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Comments by GPWC

Go to: Three Developments in British Education

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Comment 11 by Graxan :

Another way of introducing this would be through 'scale' classes. This would be where students are taught the size of things in our universe starting from the smallest particles up to galactic clusters and the edge of the visable universe - it doesn't have to be complex, just say what and where these things are and how big they are in relation to each other.

Hi Graxon. Have you ever looked at The Long Now website? I think you'll like it.

Mon, 18 Jun 2012 17:23:26 UTC | #947797

Go to: Leo Igwe—The Constant Fight Against Irrationality

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You've got to love James Randi. Always polite, always thorough, always at the sharp end of delusion, never overly confrontational. James Randi is a very good role model for Leo. I wonder if the James Randi Foundation would consider putting up another $1m specifically for Africa?

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 17:33:47 UTC | #946168

Go to: Once-Rare Butterfly Species Now Thrives, Thanks to Climate Change

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What's with the title of this piece?

"Once-Rare Butterfly Species Now Thrives, Thanks to Climate Change"

I rather think the title should have been taken from the later part of the article where the bigger picture is summed up as follows:

"Of course, this expansion in the north is counterbalanced by a loss of habitat further south, where conditions are rapidly becoming too hot for the butterfly. “The picture across its whole distributional range in Europe looks somewhat different,” notes ecologist Oliver Schweiger of the Heimholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Halle, Germany, who was not involved in the research. His modeling work suggests that, even assuming the butterfly can fly past any natural features that might otherwise restrict range expansion, “large range retractions in the South cannot be counterbalanced by the expansions in the North.” And even flying animals, like butterflies and birds, can’t seem to keep pace with the poleward march of temperature bands, according to Schweiger’s work".

So perhaps the headline should have been:

"Rare butterfly expands northward but loses even more ground in the South, Thanks to climate change."

Mon, 28 May 2012 07:34:07 UTC | #943916

Go to: The Right’s Righteous Frauds

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This paragraph woke me up:

"Within its uppermost ranks are many champions of small government who squirm at the small-mindedness of the scowling theocrats in an increasingly uneasy coalition. These fiscal conservatives take advantage of the religious right’s political muscle but have reservations about its hectoring piety, and their own views on social issues are often moderate or somewhat liberal. Recall that Republican money played a pivotal role in the successful campaign for same-sex marriage in New York".

Shit, I thought, that's me (though I'm not American). My "group" has been acknowledged in print ... and in almost pure terms.

Fri, 18 May 2012 07:42:57 UTC | #942150

Go to: 'Save the planet', science leaders urge G8 governments

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Comment 30 by Helga Vierich :

It is true that the "voters" want jobs and cheap fuel. That is partly because they are completely ignorant about reality. And whose fault is that?

In all honesty, I'd say the voters must mainly take the blame. Why shouldn't they take on the responsibility of educating themselves?

Well, how many of you here on this site have ever taken Peak Oil seriously, or looked up some of the publications from members of the Post Carbon Institute? How many of you have ever taken the time to look at the writings or interviews of Colin Campbell? How many of you like to think, even today, that technology will find a way to allow our economic system to persist in giving us the standard of living we have? This is not a rhetorical question. I really want to know.

I have taken a look at peak oil, but not a very close look. There are only so many things you can worry about. One of the problems for the environmental movement is that they have cried wolf a bit too much and now people have got bored with the same old doom and gloom. In my youth, I was guilty of this crime - repeating, uncritically and without proper knowledge, the dramatic and prescient environmental disaster stories that I had read about from Greenpeace or whoever. Most never came to pass or have not done so yet. I am jaded, now, I'm sorry to say, and peak oil is just the most recent environmental scare story. I'm not saying there is no truth in it, and for economic reasons alone, let alone environmental, we should be getting off our oil addiction asap.

I suspect human population will continue to multiply at the expense of all other wildlife. There may come a point when we have so trashed the planet, that we will kill ourselves off, but I don't see that happening for a long while yet.

Politically, I agree with you, I see repression round the corner. We have already seen how the EU has replaced the Greek and Italian prime ministers without a mandate from the people, and in the UK and elsewhere, political and environmental activists are harrassed and entrapped by the police. Everywhere you look, governments are tooling up with surveillance equipment and personal recognition tracking techniques. Most people who care about this sort of thing believe that it will come through some sort of right wing coup. I believe, it will come from the left in the guise of socialism and big government. In the end, it makes little difference either way.

Tue, 15 May 2012 07:54:59 UTC | #941547

Go to: 'Save the planet', science leaders urge G8 governments

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Comment 25 by Sinister Weasel :

I am not suggesting a harsh one-child regime, but is it not practical to stop giving benefits and aid to those who already have a child. Especially considering how this has proven to allow the poorest in society to have the largest families, utterly dependent on the money we all pay them to have more children. The inevitable result being an increasing percentage of the population being from the less intelligent...we may have already reached the lowest low though judging from the decisions people make.

I may have some fairly good news for you. Francis Galton who many regard as the father of eugenics wanted to prove that heredity alone caused genius or the reverse. But what he actually found was that although clever people had on average clever children, there was a fast regression to the mean and only 9% of his eminent people had an eminent grandchild. He wrote:

"The child inherits partly from his parents, partly from his ancestry. ... The further his genealogy goes back, the more numerous and varied will his ancestry become, until they cease to differ from any equally numerous sample taken at haphazard from the race at large. ... The law tells heavily against the full hereditary transmission of any gift ... The law is even-handed; it levies the same succession tax on the transmission of badness as of goodness. If it discourages the extravagant expectations of gifted parents that their children will inherit all their powers, it no less discountanences extravagant fears that they will inherit all their weaknesses and diseases".

(My highlights, by the way).

In other words, as Peter L Bernstein puts it in his book Against the Gods - the remarkable story of risk:

"[Galton's] study was momentous. Every group, no matter how small and no matter how distinct from some other group, tends to array itself in accordance with the normal distribution, with most of the observations landing in the centre, or, to use the more familiar expression, on the average".

So what I've always taken from this is the rather good news that even if less intelligent people have more children (as seems to be the case at the moment), it won't actually make any difference to the general level of intelligence in future generations. I hope this proves to be true.

Mon, 14 May 2012 18:16:06 UTC | #941447

Go to: 'Save the planet', science leaders urge G8 governments

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Comment 22 by Alan4discussion :

Hi Alan - large corporate donations to political parties are obviously about corporations seeking influence. I don't like it and am in favour of some other way to fund political parties - but no one seems to be able to come up with a good/fair alternative.

On the wider question about the influence of "big business" on government environmental policy, I am skeptical that their infleunce is out of proportion to what is healthy. Sure, they are in there lobbying all the time and their malign effects are duly noted by me. But I object to the idea that there is a "big business" conspiracy working against saps like us:

First, this ignores the vast number of companies who are lobbying which makes collusion difficult, and, though restrictive practices exist, most companies, whilst they have common ground, are competing against each other.

Secondly, who benefits from all this "corporationary" activity? There's simply too much money swilling around for it all to end up in the hands of the Committee of 500 or whoever. Often, there are real jobs at stake with real people and real earners that politicians have to consider.

Thirdly, worrying unduly about "big business" activity takes our eye off the ball. Our political system places ultimate power in the hands of the voter. Voting every few years isn't great, but it is something and to force change at government level you need the voters to understand the issues and campaign politically. At the very least, anyone who cares about the environment should join The Woodland Trust or Friends of the Earth or whoever to give power to their elbows.

I have been active running a local Greenpeace group, I was one of the founders of BioRegional Group (an environmental charity - check it out if you like here) and I set up and ran a not for profit environmental company for a number of years. Unfortunately, I don't see the public really caring about the environment - what they want is jobs and cheap fuel. So until the public takes a more comprehensive view, politicians will not take serious action to avert the dangers we face, nevermind reversing the environmental degredation that has already taken place.


Mon, 14 May 2012 12:10:20 UTC | #941379

Go to: 'Save the planet', science leaders urge G8 governments

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Comment 18 by cheesedoff17 :

Scientists have been issuing statements for seven years. No matter how politely their suggestions may be received, when push comes to shove, our politicians always give way to the Multi Nationals, or the Banks or the Petrochemical/Pharmaceutical Industries. If our grandchildren are to have any future at all, we have to change the entire outdated system. It's absurd that the lives of millions are left in the hands of a few. Look at the sad face Europe now due to being led by the deaf to reason and the blind to the facts.

Scientists, Help, Help, get off your butts!

With respect, politicians answer to the electorate not "the Multi Nationals, or the Banks or the Petrochemical/Pharmaceutical Industries". The elecorate does not want to reduce their consumption or pay higher prices or accept unemployment. Many governments have fallen as a result of these things. I don't know any western government who has been voted out by the petrochemical industry.

The view on the left that all governments are controlled by "big business" or some elite cabal has reached epidemic proportions and is nothing more than a conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, this is playing out into a distrust of free enterprise and thereby the promotion of the corollary - more government. Now, governments really do have power over you. In most western liberal democracies, government spending accounts for between 40-60% of GDP and rising - that's a whole big chunk of your freedom taken away from you right there. Then there is government's 100% monopoly power over the judiciary to make everything they do legal, not to mention their ability to call on the police and armed forces. With all the new techniques of surveillance and so called "non-lethal" weapons, I strongly think you should take direct action against government and the police much more than you should fear Goldman Sachs.

Even if you believe big business is calling the shots behind the scenes, big government is what they need to execute their orders. Either way, small government is better.

Mon, 14 May 2012 06:40:17 UTC | #941355

Go to: 'Save the planet', science leaders urge G8 governments

GPWC's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by GPWC

Was there nothing said about population?

But in the shortish term, we have to break away from using GDP as the main indicator of economic health. Governments love GDP because they can easily and swiftly manipulate it upwards by borrowing and not have to worry about paying back as that will be someone else's problem. We need to see Governments cutting their spending dramatically to reduce consuption. As long as we job share the reduced and reducing jobs, then everyone will be in the same boat. But given the huge amount of waste which is endemic in Western economies, if we cut some of that out, we won't even suffer a drop in quality of life.

Sat, 12 May 2012 16:11:06 UTC | #941199

Go to: How was airline bomb made to be 'undetectable'?

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Comment 17 by mmurray :

So you'd be OK getting on a plane with Real IRA, Chechen rebels. Those kinds of people.


I think the Chechen rebels have quite a lot to do with Islam.

Wed, 09 May 2012 14:07:08 UTC | #940725

Go to: Sean Faircloth on The Secular Buddhist podcast

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For those like me who find the "evangelical" Sean a bit hard to take (sorry Sean, I know you read these comments), let me recommend this conversation. This is a Sean at a slower, more relaxed pace and, as others have said in these columns, shows what a good choice he is for the RD Foundation in the US.

Wed, 09 May 2012 06:11:51 UTC | #940682

Go to: Belief in God found in decline

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Comment 14 by RobertJames :

I know I'm not the only one... laughing at the religious

Thanks for the link - someone was having a lot of fun that day.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 08:02:06 UTC | #935651

Go to: Cardinal Pell-"Jews intellectually and morally inferior"

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I've just watched the whole programme and the criticism of Pell on the question of the Jews is not justified. It is another example of someone in the press picking up part of what someone said and taking it out of context.

The same happens every day with politicians which is why no politician will ever give you a straight answer. Even when people do give straight answers and upset no one, they are then often criticised for being outspoken and naive!

Pell, like many Aussies, like to "tell it how it is". Long may that continue even if you don't agree with or like what they say. Being hyper critical is counter productive especially when Cardinal Pell had such a hard time explaining suffering in the first place. Let's concentrate on what he did say and mean, not what he didn't say and didn't mean.

Mon, 16 Apr 2012 10:06:12 UTC | #935028

Go to: Prime Minister’s dissembling, hypocritical and disingenuous speech to religious leaders

GPWC's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by GPWC

I presume "Call me Dave" is an atheist. It's a pity and greatly to his discredit that he feels compelled to suck up to the religoons.

Maybe the National Secular Society could ask Dave for a similar Downing Street reception for non-believers. Then we can compare and contrast what he says.

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 10:37:40 UTC | #932306

Go to: Richard Dawkins and Michael Aus discuss The Clergy Project (with Polish subtitles)

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Michael's reasons for joining the clergy were partly personal - interested in literature, languages etc - and partly driven by a sense of doing good in the community. I'm sure he did plenty of the latter and I think this is where most religious people are at their best - helping others in many different ways without ever counting the cost. There is, of course, plenty of non-religious, free help and advice out there, but nothing yet to compare with the church. The closest (in the UK, at least) is probably the Samaritans who everyone knows as a non-religious brand to trust. It was started by a vicar though!

My point is that, if we are to, successfully, challenge religion, we need to find a good substitute for the warm feeling of community and help that is provided by churches.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 19:42:39 UTC | #930802

Go to: More See "Too Much" Religious Talk by Politicians - Santorum Voters Disagree

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Despite some encouraging news here, religion is still, unfortunately, a win-win for politicians - few vote against a candidate because they wear their religion on their sleeve. Until that changes, vve will have an uphill road to keep religion out of politics.

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 08:46:25 UTC | #929549

Go to: Australian Atheist Bus Ad Says God Better Have ‘a Good Excuse’

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I'm not so keen on this one. It seems filled with negativity. Is the world really so bad? Obviously, it is far from a perfect paradise which you would expect from an omnicient god creator, but these pages, amongst others, are often filled with people's comments about the wonder of nature and science - in fact there was a thread about it not so long ago.

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 15:57:40 UTC | #928090

Go to: Australian Atheist Bus Ad Says God Better Have ‘a Good Excuse’

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"God is alive and well and working on a less ambitious project".


Fri, 16 Mar 2012 18:17:55 UTC | #927886

Go to: Before Wolves May Be Hunted, Science, Faith and Politics Clash

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Comment 1 by wildhog :

Shooting wolves?

This isnt a wildlife management problem, its a human overpopulation problem. Fucking humans..

I completely agree.

Tue, 13 Mar 2012 22:28:37 UTC | #926781

Go to: Free speech under fire

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Comment 5 by aroundtown :

Common sense seems to be losing these days. When the lunatic fringe spouts outrageous utterances we don't need a law to muzzle them, simply take it for what it is and move on without whining about every little thing that doesn't match your ideals to perfection. Do we need the courts to define every word and potential uses in context? It's gotten to the point with cases like this one that you wonder where we are headed. Seems like a train wreck when a Judge can utter complete nonsense like this, it is not his job to denounce the man who wore this costume, it is either legal or it is not, just because a Muslim finds it offensive is not a case that should have been brought into court. These Muslims are a thin skinned lot to be sure as we are clearly seeing it in just about everything these days when something doesn't match their ideals. I wish they would stay in their own countries if they cannot assimilate into free societies and withstand the situations they are likely to encounter that runs counter to their cultural norms and morays.

Quite so. Personally, I don't mind people taking the law into their own hands within reason, but I understand the law really does have a problem with it. So I would have expected the judge to first require the defendent to justify his actions by asking what law was broken by the Zoombie Mo?

Mind you we have to be careful with commenting on these sorts of cases. We usually get a wildly inaccurate and partial account of events.

Mon, 12 Mar 2012 07:29:49 UTC | #926341

Go to: “Forget Jesus” – Controversy at the Intersection of Miley Cyrus, Lawrence Krauss, Christianity, Atheism, Physics, Astronomy and Cosmology

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"Please call me by my true names" or "Being Rocks" by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master.

Being rocks

being gas,

being mist,

being mind,

being the mesons travelling among the galaxies at the speed of light,

you have come here, my beloved one.

Your blue eyes shine so beautiful and deep.

You have taken the path traced for you by both the non-beginning and the never-ending.

On your way here you have gone through millions of births and deaths.

Inumerable times you have been transformed into firestorms in outer space.

You have used your own body to measure the age of mountains and rivers.

You have manifested yourself as trees, as grass, as butterflies, as single celled beings, as chrysanthemums ...

But the blue eyes with which you look at me this morning, tell me that none of these have ever died.

They are alive in you.

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 08:53:39 UTC | #925312

Go to: Professor Stephen Hawking quotes on God and Religion

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I wish Stephen Hawking would write "a god" everytime he writes "God".

eg "it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork" would become "it would still be up to a god to wind up the clockwork".

It would help our cause a bit, I think.

Fri, 02 Mar 2012 13:06:08 UTC | #923735

Go to: Crazy Watering Can

GPWC's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by GPWC

This guy is a heretic - only pray to the yellow jug of milk.

Tue, 28 Feb 2012 22:06:09 UTC | #922916

Go to: Jessica "Evil Little Thing" Ahlquist on CNN

GPWC's Avatar Jump to comment 52 by GPWC

In a rare display of reason, the Cranston, R.I., School Committee decided not to appeal a court decision in which a judge ordered the removal of a prayer banner at Cranston High School West.The committee voted 5-2 last night not to appeal the decision, but I suspect it’s not because the committee had a genuine change of heart. After all of the awful things that community has said about Jessica Ahlquist, the 16-year-old who complained about the prayer banner, it’s more likely that reality set in.

In case people were wondering, in this article, the first paragraph of which I quote above, it seems the school will not be appealing and we may be at the end of this particular legal fight. Has the hype turned it into a landmark, precedent setting case?

Mon, 27 Feb 2012 08:30:48 UTC | #922358

Go to: Atheist in Memory Lapse and Slavery Shock

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Comment 15 by jackcaldwell :

However, my issue is with the interpretation of your census data. Perhaps I am missing something as I have read only the shorter summary here at the site. It seems, however, that if 70% of British people check "Christian" on a form and if you find that 35% of all people correctly matched Mathew as the first book of the New Testament, that approximately half of all "Christian" checkers knew about the Gospels, at least enough to recognize it. Certainly, the number is inflated since at least some atheists, such as me, know enough about the New Testament to pick out Mathew as the first book. But I don't get where the 64% comes from. Why say 64% of supposed Christians did not know Mathew?

I think I can help you on this one. The survey first asked what people ticked on the census form on the religion question. 54% ticked Christian.

Only those who ticked 'Christian' got asked any further questions. So, of those, 35% correctly identified Mathew as the first book of the NT, 65% got it wrong or did not answer.

The 70% you refer to is I think the 72% who ticked Christian in the previous census of 2001 - that's a drop right there of 25% in 10 years incidentally, which doesn't seem to get talked about as much as it should.

Fri, 24 Feb 2012 16:22:33 UTC | #921533

Go to: Atheist in Memory Lapse and Slavery Shock

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Comment 4 by Zeuglodon :

A drop of 18%, from 72% in 2001 to 54% in 2011, seems to be a dramatic sign that we're having an effect. It's working! We just have to keep pushing this sort of thing for the next decade too, and we'll be steadily more and more accepted in the mainstream. I am encouraged by this recent triumph.

Stricly speaking, it is a drop of 18 percentage points which in this case translates to a drop of 25%.

Fri, 24 Feb 2012 15:09:19 UTC | #921493

Go to: Atheist in Memory Lapse and Slavery Shock

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Comment 2 by Rtambree :

My boss said he ticks 'Christian' (even though he's not) because otherwise the Muslims will get more money off the government.

This is a point I've been making for a while. Many people see the rise of Islam and don't like it. They know Islam is a religion, so they think they must combat it with their own religion ie Christianity. I think this feeling is very strong in the US (9/11 and all that) but is also true in the UK. We might call these people 'Nationalist Christians' or 'Patriotic Christians' - a sort of subset of 'Cultural Christians'.

One way to tackle this would be to point out that, whilst Islam is a religion, it is just as much a political movement, and if people want to stand up to Islam, they may be better doing it through the political process and therefore they should above all support a secular state.

Fri, 24 Feb 2012 15:05:49 UTC | #921490

Go to: Mormons baptize Holocaust victim Anne Frank posthumously, says report

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Hey Mormons, postumously baptise Big Mo! I dare you.

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 22:39:17 UTC | #921303

Go to: Plant blooms after 30,000 years in permafrost

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Comment 7 by Steve Zara :

Comment 6 by inquisador

Next step:

The Woolly Mammoth.

It doesn't seem so outrageous now! A seed frozen for 30,000 years. It does make me wonder why some frozen products have a 'best before' date. I mean, they are frozen. What can happen to them?

I do believe 'best before' dates are nearly time expired themselves. See here.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 08:29:39 UTC | #920665

Go to: Richard Dawkins - The Census Research Explained

GPWC's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by GPWC

18% of adult UK Christians say they have Christian convictions and 20% of UK adults have never sent an email.

Might they also be the same people ...

Mon, 20 Feb 2012 15:04:11 UTC | #920020