Talk:Peter Hitchens/Archive 1

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Neutrality

This entry cannot be described as neutral in stance in any measure - it features criticism of the Conservative party (and of morality in general) beyond what Hitchens has himself stated and I have removed it. I have also had to add a lot of 'He believes..' because without them it reads like Hitchens is talking about his views here himself.

When you write stuff in "Talk" sections of articles, please sign your comments with your user name as appears at the end of this comment. Also, if you wish to make contentious changes (such as editing something to remove perceived POV), then you should log in before doing so and not do it anonymously. -- Cabalamat 10:49, 21 November 2005 (UTC)
As I do not have a Wikipedia account this would prove difficult, and I have no intention of creating one - Wikipedia gives users the right to create and edit pages anonymously, it is not a requirement to log in. If my changes are not to the liking of others they are welcome to revert them but I was trying to add some balance to the article. From 'Wikipedia: Why Create an account?' : "...we welcome anonymous contributions..."
That's all very well and good but you can still sign anonymously using four tildes (~~~~). It gives an IP address that allows us to differentiate you from all the other anonymous users on this site - especially useful in discussions like these.  -- Run!  21:14, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

POV

While there is nothing wrong with saying what the man believes or why, this is not a fansite, for those who read his column. References to 'Anthony Blair' are straight from Hitchens himself - nobody else calls Blair that.

Quiensabe 2005-11-22 15:20 UTC

I think the fact that more than one Wikipedian has noticed the lack of NPOV in this article means it is suitable to have a POV flag placed on it. The article currently reads mainly as a soapbox justification of Hitchens' beliefs. Take a look at his brother Christopher's Wikipedia entry and you'll see the big, big difference in quality. Magic Pickle 21:44, 18 January 2006 (UTC)


-Hi Quiensabe. Regarding the removal of the info on Hitchens' mother's suicide - I don't see why it is irrelevant - does the Hitchens page have to be about his political beliefs only? What about his background? Some may say the suicide of his mother will have undoubtedly affected his beliefs. As a compromise I could create a 'personal background' section which is separate from the rest of the politics talk - I personally found that I viewed Hitchens in a slightly different light having discovered his mother sadly committed suicide and feel it is useful factual information. Regards.

User.


  • To user CH - I have referenced the anecdote! Look under [1] - it is a link to a BBC article, check the paragraph indicated and it has the quote about Hitchens starting the revolution. As your delete was based on my not having referenced when I clearly had - i am returning the quote to the article.

User

User, it would help if you identified yourself. I have nothing against Peter Hitchens, I have corresponded with him by e-mail in the past, agreeing him with some things and disagreeing with him on others, and vice versa. (Other columnists sill just send you automated e-mail replies or send you a standard issue acknowledgement card.)
I have written contributions about other columnists like Richard Littlejohn, Mark Steyn, and (on the other side of the political spectrum) Joan Smith. (OK, I loathe Joan Smith's views, but I do not use her entry to attack them, or her personally.) Whether or not I agree with them is beside the point. Wikipedia is neither a place for people to write abusively about people they dislike nor is it for fawning toadies, who worship columnists in the same way that others would worship sports footballers or pop stars. Grow up, and learn to think for yourselves!
A separate page for Hitchens book, The Abolition of Britain, would be a much better place to expand on his political views.

Quiensabe 04:06, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Looking through the edit history, and through this POV discussion, there seems no reason for the article to still be flagged. Does anyone agree?

Jmdean 11:57, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

No. Peter Hitchens still edits this entry himself. It is therefore, by definiton, not neutral. The flag should stay. Thank you, Val Hayes signed in as New Canadian 18:54, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

The unattributed quote "Evolution is a clever theory. Too clever. We must beware. These are frightening times for all of us. Our children must be saved so they can go to heaven. FIGHT evolution, I tell you. FIGHT. Science is only popular with the Negros and the communists anyway. Remember what the apple represented in the Garden of Eden? Yes, knowledge. Knowledge and science are not compatible with what we believe, lest we become victims of Satan." sounds very much like it is made up, rather than by Hitchens. This is clearly someone taking the mick. Should it just be deleted? W 89.240.242.218 15:51, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Yes, it counts as original research. Philip Cross 16:06, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Monday Morning Blues

I have written a piece about his book but I think others could expand on it. We could write longer desriptions of Liberty and Britain, what does everyone think to that?

Authorship

It personally seemed to me very much like he himself wrote much of this.

See the edits for Janusry 20, 2006, which suggest Hitchens (or an impostor prepared to use an accurate email address) has himself responded to this query and confirmed users suspicions, and then had second thoughts! Philip Cross 19:14, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
I would suggest that, whatever bias people perceive in this post, Peter Hitchens certainly deserves a Wikipedia entry--if only because he is Christopher Hitchens's brother and they have been involved in a recent quite public spat and then subsequent reconciliation. He also deserves recognition in his own right, being a prominent conservative commentator in Britain.
I would not disagree with your comments, whoever you are, but I've removed the formatting which came over not so much as SHOUTING, but YELLING! Philip Cross 17:12, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
Of course Hitchens should have an article - who disputes that? What is amusing about Hitchens' own contributions to his entry is that he doesn't seem to understand Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy - this isn't a place for a detailed justification of his beliefs - it should be an impartial summary of his main beliefs. Look at the difference between Christopher Hitchen's article and this one to see what I mean. Hitchens complains/ mentions that people are anonymous who contribute - but nearly everyone on Wiki uses a username rather than their real name - and his own contributions weren't added under a username, even! Magic Pickle 17:56, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

Here's an interesting conundrum for all you believers in the existence of a 'neutral point of view'. You discover( as I did) that a Wikipedia entry has been created about you. Flattering, perhaps, but its creators, who do not need to reveal their identities, have inserted far-from-neutral commentaries on your thoughts and beliefs which are in many cases simply inaccurate or drawn from inaccurate sources. At the time I made this discovery my only acquaintance with Wikipedia was occasionally stumbling on its articles while Googling. I had no idea of any 'policy', merely a desire to ensure that, if people were to discover this article as I had done, they would at least find accurate information in it. If there is a 'neutral point of view' rule. it did not seem to have governed many of the contributions already in place, which is perhaps why I had no idea of its existence. I thought it legitimate, and a service to the truth, to put right the inaccuracies and to take advantage of the forum to ensure that my position ( often misrepresented by opponents and critics) was accurately expressed. Where I have inserted corrections or explanations, I have sought to do so with the formulation 'Hitchens says' or something similar so as to make it clear that these are my work . Anyone who wishes to challenge my statements is as free to do so as I am to make them. I have written two books and hundreds of articles and have taken part in scores of debates, many of them broadcast. It is easy enough to check the truth and accuracy of my statements. I really cannot see what I have done wrong here. What would you have done? What fun that, as a result, this entry now has the same status as, say, the article about the massacre of the Armenians. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback

Pete, mate, sign your entries with four tildes ~ ~ ~ ~ (no spaces) then you will always be identified as 'Clockback'. Magic Pickle 23:27, 7 February 2006 (UTC)
Dear Mr Pickle,
Thanks so much for this helpful advice, Peter Hitchens Clockback 09:55, 8 February 2006 (UTC)


No problem, Peter. To address your points above -
You may be right in saying there is no such thing as a neutral point of view. However on this site there is a concept named as such which must be followed. I'm not a Wiki expert so you can read for yourself at Wikipedia:Neutral Point of View.
As for your own contributions - there was a debate about the neutrality of the article on you long before you began adding to it - check the discussion history above. But let's have a collective discussion on this - do other users feel the current article is a good representation of an encyclopaedic entry? Should the Neutrality warning be removed? What do we all think?
I am glad (and slightly amazed) you are adding to the article yourself in order to keep the info on it correct - but be aware this is an open source and anyone can come in and add anything at any time. For example, a few weeks back someone deleted the entire article and replaced it with "Peter Hitchens is a w****r" which I assume to also be factually incorrect. You can't prevent inaccuracies on your own Peter, and you might expect, with a figure such as yourself that there will be many such alterations from users with an axe to grind- fortunately the collective community on Wiki will try to balance out any extreme examples, but if the article was a little tighter with a bit less rambling exposition, I feel this task would be easier. You are only one voice in the community here, though Peter, this isn't your site. But we will do our best to keep it factual.
As for the neutrality warning - don't worry about it - there are many such warnings on many different articles on Wiki, many of them on trivial issues.
Welcome to Wiki though, Peter, nice to see you, and remember, you can't turn the clock back...

Magic Pickle 22:14, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

In reply to the above, first, you CAN turn the clock back ( look at the superb reconstruction of Warsaw's Old Town Square, a deliberate riposte to Hitler's deliberate decision to destroy it). As for the rest, I accept absolutely the right of others to make their contributions to the item. I think I have a matching right to delete silly, irrelevant, insulting and false interventions, and to respond (without deletion) to contentious ones (this obviously lengthens the article, but, really, what harm's done by that? Nobody who isn't interested will want to look at the site anyway. Those who ARE interested can thereby get a fuller picture). The web is now the main source of primary information for a lot of people. I deal with many controversial subjects. I can think of no better way of ensuring that my actual position is known. I'm happy to be attacked for what I have said and done, and for what I do think. But it serves nobody, or at least nobody decent, if I'm attacked for things I haven't said and don't think.

Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 10:00, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

If this story is untrue:
He dismisses as untrue a story that he arrived late at a lecture saying he had been "too busy starting the revolution". He seldom attended any lectures at all.
shouldn't this section be deleted? I don't think the BBC online profile is particularly well known and therefore it isn't important enough to include if it is false. Magic Pickle 17:53, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

This article documents a lot of Hitchens' opinions, but it also documents justification for them. "He argues that...", and similar phrases, make the article sound like third-person soapbox. There are already articles on Wikipedia arguing for and against various things, and they can be wikilinked.  -- Run!  21:31, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

Raised as Jewish / born as Jewish

I'm slightly confused as to why the description of the erroneous comment that Hitchens was 'born' Jewish is continually being changed back to 'raised' Jewish. As far as I can tell, checking the edit history of the article, the first time the Jewish heritage was mentioned it was described as 'born' not 'raised'. Unless someone can prove otherwise I'm going to change it back to 'born' once again because this was what the erroneous contributor added. Magic Pickle 19:14, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

You do what you want, Pickle old chap. I can't be bothered to trawl through every version. My clear recollection of the matter is that the first time I noticed it the entry said 'raised as Jewish', which was the reason I felt it necessary to add my comments on this subject. This makes sense if you think about it. I suppose you could argue that anyone with ANY Jewish ancestry at all was "born Jewish", if you cared that much, though my experience is that the people who DO care that much are best avoided. It would be pointless to dispute it and probably wrong to do so as as well. Would it be a bad thing, or something that needed correcting? Hardly. And if anyone DID think it a bad thing, it would be important to say that yes, indeed I WAS "born Jewish". But to be "raised as Jewish" is a wholly different matter, implying a cultural and religious background which I do not possess and giving an entirely misleading picture of the sort of upbringing I had. Which is why I thought it important to correct it. As for the business about lectures and revolutions, the claim is on public record (I think it appears in Greg Dyke's autobiography)so my response might as well be on record as well. Not that it matters. I'm just a bit bored by repeatedly hearing it said when I know it's not the case. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback.Clockback 11:15, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm not going to dispute whether anyone is Jewish or not - that's a whole complicated issue and relies on the personal opinion of the individual interpreting their heritage. Fine. However, your recollection is clearly wrong, and the original mention of it is 'born', for better or worse. We have two options in order to keep proceedings accurate - either delete the whole mention of it because it is not important to an understanding of 'Peter Hitchens', or at least get it right about what the erroneous contributor actually said - and challenge the contribution on that. Magic Pickle 12:27, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

Dear Mr Pickle, You entirely miss my point. My response was to an entry saying "raised as", rather than "born". It would make no sense otherwise, as I sought to explain above. That's why I noted that the entry was written in response to it. By repeatedly and officiously altering what I wrote in good faith, you are interfering with MY account of MY reason for writing it, a subject on which I am, by definition, better informed than you are. I am not quite sure what makes you think this is your job. Now, I may have entirely imagined this phrase, but unless you are prepared to trawl through every single version of the entry (which the use of the expression 'as far as I can tell ' suggests you have not done) to see if there was EVER any such entry, and to produce your proof, we have not established that. So why not just leave the item alone? The alternative is simply to delete the whole thing, which will probably lead to the error being repeated and the whole thing starting again. Which of these two possibilities is the more likely to be enlightening to readers of Wikipedia?

Peter Hitchens, signed in as ClockbackClockback 15:41, 21 February 2006 (UTC)


Fine. I have double checked the edit history to make sure I was not misinforming you. The last mention of 'born Jewish' occurred at 03:37 on 11 December. 'Raised as Jewish' is not present in any of the previous entries. The first correction correcting the (non existent)'raised as Jewish' entry occurred on the 13th December at 10.13. There is no other mention of 'raised' between those times. Therefore 'born' changed to the correction of 'raised' without 'raised' actually appearing in the intervening period. There is the proof. If you wish to correct an 'erroneous' contribution that never actually happened, that is up to you. As for whos 'job' it is to monitor articles - any Wikipedian who wants to keep things accurate, presumably. Besides, if you keep mentioning mistakes that people add to articles within the article itself, you will just have articles almost entirely made of "an anonymous contributor incorrectly added fact Z". The articles on Wikipedia are meant to be written in the style of an article in a standard encyclopaedia - that's the goal, anyway. I will not yet change the entry back again as it is rapidly becoming a pointless endeavour. The fact you made a mistake in your recollection is perfectly human and no big problem. If, however the mistaken recollection remains in the article as fact, it undermines everyone's credibility. I leave the final decision as to what should be corrected up to yourself and the other fine Wikipedians here. Sincerely, Magic Pickle logged in as Magic Pickle 20:03, 24 February 2006 (UTC)

Thank you. In that case the only reasonable thing I can do is apologise for doubting you, and to delete the response. Peter Hitchens, logged in as Clockback Clockback 14:47, 25 February 2006 (UTC)

Authorship

I am almost certain that this article was written by Peter Hitchens himself. It's heavy in opinion and justification of his own opinions. Wikipedia is not the place for such dogmatism - he has his own 'blog' in the Mail on Sunday.

Also, compare the volume that is entered to other journalists or public figures.

See above.  -- Run!  20:37, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

As discussed above, the original article was most certainly NOT written by me, and was fairly long before I ever discovered it. I am quite unembarrassed about having made my own contributions to it, as they have all been intended to make the entry more accurate. I have taken care not to censor legitimate criticisms of me posted by others. As it happens, it now illustrates rather well my own view that the adversarial method is the best way of reaching the truth. The entry exists, presumably, because the ideas I set out are interesting to some, attractive to some and repulsive to some. Note that the entry ( quite rightly) says almost nothing about me personally. It is all about ideas. It contains criticisms of my ideas, and responses to those criticisms which will all be helpful to those interested in the truth - which must be the main object of any encyclopaedia. It does not remotely resemble a blog. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 09:48, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

Peter Hitchens's views on drugs

[The first two comments below were originally posted in the POV section above, and moved to this new section by Philip Cross in order to attain a closer chronological sequence of user comments. It is not as though this article is going to be in a constant state for very long!]

Hi, I hope someone can help me. I am unsure why my contribution to the wiki has been removed. I wrote in the section "On Drugs" that "Hitchens does not campaign for the prohibition of the drug alcohol". It was removed saying "POV comment" but I do not understand why. It is accurate, objective, and relevant to the subject. Sorry, I am new to this so I hope that someone could explain the rules I have broken? Thanks, Chris

It seemed to me to be an attempt to undermine the anti-drug movement. Lots of people are against drugs but not smoking, or alcohol. The drug debate isn't just a black-or-white, all-or-nothing issue. The comment you added seemed to be an attempt to show Hitchens as a hypocrit - yet there are legitimate reasons for opposing drugs like cannibis and not drugs like tobacco and alcohol. The edit you made may have been true but it isn't relevant.  -- Run!  14:24, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
Chris, your comment did not apply to what Peter Hitchens' has said or done directly, so I chose to remove it for the reason I gave. Alcohol consumption is socially acceptable, and aside from the issues of (mainly) public order and domestic violence, does not have the associations with criminality that the illegal use of drugs does.
One, perhaps minor omission from the article, which might be corrected is the subject of smoking. In The Abolition of Britain he rejects the current moves towards its prohibition, and asserts that it is a means of casual social contact between strangers. Ofcause, this is an unusual argument since casual contact between people is hardly restricted to loaning someone a light. Selling drugs is another example! Philip Cross 16:30, 12 March 2006 (UTC) [This entry makes untrue assertions for which the subject criticises this user below. Philip Cross 20:38, 15 March 2006 (UTC)]
Thank you for your comments. I realise that the issue of drug prohibition is not an "all-or-nothing" issue, as Peter Hitchens himself does. This is how he is in favour of prohibition of certain recreational drugs (such as cannabis) and is not in favour for others (for instance, alcohol and tobacco). I did not think the article made this clear - I felt it was misleading with sentences such as "He thinks attempts to combat drugtaking by restricting supply and persecuting dealers are futile if possession and use are not punished" when he does not want to see all drug dealing, possession and use punished, but certain specific recreational drugs only, and not others. The article makes Peter sound Straight edge when he is not. I think it is relevant.
"Alcohol consumption ... does not have the associations with criminality that the illegal use of drugs does" - This seems like a tautology to me. Thank you, Chris.
Are medically prescribed drugs associated with criminality? Should have typed "recreational" to get round this. Philip Cross 10:31, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
I am not sure what your question asks, or whether it is directed to me or someone else. Yes medically prescribed drugs are associated with criminality, when they are used illegally - heroin is an example. Chris.
Philip Cross, above, says "In The Abolition of Britain he (that is to say, me, Peter Hitchens), rejects the current moves towards its prohibition, and asserts that it is a means of casual social contact between strangers." Do I? This seems typical of the sort of misrepresentation about which I complain elsewhere.The chapter is actually about the strange contrast between the public health authorities' (quite reasonably) disapproving attitude towards smoking, which leads to lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema, and their equivocal attitude towards the homosexual practices which lead to HIV/AIDS. I do not think it rejects the current moves towards its prohibition, though I am on record as being sceptical about their effectiveness and of the scientific logic behind the belief in the dangers of second-hand smoking. That is simply because I am interested in the truth and dislike crude self-righteous persecution of my fellow creatures. I don't smoke and could never see the attractions of smoking. But here's the important bit. I specifically say (P.251 US Edition 'The Abolition of Britain') "None of this should be taken as a defence of smoking, an ugly, malodorous and expensive habit which undoubtedly hurts many of those who do it, often in deeply unpleasant ways. But it helps to explain why it was so popular,almost universal in fact,among the parents of the'bulge' generation which was born once the war was over". Unable to find unacceptable opinions in my books, my opponents often resort to such adventurous extrapolations from facts which I have stated (some similar rubbish is constantly brought up about central heating, which I am alleged to oppose).

AS for the actual issue of alcohol and tobacco, these are now part of our culture and cannot - as American experience shows - be suppressed by prohibition. Those who categorise them alongside illegal drugs -which might yet be contained and defeated by legal sanctions - are sowing deliberate moral confusion among the young. Teenagers see their parents smoking or drinking,and are encouraged by this false link to think that they are freed from any moral obligation to stay clear of illegal drugs. I personally think parents shouldn't smoke, because of the bad example they give - though I might add that one of the many reasons I don't smoke was that many of my teachers did, and I observed their dreadful coughs and yellow fingers. I think those of us who drink responsibly must be prepared to say this: that if alcohol could be banned for the general good, we would be prepared to give it up. In return, those who think that cannabis, or any other illegal drugs, have 'done them no harm' should be ready to accept that these things, in other, less fortunate, or less wealthy hands, can and do result in terrible damage. Peter Hitchens,signed in as Clockback 11:41, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

Faulty memory rather than malicious intent, but what you did write contradicts your other attitudes. Philip Cross 09:26, 15 March 2006 (UTC)


Hang on here. No malice was attributed. But shouldn't you check your memory against the facts before posting comments which attribute specific opinions to others, and which purport to 'correct' the 'omissions' of others? You are free to remember, or not to remember, your own opinions, but if you are going to attribute opinions to, say, me, I think you should check first, especially given the immense righteousness about accuracy and impartiality with which this site is imbued. And in what way did my writing contradict my other attitudes? And which other attitudes are these? Is it possible you have also mis-remembered them? I do find my critics and opponents have a terrible habit of doing things like this, so much easier than actually disputing what I DO say, but tedious for me. Peter Hitchens, logged in as Clockback 16:46, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
Quite fair chastisement, but when the deadline for this site is always a minute ago, it is not always possible to be spot on; I didn't know where my copy was in order to check against my memory, so it is not a WP issue rather my own personal failings. Sorry, but we are not discussing a deliberate error of John Siegenthaler proportions here. I'm not censoring my own mistakes above, so that I look better, but I've added a caveat in the hope that people are not misled.
I only used the words `"ugly, malodorous" practice' from AoB as I felt that it was all I needed to quote in order to convey the opinion of smoking which you outlined. Surely strong words are best when used sparingly. While Wikipedia contributors do not have a fixed word limit, concision avoids rambling prose. Where for you does "fair use" blur in to copyright infringement?
Once again, no malice is being imputed. What IS being imputed is an inability to cope with the complexity of what I actually do say, which leads(in many of my critics) to this sort of thing - the invention of an easy-to-despise, obviously wrong Peter Hitchens who can be ignored. Learn this simple thing, that when I ceased to be of the Left I didn't cease to understand the Left, and you will avoid this problem. Peter Hitchens signed as Clockback 21:29, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
In AoB again, you wrote the following on smoking, but you do not see this as applying to the love and affection gay men feel for each other, where the same proviso applies:
"What they were also rejecting was fatalism, the belief that death will come anyway, and that it is worth taking some pleasures even if they are risky." (p290)
You seem to think that I favour this fatalism. As it happens I do not, and nowhere say so. It seems to me to be a denial of the duty to use one's life to the full. I am, however, capable of understanding that others might feel differently, and of describing what I believe to be their feelings.This does not indicate endorsement, any more than factual statements about the effects of central heating indicate opposition to it. As for what I think of the affections between homosexuals, I have never considered it or written about it, so far as I recall. Arguments from silence are notoriously unreliable. PH signed in as Clockback 21:29, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
Ofcause, I was interpolating my own views, but someone else added the POV tag on the article as s/he thought it read as self-advocacy, and thus for me, some weighing of opinion seemed a partial means of alleviating it. Incidentally, far more people die of lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases related to smoking each year than AIDs.
Well of COURSE they do.Far more people smoke than engage in risky sexual practices of the kind that lead to HIV/AIDS. I had to explain the same point to a genius on the Guardian Diary about seven years ago who likewise imagined he had made some tremendous point. Did it really never cross your mind? PH signed in as Clockback 21:29, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
 Your tone therefore does suggest prejudice,
My 'tone'? What 'tone'. Explain this tone.Give examples. 'Therefore'? In what way therefore? You are imagining something you wish to believe. 'Prejudice'? Which prejudice? What have I prejudged? PH signed in as Clockback 21:29, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
a subject on which you ask for evidence. I was probably being too allusive in using the quote without explanation, as a means of covering myself on the POV issue, but then I used a strong "B" word at the start of the paragraph, and assumed that the connection was self-evident. 
In the previous paragraph of the article, I also fail to understand why you segue in to a 1979 American quote on cannabis, when I refer to a change of policy in the UK eight years earlier; the two things do not appear to be connected, unless you are trying to suggest some kind of international collusion. I added this clause, partly again for the issue of balance, but also because you often use a trope suggesting a steady regression, which is often not true.
It's blindingly obvious. 1)The 'medical use'of cannabis has next to nothing to do with the law's attitude to cannabis possession. This is because THC,a dangerous and unpredictable substance, is not much use as a medicine and even if it were, could not be administered in spliffs. I mention the Emory incident to point out that pro-cannabis campaigners consciously drag this topic in as a red herring. EXACTLY as you did.PH signed in as Clockback 21:29, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
If you still consider me a disagreeable opponent,
I have no opinions on you. Why should I? I have never met you and know nothing of you. My opinions of your arguments, and some of your methods of arguing, ought to be clear by now. PH signed in asClockback 21:29, 15 March 2006 (UTC).

I should add that of my Wikipedia contributions, I'm actually happier with my work on the Peregrine Worsthorne article, where my own opinions are less apparent, than with the Paul Johson article, where I attempted a precis of his views, but the article does indeed read as a gratuitous attack. Most articles on journalists in standard reference works, Dennis Griffiths' Encyclopedia of the British Press 1422-1992 (1992) for instance, give little idea of where journalists stand (or stood), and given Wikipedia's advantage of no word limit, this is what I have attempted to do in the appropriate articles. Philip Cross 20:38, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

Removal of tag

Seems to me that with the interpositions of "he believes" and the like in the article, and with other similar edits, that it is no longer the POV essay it was before Mr. Hitchens understood NPOV. Therefore I propose removing the POV tag. Yes, there may be a need of further POV edits here and there from time to time like any Wikipedia article, and perhaps it could stand for other cleanup, but in my view it is no longer a fatally, fundamentally flawed piece meriting a tag anymore. Comments? LeoO3 02:56, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

No, please, let's keep it. I LIKE being in the same category as the Armenian massacres. As for whether or not I shall ever 'understand' the idea of NPOV, this is not really the issue. I understand the intention all too well, but think it laughable and bound to fail, much like the supposed 'impartiality' of the British Broadcasting Corporation, which consists of a lot of social liberals doing their best to avoid making any openly partisan statements, while skewing news, current affairs and culture to suit them. I do not believe any such a thing as a 'neutral point of view' has ever existed, does exist, or will exist. The truth does exist but has to be discovered, often through arduous effort. The idea that it will be discovered by people trying to pretend that they have no opinions is absurd. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 09:58, 17 March 2006 (UTC)
Mr. Hitchens, I really think you should read the NPOV article, or re-read it if you already have. The POV tag is not meant to be there to be a boastful display of controversial status, or in an ironical statement of philosophical disagreement with the NPOV principle. Furthermore, the BBC, like any centralized traditional media outlet, is run by a handful of people who, as you say, can (and perhaps cannot help but) impose their POV in a pervasive manner, and those who disagree with that POV have no swift or effective recourse, in effect guaranteeing POV. By contrast, Wikipedia being free and open in effect forces controversial issues to be covered in a fair and impartial way via a sort of Darwinian process; any unfair coverage will be immediately corrected by the offended party, with overcorrection being corrected in turn. It's a fascinating social experiment that resembles the prisoner's dilemma. While one gains a temporary large advantage for one's POV by writing a slanted article or making a slanted edit, one and everyone else benefits more broadly and lastingly from fair coverage. Over the course of time, most of the time, it tends to work out. Take a look at abortion, for example. LeoO3 06:11, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
An interesting point, though it contains a classic misunderstanding of the Darwinian theory, which posits an undirected and wholly random sequence of events. It also misunderstands the nature of 'neutrality', a position in practice defined by its inoffensiveness to the dominant intellectual trends of the time (much as neutrality in wartime, in practice, is influenced by the relative strengths and geographical nearness of the warring powers). Majority opinion in the English-speaking world, especially among the under-40s who tend to be over-represented on the web is generally egalitarian, agnostic, and tends towards the cultural Marxism known as political correctness. I should be surprised if an entry such as this referring to a journalist and author of the Left would have attracted a warning label, even if all other things had been equal. Dissent from the mainstream is always controversial and usually met with hostility and suspicion. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 11:38, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
I don't know how much scientific background Mr. Hitchens has, but his understanding of the scientific enterprise is seriously flawed. The primitive view that in order to be "scientific," something must be observable was already questioned by Newton's contemporaries, because he referred to "atoms," which could not be observed. Today we realize that atoms are unobservable. Period. Any attempt to do so would create problems with photons colliding with other subatomic particles. There is no branch of science which does not refer to unobservable entities. Nevertheless, scientific truth can be obtained, clearly, with the proper careful use of unobservable constructs. To get to the point, the fact that Evolution posits and deals with things that have not been observed, does not detract from its scientific credentials, nor from its veracity. Evolution, like any scientific theory, like the theory of Relativity, or Quantum Field Theory, etc., does indeed suggest events that have not been observed, that will not be observed, and even that cannot be observed. Its validity--like that of any scientific theory--does not depend on a directly-observed experimentational basis, but on a much more complex argument, linking many diverse facts, and inferences drawn both from those facts, and from other facts, and from the converse to those facts. The bottom line is that in the scientific world today, there are very few, whether physicists, biologists, chemists, astronomers, zoologists, anthropologists, who doubt that species develop over time in the way that Darwin described. The discoveries of Gregor Mendel only further served to supply the microscopic mechanism to support the broader patterns that Darwin outlined. I am not going to describe all the evidence for Evolution; see the article for that. What I would like to suggest is that Mr Hitchens's suggestions that Evolution has no greater epistemic credentials than belief in God because it describes unobserved phenomena are really primitive. Suffice it to say that no one in science (or, almost no one) really questions Evolution today. It has been scientifically confirmed repeatedly, very little scientific evidence has ever suggested it is mistaken, and it continues to yield valuable fruit to understanding the animal and plant world. To what alternative view of human origins does Mr Hitchens subscribe? Does he believe that (1) Humans were created by a god, and placed here with animals and plants? (2) That humans simply existed on earth for all time, just as plants and animals? (3) That human existence is simply an unexplained fact (this is not a completely ridiculous point of view, and it clearly has greater epistemic likelihood than the previous two)? Human presence on earth, along with that of plants and other animals, is a scientific curiousity, a fact which we would like to understand. The Theory of Evolution is the answer of science to these questions. It explains the existence and the termination of animal and plant species all over the globe, in a way that is understandable, likely, and scientifically confirmed. 66.108.4.183 20:14, 4 August 2006 (UTC) Allen Roth
Mr. Hitchens, I understand Darwinian evolution as well as any reasonably well-educated person, hence my qualifier "a sort of" when I used it in an analogy. I also understand your view that natural selection cannot create a neutral article if the "natural environment" that forces "organisms" (read:articles) to conform to it consists of a set of Anglosphere netusers (and a Wikpedia community in particular) that may disproportionately disagree with you. However, Wikipedia (generally) does not operate via majority vote; it allows every individual editor to re-write any article. Thus articles must deal fairly even with minority viewpoints to "survive" or avoid substantive edits. All it takes is one person (such as yourself) to make the necessary changes. And since pretty much the full spectrum of opinion can be found on Wikipedia, this process helps ensure reasonably fair coverage for all. Is it a foolproof or perfect system? No, but over time it tends to work. P.S. Without necessarily disputing your view that people on the Right such as yourself face a more hostile environment on the net, I would note that the Noam Chomsky article once sported an NPOV tag, as do the Gerry Adams and Cindy Sheehan articles right now.LeoO3 02:56, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
I do hope you understand Darwinian theory better than most reasonably well-educated people, who wrongly believe that it is a proven fact rather than an unproven theory; or than most reasonably well-educated people who think that the evolutionists' belief in the undirected process of evolution can be reconciled with Christianity's belief in a purposeful universe. You're right that it only takes me to put things right, but I cannot spend my entire life logged on, and it equally takes only one person to destroy the whole entry or to alter it to devastating effect. What's more, there seems to be a view that it is somehow illegitimate for me to intervene at all. It is that view that has led to the introduction of the tag. Yet if I had not intervened, the entry would be seriously misleading. I think your examples of other entries with NPOV tags rather make my point that a comparable person on the Left simply would not create such controversy. Chomsky, Adams and Sheehan are all, for good or ill, far more controversial and politically significant people than I am. I have the label because I am that rare thing in my age-group, a political, moral, social and cultural conservative. In some eyes, I am a sort of generational traitor. My very existence is upsetting and inexplicable to quite a lot of my opponents. Hence the misrepresentation and name-calling against which I must constantly defend myself. Peter Hitchens, logged in as Clockback 18:19, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia Talk: message boards are for discussing the content of their articles, and are not forums for debating the validity of various opinions or viewpoints. Therefore it's inappropriate for you to make a claim of opinion on an issue such as Darwinian evolution as fact here, regardless of which side on the issue you accept. (Incidentally, as with any set of ideas, one can understand its claims without necessarily accepting or rejecting them.) Our discussion at the moment is, as I understand it, about the necessity of retaining the POV tag on the article given what you perceive as the flaws in the inherent structure of Wikipedia and a systematic anti-conservative bias by Wikipedia editors. I've been trying to illustrate for you that situation on Wikipedia is not as bad for you and those of your views as you believe. I'm sorry if my cursory search did not turn up left-leaning commentators who are in your opinion at your level of notoriety. However, I think my point that has been illustrated; there are plenty of right-leaning Wikipedia editors, and you might be surprised at how many fans you have, or even people who disagree with you but are intellectually honest and will work on fair coverage. Furthermore they do not have to be nearly as prevalent as left-leaning editors; all it takes is one. As for the tedium and imposition of time necessary to constantly monitor one's own article to ensure accuracy and fairness, I suppose you have a point. Then again, such a burden has always been on public figures; the Times of London or the BBC could print or say something unfair about you, and your options of recourse have always been far less effective than those that are available to you here. Have you clicked the "watch" tab when looking at your article while logged in? That way it will be on your watchlist and you can click on "my watchlist" whenever you visit Wikipedia to see what changes have been made. LeoO3 21:02, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the advice about the 'watch' tab, which I have taken. And I made no claim of opinion about the Darwin controversy, merely an implied swipe at yet another problem in defining this fantasy known as the Neutral Point of View. It is my experience that the incontestable fallacies I refer to above are very common, among people who believe themselves to be well-informed on this important controversy. Admittedly, these fallacies make it a lot easier to hold one opinion than another, but I can't help that. People should know the subject better if they want to argue seriously. As for the Left-wing media in Britain, I'm not sure you're right. Oddly enough, the 'Times' has been very generous in printing my letters, especially when Tony Banks traduced me in its pages, and the 'Guardian' and the 'Independent'have given me reasonable and in some cases generous rights of reply to attacks on me in their pages. In the case of the 'Guardian'they have actually given me a platform from time to time. Even the BBC, which initially dismissed any complaints from such as me as the ravings of paranoid lunatics, has eventually granted me an encouraging amount of airtime. All these came because I fought my corner, as I do here. Being compared with my old adversary Gerry Adams was fun. He once paid me the great compliment of suggesting that I should be decommissioned. Peter Hitchens signed in as Clockback 17:43, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
I agree that the article is now NPOV. Faulty 03:35, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

peterhitchens.com?

I have removed the peterhitchens.com link since it does not work. If anyone - preferably Peter himself - could explain the position with regard to this website that would be helpful. Thank you. New Canadian, 19:10 EST, 21 March 2006

I do not know what has happened to this site, which was set up by a supporter of mine, with my approval but without my direct involvement. I know he has been very busy lately and is presumably unable to maintain it. I hope it will eventually reappear.

PH, signed in as Clockback 10:08, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

"References" section

Since I have removed this section I should probably explain why:

The first link - to a BBC "Veteran columnist quits Express" article - was accompanied by a paragraph amounting to a rebuttal, apparently from Hitchens himself, in which he disputed the articles accuracy regarding his views on gun-ownership. This is overkill and out of place in a encyclopedic entry. If Mr. Hitchens has strong views on gun-ownership then they should go into a future edit of the "Liberty and Security" section (2.1). The rebuttal he wrote is better served residing on a discussion page such as this.

However, in the interests of balance, I have included in the "External Links" section a note alongside the "Veteran columnist quits Express" link serving notice of Mr. Hitchens' unhappiness with sections of the article.

The second link in the old "References" referred to discussion surrounding Peter Hitchens' Jewish ancestry or lack thereof. This was completely out of kilter with the rest of the article and in my view wholly uninteresting and irrelevant. If some are trying to link such (perceived?) ancestry to Mr. Hitchen's support for Israel, than that is absurd.

As an aside, I also gave the "see also" section a more appropriate title, but more importantly removed the following phrase: "In further contrast to his brother, Christopher is a militant atheist with a strong loathing of religion." That is highly subjective, is it not? Particularly so by the words "militant" and "strong" ???

New Canadian, 20:55 EST, 21st March 2006

On morality and culture

As is clear to anyone who studies the edit history of the Peter Hitchens entry, there appears to be a dispute revolving around a key sentence in the "Morality and Culture" section which attempts to describe Mr. Hitchens' religious beliefs.

An anonymous contributor has phrased it as follows:

A holder of strongly puritan views on sexual matters, he opposes sex education because of its contradiction of his belief that heterosexual marriage is a morally superior form of relationship that should receive preference over others

For his own part Mr. Hitchens (user Clockback) - describing his own beliefs -states:

A supporter of orthodox Christian morality, he opposes sex education because of its endorsement of sexual relationships outside marriage.

This matter has been brought to something of a head by Mr. Hitchens, who in a regrettable act (which some may consider a violation of the wikipedia vandalism policy) placed the following statement on the actual article having just restored his own version of the disputed sentence:

Peter Hitchens writes: "I have now three times removed from this entry the anonymous claim that I hold 'strongly puritan' views, and the attached claim that I object to sex education because it contradicts 'my' view that heterosexual marriage is superior to other forms of sexual relationship. This is not a question of 'my' view but of the orthodox Christian position on marriage. As for my alleged 'strongly puritan' views, I am not aware of these, which is strange if I really do hold them, and feel that such a description of my opinions is intended to give the impression that my views are in some way a character fault rather than a rational position - the default ad hominem argument of the cultural Marxist, which plagues this entry quite enough

Peter I am at a loss as to why you did not just start a new discussion section as I have done here? The above paragraph greatly demeaned and reduced the quality of the article for the brief 6-hour period before I was able to remove it, working on North American time.

In any event, the change from one description of Peter's moral stance to another has occurred several times and we need to reach agreement. The place to do it is right here. Many Thanks.

Val Hayes, signed in as New Canadian 03:30, 29 March 2006 (UTC)


Dear Val Hayes, I am at a loss as to why you should be at a loss. I am endlessly subjected to lectures about Wikipedia's alleged 'Neutral' Point of View' and about how it is illegitimate for me to intervene in a site which pronounces, often inaccurately and pejoratively, on my unfashionable views. I am now accused of 'vandalism' for having tired of correcting a nameless person who repeatedly inserted words which are both untrue and very far from 'neutral', thus 'demeaning' and 'reducing the quality' of the entry without any protest from you or anyone else. Each time I made the correction, this anonymous person deleted it and re-established the incorrect and loaded entry. Despite Wikipedia's supposed passion for 'neutrality', I waited in vain for any 'neutralist' to act on the matter. I have had a similar struggle over the way in which my views of homosexuality are described, where a similar act of 'vandalism' has brought no response from the anonymous author who sneakily accused me of 'homophobia' by placing the accusation in the mouths of (un-named) others. Nor has it brought any response from Val Hayes, or anyone else, on the 'talk' page. The unknown person, had he or she chosen, could have raised the issue on this page, where any reader knows I am prepared to argue my case and make concessions where justified. As it is, I am a firm believer in the adversarial tradition, so chose to retain the allegation and place my rebuttal beside it, so that others could choose. Unlike Wikipedia's inactive neutralists, I thought it a matter of urgency to ensure that this misrepresentation was challenged and I fully intended to bring the matter to a head by doing what I did. In this case, my point was that the phrase 'strongly puritan' was not merely an inaccurate and baseless description of my position, designed to suggest a crabbed and narrow mind. It also attempted to suggest that my views on sexual morality were a personal matter, to do with my character. Well, discussion of my character is not the purpose of Wikipedia so far as I know, and my views on these subjects are decided ,as they must be for any Christian, by the orthodoxy of my religion. And, as stated elsewhere in the entry, I am an Anglican who holds to the orthodoxies of the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised Version of the Bible and who believes that all morality is based on scripture and not subject to ad hoc reform to suit the age, or our convenience. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 09:33, 29 March 2006 (UTC)


Hello Mr. Hitchens. I hereby acknowledge your success in bringing this matter to the fore, and I am pleased that you have not reinstated your comment on the article.

To move to the substantive issue, my own preferred compromise was as follows:

A supporter of orthodox Christian morality, he opposes sex education because of what he perceives to be its endorsement of sexual relationships outside marriage.

There is no reason to doubt your assertion that you support 'orthodox Christian morality' and for my part I consider the phrase 'strongly puritan' to be objectionable on the grounds of it's subjectivity. An individual who one person may describe as 'puritanical' might well be seen by another as merely 'conservative' or even - especially when we cross cultural lines - 'socially liberal'.

My difficulty lies in your stating as a matter of fact that there is a link between "sex education" and an "endorsement of sexual relationships outside marriage". I thought it reasonable to emphasize to the reader that this link is one which you - the subject of the article - perceive, as you are entitled to.

However you appeared to object to my qualification and chose to remove it.

Can we agree that sex education endorsing sexual relationships outside marriage is a matter of your opinion and hardly factual? Can you seriously be suggesting that readers of this wikipedia entry walk away with the impression that it is a matter of indisputable fact that teenagers in Great Britain are through their education being actively encouraged to participate in sexual activity!?

Val Hayes signed in as New Canadian 17:21, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Dear Val Hayes, no , we cannot agree. In fact you will find factual material on this very subject in Chapter 13 of my 1999 Book 'The Abolition of Britain' - as you will if you make any investigation of the material used in official sex education classes in Britain which strive to the point of rupture to avoid endorsing marriage, and on the contrary treat all sexual relationships as equal - supposedly to avoid 'offending' children whose parents are not married, or are being brought up by homosexuals. As for the 'active encouragement', I didn't know we were arguing about that as the words don't now appear in the entry. But since you ask, it seems to me that 'education' which clearly assumes that the educatees are engaging in extra-marital and pre-marital sex, and which explains how to do so 'safely' , ie avoiding pregnancy or disease, is active encouragement, and the deliberate undermining of the views of parents who believe that such sexual relationships are wrong. As to "Can you seriously be suggesting...", the standard opening to almost all questions asked of me by BBC presenters, yes, I can be and I am. It is my job seriously to suggest that some things are happening, using their proper names and not hesitating to describe their nature. And you, all unconscious, reveal your own considerable partisanship by framing the question in this form. Why shouldn't I be serious? Are there many things MORE serious than the moral training of the young? Is there no connection between 'sex education' and the epidemic of promiscuity, illegal under-age sex, schoolgirl pregnancy and mass abortion, not to mention venereal disease, which now affect Britain and many other Western countries? Might it not be reasonable to suppose that, since such things have increased ever since sex education became general, that its claim to reduce them should be re-examined? Yes, I can be seriously suggesting that, and I am, and YOU should be seriously considering the possibility that I might be right to do so. But you won't, if you armour yourself in this fashion against dissenting thought. A bit like calling me 'Bonkers' really, though less actively puerile. Peter Hitchens, signed on as Clockback 12:17, 30 March 2006 (UTC)

"It seems to me that 'education' which clearly assumes that the educatees are engaging in extra-marital and pre-marital sex, and which explains how to do so 'safely' , ie avoiding pregnancy or disease, is active encouragement..".

Mr Hitchens - It is statements like this which, I would respectfully suggest, do you no favours. Whatever your opinion on the morality of sex education in schools, there is a massive difference between explaining to individuals the health risks involved and how to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease, and actively telling them to go out and have sex with people, which is what the word "encouragement" implies. I know a couple of teachers and whatever you think, I know for a fact they do not encourage under-age kids to go out and have sex. Certainly, teenage pregnancy and increasing disease is a huge and distressing problem, but let's be realistic: Now matter how desirable it would be to you to have a country where extra-marital and under-age sex does not occur, it is going to. This is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if sex education had not been a part of school life in the last 30 years or so what the statistics would look like. I suspect that the rates of pregnancy and disease would be far higher than they are now.

Anyway, apologies for the digression as I appreciate this page is not really the place for that particular debate. I enjoyed "The Abolition of Liberty" while not agreeing with some of it, so will seek out "The Abolition of Britain". Regards Nsign 13:47, 30 March 2006 (UTC)

The endorsement of certain actions by authority is encouragement. If a private individual took your child( if you have one) aside and began explaining to that child the uses of condoms, the refinements of oral sex or indeed the 'safe' use of syringes you would, I suspect, take it pretty badly. You might go further. You might even seek their arrest and prosecution for 'grooming'. Teachers do exactly this under statutory authority and with the endorsement of government and establishment. I am amazed that people take it so calmly. Of course your teacher friends do not urge their pupils to engage in illicit sex, or tell them that marriage does not matter. But they teach curricula which assume that these things are normally the case. Were you ever an adolescent? Do you remember how it felt, or what messages you drew from the culture around you? Nobody is sugegsting that sexual immorality can be abolished, but I should have thought we might try to to reduce it rather than to endorse it. I am in no doubt that, had this immoral rubbish been kept out of schools, things would be nowhere near as bad as they are. There is not, and never has been any evidence of sex education reducing promiscuity by one tiny bit, anywhere in the world. Now, I agree that to say that sex education had caused the explosion of promiscuity would be a) a single cause argument and b) a 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' fallacy. I limit myself to the demonstrable point that it continues to be pursued even though it has failed on its own (ostensible) terms everywhere it has been tried (though in Holland, where religious morality remains strong especially in country districts, it has done less damage than in secular Britain) , and believe that its amoral non-judgementalism is rightly seen by pupils as official endorsement and implied encouragement of promiscuity. But I would welcome serious, independent research into its effect. I wonder if its proponents would. I also wonder why there has been no such research. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 11:19, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

”The endorsement of certain actions by authority is encouragement” Is it? I endorse the personal freedom of an individual to follow any religious or political philosophy they wish to, but does it therefore follow that I encourage someone to follow one in particular? I think it’s a subtle but important difference.

Yes, if a private individual did such a thing, I would not be happy. The responsibility ultimately lies, as it should, with a child’s parents to educate their offspring in such matters if they decide to do so. I think the finger of blame can be pointed at parents who do not take these responsibilties as seriously as they should, or go red in the face and decide to leave it to someone else. I don’t believe the practice of sex education in schools is an attempt to preach immorality or encourage promiscuity; I think it is an attempt (arguably misguided and unsuccessful as you say, but unarguably well-intentioned) to reduce the harm that results from under-age and unprotected sex. I believe our current problems have far more to do with sex-obsessed celebrity magazines, tabloid newspapers, the fashion industry , certain (but certainly not all) sections of the music world and TV programmes such as Big Brother which actively encourage the participants to jump into bed. (The Sun, incidentally, outdid itself on 17th March – A headline hysterically screaming about the “paedo menace”, while page 3 had a picture of two topless models in schoolgirls outfits. Classy.) Sex education is an attempt at damage limitation (which admittedly may not be successful) and that is why most parents don’t object to its place in the curriculum. They have the option of removing their children from such lessons if they so wish. Sex education as an idea is not, in my opinion, inherently immoral; I would suggest it is the opposite if done properly, responsibly and with clear moral guidance. The message that adolescents take from the all-pervading culture around them, I would imagine, is that celebrity is everything, sex is free and easy, and drinking till you vomit is a laugh. It is the duty of parents to see that this message does not stick, and sex requires responsibility and maturity.

”Of course your teacher friends do not urge their pupils to engage in illicit sex, or tell them that marriage does not matter. But they teach curricula which assume that these things are normally the case.” To return to what Val Hayes has said, I would argue that the “indisputible fact” point you make is indeed a matter of opinion (although I have no intention of fiddling with the article), and mine is that sex education does not actively endorse underage, illicit or extra-marital sex, but acknowledges that it happens – Surely not an unreasonable or immoral assumption? The actual curriculum is however, as you say like so many things carefully weighted so as not to offend anyone, and needs to be re-examined. I’d also welcome serious research into its effects. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking response (and apologies again for blatantly wandering off the topic of this discussion page – I will stick to email from this point if I respond further). Nsign 14:09, 31 March 2006 (UTC)



Dear Mr. Hitchens, your reaction was somewhat knee-jerk and I kindly suggest that you did not read my comment carefully enough. The key words in my final sentence were "that it is a matter of indisputable fact...". My emphasis at all times is on attempting to ensure that this article maintains as far as possible the neutral and detached air that one expects to find in any encyclopedia. It is wholly legitimate and logical that your views be explained in this article, but it needs to be made clear to the reader that they are in fact your views. I'm sorry, but I simply cannot accept that is a matter of fact that sex education endorses sexual relationships outside marriage (and therefore by extension 'actively encourages' illicit sexual activity among the young), and that is precisely what the article maintains through the publishing of your following sentence:

A supporter of orthodox Christian morality, he opposes sex education because of its endorsement of sexual relationships outside marriage

I am honestly surprised by your continued rejection of my reasonable qualification "what he perceives to be it's endorsement of...". I would point out to you that if the link between sex education and relationships outside marriage were indeed factual, you would not have felt the need to argue for said link in 'The Abolition of Britain', no more than I feel the need to put time and effort into an article arguing for the indisputable fact that Paris is indeed the capital of France. You are entitled to your views Peter, and through your newspaper column and blog you have converted me to most of them, but I fear you are just a little bit blinkered if you cannot distinguish said views from statements which are demonstrably factual.

In the meantime your 'puritan' obsessed friend is back, they deserve points for persistence if nothing else. Do not lose sight of who your real opponents are! And keep up the great work. It must be a lonely business being Peter Hitchens in a country as fiercely secular and liberal as the UK.

Kind Regards, Val Hayes signed in as New Canadian 16:33, 30 March 2006 (UTC)


Dear Val Hayes, as has been pointed out elsewhere, a knee-jerk is a sign of a healthy reflex. I am quite aware of your point and read it carefully. The section in 'The Abolition of Britain' as I made clear in my reply to you above ( which you appear not to have read with sufficient care) refers to a factual survey of these programmes in use in Britain which confirms my allegation. Since I researched the book in 1998, I am confident that things have gone even further in that direction since then. If you think that my book is just an 'argument' without reference to facts, it is plainly time that you read it. What you may not have grasped about 'secular, liberal' Britain is that such things take place without any serious protest, and that if people such as me didn't draw attention to them, nobody would even know about them. They are indisputable facts nonetheless, even though the 'Guardian' newspaper and the BBC haven't observed them. I am sorry you cannot accept them, but that is a problem brought about by your understandable incredulity (and perhaps your lack of knowledge about the advance of cultural Marxism in this country) not of my alleged blinkers. The excellent North American edition of 'Abolition of Britain' is still readily available. This feature of sex education programmes in British schools IS an indisputable fact. Please stop messing around with the entry. There are quite enough people doing that already. The entry does not currently contain any phrase resembling the 'actively encourages' about which we are somewhat pointlessly arguing, so can we leave that out of THIS discussion. Peter Hitchens signed in asClockback 11:19, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

Mr Hitchens, To 'endorse' something is by definition to 'actively encourage' it. If an well known athlete 'endorses' a given product, he is actively encouraging me to go out and buy it. This is where I source the words 'actively encourage'. You cannot divorce the two phrases, the fact that the latter is not expressly used in the article notwithstanding. As to the disputed sentence, we will have to agree to disagree. My compromise is democratic and reasonable and in fact very close to your own version. But I am tired of changing it so you have likely won out. Thank you. Val Hayes, signed in as New Canadian 18:31, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

I do not understand how anyone can 'agree to disagree ' about a matter of fact. It is an indisputable fact, not a matter of my opinion, that sex education programmes endorse sexual relationships outside marriage. Peter Hitchens signed in as Clockback 09:59, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

I have ordered the British edition of your book and will reserve further judgement until I've read it! Val Hayes signed in as New Canadian 18:43, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

A pity you did not order the US edition as urged. You would have got it more quickly and it also mentions the source of the survey of British sex education programmes from which my facts are drawn. This appears in a pamphlet by Valerie Riches,'Sex and Social Engineering', published by the Family Education Trust , Oxford 1994. Peter Hitchens signed in as Clockback 09:20, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

Hmmm, I thought I'd get more out of the British edition since I come from Dublin and have always paid close attention to British politics. Never mind. Val Hayes signed in as New Canadian 14:29, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

Brothers

Somebody posted this at the Christopher Hitchens article: "Christopher Hitchens is a militant atheist, extremely critical of religion, calling it the ultimate expression of human egotism and stupidity. Peter Hitchens appears to be strongly religious - he calls the theory of evolution a "mad religion", and refers to supporters of the theory like David Attenborough as "evolutionist Ayatollahs" or "evolutionist Fundamentalists". Do these polar-opposite views warrant a mention?" I was wondering if anyone more familiar with Peter might have some thoughts? The CH article has a paragraph on their relationship but this one only mentions that they are brothers. Thanks. --JGGardiner 07:43, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't recall using the phrase 'mad religion', though I have described and do describe the evolutionary belief as a faith, which (in the absence of the possibility of observation, and therefore of proof) is exactly what it is. I have also mocked evolutionist dogmatists, by turning against them the same dismissive terms they use against Christians and other religious believers. The central difference between me and my brother is undoubtedly our disagreement over the issue of religion. I would point out to those interested that his views on this appear to have become more nuanced in the last year or so. He stated in an interview with a Christian magazine that he is seeking to ensure that his children are familiar with the Authorised Version of the Bible, because without such knowledge an understanding of much art and literature would be impossible. In our public discussion at the Hay festival in 2005 he similarly sympathised with my objections to the modernisation of the Anglican liturgy, a modernisation which anyone who loves the English language tends to view as crass and ugly, but about which he was not obliged or even asked to comment. In his writings about Iran, following his visit to that country, he has appeared to accept the possibility of some dialogue with some Muslims. He has also stressed in discussions of his latest book that Thomas Paine, one of the historical figures for whom he has much sympathy, was a Theist and not an atheist or an anti-theist. None of these suggests any change in his position, but they do represent a change in his tone of voice. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 13:39, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the response. Well certainly someone familiar with Peter. I'm sorry if that is a misquote. I was just reprinting a post from the Christopher talk page. Although the "mad relgion" quote is in this article right now. Does somebody has a source on that? That certainly sheds some light on Christopher. Although I hadn't expected such a shift in his beliefs. His article currently describes him as an atheist but gives few details outside of the Mother Teresa section. I'm now a little more curious about what he will say in God is Not Great.
As for this article, all that it says is "Christopher's views on most issues are to the left of Peter's" which seems a bit understated. The CH article also doesn't say very much. Peter is only mentioned in the ethnic identity section (it suggests that their views are in dispute) and another paragraph about the brothers falling out. If somebody with more knowledge would like to expand that, I'd appreciate it. But if the consensus is to leave the minimal text, I'm fine with that too. Thanks. --JGGardiner 04:18, 11 July 2006 (UTC)
Both Peter and Christopher Hitchens have a talent for powerful invective, and both use it well to argue for or against religion. I don’t remember the “mad religion” quote, but the “Evolutionist Ayatollahs” remark has certainly popped up a few times in Peter’s Mail on Sunday column. Although I disagree with most of Peter’s views (I probably make Peter Tatchell look like a right-wing activist), I’m a big fan of his writing. Unlike Richard Littlejohn, who wrongly believes himself to be a comic genius, Peter Hitchens seems a likeable man with a lot of personal integrity. His honesty about his communist activism in his student days, for example, is refreshing. I particularly agree with Peter's characterization of Tony Blair as a hollow man with no real views on anything, obsessed only with maintaining power. I also share Peter’s suspicions about sinister ID cards and other Stalinist attacks on civil liberties. However, Peter’s views on evolution just make me shake my head in disbelief. The evidence for evolution is vast. The immense fossil-record literally shows that living creatures have gradually changed over time, from the smallest and most basic organisms to humans and dolphins. To suggest that Christianity or Islam are credible as science, or a reliable account of life’s origin… that baffles me. Genesis can't even help contradicting itself from Genesis 1 to Genesis 2. I have no problem with Theism or Deism, but religious dogmas and doctrines are nonsensical human fabrications that have done more to stunt our species than any other ideological force. Just look at the Middle-east and the "Holy Lands", where these branches of fundamentalism are strongest... -Neural 13:11, 29 July 2006 (UTC)
Given that you are obviously so fair-minded, you rather miss the point here. This could be because evolution, and science in general, are so badly taught in schools. The evidence for evolution is extensive, not least because belief in this theory is intellectually fashionable and evidence which tends to support it is given easy acceptance, but it is not conclusive and anyone who accepts the normal rules of scientific proof must likewise accept this. The "immense fossil record" is in fact full of gaps, and is a bit of an embarrassment to the Darwinists because it also tends to show quite a lot of sudden appearances and disappearances of a kind that evolution would not allow. The famous 'Cambrian Explosion' is acknowledged as a problem by all serious students of the subject. Why not just accept that this is inconclusive? And then accept the logical consequence of this, that you (like me) are free to choose what you believe and that science is no more able to be prescriptive about this than is the Christian church? The fossil record does not "literally show" anything. Always be careful of using the word 'literally'. Any statement containing this word usually means the opposite. This is the whole problem with the evolution cult. Its proponents ask for it to be treated as the literal truth. they argue that it is a scientific theory, on a par with the theory of flight or the theory of gravity, or the laws of motion of the planets. But it is not akin to these, because it has not been, and cannot be OBSERVED. If it took place at all, it took place when there were no witnesses to record it. And it is not taking place now. And it cannot be used to predict events. The theory is undoubtedly persuasive, especially to those who wish to be persuaded. But it remains a matter of unproven, and unproveable conjecture. I note that, having asserted your faith in evolution, you immediately switch to a denunciation of rival dogmas, suggesting that the only alternative to Darwinism is Bible literalism (which I should have thought it was clear I do not accept) or Koran literalism (likewise). What a giveaway. You aren't prepared to deal with what I actually say, and so contrive to suggest that I imagine Moses shared the planet with the dinosaurs. Don't be silly. Engage with what I observably do think, not with what you would prefer me to believe. The thing that worries the Darwinist dogmatist is the sceptical position of the more cogent spokesmen of 'Intelligent design'. They cast effective doubt on evolutionist dogma, without offering their own dogma as an alternative. They specifically do NOT embrace Bible literalism or 'Young Earth' creationism. I have repeatedly stated, and now repeat once more (since you don't appear to have noticed, or grasped the significance of it), that I have no idea how life began or how the realm of nature took its present shape. Nor have you. Please don't misrepresent my scepticism as a rival certainty.
Your thoughts on the Middle East are likewise interestingly flawed. Zionism, which led to the creation of Israel, is a profoundly secular creed fiercely opposed by many Orthodox Jews. Judophobia, the force which created Zionism, has been espoused both by the religious and by the bitterly anti-religious. In the 20th century I suspect the latter were more important. Bigotry and foolish intolerance exist both among the religious and the atheist. They cannot be blamed on religion. They can be blamed on stupidity and on human wickedness, theist and atheist alike.
Peter Hitchens, signed in asClockback 20:12, 30 July 2006 (UTC)
I don't think we are ever likely to agree on this. I perhaps mistakenly used the word literally in my message above. Fair point. However, I find the evidence for evolution to be so overwhelming as to paint an obvious picture. Given that Intelligent Design advocates are trying to promote their theories, particularly in America, we'll have to wait and see what emerges. I'm rather skeptical, since creationists have been trying to discredit evolution since Darwin wrote the Origin of the Species. One of the classic examples is to suggest the human eye is "too complex" to have evolved, although this is now more understood (see evolution of the eye). You hint that it is only faith that keeps people supporting evolution as a theory. I can't speak for others, but if Intelligent Design had anything other than ardent claims to support it and if evolution was shown to be flawed (rather than saying "the fossil record has gaps in it" - of course it is incomplete!) I would dismiss the theory. That's how the scientific method works.
As for your arguments about Israel... perhaps Zionism is a secular philosophy. Honestly, I don't know enough about it. What I do observe is that the Middle-East is scarred by religion more than anything else. However bad you may think things are here, I'd rather live in the UK than Iran or any other theocracy past or present. To talk down the role of religion in the Middle-East's problems seems dubious.
Anyway, thanks for your reply Peter. I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on some things... -Neural 10:37, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

You are not paying attention. So determined are you to believe that I am as dogmatic as you, that you skate past my repeated statements to the contrary, too fast to notice them. More important, you miss the significance of these statements, that is to say, my own withdrawal from any claim of certainty, accompanied by a request for the same withdrawal from you. It's not as if you can prove you are right.

You offer to 'agree to disagree'. I accept, up to a point. However, you do not really mean what you say. It is only possible to 'agree to disagree' where facts and logic run out. But what we disagree about is precisely where they do run out. You cannot agree that, in the matter of evolution, facts and logic do indeed run out and certainty is not possible. You have persuaded yourself that you are certain of the truth of evolutionary theory, which, bizarrely, you treat as a proven fact, apparently because it's 'obvious'. But that is exactly what it isn't . What is your source for this belief? Someone told you so at school? You read it in a magazine? But it simply isn't. Why do think Richard Dawkins keeps writing books trying to prove that it is true, if it has already been proven to be so? Presumably, you have invented this certainty for dogmatic reasons. You prefer ( I cannot imagine why, but there) the idea of a chaotic, purposeless universe to that of an ordered, purposeful one. Your faith that this is so then impels you to believe things about which we have imperfect knowledge. Since I have not given you any material with which you can disagree, you seek to associate me with those who maintain that they eye is so complex that it could not have evolved. Well, I'll happily concede that the eye might have evolved. It might have done. I cannot prove it didn't. I just don't think it did (because I prefer the idea of an ordered, purposeful universe, and its moral implications), and nobody has ever proved, or ever will prove, that it did. Are you prepared to make the matching concession, and say that, likewise, it might have been created, and that you cannot prove it wasn't? No, though you cannot prove that the eye evolved, you choose to be certain that it did so, certain to the point where you become dismissive of those who doubt your certainty. That is because your supposedly scientific view is actually based not upon knowledge, but upon your evolutionist faith, to whose dogma all facts must be subjected. You breezily accept that the fossil record is full of gaps, though you (wisely, perhaps)weave past the other fossil problem, that of the sudden appearances and disappearances which it reveals. But for someone supposedly so keen on science, you do not recognise the problems this creates for your dogma.Nothing will 'emerge' from the debates over the teaching of ID, except perhaps one day a more intelligent and thoughtful style of teaching of this subject in schools, where it is currently misrepresented. ID is not a theory like that of evolution, or even the previous theory of creation. Because Darwinism destroyed an all-pervading certainty, it felt the need to become one itself, and has ever since been trying to defend itself against legitimate scepticism, because it is unproven and unproveable and cannot pass its own tests. This is why it has had to resort to intolerance and dogma, and to increasingly Papal assertions of its own truth, even though its Popes disagree profoundly about its nature. ID is a sceptical current. It does not seek to prescribe any particular belief, but to cast doubt on the dogmas of the Darwinist Ayatollahs. It specifically rejects the Young Earth creationists. It seeks to permit religious faith to co-exist with science, as it is perfectly able to do. Its opponents are not scientists or science, but dogmatic atheists who have hijacked and exaggerated science to assert that they have proved the non-existence of God. This argument cannot be resolved because of the absence of observable phenomena and the impossibility of falsification through prediction. That's how the scientific method works. If, as you say, you don't know much about the Middle East, and if you really doubt ( for example) that Zionism, National Socialism, British and American colonialism, Arab nationalism and many of the other forces which have been at work there are secular, then shouldn't you try to find out a bit more before expressing such strong opinions? I am not 'talking down the role of religion'. I am merely casting doubt on your attempt to blame the problems there, apparently exclusively, on 'religious dogmas'. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 12:58, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

I appreciate your willingness to debate this subject. I'll get back to thread shortly. The reason for a couple of hasty replies here is a matter of limited time and having to dash away. I want to be able to take time to read all your points carefully before responding more thoughtfully, so I'll come back to this tomorrow when I have a bit more time. I think you misrepresent me slightly up there, but there you go. For the moment, thanks again for taking the time to respond. To be continued.... -Neural 13:23, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
No, please don't. The talk pages are for discussion of the articles. If you'd like to continue that debate please use your user talk page instead. --JGGardiner 01:53, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
Very well. I'm sorry; usually, I know better but carried away at times.
Peter, I have continued this argument on your user talk page if you are remotely interested. My dogmatic rant was probably far too long-winded to post here anyway. -Neural 11:18, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
I don't know how much scientific background Mr. Hitchens has, but his understanding of the scientific enterprise is seriously flawed. The primitive view that in order to be "scientific," something must be observable was already questioned by Newton's contemporaries, because he referred to "atoms," which could not be observed. Today we realize that atoms are unobservable. Period. Any attempt to do so would create problems with photons colliding with other subatomic particles. There is no branch of science which does not refer to unobservable entities. Nevertheless, scientific truth can be obtained, clearly, with the proper careful use of unobservable constructs. To get to the point, the fact that Evolution posits and deals with things that have not been observed, does not detract from its scientific credentials, nor from its veracity. Evolution, like any scientific theory, like the theory of Relativity, or Quantum Field Theory, etc., does indeed suggest events that have not been observed, that will not be observed, and even that cannot be observed. Its validity--like that of any scientific theory--does not depend on a directly-observed experimentational basis, but on a much more complex argument, linking many diverse facts, and inferences drawn both from those facts, and from other facts, and from the converse to those facts. The bottom line is that in the scientific world today, there are very few, whether physicists, biologists, chemists, astronomers, zoologists, anthropologists, who doubt that species develop over time in the way that Darwin described. The discoveries of Gregor Mendel only further served to supply the microscopic mechanism to support the broader patterns that Darwin outlined. I am not going to describe all the evidence for Evolution; see the article for that. What I would like to suggest is that Mr Hitchens's suggestions that Evolution has no greater epistemic credentials than belief in God because it describes unobserved phenomena are really primitive. Suffice it to say that no one in science (or, almost no one) really questions Evolution today. It has been scientifically confirmed repeatedly, very little scientific evidence has ever suggested it is mistaken, and it continues to yield valuable fruit to understanding the animal and plant world. To what alternative view of human origins does Mr Hitchens subscribe? Does he believe that (1) Humans were created by a god, and placed here with animals and plants? (2) That humans simply existed on earth for all time, just as plants and animals? (3) That human existence is simply an unexplained fact (this is not a completely ridiculous point of view, and it clearly has greater epistemic likelihood than the previous two)? Human presence on earth, along with that of plants and other animals, is a scientific curiousity, a fact which we would like to understand. The Theory of Evolution is the answer of science to these questions. It explains the existence and the termination of animal and plant species all over the globe, in a way that is understandable, likely, and scientifically confirmed. 66.108.4.183 21:53, 4 August 2006 (UTC) Allen Roth

Gosh, aren't the evolution dogmatists wonderful? The theory must be true because nearly everybody thinks it is. Thus, Phlogiston existed, blood didn't circulate, the sun went round the earth, Thalidomide was safe, cot death was prevented by lying babies on their fronts, burns were treated by putting grease on them, pre-frontal lobotomy cured mental illness, etc etc, because, at the time, these beliefs were as fashionable as the belief in evolution now is? Because "no-one really questioned them" they were correct? And then they ceased to be true because they lost their majority? Thus, truth or its absence should be decided by referendum? A moment's thought disposes of this pitiful logic, which can be summed up in the words 'My gang's bigger than your gang, so you must be wrong". Also, I did not merely say that something needed to be observable to be proveable, but that it needed to be testable through prediction and potential falsification. The theory of evolution does not qualify in either case. It cannot be observed, nor can it be used to predict. Mr Roth asserts that the theory of evolution has been "scientifically confirmed, repeatedly". Really? Where? When? By whom? Can he point me to these confirmations? Or is he, like so many dogmatists on this subject, just convinced of their existence because he has been brought up in this belief and never questioned it? I note that he maintains it is simultaneously "confirmed" and "likely". Actually, it cannot be both. If it is confirmed, then it is true, which means that calling it "likely" is something of a retreat. But I don't blame him for hedging his bets here. "Likeliness" is a quality that resides in the subjective mind, about which there can be no argument (I, for instance, find the theory of evolution so unlikely as to be quite funny, but don't advance this as an argument). He then tries to drag the argument away from the question of knowledge, where he is understandably uncomfortable, and into the question of belief, where he hopes to trap me into a dogma as daft as his own. What I believe , which cannot be proved, is my own business. What I know, as I repeatedly state, is that I have no idea how life began, how it came to be in its present form, nor of how the universe took its present shape. Nor does Mr Roth, but because the culture and fashion are currently on his side, he thinks he does. I accept that he might be right. I ask only the same from him. One more time, I am not interested in attempting to prove my beliefs are correct. They are a matter of free choice. I shall find out in due time, as shall we all, if I have got it right. If I have it wrong, then it will be too late to matter. I wish to be able to choose what to believe, with all its moral and aesthetic implications, without being told by arrogant ignoramuses, who think they know things that they don't, that my beliefs are outlawed by science. The evolution dogma is a totalitarian assault on the freedom of belief every bit as oppressive as that made by the Popes in the era of Galileo. And on one thing I do agree with Richard Dawkins, who understands his own dogmas well enough to see that religious belief and belief in evolution are wholly incompatible. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 11:31, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

There is no arguing with a bully. Because that is what Mr Hitchens is. An intellectual bully. Or, he would like to be one. First, I use the word "confirmed." Then, I write "likely." A contradiction! I must have written "likely" to "hedge" my claim of "confirmed." This is the level on which Hitchens thinks. I of course, mean the same concept with both words; viz., considered, evaluated, and accepted as true within the parameters of scientific discourse. Apparently, because I chose not to repeat all the evidence in favor of evolution's view on the origin of species and Natural Selection, Mr Hitchens thinks me "ignorant" of the origins of life. I am merely being courteous of other readers’ space and time, and therefore direct you to Evolution, where you may read, with interest, I hope, the fascinating multidiscipliary arguments and evidence in favor of this theory. Consider the opposable thumb. Is it mere coincidence (as it must be, for Mr Hitchens), that the only creatures possessing this valuable trait are humans and apes? Why don’t cats, dogs, tigers, zebras, or horses have these? Is it nothing but coincidence that the only mammals having these are all closely related phylogenetically? I think not. This is just one small example of the type of phenomenon which Evolution seeks to understand and explain. If I were to have the time or inclination to dwell on the many such arguments, perhaps Mr Hitchens’s ignorance, and the weakness of his point of view will become more apparent. Bared of the safety in vague generalities, obfuscation, or name-calling, I suspect Mr Hitchens’s rhetoric may lose its charm. I do not however, have any more time toward this end, and will leave this second “volley” as my final statement on this subject, repeating my request to readers to go to Evolution and judge for yourself. I am not an “arrogant ignoramus,” I have advanced degrees in physics and the history of science, and have taught at advanced University level. Perhaps Mr Hitchens is an ignoramus; I don’t know. That he is arrogant, we all know by reading this page. I do not accept the validity of Evolution because I “know no better,” or because I am subject to a “totalitarian assault on the freedom of belief.” I believe in Evolution because I have read the literature on both sides, and I didn’t even think the contest is close. Mr Hitchens certainly has the “right” to believe as he chooses, reagardless of whether his reasons are wise or not. That is not what this is about. I am not suggesting that anyone should lose the right to decide for himself. I am speaking of what an intelligent well-read educated person in 2006 should think about Evolution, or astrology, or faith-healing, or magic, or prayer, or any of the other remants of ancient and medieval religion, superstition, and primitivism, with which our civilization is saddled. I am not directing my comments to Mr Hitchens; since he has his narrow mind made up, but rather to any other readers that happen here, and ought to hear the voice of reason against the arrogance of a journalist. Were there theories in the past that were accepted by science as confirmed, which then turned out to be false? Yes. That demonstrates that science continually subjects its domain of knowledge to review. It is accepted unless new facts, theories, etc come to light which cast doubt, or until new theories arise which do a better job at explaining the phenomena. Of course, nothing like this can ever happen with the beliefs of a religion, because they are not subject to revision. They are not subject to the questions of evidence, problems regarding confirmation, etc. Oh, yes...After 450 years, Pope John Paul II did "apologize" to Galileo, and stated that the Church was wrong. If we wait another 450 years, Darwin will most assuredly not get his apology, because he was not tortured, banished, threatened, etc. But apology will be due to all rational people. To claim that evolution is a "totalitarian assault on the freedom of belief" is absurd, because in most countries, even in my own (the United States), evolution itself is subject to continual religious persecution, with school boards throughout many regions of the US frequently passing laws in an attempt to silence this branch of science. No one can seriously suggest that Evolution has the greater power in the United States, in terms of a "totalitarian assault." Yet this is what Mr Hitchens actually suggests. Is it an attempt to deal with his deep-down seated feelings that he may be wrong on this one? Or his unhappiness at finding himself increasingly on the side of ignorance and clericalism, against knowledge and progress? I don't know, nor do I care. I do, however, care about what most readers of this page will come away with, hearing, as they will, the charismatic style of an able journalist, with reasoned positions, effectively presented, and argued. You readers, go to the Evolution Article before you make up your minds. 66.108.4.183 16:15, 9 August 2006 (UTC) Allen Roth

So here we are at the ad hominem stage, as usual. I am sure that I am a very bad person. I am equally sure that I am not an intellectual, and make no claim to be. I am a jobbing journalist with some experience of the world, who is interested in ideas and their practical effects on human society. I haven't called him an arrogant ignoramus, and he knows it. The term was directed at the many such people in the media and public life who assume the absolute truth of the evolution theory, as a received opinion, and treat sceptics with intolerance and derision. I trust he is not one of these people. If he knows as much as he says he does, then he must presumably grasp the simple., limited point I am making, which is that science is not in fact prescriptive about this subject, and that we are free to make our own choices about religion. But the argument is not about me or him, and Mr Roth knows it, which is why he seeks to divert it in this fashion. He doesn't want to fight on this ground, and I don't blame him. Once the Darwinist dogmatists have conceded in plain English that the theory of evolution does not have the same status in the kingdom of knowledge as other widely-known scientific theories, then they are in trouble. I have of course studied the Wikipedia entry on 'Evolution', and endorse Mr Roth's recommendation to readers of this argument to take a good look at it, and indeed plenty of other works on this subject> If they study these things with an open mind they will be left with the clear impression that the theory of evolution remains unproven. It is not just me that thinks this. Professor Richard Dawkins, who must be counted among the most cogent defenders of the Darwinist theory, admits he cannot prove it to be true. On January 7 2005, in the Guardian newspaper of London he responded to an invitation to state what he believed, but could not prove, thus :" I believe that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all "design" anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe." This clearly a credo, not a statement of known fact, and Professor Dawkins, a man of undeniable intellectual force and learning, is to be praised for his candour. I wish others on his side of the argument would share it. Mr Roth is not being asked to 'repeat all the evidence in support of the theory of evolution['. He is being asked to provide one single proof of its indisputable scientific truth, a proof capable of disproof in the light of subsequent evidence, or capable of proof by prediction and observation, which of course he cannot do, because no such proof exists. Bizarrely, he selects the opposable thumb as an example of evolution's ability to explain the shape of the natural world. He asks if it is mere coincidence that the only creatures possessing it are humans and apes? He asks further if it is only coincidence that the mammals possessing this are closely related. He then argues that for me, these things must be coincidental, whereas for him, they are they are not. This is an astonishing passage, though I think that when he uses the word 'coincidence' he really means 'accident', since I am not quite sure what is coincidental about the similarities and differences involved here. Surely, it is precisely the other way round? I am the one who believes in an ordered universe. He is the one who believes in a universe whose shape is the result of undirected, random chaos, that is if he has correctly understood the theory he champions so fiercely. Therefore these things are indeed random and accidental (coincidences if you must, though 'accidents' seems a more apposite word to me) if the evolutionists are right. I am the one who is entitled to suggest that there might be something more to them than that. Mr Roth then appears to concede my freedom to choose religious belief (a freedom which depends entirely on my argument that evolution is an unproven theory with characteristics of a religious faith). He says "Mr Hitchens certainly has the right to believe as he chooses". But he withdraws his kind concession in the next breath. He contradicts himself by saying he is speaking of what an intelligent, well-read, educated person in 2006 "should" believe. He is entirely prescriptive here. The word "should" allows of no exceptions or tolerance. I completely disagree. In fact this is the heart of my disagreemnet and the whole point of my argument. Such a person might believe in evolution, or might be a communicant Christian, in my view. I do not say that such a person "should" believe as I do. I might urge him to do so for a number of reasons, but I would not dare say that he ought to. My complaints of ignorance are directed against thsoe who refuse to concede my right to believe as I wish, not against those who believe differently from me by choice. What gives Mr Roth, who defends himself so vigorously against the charge of arrogance, the right to say what any other human creature "should" believe; or to imply that the person who does not believe as he does cannot be intelligent, well-read or educated, and is not living in the present day? Mr Roth obviously dislikes all religion, bracketing it with such things as astrology and magic. Perhaps he is correct in this. But there remains a quiet, persistent argument, strongly reinforced by the history of the past century, that man might benefit from the acknowledgement that he owes his existence to a higher power, and that his behaviour towards his fellow-creatures and towards his own surroundings should be influenced by that acknowledgement. This is an argument which would be destroyed if ever Darwinism were proven to be true, for it would then indeed be a fond but hopeless fantasy. Mr Roth says that I am attempting to deal with "deep-down seated feelings that I may be wrong on this". How right he is. If I am wrong, then it seems to me that all of life becomes a hopeless, meaningless, purposeless drudge in which the ends justify the means, a pointless hell, nasty, brutish and almost certainly short, followed by darkness and silence. Who would wish for that, if he had a choice? Beats me. I must deal with Mr Roth's absurd claim that "evolution is subject to continual religious persecution" in many parts of the US. If he has such an attachment to scientific method, here is a test for him, where he can, by adducing known and proveable facts, establish the truth of his claim. Perhaps he could give me an instance of any such persecution, the name of the persecutee, the wrongs sufferd by him or her, etc etc. I lived in the USA for two years, and recently spent an interesting few days in Kansas, where this argument is particularly strong, and found no evidence of anything which could be defined as persecution of Darwinist believers. Perhaps, like so many evolutionists, Mr Roth has been misled by the play (later filmed) "Inherit the Wind", a far-from-honest account of the (long ago) Scopes trial, itself a test-case deliberately provoked by pro-Darwinist campaigners. He should investigate this matter further. The truth is far more interesting than the conventional wisdom - as is the case with much of the debate on this subject. Proponents of 'Intelligent Design' do not seek to suppress or ban the teaching of evolution. They seek to permit the teaching of the truth, that evolution is an unproven theory and is not the only explanation of the origin of species. Oh, and I loved the bit about how 'likely' and 'confirmed' actually mean the same thing. Masterly. Peter Hitchens, logged in as Clockback 09:08, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

As JGGardiner pointed out, we should probably discuss this HERE or HERE. We've all used this as a platform for our views and arguments (I'm as guilty as anyone), but this discussion page is for suggestions on how to improve the encyclopedia article. This section was to discuss whether we should include info on where Peter Hitchens and Christopher Hitchens differ about religion. I'm in the Christopher Hitchens camp on this issue, but the best place for me to say so is here. Yes, I'm being a goody-two-shoes. -Neural 13:14, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Agnostic?

From the article: He opposes dogmatism of any kind on this subject, pointing out that neither he nor anyone else has any idea how the realm of nature took its present shape, or how the universe began.

This reads like a classic argument for agnosticism, the view that the origin of the universe (theistic or atheistic) is unknowable. Would this be an accurate assessment? It seems odd that somebody who openly has "no idea" of how nature or the universe took shape would also "deplore the decline of faith in Britain". Perhaps this is merely pragmatism, and Christianity is seen as the last bastion of hope for the ideology of traditionalist conservatism in Britain. Can Clockback clarify his position any further? Are you mostly an apologist for Christianity due to its social impact, or are you actually a God-fearing Christian? -Neural 13:48, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

"On tradition" (from the article): "...He is an Anglican, and he defends the use of the Church of England's 1662 Book of Common Prayer (in the USA, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer) and the Authorised, or King James, version of the Bible, not only because he believes they are beautiful and memorable but also because they are the indispensable foundations of Anglicanism's "powerful combination of scripture, tradition and reason"." Philip Cross 15:32, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Again, here we have an excellent example of the appalling effects of badly-taught science ( and crude, enthusiastic religion) on an important subject. The idea that we have a clue how the world was made is absurd. Yet millions of people, imagining this question to have been settled by Richard Dawkins or by some literalist conventicle, base their religious opinions on false ideas of what can be, or has been proved. My position could be an argument for agnosticism if I wished to be an agnostic, and chose to be one. But as I don't wish to be, and haven't chosen to be one, it isn't. It could also be an argument for atheism. When adults decide what to believe, they make a choice which in my view is based on their moral (and to a lesser extent aesthetic) preference. The Darwinist prefers a chaotic, purposeless universe with all its implications, if he understands his own beliefs, as few professed atheists actually do. He thinks beauty is accidental, and likewise ugliness. He thinks conscience is a nervous reflex or an evolutionary peculiarity, or a symptom of some problems in the digestive tract. The agnostic has the decency to admit that he doesn't know what he doesn't know, admits there is a choice but then doesn't make it. I choose to believe, an act which (like unbelief) requires faith in the unknowable. The fact that I have no idea how the universe was formed, or how the realm of nature took its present shape does not prevent me from believing that these things are the result of a divine order and that I should behave accordingly. No more should it prevent the atheist from thinking they are not, and behaving accordingly. The choice is moral, not factual, and is likely to remain so. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 16:43, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

"The Darwinist prefers a chaotic, purposeless universe with all its implications" - ...once again, someone like Dawkins simply looks at scientific evidence and draws rational conclusions - conclusions that other scientists could disprove if they were untrue. You insist on pretending there is some kind of willful agenda behind this (I can't imagine what, unless the entire scientific community is one vast cabal of secret Satanists or communists).
Your arguments about choice are correct if applied to non-religious theism versus non-religious atheism. And, indeed, I do have a choice to suspend my disbelief about any religious claims (from Islamic ones to Scientologist ones) - but choosing to do so would be highly arbitrary and irrational. All supernatural belief-systems are on an equal footing "factually" (there's no factual basis for any of them). The choice between philosophical theism (or deism) and atheism is real. The choice between evolution and Christianity also exists, but it is an increasingly easy one to make.
I still have to wonder if your Christianity is what informs your social conservatism agenda, or whether it is more the other way around. Anyway, thanks for clearing that up. -Neural 13:55, 9 August 2006 (UTC)


Actually this isn't what Dawkins does at all, and only a credulous Darwinist holy roller could think that it was. Dawkins's conclusions are fundamentally theological and religious in nature, designed to reassure the Darwinist faithful that their battered and uneasy theory is true despite its ever changing nature and the lack of proof for it. If it could be proved, Dawkins would be out of a job. I don't notice much space on the bookshop shelves given to passionate defences of the theory of flight, and it's not hard to work out why. That theory is testable and can be shown to be true without doubt. It needs no fervent defenders against doubt. The theory of evolution cannot be, and is of a completely different order, a mass of circular speculation and conjecture tottering on a tiny inverted pyramid of carefully-arranged, ever changing and selective 'evidence'. the amazing thing is that it has lasted so long without being more widely challenged. Such arguments as Dawkins advances are not open to proof or disproof, any more than are those of the fervent Bible literalist. They exist only within the circularity of Darwinist dogma, which he candidly admits he cannot prove and about which (in my own experience) he is reluctant to argue. (Reference: Asked by The Guardian newspaper of London on January 7 2005 what he could believe , but could not prove, Dawkins replied : "I believe that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all "design" anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe."

My conclusions are no more, and no less, rational than those of Professor Dawkins. We both admit we cannot prove our beliefs. We differ in that he is more inclined to be dogmatic about it, and he has an apparent contempt for those who disagree with him which seems to me to be undesirable in a man who pursues knowledge.

Where we cannot know, we will choose what we prefer. Those who choose 'evolution' , assuming they understand it, choose a chaotic, purposeless universe. Presumably they have some reason for preferring it, or why do they choose to do so? In many cases, it is true, they think this because it is received opinion , and therefore they cannot be said to 'think' it at all, unless one can classify a passive adherence to current fashion as thought. But Dawkins plainly has thought about it, and must therefore be aware of the implications of what he has chosen, when he was equally free to choose something else. Don't seek to misrepresent me, by the way. I deplore your apparent attempt to cast me as a conspiracy theorist, one of the cheapest ad hominem tricks in the book. Who has suggested a "wilful agenda?" Not I. I simply ask why people actively choose this miserable theory, because it interests me. Conformism is a powerful force in any field, and all sorts of rubbish can become widely accepted if it is in fashion. Indeed, academic careers can depend on such things. Nonetheless, given the absence of any proof for Darwinist theory, it is reasonable to ask what impels so many people to choose such a dismal concept of the cosmos when they don't have to. One possible reason for this is that so many people, you apparently included, still manage to believe the absurd claim (not made by any serious Darwinists) that the theory has been proved. Which is why I have to waste so much time pointing out that no such proof exists, one of the most shocking things you can now say in polite society. But again, this leads back to the question, why do so many people wish to believe something that is not proven is proven? By the way, surely Satanists would reject Darwinism, being Theists of a sort? And while almost all Communists are secular rationalists, not all secular rationalists are Communists. Don't be silly. There are plenty of non-conspiratorial currents in the modern world which are disposed against absolute morality, which cannot exist unless there is a God, and therefore does not exist if there isn't one.

I am baffled by your argument that "Your (ie my) arguments about choice are correct if applied to non-religious theism versus non-religious atheism." Why are they restricted to the non-religious? If one is free in the light of logic and knowledge(or in this case absence of it) to accept theism (and thanks a lot, by the way), where is the logical or factual barrier which prevents one from then choosing a particular religion? Surely, if you are free to be a theist, and prefer theism to atheism, you are free to choose a version of theism which seems to you to explain best the universe which you believe to be divinely ordered? You then go on, using the same mysterious method of argument (which appears to be, if I don't like it, it cannot be allowed)to rule: "And, indeed, I do have a choice to suspend my disbelief about any religious claims (from Islamic ones to Scientologist ones) - but choosing to do so would be highly arbitrary and irrational." Well, of course it would be arbitrary. We have already accepted that. There is no religious consumers' association to test out all the religions and provide you with recommendations. You are free to make a choice. But if an ordered universe seems desirable to you, and is possible, what is irrational about considering the religions which exist and choosing to adhere to one of them? If there is an ordered universe, then religious observance is likely to be desirable and possibly beneficial, to you and others. What and where is the logical or factual barrier which makes this irrational? You go on: "All supernatural belief-systems are on an equal footing "factually" (there's no factual basis for any of them)." That would depend upon which facts you are dealing with. I don't think there's much doubt that Jesus of Nazareth and Mohammed,, for example, existed. To say there's no factual basis at all is simply false. The quarrel must be about the truth of the accounts of their lives, and the truth about the divine inspiration, or lack of it, for their words. I think it's therefore the case that to say they are all on an equal footing is simply wrong. There are important differences between the Sermon on the Mount and Sharia Law. This isn't specially important to my argument, but I just felt it necessary to point it out. Is your apparent hostility to religion perhaps getting in the way of your facts and logic? And then: "The choice between philosophical theism (or deism) and atheism is real.". Well, that's all right, in fact it's virtually tautologous once we've reached the point I thought we'd reached. But then you say:"The choice between evolution and Christianity also exists" which seems pointless in this context. Of course it does. But why do you suddenly narrow it down to a choice between Christianity and evolution when we'd established that it was much broader? You then add, mysteriously "but it is an increasingly easy one to make.". Why is it increasingly easy? What has made it increasingly easy? It remains, so far as I can see, as difficult a choice as it has always been. Atheism is not new (you'll know, or perhaps you won't, the Psalm which remarks "The Fool hath said in his heart:There is no God", which long predates Christianity or Islam and has nothing to do with Judaism's various conflicts with Baal and the rest of them). And then there's the other Psalm which remarks "It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves", suggesting that the human mind has toyed with the idea of evolution, or something like it, since long before Darwin. As with Dawkins, the Psalmist wouldn't have felt it necessary to make these plaints if he didn't suspect that he had opponents, and wasn't worried about his monopoly of truth.

Finally:":I still have to wonder if your Christianity is what informs your social conservatism agenda, or whether it is more the other way around." I am tempted to reply, what does it matter? What 'forms my agenda' is the experience of my life, the study of the history of my country, often at first hand, and of others too, a number of brushes with chaos, a great deal of travel, plus the privilege of having lived in two foreign countries. I would hope that if I had been paying attention I would have got nearer to the truth after all this than I was before. What forms yours? Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 16:44, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Again, I find I have limited time (sorry) but I just wanted to reply to a couple of points briefly. I will probably take this up on your talk page again in a while.
I think there is a difference between arguing philosophical views of theism/atheism (I’m technically agnostic, but an atheist in practical terms, by the way – the same goes for my view on unicorns – I can’t rule them out, but see no reason they might exist) and arguing science versus religious claims that contradict science. Yes, both are choices – a person can argue anything. The reason I say that the choice here is easy is because science is inherently rational and evidence-based while religion is based on dubious supernatural premises that lead to further premises that lead to yet further premises – all without a shred of evidence, all sustained by blind faith. “Choosing” to follow a particular religion is arbitrary (pick one) and usually a matter of where somebody happens to be born. If the intellect and choice really play such a big role, it is odd that the populations of certain geographic regions all somehow “chose” one religion over all the others. In fact, rationality and choice have almost nothing to do with it. Quirks of history and the lottery of where a person is brought up seem to be the biggest factors.
Theism-versus-atheism is a worthy debate for philosophers and thinkers, a profound question. Science-versus-religion is more a case of “are you willing to abandon the rigor of reason to put blind faith in a range of outlandish claims that often contradict established science?” The differences between each religion are perhaps important as to their impact on society, but I think it would be better to abandon them all in favour of philosophy and science, not biased by any of this dubious mythology. Increasingly, the answer is no – although there are worrying signs that religion is fighting back.
I am out of time for now. There is a lot you wrote that I want to respond to, and I will as soon as I get the chance.
-Neural 11:51, 10 August 2006 (UTC)


Just passing, but you really must stop saying that you are right and everyone else is wrong. Science is indeed 'inherently rational and evidence-based'. That is why it cannot provide the definitive answer to the questions :"How did life begin? How did it take its present shape?" It hasn't the evidence, and reason - as I hope you are now discovering - can accommodate the possibility of design and the implications of that. The Darwinist theory remains, as it always will, a speculative and unproven one, like Christianity, persuasive to some, laughable to others. The choice is free, if you wish to make it, not prescribed by scientific truth. It is perfectly true that many people adopt religion as a received opinion, along with their languages, accents, styles of dress, tastes in music and so forth. These cannot be said to have chosen their religion. Most believers in the Darwinist faith, likewise, hold this opinion not out of conviction but for exactly the same reasons as many Christian or Muslim or Hindu believers hold theirs. (As with the other faiths, the devotees, inadequately schooled in the theology of their religion, are often rather more enthusiastic and certain about it than their own high priests. You, for instance, believe Darwinism is proven, while Richard Dawkins admits it isn't.) It is the norm in the society in which they grew up, and they have never felt the need to examine it. As with all such unexamined certainties, their devotees get anxious and angry when challenged, always a sign of insecurity. Former atheists such as me, however, can be said to have chosen their belief - both to believe and what to believe (You will find an interesting distinction between these two separate moments in C.S.Lewis's enjoyable autobiographical sketch 'Surprised by Joy', a book whose misleading title must put off many people who would otherwise read it). I am anxious not to have a discussion about the merits or demerits of Christianity here, not because I don't wish to debate it (I often do debate it) but because it will confuse the issue. I am not urging my opponents in this discussion to adopt my faith. I am seeking to persuade them to accept that my faith is just as valid as theirs, and that science is not ( as they falsely imagine) prescriptive about this. It is perfectly possible to be familiar with the discoveries of modern science and to be a Theist. By the way, your sally about unicorns is intellectually puerile. The reason for the unending discussion about the existence of God is that our scientific knowledge cannot explain the beginnings of the universe in which we live, and that the missing parts of the equation might conceivably be divine. There is no comparable equation which would or could be completed by the existence of unicorns, though if Darwinists believed in them I have little doubt they would by now have found alleged unicorn fossils, in which the existence of the (absent) horn was implied by the disposition of the other bones. Do not seek to mock what you do not - yet - understand. Do not assume that religious believers are stupid. Treat your opponent's arguments with respect and answer his case. That way, at least, you may be a more competent atheist at the end of this discussion than you are now. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 08:56, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Continued HERE... Neural 14:30, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Btw, I wanted to point out out that the comments signed by Allen Roth were not mine. I do not think that the theory of evolution is somehow "proven", and I've discussed the unprovability of scientific thories on Clockback's discussion page. If I hint that evolution is "established science", I refer to the fact that the scientific community overwhelmingly accepts it as the most likely origin of the life we see today. Although some disagree on the details, virtually all agree with evolution in principle, and I don't know of any serious scientific paper supporting Intelligent Design as an alternative. -Neural 15:19, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Oh dear. For the millionth time, you are putting up the same straw man and knocking it down. 'Intelligent design' does not seek to be an alternative. Thus to say that it fails as an alternative to Darwinism is to say nothing intersting or important. It was Darwinism that rashly sought to be an alternative to received religion in the 19th century. In the climate of secularism that began in the Victorian age and was much strengthened by the 1914-18 War, the claims of religion reaasonably became subject to much scepticism. People searching for a new explanation of the Cosmos reached for Darwinism. Neither Christianity nor Darwinism can prove their claims, but in this secular age Darwinism has been treated with more generosity than Christianity, and is accorded, by many people, the status of proven fact - despite the fact that its own proponents admit that it remains unproven. ID merely points out that it has no right to this status. There is no equivalent ID theory of the origin of species. Nor will there ever be. The truth or falsehood of a scientific theory cannot be established by a consensus, or the subjective judgement of its 'likelihood', or by a majority, but by its subjection to the usual tests - observation, prediction and falsifiability. Evolution has never been observed and cannot be observed in the present. It cannot be used as a predictor. Therefore it cannot be tested in this way and should not be confused with other descriptive scientific theories, as it often is by those who have been taught evolution as a received religion. Can we please get this straight and return to the actual argument? Evolutionists long for their opponents to erect a rival dogma because they can then shift the argument away from their own theory's conjectural nature. They are thrown into confusion if their opponents decline to do this, and their most common reaction is to try to associate such opponents with views they do not hold. I repeat: I have no idea how life on earth began or took its present shape. Nor have you.

Peter Hitchens, logged in as Clockback 11:27, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

I think you are intelligent enough to realize it will not do to write evolution off as mere "conjecture". The process of evolution can be observed. When a creature is born with a mutation that confers a survival advantage, that is evolution. Have you not heard about bacteria that have evolved resitance to anti-biotics, by constantly mutating and letting natural selection do the rest? You call this "adaption rather than evolution", but it still gradually gives rise to distinct forms of bacterial life that did not exist before. Please also read the evidence for evolution article. Evolution does make predictions now that future scientists will be able to test again. We can't predict what will evolve without knowing everything about future environments. But we can predict that life will evolve and give rise to new species in some cases. Without evolution, I find it hard to imagine what you think of the similarity between giant isopods in the ocean and humble woodlice that breathe through gills, unless the Intelligent Designer ran out of ideas and began copying earlier work. You (perhaps wisely) distance yourself from literal creationism. But by failing to stand by Genesis, you are basically admitting you have no faith in the Bible's creationist claims. If you admit the Bible is unreliable, why trust it as a basis for any belief-system? You state: '"I have no idea how life on earth began or took its present shape. Nor have you."' I think I have a good idea of how life on earth took shape. An idea that I and many others find compelling and reasonable. -Neural 12:03, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Dear Me boys, whilst it's clear you do like to squabble perhaps it would save time if we simply acknowledged that we cannot prove, PROVE that life began this way or that, we can only believe. I can be more certain that the fridge light goes off when I close the door but that is still a belief. I can't prove it without altering the thing I'm trying test, I have to rely on what my intelligence tells me, so are you two. Believe what you like. Peter obviously believes in the intervention of a diety but does not necesarily believe in every part of the bible, literally. I think that's not only acceptable but quite sensible, it is a book written by men after all. I think it's not only possible but quite usual to be a Christian and not take the Bible totally literally. If you did it would bend your head as there are a few contradictions. When I was at school, about 1000 years ago, a teacher whispered in the ear of one boy then seemed to slap him across the face. As we sat there, stunned, she told us to write down what we had just observed. In a class of around 30 children there were quite a few differing accounts, yet we were all just yards away and it had only happened minutes before. The Bible is hearsay but that does not mean that a deity does not or has not existed. You cannot prove that God does not exist, you can only believe. When it comes to evolution there is no reason why a world which a God created cannot evolve. Therefore both of you could be correct. I don't know. But here, surely, we are recording what Peter Hitchens believes. I think he's made his views pretty clear, but that's just my belief. Miamomimi 18:25, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

"Beileve what you like" always seems a bit of a cop-out to me. Okay then, I'll believe that Levay's Satanism is the One True Religion, and followers of all other religions are unenlightened scum, evil parasites on the face of the earth. Or I'll believe I am the reincarnation of Napoleon. Rubbish. People ought to believe in things that make sense, make the world a more peaceful/happy place, and have a reasonable possibility of being true. As Frederich Nietzsche said: "a casual stroll through the asylum shows that faith proves nothing." -Neural 19:02, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Oh now I see what Peter has been taking issue with before - you take something out of context then make an argument out of it and yes, it is ridiculous. Given the two options about the nature of creation, neither of which you can prove, believe what you like. What's important here, as it's Peter Hitchens' Wiki entry, is that we understand what Peter believes and I believe he's explained his belief pretty well. "A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one's convictions." - Friedrich Nietzsche Miamomimi 08:39, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Sorry... my comments were partly related to a discussion on Peter's User talk page, not just the info on this article. I'm well-aware of what he believes by now and, yes, he has explained those beliefs clearly enough. In fact he appears to admit he does not believe anything about creationism, and does not defend the claims of Genesis (I don't blame him). I think he may believe that Jesus died to redeem the sins of Adam and Eve and mankind. If not, forgive me. Like most moderates, he cherry-picks the parts of the Bible that appeal to him most at any given moment. Christian moderates know better than their God, or they know when He was only fooling around with certain Biblical passages. It was only inspired by the Lord, after all, so you can accept or reject any parts of it as you see fit. Reliable and flexible, then - blimey. As to the provability of beliefs, this is the issue I was talking about. See Russell's teapot. A person can believe almost anything, because it turns out that not many random claims can be proven or disproven with absolute certainty. I maintain that this is no reason to arbitrarily choose religious beliefs that seem aesthetically pleasing, use faith to treat them as unassailable truths, and then expect everyone to treat them seriously. Even if you insist I am doing the same, then at least my belief in evolution can be disproven if wrong. -Neural 10:26, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Neural - apology accepted but I don't think you quite got Peters point. People have believed almost anything. I would hate to be the lover who believed themself in love with you - what proof would they have but their own conviction? Would you insist on a lie detector test before making a commitment? They're not foolproof you know. Miamomimi 14:48, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Hehe :-) - touché. Fair point there. Maybe I need to stock up on some truth serum before getting engaged to anyone. Hmmmm....... ;-) -Neural 14:58, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Glad you have a sense of humour - but hey, Peter has a shed load of advice on how to pick a mate, and it's about as romantic as a tax return. You could ask him on that er user talk page?? Or follow his example and make sure you choose someone with the words 'Daughter of' at the top of their CV (adjust for gender preference). I notice that's not on his Wiki entry. Perhaps it should be ;-) Miamomimi 15:28, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Original research

A reminder: All Wikipedia articles must conform to the official policy of Wikipedia:No original research, which states that "Articles may not contain any previously unpublished arguments, concepts, data, ideas, statements, or theories. Moreover, articles may not contain any new analysis or synthesis of published arguments, concepts, data, ideas, or statements that serves to advance a position." This means that all novel assertions should be properly attributed to an external, secondary source.

For now, I've removed the following insertion. Feel free to discuss these issues on the Talk page, but we shouldn't be leaving novel comments in the article text: -Silence 15:08, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Critical review?

  • Bonkers Hitchens? - 19th April 2003. Abusive ad hominem article about Hitchens, with incidental references to his book A Brief History of Crime in Scotland's Sunday Herald newspaper. If anyone doubts that this is an accurate description of this article, please read the article (if its title does not give you enough of a clue to its nature) and explain why. Otherwise stop describing it as a 'hostile review' of the book which is so inadequate as to be inaccurate. While it wouldn't be quite true to say that it barely mentions the book, it is the case that the book has provided the pretext for the writer to review the author rather than his work. There were several reviews of this book in more significant journals than this. One of them was even more ad hominem, but so much so that it might be embarrassing even to my enemies. I suspect that this notice was chosen only because the contributor involved shared the views of its author. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 13:50, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

I thought 'Bonkers Hitchens' was alright. It was a personal attack not only on the work but the author And conservatives in general: "It offers an interesting insight into the conservative mind". I thought "Like some scribbling Chicken Licken" was over the top but it did serve to advertise the fact that this was not so much a balanced book review but a personal comment on the politics and work and generally of the author being reviewed. So I think it should stay in. When Bell sought to blame the publics disenchantment with law and order on Hitchens: "Hitchens and his fellow polemicists on the right have done their work well" I thought it was quite flattering - "But when he turns to crime, as it were, readers of his Mail on Sunday column -- and there are many of them -- can be confident of having their preconceptions confirmed". Good grief Peter, you must have a hulluva lot of readers! I loved the image of you as Neo, saving us all from Tony Bliar (please?) as if every sunday column was a literary beckoning of your fingers to New Labour: "This was in recognition of his manic, relentless determination to treat political reporting as a kind of martial art". God you're good: "Hitchens went about the task with the furious intensity of a doorstep evangelist". What's wrong with that? And on behalf of all your readers, thank you. "It is the stuff of any saloon bar" in other words it is the stuff that most of us are saying but few people in Westminster are listening to. "And he thinks the liberties of the majority are being sacrificed for the supposed human rights of criminals" well we all think that. I read the review, I bought the book. 'Bonkers Hitchens', I loved it - made me laugh. Miamomimi 16:01, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Peter: You 'suspect' incorrectly. Not that I consider the point to be in any way pertinent, but as it happens I emphatically do not agree with the sentiments expressed in the article concerned. I added this link (last March) when I came across it following a google search. Soon afterwards, I balanced it's inclusion on this wikipedia entry by also linking to a more positive article in The Daily Telegraph. As with all of my work on this entry, I strive for fairness and balance at all times. I must confess to being somewhat bemused by your frenzied reaction to a mildly pejorative piece in a regional newspaper, but I am, on reflection, and on a new reading of the article, prepared to acknowledge that it appears to spend more time concentrating on assailing the author of "A Brief History of Crime" than it does on reviewing the book itself. My new description to accompany the link is as follows: "Article critical of Hitchens and his book A Brief History of Crime, published in Scotland's Sunday Herald newspaper". Thank you, Valentine Hayes signed in as New Canadian 11:48, 15 August 2006 (UTC)


Oh, I'm perfectly happy for it to stay in, just not described as a book review. My reaction is not frenzied. I just suddenly felt that if nobody else was going to remark on the selection ( out of so many possible reviews) of this one, then I ought to. When you come to write a book of your own, you will understand why authors are so sensitive about what people then say about their work. I make no pretence of being unmoved, but you must understand that the objection is not to what is said, but to the frustration of taking a year or more of your life to set out a careful argument, and to have it dismissed in a few paragraphs by someone who has entirely missed the point. I don't even recall meeting Mr Ian Bell, the author of this diatribe, nor do I specially care what he thinks about me. His account of my years as a political reporter is, let us say, incomplete. My relationship with Mr Kinnock began quite amicably ( I still remember having tea with him and Trevor Kavanagh, very merrily, in the police canteen just off Westminster Hall, back in 1984 or thereabouts), and its deterioration owes at least something to Mr Kinnock's own prickliness ( That great man, Alan Watkins, was so struck by this that he wrote, many years ago, an interesting piece in the Observer on Mr Kinnock's extraordinary antipathy to me, at the time a number three political reporter whom he encountered occasionally at lobby briefings, when he was leader of HM Opposition. I doubt if it is on the net, being about 20 years ago ). But I think the book reviewer's job is to read the book and then give a critical assessment of it. Has Mr Bell read it? I don't know - but I've always been amused by the knowledge that I included in the book an interesting fact about my own past which any of my critics would - if they knew about it - be almost bound to draw to the attention of a wider public. Yet not one of those who reviewed it has ever done so. So I shall have to put it in my next book as well in the hope that they may do so this time. Now, let us list some of the terms Mr Bell uses in his 'review' to refer to me. "Bonkers", "manic", "zeal of the true convert" , "furious intensity of a doorstep evangelist", "reversed steadily into the past", "convinced that the sky is about to fall in", "prejudice and frustrated anger". These are not the words of a man determined to be fair to an opponent, are they? And actually, had he asked me, I would have told him I rather dislike the Last Night of the Proms, being suspicious of over-demonstrative patriotism. I have nowhere said that I like it. He has got that, I think, out of another review. This is the real problem here. as a review of the book, the article is lacking. As a review of me, it is even more so. Mr Bell, who has the brass neck to accuse me of prejudice (and adduces no evidence for this charge), knows he doesn't like the book because he knows he doesn't like me, yet he doesn't really know what I think, and appears not to know what I have said in my two books. Far from 'having their preconceptions confirmed', Mail on Sunday readers (is Mr Bell among them?)frequently write to criticise me (for example) for my opposition to identity cards, my attack on the lawless prison of Guantanamo Bay and my resistance to the crude authoritarianism of David Blunkett, Michael Howard and now John Reid; Not to mention my recent criticism of the British bombing of German cities, and my objection to the transmission of the n-word during the film 'The Dam-Busters'. Who is the one with preconceptions, or confirming the preconceptions of his readers? - - The book actually contains a lengthy discussion of the validity of crime statistics which pre-empts much of what he says. And it would be useful to him to know ( as he appears not to) that the British Crime Survey is in fact an opinion poll, not a statistical compilation, and that it is notorious for leaving out large sections of the population, especially the young.

I have no idea what a saloon bar is. I am pretty old, and seem to remember seing the words engraved on the opaque glass doors of very old-fashioned pubs long ago, but I wonder if a single one exists today or if Mr Bell has ever been in one. I certainly haven't. The lazy, cliched words are intended to suggest that the opinions attached are just the tired prejudices that can be found in any uneducated person's mind or mouth. Well, I suppose I could riposte that Mr Bell's opinions are 'Groucho Club' ones with all that that implies. My book is the result of long months of careful research and its arguments are all founded on factual references and reasoned logic, which I am happy to defend against attacks based on the same foundations. I would be amazed if anyone bought the book as a result of this "review". As far as I can recall, it was reviewed also in the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times and the Observer (though the review in the Observer makes Mr Bell's look like a model of composure and restraint). If we're going to have links to reviews, then why not these? - Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback 12:33, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Peter - "I have no idea what a saloon bar is", really? That's why you go on to describe what a saloon bar is?! And you "certainly haven't" been in one - ooh, get you! Like that's relevant. And "The lazy, cliched words are intended to suggest that the opinions attached are just the tired prejudices that can be found in any uneducated person's mind or mouth" - that would be the persons mind or mouth found in saloon bars. Like the people, journalists for example, that cliched literary enclave in London maybe, that frequent the wine bars, pubs and restaurants that have different decor. No words engraved on opaque glass doors there then, and no lazy, cliched words there? So educated journalists never pedal "tired prejudices" - they're only to be "found in any uneducated person's mind or mouth", the kind that populate saloon bars. It's amazing you can know all this when you've never been in one. I'm impressed. Miamomimi 14:20, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Peter: you, along with all others, are absolutely free to add as many links to this entry as you wish! As I have stated, the Telegraph review is already available from this Wikipedia entry, while the Observer review has been added within the last few hours by another contributer. I have just executed a site-specific google search on timesonline.co.uk (Times newspapers) and ft.com (Finanacial Times) and I'm afraid I was unable to find the reviews of your book that appeared in these publications - but if anyone else can do better, and dig out links to these articles, then please do so and add them to the 'External Links' section under 'Referencing articles'. Thank you, Valentine Hayes signed in as New Canadian 14:04, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

New Canadian - I too had a look for those reviews to no avail but found an interview with Peter on 'Britain' and put it in 'General and book reviews' thus giving a link in the book review section to 'The Abolition of Britain' page. I thought I'd put the other book reviews I found there but wanted to provide a link from the book review section to it as there wasn't one, trust y'all agree but if not then please move them as you see fit. Miamomimi 11:49, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Clockback - don't lose any more hair, the book reviews are all polite, are even handed and do not ridicule, unlike you. Miamomimi 11:49, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

The Abolition of Britain

I've started an article on the book here. Count this as an invitation or notification as you wish. Philip Cross 17:23, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Peter Hitchens and Harry Potter on a site for democratic socialism? Just the fact of it's existence made me smile. If you want to check it out you can find it here. Miamomimi 11:59, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

The amount of citation requests

There is an absolutely ridiculous amount of requests for citations in this article, virtually one at the end of every sentence. The vast majority are for statements about Hitchens that hardly need substantiating given the tenor of his articles. JF Mephisto 01:28, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Yes, plastering the article with citaction requests like this is a really irritating and lazy approach, in my view. I should remove them all and request that if anyone has a problem with what has been written, that they raise the issues here on a case by case basis. Laurence Boyce 10:24, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
Exactly my thought. Someone has gone on the rampage trying to make a point. Regards, E Asterion u talking to me? 08:54, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

Assessment comment

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Peter Hitchens/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Needs some work for NPOV, and more formal writing style in places. Tim 14:06, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 14:06, 27 February 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 21:53, 3 May 2016 (UTC)