Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Pitcher of Sneer

Pitcher - he's the one on the left
Eric MacDonald has posted a piece entitled The Emptiness of George Pitcher, pointing out the vacuity of Pitcher's slippery slope argument against assisted dying.
There is simply no logical connexion between my conviction that my life is intolerable in my condition, and the claim that anyone else in a similar condition must also be living in intolerable suffering. Yet every argument against assisted dying assumes that there is, and that, for that reason, we cannot permit people to make up their own minds about whether or not they should be allowed to receive assistance in dying. And so the suffering are forced to suffer.
I was listening to Raymond Tallis talking about the arguments against assisted dying, and I think he made a couple more pertinent points on the slippery slope:
When you're thinking about slippery slopes, you need to know how slippery they are, what the coefficient of friction is, and, indeed, what way they're pointing.
He then quoted John Harris's view that moving to assisted dying legislation would not apply skis, but crampons, to the issue, because informal procedures are more likely to be abused than formal ones. The crazy thing is that doctors are already on a slope, and there is no-one and nothing available to help them traverse it. The law can supply a foothold for these beleaguered professionals. For more on Tallis's views, see here.

On Wednesday night Pitcher pitched a loathsome performance on 10 O'clock Live, in a discussion which was supposed to cover the cultural and political relevance in Britain today of Christianity in light of the prayers offered by all and sundry for the stricken Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba. Instead of discussing the subject he was more content to hurl brickbats at Evan Harris, to whom he has become something of a troll. He seemed to revel in trolling him face to face this time. 

Evan Harris made some eminently reasonable and far from strident comments that praying was 'a nice thing' if people were genuinely asking for help from god, but that fact didn't justify religious privilege in the public sphere. To which Pitcher replied, demonstrating the wit we've all come to expect from him, 
That's bollocks!
For some reason he didn't expand on this, presumably considering it a better argument than anything that theologians have come up with to counter secularism.

He did however ramble on about a 'folk faith' that people in this country have, that surfaces in times of extremis. Well, this is true, and not just in times of extremis. Cultural Christians often use religious language, and that would include Dawkins, as his recent "Oh god!" testifies when he was trying to remember the subtitle to On the Origin of Species. It's hardly surprising when we've been force-fed religion since we were 3 years old. Harris pointed out that this doesn't mean we must therefore be a 'Christian country'. 

Harris re-iterated that secularism was about removing religious privilege, not religious persecution, which won a round of applause from the audience. The needy Pitcher, feeling the warmth accorded to the sentiment, then said he 'sort of' agreed with that (really?!) so could he have a round of applause too? Harris then spoke out against self-censorship of criticism of religious extremists, sensibly, and how no-one had a right to be offended. Pitcher took offence at this, and accused Harris of being one of the easiest people in the world to offend, and said that that was why he was thrown out of parliament, for taking himself too seriously - *nice*, again with the personal attacks.

Mitchell challenged Harris's contention that atheists could not be offended (a claim that is surely too strong!), but Harris clarified the point, and it's pretty obvious; atheists are simply less likely to hold certain beliefs, rituals and objects as sacred, so are more difficult to offend. Pitcher then suggested that atheism was a religion (does George think that's bad?!), and trotted out the tired old saw that Dawkins is the 'high priest' of atheism, and made a weak joke alluding to Dawkins's recent memory lapse.

(Mitchell's performance in this discussion was surprisingly weak, based on past showings; I'll put that down to a momentary aberration, and hope it has nothing to do with his forthcoming nuptials with faitheist Victoria Coren. Congratulations to them both, anyway!)

So apart from one small interlude where the topic was discussed, Pitcher spent the discussion playing the man not the ball. I cannot believe that any Christians watching would want to be associated with a religion to which this irksome, quarrelsome and militant priest was connected.

UPDATE: Here is an audio of the talk discussed above:


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