Monday, July 27, 2009

New Every Morning

A reflection on the nature of reality:

"The comedian Steven Wright tells this joke deadpan:

“I woke up one day and everything in the apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica.

I said to my roommate, ‘Can you believe this? Everything in the apartment has been stolen and replaced with an exact replica.’

He said, ‘Do I know you?’ ”

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A de-bap, a doo-bop, a wa-wa-waah

News today that you'll soon be able to baptise the kids and marry your partner in the Church of England without even juggling different orders of service. But what if one of the kids has second thoughts later on. Here's Norm on de-baptism.

"Here's an item about atheists who are going through de-baptism ceremonies as a way of marking the renunciation of their former faith. Notwithstanding the emphasis placed by those involved on the lighthearted and satirical nature of what they're doing, it does rather look like they're testifying to the power of the original they're purporting to send up while undoing it, if they feel the need actually to go through a ceremony of reversal. You lost or renounced your faith? I mean, you really did? Then, it has no power and you can just walk away from it without more ado. But if you need a ceremony...

"Of course, like everyone else, atheists are allowed rituals. But given what we atheists don't believe, it would be better if would-be atheist rituals didn't mirror religious ones. Why, you could go for a walk and mull things over."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The decline of violence

Stephen Pinker shows how our ancestors were far more violent than we are today. Given the stunning lack of regard for human life in the Bible, a history of socially sanctioned mutilation and torture, one-on-one murder, and casualties of war, all the evidence is that we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth.

The future is Pinker indeed!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Preaching and Practice

Desmond Tutu is always on the side of the angels but, as Norm points out, his logic can get a bit muddled.

"Here's a view:

The West should in general, he warns, beware of preaching about corrupt African dictators. "You could say the same about Europe. You get a Churchill and then there's a long wait... What gives me a great deal of hope for Africa is looking at the history of Europe. Very recently you had two world wars, you had the Holocaust, you had dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece. There was a time when Italy was changing governments like you change pairs of socks. There was the Soviet Union, Stalin's gulags. You forget that you really made a mess of things. It was a Western country that was the first and only country to use weapons of mass destruction. [Africa] is not on a level with Western people.

"I can be nice and say there's hope for us. When I'm a little angry I say 'For goodness sake you need a fairly large dose of modesty. You ought to be hiding your heads for the things you have actually done'."

That's Desmond Tutu speaking. Still, what he says is wrong. And that it is, is shown by the fact that he's the one who's saying it. Nobody will gauge his criticisms of non-African countries by reference to the appalling record of apartheid, because as an opponent of apartheid Tutu was not responsible for it. But, equally, individual Westerners aren't responsible for the Holocaust, or dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece, and they - or, at least, many of them - have the right to condemn African dictators. This isn't about non-Africans preaching to Africans; it's about democrats, anywhere, speaking their minds, speaking critically, about governments that deny the fundamental rights of the people they govern."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


After years of so-called retirement I still don't know what my life (what's left of it) is for, but I think I know what it's not for.

Similarly, I don't quite know what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I have a better idea of what I don't want to do.


This morning my wife asked me the meaning of 'heuristic'.
I told her to find out for herself.