Archive for April, 2017

Gay Sex, Politics, Religion and the Law

Posted in LGBT, Politics with tags , , on April 23, 2017 by telescoper

It seems that Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is under fire again for refusing to say whether he thinks gay sex is a sin

I’m not a particular fan of Mr Farron, and won’t be voting for his party, but I think the flak being directed at him on this issue is unjustified. Much of it is pure humbug, manufactured to cause political damage.

Mr Farron (who is heterosexual) describes himself as a ‘committed Christian’. He no doubt feels that if he spells out  in public what he believes in private then it will alienate many potential voters even though he has voted progressively on this issue in the past. He’s probably right. On the other hand, by not spelling it out, he appears weak and shifty. The media are out to exploit his difficulty.

As someone who is neither heterosexual nor Christian I can help him. It seems to me very clear that the Bible does teach  that homosexuality is a sin and that if you’re a Christian you have to believe this at some level. 

I say ‘at some level’ because another thing that is clear is that the Bible does not consider homosexuality a very important issue. Had it been a hot topic then perhaps Jesus might have been prepared to go on record about it, but there’s no reference in the New Testament to him personally saying anything about gay sex. ‘Thou shalt not have sex with someone of the same gender’ isn’t among the Ten Commandments, either.

I do find it strange that so many people who described themselves as Christian obsess about same-sex relationships while clearly failing to observe some of the more important biblical instructions, notably the one about loving thy neighbour…

But I digress.

I don’t care at all what Tim Farron’s (or anyone else’s) religious beliefs say about homosexuality, as long as they accept that such beliefs give nobody the right to dictate what others should do.

If you believe gay sex is sinful, fine. Don’t do it. If you don’t approve of same-sex marriage, that’s fine too. Don’t marry someone of the same sex. Just don’t try to deny other people rights and freedoms on the basis of your own personal religious beliefs. 

And no, refusing you the right to impose your beliefs on others is not a form of discrimination. That goes whether you a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or merely confused. You are free to live by the rules you adopt. I don’t have to.

I’d go further actually. I don’t think religious beliefs should  have any place in the the laws of the land. It seems to me that’s the only way to guarantee freedom from religious prejudice. That’s why I’m a member of the National Secular Society. This does not exist to campaign against religion, but against religious privilege. 

In fact the UK courts agree with me on this point. This is Lord Justice Laws, on behalf of the Court of Appeal relating to the case described here:

We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion, any belief system, cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic. The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.

To come back to Tim Farron, I say judge him and his party by what you see in the Liberal Democrat manifesto and on his track-record as a politician, not by what you think his interpretation might be of a few bits of scripture. 

Cardiff March for Science

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2017 by telescoper

Here’s a couple of snaps of today’s Cardiff March for Science. It was a friendly and fun occasion attended by (at a guess) a few hundred people.  

It started with a rally on the steps of the Senedd building:

The assembled throng then walked around Cardiff Bay to Techniquest. 

This one was taken by another participant, Jordan Cuff (a PhD student in Bioscience). I am actually in this picture, but you can only see my back…

It wasn’t a very demonstrative march -there was no chanting or anything like that – but then it wasn’t really intended to be a demonstration, more of a very polite celebration! 

Oh, and nice weather for it!

March for Science – Cardiff

Posted in Politics, Science Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 21, 2017 by telescoper

Just a quick note to say that tomorrow I’ll be attending the Cardiff March for Science, which is one of a series of events happening around the world. I quote:

The March for Science is a celebration of science.  It’s not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.

The Cardiff March starts with a rally at 10am on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay and is followed by a march around the bay to Techniquest for a science event there to which families with children are particularly welcome. It should be a fun occasion  There’s a science-themed fancy dress competition. I’ll be going as a middle-aged man with a beard.

For further details see here or follow the Twitter feed:



The Einstein Theory of Relativity

Posted in Film, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on April 21, 2017 by telescoper

I thought you might find this film interesting. I think it’s rather wonderful, actually, though it’s silent and definitely pre-CGI. It’s also a bit dodgy on the science in a few places.

However, made way back in 1923 by Max FleischerThe Einstein Theory of Relativity  has to be one of the first science films ever made. Who can think of an earlier one?

P.S. Bonus points if you can name the soundtrack music!


Important Announcement

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 by telescoper

Right now. Pay attention, everyone.

In view of a sudden and unexpected increase in visits to this blog arising from specific Google searches, I feel that in order to avoid potential disappointment I should make it clear that the Anthony Garrett who comments regularly on posts here is not this Anthony Garrett:

Moreover, as far as I am aware,  the Anthony Garrett who comments on here has never been a professional photographic model nor has he ever lived in Miami.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

P.S. If the other Anthony Garrett would like to get in touch with me privately, he is most welcome to do so.

Interview with Daniela Saadeh: winner of the IOP Gravitational Physics Group (GPG) thesis prize

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 by telescoper

On a much happier note, here is an interview with Daniela Saadeh, who won this year’s IOP Gravitational Physics Thesis Prize.

I’m reblogging this one as I happened to be external examiner for Daniela’s PhD!


Daniela SaadehDaniela Saadeh – UCL Astrophysics Group

CQG is proud to sponsor the IOP Gravitational Physics Group (GPG) thesis prize. This year the prize was awarded to Daniela Saadeh, who we have interviewed below. Congratulations Daniela!

Can you tell us a little bit about the work in your thesis?

A fundamental assumption of the standard model of cosmology is that the large-scale Universe is isotropic – i.e. that its properties are independent of direction. Historically, this concept stemmed from the Copernican Principle, the philosophical statement that we do not occupy a ‘special’ place in the Universe. In physical terms, this idea is converted into the assumption that all positions and directions in the Universe are equivalent, so that no observer is ‘privileged’.

However, assumptions must be tested, especially foundational ones. General relativity – our standard theory of gravity – allows for many ways in which spacetime could be anisotropic: directional…

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Punched Out

Posted in Mental Health on April 20, 2017 by telescoper

A tragic and harrowing  last blog post from an academic who took his own life yesterday. I suspect his thoughts resonate with many academics. They certainly do with me. But don’t get the wrong idea about my reasons for reblogging the article. I am not, and never have been, suicidal.  I just thing it is important to at least try to understand why.

Please read the article, and then read some of the comments following it and despair.

‘What a piece of work is Man.”

Will Opines

Assuming I did not botch the task, by the time this posts I will have been dead via suicide for several hours.  Nope, that’s not a setup to a joke.[1]

Why would someone who is healthy, employed, has every outside appearance of success, and so on, take their own life? In my case the answer is simple enough: I was done, but my body wasn’t.  But that answer isn’t satisfying, so, for those who are aggrieved, upset, saddened, etc., let me do my best to try to explain.

And lest you imagine me some sort of sad human whom you should pity, I have never had that view of myself (aside from the occasional pity party, of course).  I did struggle with that self perception on and off as an adolescent and teen.  But since becoming a young adult I came to understand myself as a remarkably privileged human…

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