Issue 1| September
The Manic Thought Publication A magazine for rational thinkers.
Simon Blackburn on "What Good is God?"
Jim Al-Khalili on "Wormholes"
Harry Potter on "Liberty and The Law" Also find out how you could write in the magazine.
1 | The Manic Thought Publication | Featured
A Word From the Editor in Chief When the Manic Thought Society began, some few months back, it was a small one-man blog on philosophy and science. Thanks to the combined efforts of a highly competent team of writers, editors, researchers, photographers and directors, the blog has transformed into the flourishing online magazine it is today. Not only do we have them to thank, however. Equal commendation is due to our ever expanding readership and the notable individuals from the academic and legal stages that have offered their contributions. The driving force behind the Manic Thought Society is rational thinking. From our guest writers, right the way through to the Directorship, we recognise that so often articles are either ‘dummed down’ or full of academic jargon. Here, we aim to achieve a compromise, producing both informative and accessible articles, to suit the interests of and to entertain our readers. This magazine is a compendium of our writers’ finest pieces and is packed with articles from a plethora of recognisable names. On behalf of the entire Manic Thought Society, I hope that you enjoy reading this first edition of the Manic Thought Publication. Geoff Keeling Editor in Chief
Featured Inside... Physicist and broadcaster Jim-Al Khalili (OBE) explores the wonders of wormhole technology...
Professor Simon Blackburn examines the philosophy of David Hume to ask the question "What Good is God?"
Professor Philip Schofield on Jeremy Bentham and his imapct on utilitarian thought.
Lawyer and broadcaster Harry Potter explores the history of liberty in the English legal system.
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Professor Jim Al-Khalili explores one of cosmology’s greatest mysteries: The Wormhole. To some, a speculation of science fiction; to others, a consequence of Einstein’s relativity; either way, the wormhole has captivated us for over a quarter of a century. In 1985, Carl Sagan wrote his famous novel, Contact, in which humans are sent instructions to build a machine capable of creating a wormhole through which people can travel to another part of the Galaxy. It was the first serious attempt by science fiction to elaborate on one of the more exotic predictions by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity – his equations describing the way matter and energy interact with space-time, causing it to curve. In writing his book, Sagan received help from one of the world’s leading experts on relativity, the theoretical physicist, Kip Thorne, who was able to show that, at least in theory, space-time could be bent in such a way as to produce a short-cut linking two distant parts of the Universe together. Unlike those other famous predictions that follow from Einstein’s ideas, black holes, a wormhole is nothing more than a hypothetical entity for which we have no evidence whatsoever yet in the real universe. But this has not stopped physicists asking questions about their possible properties. It was initially thought that a wormhole simply joined two black holes, but this has the problem that it cannot be used to travel through since one would only become stuck between the two event horizons at each end.
Thorne’s ‘traversable’ wormhole curved spacetime in such a way as to do away with any such problems and could therefore be used to travel through freely. The cost was that it required for its stability a special kind of material, dubbed ‘exotic matter’ that would have to have negative mass! However, what is really remarkable – if indeed we are ever able to create a wormhole – is that it would not only link two points in space, but two points in time, and would in principle therefore act as a time machine. All this is of course no more that theoretical speculation (and great sci-fi fodder) so I wouldn’t worry just yet about how we would get round the various time travel paradoxes. It’s sort of enough that they have not yet been ruled out.
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Gone Pear Shaped By Alexandre Coates
The earth is officially ‘pear-shaped’ – not a round sphere as is commonly believed. Now do not get the wrong idea about this, it is not shaped like some huge interstellar fruit; that, while interesting would be plain ridiculous. It is barely pear-shaped, but pear-shaped enough. Let us start at the beginning. We used to think the earth was flat, in the case of the Mayans we thought it had 4 corners and was placed on the back of a giant crocodile in a lily pond which in turn was on top of five different coloured trees. Then around 2200 years ago the Greeks, specifically Eratosthenes calculated that the earth was round and even made a fairly accurate estimation of its circumference.
You see, the earth is irregular, some parts are rock, some are water and others are melted rock. This means it stretches when forces are applied to it. First thing, the earth spins, the equator spinning the fastest. This means more force on the equator and causes a bulge.
That’s the reason the earth is not round, now here comes the pearification. The earth is irregular remember, so it stretches bizarrely, this means it is not an oblate spheroid or a squashed sphere. Instead the bulge is not on the equator but just south. So now you know, the earth is pear-shaped, or Piriform if you want the correct adjective. If you wanted to be even more accurate the specific shape of the Earth is a Geoid. Geoid meaning 'Earth-shaped', which is a Then comes Columbus. As you can tell, he did very good example of a useless definition. not discover that the world was round, it had been known for well over 1000 years before he was even born. He in fact set out to find a new and better trading route with parts of Asia, and failed. He did however succeed in another way by correctly believing the earth was shaped like the aforementioned cosmic fruit. In fact he claimed that he didn’t discover a better trading route to Asia because of the bulging part of the pear near the stalk. To be clear the earth does not have a stalk, but it is definitely a little pear shaped.
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Leading Philosopher, Professor Simon Blackburn, Asks “What Good is God?” Some two hundred and fifty years ago David Hume showed that if, looking at the world as we find it, our thoughts fly up to a supernatural creator, the implications must be less than meets the eye. In fact, there aren’t any. For even if we convince ourselves of a Divine Architect, then all we know is that he made a world like this. It is our only data point. If the unjust flourish in this world, then that seems to be how it is. If the innocent die, or suffer, that is how it is too. That’s what this architect does, and for all we can possibly tell, it is all he does. Anything else in which we dress him (or her or it or they) will be the result of our own fancies. Once we understand this, it does not much matter whether we believe in the Divine Architect or not. No trip to Hotel Supernatural enables you to come back with more legitimate luggage than you took there. Illegitimate luggage is only the weight of other peoples’ dogmas, or the primitive and pastoral morals of two thousand years ago. So why are things so heated, with the secular world feeling embattled by rising tides of faith, whether Islamic, Pentecostal, revivalist, Scientological, or in many other more or less crazy clothings? Is the Western world in something like the condition of Florence at the end of the fifteenth century, apparently willfully allowing the light, the humanism and the art of the Renaissance to be made a bonfire at the whim of one deranged Dominican preacher?
Perhaps it is. Fr. Savonarola gained his power in a time of economic decline, and political confusion. The small people in Florence saw the gap between themselves and the rich opening ever wider, while catastrophes and omens battered at the confidence of the previous generations. They could be bought off with pageants and display for short periods but eventually the dam burst. I think there is an alarming similarity to our own overheated, fearful and confused time. It is useless for the “new atheists” to argue with such a mood. As the great anthropologist and sociologist Emile Durkheim showed almost exactly a century ago, a religion organizes people into a congregation, a force that celebrates the power of the society over the individual, or reinforces the collective will. We look back on, say, Fascism in Europe as a kind of insanity, a manifestation of the madness of crowds. But the fascist bands were people like ourselves, just as their victims were. The power of people gathered into a congregation is unfortunately proportional to the irrationality of their aims, or the infirmity of their grasp either of their own situation or of what might usefully be done about it. What is needed, therefore, are not old arguments about the nature of the Gods. What is needed is a just social dispensation. Unfortunately the City and the Government, the police and the Press, are locked in an unholy alliance to prevent any movement in such a direction. Perhaps it will take a crusade to shift them.
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The Dogmatic Atheist By Geoff Keeling, Editor in Chief
British civility is not just found in queues. This “after you” culture has spilt into the debating arena to the extent that it’s impolite to propose an argument without first dampening the blow with a bubble-wrap of mitigating “in my opinion” or “perhaps you should consider” comments. By neglecting to adhere to the nanny debate rulebook, you leave yourself open to the rather draconian D-word: Dogmatic. On the philosophical stage, dogma begins with the theists – not all, but certainly the religious ones. With long established beliefs about the metaphysical, all asserted as fact, the Dword suits them to a T. During any God debate, as the atheist starts to gain ground, the theist notoriously whips out the old tu quoque: “In denying God’s existence, you’re being equally dogmatic”. In general this necessitates the use of one of two stock responses. The first highlights that the statement ‘there is no God’ is not really saying anything; it is the baseline and nothing more. We do not pack the table with asserted propositions and then attempt to falsify them. Instead, we begin with a blank table and see what we can reasonably put on it. It is dogmatic to say ‘there is a God’, as this is proposing something positively; to say ‘there is no God’, however, proposes nothing. Thus, it is unfair to deem the atheist dogmatic. If your opponent then stares back at you with a degree of emptiness in their eyes – to the point where you involuntarily think, “I wonder what’s going on inside that head...” it’s probably best that you follow the second, more digestible, line of argument. Capitalise upon the opportunity to pull the carpet from beneath their feet. “Why, yes I am being dogmatic and have every right to be so,” they didn’t see that one coming. “Having spent the entirety of this discussion providing nothing but reasoned arguments for my point – despite your bearing of the burden of proof, my dogmatism is, without a shadow of a doubt, fully justified.” The overall point is that the “after you” culture hinders reasoned discussion. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with being dogmatic about a conclusion with logical and evidential backing. If it can withstand your opponent’s scrutiny to the point that they abandon ship and start calling you dogmatic, the chances are you’re probably correct. The D-word has accumulated a number of negative implications; however, I would argue that it can be used in both a positive and a negative sense. A fundamentalist asserting balderdash left, right and centre is dogmatic in the negative sense; by contrast, however, St Thomas Aquinas, who could say with a degree of satisfaction: “I believe there is a God and here are my five arguments to prove it,” could perhaps be called dogmatic in a positive sense. Aquinas was ultimately wrong; however, what he did get right is that justified dogma is acceptable. It’s futile to assert evolution as a point of view when it has such strong evidential support. It is not impolite to be dogmatic about evolution. Thus, to offer some degree of conclusion: Theists – before deeming atheists dogmatic, perhaps look at the word in both its senses. The chances are, they have a very strong reasoned conclusion with evidential backing, and thus have every right to be dogmatic. In fact, their dogmatism is a positive thing, as it shares truth with the rest of the world. Then look at yourself. In employing the ad hominem insult, the D-word, as it were, you are – by all probability – being dogmatic in the negative sense, which really is not commendable in the academic arena.
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Professor Peter Simons explains 'Why it’s Irrational to be a Creationist...' Those who subscribe to creationism in biology (hereafter I omit “in biology”) are not just wrong but irrational. Anyone can be mistaken: to err is human. But creationists do more than err: in persisting in their error against overwhelming evidence they offend against widely accepted norms of rationality. I am driving with my friend Sam when the car unexpectedly stops. I discover the fuel tank is empty and the fuel gauge is broken. But Sam insists that the car has stopped because it has been cursed by a witch. Despite all the accumulated evidence that cars need fuel to run and this car has none, he insists that a witch is to blame.
design is as perfectly explained by evolutionary theory as anything in science. The evidence in favour of the standard theory ranges over the whole gamut of the sciences, from the history and geology of the earth through biochemistry and the physical mechanisms of life, including in particular the mechanisms of genetic inheritance, to population statistics. It all interlocks and points to the standard theory’s correctness. This is not to say that we know everything. We still have no clear idea of how selfreplicating molecules gave rise to the first organisms, nor are we fully informed about how DNA it its cellular environment control the growth and maintenance of organisms. Science pushes ahead on many frontiers and we learn new and sometimes surprising things all the time. But none of the science offers a shred of evidence for creationism: it all points towards the standard theory, with the main facts in place though many details still need to be determined. The standard theory describes the complicated mechanism for adaptation, the account of which we refine as we discover more. Creationism offers just one simple mechanism: God did it all.
Sam is being irrational. It is irrational to hold on to a belief when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that hangs together and that is accepted by well-informed people. Sam is refusing to accept the overwhelming evidence, attested by good practice and backed by sound theory, that the car stopped because it ran out of fuel. In fact he is prepared, in order to preserve his belief, to claim that witches can make fuel mysteriously disappear to make it appear as though lack of fuel was the cause. Given two alternative explanations for a phenomenon, one of which offers no evidence and rests on supernatural assumptions, the other Creationists are like Sam. Creationists hold that of which offers a compelling web of mutually the adaptedness of organisms to their supporting evidence with no supernatural environment, the manifold features of their involvement, it is not only wrong to believe the metabolism, anatomy and behaviour that suit first theory, it is against the dictates of reason, them to life, are the result of deliberate design which tell us we should prefer explanations for and creation by God. Until the nineteenth century, which there is better evidence. On this count, a this was a reasonable hypothesis. But since the creationist is no better than a child who thinks a advent of Darwin and Wallace’s theory of car which stopped when it ran out of fuel was evolution by natural selection, and especially cursed by a witch. But like Sam, they are old since the synthesis of evolution theory with enough to know better. genetics, it has become clear that the appearance of deliberate design is, like the apparent intervention of witchcraft, an illusion. The appearance of
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Professor Philip Schofield of University College London on Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) is probably best known as the ‘dead man in the box’, and as the originator of the panopticon prison. As for the man in a box, Bentham’s ‘auto-icon’, as he termed it, sits in quiet contemplation in the main building of University College London, keeping a watchful eye on the comings and goings from the office of the Provost and President. The auto-icon consists of Bentham’s articulated skeleton, dressed in his own clothes, with a wax head in place of the real one (which is stored in special atmospheric conditions in UCL’s Institute of Archaeology). The auto-icon evokes many reactions, from amusement to bewilderment. Bentham’s own purpose, as revealed in his pamphlet with the intriguing title of ‘Auto-Icon; or, Of the Further Uses of the Dead to the Living’, was to serve as a symbolic attack on the Church and on religion more generally, the aristocracy, and lawyers. In Bentham’s view, religion was a major source of human misery, while the aristocracy and lawyers represented the corrupt political and legal establishments of his day. He wanted all practices, institutions, and beliefs to be tested against the standard of the greatest happiness principle, or the principle of utility, which stated that the only right and proper end of action was to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. If something better could be suggested, then it should be adopted. Bentham found his ideas opposed by what he saw as a massive block of interconnected conservative forces, and in death, as in life, he wanted to encourage critical thinking, and thereby give impetus to the movement for reform. As for panopticon, the idea came from Bentham’s brother Samuel, a talented navel engineer who carried out many reforms in the nation’s shipyards. Bentham realised that central inspection, which was the essence of panopticon, could be of benefit to many institutions, including hospitals, schools, and manufactories, as well as prisons.
In the late 1780s, the British government appeared to have a pressing need for a penitentiary system, since transportation to America was no longer possible with the loss of the thirteen colonies, and transportation to New South Wales was only just beginning. Bentham believed that his panopticon prison, consisting of a circular building with an inspection tower in the centre and cells on the circumference, could be used to keep inmates secure, to exploit their labour for a profit, and to reform them. In fact, Bentham’s panopticon was never built, and his disappointment with the way in which he was treated by government ministers was a critical factor in pushing Bentham into political radicalism in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Bentham’s panopticon is often seen as Bentham’s model for the modern state. The better interpretation is to see Bentham’s model for the modern state as the panopticon in reverse. In the panopticon prison, the governor is able to watch all the inmates all the time. Bentham noted, ‘The more strictly we are watched, the better we behave.’ In terms of government, Bentham wanted the people to be able watch, and effectively control, the actions of rulers, if not all, at least the vast majority, of the time. Publicity was the key to good government, and publicity was most effective under a representative democracy, where there would be no monarch, no House of Lords or other second legislative chamber, and no established Church. Bentham’s most important legacy is not his autoicon, but his manuscripts. Around 60,000 folios are deposited in UCL Library, and a further 15,000 in the British Library. This material, and Bentham’s printed and published works generally, had never been properly edited, until UCL set up the Bentham Project in the late 1950s in order to carry out the task.
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“Just as morality and religion did not interfere in the methods of cookery, so they should not interfere in the modes of sexual gratification. This is quite extraordinary, given that it was written in 1818.” To date, 29 volumes have appeared in the new authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. There will eventually be about 70 volumes in total. New discoveries are being made all the time in Bentham studies, thanks to the work of the Bentham Project. At the moment, work is being undertaken, for instance, on Bentham’s writings on sexual morality, in which he condemned the asceticism he associated with the Mosaic law and St Paul, and called for sexual liberty, going so far as to suggest that there was Biblical evidence that Jesus himself engaged in homosexual activity. Bentham argued that ‘the pleasures of the bed’ should be treated with the same ‘indifference’ as ‘the pleasures of the table’. Just as with the table, individuals were left free to choose not only the ‘crude material’ that they ate but ‘the mode of cooking, seasoning and serving up’, so with the bed they should be left free to choose: ‘with or without a partner—if with a partner, whether with a partner of the same species or with a partner of another species: if of the same species, whether of the correspondent and opposite sex or of the same sex: number of partners, two only or more than two’. In every instance, the ‘portions and parts of the body employed’ should be left to the free choice of the individuals concerned. Just as morality and religion did not interfere in the methods of cookery, so they should not interfere in the modes of sexual gratification. This is quite extraordinary, given that it was written in 1818.
Anyone who wishes to do so may now contribute to the new Bentham edition by registering with Transcribe Bentham at http:// www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham- Project/ transcribe_bentham. Transcribe Bentham is an award-winning scholarly crowdsourcing initiative. Manuscripts that have never before been transcribed are being made available online. You go to the Transcription Desk, choose a manuscript image, transcribe it, and submit it to the Bentham Project moderator. The efforts of successful transcribers will be acknowledged in the volumes in which their transcripts are subsequently used. There are still about 45,000 untranscribed manuscripts, and so there is plenty of work for everyone!
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Light of the world. Jonathan Esterman This summer, I had the opportunity to explore the Central Oregon landscape with my family. The result was more than I had bargained for, in many ways. We took advantage of the daytime heat and ventured to the Lava River Cave. What I had thought to be a half a mile in and a half a mile back turned out to be double - two miles in distance total. I have walked two miles before. In fact, I often walk more than that. But cave walking is different...cave walking is up, down, sideways, over rocks, down ledges, across slippery sand...all while guiding a four year old there and holding a one year old the way back. It was wonderful...and tiring. A nice forty-two degrees both ways, in pitch black darkness, my family and I lit our way by the warm glow of a propane lantern. The trip that I thought would be only a hour, tops, managed to transform into two hours of exploration. When we reached the end, there was hardly a person in sight, and 1.0 announced he was about to pee himself...so we managed to navigate him around a rock in the area that was not even tall enough for him, and he did what many people never get the chance to do: leave your [urine-based] mark on the
The cave was much more, though. When down in the darkness, I noticed something. Up in the light, there are dark areas, but not often. Our electric power can keep a city lit continually. Down in the cave, there is darkness everywhere. It's cold. It's mysterious. It's enchanting. And it's also easy to get lost in. But that's not what I noticed. Actually, I had the opportunity to witness the impact of light. You see, darkness is simply absence of light, nothing more. Down in the cave, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel anytime there was anyone close with a lantern. It's easy to spot where the light is, but you never really know how dark darkness is until you are surrounded by it. Even then, though, light creeps in from all sorts of places. And it reminded me that I am a light. Despite how dim my light may be at times (how far I stray from the path), I am still a light (once a witness, always a witness). And that's the deal.
â€œYou are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.â€? Matthew 5:14-16 HSCB
10 | The Manic Thought Publication | Philosophy These are the words of Jesus Christ. Despite the years placed between the writers of the original texts of the Bible and me, this remains: the Holy Bible still impacts the lives of many today, being the most-read book of all time and a guide to many in life, not just those that profess to be Christian. Jesus, for those who don't know, was a Jewish carpenter who began his prophetic ministry when he was about the age of thirty. In three years, he gained a following and put the religious leaders of this time, who were under Roman control, at odds with him. His declarations revolutionised the way people connect to faith today, living in an era of personal practice and grace instead of overt legalism and fear (many groups are still like this, but not mainstream practices are). Calling himself the Son of G-d, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. The Bible accounts for this tale, and his resurrection. The impact of the words of Christ can be far-seen, but also very personal. Whether one believes in the account of Jesus, what he said still applies today. We are accountable to others. We may not care, or recognise this, but it is true nonetheless. What we say, what we do, impacts everyone around us. Perhaps, in this time of turmoil on the topic of G-d and religion, it may do us well to remember that faith is as simple as having faith. No matter where we are, or what we've done, we are never too far from grace. We are never too far from hope. We are never too far from being saved from whatever pit we've fallen into. While I should pursue being a light, and cast the light, it will be cast regardless. After all, the light casts out the dark.
â€œThe light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.â€? John 1:5 ESV The question isn't about what you are doing or not doing. The question isn't about what you intend to do or have done. The question, actually, is about who you are. So, who are you? What do you stand for? Will you embrace the light, or run from it? In the end, no matter how far you run...destiny is destiny, and all that really is, is you doing what you are meant to do. We all have a purpose.
Are you pursuing yours?
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Liberty and the Law Criminal defence barrister and television broadcaster, Harry Potter, examines the history behind this very complex relationship... In 1215 King John put his seal to the most famous document in English - and arguably world history Magna Carta. In origin a compromise agreement between a hard pressed king and his nobility, it was seen at the time of its transmission throughout the kingdom as very significant, but it was the myth that grow up around it, largely created in the seventeenth century by Common Lawyers flexing the muscles of the law and parliament against Stuart despotism, that was to see it being perceived as the fons et origo of English Liberty itself. Myth is as powerful as actuality, or even more so. As Samuel Johnson later cheekily observed, the Great Charter ‘was born with a grey beard.’ By the early seventeenth century the beard was full grown and the Charter was elevated for political means to an unassailable status no other document has held in our history. That this final transmutation had not taken place earlier is perfectly demonstrated by the fact that Shakespeare in his play King John, which was written before 1598 in the reign of good Queen Bess, makes no mention of what is now considered the most significant event of the reign. This emergence Magna Carta as the source, or more precisely the succour, of all our ancient liberties was achieved largely as a result of the exertions of that great champion of the Common Law, Edward Coke who pointedly portrayed it as ‘such a fellow that he will have no sovereign.’ He was building an extension, not a house. The foundations for his erection were laid in the thirteenth and fourteenth century in the restatements and developments of the Charter. It was in the context of bitter rivalry between an alien Stuart King and Parliament, and on the authority of Coke that it became - in Holt’s words - the unquestioned ‘fundamental incontrovertible law’, enshrining for ever the rights and liberties of all Englishmen, whatever their status. A statute protecting specific liberties was in effect proclaiming Liberty. In particular Clause 39 (no freeman should be imprisoned or outlawed unless by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land) and Clause 40 (to none should the King sell, deny, or delay right or justice) were hailed as the origins of Habeas
Corpus, trial by jury, and the liberties of the subject generally. These claims maybe somewhat specious for instance, Habeas Corpus was part of the royal prerogative and originated as a writ issued in the royal courts - but the clauses had been (in the words of Geoffrey Robertson) ‘felicitous phrases’ which ‘gradually entered the common law and worked their rhetorical magic down the centuries.’ But so what? The myth has not distorted the reality, merely expanded it. The Charter ‘meant more than it said.’ It was code of law established by royal charter at the prompting of his subjects. As such it opened the way to periodic revisions of custom and law and implied that government could not be conducted to the damage of the governed. Merely by existing it was a rebuke to the rule of arbitrary will. These clauses were supremely adaptable and so could sustain many interpretations and much development. They were intended to protect all freemen not just the barons against the kinds of arbitrary conduct which a particular king, John, had been committing against the latter. Why should they not be invoked against tyrannous power everywhere and in every time? Why should the term ‘freemen’ - a fairly limited group in the England of King John - not be expanded to include everyone? Maitland pontificated that ‘this document becomes and rightly becomes a sacred text, the nearest approach to an unrepealable “fundamental statute”
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that England has ever had.’ In more recent years, the most creative practitioner in the Common Law, Lord Denning, succinctly expressed a similar view of the significance of this great charter which he considered ‘the foundation of the freedom of the against the arbitrary authority of the despot.’ It was Excalibur waiting to be drawn from the stone. It was a tool waiting to be honed. On two occasions of the greatest historical moment Magna Carta would become just such a sword of for liberty against over weaning . Preceding the English Civil War it was cited by Parliamentarians contesting the arbitrary rule of Charles I. As a result of the royal resort to taxation without parliamentary approval and the imprisonment of those who refused to pay, Parliament, led by the former Chief Justice Edward Coke, issued and compelled the King to accede to the Petition. Both sides had claimed history supported them, Coke invoking Magna Carta, the King declaring his allegiance to the laws and customs of the realm. The Parliamentarians could hark back to the old distinction between kingship and tyranny, which assumed that the king and law ruled together in harmony. In 1441 Chief Baron Frey had offered his definition of the relationship between the king and the law: ‘The law is the highest inheritance the king has, for by the law he himself and all his subjects are ruled. And if the law were not, there would be no king and no inheritance.’ The law was the king’s inheritance, it was not his tool. Coke in particular condemned the imprisonment of defaulters as undermining the liberties enshrined in Magna Carta, ‘such a fellow as will have no sovereign.’ His fearless oratory rallied and united the House ‘as when one good hound recovers the scent the rest come with
full cry.’ Sir Benjamin Rudyard declared that he would ‘be very glad to see that old decrepit Law Magna Carta which hath been kept so long, and lien bed- rid as it were, .... walk abroad again with new vigour and lustre, attended and followed with the other six statutes [of Edward III]; questionless it will be a great heartening to all the people.’ Coke breathed new life into the old boy and he did so by devising a Parliamentary riposte - the Petition of Right of 1628 which, amidst unctuous protestations of loyalty and deference, clearly declared arbitrary detention by Royal fiat, taxation without parliamentary approval, and billeting without consent, unlawful. The Petition ‘put the final touch’ to the earlier incremental development of the meaning and compass of Magna Carta. It was the final gloss on the sacred text. This was more than just the first statutory restriction on the powers the Crown since the accession of the Tudors. It was the culmination in the centuries’ old development of Magna Carta itself. Lord Bingham, a recent Lord Chief Justice has written that the Petition was as significant to the rule of law as the Charter or Habeas Corpus, and its acceptance by the King was when the Common Law ‘came of age’. Of just as great import in world history, in the eighteenth century, Magna Carta inspired the fathers of the American Revolution and provided the basis for the United States’ Constitution, and has been accorded a sacred status in that country, even greater than in our own. King John’s unwitting legacy to liberty has been the creation of a constitutional monarchy in this country and of the first truly democratic republic in history.
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Matt Burnage Explores...
Morality, Public Opinion and Peer Pressue in Modern Society
14 | The Manic Thought Publication | The Arts Recently, stand-up comedian Jimmy Carr was revealed to have invested in a tax avoidance scheme known as K2. Public disapproval quickly ensued, with Prime Minister David Cameron describing Carr’s actions as ‘morally wrong’. Social media site Twitter also turned on the comic, with tweets such as ‘Jimmy Carr keeps 8 out of 10 pounds’ (a reference to the panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats, which Carr hosts). Despite having initially shrugged off accusations by claiming ‘I pay what I have to and not a penny more’, he quickly issued an apology on Twitter, claiming that he had made a ‘terrible error of judgement’. The scandal then began to turn against the Prime Minister, with his personal finance details coming under fire. All of this happened in the space of a mere seven days. Public opinion has always been a powerful political tool. The French Revolution is possibly the most famous early example of the power of public opinion, through the bourgeoisie-led uprising, that ultimately overthrew the established order and changed the course of history. In the modern world, the phenomenon of public opinion has increased in importance drastically. The sheer scale of social media sites such as Twitter has resulted in news being spread in minutes. In its wake comes the forest fire of public opinion. Where issues of morality are involved such as in the case of Carr’s, the pressure built is even greater, which resulted in Carr reneging his use of the K2 scheme.
peers, people have come to accept certain views, to avoid being associated with such an unjustified viewpoint. The same can be said of homophobia. To some extent, the far less potent position of the Church in modern society in comparison to 100 years previous to nowadays has played a role in the more commonplace acceptance of same-sex relationships. However, in the same way as one would not want to be branded as a ‘racist’, very few would want to also be given the ‘homophobic’ label.
By no means is this peer pressure the only contributing factor to the ascendance of more liberal views. Children are indoctrinated into a liberal world from an early age – have you ever noticed the abundance of multicultural names in exam papers? This has furthered the influence of the racist and homophobic labels, no young child would want to be ostracised from their peers by upholding what may be the view of their parents. As a result, they adapt to fit in, adopting the liberal views of those around them as their own. It is the same fear of social rejection that motivated Carr to back out of his tax avoidance, despite being a comic with a debatably damaged moral compass anyway, few would give pay to see the performance of a tax avoider, even though, given the chance, many would take efforts to minimise their tax bill if they could. The same can be seen in the closure of the ‘News of the World’ – Rupert Murdoch is unlikely to have wanted to shut it The case of Jimmy Carr however, is only a minor down, but the repercussions on his business if he incident. One of the most prominent roles public did not could have been severe. opinion has had in the 20th century is in the I am by no means advocating racism or degrading of two important attitudes – racism and homophobia, although the moral high ground that homophobia. Before I continue, I feel it necessary liberals now stand atop does seem somewhat to make it clear that I am not criticising the effects hollow, given the distinct similarities between of what I am about to discuss, nor promoting the looking down on homophobes and doing the same two aforementioned views. to those with a homosexual disposition. An interesting question this raises is, just how far can Racism, or racialism as it should be known, was public opinion and peer pressure influence once the norm. In the 18th century, discrimination individuals? There do seem to be limits on the based on racial factors would not have been seen effects of moral-based pressure. While David as the morally degenerate action it is today. Cameron has criticised Jimmy Carr for tax Nowadays though, it is essentially a taboo. Racism, avoidance, Downing Street has still failed to to a large degree, has been eradicated not by the publish his own finance details, something that emergence of more liberal public opinion, but they were intending to do. Perhaps morality can, in through the use of the word itself. Have you ever some cases, be neglected in favour of one’s own noticed how people recoil after being branded interests... with the title ‘racist’? Or have you heard the sentence beginning with the phrase ‘I’m not being racist, but...’ The word racist has effectively become an insult. If you are stigmatized with the racist mark, you are looked down upon by society, as some kind of morally broken and heinous individual. Very few people would want to be viewed as this kind of person. As a result, in an attempt to ‘fit in’ with their perhaps more liberal
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In Defence of Failiure History is written by winners and this is unlikely to change. Unfortunately, this leads to the overlooking of important, significant and interesting failures. One of the most interesting of failures in relatively recent French history is Napoleon III. The period of French history between 1815 and 1871 is in many respects a grey blur. It is not entirely ignored, but few syllabi cover the reigns of Louis XVIII, Charles X, Louis Philippe and Napoleon III. Relatively little is published, and the tendency to skip from Napoleon to the Third Republic continues despite the fact that Napoleon III rewards study. His life is a testament to the virtues of determination. He based his career upon a name that that arguably wasn’t his, and could have considered himself fortunate that DNA tests had yet to be discovered in view of his mother’s infidelity. In the absence of proof to the contrary, rumours about his parentage remained that, and he was able to struggle to power on the basis that his father was Napoleon’s brother, Louis. Had the Duke de Reichstadt, Napoleon’s son, survived beyond 1832, none of this would have mattered, but he didn’t. Despite failed coups and imprisonment he was finally able to take advantage of the divisions within French society and its longing for stability after the 1848 revolution to secure his election as president of the Second Republic. Once in power he set about securing the
permanence of his, and his family’s, reign. Having proclaimed himself as Napoleon III in 1852 he legitimised his seizure of power with the Napoleonic tactic that was to become the standard tool of dictators, the plebiscite. His reign led to several wars. In the Crimean War he restored French prestige in alliance with her traditional foe, Britain. The significance of the Crimean War, which may not have been fought if Britain had been unable to secure the support of a major European land power, is difficult to underestimate. It laid the foundations for the rest of the century’s development and although he only inadvertently contributed to these developments it is worth emphasising his role in them. His involvement in Italy at the end of the 1850s continued to demonstrate his contribution to the profound and lasting impact on Europe with the eventual unification of the country. His disastrous war in Mexico failed to maintain French prestige, angered the Habsburgs with the death of their representative in the New World, antagonised the Americans and forced France into increasingly desperate attempts to resist the rise and rise of the increasingly troublesome Prussia. This desperation was to lead to the disastrous Franco-Prussian War. The impact of the Franco Prussian was to overshadow even that of the Crimean War and it is possible to see its ramifications continuing to this day. Napoleon III may not have matched his uncle’s military ability, but the impact of his wars has
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A look at the reign of Napoleon III... been dramatic. This alone makes him worthy of study because without Napoleon’s views, history, prejudices, and policies, the world in which we live would not exist. Bismarck has secured the spotlight, but without an understanding of Napoleon III the jigsaw remains incomplete. His contribution to the modern world does not rest solely on war, successful or otherwise. Although he was capable of enduring failure and hardship he was also a
man inclined to pleasure. It would have been understandable, if after securing power, he had simply wallowed in a life of sybaritic indolence, but he didn’t. The centre of Paris bears his mark as do many major French cities and he struggled to find a lasting constitutional settlement to satisfy the demands of a polarised France. Whether or not he undertook these policies as a matter of self-interest is irrelevant. His legacy,
particularly in the architecture of France continues to be a source of joy. Even for those motivated by the more parochial British perspective it is possible to gain pride from the achievement of the Prince Imperial who died bravely fighting for the British against the Zulus in 1879. Louis Napoleon’s character is all the more interesting as a result of its faults because we recognise that our own characters are deeply flawed. The image created by descriptions of his gently wilting waxed moustache as he engaged physically with one of the many objects of his infidelity is difficult to remove. One can’t condone his immorality, but no drama is complete without a description of human weakness to sustain our interest. As Fleury stated, ‘It wasn’t a proper empire, but we had the devil of a good time’. Napoleon III was a failure in many respects, but he does not deserve to be largely written out of history. The decisions he made continue to have an effect on France, Europe and the wider world. Losers do not make history in the way that we conventionally understand, but their contribution should notbe neglected by those wishing to view the entire picture. In some instances the loser’s story is more interesting and the loser’s character contains more of what makes us human than that of the victor. By MJC
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Competition Winner, Michael Summers, writes “Interpreting Kubrick: ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and the Question of Intelligence." Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 work ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (hereafter ‘2001’) is as much a piece of art as it is a motion picture. Equally commendable, both philosophically and cinematically, ‘2001’ has achieved cult status and sits easily among masterpieces such as ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Beneath a narrative that follows man from the discovery of tools to the creation of artificial intelligence; embedded in ‘2001’ are a number of existential questions, concerning everything from the meaning of intelligence itself, to man’s place within the universe. Central to the film is the notion that man’s intellectual development is guided by superior beings. Man acquires knowledge of tools by interacting with a large grey monolith. Following the discovery of a second monolith on the moon; it is later revealed that the mission to Jupiter is one in search of a third monolith; though the crew were to remain uninformed until arrival, due to the importance of the mission. The only individual on the Ship to know was HAL, the computer, who possesses a number of human qualities. Most notably among these is the fundamental desire to survive. When HAL’s judgement over a hardware error comes into question – HAL, who believes himself to be infallible – attempts to kill off both pilots. His plan is only partially successful. We are then brought to the notable scene wherein Dave – the remaining pilot – attempts to retrieve the body of his colleague from the vacuum of space. Famously, when he wishes for HAL to “open the pod bay doors,” HAL responds by saying, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Now alone in the emptiness of space, Dave breaks into the ship, intent on shutting HAL down. As Dave makes his way to the memory core, HAL expresses fear, actually pleading with Dave to stop. The computer is then disconnected; a process during which it vocally expresses memory loss and the inability to concentrate. Eventually, HAL is fully disconnected whilst singing “daisy bell”, its earliest memory. After disconnecting, a video plays explaining the true purpose of the mission. It is unclear whether HAL attempted to dispatch the crew due to the importance of the mission, or simply out of a desire for
survival. The key question raised here is what exactly constitutes artificial intelligence? HAL is programmed to display human emotion, but does this equate to experiencing emotion? In order to answer this question, it is perhaps necessary to view emotion in evolutionary terms. That is to say, what is fear, other than a chemical response designed to aid our survival. What is empathy? It occurs when we picture ourselves in the position of another and see this as undesirable. One may argue that at the root of all emotion is fundamentally the will to survive and secondly the desire to make the survival as pleasurable as possible. If a computer were programmed to make every effort not to be shut down; then is it really that dissimilar to us? Emotion is merely an evolutionary tool to aid in our survival and in the survival of those around us. Even love, which arguably developed because offspring have a greater chance of survival under the protection of two parents. Looking at the new Apple Siri software, with its vocal interaction, we must question just how far away we are from HAL? Were we to have a machine with similar technology, baring the ability to learn; should it be programmed to make every effort not to shut down, controversially, it could be argued that we would have created intelligent life. Of course, there will no doubt be objections to this proposal. Fundamentally, however, we have to consider not how far machines must come to have true human qualities; but how humans are based on machine qualities. Humans, like machines are based on coded data. With software that can learn, speak and understand the human voice, every day we drive further away from replication of human characteristics. In reality, replicated characteristics in order to survive, in many ways cannot be distinguished from human characteristics displayed with the same motive.
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