13/09/2011 Newsnight


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Jeremy Paxman.

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The crisis with the euro is as bad as ever it has been and tomorrow


may come the critical intervention which could save it or sink it.


As Europe's leaders get ready to teleconference their way out of the


conference, which button will they press.


I will be asking the German Government what they intend to do.


Trades unionists are underwhelmed by the Labour leader. I do believe


it was a mistake for strikes to happen last summer. Shame!


continue to believe that. What is the state of the Labour


Party's relationship with its pay masters.


As Palestine appeals to the world for place at the UN what are the


chances of success? Can scientific fact ever inspire


the same affection as religious stories. Richard Dawkins goes myth


Good evening, the convention in news programmes is that rereport


what's happened, but these are unconventional turbulent times, and


frankly, we don't know what is going on. Something is up, though,


with the euro. Rumours have swirled all day about the Greeks defaulting


on their debt, big French banks in trouble, and the Germans


manoeuvring towards some sort of operation that might save the


currency, for now, at least. Here is the best guess of our economics


editor, Paul Mason. There is rumours because the French started


the day by announcing, briefing journalists, that they were going


to make a big announcement about the future of Greece. Then they


didn't. There will be something tomorrow. But there has been


frantic private diplomacy all day between Greece, France, the USA,


President Obama coming out and saying in public, Europe get your


act together, you are pulling the rest of the economy down. It has


all been occasion. Greece needs 8 billion euros, from the big bailout


last May. The Europeans and the IMF decided it say unless you do X, Y


and Z, you are not getting anything. This created the stand-off, going


on for the last couple of week. It is coming to head, we have two days


to do the deal. Meanwhile, bank shares are tumbling, specific EU


banks looking pretty precarious. Tomorrow, they have decided there


will be a teleconference between Merkel, Sarkozy and the Greek Prime


Minister, Andropov, and boy, would all us economics - economists like


to be in that teleconference. won't be press 1 for default and 2


for austerity, there aren't many options beyond that. The French,


Greek and German leaders will speak tomorrow knowing they are running


out of time. Today, Germany's leader met Finland's leader to sort


out a little local difficulty. The Fins are so worried Greece will


default on the bailout, they want security from Europe. Just one part


of the malaise of back tracking and indecision. To the wider world,


Angela Merkel's message was, stop talking about a Greek default. She,


of course, is worried about nothing else.


TRANSLATION: We have to always consider that everything we do is


controlled. That we know the consequences. Because otherwise we


can very quickly have a situation in the eurozone that we do not want,


and which will have very difficult consequences for all of us.


Today, in Greece, the taxi drivers went on strike, and marched, over


the weekend there have been riots. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, here


pictured on a coffin, had to slap down an emergency 2 billion euro


property tax, because EU negotiators threatened to walk away


from talks on the next round of the bailout. For Greek budget deficit,


it is on track to be 9.5% of GDP, worse than expected and worse than


demand by the bailout deal, because Greek GDP is shrinking, but Greece


needs 8 billion euros this week, the latest tranche of bailout money


that is being held, without it, it only has money to pay its bills


until October. Some believe the euro won't be out of crisis, until


Greece is out of the euro. I think it is inevitable that Greece will,


in due course, be ejected, or choose itself, to leave. You can't


have a more coherent long-term solution for the eurozone until you


have bitten that bullet and got the Greeks to leave. In July the idea


of a Marshall Plan for Greece, modelled on USA to Europe in 1948


made it so far as a draft EU declaration, the Brits got it


removed. But now, senior German figures are behind the scenes,


urging Germany to do just that. Rebuild the Greek economy, with


German money. But it is not flavour of the month.


The problem is, that once you come up with the big master plan to


solve the crisis once and for all, the other countries, on the


periphery, the Spain, the Italys or the Irelands, would have an


incentive to just rely on French- German leadership and relax their


own efforts to actually shape up. As Greece slides, Italy is drawn


into the zone of danger. Italy and Spain are relying on the European


Central Bank, funded by Germany, to keep their own debts managable. But


when Italy had to raise a new loan today t came at the highest-ever


interest rate in the Euro-era, 5.6 per cent. Even at that price, China


declared it would start buying Italian debt, though not, one


suspects, out of solidarity with the Italian Communists. The euro


got a decent lift out of this news that China was going to come in and


buy Italian debt. Or there is suspicion that is it will, it was


so short lived. I think really the market is now at the point where it


is looking beyond what can we do to help Italy and Greece, to really


the next chapter in this whole huge sorry mess.


One idea gaining traction is for Brussels to create a new fund, to


move tax-payers' money from the north to the south, modelled on the


EU structural fund, but for euro countries only. Here is the


advantage? Many of the schemes people have talked about in


financial markets, seem to me to be non-starters, precisely because


they are associated with the Germans taking on numbers in the


thrillions of additional debt. The kind of thing which I'm talking


about is numbers in the low billions of annual transfers. So


I'm talking about switching mind set to thinking we can find a


solution that works within the find of framework we already have,


taking those things a little bit further. But that, of course s a


long-term commitment, rather than a sticking plaster solution where you


pretend the problem will all go away by the day after tomorrow.


It But, time is important. Tomorrow's big teleconference means


we are moving beyond the summit stage to crunch time for Greece.


Paul s there any evidence that European politicians are about to


have a wholesale change of mind? they do it will be a pretty big one.


They have philosophically nailed their colours to the mast. That the


euro, equals the EU, equals the internal market. Mr Romano, last


week, made the claim, that without the euro, the internal market would


fall apart in a crisis. It is a long way from that in seeing one


member leave. You have started to see in Germany opposition


politicians talking about default, and talking about it. You have also


started seeing figures in the background of German politics


saying we could do this Marshall Plan, we could draw a line under


our post-war history by putting our hands in our pockets and saving


Greece T will come down what-to- what the German people tell their


elected - it will come down to what the German people tell their


elected leaders to do. From all this back room activity, I can tell


it is not far away. Here to chew this over from Germany, is Peter


Altmaier, Chief Whip of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats,


getting German MPs to vote for bailout. Joining us also is a Greek


journalist, and here in the studio, Terry Smith, chief executive of the


currency brokers. Mr Altmaier, do you know what will happen tomorrow?


Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. We have a clear idea


today what we have to do. The world economy is in a critical condition.


It means we have a certain responsibility to be very firm and


very clear about what we intend to do, and our aim is clear, we want


to preserve the euro, we want to avoid recession on a worldwide


scale. That means we want to keep Greece inside the euro, and we want


to help Greece overcoming the crisis. But, of course, the Finance


Minister, said, if necessary, Greece should be allowed to just go


bust? The Chancellor made it clear that public talking about default


is not a good idea. We have a mission under way in Greece, we


will see whether Greece will make the required efforts to achieve


more stability culture in a sustainable way, and we are


prepared to help Greece overcoming the problems. We still think the


best solution would be to avoid default. But this is something, of


course, that has to be discussed and not publicly, but if the mind


is clear to overcome the crisis. How do you think this will solve


itself? I think Greece will leave the euro and it is going to default.


I don't know what will happen in the meantime, but it is detail.


Greece is running a higher deficit than planned, that will continue,


nothing practical can be done to prevent that. The analogy I would


give you is Germany is like a well- to-do parent that has allowed her


child out with a platinum credit card, drawn on their account. And


they will bankrupt themselves in the efforts to save Greece f they


have the political will to do so. As a representative of this


irresponsible child, why should the Germans keep on bailing out Greece?


Well, first of all, I'm not a representative of the Greek


Government. But, the problem is, I think, we are fixating a little too


much on Greece. I understand that of course it captures the


imagination and our imagination as journalists, but what we are not


talking about is the other peripheral and not so peripheral


countries like Italy that are in a lot of trouble. We are not talking


right now about the structural and design problems with the common


currency, and what we are not talking about is why we are doing


all of this, and why we are doing all of this, is across the


continent banks are undercapitalised, it is banks going


bust first if Greece defaults. you think Greece is a special case?


Yes, Greece is certainly a special case, in so far as the economic


problems of Greece are much worse than in all the other countries


concerned. There are problems with the banks, certainly in other


European countries as well. But mistakes have been made in Greece


over a number of years, and this has to be repaid, it cannot be


repaid in a short time, but what we need is a clear cut commitment from


the Greek Government to change things profoundly, to organise a


better administration, to privatise public enterprises. This is a very


important gesture, we know it is not easy to do. But the monitoring


Troika from the EU will report on this, and this will be the basis


for the further decisions on how to proceed with the rescue package for


Greece. Perhaps the leopard will change its spots, if it were going


to do so, would we not have seen some evidence by now? Well, I'm, of


course, not a representative of the Government, and I'm just the Chief


Whip in parliament. My impression is that we are in a critical stage


right now. There are so many are you mores, so many diverging


interests in this debate and what we have to do is as politicians is,


we have to be clear, and I come back to what the Greek colleague


has said, the euro, so far, was a big success story, and we, as


politician, should be aware, if one country would have to leave the


euro, it could have devastating effects for the rest of the


European Union, and therefore, we should consider very carefully what


we are doing as the next step. What do you think the Greek


Government will do next? Well, I mean, to be very honest with you,


there is very little they can do. What they have been doing badly is


adhering to those targets and implementing those reforms, and it


is perfectly understandable that Governments and tax-payers who


actually pay up, for these bailouts, demand results. What needs to be


said, however, is as has been mentioned, Greece haz been


mismanaged for so many years, that many of the problems are deeply


rooted within the country and its economy. So reform is a little


slower to come. And I would argue that evidence of the shock therapy


Greece has been undergoing for the last year-and-a-half, is the


recession the country is in. It is reaching 7.3% this quarter. These


are unprecedented figures for a eurozone country. So, unfortunately,


a big chunk of the Greek population are paying up. They are footing the


bill for mismanagment that they did not cause, they are, in a way,


asking for help, support, solidarity, so we can continue to


enjoy all the benefits of the euro, and enjoyed across the eurozone, in


Germany as well as in Greece. the meantime, Terry Smith, we have


the prospect of this particular YuriGagarino50 Euro-crisis becoming


a big bank this euro crisis? If we support Greece it will mean all the


other countries in the periphery, but ones who have similar debt


problems, none of which are complying with the austerity


programme, if it costs so much they will bankrupt Germany, if you don't


do it, you are left with the problem that the banks in certain


countries, most particularly France, have bought so much debt off these


countries that they will be bankrupted. Whichever way you jump


it will be very bad. What's going to happen? Greece will leave the


euro and default, I don't think it will rest with Greece. That's a


superficial and easy solution there, I'm sorry, but it is the obvious


thing to say, Greece will default and leave the euro, you have made


an eloquent and intelligent argument about the


interconnectiveness of banks and economies across the eurozone,


would it not be a concern for you what it would mean if Greece left


the euro, setting a precedent for other countries perhaps in the


future, to leave the euro, in the near future as well, and what the


ramifications of such a thing would be for the global economy, having


one of the main currencies of the global economy completely


destablised. I go back to what I said. Hang on a skebgd second.


There is no painless way out of this, whatever way you go will


cause pain, the longer you leave it will be more painful. The longer


you leave a child with a credit card, the worse it will be with you.


Hang on a second. I must join my Greek colleague. It would, in my


eyes, some how be irresponsible to say the Greeks should leave the


euro, no singer problem could better be solved if Greek left the


eurozone. The amount of Greek debt in Europe would double, when the


Greek currency would be devalued, rapidly. We could not help, as we


can do it right now, and the second point is as soon as Greece would


leave the eurozone, there would be an enormous speculation about the


next candidates for default, this is something we have to avoid by


building a firewall across Europe, we have to develop the instruments,


the tools, in a tool box that we need, and for the time being, we


should dare, as politicians, to be firm, and not to respond to


speculation, but to do what we have announced and what we have promised


over so many weeks and months. We will look forward to seeing what


happens tomorrow then. The public don't seem to know much


about him, but the trades unions do, to judge by today's reception of Ed


Miliband at the TUC conference, plenty of them don't much care for


what they know. Plans will be laid for what I suppose is called a


winter of discontent. As the unions try to organise strikes protesting


against public spending cuts. The unions effectively gave the junior


Miliband victory over his brothers in the race for the Labour


leadership. When he told them today that strikes over public sector


pensions were a mistake, they jeered him.


Every politician wants to be loved, right?


Better by far to get cheered in happy adoration, than face a


barrage of angry cat calls. The unthinkable happened, they


booed him. Ceausescu was dumb struck, well, not necessarily, not


if you are this man, in front of the TUC conference. It is our job


to...Tho They are not. They are not continuing.


A few boos from the unions wouldn't have hurt Ed Miliband's feelings


today one little bit. It was proof, say his supporters, that he's no


union puppet, no Red Ed, he is, they say, distinctly, his own man.


There are times when you and I will disagree. You will speak your mind,


and so will I. But, our link is secure enough, mature enough, to


deal with disagreement. Because the relationship between party and


unions, for me, is not about romance, or nostalgia, it is about


respect and shared values. What drew the heckles, well, firstly, a


condemnation from the Labour leader of the recent public sector strikes.


So I fully understand why millions of decent public sector workers are


angry, but while negotiations were going on, I do believe it was a


mistake for strikes to happen last summer.


I continue to believe that. Shame. But what we need now is meaningful


negotiation, to prevent further confrontation over the autumn.


Mr Miliband didn't win many friends in the hall by praising non-local


authority-run schools. Let me just tell you, let me tell you about my


experience of academies, I have two in my own constituency, they have


made a big difference to educational standards in my


constituency, that is my local experience. I'm sorry people say


"shame", I care about the kids in my constituency, and they have made


a big difference, it has made a big difference to kids in my


constituency. Critics of the link between the


trades unions and the Labour Party sometimes fail to appreciate is


that it was actually the unions that set up the Labour Party in the


first place. To better represent their interests.


However, what supporters of this link can sometimes not quite grasp


is just how bad it can look to the increasingly large proportion of


the British population who aren't in a trade union.


Labour Party strategists worked out a long time ago, you can't actually


win a British general election by simply tailoring your message to


the people who come to an event like this.


One Labour Party report has identified the commuter belt around


London as crucial, if Labour wants to regain power. But here,


according to polling, voters have a particularly hostile attitude to


unions. When asked, for example, if . The author of that report is the


Labour frontbencher, gartreth Thomas. One of the concerns I


identified in the pamphlet I wrote is the concerns some in the


commuter belt, some of those in the swing voters who were concerned


about the way trade unions are operated. That is what Labour has


to take into account when we consider our appeal to the


electorate going forward. Changing perceptions for Labour


might prove difficult. The most recent figures show that the unions


gave Labour over 90% of its money. And a new study budgets that the


unions had a huge influence on Ed Miliband's election as leader of


the party, to the point where, according to academic, it couldn't


have been considered a free and fair contest. We don't really know


what would have happened under another set of rules. Ed Miliband's


team might have fought a different campaign. We do know, and we can be


fairly certain, is these features of the electoral college are


problematic in the way they operate. They look back to the days of union


block votes. That is why we are talking in the research about


reinventing the block vote. The way the unions operated gave them the


capacity to shape the result in the kind of way they would have done in


the past. Tomorrow it is expected that the big public sector unions


will announce that they intend to ballot on strike action for later


this year. If the strikes do materialise, well it can only put


further strain on Labour and its links with the unions.


The leaders of the big unions affiliated to the Labour Party,


Unison, Unite, the GMB, couldn't drag themselves away from the


Congress in central London to be here tonight, but shadow Business


Secretary, John Denham could, he's here. Can you support strikes this


winter? The important thing is to look at the issues people are


arguing about. We know people don't go on strike unless they have real


concerns. On the other hand it is rarely the most important question,


whether Labour supports the strike. What we need to look at, with


public sector pensions for example, is why hasn't the Government got a


proper negotiated deal. You think these changes are wrong? Will you


support strike action this winter? If we think the changes are wrong


and we think the Government isn't negotiating properly, we will say


so. I won't get dragged into a secondary issue about whether


Labour supports a strike that hasn't even happened. Ed Miliband


said the changes are wrong? What he said last summer is he thought the


strikes were wrong. He said the way the Government is going about it is


wrong. He says there is case for change in pension, but it needs to


be properly negotiate. Our role, as the Labour Party, is not to start


saying, oh yes, we will or won't support a strike, it is to say let


as have proper negotiations between the Government and the unions.


There are real issues here for working people, and real issues


about pension that is have to be sorted out. The answer to the


question, will you support strikes this winter, is, you haven't


decided yet? Answer to the question is what we will do is focus on the


real issue that affects working people, and the best way of


resolving it. The worst thing that can happen. You think that is


leadership do you? The worst thing that can happen is for everybody to


say what really matters is whether Labour is for origins a strike.


What really matters is getting the right result on the issue. That is


where we should be, and that is where we will be. When Len


McCluskey of Unite, talk about civil disobedience is that


legitimate or not? We wouldn't countenance anything outside the


law. You would be against civil disobedience? Anything outside the


law we are against. We are not against lots of different


organisations getting involved. Everybody has to conduct themselves


inside the law in this country, otherwise you are in a terrible


state. The legal strike you are still undecided about? It is not a


matter of being undecided, it is a matter of saying that is not the


big issue of the this is a hugele cha eng facing the country, what do


do you about public sector pensions, it is of huge concern to millions


of people. What the Labour Party says about strikes isn't the big


question, it is getting it sorted out. The big question, this is


really all about the cuts, isn't it, that is what it is really about?


The cuts is a wider issue, it is affecting man public services.


Miliband said not all of the cuts would be reversed? That is true.


Which ones wouldn't be? What we have said overall is the deficit


reduction, the Government wants to get rid of the deficit in three


years, we think it should be halved in four years, there is tens of


billions of pounds of difference in what we think is a sensible rate of


deficit reduction. We won't have a total alternative spending plan, it


is impossible. We are honest to the unions, can he can't say every cut


should be resisted, there would be no cuts. I just asked you, sorry, I


haven't made myself clear, which cuts would not be reversed? You are


asking us to go through a list of different things. Just give us two


or three? In my area of responsibility I have made it clear


that higher education would not have been free of all cuts, but it


wouldn't be the �2.8 billion cuts the Tories did. If it was there -


if there was a cut in line it would not be the same. How many billions?


If you took it in proportion it is well under a billion. That would be


in line with the other public spending cuts. We have also said


that some of the adult training budget wouldn't have continued


under Labour. If you go across the Labour Party every single person,


and I'm not going to construct a huge alternative budget here,


Jeremy. Why not? In opposition you can't. He made a public pledged to?


In opposition you can't construct an entire alternative budget. What


Ed Miliband said today. It is hard to know what he believes, that's


all? What he said honestly to the unions, of course there would be


cuts under Labour, not the same as the Tories, but not enough to say


to the trade union movement there would be no cuts. Isn't the traud


of the - isn't the truth of the matter he's embarrassed by the fact


that the trade unions gave him the leadership of your party? He's


proud to have the support of trade union members, not bosses, but


members to get elected. He wants to see, as he said today, a country in


which trade unions...What Portion of trade unions voted in that


election? A disappointingly low percentage. 4%? A lot of the debate


about the future of the Labour Party is how the three million


individual trade union members who were entitled to vote, who didn't,


become more active in the party. Everybody recognises that is a


crucial part of refounding the Labour Party. So that people who


are very often giving money to the Labour Party, through their


voluntary donations, but who don't participate in any other way, are


much more part of our future. There is fascinating diplomatic


confrontation looming at the United Nations in New York. That and the


grumbling appendix of world politics, the Israel Palestine


issue has been overshald shadowed by upheavals in the rest of the


Arab world. The Palestinians want to be recognised as a state and are


going to try for it. The Israelis are horrified and want their US


sponsors to fight for them. September brings the world's club


of nations to New York. This year's general assembly opening promises


to be an unusually fraught affair. The club house is under renovation,


and there is bitter division over an application for membership. So


it looks like we are about to witness the biggest United Nations


drama for many years. Opponents of the Palestinian strategy argue it


could tip an already inflamed region over the brink and into war,


and it will bring about a confrontation between the United


States, the biggest done nar to the organisation, the UN, and it could


endanger hundreds of millions in humanitarian funding currently


going to the Palestinian Authority. By pushing their case to be full


members of the UN, the Palestinians have sought a greater role on this


world stage. They could get additional political and legal


rights out of it too. That has brought American political heavy


weights out in opposition, people like Colin Powell. Ultimately it


will have to be a peace process that provides a Palestinian state


that is prepared to live side-by- side in peace with Israel. Does the


vote coming up at the UN on Palestinian independence help or


hinder? My initial reaction is I don't see how that helps the


process. And so, I'm not sure if that is the side thing to be doing


now, if it doesn't help the process. If it doesn't bring the two sides


closer to one another, to begin negotiation, I'm not sure how


helpful it is. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has been


driving the UN membership bid. It offers him a chance to take his


place with world leaders. But it also risks large amounts of US aid.


So why do it now? There is the big sense of frustration within the


Palestinian political classes, as well as the general at large. Add


to that, the second factor, the Arab Spring, and the demand by many


Arab citizens for their Governments to be more active, to show result,


have really created a situation where Abbas thought he needed to do


something significant, it seemed the UN rout is the only available


at the moment. Supporters of Israel, predictably enough, are opposing


the move? The best outcome, the soft landing, is a better-worded


resolution, a resolution that can enable us to see that there are two


states in homeland for the Jewish people and Israel's democratic


citizens, and a homeland for the Palestinians, but it is done


through negotiations and mutual respect.


Nobody knows exactly what strategy the Palestinians will pursue. But


there is an underlying recognition that a move in the Security Council,


triggering a US veto, might not be in either side's interest. The US


and Israel, if they can, will still stop this vote, but it is likely to


go ahead, and it would happen here in the general assembly, where the


Palestinians can usually expect a large majority. They will craft


their diplomatic language carefully, possibly acknowledging the two-


state solution approach to the Middle East. And accepting a status


below that of full national state ranking here. All the tension then


will swing to the Middle East and what happens the day after.


The weekend storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo shows the


pressures now upon leaders in the region.


At an Arab League meeting in the city, the Turkish leader has argued


for a tough line on the UN vote. TRANSLATION: Recognition of a


Palestinian state is the only way forward, it is not an option, but


an obligation. We should all support the rightful and legitimate


struggle of the Palestinian people together, and with all our might,


God willing, before this month is through, we will have the


opportunity to see Palestine at a very different status at the United


Nations. Some fear now that the UN drama


could shift the dynamics of the Arab Spring. With all those


demonstration that is have been going on in Cairo, and Damascus and


elsewhere, so far the US has not an central. After this, the American


veto or strong American opposition, that anti-American sentiments will


come to the forefront. As a by- product of this, it will become


more difficult for Arab Governments that want to co-operate with the


United States to do so. As delegates convene for the


general assembly, all sides are using brinkmanship, how the


Palestinians will push their case to upgrade their status here, is


still unclear. But even those who support their bid accept that its


effects will be unpredictable, and it could easily produce a crisis in


the Middle East. What are the Americans going to do?


Well, what they are doing is trying to forestall this at the last


minute. Diplomats here had been expecting that as early as this


evening a Palestinian draft resolution would appear, or


possibly tomorrow, they would then show their hand, where they go in


the Security Council, or the general assembly route, exactly


what kind of language were they using. The Americans have announced


this afternoon, in order to get ahead of that, that two envoy,


Dennis Ross and David Hale are going to the region. I think the


point is to stop the Palestinians introducing their draft before


speaking to the envoys, even if they can't stop it, they can slow


it down. They are trying to buy time, and if they could they could


stop the vote going ahead. If they fail to do that, just simply trying


to make the terms of any resolution less problematic from a US


perfective. So Israel is looking pretty isolated? Yes, it is


striking that until comparatively recently Israel relied on tacit or


sometimes even explicit diplomatic support from a number of Arab and


regional countries, which were considered to be supportive, pro-


western, if you like. Turkey and Egypt, are the key regional players,


that have suddenly shifted position in this. The desire to meet public


expectations that have been raised by the Egyptian revolution, is now


driving a lot of policy pronouncements from Egypt and


turkey. They are each trying, if you like, to put themselves at the


head of popular feeling in the Arab world. This is one of the reasons


why it is such a dangerous cocktail and why the Americans could become


very exposed diplomatically if they are seen to shoot this down here at


the UN. Give me the child and I will give


you the man, St Francis, the founder of the Jesuit movement is


said to have said. Religious movements around the world try to


shape the impressionable finds with fables and stories, how the world


began, how the first humans came and what rainbows are. The world's


most celebrated atheist, Richard Dawkins gives a counter blast of


fact. His new book, The Magic Of Reality, aims directly at children,


teaching them how to replace myth with science. It is illustrated by


the graphic artist and film director, Dave McKean.


Of course, no-one really believes that it would be possible to turn a


pumpkin into a coach, but have you ever stopped to consider why such


things would be impossible. You probably haven't, because from


our earliest years we learn to suspend disbelief.


And that, apparently, is also how we condition impressionable brains


to absorb religious hog wash. the creation myth of the Hebrew


tribe of the desert, the God Yaweh created light on the first six days


of his creation, but not the sun until the fourth day, where the


light came from on the first day before the sun and stars existed,


we are not told. Knocking down the scientific accuracy of millennia


old stories isn't very hard. Rainbows, earthquakes, the origins


of humanity, the origins of the universe itself, are all explained


in ways that a 10-year-old might follow, but a five-year-old might


not. According to the modern version of the big bang model, the


entire observable universe exploded into existence between 13 and 14


billion years ago. Some scientists will tell you that time itself


began in the big bang, we should no more ask what happened before the


big bang than we should ask what is north of the North Pole. But there


in lies Richard Dawkins' problem. Even with him setting them up as


aunt Sally's, the myths remain the better stories, carrying an


imaginative charge that makes nonsense easier to understand than


fact. Fairytales of whatever world religion retain an untarnishable


beauty, more easily followed by a small and impressionable Tasmanian


child, for example. A God called Moin ee was defeated by a rival God


in a terrible battle up in the stars. Before he died he wanted to


give a last blessing to his final resting place, he decided to create


humans, but he forget to give them knee, he absent mindedly gave them


big tails like kangaroos. They say the devil has all the best tune,


but the religious elders have most of the best stories.


Richard Dawkins is here, you seem to implicitly believe in this, or


explicitly believe that rationalism is some how disadvantaged, do you


really think that is? Nor am I knocking myths, I just think that


science is better. Better stories I deny that the myths have the best


tunes and the best stories. deny it? Yes. I actually think that


science is so spellbinding. What have you got that beats the story


of the kangaroo? Evolution. taking evolution, you really think


that your version, you are very clear account of where our


ancestors came from, which ends up in a not very attractive looking


fish 185 million generations ago, as opposed to the creation myth in


the Bible, that God takes a handful of dusts and breathes life into it,


takes one of Adam's ribs and creates a woman. You think your's


is more poetic? No question about it, absolutely. It is wonderfully


poetic, when you think about it, here we are, we started off on this


planet, this fragment of dust spinning around the sun, and in


four billion years, we graduemly changed from bacteria into us, that


is a spellbinding story. Do you accept that it is slightly more


difficult for a child to comprehend? That I'm not sure about.


It is conventional not to teach evolution until a later age, I


think it could be taught at a younger age. But 185 million


generations, that is a difficult thing to get your head around as a


child? You have to employ careful strategies to do that, but I think


it can be done. Now, nobody believes that Lot's wife for


example was really turned to a pillar of salt, and you soon grow


out of belief in Father Christmas and the tooth fairy, are you saying


these things should never be taught? No, I'm not actually. There


is a great value in training the imagination to be imaginative. So


children love to make believe, for example, I did myself, I'm sure you


did. It is a wonderful part of growing up, to play games of make


believe. And part of it is comfort, isn't it, if you are told, I don't


want to get too much into religion. If you are told you are a unique


creation and made in God's image and loved, as opposed to the


scientific image that you are a receipty insubstantial speck in the


Cosmos, one is comforting, one is slightly alarming, isn't it? One is


false and one is true, and it is rather important to whether it is


alarming or not to get what is true. You can make up any number of


stories that are comforting, but the truth has some value as well.


But you accept the force, the imaginative force of comfort?


wouldn't stress comfort, I accept the imaginative force of certain


myths, and I throw in the juddaiyo Christian myth along with the myths


of the Tasmanians and so on, I genuinely think science is more


exciting and more poetic. They perform a social function too,


particularly the religious myths, in that they tend to make us, as


societies, hang together. You don't believe that, do you? It is


certainly, the basis of our culture, and our legal system? It is true


that historically religions have been the basis of our culture, but


it is also true they have been the basis of plenty of things not very


desirable. As for comfort, once again, I think I would come down to


what is true, and say what I would really value is the truth rather


than what is comforting, and the truth rather than what necessarily


holds societies together. This book is intended for children what, 11,


12? 12 and up to 100. All adults. Why can't you introduce children to


reality at a younger age than that? I would love to do that. Maybe my


next book will. This book was field tested down to about eight or seven,


and they got it with help from teachers. I would like to think


that parents could perhaps read bits of this book to seven-year-


olds, and 11 and 12-year-olds I hope will love to read it


themselves. This is the equivalent at an entire metaphysical level to


telling children that Father Christmas doesn't exist, isn't it?


I think that the truth is wonderful, I think the myths are fun. The book


is full of myths. Which is your favourite myth? I like the one


about Dromadena, it is very abusing, some of the Aztec ones are very


funny as well. Do you find any of them personally affecting, you


think, gosh what a wonderful story? Genesis is, as a story, as a myth,


yes. And I mean, as long as you don't think it is true. The trouble


is 40% of the American people think it is literally true. They probably


think Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt as well for that


matter. Do you really care that there are a lot of stupid people


around? I do, I really do. I care that children are being misled by


those stupid people. Why? Because I think that children deserve to know


what's true and what's wonderful about the world into which they


have been born. It really is true, and it really is wonderful, and it


is such a crying shame if children are denied that by ignorant and


stupid adults as you have described them. Richard Dawkins, thank you.


Tomorrow morning's front pages now. The Financial Times here has a


picture of Angela Merkel and the news that apparently she's going to


try to suppress all talk that the Greeks are going to default on


their debt. The independent has more on phone hacking, I think.


That's it. The British artist Richard Hamilton died today at the


age of 89, he produced some terribly well known paintings,


sculptors and kolages, and known for a long time as the father of


Still quite windy out there at the moment. The winds died down further


overnight, and light winds in the south tomorrow, with the spells of


sunshine, it should feel pleasant here. Cloudy skies across northern


England, particularly to the west of the Pennines, where there will


be light drizzle. In the east not a lot of sunshine. Clouding across


Lincolnshire and parts of the Midlands, after a sunny start. Much


of East Anglia and the southern counties of England will have a


fine day. Spells of sunshine and the winds lighter than they have


been. It will feel a bit warmer. Sunny spells across most of South


Wales, and North Wales will see a change through the day. Clouding


over with some rain trickling southwards through the Irish Sea.


That rain is pulling away through Northern Ireland, after a damp


start, sunshine here through the afternoon. Brighter too across


central and southern parts of Scotland. In the far north it will


be wet and still here very windy. The winds will start to ease by


Thursday. In fact, Thursday promises to be a fine day for much


of the country, an autumnal feel, it will start cold on Thursday


morning, there will be some mist and fog patches. They should clear


and Thursday then will bring most places some spells of sunshine.


Certainly for the majority it will be a dry day. After that cold start,


temperatures eventually in the sunshine reaching the mid-to high


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