‘Is it Pathological?’ by Soinbhe Lally



Sometimes my faith in progress is shaken. How can it be that educated, seemingly responsible persons wilfully regress to the science and religion of the seventeenth century and demand that the rest of us defer to their regression? Why do so many DUP politicians deny scientific facts and set up in their place the mythological texts of a nomadic people whose navigational skills were so limited that they stayed lost in the Sinai desert for 40 years? These are apparently sane, educated people, some of them with graduate and post graduate degrees. How do they manage to keep evidence and knowledge so separate from belief and behaviour?

While many of us are creationists and are happy to accept the Genesis myth as a metaphor for the process of creation by an intelligent Creator, the Caleb Foundation, described by Liam Clarke as the DUP Militant Tendency, and its DUP associates, insist on literal Young Earth Creationism of a universe just 6000 years old. There’s Mervyn Storey, for example, who wants us to believe, and also teach in second level science classes, that the Giant’s Causeway is a consequence of Noah’s Flood, however much the geological evidence may suggest otherwise.

Young Earth Creationism is just one of several regressive DUP memes. They also do homophobia and their own version of the US Republican Southern Strategy, substituting sectarianism for racism. To rise through the ranks of the party, it is essential to be strong on at least one of these memes.

Paul Givan is an example –  a rising star, making a name for himself with his infamous conscience clause aimed at restricting equal rights, specifically the rights of gay people. Thanks to a Sinn Fein intervention, his conscience clause is “dead in the water,” as reported the other day by the Belfast Telegraph. Givan now keeps his meme afloat with his concern about how people with deeply held religious beliefs are treated. Naturally, he is a young earth creationist as well as a homophobe. 

Jude Collins asked a while back, whether Givan is a Christian or a hypocrite. The same could be asked about Nelson McCausland, an Oxford graduate who should know better or Edwin Poots who at least has the excuse that he didn’t go to Oxford, or Storey or Wells or Simpson or . . . well just how many more?

It may be that they can’t help it. Emerging neurological researches that compare the brains of US conservatives with the brains of US liberals suggest that conservative and liberal brains are wired differently. Liberals have more grey matter in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain, which gives them more cognitive and emotional control. Right wingers, on the other hand, have an enlarged amygdala, the seat of the emotions, which, uncontrolled by a decent sized anterior cingulate cortex, makes right wingers overly emotional, overly reactive to perceived threats and more fearful of change.

The research does not go so far as to say that conservatism is a pathological condition. However, if we remember how threatened conservatives have felt, at the sight of children, whether immigrant children being transported on buses in the US or little girls walking to school in Belfast, the term “pathological conservatism” seems not unreasonable.

20 Responses to ‘Is it Pathological?’ by Soinbhe Lally

  1. paddykool February 22, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    Welcome aboard our little ark of sanity Soinbhe…I’ve been banging on about these “educated” numbskulls for what seems like forever..Education is of no use whatsoever if the stuff being taught and learnt is nonsense.It’s why there are so many graduates running about patting their wee heads but still unable to rub their little tummies at the same time. I like to call them “one -trick ponies”.We’ve a lot of them here in Norneverland , so we can use all the fresh thinking we can get . Take a seat.!!

    • Jude Collins February 23, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

      ‘When I think back on all the crap I learnt in high school/It’s a wonder I can think at all’ – Paul Simon, educational philosopher…

      • paddykool February 23, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

        See how you made that connection to that 1980 Paul Simon album of the same name…the old brain is still working well Jude!!!

      • paul February 25, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

        One of the great song lyrics of all time. and I’m not a fan of P Simon either. Nice recall Jude

    • Mary Jo February 23, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

      My own science teacher, in a NI convent school long ago, told us to read the chapter on evolution ourselves. Likewise the chapter on reproduction. She assured us there wouldn’t be examination questions on either chapter.so it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t read them. It looks as if some politicians never got round to reading them either.

  2. giordanobruno February 23, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    Young earthers are indeed foolish. No more so than those who believe in an intelligent creator, based on biblical teaching.
    Rising from the dead, changing water into wine, heaven and hell, original sin etc etc. These are not metaphors they are meant to be believed literally.
    As is transubstantiation, in a conveniently mysterious unexplainable way.
    It is true the DUP are most guilty of inflicting their silly nonsense on the rest of us but they are not alone.
    SF promote Catholic education instilling mumbojumbo in children and their muddled stance on abortion is infused with notions of a soul, which we are supposed to accept is present from conception.
    So have a go at the DUP by all means, but people in glass houses…

    • Antonio February 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

      There was a time when I would have been very critical of Catholic education and I would agree that transubstansation (i can’t be bothered checking the correct spelling) is some powerful mumbo jumbo (I wouldn’t say that to my wee Granny though) but I changed my mind gradually after meeting a lot of Catholics who went to State and/or integrated schools. They aren’t tolerant pluralist or open-minded. They are just Castle Catholics. Little quislings who are historically illiterate and have nothing useful to contribute to a discussion other than ‘one side as bad as the other’. So I’m glad I went to a Catholic School.

    • Mary Jo February 23, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

      Back during the years of the Troubles, I used to pass regularly through an army checkpoint on the Belleek Enniskillen road. At first the soldiers were on the roadside, Later they built a secure base concealed somewhere on a nearby hilltop. We did not see soldiers at the checkpoint any more. Instead, there was a red light which stopped at. Eventually it changed to green and various obstacles opened to let us pass.

      I sometimes asked ask my children, do you believe that there is a soldier on the hill changing the light from red to green? Did you see him? Or hear him? No, but still you believe in the soldier on the hill because you believe he changed the light from red to green.

      For much the same reason that I believed in the soldier on the hill, I believe in an intelligent creator. Not necessarily personal or interested in my doings but intelligent, yes.


      • RooserBooster February 23, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

        Who made the Creator?

  3. Freddy Mallins February 23, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Giardanobruno, I am certainly no expert but understand that the Vatican has consistently supported modern scientific theory, including the “Big Bang.” Therefore Cathoilcs accept that the universe was created about 13.7 billion years ago. Whereas creationism rejects modern scientific theory outright. Therefore one can be catholic and see no contradiction between faith and science.

    • giordanobruno February 23, 2015 at 11:53 pm #

      Only if one is prepared to ignore all the other stuff one is expected to believe.
      Do you see any contradiction between science and someone being raised from the dead?How do you reconcile turning water into wine (without the aid of a homebrew kit) with modern scientific thought?
      Purgatory? Where’s that then?
      I could go on, but what is the point.
      It cannot stand up to any scrutiny and my point remains; why ridicule the DUP yet ignore the stuff that is taken for granted by so many other believers as though it is somehow perfectly reasonable?

    • pretzellogic February 24, 2015 at 1:55 am #

      What do you mean by “consistently supported modern scientific theory”? The moment they get round to that they’ll be out of business. Anyway if there’s a church teaching the Big Bang Theory from the pulpit I’d like to know where it is. I can’t get my head around that matter and empty space stuff. Someone on the radio today reckons a black hole may be the Devil. One guy wondered if you wanted to lose a stone in weight would it be better to apply science or to pray. I suppose if you prayed vigorously enough you’d eventually burn off the calories.

  4. michael c February 23, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    I think SFpromoting catholic education is a bit simplistic.I would be lukewarm on integrated education but not for religious reasons at all.The catholic school system does not install Britishness in its pupils.All other schools do including integrated schools,ie they allow british army careers officers in,they teach a pro British version of history,sell poppys,celebrate royal births, do not grant any legitimacy to Republicanism and commemorate imperialist wars.The catholic school I attended was not a very uplifting place but It respected the political background of its pupils and their parents,many of whom had suffered during the conflict and never let the RUC darken the door.Religion never really came into it in a big way at all and was a very minor part of the curriculum.

  5. Am Ghobsmacht February 23, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    If these people are so scathing of science when compared to faith then as a matter of principle should they not forgo surgery and hi-tec medical services and favour faith healing instead?

    I’d respect them more if they put their money where their mouth is (BTW, I’m sure there are people who do this, but it’s not a stance publicly advocated by the DUP).

    • paddykool February 23, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

      Well Am Ghob …that is only a step away from Jehovah’ Witnesses really.Everything we take for granted such as magical television transmissions are all products of scientific studies but would have been regarded as witchcraft or magical some years ago.Ten years ago there was a scare about mobile phones frying our brains too!
      Some people take a long time to discover that there is no magic…just ordinary science.There are no miracles…just people playing the Wizard of Oz and fooling themselves with fairy tales.There is enough knowledge already of how and why the universe works if people took the time to actually look at it.Everything else is fanciful wishful thinking. You might say that the things that we don’ t actually know has simply been made up because we desire it to be so…without any evidence or reason.The things we do know have been arrived at by reason and logic.

  6. ben madigan February 24, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    “How can it be that educated, seemingly responsible persons wilfully regress to the science and religion of the seventeenth century and demand that the rest of us defer to their regression?”

    It’s a strategy for holding on to power – I have no idea whether they really believe these things or not but all the evidence points to their love of power. They certainly use regression to the 17th century to prevent NI moving forward

    “Members of the Caleb Foundation are at the centre of the Protestant power structure in Northern Ireland”

    “Caleb is a political organisation that is closely linked to the DUP, Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church and the Orange Order (particularly the Independent Orange Order). Its tentacles are all over the place”


  7. Freddy Mallins February 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    I can’t vouch with any authority for the any Church but there does seem an obvious distinction between what most reasonable people accept as fact compared with creationists. Take carbon dating for instance. As far as I know creationists reject this most water proof of scientific fact. I personally do not know any one who would hold a similar view.

    • giordanobruno February 25, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

      Are you saying you don’t believe any of the supernatural stories in the Bible, as most reasonable people would accept they have no scientific basis?

  8. Freddy Mallins February 25, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    Correct, they are allegorical at best in my respectful view.

    • giordanobruno February 25, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

      Freddy. That is fine, but you are relegating Jesus to the status of a good man, not the son of God. No miracles, No rising from the dead, no forgiving sins.
      That all seems pretty fundamental to the Catholic faith.
      Are all those who believe in the miracles and the virgin birth and so on, not in the same unscientific non rational boat as the young earthers?