Christian Engström, Pirat

3 september 2013

Pirate MEPs nominate Snowden for the EU Sakharov Prize

Filed under: Edward Snowden,English — Christian Engström @ 13:17

Together with my colleague Amelia Andersdotter here in the European Parliament, I have just sent in a nomination for whistleblower Edward Snowden for the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

In our nomination we write:

In May 2013, whistle-blower Edward Joseph Snowden disclosed extensive classified information about USA mass surveillance programmes of private citizens, business and public sector communications worldwide. Programmes we can suspect are mirrored in most Member States. Snowden’s public revelation showed systematic and widespread violation of fundamental rights, notably freedom of expression and the right to privacy, by USA agency NSA, which triggered a ground breaking, global debate on issues of mass surveillance, government secrecy and information privacy.

For this heroic effort, Snowden is paying a heavy personal price; the US government hunts him as an outlaw, accusing him of crimes that will put him in jail for the rest of his life. Governments that dare to offer him asylum are threatened with dire consequences by the U.S. government. In a painful irony, his only sanctuary is Russia, a country with democratic problems and authoritarian tendencies.

To show that the European Parliament does not stand with surveillance of EU citizens, businesses and governments the PirateParty nominate Edward Snowden as the laureate for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2013.

Christian Engström, MEP & Amelia Andersdotter, MEP

Later this afternoon the Green Group in the European Parliament (where Amelia and I are independent members) will be discussing whom the group should nominate for the Sakharov Prize. Our hope is of course that the Green Group will decide to stand behind this nomination.

If that does not happen, we will instead have to collect at least 40 signatures from members of the European Parliament to get the nomination through. But in either case, Edward Snowden would be a very worthy recipient of the Sakharov Prize.

12 augusti 2013

Kopimism, the Pirate Party, and separation between church and state

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 13:47
Pirate P Yin-Yang symbol

Religion and politics can fit together even if they are separate, or especially then.

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth. This sermon has previously been published in Swedish.)

The Pirate Party is a religiously unattached political party that wants to see a secular state where the state and religion are separated.

Freedom of religion, i.e.: everybody’s right to believe in what he or she wants (or nothing at all) is a fundamental human right (Article 9 in the ECHR), and quite rightly so. Everybody shall have the right to practice and live by their own religion, as long as it does not infringe other people’s human rights.

The state should not be a part of the church, and the church should not be a part of the state.

Kopimism is a politically unattached young religion that has official status as a religion in Sweden, after a decision by Kammarkollegiet — blessed be its name! The Missionary Church of Kopimism is a church that is also politically unattached, and wants to see the Kopimist ideas spread over the world by copying.

So far, there are no problems, of course. But to complicate things, there appears to be a quite obvious overlap between people who are active in the Pirate movement and Kopimism, respectively. Many have pointed this out, and nobody has denied it.

The Missionary Church of Kopimism was started by Isak Gerson and Gustav Nipe, both active Pirates. Nipe’s daytime job is to be the chairman of the Swedish Pirate Party’s youth organization Young Pirate. That is admittedly a link.

Me, I am a member of the European Parliament for the Pirate Party. I mostly blog about pirate politics, but I have also written a number of blog posts on Kopimism, and intend to continue doing so. Both the Swedish Pirate Party’s founder Rick Falkvinge and our current party leader Anna Troberg have been blogging about Kopimism, Swedish Wikipedia notes.

So it would be slightly silly to try to deny that there appears to be quite a strong personal union between the two movements.

I see no conflict between being politically active in the Pirate Party for a secular society, and being a Kopimist. On the contrary, I see it as to parts that fit perfectly together. If I want the right get to heaven my own way and to believe in what I want (like Kopimism), then it is natural that I defend that right for everybody. ”First they came for the Jews, but I wasn’t a Jew…” etc.

If you are a follower of a religion (in particular a small unpopular religion) the smartest thing to do is to be in favor of the secular state, for purely egoistic reasons if nothing else. If you let the religion that happens to be the strongest at a particular time get control of legislation and police force, you never know where things will end up. Or more accurately: You know precisely, because that has already happened far too many times in history, and is still going on today.

”Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s,” Jesus said in his days. If he meant that state and church should be separate, I agree with him. That is how it should be.

  • The Pirate Party does not think that file sharing should be legalized because Kopimism sees free copying as something holy. We think that file sharing should be legalized becuse it’s a good idea from a democratic, economic, and cultural perspective, on purely political and humanistic grounds.
  • Kopimism is not trying to get some sort of religious exception for Kopimists only, that would give us a special license to share files without risking punishment. This is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Kopimist church has been founded by people who are politically active in the Pirate Party, and are already working to legalize file sharing for everybody.

The Pirate Party and Kopimism are two different movements, a political and a religious one, that have different goals and work in different areas. But that doesn’t prevent any individual from being active in both, if he or she feels like it.

And remember, it’s only religion we’re talking about. Religion is never more serious that you choose to see it. What is one person’s most sacred belief, may be just a more or less silly joke to another. This is how it’s always been for all religions, and Kopimism is no exception.

To all who see Kopimism as a joke, I hope that you at least think it’s reasonably funny. If not, all you have to do is to surf on to something else.

As long as we all remember to treat each other in a nice and respectful manner, even if we happen to have different opinions on religion or anything else, it’s not a problem that we are all different. This is an asset, and just how it should be.

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Read the entire Kopimist Creation Myth.

CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

Illustration by Idee, CC0

25 juni 2013

Do offline legislators deserve the votes of the 250 million net-generation Europeans?

Filed under: English,informationspolitik — Christian Engström @ 10:48

In an opinion piece in New Europe I write:

Secrecy of correspondence and the right to privacy are technology neutral. They do not magically stop applying because somebody chooses to use a modern communications technology. Yet, we have seen a wiretapping scandal unfold with the United States’ security agency NSA in the past weeks which goes way beyond anything Stasi had at its disposal, and which had been green-lighted with a strange attitude that the net isn’t where adult people communicate, so it doesn’t matter.

That attitude is, to put it quite bluntly, not good enough for the 250 million Europeans of the net generation.

Read more at New Europe

19 juni 2013

Removal of Internet access compromises fundamental liberties

Filed under: English,informationspolitik — Christian Engström @ 12:30
Read my opinion piece in The Parliament Magazine

Read my opinion piece in The Parliament Magazine

In an opinion piece in The Parliament Magazine, I write:

Last week, the French Hadopi authority issued its first order to disconnect someone from the internet for the so-called offence of sharing culture and knowledge online. This shows a complete disconnect between the world of authorities and legislators on one hand, and the world of citizens on the other.

Having net access today is a precondition for exercising your rights as a citizen, and no authority should have the right to take that away unless you are serving a prison term in solitary confinement.

Read more in The Parliament Magazine


Also read Rick Falkvinge: ”Hey Hadopi, You’re Breaking The Law. We Made “Three Strikes” Illegal Across All Europe.”

12 juni 2013

”The EU Commission is not taking PRISM seriously”

Filed under: English,NSA — Christian Engström @ 11:19
Read more at The Parliament Magazine

Read more at The Parliament Magazine

The Parliament Magazine writes:

Swedish deputy Christian Engström has accused the European commission of failing to take the US Prism programme revelations seriously:

”The commission didn’t even bother to send the relevant commissioner. In the US, president [Barack] Obama himself is commenting, here they take the commissioner for health because he happened to be around.

”This demonstrates very clearly that the commission is not taking this seriously.”

Read more at The Parliament Magazine

8 maj 2013

Tobacco harm reduction amendments on e-cigarettes and snus tabled in ENVI

Filed under: English,snus — Christian Engström @ 12:37

Together with colleagues in the European Parliament, I have now tabled 24 amendments on electronic cigarettes and snus in the ENVI committee. ENVI is the ”lead committee” on the Tobacco Products Directive, which means that it is the committee where the fate of e-cigarettes and snus will be decided.

The amendments are in favour of allowing snus (Swedish oral tobacco) and electronic cigarettes, as part of a harm reduction policy for tobacco products.

The amendments on snus were co-signed by me, Christofer Fjellner, and Chris Davies, and the ones on electronic cigarettes were co-signed by me, Christofer Fjellner, Chris Davies, and Rebecca Taylor.

The amendments are essentially the same ones I tabled in the IMCO committee some weeks ago, with some additions (am 1, 2, 15, 20, and 21) to improve consistency and clarity. You can read the amendments here.


Declaration of interest: I am a snus user, which has allowed me to cut down my smoking drastically, even though I have not stopped completely yet. My wife used to smoke, but gave it up completely several years ago by switching to eucalyptus flavoured snus.

4 maj 2013

Kopimism, Sex, and Morals

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 10:37
"Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life" with Richard Dawkins

Watch ”Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life” with Richard Dawkins (47 min)

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth, which is also available in Swedish)

Religion critic Richard Dawkins has made a three-part television series called Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life. The first episode focuses on sex.

Dawkins notes that most of the major religions have very strong views on how people manage their sex life, but that these views are from the bronze age. Today, they quite unnecessarily make people feel shame just because they are people, and at worst provide the foundation for harassment against anyone falling outside the most narrow heteronormative lifestyle.

As a Kopimist, I can only agree with what Dawkins says in this program. He shows with statistics how the persistent propaganda against for example masturbation by the Christian churches has had no effect whatsoever on how much Christians and non-Christians actually masturbate. Those numbers were identical according to the statistics, like 95% of all men and 70-75% of all women.

The only difference was that a large portion of the Christian masturbators had a strong feeling of shame that made their lives miserable. How completely unnecessary. There can be no other activity that is so cheap, fun, and totally risk-free as masturbation, and none so natural.

Even worse is when the bronze age morality of traditional religions becomes an excuse of intolerance against certain groups. How can Western religions, that claim to bring a message of Love, suddenly condemn love when it happens between two people of the same sex?

In this regard, the big world religions should simply shape up. A majority of the world’s homosexual people live repressed in societies where they can’t show their love openly. Various churches are more often seen on the side of the oppressors than the other. This is not acceptable. When a group of people become the victim of harassment, any church worth its name should be on their side.

In the meanwhile, there is Kopimism. We don’t judge anyone because he or she has the capacity to love fellow human beings of a particular gender. All love is good love. Consenting adults can do what they want, and it’s nobody else’s business unless they are personally invited to take part.

This is the attitude that all religions should have for strict reasons of tolerance. But for Kopimism, there is an additional strong theological argument to have a positive attitude towards sex.

Sex is Kopying, and a tribute to the Fundamental Principle that has given Kopimism its name.

The ultimate purpose of sex is to pass on the miracle of life by producing new individuals. Sexual reproduction is not about making identical copies, but about remixing, which we see as the highest form of copying. Our creation myth is about how life appeared and is passed on through Kopying. It is more or less obvious that Kopimism would to see sex as something fundamentally positive.

And with this fundamentally positive view of sex, there is no reason to restrict it to only pure reproductive sex. Homosexuality, pornography, masturbation, oral sex, sex with a condom, or sex between couples that have been married for 50 years, but still like doing it even though they are no longer fertile. None of these forms of sex can produce children, but they quite obviously have to do with sex. Non-reproductive sex is also a tribute to Kopying, the first of the Four Kopimist K’s.

If you insist on placing a religious interpretation on the fact that Onan spilled his seed on the ground, then the reasonable thing would be to see it as a fertility sacrifice, and something to please the Lord. Or, you can just say that it’s his private business.

Kopimism sees sex as a gift from the God(s), and a manifestation of the power of Kopying.

And in any case we, think it’s wrong smear guilt on consenting adults who live out the fact that they are human. Dawkins is completely right on this.

A Kopimist Moral System

Religions usually contain a moral framework that separates right from wrong. For Kopimism, we can derive a moral framework directly from the Four Kopimist K’s: Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality.

  • Creativity
    We see creativity as the driving force behind the evolution of the world, and something positive. This means that we want to see a society built on as much freedom as possible, to let creativity bloom. We see diversity as a positive expression of creativity in the world.
  • Copying
    We see it as something positive when culture and knowledge are shared, and amuse and assist people. We see sex as something positive, and a tribute to the fundamental principle of Copying.
  • Cooperation
    We cherish cooperation and want to have a calm, safe, and happy society where people can live in peace. From this follow the general humanistic principles that more or less everybody agree on. Thoul shalt not kill. Violence may not be used except as a last resort in self defence. Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. Try to be generous and helpful. Smile, and the world will smile at you. Common sense and common decency. Nothing unexpected in these rules.
  • Quality
    The Abrahamic religions see their moral rules as dictated directly by God. Do they have to be, to get legitimacy? In Kopimism, we don’t think so. We say that there is a fundamental principle called Quality, that we humans have the capacity sense. We all have an inner moral compass, and we are perfectly capable of knowing ourselves what is right or wrong. Just like Richard Dawkins we Kopimists believe in humans as individuals, but thanks to Quality, we can also explain why.

No Kopimist would be very surprised by the contents of this moral system. It is freedom oriented humanism, just as one would expect. These morals are not at all unique to Kopimism, and have been expressed by many great philosophers since the Enlightenment and onwards.

In Cardamom Town, for instance, Constable Bastian has written the law for the town, and in his Law of Cardamom it says:

You may not do harm to others, you should try to act your best
Then you do as you see fit with all the rest

That summary is as good as any.

Constable Bastian believes in the good humanity, that we have an inner moral compass that points us right in most cases. He believes in a society based on tolerance, kindness, and that everyone has as much freedom as possible to lead their lives in their own ways. Many great philosophers have said the same. We Kopimists agree.

The only real surprise in this Kopimist moral framework is how easily and naturally it derives from the Four Fundamental Principles, the Four Kopimist K’s.

The moral system as such is the one that I feel is at the heart of the global Pirate movement on the internet. It is exactly the moral system that I would have wanted in a religion, and to be perfectly honest, I’m sure I would have been able to derive that moral system from more or less any set of fundamental principles.

But when I started looking at how the Fundamental Principles of Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality could be used to suggest a moral system, I was very surprised and impressed by how effortlessly exactly the moral system I wanted seemed to flow from the Four Kopimist K’s.

This is yet another indication that we are on the right track, and that Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality really are fundamental principles that deserve further study.

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CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

3 maj 2013

Kopimism and The God Delusion

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 12:00

The God Delusion is a sharp and funny book, and an excellent starting point for thinking about religions

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth, which is also available in Swedish)

Kopimism is a new religion that was officially recognized as a church in Sweden in 2011. You can read the work in progress Kopimism Level 1: The Creation here.

Richard Dawkins is an evangelist for an atheist and scientifically based worldview, as opposed to religion. In his book The God Delusion, he totally trashes God, at least the Christian god that we are used to (and the related variants within Judaism and Islam). The God Delusion is a sharp and funny book, and an excellent starting point for thinking about religions.

We can look at how the Kopimist faith would stand up to the criticism that Dawkins levels against all religions (even though most of his examples are from Christianity).

To start with, Dawkins dislikes the idea of God as the creator of the universe. He doesn’t think it makes sense, and he’s right: it doesn’t. The creation myth in the Old Testament, which is shared by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, is severely illogical.

If God created the world, then he must have been even more complicated than the world he created, and must have existed before the creation. Where did he come from?

Instead of having to explain how the world came into being, we now have to explain how something even more complicated did. Thanks a lot, but that’s not much of a help. Here, Dawkins is absolutely right. This is the wrong direction.

But the Kopimist creation myth, how would it stand up to Dawkin’s criticism of the Old Testament?

The Kopimist creation myth begins:

In the beginning, the world was a stinking mess of ammonia, methane gas, and nasty toxic chemicals. The atmosphere was alight with flashes of pure energy. Something wanted to be born.

In ways and for reasons that remain to be explored, the ribosomes appeared, who could copy. This was the beginning of Life. We therefore see Copying as the first manifestation of the Divine Spirit.

What would Dawkins have to say about this?

Kopimism avoids the problem of having to explain where God came from, since he or she hasn’t entered the story yet. There is a manifestation of a Divine Spirit, so we suspect there may be a God lurking around somewhere, but since s/he hasn’t appeared yet, we don’t need to concern ourselves with where s/he came from, at leas not yet. So far, everything is okay according to strictly scientific atheist principles. God does not yet exist.

The only prerequisite is an Earth in primeval state, but it is assumed to have appeared in the customary way.

Here we have a well defined starting point that Kopimism and Science can agree on. This is not a demand that Dawkins explicitly makes, but I think it will please him anyway. The main theme of The God Delusion is how poorly (the Abrahamic) religions fit with science.

Kopimism does better. Before the story has even started, we have already found a connecting point that fits perfectly with both the proposed religion and with science.

The Kopimist creation myth in itself is perhaps not enough to make Kopimism qualify as a religion. A religion should have a little more than just a creation myth to offer. As mentioned, we haven’t actually seen any Kopimist God yet, and this is a demand that at least Dawkins makes.

But the creation myth at least provides a starting point for a religion that doesn’t immediately run into any of the inconsistencies that Dawkins point out in other religions.

This is a good starting point for Kopimism, I think Dawkins would agree.

We then add the four fundamental principles, the Four Kopimist K’s of Kreativity, Kopying, Kooperation, and Kwality. It is true that these additions constitute metaphysics rather than science (since there isn’t a lot of scientific data to back them up, at least not yet). But the addition is nevertheless done in the same way that new scientific theories are added to the body of existing science, by adding the hypotheses that these Four Fundamental Principles represent important aspects of the universe we live in.

There is no conflict between recognizing that science is valid and believing that Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality are forces that exist and drive evolution on. Kopimism suggests an addition to science, not a replacement for it.

I hope Richard Dawkins would find this to be and acceptable religion, even from his perspective.

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CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

2 maj 2013

Kopimism: The Laws of Nature Just Set the Stage

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 11:37
Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth, which is also available in Swedish)

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the laws of nature are just depressing when you read them. We do, after all, call them ”laws”, and laws tend to be rather depressing and miss out on all of the fun.

If you had never been to a pub but had read all the laws that regulate it, you would probably not feel very keen to visit one. You would have read pages and pages of legal laws to deal with drunkenness, disorderly behavior, fistfights, food poisoning, and watered-down beer. If this was the whole truth about an evening over drinks together with friends, you would do well to avoid it.

But of course, the laws that regulate a night at the pub don’t tell the whole truth. They set out the restrictions that the involved parties have to follow, but they make no or little mention of the magic of spending a pleasant evening together with friends.

The laws that regulate a theater are the same. There are lots of rules on how theater building should be constructed and how the emergency exits should be located, but (at least in a free society) there are very few laws that regulate what goes on on stage, and no mention at all of the magic you can experience in the audience when you see a great play.

The laws for the theater set the stage, but leave it open what happens on that stage.

The laws of nature, in the same way, provide a foundation and set the stage for interesting things to happen on the next level. It is true that the laws themselves are just a bunch of restrictions on what can happen in the world, but the fact that they are a depressing read doesn’t mean that we need to feel depressed about the meaning of the universe.

No matter how restricted we might feel by the laws of nature, we can take comfort in the fact that everything that is not expressly forbidden, can and will be seen as a possibility.

According to Newton’s (or Einstein’s) theory of gravity, and apple and a rock will fall to the ground in exactly the same way, at exactly the same speed. Does this mean that science says that apples and rocks are the same? Are you the victim of unscientific superstitions if you enjoy eating an apple, but refuse to eat a rock?

No, of course not. To claim that would be a complete misunderstanding of how scientific laws work, and what they do and don’t say. It is true that the theory of gravity makes no distinction between apples and rocks, as it does not recognize ”taste” as a factor. But this does not mean that the theory of gravity refutes or denies the concept of taste. It is just silent on the subject. This means that it doesn’t rule it out, so it can very well be.

When a snowboarder is doing a jump, the theory of gravity will very accurately predict how her center of gravity will move through the air. But it will say noting at all about the flips and spins that she and the audience are interested in. Those are described by other physical laws of motion, that don’t contradict the law of gravity, but supplement it. No matter what kind of movements a snowboarder does, she will not be able to suddenly remain suspended in mid-air in defiance of the law of gravity. But there are a lot of other pretty amazing things that she can do without breaking any laws of nature.

The law of gravity places no restrictions whatsoever on anything that it does not explicitly claim to predict. As far as it is concerned, anything is possible on any subject that is outside the scope of the law, from the flips and spins the snowboarder is doing, to the mental attitude that she had when she won the gold medal.

The snowboarder’s rotations around her center of gravity can be described by other basic physical laws, and the mental attitude of a winner cannot, but as far as the law of gravity is concerned, both these situations are okay. As long as there are no claims that with the right mental attitude you could defy gravity and start levitating, the basic physical laws have no opinion at all on the importance or existence of mental attitudes. They don’t confirm it, but they certainly don’t deny it.

Another example would be the laws of chemistry that we learned in school. Those laws say that some atoms feel they are missing some electrons, and others feel that they have too many. This attracts them to each other if they get a chance to even things out.

An oxygen atom feels it is two electrons short, and hydrogen atoms feel that they each have one too many. This makes them very keen (as in hydrogen gas explosion) to join forces whenever they get the chance, and the resulting compound (water) is very stable. This is all according to the basic laws of chemistry.

The same basic laws say that carbon atoms equally feel that they have four electrons too many or too few, which makes them happy to build molecules together with other atoms of their kind. The basic laws of chemistry don’t place any restrictions on how complex those carbon based molecules can be, but they also don’t say whether there will actually be a lot of very complex carbon based molecules, or how those molecules would look if they did exist. The basic laws of chemistry don’t predict the existence of self-replicating double helices of breathtaking complexity, they just don’t deny the possibility.

This is how all scientific theories and formulas work.

Scientific theories claims to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But no scientific theory ever claims to tell the whole truth.

The underlying laws of nature place certain restrictions on what can happen on the next level of complexity. Atoms can’t break the basic laws of chemistry. A snowboarder can’t levitate. You can’t walk on water.

But apart from these and similar restrictions, anything else goes.

The whole idea with the metaphor of the Giant’s shoulders is that you’re allowed to stand on them, and add whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t contradict the foundation you are standing on.

We can add more science, in the way that biochemistry was added to basic chemistry. Since the biochemical laws that describe DNA molecules don’t contradict the basic chemical laws for carbon atoms, they are free to put whatever they want on those shoulders, and everybody is perfectly happy with the relationship between basic chemistry and advanced biochemistry.

The laws of advanced biochemistry adds magic and miracles in a space where the basic laws of chemistry just said ”that’s random”. We know now that the shapes of complex proteins are not at all random, even if this is what science said when basic chemistry was all the chemistry that had been invented.

When a scientific theory says ”random”, this does not mean ”Move on folks, there is nothing to see here!”. In fact, it very often means the opposite: ”This is unregulated space, so here magic may appear!”. To add things to the body of known science is the very essence of the scientific philosophy.

Alternatively, we can add metaphysics or religion to the foundation provided by the giants of science. The result will be metaphysics or religion rather than science, since the additions won’t fulfill the criteria of science (like being supported by a lot of scientific evidence). But as long as the additions don’t contradict the laws of science, we don’t have to make a choice between science and religion.

This is what Kopimism sets out to do. We accept that the laws of nature are by and large a good description of those aspects of the universe that they actually describe. But on those shoulders, we add the Four Kopimist K’s — Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality — to give meaning and direction to the evolving universe. Even if what we are adding is not science, but metaphysics or religion, we play within the rules for adding things to science.

We take note of the fact that although the laws of nature known are great at explaining a whole lot of things, they make no claim whatsoever to describe everything knowable, not even taken together.

According to science, there can be no God that can make apples fall upwards just because he feels like it. That would violate the laws of nature. But there can very well be a God out there that touches the minds of humans and (at least sometimes) inspires them to do great things. A God of that kind wouldn’t have to violate any laws of nature to be effective.

Richard Dawkins and other critics of religion are right when they point out that there is a conflict between the Abrahamic God described in the Bible and the laws of science as we know them. Virgins giving birth, and prophets walking on water and resurrecting people from the dead, are phenomena that contradict science. A religion that insists on those miracles being real, cannot be reasonably be reconciled with what science teaches. If you want to believe in the God of Abraham in a literal way, you either have to renounce science as false, or live with the fact that you have an inconsistent worldview.

But this does not mean that every potential religion has to be in conflict with science.

Science does not disprove the existence of magic, miracles, or metaphysical structures that add purpose or direction to the creation. After all, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, so if science was fundamentally incompatible with every form of magic, it would mean that no major scientific advancements would ever be possible. This is clearly not the case.

The Kopimist religion adds four fundamental principles to the description of the world that science provides us with. These are the Four Kopimist K’s: Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality.

These principles do not contradict science in any way. The are extra-scientific, meaning that they go beyond what (today’s) science teaches. But they are not anti-scientific, since they do not cause any conflicts with the existing body of science, or the philosophical principles that form the basis for science.

As Kopimists we believe in science, since it quite obviously works and is incredibly useful. But we also believe in a world full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

We Kopimists believe that the Four K’s of Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality provide a perspective that will let us see magical things and get a deeper understanding of the world we live in. Time will tell if we are right in this. But right or wrong, we have at least shown that there is nothing anti-scientific about our beliefs.

The chasm between science and religion, that opened up with Isaac Newton and has continued to present day, can in fact be bridged quite easily. All it takes is for Science to show a bit of humility, and not claim to be explaining more than it actually does, and for Religion to show bit of common sense, and not insist on miracles that are quite clearly in breach of underlying laws of nature. There is ample room in the universe for all the magic you could ever wish for anyway.

”Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it,” author Roald Dahl reminds us in a top rated quote.

The religion of Kopimism aims to do this.

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CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

26 april 2013

Amendments for tobacco harm reduction by allowing snus and e-cigarettes

Filed under: English,snus — Christian Engström @ 13:50
Electronic cigarettes and snus

Electronic cigarettes and snus can help reduce the number of smoking related deaths in Europe

I have now tabled 19 amendments to the Tobacco Products Directive in the European Parliament Committee for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection IMCO.

The amendments are in favour of allowing snus (Swedish oral tobacco) and electronic cigarettes, as part of a harm reduction policy for tobacco products. My aim is to give current smokers the choice of giving up smoking in favour of the considerably less dangerous alternatives snus or e-cigarettes.

You can read the Commission’s proposal for a revised Tobacco Products Directive here (the Articles start on page 23), and my amendments here. The European Parliament’s Legislative Observatory Procedure file is here.

Snus is currently banned in the EU, but allowed in Sweden. This has made Sweden a great success story in terms of tobacco harm reduction. Thanks to snus, Sweden has half as many smokers (13%) as the EU average (28%). As a consequence, we have half the number of yearly deaths from smoking, in a very straight-forward correlation. Contrary to fears, Sweden does not have a higher prevalence of oral cancer than the rest of the EU.

The main objectives of my amendments on snus (Am 1 – 7 & 18) are:

  1. The ban on characterising flavours should only apply to tobacco products for smoking (Am 2 & 3). Flavours are integral to smokeless tobacco products and used in 70% of products, but only in 5% of cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco products are a much lower risk alternative to cigarettes and it is important to ensure smokeless tobacco products are not disadvantaged relative to cigarettes, and that smokers are incentivised to switch.  Given the low rates of smoking and smoking related disease in Sweden, and that this is largely attributable to oral tobacco only available in Sweden, it would be wrong for the EU to legislate for changes that apply to oral tobacco if the government of Sweden is opposed, especially in the absence of any evidence that this will have a beneficial effect rather than undermine the pronounced health benefits arising from the oral tobacco experience in Sweden.
  2. Let Member States decide for themselves if they want to continue to ban snus or not (Am 5). If a member state believes it is culturally accepted and makes a valuable contribution to public health, then surely it is a matter for the member state – in other words, each member state should have the right, but not the obligation to do what Sweden has done.  Even if there is no intent to lift a ban now, the flexibility to do it in future is valuable.   Different treatment may be justified in different member states because of different cultures and differing estimates of public health impact in different cultural contexts.
  3. Set maximum limits for toxic or carcinogenic substances present in smokeless tobacco products (Am 6, 7 & 18). This replaces a ban on oral tobacco with a product quality standard for all smokeless tobacco. Rather than banning the least hazardous smokeless tobacco products (i.e.: snus), this will have the effect of removing the most hazardous from the market, and it is therefore consistent with the health objectives of the internal market. This section reproduces the regulatory recommendations of the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation – Report on the Scientific Basis of Tobacco Product Regulation, WHO Technical Report Series, no. 955. (2010)
  4. Update the health warning on snus (Am 4) to read:

    This tobacco product can damage your health and is addictive, but presents substantially lower risks to your health than smoking

    It is more important to provide information about relative risk than make unquantified statements about harm.   The proposed message gives a clear evidence-based signal to tobacco users.

Taken together, my amendment 1-7 and 18 would allow (but not force) member states to lift the ban on snus, and provide a common regulatory framework if they do.

Electronic cigarettes are currently not regulated by any specific legislation, but only by the general product safety and consumer protection legislation (of which there actually is quite a lot, see below). The Commission’s proposal is to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines (making them subject to a time-consuming and expensive authorisation procedure), and to lower the maximum nicotine yield to a level that would be too low to make them a viable alternative for many smokers who might otherwise consider giving up smoking in favour of e-cigarettes.

My amendments on electronic cigarettes (8 – 17 and 19) aim to do the following:

  1. Only products marketed as medicines should be placed under the medicines directive 2001/83/EC (Am 8 – 11, 13 – 15). The distinction between whether medicines regulation or consumer regulation is applied should rest on whether a therapeutic health claim is made, not on an arbitrary threshold on nicotine yields. This limits the application of medicines regulation to those vendors making health claims consistent with the medicines regulation definition, and ensures that the Tobacco Products Directive applies to all other nicotine-containing products. It rules out member states classifying nicotine-containing products as medicines under Article 1.2(b) of the medicine directive 2001/83/EC – the ‘functional’ definition based on changes to physiology – an approach that has been repeatedly struck down in courts in Europe and clearly does not apply to the dominant nicotine product, cigarettes.
  2. Evaluate existing legislation (Am 12 & 19) and how it is applied in the member states, to provide data for a Commission review of the regulatory framwork for electronic cigarettes (Am 16). Nicotine containing products are potentially a huge market and vital for public health as an alternative to cigarettes.  It is important that regulation is designed with care and is legally robust – not to be excessively burdensome or too general to capture any specific risks arising from the products.

All the amendments that I have tabled were originally drafted by anti-smoking activist Clive Bates, who published his suggestions in a blog post titled Amending the Tobacco Products Directive – how to fix the harm reduction agenda. That blog post contains further explanations and justifications for the amendments. In order to keep the number of amendments down, I have only tabled the most important ones for snus and e-cigarettes.

Tobacco smoking causes 700.000 premature deaths per year in the European Union. If we could bring smoking prevalence in the EU down from its current level of 28% to the Swedish level of 13%, we would save 350.000 lives per year.

The amendments I have tabled aim to make this harm reduction agenda a reality in Europe.


Declaration of interest: I am a snus user, which has allowed me to cut down my smoking drastically, even though I have not stopped completely yet. My wife used to smoke, but gave it up completely several years ago by switching to eucalyptus flavoured snus.

Picture by Christian Engström, free for publication CC0

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