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No sadly this isn’t a WWE match set in at “Edgefield Federal Correction Institute”, where Dawkins uses his intellectual might to pile drive Kent Hovind – young earth creationist, conspiracy theorist and criminal – into the mat.

The Greatest Show on Earth is in fact a fascinating new title from Prof. Richard Dawkins. It aims to explicate evolution in a manner that every man on the street can understand. Demonstrating complex scientific concepts with examples, diagrams, rich colour photos  and of course is his occasional no-nonsense humour, Dawkins bring evolution to a level we can all understand. A secondary role can also be found within its pages, in that it equips the reader with the tools to refute the arguments of the ID/Creationist brigade.

In opening Dawkins does a great job of explaining what is meant by the term theory in regards to the “Theory of Evolution”. The word theory in this context is often misunderstood – partially down to the fact the word theory has two different meanings.

So having taken us through a basic explanation of the term and warming us up with a brief look at; Darwin, On the Origins of Species and natural selection, Dawkins then starts to explore how natural selection and artificial selection (for example dog breeds) works and gives us some fascinating examples of each.

Over the course of thirteen chapters we are treated to many examples of evolution in practice as well as lab experiments that refute the claims of the Creationist brigade. Dawkins touches on other areas of science that back up the “Theory of Evolution” ranging from carbon dating to tree ring counting (Dendrochronology).

The book finishes with a small appendix titled “The History Deniers”. Dawkins uses this term during the title to describe those who ignore, refute or discard evidence that challenges their faith-based beliefs.

The figures detailing those who don’t accept evolution as a factual theory make for slightly worrying reading – and these are just from the EU and Turkey.

With the above in mind, Dawkins work as well as being a fascinating piece of science literature, provides those of us who read the God Delusion with  a useful tome to challenge those who refute the scientific method.

With Creationist museums in the US and Creationist Zoos in England, this book couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Greatest Show on Earth is available now in hard back from all good bookstores.

Righteous Indignation – Podcast

Posted: October 11, 2009 by newhavenlse in Groups and organisations

As a great fan of Podcasts here is another one I would like to share with our readers – Righteous Indignation.

http://www.ripodcast.co.uk/

The Podcasts website states:

Righteous Indignation is the pod­cast that aims to crit­i­cally exam­ine extra­or­di­nary claims and the peo­ple who sur­round them. These include ideas related to con­spir­acy, the para­nor­mal, the super­nat­ural and attempts to rede­fine the bound­aries of sci­ence and understanding.

It’s well worth a listen and laced with jokes and double-entendre. dirty humour

Back from vacations

Posted: September 26, 2009 by newhavenlse in Uncategorized

Pazot, myself and our wives have returned from our vacations so keep your eyes peeled for more articles on skepticism, humanism, politics, science, history and rationalism.

Labour’s housing legacy and Ecotowns

Posted: August 16, 2009 by newhavenlse in Politics
Tags: , ,

Introduction

The UK government has announced plans to go ahead with the controversial (which for the most part actually means unwanted) Ecotowns, this includes Rackheath in Norfolk England.

As the situation develops I will post articles highlighting the impact this will have on Norfolk a county already suffering from the governments neglect of coastal erosion issues.

Initially for more information you can see the Guardian website:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/12/ecotowns-climate-change-gordon-brown-environment

Over the coming weeks I will provide links to protest sites, what the Green party has said on the matter, those providing information on the Rackheath scheme and general information on why the so called “Eco” Towns are nothing but a white elephant.

Before we look at the potential Rackheath development and Ecotowns in general, it is important to provide some context on the Labour governments past housing projects.

Labour’s housing legacy

We should first start at looking at England a whole. England is currently one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, covering approximately two thirds of the British landmass and housing some 83% of its population (approx. 51m inhabitants).

Urmee Khan writing for the Telegraph in September 2008 reported on the results compiled by the ONS (Office of National Statistics):

In 2008 the average number of people per square kilometre in Britain was 253, rising to 395 in England.

Latest figures from Holland show that its population density was 395 a square kilometre in 2002 and 393 in 2005. It is estimated that English population density will rise to 464 people for every square kilometre by 2031. – Daily Telegraph

This obviously raises a number of questions with regards to population density and how we plan to cope with this from a housing perspective. Many factors need to be taken into account ranging from infrastructure, jobs, affordability, community cohesion, transport and the environment.

The increase in England’s population density has put a fair amount of strain upon these factors and as a result of this the Labour government have come up with many ill thought out schemes in attempts to address this.

One of the most criminal of these schemes was ex-Deputy Prime Minster John Prescott’s policies in Liverpool and several other Northern English cities.

His plan was to demolished some 90,000 houses in these cities and replace them with new builds. These houses could of course been renovated with Green technology for a fraction of the cost of demolishing the houses, cleaning up the mess and rebuilding from scratch.

The existing infrastructure could have been improved at the same time, social housing issues addressed and of course facilities in inner cities in dire need of redevelopment tackled.

Things were not looking good for these projects when they were announced in 2003 and the UK property market was in a boom. Many young people found the lack of affordable housing a block to getting a foot on the property ladder and council housing was over subscribed in many areas.

The ludicrous nature of Prescott’s project in the face of the above was highlighted on the “Tonight with Trevor McDonald” show.

For the sum of £24,000 a house in the Toxteth area of Liverpool (where 400 houses where slated for the bulldozer) was renovated and valued at £65,000, considerably less than the prices of homes in the South of England at this time. To make matters worst, the cost of demolishing the houses, many of which have survived the Luftwaffe and where a part of Liverpool’s heritage was estimated at £18,000 and the cost of the new houses? Somewhere in the region of £140,000, not exactly affordable to the average Liverpudlian first time buyer.

As sadly seems to be the case with most of the “housing” projects Labour have touched in the past twelve years, matters went from bad to worst. Compulsory purchase orders where issued with many people effectively being forced for their homes, and being offered the pathetic sum of £28,000 for their homes.

And as if to add insult to injury… property developers with an eye for a profit were able to buy up streets of empty homes on the cheap (some houses going for as little as £5000) and make a profit from the compulsory purchase orders, effectively from tax payers money.

Somewhere in the region of £2.2bn was spent on the re-development project, a project not driven by the desires of a local community, nor actually beneficial at relieving the problems for first time buyers, or those looking for social housing.

The legacy of this project by 2007 was approx. 10,o00 houses being demolished, only 1,000 built and another 37,000 derelict caught up in wrangling over planning and demolition.

An article from 2007 on Moneyweek.com illustrates just how much of a white elephant the scheme turned into and provided much of the information above.

So with this in mind, can we expect any better from Gordon Brown and the proposed Ecotowns soon to be seen springing up across England? Based upon the evidence we have at the moment, it would seem not.

Rackheath in the Media

Below I have included some interesting articles on the Rackheath situation from the Guardian website:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/16/ecotowns

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/audio/2009/jul/17/eco-towns-named

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/jul/16/ecotown-turbine-commercial-political

The US based Center for Inquiry has the following mission statement on it’s about page:

To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present, the world needs an institution devoted to promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. The Center for Inquiry is that institution.

At the Center for Inquiry, we believe that evidence-based reasoning, in which humans work together to address common concerns, is critical for modern world civilization. Moreover, unlike many other institutions, we maintain that scientific methods and reasoning should be utilized in examining the claims of both pseudoscience and religion. We reject mysticism and blind faith. No topic should be placed off limits to scrutiny—certainly not fringe science and religion, which have an enormous influence on beliefs and conduct.

Based out of Amherst NY, the Center for Inquiry is responsible for publishing a number of magazines and the Point of Inquiry Podcast.

I fully recommend checking out the Podcast and the Center for Inquiry website here

For those of you who enjoy listening to Podcasts, one of the best I have come across (hat tip to pazot for this) is Little Atoms.

You can visit the website for Little Atoms here.

Little Atoms is a Podcast and Radio show that discusses, politics, atheism, rational thinking, science and humanism. Its impressive range of guests include:

It can be heard every Friday from 19:00 to 19:30 on London’s Resonance 104.4 FM, is available for download on itunes, and can be heard via the website http://www.littleatoms.com/home.htm

It was believed to be one of the richest cities in the Roman Empire, its name was Altinum and it sat upon the mouth of the river Silis. The port town was blessed with Amphitheaters, temples and all the modern conveniences of the Roman world. Hypocausts and Aqueducts would have provided its wealthy citizens with warmth and water whilst Roman galleys brought goods from around the Empire to its doorstep.

However in the middle of the 5th Century (approx. 452AD)  the city was deserted as Atilla the Hun and his army marched south towards Rome sacking all in their path. Unlike most Roman cities, the site was not buried under layers of Medieval and modern construction. In fact the inhabitants are believed to have settled in Venice taking some of the building materials with them.

Some 1555 years later during the dry summer of 2007, aerial photography of the area revealed the city hidden below the parched crops. Archaeologists from Padua and Venice University are currently drawing up plans for excavations of the site which may give way to some impressive finds.

Below you can see some fascinating computer models of the site from the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8177308.stm

This is certainly going to be an interesting story to follow as it develops.