How I feel

Since turning 49 just over a week ago, I seem to have hit a writing slump. That’s not to say, that I was writing anything good up a storm prior to that milestone (for me it is).

I don’t know what it is. I feel great. Better than great actually. I could be 48, or 40 or 27 even. Maybe that’s it. I feel too young and my mind is on other things, younger, reckless things, and writing seems like a chore.


I have been contemplating many things. And no, suicide isn’t one of them.

For instance, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is purring again after nearly two years of upgrades and renovations. Since Sunday, actually. That’s really great. It’s a reflection of everything that’s good about the world.

Elsewhere there’s ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, the last only recently massacring around 148 students in Kenya. Then there’s Pat Robertson and Deepak Chopra, alternate sides of the same ideologically unstable coin, whose regular mutterings are quite frankly, insane. I pick on mention a few, but all of these represent a side of the world that is not good at all.

And here in South Africa, we have a group of militant students who are of the opinion (or more likely have been manipulated into believing) that defacing and toppling historic statues will change their lot in life. Right about now they’re watching in glee as a statue of Cecil John Rhodes is being removed from a university campus.

But, the LHC is humming softly and I feel good…

Science – otherwise known as miracles to religious nutters

We might as well be living in the year 1020, for all the knowledge we have acquired since then, fails to register with people who are fervently religious. Ignorance still rules, in the year 2010.

Just last week Stephen Hawking released a new book he co-authored with US physicist Leonard Mlodinow where he states that a god was not necessary for the creation of the universe. The furore that followed can only be described as fucking ridiculous. On the one hand he was denigrated by various critics as employing deceitful PR tactics to sell his book by re-igniting the god-science debate, and on the other he was castigated as usual by the rabidly religious [see comments for article] for daring to suggest that god was redundant.

While the critics may have a valid argument, the comments from the religious nutters reveals just how much ignorance still exists when it comes to the pursuit of science and the aims and objectives of true scientists. The experiments currently being conducted in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN came under attack as a waste of money, time and resources. The religious peanut gallery seriously think that the experiments to find the elusive Higgs Boson particle, humorously nicknamed the god particle, is an attempt by scientists to prove that a god does not exist. That is nothing short of being criminally naive at best, and dangerously ignorant at worst. It seems that none of them have considered that scientific experiments lead to the technologies that creates the everyday conveniences that they take for granted.

So, when you come across a claim from the church, that the medical science that led to the quick recovery of a heart attack patient is nothing but a miracle from god, you begin to realize that these fruitcakes think of science as a miracle. This week the Rhema Bible Church claimed that the recovery of their pastor, Ray McCauley was nothing but a miracle. They have deemed it fit to render medical science and doctors redundant. By their reasoning, all patients who survive heart attacks, do so because of miracles from a selective supernatural benefactor. The same benefactor who somehow cannot save helpless people, including children and the aged from natural or man-made disasters, and other illnesses.

As a matter of interest, the procedure that apparently saved Ray McCauley required his brain to be frozen for about 10 hours. Luckily those who follow his every word, and presumably that written by the gods, and continue to enrich the Rhema empire, won’t need this procedure – they have self-imposed it. Now if science could only find a cure for self-inflicted brain freezing, I would be tempted to concede that as a miracle.

Carl Sagan…and the meaning of life

I don’t know why I got up this morning thinking about Carl Sagan. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I went to bed last night thinking about the meaning of life.

If you’ve not heard of Carl Sagan (or not read something he wrote, which is a real sin in my books), you’re either quite young or not scientifically inclined, or both. I’d hate to think that you haven’t heard of or about him, because you’re disinterested. Besides being one of my favorite authors, Carl Sagan was one of the greatest scientists that ever lived; but was probably more famous for his hit television series, Cosmos. Ah! Some of you, do now remember.

Anyway, back to this morning: I was thinking what a damn shame it is that Carl is no longer around; what with all the fantastic experiments being undertaken in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. I’m sure Carl inspired many (if not all) of the physicists working on the LHC project, and he would surely have been the happiest man alive if he could have been a part of that group of scientists, trying to decipher the secrets of the universe.

I can only imagine how he would have described the CERN experiments and the findings in that inimitable literary style, that has inspired so many people around the world. If you have read any of Carl’s books, you would know what I’m talking about; that ability to induce a feeling of absolute wonderment about the natural world in a reader, is something special. What a find; a scientist who could explain science to the layperson, in such simple and awe-inspiring terms.

And… oh yeah! About the meaning of life? There is none. Life has no meaning other than that, which you create for yourself…

When Science and Religion Collide

I live in a small community of a few thousand mostly deeply religious people; a small group of Hindus and Christians dominated by a majority of Muslims. It’s not hard to notice that the single Church, two temples and three mosques are frequented daily, and that each religious grouping are devout followers of their respective religions. This community is a microcosm of the religious fervour endemic the world over.

In Europe, on the other hand are a few thousand scientists who after fourteen years of collaboration, this week witnessed the fruits of their labour when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN was switched on successfully. Amid threats to shut the project down over fears of safety by certain detractors, and doomsday predictions by the loony religious fringe, the first proton beams were injected into the LHC on the 10th September this week to complete a successful start up on the most expensive and probably most important scientific experiment in the history of mankind to date.
In stark contrast we have two groups of people; one looking for meaning and purpose in archaic religious texts and ultimately for salvation through blind faith, and the other nobly trying to unravel meaning and purpose and indeed, the secrets of the universe through scientific experiment. While scientists will be asking how the universe came to be the way it is, the religious faithful believe they already know and see no reason to question further. In life there can be no two endeavours that are more diametrically opposed to each other than science and religion; indeed religion is the antithesis of science. And while religionists vehemently oppose science, some have no qualms about engaging the detestable field of pseudo-science to prop up their dying religions as in the laughable hypothesis about Intelligent Design.
In the modern era, religion still dominates the lives of ordinary people in spite of the great advances in the science and the increasing evidence against religious dogma and superstitious practices. As scientific scrutiny closes in on irrational religious thinking, I’m constantly amazed at the mental gymnastics employed by the religious institutions, the evangelists, clerics, clergy, priests and common shysters, to find new ways to “keep the faith alive.” Religion is big business, and I guess there is a vested interest to ensure its survival.
The future benefits of the LHC and the experiments to be conducted at CERN are obvious to all but the firmly religious. The one benefit not listed, and the one that amuses me no end, is how this scientific event has sparked some fear and loathing into the religious establishment. Take Ray Comfort for example, an evangelist whose recent blog “Its a Sick World” questions the spending of 10 billion dollars over 14 years on the LHC project when the money could be used for feeding starving children in Africa. It is typical of the dishonesty and bigotry of the religious movement who have squandered many more billions in furthering the aims of useless religions. One could also ask why he has never questioned the US Government’s expenditure in an untenable war in Iraq, which makes the LHC budget look like small change. No, Ray like the rest of the religious rabble don’t concern themselves too much with starving children; right now he is more concerned about how the scientific experiments at CERN is going to affect his business of selling salvation.
While I know it’s irrational to suggest that we use the LHC to accelerate different religions at nearly the speed of light from opposite directions so that they collide and smash each other into oblivion, I wish we could. Is it too much to ask?