Friday, November 10, 2006



There is this:
Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that the threat from home-grown Islamic terrorism would last “a generation,” reinforcing a highly unusual warning by the head of the MI5 domestic intelligence agency that some 1,600 suspects in 200 terrorist cells were under surveillance.

The [intelligence] estimate by Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5, was by far the most extensive and alarming report given by the government. It included assertions that some 30 terrorist cells were under surveillance and that “tomorrow’s threat may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials
and even nuclear technology.”

- "Blair Says Terrorist Threat to Last ‘a Generation’" by Alan Cowell, The New York Times, November 10, 2006.
And then this:
Earlier this year, at a lecture sponsored by the Royal Society, Steve Jones, the British geneticist, noted that more than half of all Americans, including President Bush, believe in some form of creationism, and that creationism was "beginning to find a significant toehold in the U.K."

Jones called this a "step back from rationality." As in the U.S., main proponents of creationism are religious fundamentalists. In Britain's case, however, the fundamentalists tend to be Muslims rather than Christians.

Earlier this year, Muslim medical students at one London university distributed leaflets challenging Darwin's theory and citing a verse from the Koran that says God created every animal from water.

- "Society fights battle royal over creationism, global warming" by Tom Hundley, The Chicago Tribune, November 10, 2006.
I wish I had a solution for either problem ... assuming they are separate problems.

I am afraid that Richard Dawkins-style scolding does nothing or, worse, exacerbates the problem, by making the choice between religion and rationality starker than it really is, in the unfortunately mistaken belief that people will choose rationality over religion when they are presented as mutually exclusive.

Nor can I see how freedom can exist in the absence of religious freedom; so crude steps to outlaw even the most extreme beliefs are only solutions in the same sense as cutting off a leg cures a frostbitten toe.

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