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Showing posts from January, 2011

Humanism: An Exchange with Nina Fishman

In an earlier blog post, on the 1st anniversary of Nina Fishman’s death, I referred to a project that Nina and I conceived back in November 2002 to write a collaborative essay on the inadequacy of contemporary humanist defences against religious fundamentalism in the shadow of 9/11. In the end we never wrote the paper, but I’ve recently discovered, in an obscure folder on my hard disk, the notes that we exchanged at the start of the project. On reading them I was struck firstly by the remarkable quality of Nina’s contribution (which beautifully demonstrates her instinct for a historical approach to any problem), and secondly by regret that we didn’t persevere with the project and overcome our differences of approach. I’m therefore publishing both of our contributions here, starting with my notes: 

My First Try If you believe George Bush, we are already engaged in a war that pits western values against an axis of evil forces led by the Islamic fundamentalists of Al Qaeda. Ignoring for th…

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!

One of the more depressing trends of recent years has been the collapse of TV comedy, a field in which the UK once lead the world (think Monty Python, Blackadder, The Fast Show, Green Wing). It's not lack of volume but of quality and tone: ever since Little Britain the mental age of the comics has been following a roughly parabolic downward trajectory*. However rescue is at hand, and from the a unlikely direction - Horizon.

The much hyped episode What Is Reality? (shown on January 17th 2011) showed us a bunch of bleeding-edge particle physicists musing about what the universe really consists of, all of them in thrall to the now-over-familiar paradoxes generated by the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. We saw an Austrian gentleman with a magnificent beard perform the two-slit experiment yet again, and go into a swoon of confusion over "where is the photon now" that would have done credit to a three-card trickster in Oxford Street. It all got weirder and weir…