Author Archives: Tom Stewart

The Tradition of “Tradition”

Normally I’m not one to accept a claim of “we’ve always done it like that” to indicate that that’s the way it should always be done. But as I’m sometimes accused of being religious about sport I can make an exception from time to time.

Take cricket. The problems with cricket in the past were that it took too long and nobody watched it (and after days of play, there might not be even be a winner, but as I’ve said elsewhere, to me this is actually an attraction). To arrest the decline, the cricket authorities introduced a number of innovations, and one-day cricket competitions began in the 1960’s in England. So successful (relatively) were they that nowadays this is by far the most popular form of the game. The length of games has been further reduced, and teams have taken to wearing distinctive brightly-coloured kits with names and numbers. This has culminated in the “Twenty20” competitions which are started and finished within three hours. In parts of the world this has been enormously successful. Cricket is now the second most-watched spectator sport in the world, I’m led to believe. It’s true that this has been led recently from the highly-populous countries of the Indian subcontinent, but interest in cricket, especially this type, has increased even in the UK.

Meanwhile, good old county cricket continues to languish, at least relatively. And I can’t help feeling sad about all this. There’s nothing quite like sitting all day with a warm beer and a sandwich watching Derbyshire County Cricket Club (Not the Derbyshire Falcons or the Derbyshire Phantoms or the Derbyshire Scorpions) get thrashed again at Chesterfield. (I stress that I am not in that picture). Tradition, it seems, has gone to the wall. Continue reading


Creationist Drivel – Mendel

Posts in this series.

I’m in danger of catching remnant up, so sparingly is he releasing his eagerly-awaited information.

Before I look at Gregor Mendel, just  couple of points:

Firstly, I discovered that the Evolution handbook author is one Vance Ferrell. In future I’ll refer to him by name. Ferrell is a prolific writer with a peculiar style. He is a creationist, but also has written in support of “natural remedies” and against innoculation, the evils of rock music, the “End Times” and curiously, the story of the Bounty.

Secondly, I thought some more about entropy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics has many applications but essentially states that with time, overall entropy will increase. Creationists have taken this to mean that there is a physical law that states that complexity will tend to decrease – albeit their interpretation is faulty. Now the reason that complexity increases, in the natural world, is that the Earth / solar system is not a closed system, and allows for local increases in complexity at the expense of a general increase in entropy. So non-creationists have a workable explanation. Not so the creationists. They are of the opinion that all physical and chemical laws are god-created, maintained and sanctioned, rather than a feature of physical universe. Therefore if they accept that God created the second law they must also accept that the second law doesn’t work, as on Earth there are many examples in which there is no tendency towards higher entropy – as Route_70 pointed out, embryology is one of them. Therefore God created a law that he broke and continues to break. How are we to even define a physical law in such circumstances? Continue reading

On a Positive Note…

I see the Catholics in Ireland are in trouble again. Hot on the trail of the “indecent images” farce, the Primate of All-Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has been implicated in a cover-up of the details of a prolific paedophile priest. Himself a priest at the time, it has been alleged by at least two of the victims that Brady, outside of the presence of parents, police or professional counsellors, swore them to secrecy and thus allowed the paedophile to continue his activities. Brady also was informed of the details of other potential and actual victims and chose not to pass these details on to civil authorities – he did inform his then boss, who kept it all under wraps as well. His defence is not that he was innocent of these accusations, but that no specific policy for dealing with such issues existed at the time, either church or state-sanctioned. Moreover, at the time he was in a more junior position, with no authority to act against the paedophile, albeit that he accepts that the overarching culture of the church at the time was to protect its own interests. Will these people never learn? The suppression of the truth of some incident for the benefit of some interest becomes the issue itself at least as much as that initial incident upon its discovery, and as a result much worse for the culprits. The recently-departed evangelical Christian, Charles Colson, would have said as much.

Incidents like this, amid countless others, make it seem that the Catholic Church has been and continues to be very much a malign influence. For many years my own thoughts have been that I couldn’t think of a single reason to believe that the church benefited humankind at all. However, I might have been unfair here to some extent. Britain’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has recently been critical of the coalition government’s tax policies, in particular their affect on the rich / poor divide. In a week when it has been revealed that the rich in Britain have, on average, been getting richer while the country as a whole has returned to recession, Cardinal O’Brien’s intervention could be seen as welcome. Of course, the government disputes his analysis, but it does seem completely transparent that the super-rich, at least, have little or no need of the tax reduction given to them via the recent budget. While I don’t intend to comment on the efficacy of government tax policy, it is good that a person of influence like O’Brien, is at least seen to be attempting to protect the interests of the less fortunate among us. One could be cynical and explain his action, again, as an attempt to protect or promote the interests of his organisation. However,he could have quite easily remained silent here. Continue reading

What shall we tell the children?

If we are serious about promoting freedom of thought, and about equipping ourselves with the tools to put that thought into action. And if we think that truth is important for its own sake and if we see enormous benefits in understanding reality, not fantasy, then it’s important that, although it might be too late for a lot of us, we should do everything we can to help future generations. It’s not a matter of what to think, more a case of how to think.

Instead, what happens is that any group with any influence works its hardest for the survival of its own thoughts, doctrines and prejudices. Richard Dawkins, quite rightly, is annoyed by this, particularly the labelling of children with an identity that they can’t have developed for themselves.

The point is not to abolish Religious Education. There is value in Religious Education, including Comparative Religion (for anthropologists tell us that religion is a ubiquitous human universal) and the King James Bible as literature (there are so many allusions to it in Shakespeare and other English literature). What is wrong — indeed, arguably a form of mental child abuse — is the INDOCTRINATION of children into one particular faith, which they are informed is THEIR faith, automatically inherited from their parents. Continue reading

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #8

I would listen to much anything and have my likes and dislikes. But one form of music completely escaped me as an adolescent. Country music – known in the UK as country and western. It was plainly ridiculous, a joke. I did, when I was about fifteen, go to watch a movie about Johnny Cash just for the laugh. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Country music is the white man’s blues or the American man’s folk. As a genre, it shares a lot with those two as a vehicle for cultural expression, and it has a lot to say about that culture. It’s fair to say that country music took on board folk and blues influences, to develop its own style. And then it influenced others. Little Feat were a country band, as well as everything else, Pavement somehow merged country and grunge, and the Rolling Stones can count their greatest glories after discovering country.

I could no more sit and listen to Garth Brooks than I could sit and read Hello! magazine. But Brooks and his ilk produce no more than a caricature. The earlier subject of my mockery, Johnny Cash, is indeed country music’s greatest ambassador. I love this song, even if the subject is Hell and Judgement.

You can’t read this post

In the post entitled Prayers work, say British Politicians, I got the following response from scripturesearcher. (His blog is here, and it’s well worth a read)

I have to disapprove strongly with a government agency making any regulation on religious advertising. Even if these people were outright lying, which is doubtful, there would have to be some sort of money or binding committment at issue in order for a government agency to step in.

That’s just my opinion, of course. I do think it’s important to stay with individualism and religious freedom in order to create a society built on freedom of thought.

Buyer – and prayer – beware. The responsibility is on the individual.

Now the post wasn’t primarily concerned with government censorship or regulations as much as the laughable attempts by some politicians to get government support and approval for the claims in question, which was that prayer is a legitimate form of medical assistance. Incidentally, I’m pleased to see that the main evidence for the politicians’ claims, the footballer Fabrice Muamba, now seems to have recovered enough to leave hospital and give interviews. Although Muamba does give credit to the medical teams that helped him, he has joined the politicians, his girlfriend and countless others in claiming that the paramount reason for his recovery is intervention by God following prayers. While he’s welcome to his view, I note that at least two footballers, to my knowledge, have died following heart attacks during games, including one in a minor from the same county as one of the MPs. Continue reading

Creationist Drivel – What’s the date?

Posts in this series.

remnant’s source 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…

Guadeloupe Woman Found (1812). This is a well-authenticated discovery which has been in the British Museum for over a century. A fully modern human skeleton was found in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe inside an immense slab of limestone, dated by modern geologists at 28 million years old. (More examples could be cited.) Human beings, just like those living today (but sometimes larger), have been found in very deep levels of strata.

While it’s fair to say that details of human evolution are incomplete and subject to controversy, the scientific consensus at the moment suggests that the earliest hominids emerged around 15 million years ago, with the homo genus dating back to 2.5 million years and homo sapiens a mere 500,000 years. (See the wiki entry). A homo sapiens skeleton, or fragment of it, dating back 28 million years would certainly put a dent in this consensus, particularly when archaeological theories put the first human incursions into North America at a maximum 40,000 years and probably much less. Continue reading

In praise of draws

This is the previous post, initially. As usual I get sidetracked, which is one reason why I suspect that I won’t ever be any good at this.

Anyway, it should be clear that I love football. And football is culturally significant, at least to a large minority of us. Football feeds on and nourishes culture, as I’ve just said below. And therefore what happens in football is important as a means of describing our lives and attitudes – equally our lives and attitudes determine our attitude towards football. Substitute rugby union, or basketball or some other sport, religion, ideology, what you will – the context is the same.

I do like other sports a lot, golf, tennis, cycling and American football in particular. I wish I was good at any one of them. However, none come close to football, and I attribute its cultural context to this. Other cultures operate in different contexts. We are told, for example, that one reason that football hasn’t taken off in the US is that (cup games apart), the Americans can’t take the prospect of a draw, or tie, as a valid result. We therefore have the ludicrous (to me) idea of “overtime” in what is essentially a league game when scores are tied. We’re told that Americans can’t abide the idea of a sporting contest that doesn’t produce a winner. For this reason the world’s second most popular sport – cricket – will never take off in the US, as the thought of five days play without a result is too much to bear.

It should be said that I was mildly devastated, again, that the New Orleans Saints couldn’t make it all the way this year, despite once again having the best offence in the NFL.

Now I was a rubbish footballer and never played to any level, but when I played I was a defender. The reason is that I modelled myself on my favourite footballer at the time, Everton and England hero Tommy Wright. I wanted to be just like him. Maybe because I took that path I looked upon not losing as equal in importance to winning. Draws are part and parcel of the game, and the tell the tale as effectively as anything else. Continue reading

The Culture of Football

It’s true that I’ve told virtually nobody about this blog. For now I’m content with that, and I’m writing mostly for myself. The intention is, however, to make it a feast of faith, philosophy and football, with a few music videos thrown in as filler.

I’m conscious that football has been somewhat neglected to date, though, so I’ll go a way to putting that right here. Indeed, football, for someone like myself and millions of others, is attractive precisely because it incorporates philosophy and faith. Let no-one say that I fail to understand the religious mindset or that I’m unfamiliar with religious experience, and the fact that most of these experiences have taken place within the confines of Goodison Park makes it any less personally relevant. We also celebrate our rituals and traditions, both individual and communal, and the idea of abandoning Everton Football Club, for me, is as unthinkable as anything. The word “s****r is as much an abomination to me as “salvation by works” is to a Calvinist. The difference is that the religious aspects of football are naturally grounded, and therefore even the most partisan football fan can see his obsession from the outside, recognise his irrationality, view it for what it is, and walk away from it when need dictates. Football fans as a rule celebrate rather than deprecate differences – there’s nothing better to start the day than a cup of strong coffee and a session of good-natured football banter. We don’t expect others to conform to our prejudices – on the contrary we appreciate them. Football, as a quasi-religion, has a lot going for it, in that its adherents see shared values in differences of value. Continue reading

Creationist drivel – entropy

Posts in this series.

We haven’t seen much activity from remnant recently in his thread on the FFF about the famous old scientists who destroyed evolutionary theory before it was even thought of. I began to think that he’d given up. But happily he was back yesterday. He has a curious method: find an article from Answers in Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research or some other lunatic creationist website, and release the information a sentence at a time. I can only guess at his motive, but it seems that he’s trying to slowly reveal the information in such a way as to increase the anticipation of his readers. Or maybe he’s just trying to increase his post count by making twenty posts where one would do. All in all, more than a little bizarre.

What has always seemed even more strange to me is the general attitude that creationists, like the writer of the Evolution Handbook, have towards science. According to them, there are two types of scientific study:

  1. Scientific study that supports the idea of a god. This is called “good science” or some such term.
  2. Scientific study that doesn’t support the idea of a god. This is called “bad science” or some such term.

So whether science is “good” or “bad” depends on the relationship it has with a predetermined conclusion. And predetermined it is. As Answers in Genesis says in its Statement of Faith:

  • The scientific aspects of creation are important but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.
  • The doctrines of Creator and Creation cannot ultimately be divorced from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You’d think that they might as well give up on science altogether, if they’re going to pick and choose what science to believe. But as long as they can isolate the “good” from the “bad”, then science can be regarded as an ally. Obviously they can’t dispense with science altogether – for example, they have to rely on quantum mechanics to even publish their misleading worldview, and in any case,  the Bible, the Qur’an or any other foundational religious book unsurprisingly have nothing say about the existence or otherwise of sub-atomic particles. Continue reading