Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bristol University’s Christian Union Bans Women Speakers (unless they have their husbands with them) [UPDATED]

I really, really should be getting on with this essay, but this seemed pretty important to share.

In a reflection of the Church of England’s rather depressing recent decision to block the introduction of female bishops, Bristol University’s highly evangelical Christian Union has elected to ban women from speaking at their weekly meetings… unless accompanied by their husbands. One wonders how many female students in the Christian Union are married?

In an email released by The Huffington Post, president Mat Oliver states …

“It is ok for women to teach in any CU setting... However we understand that this is a difficult issue for some and so decided that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU meetings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekend away, or as our main speaker for mission weeks.

But a husband and wife can teach together in these.”

Naturally, the shit has hit the fan following this group’s attempts to cater to the more sexist, misogynistic elements of their number, with condemnation pouring in from numerous societies at Bristol University and Alessandra Berti, the Vice-President for Welfare and Equality at Bristol’s Union issuing a statement saying that…

“We have been made aware of a communication from the University of Bristol Christian Union, and we would like to assure our members and the general public that UBU and the full-time elected officers are investigating the issue further in consultation with the groups involved. In particular we will be making certain that our Equality Policy is properly adhered to in all cases.”

Given the nature of a University’s Equality Policy (I confess I’m basing this on the policy at my Student’s Union, though I suspect they’re not much different), Bristol’s Christian Union, who are affiliated with the Student’s Union and therefore subject to its policies, are likely to be in a lot of bother over this one; such policies outlaw discrimination based on (and I quote) “age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation.”

All in all, it’s a tad depressing that a Christian Union, which are in my experience usually full of extremely reasonable and intelligent students, would choose to enact such a dated and discriminatory policy, but the criticism that’s pouring in already is pretty heartening. They can only get away with this sort of thing if they aren’t held accountable for it, after all.

I’ll do my best to follow this one pretty closely, and keep this post updated if anything new should occur.




I think I may have been too quick to simply summarise this story as 'the shit hitting the fan'; an ungoldy fucking firestorm has erupted in the last few hours, with nationally-distributed newspapers running articles on this story.

It seems that the Christian Union in question, despite advertising Facebook and Twitter as services they utilise and despite their accounts being live just a couple hours ago, have chosen to delete both their Facebook and Twitter pages. To be fair to them, this is likely in the face of an onslaught of criticism and denouncements, with the likes of Richard Dawkins chiming in with his condemnation of their activities.

No official statement from Bristol University's Christian Union in regards to this matter yet, as far as I'm aware, but I suspect they're in for a hell of a day when they wake up to all this.

Fun Quotes about Religion (From Some Freethinkers You May Not Have Heard of Before)

Once again the coursework for this year has buried me in an avalanche of chapter drafts, essays and enough books to crush a man, so updates to this here blog have been… sparse, to put it at it’s mildest. Apologies, guys; I’m almost done with my last essay, so hopefully it’ll be back to more regular updates for me once it’s out the way.

In the meantime I’ve been reading a lot of old freethought books and pamphlets as part of my research for my dissertation, which means I’ve come across some pretty awesome quotes from people in the past who also didn’t put much stock in the whole ‘religion’ thing. As a fun little post to get some updates to this blog going again, I thought I’d share some of them with you.

“I cannot follow you Christians; for you try to crawl through your life upon your knees, while I stride through mine on my feet.”
-         Charles Bradlaugh, 19th Century British Politician, Founder of the National Secular Society (NSS)

 “Evolution not only clearly indicates the true place of man in nature, but it dissipates the prevalent illusion of man’s supreme importance, and the arrogance with which he sets himself apart from the illimitable universe, and exalts himself to the position of its most valuable element.”
-         Ernest Haeckel, ‘The Riddle of the Universe’, German Scientist

“I have a very serious quarrel with the anti-Evolutionists… they are throwing dust in the eyes of the people all over America and England by mixing up two totally different things in the scientific world – quarrels about the method of evolution and quarrels about the fact of evolution.”
-         Joseph McCabe, Former Catholic Priest and Key Figure in the Rationalist Press Association

“It is evident that, for the community and the State, the ethical ideas of the citizens are of the very greatest importance, while a man’s religious dogmas should be entirely his private concern.”
-         Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian Explorer and Nobel Peace Prize Laurette

Friday, 2 November 2012

An Atheist on Death

This is going to be a bit of a personal post, folks, just as a head’s up. If that’s not really your sort of thing, consider yourself forewarned.

Still here?

Alrighty, then. Might as well just get stuck in.

Three days ago I was informed that my Great-Grandmother had died at the age of 97.

Such conversations are always unusual, to say the least; you can tell right away that something is amiss. The language they use is always strange, too. No-one says ‘death’ or ‘dead’; it’s always ‘passed on’ or ‘gone’ or ‘departed’. As if the relative in question’s just gone on a trip, a journey to someplace else.

I’m not a believer in any afterlife; when the curtains descend, that’s it. Game over. That's all, folks. No encores, no chance of a repeat performance in another theatre. For 21 years of my life this woman was present, a part of it. Now for the rest of it she will not be.

‘Sad’ is not the best way to describe how I feel about this affair, however, and ‘surprised’ is certainly not the word; gran was telling us for months since her friend died that she was getting rather tired of the whole thing, just a little bit fed up. Not to mention the fact that we’ve known for weeks that she’s not been herself. In the wake of her death, however, I realise something.

97 is no small number.

This was a woman who lived through both world wars. Whose husband served in the Second World War. Who lived a long and genuinely interesting life, her intelligence, determination and unwillingness to tolerate shit from anyone allowing her to do things many women in her time would not normally have been allowed to do. She got to watch her child grow up, marry, have children of his own, grandchildren and even myself, my sister and my cousins after that. She never suffered from any wasting disease, nor some onset of age that reduced her ability to think and reason; for her entire life she was far more intelligent than I ever will be.

We human beings go through life terrified of death and what it might bring; we’ve evolved to the point that we are consciously aware of our own mortality, and quite often it scares us shitless. It leads us to seek comfort in many different ways; lifestyle choices that will help us to live longer, the belief in afterlives and many others.

All of this, stemming from our fear of death.

Yet here was my grandmother, saying that she was a bit fed up with the whole thing.

Saying that she’d enjoyed her fill of life, and that she’d really like to just get the whole thing over with now. I realise now what a rare privilege that must be. Not to fear death anymore, nor to long for it, but to simply accept it.

It’s reassuring in a sense; my grandmother didn’t leave this life afraid, she was just tired of the whole affair. It’s strangely appropriate that she died in her sleep.

I am acutely aware that I will never see my grandmother again, but I’m also grateful that I will still possess my memories of her.

However brief our time together in the great scheme of things, it was worth it.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Monday Musings #8

So, in an attempt to get back to updating this blog of mine a bit more regularly, here’s another Monday Musings; since it’s been months since I actually wrote one of these in the morning, however, I’m going to drop that part from the title (alliteration be damned).

Rowan Atkinson (aka. Mr Bean aka. Blackadder aka. legendary British comedian who’s creative capacity makes us all look pathetic in comparison) has come out in support of the ‘Reform Section 5’ campaign, giving the movement a much-needed popular front man. You can view his ten minute speech on why he supports the cause here; it’s as articulate and entertaining as you’d expect from him, and has some delicious references to my favourite scene from Not The Nine O’Clock News.

Finally got ahold of a copy of the late and great Christopher Hitchens’ ‘The Portable Atheist’, thanks to the shiny new Kindle I’ve recently acquired (don’t judge me too harshly; books are expensive, and I am but a poor student who’s course books on their own cost far too bloody much). His introduction is of the standard you’d expect from the Hitch, but the book really shines with the variety of authors and commentators Hitchens chose to pull extracts and essays from. A thoroughly interesting read.

Our wonderful Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is makingthat hole he’s digging ever deeper. Perhaps he’s hoping that if he goes far enough he’ll finally be incinerated by the earth’s core in a mercy killing.

Finally, I thought I’d end with a rather awesome quote that I found from an author I’ve been a fan of for a very long time. H P Lovecraft is best known for being the guy who spawned the Cthulhu Mythos, but he had some interesting thoughts on humanity and religion too.

“You are forgetting a human impulse that, despite its restriction to a relatively small number of men, has all through history proved itself as real and vital as hunger – as potent as thirst or greed. I need not say that I refer to that simplest yet most exalted attribute of our species – the acute, persistent, unquenchable craving TO KNOW.”
- H. P. Lovecraft, ‘A Letter on Religion’

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Facebook ‘Privacy Notices’ Won’t Help You

So there’s been a big stir of late over the fact that Facebook is now a publicly-traded business, with a lot of people now concerned about their privacy and the potential for violations of it. A little paranoid? Perhaps, but this is the internet; it’s important to be aware of the information that you’re putting out and the chance for it to come back to haunt you.

Such concerns seem to be the main cause of the ‘Facebook Privacy Notice’ chain update that’s doing the rounds on the popular social media website. This thing (you can view a copy of one of it’s many variations here at Snopes.com) has been around since June of this year, but as it’s now seemingly made the jump across the pond and is still spreading I thought I’d devote a quick post about it.

So let’s start with the bad news.

Sorry guys, but this Privacy Notice won’t help to protect your privacy online at all.

Your rights, responsibilities and access to things like privacy all stem from Facebook’s ‘Terms of Service’ (or ToS), which you agree to when you first sign up for the site. These are what govern who has access to your page and for what purpose; simply posting an update citing a couple ofpieces of US legislation (which are unrelated to social media and privacy and therefore irrelevant) cannot change that.

So long as you are using Facebook, it’s assumed that you are in acceptance of the ToS. If you’re not, you’re only option is to not use the site. That’s just how it works, sadly.

Concerns about your privacy online are valid, don’t get me wrong. Employers are known to read into your online life and the things you’ve posted, so it’s not a bad thing to be concerned about who can see what about you on the internet. But posting disclaimers such as this won’t help you.

You have concerns regarding who can see your content on Facebook?

Then be sure to monitor that content.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

People Believe the Strangest Things

This dolphin honestly looks like he's just told a really bad joke

Hey guys. Apologies for not updating this blog of mine in quite a well; turns out Fourth Year of University is pretty tough stuff. I’m starting to get into the swing of things, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to return to more regular updates soon.

I’ve had a strange couple of weeks on top of the university work and all the society shenanigans, too. I was discussing the pros and cons of veganism with a friend in the pub. I attended a lecture on the 7 World Trade Center by someone who I think was a proponent of the 9/11 Truth Movement. I’ve been watching way too much ‘Ancient Aliens’, simply because the whole theory is awesomely hilarious.

But easily the strangest thing I’ve learned that people believe in, though, is all to do with dolphins. 
Turns out there are people (such as the late neuroscientist John C. Lily) who believe that dolphins are just as (if not morethan) intelligent as humans, and some even believe that they possesstherapeutic and/or even telepathic powers. Check out this episode of ‘Penn &Teller: Bullshit’ (assuming you haven’t already seen it), if you’re interested. The two of them aren’t exactly… impartial, it’s important to stress, but they never claimed to be in the first place.

So, internet, tell me.

Other than the belief in god (because that’s an obvious one, considering that this is an atheist blog), what is the strangest thing you’ve learned that people believe in?

Monday, 24 September 2012


See? It's not that bad.

I’m bad at meeting deadlines even when my degree is at stake. Since university is back in full force, I fear this means that this blog might be getting a little bit neglected of late.

None-the-less, I’ll do my best to keep things updated as often as possible. Should I fuck this up, it’s likely because I’m trapped in a library somewhere weeping openly as I desperately attempt to learn about British immigration policies before the seminar on it the next day.

Ah, how I do miss first year.

Anyways, hopefully I’ll have something up again soon. In the meantime, bring on the immigration theory.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Monday Morning Musings #7

University kicks back in this week. Lots of Freshers to throw business cards at and an Atheist & Agnostic Society stall to man. Things are going to get busy.

The good Reverend Emily Heath has a lovely little article about how to determine whether your faith or religion is being actively persecuted or whether you’re just an asshole.

I understand that a lot of non-believers across the pond in the USA are disappointed with the Democrats’ backpeddling on the religious references in their Convention this election. Sadly that’s the nature of politics, friends; appealing to voters as much as possible will always trump ideological stances. It’s the same the world over.

Atheist blogger Jen McCreight has decided to stop her blog in the face of this Atheism+, ‘fuck those Freethought Blog guys’ shenanigans that continues to rage across the internet. I didn’t always agree with everything McCreight had to say, but I’m truly sorry that this controversy has ruined something she previously enjoyed doing. There’s no other way to say it; that fucking sucks.

And finally remember kids, dressing up in a Ghillie suit in an attempt to pretend to be Bigfoot might sound like a really cool idea. But when it ends with you standing in the middle of a highway in camouflage gear you really shouldn’t be surprised if you wind up getting hit by a car.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sceptics Need to Stop Trying to ‘Debunk’ Everything

It’s a fact of the human condition that we all really love it when we’re right. I do, you do, we all do.

I imagine a lot of people involved in scepticism thoroughly enjoy watching those videos in which James Rhandi blows some unfortunate psychic or telepath out the water with a healthy dose of scientific method. You also can’t deny there’s a certain kick to explaining to someone what cold reading is or how that guy who runs around wishing desperately he was a Ghostbuster is living in a fantasy world.

Unfortunately this love can often get in the way of proper scepticism if you let it.

Lately there’s been quite a lot of posts over at /r/skeptic throwing around the phrases like “hey guys, let’s debunk this crackpot theory”, or “can you help me debunk this viewpoint?” Now, a lot of what these guys are requesting ‘debunked’ are indeed steaming crocks of pseudoscientific shite that deserve all the scorn thrown their way, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

My point is that scepticism isn’t about being close-minded. Scepticism isn’t about attempting to debunk every claim that you encounter.

Scepticism is about attempting to take the scientific method and apply it to things you encounter during your bizarre trip through this thing we call life. That means trying to take a fair and unbiased view to whatever you might be looking into, weighing up the evidence for or against and coming to a rational conclusion based upon this. When you set out to debunk something, you’re weighing into an issue with a pre-conceived notion of dismissal; you’ve already decided you don’t buy this shit, and now you’re out to prove why.

Now, you could indeed be right; it could be complete shit. Shit entirely lacking credibility, with no evidence to back it up. But if you’re coming in with the express intention of trying to prove it wrong, you’re little better than the nutter who completely buys the shit. What’s more, entering into a debate about these matters with such biases can actually damage your argument; you’re more likely to grab for evidence that supports your case, even if that evidence isn’t the most sound there is.

The net result could well be your pre-conceived notions and biases blinding you to the truth of the matter at hand. There could well be some, or even a lot, of credibility to whatever you might be discussed. The net result of such an outcome is that you’re both wrong and you look like a complete tit.

And another fact about the human species is that most people really don’t like being made to look like tits.

So remember, scepticism isn’t about trying to debunk everything, even if from the outset what you’re looking into seems ridiculous. It’s about taking a rational approach to looking into claims.

As the sceptic extraordinaire Joe Nickell puts it:

“In contrast to many paranormal proponents who are little more than mystery mongerers, or to some skeptics who call themselves ‘debunkers’, I hold that mysteries should neither be fostered nor dismissed. Instead, they should be carefully investigated with a view toward solving them.”[1]

[1] http://www.joenickell.com/ParanormalInvestigator/paranormalinvestigator1.html

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Monday Morning Musings #6

[This isn’t going up on Monday, sadly, but since I did technically start writing this post Monday afternoon I guess it can count at a stretch. Plus I really can’t be assed coming up with a creative title for this sort of post going up on a Tuesday. A most lazy non-believer, I am.]

I’ve heard Catholic apologists for the child sex abuse scandals use a lot of bizarre and utterly reprehensible defences, but the prize (if you can call it that; 'Badge of Shame' might be better) for the worst offender so far goes to Father Benedict Groeschel; he’s elected to go for the ‘blame the victim’ approach, claiming that in many cases it’s the child’s fault for being sexually abused. He’s since attempted to retract the comments (surprise surprise), claiming that he “did not intend to blame the victim”, but you don’t let an article reach publication unless you really do think like that.

‘beentrueandfaithful’ has uploaded a very interesting little article to /r/atheism about his experiences as a Mormon Missionary. Turns out some of them might dislike having to try and talk to you about the word of Jesus Christ even more than you dislike being talked to about it.

There was all that noise about Bruce Willis planning to sue Apple today, only for it to be revealed that the story was actually nonsense. Once again media sources forget that scepticism about a story can often be useful in preventing your paper/website/blog from looking extremely fucking silly before a national audience.

On a related note, I am aware of what a delicious irony it would be if the above story does subsequently turn out to be true. However, it was a story first reported by the Daily Mail; I think I'm safe.

Oh, and I’ve decided I’m going to drop an image at the bottom of these posts every week, since that’s always fun and totally makes these posts seem larger than they usually are.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Monday Morning Musings #5

So supposedly ‘Atheism+’ is a thing now. Apparently we atheists can’t support multiple at the same time and so must form them into one super-cause. Fair enough, then.

Looking at the images from some of those protesting the Scottish Government’s support of equal marriage, I realise just how much of a generational thing this issue is; even when I looked pretty hard I couldn’t see a single young face amongst the protestors. I mean, there’s always going to be those who don’t like it and want to get rid of it (just like there’s always going to be racists), but I’m thinking that a decade or two down the line most people will look back on those who protested against gay rights so hard and laugh at their backwardness.

The late Christopher Hitchens’ wife, Carol Blue, has released an edited version of her afterword for the book ‘Mortality’, the last book we’ll be seeing from the Hitch. Worth a look; it’s a nice read.

The National Secular Society (whose history I’m reading far too much about at the moment) is currently underway with the Reform Section 5 campaign, aimed at lobbying the government to remove a clause from the Public Order Act that outlaws “insulting words or behaviour”. If you’re in London I believe they’re holding a demonstration on the 30th; it’s a cause worth supporting.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

From What I Understand From Science, the Doctor Akin Referenced Is Crazy Too

It must really suck to be Todd Akin right now.

After all, it’s not everyday that you practically kill your bid for the Senate in one massive political snafu.

Yet the fallout from the remarks he made about rape on Sunday continues to hurtle down like meteors. He’s been condemned by both Obama as well as Romney and Ryan, not to mention the fact that the story’s gone viral; give it a few more days and most people with an internet connection will be associated the name ‘Akin’ with ‘sexist twat’.

If somehow you’ve missed this merry little clusterfuck unfolding, here’s the breakdown; Akin, Missouri nominee for the Senate and Republican, appeared on a talk show and had his to say about abortion and rape:

“People always try to make that one of those things, ‘Oh, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question’… It seems to me, first of all, what I understand from doctors is that’s really where—if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”[1]

Why yes, that nice Republican nominee did indeed just state that women don’t usually get pregnant from proper rapes; the particularly nasty subtext of this statement is that he’s implying any woman who does get pregnant from rape somehow deserved it. Let’s not get into what a horrible idea categorising rape is; Obama’s got me covered on that one, actually.

Let’s instead return to those doctors Akin was talking about.

Turns it it’s probably just one doctor; Dr. Fred Mecklenburg, to be precise. In 1972 he wrote an article entitled ‘The Indications for Induced Abortion: A Physician's Perspective’, which has since been the cornerstone of many an anti-abortionist’s repertoire. It’s from this article that the belief that a woman exposed to the trauma of rape “will not ovulate even if she is ‘scheduled’ to” comes from.[2] The article claims that a pregnancy resulting from rape is “extremely rare”, apparently because the trauma a woman suffers during such an attack prevents it from occurring.

‘Quite an extraordinary claim he has there’, I hear you understating, ‘what evidence does the good doctor have to back it up?’

Not a whole lot, you’ll be unsurprised to learn. Mecklenburg cites a couple of statistical examples (got to love a good bit of statistic-ing) from the city of Buffalo, NY, which at the time had apparently not had a pregnancy from a confirmed rape in decades; such evidence can be dismissed because rape is one of the most under-reported crimes out there, rendering many associated statistics pretty unhelpful.

Even more bizarrely he claims that rapists themselves are likely to be infertile because of “frequent masturbation”, which is like arguing that faeries are totally legit because this werewolf you met one time told you so.[3]

Probably the strangest, and easily the most controversial, evidence Mecklenburg gives would be evidence apparently gathered by Nazi scientists in concentration camps. No, seriously. Nazi scientists working in death camps. To quote from Raw Story:

“Nazis reportedly tested the theory “by selecting women who were about to ovulate and sending them to the gas chambers, only to bring them back after their realistic mock-killing, to see what the effect this had on their ovulatory patterns. An extremely high percentage of these women did not ovulate,” the article said.”[4]

Admittedly arguments stand or fall based on their merit alone, but you have to admit that there’s something really unsettling and distasteful about citing evidence garnered from death camps.

Mecklenburg’s article has been taken apart by the wider scientific community. It’s pseudoscience and half-baked theory that cites… well, pseudoscience and half-baked theory as evidence.

Akin quoting this as his source for his bizarre and unpleasant views just damages his case further.

Not that he really had one to begin with.

[1] http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/19/gop-senate-nominee-women-dont-get-pregnant-from-legitimate-rapes/
[2] http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_f267f02f-c9eb-515d-9a42-201de9b92d64.html#.UDPbiGk6sjY.twitter
[3] As Above
[4] http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/21/akin-rape-theory-rooted-in-nazi-death-camp-experiments/

Monday, 20 August 2012

Monday Morning Musings #4

Centuries from now, imagine if archaeologists studying those weird 21st Century types stumble across one of our annual calendars. Now imagine if people who really don’t understand how the calendar actually works find out that it apparently ‘ends’ on the 31st of December and build a doomsday theory around the idea that we predicted the end of the world centuries ago. That’s essentially what this whole Mayan apocalypse nonsense is.

If a British public official ever made a statement suggesting that rape victims who get pregnant from their attack somehow deserved it, they’d likely be hounded out of office and casts out into the political wastes for being a douchebag. Across the pond, however, if a public official makes such a statement there’s a depressingly large percentage of the US population who’ll agree with him. It boggles the mind.

I really hope I never stumble across a blog like elevatorgate again. Okay, so you don’t like Rebecca Watson or Surly Amy, and you think FreethoughtBlogs is shit. Fair enough, but for fuck’s sake keep it civil; you don’t have to be a prick about it.

Witch-hunting might be relegated to our past here in this side of the globe, but over in Africa it’s still a serious issue. Isn’t it odd that witches usually turn out to be young children, elderly types or people who can generally not defend themselves, as opposed to physically-fit adults?

That 'Faces of Atheism' idea is back on the rise again, countering the whole 'Faces of Mormonism' thing the LDS Church is pulling. It's a pretty cool idea; sadly I'm hideously ugly and will make your face fall off should you look upon me shy.

Friday, 17 August 2012

eBay to ban the selling of supernatural items

Come the end of the month, the supernatural is no longer welcome on eBay

Good news, everyone.

In it’s 2012 Fall Seller Update, eBay has apparently announced it’s intention to exclude the selling of paranormal and/or supernatural goods and services on it’s online marketplace. According to what I’ve read so far, they’re excluding such things as:

“Advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic services; prayers; blessings; Psychic, Tarot, Reiki and other metaphysical readings & services; magic potions; healing sessions.”

All this means that as of the 30th August anyone attempting to peddle openly paranormal or supernatural items and services on the site will have the sale removed. Honestly I’m a little surprised that eBay has previously let this sort of thing slide, but that’s admittedly just being a little negative; it’s nice to see a large online presence help to prevent people from being exploited by psychics and other charlatans.

A step in the right direction, all in all.


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Selling Themselves Short?

Given that the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics wrapped up over a day ago this post is perhaps a bit late, but timeliness has never been my strong point.

So here’s a post about the Olympics, you unlucky people.

Despite my confusion regarding it, religion is often a big part of sport. Just look at all that bollocks with Tim Tea-face or whatever he was called and you’ll notice that a lot of athletes to often hold a serious connection with god. I found myself contemplating this as I watched Christian Taylor interviewed after winning a Gold medal in the Triple Jump event.

This is a chap at the peak of human physicality, an athlete who’s at a standard where he can take a Gold at an Olympic event (which is to say, he’s extremely strong). Reaching such a stage has taken months of painstaking hard work. The training and practice, the blood, sweat and tears that this guy has put in is nothing short of incredible. He’s had the unflinching support of people like his coach, who’s urged him on through the darkest hours of self-doubt and desperation, and his family, who’ve likely (I’m not pretending to know this guy, don’t get me wrong) been there with him since the start.

And yet the first thing Taylor says on camera after winning is “how blessed” he is, and how he thanks god for his victory.

I just can’t feel that he and the athletes like him are selling themselves short when they make statements like that.

God didn’t put all those hours of training and practice in; Taylor did. God wasn’t the guy training him, urging him on all the way; that was Taylor’s coach. All in all, god really didn’t do much in Taylor’s training and racing, so it’s confusing as to why he’s the first person thanked in the victor’s interview. Surely there’s far more worthy candidates deserving of mention?

I’m sure there were plenty of people competing in that event who prayed long and hard, yet it was Taylor who won. That’s note because god has favourites, that’s because Taylor was the better athlete. He personally put in the work, he personally was the better competitor, and thus he won. I’m all for modesty, but if ever there’s a moment to be vaguely chuffed with yourself it’s when you’ve just taken the Gold.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that this is just a personal opinion. I’m sure Taylor derived a considerable amount of confidence in thinking that god had his back during the long hours of training. It’s just I think it’s a shame these guys are giving away all the credit to some deity who just sat there and watched impartially.

They’re the ones who did all the work, after all, and so they’re the ones who deserve the praise.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Monday Morning Musings #3

People have the capacity to be muppets, no matter what side of the religious divide they fall into. I really think people need to bear that in mind sometimes.

I've got more respect for the Westboro Baptist Church than I do for people who dance around the issue and try and come up with supposedly legitimate reasons to dislike gay people. Just don your fucking 'GAY PEOPLE MAKE ME FEEL ICKY' t-shirt and be done with it already, guys; at least then you're being honest.

Looking at the Anti-Vaccine Movement, I can't help but feel that they're far too US-focused. Seriously, a lot of their claims boil down to “THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY IS JUST TRYING TO MAKE MONEY OFF US”, but in a country like mine, where we have this sweet National Health Service, that sort of posturing doesn't really fly. I should really do a blog post about this sometime.

Those Conspiracy Theorists are almost as quick off the block as Usain Bolt; Lady Atheist pointed out that there's already conspiracies circling regarding the shooting in Aurora, claiming that it was somegovernment super-soldier project or something equally fucking ridiculous. Can't knock them for punctuality. Just for everything thing else about their views and theories.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Freethought Sidetracked

“Why can’t we work out our differences? Why can’t we work things out? Little people, why can’t we all just get along?”
- President Dale, ‘Mars Attacks!’

I didn’t want to get involved in this shenanigans. I’ve been doing my utmost to avoid the whole debacle that just seems to keep on unfurling regarding Freethought Blogs and the controversy surrounding alleged sexism at sceptical and freethought conferences. In part due to lack of interest and in part due to lack of understanding.

But this doesn’t seem like an issue that’s going to resolve itself any time soon so I figured I’d chuck my ten cents in on the matter.

So let’s get this controversy train a-rollin’.

I’m going to try and avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of the arguments and insults being slung back and forth between Team FreethoughtBlogs and Team Fuck Those FreethoughtBlogs Guys; people better versed in those conflicts have already written about them, and I wouldn’t be adding anything of worth. If you don’t really know what the hell I’m rambling about I’d recommend heading over to vjack’s blog ‘Atheist Revolution’; he has a number of posts devoted to the topic.

As an outsider looking in as all this mud gets flung about, I can’t help but feel that this is would make for a nice wake-up call for anyone na├»ve enough to think that freethinker types are somehow immune from the curse of petty tribalism and human stupidity. Looking at [some of the recent updates] I can’t help but feel that communication has really broken down at this point. No-one’s really talking about the issue in an attempt to resolve it anymore; it’s just name-calling and insults for the sake of it.

This is hardly behaviour that one would want to associate with people who pride themselves on being able to think rationally to the point of calling themselves freethinkers. The issues originally raised are important; it would be nice if people could re-focus and get back to solving them. But watching all this arguing unfold, I’m not really seeing many people out to solve the problem; I’m seeing both sides flinging insults back and forth and generally acting like children rather than academics and critical thinkers.

Debate within movements is good. It’s the lifeblood of ideas; it’s what generates new theories and keeps people interested. But you cannot call this healthy debate anymore; this is a divide that grows more serious every day, and it’s perhaps high time people started aiming to fix it rather than furthering it. All we’re doing is weakening our position and making the atheist/sceptic/freethought movement look silly and tribalistic on an international scale. This bickering has been going on for well over a year, now; it needs to stop.

Seriously, guys, can’t we all just get along?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Monday Morning Musings #2

I listened to part of a radio show yesterday morning trying to show how important faith was in the Olympics. A show that predominantly focused on Christianity. At the time I thought the irony was delicious, but in hindsight Christianity attempting to pinch religious festivals from older faiths seems entirely in-keeping with its history.

Last I checked /r/atheism has well over a million subscribers now. Which is cool and all, but it’d be nice if cool places like /r/skeptic could get some love too.

There’s a preacher out there who claims he can cure people of cancer by kicking them in the face. I wonder what wondrous cures his fists can bestow?

Any supreme deity who decides that wasps and hornets are both awesome ideas is clearly a complete bastard. If you look at the whole evolution idea, however, they’re just more proof that the biggest bastards survive on this earth.

People are still going on about the whole Freethought Blogs scandal thing? Seriously, guys, we need to stop flogging a dead horse and move on; if you don’t like the way PZ Meyers runs things, don’t bloody read it.

And finally, this:

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Sorry, Conspiracy Theorists, The Moon Landings Were Legit

Question: did we really put men on the moon? Answer: Yes, yes we did.

Ever since we first put a man on the moon, some people have spent a lot of time trying to claim that we didn’t.

Likely first initiated by Bill Kaysing, a NASA librarian who wrote the book ‘We Never Went to the Moon’, the moon landing hoax movement is still prevalent to this day;[1] as late as 2001 Fox TV (a wonderful, reliable and totally unbiased source of news, information and opinion) was broadcasting documentaries entitled Conspiracy Theory: Did We Really Land on the Moon?[2]

Verification of these landings that are conclusive enough to satisfy most people has been notoriously difficult; in 2009 there was “tantalizing evidence the flags from Apollo 17 was still standing, but the images were just barely too fuzzy to know for sure”.[3] A frustrating experience for everyone involved but fear not, because just three years later we might finally have some verification.

Just a few days ago the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera captured the pictures shown below:

Turns out the landing site of Apollo 16 is still very much still there; even the footprints and the flag.

Some pretty impressive stuff, all in all, and some very solid evidence to show that we did indeed make it to the moon.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Kaysing
[2] http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast23feb_2/
[3] blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/07/31/and-the-flags-are-still-there/

Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday Morning Musings

[Taking a leaf from several blogs I follow, I thought I’d try something simpler to get this blog updated a little more regularly. So here’s a few tit-bits that have been floating about my brain of late.]

This whole “man, fuck those Chick-fil-A guys” thing a lot of people have going on right now is going to go the same way as Kony 2012 and Invisible Children; everyone’s going to hate the company for a while before getting bored and moving on.

Yes, we know; the Queen looked super-grumpy at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. You would be too if you entire life revolved around standing about all day at a variety of irritating public ceremonies. And if you only get to retire when you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Some people believe in UFO sightings, Bigfoot, the fact that reptiles run the entire planet, the Illuminati, and yet the same sort of people will refuse to believe that we landed on the moon? Yes, Sasquatches are totally legit, but moon landings? Pfft; don’t be talking crazy, now.

There’s a Homeopathic Remedy Shop just a few streets away from where I live. This saddens me.

Alex Salmond really needs to stop trying to tie absolutely everything that happens to his whole ‘Scottish Independence’ shtick. Honestly, I wake up every morning half expecting to see the headlines NICE WEATHER; ‘GOOD SIGN FOR AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND’, FIRST MINISTER DECLARES.