All entries for February 2006

February 28, 2006

The mystery of unsolved puzzles

I read a letter in the National Geographic the other day that bemoaned the loss of mystery through scientific discovery.

The author of the letter was responding to an article describing developments in neurobiology. They said that the author of the article had 'abolished the human spirit' by suggesting that the brain worked through firing synapses and denied the possibility that the mind is simply what the brain does. This made me think:

  • Are we destroying our fascination with the worlds around us and within us by finding out how it all works?

  • Cannot understanding the workings of something increase one's fascination? I become increasingly amazed by life and its processes the more I learn, because it's all so incredibly complex.

  • Has history shown that trying to understand our surroundings is something innate in us as humans?

  • Does everything work by a set of rules and mechanisms that are always obeyed and are definable? If not, we require the intervention of something mystical.

  • Will we ever figure everything out, or are some things just too complex for our comprehension or investigation?

February 27, 2006

Breasts – why are they attractive???

I do sometimes wonder what on earth it is about breasts that men find so attractive. They are, after all, just big bags of fat: fat in any other place is normally seen as far less attractive.

  • Is it just conditioning caused by the general conceptions of society? And if so where did it come from? After all, as Charlotte says in Sex And The City, in some cultures fat women with moustaches are seen to be the most attractive.

  • Do large breasts signify fertility and suggest to men that women will be good mothers, or is it less complicated than that?

  • Is there an equivalent attribute in men that all women revere in the same way?

February 23, 2006


My co-workers and I were having an interesting discussion over coffee a few mornings ago about attitude changes over the generations and conceptions of appropriate behaviour. This got me thinking…

Many people, including myself, admire Madonna for the way she has sustained her success over the years and seemingly managed to juggle career, home live and children with aplomb. However, I do cringe somewhat when I see her cavorting around a stage, with men, in hot pants. For some reason I have a conception that it is not appropriate to behave in such a way when you have children. Similarly, my Mum's boss (and mine for a year) is in her early forties with two young children, and yet regularly goes out and gets drunk to the point of amnesia and lets her kids see her like that. But am I being an old-fashioned prude by thinking badly of them?

The subsequent generations change so significantly. In maybe twenty years the image I have of a 'grandparent' will not exist any more: no longer will OAPs have blue-rinse perms, wear flat caps and always dress in skirts and trousers.

It is, of course, true that maturity increases with age, but to what extent? Should we change our behaviour as we get older and our circumstances change, or do we have a right to continue behaving as we did when we were in our teenage years or twenties?

February 20, 2006

The male contraceptive pill

An article I read last week discussed the merits of the male contraceptive 'pill', and it had me thinking. It turns out that the male contraceptive is not going to be as simple as the female one, and will involve an implant and regular injections. The early trials have had problems because very few man have volunteered to take part.

  • Would a man be willing to take responsibility for contraceptives, particularly when it involves a relatively invasive procedure?

  • Will women be willing to trust men with keeping up the medication regularly or being honest about whether they are protected, bearing in mind that it's the women who's left, literally, holding the baby?

  • Do men feel strongly that they should have the chance to take responsilibity for their fertility, and have more options than just condoms?

  • Do men feel that it's a woman's job to worry about such things and they shouldn't need to consider it?

  • Will there be a stigma surrounding the treatment since it involves the release of a female hormone: will some men feel it would undermine their masculinity?

February 15, 2006

Orpheus in the Underworld

Writing about web page

Balatant plug follows:

Next week, from Thursday until Saturday, Warwick Student Opera are performing Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld:

Orpheus is:
'The first of Offenbach's outrageously funny 'send-ups' of Greek mythology, this is an unashamedly Gallic version of the classic legend of Orpheus's pursuit of his wife Eurydice, who is carried off to Hades by Pluto – much to the annoyance of Jupiter. A highly disrespectful romp, it involves nymphs, shepherds, gods and goddesses, with the fun reaching its climax in the riotous revels of the celebrated "Can-Can". A lively and highly enjoyable show for both performers and audience, with many world-famous tunes'.

It will be great fun – so do come along and see it! See the website for more details.

February 14, 2006

The widening roles of teachers

I recently read that, under new laws, teachers will be permitted to punish pupils for behaving badly outside school and on public transport: another fantastic idea from Blair's 'respect' reforms. At the same time, the Government are proposing to introduce new £50 fines for parents if they fail to take responsibility for the bad behaviour of their children.

Now, let me explain why I think this is all a bit silly:

  • Blair is trying to compensate for a lack of parental responsibility by using teachers, who already have enough on their plates these days, to control children outside school. My Mum frequently bumps in to her school kids on a Saturday afternoon in the town centre. Is she supposed to discipline them on her day off when they should be under the control of their parents?

  • On the one hand the government are giving teachers the responsibilities of parents, and on the other they are fining parents for not taking responsibility: surely this is a complete contradiction, because you are both reinforcing their role and undermining it. Already too many parents refuse to accept that their children's behaviour might be a result of their upbringing, and I feel that this will just compound the situation.

  • This is a perfect example of the Blairite attitude towards education: let's treat the symptoms and not the root cause. Many of the problems that arise in schools these days are a direct result of lack of parental discipline. If a child is not taught to respect their family, there is no way a teacher is going to be able to instil it into them. If a child is not taught the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic in their early years, it is so much more difficult to get them to catch up. The National Curriculum does a disservice to so many children, and many don't have enough positive parental guidance to support them in learning to be able to learn. I'm not saying that there's an easy way to change this, but I don't think getting teachers to replace parents is the way forward.

February 08, 2006


A headline on the front of the Times Educational Supplement:

  • Wanted: heads to serve overseas

Hehe. The person who wrote that MUST have seen the funny side…

February 07, 2006

Are we all fundamentally the same?

Writing about Are we all the same? from Neighbourhood #1

Wow, I haven't blogged for ages! I feel I should rectify this…

I stumbled upon Iyobosa's entry again today about's annual question. In it he refers to a previous entry he made about last years' question:
What do you believe in that we cannot prove?

One response was from Elizabeth Spelke of Harvard University who said that she thought:

All people have the same fundamental concepts, values, concerns, and commitments… our common conceptual and moral commitments spring from the core cognitive systems that allow an infant to grow rapidly and spontaneously into a competent participant in any human society.

Several years ago I would have agreed with this view, but my recent experiences have begun to change my mind. I spent a year working in a relatively rough state Community College and some of the children I met were, according to the generally-held moral concepts of society, completely lacking. I've seen many children lie about things they know their teachers have just seen them do, viciously pick on their peers and their seniors, show no respect for any other person (including their families) and repeatedly subvert the rules of our society. Some of the worst of these kids seemed to do these things with absolutely no remorse.

So I ask:

  • Do we all have an innate sense of right and wrong and of moral responsibility?
  • Can this sense of responsibility be subverted by the conditions in which we are brought up?
  • How do we account, for example, for extreme criminals who refuse to admit, particularly to themselves, that their crimes were wrong?

February 2006

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