Posts Tagged ‘history’

Myth of Islam

Saturday, March 30th, 2013 | Religion & Politics

One of my friends recently started a new blog on the origins of Islam. It challenges the claim that is sometimes made by Islam itself that its origins are factual – as the blog goes on to explain, this simply isn’t the case. Read all about it.

Surfin’ Bird

Saturday, March 9th, 2013 | Thoughts


Often, our society fails to give scientists the credit they deserve.

Take homo erectus for example. A lot of scientists have had a lot of laughs out of the fact that they managed to convince the world that homo erectus was the name of an evolutionary step (which it is of course) and not just a really silly name they thought they would try their luck with.

But nowhere is it more clear than the people who study using the many telescopes located in Hawaii.

At some point in human history, a scientist when to a grant panel, and the grant panel asked them where the best place to put a telescope would be. Said scientist must have then looked at them slowly and sensing they trusted their judgement, decided to try their luck once again.

“Hawaii!” the scientist would have said, trying to sound more confident than they really were.

“Hawaii?” the chair of the grant panel would have enquired. “Why would Hawaii be the best place to put a telescope?”

“Well…” replies the scientist, trying to think on their feet as fast as they possibly could. “It’s the altitude you see!” “The altitude? Hawaii is an island, surely it is at sea level?” “Yes… but those mountains are very tall! Very tall indeed!”

“Seems like there would be a lot of places at high altitude. Are you sure you’re not just making this up so you can go live on a tropical island and go surfing every day?” “No, no” replies the scientist, “Hawaii has the tallest mountains and the clearest skies – it has to be Hawaii.”

“Well then”, says the grant panel chair, slamming down his approved stamp, “I guess that is that.” Thus began a golden age for science…

Were the Catholics Framed?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013 | Public Speaking

For my seventh project in my Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual, “research your topic”, I presented a talk entitled “Were the Catholics Framed?” This looked at whether the gunpowder plot was actually a set up by the Protestants, to frame the Catholics and increase the persecution.

Much like the arguments made that 9-11 was allowed to create an excuse to invade Afghanistan, the claims against 5-11 are almost certainly untrue as well. Not that there isn’t good evidence, but if you compare it to the Moon Landings, there is what looks like good evidence to suggest they were faked too – but when you dig a little deeper, you soon find the evidence isn’t so good, and you need very good evidence to belief a conspiracy theory.

I felt the talk went well, and managed to see off some good competition to take another Best Speaker ribbon – my fifth overall, and forth in a row. That said, there is certainly some room for improvement.

Part of my talk included a letter, which I read out, but having learned the letter I decided not to glance at it. This was a risky strategy because it might look to some people as if the letter wasn’t genuine, and indeed one person said he had wondered this. The letter was of course genuine, I had just prepared reasonably well, but maybe a few fake glances down at it would have been helpful.

Given the time constraints, I also cut some material out and hoped that it still all made sense. It did, except perhaps for my use of the word recusancy – the act of not attending CoE services, a crime that Catholics were often fined for.

I also felt I could have worked more movement into the speech, though nobody pulled me up on this in the evaluation or feedback. In any case there is work to do – as I write this, we are only 26 days away from the first round of the Public Speaking World Championships – and I haven’t started my speech yet!

Decade in the Sun

Thursday, July 26th, 2012 | Life, Limited

History of Worfolk Online

Recently, I was thinking that it must be coming up to ten years since I registered my first domain name, in the next couple of years. When I actually checked, it was two months ago.

In May 2002, I first registered, now the home of my consultancy company. This was by no means my first venture into the world of web development, I had been developing websites for years before, and programming for years before that. But it’s difficult to put a precise date on any such projects, unlike 7 May, 2002.

Between then and now things have changed a lot – a one point, the Worfolk Online network contained hundreds of websites. It now contains only a few dozen, that are far more focused on quality. While I don’t have screenshots of all of them, the image above shows the evolution of some of the network’s homepages.

Anyway, cheers, here is to a wonderful decade and hopefully, an even better one to come.

The Quest for the Historical Jesus

Monday, May 14th, 2012 | Humanism

At a recent Atheist Society meeting, Karel du Pauw provided a brick by brick deconstruction fo any claim that Jesus could have been a historial figure.

A similarly great deconstruction, though not as comprehensive as Karel’s, is provided by the film The God Who Wasn’t There and it is a subject I have previously touched on even though I don’t believe the question makes any sense.

Such talks really bring things into focus – not just for the fact that the Bible isn’t true, but also open up interesting questions about why people believe in it. Clearly, it isn’t because it makes sense from a historical perspective. There is simply no evidence that King Herrod had all the babies killed, there has never been anything like people having to return to their hometown for some kind of Roman census and there are someone simply forgot to tell the earlier writers of the books of the Bible that Jesus was an actual historical figure that actually lived on Earth.

Yet, lots of people, sometimes even smart people (though statically far less often than less smart people) believe it.

To me, it is a stark reminder of why it is so vital that we have groups like the Atheist Society. Clearly, rational thinking and evidence are not the only forces at work when people make a decision as to whether follow a religion or not. There are emotional factors to be considered too, and if we can’t provide for those in the same way that religious institutions do, critical thinking won’t win hearts and minds.

History: A Very Short Introduction

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 | Books

I was somewhat disappointed when I first began reading History: A Very Short Introduction.

I was originally coping for a compact and concise list of everything that has happened in the past few thousand years. You know, Depression, Hitler, World War 2, Invention of Supermarkets, etc. You know, a way to know everything that has ever happened, in around a hundred pages.

However, History: A Very Short Introduction follows a different narrative, one more in line with the other books in the series, and common sense. It talks about “Historiography”, the study of history and methodologies used in such study.

While I found it just about interesting enough to continue reading all the way through, I must say that I didn’t feel I learnt a great deal. Having studied history for the first three years of high school, I felt that alone had given me a grounding in history to a greater level. You could of course argue this is obvious (three years of school vs a book that took me two days to read), but I would have expected the book to be pitched at a level that assumes the reader had in fact attended school.

Still, it isn’t entirely about the learning, but also about proving it on paper – and now that I can add having read said book to my CV, as I explained to Hugh, I’m now more than happy to fill in for him at his history lectures at any point.

The Little Paris Kitchen

Sunday, April 29th, 2012 | Distractions, Thoughts

Rachel Khoo is a business genius. If you’ve seen her BBC Two show, The Little Paris Kitchen, you may have heard her claim she opened her own restaurant. You’ll then no doubt notice that what is has actually done is put a table in front of her sofa and put a few chairs round the other side of it, in her living room.

So, she is basically just having people over for dinner. And charging for it!

In a recent episode, she made Beef Wellington, explaining that both the English and the French have their own version of the dish. This strikes me as odd.

The English dish Beef Wellington is named after the Duke of Wellington, the man who led us to victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. We celebrate him for that, hence why we created a dish full of steak in his name.

But the French were on the losing side of the battle. Why have a dish named as such?

Jesus as a historical figure

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

One question I often get asked when discussing religion with Christians is “you do accept Jesus as a historical figure, right?”

The argument goes along the lines of this:

  1. There is evidence that there was a character called Jesus in historical records
  2. Therefore, you have to accept that some of the Bible is true
  3. If you accept the historial parts as true, why not accept the rest of it as well?

But do I accept Jesus as a historical figure? No, I don’t. Actually, more accurately, I don’t accept that the question really makes sense. I mean, what exactly are you asking me?

For example, I do accept that there was someone called Jesus. But that is misleading. I believe there were lots of people called Jesus. It’s a nonsense question. It’s like saying “do you believe in John?” in this day and age. Well, of course I believe there was someone called John, I know lots of Johns, it’s a very common name.

What you need to ask for the question to make sense is, “do you believe in this specific John?” And when it comes to Jesus, if you’re asking me “do you believe in Jesus, the son of God”, the answer is of course, no, I’m an atheist, so I don’t believe in a god and therefore I didn’t believe he had a son.

Leeds Museum

Monday, August 17th, 2009 | Distractions, Reviews

We finally made it to the Leeds Museum on Sunday and while we only had an hour or so to get round it, it was quite interesting none the less. It was a little more grand than I had expected with a large arena style room in the centre and plenty of winding staircases with different exhibits on the different floors.

We made it round most of it in the time we were in there but most of it in a rush so we could have easily spent a few more hours in there. All in all, worth a visit though nothing spectacular.

George Leeds Museum Tuna


Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 | Food

Taking a quick break from work yesterday to learn more about the original colour and shape of various fruits that many people now amuse have always been like that I came across this picture.