30 December 2009

Philosophy of Science

Here is a little snippet of something I posted on the Doctors.Net.UK forum, but I thought could do with a wider airing. Agree? Disagree?

The problem is that a lot of blowhards who set themselves up as "philosophers of science" have no clue as to what science actually is and how it operates. Many pursue a decidedly post-modern (PoMo) agenda, and one can't help but wonder if it is *jealousy* that drives them, rather than academic rigour. Others are trying to elbow in a little space for their private fantasies (often religion-based - science is rather hard on space pixies). There are of course some very good and honest philosophers of science, and scientists have a great deal to learn from philosophy. Many philosophers would do well to return the favour and pay attention to the science.

PZ has an interesting post on a related issue (as always).

Examples of serious facepalms by so-called "philosophers of science" include the devious but dopey "God's Undertaker" by John Lennox, Mary Midgley's spectacularly idiotic 1976 review of Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" and Jerry Fodor's amazingly confuddled "On Darwinism".

Medical students should indeed learn about the philosophy of science in order to combat such exuberant ignorance. The key skill is *critical thinking*, and I would heartily recommend "Straight and Crooked Thinking" by RH Thouless, now astonishingly out of print, but gettable second hand on ebay & elsewhere. It rocks in a really rocking way.

23 December 2009

We got there too late.

Sadly the patient was already deceased.

David, let it go. It's gone. You did your best. Look to the future. Move on, man!

Amazing what you find in the mountains...

We made it to the top of the pass that leads to Jerash. This poor old donkey didn't. Please take a moment to remember this once-proud little beast of burden, and the final journey that finished it off.

The great news is that thanks to your help, I've managed to raise over £3000 for the Nazareth Hospital! Good work, everyone. The little donkey did not die in vain.

There are more people who think like I do?!?

Tim Minchin tells it like it is. Behold the power of "Storm"!

20 December 2009

Behold the mighty Snow-Sphinx!

Religion is a funny thing. Over 5000 years ago, long before Yahweh was invented, the people of Egypt developed a sophisticated (and oft-misunderstood) religious system that lasted far longer than Christianity, yet vanished without a trace.
Yes, elements of Egyptian religion became incorporated into the new religion of Christianity (the Trinity is one example; much of the Gnosticism that ended up making its way into *mainstream* Christianity is also traceable to concepts directly related to the old Egyptian religion), but by and large it was forgotten.

At Christmas time, let's celebrate what came before. Let's raise a toast to the Egyptians, and make our snow-sphinxes (weather permitting) with pride.

03 December 2009

Forbidden fruit

Why is it, when someone tells you NOT to do something, you really really REALLY want to do it?

But on balance, some things are best left alone...

Keeping us on the road

Meet Luay, our indomitable Bicycle Repair Man for the Jordanian leg of our journey. Very fine chap. We were very sad to leave him at the border. Luay - if you read this, drop me an email - I lost your email address, and I need to ask you about some of the finer points of Arabic grammar...