Quick link: Brains of the animal kingdom

I’ve been a bit busy lately and I went away with some of my family for the weekend (long weekend here) so I’m just going to link a quick piece by Frans de Waal entitled The Brains of the Animal Kingdom. It’s similar to my pieces on animal intelligence and very much worth reading. Aside from the lesson that animals are more intelligent than many people suspected it is important to note that you have to test them in an appropriate manner. They are not like humans so a human test won’t give a good result, just like we would do very badly at some tasks animals complete. There are good examples on that with both elephants and chimpanzees.

Theism versus atheism: Uninspiring VC Open Lecture

John Lennox (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Last Tuesday I attended the Vice Chancellor’s Open Lecture at UCT. The topic was “A Matter of Gravity – God, the Universe and Stephen Hawking” and given by Oxford mathematician Professor John Lennox. I thought it’d be a good opportunity to see the theistic side being well-presented by a man who was highly educated and had debated Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, amongst others. Overall, I found myself disappointed by what didn’t strike me as a particular good lecture. You can read the UCT summary, as well as get links to the recording, over here. Continue reading

New and expanded protections for animals

While there is much depressing news regarding animals to talk about, a dead tiger cub being found in a driveway perhaps one of the most heart-breaking, but it is, thankfully, not all doom and gloom. Two encouraging stories that I’ve come across are CITES committing to provide greater protection to rhinos and elephants as well as extending protection to sharks and the EU banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, regardless of where the testing took place. Continue reading

EU to vote on banning pornography

In what I consider a wildly misguided attempt to improve gender equality, the EU is preparing to vote on banning all forms of pornography. Rick Falkvinge has described the vote as a deceptively named (Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU) bill that was “really about tearing down the most fundamental of our rights and liberties.”

While gender equality is a noble cause this is not an ideal way to go about achieving it and would have terrible consequences for our freedom of expression. Whether one believes pornography has intrinsic value or not, should be protected for those that wish to partake in it. I’m not saying that it’s never sexist or stereotyping but rather that it is not that by definition nor does all pornography involve gender stereotyping. As an article from today in the Telegraph points out some of the problems with the thoughts underpinning this vote but a number of them should be obvious. Continue reading

A candle in the dark

There’s an amusing post on Pharyngula where PZ Myers recounts his encounter with Thor. It seemed very familiar but it’s certainly worth sharing because it makes a very good point, which I’ll get to in a minute. It also seems to reference Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark which I haven’t read but I would like to at some point. Here’s the section from the Thor story that is important. Continue reading