Author Archives: Tom Stewart

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

Creationist Drivel – Pasteur

Posts in this series.

In the time since my last related post, remnant has been stinking up the Fundamental Forums a treat. His (or more likely, her) tactic has been to copy articles from the Institute of Creation Research and paste them all over the place, such that more than half of all posts were taken up with this.

One thing, however, that remnant hasn’t done, is to complete the series of posts from the Vance Ferrell’s Evolution Handbook. So I’ll just have to go on without any further input from remnant.

Ferrell continues, in his own inimitable style:

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…

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was another genuine scientist. In the process of studying fermentation, he performed his famous 1861 experiment, in which he disproved the theory of spontaneous generation. Life cannot arise from non-living materials. This experiment was very important; for, up to that time, a majority of scientists believed in spontaneous generation. (They thought that if a pile of old clothes were left in a corner, it would breed mice! The proof was that, upon later returning to the clothes, mice would frequently be found there.) Pasteur concluded from his experiment that only God could create living creatures. But modern evolutionary theory continues to be based on that out-dated theory disproved by Pasteur: spontaneous generation (life arises from non-life). Why? Because it is the only basis on which evolution could occur. As *Adams notes, “With spontaneous generation discredited [by Pasteur], biologists were left with no theory of the origin of life at all” (*J. Edison Adams, Plants: An Introduction to Modern Biology, 1967, p. 585).

Ferrell makes the sloppy error of claiming that an experiment from 1861 disproved a theory published in 1859 prior to publication. While this is not a central point, it is again indicative of Ferrell’s rigour, or lack of it. Unsurprisingly, Ferrell also confuses evolutionary theory (the process(es) by which species, over time, change), with abiogenesis. Continue reading

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #10

As promised, I’ll put in a few videos of the mega-bands of the 1970’s. And they don’t come any bigger than Pink Floyd. Indeed, a few years ago Q magazine rated them the biggest of the big. How they worked that out I don’t know, but they must be up there somewhere.

While the Syd Barrett era is important in some respects, the idea that Floyd lost out following his breakdown is unsustainable. Instead, it let loose some of the best writing and some of the best music that we could ever hope for – simply speaking, they are peerless. Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall still sound good today. Everybody loves Pink Floyd, and for good reason.

The video below is relatively recent, taken from the time after Roger Waters left. That wouldn’t denigrate it though, the song would be a classic whichever version of Floyd performed it. It also comes from the Pulse tour, one of the three best music videos ever for my money. (The others being The Last Waltz and Beside You in Time).

Note that some UK viewers have this content blocked. For me, it depends on the computer I’m using.

Truth and Objectivity

To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.


Just a recap from the last post on truth. In common discourse we like to think of truth as correspondence with reality. Yet it’s commonplace to hear such things as “that’s a matter of opinion”, “it’s true to them”, etc. etc. The implication here is that either there are a number of competing truths, of which only one’s own, or none of which, has any special privileges, or that objective truth as correspondence with reality is an illusion. In fact (should I even be saying that?) it seems that this is how most people view truth – as something that corresponds not with reality as much as their own pre-existing beliefs or ideology. It’s much easier to see this (or as an argument-stopper) to imply or infer it in others while denying it for oneself. You don’t much see people basing their arguments on such grounds as “believing that is useful to me” or “that corresponds with my other beliefs”, although I do recall a poster on the FFF denying the validity of theistic evolution on the grounds that sin could not then have entered the world through Adam and therefore it was untrue on the basis that it contradicted his previous belief. More commonly one hears such things “I’m a Catholic and therefore I believe that…”.  True beliefs will not contradict other true beliefs, of course, provided that the truth of at least one of them can be rationally established.

Moving on, for an example of how other peoples’ view of truth is pejoratively compared to one’s own, see the Jim Denison’s comment below, from here via the FFF:

You state that there is no such thing as absolute truth, which is itself an absolute truth statement.  You remind me of the ancient Skeptics three centuries before Christ whose philosophy could be summarized:  “There’s no such thing as truth and we’re sure of it.”

I could assure Denison that not all of us subscribe to that position, and I strongly suspect that what it is that he calls true in this matter is but a mere convenience. However, although he is probably equivocating, he is correct in his analysis of scepticism as long as he means universal scepticism – some other forms of scepticism are completely honourable and a reasonable approach to truth-seeking. Like simple relativism, universal scepticism is untenable in that to claim it’s truth would be to claim that it isn’t true, and therefore there aren’t really any universal sceptics, even if they so label themselves. Even Denison recognises this. Continue reading

A Bit of Excitement on a Thursday

It’s a good thing and a bad thing that in Hereford nothing much ever happens. Usually the big news is something like “Girl breaks leg falling off horse at gymkhana” or “chip-shop sign stolen”. (These are real front-page headlines in Hereford). So in the surrounding villages, one can barely imagine anything happening at all – “battery fails in camera”, for example, is big news.

But today was different. The Olympic flame passed through my village, only about 100 metres from my house, and we were out all there in force to cheer it on.

The level of excitement was maintained, every thirty seconds or so, by police motorcyclists, buses, sponsors’ lorries and council vans – all getting a great cheer. At long last the flame arrived, and just as the carrier came…my camera died.

But I did get a rear view. Better than nothing.

All-in-all, about fifteen minutes. But well worth it. It’s not going to happen here in my lifetime again, and it’ll definitely never be so close. The sense of occasion is certainly building up, and whatever one might think about the individual sports or the behaviour of the IOC, it’s a great time to be a Brit right now.

Getting Through the Summer

I’ve been inundated with requests to keep this blog up to speed. So many, indeed, that it’s distracted me from any further offerings for the last week or so.

Of course, the above isn’t true. Life is just very busy at the moment, and I’m just so dissatisfied with my second attempt to analyse “truth” that I keep changing it round.

And it’s the summer. I always say that the best day of the year is the day the clocks go forward. Give me a light evening and a dark morning any day. I have no idea why we don’t have the same time as Western Europe – makes much more sense. Continue reading

Good News for Freedom, For a Change

I’ve been a republican as long as I’ve been a non-believer – that’s pretty much all my life. Similar thoughts about iniquity went through my mind at a similar time. I’m not sure whether I’m a British republican, or an English republican, or whether I just want an end to a system where the only qualification required for Head of State is who’s womb you passed through.

That said, the British political system isn’t the worst in the world though by no means the best. The Head of State does have useful functions, maintaining political neutrality being one of them. All parliamentary legislation is done in the name of the Head of State, and government is, nominally at least, accountable to that Head of State. Personally I don’t see why the Speaker of the House of Commons can’t fulfil that role as well as his own.

Every year, the government has to list its planned legislative programme prior to the start of each Parliamentary session. The agenda is read out by the sovereign in a document known colloquially as the Queen’s Speech – obviously once the Prince of Wales or his son assumes the role that will change.

Considering the current problems in double-dip Britain, and the strains within the Conservative-Liberal coalition this year’s speech didn’t set the world alight – most of it worthy, some of it welcome. However, there was one proposal that didn’t make it to the mainstream news, and it won’t affect many of us directly, but is a massive boost to freedom of speech, provided it doesn’t end up being diluted. The English libel laws are to be reformed, and not before time. Given that all political parties have ostensibly supported reform for many years it’s surprising (or perhaps not) that it took so long. Continue reading

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #9

Music is a funny thing. When I’m at home I just play music all day long. (God bless the ipod). But, although we accept that sometimes peace, quiet and solitude is sometimes appropriate, why would people like myself be like that. Music hits an emotional chord, it seems. It’s different for different people. Some people like choral music, for example, and gain inspiration from it. I know quite a few non-believers who will say much the same.

That’s not for me, though. I prefer my music to be visceral, and no-one does it better than Keith Richards. I remember some documentary about the Rolling Stones where someone that I don’t recall said something like “Mick should be pleased that Keith allowed him in his band”. I’m not usually an advocate of Platonic Forms, but Richards conjures some sort of essence of rock’n’roll, and he’s up there with Jefferson and Orwell. It’s something that I’ll never get close to understanding. Anyone who never saw the Stones at their peak is missing out.

Gimme Shelter is perhaps the ultimate rock’n’roll song. Lisa Fischer gets a note that shouldn’t be humanly possible at 3:15. This is one of my two favourite videos, and the next few ditties will feature the mega-bands of the 1970’s, the like of which we won’t see again.