All entries by this author

Idea Density

Dec 2nd, 2004 8:29 pm | By

Update: A report on the nun study. It’s interesting.

Women who scored poorly on measures of cognitive ability as young adults were found to be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and poor cognitive function in late life, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Kentucky. The ground-breaking study of nearly 100 nuns found that the complexity of the sisters’ writings as young women had a great deal to do with how they fared cognitively later in life. Of the nuns who died, 90 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease confirmed at autopsy had low linguistic ability in early life, compared with only 13 percent in those without evidence of the disease.

And another.… Read the rest

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group *

Dec 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

John Laughland – defending Milosevic, criticising the Hague Tribunal, seeing bias against Yanukovich.… Read the rest

British Muslims Want Sharia in Civil Cases *

Dec 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

Guardian poll finds 88% of sample want time off for praying at school and work.… Read the rest

Mugabe Regime Expels Aid Agency *

Dec 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

90,000 hungry Zimbabwean children lose only daily meal they could count on.… Read the rest

Silly Interview with Richard Dawkins *

Dec 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

Brian Appleyard wrestles with an army of strawmen.… Read the rest

The Left is Supposed to Care About Positive Liberty *

Dec 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

Being left alone is not much joy if you’re destitute.… Read the rest

Bloggers Jailed in Iran *

Dec 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

News websites also subject to repression.… Read the rest

Words, Words, Words

Dec 1st, 2004 10:35 pm | By

I knew there was a reason. I knew it, I knew it. Right – the next time someone tells me I’m an elitist and pompous and pretentious and a show-off and generally horrible and intolerable, merely because I accidentally use a word that one might not find in a five-year-old’s vocabulary – the very next time, I say, I will have an answer ready. It’s because I don’t yet have Alzheimer’s. Surely that’s a good enough reason! Surely even the most dedicated warrior for populism will recognize that not (yet) having Alzheimer’s is quite a sensible reason to use words one was foolish and malevolent enough to pick up by accident at some point. Surely. I didn’t mean to do … Read the rest

New Humanist Contest *

Dec 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Prize: a copy of The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense. Deadline 13 December.… Read the rest

Tess the Über Whiner; To the Damn Lighthouse *

Dec 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Jazz and actionless novels are okay if you like them, but if not…… Read the rest

Joan Bakewell in South Africa *

Dec 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Pieter-Dirk Uys and others accuse Mbeki of letting people die.… Read the rest

Mbeki Changes the Subject *

Dec 1st, 2004 | Filed by

From role of sexual violence in AIDS to supposed racism of mentioning the idea.… Read the rest

AIDS and Sexual Violence in South Africa *

Dec 1st, 2004 | Filed by

HIV activists say machismo is fuelling the epidemic, and women pay the price.… Read the rest

Taboo on Discussion of AIDS in Pakistan *

Dec 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Makes education, prevention and treatment difficult.… Read the rest

Gender Inequality and AIDS *

Dec 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Women in Africa infected at much higher rates; sexual exploitation a significant factor.… Read the rest

Introduction to Creationism’s Trojan Horse

Dec 1st, 2004 | By Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross


It used to be obvious that the world
was designed by some sort of intelligence.
What else could account for fire
and rain and lightning and earthquakes?
Above all, the wonderful abilities
of living things seemed to point to a
creator who had a special interest in
life. Today we understand most of these
things in terms of physical forces acting
under impersonal laws.We don’t yet
know the most fundamental laws, and
we can’t work out the consequences of
all the laws we know. The human
mind remains extraordinarily difficult
to understand, but so is the weather.
We can’t predict whether it will rain
one month from today, but we do know
the rules that govern the rain, even

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Famous for Being Famous for Being Famous

Dec 1st, 2004 1:18 am | By

And now back to the cult. Because the cult is interesting, cultishness is interesting, and above all, this kind of hyperbolic giddy gushing cultishness in people who (to all appearances) pride themselves above all on critical thinking, on looking closely at rhetoric, on peering behind the screen, on criticising ‘philosophical presumptions,’ on knowing ‘how to read’ – is so interesting as to be almost hypnotic.

So, here we are at the London Review of Books and here is Judith Butler Superstar again, writing about Derrida again.

First there are two paragraphs of resounding banalities. Then we start the third:

It is surely uncontroversial to say that Jacques Derrida was one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century; his international

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Redefining Atheism

Dec 1st, 2004 1:17 am | By

Okay, by way of a vacation from Butler and Derrida and the frenzy of renown – I’ll mutter a word or two about John Gray’s peculiar idea of what atheism is. I thought of doing it yesterday, but the review is so very full of strange assertions and idiosnycratic definitions that I felt slightly overwhelmed, so I put it off. It would take pages and pages to do it justice; I’ll just mention one or two points.

Generations of secular thinkers believed that as science advanced, religion would fade away. In fact, the opposite has happened. Religious faith is thriving, and the secular faiths of the Enlightenment everywhere are in retreat.

Everywhere? Everywhere? No they’re not. (And besides, what’s … Read the rest

State Has Monopoly on Public Discourse in Iran *

Nov 30th, 2004 | Filed by

Intellectuals, religious, atheist or agnostic, are simply not heard.… Read the rest

Islamic Values Necessary to Sustain the System *

Nov 30th, 2004 | Filed by

And no one can change them. Women can wear any colour – as long as it’s a chador.… Read the rest