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Showing posts from October, 2009

Poll finds over half of Britons support teaching Creationism and Intelligent Design along with Evolution

From IBTimes: " A Mori poll has found that over half of Britons believe Creationism and Intelligent Design should be taught alongside Evolution in science lessons. The poll, which was part of a worldwide study into attitudes to the teaching on the origin of life on earth, saw 1,000 Britons questioned on the subject. Around 54 per cent of those who responded said they thought teachers should talk about “alternative perspectives” to the Theory of Evolution, however only six per cent said they felt Creationism or Intelligent Design should be taught instead of Evolution. Just over one fifth of respondents said that only the Theory of Evolution should be taught, as is currently the case under the national curriculum ." Read more ... Guardian article here . What explains these statistics, and what if anything should be done?

Battle of Ideas, this Sunday

This coming Sunday I am doing a Battle of Ideas event on Philosophy 4 Kids. Go here and here for details. Sunday 1 November, 10.45am until 12.15pm, Lecture Theatre 2 In Conversation Salons. Philosophy for children (P4C) is a growing movement that seems to many teachers to restore faith in the education system. It is said to be able to create ‘little big minds’ and to enable children to become critical, caring, creative and collaborative. No more learning by rote for endless tests; here is a chance to develop young minds to think for themselves. Philosophy is employed as a key resource to improve the quality of children’s thinking and to help them explore ‘how things are’ and ‘who they are’, to ‘learn more from [their] experience and make better use of [their] intelligence’. Its popularity has increased since the introduction of SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspect of Learning) programmes in schools, which, along with other initiatives, attempts to develop critical thinking. When E

Facebook meltdown

My facebook page appears broken. I keep getting friend requests, but when I hit add friend, nothing happens. I cannot respond to friend requests, my inbox page is blank, when I hit friend labels (in "lists")I have set up they all show empty. There appears to be no way to report such problems. Anyone got an idea?

50 Voices of Disbelief

I just got my copy of this book and must say I am impressed - much better than I was even expecting. I am strongly recommending it as a present for anyone who has an interest in atheism/theism, from either side of the debate. OK I have a piece in it, but that's not why I am recommending it (I make not a penny from any sale). It's just a great read, from great authors... A.C. Grayling, Julian Baggini, Peter Singer and Marc Hauser, Michael Shermer, James Randi, J.J.C. Smart, Ophelia Benson, etc. etc. My contribution: Could It Be Pretty Obvious There's No God?

What is Humanism?

VERY ROUGH DRAFT FOR COMMENTS. The word “humanism” has had, and continues to have, a wide variety of meanings. At its broadest, “humanism” means little more than a system of thought in which human values, interests and dignity are given central importance. Understood in this way, almost everyone qualifies as a “humanist”. However, as understood by contemporary humanist organizations, the term “humanist” means something much narrower. Those who sign up to “humanism”, understood in this narrower, contemporary sense of the term, are embracing a particular sort of worldview that by no means everyone accepts. That worldview is the focus of this book. So what distinguishes the humanist outlook? It is hard to be very precise. The boundaries of the concept are somewhat elastic. But most humanists would probably agree on something like the following minimal, seven-point characterization. First, humanists are either atheists or at least agnostic. They are sceptical about the claim that there

Telegraph article: God is not the Creator, claims academic

Interesting, controversial article. By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent, Telegraph UK Published: 5:45PM BST 08 Oct 2009 Available here . The notion of God as the Creator is wrong, claims a top academic, who believes the Bible has been wrongly translated for thousands of years. The Earth was already there when God created humans and animals, says academic. Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis "in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth" is not a true translation of the Hebrew. She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals. Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and plac

Private schools bursaries - a question

Does anyone know how, if at all, how the awarding of private schools's bursaries is monitored? On what basis are they typically given? To whom? What is the background of those getting bursaries. Are kids tested? How? If you don't have general knowledge, you may know of particular instances of how bursaries were awarded. My guess is, they are not really monitored at all. But as this is the main "public benefit" private schools provide for 100 million pounds of public money (in tax), shouldn't it be very closely monitored? The only kid I know who received a bursary had a father who went to a top public school and a grandfather who is a Knight of The Realm. No academic selection. Just an interview to see if he would "fit in". Which he obviously did. How many kids from council estates get bursaries, I wonder? Maybe the mechanisms for awarding bursaries are not as dodgy as they appear to me to be, but I'd like to be reassured!

Family event: Really, Really Big Questions with Stephen Law

KIDS EVENT AT CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL TOMORROW MORNING Ever thought about what happened before the Big Bang? Or wondered what it is like to be a bat? Join top philosopher Stephen Law in this fun and thought-provoking introduction to philosophy and life’s important, weird and often unanswered questions. Sunday 11 October 2009 at 10:00 am (45mins) Event F4 at The Playhouse book online £4 Age 9+ THIS RELATES TO MY NEW KIDS BOOKS (9+) OUT ON 5TH OCTOBER .

St Theresa's relics in town

I was shopping in Oxford and noticed a long queue outside the Catholic Church on Woodstock Road. It turns out Holy relics are being displayed over two days, and Catholics are going to venerate them and also to gain a Plenary Indulgence. The Church's website says: "The Apostolic Penitentiary has granted a Plenary Indulgence to all who venerate the relics of St Thérèse in our church. To gain the Indulgence: 1. Make a good sacramental Confession 2. Receive Holy Communion (within a few days) 3. Pray for the Holy Father's Intentions 4. Take part in a service or devotion in honour of St Thérèse, or spend some time in prayer, concluding with the Our Father, Creed and invocations to Our Lady and St Thérèse." Source here . I had no idea what a Plenary Indulgence is. This explanation is from the Catholic Encyclopedia . "An indulgence that may be gained in any part of the world is universal, while one that can be gained only in a specified place (Rome, Jerusalem, etc

Quote for discussion

Even though they're soldiers and know killing is part of their responsibility and duty, a number of them come to me very bothered about it…Our challenge is to assure them that what they are doing is morally acceptable from a Christian perspective and a patriotic one. Major Eric Albertson, a Roman Catholic Chaplain in Iraq The Times, 8 Dec 2004, p.37


SUGGESTIONS AS TO HOW TO PUBLICIZE THIS EVENT, PLEASE! And do please pass info on to anyone you think might be interested. It should be great but am concerned we won't get the audience it merits. SPES/CFIUK present: MONSTERS FROM THE DEEP! An interactive skeptical odyssey – with sound effects! University experts investigate tales of sea-monsters, mermaids, etc. Saturday, 7th November, 11am-3pm (with break for lunch) Just £10. Free to members of cfi uk, glha, spes, bha, new humanist and Skeptic mag subscribers. Ever wondered if there is some truth to sailors’ tales of monsters from the ocean’s depths? Dr Charles Paxton, a scientist from the University of St Andrews, is one of the country’s most qualified cryptozoologists, and he will be running both a lecture and workshop on monsters from the deep – mythical and real. Dr Darren Naish is a researcher at The University of Portsmouth, who will talk about the ‘prehistoric survivor paradigm’ and what it means (or doesn’t mean)