Saturday, April 8

I've been worried lately about whether there's any point posting stuff here. With hundreds of millions of people, and billions of pages on the Internet, I wonder if anything I have to say can possibly be original. The musings I had on use of embryos earlier - the issue's been discussed in minutiae by experts dozens of times. Ditto for a lot of other stuff. But... I don't know. There's a lot of interesting info on the Internet which I would never have seen if it weren't for weblogs posting links to them - some argue that's the entire point of weblogs. I might not be able to say anything completely original, but chances are that you haven't read it before anyway. After all, if we don't speak our minds, how can we expect to be taken notice of (even if people aren't interested)?

Either way, there are new developments in culture, science, religions, entertainment and technology every hour of every day, and it's all original. If nothing else, there's always that to talk about.

5:48 PM | permalink | discuss

Incredible! The weblog community, usually hardbitten and cynical, has been stunned by Looksmart categorizing and reviewing every single weblog on the Internet, and writing a short (original) summary of each. Very nice work, and I can't imagine how long it took them.

My entry (scroll down).

"UK resident shares commentary and Internet sources about entertainment, science, technology and culture. Also contains original short stories." Original short stories, eh?

5:23 PM | permalink | discuss

Here's a link to an email I received by Brett Watson, on the subject of my postings concerning evolution/creation. It's an interesting read, and essentially he believes that my comments are made primarily from an evolutionary standpoint, not a religious or creationist standpoint (a criticism I agree with). If, he argues, I was looking from a religious/creationist standpont, then I'd have no problems in saying quite reasonably that a human embryo is special, and Noah's Ark did indeed exist.

True enough. I, nor anyone else, can argue against people who believe the Bible is a literal account of the past, and I don't care to. It's a matter of faith. What I have a problem with are people who believe that creationism is a science, rather than a concept based solely upon a religious text (the Bible).

4:02 PM | permalink | discuss

Two profiles of Dr. Gish: pro-Gish and anti-Gish

2:44 PM | permalink | discuss

I'm having an enormous amount of fun reading through the archives in Talk.origins. I've realised that it's in fact a site basically designed at refuting claims made by creationists, which is a shame since I think it might be productive for them to a creationist's point of view, but anyway. What I've found most interesting though are accounts of the tactics used by creationists in debates against evolutionists (sp?). There are several guides on the site to advise those about to take part in a debate (the opponent mentioned most is Dr. Duane Gish, from the Institute for Creation Research), one of the most interesting being this one.

If you're a bit tired from all this evolution/creation talk, here's an article from the times: Archbishop warns of Net's potential for evil. We are apparently in danger of becoming a 'soulless society.' Interesting, isn't it, even though the Internet's primary function is for human interaction?

2:25 PM | permalink | discuss

To continue on the whole creationism/science debate which seems to crop up here with alarming regularity, I found a very interesting website containing articles and essays made by the talk.origins newsgroup about, well, origins: Talk.origins

The only thing I'm worried about, from reading their FAQ, is that they might not give enough credence to creationists (I can't believe I'm saying that). Anyway, here's their must-read list - I haven't checked it out properly yet, but from the Noah's Ark article which is remarkably well researched, I'm quite optimistic.

The reason I bring this up again is that I received an interesting email from a reader of this site, and hopefully I'll be able to post a few excerpts with his permission (he may even post them himself).

1:09 PM | permalink | discuss

Things that annoy me:

Wannabe-losers: As some have worked out, I go to a public/private school (what the hell - you have to pay to go to it). Apparently we have a higher standard of education. Anyway, at every private school in the UK are a surprisingly high percentage of malcontents who, despite their middle/upper-class upbringings, have no aspirations except to laze about all day and studiously avoid doing any work at all. I say - fine, I don't care whether you waste your life and don't get any qualifications. But just remember that you're wasting several thousand pounds of your parents' money every year to do something that could easily be done in a normal comprehensive school.

Exam mark schemes: It's strange, but examiners have a tendency to reward students for stating the blatantly obvious. It's been several times now that I've seen students pursue a line of reasoning correctly and to its conclusion, yet lose marks because they assumed that the examiner would have the good sense to know that they (the student) can in actual fact read a number off a graph. Something is wrong here.

12:05 AM | permalink | discuss

Friday, April 7

A while back I mentioned a guy called Peter Singer, the controversial Professor of Bioethics at Princeton. In his book, Practical Ethics, he outlines various views and ideas about voluntary and involuntary euthansia. I'm not going to say much more so you can make up your own minds about him, but he's definitely worth reading about.

A slightly biased account of who Peter Singer is and an extract from his Practical Ethics: Chapter 7 - Taking Life. To balance this out, here's a defense of Peter Singer by one of his students.

10:19 PM | permalink | discuss

I recall there was an interesting idea made by someone, on the lines that we could render humans immune to all viruses by changing our DNA so we use different bases (or something equally outlandish). As such, truth has proved stranger than fiction, and we have scientists designing artificial DNA with new bases that will apparently be able to form unnatural synthetic proteins. I'm not entirely sure how this claim works - surely you can code for any protein just by messing around with the sequence of codons? - but perhaps I'm missing something.

More interesting education stuff: Pupils suspended over cops game and Anti-plagiarism software to hit UK students.

Pupils suspended for playing cops and robbers? Can anyone give me a good reason why we shouldn't let kids play cops and robbers?

6:21 PM | permalink | discuss

Thursday, April 6

While randomly surfing around, I noticed some shockingly well designed weblogs, such as kiiroi and Holodeck73. But the same old complaints come to the fore - I swear I can't read a damn thing on them because the text is too small (and non-resizable, to boot). And there's yet more incomprehensible links.

Yes, I am bitter because it'd take me a fair while to make a site with their level of style, but you still need a minimum amount of user-friendliness, which is what many sites these days don't have.

By the way, the sidebar to the left is intentionally empty. If there's anything you want me to link to, just email me.

8:09 PM | permalink | discuss

I've always thought that the opposition's stance against therapeutic embryo cloning was a little hackneyed.

Arguments such as embryos being potential human beings fall down on two accounts for me. Firstly, I don't like to think that a couple of hundred cells comes into the class of human. And where do you draw the line? I can point to some dogs and say - well, if us humans left the Earth for a couple of million years, these guys might become intelligent beings. Does that mean they should have rights? Potential is all very well and good, but there is nothing sacred about a fertilised egg. Maybe you disagree.

Of course, there's always the controversial argument made by Peter Singer (I think) that we should assign rights by a scale of sentience; an adult chimp should have more rights than a severely disabled, blind and deaf human being is a notable (and much cut-down) example.

6:10 PM | permalink | discuss

Wednesday, April 5

We know what we think about extraterrestrial life, but what about kids?

Some surprisingly thoughtful answers are in the article, but my favourite quote was: 'Ciera Wood, 8, of Stillwater believes in aliens "because on my friend's poster it said that the Spice Girls saw them."

10:35 PM | permalink | discuss

We've all heard about the spring cleaning mission to tidy up Mir, but this article mentions the possibility of docking Mir with the International Space Station. It boggles the mind...

Although I'm almost certain that NASA would say no, perhaps justifiably by the fact that Mir isn't exactly the safest piece of equipment in orbit. But it's an interesting idea.

10:25 PM | permalink | discuss

Another development in the GM crops saga in the UK, the Greenpeace trial for destroying GM crops.

Basically, Greenpeace's case (made by Lord Melchett) rests upon the fact that they believe they had a moral obligation to protect us against the dangers of pollen from GM crops spreading to other fields, thus contamination other plants.

Some points:

1) Do we need to be protected?

2) I feel a strong moral obligation to go and destroy Greenpeace's HQ for their scaremongering over GM crops. But I'm not going to do it.

3) They make a big deal of GM pollen contaminating other plants, and as I recall from an article in the times, they say that spreading GM genes could quite literally be the end of the world - after all, these are self-replicating plants that we're messing about with here.

I was interested to note that they were remarkably sparse on details about exactly how likely it would be for, say, a GM wheat crop with weedkiller resistance to pass its genes on to a common weed (which is basically what they're worried about). Answer: so unlikely it's unbelievable.

Neither do they talk about exactly why scientists want to introduce GM crops. Does improving crop yields, reducing food prices and improving crop quality say anything to you? What about the fact that using GM crops would allow us to do away with the plethora of pesticides, fungicides, and all the other -cides because the crops have natural resistance? Weren't Greenpeace fighting for reduced use of chemical treatment on crops only until recently?

Any comments? I know you've got some.

8:36 PM | permalink | discuss

Welcome to the new look Vavatch Orbital! (multiple exclamation marks removed). It'll be a lot more convenient for me to add posts now, and I'll also be experimenting with introducing new posters to this weblog soon.

But for now, let's do some tests.... here's a page which represents to me all that is wrong with creationism - Dinosaurs on Noah's ark?

And yes, I do know that not all creationists are like this.

7:41 PM | permalink | discuss