Our webmaster, Nathan Nelson, is flying out to Kumasi in Ghana for 6 months on the 8th June, where his other half, Harriet, is being sponsored to work with an organisation called Millennium Villages, while Nathan finds some other ways to make himself useful. You can follow their adventures on their blog, Ghana 180.
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Usual time, usual place…
Professor Edzard Ernst, who was a guest speaker at a recent Ipswich Science in the Pub meeting, has announced his retirement as Director of the Complementary Medicine Research Group. We’re hoping that he’ll come and talk to us soon.
Zeno, aka Alan Henness, has published an interview with Prof. Ernst on his blog. He ended by asking what Edzard would do when he fully retires, and the professor replied:
Become really outspoken about quackery and charlatans. I look forward to that. Hopefully, UK libel law has changed by then.
The Big Questions on BBC TV on Sunday was amusing. It was supposed to be about “The future of British Islam”. Nicky Campbell lost control of a bunch of Muslims all shouting at one another, while Dame Anne Leslie kept chipping in with comments prefaced with “When I was in Pakistan/Iran/Afghanistan…”, etc. When she referred to the burqa as a “bin bag”, that really fanned the flames of indignation.
I had to Google Dr Taj Hargey, whose posture indicated his contempt for most of the opinions being expressed by sitting right back in his chair, while others leant forward as they tried to outshout one another. He’s described as “the imam who took on the ‘Muslim McCarthyists'”.
I hope you haven’t made any plans for the end of October onwards, because we’re all going to fry, apparently, on the 21st October. The world will be destroyed by fire, say those who hope to be “God’s elect people”, but they’re not expecting to be here after the 21st of this month, when The Rapture happens and they’re all swept up into heaven to leave us unbelievers behind.
Read about our next meeting (on recommended reading), what a SACRE is, the Uncaged Monkeys in Ipswich, a good woman with green fingers, our healthy finances, what we thought about the burqa ban, the BHA’s new president and his book, and plans for the next three months, which include a visit from Prof. John Midwinter.
Campaigning against religion can be socially counter-productive. If teachers take the uncompromising line that God and Darwinism are irreconcilable, many young people raised in a faith-based culture will stick with their religion and be lost to science. Moreover, we need all the allies we can muster against fundamentalism – a palpable, perhaps growing concern.
Two stories that have been in the news have attracted lots of attention; the French burqa ban and the Big Society.
Eric Pickles and Sayeeda Warsi seem to imagine that religious organisations are the best ones to provide public services in the Big Society. In yesterday’s Guardian, Rahila Gupta wrote,
“Faith” has increasingly become the new way of constructing racial minorities, a trend that started under Tony Blair and continues under the Tory-led government. Secularism is seen as so intrinsically western that it is unimaginable for policymakers to conceive that it might be welcome within minority communities, especially the powerless among them.
The burqa ban continues to attract a lot of debate. Many think that we should have a similar ban here. I blogged against the idea and was answered by blogger Kausik Datta in the US, who disagreed with me.
What do you think?
In the Independent, Adrian Hamilton writes,
… this Easter week, I can’t help feeling more than ever that the Church of England will not survive my children’s lifetime and quite possibly not even my own.
He opines that the C of E may do better if it severs its ties with the state. We’d like disestablishment too, wouldn’t we?