Extreme Religious Beliefs?

A man was barred from entering the UK this week because he holds “extreme beliefs”. An oversimplification? Well, yes. But it is certainly interesting to look at the story of Pastor Terry Jones, the infamous Qur’an burning provocateur and his recently denied entrance to the UK, from a strictly philosophical point of view.

As I play at being Socrates, let’s begin with the facts. A Home Office spokesman said: “The government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.” So Terry Jones – incidentally, a gift of a name for satirists who can manage a Monty Python impression – is denied entrance to the UK because he is an ‘extremist’. What is an extremist? My dictionary (the Oxford English) says: “Extremist: a person who holds extreme political or religious views.” So Terry Jones was denied entry to the UK because he holds extreme political or religious views. We might ask, is it his political or religious views that have condemned him? Richard Dawkins holds extreme religious views, compared to the Archbishop of Canterbury for example, yet Dawkins is welcome in this country (as far as I’m aware…). What is ‘extreme? “Furthest from the centre or a given point” (my dictionary is working hard today), or “far from moderate”. Both of these could be true of Dawkins’ religious views. But there are no cries to deport Dawkins, so Terry Jones’ rejection can’t be simply because of his ‘extreme religious views’. Continue reading “Extreme Religious Beliefs?”

UN climate conference in Copenhagen: Yet another case for evidence based politics?

The climate conference in Copenhagen has ended with an accord brokered by President Obama between China, India, Brazil, and South Africa to do something about climate change. What that something actually is supposed to be remains to be determined as it seems. The accord is non-binding and therefore incredibly weak. World leaders, among them Ban Ki Moon, call the agreement a start and a first step in the right direction. To many people, including me, that does sound somewhat cynical. For years already we are aware that our environment is changing. Science is providing us with evidence about that fact. But Science is not giving us results to use as they are, as apparently some politicians hope. Since the science explaining climate change is so highly complex, it is not only bound to produce errors once in a while, it is also only usable to a certain degree as 100% reliable evidence for action. Continue reading “UN climate conference in Copenhagen: Yet another case for evidence based politics?”

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