Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Geek partners

My wife would empathise with these, she would probably add a few additional ones too, for example "bringing evidence into an argument" and "insisting on feature comparisons when buying expensive things" and "working out what it would cost NOT to do something"....

Friday, July 26, 2013

Verse du jour..

"Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; his number is 2,347% APR repayable over 1 year"

Complex? not really, I Guess CofE CEO Justin Welby won't be getting his positive media buzz KPI bonus this quarter..

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Awkward Bible moments

Love this idea, create an "alternative" Children's Bible (or any holy scripture) as a counter to the religious indoctrination and blatant cherry picking that occurs in our junior schools up and down the county (even the secular ones!). No need to exaggerate or lie, there are plenty of contradictions, obscenities, absurdities and awkward moments in the real things to work with, it just needs someone to point them out. In my experience children are quite capable of using reason to see these stories for what they are (i.e. tools for indoctrination) when presented with _all_ the facts. Perhaps then the 40% or so of non-religious people in the country could also lobby the Government to insist that it is presented in R.E. classes just like the Christian (et al) alternatives are (for balance), seems fair to me.

Apparently the book will be hitting the shelves in time for Christmas, a worthy stocking filler if ever there was one, until then, here is another example (click the image to see a bigger copy),

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Smile please..

Forget about the royal baby news here's an achievement much more impressive and unusual than the birth of another Human Being, something incidentally which happens about 350,000 times daily on our planet. The photograph above is of exactly that, i.e. our planet, and was taken from the vantage point of an orbit of the planet Saturn, imagine what historical explorers like Magellan, Cabot and Cook would have thought of this achievement.

The picture was snapped by the Cassini probe at a distance of a billion miles and shows the Earth as a pinpoint of light in the centre right of the picture. Should the new royal baby ever get to be king he would be wise to view his importance through the sobering lens of this photograph; he would be ruler over 0.05% of a few pixels.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Self analysis

I saw this article today and it made me think about what kind of atheist I am; as the title suggests and I already suspected atheists are pretty much like everyone else i.e. a complex assemblage of genetic, cultural and environmental stuff that is difficult to pin down and impossible to define in less than a million words (minus a belief in the supernatural of course). According to the article there are six different types of atheist, although when I look at the list I can empathise with different aspects in each of the categories. I suspect it's exactly the same for believers which for me makes it less rather than more likely that they are right about the nature of the Universe, i.e. Complex beings like Humans are all different and that's the only real truth of the matter.

Anyway, here is my summary of the six different kinds of atheist, see what you think...

1. Intellectual Atheist - intellectually stimulated by information about atheism and the "debate" - likes arguing and is usually well versed in books and articles about religion and atheism.

2. Activist - Not content with just disbelieving in Gods, they want to tell others why religion should be rejected and why society would be better off without it etc. Tend to be vocal about political issues like gay rights, feminism, environment etc.

3. Seeker-Agnostic - Unsure about the existence of God but keeps an open mind, recognises the limits of human knowledge, embrace uncertainty and hold no firm ideological positions.

4. Anti-theist - Regularly speaks out against religion, sees religion as ignorance or delusion. They believe that obvious fallacies in religion and belief should be pointed out openly and addressed in some way.

5. Non-theist - Apathetic or disinterested, simply do not concern themselves with religion or the questions surrounding it. Religion plays no role in their lives, a simple absence of anything religious from their mental space.

6. Ritual atheist - Don't believe in Gods but still finds some religious teachings useful, may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, meditation etc. Attracted to symbolism inherent within religious traditions but without needing the associated supernatural parts.

For me, I'd say something like:

Giving a tuppence..

People here in the UK are preoccupied with two all consuming topics at the moment, firstly there's the weather which has been warm and sunny (shock horror!) and secondly one of our royal family is due to have a baby at any moment. I can't really get too excited about either of these natural phenomenon, sure, nice weather is, well, nice. As for royal babies, OK, having a baby is usually a wonderful (and terrifying in equal measure) experience for any parent but I'm not a great fan of singling out specific Homo Sapiens within the population for special treatment on the sole basis that one of their ancestors hundreds of years ago happened to be a more successful bandit and war-monger than anyone else.

In other news, I took a long overdue holiday last week and packed the family off to Devon for a week to visit some friends and to escape the rat race for a while. It was just what the doctor ordered, we hardly watched any TV, read very little e-mail and generally kicked back and did nothing but swim, play tennis, BBQ and socialise with friends. In an era of cheap foreign travel it's sometimes easy to forget how beautiful England can be, I know its a cliché but when the sun is shining and the roads are relatively quiet it really takes some beating. Anyway, I switched the TV on this morning to catch up with the news only to find that the BBC seemed to alternate between pictures of pink fatties eating ice cream and shots of sweaty reporters desperately trying to think of something to say against the backdrop of a London maternity clinic entrance door; is there really nothing else going on?

I guess if you're lucky enough to have skin that tans easily and like to read Hello magazine while eating Haagen Dazs then now is your moment but personally I really couldn't give a tuppence for any of it.

Friday, July 12, 2013


I saw this on the wonderful xkcd site today, it made me chuckle, which is what I like to do on Fridays before gloriously sunny weekends...

Monday, July 08, 2013

Coincidental miracles..

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.
-- David Hume

So I read that the Catholic tribe are going to declare that their ex-leader John Paul II has become a supernatural being; their claim is that even though he's long dead some part of his conciousness still exists and is able to communicate with living people and exert invisible forces at the cellular level within the bodies of certain cherry picked individuals (also Catholic) to cure them of illnesses that are seemingly incurable; all this from a distance of thousands of miles from the crypt in Rome where his corpse lies serenely decomposing.

Statistically of course being cured (or appearing to be cured) of certain diseases like Parkinsons is very rare but statistically improbable events within large populations of things (7 billion human beings in this case) happen all the time; the medical establishment even measure and document them. The good philosopher David Hume advised us to ponder this over 200 years ago, he suggested that we consider what is more likely, that a particular individual has an occurrence of a remission from a condition (that many have had before and since) or that a dead body can exert curative forces supernaturally across vast distances?

The balance of probability on this seems pretty clear to me and clearly those Catholics need to get a grip on reality; next they'll be claiming that a Brit can win Wimbledon!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The art of listening..

Most Religions frown upon this particular art form, as usual, Jesus and Mo nails it.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


I read today that channel 4 will be providing extensive coverage of Ramadan this year. For those that don't know Ramadan is the Muslim period of prayer and fasting that lasts roughly one month every year, a period of 30 or so days when Muslims are not supposed to eat, drink, smoke or have sex between dawn and sunset. I'm sure TV coverage of hungry, thirsty and horny people praying will be riveting for some, but as an atheist I would struggle to think of any kind of coverage of anything more pointless (well, maybe big brother or that awful thing in the jungle)

Channel 4 is claiming that these programmes will "provoke" us non-Muslims and bring to our attention the period of personal sacrifice and worship about to take place, what? In what kind of warped universe is the act of skipping lunch and afternoon nooky for a few weeks any kind of "sacrifice"? For me, (real) sacrifice, is doing something like Captain Oates did on the Terra Nova expedition to the Antarctic he wandered out of a warm tent to a certain frosty death so that his comrades wouldn't be slowed down by his ill heath or perhaps the 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae who faced overwhelming odds and yet stood their ground for their tribe; some might even see the deaths of the thousands of lads that went over the top at the Somme as some kind of sacrifice, let's not mince words though sometimes sacrifice can be stupid and pointless.

Surely true personal sacrifice has to contain some aspect of altruism or it's just plain old self interest, (imagined or otherwise) isn't it? Why would anyone be interested in or impressed by watching a bunch of people skipping lunch because they think this helps to feather their own imagined eternal nest like some kind of deistic version of the apprentice? I think what's more likely is that most non-religious and/or rational-secular people here will see this all as slightly comedic; something to be ridiculed and parodied (more like the egotistic, self-centred candidates on the TV show), certainly not thought provoking in the way the producers seem to hope.

Of course in a liberal democracy like ours people should be allowed to believe whatever they wish (including the people that think this kind of sacrifice is pointless) free speech is a privilege that unfortunately isn't afforded to most people in most Islamic countries. So, if some Muslims want to give up lunch, sex and silk cut then good for them, if others don't then good for them too! But, be careful what you wish for, some ideas and beliefs are probably better kept within the confines of our personal lives and not exposed to the barbed critique of outside and unsympathetic perspectives unless that criticism is sought; we all know how sensitive some people can be about these things.