Category: Diary

Carpe Diem

Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

Be wise, strain the wine; and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes! Even while we speak, envious time has passed: pluck the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” – Charles Darwin

Darwin and his cousin

The naturalist Charles Darwin was born 203 years ago today, Darwin Day.

In his book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin set out what is probably the most important idea in the history of science. He reasoned that plants, animals and all living things are not static and unchanging, remaining as they were made by a divine creator; instead they change subtly from one generation to the next and those that are better suited to whatever environment they find themselves in prosper and reproduce more, while those that are less well suited don’t. In this way, plants and animals gradually change, eventually developing into new species and producing the huge variety of nature that we see today. Darwin’s theory, evolution by natural selection, is at the root of our understanding about life on Earth: it explains why there is such diversity in nature, why we are here, and why we are as we are.

On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, yet there are still many who reject evolution as an explanation for how we came to be here, prefering the Biblical story of Genesis or another creation myth – there are many – and there are still too many children leaving school ignorant of the theory of evolution.

For more on evolution and ‘Intelligent Design’ (Creationism in another form) click here for our article, We’re all Monkeys.

The sharpest young opinion-formers are atheists

… the sharpest young opinion-formers are atheists. This is a development that seems to have been missed by the old boobies who pass for bishops in the Anglican and Catholic Churches. It’s a rapid and startling change in our religious landscape and not one that is going to be reversed.

Bibles for schools

An angry parent has told us that the Gideons have visited her child’s school, where they contributed to an act of collective worship and gave every child a Bible. Most people have heard of Gideon Bibles being left in hotel rooms, but they distribute them in many other places too. On their website they say,

We are aware that many people in Britain have never seen a Bible and may be uncertain what it is.

Our aim is to give them the opportunity to read it for themselves, perhaps for the first time, and to discover God in a personal way.

The Gideons place Bibles or New Testaments in many areas including:

Hotels
Hospitals
Prisons
Student Accommodation
Care Homes
Medical Centres

Additionally we make personal presentations of God’s Word.

Each year we present personal copies of the New Testament and Psalms to children in thousands of British secondary schools and to many university and college students.

We make personal presentations to medical personnel and uniformed services – Armed Forces, Police, Ambulance and Fire.

We place New Testaments at hospital bedsides.

Quite apart from the fact that it isn’t appropriate to allow groups like this to proselytise in schools, the Bible isn’t a guide for life, as we reported earlier. When teachers allow this to happen, maybe they haven’t considered why they shouldn’t? Suffolk’s SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) has provided some guidelines for schools on visitors to RE lessons and assemblies.

Prayer

The most odious of concealed narcissisms – prayer.

What God wants

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

Ipswich Science in the Pub – Radiation risks

Monty Guest runs Suffolk Radiation Technical Services Ltd which provides advice on radiation protection to companies and organisations throughout the UK.

United Nations event in Ipswich

UN logoThe local United Nations Association group organises an annual inter-faith Celebration of Human Rights in Ipswich. This year the event was on the 10 December and the theme was ‘The Family’, based on Article 16:3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” This was my contribution (MN).

What do we mean by “the family”? I imagine that when the UN declaration was drafted immediately after the Second World War, it might have been generally assumed that a family consisted of two heterosexual parents, some children, and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. British families have been described as having 2.4 children, because that was supposed to be the average number of children in nuclear families. Many families aren’t like this.

A few days ago, research from The Centre for the Modern Family was released. They’d interviewed 3,000 people. Fewer than a fifth of them thought they were part of a traditional family. Eight in ten said their families didn’t conform to the stereotype of two married parents with two or more children. The report indicates that family structures have become more diverse. A quarter of couples are childless and a fifth of the population lives alone, and more of us are likely to view families with single parents, same-sex parents or unmarried parents as “proper” families. Some families include people who aren’t related to one another, such as step-families or adopted families.

So ideas about what is “natural and fundamental” have changed, though not everyone will like this. Some families are treated more favourably than others by the state, depending on where they live. We’re fortunate to live in a developed country with welfare benefits and resources to care for children who don’t have families, though the system is far from perfect. In many developing countries, things are different. Many children orphaned by AIDS in Africa, for example, are raised by ageing grandparents or older siblings, and in many parts of the world, groups of orphans could be described as families, since they care for each other without parents.

January meeting – a game of Diversity

We’ll be playing Diversity, a non-competitive educational game devised by Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource that teaches you about the different faiths and beliefs practiced in the county, including humanism. Long term members may remember playing it a few years ago, but you can always learn more. The game tends to prompt lots of discussion, so no one ever seems to finish it.

Click here for more about the game.