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Philosophy cannot controvert science. Science cannot controvert philosophy.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

forallx logicScience is not one thing but many. It covers physics, botany, mechanics, psychology…

Philosophy covers ethics, aesthetics (which I can’t comment on, because I didn’t study it), ontology, logic…

Logic underpins formal logic, which underpins:

  • all reasoning;
  • maths – and thus all science, especially physics.

Philosophy has a reputation among the masses as an arts subject. It is not. It is a discipline, a training, in thinking. Reason. That is, thinking logically.

Just because everyday language uses ‘philosophical’ to mean ‘easygoing’ does not mean this intellectual practice is soft, fuzzy-edged, anything less than rigorous. The only obscurity involved is because philosophy explores realms so distant from the notions we use unthinkingly all the time.said philosophically

Just because Aristotle lived a long time ago does not mean philosophy is like history, a question of facts and interpretations of facts (= opinions). It’s not a question of how we feel about this or that. When any statement (of right and wrong, or fact and myth) is made, philosophy dissects it, examines it, and seeks not only to pronounce ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ but to know why we can say so.

And that means it is an approach that doesn’t say, ‘We know,’ it says, ‘We don’t know.’ Philosophy is a pursuit of truth, making sure that every step on that path is on a stable stepping-stone. Defensible.

In this, philosophy and science are the same.


The faithful get more parenting help

Wednesday 1 September 2010
Male Varmilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinu...

Vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus); image via Wikipedia © Pablo Lèautaud

Saw this a couple of weeks ago: Faithful females key to evolution of bird societies. (It’s got lovely photos of a vermilion flycatcher, a white-fronted bee eater and, my favourite, a pair of pied babblers.) Among birds, apparently, those species in which the females are promiscuous are the same as those in which the aunts co-operate in raising the young. If the mother is sexually loyal to one mate, her sisters are more likely to help out with the kids.

The reason, they (Oxford’s zoology department and the Natural History Museum) think, is that when a female mates with only one male, all her offspring are full siblings – whereas the young of a female who has multiple partners will generally be half-siblings. And it makes evolutionary sense that nieces and nephews that are more closely related will be more conscientiously looked after.

The OU article I have linked to says this correlation has already been shown in various lower-order animals (if that term is still used), but now it’s been found true for vertebrates, possibly it holds for mammals too. Including primates… so, I have to wonder, including us?

Obviously morality, social pressure, and simply not knowing the kids are only half- and not full siblings (!) will all affect an aunt’s conscious decision on how often to babysit. But you never know.

As always, I like to think about cause and effect the other way round. I’d love to do a study to see if children who are more babysat (that term certainly isn’t used) grow up into adults who sleep around more. If you follow my promiscuous connection-making.

Seat-saving blogpost

Friday 6 August 2010

Count me out for August.

But keep my cushion warm – you can count me back in for September.  🙂Catfish  |  from the Tuesday fishpond

A meme, and you know I never do memes

Monday 26 July 2010
tags: ,

Gini, who barely knows I read her LiveJournal, put me onto this. Apparently, these are the most 100 influential movies of the ’00s, according to the Telegraph.

The rule is: bold if you’ve seen it, italicize if you’ve heard of it but not seen it. (And let me know if you blog it!)

  • 100 Avatar
  • 99 Together
  • 98 Crash
  • 97 Tropical Malady
  • 96 Shrek
  • 95 Michael Clayton
  • 94 The Brown Bunny
  • 93 Grizzly Man
  • 92 The Wrestler
  • 91 Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner
  • 90 Bend It Like Beckham
  • 89 Munich
  • 88 The Pianist
  • 87 The Child
  • 86 Let the Right One In
  • 85 Erin Brockovich
  • 84 Sin City
  • 83 Good Bye Lenin!
  • 82 Monsoon Wedding
  • 81 Milk
  • 80 The Return
  • 79 Spider-Man
  • 78 The Hurt Locker
  • 77 Children of Men
  • 76 Antichrist
  • 75 The School of Rock
  • 74 Los Angeles Plays Itself
  • 73 Master and Commander
  • 72 Uzak
  • 71 A History of Violence
  • 70 Mulholland Drive
  • 69 The Class
  • 68 Waltz with Bashir
  • 67 Little Miss Sunshine
  • 66 United 93
  • 65 The Departed
  • 64 Spirited Away
  • 63 The Piano Teacher
  • 62 The Devil Wears Prada
  • 61 In This World
  • 60 Kill Bill
  • 59 Wall-E
  • 58 Donnie Darko
  • 57 Sideways
  • 56 Atonement
  • 55 Bowling for Columbine
  • 54 Talk to Her
  • 53 No Country for Old Men
  • 52 Hunger
  • 51 Lagaan
  • 50 Russian Ark
  • 49 Far from Heaven
  • 48 Gladiator
  • 47 Gosford Park
  • 46 Y Tu Mamá También
  • 45 District 9
  • 44 Hidden
  • 43 The Dark Knight
  • 42 Ratatouille
  • 41 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • 40 Moulin Rouge!
  • 39 Casino Royale
  • 38 Pan’s Labyrinth
  • 37 Billy Elliot
  • 36 An Inconvenient Truth
  • 35 Knocked Up
  • 34 Moolaadé
  • 33 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • 32 Oldboy
  • 31 Pirates of the Caribbean
  • 30 Downfall
  • 29 In the Mood for Love
  • 28 The Queen
  • 27 Star Trek
  • 26 Être et Avoir
  • 25 Up
  • 24 The Gleaners and I
  • 23 Shaun of the Dead
  • 22 City of God
  • 21 The Bourne Supremacy
  • 20 Lost in Translation
  • 19 Capote
  • 18 Mamma Mia!
  • 17 4 Months, 3 weeks, and 2 days
  • 16 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • 15 Before Sunset
  • 14 Saw
  • 13 West of the Tracks
  • 12 Amelie
  • 11 The Lives of Others
  • 10 Slumdog Millionaire
  • 9 The Passion of the Christ
  • 8 Amores Perros
  • 7 Borat
  • 6 Memento
  • 5 Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • 4 There Will Be Blood
  • 3 The Incredibles
  • 2 Brokeback Mountain
  • 1 Fahrenheit 9/11

Of those I can remember and am sure I’m not inventing facts about, I have seen 17. I wonder if that means I am only 17% influenced by the ’00s.

No movie buff, me. Nor am I interested enough to count how many I’ve heard of, but if you count them do feel welcome to tell me in a comment.  🙂

It’s a pity, though, that there don’t exist two directions of italics to indicate which I have heard of and would like to see, and which I’ve heard of and it is entirely by my own choice that I have not seen.  😉  Ask me if you want to know.

Oh, and nothing can be deduced about my own taste from the films I have watched. It is rarely me that chooses.


Thursday 22 July 2010

I have done my first copywriting job and am fairly pleased with it. It’s not live yet, but it’s done.

Funny feelings:

  1. Earning money for my writing. (What, you thought I was professional already?)
  2. Non-fiction, ‘businesslike’ writing being more serious, in life terms, than the writing I’m serious about.

Eh up, as they say in Cheshire.pic © 2009 Richard Gillin (photoverulam on Flickr) — Blackfriars Road, London

Looks like a deliberate attempt to incite hatred of the disabled

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Sounds alarmist, I know, if you have had nothing or little to do with the benefits system.

I used to be scornful dismissive generous-minded when I heard people suggest it’s actually designed to stop those in need from getting support. After my first encounter with a DLA application form, I was converted to that view. It was about 56 pages – I have to be approximate as the format has been significantly different every time I’ve had to re-apply (making it impossible to save and re-use my last answers, and apparently ‘No change from last year’ gets your attempt rejected) and many of the questions leave you wondering exactly what They want to know. Even Wikipedia calls it ‘exceptionally complex’. Last year the booklet about help with the digital switchover was such an example of plain English that it drove home to me how obscure the DLA form always is. Which means they can communicate straightforwardly, when they choose to.

I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt when possible, and so I had been thinking it was muddle-headedness and poor design rather than deliberate contrivance that made DLA so difficult to apply for, and more difficult for those in most need of it (not coping with daily life because of pain or weakness; adapting to a disabled lifestyle for the first time; unable to pick up clutter from the floor, for example, bath a baby, or manage their own finances.)


It’s not only me thinking the coalition government is trying to stir up opinion against legitimately disabled people, as well as make it even harder to get benefit. To quote the opinion of the very useful Benefits and Work:

At worst, this press release appears to be a deliberate attempt to incite hatred of disabled claimants for political and economic reasons, at best it seems careless as to whether it does so or not.

This week’s Benefits and Work newsletter is all about the threatened tightening up of The System. The already-too-tightly-knotted-as-in-tangled-(which-in-WordWeb‘s-definition-2-is-‘Highly complex or intricate and occasionally devious’) System. And it’s about the Government’s intention ‘to harden public opinion against claimants’. At the risk of making this blogpost too long, I’m reproducing it here in full. If you want to follow up any links and don’t feel you can look at them all, the smear campaign link in the fifth paragraph leads to an angry but level-headed article with further points made in the comments.

5 July 2010

Firstly, just to say we have now quadrupled the memory on our server in the hope that this will prevent the site crashing when thousands of people click on links at the same time.  But, if it does still crash, please try again later . . . we’ll be back.

In this newsletter we look at the shock coalition government plans to slash the number of people receiving disability living allowance (DLA) by 20%.  A new, points-based system modelled on the notorious work capability assessment process for employment and support allowance is to be introduced for DLA, along with new qualifying criteria.

A treasury document has confirmed that all existing DLA claimants of working age to will be required to undergo a medical using the new system between 2013 and 2016, leading to savings of over a billion pounds a year in reduced DLA claimant numbers.  This means there’s still the opportunity to fight these proposals, but there’s certainly no time to lose.  Members can read more at:  One in five current DLA claimants to be axed (This article is members only)

We’re also deeply dismayed by the hate-provoking DWP press release that accompanied the emergency budget. The statement claimed that DLA was open to abuse and cited the rise in the number of people receiving DLA as evidence of this, without offering a shred of proof  that it is fraud rather than, for example, wider awareness of DLA that is the reason for this rise.

In fact, the DWP’s own statistics put fraud in relation to DLA at a tiny 0.6% last year. We fear that the coalition is embarking on a campaign of whipping up hatred of DLA claimants similar to the one waged against incapacity benefit claimants in recent years.  Read more and let us have your opinion at: Coalition begins smear campaign against DLA claimants

Moving away from DLA we have the news that the DWP has announced the scrapping of the ‘second medical’ for employment and support allowance (ESA) from later this month.  Along with the admission that Pathways to Work is a complete failure this leaves the entire ‘back to work’ aspect of ESA in tatters:  Second medicals for ESA to be abolished (This article is members only)

The tribunal service statistics suggest that other aspects of ESA are also struggling, with ESA appeals having more than quadrupled in less than a year and now far exceeding DLA appeals in number:  ESA appeals skyrocket

Finally, the forums were closed for a few days last week due to the huge quantity of budget related posts having to be dealt with by a reduced number of staff.  The forums are back online now, however, thanks to the continued dedication of our entirely unpaid team of moderators.

And, just to show that  some people are still successfully being awarded benefits, we’ve listed a few of the cheerier posts from the last few weeks below.

DLA 4 page SUCCESS!!! Increased award!!

ESA – Won my appeal but was the Doctor negligent?

Tribunal for IB is a WINNER!!!


DLA Short Form Renewal Success

ESA Appeal Today

IB renewal Success

Finally, the office has been closed for two weeks whilst we took our annual leave, so you won’t be surprised to learn that we’re still catching up on everything that’s been going on in our absence – because there’s been an awful lot. So much so that we’ll probably put out an extra one or two newsletters over the next few weeks in order to make sure we’ve given you all the major news.

And, once again, if the links aren’t working at the moment we really are sorry, but please do call back later.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

(c) 2010 Steve Donnison. Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd.  Company registration No.  5962666
You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your website or blog, provided you do so in full.

How to keep a career going if you have fibromyalgia or a similar condition

Friday 18 June 2010

I’ve just read an oldish but very useful (and encouraging) article*, outlining the hard-learnt perspective of Professor Michael Hyland on working with chronic fatigue syndrome.

* by Elisabeth Pain, Contributing Editor of Sciences Science Careers Blog

CFS and FM are like enough, in being both non-specific illnesses, that his points apply to either equally – also, I suppose to other chronic conditions with which you have to learn to pace yourself. I found I agreed with everything he (according to this article) promotes.

Some of it is obvious, some less so. And none is easy to put into place – even when it may be simple.

  1. Rest sooner rather than later. In other words don’t plough on ‘holding the fort’ until you keel over (as he did, and as I did) – beyond making it worse, Prof Hyland believes this can cause CFS, and I have thought for a while that it caused my FM.
  2. Rest more than you think. Don’t just take a week or so off to sleep, spending it catching up with jobs around the house. Don’t just indulge the extravagance of hiring a cleaner, using the couple of hours to fit more in, rather than doing the same amount and taking that extra time off.
  3. Tell only your line managers and people you interact with directly. This is because conditions like FM and CFS have had some bad press and you don’t need unhelpful reactions and/or comments from people who don’t need to know. (For me, ‘line managers and people you interact with’ has meant family, and people I’ve had to talk to about getting a job. Had to, not chose to.)
  4. When you tell, present it as a problem-solving situation. The article in Science doesn’t explain why but in my experience people react better when given a challenge they can get their teeth into than when faced with someone they depend on starkly saying, ‘No can do.’
  5. Do work that you like, because work that bores you will sap you. In Prof Hyland’s words: ‘I got ill because I was doing the wrong kind of research.’ Yes, if you choose you can take this as permission to do what you sodding like and idle your life away. If you choose. (I haven’t.)
  6. Hard work does not, in itself, cause CFS (or in my opinion, FM), but it’s not as simple as saying overwork doesn’t do it. Failing to rest is (can be) the culprit. Woo, this makes sense to me.

Prof Michael Hyland (used with permission)Googling Prof Hyland a little, methinx he’s a man I’d like to meet for a long conversation over lunch. In a comfy, low-pain dining chair, of course.