Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 07:24 AM - Democracy, Siddiqui
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Good leadership requires a sense of purpose and high levels of integrity, but it also needs someone who is able to listen and lead by consent. As various dictators around the Middle East are now discovering, hanging onto power without peoples' consent can be a brutal and bloody affair.

In democratic societies too, people can rebel against their former leaders. Berlusconi's attempt to stoke the politics of fear in Milan, claiming that the city would be overrun by Gypsies, Muslims and foreigners had no impact on that city's vote. The whole of Italy has now rejected Berlusconi's policies on nuclear power, on water privatisation and on him never having to stand trial for anything. It seems even the Italians are now beginning to see Berlusconi as a joke.

Give someone too much power for too long and they will eventually begin to see themselves as having all the answers. They stop listening. They fail to lead by consent. As Lincoln once said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

We can all misuse authority and power. As it says in one of the nice bits of the Koran, we can all be asked to lead and we will all be judged on that leadership. For leaders to use their power wisely, they must always retain a little humility.

5 comments ( 1141 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 446 )

Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge  
Tuesday, 14 June, 2011, 07:38 AM - Gibberish, Banner
Rating ? out of 5 (I have no idea)

Did Henry II really say "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" or similar words, possibly to a comparable, if not identical effect? Well, the answer to that is that we just don't know. He may have said it but then again he may not have. It's very difficult to tell one way or another. What we can know for certain is that clerics must be allowed to speak out on social issues, whether or not Henry II said, or possibly didn't say, what he is alleged to have said, or not.

Even if we could, which of course we can't, we mustn't, or at least shouldn't, or possibly mightn't, say that we wish, or even wish that we wish, in such a way as to be oppressive or repressive, towards contrary opinions to established opinions that, when spoken by kings, politicians, newspapers, opinion formers, by clerics... I'm sorry, I've forgotten where this sentence was going.


The Church is the voice of the Invisible Magic Friend, the voice of the spirit of the free, condemning abuse of power by the powerful who abuse their power, the humble voice that will not be silenced by the powerful and the big and the mighty and those that would silence the humble, free, truthful, pious voice of the spirit of the Invisible Magic Friend.

I think that should give politicians something to think about.

21 comments ( 1254 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 436 )

Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham  
Monday, 13 June, 2011, 07:21 AM - Science, Wilkinson
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Today, the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation will ask for 2.3billion to help save the lives of 4 million children a year.

This is science doing good things, but what is science really for? Francis Bacon thought it was to give us power over nature, but Bacon also thought it could be used to relieve suffering. That's because he was a Christian. If he hadn't been a Christian he probably wouldn't have bothered with the second bit. Thankfully he was a Christian, and could be bothered with the second bit, and that's why many scientists today want to do good things.

Science is a gift from the Invisible Magic Friend. I love science. That's why I gave it up to do theology. The Big Book of Magic Stuff is just full of tips on using inductive reasoning, experimental method, empirical verification of theory, and falsifiability, with its inspirational commands like, "Don't eat from the tree of knowledge or you'll all die." Jesus himself spent a great deal of his time healing people. Pay no attention to that woman the other week who said healing the sick was just a hobby for Jesus. It was really important.

As Jesus said over and over again, "I can't emphasise enough the importance of the scientific method. All ideas, no matter how much authority their authors claim, must be continually tested and verified. This is really important people. You won't believe what you'll be able to do if you just embrace this one simple notion."

So, as you see, science was invented by the Invisible Magic Friend because he is so compassionate that he wanted us to find cures for all the diseases he'd invented. For various reasons he just didn't want to give it to us for the first few thousand years.

12 comments ( 1194 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 236 )

Who says physicists can't rap? 
Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 06:32 AM - Science, Not TFTD


The experiment Mitch Benn was referring to is explained here. It's a variant on the classic experiment where single photons of light are fired through a double slit. Despite the fact that photons arrive one at a time at their destination, they still gradually build up an interference pattern.

| .
light source --> | .
| .
double .
slit interference

If you try to observe the photons as they go through one or both of the two slits, the interference pattern is destroyed. This new variant on the experiment sets up four calcite filters at different distances after the double slit. Photons in a definite polarization state and with a definite wavelength (and therefore definite momentum magnitude) are then fired at the double slit. The photons hit the filters at different angles. This means their distance through the filters vary and, due to the properties of the calcite filters, alters their polarization by an amount proportional to the length of their path through the filter.

By measuring the proportion of photons that get through each filter at each point, they can determine the average polarization at each point, and therefore the average angle the photons are travelling at. They thus have the average direction and magnitude of momentum at each point and can construct some really pretty graphs of the photon paths as they build up the interference pattern.

Quantum Mechanics says that you can't measure the position and momentum of a single particle simultaneously, but that's not what's happening here. The experiment is measuring the average properties of a whole bunch of particles, which Quantum Mechanics definitely allows. One of the reasons the experiment is causing a bit of a fuss, is the striking similarity between the paths they have sketched and the theoretical paths predicted by Bohm's hidden variable theory of Quantum Mechanics.

This is only what I could get from the scienceblogs post. I don't have access to academic journals any more. I'd very much like to see the original paper if someone could send me a copy.

Mustn't forget today's stunning Astronomy Picture of the Day.
7 comments ( 990 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 247 )

Reverend Rob Marshall, an Anglican priest 
Saturday, 11 June, 2011, 07:09 AM - Gibberish, Marshall
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

We're having a bit of a rainy bit after a dry spell. I have only one thing to say. DON'T PANIC! This is all just a normal part of the Creator's created Creation. France is having a normal part of the Creator's created Creation too, as is Germany. In fact, all over the world, there are dry bits and wet bits and this is all a normal part of the Creator's created Creation.

I like to call creation, "Creation", rather than "nature", because a creation requires a Creator to create it. Calling Creation, "nature", is all a bit sciency and doesn't seem to imply any sort of creator to create it.

We can see that having wet spells and dry spells is a normal part of the Creator's created Creation by consulting the Big Book of Magic Stuff. There we find numerous tales of wet times and dry times, of floods and droughts, including one very big flood indeed. This is why faith is so important. We have faith that there is water. Jesus himself, frequently referred to the weather in both a practical and a metaphorical sense. "Looks rainy today," he would say in his godly, divine wisdom.

Thanks to having faith, we know that the Creator created water, as part of His created Creation, so that we could be alive. Without water we die and are no longer a living part of the Creator's created Creation. So let us be thankful and praise the Creator for creating water, and hydrocarbons and nitrogen and oxygen and phosphorous and iron and various other trace elements, without which we would not be a living part of the Creator's created Creation.

Makes you think, eh?

6 comments ( 1119 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.2 / 271 )

Infamously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...  
Friday, 10 June, 2011, 07:09 AM - Harries
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Hitler's letter goes on display this week. Apparently he wanted to get rid of the Jews. Back with modern day extremism, the government has published its strategy for dealing with it.

Britain is very multicultural. All over Britain there are lots of people being culturally different. Sometimes you get people being cultural right beside one another. What is it that keeps all these different cultures together and stops any of them being extremist? British values include a belief in democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect. This includes respect for different faiths. We don't go around mocking faiths do we - at least not all faiths. That would be very rude, and in some cases, suicidal.

The Roman Empire was also very multicultural. There was Romans, Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, Gauls, Britons, Parthians, Medes, Mesopotamians, Cappadocians, Syrians, Carthaginians, all being very cultural and ethnic. They all had their own languages. Fortunately, early Christians didn't have to learn all those languages. They just spoke the good news and everyone heard it in their own language. We know this because it tells us all about it in the New Tasty mint. It happened on Pentecost. Has anyone mentioned Pentecost yet? It's this Sunday you know.

So all we need to do to maintain social cohesion in a multicultural society is to speak in tongues.

10 comments ( 1042 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 240 )

Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Thursday, 9 June, 2011, 07:40 AM - Siddiqui
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

There's nothing much in the news at the moment, so I thought I'd tell you about what I've been watching on the telly.

In between my jobs as a busy Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow, I like to relax by watching Emmerdale. A couple of days ago Jackson Walsh (you know, the gay wheelchair bound character) was helped to commit suicide by his mum and his friend (let's just call him a "friend" for now, OK?). Well, I could have done with an extra box of tissues, I can tell you.

I would just like to remind you that I myself am a mother. As a mother myself, I have to say it was very sad. I found myself wondering, what would I do if my gay disabled son wanted to die in the presence of his lover friend? Although I have to say, that's rather unusual in Muslim families. His request to die was the result of a long period of contemplation. It wasn't a rushed decision. Would I go against all the ethical and moral teachings of Islam? Or would I conclude that Islam's just a load of arbitrary made up stuff that I should ignore and do what my son wants?

Next Monday Peter Smedley will be shown dying, live on TV. Although this is unethical, immoral and irreligious, you can't help wondering if some people are having such a rotten time being alive, that they'd be better off dead. The Koran says it's a bad thing, but maybe we should just ignore the Koran on this one.

20 comments ( 1204 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 207 )

Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge  
Wednesday, 8 June, 2011, 08:37 AM - Materialism, Money, Banner
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

A Chinese teenager has sold a kidney to buy an iPad. I know what you're thinking. That's shocking, especially considering that there are far cheaper Android based equivalents.

But, in a sense, aren't we all (and by "we", I do of course mean "you" ) like the Chinese boy? Aren't you all so superficial that you think having more stuff will make you happy? Yes of course you are.

Many of you will be stuck in boring, tedious, dead end, meaningless jobs. You have to suffer a long, often frustrating commute. You may be undergoing that long, frustrating commute even as I speak. To those of you in your early twenties who have already realised this, I say, don't worry, there's only 40 years or so to go. Then you get to retire.

Of course many of you have to prostitute yourselves to your pointless jobs in order do things like eat. What a shame.

This reminds me of Pentecost, which by a marvellous coincidence just happens to be this Sunday. Those early Christians held all their goods in common. They shared everything and only bought and sold for the common good. We don't do that nowadays. That kind of collective ownership is all a bit suspect and communist and not at all the way that respectable Christians behave, but I think it would be a very admirable way for some of you non-Christians to behave.

12 comments ( 1246 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 469 )

Soberingly Reverend Tom Butler, ex-Lord Bishop of Southwark 
Tuesday, 7 June, 2011, 07:34 AM - Butler
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

You know it'sh not all bad news. (Hic!) It'sh not all doom and gloom and (Hic!) despair and hopeleshnesh. There's good things. No, really, there ish. Take the foreign aid (Hic!) aid budget, that'sh go'in up. That'sh someth'in to cheer 'bout, ishn't it? (Hic!)

Chrishtianty's alwaysh been big on collect'in money and pass'in shum of it to the poor. Sh'aint Paul shtarted it off. (Hic!) He was a right champion fund raiser he wash, help'in the church back in Jelushalem (Hic!) who otherwise might reshent him callin 'imself and aposhle.

That'sh not the only good news. Two drug comp'nies hiv decided to (Hic!) to sell their new vacsheens at a price devlepopping countries can actually afford. OK, it'sh not exactly (Hic!) charity, but it'sh someth'in to be happy about it, ishn't it? Well ishn't it? Yesh it ish.

And there'sh even more good news. Help for Heroes has raised nearly 100m for injured sholdiersh. That'sh pretty good news, (Hic!) ishn't it?

Sho really, ever thin's not ash depreshin and shynical and unremitt'ly awful ash we normally fink. I fink I need a drink. (Hic!)

7 comments ( 930 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 515 )

Rabbi Lionel Blue 
Monday, 6 June, 2011, 07:25 AM - Health, Humility, Rabbi Lionel Blue
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Good morning Sarah, good morning Justin, and good morning to you all.

University students are beginning to celebrate the end of their exams. For some, the result will not be all they had hoped for. I can sympathise with that. Sixty years ago, a mental breakdown took me from anticipating a first to barely scraping through. Being gay, any relationship was a criminal offence. As a Marxist, I had no Invisible Magic Friend to turn to. Even my parents had threatened suicide.

It's only when you've experienced failure, what it's like to be at rock bottom, when your pride has been stripped and revealed as false, that you learn mercy and compassion. You have to make mistakes in order to learn how to do things right. Sometimes this involves many false starts. It took my first two relationships to learn that you must love people as they are, rather than as you would want them to be.

And to the students with a first class degree in politics and economics who still can't get a job - well at least you're clever enough to know why you can't get a job.

11 comments ( 1457 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 507 )

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