Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Battle of Britain Celebrations

Since I was born in 1940 and lived for the first five years of my life in South East London, the big event for me over the weekend was not the Pope's visit but the anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. There has been some quite extensive and good coverage of this 70th anniversary. I even watched the broadcast of most of the service from Westminster Abbey, but had to turn off part when the theological intrusions got too nauseating, turning it on again to see the parade and the fly-past by a Hurricane and Spitfire and four Tornados. The main photo in the press was of heads turning up to see the planes go by. As a humanist I regard the stand that Britain took against the fascist madness as indeed one of the finest periods in our history. I'm disappointed to see very little comment in the humanist columns on this subject.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Media lets the Pope Rewrite History

Will any of our members be going to London for the "Protest the Pope" march?

It's not my sort of scene. But I have been protesting on various websites at the way the Pope's re-writing of history seems to be able to pass without comment in the media. [I was going to put in a link to HumanistLife but the site was inaccessible due to exceeding its bandwith - so presumably this means a lot of people are accessing it to get the BHA reaction to the Pope's comments.]

Here is a reaction from Andrew Copson on the BHA site.

Terry Sanderson in the NSS Newsline has made similar comments to my own.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Secular Hall Open Day

Over the week end I returned to Leicester, mainly for the Secular Hall Open Day on Sunday 12 September, travelling by train to London and then National Express coach to Leicester and staying two nights at self-catering apartments. On Sunday I visited the Hall on three occasions, morning (when the photo was taken) to sign in, afternoon to hear the ceilidh orchestra and buy a couple of books, and in the evening to hear the lecture and take part in the discussion afterwards. Allan Hayes, President of Leicester Secular Society, spoke on "Secularism: The Way Ahead" (as he sees it). It was pleasant for me to meet many old acquaintances again. No doubt the debate will be reported in the "Leicester Secularist".

Friday, 10 September 2010

Report of our September Meetring

Dean Morrison's talk on Alan Turing attracted one of our best attendances so far. Not all of course were Humanists or members of our group. There is a biography of Turing, to which I contributed part of the text, on the Humanist Heritage site. There seems to be a little confusion on Andrew Hodge's biographical site about where Turing lived in Hastings. Dean confirmed that it was Baston Lodge in Upper Maze Hill.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Hawking ditches God

The Times has been devoting masses of pages to publicise Stephen Hawking's new book The Grand Design in which, like Laplace, he points out that physics has no need of the God hypothesis. Cynics are saying Hawking is just trying to boost sales of his book, and that the Times is just trying to boost subscriptions to its now pay-walled website.

The Grand Design is M-theory, a development of String theory, which implies that a universe can spontaneously emerge from nothing, thanks to the negative energy of gravity balancing out the positive energy needed for matter. This is pretty much what Victor Stenger has said, in "The Comprehensible Universe" and "God the failed hypothesis", along with other physicists, but no doubt Hawking carries more clout.

The title The Grand Design strikes me as a bit of a gift to the creationists who will say a Design implies an Intelligent Designer.

The Times has got quotes, for and against, from just about everyone including a whole page from the Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He claims "Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean." I would have thought both those processes, analysis and synthesis, were part of science, which is the search for understanding. He also has the effrontery to say: "The Bible is relatively uninterested in how the Universe came into being. It devotes a mere 34 verses to the subject." Now he tells us!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Protest the Pope Campaign

I forgot to mention that a member at the Brighton meeting was wearing one of the garish red POPE NOPE T-shirts issued by the NSS. There is a "Protest the Pope" march and rally planned for 18 September at Hyde Park Corner from 1:30 pm. A contingent from the Brighton group are gathering beforehand at 11:30 at Victoria Station (at Starbucks near Platform 1), and Hastings members are welcome to join them (though I'm not planning to go there myself).

There was a debate on this issue at Conway Hall on 1st September between secular and catholic speakers. There is an excellent report of the debate on the New Humanist blog. However it seems the audience was already decided in its views and the question and answer session deteriorated into one of abuse rather than rational argument, though the arguments presented by the catholic speakers are pretty weak.

Brighton and Hove Humanists

I had a day out on 1st September to attend the Brighton and Hove Humanist Society meeting in the evening. The speaker was Denis Cobell former President of the NSS who was to speak on "Why I am not a Christian". He referred to the 1927 essay with that title by Bertrand Russell, but didn't repeat Russell's arguments. In fact mostly the talk was about his upbringing within an Evangelical Christian family in the Brighton area. It never became clear why he did not become a Christian, other than that he was a natural rebel and found the dogma unbelievable. His sister on the other hand remained within the fold.

Earlier I went to the cinema to see the noisy and difficult to follow film "Inception" which in fact raised more interesting philosophical questions, about whether we can tell the difference between dream and reality.