Christopher Hitchens – No Rest and No Peace, Merely a Thank You

Considering Christopher Hitchens was the master of the English language, it seems particularly stupid of me to use it now. It’s like trying to serenade the world’s greatest singer. But here goes my poor attempt which is aided greatly by a quotation by a Nobel prize winning author.

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Eban Olivier Responds to My Blog Post

As some may know, I wrote a fairly extensive criticism of Mr Eban Olivier, regarding his reaction to Diane Coetzer. Mr Oliver has sent me an email in reply. It was not calling for my death, but actually attempted what I’d hoped for from Mr Olivier. With his permission, I reprint his email in full [and sic]. Continue reading

Monogamy and Ghosts on M-Net’s ‘Carte Blanche’

by .reid.

I don’t really watch TV. When I do allow myself free-time it’s for reading some fiction (currently Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ series). Anyway, I record certain programs then I watch them weeks later. I say this because I’ve only just watched Carte Blanche episode, from 12 June 2011. That’s a month ago.

Anyway, this was a largely disappointing episode but I’m still glad it was made. It dealt extensively with the large-scale alleged corruption within Jo’burg’s EMS. This was excellent, albeit a bit theatrical. Yet, within the episode, there were two stories that were intriguing to me.

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An Apology and Homage to Neil Gaiman

Until a few hours ago, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with the writer Neil Gaiman. Now, to start, I’ve never met him and probably never will. I’ve only read most, but not all, of his works, including his graphic novels and comics, and encountered some of his films. I’m just a reader like anyone else.

Source: WikiPedia

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Public Science Fail?

Some time ago, a big science news-story received this response from another researcher. For now, it’s not important what the story was (we’ll come to that shortly).

There’s a difference between controls done to genuinely test your hypothesis and those done when you just want to show that your hypothesis is true.  The authors have done some of the latter, but not the former.  They should have mixed pregrown E. coli or other cells with the arsenate supplemented medium and then done the same purifications.  They should have thoroughly washed their DNA preps (a column cleanup is ridiculously easy), and maybe incubated it with phosphate buffer to displace any associated arsenate before doing the elemental analysis.  They should have mixed E. coli DNA with arsenate and then gel-purified it.  They should have tested whether their arsenic-containing DNA could be used as a template by normal DNA polymerases.  They should have noticed all the discrepancies in their data and done experiments to find the causes.

I don’t know whether the authors are just bad scientists or whether they’re unscrupulously pushing NASA’s ‘There’s life in outer space!’ agenda.

The body of scientific knowledge attacked is thoroughly scarred. It’s hard to imagine it ever taking any further steps toward wider, scientific consensus.  If what Professor Redfield claims in this paragraph is true, which I think it is, we have a number of problems: pushing a bias, proving a preconceived hypothesis, setting up bad or no controls (whether as a group or method), testing alternate hypotheses. Continue reading

Centre for Inquiry’s New Campaign: No ‘Hope’ Please

The Center for Inquiry, one of (if not the) leading non-religious advocacy group in the United States, has begun a new campaign, ‘Living Without Religion’. Have a look at this clip, aimed at simply stating their mission in this campaign and the overarching idea of living without a god, in general.

It’s simple, coherent and is not threatening. My only quibble is with the word ‘hope’. What do they mean by ‘hope’?

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Koos Kombuis Cooks Up a Bit of Nonsense

Koos Kombuis, wonderful writer that he is, has written something even I cannot understand. As someone who loves Pynchon and Faulkner, I would like to think the inability to detect irony, sarcasm and black humour has largely evaporated from my misty literary vision. Writing in the, um, ‘prolific’ Thought Leader, Kombuis begins making noises very much in the spirit of many postmodern writers, like Lyotard and – more closely – Bauman and New Age ‘thinkers’.

Kombuis’ focus is on the various stages of Man’s thought and his ‘spiritual evolution’, as he ascends to the pinnacle of consciousness, to finally gain enlightenment, crossing thus into the zenith of the twilight within… Or something like that. In fact, though it has hints of Bauman, Lyotard and perhaps Zizek, it begins sounding more like the New Thought and New Age nonsense peddled by for example Opraholics. Indeed, it sounds like the very thing he – correctly – thinks is nonsense. Continue reading