And how do they know that?

Angel (Source: Wikimedia Commons (Brosen))

A very important question to consider, or actually ask, when someone tells you something is, “How do they know that?” This is important because it can give you an idea of how likely that person is to be correct and how much you can trust them. If someone were to come up to you and say, “Your wife is cheating on you,” you wouldn’t immediately take that to be true. And how much trust you put in those words would differ if the person knew because they had dreamt that she was cheating on you, because they heard she was cheating on you from someone else or because they had video of her cheating on you. The video is tangible, objective evidence to support the assertion that she is cheating on you and the quality and amount of supporting evidence is key. Continue reading

BCCSA gets its theology wrong

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) was recently called on to make a judgement on the second season of the award-winning documentary Shoreline. When discussing cannibalism, one of the presenters said the following:

In other cases, eating people might be a way of gaining access to some special element, some special essence of the victims. Christians for example eat the blood and the body of Christ so they can absorb some of his purity and godliness.

This evoked a number of complaints with complainants saying that the show was factually incorrect as the ritual of Communion was a purely symbolic act. When the broadcaster responded it agreed that communion was purely symbolic, even in the case of Catholic transubstantiation (the only time it was mentioned) and said that the offending sentence will be removed from future rebroadcasts. The BCCSA accepted this as a genuine error and, with future broadcasts being edited, saw no reason for an apology or further measures to be taken. (Full judgement available here.) Unfortunately this judgement is incorrect as, for many Christians, Communion is not merely symbolic. Continue reading

Valentine’s day and free speech

Today is Valentine’s day. For many people it is a day to revel in the love one shares with another, regardless of race or gender. However it is also the day that a death threat was publicly issued. This death threat has been acted on yet the person responsible for it was never arrested. Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa calling for the death of novelist Salman Rushdie for writing the novel The Satanic Verses.

One might be tempted to think that after 23 years, and the death of Khomeni, that Rushdie can now live safely. One would be wrong. Just this year Salman Rushdie was intending to appear in India for the Jaipur Literary Festival. His trip was cancelled at the last minute as word came through that there would be an attempt to assassinate him and he felt that it would be irresponsible to put anyone else at risk. Furthermore, he wasn’t even allowed to speak via teleconferencing. Continue reading