Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homeopathy overdose: The Big Reveal

So, I've still not posted what symptoms I *should* have had from the homeopathic insomnia pills I had.


I'm not going to tell you!

All will be revealed at tonight Skeptics in the Pub Cheltenham, which I'll hopefully pop on to You Tube.

In the mean time, let's watch Crispian Jago again:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


This is the Pause for Thought from yesterday's Chris Evan's show:

From Canon Ann Easter, Chief Executive of a Charity and Chaplain to the Queen:

"Last week, I told you the story of my first grand piano and how it got stuck on the stairs! I sold that piano after a while and bought a lovely modern upright, but my children never forgave me.

Fast forward to August 1997 and I was all ready to do my bit on Radio 2 when the phone rang at about 5 o'clock in the morning and it was my producer telling me the shocking news that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a terrible accident and asking if I’d be able to stay for the whole programme, instead of the half hour or so that I usually do. So that’s what I did.
But when the time came to leave Broadcasting House, I couldn’t go out the usual way as the press were all there, so I went the back way and found myself standing in front of a staff notice board and there, singing out to me, was a card which said ‘Grand Piano for sale’ and I just knew I’d got to have it.

And when I saw and heard that magnificent instrument which belonged to a Music teacher and composer whose poor arthritic hands were so painful that he could no longer play it, although I already had a piano and despite the fact that I didn’t have the money, I heard myself saying ‘I’ll take it’.

Three weeks after I got it home, my dear Dad collapsed and was rushed to hospital where he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and we spent the next few months looking after him. As my work was nearby, I’d be with him 2, sometimes 3, times a day and when I finally got home, I’d cry a lot then bash hell out of the piano. Very loudly.

It was a great privilege to look after my Dad but it was without doubt the most difficult time of my life and I’m sure that that piano was a gift from God to me to help me get through it.
I reckon that, whatever life throws at us, God is there with us and one way or another, God gives us the wherewithal, the encouragement, the support, to cope.
It’s up to us to notice God’s gift – and make the most of it!"

Rather neatly, this is the latest Jesus and Mo:

Just saying.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Heavens above!

I'm sure we're all aware of Stephen Hawking's recent quote when asked "You had a health scare and spent time in hospital in 2009. What, if anything, do you fear about death?" in the Grauniad:

"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

I have since heard criticism of this from Christians, for example over at Original Cindy.

I find this criticism confusing though. How on the one hand is Hawking being arrogant, presuming to know that which we can not know and forcing his beliefs down people throats; when, the people criticising him believe in a very specific sub-set of myths, namely, Christianity. Surely any one that lays those claims at Hawking must be an agnostic? They can't presume to know which of the many and mutually contradictory religions are true.

Also, I hardly think expressing one's opinion when asked it is forcing beliefs down the throats of others. Likewise, in writing this blog I am airing my opinions and am in no way trying to shove them down Original Cindy's (or anyone else's) throats, and welcome opposing views in the comments. However, in terms of shoving opinions down throats, I don't think it can be claimed that secular, atheist types are any worse than the religious. I've never encountered any one on the street preaching the words of Grayling.

So why is it fair to say that heaven doesn't exist, and that it is a fairy tale?

Well, you can read this from Johan Hari which is loads better than what I can write, or you can carry on.

It seems ridiculous to me to think that we are anything more than the biochemistry going on in our bodies. Witness how people can change with drugs, a head injury, or an especially traumatic event. On top of that, the conditions of nearly dying and the resultant "near death" experiences can be explained in terms of what's happening biochemically, and can even be replicated with drugs.

All that we are is dependent on a mix of our experiences, the genes we were born with and our health. (You're welcome to lump health in to experiences).

It's easy to think of our mind being separate from our bodies, but as we've just touched on, our mind is totally down to the physical things that are happening to us. So it seems implausible that there's any sort of soul, just biochemistry. But it's pretty neat biochemistry, and it makes me very excited (so excited that at uni I ended up not going down the physiology path with my degree as I intended when I started, but chose nutritional biochemistry).

Saying that we are just biochemistry, to me, doesn't diminish any of the awesomeness that is being alive.

But surely, you might say, there's that special something about us that makes us "alive", can't that be a candidate for going off to an afterlife?

Well, I don't think so. Life arose out of non-living chemicals. How, we're not sure, but it's being worked on, and this is a reasonably plausible idea (better with sound, but not essential):

Those chemicals that made the jump from being not alive to alive, well, that reaction is going on - we are (and this is really cool), the latest part of a 3.7 billion year old chain of survivors.

Being alive is awesome. Enjoy it, here, now. It's the only life we're 100% sure we've got, and it's almost certainly the only one we'll ever have.

Up there with Iran

Well, today's proposals for the House of Lords reform were to keep us as one of two countries that reserve places in their parliaments for unelected religious clerics, who then get an automatic say in writing the laws the country's citizens must obey.

Thankfully, Nick Clegg's plans to "modernise" the House of Lords did include rumors of an imam and the Chief Rabbi that haven't come through, but today's proposals still make the House horribly out of date.

The plans are to reduce the number of Lords, but, unelected Bishop's are still to be kept, and proportionally, in greater number - currently they make up 3%, but the new plans would have them at 4%.

I'd urge you to visit the BHA page and join in on their work to reform the House of Lords.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dear every nutritionist in the world, please see this

The great Information is Beautiful has updated their snake oil balloon diagram, showing the evidence for various health supplements:

What's great about it is that it's dynamic, being updated by straight from a google doc, so if you have quibbles, or new evidence to add, then do!
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