Thursday, 25 March 2010

Banned!


I was hoping to persuade my wife to accompany me to see tonight's screening of "Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)." Little did I know I only had to mentioned the magic word "banned" and the following text message came back:
"If its banned then def we must go! Xxxx"
Well done to Christian Voice for helping me to organise my social life. My tickets are booked, so now I can let everyone else know.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

wobble-om-metry

Tomorrows word of the day is:
wobble-om-metry
It's not in the dictionary just yet, but it will be by tomorrow.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

True or false?

Recently, Guido Fawkes turned down a cash offer for his blog. The offer was for a lot more than http://order-order.com/ is worth.

Is the statement above true or false? Answers on a postcard please, to the usual address ...

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The passage of time

An imagined conversation follows, between 2 sock-puppets, who are both part of me.
me: What was the most important thing you did yesterday?

i: I had a row with my wife. We made up later, after I had given her some flowers.

me: What will you do today?

i: Take my mother out for Mothering Sunday, and hopefully pop over to see my wife and I's allotment. As compensation, I will dress my best and will flirt outrageously with all the young women we meet. I am stunningly attractive, and women find me irresistible to talk to. On the other hand, most young men find me rude and abrasive. I like to keep them on their toes.

me: What are you doing right now?

i: Typing this, silly. What did you think I was up to? Run along and put the kettle on!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Curiouser and curioser!


In the "Alice Through the Looking Glass" world of Paul {Pantie} Staines, this would be called a classic snop-couck. (Look it up in the dictionary, if you don't believe me!)

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Yesterday's word of the day

We are sorry we were unable to bring you yesterday's word of the day. This was due a large group of starlings nesting on the 45,000 kilovolt line near the electricity substation.

Yesterday's word of the day would have been: abdication.

Tomorrows Word of the Day

"mulcted"

Public Access to Statistics

A wealth of information on scientific investigation, human activity and current affairs is available through statistics gleaned via internet activity monitoring. I have always believed that governments and public bodies should make these widely available to the researchers of today and tomorrow. I have only recently realised there was an inconsistency in my own approach, and for this I issue an unqualified apology. We all learn new things throughout our lives, and so my change of attitude was brought about by the process of growing older, and being willing to make a 180 degree turn at short notice. I can recommend this approach, but I will not be held responsible for the inevitable mistakes of others.

Please feel free to browse the appalling low visitor statistics for Pogsurf. As ever I am always willing to listen to the candid remarks of others, whilst I reserve the right to ridicule those who disseminate silly ideas.

The full access point is via the link below:

http://my.statcounter.com/project/standard/stats.php?project_id=4130854&guest=1

Fascinating couple

Professor Brian Cox and Bill Gates are both very interesting fellows. Curiously neither understands there is a perfectly good nuclear reactor found in every human stomach.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Official

Queen to abdicate in about four days time.

Poem of the day: lift-off!

There once was a man called Michael Finnegan,
He drew whiskers on his chin-again,
He wore Whiskas on his glynnegan,
Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again, ...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Thought for the Day

"The last of the time lords is really just the first of the slime lords."

Tuesday 9th March 2010

Tuesday 9th March is a very special day. It has been declared "make a wish day". For one day only, you can make a wish and all sorts of very crazy things will become true. Try to make the most of it, and try to understand why life is such a complex mix of highs and lows, and you'll go on to lead a very long and productive life. Loose the plot, and you're heading for an early bath.

Remember to close you eyes and never tell a soul what your wish is. Things spoken out loud have terrible habit of being smashed to pieces.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Friday, 5 March 2010

Multiple Twitter Tweet

There's a common misunderstanding that the psychiatric condition schizophrenia is connected with someone exhibiting multiple personalities. The etymology of schizophrenia doesn't help - in Latin, it means "split mind". Confusion is made possible by a very confusing name.

Multiple personalities and confusion are also a tempting offering in the nickname demotic of the internet age. Done covertly it takes the name of sock-puppetry. I don't know if the practice has a name if it is done overtly. But what is to be made of the following tweet?
RT @nadine_dorries: I've noticed that the London's posters get ruder as they get smaller. No, really. The ones in phone boxes are the worst.
Tim Ireland, through a twitter account called Nadine Dorries, retweets his own tweet, but this time through an account called Tim Ireland. Tim is pretending to be Nadine, and simultaneously he is pretending there is a second Tim. Or is it just Tim being Tim? If so, why use Nadine's name at all? I expect a psychologist could make a stab at what's going on here, but I don't think I've quite got the stomach to try myself.

As to the text, I think he (or she) is trying to make a joke. It doesn't really work for me the first time. The second time round it just seems weird. I don't know if the real Nadine Dorries (there is one, but she and Tim don't seem to see eye to eye) has recently pronounced on posters in London, and I wouldn't expect the "joke" to improve if I did learn the background. Jokes work best if we can laugh with people, not at them. It's hard to see if we are meant to be laughing at Dorries, at Ireland pretending to be Dorries, or Ireland pretending to be Ireland pretending to be Dorries.

Tim Ireland sets a great store by the fact that he is open about the internet accounts he creates. It is as if he sees openness as a substitute, or guarantor, for motive. I'd be interested to know what his motive is for his repeated attacks on Nadine. But given his propensity to "over explain", I don't expect I shall be asking him directly, any time soon.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Was I even there?

On Friday, I attended the inaugural event of the Kingston University Debate Society, entitled "Is God a Delusion?". I was made to feel welcome, the debaters and the audience were interested and respectful, I learnt new things. Considering many factors, it is my judgement that it was a good event. I started to make notes about how I would write the event up, but then it occurred to me that I should report the event in a way which readers of this post may find unusual. Please allow me to indulge in a very short background.

When I was young I was fascinated by the lives and ideas of many people. Among them I can remember Leonardo Da Vinci, Shakespeare and René Descartes. They were inspirational to me because they evidently had talents in many fields. When it came to choosing which GCSEs to study, I rejected the traditional split between arts and science, I wanted to do both. I was very good at mathematics, but when I went to university I struggled with statistics, and so I later managed to convince the Dean that I should split my time between maths and philosophy. I loved books, and this gave me the chance to read more. I am proud to say that I was the first person to graduate from Bristol University with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, all be it at a pass degree only.

During one year of philosophy we tackled the philosophy of religion. My final essay, for the degree which I very nearly failed, was on the subject of self-deceit. Self deception is a fascinating subject to me: how can one part of you "know something", and yet another part not know? My studies were in the realms of deity and delusion, the subject of the Kingston debate.

Anyone reading this article has a desperate problem of evidence. Can you be sure I was there that night? Am I a reliable witness? Yet I know I was there with complete certainty. Ruwayda Mustafah, President of the debating society knows it too. We exchanged e-mails beforehand, and she was kind enough to bring me a cup of tea before the start. But others will struggle to understand if what I write here is precisely true. Professor Stephen Law, for instance, will know that I occasionally comment on his blog. Hamzas Tzortzis is unlikely to recognise me. To practically everyone else I expect I was quite anonymous.

To me, the question of "Is God a Delusion?" is almost equivalent to asking this: Stephen Law, Hamzas Tzortzis, Ruwayda Mustafah, Martin Wiesner and about 40 to 50 other people were present at the Clattern Lecture Theatre on 5th March 2010. Was God in the room too?

Even though I am an atheist, it may surprise you to hear that I think that the answer is both yes and no. This is not to say that both Law and Tzortzis failed to make compelling arguments. I found Law considered and thoughtful, as one might expect a Professor of Philosophy to be. Tzortzis, who is younger, and a practising Muslim, is both charismatic and engaging. Unfortunately, both speakers suffer from at least two common delusions, which I shall come to later. Before I do this I want to give just a little bit more about my own personal history, and of course try to set out the two arguments I saw laid before me.

Some time after leaving university, I had a breakdown. I suffered quite protracted periods of distress, and then I returned to a much safer place. I currently have a diagnosis of Bipolar I, although I hope to speak to my psychiatrist soon about a full discharge. What I am saying in a roundabout way is that I have had practical experience of delusions. Not many people speak openly about the delusions they suffer from, the stigma of mental illness is all pervasive. Unless you can express the hopes and fears about your own delusions, how can you hope to condemn or discuss them in other people?

The debate

Professor Law spoke first. He defined gods as "agents which are necessarily temporal beings". He questioned why if god is all good, there is so much bad in the world. He used the example of an imaginary distant planet, almost identical to earth, except the people there worshipped an entirely evil good. On planet "Eff", people questioned why there was "just too much good". Comparing the populations of Earth and Eff, he asked: "Which set of beliefs are more reasonable?" He couldn't answer that question.

Hamzas Tzortzis had the advantage hearing Law's arguments before replying. Tzortzis argued that "God makes sense of the meaning of the universe". When he spoke about the idea of the "big bang", he dismissed it as a possibility by saying "out of nothing, nothing comes". However to explain how God came before the universe, he said "this cause must be uncaused". He spoke quite rapidly, and I noticed he quoted very many references and sources. Tzortzis is certain that "God makes sense of the fine tuning of the universe". He felt that Law was not attacking the very God of the Muslims, stating instead that God is not good, but "God is just, god is wise, god is the one who punishes."

Both speakers were allowed to speak for a second time. Law described how his opponent was committing the Salesman's Fallacy - only two goods offered, the God of the Muslims or nothing, when in reality more options may exist. According to Tzortzis, Muslims are "going to be in paradise forever". Members of the audience were keen to ask questions at the end (I am always too shy!), which allowed the two speakers to agree on a couple of points, the substantive one being that the amount of good and bad in the world just about balances out.

In conclusion

So what of the two shared delusions that the speakers hold? The first one I have just referred to. Both believe that you can measure suffering, and having done so, that you can compare it to the amount of joy in the world. But where is the research? Where are the measuring tools, and the charts and the statistics that show that good is roughly equal to evil? Neither referred to such concrete science, so am I right in perhaps inferring that they weren't speaking literally, but that they meant that it feels as though good and evil balance out? So all we are left with is that they agreed that they both felt good and evil were at a balance. I disagree, by the way, I feel that there is always more good than evil, but I am not going to push this further here. I think we will all just have to respect our differences here.

Now for the second delusion. It's to do with the arrow of time. In the hall that evening, time was measured according to the Christian tradition, in hours and minutes, using a nominal date, near to the birth of Jesus as the year dot. Muslims use a different reference point, they would recognise the current year to be 1431. As a human, I have an internal before and after calendar, using my memories of experiences to determine where I was in time. Like most people in the UK I tie my experiences to a reference point called my date of birth, which has a lookup on the Christian calendar. But what is the date on the planet Eff?

Special relativity tells us that distant objects in the universe are separated from us by both time and space. When we the occupants of planet Earth meet the residents of Eff, we can set a new reference point, the date we met. In fact the arrival of people from outer space is likely to be such a fantastic occasion, that we will create a new calender around the event. I can back this up with an example from personal experience. In 1990, I visited Papua New Guinea. It is well documented that in the Central Highlands, a large group of native people were discovered around about the 1930's, perhaps as many as 1,000,000, who were previously unknown to the "outside" world. When I visited, local people often referred to the time before white men arrived as "before", and times after as "after". Once the shared event has occurred, we have a reference point. But at this point in time, before we have met the residents of Eff, how do we know that "today" here on Earth, is "today" on the planet Eff? The "now" that we find ourselves trapped in, only occurs when we meet. Our individual nows collide, and a shared experience occurs.

Having so rudely insulted our two speakers, by calling them deluded, I think it is time to draw this article to a close. Those of a religious bent inform our feeling of what a God is, and perversely those of an atheistic persuasion inform our intellectual understanding of God or Gods. Thankfully, the mysteries of the world are far deeper than any of us has the capacity to fully fathom...