* Posts by NT

87 publicly visible posts • joined 16 Jul 2008


Dawkins' atheist ad campaign hits fundraising target


Getting my coat ready in advance

I said I wasn't going to bite on any more of the Reg's "point and laugh at the stupid religious idiots" trolls. I told myself I wouldn't, too, and I meant it. But who was I kidding?

Speaking personally, I'm not in the least bothered whether Dawkins and pals don't believe in God. What difference does it make to my life? I'm not even bothered if, despite their claims to be concerned only with rationality and the good of the human species, they spend ludicrous amounts of money on what is really nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Money that would, I'm sure, have been welcomed by any few dozen scientific or humanitarian endeavours you'd care to name. If religious people are to be criticised for wasting money on propping up 'useless' old buildings (never mind their historical or architectural value), or spreading the word of some "non-existent sky fairy", then surely non-religious people can be criticised for throwing good money after bad and aping those very same deluded fools.

But the truth is it's not Dawkins' non-belief, nor anyone else's, that annoys me. It's not that I think those people shouldn't have the right to advertise their opinion; and - though I realise this is beyond comprehension for some - it's not that, as a religious person, I think my beliefs should be respected and held as sacred and beyond challenge or mockery. (Of course, Dawkins strongly implies that I must think exactly that, so it's up to you who you trust to describe my feelings more reliably.) I honestly don't care what you think about what I believe - and similarly, I don't really care about your beliefs, either. I'm not interested in brainwashing your kids. I don't care whether you have abortions or not. I don't believe the universe was created in twenty-five minutes just before tea a week last Thursday. I don't want to take away your right to Have Your Say. I don't believe you have a soul, or that it'd need saving if you did - and even if both of those applied, I doubt I'd consider it my responsibility to save it for you. Sort it out for yourself. It's not my problem unless you ask for my help (in which case my help will probably consist of a more diplomatic version of “sort it out yourself”).

No, the thing that gets right on my tits about this flame war (and I mean this particular one - the one we go through every time El Reg gets bored and falls back on this subject) are the absolute pig-headed and bone idle generalisations and taunts, snarky remarks and well-rehearsed jibes that get trotted out by both sides with such repetitive regularity that I could almost wonder if the whole debate wasn't just a bunch of computers running a pre-programmed script (including any reference to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose true purpose seems to have been long abandoned and who's now nothing more than a blunt instrument of mockery).

Atheism is not, repeat, is NOT, a religion - and yes, I say this as a religious person. Atheism is the absence of belief in God or gods or, if you like - and bearing in mind the more defensive type of atheist will take great offence at this - the belief that there is no God. Despite the endless bickering over which of these is correct they amount, in effect, to the same thing. The atheist does not recognise God, nor therefore any of the obligations or concepts traditionally associated with God. Whether that constitutes a 'belief system' in itself is irrelevant insofar as it determines the behaviour and the attitude of the atheist.

But atheism is not the problem here. Nor is religion. The problem is with those who not only reject the belief system of another, but assume the right to enforce their own views. That doesn't define an atheist, and it doesn't define a religious believer. It is, sadly, an unfortunate characteristic of some human beings. Some charge at the complex issue of human spirituality like bulls at gates, trampling nuances, shades and distinctions underfoot.

As well as being religious, I'm someone who is very keen on science, and some aspects of science I absolutely adore - such as astronomy. In my paganistic view, there can be no better homage to the divinity of the cosmos than to study it, and I admire anyone who devotes themselves to that, be they professional scientist, amateur enthusiast, or armchair philosopher. As long as people are thinking and questioning, I'm not going to presume to tell them what conclusions they must reach. I love science - but I can't and won't assume that it will one day answer every question the cosmos might confront us with. The assumption that it will, or even that we have evolved or could evolve the capacity to reach a full and complete understanding of the natural world, is, to my mind, as much an article of faith as the belief that one day we'll all go to Heaven. As is my belief that the cosmos is ultimately without rhyme or reason and will continue to confound our attempts to describe it in every last detail.

Everyone who has a strong point of view on such questions bases that viewpoint at least to some extent on their belief about How Things Are. There are, I believe, questions that are simply too big or too strange for science as we understand it today to deal with. What is reality, for example? How can we test it TRULY objectively? But does that mean I think science is worthless? By no means. I believe it's crucial - and a good framework for dealing with more everyday problems and questions.

In short, religion - the thing so many of you are so desperately eager to attack, if only to prove your intellectual credentials - is not one single viewpoint that you can legitimately pigeon-hole. Consider:

The Cosmos exists in every place and every time. Everything that can possibly happen might - perhaps will - happen within it: it has the power to do anything. It has intelligence (because we are part of it and we, at least, have intelligence), and contains all possible knowledge, whether we can ever obtain that knowledge for ourselves or not (does each of my brain cells know everything I know?). It knows everything that has happened and that will happen. It has created us, nurtures us, and one day may choose to destroy us. It may have a plan. It is infinite in extent, or - if not - as near infinite as makes no odds from our insignificant perspective. How many people's definition of 'God' would those statements satisfy?

And yet Dawkins and those like him tell me that there is no god, and that I'm a fool for believing in something greater than myself? But in truth, there is no question of belief: there's only a question of perspective.

Let the atheists spend their spare cash on trivial publicity stunts. I've no interest in their silly banners any more than I've any regard for the silly banners of the churches or other places of worship. You will see divinity in the world or you will not. You will see meaning in your life or you will not. You will live a moral life or you will not. You will think, or you will not. No one of these necessitates any of the others.

Prince Charles declines Doctor Who cameo


@ AC (10:25)

<< I am pleased that he brought the show back to our screens but now that's done can he please go away and leave the job to someone who is a good writer, has an imagination capable of coming up with something new after the second series and preferably is able to get through a series without shoehorning in some gratuitous gayness. >>

Agreed. Davies has done a great job in getting Who back on our screens. The new cast have done a great job in giving us characters worth watching. But the *stories*, my gods... Aside the notable few ("Blink"; "The Empty Child"; "The Girl in the Fireplace"), the plotlines have been incredibly weak. "Fear Her" was absolutely woeful; "Idiot's Lantern", terrible; "Love & Monsters" - the less said the better.

I'm not one of these people who demand a return to the 'old' Doctor Who, because I know that that came up with some real turkeys, too. But while Davies has a lot going for him as a promoter and a 're-imaginer', he really needs to leave it to other people to actually come up with the storylines. I'm a big fan of Who - the concept, David Tennant and (ahem) Billie Piper, too - but I swear if I never see another Shock Return Of The Daleks it'll be a millennium too soon.

It's subjective, I know, but in my book the best Who storylines - old and new - have been those that've dealt with the Big Questions and have tended to be a bit more metaphysical. There's so much you could do with this idea of a time-travelling near-god, apparently so free but so tortured; so constrained by his morality; and perhaps bound into a destiny of sorts... Such opportunities there for storytelling - yet all we've got is clunky Cybermen, annoying kids, implausible deus-ex-machina wrap-ups, and all the sex we can, um, eat.

I know Who is a kids' show - but it didn't *have* to be. Most of its original fans were grown-ups when Davies had his Big Idea. It wouldn't have hurt to aim it at an older audience - it would've spared us Torchwood, if nothing else. (Which itself would have been great if it'd taken a few lessons from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica about what 'grown-up sci-fi' looks like. Hint: it's more than just lots of sex.)

The topic? Oh, sorry. No, I think HRH is wise to stay out of it - or to take his staff members' advice and give this one a miss, at least for the moment.

Apple rattles legal sabre at Canadian tech school


@ Prior Art and Beatles (13:25)

<< Therefore I believe it may be relevant to point out that the apple has been a symbol of knowledge and learning ever since ... well, the Garden of Eden. That's pretty much the oldest one in the book, that is. >>

Hang on - what?

There's no 'apple' as a symbol of knowledge in the Bible. Are you thinking of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in Genesis? That fruit forbidden to Adam and Eve? The Bible doesn't say it was an apple, as far as I'm aware. It just says 'fruit'.

Of course, I'm willing to be corrected if anyone knows better and wants to educate my poor pagan self...?

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@ AC: Puzzling comments (16:54)

<< Yes VSBT - (V)ictoria (S)chool of (B)usiness and (T)echnology is an acronym so perhaps you should be willing to go to that school and less willing to throw insults. >>

Actually, it's not. Strictly speaking an acronym is an abbreviation by initial letters that results in a pronounceable word. Laser, sonar and radar are acronyms; as are NASA and NATO*. But VSBT is just an abbreviation. Which I suspect is what Dennis was getting at.


* Yes, before anyone picks me up on it, strictly speaking *because* they're acronyms I should probably write them Nasa and Nato - but for some reason I think they look a bit weird like that, so I don't.

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@ John Molloy

<< If they don't protect their trademark then others can come in and use the fact they didn't protect it in this case against them. So this is not Apple being evil this is what they have to do. >>

If there was any similarity at all between the two logos, aside the general shape of an apple, then I'd agree. Or if the college was setting out to manufacture and sell shiny technological baubles to the status-conscious, then maybe there'd be a case to say that Apple need to 'protect' their logo.

But again, this isn't anything like their logo, beyond the shape of an apple - and I'd be interested to know if copyright law allows them exclusive rights to a naturally occurring object; because if it does it's clearly insane.

Like I said, they took that bite out of their own apple for a reason. What was the reason, do we think?


Team Apple: World Police

Just when I think I've no more respect left for Apple, I find I can still lose just a little bit more. But I'm sure that must be my limit now.

Hell's teeth, if they've got nothing better to worry about than some obscure college somewhere using a fruit-based logo then I envy them. This is pathetic, petty-minded bullying. I could understand it if someone had set up in business *doing what Apple do* using a logo that looks like theirs, but they haven't.

The first commenter here said that, if printed in mono, the logos would look similar. They wouldn't. As pointed out, the apple is a different shape and includes mountains. Apple, apparently, forgot to include mountains and had a bite taken out of their apple.

Or is the implication that Apple have somehow been able to copyright the shape of an apple? In which case, I suggest the company prost... lawyers... might have some trouble bringing Mother Nature to book. What, I wonder, was the reason for them taking that bite out of the side of their own logo in the first place? Was it, perchance, in order to make it *distinctive*?

So. Different colour logos. Different shape logos. Entirely different purpose for the 'company': Apple produce overpriced novelty gadgets; the university provides education. So it's hard to see how the two could be confused at all.

On the other hand, whoever has the most money makes the law, so I can't imagine the university would have any hope of winning if it came to court. And if Apple's who... lawyers... are at a loose end and feel like suing random educational establishments out of existence on asinine pretexts, then I can't imagine anything would stop them going ahead. If I was the university I'd perhaps alter the logo so that the leaf was pointing to the left instead of the right, and hope it's enough to placate Jobs' heavies.

MEPs vote to recognise flag, anthem, motto


@ James Blessing

<< So why are there 12 stars when there are 21/27/47/49/51 (depending where you take the information from) countries in europe? >>

Well, why're there fifty stars on the US flag when...


Oh, damn.

'I can see dinosaurs from my back porch'


@ Martin Yirrell

<< No, actually [the Watchmaker Argument] isn't dead, despite (because of?) the efforts of Dawkins and his ilk. >>

It's nothing to do with Dawkins or his ilk. Even without their involvement, the argument simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny, for the reasons I've pointed out and am happy to point out for you again: the Watchmaker Argument relies on an arbitrary double standard. Its proponents claim that God can exist without a cause, yet deny that anything else could exist without a cause, and they reason that, that being the case, God is the only possible 'prime cause' of everything. Since there is no logical basis for making this distinction save for one's beliefs, the Watchmaker Argument negates itself in logic and stands as a matter of faith alone.

<< No, God does not require a maker - because He has always been and always will be - He is outside of time. God is the source of all things and without beginning and therefore does not require a cause. >>

Then if He does not require a cause, we have no reason to apply that requirement to anything else. Thus, the universe need not have had a cause and the Watchmaker Argument fails.

<< Could, were it not for the evidence that it is running down - evidence that it once had a begining and will have an end. >>

That it has a beginning doesn't require that it has a creator, though. Nothing we know about the universe says that the whole thing isn't simply a transient phenomenon in some greater environment, like a bubble in a glass of fizzy pop. But time is, by definition, a function of our universe - at least time in the sense that we perceive it - just as space is. So whatever, if anything, exists outside our universe - or rather, whatever our universe exists within - needn't be bound by the strictures of time as we experience it. And even that's making the big assumption that we as conscious entities *do* actually experience time running from past to future, as we presume. If it wasn't doing that, how would we know anyway? We have little reason to believe that time is as straightforward a thing as we suppose it to be - even here, inside our observable universe.

So it's difficult to make firm, objective statements about time, about space, or about the universe or what else might exist. We can make tentative scientific observations, and those can be very helpful to us - but questions will always remain. Those questions are enough to make it even more foolish to use the sort of reasoning the Watchmaker Argument depends on: the universe *is* this, therefore it *must be* that. There's no 'must' or 'is' about it. And certainly, there's no reason to suppose that the universe - or whatever else might be out there - doesn't simply exist, outside of time, just as you claim your God does. While the universe may have had a beginning, and may have an end, there's really little reason to say that it *must* have had a prime cause at all. Only our fondness for the notion of causality leads us to assume as much - and causality as a concept must, at some point, fail: at some point we face either an infinite regress or an uncaused effect.

Of course, that's assuming we're arguing about God-as-independent-creator, rather than God-as-all-that-exists. In the latter case I wouldn't offer any argument - but the latter case wouldn't require the teaching of pseudo-Biblical creationism.

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@ Martin Yirrell

<< Was your computer designed and built or did it just evolve? >>

Is that the long-deceased Watchmaker Argument you're trying to resurrect there?

The computer was created by humans. Just like the watch was in the original form of this fallacy. Humans, which are considerably more complicated than a watch or a computer, must therefore have been created as well - right? That's the claim, I believe? Creationists tend to trot the Second Law of Thermodynamics out as a prelude to this, and claim - wrongly - that it says simplicity can't give rise to complexity.

Still, their argument inevitably leads to the point that, if God (the implied or stated creator of humans) is more complex still, then God, too, must have had a creator. Which violates the Fundamentalist view of God as the Prime Cause. That God's creator must also have had a creator violates it again. And it's ripped into even tinier little pieces by the fact that the creator's creator's creator must also have have a creator.

The only way for the Fundamentalist to get around this infinite regress is to posit a God that either appeared out of nothing or that has simply always existed. In either case, He must be considered an effect without a cause. And if God can be an uncaused effect then so, in principle, could the universe itself - along with the laws that allowed the natural evolution of the human species (and, by extension, the appearance of the computers and the watches that they build). The Watchmaker Argument destroys itself and the Creationist is forced either to have the cake or eat it.


Post Turtles

<< A doctor was stitching up a U.S farmer's hand when the farmer referred to Sarah Palin as a post turtle. The doc asked what he meant. >>

He meant the same as he meant when he described Obama as one not long ago. Or George Bush a few years back. Or Bill Clinton. Or Al Gore. Or Ronald Reagan. Or any of the huge plethora of politicians and slebs who've been the butt of that joke over the years.




Re the post turtles. I admit my sense of humour's taken a battering today...


I'll shut up after this one, I promise...

@ Seán

<< a)God created Universe; b)God's WORD >>

It's worth mentioning that a) doesn't always require belief in b). In fact, believing in b) is a very specific thing and quite different from believing in a).

@ "Darwin - God - Who Cares?"

<< I really don't think that the tens of thousands of children dying of disease and malnutrition everyday really give a shit, do you? >>

You don't think that the tens of thousands of children (I assume it's only *children* affected? Or is it just that children traditionally have more emotive value in arguments?) dying from disease could benefit from a detailed scientific understanding of the biology of the diseases that are killing them? Even I will happily admit that such an understanding won't come from religion (although I won't support the implication that religion inevitably *prevents* such understanding).

@ Peter Mellor:

<< ...as a justification for belief in the supernatural. >>

For what it's worth, and pedantic though it may sound, as a religious person I hold no belief in the supernatural. What exists is natural. What isn't natural doesn't exist. But it's putting cart before horse to dismiss something *because* it's thought of as supernatural. Lack of evidence? Fine: that's a more sensible reason to dismiss something - as long as you're adhering to those articles of faith that tell us that 1) the cosmos is basically comprehensible and 2) that we have the potential and capability to understand it completely.


@ Martin Yirrell and Chris

@ Martin Yirrell:

<< No, Evolution isn't a fact, it's never been observed and no one can demonstrate it. >>

That'll come as a great relief to the medical profession, then. At least they won't have to worry about the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics any more.

@ Chris:

<< To all the evolutionists - give up. Reason is fundamentally incompatible with faith. >>

And does this statement equal empirical, objective fact? Or does it, as is often the case with the statements of religion-bashers, apply only to a narrow perception of what constitutes 'faith'?

<< To all the America bashers - give up. I have lived and travelled abroad, and as bad as things are in the US, they are much worse almost everywhere else. >>

The trouble is, as Sarah Bee rightly pointed out, that America is, for the moment at least, the world's most powerful and influential nation. That means that every other country on Earth HAS to take a keen interest in what America does, and we ALL have a stake. We just don't get a vote. Claims that everyone else should just butt out and leave American affairs to Americans would be fine - the world has no problem, for example, leaving Paraguay to its own devices, or Uganda. But do you really expect us to overlook the fact that the USA has enough firepower to scorch civilisation off the planet? Why should the world NOT be concerned at the prospects for American leadership?

<< I assume that RE refers to "Religious Education" or some similar phrase. No such thing in the US public schools due to the Separation of Church and State. >>

Correct re the meaning. But a better term for modern RE would perhaps be 'Comparative Religion'. It's not indoctrination of one specific faith: it's education about something that, rightly or wrongly, has a considerable influence in the world. With that in mind, it doesn't hurt to learn about it - and if, as I assume is the case from your comments, America doesn't provide such education, it's a little easier to see why it's such a fiery issue over there.

<< Also, regarding the could/couldn't care less debate. Anyone ever heard of sarcasm? >>

Yes, and I've heard that excuse for the phrase, too. It doesn't hold any water, in my view. "I could care less" still implies that one only cares a little. A sarcastic intent would be better served by suggesting that you care deeply about whatever it is. I suspect that "I could care less" is just a mistaken usage that's been widely adopted.


@ Everyone

@ AC "Facts and hypocrisy":

<< Evolution is a theory with holes in it. These holes may be resolved over time but I'm sick of it being thrust on us as a fact, which it is not. >>

Again, it *is* a fact - and it's a fact that's been recognised as such for centuries. The *theory* deals with *how evolution works*, not whether or not it happens.

@ Jonathan Tate:

<< So great one El Reg. Go after Palin, the VP choice of the republican party... >>

Focusing on Palin means that they get chance to keep throwing the 'fundie Christian' element into the mix, which is guaranteed to generate a huge amount of comments as atheist and religionist go through the tired, ever-repeating mutual bashing routine they love so much.

@ Simon:

<< If you go to church you must be a "Creationist" if you dont you must an "Evolutionist". The same way you are either "Religious" or "Atheist". >>

People like stereotyping because it's easy. It gives them the excuse they need to indulge their fear of people who're different, and it means they don't have to think very hard. People like not having to think. Thinking is difficult. People don't like challenges to their preconceptions - especially when they're forced to challenge them themselves.

@ Chad H:

<< The more I read about Palin, the more I honest to goodness hate the woman. Her fast and loose attitudes towards open government, and the truth. >>

Obviously you're in a privileged position. Speaking personally, I have no real idea what the woman believes and what she doesn't. I haven't yet found an information source that isn't consciously trying to big her up or do her down.

@ Paul Murphy

<< I don't mind people believing whatever they want (not even the FSM) but why must I share my planet with them! >>

Because, your arrogance notwithstanding, you're no better than the rest of us. "Religion should have died out in the Middle Ages"? "Should"? Come on, then, oh high and mighty rationalist: tell me according to whose schedule you make such a firm claim? Or do you simply presume that history is bound to conform to your expectations?

(Incidentally, people who 'believe' in the FSM have entirely missed the point of it. As has anyone who uses it as a way to mock other religions.)


What's the point? The Reg know very well that if they bring religion into it, they'll get all the comments they can eat. And they're right: everyone's so desperate to prove their own superiority that they'll take any opportunity. I'd be interested to see the stats for articles with a religious element here on El Reg, and how the comment numbers stack up against the other political items, the entertainment items, the totalitarian-police-state items... or, gods *forbid*, the IT-related items - 'cos there are still one or two. I just wonder for how long.

Turkish court bans Dawkins' website


@ Peter Mellor

<< I can hardly believe that so many of the commentators on this article in El Reg could have been so stupid as to attack Dawkins, who is arguably the best-qualified and highest-profile opponent of the wave of superstitious ignorance which the enemies of the open society wish to inflict on us. >>

He is certainly one of the loudest and most fervent. Whether he's the most qualified depends on whether we're concerning ourselves with what he's qualified *in*.

Dawkins tends to attack religion based on a relatively narrow view of it, which seems to cover *all* religion as a superficial variant on fundamentalist, anti-evolution, anti-science, young-Earth creationist Christianity. And you can see him rationalising away religions that don't fit that template in order that he can continue to treat 'religion' as entirely uniform. Check out the way he disposes of Hinduism and Buddhism in the initial sections of 'The God Delusion' (Hinduism is redefined as a monotheism and treated alongside Christianity; and Buddhism is dismissed as 'not really a religion at all'). The simple fact is that like so many who ape him, Dawkins has set his face against religion as a whole and this damages his arguments, made as they mainly are against one single, specific strand of religion.

It's not 'stupid' to attack Dawkins, as long as you attack him *with good reason*. And there are those who genuinely seem to believe that the man should be held above any kind of criticism - his academic position seems to render him inerrant in their eyes. But I'd suggest that this is precisely the same attitude that Dawkins himself condemns in reference to the religious: "this is my belief, it's sacred, and you aren't allowed to question it."

Personally I see Dawkins as an educated and intelligent man, and I've said before that I deeply admired his earlier books, which I considered alongside those of Stephen Hawking in bringing science to non-experts. But when he speaks and writes about religion I believe he's no longer 'Professor' Dawkins, and is instead simply 'Mr Dawkins' - because unless I'm mistaken, religion isn't the area in which he's trained. So I treat his opinion with the respect I'd give to any equally educated and intelligent person speaking outside their specialist field. It doesn't mean he isn't right - but nor does his academic status alone mean that he is. I ask a simple standard of him, and those who follow him: if they're going to attack me for being religious, I want to know that they understand what I believe and why I believe it, and I want to see them advance considered and rational arguments against those beliefs. I want to see that they've taken my beliefs into account before they attack me. And if they can't or won't meet that standard, then really I see no reason to heed what may be nothing more than opinions born of prejudice and ignorance.

But, to edge back towards the point, I personally dismissed this Harun Yahya when he/it/they claimed he/it/they had *ten trillion lira* (£4 trillion) to hand over to anyone who could produce an intermediate-form fossil (failing, as creationists always do, to understand that *all* fossils are to some extent 'intermediate-form').


@ Mark

<< Science (and the humans that come up with the ideas) can be challenged, tested and proven (false or true). God can't. >>

Yes, but this is the reason I think the anti-religion/anti-science 'debate' (read: squealing squabble) is so pointless. God - or whatever equivalent any given person might subscribe to - isn't part of the scientific outlook on the world. *Bits of religion* can be.

The problem is that while this makes God 'unscientific' by definition, this very definition is what makes the argument doomed to repeat over and over and over until someone actually takes the time to understand the other point of view - or at least to direct their arguments more carefully.

Simply slagging off 'religion', as so many of the supposedly intellectually superior love to do, makes no sense beyond those particular views of religion that hold to a literal interpretation of one or another holy text (and particularly, in this context, the creation myths therein). And although I've no stats to hand, I'd be willing to bet a few quid that those people don't constitute the majority of the religious. If the existence of 'God' depends on proving that He created the world in six days and that a serpent tempted the first woman to disobedience, then sure: God CAN be disproved. But if God CAN'T be disproved in that way, then the literal interpretation of the text is invalidated anyway.

If, on the other hand, one allows for a 'God' that's more than simply the main character in a book, then the bets are off. Allow for a God that creates through mechanical means - who brought humanity into existence through a gradual evolutionary process, or who initiated the universe in a Big Bang - and appeals to 'rationality' become moot. Ultimately, no matter how rational we wish to be, there are issues that our carefully cultivated sense of reason can't help us with. For example, did the universe come into being spontaneously out of nothing - an effect without a cause - or has it (or something like it) always existed, without having had a beginning. (Even allowing for previous universe giving birth to this one, we still have to explain THEIR existence - we meet this problem eventually, however far back we go.)

For what it's worth I wouldn't propose giving equal time - or indeed any time at all - in science classes to religious accounts of creation. However, that's a *very specific issue*. Even so, it does provide wonderful ammunition for religion-bashers to attack every possible religious point of view on the assumption that we all basically believe the same things.


@ Mark

Difficult to know what to do with all that, since it seems to be based on the preconceptions (common to a lot of anti-religious types) that A) belief in God or gods is something that one consciously chooses, like picking a meal off a menu; B) that the 'god' in question must and can be either proven or disproved scientifically; and C) that the 'god' is some sort of solid, flesh-and-blood being that exists independently of the rest of the universe.

If none of these is the case - as in the case of my religion and, I'm sure, that of many other people - then the question of what one would do if one's gods were disproved becomes pretty much moot.

(Incidentally, as I mentioned in the comments on the most recent El Reg "Aren't Religious People Stupid" article, it's worth being careful with the Flying Spaghetti Monster: I've seen many an anti-religious poster use it as a way to illustrate the idiocy of religion. It may serve that function if pushed, but that wasn't the purpose it was designed for.)


@ Mark

<< You can never prove God doesn't exist and replace it. >>

To be honest, I'm not even sure what that means. Particularly in light of your claim that Dawkins CAN be replaced. By whom? With what? Do you mean his 'theory' can be replaced? By which I assume we mean the Theory of Evolution? If so, it's worth mentioning again that most religions - and even most interpretations of Christianity - don't oppose the Theory of Evolution: if God exists then evolution is simply one of His creative tools.


@ Science not as rational as widely believed

<< "ever more fanciful and unlikely justifications are made to continue the belief. " - is this not the basis for the ongoing nonsense that is particle physics? >>

Not quite, no. Particle physics, like all good science, may well initially be based on a hypothesis - which in some cases does indeed amount to an educated guess - but it's far from nonsense. It's *bizarre*, I grant you; but I'd say that it's that very strangeness that should caution us - even those who pride themselves on their rationalism - from making any assumptions about what can and cannot be 'real'.

As you mentioned, it only takes one contrary finding to rule out a hypothesis. A scientific theory, it's true, can never be *proved*, but if it resists all our attempts to disprove it then for the time being at least, it holds as 'fact' - at least as close to 'fact' as we can ever hope to get.

All other things being equal, if we assume as Dawkins apparently does that religion and faith constitute, in effect, a sort of 'fake science', then it is quite logical to expect advocates of faith to provide experimental evidence to support their claims. Those who argue in response that science is actually a dogmatic faith, and scientists its priests, are usually people who've fallen into the same trap: they don't realise that science and faith are two *entirely different things* and can't be so simply compared. Science deals with things we can see, and touch, and test. Faith deals in metaphor, symbolism, interpretation and meaning. That doesn't make it wrong - it just makes it Not Science. But it's not trying to be science. The existence of God, or the gods, or whatever sort of divinity or higher power you might look to, isn't a matter of tests and measures and proof. It's something you *feel*. If someone else doesn't feel it then there's nothing you can - or should - do about that; any more than they should try to tell you you don't or shouldn't feel it.

(That said, where particle physics is concerned I do think it's remarkable that so many of the predictions that have been made have proved to be right. The explanation probably most acceptable to 'rationalists' is that scientists are just very very good at educated guesses - or very very lucky. Personally, I tend to wonder if this isn't reason enough to wonder just how 'objective' our reality truly is...)

<< Did Charles Darwin really find any evidence, or was it just a plausible-sounding theory that has taken hold, becoming scientific dogma and therefore reliant on its priests, Dawkins, to defend it? >>

Be careful not to confuse evolution - which is a fact of life that's been known to human family dynasties, animal breeders and horticulturalists for centuries - with the Theory of Evolution, which is a theoretical description of how evolution works. The Theory of Evolution is and always will be open to challenges, if anyone thinks they've got something that'll take it down. The existence of evolution as a process isn't in question, even by most religious people.


Cheap Parlour Tricks?

<< but Dawkins denounced Christ's miracles as "cheap parlour tricks" right to his face. >>

Which, aside from the discourtesy, is simply a stupid argument. I'm someone who believes that Jesus may well have existed as a man, but doubts that he was the son of God, or that he performed miracles as they're described in the Bible.

That said, if I was going to take issue with the New Testament portrayal, I'd be questioning A) whether the miracles or anything like them occurred at all, and B) whether they were events of some ritual or symbolic significance *for the society and the culture that Jesus was living in*. If after that I thought that Jesus had actually literally appeared to walk on water, THEN I might start wondering what trickery was involved.

Dawkins' argument here seems to ignore what I'd consider to be basic questions of interest to a theologian or a historian. Like I said, it's a shame he seems to have abandoned the scientific, impartial, questioning approach and adopted a rigid fanaticism of his own.


@ Stefan (and Joe)

<< "Name me one major global terrorist group that aren't inspired by religion somewhere along the line."

Well exactly, there pretty much aren't any. >>

To this sort of comment, I usually offer the suggestion - just a suggestion, mind - that those involved in supposedly religiously-motivated violence find in religion a handy *excuse*, rather than a cause.

Consider those same terrorist groups and you'll find hatreds that go far beyond what god someone worships. At the risk of sounding cheesily Star Wars-ish, the hatred comes from anger, and the anger usually comes either from fear or greed. Often both. Fear and greed are the ultimate motives for all human abuses and atrocities. Greed for more - whether it's money, power, land, oil, or whatever - and fear of losing what you already have.

But no-one wants to express motivations like that. They'd make you seem... well, human and flawed. Better to claim that your aggression and hostility is down to the Will of God: that way people will call you a hero, a crusader or, if things don't go well, at least a martyr. And who can really argue with you if you say "God Wills It"? Who can prove He doesn't?

Except of course it's always possible to see through this sort of nonsense simply by considering the sort of god you're describing. The idea that a single, all-powerful creator god would need our help in disposing of another bunch of insignificant humans? Absolutely ridiculous.

<< See the assumption is that religion makes people religious and stupid. But if all religions were magically disappeared tomorrow, most of the people of the next generation, would grow up inventing new religions. >>

And you can be assured that, were that to happen, humanity would swiftly conjure up new excuses to make war.

<< Don't let the government impose religious laws, absolutely. I agree. >>

As do I. As a religious person I would have as much to lose from the imposition of religious laws as any atheist. It's a fair bet they wouldn't be based on my religion, since a central tenet of my religion is that it can apply only to me. Let's not fall into the trap of assuming that a fundamentalist state, to any degree, would be bad for atheists and good for the religious.

<< Some people just are religious, and some start out religious and then grow out of it. >>

And some people start out non-religious and then grow into it. Your comments are sensible - it's just your phrasing that still shouts "religious people are fools".

But you're right: the truth is that people who believe are religious. People who don't believe are atheists. Since belief is NOT a matter of choice, the one cannot hope to understand the other. Even when one person starts as one and becomes the other, as you say, they will still lose contact with their earlier self; just as we lose contact with our childish selves when we become adults. Taking the attitude that believers are only doing it to be stubborn - as a depressing number of atheists seem to do - isn't going to help anything.


Not against freedom of speech

<< "We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people" >>

Yes you can. That's what free speech is. As a religious person, though not a Creationist, I fully expect to be insulted by people (who usually don't know or care what I actually believe because to them all religion equates to fundamentalist Christianity) based solely on the reasoning that I'm religious and therefore an idiot. But that's what free speech is *about*. They're as entitled to call me names and look down their noses at me as I'm entitled to dismiss them as pretentious overconfident know-it-alls.

What I'm NOT going to do under any circumstances is go running to the law courts or webspace providers and whinge that these people shouldn't be allowed to hold their opinion of me, no matter how prejudicial. Just as long as they extend me the same rights and courtesy that they'd want from me, I'm happy. You can be *prejudiced* against me - that's not my concern - just as long as you don't *discriminate* against me.

<< "We found the comments hurtful. It was not a scientific discussion." >>

Of course it wasn't - it was Dawkins doing what he does these days: trying to upset religious people and assert the intellectual and moral superiority of an atheistic viewpoint. It's a shame. I used to think he was a fantastic author for the way he popularised science. I loved his books pre-'Delusion' and I think it's a great pity he didn't stay focused on the interesting stuff. Now he's too busy being angrily 'Bright' and damaging the cause of atheism. Still, the point is that if I don't like what Dawkins has to say, I don't buy his books and I don't read his website. That's simple enough.

Even so, I've no particular patience with true, scripture-literal Creationists and it strikes me as bizarre that a *Creationist* author would complain that Dawkins' response to his book wasn't 'scientific'.

<< As it is, we now have a law that can be used against individuals who use threatening language that is targeted on the basis of religion. >>

We and much of the western world have settled on this ridiculous idea that a crime is somehow worse if it's the result of 'hatred'. But what other motivation has there ever been for crime? All right, greed, mainly - but the point is that if I assault someone then it's probably not because I'm their number-one fan. If that person has the same colour skin as I do, or believes in the same gods, then what sense does it make to say that my crime was somehow not as serious?

'Hate crime' is a ludicrous concept from top to bottom. We won't have any sort of equality until governments stop building discrimination into law.

<< Far from laughing at the absurdity of the Turkish courts >>

Who's laughing? Is there something funny in this story that I've missed?

Oh, and finally, in reply to comment "Stop right there!" at 20:12, 22 September:

It's a constant struggle for religious people to convince this particular brand of atheist - the Dawkinsite, if you like - that we're not all primitive superstitious dimwits. Take it from me, your comments did *not* help.

Evolution is a 'theory', yes, but people like you who argue that it's 'just a theory' don't understand the scientific meaning of the word 'theory'. You just parrot 'it's just a theory' and think that's going to make evolution go away. It isn't. Evolution is a fact, and you, frankly, insult your god if your claim is that He couldn't have used evolution as a tool of creation. Who're you to tell Him what He can and can't do?

Phoenix Lander listens to Mars murmurings

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@ Gianni Straniero

<< Well, the nerds at JPL clearly didn't get that memo: >>

Good on them. I like to see people enjoying their work, and I salute their bravery. But I stand by my previous answer.


@ Dwarfs

<< Why do NASA not know how to have fun? Sigh >>

I suspect it's because they've learned a hard lesson, one that most public-facing organisations learn sooner or later: a sense of fun is a dangerous thing when you're dealing with the public at large. If I suffer from an abject lack of sense of humour, a significant part of that is down to years spent in a job involving talking to the public.

I don't know if you recall a certain incident in the 1970s, when NASA released a certain photograph with a certain geographical (all right, areographical, if you insist) feature on it that looked a little bit like a face? NASA probably thought, "oh, cool - look: a rock that looks like a face; isn't that groovy?" (I'm paraphrasing - it was the 70s.)

NASA must have learned pretty quickly after that that you have to be enormously careful about what you say and what you suggest. Show a sense of fun, or any kind of emotional investment in what you're doing, and the public will take indignant offence; or they'll mock you for your stupidity (and "it was just a joke" doesn't ring true even when it's true); or they'll misrepresent whatever you said and construct unconvincing yet elaborate conspiracy theories about it, with websites and everything.

Catholic priests cane YouTube over blasphemous vids


And again...

@ Alex Nich:

<< Before we have a Holy Flame War. Let's take a deep breath. >>

It's a nice idea, that - but El Reg posted this article knowing that the Holy Flame War (there's really only one: it just keeps going round and round) would flare up again straight away. Still, this is the last time I'm going to bite on one of the Register's religious trolls.

Seriously, don't people get bored going through the same old comments over and over and over again every time religion gets mentioned?

"Oooo! There's a religion article! Oooo, me first! Me first! "Religion is shit, and causes all the evil in the world, and religious people are TEH MORONEST! I hates religion, me, coz I'm a FREE THINKUN INTELLECHOOL."

All right, yeah, I know. But frankly the self-satisfied smugness of the anti-religious (as distinct from 'the atheistic') really does piss me off sometimes; based as it so often is on subjective opinion and prejudice: "religious people are insane"; "religious people are stupid"; "religious people are dangerous". Well, I'm religious myself - as you've probably guessed - but I've never had the slightest desire to impose my faith on anyone. I'm a huge fan of science, and a keen amateur astronomer. I've no desire to cause anyone harm, and I like to think, conceited though it may be, that I have a reasonable level of intelligence. I'm simply fascinated with the world around me, and I wonder how it works. Not so different from the sciencey types, in that respect, I think. If I have a difference of opinion with the atheists on science it's that I see no reason to assume that science will ever answer *all* the questions. In fact, at the risk of causing offence, I think the belief that it will is *faith*. Still, I pride myself on the fact that in debates and discussions I will fight, and *have* fought, tooth and claw for the right of atheists to live their lives without religious interference. I have the utmost respect for atheists even if I don't agree with their point of view.

Religions have no right - NO right - to impose their views and beliefs and lifestyles and standards on other people. A person MUST have the right to discover their own position on this sort of question, and NO-ONE should assume the right to steer someone else along that path. If nothing else, as adnim rightly points out, it shouldn't be necessary. Any true god would have the power to make life pretty difficult for disbelievers or the disobedient if S/He wanted to do so. The fact that such people are not, statistically, any worse off than believers indicates one of two things. Either there are no gods; or what gods there are are not the petty-minded, childish, squealing little runts that religious fanatics the world over make their own out to be, but are in harmony with the world we live in (even if we don't seem to want to try for harmony with each other). Which of those options you might prefer is your business, and no concern of mine - just as my conclusion on it is no concern of yours.

But what this *does* tell us is that whatever they might be who claim to be acting on God's behalf, what they're *not* is religious - except inasmuch as egotism is a major world faith (and I think, in Britain, we'd have to concede that it's getting close). Literalists, fanatics, and the like insult their gods with their every oppressive and abusive act. They assume that their God would have no power to look after Himself or do His own dirty work. Yet, still, it's the 'religious' as a whole who get the blanket condemnation and abuse - regardless of what those 'religious' people actually believe.

I'm told by various anti-religionists (mostly parroting Dawkins) that religious people demand disproportionate respect for their faith. I disagree. I for one have no problem with people challenging my religion - but I reserve the right to form an opinion on them based on what they say and how they say it. I think some amongst the religious love to play the martyr card because there's nothing makes people feel good about themselves quite like victimhood. But this isn't exclusive to any one religion - nor even to religion as a concept. Ask an angry anti-religionist why they hate religion and they'll usually cite religion's terrible persecutions of the non-religious. We all love being hard-done-to. Look at me, here: I'm ranting about this precisely because I feel like I'm being put upon by nasty anti-religionists. And really, what the hell does it matter what a bunch of people on a comments page on some tabloid website think about religion?

The crux of really effective victimhood is having someone to hate. For religion, you just pick someone who believes something you don't, or doesn't believe something you do, and go to town on them. Pay no attention to details like What Someone Actually Believes - after all, the version you've got in your head is probably much more effective for rationalising that hatred than the reality. And I know from experience that people don't like to do too much thinking when religion's on the table: it's much simpler just to go with established prejudices. Like, for example, the common idea that all religious people are basically Fundamentalist Christians who, if you don't fight them now, will soon have YOUR kids learning six-day creation instead of science. That's a popular prejudice: a lot of the anti-religionists LOVE that one. So try being a religious person who believes something entirely *different*, or even a more normal Christian who doesn't hold with such literalist ideas, and see how far you get in discussions with such people. You'll still be an idiot: the difference is you're now a *lying* idiot for trying to misrepresent your beliefs.

The truth is that bigotry is bigotry, whether wielded by believer or non-believer.

The AC who posted "religion=comedy" at 16:57 is a case in point. The poster professes a hatred for all religion, on the basis that "99.99%" of religions preach certain beliefs. Where did that stat come from? Answer: straight out of the AC's head. But it's enough: it's enough to rationalise that pre-existing hatred, and it frees the AC from the need to evaluate his or her attitudes. But in fact, the problem I have isn't that people hate religion. Really, it's not. I don't *care* if you hate religion. But religion is a fact of life, and quite frankly I don't think it's going away any time soon. I just think that, probably, the anti-religious might find they fare a bit better against the *real* fanatics - the truly dangerous ones armed with guns and bombs and votes - if they turned down the contrast on their worldview a little and accepted that this situation isn't quite as black-and-white as they tend to make out. Until they can do that, then however strident their protests they're just another group of blinkered zealots.

BT's Phorm small print: It's all your fault


From Bob Merkin

<< [amanfromMars is] really quite harmless, and after a while he actually starts making quite a bit of sense. >>

At which point, you should *really* start worrying.


@ robert

I, too, ditched BT as my ISP *purely* because of their arrogant, underhand and dismissive attitude over WebWise. They didn't deign to answer the reasonable questions I sent to them - they just brushed me off with a load of boilerplate marketing bullshit that didn't even address the questions I'd asked. Just a puff-piece for Phorm.

It'd be naive of me to imagine, though, that my departure to another ISP - even after the number of years I'd been with them - caused BT any trouble at all. We are, after all, just numbers - and let's not kid ourselves: nobody who's not either working in IT or generally prone to paranoia knows the first thing about Phorm anyway. BT can and will do exactly as they please on this, because they're huge, they evidently have enough money to buy the law (gods forbid the UK government should do anything to inconvenience a large corporation), and because most of their customers are totally oblivious to the whole thing.

'First production-line energy weapon' now shipping


Strange choice of name...

Goddess of family, home, hearth, and sub-impressive directed-energy weapons.

Surely there were others whose names would have been more likely to evoke the sort of awe that Northrop Grumman were looking for?

Oh, sorry, yes: 'sharks'. (I gather it's mandatory.)

Hawaiian anti-LHC lawsuit thrown out

Thumb Up

@ Lewis Page

An absolutely fantastic piece of writing. Well done. :o)

Apple faces iTunes case in Norway


@ DutchOven

<< I don't see anyone still up in arms about regional zoning on DVDs >>

Now you have. Pleased to meet you.

Yes, I'm *still* pissed about the region system on DVDs, even though it's largely irrelevant these days. That was nothing more than another means to shaft me for being unfortunate enough to live in the UK. Region 1 movies aren't just cheaper; they also come packaged with boatloads of extra features and so on, while region 2 discs are stripped down to the bare minimum and sold at inflated prices.

Yes, sure, you can make a player run region 1 discs, or buy a region-free player, and buy your movies online. That's not the point. The point is that we shouldn't HAVE to do that, because the government shouldn't have collaborated with the industry to screw us over in the first place. Businesses might be in business to make a profit, that's fine: but make it equitably and morally.


Tut tut...

The sheer *AUDACITY* of it all...

(From the Book of Sledgehammer Hints, #471.)

But seriously - it shouldn't be for Apple to decide what kit we can play songs on. I admit I don't really know how iTunes works, as I've never felt the need to buy an iPod, but I'd take it as a principle that if I'm paying money for music, that money is going to the artist who recorded that music, with a seriously *minimal* amount going to Apple for selling it to me (in other words, if they're getting more than a penny, or at most two, from an 80p track, I'd be annoyed). If that's not the case then it damn well should be - and if it *is* the case then if anyone can impose terms on how and where I play the song I've bought it would be the artist, not Apple.

Not that I'd pay a deal of attention to the artist if they tried to impose ridiculous terms like "you can only listen to this song x number of times" or "you can only play it on equipment I approve". What goes for EA goes for singers, too. I pay money to buy the music/software when and where and as many times as I want. I'm happy to accept the condition of sale that I'm don't then copy it and give it to others - no problem there - but I'm *not* paying money just to get a limited 'licence' to use something, no matter who tells me otherwise.

'Extreme' extreme porn law puts Scots out of kilter


"help ensure society is protected..."

Yeah, that's right. It's all about 'protecting society'. That's why we in the UK have a police force crippled with bureaucracy, chasing after targets and doing frak all about actual crime, and generally unwilling to do anything about it even when they have chance. It's why we have a justice system that won't administer real punishments because Human Rights(tm) says it has to be about kindly rehabilitation - give 'em a cup of tea and a biscuit and sit them down to talk about their feelings; or if you're feeling *really* draconian, give them an ASBO and tell them sternly not to do it again. Oh, we consign them to prisons full of habitual reoffenders for twenty minutes at a time, but nobody's acknowledging the elephant over there in the corner with the "Prison Doesn't Really Work" sign stuck to it. "But what else could we do?" Oh, I dunno, let's see... Maybe lash the f**kers until they agree to stop burgling people's houses? Or better still, lash the f**kers until they agree to start governing the country properly?

This so-called 'protection' is why people daren't go out at night for fear they'll be set upon, mugged and stabbed to death; and why, if they've the gall to try to stop someone killing somebody, they can expect to cop it themselves. It's why the roads are so terrifyingly dangerous. It's why 'community' is nothing more than a buzzword, or at best a synonym for 'pressure group', and hasn't really meant anything else since Thatcher. It's why elderly people - with or without good reason - are sitting in their houses in the dark every night, terrified that the local chav hooligan mob will pick *their* house to trash tonight. It's why we've got a media and a government consciously devoting themselves full-time full-tilt to terrifying the populace in a continuing attempt to make us docile and obedient.

'Protecting society'? No - protecting politicos' interests is the important thing. They're on too many nice gravy trains to worry about the rest of us proles.

And the only thing our 'elected representatives' in this pathetic sham of a democracy want to do - just so they look like they're doing some work - is bugger about with stupid legislation that nobody needs or wants and that will do nothing, absolutely NOTHING, to protect ANYONE from ANYTHING. Oh, except perhaps those evil camera-wielding sightseers, or those equally evil people who put cardboard in their black bin. 'Leaders'? 'Government'? These cretins demonstrate day in and day out that they're not suited to run a bloody train set, much less a country. (Look what they did to the sodding trains.) The whole system stinks of corruption and favouritism; and we're just as bad: we sit around complaining about it, but come election day what's going to happen? I'll tell you what's NOT going to happen: no-one's going to ask the important questions. No-one's going to be saying "hang on, this 'party system': doesn't it by nature fundamentally deny the point of democracy?" No, those of us who bother to move at all that day are going to troop obediently down to the polling station and tick whoever's promise of tax cuts seemed most sincere; or worse, whoever we've always voted for before.

And Clyde talks about having 'pride' in one's 'national institution'?!

Gods, what right have WE got to worry about the Large Hadron Collider? We've ALREADY created a black hole. It's called 'Britain'. I just hope the rest of the world learns something from it before it evaporates.

*pant pant*

All right. Sorry. I must've missed my dose of Prozium this morning.

'You can't use Google' - EU Parliament


@ Me

<< So does the author have any comment to make? >>

Apparently not.

Dead Vulture

Splash one...

Well, I'm fairly convinced. It looks to me as though this article's been pretty comprehensively shot down. So does the author have any comment to make?

Woman sues EA over 'secret' Spore DRM


@ Steve Roper

<<While IANAL, I'm certain that were Alcoholsoft to engage the services of a good trade-practices lawyer, they would have a solid case in just about every country that has any form of fair trade law. >>

Which is the richer company? Given that that's the one that'd win, it's worth thinking about it before we encourage the DRM firm to go get their shifty practices built into law.


At the risk of being long-winded...

<< Is Securom evil? No, no more than Starforce >>

Dear gods... THAT evil?

Having just spent a ridiculously long time trying to get a StarForce-crippled game to work - a game I've actually paid good money for, incidentally - I can't say this argument impresses me that much. StarForce themselves are willing to let me play the game (did I mention I'd paid money for it?), on the condition that I send them a detailed analysis of my system setup and contents. Until I release that information to them, it seems I'm not permitted to play my game. Which, by the way, I actually paid for. In case I wasn't clear on that part.

I never imagined I'd ever look back fondly at Lenslok...

@ Matt Bradley

<< Much as I greatly admire the US belief in the power of the law, I do wonder whether this is a useful expenditure of the court's time. IT IS ONLY A COMPUTER GAME AFTER ALL! >>

It's a computer game that costs an unfeasible amount of money - as do most of them - and more importantly it's a question of how much authority people are going to let game companies exert over their computers. Like I said before, the game company could certainly claim that if I don't like the terms I needn't buy the game (which in this case is exactly why I don't intend to); but you could also say that if the game company want to be totally in control of their product then their best recourse is not to sell it in the first place. My computer is MINE, not EA's, not Microsoft's, not Google's, not the government's, nor anyone else's - and *I* will decide what goes on it, what comes off it, and how many times I reinstall a game I HAVE PAID FOR.

If they want people to play their game - and consider buying their next one - then they HAVE to accept that they cannot stop all piracy, but understand that they can encourage legitimate purchasers by making it painless as possible to buy the game.

This might be 'only a computer game', but as I said before, it's issues like this that will ultimately decide whether or not there any more computer games at all.

@ Dam

<< Take a wild guess at what I might or might not have done ;) >>

The problem with the nefarious and obviously entirely hypothetical approach that you described is that those not used to downloading, ahem, 'backup' copies of the titles they buy would, hypothetically, face the problem of just what they might be downloading along with the 'backup'. I know a previous commenter has mentioned that the 'backup' groups are also in competition with each other - but I for one would hesitate even to click on a website of that type given the flood of equally malicious programs I might unleash.

Unless, of course, talk of such dangers is merely another form of copy protection...

@ AC

I get unreasonably annoyed by those 'you wouldn't steal...' adverts. Firstly because of that very point: because you can't skip them, they only inconvenience the legitimate buyer, while the pirate doesn't see them at all. And secondly, because how the hell do they KNOW I wouldn't steal a car or a handbag? It's just stupid, stupid reasoning - and the idea that they're trying to make out they trust us as law-abiding citizens while effectively treating us as crooks is just laughable. And thirdly, of course, there's the miserable design work involved: SO desperate to be Hip and Cool and Street and Down With The Kids... (Yes, I *know*, that's the *point*.)

@ Tony Paulazzo

You work for the Federation Against Copyright Theft, don't you? That is, after all, their usual fatuous argument.

@ steogede

<< surely you mean "innocent UNLESS proven guilty". >>

Maybe I do. Maybe a lot of people do. "Innocent until proven guilty" is such a common expression it hadn't occurred to me to question it in that much detail.

But in general, if the makers of Spore release a new version, protected by, say, a simple manual serial number, then I'd buy it. It might not be as good as promised, but it still looks fun, and like many people I had been looking forward to it.

As for piracy, my suggestion would be that they stop treating their customers like criminals, and if they want to go after pirates, then chase down those who're creating and hosting copies on a large scale - I'm sure that used to be the way it was done.

Thumb Up

Good luck to them

Good. I wish the plaintiffs luck. If this action goes some way towards reminding the big companies that their customers are innocent until proven guilty, then it'll be a good thing.

This pointless love affair with DRM is what's going to finally kill off the PC games industry, not piracy. If nothing else, it'll kill it a damn sight faster than piracy will. Piracy may do damage, but why do publishers try so very hard to alienate the only people who'd otherwise offset the inevitable piracy losses: the honest customers who want to support game developers?

Royal Navy won't fight pirates 'in case they claim asylum'


@ Bloodthirsty lot aren't we?

<< You're unlikely to kill them all on the first shot are you? Sink their boat, fine, but there will be a few survivors floating around in the water. What do you suggest, sailing over and machine gunning the survivors? What kind of a navy do you think we have? >>

Just sail away and leave them. Let the sea decide their fate. They signed the contract when they took up piracy.



I don't normally go for the BBC 'Have Your Say' Daily Mail approach, but this seems a bit of a non-issue to me.

Rather than worrying that the pirates might seek asylum if captured, could the Navy not... well... shoot them and sink their ships?

"Oh dear, Admiral, you know what? We were just going to invite them on board and offer them a cup of tea and a biscuit, but would you believe, just as we're coming about, their poor ship exploded and sank. Terrible thing, really. The humanity, etc. Mind you, the ship was in a terrible condition as we passed - surprised they put to sea in it at all, really. All those holes in the side, and fires kept starting all over it for some reason. No, no survivors that we could find. We looked. We raked... I mean combed... the area until we ran out of am... until it went dark, and not a sign."

Seriously, I know the tradition is that everyone's in the same boat - so to speak - on the sea and when push comes to shove you help your enemy if he's in trouble. But on the other hand, they're pirates. And pirates, despite the popular conception, aren't cuddly funny people with parrots. They're robbing, raping scum the world would be far better off without. So sink them and to hell with them.

Sorry. I'm going to go for a lie down.

Amanda Donohoe rides into Emmerdale


@ ha ha

<< sheeple >>

Do people still say that? How very 1980s.

Sorry, I'd write more, but I can't be bothered either.



<< FFS people, if you don't want to read the story, DON'T CLICK ON IT!! It really is that simple. >>

A predictable enough comment, certainly. But you missed something. What you're seeing here is people *commenting* on the story, not people reading it.

So is there some reason you imagine readers *shouldn't* feed back to the Reg if they think a story shouldn't be on the site?

Maybe you'd be happy to see the site disappear into celeb-land, but obviously a lot of people here wouldn't.

In order to complain to the Reg about a story, it's not necessary to actually read the article. You can go straight to the comments page. However, even so, it's never sensible to complain about something without first reading what you're complaining about, which might explain why Reg readers are doing so.

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Not here, please, Reg

Agreed. If we want soap news we can go crawling off to those fatuous magazines for people who really think Emmerdale's a real place with real people living in it.

Dear gods, I don't know why people watch that sort of drivel anyway; as if life's not depressing enough as it is.

EA in Spore DRM climbdown


@ John

<< Piracy has already destroyed the music industry >>

Which music industry would that be, then? Presumably it's not the music industry that's raking it in at the moment, but another music industry we're not so familiar with? I see no evidence that the movie industry is in any kind of trouble, and it's a fact (at least for the non-specialist) that DVDs aren't as easy to copy as VHS was. According to Wikipedia (yes, I know, but it's convenient), the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' trilogy as a whole cost $665 million and took $2.6 billion worldwide. Am I really supposed to believe that that's an industry in trouble?

Yes, games cost millions to make. Yes, games are bloody expensive to buy. But, while I don't want to speak for the other commenters, I suspect the objection here isn't to copy protection as a concept, and I'm sure nobody here opposes the right of the manufacturers to make money from the sale of their games.

What people are objecting to, I think quite understandably, is the presumption by the company that ALL its customers are criminals by default; and the fact - the *fact*, mark you - that DRM software does *not* prevent piracy. The *only* function of DRM is to inconvenience the legitimate buyer (or in my case, prevent them playing something they've paid for). As already noted above, pirates don't suffer the inconvenience, because they simply remove the copy protection and carry on without it.

What you're advocating - requesting permission online every time you want to play - isn't 'a little more forgiving', as you put it: it's invasive and insidious. If I fork out £30-40 for a game, then I demand the right to play it when I choose, and uninstall it and reinstall it as many times as I choose. And sure, I'm not obliged to buy the game if I don't like the terms; but at the same time, if the games company doesn't want me playing it then they're not obliged to put the product up for sale in the first place.

Piracy is an unavoidable aspect of technology. I mentioned Positech on my previous comment here: without wanting to seem as though I'm advertising the company, you might want to check out Cliff Harris' blog there: unlike the big companies he's actually taken the time to solicit views from pirates and asked them why they do it. Sure, there'll always be some who do it just because they're thieving scum - but his results seemed to indicate that companies' anti-piracy tactics actually end up being responsible for quite a lot of it.


Angry Internet Men?

Sigmund Fraud said:

<< EA = 0 , Angry Internet Men = 1 >>

And the score for Angry Internet Women?

Well, someone had to say it. Sorry.

But seriously, this whole thing hacks me right off - and particularly at the moment since I've been struggling to reinstall 'Superpower 2', a fairly old geopolitical simulator from Dreamcatcher. After far too much buggering about I've given up. I'd written to 'StarForce' - the company responsible for the atrocious DRM software on the disc, and they've offered to help IF I send them a log containing, as far as I can tell, every last detail of my computer and its configuration. The trouble is, it shouldn't be necessary for me to forward all that information to someone: I've paid for the game, and therefore I'm not a pirate, and therefore I should not be being treated like one. If I can find a cracked copy that I don't think is going to riddle my machine with malware then I'll download it (I have, after all, already bought the game so I don't consider that piracy). Why should I go hat-in-hand to some third-party company and beseech them for permission to use a game I've already paid for? It's time we saw the end of this 'licensing' scam: "oh, you might have paid a ridiculously inflated price for the game, but it's not actually YOURS - you can only use it if we say you can."

F... rak you, then, quite honestly.

But when I get paid next I'm going to buy Democracy 2 from Positech, because although it's not quite what I was after, it's the sort of game I enjoy. I liked the demo, and, above all, the writer is extending me the courtesy of assuming I'm *not* a pirate. There's no DRM and no other messing about. I pay him, I download the game, I play. As a result, I intend to give him money to pay him for the work he's done on the game. That's how it works. But from here on in, if these big firms want to treat me like scum then they can whistle for my money. From now on the copy protection is going to be the first thing I check before I buy a game - and if there's anything more than a serial code in the box or some similarly straightforward system, well, sorry, but no sale.

Sorry. Bit on the Angry Internet side, there... :o)

Net Suicide Bill would breathe life into government censorship


@ Laurent_Z

<< wasn't it the UK that had, in the seventies, a law that punished failed suicide attemps by ... a sentence of death ? >>

Not that I'm aware of. I believe the penalty for failed suicide attempts was imprisonment. But the Suicide Act - decriminalising suicide - was passed in 1961, so it certainly wasn't in the 70s.

As for the death penalty, the last execution in the UK was in 1964 and the death penalty itself was abolished in 1969; although it remained on the statute books for certain offences (notably treason and piracy) until 1998, it was never applied. After the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, it was removed from the books entirely. And a bloody shame, too.

It's strange to think, though, that the act that officially ended capital punishment in Britain was the same act that gave us the lamentably useless ASBO, and approved legislative racial discrimination in the form of 'racial aggravation'.


Legally Grey

It is a crime to encourage or incite suicide, or to directly assist someone to commit suicide. It is not - since the Suicide Act 1961 - a crime to commit or to attempt to commit suicide, to threaten suicide, or (and this is the bit that I'd say applies most here) to seek advice or discussion on the subject of suicide.

Yes, there are sites out there that glorify death and encourage morbidity (in the sense of an interest in death); but there are books, magazines, music, and whole subcultures that do the same thing. Whatever your feelings on such groups and attitudes, are we to have every goth, emo and vampire site removed as well, in case it romanticises death?

The government seem to believe that they can simply beat every problem out of existence by hitting it with their big legislation hammer, but this is a prime example of their misjudgement. People who seek out sites relating to suicide may find them of positive benefit. To take away a channel for discussion and empathy would be potentially very damaging. It might seem fair enough to say that they'll focus on sites that glorify or encourage suicide - but that's rather subjective, and in any case, removing or blocking such sites doesn't address the problem being experienced by those who would seek them out in the first place.

Police drop BT-Phorm probe

Dead Vulture

What did we really expect?

Phorm have money. BT have lots of money. Money equals law.

You can forget the European Commission, too: money works just as well in the rest of Europe as it does here.

We wanted a free market. Looks like we've got what we wanted.



Burned by Chrome - Fire put out

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@ Chris

"What Google HAD was a vast reservoir of goodwill, which they have steadily pissed away."

Google pissed away most of its public goodwill by growing, as most large companies do. A company can have goodwill or it can be big. The two are mutually exclusive. People root for the underdog. They might worship the wealthy and successful and seek to emulate them, but failing that they love nothing more than seeing those same people brought down. A successful company, it's assumed, must have got to where it is by sinister and underhand means and by treading on the little guys.

Think of any large corporation and you'll find conspiracy theories aplenty. Try reading through some of the articles on snopes.com relating to Coca-Cola and Disney, to name but two. Microsoft is another obvious one, as seen with depressing regularity on here, as of course is Google.

Now I'll freely admit I don't much like Google. I won't be using Chrome for the time being, because I'm quite happy with my current browser. And I admit, I don't like the floods of cookies Google subject me to when I use their 'services', and this is why my involvement with them is generally limited to using their search engine. I wouldn't even do that if it weren't undeniably the best search engine around. I'd rather support some of the smaller ones, like AltaVista or Ask - but the simple fact is that they can't do what Google does - at least, not quite so well. (On the other hand, I do like Google Earth, and even Street View is looking interesting, so maybe I'm just a shill on the payroll of the conspirators.) Privacy is important, and vigilance should certainly be maintained. Questions should be asked. But we have to be rational. The fervour with which Google's detractors leap on every question and peculiarity hardly seems to qualify there. Cynicism, pessimism and paranoia might be the *safest* course, but then, I'd probably be a sight safer if I stayed locked in my house day and night, never did anything and never interacted with anyone. Would I be living a better life, though?

This EULA started out wrong. Now it's right. This suspicious wording has been removed, and Google have offered an explanation and an assurance that the change applies retrospectively. The only question that remains is whether we now want to get on with our lives, or spend our time throwing unverifiable allegations around. If you've decided that Google, or anyone else, are the Evil Empire, then nothing they say or do is likely to convince you otherwise.

The Mars Global Surveyor photos of Cydonia *had* to be fabricated, because they didn't show a Face, and since everyone *knows* the Face is there that just proves that NASA are Up To Something. Right?

(It's been suggested that the BBC are deliberately framing their Have Your Say questions in ways they hope will attract the largest number of entertaining ranters. I suspect the Reg staff are thinking along the same lines: wind 'em up and watch 'em go.)

McCain: Keep Shuttle flying, don't trust Russia



"The speak-your-brains section also make for sad reading. Despite hitting Godwin's law within about 4 posts no-one makes the obvious link between America's shitty space program's (based on Nazi tech) long history of getting it's arse kicked by Russian and British efforts (albeit ours are now owned by the French.....)."

So America's space programme is 'shitty' because of the Nazis?

Good gods...


Trite, I know, but...

I'm always astonished at the sheer number of conversational topics that can end up with all this tiresome - I mean really, incredibly tedious and unproductive - bitching and counter-bitching about whether America joined/won/started/cared about World War I/II/III/XXVI, and it goes on and on and on and nobody involved in it seems to realise or care that *the argument will never end*. That, of course, doesn't stop people from dragging it into discussion at every conceivable opportunity.

And frankly - and I know this isn't a fashionable thing to say bearing in mind the whole 'lest we forget' motif - speaking for myself I don't give two hoots why America joined in World War II when it did. The simple fact is that it *did*, and its assistance was invaluable. I don't know whether we could've won the war without them, and it really doesn't matter: because they *did* join in, we never had to find out, and that's the end of it. There's no point wasting time on meaningless 'what-ifs'. I don't know how much we ended up owing them, and I don't know how much we owe each other now. What I do know is that those questions are for the respective treasuries to deal with, and are certainly no cause for me to start bitching at Americans over something that happened sixty damn years ago.

As trite and sickening as it probably sounds to all you hardened cynics, the simple fact is that our two countries, the USA and the UK, are friends. We help each other out; we have a lot in common. We have our differences, but our rivalry is, I like to think, moderately good-natured. I'd even venture way beyond acceptable comment for a Brit and suggest that as a matter of fact, these days we generally get on pretty well with Europe, too (it's an unwritten rule in Britain that you're not supposed to say nice things about Europe, and in particular the French and the Germans, but I call bullshit on that stupid, outmoded idea. I have a great deal of respect for Europe).

I know no historical event exists in a vacuum. I know that both World Wars still reverberate today. But our idiotic leaders are working their arses/asses/whatever the Russian and Chinese are for 'arses' off trying to flare up conflicts the last of which we should've put to rest twenty damn years ago. As if there isn't enough conflict in the world already. We don't HAVE to join in by constantly picking at every last scab and nursing imagined grudges from events over which, let's face it, most of us here are probably too young to claim personal affront.

Our politicians are exactly this kind of fool, and they're going to bring us *all* down if we're willing to simply line up behind them and buy into their paranoid garbage. If we can't persuade our governments to represent our views, and if we can't change the elitist systems we've put in place whereby only the rich and privileged can exercise power, then the very least we can do is maintain our dignity as human beings which, let's not forget, is one massive thing we all have in common.

Okay, that's the end of my rant. You can call me a deluded hippy if you like.