Category Archives: Reblogs

Ohio House passes bill apparently allowing students to give wrong answers if those answers are based on religious conviction

I’m speechless.

Why Evolution Is True

Here we go again. It’s fairly normal procedure for evolutionary biologists to tell their creationist students that they don’t have to accept the evolution they’re taught in class, but they must at least regurgitate the correct answers on exams. But the House part of the Ohio state legislature has apparently gone further—they’ve passed a bill mandating that students cannot be penalized (or rewarded) for giving answers on tests or assignments that comport with their religion.

Read this report at Cleveland.com (click on screenshot):

From the site:

The Ohio House sent to the Senate on Wednesday a measure that would prohibit public schools from penalizing students for some work that contains religious beliefs.

Critics have called the bill unnecessary or valuing religion over secularism. One critic said under the bill, if a student turned in homework saying the earth is 10,000 years old – a belief held by some creationists —…

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After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires 1400 – 2000 by John Darwin (2007)

Books & Boots

Empires exist to accumulate power on an extensive scale…
(After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires 1400 – 2000 page 483)

Why did the nations of Western Europe rise through the 18th and 19th centuries to create empires which stretched around the world, how did they manage to subjugate ancient nations like China and Japan, to turn vast India into a colonial possession, to carve up Africa between them?

How did white European cultures come to dominate not only the territories and peoples who they colonised, but to create the modern mindset – a vast mental framework which encompasses capitalist economics, science and technology and engineering, which dominates the world right down to the present day?

Why did the maritime states of Europe (Britain, France, the Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese) end up either settling from scratch the relatively empty places of the world (America, Australia), or bringing…

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Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced western art @ the British Museum

Books & Boots

European explorers

As John Darwin’s brilliant history of Eurasian empires, After Tamerlane, makes clear, quite a few things distinguished European culture from the culture of the other Eurasian empires (i.e. the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire in Persia, the Moghul Empire in northern India, the Chinese Empire and the Japanese Empire) in the centuries after the death of Tamerlane the Great in 1405.

Just two of them were a readiness to travel and explore, and an endless curiosity which led to almost obsessive collecting and categorising and curating and exhibiting.

No Chinese explorers visited Europe during the 19th century and were so dazzled by its history and architecture and art that they made copious sketches and drawings, took photographs, bought up every quaint European curio they could get their hands on, and carried them all back to China to trigger an artistic renaissance.

That kind of thing just didn’t…

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Sir Stamford Raffles: collecting in Southeast Asia 1811-1824 @ the British Museum

Books & Boots

As it is in just one room upstairs at the back of the British Museum, and is FREE, I thought this would be a relatively light and small exhibition to enjoy, but I was wrong. It’s a surprisingly packed exhibition which gives a panoramic view of Indonesian, and particularly Javanese, culture – at least through the eyes of one of its earliest European collectors.

Puppet of the comic character Sabda Palon, one of Damarwulan’s servants (Central Java, probably Surakarta, 1700s) © Trustees of the British Museum

Stamford Raffles, a potted biography

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781 – 1826) started working for the East India Company when he was 14, and spent most of his life as an East India Company official in Southeast Asia. In 1811 he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Java when the British seized it from the Dutch, but in 1815, when we gave it back to the…

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Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies @ the British Museum

Books & Boots

At the back of the British Museum and up three flights of stairs you get to rooms 90, 90a, 91 and 91a. These lovely spaces host a series of rotating exhibitions which are all FREE.

At the moment 90 and 90a are hosting a fabulous exhibition of prints and drawings by the great Käthe Kollwitz and a wide-ranging selection of drawing by contemporary artists from the 1970s to the present.

Beyond these is 91 and 91a which are currently hosting a fascinating and surprisingly dense exhibition about the collection made by the imperialist Stamford Raffles of artifacts from Java and Malaysia.

And beyond these is a room so small it doesn’t appear to have a number. And it is in this darkened, hushed and reverend room that the museum is displaying the extremely old and fragile masterpiece of early Chinese figure painting known as Admonitions of the Instructress to the…

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Genghis Khan by James Chambers (1999)

Books & Boots

Genghis Khan was born sometime in the 1160s into a small clan of Steppe Mongols. From obscure origins he rose, through the power of his charisma, courage and canny alliances, to unite the disparate Mongol tribes into one huge, well-organised, ferocious and world-beating army. By the time of his death in 1227 Khan had subjugated more lands and more people in twenty-five years than the Romans did in four hundred. At its peak his empire stretched from Hungary in the west to the Pacific in the East, forming the largest continuous land empire the world has ever known.

James Chambers’s biography is a small, zippy book, part of the Sutton Pocket Biography series, designed, in their words, to be ‘highly readable brief lives of those who have played a significant part in history, and whose contributions still influence contemporary culture.’

At 100 small pages it’s a quick read – it…

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A philosophical analysis of the “n-word”

My view is that the ‘n word’ is not just offensive or taboo – it can actually cause harm. See:
https://yandoo.wordpress.com/2018/06/13/the-harm-of-racial-slurs/

Why Evolution Is True

This article in Quillette by Matthew Small, a graduate student at Western University (formerly the University of Western Ontario), raises a question I hadn’t though much about: what if a word is considered offensive to some but not all members of a minority group? (Actually, that holds for “majority groups” as well: some southern whites may be offended by the term “cracker” and others may not.)

I’ve discussed many times whether words—most prominently the “n-word”—might be okay to use in a teaching situation, for example as it’s used in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. About two years ago it seemed to be okay if it came up in literature and could form the basis of a productive discussion. But now it seems it cannot be used by non-blacks at all, and I do not use it.

But what if the word offends some members of a group but not others?…

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The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard, by Ivan Chistyakov, translated by Arch Tait

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Let me say at the outset, this is not a book that anyone would read for pleasure.  The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard is raw and confronting, written by a man struggling to maintain his mental health in an environment designed to brutalise him.  I read it for Vishy’s Red October Russian Reads, and it is indeed a very salutary reminder of the extremes of the Soviet experiment…

It has relevance today because there are, no doubt, similar situations in repressive regimes such as China’s, but also in places like Australia’s detention centres where we know from media reports that it is not just the detainees who suffer mental health problems.  (But we only know this about Australian guards, there are only hostile media reports about PNG local guards and yet it would be surprising if some of them were not also gravely troubled by their work and…

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Where we are now (and Darwin’s sloth)

Why Evolution Is True

Yesterday was a port day in Puerto Natales, and was pretty quiet. Some passengers took off on a guided tour of the city, or to see the Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument, a cave where the bones (and skin!) of a extinct giant ground sloth were discovered. As Wikipedia notes:

The largest cave in the monument is the 200 metres (660 ft) long Milodón Cave. It was discovered in 1895 by Hermann Eberhard, German explorer of Patagonia. He found a large, seemingly fresh piece of skin of an unidentified animal. In 1896 the cave was explored by Otto Nordenskjöld and later it was recognized that the skin belonged to Mylodon – an extinct animal which died 10,200–13,560 years ago.

It’s not must Mylodon, but the scientific name is Mylodon darwini.  The “Darwin” bit comes from the fact that the first bones of this animal were found by Charles Darwin…

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al-Baghdadi finally meets his end

My view is that al-Baghdadi was a combatant and thus a legitimate military target. No trial was necessary.

Why Evolution Is True

As many sites have reported (the NYT is one), ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 48, was hunted down by U.S. special forces and killed (or rather, committed suicide). He detonated a suicide belt, taking three of his children with him. As the NYT reports,

“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice,” Mr. Trump said in an unusual nationally televised address from the White House. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. al-Baghdadi was chased to the end of a tunnel, “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” as he was pursued by American military dogs. Accompanied by three children, Mr. al-Baghdadi then detonated a suicide vest, blowing up himself and the children, Mr. Trump said.

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