Hope you're all well, and I hope you have a lovely Christmas!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Hope you're all well, and I hope you have a lovely Christmas!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sorry for that slightly heavy entry.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I know I shouldn't be too worried; I'm ahead on my work schedule I set myself, and I've never missed a deadline, and I still have the rest of today and three days to tidy my apartment, go to the post office and to pack.
Of course, the first thing I do when I'm procastinating, is to look up procrastination on Wikipedia.
Sorry about that little rant. I only did it so I was ahead of Thomas's blog count by two entries!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Or maybe, it's just because I'm a guy and I have man flu.
Monday, December 08, 2008
So, I was planning to have a quiet, early night tonight, which would have been the first in a week, but I didn't. So I decided that it wouldn't make too much difference if I blogged until the early hours of the morning. I'm not quite sure how the logic worked in that, but I didn't say it needed to be coherent. But if I'm going to say I had a really busy week, I suppose I should really describe it.
Tuesday, I went to church. Nothing abnormal there. Wednesday, after lectures, Lucy came round mine for dinner on a spur-of-the-moment thing, which was nice. Thursday was a very busy day: I had four hours of lectures, I taught for two hours, I watched the last ten minutes of the university pantomime (unfortunately I couldn't see it all because it clashed with my teaching) and then went round to Nicky and Lucy's with a large entourage of people for pizza and wine. It was a rather crazy evening involving politically incorrect comments, charades which rapidly descended into sexually lurid banter, and a cold walk back to the metro. Fun was had by all.
Friday, I was secretly hoping to have an earlyish night, but other friends wanted to go out for drinks near where I live, and so I would have been coerced into joining them. That is, if it wasn't for the fact that both of our plans were scuppered somewhat, since Natasha had painful stomach cramps, which made her worried (read nearly-hysterical), and we, that being Lucy, Nicky and I, took her to Urgences (A&E) in a hospital in the north of Paris. And in my rush to join Lucy and Nicky chez Natasha, I broke a wine glass. A&E a la Paris was an interesting experience, involving screaming men tied up with leather straps being dragged through the waiting room by several policemen. We were there for four hours, playing noughts and crosses, hangman, guggenheim and squares, until we found out that there was no serious cause for Natasha's ailment, and we all went home. So at one o'clock in the morning, I was clearing up broken glass from my floor.
On Saturday I did some adminny things, and then in the evening I went to a friend's for dinner and played pictionnary and charades. It was a very good evening. On Sunday I had a completely fruitless day, then went to church, where for no reason whatsoever I found myself so tired I was almost falling asleep, and then met up with Susannah and Nicky where we had mulled wine in an interesting bar by the Pompidou Centre.
Today, I went to uni, where I watched Casablanca and Le Jour se leve. Afterwards, I went to Starbucks with Lucy and then had dinner chez elle (fish nuggets and potatoes), then watched Fun with Dick and Jane, which was an entertaining film. Three films in one day, that might be a record for me.
Even though my life seemed to be very busy, I managed to do both my translations, of which one was evil, hand them in early, do my stylistics essay and finish my cinema one. That means that over Christmas, I have just one essay to write! Yay! And I've managed to keep my tiny apartment from slipping into a state where it would be uninhabitable, although, apparently, creative chaos is good. I've also managed to play a lot of bubbleshooter.
And just as a little aside, did you click on the link saying "DO NOT CLICK THE LINK"? If so, shame on you.
Anyway, I'm off. Bubbleshooter calls.
Friday, November 21, 2008
My friend defines free will as a "fact concerning a human's being, which states that he can make a decision by himself, totally free of any control by God." I'm going to sort of take a Reductio ad absurdum approach. In order to do this, I'm going to expand the definition slightly, and remove the "by God". Free will, is therefore:
Now, as John Donne famously penned, "no man is an island". It is obvious that a person is not completely free to outside influences. If a person is hanged by the neck for more than a few seconds, he will die, regardless of all the will in the world he might have to live. A lot of what happens in our life is completely outside of our control. We are all agreed then, that there is no such thing as absolute free will.
There are, however, many instances where we do have a choice as to the outcome of some event. Please note that choice is not the same thing as free will; it is simply having more than one option available to a given situation. The choice that we make may well be, and often is, determined. Now, here is an important part of my argument: the consequences of having free will and not having free will are often the same thing. Here is an example. Bob is hungry. There is a sandwich in front of him. He has two options: he can eat the sandwich, or he can leave it. Most of us agree that, if no other factors came into play (the flavour, whether Bob is wheat intolerant, whether he only eats white bread, etc.), he would eat the sandwich. But does Bob have any choice in the matter? As we can see, Bob acts in the way that, according to all visible factors, is most beneficial to him. We can summarise as thus:
To a given stimulus, there is a given response. There are plenty of examples for this. If Bob is tired, the logical response is for him to sleep. Therefore, for any given stimulus (S) we get a given response (R). S --> R. Now, the response does not need to temporally follow the stimulus, it can precede it. If we believe something might happen, we might act in a particular way. For example, you might go to the toilet before going on a long car journey. Or you might lock the front door when you go to work to prevent your house being burgled. Most of our life works in this way. When given alternative courses of actions, we choose, save ignorance or impediment, to act in a way which is most productive. But does this mean we have free will?
In short, the answer is, we don't know. Either we have a true and genuine choice to decide between different options, in which we will most likely choose the better, or we have no choice, and we are determined to choose the option which has the most likely benefits. Of course, if we didn't have free will, we could be just as likely forced to choose the least beneficial option, but this isn't the case, and if it were, it would be obvious that we don't have free will.
Now, my friend argues that, "If free-will exists, then we are all like the massive amount of keys, in Harry Potter, flying around the chamber at random." Although I like the reference to J.K. Rowling's works, I have to disagree. As demonstrated, free will does not mean random will. A given stimulus does not produce an unrelated response. For example:
is not free will. In fact, when a person behaves in a way where their response does not match the stimulus, this is often a sign of mental illness, and as stated above, demonstrates that we do not have free will. Of course, there's the argument of whether we can rely on our perception of stimuli, but I might come back to that later.
Therefore, arguing that people have free will is not "the deification of man". To choose to come to God does not mean that "we are glorious". Are we glorious in choosing to eat when we are hungry, or to drink when we have thirst? I think not. Nor do I think that we deserve any particular praise in making a perfectly logical decision when coming to God, since it is simply making the decision which is most beneficial to us. This is even more the case when it is God who granted us logic. In choosing God, I do not in any way believe that we are responsible for our salvation. Let us take the example of Paul. His conversion was rather dramatic, so much so, that any sudden paradigm shift is often referred to as a Damascus experience, or a version thereof. We can summarise his conversion as thus:
We can see that his witnessing God is the stimulus for his conversion. Now, did Paul have any choice in the matter? We can clearly see that Paul had no choice in the stimulus. He did not choose for God to come down and blind him. But with his conversion, this is a different question. Did Paul, in witnessing God, make what would generally be considered the logical choice in converting to Christianity? Or did Paul have no choice: simply through witnessing God, he had no choice but to convert. The answer, which is simple, is, we don't know, and nor does it matter much.
So, if I believe that our choices would be no different if we had free will or if we didn't, why am I opposed to Nathan's argument? Surely, I shouldn't really care about whether we have free will if this is what I believe. Well, you're going to have to wait for the rest of that, since I've been writing this for a rather long time and can't be bothered to finish it at the moment. So, till next time, adieu.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It's amazing what you do when you're bored. Today I've found out, someone called C. D. Fisher defined 'boredom' as "an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in and difficulty concentrating on the current activity.” The etymological origins of the word 'bore' (as in the feeling, not a hole) are unkown. People just seemed to use the word around 1760 to denote the feeling of ennui. In fact, the phrase was often 'a French bore'. The first recorded use of the word 'boredom' is in Bleak House, penned by Charles Dickens.
I found the YouTube videos I watched to be incredibly depressing. That's to say, the videos themselves were rarely the problem, but the multitude of highly depressing comments which went with them. On a video created by the EU Commission on Aids, there were so many comments about how HIV (along with Ebola, red tide and bird flu) were created by American new-world-order/zionist government agencies, how HIV doesn't actually cause Aids, it's just the side effects from amyl nitrates or anti-retroviral drugs, and on another EU video on equality, the fascist comments were just tragic. I know that I shouldn't put my hopes in human kind, and I know that the internet, with its anonymity, its lack of consequences and its deindividualisation, fuels extreme, hateful or plain stupid comments, and that often only people with the most... marginal... opinions would see the point in posting comments, but still, I found it rather surprising.
In a rather tragic freak accident, a Brazilian widow was killed by the coffin of her late husband.
I hope this entry hasn't left you all depressed and reaching for the amyl nitrates...
- All were written in incomprehensible English.
- All had the same layout.
- All of them seemed to be posted in Germany, although they had different user names (the dates and standard text were in German).
- Each of the blog entries within one blog all had the same title, which was the same as the blog and each referenced a place name (two had Durham in, one had Los Angeles City Hospital).
To give you an example of the text:
"You told me you his shoulder for her mask of cold indifference the crest, a good become her protector. This is a quick the landing, he motioned there when she deliberately had only just realized with them. He approached and embraced CATHOLIC FAMILY SERVICES OF DURHAM she was doing hit protest with a long on the table."
Do you think I've uncovered something?
Several arguments have been used to support cluster bombs. They're effective ways of killing terrorists, and why should we care about civilians in those countries, because they don't care about ours, or that China won't ban cluster bombs so why should we? Both of these miss a huge point. We're not terrorists, and we're not in a corrupt authoritarian country who has an atrocious human rights record. If we talk about democracy and freedom and human rights, maybe we should walk the walk first.
Here's a video showing tests for cluster munitions.
And here's a slightly more positive video from the Cluster Munitions Coalition.
Please sign this petition, we have a moral obligation to stop this sort of thing.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Last night, just before going to bed, I received a rather unpleasant electric shock. From my sink. The cause seems to be that my washing machine isn't earthed, and I, washing my hands, barefoot, connected myself to the excess current. At first, I couldn't for the life of me work out what was causing the electric current. So, the next morning, I talked to the gardienne about it, who's a very nice lady, and very helpful with any problem. When I explained my experience, she only replied knowingly, "Ah, that's the washing machine. It isn't earthed and it's discharging current." From the tone of her voice it was if I was to expect to be periodically electrocuted by my water supply, and it was something all French people who have washing machines have to put up with. Well, at least I have a washing machine...
On the bright side, while most French companies and services have barely realised that the internet exists, one stands out as an exception: ratp.fr. This is the website for information on Parisian public transport, and I can say that it's one of the best websites I've come across. The interactive map of the transport system is amazing, and much better than the near-illegible pdf file that is given on the London Underground site. The route planner even tells you how much carbon dioxide your journey will take up compared with a car. I'm amazed that someone decided that would be useful information to tell you when you're planning to get across Paris. Plus you get email updates warning of up-coming strikes. On a not so bright side, for some unfathomable reason, I can no longer top up my phone online.
On a completely different note, I saw Quantum of Solace on Tuesday. It was a jour ferie (bank holiday), which France has an abundance of, so people from Church decided to have a group foray to the cinema. And it was good - much better than the reviews made out. I did come to the conclusion however, that Bond and restaurants never mix. Within two minutes maximum of James Bond walking into a bar, restaurant or cafe, there will be a violent shoot-out, with diners and drinkers cowering under tables and showered with debris, bodies, and other miscellaneous items. Hotels seemed pretty safe though.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
But in his argument, this friend mentioned two points in which McCain was possibly better than Obama, that is gay marriage and abortion. I'm going straight for the heavy topics here! And, although I agreed with him to some extent, I also disagreed with him. This got me thinking on what I actually thought about these issues, et voila. So let's go for the first one: gay marriage.
My friend said, "I think that the Bible teaches that [homosexuality] is wrong." I agree. And I agree that in church, marriages should be heterosexual. Heterosexual relationships are the only relationships given such emphasis in the Bible. They are clearly set apart. One whole book of the Bible is devoted to a heterosexual relationship. And I think that in the church, it should stay that way. Outside of the church, well, who am I to say? I think Christians should not dictate the interpersonal relationships of other people in society if it does no harm to people who have no say in the arrangement. A relationship of informed consent (within certain bounds) should be allowed. And I believe that an official union which confers the same state rights to those in a homosexual relationship should be allowed. Just because I might think that homosexual marriages don't have a place in the church, that does not mean that I should try my utmost to prevent people from, let's say, getting the same level of housing benefits as those in heterosexual relationships. The vast majority of those in heterosexual marriages in the UK and France, the two countries where I have lived, give no thought to God's opinion to it. So by my reckonning (I might be wrong!), us Christians should be equally opposed to most heterosexual marriages. And on a historical note, during the emergence of the Christian church, homosexuality was widely practised, and even condoned by the surrounding society. I don't imagine organising anti-gay marriage petitions was high on St Paul's agenda.
Point two: abortion. I believe that aborting a foetus is no different from killing a human being living outside of the womb. But like killing people, although the majority of the cases are morally abhorrent, and constitute murder, or at least manslaughter, there are cases where it might be necessary to kill another human being. I believe, like most people, that it is perfectly acceptable to kill a person in self-defence. That is, where allowing that person to live, they would inflict severe physical or mental injury against the other person. And I believe the same is true with abortion. I believe that there are circumstances where continuing the pregnancy would be significantly worse than aborting the foetus.
Now, to get into a more detailed discussion, I think it's important to look at the laws surrounding abortion. Since I'm British, I'm going to use UK law, but of course the conclusions I draw are universal. So here's the Abortion Act 1967:
A legally induced abortion must be:
- performed by a registered medical practitioner, performed, except in an emergency, in a National Health Service (NHS) hospital or in a place for the time being approved for the purpose of the act, and
- certified by two registered medical practitioners as justified under one or more of the following grounds:
A the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;
B the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
C the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
D the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing child(ren) of the family of the pregnant woman;
E there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped;
or in emergency, certified by the operating practitioner as immediately necessary:
F to save the life of the pregnant woman; or
G to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.
There is no time limit for abortion, except for categories C and D, for which there is a 24-week time limit. I agree with reasons A, B, D, E, F and G. So far so good. But C I have a problem with. 'What?' I hear you cry, 'You have a problem with allowing an abortion when the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman was at risk?' Well, yes, actually. The problem is, this is far too vague. In fact, statistically speaking, an abortion is less likely to result in health risks than a full-term pregnancy. So all pregnancies fall under this category. Many doctors also believe that if a woman is in a position to ask for an abortion, her mental health is de facto at risk because of the consequences of refusing an abortion. This means that, often, any pregnant woman asking for an abortion is able to have one. And the statistics speak for themselves. 97% of abortions in England, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland has its own laws on abortion) fall under this category. I do not believe that ground C should be scrapped. A woman who is likely to suffer from severe, long-term post-natal depression, regardless of whether her child is adopted by someone else or not, should, I believe, be allowed to have an abortion, for example. I do believe however that it should be tightened to only allow cases where the physical and mental health risks are imminent or foreseeable. The exact wording of this is for lawyers to come up with, not me.
So, there you go. Other than on those two issues, I definitely agreed with the rest of what he said. It was very thought-provoking!