Do the humanities help foster inaccurate beliefs?

I am a biologist, and for much of my life my preoccupation was solely learning about the natural world. I had very little interest in the world of people or politics. Feeling young and powerless, I was more concerned with playing the existing game well than changing the rules. Then I became a parent. I began to realize the powerful influence politics has on the lives of children and families, and my attention was particularly drawn to policies that seemed to me absurd, that others were prepared to defend and implement. I began to question why it was that people, particularly people of influence like politicians and religious leaders, could hold beliefs that so contradicted my own, often in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. Read more…

Letter to British Gymnastics on the Louis Smith video mocking Islam

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing about the recent affair of the video of Louis Smith and others that appears to mock Islam. Specifically I wish to comment on the official statement put out by British Gymnastics and widely reported in the media:

“British Gymnastics does not condone the mocking of any faith or religion and is appalled by such behaviours. Gymnastics is an inclusive sport and we are proud of members who portray the inclusive values of British Gymnastics. Members who break our code of conduct can face suspension or expulsion from our organisation. We will be investigating the behaviours reported.”

I am writing about the defensibility of such a statement and what it says about British Gymnastics as an organization, and its support for freedom of expression and belief, and inclusivity.

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Beware the generalized democratic appeal to popularity: it’s a strawman

One of the most famous, and commonly encountered logical fallacies is the appeal to popularity, or bandwagon. Read more…

Responses to the death of Fred Phelps

Recently,  Fred Phelps, the founder of a particularly nasty form of Christian cult, known for picketing the funerals of gay people , died.  In the last couple of days I have seen reactions from various liberal Christian friends on e.g. Facebook, and felt they needed a response. In brief, these liberals may be less nasty than Fred and his cult, but they make the same errors of understanding that he made. Fred’s anti-gay stance is not nice, but it is legitimized in the Bible and theologically just as justified as the more liberal stance.  Both Fred and liberals make the mistake of trying to justify their morality through the Bible. Insofar as they encourage people to do that, liberals cannot complain when instances like Fred and his cult appear, as they will continue to do. Below are some responses from religious liberals and my thoughts on them. Read more…

Heatwave heaven at Strensall

Yesterday I spent the whole day at Strensall Common surveying Dark Bordered Beauties along with Dave Wainwright, Terry Crawford, Penny Relf, Tallulah Gullett, and, in the afternoon, a whole crowd of people from Golder Associates. 

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Strensall Beauties

Over the last few weeks, I have been trained to monitor the Dark Bordered Beauty moth on Strensall CommonRead more…

Local flora

Over the last few weeks some rather nice flowers have emerged around Bishopthorpe. Here are some pictures.  Read more…