Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team
|The Pope and male prostitutes|
Even though the barbaric days of the Inquisitions, Crusades, witch hunts, pogroms and holy wars are things of history for the Christian Church, deeply shameful events from their past that sometimes spanned centuries, unfortunately their arrogant willingness to inflict death and suffering on the world has not waned. In the modern world they get to visit a new evil on innocent men, women and children. And that evil is the ban on the use of condoms. As in the past, a minority of ignorant but powerful old men force their primitive and superstitious dogma onto a majority of equally ignorant believers, and wholly unnecessary death and suffering is the result. And as in the past, again it is the Catholic Church that is pushing this evil, and demonstrating that they are still living in the past, having failed to learn from their innumerable mistakes. The modern world has witnessed the spread of the serious disease AIDS, which is caused by the virus HIV, but technology has also given us a limited means of controlling its spread, the condom. But the ignorant Catholic Church and its strict ban on contraception has seen the Pope demand that no Catholic shall ever use a condom, even if its use is to prevent the spread of HIV rather than contraception. AIDS has reached epidemic proportions in many countries, especially in Africa, where a great many are uneducated and under the Catholic spell. The Catholic Church's grip on these people and its threat of eternal torture if they use contraception means that HIV is continuing to spread at an alarming rate. Men and women are continuing to contract, suffer and die of AIDS, infected mothers are passing the infection onto their babies, and even untold numbers of children that are not infected end up as orphans as a result of the early deaths of their parents. Not only families, but entire communities and countries are being seriously impacted by the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The simple use of a condom could dramatically slow the spread of AIDS, and save millions of lives and untold human suffering. But the ignorant Pope and his decadent church are so convinced of their God's commandment that his creations go forth and multiply, that any attempt to have sex without the possibly of producing children is seen as blasphemous, sinful, as a rebellion against God. Sex is for producing babies, nothing else. It is not to be entered into for enjoyment or even enjoyed at all. The only permitted acts are those that will produce children, oral sex for example is forbidden. Likewise once a woman becomes pregnant, is menstruating, or is infertile, she must not have sex. If a young man discovers he is infertile, he must also stop having sex. It's not for fun, OK? And of course since homosexuality will never produce offspring, it is likewise a big sin. Any attempt to have sex and prevent pregnancy is one of the most horrendous crimes that a Catholic can commit according to the Pope and his palace of celibate cronies. And of course condoms are a very effective, very cheap, very simple means of contraception. They are also an effective way of preventing the transmission of HIV. But the Pope doesn't care about the condom and AIDS. It wouldn't matter if the condom could cure world hunger and bring about world peace, it prevents little Catholics from being conceived and so it is an evil thing. Unfortunately it is the ignorant Catholics of the world that live in the high-risk countries for AIDS. Well, all Catholics are ignorant to a degree or else they wouldn't be religious, but educated Catholics, certainly all that we've met, all use contraception and simply ignore the Vatican's wish to control their sex lives. Concerning sex they, strangely enough, think they know more about God's true wishes than does the Pope and the Church. Technically they're called hypocrites. But it is the uneducated, ignorant Catholics in the high-risk countries that could most benefit from using condoms and yet it is they that the Pope has the most control over. It is they that are terrified by the Pope's threat of damnation if they slip on a condom. Pope Benedict XVI has incensed the thinking and caring citizens of the world by insisting that handing out condoms would actually make the problem of AIDS worse. That the Pope, bishops, priests, nuns and the entire Catholic Church hierarchy are willing to waste their lives on their knees mumbling to an imaginary fairy is depressing enough, but in pushing their delusion out into the real world they visit this evil onto untold innocent men, women and children. Millions will suffer and die unnecessarily solely because of a fear of punishment by a vindictive fairy that doesn't exist. The pope talks about the evil of HIV and AIDS, and yet there is nothing evil about AIDS, it is simply a devastating disease caused by a non-thinking virus. To commit evil requires a mind with knowledge and intention. The only evil perpetrated is the deliberate refusal by the pope and the Catholic Church to approve and distribute simple and cheap condoms that could alleviate untold suffering and death. The real and only evil surrounding AIDS is the Vatican's strict commandment to its followers: Thou shalt not use condoms, even if your life depends on it. And it does.
People will look back to this time in history and view the deaths caused, the families torn apart and communities and countries ruined by the Vatican's ban on condom use as equally reprehensible to the senseless inhumanities visited upon the innocent during the likes of the inquisitions, crusades and witch trials.
What brought about this rant was the news this week that the Vatican's latest geriatric nutcase to play the part of pope, Pope Benedict XVI, said that it might be acceptable for male prostitutes to use a condom. Benedict said:
'There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility.'For someone relaying the words of God, it seems that God is not very good at expressing what he actually means. Or at least we don't really understand what God is getting at here. And we doubt whether some illiterate male prostitute in Rwanda could either. What does 'a first step in the direction of a moralisation' actually mean?
So why do only male prostitutes get to use a condom? When most people — male or female — think of a prostitute, the first thing that pops into their heads is a scantily clad female on a street corner, not an effeminate man in tight shorts. We're only guessing, but we would assume that there is a far, far greater number of female prostitutes than male prostitutes, so only letting male prostitutes and not the male clients of female prostitutes use condoms is going to make very little difference.
Evidently the pope singles out male prostitutes because he reckons that contraception is not an issue when they have sex. This means that the pope assumes that male prostitutes only have sex with other males, that is, male prostitutes are all homosexuals. We doubt this is true, but they could be a high proportion, and obviously the pope and the Catholic Church has more knowledge in this area than we do. Is it telling us something that when the pope talks about prostitutes his thoughts turn to male prostitutes? And not heterosexual male prostitutes, but homosexual? Again, when people think female prostitute, they don't think that her clients are all, or even mainly, lesbians. Yet obviously when the pope thinks prostitute, he immediately thinks male, and he thinks homosexual. Again, we guess he's sticking with what he knows.
Is this why he says that male prostitutes can wear condoms, because when the pope and his bishops think prostitute they think homosexual male? And naturally the pope and his fellow bishops and priests don't want to contract HIV, so a condom would make things far safer for them. They are protecting their own butts. And of course in this case the condom isn't being used as contraception, so it could be argued that it's not a sin to wear one. Of course you still have to overlook the serious sin that homosexual sex can't result in a pregnancy, but if the Vatican can convince God that raping little boys is not a sin worth worrying about, then getting God to overlook condoms on male prostitutes will be child's play. In fact, since the pope is God's head representative on Earth, and his proclamations are infallible, then the pope is merely relaying God's latest commandment. Thus God has already approved the use of condoms by male prostitutes while still condemning them for everyone else. In this new threat to his Church, he's got to keep the few old priests he has left safe.
That is where the true evil is, in the selfish, cold-hearted, self-serving mind of a despotic God and the submissive willingness of his ignorant puppets on Earth to carry out his uncaring and inhumane orders.
|Innocent parent or sexual pervert?|
Pervert caught taking photos of young girls in short skirts. That was the view of some women in an item covered by TV3's 'Campbell Live' last night. However, another possible angle to the story was this: Father harassed for taking innocent photos of his daughter playing netball.
And that from our perspective was all it was, a loving father taking a couple of photos of his 9 year-old daughter during a netball game.
Business consultant Kendall Langston was at the Action Indoor Sports Stadiums in Christchurch watching his daughter Caetana play a game of netball. Like any parent might, he took a photo of her playing... well, two actually. A parent of one of the girls on the opposing team approached and challenged Langston, telling him it was illegal to take photos and demanded that he delete them. Suspecting that the woman had misjudged his motives, he explained he was merely taking photos of his daughter playing and he refused to delete them. The woman was still not happy, so Langston and his daughter left. The woman then called the police, followed them to their car, wrote down the registration and blocked his departure. When the police arrived, probably diverted away from a violent assault, rape or home invasion, they suggested he crop one of the photos so only his daughter could be seen. Rightly frustrated he then deleted them both, and he went home very annoyed, his daughter went home upset, the narrow-minded vigilante went away triumphant and the police returned, one would hope, to more serious complaints.
What is society coming to when a father — or anybody — can't take photos of kids playing sport? Or any public activity? What was this stupid woman thinking — well not much obviously — when she focused her wrath on such an innocent event? She reminds us of that certain brand of feminist who screams such things as 'All men are rapists'. But this is no more true than men claiming that 'All women are cheating whores'. Seemingly this woman and her supporters believe that men only take their daughters to sports activities so that they can collect revealing photographs of scantly clad young girls. What for? Well, no doubt to trade them on the Internet and/or to use them to satisfy their own immoral sexual desires. We find this view insulting and the height of ignorance and stupidity.
We wonder what draconian rules these intellectually deficient women, and it needs to be said, the management of some of these sports stadiums, would like to see put in place to repel the tide of paedophiles buffeting their doors? It needs to be stated that the Action stadium does already prohibit photos 'without the consent of management, players or their legal guardians'. In other words 'no photos whatsoever', since you are almost never going to get the consent of everyone involved. So the woman did have the law on her side in this childish complaint, although you have to wonder how well this prohibition was advertised.
One woman by the name of Cushla, evidently another one of the aggrieved parents, emailed 'Campbell Live' before the item screened and stated that they 'felt very uncomfortable for someone who we did not know to take photographs of our girls in short skirts'. Of course we sincerely doubt that when challenged Langston said he was merely taking photos of 'girls in short skirts'. It was parents like Cushla and the complainant that introduced the devious sexual component to Langston's two photos. And if these prudish parents think that there is something sexual and inappropriate with young girls wearing short skirts, why do they dress them like this in public? And why were they, if not perhaps happy, at least content to let Langston and any other males present watch young girls in short skirts leap about, but taking photos somehow crossed the line? A bit like look but don't touch, in this case it was ogle but don't record. Any voyeurism must be real and personal, not digital. But if their concern is to stop males ogling and becoming sexually aroused by nine year old girls, then surely males should be banned completely from the premises? Or should these women look to Islam and Victorian times and have the girls wear all enveloping veils and loose fitting outfits that hide even a titillating ankle?
Why has management in some of these public places even introduced bans on photography? Are their boards made up of deluded women like the complainant, obsessed by silly myths of child pornography rings, Satanic rituals, and paedophiles on every street corner? To our knowledge paedophiles don't need to go to netball games to catch a fleeting glimpse of a young girl's knickers. They can find thousands of more intimate images and videos on the Internet, in TV lingerie ads and in glossy advertisements received free in the mail of young girls just in underwear, without the inconvenience of a netball skirt. So if paedophiles really are going to netball games, they're going for the purpose of seeing real girls in the flesh, not in photos, so banning cameras has achieved nothing. They're going to these games to get closer to these girls, to strike up a relationship or to follow them home. They're not going just to photograph them with clothes on. But of course paedophiles are like tigers, dangerous, but nevertheless quite rare and you are unlikely to ever come across one. Banning photography because of an unrealistic fear of paedophiles only punishes ordinary parents and citizens and does nothing to expose the rare paedophile that is elsewhere, taking confession from your child or chatting to them outside in the carpark while they're waiting for a ride home.
Teachers and parents complain that there are few male teachers these days, and as Kendall Langston noted, society wants fathers to be involved in the lives of their daughters, taking them to sports (or dance or skepticism for kids classes or whatever). But now we have these ignorant morons that imply that fathers and males in general that would want to watch kids play sport are only there because they are sexual perverts, there to catch a glimpse of prepubescent flesh and with luck, get a photo of it. These people disgust us, with their warped, obscene and false view of adult/child relationships and their resultant hatred and distrust of all males. They are making the world a darker place and it's worrying that so many people in authority — teachers, police, sports bodies, social workers, counsellors etc — are acting on their groundless suspicions and treating camera-wielding parents as potential sexual perverts.
I used to be quite keen on photography, and having travelled the world, I probably have hundreds of photos of men, women and children, all strangers, doing innumerable activities in public, from playing sport to praying, and dressed in national costumes to completely naked. Only once, in Mexico, did someone complain that I had a camera, and only because the woman feared my photo had robbed her child of part of her soul, not because she thought I was a paedophile. And yet now I rarely take photos because of this silly — and dangerous — paranoia by some members of the public that any male with a camera is a potential — probable? — paedophile. Likewise I would never now consider teaching a class of kids, and if I saw a child in distress on the street I wouldn't go to their aid unless as a last resort. I would prefer to report it than put myself in the position of being a strange male seen talking to a child. And we have the likes of the woman that called the police on Kendall Langston to blame for my reluctance to put myself near children without the benefit of independent witnesses and/or closed circuit TV.
Some people say we live in a more dangerous society than we used to, and in some respects they are correct. But the danger is not to nine-year-olds from paedophiles with a 10 megapixal digital camera with a 5x zoom, but to adult males being falsely accused of inappropriate behaviour towards children. The danger is to a father being suspected of taking his daughter to netball solely so he can drool over her teammates' thighs, or a caring male being questioned by police as to why he stopped to help a crying child on the street. We have in some sense returned to the medieval witchhunts and witch-finders, where ignorant, stupid, narrow-minded, biased, sexist and sexually disturbed individuals are pointing out males for the 'crime' of being interested in their own children and the children of others in a completely innocent and humane way. And like the infamous witch trials and modern trials involving bogus recovered memories, before this nonsense of 'no photos, no paedophiles' is eventually shown up as the silly belief it is, innocent males will be made to suffer because of the ignorance of a few.
|Bioresonance health scam returns|
'Target the underlying causes of ill health' proclaimed a recent headline in one of our free weekly papers. Written as an article rather than an advert in an attempt to give it more credibility, possibly by the practitioner herself, we were told about a health solution called 'Bicom Bioresonance Therapy'. It bravely claimed that 'Almost any health problem may respond to Bioresonance treatment and it is particularly suitable for long term chronic conditions'. One internet site pushing the therapy claims that Bioresonance treatment 'reports remarkable success with adults with more complex problems... and even cancer'. Wow, even cancer! That's pretty impressive, although it's strange that the media haven't reported on this medical breakthrough. Just an oversight I'm sure or perhaps they're just too busy reporting on Paris Hilton's or Lindsay Lohan's latest brush with the law.
Another site states that 'Bicom Bioresonance Therapy (BRT) is a biophysical technique based on concepts in acupuncture, homeopathy and quantum Physics'. That statement alone should tell you that it is nonsense, since anything based on nonsense, ie homeopathy, will also be nonsense. Likewise a claim that a natural therapy involves quantum physics is usually a sure sign that its proponents are peddling a pseudoscience. A few years ago we had a similar bioresonance scam called the Quantum QXCI device. They even claimed to have developed quantum computing software that was running on the therapist's old binary computers, which is impossible, but it impressed their gullible clients.
So how do these therapists reckon that bioresonance works? Here's some typical explanations:
Central to its application is the idea that all life is made of energy... We emit our own electromagnetic fields and, as with all things, we each have our own unique "vibration", or oscillation. This oscillation can easily be measured with electronic equipment.Isn't it amazing that a cheap little box can not only diagnose almost any health problem, it can fix them as well?
Our primitive and outmoded hospitals have x-ray machines that can diagnose broken bones but can't go on to mend them as well, CAT scanners that can diagnose brain tumours, but can't operate on them, and ultrasound scanners that show a developing foetus, but don't make the midwife redundant. And some of these diagnostic machines cost thousands if not millions of dollars to purchase and run, along with the highly trained and qualified staff required to operate them and interpret their results.
Why do hospitals waste their time and money on these machines, and seemingly offer the public a vastly inferior service, when they could all be using these cheap little bioresonance boxes that not only diagnose what's wrong with you, they fix it on the spot? No waiting, no pain, no surgery, no drugs or chemicals, no side effects, no problem. In fact we don't even need expensive hospitals, except for maybe a few rare aliments. Your local doctor could fix you up without you ever needing to set foot in a hospital. Actually we don't even need expensive, highly trained doctors, just a therapist to wire you up to the device, since the device itself does the scan, performs the diagnosis, interprets the results, decides on the treatment and carries it out. Actually we don't need a therapist either, since they are effectively ignorant of what the device detects and rectifies, any health knowledge they might have is superfluous. A trained chimp could hook you up to the device, swipe your credit card, hand you your receipt and give you a hug on your way out.
You don't need a 'qualified' therapist with a 'dip. BRT' under her name to hook you up to a box that any schoolkid could make with a few components from their local Dick Smith electronics store. To believe that these childishly simple boxes with flashing lights and electronics far less complicated than your child's robot dinosaur toy can diagnose and fix problems where million dollar machines and doctors with years of training fail, is to exhibit extreme gullibility.
These therapists are just people off-the-street pushing a bogus health therapy scam that they can run cheaply from their home or car, and which is backed by nothing but a worthless piece of paper with the word 'Diploma' at the top. In real terms these diplomas translate as a 'Qualification in Nonsense'. The device they use is not new by any means, and it is no different from a magician's top hat, a trick device designed to fool a gullible public that something magical is happening. But rabbits do not come from top hats and medical treatments do not come from these cheap boxes. Both are tricks designed to fool the senses, but at least magicians admit that what they're doing is fake, unlike bioresonance therapists.
We're told to ignore emails from Nigerian bankers, telephone calls that tell us we've won millions in a Spanish lottery and requests from our bank for our PIN numbers, so let's add another scam to the list — miraculous health cures by bioresonance therapists and their magical little boxes that are as silly as Dr Who's sonic screwdriver.
|Dermatoglyphics Multiple Intelligence Test|
Did you know that you could improve your child's future by looking at their fingerprints? Evidently there are '8 Multiple Intelligences', and if your child has the 'Bodily Kinesthetic' type, then 'Careers which suit those with this intelligence include athletes, dancers, actors, surgeons, builders and soldiers'. Who would have thought that dancers, surgeons and soldiers were all the same? Careers for the 'Naturalistic' type would be 'wild Life Photographer, naturalists, conservationists, gardeners and farmers'. Evidently it's all very scientific. Why let your child choose a career when you can do it for them with the latest computer software and a fingerprint scanner?
Yesterday we received the following query from Vijay entitled 'New scam or real science???':
Dear Sir, I am regular visitor of your web site. I had read many article posted on your web site and I am agree with all your skeptism. In fact, I am also an atheist and skeptic both.Frankly we had never heard of the Dermatoglyphics Multiple Intelligence Test or DMIT. We did a quick search on Google and we agree with Vijay, it appears to be a scam. All the websites that mention DMI are those trying to sell it to parents. There are no websites that reference the science behind DMI, because apparently none exists. The claim is that a child's fingerprints can — to quote from websites that push this scam — reveal:
The DMI... assessment package includes fingerprint sampling of all 10 fingers and a detailed report elaborating the following: Left or right brain dominance, multiple intelligence potential, psychological dominance, preferred learning styles and methods, learning communication character and work management style. As soon as the test reveals the child's intrinsic qualities, a psychologist will help the parents and teachers to understand the details of the computer report. "The assessment tells us what we need and how we learn. We can then transform our lives through a greater holistic educational approach and lifestyle."However the Wikipedia entry on dermatoglyphics makes no mention of a connection between fingerprints and 'learning styles and intelligence potential'. Here's a summary of what it does say:
'Dermatoglyphics... is the scientific study of fingerprints. The term was coined by Dr. Harold Cummins, the father of American fingerprint analysis, even though the process of fingerprint identification had already been used for several hundred years'.This website on the history of dermatoglyphics is in agreement:
Dermatoglyphics are still useful for the evaluation of children with suspected genetic disorders and diseases with long latency, slow progression, and late onset.So dermatoglyphics is a real scientific study and unusual fingerprint patterns can be an indicator for some genetic disorders, but not for the intelligence and talents of children without genetic disorders, ie your average child. Likewise the Wikipedia entry on 'Fingerprints' also makes no reference to this intelligence test.
Some claims made on websites promoting DMI are completely false:
Dermatoglyphics is commonly used to recognize one's innate capability; this includes the inborn learning style and brain function.While these idiots may use dermatoglyphics to try and 'recognize one's innate capability', there is no scientific evidence to suggest it works, nor is there a link between fingerprints and 'multiple intelligence of human'. Certainly some people may say these methods work, but they are no different to astrologers and faith healers, they are pushing a business that is bogus.
The scam revolves around taking a real discipline and adding bogus and false claims to it. Look at the claims made on this website that falsely promotes DMIT. Each time they start by presenting factual information but then they add their lies:
Dermatoglyphics refers to the branch of science which studies the patterns of skins (dermal) ridges present on the fingers, toes and the soles of human. Its reveals the congenital links between our fingers and our intrinsic qualities and talents.The first sentence is true, but the second is an outright lie as there is no evidence for this.
Dermatoglyphics has absolute scientific basis, with 200 years of research. It is analyzed and proven with evidence in anthropology, genetics, medicine and statistics.This is again true, but they are really only referring to the facts that dermatoglyphics is the scientific study of fingerprints and that it is used in anthropology, genetics and medicine. However they want their readers to infer that this 'scientific basis' also applies to their ability to discern a child's intelligence and talents. This is false and misleading.
In recent years U.S., Japan and Taiwan have applied Dermatoglyphics to diagnose Down's Syndrome, congenital disorders, genetic abnormalities, educational fields, human resources management, employee recruitment etcAgain they start off with facts, eg with the ability to 'diagnose Down's Syndrome, congenital disorders, genetic abnormalities', but they then add their own false claims, eg 'educational fields, human resources management, employee recruitment etc'. Again there is no evidence for these claims.
This page also falsely combines lies with facts and tries to pretend that DMIT has a real connection with science, which it doesn't:
D.M.I.T. technique has been developed by scientists and research experts from world renowned universities and it is based on knowledge from Genetics, Embryology, Dermatoglyphics, Psychology and NeuroscienceOf course 'Genetics, Embryology, Dermatoglyphics, Psychology and Neuroscience' are all real, but they give no support to DMIT, and it was not 'developed by scientists and research experts from world renowned universities' as this promotional article explains:
In the early 1990s, a Singaporean couple and their Chinese partner saw the opportunity to use known dermatoglyphics data to statistically study and generate a pattern in the area of learning styles and intelligence potential... and in collaboration with Chinese and Taiwan education entities, the first version of the software — Multiple Intelligence System (MIS) — was developed... Since 2000, the program has been developed under the Singaporean Comcare Group of Companies... the program was renamed Dermatoglyphics Multiple Intelligence (DMI) System and since 2004, has been marketed and represented by companies or individuals in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, Australia, the United States and the Philippines. Botswana, Burma and Vietnam are in the negotiations stage.So it was developed by a 'Singaporean couple and their Chinese partner', not by 'scientists and research experts from world renowned universities'. Other websites also try and pretend that it is popular, well established and accepted in other countries:
the D.M.I.T. concept... is very popular in foreign countries but very new to India... It has got immense popularity in foreign countries but still Indian parents are unaware of its advantages.In fact DMIT is almost unheard of in the West. It's not found in the USA, in Canada, in Europe, in the UK, in Australia, in South America or NZ. It is only found in the East, such as in China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and now India. This claim that it 'has got immense popularity in foreign countries' is misleading. The West is an enormous potential market, where much research in 'Genetics, Embryology, Dermatoglyphics, Psychology and Neuroscience' is being conducted. So why have parents, scientists and educationalists in the West rejected DMIT if it works? It would appear that it is not popular in the West because it has been recognised as a scam, remembering also that Westerners spend a fortune on alternative therapies which science has deemed to be scams. Many Westerners are willing to try anything, so it is revealing that DMIT hasn't caught on in the West, but is only being pushed in the East. Might this also be because generally Westerners, while still concerned over their child's education and future career, take a more hands-off approach than do many Asians?
So in conclusion, DMIT is most likely a scam because:
|Unclean women need not apply|
'Anger at Te Papa ban on pregnant women', so read the NZ Herald headline that Tom made us aware of yesterday. Wellington museum Te Papa and Maori want to prevent any woman that is pregnant or menstruating from going on a behind-the-scenes tour of their Maori artefacts collection.
Of course this problem that many cultures have with pregnant and menstruating women and divine retribution is nothing new, and certainly not just a Maori thing. It is an ancient and primitive superstition seen in numerous cultures over thousands of years. One of the most well known examples that women are unclean on a regular basis comes from the Bible:
"The LORD said... `A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period... Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding." (Lev 12:1-5)Note how women are doubly unclean if they give birth to a girl. Females are just really dirty. We also learn that 'God commands us to cast into exile people who have sex with their wives while they are menstruating (Lev. 20:18).'
And yet who today follows these commandments? Would you be offended or incensed if a Christian director of Te Papa or your local church stopped you or a female friend from entering while you were 'unclean'? Would you be offended if they even asked what your condition was? We'd like to think that you would be. So why should women not be equally offended if Maori ban them from Te Papa — Our Place — for an equally bogus and insulting reason?
According to Te Papa spokeswoman Jane Keig:
"If a woman is pregnant or menstruating, they are tapu. Some of these taonga [treasured things] have been used in battle and to kill people. Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects."Tapu means 'forbidden', and 'in Maori culture it is believed that if that tapu is not observed, something bad will happen'. In the article the spokeswoman gave no hint of what 'something bad' might mean, although speaking to TV reporter Whena Owen on last night's 'Campbell Live', Te Papa Maori curator Rhonda Paku said that, 'we don't know' what might happen. However she added that, 'we have had some people who got a bit dizzy in here' and needed a glass of water. Wow, that's pretty bad alright. No wonder Maori and Te Papa are worried. Note also that she said 'people', and not 'pregnant and menstruating women'. And while they don't want 'pregnant and menstruating women' to go on the tour, they evidently won't stop you if you insist or simply refuse to admit you are 'unclean'. Paku said, 'We don't ask, we don't scan you with any infrared equipment'. We had no idea that the boffins had 'infrared equipment' that could even detect that sort of thing.
And yet strangely this silly restriction doesn't apply to the Maori objects of battle and death in Te Papa's main exhibits, or to exhibits in other museums. And surely the objects on display are the most important, the most notable, the most powerful, the most impressive examples of Maori artefacts? Why try to enforce a ban on some minor objects in some back room drawer that will be viewed by only a handful of women, when untold pregnant and menstruating women will be unknowingly exposed to the harmful effects of the objects on public display every day of the year in many museums around the country and even the world? Why no warning if this is real? Like the tobacco industry, can Maori be sued for deliberately hiding the harmful effects of their objects? How many miscarriages can be attributed to innocently viewing a Maori mere in Te Papa? And what about the ubiquitous Maori haka, an element of battle deliberately designed to threaten and intimidate, does it cause harm to pregnant or menstruating women? Or is it just inanimate objects — sticks and stones — that can reach out from their display case and hurt people?
Maori curator Rhonda Paku said that, 'Protecting our communities and our publics [sic] when they come in to have a look is important for us'. So what if the risk is real? Like Paku, many Maori believe it is, so are they taking the appropriate, responsible steps to mitigate harm to others? It would appear not, since they make no attempt to prevent pregnant and menstruating women viewing Maori objects of war and death in museum exhibits, or to even inform them of the risk. We must ask why not if they truly believe they are dangerous? We must remember that women don't know exactly when they start or stop menstruating, nor do they know immediately when they become pregnant. So it can not even be left up to individual women to avoid the displays at certain times, since they can't know exactly when these biological events start. So should all women be banned completely for their own safety? It also needs to be determined just what the malevolent influence of these objects is, can they reach through walls and across corridors, or do women have to look upon the objects for a connection to be made? Would a display case lined with kryptonite be effective? Just how much distance do women need to keep between themselves and these objects to remain safe? Experts advise pregnant women not to ride roller coasters etc, but what evidence is there that simply viewing a Maori club will cause harm?
And what about this notion of respecting the cultural or religious beliefs of others? We've already written that we reckon this blind, all-encompassing claim for respect is bogus, but let's assume that Maori do subscribe to this notion. Do they respect the beliefs of others? Muslims consider it blasphemous, insulting and very disrespectful to make or represent the image of any living thing, and several people were murdered over the Danish cartoons. And yet Maori are furiously carving human images with no regard to the beliefs of Muslims. The fact is that most groups — Maori, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, skeptics and atheists etc — would like their beliefs to be respected, but have scant regard for respecting the beliefs of others. Respecting the beliefs of others can never work. Will a Muslim eat pork so as not to offend his Christian host? Will Maori stop carving human images so as not to offend Muslims? Will Catholics start using contraceptives to keep skeptics happy? Will an atheist deny his disbelief in gods so as not to offend the religious? The fact is that people can not live with opposing beliefs, that is, their own and those of other groups that they are trying to fit in with. The only resolve is that groups respect and honour their own beliefs and customs and accept that others may do and say things that they disagree with. The alternative is to force others to follow your beliefs, through violence as some Muslim radicals promote, through authoritative rules as Maori are arguing for at Te Papa, or through censorship as the Catholic Church tried to do over some 'South Park' episodes. You would be 'respecting' the beliefs of others by forcing them to follow your beliefs.
We were impressed with reporter Whena Owen who put it to Maori curator Rhonda Paku that, 'You understand that there are a lot of people out there who think this is just hogwash, this is just superstition, and are amazed that this is still practiced in a state institution?' Paku replied, 'I think that's a cultural exchange that we will continue to have, that's a discussion that we as a young nation will continue to have as we work to understand our differences, also our similarities.'
What utter rubbish, the suggestion that the real world is debating and discussing whether there is a divine supernatural element connected to these historical artefacts. The verdict is in, the belief in spooky fingers reaching out from these objects and attacking innocent women is truly hogwash. Both Maori and Europeans once believed in this type of nonsense, and that's our cultural history, but to confuse our past cultural beliefs with the notion that we need actual protection from these artefacts today is to lose one's grip on reality.
There was also a second superstitious belief insisted on by Paku, who requested that the objects were not to be filmed or photographed. She didn't explain why, but some primitive peoples have long thought that cameras could steal their souls, captured in the photograph. It seems that people — apart from pregnant or menstruating women — were perfectly safe looking at the objects and standing next to them, but taking a photo can somehow harm the photographer or the object or perhaps the person viewing the photograph. As vampires fear sunlight, Maori spirits fear photography.
And Paku finished with a third superstitious belief. On leaving the sophisticated Maori storage rooms, no doubt fitted with a computerised climate control, she said everyone must wash their hands, since 'water is used internationally as a way of cleansing and recognising the moving between a space that's special and back into the outer world'. Muslims cleanse themselves before their god by washing their hands and feet, Christians dunk their babies into water, Hindus bathe in polluted rivers amongst floating corpses, but this obsession with water has nothing to do with some other mystical world. It is superstition based on ignorance. That these women, who no doubt have a cell phone in their pocket and surf the internet in their lunch break, could work in this building utilising numerous technological innovations and still talk about malevolent spirits trying to harm pregnant women is just laughable. They need to decide what century they want to live in. We're continually told that the education of Maori children is failing, but if this is the sort of nonsense they are being taught at home and on the marae then it is easy to see why. Learning about your culture and your history is great, regressing to the past is not.
My ancestors — in fact everyone's ancestors — believed and did some really, really stupid things, and no doubt if I was alive back then I would have done them too. But I now live in the 21st century and have access to a vast wealth of knowledge of how the world really works and how we can lead sensible lives based on this knowledge. Some people appear to confuse studying history with adopting history. It's fascinating to learn how one's ancestors lived, how they behaved and what they believed in, but that doesn't mean that to respect our ancestors we need to adopt their behaviours and their beliefs. If my ancestors believed in gods and demons and resorted to blood letting and purges when they got ill, that doesn't mean I should still believe in these things. If they thought women and blacks were nothing but slaves, I don't feel that I have to adopt their views to acknowledge my past culture. My ancestors thought witchcraft was real, that spirits roamed the moors, but I can still marvel at the things that they got right without accepting the bullshit as well.
Why should I disregard modern knowledge and adopt ignorance and superstition instead just because that was the mindset of my ancestors? My ancestors may have been kind, caring, wonderful people, living as best they could with the knowledge they had, but the fact remains that much of what they believed about the world was false. And much of how they behaved towards others is now embarrassing if not downright unethical. Regarding people today that still choose to believe as their ancestors did, I wonder how those ancestors would respond if they could view our modern world. Might they say, 'You have antibiotics and yet you ask for a leech? You understand the relationship between the brain and the mind and yet you still believe in possession by demons? You've sent spacecraft to the planets and yet you still believe in astrology? Are you mad? Why are you living in the past? We didn't know any better, but you do!'
This idea that my ancestors or even my grandparents believed certain things and therefore I should too to honour and respect their memories is bullshit. That was then, this is now. In fact every mention of spirits, witchcraft and women knowing their proper place in society is being disrespectful to the men and women that strived, struggled and suffered to educate the world about superstition and the equality of the sexes. The men and women — from whatever culture they came from — whose ideas and endeavours have given us the generally safe and wonderful society that we now have, are the people from history that we should be honouring. Let's understand the beliefs of our ancestors rather than follow them. Let's leave the mistakes from the past in the past and embrace a future of reason, not superstition.
|Are you smarter than an atheist?|
Yesterday I came across an article from the USA that said, 'A new study shows that many devout Americans know less about religion than do atheists... Based on a May-June survey of more than 3,400 American adults, these findings point to a dearth of religious knowledge in a country where nearly 6 in 10 adults say religion is "very important" in their lives.'
This short press release from 'American Atheists, Inc' is also quite apt.
If you're interested you can take the quiz here: 'Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz'. There are 32 questions, and all bar two are multi-choice. You have to write your answers down though, so you'll need a pen and paper numbered 32 down to 1.
The intro noted that 'Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups in a 32-question survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. On average, Americans got 16 of the 32 questions correct. Atheists and agnostics got an average of 20.9 correct answers. Jews (20.5) and Mormons (20.3). Protestants got 16 correct answers on average, while Catholics got 14.7 questions right.'
For the record, I got 30 correct answers, but isn't it weird that an atheist should know more about religion than a Christian? That's like discovering that plumbers know twice as much about medicine as do doctors.
I've found that if a question on religion arises during a pub quiz or discussion with friends, people very often turn to me — the atheist — for the answer. These are people where almost all have a belief in God, be it lukewarm to unswerving, many of which have had a Christian upbringing and attended Catholic schools. Yet they know very little about what they profess to believe in, and often the little they do think they know is wrong as well. For example many Christians still believe that the named apostles wrote the gospels, that Eve ate an apple and that the flood of Noah lasted for 40 days. When in fact no one knows who wrote the gospels — the names were added much later, the Bible doesn't mention what fruit Eve ate, and the flood lasted over a year.
My friends and acquittances generally accept that I know much more about the Bible — their Bible — than they do, much more about religion — their religion — than they do, much more about the arguments for and against the existence of God — their God — than they do, and much more about evolution and cosmology than they do. And yet, they still think they have a better justification for a belief in God than I might have for rejecting it. They seemingly aren't at all concerned or worried that someone that has actively looked into the existence of God has found no evidence or need for gods. If pushed they continue to assert that their very vague knowledge of God, angels on clouds and talking snakes is still the best description of how the universe works. While they wouldn't accept this argument from a friend concerning medicine or law, they seemingly believe that the less you know about religion, the more likely that you have chosen the right explanation.
I guess this is the old faith excuse, that ignorance can be won over by blind faith. If you have faith that God exists then this is all you need, and it easily trumps any knowledge, evidence or reason that might contradict this blind faith, this simplistic desire that God exists. Ignorance is bliss, and seemingly keeps modern knowledge and discoveries at bay.
Of course a few annoying evangelists and fundamentalists do strive to understand and communicate their belief in God to others, but for most of the religious believers that we know, while their belief is steadfast, their knowledge of their belief is as flimsy as an umbrella in a hurricane. It's amazing that so many believers are content to be so ignorant on a topic that they believe is so vital to not only this life, but for their eternal wellbeing. Regarding God they have a firm conviction combined with a profound lack of interest.
|Breast cancer and thermography|
In recent days the media have reported on concerns around a breast cancer screening method called thermography. Here are some of the headlines: "Thermography 'no substitute' for mammography", "Popular breast cancer test 'unproven'", and "Women urged to distrust thermography".
Thermography is the simple use of an infrared video camera, a home computer and some naked breasts, which results in a thermal image being produced of the woman's breasts, showing a distribution of varying skin temperatures. The company 'Clinical Thermography NZ' says that these images identify 'abnormal physiological changes in your breasts'. Here is the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation information page on 'the differences between Mammography and Breast Thermography'.
One article told us that 'the Ministry of Health, the Cancer Society and the College of Radiographers are advising women not to forego regular breast cancer screening in favour of thermography — because surgeons have complained about women being given incorrect diagnoses'.
Regarding incorrect diagnoses from thermography, the TV3 News gave this example: 'Josie Taylor thought her life had changed forever when she had her breasts checked at a thermography clinic. [We infer from this that she was told that she had tested positive for breast cancer.] She had three sleepless nights before she had a mammogram — surprisingly, it came back clear. Ms Taylor was lucky — she feared she was developing cancer when she wasn't. But it's patients the other way around that have doctors concerned. "The harm of thermography is reassuring women they're fine when they're not," says breast surgeon Belinda Scott. [Taylor says] She is relying on mammography in future — a technique that gets the full support of those health groups concerned about thermography'.
In support of thermography we heard from Mike Godfrey. He used to run an alternative therapy cancer clinic in Tauranga, and also claimed to treat 'Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disorders, and other chronic diseases using nutrition, immunosupportive therapies, detoxification, chelation, acupuncture, and homeopathy. They also do mercury amalgam investigations'. Evidently his alternative therapies didn't actually treat cancer, or any of those other aliments, so he has now moved on to merely screening for cancer rather than treating it, and is now running 'Clinical Thermography NZ'. We'll let you be the judge of whether an alternative therapist with a doubtful past can be trusted with your breasts.
While making women aware of the limitations of thermography is a good thing, we were disappointed that the health groups neglected to highlight that mammography is also susceptible to incorrect diagnoses. This is what is known as false positive results and false negative results. If you have a specific disease and you are scanned or tested for that disease, then the test result should come back positive, confirming that you do indeed have that disease. However many tests are not 100% accurate and they sometimes return the wrong result. If you don't have a disease but the test incorrectly says you do, then that is a positive test, but it's false, so it's a false positive. However if you do have a disease and yet the test fails to detect it, it says you've tested negative, but again this is false, so this is a false negative.
If a woman gets a mammogram and it tests positive, her doctor will regretfully inform her that she has tested positive for breast cancer. She will naturally be shocked and distraught. But has she really got cancer? Conversely, if the test is negative, she will go home happy and reassured. But might she have been misinformed, might she actually have a cancer that she knows nothing about?
The experts criticised thermography, not just for the lack of good evidence that it worked, but that women are 'being given incorrect diagnoses'. We learnt above that Taylor received two test results, one positive, one negative. The first was from thermography, the second from mammography, and the negative mammography result was immediately accepted as correct. We're told that Taylor will rely 'on mammography in future — a technique that gets the full support of those health groups'. We're given the false and harmful impression that mammography screening results are 100% accurate, when this is untrue. While it is true that mammography results (or sensitivity) are far more reliable than thermography, it is irresponsible to pretend that they are perfect. Women should be told that these results can still be wrong and that further testing may be required.
In Gerd Gigerenzer's book 'Calculated Risks: How to Know when Numbers Deceive You', he examined breast cancer screening with regard to how women view its effectiveness, and how the experts explained it to them. Looking at information leaflets etc he found that no health professionals told their patients that mammograms can give false positives, ie they might be told that they have cancer when in fact they don't. Of course one might think that this mistake would be very rare, but evidently it's not. For women in their 40s undergoing their first mammogram, for every ten that are told they have breast cancer and sent home an emotional wreck, nine of those ten women won't have cancer at all. Only one will actually have cancer, the other nine will all be false positives. For repeated mammograms he noted that 'After undergoing a series of ten annual or biannual mammograms, 1 in 2 women without breast cancer can expect to receive at least one false positive result'. This means that every year millions of women around the world could be told they have breast cancer, when they don't. So women need to be informed, to be mentally prepared — before their mammogram — that a positive result is not necessarily a positive result. For some it will be and this will be devastating, but it is irresponsible to psychologically harm the others when it is not necessary. And of course there is also the risk of false negatives. Gigerenzer states that 'the false negative rate is between 5 and 20 percent, with the higher rates in younger women. That is, out of 100 women with breast cancer, 80 to 95 will correctly get a positive result, but the others will be wrongly reassured by a negative result'.
Health groups should expose thermography for its lack of evidence for efficacy, its high rate of false results, both false positives and false negatives, and for the typical alternative therapy culture that steers patients away from proven, conventional treatments.
But at the same time, while recommending mammography, they need to properly inform women that even that technique is not foolproof, that detection is complex, and that a positive result is not always what it seems. While challenging one method they must not be seen hiding flaws in their own.
|Pope fondles little girl|
So Pope Benedict, head of the world's largest paedophile ring, has arrived in Britain for a visit, and contrary to what some wished might happen, he wasn't arrested. TV footage of this decrepit old man working the crowd showed him approaching an attractive young girl, maybe around eight years old, and instead of simply speaking to her, or even shaking her hand as the Queen or a celebrity might do, he places a wrinkly, slimy hand on each cheek and fondles her, like a rock star checking out potential groupies. This disgusting act literally made my skin crawl. And all around her we saw other adults with minds dulled by religion pushing their young children forward, the expression on their faces saying it all: Please, please, fondle my child next. If a male teacher touched a student in this manner the police would get involved. And yet the geriatric head of an organisation with a proven record for sexually abusing children is left to indulge in his passion, with followers begging to be fondled and kissed. No wonder many Catholic children think it's appropriate for Catholic priests to put their hand down their pants, when their parents are so desperate that these frock wearing lecherous old men touch them.
And as we've already noted, why does Benny need his bulletproof Popemobile? Why can't, or won't, his God protect him? Why don't his followers wonder why the Pope has snubbed an all-powerful, all-knowing God and handed security over to the secular police and bulletproof glass made by science? The Pope obviously has no confidence in his God, so why can't his followers take a lesson from this? Well, because 'lesson' implies thinking, and thinking is to religious types as blacks are to the Ku Klux Klan.
The Pope's main message on this visit according to the media is that he laments that religion is in retreat. Pope Benny said that, 'I can not but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance'.
Well there you have it, confirmation from the top, from someone that should know, religion is on the way out. About bloody time!
As for the Pope mourning religion's retreat, well, I lament that Santa doesn't exist and that I instead have to buy gifts for others at Xmas. But I've accepted it and have moved on. The Pope and his geriatric old boys club should do the same. But unfortunately the Pope doesn't accept that this relegation to the low IQ fringes of society is due to the unfortunate fact of his God not actually existing. Benny believes, or wants us to believe, that evil forces are subverting the truth of the one true religion. As Ted mentioned in a comment on another post, the Pope blames "aggressive atheism", and his comment above implies that religion is being marginalised because of intolerance, when it is nothing of the sort. An increasing number of people, armed with new knowledge, are simply ignoring religion, rejecting it as false and harmful. They aren't attacking it per se, refusing to tolerate its presence in their community. Religion, and consequently its churches, are falling into neglect simply because educated, intelligent people soon realise that primitive superstition is not a positive force in their lives.
But let's assume for a moment that the Pope is correct, that his God actually is losing the battle with militant atheists and their new weapon: reason. Along the same lines of the Popemobile, where the Pope snubs his God and seeks human protection, any god that can't win a debate with an atheist must be a pretty pathetic god. If militant atheists can truly back his God into a corner in a dilapidated church in a poor neighbourhood in a third world country, then his God has truly outlived his usefulness. His God may not be dead, but he might as well be, reduced to an ignorant, intolerant, barbaric, ineffectual bully with an obsession for watching old men having sex with children.
The Christian God is finally going the way of the ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek gods. Believed all-powerful in their day, now mere entries in mythology textbooks. May the Pope continue to mourn religion's retreat until he shuffles off his mortal coil.
|'Silly Beliefs' Guide to Digital TV|
On Thursday night on the TV3 News Mike McRoberts stated:
'If you're watching 3News on an old TV with an analogue signal it may be time to do more than adjust your set. The government's brought forward a date that plans to switch the entire country to digital television, and those who don't have the right kind of TV will lose reception altogether.'Alarmist hype and bogus information, reminiscent of the Millennium Bug scare, is once again surfacing thanks to the irresponsible media and greedy appliance salespeople. This time it involves the future switch from analogue TV signals to digital signals. The scare this time is that soon, very soon, our existing TVs will stop working and we need to be looking at updating them. Like the Millennium Bug, this claim comes from a very real issue. The Millennium Bug was a real problem involving computer dates that required real fixes to avert serious problems, but mainly on large business computer systems. However irresponsible media and greedy appliance salespeople ignorantly and/or deviously inflated this problem to include all manner of electronic and household appliances, such as microwaves and toasters that don't care what the date is, and personal computers that do, but that could easily handle the changeover. Hence the public bought new computers and appliances, trashing their old ones, which was a complete waste of money. And now it's happening again with TVs.
But first some background. For those confused about analogue and digital TV signals, we're not going to launch into a technical explanation. An easy way to think of TV signals is as a transport system. As an analogy think of milk. Most of us aren't really concerned at exactly how our milk reaches our supermarkets, be it by 'planes, trains or automobiles'. We just want quality milk at a fair price. It's the same with TV. We aren't concerned at exactly how programs reach our TV, we just want them to be there when we switch it on. The 'vehicle' that transports our TV programs is changing, from analogue to digital, or if we change our analogy slightly, our transport system is changing from petrol to diesel. Let's think along the likes of petrol and diesel cars. If your car runs on petrol then that's all you can put in it. Diesel cars only take diesel. Without petrol a petrol car stops. Until recent years all TV broadcasters sent out analogue signals which were picked up by our TV aerials and fed to our TVs. Think of analogue as petrol TV. Then some TV broadcasters, eg SKY TV, started sending out digital signals. Think of them as diesel TV. Of course putting digital signals into your analogue TV is just like putting diesel into your petrol car. It won't make it go, although unlike your car it won't damage your TV. To get around this problem, rather than forcing you to buy a new TV that takes digital signals, like swapping your petrol car for a diesel car, these broadcasters sell you a small box that converts their digital signals into the old analogue signals. The diesel is converted to petrol, digital to analogue, and your existing TV works and is none the wiser. Of course you now might be wondering, well what's the point then, if we end up with the old signals? Well it's a little like the (impossible) situation if we ran out of petrol but still had plenty of diesel, a cheap converter on our petrol cars would let us keep using them while actually running on diesel. A cheap converter lets us keep using our old analogue TVs even though they are now being 'powered' by digital signals. In basic terms, people will not be able to tell whether they are watching analogue or digital TV. Even though the transport or delivery system has changed, the programs being delivered are still the same. Ads will be just as annoying, Coronation Street just as pathetic, reality TV shows just as unrealistic and Sensing Murder just as unsuccessful.
The main reasons why broadcasters want everyone to swap from analogue to digital signals are that digital offers several benefits over analogue. For those in fringe areas the reception is much improved, even people in remote areas will get crystal clear pictures. The number of channels you can receive will increase. There is the potential to receive 'high definition television', which means an even higher quality picture (although the program quality itself will probably still be poor). There is even the possibly that 3D TV might be broadcast in the future.
Today, even with our existing analogue TVs, we can simply connect a small box that coverts digital signals to analogue and immediately take advantage of improved reception and more channels. This is what those that have bought a 'Freeview' box or that subscribe to SKY TV are doing. These converter boxes are called 'set top' boxes simply because they sit on top of your TV set. Of course in the future all new TVs will be digital TVs rather than analogue. A digital TV is simply one that has been designed to accept the new digital signal, so there will be no need for a converter box. But until your old TV dies or you need a bigger one, there is no need to buy an expensive new digital TV, just buy a cheap set top box sometime in the next two or three years.
In addition to the set top box, there is one other thing you need to take advance of the new, improved digital signals. And that is a UHF TV aerial or a TV satellite dish. Most of our free-to-air TV channels use what is called a VHF aerial, that large aerial on everyone's roofs. Then they introduced a smaller UHF aerial, over which we receive the likes of Prime TV, local TV channels and some SKY TV. Then SKY TV introduced satellite TV, which as the name suggests, the signal is broadcast from a satellite. To receive this signal you need a satellite dish attached to your house. Many people will already have a UHF aerial, and an increasing number may well have a SKY satellite dish, even if they no longer subscribe to SKY TV.
At present there are two main ways you can receive digital TV, from SKY TV and from 'Freeview', although TelstraClear also offers a service in some areas. To receive a digital signal from SKY TV you must have a SKY satellite dish and subscribe to their service, which involves a monthly fee and for that you get to borrow their set top converter box. To receive a digital signal from 'Freeview' you must have either a UHF aerial or a SKY satellite dish. Yes, the SKY dish can be used for free to receive 'Freeview' TV. Unlike SKY you must buy the 'Freeview' set top converter box, but this is a one-off cost, it's relatively cheap, and there are no monthly rentals. The basic box is at present around $150. Once you have a box, 'Freeview' is effectively free. At present with 'Freeview' you receive around 15 channels, most which are free-to-air anyway (eg TV1, TV2, TV3, Prime etc), and with SKY you receive a minimum of 55 channels, a dozen or so which are the free-to-air channels. You get more choice with SKY but you pay a lot, lot more. And as free-to-air TV and SKY TV have both demonstrated, increasing the number of channels does not increase the quality of the programs. It should also be noted that some areas, parts of Southland for example, can only receive the satellite version of 'Freeview', not the cheaper UHF aerial version. You have to buy a 'Freeview' set top box that suits the aerial you will use, one box will not do both. Also some new TVs now come with a 'Freeview' box built into them, but these evidently only work on the aerial, not the satellite. Don't let the salesman sell you a TV with this feature if you don't live in one of these nine major centres: Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Hastings, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin. (UPDATE: By the end of June 2011, Whangarei, Rotorua, Taupo, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Masterton, Whanganui, Nelson, Timaru and Invercargill will also have the UHF aerial option). Those in other areas and in remote or fringe areas will have to go with the satellite version of 'Freeview' or SKY. If SKY hasn't already put a dish on your house, installing a satellite dish will cost you several hundred dollars (perhaps $250 for DIY to $600 for full installation), but it is a one-off cost and still cheaper than a new digital TV, as well as a new dish.
So when will we all have to get a set top box, and maybe even a satellite dish?
Earlier this week a salesman from a company called 'Integrate' knocked on my door. His card said they were an 'Authorised provider of SKY TV'. This salesman asked if I was aware that analogue TV was to be switched off and whether I already had the digital 'Freeview' service. I said yes, I was aware of the changeover, but that it wouldn't happen before 2012. He replied, 'No, no, no. As soon as 75% of the country becomes digital the old system will be switched off and your TV will be dead. That could happen well before 2012'.
This salesman said they were trying to ease the transition from analogue to digital TV by offering the public a special deal: a free satellite dish and installation and a free set top box. On top of this you got a six month subscription to SKY TV for $10.04 a week. This works out to around $261. On the face of it this seems not a bad deal, but more questions need answered. For example, the salesman never made it clear that this deal was really about subscribing to SKY TV, not just upgrading to digital TV. On doing a little more research we have discovered some important points he failed to disclose in his pitch. For example, who owns the 'free' dish? SKY does, so it's not free at all. Normally SKY leaves their dishes on houses even if you cancel your subscription, hoping that you will reconsider in the future, but theoretically there is nothing to stop them ripping their dish off your house. If you move to another house without a dish you will have to pay SKY to get another installed. Also what type of set top box do you get, as there are several versions with increasing features, such as being able to watch one channel while recording another. A free box is worthless if you end up buying another to do what you want. Again the salesman implied that you would receive a free 'Freeview' type box that would be yours to keep and that you could continue to use to receive digital TV after the six month SKY TV subscription ended. This is utterly false. The set top box you receive is a SKY TV box that will only work while you continue to pay them a monthly rental. It is not yours to keep, so it was never free. From day one you have to pay a fee for every TV channel you receive, even the free-to-air channels, so again, it is a lie to claim that it is free. Once your six-month SKY TV subscription has ended, you must then pay SKY TV $4.25 every week if you want to continue watching just the free-to-air TV channels. And you must sign up for 12 months, which will cost you $221 to watch channels that everyone else is watching for free. But a 'Freeview' box only costs around $150, so every year you would effectively be throwing out a good box and buying another one. With 'Freeview' you buy one box for $150 — once — but with SKY TV you give them $221 every year for the rest of your life. You pay SKY TV to watch channels that are free! Don't be tricked into this. The salesman gave me the impression that I would still be left with a free dish and working set top box even if I chose not to renew my SKY TV subscription at the end of six months. This was false. After the digital switchover I would be left with a brick and a dead TV, the very thing he claimed he was working to prevent.
Also for the most populous parts of the country all you need is a UHF aerial for 'Freeview' to work, so this 'free' dish is a worthless accessory. It would be far cheaper just to buy a UHF 'Freeview' box. Of course SKY TV hopes that with your cheap six-month subscription you and/or your kids will get addicted to various SKY only programs and that you will renew your SKY subscription at an increased price, starting at $52.69 per month. For some people in some places this might be a good deal, for others it's not.
But the real gripe we had with this salesman was his false and emotive claim that we might very soon be stuck with a dead TV. Like the false claims surrounding the Millennium Bug, how many people will be conned into buying things they don't need, or if they do need them, well before they need them?
When might we actually need them? On the TV3 news item, Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said that 'a compulsory switch to digital television will take place in 2013', and added that, 'Hawkes Bay and the West Coast of the South Island will go digital in 2012 as a test.' So contrary to our 'Integrate' salesman's scaremongering, most Kiwis have until 2013 (switching in three stages between April and November 2013), and a few 2012. Coleman said that '70% of the country has already made the switch voluntarily'. By this he means that many are already watching digital 'Freeview' or SKY TV. How he knows this is unclear, since a friend owns four 'Freeview' boxes. Is he classed as four households? Another friend has a TV with 'Freeview' built in which doesn't work in his area. Is he also classed as a digital household?
Coleman also said the following about the coming switch to digital, 'I think you could actually probably compare it with the advent of television in NZ itself. It's going to be pretty significant'. This is bullshit. As he said, 70% are already digital, have they noticed a 'pretty significant' change in their lives, the equivalent of going from radio to TV? No, TV is just as crappy as it was the day before they bought their digital set top box. I could secretly change your TV signal from analogue to digital and you wouldn't know the difference, whereas I think people that had never seen a TV before immediately realised it was a quantum leap from radio. Sure we will have access to a few more channels, but a 50% increase in rubbish is still rubbish.
Unlike our 'Integrate' salesman TV3 News didn't fudge the date of the switchover, but they did create another myth, that you need to replace your TV, and far too many media reports confuse a digital signal with a digital TV. Remember they said that 'If you're watching 3News on an old TV' and 'those who don't have the right kind of TV will lose reception altogether'. This implies that your old TV, your old analogue TV, won't work after the switchover, which as we explained is wrong. All you need to do is buy a cheap converter box and it will work fine. This media confusion will be exacerbated by the talk of new digital TVs and the digital signal. Some people we've spoken to are convinced that they will need to buy new digital TVs to receive the new signal, and the media talking about 'old TVs' will only mislead people and force them to make unnecessary purchases. Like in the aftermath of the Millennium Bug, there will be many irate people who discover that their old analogue 42" Flat Screen Plasma would have worked fine and their new digital 42" Flat Screen Plasma was a waste of money.
So what's our advice, is there any advantage in going digital now, rather than waiting until 2013 (or 2012)? If you get a good picture reception and are happy with the free-to-air channels then there is no need to rush. However if your reception is less than perfect and/or there are some free-to-air channels you can't receive because of your location, or you'd like a few more channels, then upgrading to 'Freeview' would be a good option. All you need buy is a cheapish 'Freeview' box which will connect to your existing analogue TV. Different boxes do different things so the cheapest might not be the best for you, but the cheapest will give you ordinary TV. If you haven't got a UHF aerial or a satellite dish you will also need to get one installed. If possible, the UHF aerial is the cheapest option. If you need a dish and SKY TV offers you a free dish installation, remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but it may still be worth giving them a few dollars and then not renewing your subscription. It may be cheaper to have them install a dish and pay for a short subscription than installing your own dish. Just remember you will still have to buy a 'Freeview' box at the end of your subscription, but from then it will be free, unlike SKY. The trick is not to become addicted as SKY TV is not cheap, (and unfortunately pay TV may be the future of TV in NZ). And also, as with all things electronic, like cell phones, DVD players and wide-screen TVs, in two years time set top boxes will no doubt be much cheaper with more features, so why buy one now if you don't need to?
But whether now or later, by 2013 you will need to purchase a set top box, and either an aerial or dish. So if a friend offers you a free box that they have upgraded from, then grab it, or SKY offers a free dish installation then it is certainly worth considering. But it's not changing tomorrow without warning, it won't cost you a fortune, and you shouldn't need to change your TV, unless it's really old, like almost back and white old.
Of course if the world is going to end on Dec 21st, 2012, as some believe it will, we would suggest you hold off until then. There will no doubt be many people happy to give you their set top boxes as they won't be needing them. Just make sure you get the agreement in writing with the stipulation that they can't demand it back in Jan 2013.
|International Burn a Koran Day|
American Pastor Terry Jones is in the news for planning to burn 200 copies of the Koran as a protest against the evils of Islam — 'International Burn a Koran Day: 9/11/2010'. The American government and its military leaders are understandably concerned that this public display of intolerance towards Islam will further inflame mistrust, and in some places outright hatred, that many Muslims worldwide already hold towards Americans, if not all Westerners. They have likened this act to those perpetrated against Muslim inmates in Abu Ghraib, deliberately designed to offend.
But this is not the same as Abu Ghraib. It is understandable that Muslims would view the behaviour at Abu Ghraib as possibly representative of the American military as a whole, working under orders from the American government. But as news reports state, the pastor is ignoring pleas from around the world, and most strenuously from the American government and military leaders, to stop his protest. This lone nutter, like a suicide bomber in a crowded market, is not representative of the crowd.
Muslims complain loudly when Americans and others condemn ALL Muslims for the atrocities committed by a handful of radical Muslims on Sept 11. They are rightly bitter when the entire Muslim world is demonised for the mindless brutality of a few. They've had years of trying to push this argument that your local Muslims should not be judged on the fundamentalist actions of a religious zealot.
And yet when the tables are turned, when a Christian religious zealot and his handful of ignorant followers offends the sensibilities of Muslims, they promise that all Americans, and especially the America military serving in the Middle East, will be viewed as those that burned the Korans. The actions of a few will be seen as the actions of a nation, and the actions of a religion. The crusade, as President George 'Wanker' Bush once described it, continues.
Mushtaq Sheikh of the NZ Muslim League had this to say on the protest: 'Burning of holy books will create unrest, disharmony, religious hatred, disorder in the community, not only in America, this could lead to all over the world.' Here we have a NZ Muslim leader predicting that a lone protest could result in 'unrest, disharmony, religious hatred, disorder' being perpetrated by NZ Muslims on their follow NZers, solely because of the act of an ignorant Christian in the US. Why isn't he reassuring us, that no way are NZ Muslims going to blame Kiwis for what some Bible Basher does on the other side of the world?
It is this hypocritical response that harms Islam. When a Muslim offends, Muslims insist that he is an individual and does not represent Islam, yet when a Christian offends, Muslims insist that he speaks not just for Christianity, but Westerners in general. Remember the riots and deaths caused by Muslims over the cartoons in a Danish newspaper? Protesters carrying placards that read: 'Butcher those that insult Islam'. The entire Western world had to feel their wrath, not just a small newspaper.
Do we have a problem with Pastor Jones burning the Koran? No. We agree that the Koran contains many commandments to the faithful that brings about murder, injustice, suffering and intolerance. But then so too does the Bible. If I were burning rubbish I would have no hesitation whatsoever in burning a Bible or a Koran. It's just a fictional book, no different than a copy of Harry Potter, except that it's not suitable for children. And to a lesser degree we have all done it. Think of those religious pamphlets that those annoying evangelists drop off, they all contain examples of Holy Scripture. You're not throwing an entire Bible into the rubbish, but you're certainly throwing part of it — the sacred Word of God — into the rubbish. And Muslims have threatened people with death that have put a single Koranic verse on clothing.
But we wouldn't invite Christians or Muslims to watch us burn their Bible or Koran, because that would change the act from one of simply deposing of unwanted rubbish to one of deliberating inciting hatred. Describing his protest Pastor Jones said, 'It's by no means a stunt. We have thought this out, we have prayed this through...'. It is obvious that little thought has gone into what Jones plans to do, that he is blinded by religious hatred and is obeying voices in his head, and that it will do nothing to mend the rift between Islam and Christianity. But of course Jones wants to destroy Islam, not reach an accommodation with it. As for the praying bit, it's interesting that in our dim past God could destroy cities with fire and brimstone and turn women into pillars of salt, yet now his wrinkly old fingers can't even ignite a few evil books. For that he needs the help of Pastor Jones.
Update: The latest news is that Pastor Jones has agreed to halt his protest pending a discussion with the Imam involved in buiding the Islamic mosque near Ground Zero in NY. He claims that the mosque will be moved in return for halting his protest, although this has not been agreed to. TV news footage of Muslims protesting the potential book burning once again clearly demontrated the arrogance and ignorance of Islam. Angry Muslims were (again) shown burning an American flag. Yet to many patriotic Americans, burning their flag is just as offensive an act as burning the Koran is to Muslims. Muslims are saying, we're not just going to threaten to burn your flag, as you threaten to burn our holy book, we'll burn it anyway just to show you how angry we are. We can offend you, but don't you dare offend us.
Jones is right, Islam needs to be destroyed, and once that is achieved, or at the same time, the same needs to happen to Christianity. These warring Christians and Muslims are a real threat to a peaceful and safe world. Humanity will not see true progress until they're gone.
Another Update: Pastor Jones has finally cancelled the protest, with the simple statement: 'We feel that God is telling us to stop'. It's revealing to reflect on the nature of the Christian God that Pastor Jones worships. Christians tell us that their God is all-knowing, all-powerful and unchanging. And yet the God that Jones thinks he has been dealing with was initially committed in his resolve, but then he becomes unsure whether he is doing the right thing. He takes ages to work through the problem, he allows himself to be swayed by Jones and his congregation, a Muslim Imam and the US President, and finally he changes his mind once again. Remember that Jones voicing resolve or uncertainty is actually God's resolve or uncertainty. In the eyes of Christians Jones isn't making the decisions, God is, Jones is merely his voice. Thus God if he existed is a weak minded entity easily manipulated by humans. Unlike Old Testament times, God is no longer able to shout his commands from the mountaintops, lighting up the sky, making the ground shake and striking fear in his followers. Jones is struggling to even hear God's voice, he's relying instead on what he feels a weak, feeble God is trying to communicate to him. The God of Pastor Jones is near death, and probably living out his remaining years in a dementia ward for gods.
Yet another Update: 2 April 2011, the God of Pastor Jones has changed his mind yet again, and Jones has gone ahead and burnt a Koran. He did this in private in front of the 15 members of his Christian congregation, but he filmed it and placed the video on YouTube. When Muslims in Afghanistan eventually saw it, an outraged mob stormed a United Nations compound and slaughtered 3 European workers, beheading two of them, and 4 Nepalese, even though it was an American that taunted them. Of course this does show that Jones was right, that some Muslims are dangerous, unthinking killers. But it also shows that Christians like Jones are equally dangerous, eager to incite hatred and bloodshed and completely insensitive to innocent lives that are lost due to a centuries old conflict between Christianity and Islam arguing over a being that doesn't even exist.
Last Updated Oct 2010