Inequality in Aotearoa: Education

It is often assumed that the desire to raise national standards of performance in fields such as education is quite separate from the desire to reduce educational inequalities within a society. But the truth may be almost the opposite of this. It looks as if the achievement of higher national standards of educational performance may actually depend on reducing the social gradient in educational achievement in each country. – The Spirit Level p 108.

Apologies for the wee hiatus in my Inequality in Aotearoa blog series! I’ve been busy with all the anti-mining activity lately, plus the great news that my Bill to help protect schedule 4 lands was drawn from the ballot last week.

However, I am still working away on inequality, and it seems that awareness of this issue is picking up speed (see the cover story of this week’s Listener, “All things being equal”).

In this blog, I want to focus on the links (and there are many) between inequality and education.

You don’t need me to tell you that this Government has identified improving educational achievement as one of its key goals: that’s where the deeply flawed national standards come from.

I agree that this is an incredibly important and valuable goal. I just wish they’d done even a little bit of research, because if they had they would have found stacks of evidence telling them that if you want to improve educational standards, the single most important thing you can do is address educational inequalities. Catherine has been pointing this out for a while now.

The biggest influence on how well kids do at school is their family background. Kids do better if their parents earn a good income, value education, and provide a home for their kids with books, newspapers, and space to study. Kids who don’t have these things do worse – so far, so straightforward.

What’s interesting is that the more unequal the overall society is, the harder it is for those at the “bottom” to overcome these barriers and achieve well in education. Even though they have similar barriers to overcome, kids in Finland whose parents didn’t graduate from high school do better than kids in the US whose parents didn’t graduate from high school. The difference: inequality.

And you know what else is interesting? Even kids who don’t have as many barriers to overcome do better in more equal countries. Taking the same two countries, kids whose parents have a university qualification in Finland do better than kids in the US whose parents have a university qualification. Even for the most privileged, inequality bites.

So this is obviously a worry for kids in New Zealand, which has one of the worst rates of inequality in the OECD. (Wilkinson and Pickett note that on the face of it, New Zealand has quite high literacy scores, given how unequal we are, but also note that this could be due to the fact that we have a high proportion of kids who are not even being assessed because they have dropped out or are truant).

It is useful to think about national standards with these findings about the relationship between inequality and educational performance in mind. One of the biggest concerns raised about national standards has been that they will be used to rank schools according to performance. These in turn could be used to justify closing or removing support from schools which are perceived to be “failing”.

As Michael Marmot points out in his great book The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, all league tables really measure is socio-economic status. When you compare tables of the “best” and “worst” schools, they are almost identical to areas with the “best” and “worst” measures of social and economic deprivation.

We don’t need national standards to tell us that our poorest kids are doing worst: we need to address the underlying inequalities that influence their education so that they can do better.

Check out Catherine’s Education Ideas poster for where the Greens would start.

237 thoughts on “Inequality in Aotearoa: Education

  1. Sapient, thanks for the clarification. Had me worried as you seemed to be arguing against everything I was saying. I still take issue with some of your points, like how effective the US military can be at keeping groups within a country safe given they tend to hate outsiders more than each other, but can agree broadly and now I lack the time to go into it further.

    Congrats on graduating.

  2. I can’t possibly see how you would reach that conclusion, Shunda, unless being against killing people to get at their resources is “soft” in your world. I don’t think that should be done to Christians either, if that helps. I’m even willing to wildly generalise and say it shouldn’t happen to anyone. How about you?

  3. Valis, for someone so critical of Christianity you sure seem to have a soft spot for Islam.

  4. Valis,

    What an exercise in rationalisation to do the same thing we always do. Expect the same results.

    I think I need to clarify my position:
    I do not think we should continue exploiting their resources;
    I think we need to do a lot of humanitarian work;
    What I am advocating when it comes to force is that we should use it against those whom would destroy us and whom are presently hurting the these people we have hurt just as much as we ever have;
    If we do not do this not only will we be facing a large and hazardous war but we will severely hamper any peace we may otherwise arrive at.

    This is not the same thing we always do, even if it does feature a similar ruse of force in self-interest.

    The point is not about nukes! For one of our more intelligent commenters, you’re trying awfully hard to miss the point today.

    I was not trying to. I have two 50% assignments due this coming week and I had graduation today. I think it is understandable that I may read over things a little quickly and be a little hasty in my replies. I apologize for that.

    I’ve never seen a convincing argument that the contribution is small, particularly so small that we can just ignore it as you think we can.

    I do not think we can ignore it. I think it was an absolutely stupid action to take. My argument was merely that the extremism that we need to combat would be around regardless and that it would stay around even were the oil crusades to cease.

    All those not radicalised would certainly not be coming after us, and those that remain would have far less to work with.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves, but that does not include continued occupation of bits of the mid East, nor anything like the support provided for the oppression of Palestinians. You simply cannot provide the sort of institutional support you talk about above while stomping around the mid East at the same time, killing innocent and guilty alike. Eventually there is a price to pay, the CIA call it “blow back”. Your position plays right into the status quo. Pure George Bush.

    I do not think we should be occupying the middle east other than the policing action required to a)Allow them to re-form a government in our aftermath, b)Fight the groups dedicated to our elimination, and c)Prevent acquisition of WMD’s.

    For the record, I understand ‘blow back’ well. Remember, I started in social psychology (with a particular interest in in-group/out-group formation and interaction). What I am talking about here is trying to minimize that ‘blow back’ such that we may live with as little violence as is necessary. I realize that attacks can hurt further, but if we keep them as precise as possible then we can minimize the harm resulting such that it provides a net benefit.

  5. Yes, we fracked up. We threw stones which attracted the lionesses, but now they are circling. Now we need the fire to stay alive. We do need to help the civilians, but we must combat the extremists least we perish.

    What an exercise in rationalisation to do the same thing we always do. Expect the same results.

    As to the shoes thing, so what? I don’t want the nukes in the US where a crazy Christian could push a button hoping to bring about the apocalypse and I don’t want them in Iran where someone could do much the same (though they are arguably even more likely to).

    The point is not about nukes! For one of our more intelligent commenters, you’re trying awfully hard to miss the point today.

    The oil was certainly a contributing factor but it was just that. The extremism exists independent of the oil and is a result of power lust and religious nutters; the oil is merely used to gain more follows. How much of a contribution it has made is arguable.

    I’ve never seen a convincing argument that the contribution is small, particularly so small that we can just ignore it as you think we can.

    It is silly to pretend they would just be sitting around twiddling their thumbs if not for the stupid actions of cowboys.

    All those not radicalised would certainly not be coming after us, and those that remain would have far less to work with.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves, but that does not include continued occupation of bits of the mid East, nor anything like the support provided for the oppression of Palestinians. You simply cannot provide the sort of institutional support you talk about above while stomping around the mid East at the same time, killing innocent and guilty alike. Eventually there is a price to pay, the CIA call it “blow back”. Your position plays right into the status quo. Pure George Bush.

  6. I don’t know how Farrar found out that I’m svelte, but when he did, the lard hit the fan, or in this case, the ban button.

  7. we’re all backin ya shunda – just that you’re on yer own
    another miracle of creation!

  8. If you had behaved yourself you could have backed me up!!
    But ya had to keep pushing! :)

  9. so nice to have you back Sapient!
    now, where are them lil’ fol-de-rols?
    I may be sent south for winter…
    Sailing under the stars with a sparky ol sea dog.

  10. Mark,

    Gutenburg is always a good source of the older texts.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/2244

    ~

    SPC,

    You begin by saying there is “no right” because right is a moral statement and conclude, then conclude by saying “might literally determines right”.

    I had thought the first sentence of that which you quoted made it clear enough. The second sentence should read, in full, “Thus, as a result of the aforementioned process, those whom wield power are ultimately able to indoctrinate others in to their own way of thinking and, as such, to alter, in the subjective world of the indoctrinated individual, exactly what is considered right by the individuals over which they hold sway” though, I had considered such a full statement unnecessary.

    In relation to your earlier post, power comes from many places; primarily people. Laws are made by government and will tend to reflect the opinions and morality of the law makers and, partially, those of the constituents. While laws may not reflect individual morality, they will tend to reflect the opinions of those whom are able and willing to utilize that power. The difference between democracies and dictatorships is that democracies make it easier for citizens to utilize that power by minimizing the adverse consequences of doing such.

    ~

    Valis,

    Yes, we fracked up. We threw stones which attracted the lionesses, but now they are circling. Now we need the fire to stay alive. We do need to help the civilians, but we must combat the extremists least we perish.

    As to the shoes thing, so what? I don’t want the nukes in the US where a crazy Christian could push a button hoping to bring about the apocalypse and I don’t want them in Iran where someone could do much the same (though they are arguably even more likely to).

    The oil was certainly a contributing factor but it was just that. The extremism exists independent of the oil and is a result of power lust and religious nutters; the oil is merely used to gain more follows. How much of a contribution it has made is arguable. It is silly to pretend they would just be sitting around twiddling their thumbs if not for the stupid actions of cowboys.

  11. Sapient’s position may have been logical of itself, but logic when used to only tell half the story does not come to a logical conclusion. Religion itself is logical up to a point, but only by being silent on half the story.

  12. Sapient he is old gun…
    spc…sapient….see?
    No, he’s not confused as being purely logical and unemotional
    I think
    I see his point anyway…
    Charlemagne’s big Foot became the standard religion – carried like a blanket by the finally broken Roman Army.
    Don’t mind admiring History – the plight of the jews etc…
    thing is we have a new opportunity, every moment
    Yes, I do agree, the Law as it is,
    Doesn’t do anything at all
    a bird without wings kiwi?

  13. What are these stones of which you speak?

    I fear you are not joking.

    If it is critique, then “never!”.

    Never!

    If it is the military efforts then perhaps; but at your own risk.

    I am astonished that you have so little knowledge of western intervention and the reasons for it given the time you’ve spent on this blog.

    The hornets nest analogy is a poor one. Better would be fire keeping away the large felines. They do want to gut us, regardless of what we may do to them. I do not mean all Muslims, I have a good number of Muslim associates/friends that would never dream of such, but our destruction is at the heart of that religion.

    Poor, well meaning West, aye. The hornet’s analogy is exactly the right one as they weren’t trying to destroy us until we started killing them. That the Koran is a horribly violent book does not mean it’s worst ends will be pursued. As you have pointed out, there are many – still the majority – of Muslims who do not support jihad against the West. The percentage would be even greater if the modernisation and secularisation of the mid East had been allowed to follow a natural course – just as you argue for above – rather than being tripped up by the same West that talks of democracy but values money far more. Instead, we do the very things that will predictably make them hate us and respond self righteously when they do.

    There is a wonderful “let’s walk in their shoes” piece on the Internet somewhere I wish I could find again. It is about Iran’s nuclear programme and describes what it would be like if they were the world power and the US was just a regional power, precisely turning the tables, so the US has nukes trained on it from Iran, Mexico is occupied, there are incursions from a hostile Canada – you get the picture. The reaction from Americans would be “I’d rather be dead than red (metaphorically)” and “give me liberty or give me death!”, not to mention “lock and load”, and I’m not talking shot guns here. Yet, when the same is done to them, we can’t even see that they might feel threatened, or react in exactly the way we would.

    This same outrage that we would feel is what the mullahs use to radicalise their people into action. That their faith is potentially so violent and so perfectly structured to catalyse such outrage makes us even crazier than them to purposely provide that catalyst. It’s like giving the enemy the ammo to shoot us with. Really, if you think the path to 9/11 was not directly through our history of oil lust, well, I don’t know what else to say.

    They do pose a very real and substantial threat and this will be even more so without our intervention.

    In fact, our only hope is to stop whacking the hornets nest.

  14. Mark

    We have many standards. Law does not really try to dictate morality anymore. It is really about protecting people from others (violence property crime), some people ignore the law in victimless crimes (drinking in bars 18 and 19 before 1999), smoking dope, prostitutes soliciting clients pre 2002).

    Salient was confusing “right” with enforced might, when moral right and moral wrong is now the perogative of personal moral choice and not law – even Christianity made that distinction 2000 years ago.

    For example many “morality” campaigns influence the public and their pressure impacts on government decisions. Say on mining, protecting the environment etc. But usually these are in areas of collective morality (potecting the commons) as distinguished from private moral choice (eating or not eating meat etc).

  15. Salient

    You say I am confused.

    Perhaps you could clarify what you wrote here

    “There is no right as right is a moral judgment, but ultimately those with force are those who are able to enforce their perceptions of what is right on others. Thus might, quite literally, determines right”

    You begin by saying there is “no right” because right is a moral statement and conclude, then conclude by saying “might literally determines right”.

    I know you like to test your debating skills, by puting yourself in difficult positions to argue, so perhaps you could offer a demonstration in this case.

    Shunda might suggest the following line – perhaps the only might able to determine right is God? One issue of religion is whether a moral force would use might.

  16. lots of nutters w’ guns of all denominations Valis – you Have Uncovered my basic complaint.

  17. um..Valis, faith should guide not rule eh?

    How would I know? I just report what I see. Just be sure to tell the nutters with the guns that, OK? And let us know what they said.

  18. There is no right as right is a moral judgment, but ultimately those with force are those who are able to enforce their perceptions of what is right on others. Thus might, quite literally, determines right.

    That’s all fine, but it’s not ok to also imply that whatever happened in the past is just dandy for the same reasons, which is what I take out of the discussion above. The obvious problem is that some take it to mean they should be able to do whatever they want in the future as well, sans other moral considerations. There are many examples of the state denying to itself the use of powers it could use, e.g. innocent until proven guilty means we are not arbitrarily jailed. That is our big brains at work concluding that “might is right” should not be the end of the story.

  19. Sapient; But that particular speech includes the passage about
    ‘life going on in it’s petty pace
    wherein a flame but sparks”

    My Shakespeare is MIA at the moment – but quote that section 4me if you got the scanner….it’s a piece of work that Erhadt converted into
    est.

  20. SPC,

    Religious morality is just as arbitrary as any other.

    I think you are rather confused regarding this whole morality/power thing, unfortunately I do not have the time at present to correct or debate.

    It is I who was being pedantic, my statement was an acknowledgment of that.

  21. um..Valis, faith should guide not rule eh?..i have my bible studies coming up – i’b takin a break and having a think – betchya it’ll be relevant – I’ll know in an hour – just like the lotto!

  22. If it is delusional to believe in a god that does not exist it is also delusional to believe there is no god when there is one.

    Goes without saying, but we have to place our bets anyway. I know where mine is and I don’t resent someone arguing I’m delusional as Shunda does, so long as they bring a good argument. Funny I haven’t heard one yet.

  23. Belief in world rule by a Christian or Moslem government is supremacist nonsence. And yet many of the two religions believe that is what their relgion is ultimately about – and that bringing in their order of rule involves their victory over others (by force).

    Of course the secular separation of government from religion in the West has Christians now reliant on either some second coming of Christ/Advent for their victory by force or modern day heresy in the USA – where Christians prepare the way for an Advent by political activism (Dominionism – of which the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition were prototype forms).

  24. Salient

    One could argue it is religion (separated from might) which has the capability to distinguish right distinct from (secular) force.

    Though of course religions enforce their morality in their own way within their group and without via influence on public law.

    But then society itself has a distinction between morality and enforced law.

    That same co-existence of morality and force exists in inter-national relations. We organise as democracies and extol its virtues and yet co-exist and trade with non-democratic states.

    Valis

    If it is delusional to believe in a god that does not exist it is also delusional to believe there is no god when there is one.

    That’s not being pedantic salient, pot kettle black …

  25. Valis,

    What are these stones of which you speak?

    If it is critique, then “never!”. If it is the military efforts then perhaps; but at your own risk. They do pose a very real and substantial threat and this will be even more so without our intervention.

    The hornets nest analogy is a poor one. Better would be fire keeping away the large felines. They do want to gut us, regardless of what we may do to them. I do not mean all Muslims, I have a good number of Muslim associates/friends that would never dream of such, but our destruction is at the heart of that religion.

  26. Valis,

    Indeed, we disagree. My support for “might is right” is not one of desire but one of fact. The body with the greater power, all connections considered, will be the victor and be able to impose their will on those of lesser power.

    A civilized society is maintained by force. It protects itself from its adversaries using force. It imprisons criminals using force. It collects tax using force. The diplomacy that our big brains allow is naught but force trading. Force is the currency of the world.

    There is no right as right is a moral judgment, but ultimately those with force are those who are able to enforce their perceptions of what is right on others. Thus might, quite literally, determines right.

    Mark,

    He is an interesting man, that Shakespeare. The first few lines of that quote are probably some of my favorite, but after that it gets excessively verbose.

    The whole world is formed in battle, what changes is not so much the method but who holds the power.

    Amongst my study, specialty training, and unification contemplation, I have little time but my current reading is of Peter Singer; though, his older arguments have the odd effect of decreasing my respect for him.

  27. While I agree that modernisation is ultimately something that must be introduced, I doubt that it will go much of the way. If one looks at the most radical youth they tend to come from Europe, the UK and the US and travel to the troubled countries explicitly to join the organisations fighting ‘the great satan’.

    I think that the change ultimately needs to be driven from inside. There needs to be a clear message that such acts of terrorism are not acceptable and that such martyrdom is no going to get you 72 virgins (or 72 grapes?).

    From the outside there is not much that we can do outside of keeping education secular.

    I don’t really get this line of thinking. It’s like we keep hitting a hornet’s nest with stones, but never connect that it may have something to do with why we keep getting stung. We can only indirectly affect things from the inside via support for secularism, etc.

    But we can stop throwing the fucking stones!

    Why wouldn’t this be the very first step? It is a fundamental cause of the growing strife, would be the most effective AND it’s entirely in our control. We can complain about their lunacy on a much better footing both morally and practically when we have our own house in order.

  28. I don’t think any truly religeous person can advocate violence and not be a hypocrite.

    Unfortunately, Mark, your admirably rational approach is not a requirement of religions, in fact the opposite could be argued. The only real requirement is faith, and when faith rules, anything can be justified, as we have seen.

  29. I thought it was the useless that huddled over the maps of war, shifting lead figures and stiff flags back and foward as the fancy takes them.

    That Big Will! He’s something else.

  30. Sapient; haven’t worked myself up to Shakespeare’s literary appendage yet – he’s kind of impressive hey? Sometimes I leave him on the wireless just for the rare music of language.
    My point with Tuhoe is solely that once this was Afghanistan too!
    There were rights and wrongs which most all acknowledge – but when it comes to setting things aright, our government emits a mewling sound…I know who I’d entrust the national Parks to.

    Reading a quote from the US war Correspondant Ernie Pyle, he reported that the comment made most often by soldiers to him was (paraphrased)

    “What if all this intent and energy and money and creation could be expended for the Good of Humanity?”

    It is I think, a question that resounds louder down the halls of ages.

  31. I know we disagree on this point, but I will state again for the record that while “might is right” is often the salient historical fact, that does not mean it should be considered desirable or even inevitable. We have big brains and can and should do better than rely on such an excuse. It is what makes us civilised (or not).

  32. Mark,

    What doe sit matter how the Tuhoi ancestors would regard fore-bearers? They were defeated, conquered. They lacked the to force to rival the coalition and perished as a result. Be the Taliban right or wrong, force will decide who is right. The giant is asleep now, but, should it awaken, a country or two may disappear.

    It is the poor that seem to die, the poor and the stupid. One of the few benefits of war. Makes the useless useful as cannon fodder.

    Re: the old:
    “All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
    His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

    One might add “sans mind”.

  33. Yes it’s an interesting field for research all right.
    What I’ve been uncovering is just how much our Media is a handmaiden to the Lawmakers – and they both wind up so wealthy it’s genuinely dizzying.
    I keep noticing the way it’s always the Poor who seem to die – my WW1 history studies – when close to 100 million died because a small group of (royal ) cousins had a bit of a tiff had me concluding that wars are good business – unless you have to attend!
    That and my Grandfathers eyes old mate.

    There is the given human need ‘to be right’ as well as a kind of ‘fear of the dark’.
    Grandmother had a portrait of an African Woman painted up close under a full moon – I found it soooo frightening as a child, I had to run past it.
    Years and travel have taught me understanding, compassion and some common sense. Discrimination need never mean fear or estrangement.
    Why do we send 19 year olds off to war? – and why do we lock up and abandon our old (and supposedly wise)?
    (and lock up our native population)
    Truth can be the most painfull to those who have avoided it longest.
    Would the Tuhoi ancestors regard themselves as having been dealt with by the Taliban?

  34. Mark,

    I don’t find Muslims themselves scary, what I find scary is the militancy advocated in most monotheistic texts and particularly in the Koran. Even were the Koran itself a peaceful text, there is a substantial body of militancy amongst its followers which feel they have the right to demand that the most central pillars of western civilization be destroyed just so that they may be free of offense. Who, like followers of many dogma, feel justified in killing myself and those I care about to fulfill some, supposedly god given, allocation (Yes, I do detect the note of irony).

    As to divisiveness, it is an incredibly useful tool utilized by pretty much every politically interested body. Including this one. I’ve been meaning to read more deeply on the matter, but what I have read so far would seem to indicate that we come pre-programed to discriminate, and thus be divisive, based on any array of facts; babies will even discriminate base don the colour of ones shirt. Infants on language, accent, colour, etc..

  35. Hi Sapient!
    Actually the US is amongst the fastest growing Muslim countries in the West. I don’t find Muslims in the least scary.
    I haven’t studied the Koran too closely, but doubt that it holds a lot of fearsome advice – in fact Biblical Apocalypse and Revenge pales most other philosophies to shame.
    Religion has imo long been used as an excuse for pursuing financial imperatives.
    I don’t understand human tendency for divisiveness – most faiths share so much essential common ground it seems petty to beat the breast in righteousness.
    One is reminded that Hitlers Men had ‘God is With Us’ inscribed on their belt buckles.
    I got into a spot of bother when taught Christianity at school.
    On the one hand they were saying that ‘Killing is Wrong’
    and on the other, that firebombing all those Japs and assorted baddies was a jolly good thing.
    Well Hardly!
    I lived through the Cold War when (for a long time) it was considered that destroying the Earth entirely, was preferable to letting those Communists live.
    One can only take So Much ridiculosity.
    What is Afghanistan about?
    Oil pipelines and proximity to Russia (and opuim).
    What is NZ doing there?
    Obtaining Trade concessions for human blood – no religion involved I can see fitting into any of the great ethereal(for want of a better term) works…granted the Taliban seem (I haven’t been there) a bunch of thugs – but such murder is spread all over the world – including New Zealand…the people involved like the disguise of righteousness (they do the same work – only usually more slowly), that’s all, I think.

  36. Valis,

    While I agree that modernisation is ultimately something that must be introduced, I doubt that it will go much of the way. If one looks at the most radical youth they tend to come from Europe, the UK and the US and travel to the troubled countries explicitly to join the organisations fighting ‘the great satan’.

    I think that the change ultimately needs to be driven from inside. There needs to be a clear message that such acts of terrorism are not acceptable and that such martyrdom is no going to get you 72 virgins (or 72 grapes?).

    From the outside there is not much that we can do outside of keeping education secular. We can support international draw Mo day and hope that it is only the terrorist organisations that are on the receiving end of the global fist but ultimately the effiacy will be rather limited.

    Christianity was disarmed by the enlightenment (ironically, started via the Arab world), we need Islam disarmed in a similar way. Any dogma which suggests a surprime right to the planet, an ends of days, etc. will ultimately be detrimental to human society. Christianity is only less dangerous now because almost every Christian is a heritic in that they follow only a fraction of their supposed inspiration and are defined more by what they dont follow than what they follow.

    Regardless of what Shunda may say, the Christian dogma is troublesome in that it is a dogma and it does prescribe a path; one not at all loving. so long as it exists, there is the potential for it to turn extreme, again. That said, I doubt we could ever eliminate it and there will always be dogma; perhaps it is better the disarmed one we know than the one we do not.

    ~

    Mark,

    I saw an egyptian cleric, last night, declare that in 20 years Muslims would be the majority in Europe. Scary.

    ~

    SPC,

    If one wants to be pedantic, we cannot prove there is not a god. We can, though, easily prove, to the extent that anything may be proven, that there is not a God in the abrahamic sense. This was done prior to the foundation of Christianity (though I prefer my version as it eliminates the subjective moralistic comoponent).

  37. Aye to that – and Islam is the World’s fastest growing ‘religion’ – me I find it hard to fault people who hold forth truly spiritual values of whatever faith – it’s the ones with guns I don’t care for.
    I don’t think any truly religeous person can advocate violence and not be a hypocrite.
    Notice how the mass murderers in Bosnia were not referred to in the Western Media as ‘Christians’ – but they were – church on Sunday and butchery all Week long.

  38. I would never argue that Islam is not a problem. But surely we should focus on what we can control, particularly when our actions have been like pouring petrol on a fire (pun intended). We can decide not to start the next oil war. We can decide to end the current one.

  39. Its hard to think of good approaches to Islam. I think what we need is a change from the inside primarily , massive distribution every time they try to censor something would be potentially useful too though.

    It is not hard, but obvious. Drain the swamp. Take away their ability to radicalise their youth by taming the great satan. Present modernisation in a reasonable light slowly over time, rather than forced at gun point. In other words, the process that was going on in the mid East before oil became the only thing that mattered.

    Iran and Iraq are both great examples of where we’ve gone wrong. Both were becoming modern secular states who’s path was changed due to western lust for oil. Iran’s situation is particularly tragic. In the 50’s it was well on it’s way to becoming a modern democracy. Then the US overthrew the govt for business interests and oil. Imagine how things might be different now of this had not occurred. As the same time, we prop up petro-dictators like the Saudis who work directly against the interests of peaceful enlightenment, instead fanning the flames of 8th century Islam.

    It should be a happy coincidence that the means to change the above are also exactly what needs to be done to deal to climate change. Reduce emissions, develop clean energy and leave the fossil fuels in the ground. We can stop killing ourselves in two ways at the same time. With a bit of wisdom and leadership things could be very different.

  40. On the subject of books – no hi-jack intended (& I’m not her Mum)

    I have here an excellent tome by Dunedin writer Laurence Fearnley – “Butler’s Ringlet”

    Superb piece of Kiwiana

  41. I use “deluded” in the sense Dawkins does, not as a condition that will get you a trip to Siberia. So simply that if you believe something despite the lack of evidence and turn out to be wrong, surely you were deluding yourself. That this can’t be proved at the time makes it no less debatable.

  42. Valis, the “if” approach is a little unfair. It’s like saying “if” Shunda feels that Dawkins supports Harris on his point (allegation made by Shunda) then his concern is understandable. Or if Dawkins supports Harris, then that’s also bad. When one actually knows that Dawkins does not support Harris on the point, one should actually say so.

    Saying “if” Shunda believes in a god that does not exist then he is deluded is similar. For its clear that Shunda’s position (is now) that he does not claim to be able to prove God exists, but where he asserts people’s right to believe about God as they choose.

    None of us is able to prove there is no God, and as for declaring peoples beliefs and creeds (religious or political) delusional – here we are in the realm of the Soviet gulag (where dissidents were sent for psychiatric treatment).

  43. Valis,

    The threat of Islam, certainly. With good reason.

    Its hard to think of good approaches to Islam. I think what we need is a change from the inside primarily , massive distribution every time they try to censor something would be potentially useful too though.

    I don’t remember him talking explicitly about inflicting death, at least not on the innocent.

  44. It’s true, Sap. I’ve read bits where Harris has referred to the threat of Islam, but never read anthing so explicit from him about killing people. But Shunda has all the facts, so I’m sure will provide us a link.

  45. Shunda,

    Harris is young. Naive. Older than me, but still.

    He has only just got his doctorate. While it being in neuroscience is a plus (though in a dubious area), he has not yet come into his logical capacities and his wisdom is somewhat questionable. He is only really a horseman because of his book. His capacities exceed those of pretty much every theologian ready to debate, but still. He is presently engaged in a debate with most of the eminent pearlists over getting an ought from an is; a position in which he is terribly flawed and in which his naivety is displayed.

    That said, I do not know if he made such a statement. I would suggest that if he did it was in jest or to provoke a reaction.

  46. Valis, Shundra does not believe in a god that does not exist – he believes things, about a God that might exist, for which there is no evidence.

    SPC, yes, but changes nothing I said. Note the “if”.

    Sorry, Shunda, but you are talking out your ass again. Dawkins endorsement of Harris is explicitly to do with his arguments against a deity. Harris is particularly lucid in this regard. When it comes to politics, to what society should do about the present situation, the four horsemen are split. Dawkins and Dennett are politically liberal, while Harris and Hitchens are particularly fearful of Islam an believe we should “get them before they get us”. Dawkins DOES NOT endorse this view.

    Dawkins thinks it is great however.
    This is really why I am interested in debating the God stuff, it is kind of pointless to argue about Gods existence, but the freedom to believe what one wants without persecution is another issue.

    Very noble, but you need to get you facts straight. You are not being persecuted and Dawkins would not support your persecution. Harris is wrong, but to tar Dawkins with his brush is slander.

  47. Valis the guys name is Sam Harris and Dawkins has endorsed his work.
    He is routinely criticised by other scientists and atheists for what many see as blatant and massive intolerance and bigotry.
    The stuff he is advocating is crap and it is extremely dangerous.
    Dawkins thinks it is great however.
    This is really why I am interested in debating the God stuff, it is kind of pointless to argue about Gods existence, but the freedom to believe what one wants without persecution is another issue.

  48. Valis, Shundra does not believe in a god that does not exist – he believes things, about a God that might exist, for which there is no evidence.

  49. Valis my motivation is not to prove that science absolutely supports God,

    You used to try to argue this, so glad to hear you’ve got over it.

    it is to show that it doesn’t support some of the disturbing attitudes a group of scientists led by Dawkins are displaying.

    Who has claimed that science supports any of the things you claim below? Certainly not Dawkins. You’re hearing things again, Shunda. Get a grip.

    I am not deluded and I am not a danger to society,

    I don’t think you are personally a danger to society. If you believe in a god that doesn’t exist, then you are deluded though.

    I resent someone like Dawkins speaking about how I should be raising my kids, a guy that is in his 3rd marriage (I believe) telling people how to manage their lives seems more than a little hypocritical.

    Substitute drugs for religion to see the fallacy of your statement. It all depends on whether you see religion as a good or a bad. It doesn’t matter that you resent the challenge. People resent things they can’t defend well. Too bad. Religion should not be a no go zone for debate.

    One of these intellectuals actually wrote in his book that certain religious people should be killed as a service to humanity, and he is not even seen as a radical.
    I find this attitude extremely disturbing.

    You should know better than to say something like that and not even say who you’re talking about. That you do so to cast aspersions on Dawkins, who would NEVER support such a statement is pretty sad. You shouldn’t need to resort to such tactics. It only shows how little you have to support you position.

  50. My purpose was never to debate your religious experiences, which would be pointless. So long as you no longer argue that science supports you in any way like you used to, I’ll keep (mostly) quiet.
    .
    Valis my motivation is not to prove that science absolutely supports God it is to show that it doesn’t support some of the disturbing attitudes a group of scientists led by Dawkins are displaying. I am not deluded and I am not a danger to society, I resent someone like Dawkins speaking about how I should be raising my kids, a guy that is in his 3rd marriage (I believe) telling people how to manage their lives seems more than a little hypocritical.
    One of these intellectuals actually wrote in his book that certain religious people should be killed as a service to humanity, and he is not even seen as a radical.
    I find this attitude extremely disturbing.

  51. “I ask because I have friends who had similar revelations, followed by deeply held Christian beliefs, followed by rejection of those same beliefs and a return to good sense”
    .
    Ahh yes the good oll “I’m asking because I have a friend who…”
    he he, how long were you in church for greenfly? ;)

  52. I thought we’d been quite reasonable today, but in deference to your current state, we’ll lay off until your get life back together – right fly?

  53. My modem has melted and I can’t figure out how to use the new modem/router I just purchased for $200!!!
    And this stupid vodafone mobile stick thingame is helishingly expensive!
    My ISP doesn’t have any connection info on line, I have a headache, a thin wallet, work sucks and Valis and greenfly are being mean!! :cry:

  54. Note that while none of Dick’s books are bad, not all are great. Many of his earlier books were written quickly and sold for a few hundred dollars just to put food on the table. From the earlier stuff, try one of these:

    Time Out of Joint (1959)
    The Man in the High Castle (1962)
    The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)
    Unteleported Man, the (1966)

    Anything from the late ’60’s on is good, particularly:

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) [very different than Blade Runner though the basic plot is the same]
    Ubik (1969)
    Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974)
    A Scanner Darkly (1977)
    VALIS (1981)
    The Divine Invasion (1981)
    The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982)
    Radio Free Albemuth (1985) [but written earlier]

    Regarding the last four, VALIS, DI and TTA are a loose trilogy. The actual third instalment Dick was working on when he died and has never been released, called The Owl in Daylight and TTA gets substituted as it has similar themes. RFA is actually the first draft of VALIS. It is interesting to read them both, as RFA is incorporated in VALIS as the plot of a movie. It has been made into an actual movie itself, but has not been released yet. Wiki says that the makers don’t like the name and may call it VALIS instead, with the sequel called VALIS 2, based on the book VALIS, assuming the first is successful. In VALIS the book, the RFA movie is also called VALIS, so there is a strange logic here, worthy of Dick himself!

    But these are not the books to start with in my opinion. Read a few of the others first, if not A Scanner Darkly, then maybe The Man in the High Castle. This is set in an alternate reality where the Axis won WWII, with the protagonist writing a book of an alternate reality where the Allies had won.

  55. “He was untrained, but a completely natural writer, full of imagination and paranoia.”
    I must read him then! What is and isn’t real, eh! No wonder Shunda baulks at him!

  56. PKD died in 1982 not long before Bladerunner came out. His last books, of which VALIS was one, were still filled very much with his experiences of 1974. Would be interesting to see where he’d got to now had he lived.

    Have you read anything by Dick, fly? He was untrained, but a completely natural writer, full of imagination and paranoia. Just about all of his books deal in some way with the nature of reality and what is and isn’t real. He also came from a serious ’60’s drug culture that he felt damaged his body and his brain and probably led to his early death. It was in this contect that he started having gnostic visions, which profoundly effected him and made his writing even more intense.

    One of his best books is about his drug experiences. A Scanner Darkly was recently made into a movie, like so many of his books. Bob Arctor is an undercover narc immersed in the drug world, who wears a high tech scramble suit when at the police station so no one knows who he is. “Fred” as he is known there, gets a new assignment – Bob Arctor – and has to spy on himself. The results aren’t happy. Have a read, it’s really good.

  57. Valis – PKD had ‘deep religious revelations’, can you tell me what he made of them and where he sits now in terms of Christianity?
    I ask because I have friends who had similar revelations, followed by deeply held Christian beliefs, followed by rejection of those same beliefs and a return to good sense :-)

  58. Shunda, have you never noticed the irony of my moniker? VALIS is a book by Philip K Dick in which he describes deep religious relevalations he received in 1974. This is set in a sci-fi story and VALIS is an entity in orbit around the Earth beaming pink light at certain people, but it is at it’s heart a serious philosophical work. Another one to add to your reading list, along with Unweaving the Rainbow and The Spirit Level. You’re gonna read these right?

  59. As people, scientists are just as curious as you. But as scientists, they know science can currently say nothing about the other side of the big bang.

    I personally can’t help but ponder this indescribable realm beyond our universe and how it seems to fit perfectly with the revealed nature of the Christian God.

    It’s indescribable, but fits perfectly? I say it’s invisible, but pink! Sorry.

    My purpose was never to debate your religious experiences, which would be pointless. So long as you no longer argue that science supports you in any way like you used to, I’ll keep (mostly) quiet.

  60. Yes Valis, it is true that science in itself will not lead to a belief in God and nor is it supposed to (as far as the Christian religion is concerned).
    However there is reference in the bible that the very nature of the universe means that human kind is without excuse regarding at least the pondering of his existence. In the past this would have been satisfied by ignorance of the natural world, but perhaps now with our understanding of the big bang, that scripture is more relevant than ever.
    This is I guess as far as the scientific part goes, it comes down to what BJ was talking about and what we choose to ponder about the source of the big bang or the “first cause”. Scientists often seem content to just avoid this whole issue, I personally can’t help but ponder this indescribable realm beyond our universe and how it seems to fit perfectly with the revealed nature of the Christian God.
    To me this seems to add to my faith but is not the source of it, that is based far more on my life experiences to date.
    There are things that I have seen and experienced that I have no explanation for, obviously you would probably reject them out of hand so I haven’t shared any of them. So in a sense I feel I can’t make my strongest argument for the Christian God.

  61. An interesting theological discourse (despite the humour there is a serious element running through it). The conflict between tradition, faith, history and intellectualizing when attempting to find true meaning makes a such a search almost impossible but one individual who came close to finding a way through was Krishnamurti:

    The core of Krishnamurti’s teaching is contained in the statement he made in 1929 when he said, “Truth is a pathless land”. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophical knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.

    Man has built in himself images as a fence of security—religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man’s thinking, his relationships, and his daily life. These images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. His perception of life is shaped by the concepts already established in his mind. The content of his consciousness is his entire existence. The individuality is the name, the form and superficial culture he acquires from tradition and environment. The uniqueness of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from the content of his consciousness, which is common to all humanity. So he is not an individual.

    Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not choice. It is man’s pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.

    Thought is time. Thought is born of experience and knowledge, which are inseparable from time and the past. Time is the psychological enemy of man. Our action is based on knowledge and therefore time, so man is always a slave to the past. Thought is ever limited and so we live in constant conflict and struggle. There is no psychological evolution. When man becomes aware of the movement of his own thoughts, he will see the division between the thinker and thought, the observer and the observed, the experiencer and the experience. He will discover that this division is an illusion. Then only is there pure observation which is insight without any shadow of the past or of time. This timeless insight brings about a deep, radical mutation in the mind.

    Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is negation of all those things that thought has brought about psychologically, only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.

  62. Well, I’d rather continue the science/religion discussion, but if you insist.

    It seems to me that the greatest evidence against my religion is the behaviour of the “faithful”.

    Nope, I agree with fly. He means to stop hiding behind others beliefs.

    While I accept this as a massive problem as far as credibility of Christians goes, I don’t think it actually has any bearing on the credibility of the claims of Jesus.

    So we agree after all.

    The people who were the greatest problem throughout the text of the bible were almost always people that claimed to believe, the Pharisees were the ones that wanted Jesus dead and they were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the day.
    Perhaps this has not changed since those times, perhaps the people that worship the pink unicorn have always been Pharisees.

    There’s lot’s about this analogy that doesn’t work. Like we’re not pretenders, nor do we care what happens to Jesus.

    If so wouldn’t that mean that the true Christian message is largely unknown and poorly understood? Perhaps many more people would be more comfortable with the religion and perhaps even believe if they knew for sure what wasn’t the religion.

    Tourtured logic. My comfort or otherwise has to do with whether there is any reason to believe in your version or any other. I can see none and have argued that science offers no support. You seem to accept the latter above at least. Is that right?

  63. Let’s, Shunda, put aside any reference to the ‘faithful’ and their failings then and discuss the issues that you hold to be essential.

  64. It seems to me that the greatest evidence against my religion is the behaviour of the “faithful”.
    While I accept this as a massive problem as far as credibility of Christians goes, I don’t think it actually has any bearing on the credibility of the claims of Jesus.
    The people who were the greatest problem throughout the text of the bible were almost always people that claimed to believe, the Pharisees were the ones that wanted Jesus dead and they were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the day.
    Perhaps this has not changed since those times, perhaps the people that worship the pink unicorn have always been Pharisees.
    If so wouldn’t that mean that the true Christian message is largely unknown and poorly understood? Perhaps many more people would be more comfortable with the religion and perhaps even believe if they knew for sure what wasn’t the religion.

  65. It seems to me that you guys may think I am an idiot for having a faith, and that is ok, but why do you still want to talk to me about it?
    I get the pink unicorn thing (and even know people that use that logic) but I don’t think that is how I was making my point or that it is really as clever a model as some seem to think it is.

  66. I’m dismayed that you reject the pink unicorn model Shunda. I thought it was an ideal vehicle for discussing religion.

  67. Valis the whole pink unicorn thing has put me off serious debate, what do you want to fight about?

    Ha, thought so! How about this then?

    I am not sure how to resolve this discussion with you because at the end of the day even scripture states that “faith” is the only acceptable way to worship the Christian God.

    Shunda, I’ve been arguing that very point with you for over a year now, and you’ve always rejected the idea. I don’t know if I should be dismayed that you don’t even remember or just happy that it’s finally sunk in. But it’s a glass half full kind of day, so I’ll choose happy.

  68. @Shunda barunda 8:13 PM

    Valis the whole pink unicorn thing has put me off serious debate, what do you want to fight about?

    My Green Tambourine???

  69. Valis the whole pink unicorn thing has put me off serious debate, what do you want to fight about?

  70. Have you watched,
    ‘From the Heart of the World – The Elder Brother’s Warning’?

  71. Shunda gets rather shy at this point and stays away for awhile.
    .
    I so knew you would say something like that.
    Actually Valis I have been on holiday with my wife and children since last Tuesday!!
    Lets go!! (though thread appears to now be somewhat stale?)

  72. By the way, the Abrahamic god is just a perverted version of the invisible pink unicorn; distorted over millenia of alterations.

    Why, the line of David, blessed by the unicorn, has scions in George Washington, Winston Churchill, Marie-Antoinette, Charles Darwin, and even myself! Surely a favored line!

  73. God is fashionably turned out in a pink kaftan – make that afghan, whoops!
    Thank you Fly – as ever your erudite references contain yet baffle my slender sensibilities – the teapot that launched a thousand cuppa’s eh?
    Devlish Sir, and a little bit naughty too…

  74. We also know that it does not like it when you worship false idols. But remember, the unicorn is outside of our comprehension; we cannot know anything about it. But, it is pink!

  75. As to the teapot Mark …

    “If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.” says Bertrand.

  76. Yet we do know how susceptible the Horned One is to the charms of a virginal girl (and, I suspect, sugar cubes).

  77. A herd? Perhaps. One may not know the nature of the unicorn for the unicorn is outside of and above logic; beyond our comprehension.

    The teapot is but a false idol, the unicorn smashed it beneith her hooves.

    Oh, and the vatican is finally taking action:
    http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=20169

  78. The unicorn and her herd surely!
    Placate your insect samiam, with amusing asides – it is unable to resist them and will cease, at least temporarily, its relentless flapping and droning, while it hovers about the aside, dissecting and teasing out its possibilities.

  79. You know, I have a similar problem with a greenfly!
    Isn’t the FSM from Bikini Bottom?
    Feel the Paua!

  80. Yet more blasphemy! The unicorn and her flock are the only true gods. The Spaghetti monster is but a blowfly to the unicorn; one which, despite her omnipotence, she cannot rid herself of. We of the unicorn must launch a crusade against those of the Spaghetti monster, less we be consumed by their meatbally sin!

  81. That of the sea without fins or scales is forbidden to the followers of Yahweh! This follower of the Pink Unicorn shall use this as an excuse to avoid the noxious filter-feeder!

  82. The unicorn is Pink! Not Green! How dare you blaspheme! Your inquiry is deeply offensive and I demand this site be taken down for allowing such monstrous perversion!

    The unicorn is all-powerful! It can float in solids if it so desires! It can turn your insides to rock with a mere thought! Its hooves will trample your ethereal soul to dust should you not believe! It would eliminate all suffering from this world, for it loves us all; if only its all-powerful self could move!

  83. The teapot is not sufficiently self-contradictory to be comparable. It would be better to say that an invisible pink unicorn, which is all-powerful but unable to move, is floating between Jupiter and Mars.

    No args, Sap!

    How might such an invisible unicorn be pink?
    ‘Scuse my ignorance!

    Fly, a religious question that devotees of the IPU debate incessantly!

    “Like most Goddesses, she’s invisible and highly unlikely to exist. However, there is much argument as to her exact colour, her shape and size, and other properties of her nonexistence. She burns with anger against theists, and allegedly grinds them beneath her holy hooves.”

    From http://www.invisiblepinkunicorn.com/ipu/about.html

    And my favourite quote from Wiki:

    “Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can’t see them.” — Steve Eley

    As you can see, the Faith of the IPU (blessed be her holy hooves) has all the necessary attributes to stand with the great religions. All clear now fly?

  84. and further more, can objects float in space?
    In water, I can understand, but empty space?

  85. Valis,

    The teapot is not sufficiently self-contradictory to be comparable. It would be better to say that an invisible pink unicorn, which is all-powerful but unable to move, is floating between Jupiter and Mars.

  86. Lets not argue about things for which we have NO evidence…. there is no evidence in science that supports the existence or non-existence of a deity.

    I think bj is correct in a very technical sense, but I have trouble with such an unqualified statement. For example, science has found nothing to support the notion that there is a god, but offers many reasonable natural processes that do not require a god to explain. That all evidence leads in one direction is not proof there’s no god, but is certainly support for the notion.

    Ultimately, you arrive at Russell’s teapot. We could make the same stark statement that because we cannot prove there is not a teapot orbiting some distant start, we have nothing more to say on the matter, but that is not satisfying when the likelihood of said teapot existing is vanishingly low.

    Without some positive reason to believe in the teapot, I don’t. I could be wrong about god too, but my atheism is really no more complex than this.

  87. And what I am saying is perhaps those traditional reasons were always a misrepresentation of that God.

    I could hardly argue. What wouldn’t be a misrepresentation of something there’s no evidence for?

    If science is revealing ignorance then that is good, but like BJ said, it is possible to interpret Genesis in a way that is not in major conflict with science (earth on the back of a turtle etc).

    Perhaps, so long as religion doesn’t make claims about the physical world and accepts the answers science provides, but I think that makes tough going for an Abrahamic god – one that hears our prayers and intervenes in our lives – to be taken seriously.

    And as a very Brief account of creation, Genesis actually does a pretty good job, if you were to write a summation of the creation of the universe and life in a poetic form how would you put it?

    No problem with poetry, but we’re not discussing it’s relevance as poetry either.

    The thing is Valis, Genesis is clearly not intended to be a science text book, it is not supposed to prove God exists it simply provides the briefest description for people throughout the ages on how existence started. And when you think about it, it does a pretty good job at being relevant to people at all stages in history.

    Yes, poetry can be relevant. Not the topic of this thread.

    I am not sure how to resolve this discussion with you because at the end of the day even scripture states that “faith” is the only acceptable way to worship the Christian God.

    Shunda, I’ve been arguing that very point with you for over a year now, and you’ve always rejected the idea. I don’t know if I should be dismayed that you don’t even remember or just happy that it’s finally sunk in. But it’s a glass half full kind of day, so I’ll choose happy.

    This would indicate that perhaps it is by this deity’s own design that we can not prove his existence one way or another with our own logic, which would reduce his comprehension to our own intellect.

    Anything is possible, but I have to wonder why this is preferrable over just getting on with what you can know about the universe and not worrying about that which can only ever be conjecture.

    The nature of this God appears to be inconceivable from the biblical texts and indeed if this God exists outside of space time (on the other side of the big bang) then the nature of his existence would indeed be inconceivable from our position unless we were enabled by the deity to comprehend it.

    So you’re finally considering going whole hog and declaring yourself a deist? That would be great progress too.

  88. Agree with most of that BJ, which still leaves an enigma wrapped in a riddle etc…..time is a human notion…some have caught on that our notions may have a beginning and an end…as may our planet, as does our lives.
    Indeed if there were a God, she would do something about suffering and death right after lunch eh?
    Agreed; we do not know what we do not know, and that is, I suspect, MOST things of consequence on an other-worldly scale.
    Longevity may be far over-rated, from what I’ve seen of the suffering of illness/age that seems endless – it may well be that people perish because – it’s easier than waiting in pain.

  89. Lets not argue about things for which we have NO evidence…. there is no evidence in science that supports the existence or non-existence of a deity. At most it makes clear that people are sometimes mistaken in their understanding of their own religions, and build towering edifices of illogic as a result.

    None of that activity affects the question of whether there is a “God” behind it all.

    One could name her/him/it a “first cause” and this makes clearer the question. Must there be a first cause? We observe the “big bang” as a beginning, but do not know it is “first”, it is simply an event we cannot see the other side of.

    I can postulate that there is NO first cause, that time has always existed and for every event, there is another before it. The fact that this makes my “practical” and evolved biases towards reality uncomfortable, and is almost impossible to describe using our language, does not in any way invalidate it. No need for a deity, no proof there is none.

    Time is a dimension like any other, and logic is limited by linguistics. We only know how to go in one direction down the time vector, but it is not the only such vector and it is not even the only one we can’t quite perceive.

    It is important to have some notion of the scope of one’s ignorance. I reckon that if there is a God, I will know all too soon. If that Deity is as much the spoiled child that some priests and shamans make him out to be, I will be pleased to be as far from him as possible. If not he will understand exactly the source of my doubts.

    respectfully
    BJ

  90. Logic alone is insuffient for understandimg.
    If anyone anywhere, believes there is a God, then there is
    by the same token there is a Mickey Mouse, a Goofey
    A goverment that knows
    one blind truth.

  91. Shunda,

    I see, I only wish that other Christians held your interpretation. Though, I would find acceptable the spread of the present Christian interpretation to Islam as a whole; that interpretation is by far the bigger threat at this moment (not to say that the Christian one is not a big one).

    The way I see it, there may well be a God; I see no need to invoke one but it is entirely possible (ignoring the ‘problem of evil’). To interact with this world we must use our logic; something we know can be flawed. To apply it to a deistic god outside of the universe we ahve to assume that it applies when we have no reason to think this. If our logic does apply then a God is a vastly inferior theory, if our logic does not apply, which it may not, then we have no method to evaluate the likelyhood or precident. If, however, our logic does apply and there is a God then that god created a universe in which we because endowed with critical thinking skills and a tendency to question; if that god desired something of us then there is no reason to give us this unless that god intended their use. if that god intended their use then it is resonable to expect that the god expected, and wanted, us to abbandon the bible as beleif in something with so much falsity and potential for corruption over timeis incredibly irrational. If God intended us to do something, intended a moral order, then that god would have coded its desires in the universe itself. In this way the universe is the bible; the laws of nature the guidlines. In this way, one may consider those morals that lead to a successful and thriving society to be those that are virtuous and will lead one to an afterlife; those that follow those morals out of consideration rather than selfish desire to live forever being the more virtuous.

  92. So? It ain’t proof, but so many traditional reasons for beliving in an Abrahamic god have been refuted by science.
    .
    And what I am saying is perhaps those traditional reasons were always a misrepresentation of that God.
    If science is revealing ignorance then that is good, but like BJ said, it is possible to interpret Genesis in a way that is not in major conflict with science (earth on the back of a turtle etc).
    And as a very Brief account of creation, Genesis actually does a pretty good job, if you were to write a summation of the creation of the universe and life in a poetic form how would you put it?

    The thing is Valis, Genesis is clearly not intended to be a science text book, it is not supposed to prove God exists it simply provides the briefest description for people throughout the ages on how existence started. And when you think about it, it does a pretty good job at being relevant to people at all stages in history.

    I am not sure how to resolve this discussion with you because at the end of the day even scripture states that “faith” is the only acceptable way to worship the Christian God.
    This would indicate that perhaps it is by this deity’s own design that we can not prove his existence one way or another with our own logic, which would reduce his comprehension to our own intellect.
    The nature of this God appears to be inconceivable from the biblical texts and indeed if this God exists outside of space time (on the other side of the big bang) then the nature of his existence would indeed be inconceivable from our position unless we were enabled by the deity to comprehend it.

  93. “I am interested in your justification.”
    .
    There are a number of issues I have discovered about modern Christianity.

    The main one is that the system of scripture interpretation that many Christians call “literal” can not be an adequate system of interpretation, as much of the text is written in poetic form among many others. There are obvious passages that are to be taken literally for the integrity of the faith, they establish the core doctrines and are repeated throughout the text, then there are others that are open to a range of interpretation.
    The method of creation is not a core doctrine of the faith for example.

    Then there are old covenant Scriptures that must be interpreted through the new covenant to be understood in proper context, this is an area that seems to generate a lot of confusion.

    There are plenty of examples of Jesus being accused of blasphemy by the Pharisees because they saw his actions as in conflict with the scriptures, obviously what he was in conflict with was their interpretation of the scriptures.

    I think from my experience with modern Christianity there is a strong evidence that much of Christian leadership is the modern day equivalent to the sect of the Pharisees.
    The “faith” that they project is actually in conflict with the teachings of Christ and actually encourages people to follow certain spititual “laws” instead of an individual working out ones own faith.
    Evidence of this is the pre-eminence of the position of ‘pastor’ even though it is only mentioned once in the new testament, and even then as only one part of a team based approach to leadership. This could be the single biggest problem with modern church structure.

    I am sure some Christians would like to say that I am going to hell for my lack of submission to their doctrines, I take comfort in the fact that Jesus faced the same accusations, perhaps being attacked by other Christians is evidence of getting close to the right path!!

  94. But previously you just said:

    And this is of course strictly true, but by providing a natural explanation for how we got here, Darwin drove a huge nail in the logic for a Abrahamic god, as have other scientific advances.

    So? It ain’t proof, but so many traditional reasons for beliving in an Abrahamic god have been refuted by science.

    But Valis, BJ just showed that a different interpretation of Genesis would improve the logic for an Abrahamic God.

    Improving it a very small amount from miniscule does little for your cause :-)

    I accept that much of the popular belief of Christian creation science is illogical (especially the young earth kind) but why is the Christian God any more illogical than another undefined deity?

    It’s not, they’re all illogical. That doesn’t mean some aren’t more outlandish than others. But that your position is more logical than a creationist’s doesn’t make it very much more likely from a scientific perspective.

  95. Shunda,

    The Abrahamic God was, and still is, justified primarily by “how else could it have come to be”, by providing an alternative science, and Darwin in particular, removed a major support.

    As to different interpretations, one can interpret the statements in many ways, it does not increase the legitimacy; if anything it decreases it as it accounts for more but has no predictive utility whatsoever. Someone whom guessed that a random number between 1 and 100 would be between 1 and 95 does not demonstrate any great ability.

  96. Shunda,

    Any insight is answering the question, I am just interested in general really; while I can understand pretty much anything on an intellectual level, I find some things much harder to understand on a personal level.

    I can empathize with the response to questioning; I was ‘expelled’ (“If you choose to re-enroll your re-enrollment will not be accepted”) from my catholic school for questioning.

    If you believe in the Christian God and the Heaven and Hell associated with that God, why are you not like the others? We have established that you do not follow the bible word for word but instead interpret which parts to follow and ignore based on secular ethics. If you consider the bible to be the word of god, inspired or not, then these actions would be blasphemous and likely have you end up in hell. If your image of the Christian God differs from that depicted in the bible then you are not a Christian so much as one whom believes in a deity and considers the word of the supposed Christ to hold credence; the old testament is very much a part of the new testament, it is stated several times as being as, if not more, important. If you live a life which you see as moral independent of the bible and believe that God will judge you based on your doing your best to be moral or following that which was set out by that God as being moral through imbuement of the universe, then that is deistic and entirely distinct from Christianity. I am interested in your justification.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Johnson,

    Indeed. I am no fan of zoning, its a very bad idea in my opinon. That said, I am in favor of specialized schools for those which are impaired, simply because of economies of scale, etc..

  97. Here we go again. Who has claimed this, Shunda? No one here and not Dawkins for instance. Straw man?
    .
    But previously you just said:

    And this is of course strictly true, but by providing a natural explanation for how we got here, Darwin drove a huge nail in the logic for a Abrahamic god, as have other scientific advances.

    But Valis, BJ just showed that a different interpretation of Genesis would improve the logic for an Abrahamic God. I accept that much of the popular belief of Christian creation science is illogical (especially the young earth kind) but why is the Christian God any more illogical than another undefined deity?

  98. Shunda,

    What is your religion to you? What purpose does it serve? Is it for moral guidance, which you have previously agreed is vacuous, or is it for some kind of reassurance of something after this life? A sense of ultimate justice perhaps? The feeling of knowing rather than being uncertain?
    .
    To be honest Sapient I am still working it out, I have dramatically changed my beliefs over the past 11 years involvement in Christianity.
    What I can tell you is that I have come to despise corrupt and shallow Christian leadership. How I relate to the “church” is something I am currently trying to resolve, I haven’t been to a church service in 18 months.
    I guess I had different motives to many that go to church, I often irritated leaders with my constant questioning of why things are done the way they are, they were honest questions though.
    I have found no basis for belief based on the behaviour of Christians, I am not saying I am better or more “moral” or even a good Christian but I like to think I am honest about my shortcomings. I think that has been something that has served me well, my faith has enabled me to deal with my insecurity without having to constantly prop up some false image of strength or accomplishment that doesn’t really exist.
    I think the reason I have kept a faith despite some appalling treatment from other Christians is that it was always about personal development for me. I saw the behaviour of some Christians as being entirely consistent with the teachings of the new testament; wolves in sheep’s clothing etc, so never really put the credibility of the faith on the behaviour of people. I do accept though that a poor witness to the rest of the world is a totally legitimate argument from non believers.

    I don’t know if this is really answering your questions, is there anything in particular you would like me to elaborate on?

  99. It is interesting that no-one has commented about school zoning and the role that it might play. Consider this – all the good schools are in wealthier areas, and thus it costs a lot of money to be able to live there; money that most poor people do not have. Therefore, the children of the poorer people aren’t able to access those good schools, and instead have to go to schools local to the area in which they live – schools that are bad schools.

    Essentially, that means that school zoning locks poor people out of good schools because their parents cannot afford to live in the school zones or cannot afford the fees (in the case of private schools).

  100. So BJ the often stated position of an Abrahamic God being disproved by science is not as strong a position as some would like us to believe.

    Here we go again. Who has claimed this, Shunda? No one here and not Dawkins for instance. Straw man?

    What science does is offer compelling explanations that make it very difficult to keep arguing particularly for the Abrahamic deities.

    Dare I say it again – science offers no support for a deity. This is not disproof, but is something to reckon with nonetheless.

    There is no need for such division between science and faith,

    Sorry, but there is division so long as science paints a picture that does not require a god. That’s particularly true for an Abrahamic god, as the holy books all make claims about factual reality that science refutes.

    I guess the problem is the extremes on both sides seem to be hell bent on destroying the other.

    You’d like that to be true so its easier to dismiss the challenges you’ve mainly avoided confronting so far, on this blog anyway. But those challenges are not extreme in nature and will not go away, they are staring at you even now.

  101. I just reckoned from my long ago reading of Genesis, that the interpretation I offer is a lot closer to the actual wording than the notion of continuing perpetual intervention by a busybody supreme being… and that we don’t get anything from evolution any more than the bible-thumpers get anything from denying it.
    .
    So BJ the often stated position of an Abrahamic God being disproved by science is not as strong a position as some would like us to believe.
    I would accept that certain interpretations of that God would seem unlikely, but clearly that could be put down to a dogmatic interpretation of certain scriptures based on the ignorance of believers, not necessarily a problem with the religion itself.
    There is no need for such division between science and faith, I guess the problem is the extremes on both sides seem to be hell bent on destroying the other.

  102. Katie,

    As we have discussed previously, I really do not think that people should be having children if they can not afford to make that investment, both of time and of money, and ensure the continence of their ability to do so into the future. I realize that this, though, is not something one can expect as people tend to be incredibly foolish.

    I agree that it would be nice if people did not have to work so long to support their children, those that are willing to do so certainly do deserve some respect. That they have to work so long is, still, their fault. We have discussed this previously. I discuss this now because you have brought up equality and hours worked. Greater equality does not mean that these people would have to work less hours, if anything it would mean that they had to work more and that there were far fewer positive outcomes available for their children. As discussed in the last thread on this matter, greater equality will tend to decrease the available tax pool and, as such, the amount available to go toward health-care, education, and the like; increasing the income the parent needs for any given level of child welfare.

    Free child services, as I propose and as has been discussed here at great length, would increase equality of opportunity greatly and would decrease the amount of time that need be worked without needing to overly effect overall equality. The changes I propose frequently on this blog would essentially eliminate this gradient that Meteria talks about.

  103. Sapient,
    (late start on this discussion, on holiday.)
    Whew. Well, first-up, sorry to hear that you’ve had such a lot of trouble from dogma already in your life. That was one of the reasons I quit associating with christians, too – lack of ability to test against reality, lol.

    I agree with much of what you have said about supplementing parental input; paradoxically, what Samiuela has said makes sense, too – but for different cohorts of parents, my caveat! I’ve met some parents where I instantly think, these kids need a mentor outside the family to help them see the point of learning, and others where I see dedicated families who just don’t have enough time to spend with their kids, who are being brought up in daycare or after-schoolcare by professional minders, some of whom will have educational qualifications.

    If, as Metiria has posited at the beginning of this discussion, there was more equality, parenting wouldn’t be something that can only be accomplished optimally by those on six-figure salaries, with the rest of us limping along doing the best that we can with the resources we can find.
    Education wouldn’t be a shiny prize offered at top-dollar to students from wealthy families, with a cut-rate version for those who live in poorer neighbourhoods, mandated by tax-dollars that those who can afford to buy private schooling resent paying.
    Which, in a nutshell, it the pitch that Blinglish, Donkey et al have won votes on – fear of educational failure amongst the middle-classes, which spurs them to believe slick marketing campaigns by the Heads of old-established private schools, which run primarily as businesses to generate profit, not institutions of learning per se.

    I’ve mentioned before that I spent some of my early public service career in the then Dept of Education; the main thing I learned was that however steep the term fees, the kids are not that different, and in our major cities, the State-owned schools in good neighbourhoods, or with catchments from middle-class old boys’/girls’ networks, are going to graduate really competitive students who do well at whatever they want (tertiary study, trade qualification, arts career) – and without extra support to keep the schools going, low-decile areas struggle to meet the same output. End of story.

    The current discussions are merely a bunch of very over-entitled rich people trying to make sure they get to keep the goodies they have cornered for themselves and their descendants, in true Lord-of-the-Manor style. They weren’t called ‘Robber Barons’ for nothing in the old days, and the Merrill Lynch/ Goldman Sachs version of today is very similar.

  104. Shunda,

    What is your religion to you? What purpose does it serve? Is it for moral guidance, which you have previously agreed is vacuous, or is it for some kind of reassurance of something after this life? A sense of ultimate justice perhaps? The feeling of knowing rather than being uncertain?

  105. Guys.. Whatever you say. I don’t follow much of what different deists require of their particular version of a deity. I just reckoned from my long ago reading of Genesis, that the interpretation I offer is a lot closer to the actual wording than the notion of continuing perpetual intervention by a busybody supreme being… and that we don’t get anything from evolution any more than the bible-thumpers get anything from denying it. God exists, God doesn’t exist, God is dead, God is…. the question isn’t addressed by this argument. The evidence for evolution is strong. The evidence for the existence or not of a deity however, does not include evolution.

    respectfully
    BJ

  106. BJ,

    It is true that evolution and bio-genesis are theoretically distinct concepts. It was my understanding, however, that theistic evolution is more than just evolution with a theistic bio-genesis but rather a theistic bio-genesis with a manifest destiny; something that does touch on evolution very strongly and which is, despite fitting within the facts, a less than ideal explanation that brings in many assumptions and much complexity.

  107. Valis, yes I know thats what BJ was saying. The fact we might not have proof of how life started does not mean this will always be the case. Who knows what future research will find out? In the mean time, it is (to me at least) an extremely interesting question to ponder. I, like (I imagine) BJ, agree that its not a question worth fighting over … but arguing over it is a different matter.

    By the way, this has absolutely nothing to do with the original thread!

  108. samiuela, I’m sure bj will agree that what you describe is entirely possible, maybe even likely, he’s just saying we have no proof of it.

    Evolution is not a proof any deity’s existence or lack thereof.

    And this is of course strictly true, but by providing a natural explanation for how we got here, Darwin drove a huge nail in the logic for a Abrahamic god, as have other scientific advances. Not impossible, but not logically anywhere close to a 50/50 probability, unlike the probability of a deistic god, on which science cannot comment at all.

  109. BJ,

    As a thought experiment, imagine an evolutionary tree for all species. Starting at any leaf, work backwards. Each step backward represents an older predecessor of whatever species was at the leaf. The difference between an older and newer step along the branch can be explained by evolution through natural selection. Eventually we will reach the first step on the tree’s trunk.

    The question you essentially pose is how did this first step arise?

    I guess the answer depends on what exactly is the first step on the trunk? Is it a molecule which naturally occurred in early Earth? If so (and I’m not saying this is necessarily the case, but personally believe it probably is the case), there is not any need for further explanation of the origin of life; evolution by natural selection does the trick by simply starting with ingredients which were present billions of years ago on the Earth.

  110. Sapient, Samiuela

    No need, nor any exclusion required – “Origin of life” questions do not touch on the evolution argument in any direct way. Darwin did not AFAIK, have much, if anything to say about the origin of life. He described evolutionary processes OF life but this theory does not preclude a theistic origin for it.

    There is not anything like the certainty of the scientific evidence for evolution when we approach the question of origins. I am not inclined to argue about it.

    I don’t believe in the deity, but can see why some might. Such belief does not inherently conflict with science. I am concerned that people so keen to “believe” the Bible misinterpret it so thoroughly on this point.

    Evolution is not a proof any deity’s existence or lack thereof.

    respectfully
    BJ

  111. BJ,

    You wrote: “Which deity is smarter? Darwin (and evolution) describe the origins of species, not the origin of life.”

    I’m not sure you’re correct. The line between what is living and non-living gets pretty blurred the further back on the “evolutionary tree” that one goes. All one needs is a self-replicating molecule, and the process of evolution can potentially start. When is a self-replicating molecule living, and when is it not? What might start out as a “clearly non-living” molecule may end up many many generations later as a living organism. At what point did life start? Why isn’t the process of evolution by natural selection sufficient to explain how life arose in the first place?

    Of course this is not to say that is how life on Earth actually arose, but I for one reckon it was probably something like that.

  112. Shunda,

    Christians are pretty bad here, but they are terrible in the US and various other countries with strong bible belts. A reasonable Christian can truly be a rare, and reassuring, sight for some.

    As an aside, I have a ‘discussion’ scheduled for lunchtime Tuesday with a Christian group (got a call this morning from one requesting such). Should be interesting, the last one with this guy ended up with him admitting every point but then explaining that point by calling on the truth of another he has already admitted in the same manner (classical ‘problem of evil’) and then a prolonged discussion over God enforcing justice being arbitrary if God is free to define justice God being able to define justice as himself because he is perfect and he is perfect because he is in the form he is in. lol.

    Theistic evolution is certainly a possibility and would fit with the facts but we have absolutely no need to bring a God into the mix as it can all be explained better, and more simply, without that God.

  113. I am not sure whether I believe in theistic evolution (I still don’t understand well enough the finer points of evolutionary theory) but I do find the punctuated equilibria idea quite interesting.

    Just making sure you know that “punctuated equilibria” comes from Stephen Jay Gould, who was an atheist, nothing to do with “theistic evolution”.

  114. “Shunda,

    This one is humorous but direct. It focuses around one of my big beefs with organised religion (and this is not limited to catholics). It also touches quickly on certain other, bigger, beefs.”
    .
    Sapient, what is interesting is that I made a comment on the pope youtube video that you linked to and got 235 thumbs up ticks! My email inundated with some very nice comments (and one bad one).

    This is all that I said:

    I am a Christian and I find this video very disturbing – because it is completely true.
    When Christians are expected to become apologists for child rapists you know there has been a departure from sound biblical truth.
    I am so sorry for the way many of my fellow Christians treat people, spiritual “authority” was never supposed to become the abomination it has become in the modern world of organised religion.

    I am quite staggered at the response I got from people from such a simple statement, one guy said:

    Wow. You might be the first openly Christian I can respect. My thanks, you’ve just made my day a whole lot better, truthfully.

    How could what I said make his day so much better? I am truly amazed that what I said generated such a positive reaction from so many people, can someone please interpret?

  115. BJ, very interesting, I have been thinking along those lines myself for some time now and it is interesting that you can see that angle too.
    The God of the bible said a very interesting statement when He created life; “let the land produce”
    clearly this could be interpreted a number of ways.
    I commented on another blog that I don’t think God is a “zapper”, zap-frog, zap-fish etc, the nature revealed consistently through scripture is of a deity that redeems past problems and builds upon previous achievements.
    It seems remarkable to me that so few Christians have taken advantage of these aspects of the religion.
    I am not sure whether I believe in theistic evolution (I still don’t understand well enough the finer points of evolutionary theory) but I do find the punctuated equilibria idea quite interesting.

  116. The key problem with creationism is the basic premise is a misreading of the bible itself. I may not believe in a deity, but the notion that in the beginning God created every living thing in its current form is not required at all. It is an artificial limit imposed by humans with faulty imaginations.

    The notion that the deity is condemned to constantly create things to fill each new ecological niche and to adapt to change for all eternity neglects the elegant fit to the actual words of the bible of having that same deity create life and through the simple rule of evolution, assure that it fills every niche, forever, without further action.

    Which deity is smarter? Darwin (and evolution) describe the origins of species, not the origin of life.

    respectfully
    BJ

  117. ah yes, Ken Ham and his young earth friends.
    I see what you mean Sapient and I understand why people feel the need to attack these guys. I guess all I can offer is that they seem to have lost a fair amount of support in recent years, there are other creation ideas becoming popular that at least accept the age of the universe.

  118. Sapient, what can I say? :) I would be telling fibs if I said I didn’t laugh.
    There is no way any self respecting truth loving person could be an apologist for this crap.

  119. Shunda,

    This one is humorous but direct. It focuses around one of my big beefs with organised religion (and this is not limited to catholics). It also touches quickly on certain other, bigger, beefs.

  120. JC2,

    The point I was raising was that perhaps differences in educational performance can be attributed to the amount of time parents spend with their children instead of working.

    The reasons why parents may work two jobs are another issue (but in case you are interested, amongst Pacific families its likely to be in order to support extended family, not so much that they spent too much on luxuries with the credit card … although that does not help).

  121. My concern is in what could develop if certain research is entertained without balance, there would appear to be some people advocating some pretty dark stuff.

    I was fine untill this point. What balance? Agree if you mean ethics, not if you mean religion.

  122. Shunda,

    Make no mistake, I have a lot more respect for you than I do for many atheists and agnostics. I do believe that you probably do raise your children better than most. But, as with everything on this blog, we are dealing with generalizations by necessity.

    I do not think all religion is detrimental, my beef is with dogmata rather than religion. The problem with most religion is that they have dogma as the central pillar and that dogma, even if it is benign, shelters and legitimizes more dangerous versions.

  123. There are some very interesting opinions on the page I linked too, it would seem that many scientists are divided on the topic of how to deal with religion.
    While I am obviously a believer I reluctantly accept some of what you guys are saying, it makes me uncomfortable but that is part of my personal development of my own faith and how I relate to organised religion. To be honest I don’t think you guys would have a problem in how I am raising my kids, a core part of my beliefs is that a person must be convinced by their own search for truth, anything else would be a self deception.
    My concern is in what could develop if certain research is entertained without balance, there would appear to be some people advocating some pretty dark stuff.

  124. Shunda, would you argue by the same logic that the use of some (other) drug to escape is ok? I’m thinking not. The problem is that all drugs have their upsides and downsides, as Sap has pointed out a few.

  125. Shunda,

    I am familiar with the argument. It is a relatively old one.

    It seems a good one at face value.

    The thing is, that it is exactly in opposition to behavioral and cognitive theory; pretty much the most empirically supported theory in all of psychology, applied thousands of times every day by tens of thousands of trained psychologists with great effect. A therapy that is more effective than drugs for the most part and as effective as the most effective drugs for severe depression.

    I wish I still had the studies, but when I was back in my social psychology phase I possessed a large collection of studies which showed quite clearly that while religious people tend to be more charitable, they also are far more condoning of poverty and suffering and far less supportive of the measures which would help those in poverty out of poverty.

    As to hope, it is that hope for the afterlife that keeps them poor in the actual life. “So long as we go to church now, we will go to heaven”. I much prefer the Jewish redemption through works.

  126. Sapient, here is something I just found which is interesting.
    It is from Patrick Bateson, professor of ethology at Cambridge university.
    he is responding to an article by Jerry Coyne.

    “The last question, applied in the sense of what is the current utility of religious belief to an individual, is important. In attempting to provide an answer, I part company with some no-nonsense colleagues who are also atheists.

    If you live comfortably and are surrounded by good friends and endless opportunities for a stimulating and interesting life, then your need for belief in an omniscient and all-caring being is not great. But if you have a wretched life with nothing to be happy about, you may well want something to cling onto, some conviction that you can look forward to conditions that are never likely to exist in the real world.

    It seems staggeringly insensitive to tell such people that they are fooling themselves and that, since they only have one life, they should get out there should enjoy it. No amount of science is going to help them to perceive the world in a way that is helpful to them. Science can be applied to relieving the conditions that oppress them—but that is a different matter. Telling them to be rational will only compound their misery.

    I applaud Obamas’s commitment to science and the key scientific appointments he has already made. But I should be distressed if a new deal for science led to a form of misplaced triumphalism and an assumption that we can provide psychological solutions for problems that are beyond our grasp.”

    I think he makes a valid point, perhaps religion still has a role to play in helping people cling to some sort of hope that things can get better. It may be the only thing that helps them identify opportunity if and when it comes their way, a thoroughly depressed person may lack the ability to see it.

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/coyne09/coyne09_index.html

  127. Greenfly,

    In all honesty, knowing the intellect and quality of the vast majority of teachers (having interacted with, conversed, assisted, tutored, and manipulated many); I would not want them to deviate from the path. A teacher that would do good to deviate appears to be a rarity. There are certainly many good teachers out there, but even in the most elite classes in the best schools, I have encountered far fewer than I would hope.

    I have had about 4 that I would call great, a couple more that were good and could deviate a little, but by far the majority are sh*t poor.

  128. Shunda,

    One ought encourage them to question, the problem is that for the first decade they will tend to accept the word of authority (at least in relation to facts), particularly of parents, with very little question. So, saying “I believe this” is essentially the same as saying “this is how it is”. This is one of the reasons I am strongly against the teaching of singular religion in primary school.

    It is a difficult matter that can be rather complicated depending on the environment. I would consider it hazardous to make concrete suggestions but I would say that all parents, christian or not, should first ask their child, when the child asks a question, “what do you think”, “why do you think that” and finally, if they can not derive the answer from their own knowledge then impart on them what one knows. In this case, the well established naturalistic knowledge. If it comes to a question of origins my preference would be “no one really knows” and perhaps an explanation of the various ideas; religious and non, fairly. If they ask ones personal beliefs I would prefer honest; “I don’t really know, but I like to think that … “.

  129. Sapient – I’ve always felt disturbed that the institution that prepares people for teaching is called/was called “Teacher Training Colleges”
    “Training” – sounds like keeping to the tracks, not deviating from that assigned path to me!
    Not a promising start for someone wanting to provide children with opportunities to learn, imo.

  130. Greenfly,

    Teach may have been a poor choice of word, especially given that I have been saying instill for most of the thread :P . It is, however, the correct terminology in the ‘radical behaviorist’ abstraction level from which most of this this argument is mounted. What I should really say is that we ought (the standard qualifiers applying) cause the obtainment of knowledge to, itself -through classical conditioning- , become a re-enforcer rather than just a behavior to get at another re-enforcer.

  131. Shunda – If your children lived a very clear and clean, ethical life, such as that Jesus might have lead prior to learning/being told that he was the son of God (or was that ‘man’?), would you be satisfied? Could you leave off sharing your religious beliefs with them until they came to you with particular questions on the topic?
    If not, why not?

  132. Sapient – I think I have a better idea of where you are coming from now and relieved that you are not overly hostile to Christians.
    I the question of origins is not for this thread so I won’t go there, but I am curious as to how you would suggest a Christian could raise their kids without telling them of their beliefs.
    Is it ok for me to tell my kids about the Christian religion and tell them I think it is true for instance?

  133. No dodge. Did you mean ‘the adoption of the teachings of Jesus by those individuals’?
    Different story altogether!
    If so, yes, so far as I understand those teachings.

  134. sapient – ” teach our children a thirst for learning”

    How’s that? Create in our children a thirst..?
    Engender? Initiate? Develop? Instill? Promote?

    Teach ?

  135. Shunda – those ‘individuals’ have all been exposed to the teachings of Jesus.
    Hasn’t helped them at all, by my reckoning.

    .
    Nice dodge!! :)

  136. Shunda – those ‘individuals’ have all been exposed to the teachings of Jesus.
    Hasn’t helped them at all, by my reckoning.

  137. sapient – thanks for that! The marshmallow challenge is one I’ve been involved in personally. I’ve gotta say, the glimpse of the table on it’s end gave me the biggest laugh. I see why you’re considering engineering. My 22 y/o son has the brain of an engineer (I say he should give it back!) and conceives of and executes things that I never could. His marshmallow would tower above mine (unless I turn the table on him :-)

  138. Shunda,

    I am not completely ignorant of the positive, religion is an incredibly useful tool and has served humanity well for the most part. I have experienced much of the positive myself.

    Humanity now, though, is a humanity like never before. Our systems of knowledge are vastly more than those of our previous incarnations. Our moral, ethical, ontological, and epistemological systems are far more advanced than those of religion and hold a great deal more positive potential without the negative potential. While religion has served us well in the past, it is now redundant to the point of being dangerous.

    I am perfectly able to distinguish between good and bad Christians. I do not dismiss you all; I dismiss the basis for your beliefs. A good deal of my associates are Christian, indeed my best friend is an incredibly devout Christian (Poor guy, takes it so seriously that he has never even kissed a girl; with the number he has fawning over him, I don’t know how he does it. Though, I see Christianity-induced sexual dysfunction latter in life.). I do respect you and I have little doubt that you were imbued with a fairly decent cognitive style and that you will do so to your children, but you are far from the norm.

  139. Sapient, I am convinced that while you have a good understanding of some of the negative aspects of Christianity you appear to be completely ignorant of the positive. You can’t make such condemning statements about something you haven’t got a balanced view on, that is not rational.
    I can bet you that I have experienced more of the bad than you have, yet I am still able to distinguish between the good and bad Christians.
    You seem to just chuck us all in the same boat and dismiss the lot of us, I find that attitude a little scary.

  140. “B*astards like Douglas, The Coldman-Sackers and other Key figures choose paths that leads to greater inequality.”

    Do you think the teachings of Christ would help or hinder such individuals?
    What role does “survival of the fittest” play in such business ethics?

  141. Shunda,

    I would contest that.

    Irrationality, as aforementioned, is a part of the cognitive style which is imbued in ones youth. While at the younger ages the important part is the degree to which the parent emphasizes relationships between objects and abstract concepts, as the stages progress the most important part is the asking of “why?”. While religion is, by far, not alone in the repression of that question, it is a substantial contributing factor for most of the lower socio-economic group. The internalization of that question is of foundational importance, instead of accepting authority the child must learn to question of themselves and, if they can not work it out, of others. Religion, by the god shortcut, nips that in the bud. Allowing “because that is what god wanted”, “because that is part of gods divine plan”, and “god did it” explanations cuts off the inquiry.

    If we want a society immune to the atrocities of the last thousands of years then we need to encourage that inquiry. While the web is a wonderful resource in this, it, alone, is not enough. We must encourage inquiry and teach our children a thirst for learning. With that learning comes knowledge, understanding, and an escape from poverty. It is true that there is a limit to how much one can enhance the fluid intellect of an individual, but there is no such limit to crystallized intellect; especially with the awesome systems of externalized memory that we now have access too.

    There are certainly people whom are irrational by choice; there is a geologist which Dawkins loves to mention that makes an excellent exemplar of this. Unfortunately reversing the motive behind this irrationality is incredibly hard, almost impossible as it is their rationality to which one must appeal. It is by far easier, more effective, and more humane to nip it at the root; to remove the religious indoctrination that makes the individual so reliant on a god and the hope of an afterlife for their own self-image and sense of value. The notion of an afterlife vastly devalues this life and it is this notion alone that makes the individual feel that life without afterlife is futile; this notion which necessitates the holding of the irrational beliefs.

  142. “irrational by choice”
    Is that possible?
    It’s rational, carefully considered behaviour that leads to inequality.
    B*astards like Douglas, The Coldman-Sackers and other Key figures choose paths that leads to greater inequality.

  143. Much of the irrational behaviour that leads to inequality is not related to religion in this country, even including the abuses of organised religion.
    Perhaps people are irrational by choice, if so, how can this be addressed without causing a whole host of more serious problems?

  144. Re Finland: the non-university jobs are less abusive than the non-university jobs in the US, so fewer people go to university, so ‘parents have degrees’ describes a point higher up the social ladder. Comparing ladders, in order to de-convolute the parents’ status and children’s achievement is likely to be difficult.

    Re the Pacific, I’ve heard stories about people who all grew up equally poor in New Zealand, who weren’t smegged over (technical term for the class of people who will never be able to earn enough in a job to keep themselves), because they didn’t have television telling them to want things and people offering to lend money to do it.

  145. Shunda,

    I threw the baby out and then had little need for the bath water; mosquito’ (Plu?) started laying eggs and all sorts of things kept drowning.

    There is a part of me that wishes strongly to believe, but that is not something I am able to do. I have watched pretty much every debate out there between the god botherers and the atheists but not one has raised a valid point, not one has managed to argue the case for a deity, yet alone a theity. The best that they are really able to do is misconstrue science, conflate different meanings of words, and argue that god is outsde of reason. Even when I have allowed them the existence of a god that is all loving, all powerful, and all knowing, they have no way of arguing for their religous text over another other than by personal revelation/delusion and are only able to refute my interpretation of what god would want, based on the nature of his creation, by bringing in the belief factor of the post-judaic abrahamic religions.

  146. Shunda,

    For you:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqLvV21tsdw&feature=player_embedded
    .
    Sapient I would hazard a guess that I would possibly find that little speech more offensive than you do, I am appalled by that sort of behaviour.

    No, I consider you a rather rational person whom, like many other intelligent people, has totally walled off religion from inspection by the light of reason.

    No that is not fair, I haven’t been to a church service for 18 months because I am dealing with the reality that much of organised Christianity does not reflect the teachings of Christ. I am not claiming to be a good Christian myself, but one thing I have learnt is to be aware of my faults and not lie about the reality of my shortcomings.
    But then I guess I have just proven your point to some extent, I suppose I am trying to get you to see that it is not necessary to throw out the baby with the bath water.

  147. Sprout,

    I was using writing in a somewhat technical sense. Kind of like how one writes data to ones hard drive. Here I was talking about the parents imprinting, ‘writing’, their cognitive styles on to their children and correcting deficits in the imprinted styles through tuition at school and pre-school.

    Cognitive styles are incredibly interesting. The way that they are transmitted is even more so. A classical example being that the lowest classes, at least in those who do read to their children, will say “look, a tree and birds” and as one moves up it goes to “look its a tree and look in it, there are birds!”, “look, its a tree and there are three birds”, “look its a tree, how many birds are there? one, two, three!”, “whats this? a tree? wow! what are these? birds? well done! how many are there? three? good boy!” “whats this? a tree? wow! and what are these? leaves? good boy! how many are there? lots? well done! what are these on the branch? birds? good boy! What type of birds are they? owls? amazing! how many are there? three? wow! Look, this ones bigger than the others, what do you think it is? the mummy bird? and those are all her babies? what are baby birds called? chicks? good boy! ….”. You get the point. The difference is very noticable as one moves up the classes. It is something I would be interested in studying personally and one of the few I would actually like to look at longitudanally.

    I dont know enough about child development milestones to hazard a suggestion as to when children should be learning to write.

  148. ” I am arguing that we should counter the poor writing of the vast majority of parents with tuition in school and, particularly, pre-school.”

    Sapient-you are moving into dangerous territory here. I agree that parents who engage with their children can make a huge difference, but writing tuition at pre-school? National Standards will probably result in this sort of forced learning, but I hope not.

    Children develop at different rates and in many successful education systems in Europe, children are not formally taught liteeracy until they are 7 years of age. What all children need are rich and diverse learning experiences, lots of engagement with their environment and lots of opportunity to problem solve in their own time and without a lot of interferrence. Rather than reading and writing instruction in the early years I would recommend ongoing conversations using rich language and reading to them.

    The differnce in achievement between girls and boys is actually greater in New Zealand than most OECD countries and I would suggest it is because we force learning to read on our 5 year old boys before they are ready and this has negative consequences.

  149. Shunda,

    Well that is a tiny proportion of our society and of no real concern, the greater concern regarding our children is those parents exposing their kids to immoral behaviour and interfering with the completion of their youth.

    Well there is no need to worry. Critical thinking will get rid of both exposures!

    Critical thinking is irrelevant if people lack empathy for others.
    A person who has empathy but perhaps lacks the best critical thinking abilities is of no real harm to society, are they?

    Too easy. I am tempted to say 9/11, subway bombings, Dubya, etc., etc., but one could argue selfishness, so I shall point to communist revolutionaries and catholic missionaries.

    Critical thinking does not destroy empathy, it can not destroy empathy. Empathy is a fundamental part of human nature for all except those on the antisocial/sociopathic spectrum. I have tried to kill off my empathy many many times but I still feel guilt, remorse, and sorrow every time I flick a spider or swat a fly, no matter how mad I am I cannot bring myself to hit someone, and I know that if I ordered one person hurt so that millions may live, I would still feel the guilt, remorse and sorrow. My empathy, despite active attempts, is not hurt by my rationality. If anything it is enhanced by it; at least compared to a religion that teaches animals, plants, and the like to be for the exploit of man.

    Do you consider me to be a completely irrational person?

    No, I consider you a rather rational person whom, like many other intelligent people, has totally walled off religion from inspection by the light of reason. Much like I try to do with my relationships (but fail dismally).

    ~

    Icehawk,

    Actually, our school system is very good about focussing on process: on how to think not what to think. I suggest you look at overseas school systems if you want a shocking comparison.

    Well the school system may have changed since I was in it, but what I say was certainly the case there, and in some of the best schools in the country too, religious and not. The few teachers I know who teach the lower levels tell me this is still the case. The teachers I still communicate with from high-school tell me this is still the case.

    I agree, overseas schools are worse. This is one of the potential dangers of national standards, if teachers teach to the test. A recent repeat of the Simpsons had the teacher teaching the class scoring sheets; an exaggerated but pungent example.

    We may be a couple of metres higher up the mountain than other countries but we are still nowhere near the top.

    Sapient, dear, I think you’re wrong about that and that you are almost normal. Do try to find comfort in that.

    On the oft occasion when I feel lonely I do tend to wish I was more normative, unfortunately there is little to indicate I am. The most normative thing about me is my short term verbal memory and I am thoroughly ashamed of that. On any non-social measure I am at the very far right of the bell curve, on social measures I tend to be only slightly (for me) to the right but feel far to the left. I criticise the IQ tests despite maxing the GAI on all. I complete in five minutes a 60 minute ‘hard’ test of critical thinking with perfect scores and cant comprehend how others can get the questions wrong. My crystallised knowledge is massive, far exceeding what most people die with. I’ve been ripping apart Philosophy PhD’s since I gained access to them. This is minor stuff and I still suffer from the typical, normal-ish, inferiority complex; doesn’t help that the father considers intellectual success to indicate failure.

    As to limitations on the ability of the impaired, this is not something that can really be disputed. The only way for someone at retard level to reach a normal level of functioning is for them to have a massive range of potential and to have been kept in an essentially stimulas-free box (its an exaggeration, but you get the point).

    Alas, your claims about undergrad degrees in general overstate the case.

    Now here is the funny part; the degree I had most clearly in mind … was engineering.

    I interact regularly with engineers and I have asked a great deal of engineers what they have most gained from their education in engineering and what they consider the most essential, I have asked a few of the tutors what they consider the most important thing to teach, and every time the response is not the physics, calculus, and loadings but the way of conceptualising, approaching, and assessing problems; the way of thinking.

    In psychology and the arts in general (because psychology is hardly a science in NZ, not any more; I blame the French!), they do not focus on cleaning the slate so much as trying to indoctrinate you into their own, generally post-modernist/anti-positivist, philosophies with distorted understandings of ontology and many straw-men.

    As to the programming, my experience is limited to to the c macro-family and scripts, but if you can get your head around that then your doing a lot better with your processes than most people.

    Cant vouch for business; they go in tards and they come out tards with a toilet paper degree.

    The way of thinking is far more important in the sciences than the arts. Particularly with the present artsy paradigms; yuck!

  150. teaching what to think is one of the greatest problems of our school system

    Actually, our school system is very good about focussing on process: on how to think not what to think. I suggest you look at overseas school systems if you want a shocking comparison.

    a normative individual will never be on the level of most contributors here.

    Sapient, dear, I think you’re wrong about that and that you are almost normal. Do try to find comfort in that.

    Alas, your claims about undergrad degrees in general overstate the case. An undergrad engineering degree – or business, or most science degrees for that matter – do not do what you claim. I did not learn critical thinking in PHYS 302 (Quantum Physics), nor in COSC 522 (Fundamentals of Programming Languages), though both courses stretched my brain in quite different ways. I did learn critical thinking, somewhat, in PHIL 401 (Topic in Modern Philosophy).

    Though you seek to woo the general undergrad degree, I think when you look more closely at who stands upon the balcony you will find you are truly singing a paean to the much-maligned liberal arts.

  151. Sorry Valis, I was going to respond to your last post on that thread too, but was kinda worn out from intense God bothering on Kiwi blog!! :)

  152. “Your rational enough to have given up debating science vs religion”
    .
    oh no you did’t..it’s on!! :)

  153. “Dangerous indeed then.”
    .
    Any political party without a strong viable opposition is dangerous.

  154. Serious question Valis/Sapient
    Do you consider me to be a completely irrational person?

  155. So, like, incredibly undermining of parental authority then. Good. Shunda will love it.
    .
    Well Valis I guess I just see the possibility of a rational human race as an idealistic pipe dream, it’s just not in our make up.

  156. “those memes that repress free thinking and, in the case of post-judaic abrahamic religions, blackmails them with the image of hellfire.”
    .
    Well that is a tiny proportion of our society and of no real concern, the greater concern regarding our children is those parents exposing their kids to immoral behaviour and interfering with the completion of their youth.
    Critical thinking is irrelevant if people lack empathy for others.
    A person who has empathy but perhaps lacks the best critical thinking abilities is of no real harm to society, are they?

  157. Shunda,

    Legitimate parental authority?

    What legitimate parential authority would be violated? The ability of the parent to pass on naive dogmata?

    My proposal violates parential authority only in that it would essentially amount to teaching people to think critically and to contemplate. That is to say, it violates only this supposed right of a parent to abuse a child by imbuing them with the falicious and maladaptive memes known as dogmata and unquestioning attitudes; those memes that repress free thinking and, in the case of post-judaic abrahamic religions, blackmails them with the image of hellfire.

    As to teaching them what to think, it is not what to think that is taught; teaching what to think is one of the greatest problems of our school system. It is how to think. What is imbued is a disposition toward questioning and making connections; a disposition which will raise society and prevent the attrocities of hitler, stalin, kim, and paul/benedict.

  158. Perhaps we should cull those that don’t pass NCEA then? Or maybe cull their teachers?
    That should change classroon dynamics!
    Woops I made a spelling mista….

  159. “You wont get greater academic achievement without social engineering. Greater academic achievement is only obtainable through modifying the way people think.”
    .
    I accept you have a point here but how on earth do you do it without undermining legitimate parental authority or basic freedom? who decides what and how we should all think?

  160. Shunda,

    You wont get greater academic achievement without social engineering. Greater academic achievement is only obtainable through modifying the way people think. By far the largest part of an undergraduate degree is teaching people not to think how they have been brought up to think. That is one of the reasons that after the first year there tends to be very little difference between those with money and those without. I have breezed through simply because my style exceeds, by far, that needed for undergrad. Judging by many of the graduates, also that needed for PhD.

  161. Sprout,

    Firstly, tested intelligence and actual intelligence are distinct concepts. The factors on to which they load are almost entirely different and are hardly valid outside of the lower end. The WAIS, the most widely used and respected test of intelligence, is absolutely terrible. The latest version, the WAIS-IV, is not even based on any of the presently accepted models of intelligence; the groupings proposed being incredibly poor and several other groupings from other authors (e.g. the CHC groupings) only being a slight improvement (but a major improvement given they work from the WAIS tests).

    The rise in IQ, the flynn effect, may be attributed to the greater detachment from the practical and a greater focus on abstract reasoning and analogy. Cognitive style, as I mentioned earlier, is a very large part of this shift; those whom are taught to look at relationships between objects rather than to merely observe objects will tend to do vastly better. The way that you read to and interact with your child alters how they interact with the world; this is their cognitive style. It can be re-written throughout ones life and this happens massively at university, but as one gets further along it gets progressively harder to re-write. I am arguing that we should counter the poor writing of the vast majority of parents with tuition in school and, particularly, pre-school.

    Unlike BJ, I like to take an optimistic view and think of intellect, etc. as something that we can alter to a greater degree. The evidence is strongly against me in this respect. More and more evidence is mounting, particularly from twin adoption studies, that IQ and success are predominantly genetic in origin. The deficits that can be overcome may appear large to you and to anyone near the norm, but objectively they are tiny in proportion to the component that can not be changed. A retard will never be on the level of even an impaired normative individual and a normative individual will never be on the level of most contributors here.

  162. “that is, we should reverse the detrimental programing and provide nutrition in schools.”
    .
    What? so the state should raise our kids? The state can’t even keep my kids safe at school let alone correctly “program” them.
    Sounds like some people are advocating a church like role for schools. Are schools about academic achievement or social engineering?

  163. “genetics is a massive factor”

    Sapient-I don’t think genetics has as much of a bearing on learning as you think. Genetics does define personality, health and intelligence but environmental and parenting practices can overcome quite large deficits in all of those. Professor James Flynn has discovered that environmental factors have a huge influence on both intellegence and the ability to learn.
    http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3517/features/9725/eureka.html
    In another article he has explained how the culture of many asian families is able to produce high levels of academic success, where students are able to achieve at much higher levels than their tested intelligence would predict.

  164. Sprout,

    Indeed, and I was suggesting that genetics is a massive factor and that while the school environment presently accounts for little, it need not remain such; that it being such is a failure of our “world class” education system.

    It relates mostly to:

    you have whole communities of poor and struggling families, low educational expectations become embedded in the local culture.

  165. Sapient-I wasn’t referring to the nature vs nurture debate but using education academics informed view that a child’s background or home environment contributes approximately 70% of their academic achievement while the school environment and teaching contributes about 30%. This is only looking at environmental aspects not genetic influences.

  166. Greenfly,

    But the state is mightier still than the parent and in being so may define it as child abuse. That is, of course, assuming abuse is a moral term rather than a descriptive term. If it is descriptive, as I would suggest, then power is irrelevant other than in relation to the definition itself.

    Also, in clarifying my previous statement; the studies discuss it as genetics but given the nature of the studies I would consider it genetics + the womb environment.

    My point, of course, being that the home environment is minor in comparison to costs. We should do as much as we can to change that with the greater profit margin first; that is, we should reverse the detrimental programing and provide nutrition in schools.

  167. sapient – you’ve indicated before that might is right and as parents are mightier than their children, they are right to imprint their cognitive style on their children which leads me to ask why you think this is child abuse?

  168. Current thinking has the home environment contributing 70% of the influence on educational acheivement and when you have whole communities of poor and struggling families, low educational expectations become embedded in the local culture. Note my child wellbeing statistics in my earlier comment and imagine whole communities reflecting much of this, if everyone around you lives like this it develops into a perception of normality.

    That is funny, because current evidence suggests that genetics contributes about %70, with most of the remainder being down to the cognitive style parents imprint on their children; one of the strongest predictors of socioeconomic status and, I would suggest, a form of child abuse for many.

  169. Zedd-despite refusing a reasonable increase to the pay of our underpaid school support stuff and cutting funding to much public spending this Government increased funding to private schools by 35 million. They are also promoting privately built public schools that will be leased to their communities.

    ” I wonder whether this right wing Key-led Govt has a similar agenda ?”

    The answer is yes!

  170. I support the idea of setting educational standards.. thats why we all went to school.. to ‘get an education’. The problem I see, is the lack of an even playing field.. the Howard-led right wing Govt. in Australia promoted giving extra benefits to private & religious based schools in the 1990s, over main-stream public system. I wonder whether this right wing Key-led Govt has a similar agenda ?

    “We are all equal, but some are bit more ‘equal’ than others !”
    Kia-ora

  171. When I was a child in the 60s New Zealands urban communities were not as stratified as they are today and the status and destinctions made for different suburbs weren’t quite as pronounced. I have found over the last 20 years that the difference between high and low decile schools is becoming increasingly pronounced. In Invercargill, a decile 9 school, proudly promoted the fact that parents were buying laptops for their children and there was an expectation that all children would have one in the near future. This is far from the expectation at our lower decile schools where the children having breakfast before school would be a major achievement.

    Current thinking has the home environment contributing 70% of the influence on educational acheivement and when you have whole communities of poor and struggling families, low educational expectations become embedded in the local culture. Note my child wellbeing statistics in my earlier comment and imagine whole communities reflecting much of this, if everyone around you lives like this it develops into a perception of normality.

  172. samiula, your observation about Pacific Island education is really interesting. I reckon it fits with the inequality hypothesis. It’s really important not to confuse poverty with inequality. I haven’t seen data on this, but I would suggest that the income gap between the richest and poorest in the Pacific nations you describe is possibly not as big as here in NZ. In NZ, the kids you talk about find themselves at the bottom of a status-driven hierarchy, whereas in the islands, they are the same as everyone else at their school. So despite the fact that they may be “poorer” there, they do better in school because they are on an equal footing with the other kids.

    This fits with evidence that kids in “rich” but unequal countries like the US and UK do worse over all.

    Your comments about the other factors in Finland are valid too, but I’d contend that they are also related to inequality. Check out metiria’s earlier posts on inequality, they describe how almost every social and economic issue is linked to inequality. I’d suggest the more equal a society, the more likely they are to have all the things you describe that Finland has – which feed into educational performance.

    Definitely read The Spirit Level if you can, the whole books is about this hypothesis. Also The Status Syndrome, and Prosperity without Growth.

  173. Valis, it does sound an interesting book. I’ll see if it is in my public library.

    One observation I have made (and I believe someone has actually done research on this) is that Tongan children living in New Zealand and Australia perform worse at school than children raised in Tonga. I don’t know if this applies to other Pacific Islands, but would not be surprised if it does. For example, most of the students who make it to university are from the islands, not local students, despite their being large local populations.

    How can this be, when New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) education system is funded _much_ better than Tonga? It can’t be a cultural thing (as certain racists who occasionally post here might suggest), because both cultures are the same. My hypothesis is that the difference is in the amount of time parents spend with their children. More time means more opportunities to encourage the children with their education, and ensure the children “stay on track”. On the other hand, when the parents are at work most of the time, children often lack discipline (I’m not referring to the smacking variety here), don’t do their reading and homework (watching the tele instead), go to bed late and so on. When they do see their parents, they are grumpy and tired. This naturally impacts on their school work.

    Why should there be a big difference in time spent by parents with their children in New Zealand and the islands? One reason is that Tongan people living in New Zealand often work long hours (often doing two jobs), in poorly paid jobs. In the islands there are not the opportunities to work two jobs or long hours (even if one wanted to), and if you are a subsistence farmer, you tend to only work in daylight hours for obvious reasons.

    Now I’m prepared to be shown the above hypothesis is wrong. However, the observation that children from very poor (compared to New Zealand) families from a Pacific Island (where inequality is quite bad) do better than children from the same ethnic background in New Zealand and Australia needs to be explained.

  174. samiuela, the whole of the Spirit Level describes why inequality is such a factor. I’ve just started reading it to understand why and you might wish to as well.

  175. “Wilkinson and Pickett note that on the face of it, New Zealand has quite high literacy scores, given how unequal we are, but also note that this could be due to the fact that we have a high proportion of kids who are not even being assessed because they have dropped out or are truant.”

    Metiria-Despite having one of the most unequal societies in the OECD, we do have a well regarded education system. Until recently (before National Standards) there was a focus on good teaching and a high level of commitment from teachers and support staff http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/3595107/Classroom-extras-come-from-staff-pockets
    and New Zealand educationalists like Marie Clay are lauded internationally
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Clay

    The high literacy scores are most likely due to the way individual needs are supported in schools and our recognition for gifted and talented children. In primary schools the levels of “dropping out and truancy” are relatively low (compared to secondary schools) and New Zealand probably tests a greater cross section of children than most countries if you look at international asessments such as PIRLS (Rreading test for 10 year olds) which is often used in New Zealand for making international comparisons.

    The high achievements of our able children are because schools do well despite the inequalities in our communities and, if you look at our median achievement level in PIRLS, we are still one of the best performing countries.

    Other than taking issue with Wilkinson and Pickett’s view, I agree with everything else. We will never be successful in addressing “the long tail” until all our struggling children arrive at school from homes that support learning.

    Recently UNICEF released data comparing OECD countries on their levels of child wellbeing and New Zealand’s inequalities were revealed in detail:
    Our children are more likely to live in low income households than most other OECD countries (rank 23rd).
    7% (1/14) of our children live in households where no parents are in employment.
    20% of our children are in homes lacking in essential possessions that support a contemporary education.
    We are ranked 24th for child health and safety. Our levels of childhood deaths, due to accidents or abuse, are 20 points below the average and well below Croatia.
    40% of our children do not eat their main meal of the day with their family.
    These are shocking statistics for a developed country and will not be addressed through the introduction of National Standards.
    http://www.handsupforlearning.org.nz/recent-media

  176. Metiria,

    You claim that differences in children’s educational performance in Finland and the United States is caused by inequality, even when families where the parents have university qualifications are compared.

    The problem, is you don’t describe why inequality causes the differences in the children’s educational performance. I could suggest an alternative hypothesis which is that Finnish parents get more annual leave, and work less hours per week than the average US worker (I don’t know if this is true). This in turn means they spend more time with their children, which gets reflected in educational scores. This hypothesis is testable, and has somewhat more explanatory power than simply saying the differences are caused by inequality.

    I can take the above hypothesis further, and say that differences in time spent by parents with their children possibly explains educational differences among New Zealand children. It may be that in poor families, one or both parents work two jobs, thus depriving the parents of time with their children. This again is testable, because the educational performance of children from poor families could be further split according to how many hours per week the parents work.

    The point I’m trying to make is that one needs to go a bit further than simply saying inequality is the cause of differences in educational performance. One needs to explain why this is the case.

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