What kind of countries go to war?

Since 1963, the Correlates of War project has been systematically accumulating and documenting data on international warfare. Today, it provides a massive database on Who fought, when, and all kinds other facts and statistics for every conflict since the Napoleonic era. Just recently, a paper popped up on Archiv that uses some sophisticated data analysis [Read More...]

Government gives go-ahead to two more new religious Free Schools

Government continues to open religious Free Schools

David Cameron has approved the opening of yet more religious Free Schools. Photo: The Prime Minister’s Office

Following a manifesto pledge to open 500 new free schools by 2020 made earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron has today announced the latest set of Free Schools to be given approval to open from September 2016 and beyond. The list includes two new ‘faith’ schools. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has once again reiterated its concern over the continued approval of ‘faith’ schools as part of the Free School programme.

In total, 18 new schools have been given approval to open, one from September 2016 and the rest from September 2017. The two new religious schools are Herts International Christian School, an all-through school in Hertfordshire which will select 50% of pupils based on church attendance, and Yavneh Primary School, a Jewish school also in Hertfordshire affiliated to a pre-existing, fully selective Jewish secondary academy.

Reacting to the announcement, BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman said: ‘Back in July the Prime Minister gave a speech in Birmingham claiming that we needed more integration in our education system, not less, and yet today, just over two months later, he’s announced the approval of more schools that will define and divide children on the basis of their parents’ religion or belief. This is completely counter-intuitive. Schools should be open to everyone, regardless of what they believe, and children of all backgrounds should be educated side by side. If the Government continues to chart this course with its planned 500 new Free Schools, the picture of segregation in our schools will look an awful lot worse than it is now come 2020.’


For further comment or information, please contact BHA Faith Schools and Education Campaigner Jay Harman at jay@humanism.org.uk or on 020 7324 3078.

See a full list of proposed and approved Free Schools: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/List-of-proposed-Free-Schools.xlsx

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The post Government gives go-ahead to two more new religious Free Schools appeared first on British Humanist Association.

The Strange Tale of Rose Marks

Last month, I wrote about whether we should pity the victims of the prosperity gospel and argued that, unlike in cases of outright fraud or coercion, their poor decisions are their own. There were several responses, such as this post by Russell Glasser, that took a more sympathetic view, arguing that most people who fall [Read More...]

Re-thinking the university

It's time to stop adopting an endless stream of top-down, homogeneous solutions. Could micro-universities be the answer?

Carl Sagan on Books“What an astonishing thing a book is....

Carl Sagan on Books

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.“

― Carl Sagan, Cosmos Part 11: The Persistence of Memory (1980)

T-shirt Design: Stop Making Stupid People FamousGet yours at:...

T-shirt Design: Stop Making Stupid People Famous

Get yours at: http://christophersisk.spreadshirt.com

#design #apparel #clothing #tshirtdesign 

BHA calls on Ofsted to start inspecting RE in ‘faith’ schools

Ofsted are currently barred from inspecting RE in 'faith' schools

RE is too important for Ofsted not to inspect it in ‘faith’ schools

In response to a call for evidence from the House of Commons Education Committee, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has called on Ofsted, the government department responsible for inspecting schools in England, to be responsible for the inspection of all aspects of ‘faith’ schools. Currently most religious schools run their own inspections on Religious Education (RE) and Collective Worship, but the BHA has warned of the continued dangers of failing to provide effective oversight in these areas.

Under existing arrangements, Ofsted inspectors are barred from specifically inspecting denominational RE or Collective Worship in ‘faith’ schools. Rather, ‘faith’ schools appoint their own inspectors in these areas and Ofsted may only attend RE lessons and assemblies as part of their general assessment of a school’s contribution to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of their pupils. In its submission, the BHA states that Ofsted is unable to fully ‘ensure that pupils are receiving a broad and balanced curriculum’ given these conditions and questioned how an overall evaluation of a school’s effectiveness could be made without specific monitoring of such important aspects of school life. The potential for conflicts of interest to arise when schools appoint their own inspectors was also noted.

Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘At a time when such a heavy emphasises is placed on schools’ promotion of British values, it is hard to fathom why Ofsted are still prevented from specifically inspecting on RE and collective worship in “faith” schools. Good quality RE is essential if schools are to produce open-minded and tolerant citizens, but we know, and Ofsted knows, that there are many schools that would rather indoctrinate their pupils or encourage them to believe creationist or otherwise pseudoscientific teachings. Failing to effectively monitor the teaching of RE gives a huge amount of cover to those schools and the system urgently needs to change to address this’.

Other matters the BHA raised in its submission

In addition to the conflict of interests in the inspection of state-funded ‘faith’ schools, concerns were also raised in the submission about the private school system. While Ofsted currently inspects around half of all such schools, the other half is inspected by an independent inspectorate appointed by the school. The BHA has previously expressed doubts about the impartiality of one such body, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI), who were formerly responsible for inspecting schools from the Christian Schools Trust (CST) network or the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS). Whilst the BSI was forced to close earlier this year following allegations that their inspectors had extensive links to the schools they were inspecting, similar concerns still exist around the School Inspection Service (SIS). Despite having been founded by the Focus Learning Trust (FLT), a group of schools that teach in line with the beliefs of the strict Exclusive Brethren Christian group, the SIS is responsible for inspecting all FLT’s schools, as well as Steiner schools, about which the BHA also has concerns, particularly in relation to the teaching of pseudoscience.

On that point, the BHA’s submission also expressed concern at the fact that neither Ofsted’s inspection framework, nor the Inspectors’ Handbook, addresses the teaching of pseudoscience in schools. On a number of occasions in the past, the BHA has identified pseudoscientific or creationist teaching in schools only to discover that a recent Ofsted inspection had failed to also identify such issues. This was the case, for instance, with Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney, which was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2014 despite ‘blacking out’ GCSE science exam questions where they contradicted the schools beliefs in areas such as creation and sex education.


For further comment or information, please contact Jay Harman on 020 7324 3078 or jay@humanism.org.uk.

Read the BHA’s submission to the Education Committee: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015-08-17-Education-Committee-the-work-of-Ofsted-BHA-written-submission-FINAL.pdf

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on RE: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/religious-education/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The post BHA calls on Ofsted to start inspecting RE in ‘faith’ schools appeared first on British Humanist Association.

New Design - Me, You, Pizza, Netflix.Get yours...

New Design - Me, You, Pizza, Netflix.

Get yours at: http://christophersisk.spreadshirt.com

#design #apparel #clothing #tshirtdesign 

Indian rationalist murdered at his home

Dr Malleshappa Kalburgi, who had received threats from Hindu hardline groups, shot dead.

First teaching of evolution in new primary national curriculum gets underway in English schools

Today marks the first teaching of the new primary national curriculum in English schools, which for the first time includes a module on evolution as part of the year six programme of study (ages 10-11).  Evolution had previously only been taught from year ten (ages 14-15) onwards, but the development of the module ‘Evolution and Inheritance’ at Key Stage 2 means children will now have the opportunity to learn about Darwin’s theory from a much younger age. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has been at the forefront of the campaign for such a change and welcomes its introduction in schools today.

Seeing evolution taught as part of the primary national curriculum has been a long-time goal of the BHA, and the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign, launched back in 2011, was set up to do achieve just that. Drawing on the support of organisations such as the British Science Association and the Association for Science Education, as well as leading figures such as Sir David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins, the campaign successfully secured the change when the Government published the final national curriculum back in September 2013.

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘For more or less its entire recent history the BHA has been campaigning for children to be taught about evolution from as early an age as possible, so we’re delighted that this will now start at primary school. So much of our understanding of this world hinges on learning about evolution, and the importance of having children learn about it at a formative age cannot be overstated.’


For further comment or information, please contact Jay Harman at jay@humanism.org.uk or on 020 7324 3078.

Read our previous news item on the introduction of evolution to the national curriculum: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/09/01/evolution-now-part-english-primary-national-curriculum/

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on science, evolution and creationism: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/science-evolution-and-creationism/

Read more about the BHA’s work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The post First teaching of evolution in new primary national curriculum gets underway in English schools appeared first on British Humanist Association.

Jenny Diski's brave scepticism

Jenny Diski's essays, fiction and non-fiction break down the idea of genre itself.

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 14

This is part 14 of my “Think! Of God and Government” debate series with Christian author Andrew Murtagh. Read my latest post and Andrew’s reply. Hi Andrew - I always like it when people come to our debates and tell us afterward that neither of us was who and what they were expecting. I take [Read More...]

Weekend Coffee: August 30

• Oliver Sacks has died. In his final column, “Sabbath“, he talks about his humanism and his rejection of his Jewish upbringing when his mother discovered he was gay and was violently hateful towards him: “her harsh words made me hate religion’s capacity for bigotry and cruelty”. In his closing words, he contemplates the end [Read More...]

El Retorno a la Homofilia

Estoy ahora mismo escuchando a The Communards, uno de los grupos más significativos para el movimiento de liberación homosexual, al menos en occidente. Eso me lleva a hablar de nuevo del tema (que ya traté aquí y aquí). Y en realidad, si me fijara sólo en mi alrededor, sería un tema superfluo: en mi entorno, la orientación sexual no tiene más importancia que una curiosidad, y a veces ni eso. Pero soy consciente de que en la mayor parte del mundo, las cosas son muy diferentes.

Tengo un problema básico, y es que no existe una palabra para definir mi postura respecto a la homosexualidad. En realidad, yo podría usar “sentido común”, pero comprendo que eso significa cosas diferentes para diferentes personas. Antes de hacer mi propuesta (porque no creo estar sólo) déjenme explicar mi situación.

Soy heterosexual. Profundamente heterosexual. De ésos que no entienden qué puede tener de atractivo un cuerpo masculino, de los que piensan que si fueran mujeres, serían lesbianas. De los que les da asquito pensar en determinadas cosas (agradezco mucho a Ralf König que sus caricaturas no sean demasiado realistas).

Al mismo tiempo, comprendo que mi vida sería (o habriá sido) más interesante si fuera bisexual. Más posibilidades, después de todo. Pero es una reflexión intelectual, todas las aproximaciones (puramente mentales) que he hecho al tema me han convencido de que no tengo remedio.

Al mismo tiempo, sin embargo, y de forma igualmente visceral, odio la homofobia.

He sido educado para comprender y aceptar que alguna gente es bi- u homo-sexual, o cosas mucho más raras. Que toda persona con un poco de imaginación tiene algo de “pervertido“, y que el hecho de que no me gusta el hígado de ternera no significa que tenga que pensar mal de aquellos que lo combinan con un buen tinto. No sólo eso, sino que he aprendido a lo largo de mi vida bastante sobre la lucha por la igualdad de los homosexuales: conozco su sufrimiento, sus problemas y la historia de su lucha. Conozco sus enemigos, que en muchos casos son los míos (el fanatismo, la ignorancia). He aprendido sobre la vida y obra de grandes homosexuales (como Mark Ashton), y de homosexuales grandes (como Alan Turing).

Y todo ello hace que no tenga palabras amables para la homofobia. Además de ser antinatural, lo que no tiene la menor importancia fuera de la tremenda ironía (homosexualidad hay en muchas especies, homofobia sólo en la nuestra), más allá incluso de ser una de las “grandes formas” de discriminación, como el racismo, el sexismo, el clasismo y la xenofobia… lo mío con la homofobia es algo especial. He visto a inmigrantes, pueblos sometidos, clases explotadas y hasta a las mujeres defenderse de forma violenta de la injusticia. Pero a los homosexuales, nunca. Y esa incapacidad de defenderse de las agresiones hace que, de algún modo, atacarlos me parezca como atacar a un niño. Me causa un fuerte sentimiento de repugnancia y odio.

Y para esa combinación no encuentro palabras.

Buscando una, me encontré con “homofilia”. De hecho, en inglés esa palabra se usó durante los años 50-70 con el mismo significado que le estoy dando yo: una defensa clara y sin compromisos de los derechos de los homosexuales, y un interés por su bienestar. Pero siempre se ha confundido con, y algunas veces se ha usado como sinónimo de, homosexual.

¿Podríamos recuperar el término homofílico? Para referirse la gente como yo, que sin ser homosexual disfruta como un chino de películas como “Pride“, de los cómics de Ralf König y de las canciones militantes de The Communards. La gente que está dispuesta en todo momento a apoyar y ayudar a la causa de la no discriminación contra los homosexuales (evidentemente me refiero tanto a gays como a lesbianas).

Asi que, desde aquí, esta humilde propuesta: El retorno a la homofilia.

Be sure to check out the awesome Ambient Sleeping Pill radio -...

Be sure to check out the awesome Ambient Sleeping Pill radio - http://ambientsleepingpill.com

Andrew Klimek originally shared:

Just added 3 blissed-out longform tracks by Christopher Sisk, including his latest “A moment of Years” available at http://music.christophersisk.com/release/a-moment-of-years


Amazon.com: The Martian: A Novel eBook: Andy Weir: Kindle Store

Amazon.com: The Martian: A Novel eBook: Andy Weir: Kindle Store:

By the way.. if you haven’t read The Martian, A) You should. & B) You can grab the Kindle version today for $1.99


The book was amazing. The movie looks like it’s going to...

The book was amazing. The movie looks like it’s going to be just as awesome.. and this COSMOS-themed promo is probably one of the coolest I’ve ever seen.


BHA calls for better statistics on religion in response to first 2021 Census consultation

2021censusThe British Humanist Association (BHA) has responded to the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS’s) first consultation on the 2021 Census in England and Wales, calling for more comprehensive and accurate information to be provided on religion and belief than was by the 2011 Census. This is because the question, as previously phrased, is both leading in what it asks and misleading in the results it presents. In 2011 the BHA ran the Census Campaign, which aimed to encourage non-religious people to tick the ‘No religion’ box on the Census. The Census showed a large swing away from ‘Christianity’ and towards ‘No religion’ but still recorded a higher Christian/lower non-religious figure than any other major survey on British opinion.

The BHA has advocated for the existing Census question to be modified to read ‘What is your religion, if any?’, so that it is less leading than the current ‘What is your religion?’ question but still comparable to it. In addition, a second question should be added asking about religious practice, so that it is possible to be clear about the extent to which individuals ticking a religious box are religiously observant. This is in line with the ONS’s own recommendations for other public surveys.

BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson commented, ‘Public authorities frequently turn to the Census when resource planning, and individuals in parliament and the Government regularly turn to the Census to identify the appropriate role for religion in general and Christianity in particular in public life, in law and in funding allocations. It is therefore vital that the figures the Census presents are as accurate as possible and do not mislead people into thinking that the UK is a more religious country than it actually is.

‘Ten years ago we worked with the ONS to try and ensure that the Census results were as clear as possible. Unfortunately meaningful change to the question asked in 2001 was not realised in 2011. Having examined the reasons why we have now put to the ONS what we think would be a constructive way forward. We will be encouraging our members and supporters to engage further in the consultation process as the ONS moves to considering what individual questions the next Census should ask.’

What’s the issue?

The question presumes that respondents have a religion. Its placement after questions about ethnicity and national identity and the lack of context about in what sense respondents should ‘have’ a religion leads, as the ONS acknowledges, to the results capturing the broadest possible swathe of the population as giving a religious answer, whether individuals are practising, believing, belonging or simply very loosely culturally affiliating (due for instance to the religion in which they were brought up or were baptised into).

The ONS sees this as desirable as with some minority religions it considers it to be important that as many people as possible are identified with their religio-cultural background, because the ONS considers that even loose cultural affiliation can matter for resource planning. In addition, as both Judaism and Sikhism are considered to be races under equalities legislation as well as religions, it is important to identify the full extent to which individuals are ethnically Jewish or Sikh – regardless of whether this reflects anything in a religious sense.

In the run-up to the 2011 Census the BHA explored with the ONS how the question could be changed from what was asked in 2001 to avoid the results causing individuals to conclude that a higher proportion of the population is religiously belonging, believing or practicing than is actually the case. Disappointingly almost no change was eventually made, but the ONS stated that ‘using the term “Christian” (for example) without distinguishing which population is being referred to is… likely to cause confusion. Clarity that the… census question aims to include the weakest form of
affiliation… (“loose belonging including ethnic or family connections”) will help to minimise confusion.’ However, when the results were published, no such clarifications around the figures were made.

The 2001 Census recorded 72% of the population as Christian and 15% as of no religion, while the 2011 Census recorded 59% and 25%, respectively. This compares with the British Social Attitudes Survey, which asks about belonging to a particular religion and in 2013 recorded 51% of the population as belonging to no religion while 42% belonged to a Christian denomination or were non-denominational Christians.


For further comment or information, please contact BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 020 7324 3072.

Read the ONS’s census consultation: https://consultations.ons.gov.uk/census/2021-census-topics-consultation

Read the BHA’s response: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021-Census-topics-consultation-response-from-the-BHA.pdf

Read more about surveys and statistics around religion or belief: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-belief-some-surveys-and-statistics/

The 2011 Census Campaign: http://census-campaign.org.uk/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The post BHA calls for better statistics on religion in response to first 2021 Census consultation appeared first on British Humanist Association.

Atlas Shrugged: The Problem of Original Property

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter II Now that his brief moment of genuine, appropriate emotion is over, Francisco goes back to doing what he does best – delivering Randian Monologues. In this one, he explains to Dagny how he joined John Galt’s conspiracy: “Dagny, when I took over my father’s business, when I began to [Read More...]

I gotta say.. I’m pretty damn excited to see this come to...

I gotta say.. I’m pretty damn excited to see this come to fruition. 

Check out http://www.startrekaxanar.com for more info and donate!