Sunday 6 July 2014

Holy orders - the religion of tobacco control

I like logic. Logic floats my boat. I like knowing that if all A's are B's and all C's are A's, then it follows logically that all C's are also B's. I like evidence too. I like being able to examine it and draw conclusions from it, rather than just take it on faith. It just does it for me.

And that's why I'm an atheist. I'm not claiming to be any kind of expert, however there isn't a single argument for the existence of a deity that I've seen that doesn't have a logical fallacy wallowing around at its core. Not a one. And I've looked, believe me. With this new fangled interweb thing, its only too easy to find a place where evangelists come clashing head on with atheists, and I've spent a considerable amount of time listening to every argument they could come up with. They just don't hold water. Your mileage may vary of course - if you believe in god, good for you, but like nudism and chickenpox, keep it in your own home and try not to inflict it on other people.

Since I switched from my 26 year pack a day smoking habit to vaping, I have come across another set of evangelists, and that's who I'd like to talk about today. As you're reading this blog, I'm sure you'll know who I'm talking about. Tobacco Control, and its fundamentalist sect - the anti-nicotine zealot.

You wont be surprised to learn that they share many traits with their ecclesiastic brethren, and share many of the same faults as well. Lets run down a few shall we, just for fun? Faults that is, not tobacco controllers, no matter how much fun that might be. Keep an eye out for the logical fallacies I've cunningly hidden in the text too. Its like a spotter guide to TC bullshit.

The Book of Public Health
Chapter 1, verse 1.
And it came to pass that the Lord created a garden, and he looked upon that garden and saw that it was good. Into that garden he placed the public, that they may be fruitful and multiply, and live long with health equality and a low sugar diet. But in that garden was a snake, and that snake was called Big Tobacco. Its teeth were cigarettes, and its venom was cancer. And the Lord saw the snake, and despised it. But the Lord could not rid the garden of the snake, as the Lord needed to pay his rent, and smacking the snake around a bit paid very well. Very well indeed. And the Lord saw that it was good.
Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters? Thought I might.

Here we see the first similarity. The existence of a powerful and evil enemy, who must be defeated at all costs. Christians get Satan, tobacco control gets Big Tobacco (which sounds of so much scarier when you give it capitals). The enemy is the father of lies, its actions are of the purest evil intent. If you question whether the enemy might actually not be so bad after all, you are a witch and must be burned at the stake. Literally for Christians in the not so distant past, and professionally for tobacco control - our second similarity. Take money from a tobacco company and you can effectively kiss your career goodbye. Its over. So long. Bye bye. Theres no examination of evidence, theres no critical thinking regarding the claims made, its simply dismissed due to its source. You are a heretic, and you must be made to pay the price.

Christianity, and indeed most other religions, rely upon the teachings of the wise, be they Popes or Parsons. These people are the ones who know the Truth, and interpret it for their acolytes and followers. Our third similarity. Tobacco control has its luminaries, whose word is taken as gospel. Its taken as a article of faith that they are correct, that their conclusions are informed by a rigorous and dispassionate examination of the evidence. When one of those pillars of faith is removed, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down, just as it does when arguments for the existence of god are critically examined.

What remains is an unsupported assertion. As the late Christopher Hitchens said "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." Tobacco Controls demands that vaping be proved safe are the same as religions demands that atheists prove the non-existence of god - our fourth similarity. If you cannot prove vaping is safe, then it must be regulated and restricted. This is obviously not true, assumes a binary on/off position of safe or unsafe, and takes no account of the scale of risk.

There is evidence, plenty of it, so the reliance on the word of a luminary such as Stanton Glantz rather than critically examining the evidence is lazy and insipid. A modicum of examination can easily dispense with claims such as "we just dont know whats in them", or "theres no proof that they're safe", or "they're a gateway to smoking", or that old favourite "protecting the children", yet TC blithely accept them as gospel.

Similarity number five comes straight from the blind eyed, closed minds of Creationists, and their willingness to interpret evidence in whatever way is necessary to support their presupposed conclusion. These are the people who tell us that the reason fossils lie in strata is due to their differing ability to swim during the great flood.

When the evidence is weak, sex it up. When its non-existent, make it up. We can see this amply demonstrated by Simon Chapman, who can spin data so hard it develops its own gravity field. For the Christians, I give you Ray Comfort describing the "atheists nightmare". Watch it, its hilarious.

One wonders how the same man can be so homophobic, when the human penis is also made perfectly for the hand and is just the right shape to fit easily into a mans mouth. Surely then, god intended man to suck cock? No? Oh right. Maybe its because the contents may squirt in your face. Who knows, other than Ray 'Bananaman' Comfort, and the big guy in the sky.

But I digress.

What is their motivation?

Money and power, which are essentially the same thing. A rich church is a powerful church, and a well funded TC lobby is a powerful lobby. Similarity number six. This keeps a lot of people in jobs, in research grants, in overseas speaking engagements and in all the other fineries and fripperies their position can gather. They get to tell people how to behave, and are paid to do so, a combination which is highly attractive to a certain type of person, who can be found in both academia and religion.

So we have two systems with identical hierarchical systems of authority, a reliance of faith rather than evidence, an all-powerful enemy, who regularly shift the burden of proof rather than providing their own evidence, and where they do use evidence have a tendency to distort it or even outright lie to support their preferred conclusion, to establish and protect a position of power and influence based on ideology.

This concludes this evenings sermon. The ushers will now pass amongst you with the collection plate. Please give generously.