Friday, 18 February, 2011, 10:03 AM - Not TFTDMy eagerly anticipated copy of Richard Feynman's book on Quantum Mechanics arrived yesterday.
For those who are unfamiliar with his work, Feynman took an idea by Dirac and turned it into a completely different (but equivalent) version of QM as devised by Heisenberg, Schrödinger and Dirac. (This was Feynman's graduate work!) In Feynman's formulation, particles take all possible paths between a source and a destination. When he first explained his ideas to Freeman Dyson, Dyson responded "You're crazy!" which is the response of most people when they first hear it, but nowadays, Fenyman's ideas are indispensable tools in the Standard Model of particle physics.
Near the start of the book Feynman describes the famous double slit experiment, but performed with electrons rather than light. He says that the experiment hadn't actually been performed, which at the time was true, but physicists were sufficiently confident in QM that they could predict it's results.
This updated version of the book provides a link to an experiment performed by researchers at Hitachi with a beautiful video showing clear interference bands between electrons, just like QM says there should be.
MPs have been infuriated by recent court rulings demanding that prisoners be given the vote and paedophiles be given the right to appeal being held on the sex register for life. Tabloid headlines were predictable.
But human rights are not just for good people, evil people are entitled to them as well. What about the rights of paedophiles?
As a Christian, I see all people as being made in the image of the Invisible Magic Friend and therefore deserving equal rights. Those of you who don't have an Invisible Magic Friend probably can't think of any good reason why all people should have equal rights, so it's a good job I was here to explain it to you. Sometimes we voluntarily sacrifice some of our rights, such as when paedophiles voluntarily go to prison to be rehabilitated, or when Jesus sacrificed his right to the be the Invisible Magic Friend for a while so that he could become visible and slightly less magic.
We can find all we need to know about rights in the Big Book of Magic Stuff. Admittedly it doesn't actually mention human rights as such, it's more about how to worship properly, the punishments for not worshipping properly, the rules for enslaving people, committing genocide and so forth, but it's definitely very much in the spirit of equal human rights for all.
So in the spirit of equal rights for all, I have to say, won't someone please, please think of the paedophiles!
Isn't the way old people are treated by the NHS just appalling? The Health Service Ombudsman thinks so. So does the Royal College of Nursing. Student nurses are reminded during their training that people are people and need to be treated like people, especially old people.
We all feel a basic revulsion at old people. I know I do, so you must too. Even at 61, I can hardly bear to look at them. That's why most societies have special rules to remind us that old people are people and should be treated as people. We just hand them over to overworked underpaid nurses who can't be bothered to treat old people as people.
Part of the reason we've become less civilised and don't treat people as people any more, is that we don't prepare for death properly, or "praeparatio mortius" as it's more properly known. Everything is more properly known in Latin, for as soon as you know the Latin term for anything, people recognise that you're clearly an expert. Student nurses don't spend enough time thinking about death. People have to learn to face up to death, to confront it realistically, like we Christians do, by getting ready to spend eternity in happiness in the invisible magic afterlife.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
The people of Egypt are having a revolution. I've been to Egypt you know. I spent ten weeks there as an undergraduate. It was very nice. I liked the people and the warmth and the coffee shops and all the old buildings and the sense of history and the civilisation and the culture and those lovely little sweet pastries drenched in honey or syrup that's a bit like a baklava but you don't seem to be able to get anywhere else. I came home from Egypt and I thought, that was very nice that was.
So what happens to Egypt now? Well it would be a terrible shame if they got another tyrant in Mubarak's place. What we really hope for is that a nice, liberal democracy will emerge in Egypt, but that's not guaranteed. I mean anything could happen, couldn't it? Some revolutions go horribly wrong, like in... oh well, I don't want to mention any names.
What does Islam have to say? Well Islam is very keen on social order, justice, punishment, that sort of thing. So as long as Egypt gets social order, justice, punishment, that sort of thing, Islam will be quite happy but it could still go horribly wrong.
The Prophet is said to have said that it's a very good thing to tell the truth to a tyrant. Now I know there are a few people who keep coming on here telling you that the truth will set you free, but that's from the wrong holy book and the truth will not set you free. It is not true that the truth will set you free. Truth and being set free are not at all the same thing.
So in conclusion, let's hope that it all works out well for all the people Egypt: men, women, children, infants, the elderly, Muslim, Christian, pastry makers - that they come to enjoy peace, prosperity, freedom, justice, good health, the occasional break to get away from it all and many, many other good things.
The Shurch of England ishn't keen on gay weedingsh in itsh churches (hic!).
Shumtimes the shurch ish ahead (hic!) ahead of the times. You remember when everybody elsh wanted to keep halfing shlaves 'nd the shurch wanted to get rid of 'em. Took ush a little longer with divorces (hic!), which ish odd when you think about it, given that the good ol' CofE was created shpeshif-icall-y to grant a divorsh.
The nation'sh eshtablished church ish like a great birdge (hic!), striding like a great birdge, shpamming the divide between the nation and the shurch. Like any great birdge, it musht be flixible (hic!), but not too flixible, or it'll wobble 'bout like the milkenium... millillilum... milliners' bridge. Mushn't be too rigid ether though. Then it'll all crack (hic!) an jusht fall to bits. It'sh got to be a little bit flixible, but not too mush, and a little bit (hic!) bit rigid, but not too mush.
Give 'em time. They'll get round to akshepting it. Then we can all shelebrate (hic!) with all 'em lovely gay peoplesh with a nice glash of bubbly.
What? Oh, yesh pleash, jusht a little one (hic!).
Monday, 14 February, 2011, 09:05 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Good morning John, good morning Justin and good morning to you all.
I've known many atheists you know. Many have been very nice people indeed. In fact, some of my best friends are atheists. Just because they haven't got an Invisible Magic Friend, there is no reason why they can't do good. I've known atheists who took an active interest in politics, in charity and even in helping strangers.
Why, we are bound to ask, did the Invisible Magic Friend make atheists? Well, to be truly moral, you have to act as if there wasn't an Invisible Magic Friend. There is one of course but just act as if there wasn't. Atheists are also very good at doubting things. They doubt the existence of the Invisible Magic Friend for instance. In particular, they don't worship an Invisible Magic Friend stuck in a bronze age mentality. Worshipping no Invisible Magic Friend is better than worshipping a false one.
Our prayers can be so fervent that the Invisible Magic Friend is moved to do what we want, but better the prayers that move us to do the Invisible Magic Friend's will, although I'll just remind you that you should do it as if he didn't exist, even though he does.
There are many militant people out there, militantly giving their point of view and militantly not listening to what others have to say. They're so shrill. But they're not the nice atheists. The truly wise ones learn from everyone.
Sunday, 13 February, 2011, 07:50 AM - Not TFTDI just want to express my unbounded admiration for Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development. Finally we have a government ready to warn people of that most dangerous of all traditions: the celebration of Saint Valentine's Day. However, Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) was quick to distance himself from any suggestion that this applied to any of Malaysia's non-Muslim minorities.
"We appreciate that this is a deeply felt religious tradition among Christians. In the West in particular, you celebrate free love and indulge in inappropriate vices at the drop of a hat on Saint Valentine's day. We respect these cultural differences and understand perfectly that you don't have the morals that we Muslims have, that is why this advice extends only to Muslims and not to other less enlightened religions."
In 2005 Malaysia's National Fatwa Council [Ed - select English at the top left of the page], after much debate and scholarship, wisely concluded that there is no evidence of a Saint Valentine's day tradition in Islam and that this "Spirit festival has elements of Christianity and the practice is mixed with the contradictory and immoral acts forbidden by Islam."
More general guidance on taking part in Christian festivals is always available from the Department of Islamic Development. They council against various un-Islamic religious rituals such as:
- dressing up as Santa Claus,
- wearing conspicuous clothing,
- anything that involves superstition.
JAKIM officials will carry out a nationwide 'Mind the Valentine's Day Trap' campaign, aimed at preventing Muslims from celebrating the day. Anyone caught sending a Valentine's Day card to their loved one will be severely reprimanded and you don't want to even think about the penalty for being caught in possession of a red rose or a box of Thornton's Classic Chocolate Collection.
Nasrudin Hasan Tantawi, head of the Islamic party PAS's youth wing said Wednesday that authorities will carry out "immorality checks" on February 14. "We are deploying local religious department officials as well as party members to stop such sinful acts."
In recent years, authorities have searched hotel rooms on the night of February 14. Unmarried Muslims who meet in private can be charged with "khalwat," or "close proximity", which carries fines and prison sentences of several months. For as we all know, wherever two people are in close proximity to one another there is the possibility of sin being committed.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Human Rights Commissioner, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
The people of Egypt have spoken. A dictator who ruled for life and would probably have passed power to his son, is now gone. At last, the people of Egypt might taste the fruits of democracy.
This is exactly what the people of Israel did when they got rid of the Judges. Fed up with generations of having the best person for the job run the country, they demanded a proper hereditary dictatorship like every other country had.
But the events in Egypt aren't just of religious significance, they're terribly spiritual events too. You have no idea how very spiritual it all is. The Egyptian people are a very spiritual people. I know, I've spoken to all of them and they all said how very spiritual they were [Ed - they have no choice]. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it wasn't their very spiritualness that caused them to get rid of Mubarak. That's how very useful being spiritual is.
Like you, I am praying for the people of Egypt. Let's pray that they go on being so very spiritual.
Illustriously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
The rule of law is a Good Thing. It promotes a stable society where trade can flourish to the general well being of all.
Of course, some think the law is oppressive: Marxists, trade unionists, poor people and other such trouble makers, but the law can generally be used to keep them in their place.
In the good old days, when bishops were not mocked but were properly regarded in high esteem by common people, laws were derived from the law of the Invisible Magic Friend. This is regarded as a rather old fashioned idea nowadays. We like to think that laws are created through the "will of the people" and other such fashionable nonsense. As an Illustriously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, let me just assure you that such dangerous novelties are deranged, delusional and just plain wrong. You can be certain of this because I am telling you it. On this occasion, there is not even a need to quote from the Big Book of Magic Stuff, save for a trivial poetic reference to the psalms.
The laws of the Invisible Magic Friend are as constant and undeniable as the laws of nature, which were also created by the Invisible Magic Friend. So let's get rid of all this wasteful democracy, with it's parliaments and debates and attempts to find consensus. All the laws we need, good laws, right laws, divine laws, can be given to you by people like me.
And the big news today is, the Church of England wanting to change the words of the Baptism ceremony. We heard about it yesterday on this very programme, shortly after TFTD, the only 3 minutes of religion in an otherwise totally secular programme.
There's furious debate about this at all levels of society. You can hardly go into a pub or a restaurant these days without hearing raised voices shouting, "Baptism is a gift of grace that wipes away the stain of original sin and I'll punch the nose of anyone who says otherwise." Different theological camps have developed, with everyone from plumbers to brain surgeons passionately defending their favourite team.
It all stems from the decline in the number of babies being baptised. Of course, if you choose not to have your baby baptised that's up to you. It's your own free choice if you choose not to have your child baptised into the Christian Church. It's no skin off my nose if you choose to leave them as unsaved heathens with no connection to their Lord and Saviour. Why should I care if you can't get them into one of the better schools in four or five years time?
Some people choose to take baptism a bit more seriously. Sayed Musa is now languishing in an Afghan jail because he was baptised. That's just the way we Christians have always suffered of course. Still, if you want to betray the sacrifice and courage of Sayed Musa by not getting your children baptised, then that's up to you.
As Saint Paul so wittily remarked, "You've all been baptised into the death of Christ." That's the kind of cheery, funny bloke that Saint Paul was. Baptism is all about sacrifice and death. Precisely the sort of thing you should be thinking about when a new baby is born.