Tag Archives: Twitter

Do atheists need religion?

I was in no hurry to read this book – Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion. It got such bad reviews. And I really wasn’t impressed by Alain de Botton’s contribution to public debate – on TV and in the media. However, an atheist friend recommended the book and, although I don’t think she had finished reading it, she was impressed with the book’s arguments. Or at least the problems the author identified for atheists living in a secular society.

So, out of a sense of responsibility I purchased and read it.

My conclusion – a waste of money and time!

I don’t intend this to be a review of the book. For that I recommend reading Martin S Pribble’s thoughtful review (Religion For Atheists). As an aside, I followed Martin’s reading of this book via his Twitter comments. First time I have come across a Twitter book review! I think it sort of works – at least when the reader gets emotional about what he or she is reading.

Sufficient to say that de Botton sets up straw men – an idealised, perfect religion (mostly Christianity) and a deficient, sterile, secular society. His only objection to religion appears to be their supernatural stories. So his answer to the worlds’ problems is to ditch supernaturalism but adopt the remaining institutions, buildings, funding structures, social relationships, moral messages, music and art of religion (particularly Christianity). As is! Artificially.

My atheist friend often comments on the need in our secular society to develop institutions which provide for the social needs of people. Their desire for community and charity. So I can see why she was, at least initially, attracted to this book. It’s just that I can’t see how de Botton’s utopia (religion with all its trappings except its gods) provides this, or is even possible.

Personally I agree that modern society needs to provide more in the way of institutions, ceremony and even buildings which appeal to our desire for community and significance. But that is not unique to modern society – it has always been the case – especially as the old institutions often did not fulfil these promises, or were even quite evil.

The point is that the most appropriate ceremonies, institutions and culture for these purposes are the ones that are built by the existing society, not artificially transplanted into it. And we are building such institutions, ceremonies, etc., in our modern, pluralist, secular society.

Religion needs secularism – and can learn from it

Why should we artificially transplant something from a religion (after removing its supernatural content) when we can do better? Consider modern ceremonies like weddings and funerals in this country. They have become a lot more secular – even where they are performed in a Church. We seem to have welcomed with open arms the secular concept of remembering and celebrating the life of a deceased person in our funerals. Friends and family give their stories and feelings. New Zealand funerals today are far more satisfying than those in the old days which simply had the religious purpose of sending the person of into the “afterlife.”

The church has noticed and adopted many of the features of secular funerals and other ceremonies. Incorporated them into their own ceremonies.

There are many other examples. The point is that – yes, we do need more and better institutions and ceremonies which contribute to our human need for community and friendship. We do need more buildings, art and ethical commentary appealing to those needs. It’s a matter of more of what we are doing well, not artificially transplanting from old and moribund institutions and ideologies. And its a matter of creating these new institutions and culture in a way that is inclusive – not the exclusiveness “them vs us” of the religious approaches.

So, my recommendation is that you should give this book a miss, unless you feel a responsibility to read it like I did. At least I will now be able to discuss the book and my reactions intelligently when I next see my atheist friend.

Similar articles

“Web monkeys” and science presentation

Dr. Danah Boyd on stage at Web 2.0 Expo NY 2009. (Credit: Danah Boyd) – Be careful of presenting the tweets.*

Here’s an inspiring tale for young scientists. If you are working on presentations for a conference it’s always tempting to try something new which might create interest, wake up those who have fallen asleep or just to get your point across in a nice graphic.

Well what about using Twitter to convey the main points of your message – as you present?

Sounds impossible, but Amy O’Leary (@amyoleary ) did it.

Apparently it’s simply a matter of linking the presentation software to twitter so that as each new slide is projected, a tweet, which has been carefully crafted in advance by the speaker, is launched into cyberspace.

Sounds like a great idea to me. Sometimes I do follow a presentation on Twitter – but tweets are sent by members of the audience, they depend on their own understanding and they may not properly reflect what the presenter is actually saying. This way, the version that gets tweeted is the “official” one at least.

You can read more about her presentation, and watch a video of it, at How Amy O’Leary live-tweeted her own speech — and won the #backchannel

I don’t present much these days but must try this idea next time I do. A quick google search indicated two possible tools enabling one to do this:

For Apple users, Keynote Tweet allows you put your tweet wrapped in [twitter] tags in the presenter notes pane for that slide and when you click onto that slide, the tweet gets published.

For Windows users, AutoTweet is a new add-in for PowerPoint developed by Timo Elliot of SAPWeb2.0. It works in the same way as Keynote Tweet. For more information see PowerPoint Twitter Magic.

Here’s a short video describing How to Download, Install, and Use PowerPoint Twitter AutoTweet.

Anybody here tried this?

Perhaps I have just “discovered” something that everybody already uses.

Any readers here have experience with this sort of use of twitter during a presentation?


* See Beware the Backchannel: Dr Boyd incorporated Twitter into her presentation – “What happened? Briefly, the audience, using Twitter (the backchannel) made disparaging comments about the speaker, Dr. Boyd. What was most dreadful, and lamentable, is the fact that the Twitter comments were visually displayed behind her – while she was giving her presentation…”

Souvenirs for scientists

I love these Matryoshka dolls: Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Sagan and Hawking

Matryoshka dolls are great ornaments – and kids, especially the very young ones, love to play with them. I have been aware that the whole idea of these traditional dolls has been extended to produce sets of politicians, for example, as souvenirs. However, this is the first set I have seen of scientists.

A great idea – along the lines of standing on the shoulders of giants. Just the thing for a scientist’s desk.

Now, I wonders of there are sets for biologists,chemists, mathematicians, . . .

Thanks to Rachana Bhatawdekar  @astrogeek03


Thanks also to Darcy who hunted down the original source. These dolls were constructed by as a gift for his girlfriend who was majoring in astronomy. He talks about it on his post Astronomatryoshkas

Higgs and homeopathy

With all the news lately about the Large Hadron Collider and evidence for the Higg’s field I had to laugh at this little twitter exchange I saw this morning. It was apparently sparked by an advocate providing a quantum proof of homeopathy.

Answer simple question – win an iPad

The catch – you are limited to 140 characters on Twitter.

Oh, yes, also the entry must “explain the origins of the Universe.”

Credit: Wikipedia

Simple – should be plenty of entries for that!

I guess the trick is in the syntax, as well as the science.

Have a look at Otago University‘s Centre for Science Communication Twitter Competition for the details.

Deadline is Tuesday 15 November. You will have a chance to vote on your favourite entry from Wednesday 16 November until noon Saturday 19 November.

And, Professor Lawrence Krauss, author of the forthcoming book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, will then select the winning tweet from the five tweets receiving the highest number of votes.

I still have a week or so to solve that problem and send my entry.

Thanks to: Best Science Tweet Competition.

The blinkered view of politics?

Picked this up in Twitter (thanks kev sampson (@kev667)).

Sure – it’s a photoshopped spoof. But I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a message there somewhere.

Is the UK government reacting to the riots in the typical blinkered political way. With their eyes firmly locked on the emotions and prejudices of the electorate? While ignoring, and therefore being unable to deal with, the deep moral, economic and social roots of the problem?

Maybe even purposely refusing to look behind them?

Similar articles

 

Blogging for New Zealand

Picked up the press release last night. Seems to be for a good cause – the recovery of New Zealand and the Christchurch region after the tragic earthquake of February 22.

Specifically this is aimed at the tourist industry and independent travelers. The aim is saturation blogging on March 20, 21 and 22 promoting New Zealand as a travel destination. The web site describes the promotion as :

Blog4NZ is a grassroots blogging and social media effort to support New Zealand travel in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake.

It is a worldwide blogging event happening on March 21-23, 2011 and you can be a part of it.”

If you are interested, want to contribute a blog post or publicise the event contact details are at:

Calling all travel bloggers to join Blog4NZ.

The face book page is: Blog4NZ – Blog for New Zealand on Facebook.

And you can follow on twitter using the tag # blog4nz


The world is in shock that one of the premium travel destinations in the world could suffer such a natural disaster as happened two weeks ago in Christchurch. And while all our thoughts go out to those people who have lost loved ones, lost homes and businesses, travel bloggers around the world are uniting to tell the world New Zealand is a great place to travel and there is no better time than now.

March 21, 22, and 23 has been set aside by travel bloggers throughout the world as 72 hours of content generation about travelling to New Zealand. #Blog4NZ is the brain-child of New Zealand travel bloggers Jim McIntosh and John Reese. John himself living in Christchurch. “We want a total black-out of travel content across the world, we want Twitter dominated by Tweets about travelling to New Zealand, we hope that all travel bloggers rally behind this cause and publish as many articles as possible throughout this period about travelling to New Zealand” said event organiser Craig Martin of Indie Travel Media.

“New Zealand is one of the world’s greatest travel destinations and has been a great source for many travel bloggers and travel entrepreneurs. For many northern hemisphere countries it is the furthest most spot they can travel. It has been the place where so much innovation has come with regard to travel – the home of Bungy, the birth place of hop-on hop-off backpacker travel, NZ led the way in independent hostels throughout the eighties and nineties. It is also a country where tourism is the number one contributor to GDP, where the Minister of Tourism is the PM – that is how important tourism is. This is the travel community saying hey go to NZ – if there is one place that should be on your travel list this year it is NZ” said Dan Roberts of Travel Generation. “This is something that as the travel community we can do to support not only all the businesses in Christchurch but everyone in New Zealand.”

via Press Release: Calling All Travel Bloggers – #Blog4NZ | Blog4NZ – Bloggers Resources.

See also:
Travel Blogging Community Rallies for New Zealand
A Great Project to be Involved – blog4NZ

Mind change – a moral choice?

The human brain
Image via Wikipedia

Ian Sample wrote yesterday in the Guardian about Lady Greenfield’s appeal for an investigation into the effects of computer games, the internet and social networking sites such as Twitter on the human brain (see Oxford scientist calls for research on brain change).

Lady Greenfield has coined the term “mind change” to describe differences that arise in the brain as a result of spending long periods of time on a computer. Many scientists believe it is too early to know whether these changes are a cause for concern.

“We need to recognise this is an issue rather than sweeping it under the carpet,” Greenfield said. “We should acknowledge that it is bringing an unprecedented change in our lives and we have to work out whether it is for good or bad.”

Everything we do causes changes in the brain and the things we do a lot are most likely to cause long term changes. What is unclear is how modern technology influences the brain and the consequences this has.

“For me, this is almost as important as climate change,” said Greenfield. “Whilst of course it doesn’t threaten the existence of the planet like climate change, I think the quality of our existence is threatened and the kind of people we might be in the future.”

Lady Greenfield was talking at the British Science Festival in Birmingham before a speech at the Tory party conference next month. She said possible benefits of modern technology included higher IQ and faster processing of information, but using internet search engines to find facts may affect people’s ability to learn. Computer games in which characters get multiple lives might even foster recklessness, she said.

Continue reading

Recognising good science bloggers and Big Blog Theory winners

Back in June I mentioned A competition for Aussie science blogs.

Well results are now in and you can see the winners at Australia’s best science blogger revealed!. The winner of the blog category is Save Your Breath for Running Ponies. The winner of the microblogging category was Corri Baker at @cbsquared_.

Hopefully this competition has brought science blogging to the attention of more Australians.

Token Skeptics, an Australian blog and podcast run by Kylie Sturgess recently interviewed Dr Jessie Shore On Science Communication. The blog also includes a short video of Jessie discussing science blogging. He has some useful information both for bloggers and for readers of blogs. It’s worth watching.

YouTube – How to Spot a Good Science Blogger.

Thanks to Token Skeptic : Last Chance – To Vote For Best Australian Science Blog!

Permalink

Similar articles

Enhanced by Zemanta

Share

Arresting comedy

We are advised to take what we read in the newspapers with a grain of salt. For good reason. So the headline Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI was suspicious. It turns out Dawkins had very little to do with the story. He explained:

“Needless to say, I did NOT say “I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI” or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself.”

Well, we are all used to Dawkins being misrepresented. However, the headline did spark interest. Social media like Twitter were abuzz with comments and stories on Pope arrest.

Followers of Graham Linehan got a rare view of the creative mind of comedy writers in his tweets on the issue. Linehan is a television writer, most noted for his involvement in Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd. I have always enjoyed the last two.

Continue reading