Saturday Supplement

This is Virtual Methodist's electronic equivalent of those glossy supplements you get in weekend newspapers that take a full week to get through... at least in this household... Its a few of the more developed stories I've come across this week which are too long for a FB post and which I haven't had time or inclination to post on myself.

The first involves story of Mary Bale, a 45-year-old bank clerk, and former church choir singer,dropping a cat into a wheelie bin... Now given what happened to our cat while on holiday (and I'm not blogging about that yet... still too angry) I can understand some of the outrage, but I'm with Will Crawley who is bemused by the wholesale hue and cry in the media given the other, bigger issues in the news.
One of those issues has dominated Will's blog, and the Northern Ireland news this week, that being the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's report into the Claudy bombing back in the very darkest days of our most recent Troubles in 1972. The rumours that have persistently circulated concerning the involvement of Roman Catholic priest James Chesney have finally made it into an official report, raising comments concerning the cooperation, if not collusion of the Roman Catholic hierarchy with the British Government and the RUC in a perversion of justice. Certainly those who lost loved ones at Claudy and Fr. Chesney himself have been denied the opportunity of justice in a court of law, but I have been left wondering what was the right thing to do in the midst of a sectarian-fueled conflict. Is this yet another episode where our limited, earth-bound concepts of peace (as in "absence of conflict") and justice (as in "criminal justice system") have been weighed in the balance, and both have been found wanting? There will doubtless be more on this to come, and sadly, probably many other stories like it.

Meanwhile friends and colleagues of mine have been beginning a process to help people here in NI get their heads round events from further back in our murky past... We are heading into what have called a "decade of centenaries"... Ulster Covenant, UVF Gun-running, WWI, Easter Rising, Somme etc... (and some would add the Titanic to that list)... all of which can be twisted and spun and remythologised to feed hatred and fear and fuel further conflict, as the centenary of the United Irishmen's Rebellion was at the end of the 19th century... In the light of this Dr. John Dunlop has written a succinct yet perceptive piece drawn from the South African experience... I've heard him speak about this before, but it's good to have it on record.

A story which hasn't been covered widely on this side of the Atlantic (at least not in the less rabid sectors of the news media) are the tensions caused by the proposed building of a mosque a few blocks from New York's "Ground Zero". I've been asked on facebook to join groups opposing and supporting this, but frankly I feel it is none of my business. I understand the arguments being made on both sides of the debate. However, I did find Allan Bevere's analysis helpful, and I will be filing it away for future reference in an increasingly multi-cultural Ireland. Less helpful has been the proposal by a pastor in Gainesville, Florida that they should remember the 9/11 events with the first ever "Burn a Quran Day". Thankfully other church leaders have been vocally opposed to such an un-Christlike response.

Whilst I'm generally opposed to book-burning in all its forms, I would happily organise a mass flushing of all homeopathic medicines. Of course it's never a good idea to flush real medicines down the toilet as you don't know what you are unleashing on the environment. But it really won't matter if you are flushing homeopathic charlatan's sugar pills down the loo since their active ingredients have already been diluted beyond the power to identify them. Over at Practical Ethics Steve Clarke offers a much more generous and nuanced approach to homeoquackery, which is essentially founded on supporting people's rights to make stupid decisions, but controlling the amount of money that has to go into that support, by offering homeopathy as an internal service in the NHS, with the homeopaths being paid a comensurate salary to their scientific and medical qualifications ie. minimum wage. One of the comments left suggests:

"I would imagine that by diluting the homeopaths salary, and then repeating the
dilution many times, eventually we would develop extremely powerful homeopaths
as we approach the minimum wage."

However, whilst I poke fun at homeopathy on the NHS, there are those who might make exactly the same comments about NHS funded chaplaincy. How do we respond to that?

Meanwhile, over at Bad Science, Ben Goldacre, the frequent hounder of homeoquacks has turned his attention again to drugs trials, and the media's coverage of them, particularly where they relate to "cancer drugs". I'm with Ben in saying that we must follow the science in this, but I equally understand the anecdotal approach of the media. Statistics don't sell... real life stories do... even when the story is the exception, rather than the rule. And when someone is unwell they will not be comforted, or even swayed by statistics, but they will grasp hold of any hope offered them, be it the experience of a one in a thousand success story of a someone on a particular drug (even though the longer survival might actually have nothing whatsoever to do with the drug) or the outrageous claims of homeopaths and other "alternative" practicioners. Fear messes with our minds... makes us irrational, whether it is in relation to disease and medical treatment, or our attitude to other faiths and communities. And some media outlets thrive on pedalling fear. Is it a surprise that the Daily Mail, the bastion of positive community relations (that is a joke by the way) is also the greatest purveyor of health scare stories?

But finally, the video below is taken from a truly amazing site which I ended up at thanks to Maggi Dawn. This short animated illustration of a talk by Matthew Taylor explores the implications of and understanding behind the new strapline of the RSA "21st Century Enlightenment". This appeals to someone who was first introduced to many philosophical, political and scientific giants and their thoughts through the old Beginners Guide to... series, and repays repeated viewing. I'll be dipping back into the RSA animate series from time to time for a bit of stimulation...

But for now, I'm away off to finish my preparation for tomorrow and to polish off the Sunday supplements from last week!


GWJ said…
Have you caught Mitchell and Webb's "Homeopathic A&E"? You'll find it on YouTube....
No, I hadn't but have now... superb...

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