A Bumpy Journey on a Slippery Slope

From the Mail, so be careful.

“One traditionalist said: ‘This is a slippery slope. It will mean that gay clergy will have even less incentive to remain celibate. The next step will be gay clergy marriages.'”

You can call me an old traditionalist, as well, if you wish. But surely the one thing slippery slopes don’t have are steps? If you had steps on a slippery slope, it wouldn’t be a slope. It would be a staircase. Maybe a slippery staircase, but all the same.

Or maybe they’re talking about steps as in stepping, not as in stairs? In which case, you’d have a job on a slippery slope. On a slippery slope you can’t really step. You can only slide. You can take a run-up at it, sure. But once you’re on a slippery slope, there’s no stepping to be done. You’d just look like a bit of a clown, trying to do those cartoony steps like Wile E Coyote as you disappeared downhill.

All I’m saying is, mixing your metaphors is putting all your slippery slopes in one basket. It’s always going to come to a nasty crash in the end.

To Die Once, and then the Judgement

It was the philosopher Thoreau (not to be confused with Marcuse or Mark Hughes) who said,

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

I reckon he was probably not the life or soul of the average party.

But I was wondering about this, as I thought about the mass of human beings who go to work, who sit at home and watch X-factor, who trudge around the supermarket or who die senselessly and swiftly. How is that not “resignation”, which is really “desperation”?

Especially at this time of remembrance. I guess, in the face of the horrendous suffering and pointlessness of the First World War, a mythology of heroism, of death in a worthy cause – of Dulce et Decorum – had to be created. The boys drowning in mud, blown to pieces, burnt to death – they couldn’t have died in some foolish disagreement over a patch of Eastern Europe which had somehow spilled out of hand. It had to have a purpose – a meaning – a reason.

But they were only spelling out, in short and dramatic form, the same thing the rest of us face. That question of life – what is it for, and how should we use it?

Strikes me we’ve got two fundamental positions here. I’ll put the agnostics over with the atheists on this one. The believers must think that, at the end of life’s great mystery, there lies a greater mystery. And the atheists and agnostics must assume that at the end of it all, all things considered, there’s probably not much.

And this is the great conundrum. It’s just about possible, if you’re a believer, and especially a believer in a Pietist or generally fairly low-key-on-everyday-life God, that you believe that life is best got through peaceably, by a combination of prayer and sitting quietly, on the grounds that there will be great adventures of a spiritual kind to be obtained at the End of All Things. If you think that God is expecting us to be boring and dull now, yet massively exciting later – it may be an odd position, but let’s go with it – then that’s the best bet.

But to be an atheist, and believe the best bet is to just have a bit of a quiet life? If I thought this life was all there is – would I think the best way of living it was to be fundamentally boring? If I had but three-score and ten (or four-score, had I the strength) years – would I think the best way to relax after a hard day’s crafting CSS at the HTML-face was to sit around being sarcastic under the line on Guardian Comment is Free? It’s a bit strange to consider, isn’t it? You’d want to be out taming badgers, or leaping across chasms or skating naked down the north face of the Eiger. What would be the point, given one, finite life, of eking it out slowly over seven or eight decades or boredom? If this is all there is, it should be lived – relished – loved – the life smashed out of it – and then given up joyfully knowing that’s it, it’s all finished.

That’s what I can’t get over Richard Dawkins. His “principle” which he moaned about last week will mean nothing in something under 30 years, when his mortal coil will be shuffled off and his name will mostly be remembered as something associated with some fuss over a pot of honey. And the irony is that, out of Prof Dawkins, the pot of honey, and the person who removed it from him, it’s the honey – sealed, antiseptic and high in sugar in an airtight pot in a landfill somewhere – that is going to last longest. Why get  so het up? Why not just enjoy the bizarre knowledge that, against our total lack of wings and requirement for relatively high concentrations of oxygen, he was on his way to fly high in the air above the clouds – honey-free or honey-blessed?

If atheists really believe their schtick, they’ll act like some atheists I know – ignore their medical conditions, have a good time, get out, see the world, meet people, have exciting face-to-face arguments. Not sit around primly flaming other people and each other.

So radical atheists of the world, unlike the rest of us you have no excuse. Go out and do something daring, dramatic, exciting and above all fun. Otherwise we’ll think you don’t really believe your own unbelief and that you are, as we could mostly guess from your smugness, judgmental nature and general boringness, actually Calvinists in disguise.

Just my thought. Still, it’s nearly 11 o’clock. Time for cocoa and Radio 4. Night, all.

PCC Expenses Scandal

Down the Hanged Man for a sociable cider and Bailey’s last night. Pog, our church secretary, was in a terrible state.

She’d got wind of this issue with a PCC having to pay back expenses , and thought her claims for taxis were being investigated. I mean, they’re on the high side – especially the taxi fares, when you consider she lives next to the church hall. But then claiming medicinal use for the Pernod she drinks after the meetings seems entirely reasonable. Frankly I’m surprised she doesn’t just get absinthe put in via a drip.

Jungle Sale

I do worry whether civilisation has reached the English Shires yet.

Take tomorrow’s Jungle Sale in aid of Church Funds. I was going to point out the typo. But then I noticed the lorises, rhino horn and giant tortoises that were on the price list.

Maybe I’ll just say I’ve got a headache and can’t make it.

Jungle Sale

I do worry whether civilisation has reached the English Shires yet.

Take tomorrow’s Jungle Sale in aid of Church Funds. I was going to point out the typo. But then I noticed the lorises, rhino horn and giant tortoises that were on the price list.

Maybe I’ll just say I’ve got a headache and can’t make it.

The Spurious Use of Pseudo-Science in a Marketing Purpose – or Getting a Bit of Wiggle Room

I’m going to reproduce the graph below, using the defence of “fair use”, before this post disappears.

The Wiggle editor has added a disclaimer to this post which wasn’t there before, to sort-of-distance themselves from the piece after the #boycottwiggle campaign got into gear (ho-ho). Instead, the charity behind the post has been pushed to the front of stage on this one. And I’m pretty sure the blogger’s pseudonym has changed since I read it earlier. 

But it’s still there. An article using a deeply dodgy piece of pseudo-science to try and claim cycling helmets should be compulsory. Odd that a company that sells cycling helmets should try and get them made compulsory.

The questions of whether or not helmets are a good idea at all, and whether they should be compulsory, are complicated and nuanced. I’m not going into them here. You can have a read of this, for assorted similar stuff.

But look at this graph, of deaths in the States while cycling with or without helmets, and the sentence that follows it:


“With so much evidence to show that helmets save lives you would think that everyone would think that compulsory helmets are a good thing right?”

You know, it knocked me over, did this graph. For a minute I thought, if helmet use makes you so much more safe, we should all wear them.

But you’ve probably seen the flaw in it already. The graph shown is absolutely meaningless, without a vital piece of contextual information. And that piece of information is – the proportion of Americans cycling while wearing helmets.

Do you see? The proposition is expressed as a binary one – people wearing helmets vs people not. Therefore we assume that the rate of wearing vs not wearing helmets must be similar. And so the graph is shocking. But we don’t get told what the ratios are – we’re left to deduce it. And notice the way the number of deaths while wearing helmets jumps towards the end – is that because helmets suddenly became dangerous, or because more people were wearing them?

Let me take a similar example. If that graph were deaths while cycling bare-headed, versus deaths while wearing (it’s America , so let’s go native) 10-gallon hats. We would see far fewer deaths while wearing 10-gallon hats. So 10-gallon hats should be mandatory. Or how about cycling while dressed as the Native American from the Village People? I reckon that would be no deaths. So that’s far safer than cycling without a feathery head-dress.

In fact, if you think about it, if everybody in the USA wore a helmet while cycling, 100% of cycling deaths would involve people wearing helmets. On which basis, helmets should be banned to make everybody safer.

So my moral here is – get the context when someone presents what looks like a scientific argument. Or run the risk that your government insists you have to stick gladioli up your nose before getting on a bike. Nobody with a gladiolus in each nostril died in a cycling accident. It’s a scientific fact. So let’s take no more risks – let’s legislate.

East is East

Strange discussion going on down at the coffee shop..

Apparently the PCC have been considering putting the church altar up against the wall.

Well I mean, what?  Reverend Nathan?  Going eastern-facing at this time in his career? I mean, I said, they’ve that arrangement at Woodby Chapel End, but then it’s a tiny church, with a tiny sanctuary, and there’s no real point trying to move it out. But even there, Nathan kind of scrabbles round to the North side rather than turn his back on either member of the congregation. And I can’t blame him. I wouldn’t turn my back on them either.

But besides, Great Tremlett’s a modernised, relatively trendy church. When the rood screen fell down they got permission to leave it down, remove the choir stalls and open up a “worship space”. Why would they go all Traddy?

Pleased to say they cleared it up for me. Nathan just wants  it there to make more space for liturgical dancing, Normal – ahem –  service is restored.