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Showing posts from July, 2009

What have you learnt from literature?

I read a piece in the Observer a week or so ago in which an author with a background in psychotherapy said she had learned more about human psychology from Conrad, Shakespeare, etc than from Freud, Yung, et al. It is often said that we learn a great deal from novels. But what do we learn, exactly? What kind of "truth" do novels contain? I can see that if I read a story about a killer, that laid out how he became a killer in such a way that I can see that I too could have ended up like him, then I have learned something valuable. I can also see that I might read about a concern someone has in a story that I share, but thought was unique to me, and so learn that I am not alone in having such thoughts and feelings. I can also see that I might have a feeling that I find difficult to articulate, and in a novel find a perfect expression of it. "Yes!" I might think, "That's how I feel". Novels can also provoke us to think about things we might not otherwis

Moral Maze tonight

I am on the Moral Maze Tonight - BBC Radio 4. 8.00pm-8.40pm. I am on towards the end. The topic is whther religious folk should be exempt from e.g. equal opportunity laws.

Alps Beckoning

Week and a half and I am off to Chamonix climbing. This one is of the Midi-Plan traverse.

Sunday Times - nasty piece on Camp Quest

The Sunday Times has run a very poisonous piece against Camp Quest - a kid's summer camp run by Samantha Stein, to which kids of all faiths and none are welcome. Go here . Dawkins did not set up the camp, and has nothing at all to do with it - other than he donated towards it (not a huge amount, I know). The word "grooming" applied to children (other than hygiene and neatness) is of course used to indicate child sexual abuse. A fairer report here. Camp Quest looks excellent to me. Samantha Stein is fantastic (nb.. having talked to her about it - the camp is open to all faiths, and focuses on thinking skills and a skeptical approach to answering questions, not on religion-bashing per se. It's about immunizing kids against purveyors of snake oil and bullshit - be it religious, atheist, or otherwise). And it's a bargain too. NSS sets the record straight here: "Camp Quest Under Attack . Dawkins' response here .

Is Judaism racist? Or is it racist to say Judaism is racist?

Interesting piece in the Guardian yesterday. The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, issued a rallying cry for Jews today to defend their schools from English law after the court of appeal decided that admission on the basis of a parent's Jewish status was discriminatory. Writing in this week's Jewish Chronicle, he condemned the ruling, saying it branded Judaism "racist". Go here . Who is being racist, if anyone? I take racism to be unjustified discrimination on the basis of race (note "unjustified" - there's nothing racist about, e.g. targeting treatment for an illness on the particular race that suffers from it). Sacks' line seems to be that Jewish schools discriminate on the basis of religious orientation, not race, and this boy was not technically of Jewish faith because (i) his mother was not Jewish, and (ii) neither the boy nor the mother had converted by an appropriate mechanism. The idea that having a Jewish mother is sufficient to make yo

Morality Podcast

Janet Radcliffe Richards looks at a fascinating range of new experiments shedding light on how humans make moral choices. Go here . Have not listened to it yet but JRR is always exceptionally good.

Vernon vs. Warburton on agnosticism

You can, for a short time only, hear a discussion on the Richard Bacon show between Mark Vernon (agnostic) and Nigel Warburton (atheist) on whether agnosticism is a cop out. Go here and then hit "listen again" for Tuesday, and scroll through to about 2hrs 13 mins through to end (with interruptions). You can read Mark Vernon's brief comment on his appearance on the show.

India decriminalizes homosexuality

Delhi High Court legalizes homosexuality 2 Jul 2009, 1050 hrs IST, TIMESOFINDIA.COM NEW DELHI: In a historic judgement, the Delhi High Court on Thursday decriminalized homosexuality by striking down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The Section 377 of the IPC as far as it criminalizes gay sex among consenting adults is violation of fundamental rights, said the high court. Any kind of discrimination is anti-thesis of right to equality, said the court, while allowing plea of gay rights activists for decriminalization of homosexuality. A bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S Muralidhar said that if not amended, section 377 of the IPC would violate Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which states that every citizen has equal opportunity of life and is equal before law. Section 377, a law from the British Raj era, says homosexuality and "unnatural sex" is a criminal act. While the home ministry wanted the petition to be dismissed, the health min