Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Re: The golden compass

Stop me if you've heard this before but why, when christians release films based on the christian message, is it a good moral thing to show children, but when athiests realease films based on athiems, it's a threat to the moral values of our children and probably post of some evil plot?

Just curious.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

I am not militant

I tried to construct an elegant post about athiesm but I keep failing (and nobody reads this blog anyway) and it comes down to this - I'm sick of being told I'm closed minded, ignorant, or forcing my beliefe on others in the order of a religious extremist for making a definitive statement on my beliefe in the non-existance of diety and not being afraid to discuss it with people, reguardless of those people's faith or lack of it. I also get angry when the one widely known piece of athiest writing (the god delusion) is so widely attacked on no more solid basis then "I don't like Dawkins tone". How he says it isn't the point, it's what he says. I'm not particularly fond of the tone of the bible, does that mean I get to dismiss it out of hand and insist that others do to becasue hey, you know, that could be problem solved.

Monday, 15 October 2007

My normal approach is useless here

I wish emotions were like a biochemical pathway and we could disect them. You see, as well as being hit over the head with Buddha this weekend, I had a small crisis of sexuality. This has been going on for a while, it will probably continue to do so. Life sucks, what can you do? The thing is, emotions aren't discrete units. I find myself trying to seperate them out, like I would a bipchemical pathway, and that doesn't work here. I can't go and research the "mothers opinion" gene, or run some expreiments to see how, it at all, it's interacting with the sexuality complex. I can't remove societal expectations of lesbianism from the system and see if it still works. I can't take my emotions appart and I can act on just my emotion at all. As complicated as molecular systems are, at least we can disect them and thus come across some understanding of them. I only wish emotions worked like that.

Of course, to run with the analogy, it's always possible that in this system there's a block at "he likes me back" so I'm just freerunning, trying to work it out, but none of the output I'm generating is doing anyone any good.

Life is too hard.

It had to happen eventually

I think I've reached a critical phase in my life as an athiest. It has to happen to us all sooner or later. I got hit over the head by a buddha. There was blood everywhere and we put my poor medic student friend on the spot with a gushing head wound and no first aid kit in the house, but we had the paramedics out and they've assured me that despite my friends worst fears, Buddha only struck me, no bits of him god stuck in there, so we're all good. A lucky escape, I feel.

Monday, 1 October 2007

A short break

Well, I've just had my first weekend of in forever (not literally, of course). I handed my placement report in on Friday and declared myself free for the weekend. I spent it very productivley not moving from the sofa and watching a lot of bad TV, so now I'm refreshed and ready to go again.

The layout of this year has surprised me, really. Maybe I'm used to working too hard at work but the sheer amount of time we have with nothing scheduled in. I have no lectures today, no meetings, and I can't start my lab work. Tomorow I have one tutorial session, an hour long. I know I'm meant to be reading for my project, and that's why I'm in, but surely we don't need all this time just to write up an introduction? Oh well, I'm sure when tutorials kick in later this week I'll be a lot more busy. I should stop complaining and enjoy some low-stress time.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Let's rise up against the christian union

Since the freshers fair here last Sunday I've been thinking, why is there no athiest society? I mean, I've looked, and we have 7 faith-based societies, 3 of them christian, 3 chaplaincies attatched to the university for various denominations of christianity, a 'fusion' centre where christians can go to talk to each other, but no society for those who don't have faith.

And that's not even touching on my issues with the christian union. The christian union are militant evangelists. Over the years I've been here I've seen them use all sorts of tactics. In fact, I'm going to give you a numbered list -

1. Today I ran across a big sign that said "Free lunch" then seeing in small letters at the bottom "and a lecture from the CU"...no thanks. I've seen, over the years, the use of ice cream, barbeques and sports events as a front to preach to unsuspecting people, who just wanted lunch.

2. The CU has almost a monopoly on foreign student welcome events. To me, that is praying on vulnerable people, who have just moved away to a new country, and, again, as with the general posters, you really need to pay attention to realise these are CU events from the posters.

3. This leads me to point three, now, this could just be people in the CU and not the CU's general policy but as well as targetting vulnerable foreign students, I've also seen them target vulnerable freshers. They tried it on my a few times, approaching me when I was eating alone in the student halls canteen to 'lend support' about my faith. To me, in both these cases, deliberatley targetting vulnerable people and creating an environment where they can be accepted and loved only if they believe in your sky fairy is just wrong.

4. Posters evreywhere. They haven't got into full swing this year yet but at the end of my second year you, quite literally, couldn't go to the toilet without being faced down by a CU poster.

5. Evangelising at lunch. Now, I'm actually hoping for this one this year and may spend some time sat alone in the guild seating area to achieve it, but the CU have a habit of lurking then approaching people sitting alone, two CU people to one person sat alone (or, much more occasionally, two people sat together) and disturbing their break by talking to them and not leaving. I've had this one twice and nearly everyone I've talked to about it (an admitedly limited sample) has been approached at least once.

6. They show contempt to non-christians. Yep, I reject your faith. I grew up in faith. I went to sunday school. I'm not an athiest becasue I'm ignorant of your faith, I'm an athiest becasue I know enough about it to think, quite frankly, that it's silly. So educating me about 'what christians believe' will not help the situation.

So, I don't like them. I'm the kind of person at the moment where I don't have a shit what you believe, as long as you leave me out of it. I mean, in a small group of friends, chatting about yourselves, these things come up and it's fine, and I have no trouble with the CU meeting and even putting up the odd poster. I have an issue with them being omnipresent. I have an issue with the fact that I can't go to the toilet without knowing about them. I hate that they target vulnerable people. It's not the religeon I'm objecting to (at the moment), it's the group.

So, I have a plan. This plan has three steps.

1. If you see a CU flyer and it's possible, bin it.
2. If you see a CU poster, deface the poster with comments exposing their bullshit. They have a habit of phrasing their meeting slogan as questions, answer then on the poster from an athiest perspective.
3. If the CU hold any 'science' based talks, as they claim to have done before, attend and do not play nice. Read up before-hand, have questions ready, fight.
4. And, of course, the obvious, if they approach you don't pull punches and play nice athiest, they're going to try and convert me then I'm sure as hell going to try to convert them too.

The CU has a right to advertise, and I have a right to protest to that, and that's exactly what I'm going to do.

If I had more free time and I'd thought of it before freshers fair I'd have founded the athiest society. You live and learn, I guess.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Term begins

So, today is the start of week one so I'm a scientist actually doing some science again as opposed to a scientist writing reports like I was before. Got my lecture time table and for about 6 week's it's pretty good, then I'm going to die untill after summer exam time, but such is the life of an undergrad.

Coming back to university after being out on placement for a year is very odd. I'm a lot more organised and attentive then I was before, and I think being around scientists has kind of, well, desensitised me a little. Maybe it was just me but before I was a little of about talking to lecturers, like you couldn't talk to them like you would a guy on the street because they're better. Now, well, I see that just because someone has knowledge you don't doesn't mean they're untouchable and that you're a bother to them. It's ok to approach them. I feel like more of an adult, not a kid still in school but an adult there to better themselves, and it makes all the difference.

I need to start applying for pHds soon, now there's the scary thought.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

30 days, an athiest among christians

link to the video

Someone just posted this up on a forum I frequent and I made comments as I watched. Though I might as well share them here too.

They make repeated assertions that if she gets to know them as people and christians, she'll convert. I'm not an athiest because I don't like christians, I'm an athiest because I've never seen any proof for a god, and I've looked. They also assert multiple times that they believe learning about christianity will convert her. Most athiests, this one included, like most people in general, were raised with a religeous background. I know I was.

Timepoint 17:20 - Equates athiems with hatred of christianity. No. I'm sure I don't need to say this here but I'm not an theist becsue I hate christianity, I'm an athiest becsaue I do not believe that god exists, in any form. I believe the physical reality of the world is all there is to the world.

Timepoint 23:00 - In response to a complaint about how the goverment does sanction religeon by including "In god we trust" on money, Christian Guy says "If you don't like it, move". No, wrong. There is no reason athiests should be forced out of a country simply for not conforming to the dominant beliefes, and if that country does not have a state sanctioned beliefe system they should expect things like flags, pledges, money, goverment, etc to be secular, and in a place with state religeon they can petition to change that. Moving won't help and I shoudln't be forced out of my home because of your beliefe.

Timepoint 28:07 - He askes her what she believes. I'd like to take that question upon myself for a second. I beleive in people. I believe that people exist, and the people go great evil, and also great good. I believe that we only get one life, so we should make the most of it. I believe we can understand the world. I believe that life is what you make of it and we're all responsible for ourselves and each other. I believe there's no justification for discrimination.

Timepoint 29:37 - Discussion of universal origin. Argument for incredulity, I can't imagine it so it couldn't have happened. Anyone watch Sayonara Zetsubou Sense? It's one of this seasons anime, you should watch it. Anyway, the lead girl often comes out with things like "Well, I've only ever heard of hikikomori on TV, how could there be one in my class" but there is. The fact she finds it incredulous doesn't mean it isn't true. I can't comprehend the big bang. I have a hard time with physics, I can't coneptualise it. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen, and I accept that the people who understand the data accept it, so I believe them, and I know if my trust of them came itno doubt, with some difficulty I could read around it and learn about it and use the evidence my make my own conclusions.

Timepoint 30:02 - "How do you feel like you came into existance". Well, done night aobut three months after their marriage, my mum and dad had sex. His sperm connected with her ova and that fetus transplanted into her womb, by sheer chance. I managed to not spontaneously abort, and was born. That's how I came into being. I don't know how to answer it any other way. I don't understand what kind of answer they want.

Timepoint 30:38 - You know what, I don't come into the world claimin an impeccable understanding of the bible and theology. I don't. I know nothing about the bible. I know a few of the stories in outline, but I ahve not studied the book itself in detail. Because of that, I avoid discussing the bible. To me, these people who have only a rudimentary grasp of evolution talking about it like that, it's like me talking about the bible, a few bits I remember and 99% bullshit because I just don't know. They don't know, they haven't studies it, in my mind they shouldn't be talking about it.

Timpoint 31:30 - I don't like how the presenters are handeling this. They've been pretty impartial on a lot of things but, well, creationism vrs evolution is like fairytail vrs. actual reality. Impartiality isn't telling the fairy tail as if it's equaliy valid. Impartiality is telling the truth, but presenting two sides if they seem equally valid.

Timepoint 34:50 - He says it's heartbreaking for him that they tell their kids there's no god. It's eartbreaking to me that anyone tells their kids anything like that. To me, kids don't have a religeon, you teach them all you know and let them make their own decisions. Him raising his kids telling them they're going to burn in the fires of hell if they don't conform to his religeon believe actually seems worse to me then her saying there's no god. He says he wants them to be open minded, but he can't even comprehend not having "under god" on his money, how open minded can be be?

Timepoint 38:38 - If I raised children, I would tech them to think. I would teach them to ask questions and be kind and good and appreciate people for what they are and to let good deeds be their own reward, instead of doing good so the mythical syk fairy is happy with them. I'd teach them respect, and friendliness, and acceptance of all poeple. I'd teach them that everyone is falable, including themsleves, but that's ok, we're all in this together, and they don't have to be afraid.

All in all, I have to be a bit in awe of her becasue I would have punched him, though it would probably have been the creationism that did it for me and maybe she's not opposed to creationism as strongly as I am.

The male glass ceiling

Argh, it be talk like a pirate day, it be. In celebration I plan to read a book about pirates and say argh too much. Argh.

In less amusing news -

MSN article on the male glass ceiling

The premesis, men have trouble breaking into the top ranks of female dominated careers. I don't know if that's true or not but it seems it could be a plausable premis. The problem's not so much with the premis as the way it's carried of.

They decide to dicuss this, for some reason best known to themselves, they need to first work out why women 'gravitate' to certain jobs. Their conclusion -

"Women enter into those areas because they are the most fulfilling," he says. "Men don't because they feel they need to take on the responsibility of providing for the family, and the way they earn love is to earn money."

So women don't work to provide for their family, they work to forfil their caring nature. After all, who needs to support themselves when they have a MAN to do that for them?

Plus, in today's world of double incomes, men are free to pursue career paths they find interesting rather than ones they solely see as financially viable, Kaiser says. "In the past decade, more careers have opened up to women," she notes. "They're becoming lawyers and doctors and scientists, and leaving openings in other areas that men are now filling."

Let's read that another way. In the past, men filled up these jobs. Now the women are coming and taking those jobs away, the poor men are having to fill up the less well paid jobs left behind.

So, the reason women take these jobs is they don't need to support, just be supported, and more men are now taking them because the women are stealing all the big paying jobs (what was I thinking, going to university, the poor man who was destined for the pHd I will eventually get (hopefully) will be pushed out into the street and have to work in something as decidedly unmasculine as child care! Oh no). Anyway, we've established that, so now we need to prove the glass ceiling exists, right? That would be the logical thing to do. No, they give me a casestudy of a guy who rose through the ranks and says he never felt discriminated aginst because of his gender. Useful. But, wait, there's another case study and this one does claim to experince discrimination, but has risen anyway through his hard work and determination!

That mindset certainly contributed to Clifford's success. Says Farrell, "Men tend to be strong in the area of 'doing.' Unlike women, men won't articulate what bothers them about the barriers; instead, their attitude is, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'"

See, it's womens fault for their own opression! Women who try to draw attention to the problem are at fault. We should just be quiet and work hard and pull through! Right, because that works.

It's just, ah! The glass ceiling isn't about women prefering the lowere paid jobs, it's not about women feeling a bit uncomfortable in the office, that's still discrimination but that's something else. The glass ceiling is the invisible barrier that stops women rising through the ranks. It's the old boy's club, the shake of the hand and the job's yours, the inhrant bias that a man's work has more value then a woman's even. And the implication that the ceiling exists because women just don't work hard enough.

Screw that.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Hot news - you can't cure homosexuality! Wait...didn't we already know that?

Found through Denialism blog, Exodus ministries don't work!

It appears that the study was over four years and included 98 people who were referred by various Exodus ministries.

33 people reported change in the desired manner (from gay at time 1 in the heterosexual direction at time 3)
29 reported no change
8 reported change in the undesired direction
3 were unsure how to describe their experience of change
and 25 people discontinued participation in the study during that time.

I think it's reasonable to conclude that if these people hate themselves enough to enter into this program, they must be serious about 'curing' their homosexuality. It's hardly something you do on a whim, especially since they handily discounted the 25 who dropped out before the end of the 4 years from their percentage calculations. So, of the 73 people who cared to stay in that program for 4 years, only 33 reported a change in the desired manner. It should be noted that change in the desired manor includes those who claim to experience a reduce in homosexual desire and an increase in heterosexual desire, and those who chose to subvert all sexual desire and live in chastity (not exactly what I'd call a sucess).

So, even giving them the broadest classification of success we can, even allowing for the fact that these people could well revert. Accepting that these people have felt a genuine change and are not just subverting their feelings in order to be accepted by their churches/families etc, given that these people are highly invested in the program, having spent 4 years in it, only 33% of them actually see any kind of change.

What abysmal results.

And I bet they still claim it's a massive success.

But, really, that's not what first occurred to me when I read this. The first thing was, I'm sick of the debate over my sexuality. Like it's some kind of hot topic. All the evidence suggest homosexuality is biological, at least to some extent. That's not the point. Even if I had woken up one day when I was 16 and decided to be gay (I didn't, just to be clear), the fact that it was a choice and not inherent would not, somehow, invalidate my entire self. In short, even if I could change that wouldn't mean I had to change. I'm happy, I'm homosexual, I'm not going to change that.

zomg a book!!!!

You know you class as a science geek when coming into the library you have to stand at the new books self for ten minutes deciding if you'd rather read about transcription of hormonal signalling on your break today because you genuinely can't decide, they both sound so interesting. Though the fact that I intend to spend my lunch break reading about science might be a bit of a give-away too.

Monday, 17 September 2007


Ok, I have a confession to make. I'm the kind of person you really don't want to be sitting next to when watching sci-fi. I mean, I'm the annoying girl who sits there getting stressed because that's just not how science/evolution/the human body works. I do it a lot. The latest thing is Heroes. They ran a catch up session of the first 9 eppisodes this weekend and, like the diligent student I am, I sat up late watching them all. They just get almost everything wrong. They abuse evolution, they misuse things like the human genome project (really, how hard can it be to check wikipedia and find out what it is before you start tossing a term like that around). It annoys me beyond all measure and, as far as I can tell, there are two main reasons for that.

1. We all know that the science is wrong. We can watch that and know we're suspending disbeliefe about it and evolution won't really make me control space and time. But there are SO MANY people who watch this and just don't know that. Another of my bad habbits is that I hang around on a debate forum for American teenagers, and the number of them who do believe this kind of shit is amazing. These shows just don't help becasue for the people who don't take time to understand evolution, it seems plausable to them.
2. It shows a disrespect for biology. Just throwaway comments like the human genome project. The thing is, everyone and their grandma thinks they know evolution (hence the masses of American teens who insist science is wrong and they've spotted some key flaw that all those highly trained and very intelligent scientists missed). Can't they accept that this isn't an easy, throwaway topic? Maybe consult a biologist occasionally?

Friday, 14 September 2007

Abortion news: Court Won’t Rule on Life’s Beginning

First post, I feel special. I just found this article through Denamlism blog. Court won't rule on life's begining.

A doctor is under no obligation to tell a pregnant woman that she is carrying “an existing human being” before performing an abortion, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled today in a decision that had been eagerly awaited by both foes and supporters of abortion rights in this country.

Quite rightly so. I don't see how people can bring lawsuits like this. I don't know how she couldn't realise before the procedure that terminating her pregnancy would, well, terminate her pregnancy. I'd have thought it would be a no-brainer. The major thing that annoys me about these cases, though, is they're so patronising to the woman. I mean, both this and the law which reguires the woman to view an ultrasound before she aborts, presumes that a woman is so stupid she can't work out that pregnant=baby so needs to be told. I'm sure the vast majority of women who abort can concieve that the fetus is alive and will, barring miscarriage, become a human child if it is not tampered with, and they've decided they want to abort.

I think the fact alone that they have decided that abortion is what they want to do should be enough for anyone, really.

But this entire attitude, "If you knew what you were aborting you wouldn't do it", it's so patronising and, on top of that, plays into the entire woman=mother stereotype. Because we're women knowing that it's a zomg baby means we will want to care for it and nurture it, there's no way we can reject it if it's a baby. Is that it? Well, I've got news for them, there's plenty of women out there who are not baby making machines, who, shock horror, might not particularly like or want babies. Telling them it's a baby (in case they were too dense to work it out for themselves) will have zero effect.

I also have to agree with MarkH that the entire 'life begins' argument is so much bullshit. I've said it before in various forums, life doesn't begin, it's continuous. It's not the virtue of being alive that gives something value, we need to find some other basis to make legal decisions.


Hello and welcome to feminist undergrad. I'm Emma Thompson, an undergrad at the university of Liverpool, UK, and a great fan of science blogs, so I thought it was about time I had my own space to talk about science and my experiences as an undergrad in science.

A little about me first, I guess, I'm a genetics student, curently going into my honours year of an applied course after taking a year out in industry. I have a particular interest in plant genetics, and both my desitation and industry year were relevant. As well as being a scientist, I'm an athiest and a feminist, and I'm sure both of them will come up here at some point.

Thank you for reading, presuming anyone does. I hope we have an interesting journey together.