Some weeks ago I attended a lecture by Daniel Dennett at the Oxford Union on religion. As expected, it was a lively presentation that predicted the demise of religion. However, one matter that started me thinking was how Dennett concluded his lecture: he ended by pondering what we might do with all the redundant places of worship once his prophecy was fulfilled. His suggestion was that they might satisfy a secular purpose, as places where the community might come together to address the novel challenges of the modern world. I started me thinking as I wondered whether a belief in religion might be better than atheism for attaining this, or any other, goal. Some, such as Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind (2012)) have suggested that religion is a particularly effective force for bringing people together. Continue reading
In the light of the unfolding horsemeat scandal, it was only a matter of time before some equine entrails were uncovered in an Ikea meatball. This is a shame on many levels, not least for the poor pigs, cows, and horses whose flesh will now end up as landfill. I personally am quite partial to an Ikea meatball, would not object on the mere grounds that it contained horsemeat (I think I would have been hard pressed to identify the ingredients anyway prior to the scandal), and recently enjoyed an Ikea meatball dinner in Budapest with a colleague from the Uehiro Centre, not a million miles from where the offending meatball was uncloaked. But for those who consider eating Ikea meatballs intrinsically good, but eating horsemeat intrinsically bad, how could they be advised?
In a story reminiscent of the film ‘Sophie’s Choice’ Taj Mohammed, a refugee in afghanistan, tells the BBC that he chose to sell his six-year-old daughter Naghma to pay off a debt to a distant relative. To keep his family alive, he took out a loan of $2,500. When the relative demanded the money back, Taj’s three-year-old son and uncle had just died from the cold, and he had no means of repaying the debt. That’s when he took advice and offered his young daughter in lieu of the money.
Podcast of Uehiro Seminar given by Gwen Adshead
‘The Bad Seed’ was a popular 1954 novel in which a well brought up young girl begins to manifest behaviour characteristic of a criminal psychopath. As the plot develops, the girl’s mother discovers that her own mother was a serial killer who was executed when she was herself a girl.
In this Uehiro Seminar, Gwen Adshead Forensic Psychotherapist at Bluebird House & Broadmoor Hospital explores this idea of the ‘bad seed’ using research into those who exhibit ‘callous and unemotional’ traits when children. In contrast to the theme of the novel, Dr Adshead points out that the causes of behaviour even for individuals who exhibit violent behaviour consistently both as children and adults are mediated by factors other than genetic predisposition. For example, there is a relationship between childhood physical abuse and neglect and delinquency and violence in later life. Dr Adshead argues that a more constructive approach to addressing violence in society might be to explore causes such as parenting rather than focusing disproportionate attention on the children. The lecture and discussion that follows raise fundamental issues to do with our attitude to genetic and other predictors of subsequent violence in adult life, the question of how resources should be allocated to address such problems, and how blame fits within this research framework.
You can listen to the podcast of the seminar here
Paul Troop and Sabrina Stewart
Last week, Steven Farrow was convicted of murdering a grandmother and a vicar. 77 year old Betty Yates was stabbed in the face. He had planned to crucify the vicar but had left behind his hammer an nails, instead covering his dead body in pornographic DVDs, party poppers and condoms. Though Farrow is likely to spend the rest of his life in jail, the family members questioned why he had been free in the first place.
Reflect for a moment on the place you call home. Perhaps this is the place where you grew up, and where you return to from time to time to see family and old friends. Or maybe it’s somewhere you’ve subsequently settled and built your life. Somewhere, at least, that you have a fondness for, though strangers might not see it in the rosy same light. Now imagine that the policies of those in charge are steadily ruining your home. Left unchecked, the place will eventually be left uninhabitable. Presumably this would alarm you, and that alarm would be reflected in your motivation to do something about it.
This morning, the men’s Olympic under 80 kg Taekwondo competition takes place. However, the British competitor widely regarded as the world’s best fighter in that category will not be taking part. Instead, a competitor ranked 59th in the world will be fighting in his place. Neither the British Taekwondo Association, nor the British Olympic association, nor the World Taekwondo Federation come out of the affair looking good. In particular, the latter two bodies seem to have shown either a basic ignorance of human nature, or a wilful refusal to resolve a gross injustice.
A series of events have brought the issue of gay marriage to the fore. Nudged by the Vice President, Barak Obama came out in support. North Carolina, by contrast, voted to prohibit it. Closer to home, Mayor Boris Johnson recently put his foot down to prevent a religious group running the slogan ‘Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!’ on London buses. This was in response to an earlier ad from Stonewall which read ‘Some people are gay. Get over it.’ These events, of course, have triggered rekindling of the debate. What strikes me most about opposition to gay marriage is how bad many of the arguments against it seem to be. Continue reading
Worldwide media have been all over a case at the Strasbourg human rights court this week as it dismissed a man’s complaint over convictions for incest with his sister. Faced with a delicate moral question, the court ducked the issue, saying it fell within the ‘margin of appreciation’ (ie the area of discretion that the court leaves to member states in some areas of law). I think the law’s involvement in this case is a problem.