17 Feb

Certainty and ignorance

Statue of John Knox

Although I write about and am engaged with politics these days, I haven’t always held much in the way of political opinions.  The impetus for beginning an interest in it came from one conversation too many in which I was left silent with no opinion to give.  As it seemed to me – and which I now know to be naïve – the people whose opinions I heard tended to carry their views with a certainty and conviction I rarely had about anything.  Not knowing the details of political circumstances, I concluded these people were better informed than I was, so I generally felt no reason to interject or disagree with them.

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12 Feb

How to stay motivated

I’ve seen that a lot of people appear to struggle with how to stay motivated.  Most people make resolutions for themselves, but more often than not the resolve to stand by those resolutions fizzles out over time.  It can be a difficult thing to decide what one should (or shouldn’t) do with themselves, but even when this has been worked out, how can a person stick by their original plans?  And how can a person account for why they were raring to go one moment, but totally apathetic the next?

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04 Sep

Two reasons why I don’t believe in free will

Free will

I suppose that a post on free will has been a long time coming so I felt perhaps I ought to get round to finally writing it.  In this essay I want to make two points: 1., that claims of free will are faith-based, being made without the burden of proof we would normally require, and 2., that choices seemingly invoking free will are in fact a product of competing desires.

I’ll begin by saying it: I don’t believe in free will.  I used to – in fact I used to think it was one of the most self-evident things in the world – but a few years ago when I examined the situation, I came to the conclusion that I hold now: There appears to be no acceptable evidence to support a belief in it.  None at all.

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26 Jun

Time travel

Time travel

In this article I want to explore the idea of using time travel to affect the course of history, to right wrongs, and otherwise impose one’s own wants and wishes onto the past in order to shape the course of historical events. Righting the wrongs of the past is a common theme in time travel fiction, and it represents an attractive proposition to us: Can we save the unsavable? Supposing we had access to a classical time machine,1 could we do it? My answer is… Well, probably not.

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  1. The technical term for what the layman would consider a ‘time machine’ is a ‘Wellsian’ time machine – where a brave adventurer straps himself in, flips a switch and catapults himself forwards or backwards in time. It’s named after H.G. Wells, author of the sci-fi classic The Time Machine

24 Jun

Nationalism and prejudice

Nationalism

Speck of Sand

Above our nations’ selfish thoughts
There hangs a ceiling black and bright
A hundred million sparkling spots
Nature’s gifted humbling sight

Lost in blindness goes its grace
Its twinkling beauty left unseen
Through blood and tears we hide our face
And daily make our hands unclean

Only some can hear its voice
To stop the silent howls of hurt
And realise that we have a choice
In drawing lines with sticks in dirt

All this strife for wanted land
From humans’ greed and goodness’ lack
All to claim a speck of sand
Adrift amidst the ocean black

When a person studies history, they do so with a careful attention given to themes. The past teaches us about the present and about ourselves; it can show us to what degree our behaviour exists as a product of our culture and to what degree it exists independent of it. Through a thematic lens there is much to be discovered, but one theme in particular I am interested in is that of nationalism, and prejudice.

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25 Jan

Towards an objective morality

Objective morality

This morning I was involved in a debate in which a person noted that some atheists condemned the actions of God as immoral, and so he pushed them to give him the moral standard against which they were judging his God. He argued that without objective morality, there is no set-in-stone standard to make any meaningful judgements – and I’m inclined to agree with him. As soon as one admits that morality is subjective, then any one definition of it becomes as valid as any other, and being that they are all mutually exclusive, they each become valid and invalid in equal measure, and we can go nowhere. It seems imperative to me therefore that we be able to find an objective means to determine whether a given action is ethical or not, and to this end I set about approximately two years ago to establish for myself a theory of ethics1 based on the principles of compassion and rationality.

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  1. A theory of ethics is a long project; unfortunately there are still many questions I need to find the answers to, but I stand by the conviction that I will be a better person for my pursuit of them. 

21 Dec

Social apathy

Social apathy

Social apathy seems to have stricken developed countries. I don’t see it fit for me to criticise what others should be interested in, but if there’s something that, as a society, we should all collectively be interested in, it’s how our society is governed. This is a subject that ought to appeal to all people – from the selfless who care for those around them, to the selfish who care for themselves. From the two opposite ends of the spectrum, both Russell and Rand were interested in government, and so should all of us be. If we aren’t, we actively hand the reins to those who are, who will always use that power for the securement of their own interests – including preventing us from taking those reins back.

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21 Dec

The end of the world

End of the world

Today is Friday, 21st December 2012, and marks the biggest end of the world prediction of our lifetime. I first became aware of the date around 8 years ago from watching The X-Files in secondary school, for which 21st December 2012 marked a major plot point.1 At that time I remember contemplating where I’d be so far ahead in the future. It was difficult enough to think about where I’d be just 1 year ahead, let alone 8.

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  1. No spoilers here since I like to remain optimistic that not everyone who’ll get hooked on The X-Files has already seen it. 

19 Dec

Programming’s not for everyone

Programming

I used to think, as I suspect that most people think, that near enough everyone can learn to program if they were to put their mind to it. Recently I’ve been questioning this idea, and now I think probably not everyone can – probably less even than half. There seems to be a lot of websites out there encouraging everyone to learn to program, but I think all these programmes are necessarily doomed to failure if their intention is genuinely to get general society to understand programming.

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