Archive for May, 2010
19 May 2010
In a letter to Michael Farthing, one member of university staff wrote: “I feel that many people amongst the predominantly left-wing community at this university will be offended at the shutting down of a thriving independent café, to create a forced monopoly of institutional food with negative impacts on many people’s lives.”
What does "left-wing" mean in this context? Surely any true left-wingers should be entirely in favour of enforced state ownership and equality (of outcome) and opponents of an open competitive market? Or does "left-wing" mean "right-wing" now? (Tom, what do you think? Not sure anyone else will read this far!)
17 May 2010
I could be wrong, but there seems to have been more discussion recently amongst Christians within the evangelical church about how to fit Adam and Eve into an evolutionary framework. I think the historical progression of thought has been something like this:
- Of course, Adam and Eve were specially created by God, and were the biological progenitors of the entire human race.
- Hold on, that doesn't seem to fit with the scientific evidence. But anyway, aren't we being a bit too literalistic with Genesis? Maybe they weren't historical individuals, but rather a metaphor for the entire human race, for example?
- I'm not sure about that—if they weren't historical individuals, then does the Christian doctrine of the Fall really make sense? (E.g., Henri Blocher)
- Fair point, so it seems they were historical individuals. But perhaps they were not actually the biological progenitors of the entire human race? Could they not have been just two members of a long-established population of human beings, but those to whom God chose to reveal himself in a special way? (E.g., Denis Alexander)
- But how then are we to understand the nature of the connection between Adam and the rest of humanity? And what does this do to the traditional Christian understanding of sin and death? Does Jesus death on the cross still make sense? (E.g., Steve Lloyd, Michael Reeves)
- To be continued...
What prompted me to write this was reading the chapter by Michael Reeves, which has been recently been published online at Reformation21. He raises some issues that I hope will be addressed before long (if they haven't already been addressed elsewhere). Also, Steve Lloyd presented some of his arguments at a debate held at my church on Saturday (MP3 available)—watch this space for a report...
But in the meantime, over to you...
14 May 2010
Just read Is this the time for electoral reform? on Times Online, in which Ken Ritchie, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, says "Yes", and Lord Norton of Louth, Professor of Government at the University of Hull and a Conservative peer, says "No". I want to comment on that word "No".
Those two simple letters encapsulate an argument that goes something like this. (1) The electorate would always prefer a single-party majority government to a minority or coalition government. (2) First-past-the-post (FPTP), our current electoral system, is more likely to produce a single-party majority government, and is therefore better at reflecting the will of the electorate.
In response to (1), is it really the case that the majority of voters in the last election would have preferred a majority Conservative government to what we currently have? That is the implication. Let's test it out. Let's ask a typical Lib Dem voter: "Given the choice between two alternatives, and only two alternatives, would you prefer a majority Conservative government or a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition?" The answer: "Coalition." Now here's a typical Labour voter: "Coalition." QED. The electorate would not always prefer a single-party majority government to a minority or coalition government.
In response to (2), if the chief advantage of FPTP is that it distorts the wishes of the electorate so as to produce a single-party government with an overall majority, then are proponents of FPTP open to considering alternative voting systems that similarly distort the wishes of the electorate? Why not have an STV election, with all of its advantages, and then selectively replace successful Liberal Democrat candidates with unsuccessful Conservative and/or Labour candidates? That would produce the same desired effect (a single-party majority government), and could be done in such a way as to overcome some of the undesirable outcomes of the last election, such as the following, from Ken Richie's piece:
On May 6 the Conservatives won only one of Scotland’s 59 seats. In the eastern region, Labour won only two of the 58 seats. Yet one in five Scots backed the Conservatives, and the same proportion of voters wanted Labour in the East of England. That’s what representative democracy means under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system.
I think it's time for a change.
14 May 2010
It's one year ago today that Herschel and Planck were propelled up into space to survey the Universe—the "cool" Universe, to be more specific—on behalf of humanity. (Of course, it wasn't William Herschel and Max Planck who were sent a million miles from the earth on top of a rocket, but rather the European Space Agency—ESA—satellites named after them.) ESA wishes them both a happy birthday on their website, and there are similar felicitations from the UK Herschel page, both with links to the exciting results and stunning images being released.
Meanwhile, we've been busy putting together the first results from HerMES, a major project on Herschel looking at star formation in hundreds of thousands of very distant galaxies. These were among the many results announced last week at an ESA conference in The Netherlands (which included a media event), and now the HerMES scientific papers are being made available to anyone who enjoys reading that kind of thing, and, indeed to anyone who doesn't. For mere mortals, though, the pretty pictures are on OSHI, the Online Showcase of Herschel Images and on the Herschel blog.