I have a thing about double negatives. It always amuses and checks me when somebody says something like, “I didn’t say nothing.” “I never did nowt.” I know what they literally intend by such statements and it’s not a problem; just a thing I have occasionally. However, I’m totally foxed at the moment by something.
Stephen Green, the director of Christian Voice, has apparently complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the supposed-to-be-atheist-but-is-really-agnostic bus adornment (as previously flagged here on NN by Matt a while back). Stephen Green: hmmm; someone who considers himself God-allotted to decide for us what we should and shouldn’t believe, what TV we shouldn’t watch, what plays not to go and see (or rather what plays should not be staged), and so on, with occasional notorious resort to some unsavoury demonstratory tactics. (There are words to describe this kind of activity. Take your pick.)
His current beef is that he considers the statement, ‘There’s probably no god’, in breach of the advertising code on the grounds ‘of substantiation and truthfulness.’ (Since when did those become criteria for advertisers?). It’s likely that ‘probably’ was inserted in order to assuage any offence. But there’s no pleasing some people.
Green said: "It is given as a statement of fact and that means it must be capable of substantiation if it is not to break the rules.”
Er, help me out here. How can something ‘probably’ be regarded a statement of fact? Doesn’t ‘… probably is no…’, mean the same as ‘… probably is a… ’? How cheesed off would he be by the latter version, for which he considers, "There is plenty of evidence…”, yet "… there is scant evidence on the other side…”?
Everything is ‘probably.’ I’m not saying Stephen Green is probably not nuts.