$760,000 to study religion!

October 30th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A university professor who left the priesthood after a year has been awarded more than $760,000 of public money to study Kiwis’ spirituality and religious beliefs.

Joseph Bulbulia, of Victoria University, is one of 109 researchers who will receive a total of $59 million from the over the next three years.

Professor Bulbulia said religion was “intensely important” to him, but “as for an afterlife, or God, I have no idea”.

I thought God and afterlife tended to be a fairly important part of religion!

Well except for Scientology, which is really a money making scam.

He migrated to Wellington from the United States in 2000, having left the priesthood earlier in his life and then had a daughter before he was married.

He hasn’t been to church for 20 years, other than to please his mother, but said research showed that some events, such as the Christchurch earthquakes, renewed people’s religious beliefs.

Do we need to spend $760,000 to research this?

The full list of Marsden Awards is here. The grant for a study of religious belief is one of the largest, which surprises me. Many of the other grants involve physical science which tends to be far more costly. Some of the more useful physical science ones include:

  • Does the southern edge of the Hikurangi Plateau control Otago tectonics?
  • Unraveling the magmatic processes responsible for phonolitic volcanism using the Mount Erebus lava lake and magmatic system
  • Reconstructing complex ground motion effects in Christchurch during the Canterbury earthquakes: what does this mean for future ground motion prediction?
  • Does investment into seed dispersal alter with plant height and island size?
  • UV-B radiation as a master regulator of photosynthetic performance and leaf organ development in sunlight
  • Improving radiotherapy outcomes: Chain release of drugs to kill refractory cancer cells and inhibit metastatic spread

All of the above awards (except the cancer one) are for less than the religion one. Other fairly dubious ones include:

  • The Crown: Perspectives on a Contested Symbol and its Constitutional Significance in New Zealand and the Commonwealth $604,000
  • Territorial Disputes and Civil Society in Northeast Asian Democracies

University staff can and do research in all sorts of varied areas, as is their right with academic freedom. But I would have thought with a relatively small pool of contestable grants for research beyond the normal, they would be prioritized towards things of more direct relevance for New Zealand.

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107 Responses to “$760,000 to study religion!”

  1. alloytoo (468 comments) says:

    I have no qualms if this leads to decent data on why people believe in fairy tales.

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  2. Harriet (4,616 comments) says:

    “….But I would have thought with a relatively small pool of contestable grants for research beyond the normal, they would be prioritized towards things of more direct relevance for New Zealand….”

    ‘….beyond the normal..’ Like what?

    Gay stuff for a mere 2% of the poulation?

    Feminist stuff for men haters?

    Add up all the grants for the prog studies and they will far outweigh the money spent on conservative matters like religion.

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  3. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    A priest of what religion or denomination?

    Great reporting, Dominion.

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  4. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Is this money given in the hope that a cure is found for this intellectual cancer ?

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  5. Harriet (4,616 comments) says:

    “…..109 researchers who will receive a total of $59 million…”

    LOL……religion got about the average.

    I presume there is then about 100 things that will be studied, and the NZ population which says they are religious is about 25%.

    Hardly a waste of money compared with what would be spent on ‘gender studies’ and other crap for several thousand wimmin and metrosexuals who really need more mental health funding.

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  6. Albert_Ross (270 comments) says:

    Actually I think it is very important for Governments to understand why people make the choices they do and what the factors are that drive them to make those choices. At the end of the day the /only/ way in which a Government can make any difference to what happens is by influencing the choices that people make, and Government can’t do that if it does not understand what are the other influences in play and whether it needs to work with or against them.

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  7. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    @Harriet: any reason to think this guy’s study would be “conservative matters”? Just as likely to be a hatchet job.

    The short answer here is that the government should fund research into things that the government sees value in. If people want to study things that are more philosophical in nature, then that’s also good, but I’m not sure the govt should fund it. Surely they can get a scholarship or do it from their own money?

    I guess at one level if we want to have religious studies departments at universities, as an example, then we need to fund the lecturers to actually do research in something, otherwise that department would have no likely success. But I wonder whether that’s a great spend of money either – why does the NZ taxpayer subsidise degrees in religious studies? Seems unlikely to ever have a return to the taxpayer.

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  8. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    Three quarters of a million dollars wasted to study what is obvious. People invent the concept of a Skydaddy because they can’t or won’t accept that when they die, that’s it.

    Money for old rope.

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  9. cha (3,856 comments) says:

    Honestly, it really is a $760k gift from grod.
    /

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/29/megachurch-pastor-defends-megamansion-as-gift-from-god/

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  10. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    I have no qualms if this leads to decent data on why people believe in fairy tales.

    That would be a study of atheism, wouldn’t it.

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  11. Harriet (4,616 comments) says:

    “….why does the NZ taxpayer subsidise degrees in religious studies? Seems unlikely to ever have a return to the taxpayer…”

    Fine. Close all the schools, hospices, alcohol,drug,marriage and other counciling services and all other things that religions do in NZ.

    But do it all at 8:00 am tomorrow if you think there is no return at all to the taxpayer as we don’t want to be seen stealing JUST $1 from the taxpayer!

    And that is EXACTLY one reason why taxpayer money should be spent studying religion in NZ – to see what good it does!

    Sodomy is not an achievement – how much is spent on gay health?

    That’s a total waste of money – supporting something that does more BAD than GOOD!

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  12. Samuel Smith (276 comments) says:

    #TeaPartyNZ

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  13. Maggy Wassilieff (313 comments) says:

    Sometime in the 1980-1990s Royal Society of NZ decided to diversify and hand out awards and funds to historians and sociologists.

    Can’t be long before lawyers, economists and political researchers start eyeing up the Marsden Fund.

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  14. RRM (9,667 comments) says:

    #TeaPartyNZ

    #FreeStuffForMe-PaidForByTheeNZ

    #bludgerpartyNZ

    #getajob :neutral:

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  15. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    That would be a study of atheism, wouldn’t it.

    An easy study, too. Atheism is the basis of the NWO and the west’s corrupt law.

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  16. SGA (959 comments) says:

    Maggy Wassilieff at 1:46 pm

    Can’t be long before lawyers, economists and political researchers start eyeing up the Marsden Fund.

    2013
    On the Forge: The Role of the International Judge and Arbitrator in the 21st Century, Dr Foster, The University of Auckland, $391,304
    NZ Bill of Rights Act under the Microscope, Prof Geiringer, Victoria University of Wellington, $504,348

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  17. Redbaiter (8,032 comments) says:

    “People invent the concept of a Skydaddy because they can’t or won’t accept that when they die, that’s it.”

    Man, even for an Ekatahuna Imbecile your comments betray a staggeringly high level of ignorance.

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  18. Redbaiter (8,032 comments) says:

    The real sad part of all this is that NONE OF IT STOPS UNDER NATIONAL.

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  19. Maggy Wassilieff (313 comments) says:

    And just in case anyone wants a quick look at Marsden’s illustrious and useful (for NZ) career.

    http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4m41/marsden-ernest

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  20. SGA (959 comments) says:

    Redbaiter at 2:01 pm

    The real sad part of all this is that NONE OF IT STOPS UNDER NATIONAL.

    Actually, the 4th National Government established the Marsden Fund

    The Marsden Fund was established by the government in 1994 to fund excellent fundamental research. It is a contestable fund administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Marsden Fund Council. It operates under the Terms of Reference issued by the Minister of Science and Innovation… The research is not subject to government’s socio-economic priorities, but is investigator initiated. The Fund supports research excellence in science, engineering and maths, social sciences and the humanities…

    from http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/funds/marsden/about/background/

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  21. Ashley Schaeffer (443 comments) says:

    Will the Taxpayers’ Union be investigating…?

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  22. kowtow (7,955 comments) says:

    wow narsekisser has the answer to life’s greatest mysteries.

    Who needs grants when we could all simply stand in awe at his brilliant philosophical insights……

    …..or just ponder his stridently bigotted arogance.

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  23. Reid (16,111 comments) says:

    Atheism is the basis of the NWO and the west’s corrupt law.

    No satanism is the basis of the NWO UT. Atheism is one of satan’s major vehicles by which he facilitates their achievement. Because if people don’t believe in God, they don’t believe in satan, either and if people don’t even know you exist, that means your plans are very easy to accomplish.

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  24. wreck1080 (3,815 comments) says:

    Really, is the study on religious beliefs more important than cancer research?

    Good grief!

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  25. Nigel (516 comments) says:

    I personally think this is on dodgy grounds, I believe academic freedom is a good thing if sometimes annoying, but in this case given the number of people of religious belief I struggle to see the issue.
    To my mind if the board is granting significant amounts of money in areas of dispute then that is an element of concern, but to expect than any individual would be comfortable with all 109 grants is bordering on fanciful, there needs to be a balance & we’d be a very insular narrow nation indeed if all our research was scientific and focused purely inwards.

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  26. wreck1080 (3,815 comments) says:

    @nigel : And perhaps if not so much money went into such ridiculousness (bogan studies included) we may have found a cure for cancer or some other major disease.

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  27. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    I wonder how much tax payer money I could get for studying Unicorns and Pixies and other non existent things ?

    Red should get millions for investigating “Trolls” and possibly Goblins too :)

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  28. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    @Harriet: not studying doesn’t mean not doing it. Churches have long history of scholarship, and most of what you might want to write about or theorise about relating to religion is probably already written. I’m not sure what difference spending $750K studying it would achieve. Studying cancer might create a cure. Studying physical sciences or farming or whatever might create something new. But studying religion? Not sure that achieves much.

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  29. Redbaiter (8,032 comments) says:

    Trolls post a lot of non-argumentative comments.

    No research needed to identify who they are.

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  30. muggins (3,311 comments) says:

    Complete waste of money,in my ‘umble opinion.

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  31. unaha-closp (1,141 comments) says:

    People invent the concept of a Skydaddy because they can’t or won’t accept that when they die, that’s it.

    People use religion to prove that their opinions are God given facts.

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  32. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Red, so you are ok with three quarters of a million dollars of tax payer money being given to study this garbage ?

    Once again a double standard and hypocracy that are the mark of a real troll. Always special pleading for your preferred cult.

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  33. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Of course, we don’t need a government funded study into whether Kea has a sense of proportion and a measure of civility because there’s much less evidence of that than there is of the existence of pixies, unicorns and bigfoot, let alone of a religious cosmology.

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  34. Redbaiter (8,032 comments) says:

    Worse, there’s even a shortage of evidence to prove he can read.

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  35. AG (1,820 comments) says:

    This is a silly post.

    The Marsden Fund grants are deliberately intended to support “blue sky” research – they are given on the basis of how well constructed the research case is, and how great is the potential for advancing our general knowledge, not on whether they will generate an immediate pay off in “practical” or “useful” terms (see here for the distribution criteria: http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/funds/marsden/about/tor/ – criteria which are set by the Minister of Business, Innovation and Enterprise). They also are incredibly competitive, so to get one (let alone one of $700,000) demonstrates that the applicant has produced a very, very compelling case. You may not “get” what the study is for … but then again, you have no background in his disciplinary field, so why would you feel qualified to judge its worth?

    Now, you could have a system where the only financial support given to research activities is for projects that claim to offer immediate, practical benefits for New Zealand. Which would pretty much be the end of New Zealand Universities as international institutions. It also would mean the end of New Zealand’s participation in the generation of large areas of human knowledge – goodbye studying literature, archeology, anthropology (unless “useful” in terms of marketing or social policy formulation), art, music, film … or, indeed, anything at all if the purpose is simply to “know more about it”.

    My only challenge then would be that if we’re going to restrict funding for research to only those proposals that can show an immediate utilitarian benefit, we also get rid of ridiculous schemes like the Wellington City Council’s subsidy of niche interests like live theatre. I mean, with only a relatively small pool of funds available for cultural activites, surely it should be prioritized towards things of more direct relevance for Wellingtonians. After all, the Council would get SO much more bang for its entertainment buck if it used the money to subsidise the ticket price of movies like Transformers 2 or Pacific Rim … things people actually want to watch.

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  36. simonway (375 comments) says:

    First order of business for the Taxpayers’ Union is to abolish the concept of a liberal education, then?

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  37. backster (2,123 comments) says:

    The Marsden Fund clearly should be the first focus of your Taxpayers Union. Incredible that all these millions are being squandered on dopey unproductive philosophies, while the nation is facing such serious scientific problems as the Varoa mite in honeybees, or the Psa virus in Kiwifruit, or groubnd water contamination, or a host of medical problems screaming for research funds.
    On the scocial front none of the professors seems to be applying to research why certain ethnic groups kill their babies either

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  38. Psycho Milt (2,368 comments) says:

    …the end of New Zealand’s participation in the generation of large areas of human knowledge – goodbye studying literature, archeology, anthropology (unless “useful” in terms of marketing or social policy formulation), art, music, film … or, indeed, anything at all if the purpose is simply to “know more about it”.

    Stop! You’re giving them ideas!

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  39. Maggy Wassilieff (313 comments) says:

    I’m not against Govt funding for research. Its just that I’d like to see clear separation between Scientific research and Other.

    Now I know I’m old fashioned and a product of schools and universities that believed in the Scientific method; ie. explanations of natural phenomena in terms of repeatable and falsifiable hypotheses. So I can understand scientific researchers getting big grants….. they’ve got labs to run, expensive equipment to purchase, experiments to perform and often have big costs involved with their field work.

    I just don’t think the sociologists, historians and legal beagles are in need of the same type of funding. They can dream up their theories and find supporting data all from the confines of an armchair.

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  40. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Maggy Wassilieff (85) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I just don’t think the sociologists, historians and legal beagles are in need of the same type of funding.

    What are they supposed to live on? Does it not cost money to have teams of people undertake research? What if they need to drive to places to interview subjects? Are these sorts of things free?

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  41. Maggy Wassilieff (313 comments) says:

    Weihana…..I sure didn’t get $760,000 from the Gvt to carry out my Ph.D research. Anyway the recipient who is the subject of this item already has a salary as a University Professor. Am I to believe that he’ll have 20 or so post-grads (at a salary of $35,000 each) carrying out the research? Anyway, what’s so hard with sending out a few questionnaires via email?

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  42. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    @Scrubone

    “That would be a study of atheism, wouldn’t it.”

    Sorry – what fairytales does atheism relate to?

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  43. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    PaulL (5,484) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    @Harriet: not studying doesn’t mean not doing it. Churches have long history of scholarship, and most of what you might want to write about or theorise about relating to religion is probably already written. I’m not sure what difference spending $750K studying it would achieve. Studying cancer might create a cure. Studying physical sciences or farming or whatever might create something new. But studying religion? Not sure that achieves much.

    And what would it achieve to know how the heavenly bodies, like the planets, move around the solar system? Isn’t this the point that AG was making… that in principle, the mere fact that something advances knowledge is justification in itself and that a utilitarian argument is not necessary. I highly doubt that this research will approach anything quite so significant as Kepler’s laws, but it is important in principle that knowledge is valued for its own sake. A utilitarian requirement would never have resulted in some of the most important discoveries in science.

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  44. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Maggy Wassilieff (86) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Weihana…..I sure didn’t get $760,000 from the Gvt to carry out my Ph.D research. Anyway the recipient who is the subject of this item already has a salary as a University Professor. Am I to believe that he’ll have 20 or so post-grads (at a salary of $35,000 each) carrying out the research? Anyway, what’s so hard with sending out a few questionnaires via email?

    Depends what the research is, it’s scope etc. I’ll assume that they don’t hand out money to waste at the pub until you provide a clear explanation of how the money is apparently being wasted. Hand-waving generalizations about expensive lab equipment doesn’t really reveal much.

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  45. SGA (959 comments) says:

    Just to provide some background information
    Although some Marsden-funded projects do have health implications, the bulk of health research in New Zealand is funded through a completely separate agency – the Health Research Council. In addition, various other foundations and private companies help fund medical research.
    http://www.hrc.govt.nz/

    I don’t know how or why it works this way, but researchers overseas and in NZ typically won’t see anything like the full amount of the grant money – built into that amount is the research insitute’s or university’s overheads to make its resources available for the research to take place.

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  46. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    No satanism is the basis of the NWO UT.

    In the original sense of the word satan means adversary. Adversarial behaviour is better described by the Machiavellian philosophy of divide and rule which is so common in party politics.

    The NWO motto of novus ordo seclorum explicity describes secular behaviour, which is fundamentally atheistic.

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  47. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    TheContrarian (917) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Sorry – what fairytales does atheism relate to?

    Depends what a fairy tale is I suppose. Is it a fairy tale to postulate an alternate universe where the September 11 attacks didn’t occur? There are some scientists who are quite sure this is the case. The real dividing line between rationality and irrationality is not whether people entertain the notion of crazy, weird and wonderful things, but when they become dogmatic in their consideration. God, or the supernatural, is merely a subset of the things people can be dogmatic about.

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  48. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    ” Is it a fairy tale to postulate an alternate universe where the September 11 attacks didn’t occur?”

    Postulation is different from belief

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  49. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    TheContrarian,

    And in your opinion no physicist believes in many worlds?

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  50. burt (8,036 comments) says:

    If God wanted us to study religion God would provide for the people who do it… God can apparently create all of heaven and earth in 6 days – yet can’t support a few people wanting to study the effects of God’s word on people.

    Wow… God’s not as powerful as we are told OR it’s harder to make $760,000 than a universe.

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  51. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    “And in your opinion no physicist believes in many worlds?”

    Sure some might believe the possibility of such but I’m not sure you’d find many, if any, preaching it with the fervent belief of religion and would always have ones mind open to being wrong. Unlike the religious who must be right and if evidence contradicts them that evidence must be incorrect.

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  52. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    See the AiG Statement of Faith:

    “By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith

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  53. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    TheContrarian (919) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    “And in your opinion no physicist believes in many worlds?”

    Sure some might believe the possibility of such but I’m not sure you’d find many, if any, preaching it with the fervent belief of religion and would always have ones mind open to being wrong. Unlike the religious who must be right and if evidence contradicts them that evidence must be incorrect.

    I know a fair number of religious people. Most of them are quite open to the possibility they are wrong and have stated as much. Should I ignore this contradicting evidence and agree with you? :)

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  54. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    I was speaking in the general sense and addressing people like those found at AiG and other institutions (scrubone is a true believer in my experience so addressing him and his beliefs in particular) just as I am sure there are scientist who won’t change their opinions no matter what also.

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  55. Monique Angel (265 comments) says:

    I believe in miracles. How else could my wine glass unfailingly refill itself. Kind of like the magic porridge pot but in reverse.

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  56. Azeraph (603 comments) says:

    Why doesn’t he study the falling and failing prehistoric catholic faith. Who would of thought the Chinese got down here in the South Pacific and mapped it out 2000 something bc, long before anybody from Europe had the capability to navigate the deep seas. It explains a lot and how Aboriginal ancestors apparently island hopped across the South Pacific to eventually get lost and wash up on South America and thrive until the incoming Indians had them for breakfast.

    M.S, Parkinsons, Alzheimers. These are worthy of a small grant like that.

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  57. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Physics and science is based on evidence, not on faith. Faith is belief without evidence. Science is not about what you believe it is about what can be demonstrated.

    Given that no evidence has been presented for god, it is simply idiotic to believe there is a god. If the religous nutters on KB had any evidence for their ignorant primitive fantasies they would have presented that evidence and not wasted time launching personal attacks on rational people or impotently thumbing down the enlightened comments of Kea :)

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  58. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Kea (8,573) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Physics and science is based on evidence, not on faith. Faith is belief without evidence. Science is not about what you believe it is about what can be demonstrated.

    Given that no evidence has been presented for god, it is simply idiotic to believe there is a god.

    What evidence do you have that matter is made up of tiny vibrating strings?

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  59. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    “What evidence do you have that matter is made up of tiny vibrating strings?”

    Not a good example because String Theory doesn’t even qualify as a theory and is merely a hypothesis because while it might work mathematically no prediction has been offered and it isn’t testable.

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  60. Left Right and Centre (2,883 comments) says:

    Three quarters of a million dollars wasted to study what is obvious. People invent the concept of a Skydaddy because they can’t or won’t accept that when they die, that’s it.

    Would you say that we’re all as dead as say….. Eketahuna on a Sat nite, or is it more….as dead as a red lovestick?

    hahaha…. spellcheck suggestion for lovestick is livestock. Livestock loves a lovesick lively lovestick to lick. Did the earth mooooove for you Daisy? Ah ha- hahahahahahaha

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  61. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    TheContrarian (922) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Not a good example because String Theory doesn’t even qualify as a theory and is merely a hypothesis because while it might work mathematically no prediction has been offered and it isn’t testable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_Theory#Testability_and_experimental_predictions

    This seems to indicate that testing isn’t currently feasible, not that there aren’t any predictions. But the real point is, if someone said “I believe in String Theory” would this qualify them as an “idiot”?

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  62. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    No, I would ask why do you believe and what evidence are you basing it on. And then I would make a conclusion as to whether said belief is evidence based or not. In the case of String Theory my position would be there isn’t enough evidence available to make a conclusion and I would tell the person that I wouldn’t believe it for that reason.

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  63. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    Faith is belief without evidence.

    The idea that faith is unsupported by evidence is a recent one.

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=faith

    faith (n.)
    mid-13c., “duty of fulfilling one’s trust,” from Old French feid, foi “faith, belief, trust, confidence, pledge,” from Latin fides “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,” from root of fidere “to trust,” from PIE root *bheidh- (cf. Greek pistis; see bid). For sense evolution, see belief. Theological sense is from late 14c.; religions called faiths since c.1300.

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  64. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    Given that no evidence has been presented for god, it is simply idiotic to believe there is a god. If the religous nutters on KB had any evidence for their ignorant primitive fantasies they would have presented that evidence and not wasted time launching personal attacks on rational people or impotently thumbing down the enlightened comments of Kea

    Cue wet flapping sound.

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  65. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    LR&C

    If you’re into nightlife rural NZ doesn’t cut it. The draconian enforcement of the drink/drive legislation means that you could fire a shotgun up or down the main streets in most small towns on a Saturday evening with scant chance of hitting anyone. I’m past worrying about it but it means that the young people leave school & leave the area.

    From a safety point of view it may be a good thing but it’s ripped the guts out of places like Eke.

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  66. thedavincimode (6,590 comments) says:

    Couldn’t he just buy some books for 100 bucks and read up on it? There are 2 or 3 that come to mind.

    I don’t know the name of the book that the phoney Christian has been reading though, but perhaps kowtow can give this turkey a steer.

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  67. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    Eternal damnation in Hell residing?
    What bothers me more is this;
    To live a life in fear and hiding
    from something that doesn’t exist.

    (Anon)

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  68. Andrew (82 comments) says:

    Ha! This fellow was one of my PhD supervisors! No I didn’t take religious studies.

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  69. Don the Kiwi (1,650 comments) says:

    Without checking any other comments, this is shear stupidity.

    If one chooses to be religious, or follow a given religious persuasion, this is all a personal individual choice.

    Why on earth, should anyone employ an ex priest, an agnostic, to study religion?

    I suspect the results are very predictable, and a total waste of resources that could be used for a much better humanitarian result.

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  70. adze (2,005 comments) says:

    Weihana:

    And what would it achieve to know how the heavenly bodies, like the planets, move around the solar system? Isn’t this the point that AG was making… that in principle, the mere fact that something advances knowledge is justification in itself and that a utilitarian argument is not necessary.

    Being the devil’s advocate here; why is advancing knowledge a justification in itself? That sounds suspiciously deontological, a system of ethics you have previously claimed not to be a fan of. :)
    I think even the “pure sciences” have a utility, if not an applied one such as research into graphene’s potential as an electrical storage medium. Their utility may not be immediately applicable, but if it had no conceivable value at all then people wouldn’t do it (or pay half a million for it).

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  71. Scott (1,736 comments) says:

    Interesting discussion. Theology can be seen as the Queen of the sciences. Research, university, came out of Christian understanding. Most universities had their beginning as theological colleges. The idea of science began because scientists had confidence in a rational universe created by a rational mind. We have scientific laws because of the existence of a law maker.
    Science came out of Christian societies. Not pagan ones or Muslim ones. Indeed whether science would ever develop from atheist society is an interesting point. So the idea that there should be no research funded on religion when the Christian religion is the intellectual source of the scientific endeavour is a little incongruous.

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  72. Johnboy (15,602 comments) says:

    If he slips $380,000 to Lucia I’m sure she would sign him an affidavit to the effect that God had suddenly made a profound difference to her life! :) :)

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  73. dad4justice (7,988 comments) says:

    Didn’t Tim Barnett spend far more than this promoting rainbow labour in London brothels?

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  74. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    Scott

    ….”Science came out of Christian societies. Not pagan ones or Muslim ones. Indeed whether science would ever develop from atheist society is an interesting point.”….

    The early Chinese managed pretty well with bugger all Christian understanding.

    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science_and_technology_in_China

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  75. Psycho Milt (2,368 comments) says:

    Theology can be seen as the Queen of the sciences.

    By the incurably deranged, perhaps. Theology is a science to exactly the same extent that astrology is. Actually, less – at least astrologers can demonstrate that there are actually planets and constellations, and that they move relative to each other. Theology doesn’t even get that far outside the realm of the imaginary.

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  76. Psycho Milt (2,368 comments) says:

    Being the devil’s advocate here; why is advancing knowledge a justification in itself?

    1. The side effects (useful shit that we figure out how to do/make) have worked out pretty well for us so far.
    2. It beats the hell out of advancing ignorance…

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  77. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    This guy is a genius. Some how he has managed to get $760k given to him.

    Call him what you like but don’t see anyone else on here bragging they have just scored that sort of loot to study something that there is no answer to, bloody clever

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  78. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    I remember as a young bloke being told that if I wanted to make serious money then inventing a religion was the way to go Paul. First Brian Tamaki gets in on the racket & now this coot gets paid shitloads to write a work of fiction on the subject.

    They were wise words….I should have heeded the advice. :)

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  79. Johnboy (15,602 comments) says:

    They’re only pikers nasska. Jesus’s heir’s the Popes are worth billions! :)

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  80. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    But they’ve got this succession business down to a fine art JB…..the riches just keep multiplying.

    It makes it hard for new franchisees to keep up. :)

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  81. Johnboy (15,602 comments) says:

    You’ll need a new angle to break into the business obviously nasska. How about creating a religion based on sinning rather than one that condemns it? :)

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  82. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    I’m giving it a trial run right now JB. :)

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  83. Johnboy (15,602 comments) says:

    If you need a flock to practise it on I’ll bring mine! :)

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  84. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    “….”Science came out of Christian societies. Not pagan ones or Muslim ones. Indeed whether science would ever develop from atheist society is an interesting point.”….”

    Muslims didn’t do to badly – they did pretty well. And everything we base our sciences, law and politics on came from early Greeks. In fact, the Greeks were the first to propose a round earth and measured it quite accurately. That Christianity was the prevailing religion at the time of massive scientific advancement and getting the credit is better explained through the lens of Bill Clinton being president during the dotcom bubble and being credited with the economic boom that followed.

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  85. adze (2,005 comments) says:

    Psycho:

    Being the devil’s advocate here; why is advancing knowledge a justification in itself?

    1. The side effects (useful shit that we figure out how to do/make) have worked out pretty well for us so far.
    2. It beats the hell out of advancing ignorance…

    Neither of which supports the idea that knowledge is a justification in itself. In other words, it’s useful.

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  86. hj (6,747 comments) says:

    The idea of knowledge for the sake of knoedge (the planets were a poor comparison) smacks of a sence of entitlement.

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  87. eszett (2,374 comments) says:

    Psycho:

    Being the devil’s advocate here; why is advancing knowledge a justification in itself?

    1. The side effects (useful shit that we figure out how to do/make) have worked out pretty well for us so far.
    2. It beats the hell out of advancing ignorance…

    Neither of which supports the idea that knowledge is a justification in itself. In other words, it’s useful.

    If you are saying knowledge is useful, then knowledge would indeed be a justification in itself.
    Problem is that most of the time you are not sure how, when and where that knowledge will be useful.

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  88. SPC (5,473 comments) says:

    One can expect to see more of these sorts of posts, they are in support of National driving some of its religious base to the Conservative Party.

    As for the attacks on a diverse academia, this is similar to the move to exploit foreign aid for trade advantage. It demonstrates a base show me the money attitude.

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  89. eszett (2,374 comments) says:

    Interesting discussion. Theology can be seen as the Queen of the sciences. Research, university, came out of Christian understanding. Most universities had their beginning as theological colleges. The idea of science began because scientists had confidence in a rational universe created by a rational mind. We have scientific laws because of the existence of a law maker.

    What utter rubbish. Science developed becasue of curiousity and because “God did it” is not a answer to anything.

    Science came out of Christian societies.

    As pointed out the Greeks, Agyptians, Mayans, Chinese, Arabs had done very well without. In fact a lot of “christian” science is built upon tehir discoveries.

    Religion, any religion, has and is a hinderance to science and not supportive of science, no matter what they claim.

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  90. Kimble (4,417 comments) says:

    Love it when christians try and claim scientific advancement as being a result of their stupid religion simply because their religion was dominant around the same time.

    Of course, point out that the rate of scientific advancement has accelerated while the membership of their cult dwindles…

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  91. hj (6,747 comments) says:

    Why doesn’t God do a better job at explaing reigion?

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  92. Andrew (82 comments) says:

    Coz then you wouldn’t need faith.

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  93. hj (6,747 comments) says:

    Albert_Ross (76) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Actually I think it is very important for Governments to understand why people make the choices they do and what the factors are that drive them to make those choices. At the end of the day the /only/ way in which a Government can make any difference to what happens is by influencing the choices that people make, and Government can’t do that if it does not understand what are the other influences in play and whether it needs to work with or against them.
    ……………………………………….

    You make it sound as though Governments are objective?

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  94. Andronicus (219 comments) says:

    For that sort of dosh, I’ll happily study the mating habits of the gnu. Now where did I put that application form?

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  95. hj (6,747 comments) says:

    Maggy Wassilieff (86) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Sometime in the 1980-1990s Royal Society of NZ decided to diversify and hand out awards and funds to historians and sociologists.
    ……….
    “distinguished” Professor Paul Spoonley criticizes news coverage of immigration issues because it is based on a cost benefit analysis. This is just a politicized point of view and yet our universities seem to be full of similar shonky departments.

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  96. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    Why doesn’t God do a better job at explaing reigion?

    Because discovery is more effective than taking someone’s word for it.

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  97. Albert_Ross (270 comments) says:

    hj: I am not sure how you could have got that from my comment, or what your point is. People’s behaviour, and the forces which influence it, are central to whether or not a Government achieves its aims, and therefore it is appropriate for Governments to seek to be better informed about them. I don’t think that’s about objectivity so much as pragmatism, and I am saying that Governments need more of it, which this study might help to provide

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  98. Judith (8,460 comments) says:

    @ hj (5,045) Says:
    October 31st, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Paul Spoonley, a distinguished professor (how many of those do you think there are in this country?), has enough standing to be able to make such comments because they are based on a vast amount of experience and expertise in his field.

    The study of history and sociology are both integral to understanding contemporary society. If we cannot learn from the examples of history (which apparently often we can’t or rather won’t do), and we cannot apply the sociological imagination to social conditions that exist in society today, then we are doomed. If this country, or indeed the entire globe based their decisions on nothing but the economic requirements of the dominant or ruling classes, this planet would no longer exist. Think about it.

    It is those that have forgotten the lessons of the past, that contribute most to the failures in today’s society. Forget where you came from and you have no means of determining the correct path to take you where you are going.

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  99. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    TheContrarian (924) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    That Christianity was the prevailing religion at the time of massive scientific advancement and getting the credit is better explained through the lens of Bill Clinton being president during the dotcom bubble and being credited with the economic boom that followed.

    I don’t agree with Scott’s characterisation that science came from a “Christian understanding” or that Christianity is the “intellectual source” of science. That is absurd as science tends to contradict or undermine traditional Christian beliefs. But your analogy seems a little bit unfair.

    Bill Clinton wasn’t responsible for the decades or research and development that ultimately culminated in the mass adoption of the internet. But Christian churches were not simply in the same place at the same time when something happened, they were intimately involved in the establishment of medieval colleges that would eventually develop the science that would undermine the established faith. This doesn’t mean that religious dogma is validated by science, just a historical observation that institutions of higher learning evolved out of cathedral and monastic schools, and churches deserve credit for nurturing and developing these schools of learning over hundreds of years even if the development of a scientific revolution that would call in question certain core beliefs was not specifically their intention.

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  100. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    adze (1,568) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Being the devil’s advocate here; why is advancing knowledge a justification in itself? That sounds suspiciously deontological, a system of ethics you have previously claimed not to be a fan of. :)

    It does sound deontological, so now I best reframe it in different terms. :)

    To improve the argument I would say that valuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge is useful.

    I think even the “pure sciences” have a utility, if not an applied one such as research into graphene’s potential as an electrical storage medium. Their utility may not be immediately applicable, but if it had no conceivable value at all then people wouldn’t do it (or pay half a million for it).

    That utility may not be immediately applicable is where the problem lies. If it’s not immediately applicable and you don’t know how it may be applicable how are you to use this as a basis to judge whether or not it’s worthy of study? One must assume that knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a good thing and that while many endeavours might not yield much fruit, on the whole it will realize benefits that would otherwise not have been realized as one could not see the point of doing so in advance.

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  101. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    TheContrarian (924) Says:
    October 30th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    No, I would ask why do you believe and what evidence are you basing it on. And then I would make a conclusion as to whether said belief is evidence based or not. In the case of String Theory my position would be there isn’t enough evidence available to make a conclusion and I would tell the person that I wouldn’t believe it for that reason.

    Good answer, but is that really how people think? :)

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  102. SGA (959 comments) says:

    @DPF

    But I would have thought with a relatively small pool of contestable grants for research beyond the normal, they would be prioritized towards things of more direct relevance for New Zealand.

    Again, just to provide some context -

    The lion’s share of NZ’s research funding *is* prioritized toward things of more direct relevance for NZ and NZers. For example, there are the Crown Research Institutes – New Zealand Pastoral Agriculture Research Institute (AgResearch), New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research (Plant & Food Research), Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), Scion (New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited), the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS Science), Landcare Research (Landcare Research), National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Similarly, the Health Research Council funds health/medical research in NZ, and the government supports research in various other areas as well (e.g., education, land transport).

    So, yes, the Marsden Fund does provide a relatively small pool of contestable grants for research beyond the “normal”, where “normal” is the sort of research described above.

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  103. Albert_Ross (270 comments) says:

    Perhaps Prof Spoonley’s comments are not being fairly represented here, but I would agree that criticising discussion “because it is based on cost benefit analysis” is pretty shonky.

    One can certainly take issue with the way the cost benefit analysis is done – eg, this or that cost, or benefit, is not properly measured, or something is counted as a cost when it ought to be counted as a benefit, or vice versa.

    But you can’t complain that a discussion “is based on cost benefit analysis”. Cost benefit analysis is simply a comparison of the pros and cons, whether monetary or other. What else could a discussion about a public policy issue be based on?

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  104. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    It’s not clear to me that atheism implies belief in alternative universes.

    I think there are some christians who believe in alternative universes (actually many scientists are christians). I also think there are many atheists who don’t believe in alternative universes. So your problem is with those who believe in alternative universes, not with atheists.

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  105. TheContrarian (1,082 comments) says:

    “but is that really how people think?”

    That’s how I think, and many people I know.

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  106. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    TheContrarian (926) Says:
    October 31st, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    “but is that really how people think?”

    That’s how I think, and many people I know.

    I would like to say the same, but a few instances come to mind that makes me think that I don’t always live up to that ideal. Arguably they are not quite so bad as believing the Earth to be 6000 years old though.

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  107. adze (2,005 comments) says:

    Weihana:
    “To improve the argument I would say that valuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge is useful.”

    Overall it has been, yes. But I am still very skeptical that people study for the sake of increasing the corpus of knowledge as an end in itself, without anticipation of some kind of derivative value – whether it is the edification of certain groups in society, defending a cherished theory from rival academics, because certain thesis topics are easier, or simply to get into the pants of a hot PhD supervisor. :)

    That there is competition for research grants tells me that some criteria is used to assess the quality of the proposal. That seems trivially true. Obscure topics can still be conceivably useful in time, even if the usefulness is not immediately applicable, which is why I made the subtle distinction between “conceivably useful” and “immediately applicable”. You could say that a study on how many Hollywood A-listers enjoy eating wallpaper paste would increase the knowledge of humankind. On that basis, it would be of equal value as a painstaking increment in the study of neutrinos. But the fact is that knowledge doesn’t have value in and of itself, it just sounds intuitive because we generally recognise the implied assumption that knowledge is useful.

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