Saturday, 9 February 2008
The importance of checking sources
There has been a bit of chatter this week since the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said something about Sharia law in Britain.
The Telegraph and the Guardian - both high-quality, respectable papers here in the UK - each have headlines quoting Williams as saying that official status for Sharia law is "inevitable" in this country.
The news has made its way into the blogosphere - via the Scientific Activist and Pharyngula , and also via Cath at ninety-six and ten - to my attention (and probably to yours by now too).
One thing that Humanists pride ourselves on is our commitment to evidence-based belief, as opposed to beliefs based on wishful thinking. So it is telling that we have a tendency to accept negative press about religious figures uncritically.
There is someone who has not accepted the press's version at face value. Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log has actually looked at the text of Williams' speech. From what I've seen, it takes a linguist (or at least a good deal of patience) to wade through the theologian-speak and extract its actual meaning.
I encourage Humanists - especially those in a position to spread news of this sort further in the blogosphere and the wider world - to read Pullum's analysis (or simply the speech itself) rather than taking the papers' headlines as gospel.