Earlier today I had quite a long doorstep chat with two Jehovah’s Witnesses. Very unusual for me, but one of them seemed keen for a chinwag and he turned out to be pretty nifty at getting one going. In my experience they usually slope off at the slightest hint that you have better things to do.
The keen chap was about seventy years old while the other was a much younger man - less than forty I'd say. The younger chap tended to stand back, bible in hand while his older companion obviously knew it all by heart.
Their main angle was creation, so as I was getting ready for a walk I was able to bring up the tricky issue of the huge number of fossils in the limestone of Derbyshire's many miles of dry-stone walls.
The fossil angle didn't faze him in the slightest though. I suppose he'd heard it a million times before anyway. He much preferred to speak in general terms about science and the claims it makes about the natural world, so I told him I'd been an environmental scientist.
This seemed to perk them up, as if a proper argument was something they'd relish, although they kept within strict boundaries and seemed unwilling to venture far into the mysteries of DNA and human origins. Almost as if they found DNA a little distasteful. They were keen to present the idea that species are different and talked vaguely of a missing link in the evolutionary chain. It was all very basic though - with no great interest in detail.
During our friendly chat, and it was friendly, I had a sneaking suspicion that the whole thing was merely a game, with me on the side of the modern consensus with all the big guns which they were bravely determined to ignore.
With different backgrounds, could I have found myself on their side of the doorstep and they on mine? Difficult to imagine, but not impossible as far as one can tell. Unless these things are genetic I suppose.
When they finally called it a day, I wondered briefly why the CoE doesn't do this kind of thing. After all, it must be of some value for ordinary people to bat these things around on their own doorstep rather than leave it all to TV folk.
Thursday, 12 December 2013
If you are looking for that Christmas present which is a little different, then Amazon has this UFO detector.
More than 1/3 of Americans believe in UFO's and one in 10 Americans believe that they have seen a UFO according to a study by National Geographic Channel. UFO sightings are reported all over the planet by thousands of people. The real question is whether UFO's are interstellar vehicles visiting Earth? Most UFO sightings can be classified as misidentified aircraft, planets or other aerial phenomena, but not all of them. There is a small percentage of UFO sightings that can't be explained by any known aircraft or natural phenomena. It is this small percentage of UFO sightings that create an exciting possibility. Over the years real UFO sightings have reported simultaneous electromagnetic disturbances. The UFO Detector is designed to sense these electromagnetic disturbances and signal their detection flashing 16 LED's simultaneously and beeping. The elegantly designed transparent plastic case is a handsome sculptured conversation piece that's allows one to see the electronics inside the case. Suitable for display on a desk, shelf or bedroom dresser. Size is approximately 3" dia. by 4.25" tall. Uses a 6V wall transformer
The reviews are a little mixed.
Wednesday, 11 December 2013
But there is really no scientific or other method by which men can steer safely between the opposite dangers of believing too little or of believing too much. To face such dangers is apparently our duty, and to hit the right channel between them is the measure of our wisdom as men.
William James - The Will to Believe
One of my ideals is believe nothing. I could have called it a belief rather than an ideal, but even I can see the pitfall in that.
Yet as James implies in the above quote, it isn’t actually possible to believe nothing. We need beliefs as conceptual frameworks to communicate socially – to live even. It is possible try putting the brain into neutral and merely observe, but we observe via language and that's something we have to borrow.
So what’s the point of trying to believe nothing? I think it reminds us to be wary of generalisations, sentiment, cultural norms and especially language. Yet as Wittgenstein showed, we can’t become intellectual hermits and invent a private language to solve the problem.
One difficulty with a cautious attitude to belief is how we delve into matters too complex for data or logic to flash up convenient answers. Political discourse for example is easy enough to engage in but not so easy to analyse in a neutral way. Political arguments veer off so quickly into Lalaland.
This presents few problems for anyone who enjoys the fun of debate, because Lalaland is easily navigated via a host of special aids – political ideas framed by an allegiance to one’s favoured Lalaland region and written in the regional dialect.
However these regional allegiances are only clearly visible to those who don’t share them. Those with no wish to settle in Lalaland – those who are not prepared to adopt one of its seductive cultures or learn one of its many languages. Therein lies the real difficulty doesn’t it?
To see any political allegiance for what it is, we cannot share it.
We can’t easily engage in political debates as a neutral critic either, because almost any criticism is seen as an enemy allegiance. Debate grinds to a halt or becomes lost again in the endless highways and byways of Lalaland.
Of course, politically ambitious cynics often profess undying allegiance to a Lalaland region without ever going there in person. Their sights are set far beyond its borders even though they find the inhabitants useful.
Nick Clegg is an example.
Monday, 9 December 2013
“I hate snakes who bestow their caresses with interested partiality or fastidious discrimination,” boasted a boa constrictor. “My affection is unbounded; it embraces all animated nature. I am the universal shepherd; I gather all manner of living things into my folds. Entertainment here for man and beast!”
“I should be glad of one of your caresses,” said a porcupine, meekly; “it has been some time since I got a loving embrace.” So saying, he nestled snugly and confidingly against the large-hearted serpent — who fled.
A comprehensive philanthropy may be devoid of prejudices, but it has its preferences all the same.
It took this photo from an upstairs window during sunset last night. The photo doesn't do it justice, the colours far more vibrant than anything I could ever capture. So transient too.
We see a real mix of skies in the UK, don't we? Sunsets, stormy skies and inky black nights with a sprinkling of stars are my favourites.
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Key 103 tells us that Kim Jon-un's uncle has already been purged from a North Korean documentary.
A North Korean television documentary about leader Kim Jong-Un has edited out the uncle who has reportedly "disappeared" after being apparently sacked from his roles in the regime.
The country’s official television channel has already aired the documentary nine times (*) but for Saturday’s re-run Jang Song Thaek, appeared in different positions to make his face invisible and entire scenes were re-cut to remove him.
He was hidden or deleted from 13 scenes, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
* Popular stuff eh? Suck it up Beeb.