Tuesday, 17 September 2019

No smoking here, dummy!

I'm retired now, but I can't help musing on certain things when I see them. One of those things I saw recently was on top of a partially built house in a new housing development near where my parents live. It was a chimney stack on top of a roof. Except the roof was as yet no more than flimsy timber trussed rafters. There was no actual chimney below the roofline to support the bricks-and-mortar chimney stack, nor any chimney breasts in the rooms further down. The stack, complete with earthenware chimney pot, appeared to balance unsupported above the uncompleted house as if hoisted wholesale into position. Which, I concluded, it probably was.

During my working life in architectural practice I came across fakes of various kinds, including plaster and glass-fibre pretending to be something else, and I've been against them on principle, despite many being such good fakes that without actual physical contact it wasn't possible to distinguish them from the real thing. My objection isn't based on how poorly they replicate the real thing, but on how well they do it. They do it so well that it's impossible, at a moderate distance, to tell that they are fakes.

But once you know such fakes exist, that knowledge devalues the genuine article. You see something that looks genuine, but is it? The existence of convincing counterfeits puts everything into question. Does this matter? In the grand scheme of things, probably not, but if you care about truth, it most certainly does.

So I now look at chimneys with a degree of suspicion. Nowadays of course, this also applies to news media.

From the Stormking website:
The Stormking GRP SmartStack dummy chimney applies the same principles of the Stormking GRP chimney that enhance the appearance of any building offering the builder virtually maintenance free product, with a traditional aesthetic look, but with the added bonus of incorporating a GRP lead effect plinth box and lead flashing detail, saving you time and money with installation. Whilst the chimney used to have a function to them in the past, today they are viewed as unnecessary features that add to the build cost but are required under planning restrictions.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Non-faith primary school caves to minority creationist pressure

This would be disgraceful enough if the school in question was a religious or faith school, but Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire is a 'community school', of which there are precious few available for children whose parents don't want religious indoctrination to be part of their education.

A cursory perusal of the school's website reveals no religious agenda (as it shouldn't), and yet in response to threats by a few creationist parents the school have cancelled a play about Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. The National Secular Society have understandably made their objections to the cancellation clear:
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "Schools should have the confidence to face down unreasonable parental demands. Objections to children learning about evolution – including the Church of England's historical hostility to it – clearly fall under this description.
"We're seeing a worrying trend of parents pressuring headteachers and threatening to withdraw children when teaching doesn't fit their, often narrow, worldview.
"Schools should broaden pupils' horizons and need to be supported to do that when faced with external pressure demanding that the education their children receive conforms with parents' religious views."

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Be reasonable about near-death experiences

When I heard that the latest episode of Michael Marshall's podcast Be Reasonable would feature Eben Alexander I wasn't sure I actually wanted to listen to it. But it came up on my iPod while I was cooking dinner this evening, so out of simple inertia I listened. And it confirmed my previous opinion of the neurosurgeon who claims to have been taken on a tour of Heaven while in a coma:
  1. Neurosurgery is to neuroscience as gardening is to botany, or as plumbing is to fluid dynamics.
  2. Despite being a neurosurgeon Eben Alexander doesn't understand the scientific method.
  3. Near-death experiences (NDEs) are evidence of being near death, but not much else.
  4. Presumably writing books that pander to spiritual yearnings is more profitable than neurosurgery.
Alexander's claim that consciousness is independent of the brain is an idea also propounded by Rupert Sheldrake, with a similar lack of actual evidence for it (and a whole lot of evidence to suggest the opposite).

I've blogged about NDEs, and Eben Alexander, and Rupert Sheldrake before:


Incidentally NDEs featured on this morning's Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4, unsurprisingly as if they are good evidence of an afterlife.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Whither the atheist movement?

James Croft on atheism and the alt-right:
Since my earliest involvement in the movement, it has been clear that movement atheism is concerned more with offering a response to religion as it is with crafting a positive atheist identity. It is, in large part, an oppositional movement concerned with the limitations and predations of religion, drawing its energy from the many outrages perpetrated by religious organizations and individuals.
Continue reading at James's Patheos blog, Temple of the Future:

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

A list to keep by your front door

Aaaand... I'm back! (For how long, who knows?)

Anyway, I give you this list, courtesy of Godless Mom, aka Courtney Heard over at Patheos Blogs, of eight times the predictions of the Jehovah's Witnesses have turned out to be less than entirely accurate — for example:
The Watch Tower Society believed that Jesus had been amongst us since 1874 working towards his kingdom on earth. The Watch Tower Society predicted that Christ’s kingdom on Earth would be complete in 1914, and the saints would be carried to Heaven. Essentially, the end of the world as we know it. Of course, 1914 rolled around and the closest we got to the end of the world was a world war. Perhaps the Society meant to say that the world would end for 18 million, but for the rest of us, it would be business as usual. We’d all go on living, man would keep ruling and Jesus would keep up his epic game of hide and seek.
Go to Godless Mom's blog to read the rest, and maybe print them out, because you never know when you'll hear that knock on the door.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

My path to audio stardom - a tiny bit of progress

Hot on the heels of my last blogpost I bring you another narration announcement. Tales To Terrify is five years old, and to celebrate they have published a full-cast audio production of Kim Newman's horror short story, "Where the Bodies are Buried":


It's a long one (nearly an hour) and features yours truly playing a well-known chat-show host (my bit is very short — cough at the wrong time and you'll miss it). But don't let that put you off; it's a fun story with a horror twist.

Direct link to mp3 audio:

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Spooky tale — Lovecraftian shivers from Ramsey Campbell

My latest narration is now freely available for your listening pleasure at Pseudopod.

"Cold Print" by Ramsey Campbell is a story about a solitary gentlemen with a taste for books of a dubious genre. If you love the Lovecraftian this is for you. Enjoy.


Direct link to mp3 audio:
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