Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Slide Into Irrelevance of the Anglican Church

Sunday June 17 2012 was a memorable anniversary for me. It was thirty-five years to the day since my met my wife, and I remember it like yesterday – better, in some respects. Two years or so after that we “tied the knot”, and our, official, thirty-third anniversary will happen in August this year.  I’m sure that my wife wouldn’t look at it quite the same as I do, but to me the day we met carries more significance, if a date can be significant in that way.

So I regard marriage as a contractual formalisation of something that already existed. Although I haven’t been divorced, that is another such formalisation. The difference between married people and unmarried people is simply one of a relationship to a formal set of obligations, responsibilities and benefits, and it has long been assumed that such formal obligations, responsibilities and benefits will contribute to the smoother running of society as a whole, in much the same way as, say, a formal contract between an employer and an employee will contribute to the more efficient management of a business.

Of course it is more complex than this. We have Common Law provisions that dictate that people can be effectively married even if not formally so. But marriage is also a kind of public declaration of devotion – in an ideal world the married have no need for formal arrangements to cement this devotion. And weddings are themselves a celebration, not of formal arrangements per se, but of a formalised mutual commitment. In this sense they are a “tradition”. As I’ve argued elsewhere, traditions themselves become the traditions and there is no historical reason to suppose that things that we regard as traditional now will always be traditional. Continue reading

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #12

It’s time for a complete change.

I don’t listen to a great deal of classical music, and as every genre contains some degree of rubbish, at least to my mind, classical music is no exception. But there’s some great stuff too, and JS Bach, Paganini and especially Mozart fully deserve their reputations.

A few years ago by chance I went to the Albert Hall in London to see Swan Lake. I’d never seen any ballet before apart from a few minutes here and there on TV. I was a wonderful experience and sadly I’ve never been back.  I didn’t realise just how much of the music I was familiar with, and how good it was. Tchaikovsky deserves his reputation too.

Creationist Drivel – Weismann and Lamarck

Posts in this series.

Over at the FFF, remnant continues with his or her mission to absolutely ruin whatever is left of the forum, aided and abetted by the incompetent owner – whose behaviour is equivalent to paying $18,000 for a well-maintained car and parking it in a lake . However, remnant’s sociopathic behaviour in mindlessly pasting repeated snippets from the Institute of Creation Research doesn’t extend to finishing off his or her posts from the Vance Ferrell’s Evolution Handbook. I’ll have to conclude this series without remnant’s prompting.

Ferrell continues:

It is a remarkable fact that the basis of evolutionary theory was destroyed by seven scientific research findings,—before *Charles Darwin first published the theory…

August Friedrich Leopold Weismann (1834-1914) was a German biologist who disproved *Lamarck’s notion of “the inheritance of acquired characteristics.” He is primarily remembered as the scientist who cut off the tails of 901 young white mice in 19 successive generations, yet each new generation was born with a full-length tail. The final generation, he reported, had tails as long as those originally measured on the first. Weismann also carried out other experiments that buttressed his refutation of Lamarckism. His discoveries, along with the fact that circumcision of Jewish males for 4,000 years had not affected the foreskin, doomed the theory (*Jean Rostand, Orion Book of Evolution, 1960, p. 64). Yet Lamarckism continues today as the disguised basis of evolutionary biology. For example, evolutionists still teach that giraffes kept stretching their necks to reach higher branches, so their necks became longer! In a later book, *Darwin abandoned natural selection as unworkable, and returned to Lamarckism as the cause of the never-observed change from one species to another (*Randall Hedtke, The Secret of the Sixth Edition, 1984).

The Evolution Handbook is a remarkably poor piece of writing throughout, if is anything like a fair representation, and, as the website is based directly on Ferrell’s work, it probably is. Yet the paragraph above is abysmal even by Ferrell’s standards. The only part that is correct is that Lamarckism (the passing on of characteristics acquired during life) has been disproved. Even if it was true that Darwin abandoned natural selection and embraced Lamarckism, this wouldn’t mean that modern evolutionary biology was based upon Darwin’s later thoughts. We have a good idea what Weismann thought as he wrote a book entitled Über die Berechtigung der Darwin’schen Theorie (On the justification of the Darwinian theory). According to Ferrell’s logic, therefore, Weismann denied Darwinism while supporting something else that he called Darwinian theory, which today we would call natural selection. Of course, Ferrell neglects to remark upon Weismann’s own thoughts on evolution, whereas normally he never loses an opportunity to poison the well by ensuring that people’s beliefs in other areas are given a mention. (Linnaeus was an “earnest creationist”, Wallace a “spiritist”). Continue reading

The Dark Heart of Europe

The Euros have started, to keep us all occupied, and surprisingly the games have been entertaining. My pre-tournament prediction of the winner, Germany, are looking like likely winners already, beating Holland though enjoying less possession.

This year the tournament has gone to Poland and Ukraine. It is only to be expected that any country hosting a major tournament will comes under the spotlight, and Euro 2012 is no exception. Accusations of endemic racism have been levelled against both those countries, and although probably exaggerated, there is likely a kernel of truth in these accusations. I confess that I have been surprised by the enmity of many of the Polish immigrants – most of them born since 1980 – towards Jews. This is all the more surprising since most of the worst excesses of the Holocaust took place within Poland  – Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Birkenau were all within current Polish Borders. As a European on the Western fringe of the continent, the idea of central Europe usually involves France and Germany, but for a Nazi, concerned with lebensraum, Poland is as central to Europe as it gets.

If any inanimate object such as a building can be said to possess evil characteristics then surely the prime candidate must be the entrance to Birkenau, although the “arbeit macht frei” gate at Auschwitz comes close. On one side of the entrance is innocence, on the other almost certain death. Auschwitz – Birkenau has, quite rightly, been assigned as testimony to man’s inhumanity to man. Continue reading

Gordon West

Allow me to post in a personal sense for posterity.

I am not a person that allows much room for heroes. I have a few – Jefferson, Orwell, Keith Richards – but most of my heroes played in royal blue.

And they are personal heroes. I started supporting Everton Football Club in the early 1960’s for no other reason than they played in blue, my favourite colour, and also that their players tended to have comic-book names. I got caught up with it and am changed forever, despite my better nature.

I first saw Everton in 1967, at an away game in my then local city of Nottingham. But at the tender age of thirteen I started going to home games which were over a hundred miles away from my home. My first Everton game at Goodison Park was a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in 1969. We went on to win the league that season. And therefore the team of team of 1969-70 has remained special to me.

From memory, Everton used only fifteen players in that whole season. Nowadays every team has at least fourteen starters or substitutes. Sandy Brown and Tommy Jackson came from Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, but didn’t figure much that season – apart from Brown’s spectacular own goal for Liverpool. Remarkably given the state of today’s Premier League, of the remaining thirteen, eight, no less, were born within the city limits of Liverpool. The remaining five were all from Northern England – not a player south of the Trent among them all.

Gordon West was one these five, hailing from Barnsley in Yorkshire. Nevertheless, he came to Everton in 1962 and stayed for ten years, winning the league twice and the FA Cup once. He was the best goalkeeper in England by 1970, but elected not to go to Mexico in that year, preferring to spend time with his family. He did play for Tranmere after that, but was seen at Goodison as a fan for many years. The last time I saw Gordon West was at a pitch-side remembrance for his former colleague and Evertonian Brian Labone. I recall thinking that I didn’t remember him as that big. But he was a giant for Evertonians of my vintage. I confess that I am truly upset that Gordon West died, after a long illness, on Monday June 10.

Gordon West, 1943-2012.

Diamonds are not Forever, Hopefully

As I said a few posts ago, these are interesting times in the UK just at the moment. We have the Olympics next month and that won’t happen again for another hundred years or so if we’re lucky. And we also have just the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. In well over a millennium only three monarchs have made it to sixty years, and one of them was insane at the time. So 2012 is special in more than one way. We have a chance for a harmless knees-up, based on something that happens less than once a century, and therefore we should take it. Those who take a different view, such as Republic, are seen as joyless party-poopers, and, reading their website, one can see why. Continue reading

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #11

I’m not entirely sure why Led Zeppelin still have the stellar reputation they have. Certainly, by the early 1970’s there wasn’t anyone bigger. But to me, they haven’t aged that well. I didn’t think that way in 1975 when I queued all night in Sheffield on the announcement that they would perform three concerts in London that year. As it happened, while elsewhere in the country fans outnumbered available tickets several times to one, in Sheffield we were able to buy tickets for one day, go back to the end of the queue and get some more. We were joined at the end by someone who travelled 250 miles from Edinburgh, because he had no chance there, and got tickets in Sheffield.

Three concerts were initially planned, and I got tickets for two of them. Eventually another, earlier, couple of dates were added.

The Earls Court gigs have gone down in legend. Looking at them today, though, they haven’t worn as well as contemporary concerts by the Stones or Pink Floyd. Or maybe it’s just that they don’t transfer to video that well. Anyway, I’ve included this because…I was there!

I remember this well. It was the last of the five concerts. I had been to one a couple of days earlier, and as was the norm with these bands. the encores were just as planned as the rest of the set. We got them out again for something unrehearsed, which also explains the rudimentary light show.

Down the Smoke

Would you Adam and Eve it? I have a few days off with the trouble and strife and we decide to go down to London, unaware at first that the whole city would be given over to the dear old baked bean. There were so many about it got a bit Mariah Carey.

Personally I just about prefer Paris and Manhattan, but no doubt about it, London is one of the world’s great cities. Since the last time I was there they have new tallest building, the Shard, pictured above. The most curious thing about the Shard is its location, as all the other tall buildings are on the other side of the river. One good thing about London skyscrapers is their names. Apart from the Shard, the previous holder of the most iconic building award was the Gherkin, and in a couple of years’ time, it will be replaced by the Cheesegrater. Continue reading

More Dispatches from the Asylum

As I’ve said before, I got on quite well with the posters of the Fighting Fundamental Forums. The forum had a system of allocating likes and dislikes (“greens” and “reds”) and I only ever had about five reds in all the time I was there. Generally I got on with them, albeit that I was ignored by the majority. There are quite a few people who posted there that I would consider to be friends.

However, while they were friendly enough with me, sometimes I had to wonder exactly what their views were on certain issues, and while they seemed normal enough in common discourse, I sometimes had to pinch myself to ensure that I was aware of what kind of people I was dealing with.

For example, courtesy of Eric McDonald, comes a report from a North Carolina pastor who has a “final solution” to the “problem of homosexuality”. Unfortunately I can’t link directly to the video from Eric, but Pastor Worley’s message can be found here, alongside the usual comments.

Response to Pastor Worley can be found here:

Continue reading

Take the Flour Back to the Future?

It’s often said by atheists something along the lines of “science flies us to the Moon, religion flies us into buildings”. In truth, the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center were a triumph of the application of science, and religious fanatics, while deprecating what they call the scientific /atheist worldview, have no compunction when using the fruits of scientific endeavour to further their own beliefs, when it suits. If Mohammed Atta had simply wished the WTC to collapse, or punched it, it would still be there, and he wouldn’t.

But what this does show is that applied science can be used to do great harm as well as great good. This isn’t really an issue. Science has given us sophisticated and devastating weaponry, it has facilitated communication among paedophiles as well as the general population, it has allowed “Big Brother” to watch us.

Gun advocates in the US rightly point out that it is the human relationship with science, not the science itself, that poses the greater danger. More people are killed in road accidents – even in the US – than are shot dead, and this isn’t generally held to be an argument against cars. Nevertheless, the feeling persists among some that in some respects science is leading us down a path that can only hurt us as humans. In this view, science changes things that are better left unchanged. If science exposes truths it sometimes does so against our human interest and therefore should be curtailed. Continue reading