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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Friday, April 3, 2009


A myth is a fixed way of looking at the world which cannot be destroyed because, looked at through the myth, all evidence supports the myth.
-Edward De Bono, consultant, writer, and speaker (1933- )

Think sideways, live creatively, eat vegetables.

Disclaimer: I, Andre J Smith, take no responsibility for any disastrous results, technical or emotional, that may occur as a result of your opening and/or reading/viewing any of the URLs presented in this blog.

...and remember to click on the images to enlarge.

STORY ONE - 'Wisdom from the Kitchen' (2)

My remarkable mother in her inimitable fashion once again puts the world into perspective.

Image: Joost van der Westhuizen, SA Rugby hero and role model allegedly exposed in sordid drug taking, rampant sex video - exotic dancer with hidden camera passes lie detector test.

There is no need to see the video, but if you must, be aware, it's horrible. The video is of excruciating cruelty. Its painful silences affect us all deeply. If we don't protect humans from this type of brutality, we become accomplices.

The alleged tumble to infamy of a national hero can take on Shakespearian heights and fuel a media frenzy. In a remarkable website called '' the Truth is revealed about the Joost affair.

In another blog from the Alpha Christian Community we read how Rugby competes with Religion for the passion of the faithful.
Joost, a 'committed Christian' and family man plays centre stage with the real baddy, Luke Watson (SA rugby player antihero) who exposed himself in quite a different way........hear Watson's point of view.

Mum (on Joost): "Now there's a young man who has ruined his life and he had so much going for him!"
Me: "Well, I really don't want to hear about him. There are far more important things happening, like the Dalai Llama."
Mum: "The Llama? What's interesting about him? He's just an old Chinaman.

Background: The Dalai Llama has been refused a visa by the South African government after apparent pressure from Chinese government, preventing him from attending a small Peace conference in the 50th anniversary year of the subjugation of Tibet by the Red Army.

The net result is that the issue and related Tibetan cause has been blown up in the press, thus creating far more awareness about the real bad deal that the Tibetans have courtesy of the Chinese government.

Mum then goes on to say... "Dirk's (butchery) has the the best honey. They have their own apiaries and don't add any Golden Syrup. They also have the best jams - gooseberry, strawberry, marmalade. Even their apricot jam is nice."

and a little later.....

Mum: "Somebody once told me that the more you burglar guard your home the more robberies you have and the less burglar guards, the fewer robberies. Look, for example at my friend Michele. Her home is so burglar guarded that it is now impossible to get in!"

Such is the human mind.
See the full about the man who got onto the receiving end of his diving speargun and now no longer wants to spear fish!

In that vein...

Today's blog was inspired by Mr Fellows-Prynne...once again.

This time it was his inviting us to sign an online petition in response to a film purported to be of little puppies being skinned alive for their fur. (I have not watched it yet but in the interests of numedia, I will, during one of my 35 tea breaks today. Yes, Rod, I too have some difficulty deliberately exposing myself to images of abuse.)
However, both myself and my compatriot Clive Read, excused ourselves from the list on the grounds of (1) the credibility of a Net based petition and (2) The effectiveness of a Net based petition.

Here are the details. Decide for yourself:

Quote from email: 'There is no need to see the video, but if you must, be aware, it's horrible. The following video is of excruciating violence. Its painful silences affect us all deeply. If we don't protect animals from this type of brutality, we become accomplices. '
(ed: sounds a bit like those religious mails I keep getting telling me that if I don't send it on something terrible will happen to my children! Well, I have ALWAYS deleted them and my daughter is currently on the Dean's List of top academic performers and she does not drink, so there!)

My standpoint came from the last 3 weeks of reformatting and installing my laptop HDD after a blistering viral assault and finally abandoning a long standing email address for the huge amount of offers of Viagra, Rolexes and Penile extenders.

The rule is that if you spend enough time on Google you will have all the answers to all your questions. This also means (like me) that you will have accumulated a huge amount of downloaded programs to solve these little problems. In the last 10 days I have been reformatting my laptop and setting it up to play any kind of video or audio media that should come its way. The result is that I now have 18 media players, 6 format converters and 5 graphic manipulators. The marvellous thing is that all this is free and legal, the unmarvellous thing is that in spending so much time searching the NET you end up catching the tech equivalent of a 1000 flesh eating bacteria. And this is why I am recommending thet you throw away Microsoft Internet Explorer and start a new life with FIREFOX!!!!!!
SInce crossing over myself last week I have experienced a whole new world of delight. Most important is the radical decrease in infections as most viral designers use IE for their gateway. Secondly, you can configure FIREFOX to suit your individual needs with a host of free addons. I have a wonderful tool called WOT, which gives every site I consider opening an instant rating in terms of its reliability, safety, child friendliness etc. Using this I feel a lot more confident to run around the NET looking for those tasty free morsels of software

As an example of how much fun WOT can be, I googled the following 'Evil unchristian naked bodies' and came up with this website:

Before I opened the site I WOTTED it and got the following rating:

Trustworthiness 100%
Vendor reliability 100%
Privacy 100%
Child Safety 100%

With that kind of recommendation what can go wrong!?

As quoted>>

From The Times Online
August 31, 2007
Vicars ban ‘un-Christian’ yoga for toddlers
Simon de Bruxelles

The children’s exercise class has been banned from two church halls because it is teaching yoga. The group has been turned away by vicars who described yoga as a sham and un-Christian.

Louise Woodcock, 41, who was looking for a new home for h
er Yum Yum Yoga class for toddlers was turned away by the Silver Street Baptist Church and St James’s Anglican Church in Taunton, Somerset.

Miss Woodcock says that the ban is ridiculous as the classes simply involve music and movement with no religious content. She said: “I couldn’t believe it when they suddenly said I couldn’t have the hall any more because yoga is against their Christian ethos. It’s crazy because we’re talking about kids pretending to be animals and doing exercise routines to rhymes.

Not so reverent Mr.Farrar defended the decision yesterday. He said: “We are a Christian organisation and when we let rooms to people we want them to understand that they must be fully in line with our Christian ethos.

“Clearly, yoga impinges on the spiritual life of people in a way which we as Christians don’t believe is the same as our ethos.

“If it was just a group of children singing nursery rhymes, there wouldn’t be a problem but she’s called it yoga and therefore there is a dividing line we’re not prepared to cross.”

The Rev Tim Jones, vicar of St James’s, said: “Any alternative philosophies or beliefs are offering a sham - and at St James’s Church we
want people to have the real thing. Yoga has its roots in Hinduism, and attempts to use exercises and relaxation techniques to put a person into a calm frame of mind - in touch with some kind of impersonal spiritual reality.

The next test I did was to Google 'free illegal software with pictures of abused feminists'.

I got 6500 hits but none with any cautionary I tried again and Googled 'download safe version of legal software'

Third on the list is
described as "Safe and 100% Legal. Recommend hot songs to download.
Try music before download ... MyWeb's Safe Surfin' software helps keep your kids safe on the Internet. ..."

How can I go wrong?
Well, not according to the WOT Meter!

I quote from the comments of previously affected users:
'This site is really dangerous! Viruses in very download! This site is well known for distributing Malware! Never trust people who say they are good!'
With that kind of warning I shut down my laptop, had a cold shower and joined the Catholic Church.
So, there you have it. NEVER trust what pops up on the NET. Always have a backstop and mine is FIREFOX and WOT!

With all these websites now open on my laptop it becomes a heck of a job finding the one I referenced 8 minutes ago....but a free FIREFOX Addon called FOX TAB solves this by turning your PC in an Apple MAC!

With a flick of the wrist your websites fly around the screen in a most sexy fashion making editing and selection fun and efficient.


My dear late Professor, Elizabeth Sneddon, lover of roses
and all things feline, repeatedly said, "I despise all priests, in whatever shape or form they come. They have an arrogance and self-importance that is based on nothing and claims the universe".
I always rather liked that sentiment, if not thinking it a twee radical. However, after hearing the archbishop of atheism talk at the University of Cape Town earlier this week, I have decided that more action is needed on this front. (ArchTutu is on my exempt list b.t.w.)

Daniel Dennet is one of the so called '4 horsemen of the Apocolypse'. Richard Dawkins,Ch
ristopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are the others with special mention going to Magicman James Randi. Between them they are spearheading an evolutionary movement to give back a voice to the fastest growing spiritual movement in the world, viz that of people who don't believe in anything. After centuries of playing the nice guys and having our patient and silent generosity of spirit abused and taken for granted, it is now time for the voice of Truth to be heard. I unhesitatingly say 'Truth' with the reservation that no man can have a monopoly on 'Truth' (or Beauty, for that matter).
Instead of waxing off about Dan Dennet I prefer to let him talk for himself. Here is a list of great and entertaining links.

But first let me share what Richard Dawkins had to say about Daniel:

In honour
of Dan Dennett
by Richard Dawkins
Speech in honour of Dan Dennett, presenting him with the Richard Dawkins Award for 2007 at the Crystal City conference of the Atheist Alliance International

Watch the video of this presentation here

Dan Dennett is a year younger than me, almost to the day. But I mu
st admit that I have grown to think of him as a sort of intellectual elder brother. Since the deaths of Bill Hamilton and John Maynard Smith, I have been rather short of intellectual heroes to consult on difficult questions. Thank goodness we still have Dan Dennett. A year or so ago, it seemed that it might be a close run thing. I remember the shock followed by deep gloom that was cast over a large group of people in a New York theatre, when we were informed that Dan had collapsed and was undergoing emergency surgery which seemed - or so we were informed - unlikely to succeed. Heroic surgery to save an intellectual hero, not just a national treasure but a world treasure, at least to the world of the mind.

Many of you will have read the stirring testimonial that he wrote while he was in recovery. Actually called 'Thank Goodness'. It was widely published all over the internet, and was read out to those gathered in San Diego for the Beyond Belief conference. In it Dan mentioned his religious friends who had prayed for his recovery. He was touched by their efforts on his behalf, and he chose to interpret their words as meaning that they had been thinking of him. But he added:

I am not joking when I say that I have had to forgive my friends who said that they were PRAYING for me. I have resisted the temptation to respond "Thanks, I appreciate it, but did you also sacrifice a goat?" I feel about this the same way I would feel if one of them said "I just paid a voodoo doctor to cast a spell for your health." What a gullible waste of money that could have been spent on more important projects!
Don't expect me to be grateful, or even indifferent. I do appreciate the affection and generosity of spirit that motivated you, but wish you had found a more reasonable way of expressing it.

Dan considered the impulse he might have felt to say 'Thank God' for his recovery. He asked himself whether his near death experience had been some kind of epiphany. I find his response to this so stirring that I again want to read it out:

Yes, I did have an epiphany. I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say "Thank goodness!" this is not merely a euphemism for "Thank God!" (We atheists don't believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean THANK GOODNESS! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today. It is a worthy recipient of the gratitude I feel today, and I want to celebrate that fact here and now.

To whom, then, do I owe a debt of gratitude? To the cardiologist who has kept me alive and ticking for years, and who swiftly and confidently rejected the original diagnosis of nothing worse than pneumonia. To the surgeons, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and the perfusionist, who kept my systems going for many hours under daunting circumstanc
es. To the dozen or so physician assistants, and to nurses and physical therapists and x-ray technicians and a small army of phlebotomists so deft that you hardly know they are drawing your blood, and the people who brought the meals, kept my room clean, did the mountains of laundry generated by such a messy case, wheel-chaired me to x-ray, and so forth. These people came from Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Haiti, the Philippines, Croatia, Russia, China, Korea, India - and the United States, of course - and I have never seen more impressive mutual respect, as they helped each other out and checked each other's work. But for all their teamwork, this local gang could not have done their jobs without the huge background of contributions from others. I remember with gratitude my late friend and Tufts colleague, physicist Allan Cormack, who shared the Nobel Prize for his invention of the c-t scanner. Allan - you have posthumously saved yet another life, but who's counting? The world is better for the work you did. Thank goodness. Then there is the whole system of medicine, both the science and the technology, without which the best-intentioned efforts of individuals would be roughly useless. So I am grateful to the editorial boards and referees, past and present, of Science, Nature, Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and all the other institutions of science and medicine that keep churning out improvements, detecting and correcting flaws.

I think you can see why Dan Dennett is my intellectual hero.

He is one of today's most distinguished philosophers, but among philosophers I would describe him as a scientist's philosopher. Many philosophers call themselves philosophers of science. But rather few of them take the trouble to learn much science, to immerse themselves in the scientific literature, to talk to working scientists and understand what makes them tick. One of the things that strikes me about reading Dan's books is how much science I learn from them. New science, new experimental results, fascinating scientific re
search, often still unpublished but which Dan knows about because he keeps his ear to the scientific ground and travels to visit laboratories, where is he always an honoured guest.

He is, indeed, a scientist as much as he is a philosopher, and he is also a superb explainer. Where other philosophers are mainly interested in showing off how clever they are to their colleagues, Dan really really wants to be understood. He seems to make no distinction between a book written for lay people and a book written for professional philosophers, and this is something I also aspire to when writing for professional scientists. Clarity is clarity, and it doesn't matter who you are writing for. There should be no need to write separate 'popular' books which dumb down the books that are written for professionals.

Dan thinks long and hard, not only about the philosophy itself but about the best way to explain it. He is a great coiner of phrases, an inventive deviser of metaphors, a vivid painter of mental images. 'Intuition pump' is one of his phrases, and it well describes exactly what he does when he is explaining something difficult to his readers. His celebrated lecture, 'Where am I?' is a tour de force of the explainer's art, combining comedy and high drama w
ith the usual weapons of the lecturer. Notions like 'skyhook' and 'crane', the 'Cartesian theater', the 'Library of Mendel', 'Universal Acid', all these are superb intuition pumps, crafted to assist the reader to accompany him on an exciting mental adventure.

He is a leading thinker in a wide range of important philosophical topics, including philosophy of mind, the problem of free will, consciousness, evolution, and of course religion. Breaking the Spell is a pivotal contribution to the rather exhilarating revival which secularism is enjoying at the moment.

In all these fields, as I said, I look up to him as an intellectual hero. Elder brother may be, but also dynamic enfant terrible of the mind, and there is no paradox in the contrast. It is a huge pleasure and honour to me to present this award to Dan, and the fact that the award is in my name redoubles the pleasure and quadruples the honour.

LINKS to Daniel Dennet:
1) Daniel's Home Page
2) Daniel at TED 2006 - Scientific rebuttal to Rick Warren
3) Daniel Dennet Multimedia Links
4) Can we know our own minds?
5) What is consciousness?
6) Richard Dawkins website

PARTING NOTE. (F flat da capo)

A primary shool learner comes home and tells her mum that they learnt about the Exodus. 'What did they tell you?' asks mum.
'Well', replies th
e little girl, 'Moses had to leave Egypt very fast with all his people who were Jews. When they got to the Red Sea they were being chased by the Egyptian army. The Israeli army engineers quickly built a bridge across the sea and Moses and his friends escaped across it. When the Egyptians followed them over the bridge, the Israeli airforce bombed the bridge and they all drowned.'
'What!' said her mum, 'They told you that at school!'
'Not really' said the child, 'but if I told you what they really taught us you would never believe it.'

...and that was that. Cape Town, the wonderful city, her wonderful university and her wonderful airport.