Friday, 13 February 2015

Alex Salmond doesn't understand the legitimate role of government or the point of a constitution

In the lead-up to the Scottish Independence referendum Alex Salmond was interviewed on Reporting Scotland on the 13th August 2014, where he stated that he desires to protect the NHS and maintain health services "free" at the point of use.  Whilst I don't necessarily agree with that (which I realise is a very uncommon and unpopular point of view in the UK) it is a position that many reasonable people hold.  I fully understand that where people sit on this issue, and others like it, is largely the result of subjective value judgements.  However...

Salmond then went on to state his desire for a written constitution (fine - this is a goal that I can completely get on board with) and that he would work to ensure that in an independent Scotland "health services free at the point of use" were constitutionally protected as a right.

I have to be very careful here, because I don't want to understate the significance of this:


Regardless of your subjective values and your opinion on whether or not you think healthcare should be provided by the state, or by private providers, or some combination of the two, the notion to protect this as a "right" is a total nonsense.

You cannot have a "right" to healthcare that's free at the point of delivery just as you cannot have a "right" to housing or watermelons or education or yachts or mortgage advice or courier services that are free at the point of delivery.  What all of these things have in common is that they cost money to provide - in order to receive them they first must by produced (at some cost) by someone else.  You can't have a "right" to them because that would put an obligation on someone else to provide them at their own cost.

A "right" to free healthcare for you is an obligation to provide free healthcare on your Doctor.  You don't expect to go to work and get paid nothing for your labour so why should your Doctor?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Russell Brand on Stephen Fry on Religion

A friend linked to this video of Russell Brand responding to some comments made by Stephen Fry in a recent interview on the topic of religion.

Brand describes Stephen Fry as “aggressively” not believing in God.  This attempts to immediately set-up a narrative in which Fry is the “aggressor” or oppressor and therefore by arguing against him, Brand is attempting to portray himself as a defender of the oppressed.  Fry certainly doesn't come across as “aggressive” to me in the clips shown in this video.  To be fair to Brand, I haven’t watched all of the Stephen Fry interview, so maybe there are moments when he does get more “aggressive”, although this would seem quite out of character for Fry.  How many people do you know who would be likely to describe Stephen Fry as “aggressive”?  I find such tactics underhand, manipulative and odious.

Stephen Fry’s response to the question of what he’d say to God if he exists was a statement about the problem of evil, which I am yet to see a convincing refutation to.  Brand’s response to this is to ignore it, instead preferring to talk a load of nonsense about “literalism” then segue into quoting from Robert Lanza’s book ‘Biocentrism’ regarding supposed “flaws” in received physics.  These “flaws” consisting of the fact that if any of 200 physical parameters, laws or forces in our universe (e.g. the strong nuclear force, gravity, etc.) were slightly different the universe as we know it, or at the very least the Earth and/or life would not be able exist and that it therefore  “strains credulity” that they are random.

Note that Brand hasn't presented any sort of an argument here one way or another re: the existence of God or the problem of evil.  He has completely ignored Stephen Fry’s point (why on Earth did he bother showing the first clip if he was going to talk about something completely different anyway?!), then presented an argument from incredulity (read: logical fallacy) re: the existence of the universe / life as we know it.

In response to the second and third clips, he rambles about a “connected consciousness” and an “unknown force” behind everything in the universe.  He doesn't present any evidence for such wild assertions.

I could go on, but this post is already long enough; besides it hardly seems fair to pick on Russell Brand intellectually - it’s like having a boxing match with a 5 year old and the 5 year old has his hands tied behind his back - it’s just not fair.  Brand would do well to stop his mouth for a few moments and engage his brain instead of spouting off this sophistry.  The man is a charlatan and an ignoramus.  He’s almost like the anti-Stephen Fry.

I baulk at the notion of giving Brand more publicity and traffic to his YouTube channel (not that he needs it) where he spreads his ridiculous views. Although, given how little traffic this blog gets, I don't think it's something I need worry much about.

On the plus side, I have developed a new heuristic: If Russell Brand says something, the opposite is highly likely to be true.