All entries for November 2005

November 30, 2005

The Catholic church vs. homosexuals everywhere

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4480588.stm

The Catholic church has renewed its convicton that homosexuality is a tendancy rather then an orientation and that practising is a sin. It has renewed the ban on gay priests, saying that those who have indulged in homosexual practises must have renounced their former activities and been celibate for at least three years before being considered for the cloth.

But why the surprise?!

Would we not criticise the church for backing down on one of its fundamental beliefs? Wouldn't the headlines then read something like:
'Church abandons its teachings in favour of pandering to the general feeling of society'?

Surely an organisation cannot be strong without believing emphatically in the rules upon which it is based. Surely one of the reasons the church has become weaker, particularly during the past century, is because some of its fundamental principles have been challenged, for example by the theory of evolution. So why should the church be expected to backtrack on another of its beliefs when presumably, as a result, it would be weakened?


November 29, 2005

The differences between the sexes

Follow-up to Rape: do we deserve it?! from Musings of a blonde

Justin pointed out, quite rightly, to me last night that I probably misinterpreted the comment by 'henry' (No. 15) on my entry above in my own comment, No.17. Henry was stating that many women demonstrate stereotypically male aggressive behaviour when meeting men for the first time. He then mentioned the word 'control' and I overreacted in, I'm ashamed to admit, a quite feminist way. As someone who prides herself in her attempts to see all arguments from all sides, I was quite disappointed. But then it got me thinking…

I read the entry in a particular way. Reading the comment again after Justin's imput I can clearly see the other interpretation, but I still think I would always have reacted the way I did. Is this due to my particular view on the subject or just because I am a woman? It occurred to me that maybe men are more likely to react in the way Justin did, and women in the way I did: as a woman I find myself reacting in a relatively defensive manner on issues of sexual equality despite the fact that I would not class myself as a feminist.

But as rational human beings shouldn't we all be able to react in a reasoned way to a comment, regardess of which sex we are? Or is that view inflicting Vulcan logic on human minds and do our instinctive reactions in fact vary according to our situation? If men and women do indeed have differing instinctive reactions to potentially controversial statements is it due to the 'men are from Mars, women are from Venus' fundamental psychological differences or is the society around us and our position within it a more significant swaying factor?

An aside:
Transsexuals believe they are mentally the opposite sex to their physical appearance. Do they react in the opposite way to the one stereotypical for that of their physical sex?


November 24, 2005

The scientific approach to politics

As I'm sure everyone is aware, the new licensing laws came in to action at midnight last night. This has enabled many establishments to serve alcohol for longer, and some around the clock. Many people are extremely concerned about the effect this will have on binge-drinking, crime and general antisocial behaviour.

However, at the same time the government have decided to get the police to target alcohol-fuelled offences. Why have they done this, I hear you ask? So they can cover their backs and palm off any increase in drink-related crime on the increased policing, instead of admitting that it might have something to do with the new, extended, licensing. Genius!

So if I had any influence I would call for a truly scientific approach to the introduction of new laws. In the lab we introduce changes one at a time and repeat the experiment under the same conditions, observing the changes that occur. This is the only way you can truly identify the source of a problem. The only way we could tell if these new licensing laws were improving matters would be to, as far as possible, keep all the other variables the same. But governments can't be seen to be wrong about these things, so they must manipulate each situation so that it seems that they're right.

Grrr!


November 23, 2005

JAM!

I have become rather aware that my blog entries have been very serious over the past few days. So, to remedy this:

Jam…

I like jam very much, but can never decide what my favourite is. What is yours? We've had a heated debate in the lab this week about the seeds/seedless issue. Also, is butter a necessary accompaniment to your toast and jam or does it detract from it? And, I have always wondered this, what is the difference betweem jam and marmalade: surely rindless marmalade is just jam? And what about fruit conserves??


November 22, 2005

The mindset of heinous criminals

Follow-up to Rape: do we deserve it?! from Musings of a blonde

As a follow up to comment 11 of the above entry, which when something like this:
"If you believe that heinous criminals (of the sort that would receive the death penalty) are fundamentally evil/psychologically disturbed, you might agree with execution as you wouldn't think they were capable of repenting. However, if you believe that these people can be rehabilitated and can, indeed, realise that what they did was deeply wrong is there not a large argument for keeping things how they are?"

I find it conceptually difficult to think that a serial killer, for example, might realise the true horror of their crimes, as any 'normal' (term used very loosely) member of society understands them, and repent of them. If they truly accept what they've done in terms of the generally accepted morality would they not be utterly disgusted with themselves. Is this an argument to support the idea that serious criminals are indeed fundamentally disturbed?


November 21, 2005

The death penalty

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4453848.stm

Hmmm, a lot of things in the news have been annoying me in the past few days…

Why is taking the life of a police officer worse than that of any other human being? Saying this implies that a police officer's life is more important than that of any other. Could it not be viewed as more terrible to take the life of a child? By choosing to work in the emergency services police officers must be accepting that they will put themselves in more danger than your average person during a day at the office. Not to say that taking a bullet is part of the job, but risk is, presumably, expected.

Surely the death penalty is either right or wrong and should be applied to all murderers or none at all? Why is there one rule for one murderer and another for another? Who's to say that this murderer was any more evil than, say, a serial killer whose attacks were all premeditated and meticulously planned?

The ex-Met Police chief quoted in the above article describes the murderer as a 'monster who executed this young woman in cold blood' and his act as 'pure evil'. Would it not also be reasonable to think that the murderer was acting partly through panic? I'm sure killing a police officer was probably not part of the plan and it was not premeditated. Does that make his crime worse or better? Can you even define a murder as being worse or better than any other?

Something that confused me highly was the extreme reaction of the ex-chief-of-police. He said that all his life he has been against the death penalty, but that this murder has changed his mind. In another article I read that 36 police officers have been murdered in the line of duty in the past two decades. Why, then, has he changed his mind this time? Perhaps because she was the first woman to be murdered in a criminal case?

The same guy also says that if the death penalty is not imposed as a result of this murder then 'wrong really has finally totally triumphed over right and all civilised society, all we hold dear, is the loser'. I am unsure of exactly where I stand on the death penalty issue, but have a gut feeling that 'an eye for an eye' is not the basis for a civilised society.

On the radio show I was listening to this morning someone called for a life sentence to mean life instead of introducing the death penalty. This is, however, an unrealistic goal as prisons are already overcrowded. There is also an argument that the taxpayer shouldn't have to keep criminals fed an housed for the length of their lives. But to introduce the death penalty, even in part, to solve the problem of overcrowding in prisons is deeply wrong. So what do we do?


Rape: do we deserve it?!

I hope I'm not the only person who's been shocked by the figures released this morning from a survey by Amnesty International.

This survey, of over 1000 British men and women, showed that a third thought that women who flirt with men have only themselves to blame if they are raped. A similar number thought that being drunk or wearing revealing clothing laid blame solely at the woman's door. I know that some women are not responsible: they get overly drunk and consequently make themselves vulnerable and act in a way that is inappropriate and may lead men on. But to say that mere flirting gives a man a right to force sexual intercourse on a woman is crazy! I, and all women I know, dress in clothes they think suit them so that they look attractive. But I object to being classifed as up for a shag just because I want to look good. Would the same people say that well-endowed women should expect to be a target for rapists just because they are stereotypically attractive?!

Scarily, the 12,000 cases of rape reported in the UK each year are speculated to only represent a fifth of the actual number of cases, and only six per cent of reported rapes actually led to a conviction. With statistics like that and potentially painful and lengthy trials leading up to the small number of convictions it's hardly surprising that the problem is not being dealt with. But if the general public opinion is such that women are automatically disbelieved when they report a rape, they are going to tend to keep quiet. Why, for apparently a third of people in this country, is it their instinct to blame the victim?


November 20, 2005

Appropriate politeness?

Follow-up to Gentlemanliness and whether it has a place nowadays from Musings of a blonde

Having started a longish debate about gentlemanliness recently, the other morning I was caused to think about politeness in general, and how you make your responses appropriate to the people you meet.

There is a blind man with whom I often share a bus from Leamington to campus at about 9 am in the morning. On the morning in question, I was sitting by the window and he came and sat next to me. As I am a biologist, I had to get off the bus at Gibbet Hill. As soon as the man sensed me moving he turned so that I could get past. I thanked him, but through some deeply-ingrained reflex I thanked him in an obviously more enthusiastic way than I would ever thank someone without a disability.

Now what was his reaction to this? It annoys me that I don't know. Do disabled people appreciate being treated with extra care because it makes life easier, or do they just want to be treated as 'normal'? And probably, in the case of the gentlemanliness debate, it completely depends on the person. But how do you ever know how to avoid annoying people?


November 18, 2005

Children scare me…

I read a fantastic letter in the METRO a few mornings ago, which I thought I should share:

'As a foreigner, I am not surprised to see that the children in this country are rebellious. They are a product of the culture that is being built around them. Nobody – not the parent, the schools or the police – have real power against their behaviour. It is an insult to the mind that and strength of children to worry that, by disciplining them, they will crumble or have emotional problems later in life. Let's face the facts: when walking down the streets we fear children, they intimidate us, swear at us, spit at us and even attack us. It is ridiculous that I used to fear guns, rape and murder in my own country and am now afraid of children here. If this trend carries on, what will the future hold for the workforce? In 20 years' time will I be spat on and sworn at by my fellow workers? Will I end up being stabbed with a pen by the office bully? Stand up, Britain! Children know they are untouchable. It is time that the Government realises that it is creating a future that looks very gloomy. We are seeing youngsters act in the way they do because they have no consequences to fear'.
Jacques Otto


November 17, 2005

Richardism of the day

'What's this and should I have my finger in it?'

… Not a good thing to be saying in a biology lab!


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