The uncomfortable truth

Before you walk away from lockdown and face-first into the coronavirus, we need to discuss the elephant in the room: your uncomfortable relationship with science. 

[This is an edited extract from Tim Noakes: The Quiet Maverick by Daryl Ilbury, available online at leading bookstores and on]

Religion is possibly the single biggest destructive force in the shaping of public opinion towards science, and the chances are it’s not going to go away any time soon. The eminent American biologist Edward O. Wilson, in his influential treatise On Human Nature, says that ‘the predisposition to religious belief is the most complex and powerful force in the human mind and in all probability an ineradicable part of human nature'. He points to the discoveries of bone altars and displays of funeral rites in Neanderthal dwellings as evidence that the belief

The power of prayer runs dry

Abstract: It seems God wanted the Pope to die...

If I were little Johnny du Plessis of Fourways, gently cradling the frail hand of my dying Grandmother, I'd be very disillusioned with God. Because God doesn't seem to like old people all that much. If Johnny had been keeping an eye on current affairs over the past couple of weeks he would've come to the conclusion that there is a very popular man called The Pope who is right at the top of a very large and powerful organisation called The Catholic Church and that he is therefore very, very close to God.

Johnny would've learned that The Pope, like Johnny's granny, was old and very ill and that hundreds and thousands, possibly millions, of people were praying for his recovery. Amongst those praying for the Pope would have been bishops, priests and nuns and

Pity the poor atheists

Abstract: Everyone seems to hate atheists. But why?... God knows I'm an atheist! There you go, I've said. I've 'come out', as it were and acknowledged the fact that I don't believe in God or any other superpowerful supernatural being that supposedly made us and the universe, and who spreads their word via one or many prophets, angels, saints or persons in some manner or form. Writing that very sentence is either very brave of me or just very stupid because for some or other reason most people really don't like atheists. The chances are pretty good that when you read that sentence you felt some form of emotional reaction, anything from gentle surprise at the boldness of the statement to complete horror, and you now consider me akin to a trafficker of small children. Am I perhaps being a little overdramatic? It seems

The Crusades on our playgrounds?

Abstract: There is something that could threaten to tear apart even moderate Muslims and Christians - a potential battlefield on our children's playgrounds... Ever heard of Pollokshields? I doubt it. In fact, I doubt if anyone outside of this suburb of Glasgow has ever heard of it. And yet it may be a defining player in Islam's relationship with the West that could have repercussions in South Africa. I have just returned from the UK where the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoon debacle is still making the news. In a country that boasts a press that is legendary in its tenacity and sovereignty, the British press has been remarkably restrained. Unlike some of their European counterparts, they refused to publish the 'offensive' cartoons. Their moderation had nothing to do with censorship though. Like South Africans, the British are sensitive towards offending different

Why blacks shouldn’t be priests

Abstract: If saying blacks shouldn't be priests is racist, why is saying women shouldn't be priests, not misogynist?... I have a confession to make: I've misled you. Well, only to a certain degree. You see this is not really about why blacks shouldn't be priests because, obviously, I cannot think of a single reason why they shouldn't be. But your reaction to the title of this piece is central to its theme and potential impact. And if you were drawn to the title because of some expected discourse on the matter of priests, you won't be disappointed. I'll get to them later. But let me first remain with the theme of the title, and let me ask you this: can you think of any reason why blacks shouldn't be allowed to be priests? What about bishops, or rabbis, or mullahs? Of course not; the

Preparing our children for war

Abstract: Ever stopped to think how you may be emotionally and psychologically preparing your children to fight?... Every day, without knowing it, we prepare our children for war. We do things and we say things that prepare them mentally and emotionally to fight. We do this calmly, even rationally; and we do it because we love them and because we think we're doing the right thing. Have you ever asked your 8-year old child what is his or her political affiliation? Are they an ANC supporter, or do they identify more with the centralist liberal ideology of the DA? Perhaps they consider the ANC sell-outs, and yearn more for the fiery rhetoric of the SACP? Of course, you're not going to ask them because they're far too young. How is an 8-year old supposed to understand the subtle and twisted shifts in politics? Besides,

Do not look into the light

Abstract: Neurology explains why near death experiences are not glimpses of heaven... Near-death experiences have a terrible habit of sneaking up on you when you least expect them, and for that reason they can be quite bothersome. However what we should never do is see them as opportunities to have a sneak peek at heaven. My such experience was, rather ignominiously, while I was perched upon the toilet. I was gathering my thoughts and thinking about the day ahead, when I was suddenly overcome by the sensation of a cold, wet cloak being thrown over my shoulders. At the same time everything seemed to go dark around me, and I found myself looking down a tunnel of light. I heard the voice of an angel calling my name. I came round to find my wife helping me off the floor and nursing a rather cruddy