NASA news leaked: new life form found *

Dec 2nd, 2010 | Filed by

They have found a bacterium whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacterium uses arsenic.… Read the rest

Your essence is not my essence

Dec 1st, 2010 4:41 pm | By

In answering the last question in the debate with Hitchens, Blair tried to sum up his defense of religion. He said you have to find “the essence.” Yes there are bad parts, but you have to explain those away, and keep the essence, that is, what you take to be the essence.

I see how people look at certain parts of scripture and draw those conclusions from it, but it’s not what it means to me, it’s not the essence of it. The essence of it is through the life of Jesus Christ, a life of love, selflessness and sacrifice and that’s what it means to me.

Yes but. 1) That’s what it means to you but that’s not … Read the rest

Extremist militant extremists speak out

Dec 1st, 2010 3:09 pm | By

How is this helping? When will people learn that all this aggression and shouting won’t change anyone’s mind and that it’s much better to just calm down and bite your tongue and think about peace and a sunlit meadow rather than go around saying things and handing out leaflets? Nobody’s mind was ever changed by someone saying something, so why won’t they take their clothes off and pose for photographs instead?

Christians who believe their faith is “under attack” in Britain have launched a “Not Ashamed Day” campaign.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey claimed Christians of “deep faith” faced discrimination.

Campaigners say a mounting number of cases of workers being disciplined over their beliefs show Christianity is being “airbrushed”

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Christians pitch fit *

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

Former archbishop. Under attack. Deep faith. Airbrushed. Not Ashamed Day. Christian culture. Intimidated. No longer have the right.… Read the rest

HRW says Aceh sharia is abusive *

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

The head of the Sharia department in Aceh told the BBC Indonesian service that some people might have misused the laws.… Read the rest

Salman Rushdie does the Late Late Show *

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

“You could not get into that dress fast enough,” says Craig Ferguson.… Read the rest

Bush, CIA get a pass on torture *

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

International agreements to which the US is a party require mandatory investigation for even merely degrading treatment.… Read the rest

MSF to EU: hands off generic medicines *

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

The EU is now shutting off the tap of affordable medicines by attacking the production, registration, transportation and exportation of generic medicines.… Read the rest

Boris Johnson on Bush and torture

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

 It is hard to overstate the enormity of Bush’s admission.… Read the rest

Bush admits torture in his book *

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

He admits that when asked to approve waterboarding, his response was, “Damn right.”… Read the rest

Iran hangs Shahla Jahed *

Dec 1st, 2010 | Filed by

Amnesty International made a last-minute appeal for the sentence to be halted, saying Jahed had not received a fair trial.… Read the rest

Natasha Fatah on arranged marriages *

Nov 30th, 2010 | Filed by
When families place advertisements for suitors, they set out a list of criteria that would make you think they were picking out a new car.… Read the rest

Piercing the skin

Nov 30th, 2010 5:25 pm | By

One interesting item in the Banks chapter of The Age of Wonder is Banks’s account of witnessing a girl get a tattoo. Happily, his journal is online; it was July 5 1969 1769.

This morn I saw the operation of Tattowing the buttocks performd upon a girl of about 12 years old, it provd as I have always suspected a most painfull one. It was done with a large instrument about 2 inches long containing about 30 teeth, every stroke of this hundreds of which were made in a minute drew blood. The patient bore this for about ¼ of an hour with most stoical resolution; by that time however the pain began to operate too stron[g]ly to be peacably

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Hitchens on mockery and Helping

Nov 30th, 2010 1:55 pm | By

Hitchens explained various things to Jeremy Paxman for Newsnight. The best part was where he talked about the virtues of division. He’s been saying this for years, and I’ve been squawking my approval and agreement for years. If you say you’re a uniter not a divider, he noted dryly, you expect and get approval. “I’m a divider.”

Division is inseparable from politics, he went on. If everyone agrees, there is no politics, there’s nothing to say. “Without division there is no progress.”

The alternative is dictatorship, and this is relevant to religion and the rebellion against it.  “The first rebellion against mental slavery comes from saying this is man-made, it’s not divine.”

“To be clear,” Paxman said in prissy … Read the rest

The notion of wonder

Nov 30th, 2010 1:41 pm | By

I’m reading Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder. I read the first chapter, on Joseph Banks in Tahiti, this morning – it’s enthralling, and rather inspiring.

I was struck by something Holmes said in the prologue.

Romanticism as a cultural force is generally regarded as intensely hostile to science, its ideal of subjectivity eternally opposed to that of scientific objectivity. But I do not believe this was always the case, or that the terms are so mutually exclusive. The notion of wonder seems to be something that once united them, and can still do so. In effect there is Romantic science in the same sense there is Romantic poetry, and often for the same enduring reasons.

Yes exactly – and … Read the rest

Tom Clark on Sam Harris on free will *

Nov 30th, 2010 | Filed by

In The Moral Landscape, Harris debunks contra-causal free will and draws out the progressive implications for our beliefs and social practices.… Read the rest

Hitchens talks to Jeremy Paxman *

Nov 30th, 2010 | Filed by

  “Mellower? There’s something about that word I don’t like.”… Read the rest

Shahla Jahed’s message to the world from Evin *

Nov 30th, 2010 | Filed by

Shahla didn’t call to just say goodbye. Shahla’s last message is indeed a call to us, to do whatever in our power to save her life. Mina Ahadi.… Read the rest

Act Now! Shahla Jahed to be executed tomorrow *

Nov 30th, 2010 | Filed by

We are asking everyone to immediately voice your protest by calling, faxing and emailing your protests.… Read the rest

Paul Sims reports on Behe-Reiss debate *

Nov 29th, 2010 | Filed by

Reiss argued that in the UK we should address religious questions around origins in RE classes, leaving science teachers to deal with science.… Read the rest