I see that our new Prime Minster Theresa May has launched a new initiative that aims to stamp out modern slavery; as per my previous post on this very subject, she too labels this practice as "evil". I really hope that some of the money is used in education and counter narrative development work aimed at the kinds of people who practice and (importantly) preach that slavery (particularly of Women) is OK because of some primitive and evil verses in some ancient mythology or other. The problem is one of indoctrination, particularly of children in so called "faith-schools" and of self appointed so called "scholars" These are people who prey on the weak minded and gullible who are susceptible to the more literalist ends of the delusion based economy. I would argue that to earn the label "scholar" you need to read more than one book!
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Much as I dislike linking to people like this, I think it's about time we are honest with ourselves and recognise that there are a bunch of self appointed religious "leaders" (I use the term in it's weakest sense) that continue to preach to and influence young people that it's OK to follow their holy book literally, in fact they claim it's a duty. Here we have some Cardiff bloke (who looks uncannily like Borat) telling his followers that sex slaves are perfectly cool under Islam. Of course, if you actually bother to read the books themselves this is indeed what they say. The Bible also condones slavery, but fortunately here in the enlightened West, our legal system does not. That's the great thing about living in the 21st century, we have realised that the so called "holy books" of the bronze age Middle East are nothing but a bunch of fairy tales, and have ever since been drilled into children's brains in order to keep people under the heal, they're nothing to do with morality, ethics or the best way to run a society.
This is hate speech if ever I heard it, pure misogyny. a primitive hatred and fear of honest sex and equality with Women. It's hard to know what to do with such people, they hide under a respectability cloak known as "religion", which, even to this day, demands unconditional respect from everyone. No doubt this will be seen by many as "free speech" and actually I'm OK with that, what I object to is the unwarranted protection that the label of "religion" offers to trouble-making morons like this. The cloak of respectability is the thing that needs to be broken wide open in my view, these views need to be exposed, spades need to be called spades and people need to understand what it really is they're signing up for.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 2:05 pm
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Nice cartoon from J&M today. Competition is something that's innate in all living things, it's a characteristic of how all life evolved on our planet as evidenced by the fact that all animals (including humans) must kill some other animal or plant to survive, there is no alternative for us. In addition to biological evolution, Humans have also created cultural evolution, this too involves competition, who's ideas are true, who's system is better, who's got the best and the biggest etc. Gods and prophets fall naturally into these schemes alongside all other man-made ideas, it's only natural.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 11:34 am
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
So I see that ISIS supporters in France are continuing to fail at trying to show us that their culture is superior to ours, killing innocent, unarmed 84 year old men in their place of worship is hardly a pinnacle of human achievement. As most people with any education know the 7th century delivered practically nothing in terms of advancement for our species and certainly no wisdom of any note. There was one (man-made) invention of course, a plagiarism of an existing Middle Eastern superstition that went on to be used to rally troops to bloody conquest and control the minds of children for many centuries to come. Like all of these primitive mythologies they contain very little of merit, certainly nothing new and are mostly constructed out of hate, fear and tribalism. Many continue to make outrageous and unsubstantiated claims to this day and many of us feel that the sooner they all disappear back into the sand (as they all eventually do) the better it will be for all human beings. Secular democracy, the enlightenment and the rule of law is under attack and the line needs to be held by all of us, but pouring the fuel of conflicting faiths onto the already glowing embers of hate and envy only ever increases the risk of flame, this is a conflict that certainly doesn't need any more religion in it.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 4:09 pm
Monday, July 25, 2016
There are a lot of things that you could say sex is "like", but putting a cat into a microwave oven is even beyond the "Max Mosley" end of the spectrum. The extract is from a "Christian" magazine of course, one of those Bible-belt literalist kinds where they neither understand their Biology or the social-science they're denying. Teaching teenagers that they should abstain from sex doesn't work, we should all know that by now (well most of us who were normal teenagers) pretty much every study that's ever been done shows that the most religious states in the US are exactly the ones with the highest rates of unplanned teenage pregnancies and STD's (Texas, Mississippi etc.). Biology and hormones trump Bibles every day of the week so if you're grown up about it and accept the fact that one day little Molly or Johnny is going to do what comes naturally, then the best thing you can do is EDUCATE them. If they understand how their bodies work, what to do and what NOT to do and can evaluate risks sensibly and have empathy for the feelings of other people then you will have nothing to worry about.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 7:37 pm
I see today in the news that Islamist videos have been found on the phone belonging to the latest European Muslim terrorist. It will be interesting to see how the media handle this now. After the revelation that the Munich terrorist wasn't an Islamist (probably) some outlets have been referring to that attack as a "white supremacist" attack, I'm not sure how that circle has been squared, but a German of Iranian descent wouldn't immediately spring to mind as being particularly sympathetic to this faction, I suppose there could have been a Nazi-Jew-Muslim thing going on but that seems like a stretch to me. The bottom line is a rather worrying trend, i.e. that there seems to be a terror attack happening in France and Germany roughly twice a week at the moment, we can only wonder how long it will be before Islamist attention is lavished on other EU countries like the UK. It seems inevitable that many more innocent Men, Women and Children will be caused to suffer in the name of Islamist politics and our interactions with it.
Friday, July 22, 2016
If you thought we had political "issues" in the UK you need only look across the pond and you'll feel a whole lot better about things. Trump is the official Republican nominee (alarming enough) but has appointed Mike Pence the Governor of Indiana to be his running mate. Pence was in the news last year for signing a bill that effectively allowed religious people (Christians of course) to discriminate (legally) against LGBT people in that state, many business leaders announced boycotts of the state including some pretty big names like Eli Lilly and Salesforce.com; the bill was later revised but still stands.
It turns out that Pence also has some rather anti-rational views on other things too; he is a creationist (or at least doesn't deny being one) and he is a climate change denier, both points of view quite popular among the red-necked, gas guzzling, gun toting people that unfortunately fill out that part of America, and both points of view that are totally wrong (and stupid). I have been to Indiana many times on business, and always remember once casually speaking with one of my "local" work colleagues about a TV program that I'd been watching. Now, this was a smart guy, degree educated with a fairly big job, he looked me straight in the eye and said "We don't watch TV, TV is evil", I laughed thinking this was some kind of clever parody of a Bible-bashing red-neck, or joke, it was neither, he was deadly serious.
When people call these places "flyover country" it's not an adjective, it's a useful suggestion.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 5:39 pm
Thursday, July 21, 2016
More religious daftness going on in Florida, USA as a disgruntled local religious freedom activist finally (after much legal wrangling) got to make his point about Christian invocations impinging on his first amendment rights by forcing the council to allow him to give a Satanic invocation. What followed was pure comedy gold, it could have been filmed in the darkest most superstitious backwater of Haiti or Albino eating village in Nigeria, pure superstition, pure fear-mongering. The frantic Christians can be seen running around waving crosses, trying to disrupt proceedings and trying to out-do the speech with their own particular "magic" mumbled words. All totally ridiculous; no wonder that country is on the brink of electing a con-artist to be president; when you see stupidity like this you can understand the mentality that arrives at such a perverse destination.
In reality activist Davis Suhor didn't actually give a Satanic invocation, he just said a few wise words, nor did he "curse" anyone, mainly because THERE'S NO SUCH THING, but also because he's quite a reasonable man. All he asks is that council meetings start with a minute of silence where people of different religions or none can pray to whomever they like in private, i.e. that the constitution separating church and state is simply observed. This kind of thing is a problem in the UK too; the right to say "Christian" prayers at the start of council meetings is actually enshrined into law here. Eric Pickles the ex-Local Government Secretary was instrumental in pushing this law through against the tide of statistics showing that we no longer live in a "Christian Country". Pickles took this crusade on after his (rather substantial) Christian nose was put out of joint at the mere suggestion by the NSS that his particular brand of superstition shouldn't hold a privileged position in local Government proceedings. Pickles behaved like a classic playground-bully and pushed the law through, reversing a previous high court decision. Ultimately this principal is something that will be challenged again and again until reason prevails, assuming of course that we're not all speaking Russian by then.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 6:33 pm
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
For those of us living in the UK we're experiencing a hot spell at the moment, temperatures are running into the early 30s which is highly unusual for us. Even so, weather isn't the same thing as climate, a hot or cold day here and there isn't indicative of any particular trend, what you need to do to establish trends is to look back over a much longer time period and calculate the averages, if those move up or down then chances are that you have a proper trend. The chart above shows average temperatures for June just passed, it shows that in some of the higher latitude countries average temperatures were nudging between 6-8 degrees centigrade above seasonal norms; in fact many records were broken and it's reasonable to say that no human being alive today has ever lived through a warmer June. The data that the trends are upward isn't disputable, the facts are the facts, deniers can prevaricate as much as they like, personally I'm still waiting for a good account from them as to why dumping 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year definitely wouldn't make a difference to our climate; suffice to say it's going to be another 'annus horribilis' for polar bears.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 6:02 pm
Getting rather fed up of Brexit fans telling those of us who wanted to stay in the EU to "shut up, stop whining, we won, get over it" - what these people conveniently forget is that the euro-skeptic crowd moaned, groaned and rumored themselves into a frenzy continuously over the last 41 years! In addition I suggest that they should expect at least 40 years of "whining" from us, and rest assured we will be pointing out the lies, errors, ignorance and delusions seemingly present in unnatural excess on their side of the argument. Every time this decision disadvantages the UK, our science, our businesses and prospects for our children, we'll be there to rub their noses well and truly in it, like any decent opposition should!
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 1:51 pm
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Wouldn't it be interesting to run a thought experiment that places a juvenile (un-indoctrinated) population on a remote planet armed only with science, technology and secular ethics and law. Although, with the vast size of our Universe and the mind boggling number of exoplanets, maybe we'll meet a population like that one day.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 4:27 pm
Friday, July 15, 2016
Numb, angry, sad, helpless, doesn't really matter how I feel about Nice, focus needs to be on the victims. Personally I felt it appropriate to send some money to (hopefully) help in some minor way.
Looking at social media it's clear that many people feel "praying" makes a difference, whatever, no doubt that's what the killer thought too. Countering delusion with more delusion isn't a victim oriented strategy in my opinion.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 1:09 pm
Monday, July 11, 2016
It was my sad family duty to attend a funeral a couple of weeks ago. Not a close relative but someone I knew reasonably well in my younger years and I wouldn't have wanted to miss it. Most of my family on my Mothers side are from West London and the particular crematorium that they all end up in holds some sad memories for all of us; it always seems to be raining. Fortunately the rain held off for the critical bit on the day but what struck me more was not the weather but the kind of funeral it was. I had no idea that both Max (my great uncle) and his wife were atheists, in any case they were and consequently had a Humanist funeral. I'd never been to one before and I found it very much more to my liking than the usual dirge; no religion at all, not one scintilla. The entire focus was on the family and his life, his loves, his history and his character, really nice, sad of course but also uplifting at the same time. It was the first time I've laughed out loud at a funeral!
A bunch of primates celebrating the end of the line for a fellow primate, no shamen, no magic spells, no collection plates, no hints of eternal damnation or deluded wishful thinking, just people.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 6:32 pm
We learn today that Andrea Leadsome has withdrawn from the Conservative leadership race leaving the only remaining candidate Theresa May to become our appointed (unelected) Prime Minister on Wednesday. Both candidates are, of course, Women and even today, that's unusual for a major economy, but, with a female leader in Germany and also (hopefully) in the USA perhaps "girl power" will be the in thing as we move through the second decade of the 21st century. I'm pleased that May has won although for me choosing a PM from this crop of Tories is like choosing between herpes and gonorrhea, May seems like someone I might know and like (although disagree with on many things) whereas Leadsom just grated at every level.
Over and above gender, other similarities caught my eye during the campaign. Both Leadsom and May are what's known these days as "committed Christians", I'm not entirely sure what this means but I take it as meaning "serious"? Although listening to both of them talking on this subject, I sense that not all committed Christians are created equal. May seems to be more of a cultural Christian to me, daughter of a Sussex vicar and attends church "occasionally" on Sundays etc. It's totally unsurprising that she says that she is Christian as her entire family landscape would have probably been dominated by it. Leadsome on the other is a recent "convert" (always the worst) and I suspect slightly more literal than May. For example she struggled to answer a recent interview question that asked "does God speak to you"? In the end after some um's and er's she didn't say yes and she didn't say no, and pulled the "don't make fun of me" card (a very Christian way of avoiding the question). After our collective experiences with George Bush chatting to his deity, this is actually quite an important question for secular voters.
The two Women have also both worked in the City although it's not entirely clear cut what Leadsom actually did, there seems to be some discrepancy between her "CV" and what people she says she worked with remember about her. The former boss of Bearings bank, Peter Norris, said that he couldn't remember her at all even though she claims to have played a "central" role after their collapse. Another oddity is that she also claims to have been the "managing director" of De Putron fund management but Companies House had her down as the "marketing director". From listening to both candidates I do get the impression that whereas May gets real stuff done, Leadsome by comparison is most definitely "in marketing".
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 6:06 pm
Thursday, July 07, 2016
Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Well worth a careful listen.
If you're someone like me,who values evidence based argument and fact based analysis as a way of making the best decisions you can in life then this summary of the "Brexit" case will make you weep.
I'm starting to feel like we need to challenge the legitimacy of this referendum, the result was very close and the result was, it seems to me, obtained via a campaign whose main pillars featured dishonesty (lies) at an industrial scale.
Now that the leave campaign has won, almost all of the main protagonists have confessed to having no plan whatsoever and have evaporated into the background leaving the rest of us to sort it out. I was talking to some of my technology buddies this week, several of whom run companies and will be seeking investment over the coming months (as most growth companies do), the consensus was that overseas investment has all but dried up completely and UK based investment is now much more difficult to get; which ever way you want to skin this debacle, it remains an unbelievable mess.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 1:40 pm
Amazing, simply amazing!
I was eagerly following the news from Pasadena yesterday about the Juno probe and was pleased to learn that after 5 years travelling the half a billion kilometres to Jupiter it's (British built) rocket fired for an incredibly precise 35 minute burn slowing the craft down just enough to become captured by Jupiter's crushing gravity and start orbiting this most enigmatic of planets.
The manoeuvre was successful and Juno is now circling the gas giant once every 50 or so days. In October the little rocket will fire again dropping the craft down to a 14 day orbit only a few thousand kilometres above the swirling clouds of the upper atmosphere, I can't wait to see the high resolution pictures from that stage, a truly magnificent achievement, Galileo would have been gob smacked :)
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 9:15 am
Monday, July 04, 2016
I see that Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader and champion of all loud-mouthed saloon bar intellectuals resigned (again) today. I'm not celebrating just yet as his resignations are turning out to be as reliable as his attendance record at the European Parliament (he is ranked 747th out of 751 for poor voting attendance) Interestingly there's no mention so far of the £80 grand a year we pay him to be a representative of the UK people at this organisation, I wonder if he'll be donating that salary to charity now that he's officially retiring?
As far as Brexit is concerned, both Farage and Johnson have now "left the field of play"; they remind me of the person who comes to your party uninvited, drinks all your booze, shits in your bed and leaves before everyone wakes up. The only senior Brexit politician left to loath now is Gove who according to many in his own party is so disliked and mistrusted that he almost certainly has a very short runway remaining before his career runs out of tarmac. There aren't many teachers I know who will shed a tear when that happens.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 12:10 pm
Friday, July 01, 2016
100th Anniversary of the battle of the Somme today; fascinating to learn about what happened during those fateful months and sobering to try to imagine the fear and suffering of ordinary soldiers faced with "going over the top" into a hail of bullets and almost certain annihilation. I was heartened to see my own Son bidding farewell to his German exchange buddy in a rainy car-park this morning, ironically at exactly 7:30 am, these two lads have spent a week together now and I sense that a real friendship has been struck. Next week he's off to Germany to spend a week over there, for an English boy, an interesting time to be doing something like this. I wonder what his memories will be in years to come when he looks back on the Summer of '16 and I wonder how history will judge the decisions being made right now.
These days many people criticise the way in which the leaders of this country and our armed forces conducted battles like the Somme, many question the necessity (or lack) of them, it's difficult to judge decisions objectively from this vantage point in history but what can be said with certainty is that the consequences of this offensive were not foreseen or anticipated by those leaders at the time and even denied by many for a long time afterwards. A case of nationalism and emotion gaining the upper-hand over reason and good sense perhaps? It's often not possible to draw direct parallels between human disasters of the past like the Somme and recent or current affairs, but some things never change, it's always ordinary people who suffer when our leaders make appallingly bad decisions.
Posted by Steve Borthwick at 9:44 am