Bin Laden more deadly as a martyr

SO Barack Obama apparently believes America, and the world, are safer for the murder of Osama Bin Laden.

And I used to think Obama was a clever – more than that, sensible – man.

Let’s leave aside for a moment the question of whether it can ever be morally right to set out to kill someone.

Let’s put aside our revulsion at the spectacle of thousands of people celebrating another person’s death. And our disgust at the idea of a national leader watching the slaying by live video link.

Let’s even accept that the intention was to bring Bin Laden to justice alive, to face an international court and the likelihood of a life – not a death – sentence.

Have Obama, David Cameron and all those others cheering the killing never heard of vengeance?

Or do they think Americans are the only people capable of carrying out missions of revenge and calling it justice?

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I fear Bin Laden, vile as he undoubtedly was, is more dangerous as a martyr than he was as a man.

And that by killing him America has handed a huge propaganda boost to the Islamists just when the political future of the whole Arab world is up for grabs.

DID you know the Bible was written in code?

That all that stuff about the laws, legends and creation myths of a wandering long-ago Middle-Eastern tribe was just a cover for a lot of brilliant predictions about the world to come?

You didn’t? Well, it’s all there.

Hitler, the moon landings, the Kennedy assassination, the Bin Laden killing, the result of tomorrow’s 2.30 at Haydock.

Only trouble is, it only offers wisdom after the event. You have to know what already happened before you can find it.

Which makes it pretty useless as a racing tipster.

Still, find the right algorithm and pretty much everything is spelled out. You just need to know how and where to look.

And the really amazing thing is, it works not only on the ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts – the magic survives translation into English. Even the flat, awful English of the New International Version!

If, as Michael Drosnin, author of The Bible Code, suggests, the Bible is literally the word of God, a couple of questions arise.

Such as: Why did He scramble His prophesies so thoroughly that they couldn’t be read until someone had invented a really powerful computer?

Why do His predictions only become clear after the events they describe?

And why on earth should the same power of prophesy apply to War And Peace, the Complete Works of Charles Dickens – or those of Richard Dawkins?

The answer to all these questions is that the magic has nothing to do with God and everything to do with numbers. That, and the amazing human capacity to find patterns in almost anything.

If a book is long enough, and the technique flexible enough, you can find anything encoded in pretty well any text. Anything you’re looking for. Anything you already know.

As scientist and author Simon Singh demonstrated delightfully at Ipswich Regent on Monday night when he revealed a mass of information about the death of Princess Diana “encoded” in Herman Melville’s big fat 19th-century novel Moby Dick.

Singh was one of the stars of the science show Uncaged Monkeys, which kept a near sell-out audience wrapt for almost three hours.

The other headline acts were Ben Goldacre and Brian Cox.

One or two of my friends accuse the cherubic Cox of dumbing down the presentation of science on TV. Which seems to me way off the mark for a man helping to make intelligence popular.

Of course his series The Wonders of the Universe aimed for a wide market. And if his enthusiasm helped spread the idea that scientific inquiry – and, yes, wonder – is fun, then that can only be good.

And it’s hard to imagine that without Cox’s telegenic charisma a large paying audience would have turned out to see what amounted to an evening of back-to-back short science lectures. Even one compered by the comedian Robin Ince, whose splendid idea all this was.

A highlight was Ipswich bor Adam Rutherford, whose whistle-stop presentation of the science of genetics told me nothing new, but did so highly entertainingly. And, incidentally, rubbished the wilful ignorance of the Daily Mail even more effectively than the frenetic Goldacre.

But the real success of the show wasn’t any one particular performer. It wasn’t even any one scientific revelation. And it certainly wasn’t any of Ince’s jokes, funny as many of them were.

It was simply the fact that a science show could fill the theatre.

And spread the word that it’s both fun and important to learn by scientific inquiry. Not just to take the word of “authority”.

Whether that’s the word of a journalist, a crackpot medic, or the cryptically encoded “word of God”.