Monthly Archives: February 2008

Lawrence Kohlberg

Another thought experiment (this one inspired very slightly by FloatyKatja‘s recent soup observations):

A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid £200 for the radium and charged £2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about £1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife.

Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?

Katja was talking about soup, you see.  Heinz soup.  Get it?


Filed under Thought experiment


I’ve been forced to sing the wrong song twice today to my plebeian co-workers.  Let’s hope they don’t deserve a third such vocal thrashing.

If you doubt the merits of my punishment I should refer you to the reasons:

  1. Earthquakes are not caused by Teutonic plates bashing each other.
  2. Dan Brown did not invent the Knights Templar.

If anyone doubts that my singing is a punishment then you obviously haven’t heard me sing.


Filed under Reasons to be cheerful

Hanging’s too good for ’em

Apparently 99% of people want to bring back hanging.  It’s OK though because they’re Sun readers.

How does another act of violence, another grisly, sordid killing make the world a better place?



Filed under Bad things happen, Debate

Something for the weekend, sir?

In addition to spending the weekend writing an introduction for the eBay atheist I also spend some time writing some questions to ask my friend the Jehovah’s Witness and taking the kids for a walk in the woods.   I now have one more embarrassing story to tell if Tiny Tasha ever brings a boyfriend home.  It’s not just bears that go in the woods.

The thing that I spent most of the time doing though was trimming my hedge. It had become very overgrown and was in much need of cutting back. I’ve filled the composter and I’ve got nearly a dozen bags packed full of hedge trimmings.

After all the work I put in I’ve got quite proficient. I dare say I could trim anyone’s hedge or bush in next to no time.


Filed under Environment, Reasons to be cheerful

Off the Map – eBay Atheist

I’ve been asked by the lovely Helen to be a guest blogger on the eBay Atheist site because it is “important to have a non-zero number of atheist bloggers”.  I’m writing on someone else’s blog and therefore need to put more thought into it than the usual witterings than take the place of writing on my blog.  I have the Monday slot which is a good thing because it gives me a whole weekend to write something properly.

I’m also a guest blogger over at Friendly Christian but it’s less formal there so I just add something when I think of it.  Bill is almost entirely responsible for changing my attitude to Christians.  Hopefully that’ll make him smile. 🙂 I still have strong opinions but they’re a little more constructive now.

Now the begging part.  I need some topics to write about.  Something that will make me think and make others think.  As I am dense and have no ideas of my own I need the wonderful people of blog land to help me out.


Filed under Atheist

Friday’s Thought Experiment

Consider your gut reactions to the two following scenarios:

1st Scenario

There is a set of tracks which five repairmen are working on.  Around a bend there is an oncoming train. From your vantage point in a tower above the track you can see the train, but the five workers can’t (privilege of management). In a few seconds the train will hit and kill them all.  You can’t shout to them or warn them in any way because of the ear protectors they are wearing and their dedication to the task at hand that keeps them looking away from you.

Suddenly to realize that there is a lever nearby that you can pull that will divert the train onto some side tracks.  However, there is one repair man working on that track.  If the lever is pulled, the train will kill him.

Do you do nothing and allow five men to die, or do you pull the lever and cause the death of one man?

2nd Scenario

Same track. Same five men. Only this time, there is no lever.  However, there is a particularly large man at the edge of the tower, he’s the guy who would have been working alone on the other track.  If he were to fall, and hit the tracks below, it would stop the train.  He’s a very large man.  All you have to do is. . . give him a little push.

Do you do nothing and allow five men to die, or do you push the man and cause his death?

Assuming your gut answers were different . . . why?


Filed under Thought experiment

Work Your Proper Hours Day

You may not be aware that today (22nd February) is Work Your Proper Hours Day.

Normally I’d be up for leaving on time but the train was delayed and ended up getting to work late.  I don’t want to attract too much attention to the fact by leaving on time.  Leaving on time for me is almost the same as anyone else leaving early.

I’ll make sure I’m not the last one out.


Filed under You decide

What Kind of God Would You Be?

Blatantly stolen from Dubito Ergo Sum

The meme: list at least four things that you’d do if you were God. Assume the same thing I do: you’re omnipotent (do the logically impossible!) and whatever you do will work out fine with the laws of physics, such as they are.

  1. My holy book gets regular updates and version releases. Times change and people come up with fantastic ideas all the time.  Limiting myself to a book set in a particular time just seems crazy.  It has to move with the times.
  2. I’m banning prayer.  Seriously I have better things to do as an omnipotent deity than listen to your whingeing.  Get over yourself.  I’m not setting up a celestial bureaucracy to deal with prayer requests and no horde of angels will be sifting through your commentary for good points.  I’m God and I get to read your mind if I like.  If you come up with a good idea I’m taking it.  In fact if you do pray I’m going to turn it around so it works against you.  You’re wasting your time and mine.  If you want to change something then go and change it, don’t ask me.  Finally if you even think about praying for your football team to win then you’re asking for the ground to open up and swallow you.  I will do it.
  3. Priests of my new faith are required to wear silly hats or outlandish costumes so that nobody ever takes what they say seriously.  What?  The Catholics have already got this rule?  Dammit!
  4. There will be no heaven and hell.  The afterlife will work like this:
    • When you die you get to review of your entire life.
    • Every mean, spiteful, vindictive act that you inflicted on your fellow human would be given back to you.  You get to live the life of the people you harmed so that you can appreciate the full impact of your wrong.
    • Every act of kindness, love, charity and aid that you offer or provide to your fellow human would be given back to you.  You get to live the life of the people you helped so that you can appreciate the full impact of your good deeds.
    • In fact you get to live the life of everyone who you touched in some small way to see how you influenced them.  This means that Hitler literally gets to experience the suffering off millions and Gandhi gets to live the peace of everyone who he influenced.  A suitable punishment\reward system in my opinion.
    • Then, with perfect clarity, you get to live your own life again but this time you can change things.
  5. People get to be really tough and get to heal really quickly.  A fall from a 10th floor window may result in broken bones but these will mend in a week or two.  Gunshot wounds can be shrugged off.  Basically you get to be as tough as the hero in a Hollywood movie.

I’m going to tag everyone who wants to play.


Filed under Atheist, Reasons to be cheerful, Religion, You decide

Book shop

I’m annoyed.  Someone has scared away all the bookshops.  I generally buy books on-line or go to the library so I’m probably as guilty of scaring away all the bookshops as anyone else. even the second hand bookshops that used to dot the high street seem to be hiding.

I think it says something bad about a town when you pop into the only shop that sells books (WH Smiths) and ask them where the science section is, only to be show a solitary shelf.  Admittedly the shelf did have A Brief History of Time and a couple of other good books but it was largely dominated by a book of photographs of volcanoes.  I’m sure it is a very interesting book but hardly the sum total of popular science.  It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t walked past the three shelf units (8 shelves each) of “Sad Real Life Tales” on the way to the science shelf.  This was situated at the bottom of a set of shelves for travel books.

Let me tell you why I find this disheartening.  Robert has recommended “A Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan.  It seems to be out of print and I can’t buy it new online.  I can pick it up second hand and I probably will but I wanted to see it and hold it first.  I wanted to see what other books were near it in the book shop.  I want to see what else is available that I might find interesting.

When I read A Brief History of Time for the first time in 1989 it sparked my interest to read more.  I saw Chaos: Making a New Science on the shelf, liked the cover, thought the idea was interesting and read that.  This went on.  I read fiction of many genres, sci-fi and fantasy being favourites, I read autobiographies and social commentaries and every now and then I like to pick up a popular science book and have a good read.  Sometimes I even understand what I’m reading. 🙂

It worries me that my shelves at home contain more science books that the book shop.  Significantly more.  It worries me that future generations will not even have the option of picking an interesting book with some science in it.  Instead they will have only vacuous, ghost written crud from pseudo celebrities.

I am currently reading Comet by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.  Then I’m going to read Renegade’s Magic by Robin Hobb which has absolutely nothing to do with science.  What shall I read next?


Filed under Modern Etiquette, Shitbiscuits

Seeing double

This is the scenario and it’s slightly geeky:

You are involved in a transporter accident similar to that which always seems to be occuring on Star Trek (why not just take the shuttle?) and an exact duplicate of you is produced.  Instead of one of you being “Evil Kirk” both are exactly the same.  This was also the sort of thing that The Prestige glossed over….

A transporter functions (for the sake of argument) by making a copy of your atoms in a remote location and then destroying the original atoms.  OK not destroying but converting them to energy.  This means that technically both versions of you are duplicates and the original no longer exists.  At least not in a form that could be considered you.

Which one is you?  If one duplicate dies is the other one you?


Filed under Thought experiment