I am going to try and discuss some difficult topics here. I do not profess to be an expert on foreign policy or politics or even religion, so I hope I have not got this too wrong. I usually try to avoid religion if I can, simply because of the impossibility of a reasoned and rational debate on the matter, in most cases.

We are now seeing calls for banning of extremism. The wiping of such things from social media.

Now, I think I know where they are going with this. My understanding is that there are groups of people that not only have their own political agenda, but are actually quite good at "indoctrinating" people - so much so that they manage to create suicide bombers and suicide "mad stabbing rampage" nutters even, as we saw yesterday. Somehow people who may otherwise be normal and rational have managed to be convinced to take radical, and life threatening steps, in the name of some belief they now hold.

This is quite scary. It shows the power of such things, and is part of a problem with religion generally. I would not dream of picking on one religion here. It seems to me that all religions have the unenviable challenge of convincing people to believe something with no evidence. This is very contrary to our normal rational thought processes. I suspect some people are much more susceptible than others. Personally, I think we create this problem by bringing up children with belief in religion - we indoctrinate our children (well, not mine, but a lot of people do) in to some belief (the same one we learned when we were young). We force children to compartmentalise a set of irrational and unsubstantiated views and beliefs in a part of their mind that they can keep separate from their other sane and rational part of their mind - and wrap that irrational part in immutable walls of "faith".

I cannot help thinking that a child raised without indoctrination, even one educated on the ways of religion as a thing that exists in the world - like teaching of the old Norse Gods and so on - an interesting set of beliefs people once had and some people still have for the few religions still "alive" today - that such a child would be much harder as an adult to pull in to a cult and make in to a suicide bomber. Is this just my being optimistic, or is it true.

However, we see people use religion as a tool. It probably does not matter which religion they choose, most of them will have suitable wording in their holy texts that can be distorted to your goals with the authority of being ancient and revered. It is often said the the best way to turn a Christian in to an atheist is to get them to property read and study the bible, and I suspect the same is true for many religions. But being selective and however they do this brain washing, they seem to succeed in making human weapons.

So let's get back to the politics for a moment. We want this to stop. Personally, I think we need to be understanding the motives of the organisers - why they are doing this and what do they want? Can we work with them, as we have done in the past in terrorist disputes, to find common ground and an resolution to conflict? I don't know.

What we see cries for is to pull the extremism from the internet. This is hard, the extremism is exploiting religion. Even our own state religion (Church of England) has many dark things in the bible - things that will definitely count as extremist texts. To ban extremism is pretty much to ban religion - because religion is extreme - it is believe something with no evidence.

That may sound sensible to many, but sadly it has been seen not to work - once a meme is out there, especially one as old as most religions, banning it has the opposite effect and creates underground movements and followers. You have to tollerate it, allow it, tax it, much like alcohol. Banning it won't  work.

But even if you wanted to try and ban the most extreme bits, you have a massive problem, because there lies the curse of censorship and control of free speech. Where on earth do you draw the line? And how do you stop that line creeping ever closer to any thoughts that are not sanctioned by the thought police?

I really feel free speech, and freedom of expression, even by religious groups, is a human right we should not be compromising - especially at a time like this.

P.S. Yes, I am expecting this to be a tad controversial to some, so please do comment.

[also, for those that would rather listen to me than read...]


  1. You say: "...I think we need to be understanding the motives of the organisers - why they are doing this and what do they want?"

    These people want the whole world to become an Islamic caliphate and for us all to live under their law. You can't negotiate with these people, as their desires / demands are totally at odds with our society's core beliefs, so no acceptable compromise to both sides is conceivable. We therefore have no choice but to treat them as the evil, barbaric terrorists that they really are and to do whatever we reasonably can to stop them.

    1. [citation needed]

      It's just as plausible to think that they want to continue to enjoy the power and money that they have gained by sending idiotic children out to become martyrs. If you believe their rhetoric, do you also believe what politicians say when they're speaking English?

      ISIS is already collapsing under its own weight with a slight nudge from outside. The only way to keep it going and give its people hope is to give it an enemy that wants it dead. That's you, mate.

    2. Now consider Theresa May and her government from the perspective of someone who disagrees with them (could be ISIS, could just be a British citizen who disagrees with Brexit, austerity and back-doored encryption).

      "These people want the whole world to become an English-speaking conservative monarchy and for us all to live under their law. You can't negotiate with these people, as their desires / demands are totally at odds with our society's core beliefs, so no acceptable compromise to both sides is conceivable. We therefore have no choice but to treat them as the evil, barbaric terrorists that they really are and to do whatever we reasonably can to stop them."

      Seem like a bit of an over-reaction? Well perhaps there is an argument for finding common ground and not persisting with the intolerance and ostracizing of others.

  2. "...What we see cries for is to pull the extremism from the internet"

    As a society, I think we should be happy to pull pages from search engines which are an abuse of free speech in that they glorify / incite terrorism or instruct terrorists on how to construct bombs and / or kill lots of people. This is completely different to saying that you want to ban religious pages, as the vast majority of people of all religions are peaceful and they should be allowed to say what they want under our right to free speech.

    Judging what should or should not be pulled is of course the hard bit and I think it would be better if Google and co. did this voluntarily themselves so that they could judge what it is reasonable to keep or remove. The Government should nevertheless provide public guidance as to the type of material it would expect the search engines to try and remove and examples of what it believes is acceptable should be provided too.

    1. This is being reported in the newspapers this morning:


      The friend told the BBC’s Asian Network that the terrorist had been radicalised watching videos of the infamous American hate preacher Ahmad Musa Jibril.

      He said: “We spoke about a particular attack that happened and like most radicals he had a justification for anything and everything and that day I 
realised I needed to contact the authorities.”

      He added: “He used to listen to a lot of Musa Jibril. I have heard some of this stuff and its very radical. I am surprised this stuff is still on YouTube and is easily accessible. I phoned the anti-terror hotline. I spoke to the gentleman. I told him about our conversation and why I think he was radicalised.”


      Youtube / Google make billions from advertising and need to re-invest some of that money in actively searching for and removing this type of unacceptable content, so that it is no longer "easily accessible". The people that carry out these atrocities are easily led astray and we should be doing more to prevent this.

    2. I'm not convinced that a technical services company is well placed to make decisions as to what content is "extremist" or "terrorist". My preference would be for a court to decide, and to impose obligations / orders. Same with copyright infringement: let a court, not an ISP, make that decision.

      If there is so much material that we need an appropriate independent body to do this, so be it.

  3. I think you're missing two important things in your argument: humans aren't naturally rational creatures; and using that definition of extremist then most political parties probably match it too.

    Humans are pattern matchers, that learn an explanation and then exhibit confirmation bias to retain that explanation in the face of evidence that doesn't fit (in machine learning terms a bit like a slack variable). We also have a nasty habit of then deliberately selecting input data to fit a desired worldview.

    We also hold contradictory world views all the time, people will often assure you that they believe it is wrong to litter but then get caught littering a few minutes later. There are climate science deniers who believe in evolution and are fervent atheists. Now they accept the scientific consensus on one matter but not another, are they rational or irrational?

    Once a hypothesis has been formed evidence changes viewpoints far less than most people believe. This is particularly acute in cutting edge science, where you get scientists denouncing each other as idiots because they interpret the same results differently through competing models. When the conclusion someone has reached seems incorrect based on the evidence you know and you write them off as irrational they almost certainly view your thought process as the irrational one.

    Our problem is humans are cognitively limited to only one viewpoint, we find it difficult to weigh multiple hypotheses fairly and the longer it has been held then the harder it is to update even in the face of pretty damning evidence. As a species this pattern matching behavior means we seem to be determined to form a view about everything, even when the evidence is incomplete. Unfortunately that means it's hard to teach a true null, as if not initialised with a hypothesis the learners will seek one out or even randomly form one.

    Political parties being made up of humans often don't make their policy decisions based on evidence, they're already have a hypothesis which is why they formed the party. Instead they have focus groups, polls, policy wonks, a little evidence is there but politics and ideology matter more, got to win the votes to be able to do anything. When you look at the far left and the far right you see more obvious examples of this but as your blog posts have shown the mainstream parties are often guilty of evidence free policy too.

    Incidentally I predict there will indeed be a clash between organised religion and politics over power and the politicians will win but that the results will be disappointing to everyone.

  4. I was brought up by a lapsed Catholic (my grandmother) and we had a Rabbi as a neighbour. I was given access to all the books and read them out of interest. Your quote "It is often said the the best way to turn a Christian in to an atheist is to get them to property read and study the bible" is close but in my case I suppose I'm agnostic as I can't prove for or against.
    What does irritate somewhat is the number of religious leaders who misquote (either through ignorance or in their own interests) the religious scripts.
    In most cases religion is an accident of birth, you're defined by the religion of your family, I was fortunate enough to be left alone to come to my own conclusions.

  5. Since this is obviously a bit of electronic forme (i.e. pasted from somewhere), I thought I'd ask Google where it came from.

    Turns out it's from some guy who writes ostensibly academic books about Islam that are actually just a tirade.

    "Since every Muslim can have three parts, it is hard to nail him down. There is a shifty quality that goes with the territory."

    The linguistic style is sadly reminiscent of many historical paragraphs written about 'the Jew'.

    If I cared to understand Islam, I doubt this guy would be a good place to start.

  6. Since you don't care to understand Islam, why are you picking at my comments?

    Seems a bit silly to me.


Comments are moderated purely to filter out obvious spam, but it means they may not show immediately.

NOTSCO (Not TOTSCO) One Touch Switching test platform (now launched)

I posted about how inept TOTSCO seem to be, and the call today with them was no improvement. It seems they have test stages... A "simul...