Covid+Science

Science created Covid-19. Or at least scientists did. The evidence is conclusive, being laid out in Failures Of State published in April 2021 by investigative journalists Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott. In short, the virus was first detected about ten years ago in caves in south China after it had killed several miners. Scientists from Wuhan collected samples of the virus from bat guano in the caves. They returned to their lab where, after an initial investigation, they froze the virus until 2019 when they revived it and began experimenting on it, ostensibly to develop a vaccine effective against SARS-CoV2 viruses. They undoubtedly altered the virus at this point, adding the element that has been recognised as being engineered. They also allowed it to escape. This was probably not intentional; pathogens regularly escape from laboratories all around the world. We now know this is the most likely scenario for the origin of Covid-19.

Science propelled us into lockdowns and restrictions. Strictly speaking, the worst case predictions of scientific modellers propelled the world’s politicians into panic mode and, in consequence, populations into lockdowns. Whether data analysis, number crunching and computer projections can be properly defined as science is a moot point, but those involved in this work regard it as such, as do the politicians who act on modellers’ advice. They have been wrong more than they have been right.

Science is helping us out of the pandemic. The vaccine has reduced the number of cases of Covid and its variants. It is not as effective as was originally predicted, three inoculations providing only about five months’ protection. We can only hope that this is sufficient to get us though the next few weeks by which time it may be that the virus will have run its course. We know from previous pandemics that they last about two to three years, after which they become endemic (though naturally scientists are arguing about the meaning of this term). In other words, we will to have to learn to live with a (hopefully) weakened virus.

We must also be more cautious about science and scientists. Science is a tool that humans use to understand the world. It is a good tool, but it is only as reliable as those who use it; scientists who, like all other humans, make mistakes (lab leaks), have biases (towards worst case scenarios) and agendas (predictions of doom, profit, panaceas.) Science sits uneasily on a pedestal.

 

Omicron+Insanity

Who was it who said,Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’? We don’t actually know. It’s often attributed to Einstein but it almost certainly isn’t, its first recorded use appearing in 1981, 26 years after Einstein died. Whoever it was though talked a lot of sense, as well as contributing a memorable meme to the world.

If only those who presently control our lives would heed it. They wouldn’t then be re-introducing the same restrictions they tried in 2020 and again in 2021 to prevent the spread of Covid. In the UK, the government has just announced that when secondary students return to school today they must wear face masks all the time, because obviously this stopped Covid infections last time round and will do so again. Except it didn’t stop them last time. If face masks worked, we wouldn’t now be in the position we are, with the rapid spread of the ultra-infectious Omicron variant. Face coverings did not prevent or even slow the spread of the original virus, nor the Delta variant; they are certainly not going to have any effect against Omicron. We know this from the countries that have had strict mask mandates in place for the last year. France has twice had almost as many infections in one day as England has had in total. The rest of the European Union has as many or more cases of Omicron than England, when England hasn’t, for the most part, forced its populace to wear face coverings. It makes no sense to impose them now on English school children. The government’s own Education Select Committee has ‘concerns’ about the measure. My sister and mother are conscientious mask wearers, yet during the holidays both have had heavy colds. Their masks did not prevent them from contracting a cold virus, quite possibly a Coronavirus (20% of colds are caused by Coronaviruses, the rest by other viruses.)

Non-pharmaceutical measures do not appear to prevent Covid infections; masks are of limited effectiveness and lockdowns merely defer the problem. Only vaccines reduce the virus’s potency and, even then, not for as long as we originally hoped. (Get the booster!) We have to learn to live with it, as we do with colds, flu and pneumonia. It is estimated that around 25,000 people a year die of flu in England and Wales, year on year. Over the last decade alone this adds up to far more deaths from flu (250,000) than deaths from Covid-19 in the last 2+ years (a contested 136,000), and far fewer than will die of the milder Omicron.

Yet we do not lockdown or wear masks because of flu. Of course the numbers for the milder Omicron are more concentrated and the fear is that cases will overwhelm health services (the same services successive governments have failed to reform.) However, according to the BMJ, 84% of hospitalisations are of the unvaccinated. If anyone is overwhelming the NHS it is people who have chosen not to have the vaccine; it is not reasonable that as a consequence, those who are vaccinated or who like, school children, are less susceptible to the virus, must have restrictions placed on them.

Of course the vulnerable and elderly must be able to isolate themselves and anyone should be free to wear face coverings if it makes them feel more comfortable. The rest of us must learn to get on with our lives alongside Covid-19 and its variants, just as we do with other respiratory diseases. They’re part of being human, after all. It is futile making us adopt the same measures that failed last time and the time before that and the time before that.

Insanity indeed.

Oh my Cron! It’s Omicron!

NHS advert - All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for ten dates regardless of their vaccination status

All contacts of suspected Omicron cases? They don’t have to be confirmed now? We are sleep walking into a police state.

How severe are the symptoms from the new Covid variant, Omicron? According to the doctor who first detected it in South Africa, its symptoms are ‘extremely mild’. She accuses the UK – and now, by extension, much of the rest of the world – of ‘panicking unnecessarily.’

At the time of writing, fourteen cases of the new variant have been detected in the UK out of population of 64 million. As a result of just three of these, England has been returned to mandatory mask wearing by a prime minster and health secretary, Sajid Javid. The pair promised back in July that the lifting of restrictions would be ‘irreversible’. There were no provisos on this promise – no ‘unless another variant appears’ get-out clause. We were fools for believing them, this government of panickers, flounderers and trashers of civil liberties.

This time round Boris Johnson is imposing mask wearing while travelling on public transport, in hairdressers and shops and in a variety of other locales. The virus, however, is apparently unable to penetrate restaurants, pubs, cafes, cinemas and theatres so mask wearing is not required there. And quite rightly too. It should not be mandatory anywhere. Politicians and the scientists who advise them are well aware of the extremely limited way that masks protect others from the droplets in your breath.

A doctor explores the efficacy of masks.

Yet still they impose such a mandate, this time with a £200 fine for the first ‘offence’ of failing to wear a mask in the specified locations. If masks were effective, then Scotland, which unlike England did not dispense with them back in the summer, would have fewer cases of Covid than England. In fact, it has considerably more. Likewise Germany, which imposed the compulsory wearing of high standard FFP-2 surgical masks back in January. Meanwhile mask-free England (free that is until yesterday) has seen cases and hospitalisations falling.

Whenever I write about the pandemic – which some scientists now regard as coming to an end, despite the predictable winter increase in cases – I receive fewer likes than when I write about Christianity. That may be because I address the Covid situation primarily as it affects the UK. But it might also be because I question the received narrative; that we must panic, must wear masks to protect ourselves and others, must protect the health service that exists in reality to protect us. I’m no conspiracy theorist; as I’ve explained before, incompetence more readily explains governments’ actions this past two years. Crediting them with the intelligence and deviousness necessary to perpetrate a worldwide conspiracy is truly beyond them. But it is nonetheless alarming to see the extent to which they have deprived us of our civil liberties. Overnight, we can be imprisoned in our own homes if we are in contact with someone who suspects they may have Omicron and fined if we don’t, while not wearing a mask has become a crime. The police, having nothing better to do, say they will be hanging around England’s transport hubs and shopping centres to challenge and fine those not wearing face coverings.

Further indication that politicians really do not know what they are doing comes from their making available the booster vaccination to all over 18 year olds a mere three months after their second shot. Boris Johnson said yesterday that the booster will, while the second vaccination is supposedly still offering its own protection, ‘undoubtedly’ save them from Omicron (with its very mild symptoms).

Do we know this? We do not. Vaccine producers have begun tests to see if it so. Injecting all and sundry is merely more panic, not to mention a political ploy to make us think they’re actually doing something. They aren’t. Why are politicians surprised that the populace has lost all faith in them, does not believe a word they say and, when it’s not engaging in government and media induced panic, is ignoring their ever conflicting messages, empty rhetoric and false promises?

I have had my three shots, plus one for flu. The vaccine is demonstrably the most effective way of minimising Covid and the variants that have appeared so far. It may well be the only way. Nothing else we have done has held back the virus. Scotland now has what appears to be a home-grown version of Omicron, not one that came from outside the country (those masks really worked!) and even those countries that have undergone extreme lockdowns discover it’s among them once they re-open: Omicron has been found in the perpetually locked down Australia. Variants will be around for a long time to come. Governments cannot continue to impose sanctions every time a new one emerges. If they do, they and we will be playing this ridiculous circle game forever.

Facts & Figures

The average age of death in the UK is around 82.

The average age of vaccinated people dying from Covid-19 is 85.

Most Covid deaths are of people with five other underlying causes.

The majority of hospitalisations are of unvaccinated people.

The majority of people in Intensive Care Units are unvaccinated.

The statistics tell us Covid cases are on the increase in the UK. These scientists tell us they are about to decrease.

NHS executives Matthew Taylor and Amanda Pritchard argued last week that the government should impose restrictions on the populace to ‘protect the NHS’. These are the same executives who have done nothing since last winter to better prepare the service for this winter.

Taylor and Pritchard are paid in the region of £255,000. Regional NHS executive posts are advertised with salaries of between £220,000 to £270,000 a year.

The restrictive measures that executives want to bring in for England are already in place in Scotland and Wales. Covid rates in Scotland and Wales are increasing at a greater rate than in England.

Health Secretary, Sajid Javid said this week that the Booster programme in the UK had slowed due to a reluctance on the part of those eligible – the over-65s whose second shot was 6 months ago – to have the booster. They should, he said, book their booster on the NHS online booking system.

Many of those eligible report that the online booking system will not allow them to book a booster shot online. The online system refers them to an NHS telephone booking system. The telephone booking system refers them to the online booking system.

 

Why I’m not watching the News any more

I’ve reached the point where I can’t watch or read mainstream news reports. I’ve had difficulty with them throughout the pandemic with their incessant reporting of Covid cases and deaths completely devoid of context (how many cases were serious enough to cause hospitalisations? How many deaths were ‘of’ Covid rather than ‘with’ it? How many of the deaths were excess deaths; how many people die in any given period normally?) Ignoring context, the media became intent on fostering anxiety and panic. Their reporting was not independent; in the UK at least they parroted uncritically and relentlessly the government’s position. This, in turn, was shaped by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and in particular the predictions of computer modeller Neil Ferguson. Ferguson, regularly interviewed on BBC news programmes, was, as he now admits, wrong on every occasion. Very wrong. The pandemic was nowhere near as drastic as he repeatedly said it was going to be (I’m not disputing how serious it was. It was not, however, anywhere as near as bad as he kept predicting it would be). Yet the government and the media continued to rely on his predictions as if they were fact.

All of which is the reason I reduced my watching, listening and reading of the news to a minimum. Headlines only. Early in the summer of this year, the UK government felt the need to restore some normality to society, it asked the mainstream media to reduce its reporting of Covid statistics. All media outlets immediately complied. Conservatives can never say again that the BBC in particular is biased against them; it has done their bidding throughout the pandemic.

This is not, however, the reason I am abandoning the news, giving up even on headlines. I am tired of predictions, conjecture, speculation, forecasts and extrapolation. None of these is news. They are attempts to see the future, something that we are incapable of doing. Of course we need to be aware of potential consequences of decisions or actions, our own, governments’ and society’s. But reporting those possible consequences as fact, as outcomes that are inevitable, fait accompli, like Neil Ferguson’s hopeless predictions, is not what news reporting should be about. Its job is to tell us what has happened, how, where and possibly why (analysis). That it extends itself well beyond this by determining for us what a particular development means ‘for the future’ or ‘’in the long term’ is nothing more than supposition. It also, dangerously, leads to some self-fulfilling prophecy, such as we’ve seen in the reporting of recent supply chain difficulties. That these were restricted to specific areas was not reported but the possibility that these difficulties could, possibly, maybe, result in food shortages was. Result? Panic buying and food shortages in some areas. The same happened with supposed fuel shortages. Christmas is now in danger according to the UK media.

With Covid largely off the agenda, the news media find themselves in need of something else with which to fill schedules; some alternative source of doom and gloom. The mainstream (in the UK, at least) has opted for climate change, replete with forecasts of catastrophe, destruction and extinction. Of course it’s possible that if we do not act collectively to reduce the human contribution to climate change, that these outcomes will come to pass. It’s possible but it isn’t certain to be the case. Who remembers the media reporting that by this point in the 21st century we would be living in an ice age because of climate change? (This speculation is still about and has traction in some quarters).The news is that climate change is happening. That’s it. What we might do about it is for some other source that doesn’t claim to be delivering news.

I am tired of the narrative of the day, be it #MeToo, Brexit, BLM, Covid, climate change. Tired of its promotion by the media, of the prediction and conjecture that goes along with it, but only while it attracts sufficient viewers or readers. When something more ‘newsworthy’, sensational and alarmist comes along, what was once narrative of the day is dropped. There’s a new bandwagon to jump on! This time though, I’m doing the dropping first.

 

So Long, Jesus – the new book is here!

My new book, marking a final farewell to Jesus and his cult, is available now from all Amazon outlets. So Long, Jesus and Other Lessons From Life collects together the religiously-themed posts that have appeared on this blog over the past three years. A great Christmas present for those of your friends who might be considering saying their own farewell to Christian mumbo jumbo. This is the book you’ve been waiting for! 

So Long, Jesus and Other Lessons From Life – get it before the rapture!

What Does The Evidence Tell Us… About Masks?

Masks: do they work?

Back at the start of the pandemic, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, and his US counterpart Anthony Fauci had this to say about wearing face coverings:

In terms of wearing a mask, our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don’t have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all. So we do not advise that. (Witty, February 2020)

There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. (Fauci, March 2020)

The World Health Organisation was still saying in December 2020 that,

the use of a mask alone, even when correctly used, is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection for an uninfected individual or prevent onward transmission from an infected individual. (Google ‘Mask use in the context of COVID-19’.)

While in February this year, The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) concluded that,

Evidence for the effectiveness of non-medical face masks, face shields/visors and respirators in the community is scarce and of very low certainty.’

Why did experts like Witty and Fauci say initially that masks were inadequate, only later to change their minds? Because, I would venture to say that they were aware of the scientific studies, carried out prior to Covid-19, about masks’ effectiveness in preventing the passage of other SARS viruses, including influenza. At best, these concluded that even wearing surgical masks, as opposed to the supermarket varieties, has a limited effect on the transmission of either influenza or Covid. This is hardly surprising when the average distance between strands of fabric in a mask is between 5 – 200 micrometers, while the virus is 0.1 micrometers in diameter. In other words, the gaps in the fabric are between 500 and 2000 times larger than the virus. (Though this article argues that there is still a chance such masks can stop some transmission of the virus).

Other studies seem to bear out the limited nature of masks’ effectiveness. This one, by the University of Waterloo in Canada, concluded that masks filter only 10% of the airborne virus and that moderate ventilation offers better protection.

Similarly, The National Center of Biotechnology Information found that

There is uncertainty about the effects of face masks… The pooled results of randomised trials did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks during seasonal influenza.’

The Influenza Journal, reviewing 17 studies on mask wearing, said,

None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) advised that healthcare workers,

should not use cloth masks as protection against respiratory infection. Cloth masks resulted in significantly higher rates of infection than medical masks, and also performed worse than the control…

(More studies are cited here.)

Specific to Covid is this study from Denmark which examined how far masks protect the wearer from infection (it did not seek to discover the extent to which they might prevent the spread of the virus to others.) It reported:

Infection with SARS-CoV-2 occurred in 42 participants (with) recommended masks (1.8%) and 53 non-mask wearing (2.1%). Although the difference observed was not statistically significant, the 95% CIs are compatible with a 46% reduction to a 23% increase in infection (my emphasis.)

The report suggested that social distancing was as likely to have caused the small reduction in infection rates.

While it is anecdotal, it was my experience that once mask wearing was mandated in the UK, people started to ignore social distancing measures, on the assumption, presumably, that everyone was safe behind their masks. Moreover, as the BMJ and others have pointed out, there is also evidence that mask wearing can be detrimental to one’s physical and mental health. And then there are all those discarded masks, infested with bacteria and virus particles that thoughtless numpties leave on the street for someone else to have to deal with.

So, why did the various experts and organisations change their minds about masks? Was it because more data became available about their efficacy? Unfortunately not. Instead, mask wearing became both politicised and polarised. As journalist Laura Dodsworth points out in A State Of Fear, face coverings became a means of social control and of giving us all a false sense of security (p113). It was and is wrong for politicians to mandate either the wearing or not wearing of masks. If people find some psychological reassurance from wearing them they should be able to do so. Those who don’t should not have to. In the UK, where indoor mask wearing was mandatory only up to July 19th, there has been a sharp decrease in mask wearing with only a small increase in hospitalisations due to Covid. (These admissions are not necessarily the result of less mask wearing; mass social events have returned during this period.) I have rarely worn a mask since July (only when asked, in fact) with no ill effect for myself or others. I’m trusting in the vaccine and other preventative measures. As the ECDC said in February:

the use of face masks in the community should complement and not replace other preventive measures such as physical distancing, staying home when ill, teleworking if possible, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth.

It is these other measures that minimise the chances of contracting or spreading the infection, not face coverings. It is beggars belief that we had to be told, and taught how, to wash our hands once the virus took hold. That daintily expressed ‘respiratory etiquette’ is important too. I would advocate regular face washing followed by nose-blowing into a tissue; while I’ve no evidence for it, I feel sure these have prevented me from getting colds and flu for most of my life. Physical distancing remains an important measure, though large gatherings make it difficult to achieve; in such circumstances masks might compensate to a limited extent by providing some small degree of protection  

So, masks: do they work? It looks like they don’t, not to any significant degree anyway. Let me give the final word to a doctor whose letter was published in The Daily Telegraph last week:

SIR – A paper published in 2016 by the American National Institutes of Health reviewed previous clinical trials of the use of face masks in operating theatres. It concluded: “Wearing a face mask neither increases nor decreases the number of wound infections following surgical operations.”

A simple experiment will show why: if a lighted candle is held in front of a mask the flame cannot be extinguished, no matter how hard one blows. However, if the candle is held to the side of the mask it is easily extinguished.

Moreover, the obstruction of exhaled air by the mask increases its pressure and the distance it will travel.

Hence the wearing of a mask will increase the area in which the exhaled air is dispersed. In this context it is interesting that in one clinical trial a slight but not statistically significant increase in infections was associated with the wearing of masks.

There simply is no sound scientific evidence for the wearing of masks to prevent transmission of infections. On the other hand, a controlled trial is not required to show their dehumanising effect.

Dr Max Gammon

London SE16

What Does The Evidence Tell Us… About Lockdowns?

 

Which brings us to the measures used to combat Covid-19. What should we believe? What politicians tell us and impose on us? What the media says? It’s not as if these sources speak with one voice – though in the UK most mainstream media has parroted exactly what the government has told them. I wanted to see for myself what the evidence, all of which is linked below, actually says. This turned out to be easier said than done. Nevertheless, most of it is out there – the scientific studies, the data, the non-politicised recommendations. First, what they say about…

Lockdowns: do they work? What does the evidence tell us? Lockdowns work in the sense they relieve pressure on health services (the NHS in the UK) at a time when demand is already high, in the winter. They ‘work’ insofar as they defer the spread of Covid-19. They do not eliminate the virus and they don’t prevent deaths. Covid related deaths in the UK were at their highest during the lockdowns of spring 2020 and last winter. While in a significant number of these were elderly people in care homes, two thirds of excess deaths were among the general population. How could the virus spread so widely when everyone was confined to their homes? There appears to be no answer to this question, though this controlled study published in the Lancet replicated the same outcomes. Experts argued, of course, that the mortality rate would have been even higher if we had not been locked down. However, Sweden, which didn’t lock down at all, registered 14,626 excess deaths (0.175% of the population), higher than other Scandinavian countries but well below the totals for France, Spain, Italy and the UK, all of which locked down for extended periods of time. (I am unable to find the percentage rate for the UK. The fact the pandemic straddles two years seems to have made it impossible for statisticians to have worked out the figure.)  

Countries like Australia and New Zealand where lockdowns have been used as the primary means of Covid avoidance are now in a perpetual cycle of lockdown, opening up when infections appear to have been eliminated, locking down again when any new infections are detected. New Zealand did so recently after one new case was discovered (up to 651 at time of writing). Such a reliance on (ineffective) lockdowns has resulted in a low uptake of vaccination: around 30% having had both doses in Australia, 24% in New Zealand, compared with approximately 76% in the UK and Sweden with an uptake similar to that of the U.S., 51%. There would appear to be a correlation between a reliance on lockdowns and a reluctance to take the vaccine. Australia and New Zealand are locked into this perpetual cycle: closing down areas and cities every time the virus reappears and in turn deterring vaccine uptake, making further lockdowns inevitable.

As a deference mechanism, lockdowns only work if there is a preventative measure down the line to defer to; zero Covid is unachievable and is therefore not that measure. High levels of vaccination are. The UK emerged from most lockdown measures on 19th July and although there has been an increase in Covid cases since then, most have not been serious. The diagram below demonstrates that hospitalisations remain low. This has been attributed to a high vaccine uptake; about 60% of hospitalisations are of the unvaccinated. Official figures suggest that ‘82,100 hospitalisations (have been) prevented in over-65s and almost 24 million infections prevented across England.’

Neither do lockdowns work in terms of preventing deaths from causes other than the virus. There has been an increase in excess deaths from causes other than Covid-19 during lockdowns. Some scientists are speculating a flu epidemic in the northern hemisphere this coming winter because, thanks to Covid lockdowns, flu data has not been available from the southern hemisphere’s winter months from which to develop an effective vaccine. (Speculating is a crucial word here.)

Here in the UK, even with high vaccination rates and low hospitalisations, we fear we could be locked down this winter should the NHS become overwhelmed yet again, this time with a conjectured flu epidemic. We must, as we were told last winter, ‘protect the NHS’. Lockdowns were imposed in large part to help the mismanaged service cope, something it claims not to be able to do every year even without a pandemic. Nevertheless, last year we were persuaded the NHS was our Saviour in need of saving itself. There were even regular, socially distanced worship gatherings every Thursday evening. Yet, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian newspaper during the first wave in 2020 ‘a total of 32,307 patients admitted with other conditions had contracted covid-19 while in hospital, and 8,747 (27%) died within 28 days.’ (verified by the British Medical Journal.)  The UK government has had at least 6 months to initiate reform in the NHS (and arguably a further 6 before next January’s annual crisis rolls round.) So far they have done bugger all precisely nothing. 

On the basis of the evidence, the UK government cannot justify further Covid lockdowns. You can of course judge for yourself whether you think lockdowns are effective and worthwhile, even if ultimately you may well not be given any choice about being subjected to them.

 

 

 

Falling Into Belief

Texas author David Heeren appeared on a UK TV channel the other day in its ‘Uncancelled’ slot, wherein a sceptical presenter interviews, usually while trying to keep a straight face, individuals who have, or have had, a world outlook at odds with any conventional narrative. This is to express it kindly in the case of David Heeren. David believes that the Second Coming is not far off; in this he has much in common with other evangelical Christians. Where he differs from most of them is that David believes the end-times sign of which Jesus speaks in Matthew 24.30 is… a comet.

In fact, David sees comets everywhere in the Bible. Amongst others, there’s the star of Bethlehem, the fire that descended to destroy the followers of Baal and the comet that parted the Red Sea. David has this to say about the last of these:

The rod Moses stretched out toward the Red Sea was a mirror image of the “arm of the Lord” in the sky above his head. A comet-generated tornado parted the sea and froze it in place long enough for three-million or more Israelites to pass through. A comet-produced earthquake cracked the frozen walls, releasing the sea waters to flow back over the Egyptians.

He finds 54 such ‘cometical’ appearances in the bible. He is obsessed both with comets and with the Second Coming. David is evidently on the fringes of an already lunatic movement (Christianity, that is) but, and here is what is astounding, David claims his books, 17 in total, five of them about the End Times, are best-sellers. If he’s to be believed, other people swallow his unadulterated guff and pay good money to do it.

 Last night, the guest in the same slot was Radhia Gleis. Radhia was part of a new age cult, Buddhafield, for 22 years before finally breaking free a few years ago. She and others came under the thrall of a charismatic individual called, variously, The Teacher, Michel and Andreas but whose real name is Jaime Gomez (pictured above). Cult members believed him to be a enlightened being who would lead them into ‘universal love and spiritual awakening’, until, that is, some recognised the level of control Gomez exerted over them and discovered he was sexually abusing young men. (The documentary, Holy Hell, about the cult, can be seen on Netflix. Buddhafield still exists, with Gomez its leader though now called Reyji (‘god-king’) and operating out of Hawaii.)

All of which, Buddhafield and Neeren’s nonsense, serves to underline how readily people will believe almost anything: stories of resurrected godmen, returning saviours, portentous comets, the honeyed words of charismatic charlatans. How crucial it is we see and evaluate evidence for ourselves. Demand to see it. Find it, read it, assess it as objectively as we can; not through a lens of preconceived ideas, be it conspiracy theory, religious worldview or prevailing narrative. We are too easily manipulated and duped not to evaluate what we are told.

Of course, we are not always capable of minimising our preconceptions nor of evaluating evidence objectively. We come with a range of psychological needs and respond emotionally to what the guru, preacher or group offer. Members of Buddhafield speak of the sense of belonging and purpose that involvement in the group offered. Many talk about how they finally felt loved. Even those young men abused by Gomez professed at the time a belief in the enlightenment offered by The Teacher, completely at odds with how he was using them for his own sexual gratification. This is how cults, political and religious movements and churches work. They offer enlightenment, forgiveness, fulfilment, purpose, eternal life, peace and joy – you name it, they’ll claim they can provide it – and our critical faculties are overruled by psychological/emotional need.

I know, I’ve been there.

 

All Along The Watchtower II

I’ve had a reply from my friendly neighbourhood Jehovah’s Witness, Jim and Sandra. Well, from Jim. Sandra seems to have left him to it. Naturally, politeness compelled me to reply to Jim’s reply.  

Jim first:

Hello Neil 

We wanted to say thanks very much for your email. We appreciate hearing what you had to say. We hope that you and your family are well, and continuing to stay safe. We want you to know that we fully respect your beliefs so thank you for sharing them with us. But please consider what we have to say in response with an open mind. 

Firstly, you may be familiar with the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ which marked the time when most of the major groups of animals first appear in the fossil record. The reason they call this an ‘Explosion’ is because of how short the period of time with which almost all animal life suddenly appears. As you mentioned with Occam’s Razor, we have found that the Bible provides one explanation as to how life got here, whereas science points to an accumulation of many different theories that even scientists themselves don’t agree on… such as Sir Isaac Newton and William of Ockham as well as many other scientists who do believe in an intelligent designer – God.

You also raised excellent points about God’s existence too, you mentioned that according to our reasoning things that are complex must have a creator. While we completely agree God is definitely complex, the Bible answers that question by saying that “From eternity [God has] existed” and “From everlasting to everlasting, you are God”. So we can see here that while God is the creator, he is not a creation. So as hard it is for us as humans to comprehend (as everything we know has a designer) God wasn’t created as he has always existed. 

You also mentioned that if God created everything, this would mean that he also created viruses etc. However if we think of Benjamin Franklin, for example, he created electricity… but we would not say he was the cause of people dying due to the electric chair would we? The Bible does clearly state that God “created all things, and because of [his] will they came into existence and were created”. So while we would not dispute God did create everything, things we experience today are present as a byproduct of a situation God never intended to happen.  However this then raises the questions… What was God’s initial purpose for humans? And why does God allow suffering and diseases?

If you would like the answers to those questions, just let us know in your reply and we would be happy to discuss that with you too.  In the mean time, we found this video that we thought you would find really interesting. You can watch it for free and by all means please let us know your thoughts on it.  https://www.jw.org/en/library/videos/viewpoints-origin-of-life/irene-hof-laurenceau-orthopedic-surgeon/

Kind regards, 

Jim

And my reply. I wanted to turn the discussion round to that JW weakness – one of many – their preoccupation with Jesus’ return (or lack of it):

Hi Jim,

Thank you for your response. I hope too you are both well. I have to say I was unconvinced by your assertion that Ben Franklin created electricity – he certainly didn’t. Electricity is a natural phenomenon that humans have been interested in for thousands of years. Consequently, your analogy between Franklin and God doesn’t stand up. If God created viruses, germs and parasites (as he must’ve done if he created ‘everything’) only to let them run amok amongst the rest of his creation, then he is responsible for the outcome. You say this is not what he intended but as an omniscient being he must have known what was going to happen, just as he must’ve known in advance that Adam and Eve would ‘sin’. Yet he still went ahead and created viruses and the like, knowing the havoc they would cause. How could a loving God do that?

I have to tell you, I’m not going to be persuaded of God’s existence by the argument from design, nor by the argument – though it’s really no more than an assertion – from incredulity. It’s the one in the video clip you sent that says essentially, ‘this natural phenomenon is just so amazing I can’t understand how it came about. Therefore it must have been God.’ Similarly, for you to quote the bible’s claim that God has always existed isn’t convincing either; that some ancient tribesman and their scribes thought so does not constitute proof. 

What might convince me? Possibly if the things Jesus said he was going to do had actually happened. Take, as one example, his promise that God’s Kingdom would be established on the Earth while those he was speaking to were still alive (Matthew 16:27-28, Matthew 24:27, 30-31, 34 and Luke 21:27-28, 33-34 amongst other places.) If this had happened, I’d be able to look around and see God’s plan for humankind in action and say to myself, ‘how mighty fine it is to live in the wonderful kingdom God has blessed us with these past 2000 years. He truly is real.’ But of course he didn’t, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and other branches of Christianity have been making excuses for him ever since. 

I keep a blog you might like to read. A while back I did some posts on the non-arrival of the Son of Man, the final judgement and God’s Kingdom on Earth. While you might find them irreverent, you can see them here: https://rejectingjesus.com/2018/01/28/jesus-demonstrates-that-god-doesnt-exist/ https://rejectingjesus.com/2017/06/23/making-excuses-for-jesus-4/

I do hope you’ll read them. Feel free to explore other of my posts too.

Neil