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Confused [userpic]

CAP and BCAP code review

April 10th, 2009 (04:07 pm)

This may be of interest to some or none of you. After hearing on the news this morning about the new Archibishop of Westminster calling on Catholics to make their views known, I thought I'd nudge a few people with feelings on this matter in the right direction.

The situation is this; a whole slew of advertising regulations are up for review, specifically regulations pertaining to sexual health and/or family planning advice. The issues that the Archbishop is taking exception to in particular are allowing condom ads before 9pm* and allowing independent family planning clinics (such as Marie Stopes, who offer - among other things - abortions and sterilisations) to advertise their existence.

What exactly is the Archbishop urging his acolytes to participate in? The CAP and BCAP code review consultation. CAP is the "medium neutral" advertising regulatory body - this includes, for example, billboards, magazines and cinema ads - and BCAP is specifically the broadcast advertising regulator. On the above page, scroll to the bottom and you'll find links to the code review in each case, and a handy word document for typing out your responses to each point into. You don't need to respond to all points, only the ones you have an interest in. Print off the covering letter, print off your comments, lick a stamp and send it in.

It's likely to be a pretty dull way to spend half and hour, but if you object to having a religious group force it's values into national regulations, I'd say it's well worth it.

Of course, I'm not telling you what to write - I expect me and madelgine will probably have differing views on allowing abortion clinics to advertise - but it's in everybody's interest to make your voice heard.

* rather disingenuously attacking the NHS condom ads as promoting drunk and public sex; ignoring the fact that the content of these ads are completely consistent with their target and message (condoms as prophylactics for promiscuous individuals), contrasted by the adverts I've seen by, for example, Durex (condoms as contraceptives for faithful, monogamous couples).

Confused [userpic]

Why I Don't Believe in Intelligent Design

February 19th, 2009 (02:54 pm)

I was commenting on a Guardian thread which was locked down (not sure if it's a time thing or just that the debate was getting out of hand), which is a pity because there's an interesting comment I wanted to reply to from someone called Wice:

it's nice to meet someone, who, starting as an ID proponent, finally accepted evolution as a better explanation. all the ID proponents i've met up to now, seem to be completely unable (or unwilling) to understand even the most basic concepts of the theory of evolution. could you provide some information, what helped you understand the subject and change your mind?

I guess there's not a great deal of point in responding here - I mean, I suppose he might google himself, but I'm never going to be top entry - but the answer is kind of interesting so I thought I'd share. I'm slightly amused at (what I took) as his suggestion that he hasn't met an ID proponent who was willing or able to understand evolution - if you did they would kind of stop being ID proponents! More seriously, if his experience with IDer's is through debate, most people (and nearly all theists) go into a debate prepared to defend their ideas to the death and are really not open to other points of view.

With that in mind, the change in my opinion was marked (at least in the early stages) by a movement from ignorance to enlightenment in the field of genetics. I clearly remember the moment of realisation, and was immediately aware that the only way anyone can hold a belief in young earth creationism was ignorance*.

As for what helped me understand the subject, in broad sense it has to be taking a degree in biomedical science; although I was over halfway through my degree (year two, semester two) before I accepted it. I regret this profoundly, as I had avoided taking an elective in Evolutionary Biology (on the grounds that I didn't agree that it had happened) and took Psychology instead, and looking back, I know what I would have enjoyed more. Looking back, it was embaressingly arrogant of me, but throughout my biological education (from watching Attenborough videos as a kid, through secondary education and into university) I had carefully refused to accept any teaching on evolution. I didn't demand that my views were recognised, I just quietly resolved to take a different stance. In my defence, I had never been clearly and coherently presented with the evidence for evolution; it was just sort of assumed throughout my education, and my willful ignorance was left unaddressed.

As I mentioned, it wasn't enlightenment in the field of evolutionary biology that changed my mind - I would have approached that in a closed minded fashion, and refused to be educated. It was in fact a genetics class - developmental genetics, as it happens, a lecture by Tanya Whitfield (a course which also, incidentally, set me down my current career path). Of course the whole premise of developmental biology is that species are linked in a fundamental way that allows you to draw conclusions between humans and animals**. However, the fact that analogous functions in species as diverse as insects and humans are not only fulfilled by similar genes, but by the same genes (the example that did it for me was the Hox Cluster, but it doesn't really matter which one) was what finally broke through to me, like a road to Damascus experience.

Of course, that wasn't quite the end of the story. I had, in effect, gone from being a young earth creationist to a day age creationist. Although my religious views at the time were agnostic, I truly believed that the creation account in Genesis was defensible as an allegory for evolution - starting with a bright flash of light (the big bang), appearance of planet, and then the gradual appearance of species in a stepwise fashion ultimately ending with the appearance of people. I have yet to hear a real knock-down argument to this idea (the most convincing one being that the Genesis account could a whole lot more accurate, for one thing describing the emergeance of flowers before the appearance of insects to pollinate them). But key to my acceptance of this idea was the notion that of the creation accounts of ancient civilisations (cf. Egypt, ancient Greece and Rome etc.) this one best matched our modern theory of evolution.

Another embaressingly arrogant statement. In fact, it was only when I started investigating my own claim a little that I realised that the creation account in Genesis was actually copied, almost word for word (swapping the polytheistic creators for Yahweh) from the Babylonian creation myth. This marked another turning point in my belief, definitively leaving behind my agnosticism (and sympathy with Christianity) for atheism, and making up for lost time by learning in detail about the evolution-vs-creation debate. The fruit of my research has not been favourable to creationism (intelligent design or otherwise), or theism in general. As a result, I've developed a bit of a bee in my bonnet about creationism, and become a christian apostate to boot. But that's a different story.

...Well. That turned into a bit of a long post. Apologies for not putting it behind a cut, but I somehow felt I wanted it all out there. I was thinking of also responding to the (earnest, I think) comments of an ID creationist on the same thread, but this post is already getting a bit out of hand. It also has not escaped my notice that this article doesn't exactly live up to it's title - this is what led me to question ID, not why I ultimately discarded (except in briefest outline). Both stories for another time, perhaps.

* or at least, a tolerance for severe cognitive dissonance.
** as in any field of investigation which uses animal models of human disease, but developmental biology - where investigation in humans is extremely tightly restricted for ethical reasons - especially depends on comparison between species

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

January 24th, 2009 (08:04 pm)

If you're anything like me, you've been following the Israeli invasion of Gaza over the past couple of months with a mixture of horror and frustration. Regardless of whether you consider the military action justified - and I'm biting my tongue to curb any inflammatory language which could be levelled at either party in this conflict - the bottom line is that innocent people died in their droves during fighting in one of the densest population centres in the world - and the suffering is ongoing. If you're anything like me at all, you'll have asked yourself "What can I do?" at some point over the last few weeks.

Really. Do this.

The BBC is refusing to air the appeal from the DEC on grounds of impartiality, so this is my attempt at an impartial, non-partisan appeal. It's probably not hard (even from this post alone) to tell what side I come down on, but please don't let that put you off. Innocent people are suffering. This is what you can do to help.

Finally, if you feel strongly that the BBC is wrong not to air this appeal - and I'm not as convinced of that as I am that donating is the right thing to do - please go here and make your views known.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

January 23rd, 2009 (08:38 pm)

I really want to make some comment, but for best effect, you really need to explore the Pomegranate Phone without any preconceptions.

Once you've browsed it's features...Collapse )

Confused [userpic]

Film Unit Reunion Update

January 20th, 2009 (11:20 am)
amused

current mood: amused

Okay, everyone who's interested in going to the FU reunion, they have sent me an email:

the emailCollapse )
...attached to which was a letter...

the letterCollapse )
...at the bottom of which was a form, to be printed and returned.

the formCollapse )
I replied to ask whether I could pass this on, and his answer was yesCollapse )
I'm not sure whether emailing the requested information is acceptable (although FU will almost certainly send you this letter). If you are shy about emailing them, leave your email address in a comment here (and delete it if you're worried about having your contact details out there - I'll get it in the notification), and I can forward you the mail.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

January 16th, 2009 (06:18 pm)

I don't know how many of you read this who won't have heard from other people already, but it's Film Unit's 60th anniversary this year, and they are apparently putting on some kind of reunion celebration on or around the 21st February. A bunch of old timers have fallen off my friends list; some of them are still there but probably don't read any more - but I see rich_jacko, tiggothy, chiv, and a couple of others kicking around in there. If you could make sure people like thegreatgonzo and purpletom and anyone else with a marginal connection to FU know about it, that'd be neat.

I don't know what's supposed to be happening, but I suppose a good start would be to email Film Unit on film.unit @ shef.ac.uk.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

November 26th, 2008 (05:52 pm)

Sometimes comics take a bit of work to figure out, like this one.

However, usually, they're worth the reward. (DG in particular had me laughing out loud).

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

September 19th, 2008 (06:34 pm)

Second year PhD symposium today:

PhD Michael: I'll drive being Miles on the way to [our destination]. What car is he driving?
PhD Jurgen: He's driving a BMW. You'll recognise it as the car that doesn't look like a student should own it.
PhD Michael: Oh, right.
PhD Michael gets into Audi TT

Well, I lol'd.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

September 18th, 2008 (08:53 pm)

The shininess of Windows Vista wears off pretty quick, when you realise they've removed a chunk of the functionality that you kind of like. A day of trying to wrangle it into some semblance of functionality - combined with the fact that it is SLOOOOW - and my brain is about to implode. I feel like this when using a Mac. I can kind of see what they've been trying to do, and if I was just dicking around with internet and stuff it'd be great - but I need a functional computer.

Sod this. I'm going back to XP.

Except after my presentation tomorrow - because I can't reinstall windows and be ready for my talk. So this is going to be interesting...

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

September 17th, 2008 (03:57 pm)

Who on earth is Ryan Estrada, and why does he own all my webcomics today?

Confused [userpic]

Batman

July 25th, 2008 (12:08 am)

Roleplay cancelled tonight, so we took the opportunity to see DCA's premiere of Dark Knight.

My anticipation was punctured by Pharyngula, who thought it was mediocre. I wasn't quite as dour as he was, but I'd have to say it struggles to make 6/10 in my book. Heath Ledger comprehensively runs away with the show, though.

cut for spoilersCollapse )

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

July 3rd, 2008 (01:45 pm)



The contents of my last thesis committee document, ran through Wordle.

Well, Notch is right up there. You'd think I was focussing my project on it or something.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

June 30th, 2008 (06:46 pm)

Anyone who enjoys reading the New Scientist feed might be interested to know that there are some interesting newsfeeds from Nature. The articles are written accessibly, but given Nature is a peer reviewed journal (one of the holy trinity of high-impact journals, the others being Cell and Science) I would trust it not to make some of the mistakes that New Scientist or the Beeb sometimes make.

I can't seem to find an LJ syndication of any of the feeds (doesn't mean they don't exist). I bring this up because I've been playing with GoogleReader (as well as GoogleDocuments, but that's another story), and am pretty impressed. I think accounts are open now, but if I'm wrong and you still need an invite, I have about a million. Okay, ninety.

Sadly, this is probably pulling most of my reading away from livejournal (which is at least half made up of syndicated blogs and comic feeds; now shifted to Google), so my already occaisional reading will probably be depleted further. I was mortified to find, for instance, that I have missed a bunch of xkcd/bunny comics because I read so infrequently. If I ever upgrade my account though, I may add my flist to an RSS feed. Alternatively, I will not catch on to checking RSS's and will stick with LJ. WHO KNOWS!?!1.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

May 26th, 2008 (07:47 pm)

When did thetrainline.com become evil?

Damn you thetrainline.com! Who am I going to buy my rail tickets from now?

Edit: NXEC seem to have a low evil rating at the moment... (and seem to allow booking on non NXEC services, which is nice). I have to wonder if teh evil is just hiding somewhere out of sight.

Confused [userpic]

From Orac

May 11th, 2008 (07:21 pm)



1936, much?

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

May 2nd, 2008 (07:01 pm)

I have a new computer. This is, incidentally, the first new computer I've ever owned that I've had which I've paid for myself.

On the upside, this means I now have a computer that doesn't make silly noises. With 500Gb installed and a handful of expansion slots, I should be able to fit everything on there with ease (but damn, a 450Gb partition takes a long time to format). It should be able to cope with the spiffy upgraded graphics on EVE without too much of a problem, and I can finally get a go on my birthday present.

On the downside, I'm desperately trying to remember how to set up a computer, it now being over three years since I've had to (has now overtaken Win98 as the longest single install I've had). I have a horrible feeling Microsoft are going to pwn me for having not-entirely-legal software (I do have a copy of WinXP, but the serial has gone missing); I do however know enough *not* to install WGA (or updates of Windows Media Player, apparently).

Still, at the moment I'm using two computers at once, which is a bit tedious (especially for someone who'd like to be playing the Sims right now... 9_9)... and it's going to be a while before I've got the new puter running to a point where it will actually replace the old one.

Confused [userpic]

The master of the dead-pan is dead

April 26th, 2008 (10:07 am)
sad

current mood: sad

Half asleep as my radio alarm went off this morning, it felt like there were three tributes in the space of about ten minutes. As I was slowly coming to wakefulness, I gleaned more information from each successive tribute... someone had died, someone at Radio 4 had died, and... Humphrey Lyttleton has died.

I wonder whether I'm sorry I haven't a clue will fold now, or whether they'll try to replace him? I can't think of anyone who could take the helm without utterly changing the mood of the show. Le sigh. All good things.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

April 25th, 2008 (06:02 pm)
curious

current mood: curious

I'm aware that this is being done to death in the science blogosphere, and part of me really wishes Pharyngula would devote less time to it, but still this is too funny to pass up.

The makers of the propoganda film Expelled have a poll on myspace on whether Intelligent Design should be taught in school, and the massive swarm of pro-science evo types have swung the scale to a hysterically amusing 10%:76% Yes:no score (reversing the balance from before PZ linked). In fact, "What is it?" ranks higher than "yes" at the moment (probably because a slew of Pharyngulites felt that was more appropriate than "no", for reasons varying from "teach it but not in science" to interpreting "what is it" as "ID? WTF?"), which is deeply amusing.

I'm not asking you to skew someones poll. Please vote in accordance with your own views. I only ask that if you do go to fill in the poll, you first go to Expelled Exposed - a counter-site set up to debunk the films central premise (that academics sympathetic to intelligent design are being discriminated against by learning institutions), if for no other reason but to make sure that it keeps it's google rating.

Done that? Good. The poll is here, below "what others are saying". Vote away. But don't read the comments unless you like the sensation of having your brain scraped out.

Incidentally, if you do agree that intelligent design/creationism are valid alternatives to evolution, I hope you'll reply and allow me to put the case against it to you. (Before or after you vote, I don't care). I used to advocate ID and have since seen the light, so I won't mock you or anything.

Confused [userpic]

Well done, New Scientist.

April 1st, 2008 (10:54 am)

Exciting developments in NeuroQuantology suggest explanations to poltergeists

Editor comments: "This looks distinctly flaky to me."

I'm so glad I remembered what day it was before reposting that. Seemed a bit far out, even by NS standards.

Confused [userpic]

(no subject)

March 23rd, 2008 (11:41 am)

Seasons GreetingsCollapse )

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