour, but I was asked to comment on this specific case.

                  The ComRes stats do not show 75% of women polled specifying a reduction to 20 weeks, as Dorries quite clearly claimed in the House.

                  Yes it does. The head of ComRes, the firm that undertook the work understands it very clearly to do so. I had a career in the city working in statistics and I understand it to do so. What are your credentials for suggesting that the research does not show that 73% of women do not support a lowering of the limit to 20 weeks?

                  As the surgeon's story as regards the "hand of hope", yes, I'm happy to accept that the surgeon didn't change his story. But again, with a forensic hat on, this does not affect whether the surgeon's story is true. The photographer also didn't change his story. And all this demonstrates about Nadine is that she was mistaken (since she heard this claim from a third source). In order to prove deceit you would have to demonstrate that Nadine knew that this story was untrue and knowing so still propagated it.

                  As to the fundamentalist lobbyists, once again I'm not sure where your point is going. There are plenty of lobbyists who stay in the background and yet influence policy and legislation. Green fundamentalists, leftist fundamentalists, tobacco industry fundamentalists, blogging fundamenatists. Why are you picking on the Christians?

                  And your dictionary quote just makes my point for me. My reference (above) says something different to yours. Can I suggest that you might want to do some engagement with what the Christian community understands "fundamentalism" to be? You might start with the seminal "Fundamentalism and the Word of God" by Packer. You could get through it in an hour or so and it would give you a better understanding in what those who are happy to call themselves fundamentalists do and don't think. For example, you suggest that a fundamentalist has to hold to a literal 6 days creation (i.e. take the Bible literally). I am clearly a fundamentalist, yet I teach Genesis 1-3 as mythic texts (as does Jesus in my understanding). I see no contradiction between this and being a fundamentalist.

                  • On the placenta, you conceded the error without conceding the point. You have now moved on to an entirely different argument that you claim supports your view about foetus and its ability to feel pain.

                    An understanding of how pregnancy works is vital in anybody working in prenatal care, so if Dorries doesn't understand this vital link instinctively, I have good reason to reject any suggestion that she has any expertise in or understanding of prenatal care. This, aside from the fact that she is a proven liar.

                    The stats do not indicate what Dorries claimed they indicated, and your quote from the polling people doesn't support this either.

                    I have made it clear what I regard to be fundamentalism, I used the word not a pejorative term but as an accurate description, and I have also made it clear why I think it relevant.

                    I have no idea why you think I am picking on Christians; it was Christian fundamentalists at work in this event, and it was their claims and conduct that I documented.

                    On the matter of 'Hand of Hope' and many others, Nadine did go on to find out she was wrong and refused to retract her false assertions, so they did become lies as you say.

              • 'Macro' evolution is broadly used by creationists to mean whatever they want it to mean, c.f. the 'where are all the croco-ducks?!'' nonsense that is *still* being invoked today! Your other point is one of (many) strawmen excellent dealt with by Dawkins in his 'The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution' (it should go without saying that I disagree with Dawkins on God, but we're discussing science, not theology!) And , come on Peter, you know that theories are what science traffics in and that they are falsifiable (unlike the unscientific pseudo-dogma of Intelligent Design). Given that you've never seen a graviton or witnessed solar fusion are you willing to dismiss them as 'just' theories too? Whenever a Christian 'explores' (i.e. gets duped by the Creationist lobby's creative reimagining of terms) the issue of evolution they invariably say something like ''it's amazing that evolution is accepted in such a unscientific way!'. Quite. That being so, which of these two explanations is the more plausible:

                1) the overwhelming scientific consensus and evidence of biology, physics etc etc is in fact wrong, and most scientists are either dishonest, incompetent (or both) in claiming that evolution is a theory comparable to that explaining (e.g.) gravity or solar fusion

                2) the creationist lobby are lying

                Needless to say, you'll note that there's no peer-reviewed creationist articles in respectable scientific journals – because quasi-religious dogma is not, in fact, science. It's amusing how the 'best' creationist books are by lawyers, mathematicians etc etc – not relevant scientists – as if that's a good thing! The implication – ''Evolution Not Science, Says At Least a Dozen Non-Scientists With Degrees and Everything'' – doesn't carry the weight that creationists seem to think it does. If a musician or English major, perhaps fresh from a half-hour on wikipedia, told you that: their perspective is more elevated and honest than yours, and Statistics and Theology are bunk – wouldn't you, politely or otherwise, tell them (understandably) where to go?

                • Hi Ryan,

                  I'm not saying evolution is wrong, all I'm saying is that mutation to create a new species is a theory for which there is no direct empirical evidence. We have plenty of evidence of species creating variation within their built in genetic code (eg the moths that changed colours to adapt to industrial environments, different turtles on islands adapting to different environments) but as yet no observation of a genetic mutation that leads to a new species being evolved.

                  And you are avoiding the hard facts when claiming that its only non-scientists who promote alternatives to Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution. There are thousands of PhDs in the relevant fields who are happy to say that they doubt that evolution is a sufficiently robust explanation of how the natural order came into being. For example, the peeps behind http://www.c4id.org.uk/ are specialists in their field. That's not to say that they are right, but rather that they are not people who don't know what they're talking about.

                  And you're simply incorrect that ID papers don't get published in peer-review journals. A quick search uncovered this and I'm sure I could find more if you wanted. OF course, they're not going to get published in Nature and the like, but those are specifically evolutionary journals – but like asking me to let Colin Coward do a guest blog post!

                  • Citing the Myer paper hardly helps your case:
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sternberg_peer_review_controversy

                    Note:
                    The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories”, in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. [4]

                    Your analogy doesn’t work either. Simon Heffer is an excellent writer, but I wouldn’t expect him to be published in The Guardian, as the latter is self-declaratively left-liberal whereas Heffer, equally self-declaratively, is not, and newspapers (at least in the op-ed bits) operate along such ideological lines. But ilf you were (for example) not featured on a purportedly definitive list of ‘Prominent Writers on Twitter and the Church” because the compiler disagreed with your views on homosexuality, then I’d be one of the first to complain!

                    Respectable scientific journals do not contain Intelligent Design articles because it is a pseudo-religious document, not science. Capitulating to the ‘teach the controversy!’ lobby would be nonsensical, implying as it does that there’s any kind of equivalence between a nigh-on universally ‘accepted’ theory, with a tremendous amount of evidence to support it, and a phrenology-comparable fad.
                    The fact that (say) 40% (or 60%, or 80%) of Tea Party types don’t accept evolution is very much not the sort of issue that should concern scientific journals which ought to have standards.

                    speciation genes: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/263378
                    examples of speciation : http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html

                    • Here’s the problem with all this. For a start, none of the examples of speciation you cite are anything more than variations within the currently available gene pool of the species. Even example 2 (the fireweed) simply documents variations causing other forms of polyploid. There is no evidence currently of a significant variation caused by mutation that produces a new species of a different kind to that currently in existence.

                      That’s not to say that such evolution didn’t occur, but current examples of speciation simply do not prove it.

                      And it’s unfair to say that ID is simply a religious view and that it’s rejected on that basis. Take for example the debate over the origins of the universe. Even if you believe in the Big Bang, you still have to explain the primary cause. Did the primary singularity simply spontaneously explode or was there a divine hand in the activity? The simple fact of the matter is that BOTH theories are based on religious belief 0 the first in that there is no God, the second that there is. It is as unscientific to claim that we cannot accept the God hypothesis as it is to say that we should. If we accept the hypothesis that the Big Bang was caused by divine intervention (and we have no reason to believe an alternative hypothesis more than this hypothesis, since we are utterly uncertain about the state of the Universe before its creation), we then inhabit a Universe which could easily by intelligently designed. Not all ID proponents are anti-evolution – they simply state that random mutations could not have produced the diversity of life we see.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.