Oh, Statistics… what have you done?

I just caught myself checking the distribution of scores and number of reviews given to a book in Goodreads to determine whether I could rely on the average rating as a useful indicator of central tendency.

A year ago I would have looked at the red stars and read the blurb.

University will be the end of me.


Are Science and Religion compatible?

The Durham Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (DASH) hosted an event this evening with guest speaker Prof Chris Done entitled “Are Science and Religion compatible?”, and I came back with so many thoughts I had to write them down.

First, let me give you a bit of context. Prof Chris Done is both a professor of Astrophysics at Durham University and one of the leaders of Emmanuel Church Durham, which describes itself as a “charismatic, family church”. The focus of her talk was to explain how, as a “gabby, seventeen year-old atheist”, she became a Christian only when presented with “evidence” of Jesus Christ’s divine identity. For her, Jesus —specifically, Jesus accepted as the son and embodiment of God— is the only way us humans can know that God exists. God is above anything we can understand, so He reveals Himself to us through Jesus, who shares our human nature while retaining the identity of God.

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)

She therefore presents herself as living proof that science and religion are, indeed, compatible.

As an atheist scientist, I don’t actually have a problem with her position. That is, I do believe that science and religion can be compatible — just not in the way she proposes. Hear me out. Continue reading “Are Science and Religion compatible?”

The obscurity of homophobia

There is a quote doing the rounds on the Web, wrongly attributed to Morgan Freeman, which goes: “I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.” Rather than paste the quote unadulterated on tumblr, I thought I would expand on this fascinating topic.

Homophobia is, to me, like to so many others, a mystery. It is one of those inexplicable accounts of idiocy that now and again crop up in human history, like racism and witch-burning. Actually, no: people probably burnt ‘witches’ because they were afraid. But gays?

One Internet user put it admirably: Imagine you are queuing at McDonald’s, and you are really excited for the McNuggets you are about to order. And then the guy in front of you orders a Big Mac and suddenly you explode, enraged at the thought of him not ordering McNuggets. Such is the unfathomable irrationality of homophobia to everyone but homophobes.

To this date, I have never heard an objective argument in favour of homophobia. It is a concept impossible to defend, even by those whose life is possessed by it. The closest some come to an answer is, perhaps, in religion. However, sin is but a moral code which cannot (and should not) be made universal; therefore, if not irrational, it is at least subjective. On the other side of the spectrum, some biologists argue that homosexuality is not “natural”. Except it is. We are all the products of nature. And the goal of Life is not to reproduce. Because Life has no goals, nor does evolution.

Please write back to me if you believe some light can be shed on the obscurity of this ailment. I just want to know why? Oh, and another interesting question: why are all the World’s great homophobes male?

Ode to home

It’s a funny feeling, not being at home. A feeling I have always found difficult to analyse and therefore mistrusted. But the feeling of having a home, of knowing where home is… that is an entirely different kind of feeling. It is warm and powerful.

Having been born and raised in Spain, I cannot consider myself a true third culture kid. That is not to say I don’t have identity issues (read: belonging). There comes a point in one’s life, however, when identity stops being that much of a problem, and home is where one feels comfortable. By searching for comfort you can therefore make yourself at home wherever you go. And I find comfort in two things: stability and good company.

That is why the place where I come from calls to me strongly as “home”: it is full of comfort – full of things I know and people I love. But I now realise that there are more things to be known and people to be loved, so I can have more than one home. And that’s OK. It’s a warm and powerful feeling.

Before leaving Spain and coming to study in the UK I wrote a poem which my brother put to music. At the time it was a song about the courage to leave behind all that I knew and embrace all that I didn’t. Today it still holds true as an ode to home: that place of memories and comfort.

On the ‘science’ in ‘science-fiction’

I don’t think I could write science fiction. My imagination would stall at the boundaries of science and I wouldn’t end up producing anything entertaining.

I guess the bottom line is that sci-fi becomes much more enjoyable once you get over the impossible premises (or, better still, if your ignorance never had a problem with them!). I take the facts too seriously and spoil it for myself.

A day in the life: on running and revision

Today I spent six hours in the Library cramming shamelessly. It’s that time of year when you have to get there early and stake out a spot or face walking aimlessly through the aisles all morning waiting for someone to leave, like trying to park your car in the centre of London. Students like to camp out in the Library: they leave their shit sprawled across several tables while they go out for lunch to lull themselves into false sense of responsibility. But hey, we’re all in this together: it’s revision time!

At least they call it revision. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t qualify if you never had the vision in the first place. And I swear I learnt stuff this morning. Stuff I’d never known before. So I’m going to stick with “studying”.

This evening, after an unhealthily productive day, I decided I’d go out, breathe the air and celebrate I was alive. So I donned my running shoes and headed south. There are three good reasons why I chose south. First of all, south of Durham is the road to Darlington. Parallel to it runs a pavement from which you can take several footpaths, all spilling into the neighbouring fields. The fields lie on a gentle hill, basking in the spring sunsets and brimming with dandelions. You see the appeal. Secondly, south is home. This might sound stupid, but I come from Spain, and I promise I can feel it in my bones that I am getting closer to Spain when I’m on that road to Darlington. Last of all, running south is usually a good idea when in doubt. You may recall Treebeard saying: “I always like going south; somehow, it feels like going downhill.” Continue reading “A day in the life: on running and revision”