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What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz

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Science is Vital 2013

Screen shot 2012-09-14 at 10.43.55Last week was the second Science is Vital AGM!

What’s been happening?

It’s been a strange year for many of us, including the SiV team, but without getting all personal, we hope to be more active in the coming year, trying to address the threatened cuts to the science budget.

Dr Jenny Rohn (chair) began the meeting with a re-cap of the last year.

Some action points from last year could be picked up, including trying to get some local MPs to visit labs. But it has also been a good year; in the 2012 meeting the decision was made to focus on science funding and trying to influence decisions.

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Battling sexism

Recently there have been yet more stories centred around sexism and misogyny in our culture. I’d like to discuss two that have interested me this week.

At least they got the apostrophes right..? Via guardian.co.uk

At least they got the apostrophes right..? Via guardian.co.uk

A battle won

Today, thankfully, there has been some Good News! A rarity, it sometimes seems, and something to be celebrated. Congratulations to the Science Museum and everyone who spoke up about Boots separating their children’s toys by gender, and including the sciencey ones only in the boys’ section.

Other retailers have binned this outdated, damaging stereotyping behaviour so, while it’s unfortunate that it’s taken a company like Boots so long, it’s good to see them following suit.

“…It’s clear we have got this signage wrong, and we’re taking immediate steps to remove it from store.” – Boots

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The silent misogyny

This post brings in a few different stories to make my point, which ultimately is a simple one, yet it still seems to pass many people by. The insistence that women are already equal (more or less) and feminism is stupid is one I am faced with quite frequently. Obviously I disagree – if you know me or my writing you probably know I will make a case for the importance of feminism, or, if you prefer, pushing for gender equality.

I find the definition of words used in such debates to detract from the point somewhat, but in the interests of clarity… skip to the end*, because I don’t think that’s the interesting bit!

No breasts, please, we’re bishops

I’m sure you will have seen the news that the church has decided women can’t be bishops. I’ve had a few conversations about this and as I have a lot of friends who are also entirely non-religious, a lot of the talk has been along the lines of:

Well it’s irrelevant…

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Science is Vital 2012

Last night I attended the first Science is Vital AGM!

It was a great evening with loads of friendly folks (including more than 10 who weren’t from London!!) throwing out ideas on how we can keep Science is Vital going and achieve our goal of convincing the government that, well, science is vital! Secure more funding, protect and encourage UK science and stimulate our economy. In a nutshell. See here for the SiV key messages.

Something sobering to think about is the fact that almost a third of all people die because of a form of cancer. It is the best-funded disease type, but in fact only £10 per person per year is spent on cancer research (govt funding + charity money). If you’re so likely to suffer from something, would you not prefer a bit more money going to it? But on to proceedings…

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Vita politica

Liberal outrage.
We’re so familiar with it, our circle of humanist-type people who want to Do The Right Thing and see politicians do it, too.

It is, I agree, a pretty noble approach to things, and the reason I do count myself in with the liberal lefty crowd. Freedom is important. Protecting people from harm is important. Justice and happiness and equality. All that shiz.

We’re lucky, those of us who have time and the luxury to sit and think and even do something about these things. I’m lucky I have a computer and internet access to tell you how lucky I am, and you’re lucky because you can read it (well, that might be subjective).

I think it’s important to have wake-up calls. Remember what you’ve been taking for granted. I read a lot of articles that contain a line that goes something like “Now I know I’m a middle-class white (wo)man, but…”. I think, regardless of the admission, people are still forgetting that privilege and what it really means, because – through no fault of their own – they’re lucky enough to have no experience of living without it. Not in all cases, obviously, before you complain.

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Libel Reform update: 3 years on


A couple of years back I attended a Skeptics in the Pub meeting in Holborn at which Dave Gorman and Prof Brian Cox came to support Simon Singh. He had been served a libel threat by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for criticising claims from chiropractors about curing colic in babies and so on. A dangerous claim to make, and, as Simon put it, a “bogus” one.

Fortunately, Simon won his case. Others haven’t been so lucky, and more threats are being issued.

There are many problems with the UK libel laws – lots of background information can be found here at libelreform.org and I’ve written some posts over the years (really rather a lot of posts actually), if you’re interested in past events.

Essentially libel laws are often used to silence fair, necessary and important criticism. People without the money to fight these hideously expensive cases tend to just give up. Individuals are bullied by large corporations, medical debates are stifled, unethical behaviour is hidden.

The libel reform campaign has been set up and run by the three charities, Sense About Science, English Pen and Index on Censorship. Two years ago there was the Big Libel Gig, to fundraise for victims of libel threats.

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Expression Is Not Free

This weekend I journeyed to the centre in the freezing cold to join the Rally for Free Expression opposite the House of Lords. Here’s my flickr set, plus you can see One Law For All’s videos and photos as well (of course, in the one I’m in, I’m making a weird face). Pod Delusion have some excellent highlights in Episode 123.

It was toe-numbingly chilly, but worth it! The turnout was good and the speakers were exceptional.

What for?

Right, there have been some disturbing occurrences in some London universities lately, which I’ve yet to write about, but this is a good time to collate them and look at the (serious) problem at hand.

University College London

First we have UCL. The Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society (ASHS) advertised for their latest pub-based meet-up, which happened to feature a frame from one of the Jesus and Mo comics – appropriately featuring Jesus and Mohammed having a pint together. Aww.

Following what seems to have been one complaint from an angry person to the UCL students’ Union, the UCLU for some reason decided it was appropriate to tell the ASHS to remove the image so that this person, and others, would not be offended.

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