Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dr Evan Harris (ex-MP), the Telegraph religion editor and Dogging

I view religion much like S & M, Microsoft Windows, dogging, golf or homosexuality. It is something that I am O.K. for other consenting adults to engage in, providing I don't have to be any part of it. None of the above are wrong (dogging is grey territory ) and if it fits with the individuals and they are comfortable with it, then it is nothing to do with me either way. I also have a choice not to be part of these or influenced by these life choices and that should be respected.

I have very high regard for a number of religious people. The good work that many vicars, priests, rabbi, and clerics do in the name of their god makes a huge contribution to parts of society otherwise neglected. I don't agree with a minister of religion being considered as a profession, but it very much should have a respected place in society.

I attended a Westminster Skeptics meeting a few months ago where Dr Evan Harris spoke. He was articulate, talked sense and was quite funny. He was also in touch with reality and supported science based medicine and the reform of UK libel laws which is important to an extent that would shock most people.

This article in the Telegraph about how great it was that Evan Harris, aka Dr. Death lost his seat suggests that George Pitcher is not suited for his day job. A subset of comments sum up very well where Rev George has gone astray.

I find it remarkable that an Anglican “priest” can be so uncharitable about a fellow human being.

Religion and politics are bad bed-fellows and mixing them together has caused no-end of problems around the world (not least the supposed role of neo-cons in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan).

I’ve heard Evan Harris speak passionately about issues he cares about and is far from a ‘one-trick pony’.I hope that Nicola Blackwood serves her new constituents just as well.

and on a more sarcastic angle

Yeah, what a relief – on his website it says he campaigns “for science, evidence-based policy, free speech, human rights, equality”
What a disaster it would be if people like that ever came to have any sort of influence
and the best one

Dear Mr Pitcher – I would dearly love to believe that you are a spoof written by Craig Brown, but since I fear you are genuine, I feel compelled to tell you that I found this column astonishing. Explain – what do you, as an Anglican priest, gain from publishing such a pointless, vicious and personal attack? Do you really think such a display of spite is a good advertisement for your faith?

Holding principles that differ from yours is not really the same as being without principle, is it? It would be hard to find anyone in politics with more integrity, compassion and moral courage than Evan Harris, and a great many of the weakest and most vulnerable people, as you call them, will feel the loss of his influence very keenly. Your quite extraordinarily hate-filled gloating has only done you and the church you represent a disservice.

(Just for the record, I don’t have a fascination with death, but I am quite fascinated by human rights, equality, free speech and science and many of the other issues for which Dr Harris has campaigned.)

PS – Craig, if it is you, it’s very funny but you’ve made him a bit extreme. Tone it down a bit, eh.

and last but not least

To begin, I’d like to point out that writing ‘Dr’ doesn’t negate the FACT that Dr Harris is a qualified Doctor of medicine. You know, one of those men/women of science who do good for others.

‘A stranger to principle’ you say. Really? Not a man who stands up for his convictions then, in the face of the right-wing press who seek to besmirch him, to describe him as ‘Dr Death’ because he doesn’t follow what was written in your 2000 year old handbook for life!

Dr Harris has been a dedicated local MP, an important voice for science and for civil liberties. Even you, ‘Rev’ Pitcher (see what I did there?) need men like Dr Harris. There are plenty of groups who would have had your superstition-based groups outlawed, rather than stand up for the rights of ALL.
Note the difference, equality for all, not for special interest groups.

There is a whole other thread in the comments about Iraq and Jews which escaped me.

Then in the Telegraph(same paper) we get this from Tom Chivers who appears to be the Telegraph version of Martin Robbins without the beard. The summary is "George, you were very wrong, particularly the comment of Evan Harris having no principles, they are just different from yours".

One of the big problems for any government intent on reform will face are various types of leaders who stand in the way of sorting out systemic underlying issues include
  • Trade union leaders opposing pension reform
  • Religious leaders opposing research of many kinds
  • Business leaders who allow libel tourism
and few politicians have the courage to engage in debate with these groups. Ultimately, it is us who let these minority leaders (as above) make politicians dance around the hard issues trying not to upset the special interest groups and then we complain that government does not fix the hard problems of the day.

Evidence based science should be beyond the influence of these special interest groups and that is perhaps what made Dr Evan Harris a target of these right wing groups and people like George Pitcher. Dr. Harris was a visible champion for Evidence Based Science and what George and friends are really scared of is having to provide evidence to back up a reasoned argument.

1 comment:

  1. Funny how this page came up when I searched for dogging.