An Open Letter to our recently deposed Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

•September 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Dear Tony,

I am really, really happy that you are no longer our Prime Minister. I’m sure you meant well (possibly), but from embarrassing Australia on a world stage, to putting your foot in your mouth a million separate times, to that wink of yours, it’s really a good thing that you no longer hold sway on our great nation. You were so disliked that rather than fall on their sword, the Liberal party would rather chuck a Gillard and put Malcolm Turnbull on the throne. That takes some chutzpah, considering that your campaign going into the election was anti-Carbon tax, and inter-party-politics. Now they’ve put in probably one of the most enviro-conscious Liberal on the planet of the earth, and used the inter-party-politics to get there. Maybe you should join the priesthood again; they even give you the words to say there. Just in case you feel that this is unfounded vitriol, I had this list of all the stuff I heard about you during your Prime Ministership. I was going to use it as a facebook post for the next election but I guess this post should suffice.

During your tiny Prime Minister reign you have:

– destroyed our working relationship with Indonesia through not working with their boat people policies – through the boat people policies allowed Australian vessels to breach Indonesia’s sovereign borders – despite enormous cuts in education, saw fit to fund an enormous “clergy for schools” program – despite massive cuts to the arts, saw fit to give a considerable boost to the institution that gave your daughter a large scholarship – claimed (through Hockey) that medical science would receive more funding then ever, except it collapsed most funding opportunities to the point that the entire industry is collapsing  – seriously entertaining the idea of American style of university funding, complete with thousands of dollars of crippling student debt for the few Australians that make up the smallest proportion of tertiary educated peoples in the first world – blocked climate change discussion for G20 summits – tried to de-heritage Tasmania’s forests and failing – allowed tonnes of dumping IN the Great Barrier Reef and lied about the risk – decided to hide people response – introduced wiretapping for Australians – destroyed Australian manufacturing through trade agreements included the hidden Trans Pacific Partnership – stripped ABC of funding to the point they can’t be independent for fear of extermination – documented torture of boat people, and worst still, criminal punishments for whistleblowers – grossly opposed cheap power bills as it makes privatization “worthless” despite it being a taxpayer funded institution – have senior members of your cabinet believing climate change is a hoax – had unemploment peak during your tenure – cut paid parental lead which was a core campaign policy – threatened “professional and personal” ramifications for Liberal party leaks – destroyed foreign aid – suggested to buy a property you need a “good job” – wanted to remove 2 billion of federal funding from schools, leaving the door open for means testing by the states, while still giving millions to the private schools that the cabinet went to – used revenge politics to put international investment at risk by ordering a 10billion clean energy finance corporation not to finance wind power schemes and small scale power – lead Australia to have the fastest extinction rate of animals than anywhere else in the world – proposed walk by immigration checks – joked about the plight of island nations that their policies are actively contributing to – screwed the economy far worse than what Labour ever did.

You are a misogynistic cretin and Australia is better off with you gone.

Kindest regards,


The Horror of Australian Television Part 1: My Kitchen Rules (MKR)

•March 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Taken from:

The horror, the horror


The Premise: A gaggle of would-be restaurant owners compete against each other in a series of point-scoring meal sets, followed by various challenges such as cooking to the public or in a real restaurant kitchen. The majority of contests are based on an amalgamated rating of chef critics as well as their fellow competitors.

Before we get into the meat of why this show is bad, let us firstly tick off the blatantly obvious; the contest design that makes fair competition impossible. Firstly, direct competitors’ scores are both anonymous (to the reviewees), and used as a part of the scoring process, meaning the capacity for “tactical” scoring is wide open. This would be more of a problem were it not for “gatecrashers”, who not only don’t need to be scored, but skip straight past preliminary trials to meet the original group at a later date. These systems do not produce a fair competition.  

The Horror: The entire show drips with insincerity regarding both the quality of the chefs, as well as the drama of the situations. Simply put, it is not a cooking show but a cooking melodrama that expects its audience (not that it expects much) to cringe at overcooked lemon curd, or gasp at the frenetic action as contestants try to finish cooking to an unrealistic timeframe. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, however MKR rests on faulty premises that give the whole show a greased veneer of superficiality. To begin with, the contestants, frankly, are not the crème of the crop. Forsaking respectable cooking for outrageous characters, the kitchen scenes are filled with borderline moronic behavior. This ranges from contestants attempting to cook dishes they have never tried before, to flat out not prepping meals, to blatantly and obviously breaking competition rules (all of which result in low marks). Rather than bother with amateur chefs who could bring something to the gastronomic table, audiences are instead left with a handful of mean spirited “baddies” versus traditional aussie battler “goodies”. All the stereotypes are organised and making an appearance; from the smirking gossip girls hitherto found only in high schools, to the down-on-their-luck, one-more-shot, heart-of-gold types, as well as the post-feminist proud housewives showing the men how it’s done. Don’t believe me when I say that the show encourages stereotypes? Check out the subtle changes in musical score when the couple from Asian descent start cooking; it’s as bad as you think it is.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

“Quick the foreigners are here! Get out the Erhu!”
“Erhu? What’s an Erhu?”
“Asian violin! Pronto!”


Worse still is the false tension that somehow has to play out in The stilted, hammy dialogue between contestants is excruciating but necessary to fill in the forty five-odd minutes of rummaging and excessive pauses in conversation that passes for an episode on prime time. Cameras, at least four at any one time, zip around the dinner table, ready to vilify or praise contestant opinions based on the pre-written script, clearly affecting the competitor’s ability to speak intelligibly. Every spoken sentence is either an attestation of the stereotype they have been assigned to, a scarily banal observation (“chicken can go dry if it’s cooked too long” etc.), or worse still, a ham-fisted attempt to heighten tension.

Finally, as the icing on the cake, we must talk of the judges. They are the embodiments of this tasteless show. To begin with, I don’t for a second want to discredit their abilities as chefs; but that in-and-of-itself makes my enmity the sadder. I think it is frankly impossible for anyone to be as French as Manu Feildel, and the ever-present musical score underlines this point replete with accordions. Despite the fact he has resided in English-speaking nations for twenty five years, he is still unable to pronounce “sauce” and a whole swag of other words one would think would need zero ambiguity in a professional kitchen environment. I could be wrong, but judging by the nature of the show, I feel he is overplaying the foreign part. Pete Evans on the other hand, with his steely blue eyes, is probably the more false of the two. He doesn’t eat what the contestants offer, and is considering resigning after this season. So, while the audience watches with bated breath at the put-on emotionless glare of the two judges, followed by the false Shatner-like pauses (“the lamb… … … …was cooked perfectly”) the real fallacy here is that all those ten out of tens he gives, what he really thinks is a flat zero to anyone who used “sugar, gluten, wheat, dairy, grains, or animals that haven’t been humanely raised and allowed to live a natural life”, so, everyone.

There is an exchange that any piece of media makes with its audience. It’s called the suspension of disbelief. It is an exchange that follows thusly: “if you accept the premise and design of a piece of media, it will do what it can to entertain you”. This exchange is what keeps professional wrestling strong- the exchange that you know it’s all made up doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. MKR tries, like many reality shows, to weasel its way out of this exchange. It presents itself as a cooking show but is truly about creating cardboard cut-outs of real people for the audience to watch with a sense of… I dunno, suspense? Well, based on the ratings, mostly everyone in Australia has been swindled in the exchange. Maybe one day we’ll all wake up from the anathema.

A contrite letter to pro- and anti-LGBT+ rights advocates

•February 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Dear pro-LGBT+ rights advocate,

While I’m sure the gay community appreciates your efforts into promoting the rights of LGBT+ individuals, I’m afraid you may be offering a slight disservice to not only them, but by the arguments of why sexual minority groups deserve equal respect to the major ones. I often hear the argument, from the opposing camp, that “homosexuality is a choice”. Unfortunately, the typical response from you is “no it isn’t”; occasionally calling upon an increasing amount of scientific research that discusses the hereditary and natural causes for alternative orientations. Personally, I don’t believe that one’s orientation is a choice either; however it is a poor response to anti-LGBT+ rights question.

The better answer is, “it doesn’t matter”. It does not matter whether all sexual minority groups are filled with individuals who are simply making a choice to be the way they are or that it is hardwired into their genetics. Choices or not, we must respect a person’s right to do what they want provided it does not violate consent or confer harm to others.

Secondly, to the anti-LGBT+ rights advocate,

I’m sure that you understand that even if it was somebody’s choice to be different, that they should in no way be forced to be something else. Provided they are not hurting anyone or violating consent it is the capacity for someone to do something different that defines a democratic country, replete with individual freedoms. Even if these orientations are a choice, it is highly likely that you too respect and come to rest upon your own choices. You choose to follow your own religion. You choose to interpret passages of a holy book in a particular way, just as you choose to ignore other passages. Just as I am sure you would not be comfortable with the choices of others to affect your freedoms and way of life, you would not want your choices to affect others. Imagine a world where a common majority felt that your choices were wrong, to the point that there was legislatively-approved violence against you and your friends and family, all because the majority’s choice was different to your own. History is rife with horrific examples, and these examples continue to this day. Please, don’t let your choice influence the lives of others.

Reddit: Alex Rosenberg, the Thinking Christian, and why both are mistaken.

•February 28, 2013 • 3 Comments

I’ve delved into reddit a handful of times, and found a pretty decent article entitled “If you believe atheism is true, atheism is false”. In it, Thinking Christian discusses Alex Rosenberg’s thoughts regarding thinking, that is, that it is in some way illusory.

I will admit now that I don’t know much at all about Alex Rosenberg, or his book Atheist’s Guide to Morality. From what reviews I’ve perused I will tentatively say I disagree with what he has to offer. The reviews themselves are interesting; it’s rare to have a book that is more than just divisive, but truly invokes the entire spectrum of positive to negative appraisal. As a result of my lack of exposure, I’ll try to discuss what Thinking Christian takes out from Rosenberg’s work (which for all I know may or may not be taken out of context).

To begin with, the concept of scientism is almost spot on, but not quite, and creates “physicalism” (which shares similarities with positivist science) which Thinking Christian discusses. I found it difficult to accept Rosenberg’s position on the importance of science. To start with:

“…what science tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today…”

This is dangerous. While it may well indeed be that science in the future will discover that our present established scientific knowledge is fundamentally correct, it has the possibility of that not being the case. Proponents of science should never be adverse to that possibility; especially considering how often vastly different theories have produced similar results in the past (such as Newtonian versus Einsteinian physics) and how long good, responsible scientists had “backed the wrong horse” as it were. It is a core value of science that it be open to change, and that rigour demands intense scrutiny.

In regards to an attempt to show the power of science, you could see my admonition as a “weaker” position than what Rosenberg claims. After all, saying that science is pretty much where it will be for the rest of history makes current day science standards “stronger” than saying that science may change radically in the future. But the former abandons the heart of scientific inquiry and is unnecessary all the same. Science still offers the overwhelmingly probabilistically better alternatives to looking at reality compared to any other discipline. To put it another way, science’s potential to determine what is reality is by far the best we have, only superseded by future scientific advancement. As a result, we can have our cake and eat it too; science is the most powerful method of looking at reality, and a core facet of science, its falsifiability (the ability and attempt to show that we may make incorrect hypotheses), is what makes it strong.

My second disagreement with Rosenberg is his adoption of physicalism. Physicalism described by Thinking Christian gets a bit fuzzy, and I was even more perturbed when quotes from Rosenberg spoke of “truth” as opposed to say, fact, or probability (as is the method of science). To begin with, Rosenberg through Thinking Christian seems to say that thanks to the purely physical nature of everything, the concept of mental states, of biology, of everything in the physical world is “fixed” by its grounding in that physical world, hence mental states are really physical states. This where myself, Thinking Christian, and Rosenberg diverge. Rosenberg states that physical things cannot be about other physical things; our neurons cannot be thinking about other material; that it is an illusion of sorts; as a result, thinking is about nothing. Thinking Christian retorts that that necessitates atheism (being that it is “thought” about) is untrue.  Being that Thinking Christian is a Christian,they would probably state that physicalism is not true, that the mental states of thought have at least some “existence” outside of the physical realm and so his own beliefs (if true) avoid the supposed paradox Rosenberg has created.

Me? I sort of believe physicalism, and I agree that mental states are physical states, but I disagree that thoughts are meaningless. I’ve delved into the concept of emergence before, and a much better explanation can be found in David Deutsch’s Fabric of Reality. I will briefly state that while everything is grounded in the physical, properties emerge from the physical that are better explained, analysed, appreciated in a non-physics realm. So for instance, we may talk about how the mating rituals of Australian tree frogs is derived from the evolution of the species, its dependence on damp habitat etc., and that this explanation offers, at least, far more relevant understanding (scientifically assessed understanding) than discussing the odd behavior of quarks vibrating in a particular way; not just because it would be supremely impossible to describe the precise behavior of so many quarks, but that it doesn’t offer any explanatory power.

The same for mental states. Thoughts can be conceptualized in a framework of psychology and neuroscience, and there is no reason to consider them illusory. What I fear has happened is that both Thinking Christian and Rosenberg have fallen into the old Cartesian Dualism trap (the inconsistent tetrad), which is especially easy when we consider that consciousness and the brain are two separate emergent faculties. (note: focus on Noë’s metaphor of the dancer, I’m not sure I’m a hundred percent on board with other things he talks about).

This is where I believe the mistake lies, if Rosenberg is being portrayed accurately by Thinking Christian. For what it’s worth, Thinking Christian is not really logically consistent with what Rosenberg states. If matter is incapable of discerning truth, that doesn’t mean what it discerns is false, it simply means that it has no capacity to decide either way. As a result, the best Thinking Christian can hope for is to say that Rosenberg’s brand of scientism/atheism eventuates into saying that it is impossible to discern truth about things, including itself.

SCUBA in Sydney- Fairlight: best intro ever?

•December 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Fairly recently me and my buddy made the leap from snorkeling enthusiasts to PADI recreational SCUBA divers after a very informative (and reasonably priced) course from Sydney Dive Academy. While we’ve accomplished about five or so lone dives (that is, with just ourselves and no supervision), we’ve been practicing almost exclusively in Shelley Beach, a short walk from Manly Beach. I recommend Shelley to anyone who wants to practice in very safe, very biologically rich waters, and it maxes out at 10m, meaning that even if you were to run out of air, a quick, decomp-less ascent is all you need to do.

However, while Shelley is beautiful and interesting, it must be noted that about 90% of the biology and beauty of the place can be easily accessed through the medium of snorkel. The remaining 10% consists of large Wobbegong and port Jackson sharks (both harmless), and the occasional stingray (harmless if you leave it alone). Now the investment for renting SCUBA gear is almost always above $60 for a day, and to buy all the stuff you’re looking at $1000+ for entry level. Clearly, Shelley is not the place to go if you want to get your SCUBA money worth.

Enter Fairlight, a short distance from Shelley and a fair bit less traveled, thanks to its initially uncompromising terrain and inhospitality for snorkelers. Granted, the difficulty of snorkeling an area does not make a good enough reason to SCUBA, but Fairlight offers far more at a sustained 10-15m depth that Shelley does in its entirety.

Entry is somewhat difficult. The parking situation is among residential areas with a conservative time limit and grumpy locals (try your best to park in  a way that allows others to park next to you, as opposed to blocking a drive way). Lugging the equipment to the beach is short but a little tiring. The beach itself is a good area for suiting up, especially with a buddy in tow. Now walk into the water. Its open water, so it can get choppy, but at about the 5m mark you can find good sized areas of calm water that you can follow all the way down.

Anyway, there’s a shallow (sometimes submerged) large rock shelf that you need to traverse, favoring the right hand side of the beach as you go down. After a short while, you’ll get to another rock wall, and another. Keep following them down until the 10m mark (whereupon it becomes more of a slight decline as you head further into the ocean). You’ll notice some interesting things here. Firstly, there’s a proliferation of soft corals, anenomes and interesting seaweed in the rock walls that Shelley does not possess. Like forgotten idols to old gods, enormous rock mounds festooned with enterprising crustaceans and fish life will appear out of the gloom as well.  Bare left, noting the rock wall to your left hand side and follow it around. Shortly you should come into contact with this:

Fairlight Wreck 1

And immediately next to it, a larger wreck:

Fairlight Wreck 2

Yep, those right there are your first real, not messing around, bonafide wrecks. They are apparently a couple of speedboats from the 1950s that sank on separate occasions. The larger one has a bunch of cool stuff, including the engine block (as seen in the picture) as well as a cooker of some description, and a toilet somewhat close to it. The smaller one has less to see, but the structure remains more intact. If you’re interesting more in the fish life, they swarm around both wrecks, in fact while my buddy was taking a picture of me posing, I nearly crashed into a beautiful angelfish trying to escape by expertly going straight at me. There are also plenty of octopus, bait fish, beautiful wrasses, grouper, the works. In my opinion, this marks Fairlight as the first “worthwhile” SCUBA experience one can have in Sydney.

After you’re done here, simply pop up to the surface and you should find yourself close to the swimming pool. It’s probably easier  swimming underwater, but a quick nip back should have you high and dry on the beach again.

As a note, I would like to apologise for the quality of the pictures thanks to my shitty camerawork, but now that my wonderful fiance has gotten me a Go Pro, I hope to get better videos and pictures soon 😀


David Wong strikes again: “Harsh truths that will make you a better person”

•December 19, 2012 • 1 Comment

Looks like I have to point out why David Wong is wrong again. Ok, that’s a little unfair. David Wong’s recent post is just one part of a greater example of a misrepresentation there is about business and “the world” in general. I won’t go into the level of detail that my previous David Wong post entailed, but here are short summaries on why I think these are bad ideas, before getting to the bacon, as it were:

6. The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You

This will be discussed as the bigger point. Here however, is something which I’m a little confused about. Wong seems to imply that we need a set of skills in order to get a job. Well… um… yeah? How do you write an article about needing skills for employment? Next they’ll be saying we need to ingest nutritious food in order to be healthy, or walking takes you to places that you have not been before.

5. The Hippies Were Wrong

No shit, that’s why you don’t see a lot of hippies anymore. But the advice delivered by “Glengarry Glen Ross” speech only applies to what Wong describes it as: “brutal, rude and borderline [sociopaths].”  Employment to avoid this kind of soul-crushing ultra-competitive insanity is quite easy. Don’t be a salesman. You can limit your chances of dealing with this nonsense by choosing career choices that will always have employment opportunities- like accounting. If you want something exciting that you want to enjoy, pick it and prepare for the consequences, knowing that your enthusiasm will propel you better than your disinterested peers. The “Glengarry Glen Ross” idea i.e. a  sort of hell-for-leather approach is pretty damaging on employee relations (and summarily profits), meaning that more and more, businesses are concerned with making happy employees- how exactly does that measure with Wong’s assertion that all you do is who you are?

His examples suggest that all that matters is that you do a good job. There are plenty of counters to this statement.

4. What You Produce Does Not Have to Make Money, But It Does Have to Benefit People

Here Wong suggests girls like douchebags because they “offer more”. Whatever that means. This implies of course all women want the same things, and those things are things you must have.

3. You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything

Wong removes thousands of years of childhood advice to be comfortable with yourself, and further insinuates that your ability to do something is your only contribution to your humanity.

2. What You Are Inside Only Matters Because Of What It Makes You Do

I’ll cover this in my concluding statement.

1. Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement

If this part is to be taken as as “improvement is good but hard” then yes I agree. If it is to be taken as “improvement is something you really want to fight against” then I disagree, and I find it hard to believe, beyond the shallowest or dumbest of individuals, that anyone really feels that way. We try to improve ourselves everyday, be it through going to the gym, getting that promotion, or hell, getting a better score in a video game.

I don’t think that Wong misses the point completely, but it could be summed up as: get your head out of your ass, start working hard, and you can enjoy yourself. It is a hard lesson to be sure, but one that does not need the added bitterness that this is your only contribution to anything meaningful, or that this world is purely an economical one, full of people without hope, love, compassion, dreams, fears, or mercy. But that is the core of this issue, and the reason I chose Wong as a good example of a fallacy. This Real World isn’t a real world at all. Maybe its the extrovert in him (or worse, the introvert trying to be extroverted) that makes him feel this way, but the real world happens to be a chunk of rock orbiting around a perpetually exploding nuclear power source. The Real World, as Wong puts it, is the world of economics. It is very important, and it is likely how you are going to survive and thrive, but it is erroneous to aggrandize it to being the real world. You can work at a dead-end job, receive no respect from peers and still be perfectly happy.

The real world is this. Right now, when you are reading this, you are hurtling through space and spinning at thousands of kilometres an hour. Your death, one way or another, will come. The universe will one day have no usable energy. Your entire existence is overwhelmingly insignificant, except, pound-for-pound, you can move things more than ordinary dirt. The universe does not care about your existence, because it has no ability to care. The actions of the most influential person alive, when rounded, are equal to the scummiest bum heroin addict; that is, zero. The best thing you can do is to enjoy life, be good to others, and not drive yourself into an early grave by worrying too much about what the Real World wants from you.

Quick fire statements

•August 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I have a few ideas bubbling in my brain today, and I’ve decided, rather than make a long post that covers every tangentially possible aspect of this idea, I’ll just fire them out instead, Nietzsche style; fingers crossed it’s not as misinterpreted as his stuff though (as if anyone cares).

– I’ve noticed a trend in politics regarding homosexuality/anti-homosexuality. A big issue that Christian groups in particular seem to focus on is that being homosexual is a choice as opposed to something that is hard wired in the brain. A rational response should not be “it is scientifically proven that it is biologically determined”. While this is true, it is far more felicitous to state thus: “even if it was a choice, I would still respect a person’s right to love whomever they like, providing it is a wholly consensual act”. If any action is undertaken that involves everyone’s explicit consent, then there should be very, very little objection from anyone in most circumstances.

– Mercy is a belated conscience.

– We are moral not because of religion, but in spite of it.

-Our excelled moral and intellectual works are based on our decision to take what we feel is right from religious orders, and disregard the reams of religious information that does not agree with our well thought out, and oftentimes innately moral beliefs. The error of assuming celestial morality is what brings about justifiable bigotry, discontent, and summarily the violence and irrationality that accompany it.

-Squash is to tennis what skiing is to tobogganing.

A letter to a hypothetical Christian apologetic

•August 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Dear Christian apologetic,

I’d thought I’d make a few inquiries as to how your religion works. After all, you’re a moderate, straight-headed kind of person who could well have standard Christian beliefs and who isn’t afraid of accepting scientific discoveries, such as gravity, evolution, and you’re not the 1 in 5 Americans that believes that the Sun revolves around the Earth. In short, you’re a responsible moderate who is skeptical about scientific hypotheses (aren’t we all?) but not necessarily well established scientific proofs (that is to say, theories).

You’re also a moral person, no doubt. You are generous, loving and have responsibilities. You have an ethical system that you feel comes from the Bible, and that Jesus guides you life in a way that makes you a better person. More importantly, you believe that Jesus forgives your sins.

I was curious, however, as to what those sins actually are. You have the normal, day-to-day sins of life which I suppose everyone does, but as far as I’m aware, that doesn’t appear to be the sins Jesus is concerned with. I recently conversed with a priest (let’s call him Larry) who said to me that it is the wickedness in our hearts, from birth, are the sins that Jesus forgives so we might have eternal life. A natural sin, so to speak. I mean, I would say Jesus is sinless in that regard too, but not the normal day-to-day sins, I mean he was said to do some pretty disruptive things such as making the apostles abandon their mothers and fathers (James and John went up and left their dad on a boat!) and a few other examples.

So where does this inherent, born-with-it sin come from? Larry suggested it was handed down from us in generations, all the way from the original sinning of Adam and Eve, when they ate the fruit of knowledge. I have a few gripes with this if you wouldn’t mind entertaining me. To begin with, if I may borrow a quote  from the late Christopher Hitchens, it is if we are “created sick, and commanded to be well“; do you think that’s unfair? Secondly, why I am personally a sinful person because of something two people did thousands of years ago and to which I am extremely distantly related? Why would I even be blamed for my parent’s sin? Let’s say that it is just the way it is, do you think that is a moral thing- to say that a person is to be, without compunction, blamed for the errors of other people?

You’re a moderate Christian, and I would think perhaps appreciative that the creation myth in the Bible is a metaphor. You have a good grasp of evolution and history, and are aware that the Earth is really billions of years old, and that humans evolved collectively over a series of millennia, and that there was no real garden of Eden. After all, you’re a Christian, and the words of the Old Testament do not ring as important as those of the New. Adam and Eve were a metaphor then. If they were a metaphor, why did Jesus die in order to save ourselves from their errors? Why are we so full of sin from people who were made up?

That was another thing that bugged me. The sin was eating from the tree of knowledge, so that Adam and Eve might know right from wrong. But surely if one has not yet eaten from the tree, they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, and so should be blameless, and God might’ve anticipated the danger of having a serpent in the garden with fully gullible humans around a fruit tree that God could have also not put there. I mean, God is all knowing, so wouldn’t he have predicted that?

Another question. By the way I am honestly not trying to be condescending in this, or indeed the rest of this letter. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us our sins? Couldn’t a loving God simply forgive us anyway and let us get into heaven? Larry said that the last words of Jesus, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” indicated that Jesus was full of the burden of everyone’s sins and thus briefly couldn’t communicate with God. Where did Larry get this idea from? Why would our sins be such a burden in any case? I mean, God is all powerful; he could in the same breath make a billion Jesuses, forgive our sins, remove Ke$ha from the world and stop the needless pain and suffering of billions of church faithful. Why did He see fit to give us but one Jesus, an all-powerful deity, and one that was somehow weakened by the sins of mere mortals?

In any case, I do hope you reply to this letter. I have another, perhaps more controversial one that I’ll type out later, especially if I get a response.

Kindest regards,


And now for something…

•August 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Well in two weeks, fingers crossed, I will have been accepted for a PhD. I’m very, very excited for this, and it dawned on me today that I haven’t been pushing myself to a level that I need to be to cope with the pressure, or indeed a level that would be acceptable for most.

As a result I am pledging to push myself in all my endeavours, to get to the highest heights to achieve health, wealth and happiness. They’ll be bumps and slumps no doubt, but with a truly wonderful fiance by my side and the loving support of friends and family, I know I’ll get to where I want to be.

To that end, I’m taking up the mantle to learn German (again), gonna pick up that guitar (again) and be ultra efficient in finding a good job that will facilitate me until I get a scholarship.

I also probably need to take up soldering lessons, as well as *possibly* understanding a new programming language. Anyone have suggestions for something very, very easy that can run specialist hardware?

I’ll keep you posted.

My response to “Did Darwin Kill God?” part 2

•July 25, 2012 • 6 Comments

This is part 2 of my appraisal of the hour long BBC special Did Darwin Kill God ?. This part is mostly concerned with my disagreement over Cunningham’s definition of “Ultra Darwinism” and his critique of meme theory. Part 1 is here.

Before we get to the meat, let’s look at a couple of quips Cunningham makes regarding “Ultra Darwinism”. I’d like to pick him up for his unfounded and unexplained statement that this sort of Darwinism is “against God, and especially the Christian God”. I’d also like to draw attention to the way he muddies the waters at the 28:30 mark, implicating social Darwinism (that is, eugenics) purported (apparently) by Clarence Darrow was the reason that this trial was taken up by right wing Christian fundamentalists.  To the contrary, the Butler Act prohibiting teaching evolution in school had been in place for some time, and probably not with the defence lawyer in mind.

Cunningham is responsible for greater misappropriations. His interview with Francis Collins is more than a little bizarre. His introduction stating that “… and some of those who disagree [with atheism] are the best scientists in the world” is a little bit of misdirection. Yes, there are scientists who believe in God, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take their capacity for scientific appraisal to assess the likelihood of God’s existence (I doubt they would continue believing if they did). To use those “best scientists who believe in God” as a measuring stick for the legitimacy of God’s existence is kind of like stating “nutritionists at home generally prefer eating deep fried stilton” – they might be experts in their field but we can see that their actions may very well be up to personal preference, a preference that they may not use their expertise to analyze. In any case, scientists tend to be far more atheistic than the general population. An oft-quoted statistic shows that a meager 7% of members in the National Academy of Scientists are believers, and one may assume, however unfairly it seems, that most have used their skepticism to look at proofs of God’s existence.

Cunningham’s appraisal of the C-value enigma is also a bit weird. Briefly, the C-value enigma is the supposed mystery of why the number of genes in a given organism has no bearing on the “complexity” of the organism. Using Cunningham’s own example, rice contains more genes that a human. It’s odd that he brings up the C-value enigma, as it doesn’t really help his argument either way, or is really extrapolated upon. I suppose he uses it to show how knowledge of genetics is becoming more complicated than what was previously thought (indeed he goes into this immediately afterwards) but it stands to reason that there are enigmas and mysteries in science- it is science’s job to resolve them. Cunningham’s assertion that we can’t use the idea of a selfish gene due to this increased complexity is flat out wrong- the gene can still be selfish; it may just play out in a more complicated arena, battling a “genetic environment” as well as opposing genes.

My biggest gripe with the entire program was Cunningham’s treatment of meme theory. Again, briefly, meme theory is the idea that cultural information behaves like the selfish gene does. A song is a meme, a unit of cultural information, and it uses the human brain (as well as other media) to replicate, mutate and behave very much like organisms and genes do. Meme theory has been used to explain the behavior of religion throughout time- particularly successful “religious cultural units” such as the concept of an afterlife, a single deity, and divine retribution are more environmentally suited than multiple deities, capricious gods, and ending up as worm food. These religious meme organisms mutate and replicate much like any other cultural phenomena, such as clothing, morality, food, and dance. Cunningham sees these as an affront to personal identity. He reckons that “[meme theory] goes much further than saying there’s no God, it concludes there’s no you and me”. This is of course, rot. Memes are successful because they help us do what we want to do, if we choose not to adopt a meme, it dies. In one way, our choices and decisions are the environment in which memes need to thrive, and in order for them to do so, they’d better do what we want. Cunningham states that meme theory dictates everything of human history, but he clearly misses the obvious such as instinct, psychological urges, desires (shaped by memes, but not memes themselves), and our own environmental pressures. With his belief that memes are some sort of slavemasters, he attempts to attack meme theory to preserve his sense of self value.

Cunningham makes his grand sweep based on two notions. First, memes are unrelated to truth- they are concerned with survival and nothing else. Secondly, meme theory itself is a meme, and as a result can be disregarded because its meme-ness makes it unrelated to truth. By way of ameliorating this discrepancy, Cunningham simply suggests dismissing meme theory out of hand and presto!- our culture and religion can still be taken as “worthy”, science can still be regarded as truthful and meme theory alone is removed. This is nonsense. Cunningham is right to say that memes do not have to be based on truth to be successful; what he ignores is that some of them are. If you don’t believe me, look at the “meme” of Science. While it is fair to say that the origin and action of science is a cultural endeavour, that doesn’t for one minute stop it from making observations and manipulations of reality. Scientific principles have power confirmed by reality and as a result are not worthless as what Cunningham thinks meme theory makes it out to be.  The evidence is all around us. It is not the work of a non-truth based meme that produces insulin shots so that diabetics might live past thirty. Other “memes” also have truth gathering potential such as mathematics, architecture and other professions. It is not the random conflagration of untruth that creates skyscrapers hundreds of metres tall, nor does the infection of understanding prime numbers somehow discredits its ability to tell deep truths about the universe.

Meme theory gives us a spectacular insight into human consciousness and how we behave, but it is wrong to label them as our parasites, and us as their host in the way Cunningham has. Memes are more like desperate salesmen, trying to get us to hire them so that we might enjoy ourselves, get a job done, enhance our socialization, or communicate more effectively. We should use them to better understand our lives and emotions, but by appreciating what memes are, we can stop dangerous or unhelpful ones far more easily and of course make fascinating scientific insights via psychology.

The cat is out of the bag in the final scene of this program, where Cunningham talks to Simon Conway Morris FRS. Having just been through an attempt to put orthodoxy into Christianity, and evolution in its place, the two discuss the apparent similarity of music patterns between creatures of different species, including humans. The insinuation here is that God did it, and I found the entire discussion a confirmation of the thoughts I’ve had when Cunningham diverted into the C-value enigma, or social Darwinism, or stating “Ultra Darwinism” is against God, but really really against a Christian one. Cunningham is not trying to settle the debate between evolution and creationism; he is nudging in his own, religious based (and therefore unfounded) beliefs into the mix, muddying the waters of all tenets of evolution theory, and separating himself as best he can from the whackos of creationism. Take it as an attempt to reconcile “normal” faith without falling into fundamentalism.