Archive for November, 2009

New experiences

Saturday, November 14th, 2009 | Life, Photos


As part of my aim to try new things, I gave some kind of new foodstuff a go today. It’s some kind of weird green thing that the nice lady in Co-op informs me is known as a “vegetable.” How very quaint.

Combined with the tomato ketchup I had I believe that counts as two of my five a day.

Introducing humanist communities

Saturday, November 14th, 2009 | Foundation

A few days ago we tweeted that we had a big announcement coming in the next few days. Well, here it is – so prepare to be slightly excited or every disappointed having had your hopes up since Wednesday!

In early 2010 the Chris Worfolk Foundation will be launching our humanist community pilot project. To supplement the current range of humanist and atheist events we are launching a new community group running on Sunday mornings. We’re going head to head launching a secular alternative to church.

The project is still in the early stages of development but we’re hoping to have the first event in February next year. Currently we’re in the process of recruiting people who are interested in getting involved and preparing the format. So if you are interested in being involved, get in touch.

New foundation website

Saturday, November 14th, 2009 | Foundation, News

CWF website

Yesterday the new foundation website went live! I say that like it is a whole new website, it isn’t, it’s just a slightly updated version but now located at There is some new content too though lots more new content is on it’s way soon.

Competitive arguing

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 | Humanism

On Tuesday we had our first formal debate of the academic year at Atheist Society on the motion “this house believes there is no god.”

Myself and Norm were arguing for the opposition which went quite well I thought – obviously the motion carried but by a reasonably slim margin which at an Atheist Society is no minor achievement. I managed to get away with quite a bit too, nobody called me when I described how evangelical Christian Francis Collins was very much outspoken on atheism (which he technically is – just not on the right side 😀 ).

There is no god debate Chris Leeds Atheist Society

Christmas is almost a few weeks away from being a month away

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 | Life, Thoughts

How exciting.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that while I was running around on Halloween trying to sort my costume out I found Poundsaver already laid out with wall to wall Christmas crap, Radio 1 played their first Christmas song last week.

Still on the brighter side of news as we enjoyed lunch on Sunday we were able to watch them busily work on setting up the German Christmas Market on Millennium Square. You just can’t beat a big German sausage and a litre of beer.

George Chris Steven Kate


Saturday, November 7th, 2009 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

I normally pay off all off the full balance of my credit cards via direct debit each month. However when it came to renewing my car insurance last summer I calculated, given the amount they charge you to pay monthly, it was actually cheaper to pay the whole lot upfront on my credit card and pay that off each month than it was to just pay my car insurance monthly.

As such I’ve had a rapidly diminishing but never the less outstanding balance on my Lloyds TSB credit card for the past couple of months.

Bare in mind that this is a credit card which I have held for over three years now and never have they written to me regarding it. Then today I was opening my mail and found a letter announcing that they had increased my credit limit. Actually, according to the letter, they have increased my “credit limit.”

And I know, I know, a corporation is by definition a soulless entity without feelings designed to grab as much money from people as possible by whatever means and I am normally the first to preach about how you can’t really judge such an entity for immortal practices because it is by it’s very nature amoral.

But seriously, we’ve just gone through a global financial meltdown. Indeed one which Lloyds TSB was actually bailed out by the government. And when I say by the government I mean by me, because the government is funded by the huge tax bill I pay every month.

Now I don’t particularly care that they have done this because I’m not going to go out and spend the extra money and struggle to pay it back, I have far higher limits on my other cards anyway. But there must be thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people out there who would go out and dig themselves into even more debt which they would struggle to pay back all because the banks saw another opportunity to take advantage.


For the thrill of adventure

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 | Distractions, Humanism, Tech

With John having finally got a World of Warcraft group together for Atheist Society, we set out last night on our first exciting adventure as everyone started fresh characters under the banner of our new society guild, the Atheist Alliance.

Not having played for two years I spent Monday patching, or at the start clearing space to patch, as the installer informed me I would need to free up 15GB! However after a long, long period I finally got things finished 14 hours later and was ready to play. In grand news I also found my long lost original character which disappeared some time ago!

So we set out adventuring last night at about 8pm and next thing we knew it was 2am! We did however manage to get to level 10 in that time, which is quite impressive given the amount of time it takes to loot 40 wendigo manes not to mention factoring in the long period of time we spent knocking back beers at The Blue Recluse. We also have a guild tabard which looks very similar to our logo which is awesome.

Group photo The Blue Recluse Ninja costumes

Limits of Atheism

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 | Events, Friends

Tuesday saw Michael deliver his talk on Limits of Atheism. Suprisingly it was actually a fairly interesting talk, I’m not sure I learnt anything about what the limits of atheism are (presumably we can assume from that, that there are in fact none) and the philosophers in the room were looking very dubious, but it kept us reasonably entertained for an hour or so, so well done Money Bags!

Leeds Atheist Society George and Chris Nicola and Michael


Thursday, November 5th, 2009 | Events, Humanism, Life

Saturday saw Atheist Society’s legendary (as if any of our events aren’t 😀 ) Halloween party, hosted by our el presidente Sophie. It was a great night which ended in us performing a Satanic ritual which seems a bit on the edge but is really quite mild compared to the fact that Zoltan was dressed as the prophet Muhammad 😀 .

Zoltan John Lil

The Jason Paradox

Monday, November 2nd, 2009 | Friends, Thoughts

Clever people believe silly things.

This is why the argument that religion must be intellectually tenable because academics and scientists subscribe to such beliefs holds no water. Of course it could be that religious beliefs actually are true or at least make intellectual sense but we cannot say that that clearly aren’t stupid beliefs just because smart people believe them.

Case in point, my friend Jason. He’s a pretty smart guy, attended the University of Leeds, graduated, now part of the Row 1 team here at BuzzBet.

Yet this morning he dropped into the conversation that he takes vitamin pills.

I was quick to point out that such supplements have been scientifically shown under double blind trials involving huge sample sizes not only not to have any positive health benefits but also to have a negative impact on your health.

At very best when you buy vitamin supplements you are wasting your money, at worse you may be increasing your risk of mortality by up to 16%. While it is easy to dismiss such claims when published in the Daily Mail, it is a different matter when such research is published by medical journals and endorsed by the NHS.

And yet Jason’s response was “well, I’m still going to take them.”

Indeed it went as far as “it provides me with vitamins, how can it not be good for me?”

I’m not exactly sure whether this is a problem with credulity in the vitamin companies or incredulity in the scientific community or perhaps even a third option – his dad works for a vitamin supplement company and he assures me that they do a lot of research and development which at first seems to give the idea some substance but then here is an organisation which does homeopathic R&D so it is apparently quite possible to waste time and money thinking or pretending you’re researching a topic which has been scientifically proven to be bullshit (as if you need to look beyond common sense to see that the idea water has a memory of certain incredibly diluted ingredients but has forgotten all the piss and shit it’s been in is anything other than 18th century quackery).

This to me then brings up two questions. Firstly why does Jason, even know he has been presented with the evidence that vitamin supplements don’t work, still subscribe to the idea? Secondly, what can I do to persuade him out of such a belief?

I don’t think either question has an easy answer or indeed one single answer but I will float a few possibilities. Actually the possibilities bare as much of a striking resemblance to the religious topics I usually deal with in day to day life as the scenario which I have so far posed does.

Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly if I had thought about it), the main claim was that of personal experience. Jason claims that he has been taking the tablets for a while and rarely gets ill. Except colds of course – they don’t count, apparently. Bare in mind that he is taking vitamin C tablets and therefore the only illness it really protects against is scurvy. I of course countered this by saying I haven’t been ill recently and I’m not taking vitamin supplements but I can’t imagine this counted for much in the same way you’re not going to convince the religious out of their belief because you “personally, have not experienced god.”

The second claim was that on a scientific basis, or at least a pseudo-scientific one. The argument followed “everyone knows vitamins are good for you, the tablets contain vitamins, therefore they must be good for you.” The counter arguments for this is that you can’t say there is a definite connection there as maybe you need to take them in via eating fruit and that scientific studies have shown that too much vitamins aren’t good for you and probably others which I can’t think of right now but I think a more important point is that the scientific studies show that taking vitamin supplements aren’t good for you and therefore it is fallacious to then build an argument for them from a scientific standpoint.

The other point I found interesting was I brought up the idea of a healthy balanced diet and Jason immediately jumped in and said “well I have a healthy balanced diet as well – their supplements, they go on top of that.” It would seem possible for someone to eat a healthy balanced diet which includes all the vitamins and minerals and would help prevent us falling ill, and yet accredit the lack of illness down to the placebo pills you’re taking on top.

I guess there is also the idea that you have invested time and money in a belief and so you don’t want it to turn out to be false. This is something that Christopher Hitchens often comments on when he talks about the end of the Soviet Union where the communists knew the game was up but didn’t want to let go of their dream.

As for persuading people out of such beliefs, I think education and critical thinking are probably the key. I’m sure I, once upon a time, didn’t go “vitamin supplements huh? Let me just check what the actual scientific basis for such claims are.” I’m sure most people still don’t – as anyone who goes out and buys a 12 mega pixel phone camera will prove.

How interested people are in learning this is another matter though. Jason for example did not seem particularly concerned it was taking at best placebos and at worst a potentially harmful pill every morning. Similarly the anti-wrinkle industry is built on the idea that people just aren’t interested in the truth – the news that Boots had developed the first anti-wrinkle cream that actually may work has done little to dent the sales of other brands.

I would love to hear everyone else’s thoughts on this, especially if anyone else has had a similar experience, I would imagine many of us have.