Joan gave birth to Eve early this morning and they’re both doing well. Sleep tight!
Joan gave birth to Eve early this morning and they’re both doing well. Sleep tight!
2009-08-18: “Ar an drochuair bheartaigh an fhoireann nach bhfuil muid chun lógó ar bith a úsáid a fuaireamar ón bpobal.” / “Unfortunately the staff have decided not to pursue any logos that we received from the public.”
Sales rep.: Hi! We’re calling to houses in your neighbourhood to offer you a discount on your electricity bill.
Me: Oh, what company are you with?
Sales rep.: Airtricity
Me: Actually, I’m already with Airtricity … Can I still have a discount?
Sales rep.: … No.
Ah, well. Worth a try…
In response to a letter in The Irish Times:
Angela MacNamara (Letters, 15th January) claims that the way to tackle bullying and other problems is by implementing “objective moral and ethical norms and the appropriate punishment for breaching these”; a thinly-veiled call to adopt a religious, and most likely Catholic, morality.
Setting aside for a moment that religious teaching on morality is not objective but rather based on the subjective views of adherents dating back to the Bronze Age; and ignoring the unreliability of teachings that include talking animals, virgin births and other nonsense as sources of morality; and leaving aside dubious moral positions on issues like slavery and eating shellfish; the simple problem is that it doesn’t work.
If religious morality actually worked we would expect that its most visible proponents would be good examples (of their own teaching, at least). However, it clearly does not restrain, for example, some Catholic priests from raping young children, or their colleagues from covering for them.
Perhaps some piece of doctrine is not sufficiently clear on certain points, or maybe the perpetrators do not fear the punishments: real, or supernatural and hence non-existent. Whatever the cause, the problem remains.
Bullying, and indeed raping children, clearly falls outside the boundaries of what is morally acceptable in our society at this point in history. We should be pleased that our relative and subjective moral values have improved to such a stage and we should, of course, strive to further reduce suffering. It seems to me that introducing a flawed religious moral code that denies the possibility of improvement is unlikely to help.
Today, two months after ordering my new laptop from Dell I got a refund for €154.28: the price I paid for Microsoft Windows and Works. This was after many emails to customer support and lodging a claim with the Small Claims Court.
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I came across this video from the last EDG conference in Heidelberg in 2003:
If anyone asks, I’m working on the computing grid for the Ultimate Doomsday Machine.
This is from the free newspaper Metro (which doesn’t have a proper website). And how’s this for quality, restrained journalism: “In the book of Revelation the end of the world is heralded by the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse…”
More on the Ultimate Doomsday Machine:
Update 2008-05-17: Sorry, I forgot to mention that the LHC is also Satan’s Stargate to Earth.
On 31st March The Irish Times published an editorial “Faith in our schools” that raised issues with the choice of a “multi-faith” rather than “non-denominational” (i.e. secular) ethos in a number of new schools, one of which is in the area where I live. While “multi-faith” (which grudgingly includes those of no faith) is an improvement over Total Catholic Domination it still brings an element of division into the classroom. Children will be split up depending on the religious beliefs of their parents:
That does not easily make for an integrated educational experience. And it raises valid questions of competence and control for churches charged with responsibility for that religious education. Is it to be an education about religion or into a particular religion, for example? If the former, why not broaden the curriculum so that all relevant religions are taught? And if the latter, would it not be better to conduct such courses outside the normal school day for those parents who want them? Could the two approaches be combined?
This got a predictable response from members of the Catholic hierarchy. Séamus Murphy, a lecturer from the Catholic Milltown Institute who is a Catholic priest and a Jesuit claimed that this was an attack on parents’ rights to choose their childrens’ education.
It is ironic, too, that increased cultural and religious diversity should be viewed as grounds for more State control and uniformity.
The widespread undermining of family and parental rights must greatly increase State power, at the expense of freedom.
There is such a thing as “soft totalitarianism”, and the attack on family and religion from various quarters feeds it.
His talk of “State control” is especially ironic when the Catholic Church currently has totally undemocratic control of upwards of 90% of primary schools in Ireland.
I had a letter published in response on 4th April:
Séamus Murphy seems surprised that one might accept religious education in schools “provided no religion was taught as ‘true’ “. It would make no sense for State-funded schools to teach as true the world’s many and mutually contradictory (and often internally inconsistent) religious beliefs, and there is no reason to think that any one religion should be favoured by the State. Parents who wish to instruct their children in a religion should be free to do so outside school with the support of their religious community. This would allow total freedom of choice for parents.
The virtual monopoly of the Catholic Church on primary education in the State deeply undermines parents’ rights to give their children an education without the Catholic elements, should they so wish. To describe progressive moves to reduce the church’s undemocratic control as “undermining of family and parental rights” and “at the expense of freedom” defies belief.
In today’s issue The Irish Times carries a “head-to-head” article on the question
Is denominational education suitable for 21st century Ireland?
The “yes” side was written by John Murray a lecturer in (yes, Catholic) Mater Dei Institute of Education. He argues for keeping denominational (i.e. single-religion) education on the basis of “pluralism”.
Denominational schools are not inherently divisive. [...] Denominational schools are committed to social equality, tolerance and peace. [...] It is important for our increasingly multicultural society that society supports schooling that shows how specific religious world-views and commitments can be sources of peace and social progress.
This is pretty weak stuff. Religious people can be nice to others sometimes so we should have schools that attempt to immerse children in religion. He goes on:
In a healthy pluralistic society we should show respect for people’s deeply held convictions and beliefs, and a pluralistic education system does this by allowing and supporting faith-based education as part of the system.
The first part of this statement is wrong: we should not necessarily “show respect” for people’s beliefs simply because they are deeply held. What does it even mean to show respect for a belief? Beliefs deserve respect only to the level that it is merited. Belief that we should be nice to each other: fine. Belief that all atheists and homosexuals deserve eternal torment in Hell: not fine. On the other hand people who happen to have religious beliefs do deserve an inherent level of respect just by virtue of being human, but respect may fall as well as rise depending on their actions and the risks posed by their beliefs.
The second part of the statement, that a pluralistic society should support faith schools doesn’t follow. A pluralistic society could function just as well with secular schools and home- or church-based religious instruction. However, the faith-schoolers don’t like this because it would mean convincing children to go to Sunday school (or equivalent) rather than having an immersive religious school experience with religious instruction almost every day, religious symbols in every classroom, and so on.
Unfortunately the writer for the “No” side, John Carr, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, puts up a rather weak opposition arguing for something like the “multi-faith” model with separate classes for different religious groups. He writes:
I disagree with the argument that religion should have no place in schools. Neither do I propose that all denominational schools should be forcibly changed into multi-faith schools. Such a position would simply be a reverse of the virtual monopoly situation that exists at present.
Certainly forcing such a change would be unpalatable but to describe it as a “reverse” of the current situation as if that was a bad thing is odd. He seems to imagine some sort of Total Atheist Domination. But he finishes on what I see as a positive note:
When originally established in 1831 it was intended that primary schools would provide secular education for all children in the same school with separate religious education.
It was certainly an idea before its time, but has its time now come?