Category Archives: Opinion and speculation

Bill Nye IS The Science Guy

Phew. Bill, we were wrong to doubt you. We thought your inexperience in debates and of creationism, your lack of background in biology or geology, and the slippery dishonesty of Ken Ham, playing to a home crowd, would cause you an embarrassment. Not a bit of it.

You were superb. You stayed on message, you remained polite throughout, you were respectful of differing beliefs, and your natural charisma were too much for the nervous, repetitive and increasingly defensive Ham. The presentation of facts, pitched just right for the layman, was a continuous assault, not just on your opponent, but on the audience’s preconceptions of what science is, distorted as those are by creationism.

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You want respect? Earn it.

Whinging, finger-pointing whataboutery like this article is why unionism no longer gets any respect.

The unionists of Newtownabbey council were rightly castigated for their attempts to censor The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, not just by nationalists, but by nearly everyone – other Christians, unbelievers like myself, nationalists, embarrassed unionists, and people that don’t care much either way, who are sick and tired of everything getting put in tribal context, with this article as yet another exhibit.

If all nationalists have to do is hold up a mirror to make unionist representatives look bad, then you need better representatives.

In response to:

“Dear Google: So long, and thanks for all the phish”

For a few days now, revelation after revelation has been breaking about the NSA’s secret internet snooping system, Prism, primarily via Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.

Reactions have ranged from “It’s a misunderstanding” to “Obama should be impeached“.

My own is one of betrayal; these last few years, I’ve become something of a Google fanboy – I use most of their major online services and quite a few of their applications. I own an Android phone. I switched from using POP3 mail to Gmail. And now, I find they’ve granted free reign to the NSA to rifle through the email of unsuspecting users. It truly is Orwellian – Big Brother is watching me.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin;

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

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The Highest Form of Respect

In the ongoing tussle of competing ideas, be they on the axes of conservative/liberal, theist/atheist, secular/theocratic, capitalist/socialist, the word respect, or commentary on the pronounced lack of it, is bandied about a lot in this internet age.

I’ve not minced my words on this blog – an oft-used quote, attributed to Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire, sums up my position.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

A frequent reflex defence of, say, Christian apologists, is that criticism of their position is an attempt to silence them. This is of course nonsense – free speech in the secular West guarantees both their right to public opinions just as it guarantees the right to criticise them. To curb the former is totalitarianism, to curb the latter is enforcement of blasphemy.

Similarly, apologists will claim a lack of respect in criticism. Sometimes this is true, but if the discussion can remain civil, I would counter that the critic is paying them the highest form of respect i.e.

I can think of no higher compliment, than to care about someone’s opinion enough to want to change it if you think it wrong.

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There’s no such thing as “it’s too quiet”

This is a merge of posts written in response to a review in the Belfast Telegraph of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

My former mentor, a school teacher whom also performed the duties of career advisor, described something he called “the Northern Ireland problem” – it appeared young people from Northern Ireland (and to a lesser extent, Scotland, if I recall) performed worse in the UK job market because they didn’t sell themselves well and lacked confidence in interviews, comparatively to the more populous regions of the UK. In short, we are a small nation of introverts, certainly more-so than, say, SE England.

It’s easy to see why – given that most people here live in rural or suburban places, extrovert behaviour is not encouraged. From my own rural upbringing, I know that someone trying to draw attention to themselves would not have fared well, most likely drawing a terse rebuke from an elder. It always surprises me how noisy the children in Belfast, for example, are compared to my home county.

As a quite extreme introvert myself, I look forward to picking up this book (there’s a video lecture on Youtube by the author, worth a watch).

It should be noted that many introverts, like the author herself, develop strong communication and people skills later in life (I’m probably better on the former than the latter). However, introverts will continue to find such activity exhausting, and need some alone time to recharge our batteries – this is the key indicator of introversion. An extrovert would instead find those activities energising. Introverts generate their ‘energy’ internally, in moments of quiet, extroverts gain it from sensation, from crowds. That the extrovert view predominates is a natural product of extroversion; it makes itself known. Susan Cain is encouraging us, the quiet ones, to better represent ourselves.

One thing I no longer do is be apologetic for my reluctance to engage in extrovert activities. I will, as politely as I can, explain that I’d rather poke myself in the eye than, say, go to a noisy nightclub. Anyone who takes offence at this doesn’t know me very well.