“Ireland must harmonize tax” say two MEPs

Two MEPs have said that Ireland needs to look at harmonizing its corporate tax rate if it ‘needed to seek help from the €750bn bailout fund, set up at the height of the Greek crisis in the spring.’

This would be one of the most anti-competitive measures that the EU could introduce. Not allowing Member States to compete for business through tax policy is bad for Member States, workers, and consumers.

It would also seem like a nice little work around to the assurance Ireland got before the Lisbon II that EU law post-Lisbon would not effect Ireland’s tax position.

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Response

In the last issue of The Record (22nd October 2008) there were two rebuttals to my article “Religion the World’s Biggest Argument” (29th of October 2008) while I was happy to see that my article provoked a response I was disappointed with the quality of the argument.

First, I am going to deal with Matthew Berkeley’s letter in which he says “Robert Donohue’s article smacks of a vomitworthy sadistic glee… (sic)”. Leaving behind for a moment the substantive points of his argument, I will say that while my article was tongue-in-cheek it was neither vomitworthy nor sadistic it was however, a satire on the theists’ concept of life after death. If your beliefs cannot cope with a very gentle criticism without being offended then they aren’t very strong beliefs at all. I do not take the view that religious beliefs are beyond critical discourse simply because they are religious beliefs; they are open to attack like any other opinion.

Mr. Berkeley says that I showed an “utter ignorance of [my] subject matter” he makes this claim but, doesn’t attack specifically any of the arguments that I put forward. He moves on then to claim that I don’t have any formal training in the subject and therefore can’t form an opinion on the subject; which seems strange because Mr. Berkeley applies a double standard insofar as he goes on to give his opinion on the matter.

Mr. Berkeley claims that science and religion are separate entities but, a lot of the claims that religion makes are scientifically testable. The virgin birth is a biological claim and water to wine is a physical claim; it is the belief in things like these—miracles and magic— that confuses me the most—even if you were to personally witness water turning into wine in front of your eyes you would have to ask yourself which was more likely, that water turned into wine or that you were mistaken? As for saying that you believe it because you read it in a book that was written over two thousand years ago, translated and transcribed hundreds of times within inconsistencies between all the versions and without any original copy then I am afraid that you advertise your willingness to believe in anything.

In case people think that I am avoiding the existential issue and focusing on some of the weird claims made by religion I am not, I propose to deal with them in the following paragraphs.

The second response to my article came from Darren Mac Ceallaig in his article “Atheism the true fanaticism” (22nd October 2008) he tries to make a case for god’s existence.

In his response Mr. Mac Ceallaig tries to undermine what he calls the ‘”unicorn” view” i.e. that god is like a unicorn or Loch Ness monster—we have no evidence to prove that they exist or not but, we live our lives as if they don’t because there is no reason to think that they do exist. Bertrand Russell makes a very good point on this topic—he asks us to imagine that there is a teapot orbiting mars—it is so small that we can’t see it therefore we can’t prove it doesn’t exist but, we live our lives on the assumption that it doesn’t. Some will try to argue that this is not the same as belief in god because they say that god exists outside of our realm and is therefore not the same as a unicorn or teapot. This is missing the point of the argument; the unicorn argument demonstrates that we all need some kind of evidence to accept something as true— we are not prone to accepting no evidence for our belief in anything else in our lives so why does religion get a free pass? I was not suggesting that this argument can prove that god doesn’t exist.

On the argument that god exists outside of this realm and is therefore not subject to the rules of our universe I am willing to accept that may be true. This is the sort of claim made by a deist—that is someone who believes that there may be something outside of our universe—Einstein, Jefferson and Paine were deists— whereas theists believe in a god that intervenes in human affairs, answers prayers and so on. I accept that there may be a super being or other cause to the universe (that is not to say that there definitely is) that exists outside of our universe but, it cannot be proven conclusively. However, shouldn’t the onus of proof be on the person making the claim to provide the evidence? I can admit that I cannot be 100% certain that god does not exist but, in the absence of proof I live my life as if he doesn’t whereas Mr. Mac Ceallaig et al not only say that they know god exists but, they know what he wants and who his son is!

In Mr. Mac Ceallaig’s second point he says that faith in god is like saying “I love you” or “democracy is better than tyranny” he says that these things cannot be scientifically proven yet we still hold them to be true. Helen Fisher has made some very interesting studies into the nature of love and how it is a product of our biology and how she can identify people in love by looking at parts of their brain. The brain is at a rudimentary level conducting experiments and determining if you love someone and your certainty that your love exists is based upon the kinds of feedback created in your brain—you can be as certain of a feeling of love as you can be about any other feeling. They are manifestations of interactions in your brain. However, even if we were to accept that you are just certain that god exists based on the fact that you just know it I would have to say that this really isn’t convincing.

There are people that are convinced of an infinite number of things just because they ‘know’ them—there are people that know that Elvis is still alive despite the fact that he died within a lifetime, there are photos of him dead and there are people that knew him that have said that they are sure he is dead yet there are still those that ‘know’ he is alive. What this goes to show is that the human mind is capable of convincing itself of all sorts of things regardless of evidence. If we are to accept your reasoning of personal revelation we have to admit that we open ourselves to believing in absolutely anything.

Finally, dealing with point that religion is not necessarily irrational I would argue that a lot of the arguments that claim to be rational proofs of god are in fact sophistry. They may be clever or interesting but, they are not rational. How rational is it to say that you know god exists and provide no evidence then spend an entire article trying to argue why you don’t need to give any evidence.

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Is it Time to Teach Creation in Schools?

sciI got to thinking about the argument for teaching creationism in schools and how perhaps it might be useful. First, I should make clear that I am completely convinced that there is no scientific merit in creation ‘science’ or so called intelligent design and consequently there is no room for it to be thought as if it were a science. There maybe room for teaching the argument that people want it in schools and telling students what creationist believe and explaining to them that there is no scientific method behind it. Notwithstanding the fact that I have just said that it is not science is there any room for teaching it in science class. I think there might be.

The scientific method is the most fundamental tool in a scientist’s arsenal it helps to ensure that he makes objective arguments rooted in reason and reality. Teaching this is an important part of any science curriculum and perhaps using creation as a case study for teaching the scientific method could be useful. Maybe we could provide the students with the rules for making scientific inquiry and ask them to apply it to creation and make an assessment of the veracity of creation within the context of the parameters of science then ask them to do the same to evolution.

Students can learn a lot about how science works by doing this they will learn what is considered science and how scientific conclusions are reached. Also hopefully it will shoe equip them with the skill to say that creation is not science.

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I Wish There Was an Afterlife So Theists Would Know They’re Wrong.

shockedI was thinking about how some people are so convinced that there is a god that the are unwilling to even entertain the idea that there probably isn’t a god. For them there is no question in their mind. You are unable to reason with them; you can try to talk to them and explain clearly how all of their arguments for the existence of god are flawed, you ask them why they believe in the god that they believe in rather than any other god–if Jesus why not Zeus? They may try to tell you that their holy book says that their god is the true god and god wrote their holy book. You can then try to explain to them what a false syllogism is then listen to them respond saying strange things like “you have to invite the lord into you life” and “god has a son that died for you”–I never asked him to! Most, you will never be able to convince because religion has some advantages, among them are: it has inculcated people from a very young age it has been part of their life since they were very young for a lot of people religion is all they know; it exploits gaps in the knowledge of mankind–where a question is unknown religion has no problem ascribing it to god whereas at least reasoned people have the decency to admit when they don’t know something, also there is the great carrot and stick approach i.e. lots of theists will no entertain disbelief in god because they want to spend eternity in paradise or want to avoid the rest of time in fire being burned and tortured by demons and the one that concerns me most here the existence of god cannot be disproved because a negative cannot be proved. Prove to me that Unicorns don’t exist. 

All of these kinds of things can make it hard to argue with a believer because they become incapable of reason they will maintain, despite the all evidence to the contrary, that their god exists and nothing will change their minds. They’ll sit smugly knowing full well that you will not be able to change their mind. Then what makes it worse is that when they die that’s it, there is nothing; they’ll never know that they were wrong because their minds are turned off. So on thinking about this I thought wouldn’t it be great if there was a post-death de-briefing where people would realise that they had wasted huge parts of their lives on a god that wasn’t there. There could be no more arguments they were dead and if they were promised heaven there would be none or if it was reincarnation they wouldn’t get reincarnated. This was it they last straw no way to argue-there was no god. Then once they realised there was no god waiting for them and a photo of their faces was taken to amuse us atheists as we arrived they would be sent off into nothingness.

 

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Funniest Bible Verse

The stupidest verse of the bible is a hard competition to win considering all the very capable contenders but, I think I may have a winner. In the book of numbers the author says “Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.” Numbers 12:3. Fine, this Moses chap may have been humble however, when you find out who wrote the book of numbers it makes a startling difference. The book of numbers is traditionally believed to have been written by–you guessed it the humblest man on Earth, Moses.

This really compliments the theists when the say first, that they are humble then follow it with things like; they know that god exists, they not only know that he exists but, they know who he is, what he wants and how he created the Universe. Humble? I don’t think so.

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Letter to the Editor of Irish Times re Civil Partnership Bill

This is my letter is response to a letter to the Editor of the Irish Times about the Civil Partnership Bill. First, the letter I am responding to.

Madam, – Leo O’Shaughnessy (July 4th) appears to take grave offence at the suggestion that the Government’s proposed legislation for same-sex unions could undermine marriage. He argues that the Bill is designed to ensure that “the institution of marriage remains untouched”.

By this he presumably means that the Government has not attempted to redefine marriage. This is true, but the legislation indirectly diminishes the status of marriage by conferring similar rights and benefits on registered same-sex unions. Similarly, the lesser protections proposed in the same Bill for cohabiting heterosexual and same-sex couples also undermine the unique standing marriage has, and should have, in society.

The distinction between marriage and other forms of sexual relationship is being gradually obscured. It is clear why the State has always favoured marriage: it is naturally orientated towards the procreation and raising of children. It is unclear why the State should favour any other kind of sexual relationships over and above, for example, that of a couple whose relationship is based on familial ties, such as two brothers living together.

Mr O’Shaughnessy says my statement (July 3rd) that same-sex unions experience a higher level of violence and mental and physical illness is “born of the worst kind of bigotry”; and Dr Colm Humphries (July 5th) suggests I need to consider my own biases. Yet studies such as “Violence Between Intimates”, published by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics in November 1994, indicate that violence is two to three times more common among homosexual partners than among married couples. The homosexual authors of Men Who Beat The Men Who Love Them also claimed that domestic violence affected half of all gay couples. The leading US gay magazine The Advocate reported that 75 per cent of its readers admitted engaging in violent sex, with a further 20 per cent engaging in sadistic sex. A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examining conflict in lesbian relationships discovered that a third of those surveyed had experienced one or more incidents of physical abuse. Many other studies confirm these findings.

Male homosexuals also have a significantly reduced life expectancy, according to research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 1997, most likely as a consequence of the health risks of their lifestyle. As regards mental illness, a review of studies entitled “Homosexuality and mental illness”, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 1999 stated that “homosexual people are at a substantially higher risk for some form of emotional problems”. I fail to see how I am guilty of bigotry or bias because I refer to this evidence.

Personally, I believe the State should refrain from legislating for any kind of unions other than marriage. In my view, it is not I that should “stop caring about what goes on behind closed doors”, as Mr O’Shaughnessy recommends, but rather the Government.

– Yours, etc,MICHAEL O’DRISCOLL, Blackrock, Cork.
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/letters/2008/0711/1215677267266.html

My response:

Madam – Michael O’Driscoll’s letter (July 11th) is his attempt to justify his bigotry. Mr. O’Driscoll recognises that the Civil Partnership Bill does not in anyway treat the institution of marriage worse than Civil Partnerships or else it would be held to be unconstitutional. In fact marriage will remain as the ‘fundamental unit of our society’ (Art 41 of the Constitution) because inter alia marriage will retain the Constitutional rights afforded to it by Art 41 whereas Civil Partnerships will only have legislative rights.

Mr. O’Driscoll says that the Bill will ‘diminish the status of marriage by conferring similar rights and benefits on same-sex couples’ this is pure sophism. Why would giving people rights diminish the institution of marriage? Mr. O’Driscoll goes on to say that ‘the lesser protections for heterosexual couples…undermine the unique standing marriage has…in our society’ I suggest that Mr. O’Driscoll does not think much of the institution of marriage if he thinks that people will choose lesser protections over greater protections. I feel that people will chose based upon their own considered opinion with regard to their subjective circumstance and that we aren’t going to see the end of marriage as a result of this.  

Even if it were true that people will abandon en masse marriage for civil partnerships the Supreme Court held in Muckley v. Ireland [1985] IR 472 that treatment of any persons that constitutes an inducement not to get married is not an attack on the institution of marriage. It is therefore irrelevant if this Bill will encourage people not to get married, which of course will only apply to heterosexual couples covered by the Bill, provided that marriage remains greater or equal to Civil Partnerships.

Mr. O’Driscoll goes on to say that marriage is special because it is a orientated towards procreation. Based upon this logic Mr. O’Driscoll would deny marriage to any couples incapable of conceiving a child. In my opinion this is not the purpose of a marriage Mr. O’Driscoll disregards the plethora of reasons for marriage including love and companionship. To reduce marriage to a means of procreation is very utilitarian and demeaning to the human condition.

Cited in Mr. O’Driscoll letter are articles he suggests vindicated his position that homosexual relationships are sinister. In his letter Mr. O’Driscoll referred to the book Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them as support for this argument if Mr. O’Driscoll Googled this book he would know that one of its authors has said that the statistics are not capable of supporting an argument against gay marriage. Mr. O’Driscoll also refers to a report by the US Dept. of Justice called Violence Between Intimates I gave the report a quick read and was unable to glean the statistics that Mr. O’Driscoll cites. However, this type of argument is not sustainable because there are huge amounts of more recent data contrary to what Mr. O’Driscoll has cited. I suggest he do a Google search. Even if it were true that homosexual couples are more prone to violence what is this an argument against same-sex marriage if I were to adduce reports and overwhelming evidence that miscegenation caused violence in the home would it be time to stop interracial marriage?

How is it relevant that 75% of homosexuals ‘admitted’ to having ‘violent’ sex and 20% to having sadistic sex? People can have any type of lawful sex they like. This is indicative of nothing. In fact it is demonstrative of Mr. O’Driscoll closed-mindedness.

It is clear that Mr. O’Driscoll does not want gay relationships it is time he admitted the real reason why; he doesn’t like homosexuality.

 

Yours,

Robert Donohoe

 

UPDATE:

Someone has written an excellent post in reposnse to Mr. O’Driscoll’s letter. Read it here at: http://www.orcid.net/2008/07/11/lies_damn_lies_and_cogging_conservative_websites

Thanks, Ciarán

 

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"There Are No Gays in Iran": But, Ireland’s Sending One Back!

It was reported in the Irish press that Ireland plan to deport an Iranian national back to Iran despite his life being in danger because he is gay. It is reported that “the deputy Iranian Foreign Minister said [in the Irish Parliament] last week that they will ‘not do it from a crane on the back of a lorry anymore but they will still do it.” refering to the execution of gay people that return to Iran’.

Senator Norris, the man that took the case to the European Court of Human Rights to legalise homosexuality in Ireland, said in the Senate “What are we doing and where is the accountability? In the name of the Oireachtas [Irish Parliament], I demand that the practice of deporting a person under those conditions should be ceased immediately.”

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