To err is human, but to obfuscate is divine…

I readily admit that I rant a lot about the wrongdoings of government and politicians, but lately I’ve been wondering if it is actually achieving anything. I’ve come to realise that the more you denigrate these people, the more it tends to make them retreat into that comfortable shell of denial and obfuscation.

Let’s face it, politicians are generally slimy scumbags. There are probably a few honest politicians somewhere… like on another galaxy maybe.

The way I see it, the problem we have is that when we criticize these slime balls, we tend to speak on behalf of the many who are wronged by their actions, but either don’t have the cojones to speak out, or do anything about it, or can’t be bothered. And let’s not forget that there are always a few who are advantaged (at the expense of the many, off course) by their nefarious activities, because where there are politicians, there’s always cronies. Shit always attracts flies…

I often come across critics who ask this question of government (the politicians): “Do they honestly believe that we are that gullible or stupid?” The simple answer is “Yes, they do.” Because the numbers that continue to return them to power at the voting polls speaks volumes about our apathy, ignorance, fears, and yes, gullibility and stupidity.

Mocking and incensed dissonance is well and good. It’s nice to blow off some steam. But we need to understand that it is ineffectual in the end. Our real (and probably only law-abiding) power lies in tossing these bastards out at elections.

Imbeciles abound in e-tolling lobby


taxes (Photo credit: 401K)

The plot to defraud the South African public by way of sustained taxation continues…

Because it’s getting more difficult to dip bling-hungry fingers into the cooky jar without being caught, the latest attempt to filch legally by the South African government comes in the guise of e-tolling. This repugnant scheme involves coercing the already over-taxed public into paying criminally exorbitant tolls, to use South Africa’s national roads that have already been built and paid for with the public’s taxes.

When the scheme became public knowledge, the resultant outcry forced the SA government to put it on hold. However the lure of easy money could not be resisted, and they persisted in proceeding with this ruse of self-enrichment, arrogantly buoyed by the knowledge that the ignorant people who had kept them in power for nearly 20 years, would let it slide, like they did with so many other indiscretions by government.

Not this time however. Even the perpetually ignorant could not be forced to buy into this outrageous scheme to part them from their hard-earned money.

So the SA government tried the incentivizing approach by offering discounts to those who registered to hand over their cash willingly. When that did not work, they resorted to blackmail, threatening the public with surcharges for non-registration and punitive costs for late and non-payment, including threats of arrest and incarceration.

In between these extreme measures, government spin doctors such as Jimmy Manyi incredibly tried to convince the unwashed masses that paying the e-tolls was a method of “rolling out democracy.”

Not to be outdone, Nazir Alli of Sanral, the roads agency charged by government to administer this fraud scheme, pleaded with the public:

We appeal to all to obey the laws of our country . I encourage you to register so that you can enjoy these discounts.

This is how, we the public interpret this statement: Please don’t fuck with the laws we created to screw you. If you register, we’ll give you dumb fucks a discount for being such ignorant shits.

Nazir is on par with Manyi for being the biggest morons in South Africa at the moment – only Julius Malema tops that honour.

I have only one thing to say to Nazir and Manyi: Fuck you, your democracy, your toll roads and your government. I ain’t paying one red cent.

But that's what I've been saying…

Editor of the Mail & Guardian Online, Chris Roper is facing facts…like me. While his take on [SA] politicians, following the most recent boorish outburst by Master Ignoramus otherwise known as Julius Malema may be common knowledge in enlightened circles, it may not go down so well in the halls of arrogant power and privilege.

It’s time we faced the fact. The default position for most South African politicians is “scumbag”, and their automatic level of discourse is “childish”. I had to think carefully about using the word childish. It smacks of paternalism, and of that endless Western quest to stereotype Africans as children and noble savages. But thankfully, youthful leaguer Julius Malema has freed us all up to be as rambunctiously offensive as we wish, as long as we don’t name names.

Catch the rest of his eloquent reasoning here.


I believe that the South African government believes that the people believe that the hateful system of Apartheid was replaced with democracy.

Off course, a people who had never known democracy, were bound to accept whatever replaced white minority rule, as good; and even accept that it could be called democracy, given that they were largely denied the education to understand its nuances in the first instance. However, with education apparently being more freely available under this new political dispensation, it’s evident that the masses still have no clue whether they have democracy, or whether it is still being denied to them.

I started thinking about all of this when I read an article titled Which dog is winning? by a young South African women, Vuvu Vena. Vuvu declares that she was spared being born under the system of Apartheid, but has only now started questioning what kind of political system she was lucky enough to be born into. Vuvu may be one of only a handful who is trying to come to terms with what is really going on in the country she has been lead to believe is democratic and free – the vast majority of South Africans however still live in ignorance.

I’m writing this essay in the hope that it will help Vuvu understand what the boastful politician she questioned, is denying her. Traditionally democracy is referred to as being off the people, for the people, by the people. But is this the case in South Africa? Certainly South Africa’s political system is off the people, but can it also be described as being for the people and by the people?

The so-called democracy in its current form in South Africa, is all about majority rule. And I’m afraid that’s all it’s ever going to be about. The ANC government’s paranoia over the previous Apartheid system has seen to it that this new system will be all about majority rule; and little else. They have managed to convince the overwhelming Black majority population that majority rule must be the essence of the new non-racial (?) dispensation; fuck democracy.

As long as an ignorant majority can be coerced through the fear of a return to minority rule, to keep the majority race in power, South Africa will never have a free or fair system of government. It gets worse; the majority do not even benefit more under this skewed system, as should be normal, but their enforced state of ignorance ensures that the fat-cat politicians who created this disturbing situation, will forever be in power, to do as they please with resources that rightfully belong to the people.

True representative democracy will not work in South Africa, until the people become educated enough to understand what it really means. The truth is that the vast majority of voting South Africans are politically naive, and vote like guided sheep, rather than with intelligence and consideration. The only hope is to either educate enough people about representative democracy, or wait for the situation to normalise when the traditionally ignorant are removed from the process through natural attrition. The latter is going to take a long time, which means that even those who think they so-called “born-frees”, will never experience true democracy in their lifetimes. Quite sad really…

Science – otherwise known as miracles to religious nutters

We might as well be living in the year 1020, for all the knowledge we have acquired since then, fails to register with people who are fervently religious. Ignorance still rules, in the year 2010.

Just last week Stephen Hawking released a new book he co-authored with US physicist Leonard Mlodinow where he states that a god was not necessary for the creation of the universe. The furore that followed can only be described as fucking ridiculous. On the one hand he was denigrated by various critics as employing deceitful PR tactics to sell his book by re-igniting the god-science debate, and on the other he was castigated as usual by the rabidly religious [see comments for article] for daring to suggest that god was redundant.

While the critics may have a valid argument, the comments from the religious nutters reveals just how much ignorance still exists when it comes to the pursuit of science and the aims and objectives of true scientists. The experiments currently being conducted in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN came under attack as a waste of money, time and resources. The religious peanut gallery seriously think that the experiments to find the elusive Higgs Boson particle, humorously nicknamed the god particle, is an attempt by scientists to prove that a god does not exist. That is nothing short of being criminally naive at best, and dangerously ignorant at worst. It seems that none of them have considered that scientific experiments lead to the technologies that creates the everyday conveniences that they take for granted.

So, when you come across a claim from the church, that the medical science that led to the quick recovery of a heart attack patient is nothing but a miracle from god, you begin to realize that these fruitcakes think of science as a miracle. This week the Rhema Bible Church claimed that the recovery of their pastor, Ray McCauley was nothing but a miracle. They have deemed it fit to render medical science and doctors redundant. By their reasoning, all patients who survive heart attacks, do so because of miracles from a selective supernatural benefactor. The same benefactor who somehow cannot save helpless people, including children and the aged from natural or man-made disasters, and other illnesses.

As a matter of interest, the procedure that apparently saved Ray McCauley required his brain to be frozen for about 10 hours. Luckily those who follow his every word, and presumably that written by the gods, and continue to enrich the Rhema empire, won’t need this procedure – they have self-imposed it. Now if science could only find a cure for self-inflicted brain freezing, I would be tempted to concede that as a miracle.

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

The Greatest Show on Earth

There’s been a lot of interruptions and too little time available over the last half-year or so, but I’ve finally completed reading Dawkins’ latest masterpiece, The Greatest Show on Earth. It’s subtitled The Evidence for Evolution, and boy is there a lot of it in the book.

It’s a strange title for a book on the evidence for evolution, but apparently Dawkins got the idea from a T-shirt given to him bearing the words “Evolution: The Greatest Show on Earth; the Only Game in Town”
Prior to reading this book, I needed no convincing that evolution was a fact, but Dawkins provides plenty of new information that I had not known before. Although it makes for heavy reading in some parts due to the complexity of the sciences involved, the book is geared towards the layman, and is relatively easy to understand.
As usual, Dawkins writes in that characteristically eloquent and witty style he’s famous for in his other works, often castigating the creationist lobby, who are referred to as “history deniers.” He’s often been criticised for his approach, but I can find little fault with his stance considering the undeniable ignorance that is prevalent in the religious world; a lot of it wilful in nature.
Creationists often point to the so-called missing links in the fossil record, as evidence that evolution is wrong. Dawkins makes a telling point that even if the entire fossil record were not available to scientists, the incontrovertible evidence from molecular biology and genetics is more than enough to prove the veracity of evolution and natural selection.
Off course, the book won’t appeal to the fundamentalist religious community; nor will it convince them to change their beliefs about creationism. Wilful ignorance is a pillar of religious strength. However, for those who are interested in actually learning something meaningful about life and the way nature really works, even those who are marginally religious, this book will challenge any preconceived ideas you held, if not convince you that evolution is in fact, a FACT.
Notable Quote:
Once again, humans are not descended from monkeys. We share a common ancestor with monkeys. As it happens, the common ancestor would have looked a lot more like a monkey than a man, and we should indeed probably have called it a monkey if we had met it, some 25 million years ago. But even though humans evolved from an ancestor that we could sensibly call a monkey, no animal gives birth to an instant new species, or at least not one as different from itself as a man is from a monkey, or even from a chimpanzee. That isn’t what evolution is about. Evolution not only is a gradual process as a matter of fact; it has to be gradual if it is to do any explanatory work. Huge leaps in a single generation – which is what a monkey giving birth to a human would be – are almost as unlikely as divine creation, and are ruled out for the same reason: too statistically improbable. It would be so nice if those who oppose evolution would take a tiny bit of trouble to learn the merest rudiments of what it is that they are opposing.

Ignorance about ignorance

I have just started reading Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show On Earth – The Evidence for Evolution and was discussing it (evolution) with a work colleague the other morning. He mentioned that he was not aware of the validity of evolution as his religious upbringing had steered his thinking about the concept in a negative direction.

This is nothing new. It is quite common for those with a religious bent to assert that evolution is just a theory, as if it was merely a silly proposition or conjecture. It’s not their fault that they were led into thinking so by their parents and religious instructors. I am convinced that these people usually find no need to question the authority of  elders, as it would be construed as disrespectful. Invariably there would be no need to seek out substitutes or alternatives. I mentioned to my colleague that ignorance, although regularly referred to as not being a virtue, would in this instance not be a major transgression.

Ignorance merely points to a lack of knowledge, even though most people use the word to imply something more sinister. However, wilful ignorance is another matter entirely. When one actively disengages one’s mind from searching for, or educating himself or herself about the alternatives, when a dogmatically held belief is shown to be wanting, then that constitutes wilful ignorance.

I remember my colleague responding that “new-found knowledge invariably upsets one’s lifestyle, routine, beliefs, even relationships and thus caused more problems,” when we were interrupted and I could not finish my argument. I sincerely believe that he is open-minded and willing to embrace new knowledge, so for his benefit, my response follows:

Knowledge can never be regarded as harmful by itself. There is no harm in finding things out; you are not obligated to accept what you find. What could be harmful, is the manner in which you choose to use that knowledge. You could use it for good or bad purposes. The key is to evaluate new knowledge critically before accepting or rejecting it. Any other treatment of new knowledge has more chances of causing negative changes in your life. The simple truth is that the truth is not always pretty or palatable.

Truth is good; actively seek it. Change is good; embrace it.

Are there giant gaps in religious thinking, or is there a deliberate agenda to mislead?

We have access to information on every conceivable subject available either on-line or in books, tapes, discs and other media. People are relatively free to choose what information they retain and what to discard, what to believe and what to scoff at. However, given the availability of all this information, the levels of uncritical thought among people (even those one could describe as intelligent), is unbelievably appalling.

One can never believe anything with 100% certainty. There are ranges of probability always. And choosing what to believe is not so easy, but science, or more precisely The Scientific Method, through skeptical and critical thinking provides probably the only acceptable tool for making that choice with near certainty. Carl Sagan, in his book The Demon Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark proposed a toolkit for skeptical thinking. Called the Baloney Detection Kit, it provides some basic tools for testing credulity (or detecting baloney according to Sagan).

I don’t want to re-invent the stunning work done by Carl Sagan, or by Michael Shermer in the video which the link above points to, but briefly the Baloney Detection Kit asks the following questions (the video provides a more detailed explanation with examples):

  1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
  2. Does the source make similar claims?
  3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
  4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
  5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
  6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
  7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
  8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
  9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
  10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

Now, if you’re still with me, I’ve just  mentioned all these things because it is leading up to the question I posed in the title of this blog post. Over the last week or two, I’ve been receiving comments on some of my earlier posts which lead me to believe that either there are monumental gaps in religious thinking which causes them to articulate innocently or unknowingly. Or there is an effort by believers to obscure their beliefs either deliberately or collaboratively through premeditation [Chapter 12, The Fine Art of Baloney Detection, Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World].

Over the years, I have observed that the debate between the evolution and creation camps has become more than just a fight between science and religion; it has come to represent the difference between belief and non-belief, the god-fearing against the heathen. It’s no surprise then that believers usually resort to dragging up this old debate every time they are confronted by non-believers.  In recent times, and with this being the Year of Darwin (the 200th anniversary of his birth on 12 February, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work On the Origin of Species on 24 November), Evolution is yet again under attack, and Creationism with its more fashionable alter-ego Intelligent Design, is defiantly being bandied about with renewed vigor, but with the same absence of credible evidence. Only these days, even though fewer people believe this creationist and intelligent design nonsense, those who still do, express their belief with the absolutist fervour that mainly religion provides.

It seems that the main problem creationists have with evolution is the gaps in the fossil record. They conveniently ignore the wealth of evidence that has been collected over the years in other areas and disciplines of science which overwhelmingly point to the validity of evolution, and natural selection. Ergo question 6 in the Baloney Detection Kit above. And at the risk of belaboring this point, consider this revelation from Richard Dawkins in his book, The Ancestor’s Tale :

In spite of the fascination of fossils, it is surprising how much we would know about our evolutionary past without them. If every fossil were magicked away, the comparative study of modern organisms, of how their patterns of resemblance, especially of their genetic sequences, are distributed among species, and of how species are distributed among continents, and islands, would still demonstrate, beyond all sane doubt, that our history is evolutionary, and that all living creatures are cousins. Fossils are a bonus. A welcome bonus, to be sure, but not an essential one. It is worth remembering this when creationists go on (as they tediously do) about “gaps” in the fossil record. The fossil record could be one big gap, and the evidence for evolution would still be overwhelmingly strong. At the same time, if we had only fossils and no other evidence, the fact of evolution would again be overwhelmingly supported. As things stand, we are blessed with both.

The other grossly dishonest practice by creationists is the constant referral to evolution as a belief system or just a theory. Invariably in my correspondence, I have also come across the veiled inference to Darwinism as a kind of belief-system or religion. It’s quite inexplicable why to date, creationists have not learned what a scientific theory really is, with all the information available on the subject. Have you ever heard them refer to the Theory of Gravity, as just a theory?  Is it laziness or plain ignorance, or perhaps more sinister; wilful ignorance? And have you noticed this pathetic attempt by the creationist lobby to bring the whole debate down to the level of worship: do you worship Darwin or god? It leaves me filled with anger.

The other fundamental dishonesty I have come across is the attempt to pass religious texts off as containing profound truths about the secrets of the world, life and death, and even scientific facts. Most claims in this regard reference the bible, although I’m pretty sure that other religions make similar claims about their religious texts too. Consider the following from one of my commenters:

…things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

If you haven’t figured out what this scientific fact is, allow me to enlighten you: everything you see is made of invisible atoms. Although why the particular text does not state ” things which are seen are made of atoms” is beyond me. However, I’ve been cautioned not to question the word of god.

He…. hangs the earth upon nothing. (Job 26:7)

Supposedly it is a great leap forward from ancient mythology when the belief was that the earth sat on the back of some animal or other creature (common belief from Greek mythology is that it was the Titan Atlas, but it has been more accurately interpreted as him actually holding up the sky on his shoulders to prevent the earth and sky from embracing). The contention is that the bible revealed long before the advent of science that earth floated freely in space. Perhaps it has not occurred to believers that by the time the bible was being compiled, people had already figured out, just by observing the moon, that maybe the earth was also floating freely in space. But it still doesn’t explain why the wording is not plain, and why the earth should “hang” on anything, even if it was nothing.

He that made him can make his sword to approach unto him. (Job)

Apparently a reference to behemoths in the book of Job, describes the dinosaurs and how god made them go extinct. What the book doesn’t describe is why god would create dinosaurs in the first instance and then destroy them before the great flood that apparently wiped out his original creation of man.

There are off course other claimed references to scientific fact in the bible, but it’s not necessary to list them. I think the point is made. Some of these other references apparently point to the fields of medicine as well. Who knows, maybe there is the cure for AIDS in there somewhere, but we’re too dumb to find it. What also remains inexplicable is why the claimed scientific facts were not more clearly spelled out to enable man to use them and thus eliminate years of suffering and misery. Apparently god’s agenda encompasses a great deal of pain and suffering, then grovelling, before salvation is earned.

I have touched on a few aspects of flawed religious thinking here, but the question still remains: Is it naive ignorance, or a deliberate attempt to obfuscate? Or maybe a bit of both?