CRISES & British public turn to prayer as one in four tune in to religious services. Young people lead resurgence of faith, and Vicar of Dibley tops a poll as the best screen priest to lead nation through the crisis. #UKGuardian

by , The UK Guardian Newspaper, May 5, 2020.

A quarter of adults in the UK have watched or listened to a religious service since the coronavirus lockdown began, and one in 20 have started praying during the crisis, according to a new survey.

The findings of the poll reinforce indications of an increase in the numbers of people turning to faith for succour amid uncertainty and despair.

The Church of England has said that unexpectedly high numbers of people are tuning into online or broadcast services, and 6,000 people phoned a prayer hotline in its first 48 hours of operation. Other faiths have also reported surges in people engaging with online religious activities as places of worship have been closed during the lockdown.

The survey of more than 2,000 people, commissioned by the Christian aid agency Tearfund and carried out last weekend, found that a third of young adults aged between 18 and 34 had watched or listened to an online or broadcast religious service, compared with one in five adults over the age of 55.

One in five of those who have tuned into services in the past few weeks say they have never gone to church.

The most frequent subjects of prayers since the lockdown has been family (53%), friends (34%), thanking God (24%), the person praying (28%), frontline services (27%), someone unwell with Covid-19 (20%), and other countries with Covid-19 (15%).

A separate poll, commissioned by Christian Aid, found that The Vicar of Dibley, the Rev Geraldine Granger, the BBC TV character played by Dawn French, would be the public’s choice of screen priest to lead the UK through the coronavirus crisis. In second place was Sister Evangelina, played by Pam Ferris, from Call the Midwife … with Father Ted Crilly, played by Dermot Morgan, from Father Ted taking third place.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/03/british-public-turn-to-prayer-as-one-in-four-tune-in-to-religious-services

SOCIAL MEDIA & Archbishop of Canterbury, warns against ‘alternative facts’ online & launches “social media guidelines” for the church. #GoodModel

by Alex Hern, The London Guardian Newspaper, 7/1/19.

The archbishop of Canterbury has said “there is no such thing as an alternative fact” and called on Christian social media users to engage with an attitude of “truth, kindness and welcome” online.

Speaking at Facebook’s London office to the social network’s European head, Nicola Mendelsohn, Justin Welby expressed his concern at how “savagely social media can be used”.

“Look at any article, and then look at the comments below it and very quickly you find stuff that is just poison,” he said.

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In an effort to counter the problem, the Church of England announced a set of social media guidelines, a first in the organisation’s history, built around the three precepts – truth, kindness and welcome – articulated by the archbishop.

“When you’re talking on social media, put the truth out. There’s no such thing as an alternative fact: there are opinions, and there is truth.

“When you are expressing an opinion, do so with kindness. And be welcoming: don’t throw out stuff, tweet or post things, that is a shut-out. That’s not the point of social media. It is social media.”

The Church will be following the guidelines in its postings on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. Welby said: “We don’t want people to lie, to act with cruelty, or to use religious jargon in a way that ontologically results in some epistemological confusion – to use some religious jargon… it’s the golden rule that Jesus Christ talks about: treat others as you would like to be treated.”

A livestream was broadcast to an online audience of 300, a small group compared with the larger crowds who tuned in to watch the archbishop leading bible studies when Facebook Live was a newer platform. The select audience may have missed Welby apparently coming down on the side of reform of Britain’s upper chamber of parliament, when he said that, sitting in the House of Lords, “you just think: why am I here?”

Read more here … https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/01/church-of-england-publishes-social-media-guidelines

Here are the guidelines:

Our community guidelines have been created to encourage conversations that reflect our values. They apply to all content posted on the national social media accounts run by the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York.

Social media is a very public way of enabling us as Christians to live out our calling to share the good news of Jesus Christ. One of its many joys is that it is immediate, interactive, conversational and open-ended. This opportunity comes with a number of downsides if users do not apply the same common sense, kindness and sound judgement that we would use in a face-to-face encounter.

While written specifically for all users who engage with the Church of England’s and Archbishops’ national social media channels, these guidelines are built on universal principles. They are a resource for Christians, people of other faiths and people of no faith. Dioceses and local churches across the Church of England are welcome and encouraged to adopt them.

By engaging with the Church of England and Archbishops’ social media accounts, you agree to:

  • Be safe. The safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults must be maintained. If you have any concerns, ask a diocesan safeguarding adviser.
  • Be respectful. Do not post or share content that is sexually explicit, inflammatory, hateful, abusive, threatening or otherwise disrespectful.
  • Be kind. Treat others how you would wish to be treated and assume the best in people. If you have a criticism or critique to make, consider not just whether you would say it in person, but the tone you would use.
  • Be honest. Don’t mislead people about who you are.
  • Take responsibility. You are accountable for the things you do, say and write. Text and images shared can be public and permanent, even with privacy settings in place. If you’re not sure, don’t post it.
  • Be a good ambassador. Personal and professional life can easily become blurred online so think before you post.
  • Disagree well. Some conversations can be places of robust disagreement and it’s important we apply our values in the way we express them.
  • Credit others. Acknowledge the work of others. Respect copyright and always credit where it is due. Be careful not to release sensitive or confidential information and always question the source of any content you are considering amplifying.
  • Follow the rules. Abide by the terms and conditions of the various social media platforms themselves. If you see a comment that you believe breaks their policies, then please report it to the respective company.

How will we respond to people who breach our social media community guidelines?

The Church’s and Archbishops’ Communications teams may take action if they receive complaints or spot inappropriate, unsuitable or offensive material posted to the national social media accounts. This may include deleting comments, blocking users or reporting comments as appropriate.

Who do I speak to for further advice?

If you have a safeguarding concern, please follow the policies and procedures on this page or use this contact form.

 

Read the guidelines here … churchofengland.org/guidelines

CHARISMATA & Archbishop of Canterbury says he prays in tongues every day.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In our evangelical world some of the most enthusiastic and joyful worship has been created in the churches of our charismatic and Pentecostal brethren.  Embracing a theology that speaking in tongues (theologically called a “charismata”) is relevant and valid today, I have found them to be among my most passionate and sensitive students, colleagues and clients.  If you are hesitant to embrace this theology, read this article by the head of England’s church, the archbishop of Canterbury, and why he does so.

I pray in tongues every day, says archbishop of Canterbury

by and , The UK Guardian Newspaper, 1/20/19.

… Justin Welby made the disclosure about his daily prayer routine in an interview with a Christian radio station, Premier.

He said: “In my own prayer life, and as part of my daily discipline, I pray in tongues every day – not as an occasional thing, but as part of daily prayer.”

Welby rises at about 5am each morning to have time to pray before his working day begins.

The archbishop also said he expected to “hear from God through other people with words of knowledge or prophecies – some of which I am unsure about, others I can sense there being something of the spirit of God”.

“Words of knowledge” and “prophecies” are believed to be revelations from God about people or future events. Both are common in Pentecostal and “charismatic” evangelical churches.

The bible refers to speaking in tongues in several places, including Jesus telling his apostles they will “speak with new tongues” as a sign that they believe in him.

Charismatic evangelical worship often includes people speaking in tongues and other signs of possession by the Holy Spirit, including swaying, trances and falling to the ground.

Some traditional Anglicans fear that such worship can alienate non-Christians, and might suggest that not everyone is chosen to receive the “gift” of tongue-speaking.

Welby is associated with the evangelical wing of the Church of England, and in particular Holy Trinity Brompton in west London, the leading evangelical church in the country, which brands itself as HTB…

Welby has previously recalled that he first began to speak in tongues after he was “overwhelmed by the love of God” as he read John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” – two weeks after becoming a Christian, aged 19.

“It was from that moment and in the days that followed I realised that the Holy Spirit of God had touched me in a very powerful way,” he told the Anglican Communion News Service in 2015. “I began to speak in tongues and began to learn of the intimacy that Christ brings to us.”

In Mark 16:17, Jesus declared: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues.”

However, the practice, also known as glossolalia, is not embraced by all Christians. Cessationists believe that such gifts ended with Jesus’s apostles in the first century…

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jan/21/i-pray-in-tongues-every-day-says-archbishop-of-canterbury

 

HALLOWEEN CAVEAT: How CS Lewis and Harry Potter view evil differently.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Popularity of “evil characters” (e.g. “anti-heroes“) in movies, books, media, etc. coincides with the increasing popularity of Halloween. In such instances, popular entertainment often frames evil as some thing or some being “outside of yourself.”  You must react to this evil outside of yourself and you must defeat it (e.g. Harry Potter saga, fright houses, horror movies, etc.).

Yet, the scriptures portray evil as more often something within ourselves.  It is an “inner danger” which will be overcome only if we act rightly.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The Message (MSG)

9-10 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
    a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
    and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
    I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
    not as they pretend to be.”

we are born with.

Galatians 5:17-18 The Message (MSG)

16-18 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

CS Lewis got this. Note this comparison between Lewis’ view (which I view as a more biblically valid view) and the outlook in Harry Potter books:

Harry Potter books … If you compare them with the Narnia books of CS Lewis it is very notable that the Potter books are much more dangerous for the heroes. Lewis is far more concerned with inner danger. His heroes know they will be victorious if they only act rightly…  –Andrew Brown, The Church of England should learn from Harry Potter this Halloween, The London Guardian, 10/31/18.

GEN. Z & Post-millennial generation ‘more tolerant’ of Christianity, but view atheists as having more fun. #TheUKGuardianNewspaper

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  2 things to remember about Gen. Z:

  1. Congregational good deeds are making non-churchgoers view churches in a more positive light.
  2. But non-churchgoers still view Christians as not fun people to hang around.

Take into consideration these perspectives of Gen. Z when ministering among and to them.

Post-millennial generation ‘more tolerant’ of Christianity” by Harriet Sherwood, The UK Guardian Newspaper, 7/12/18.

… Just over half of members of Generation Z (18-24-year-olds) responding to the ComRes survey said they had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity, although two-thirds said they never went to church.

Across all age groups, only 7% said Christians were more fun than atheists. Among 18-24-year-olds, 38% indicated they would have more fun socialising with an atheist than a Christian, compared with 11% who said Christians were more fun to socialise with. Most respondents expressed no view on the subject.

Over recent decades, surveys have established a trend indicating that many people in younger generations have rejected organised religion and the institutions of faith in favour of an amorphous spiritualism. In 2016, the authoritative British Social Attitudes survey found that 71% of 18-34-years-olds said they had no religion, up from 62% the previous year.

Half of the Generation Z respondents in the ComRes survey said they disagreed with the statement that Christians were a negative force in society, with 12% agreeing. In the next age group, 25-34-year-olds, 14% agreed with the statement. The average across all age groups agreeing that Christians were a negative force was 10%, compared with 51% disagreeing.

Two-thirds of 18-24-year-olds said they never went to church; attendance by the remaining third ranged from once or twice a year (20%) to several times a week (2%).

…The ComRes survey was carried out to mark the publication of a book, Faitheism, by Krish Kandiah, a Christian academic and founder of the adoption and fostering agency, Home for Good. ComRes questioned just over 4,000 people in March this year.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/12/post-millennial-generation-uk-more-tolerant-of-christianity

UK ORGANIC CHURCHES & Church of England to create 100 new churches … plan focused on ‘places of greatest need’ and includes cafe model. #Wesley.tours

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’ve enjoyed taking friends and students to England to see how the church is being revived in “organic and need meeting ways” in the homeland of Wesley. Below is an article from the English The Guardian Newspaper about the organic strategies being embraced by the Church of England. While taking my Doctor of Ministry students to England we met with many of the leaders of the “Fresh Expressions” movement of renewal and revival in the Church of England. Check out http://www.Wesley Tours.com or http://www.Wesley.tours for information about upcoming British experiences.

 

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C of E to create 100 new churches as number of Anglicans hits new low

by Harriet Sherwood, Guardian Newspaper, 7/11/18.

Despite forecasts that church attendances will continue to fall for years to come, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, insisted churches across the country were “bursting with life”.

The new churches would be in “the places of greatest need in our society”, he added.

“These projects are wonderful examples of how churches are seeking to be faithful to God – and faithful to their communities in love and mission. Through their innovation, they signal a growing determination in the church to share the good news of Jesus Christ in ways that make sense for those in our most deprived communities.”

Among the recipients of grants will be nine new churches modelled on Ignite, a café-style church in Margate, Kent. It was founded 10 years ago to work with marginalised and deprived communities.

Three of the new churches will be in coastal towns: St Peter Port, Guernsey; Herne Bay, Kent; and Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey.

Another three churches will be created on housing estates on the edge of Plymouth, and a further nine in market towns in eastern England. In Swindon, a former railway works building will be converted into a church aimed primarily at people aged under 40.

Up to 50 new churches will be established in the diocese of Leicester and 16 in the diocese of Manchester.

The C of E’s “renewal and reform” programme, aimed at modernisation and growth, includes diverting funds away from struggling rural parishes to new evangelical churches in towns and cities.

The programme has been championed by the archbishops of Canterbury and York and senior church officials. But some critics say the new priorities risk alienating the C of E’s traditional backbone.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/11/c-of-e-to-create-100-new-churches-as-number-of-anglicans-hits-new-low

UNUSUAL FACT & How to Sail Faster Than the Wind

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As an avid sailor since a teen, I couldn’t resist sharing this.

By David Hambling, The UK Guardian Newspaper, 11/16/16.

… For modern high-performance yachts, boat design can be more important than wind speed for going fast.

The secret is that (the sailboat called) Sailrocket was not travelling in the same direction as the wind. If the wind is blowing due north at 30mph, then the fastest you can sail north is 30mph. By aiming north-west, you can maintain the same northwards motion and add some westwards motion to achieve a higher net speed.

… by sailing at 80 degrees to the wind, a boat could, in theory, travel almost six times as fast as the wind.

This technique relies on having enough resistance to stop the boat being pushed sideways by the wind. Traditional boats have a heavy keel for stability, but this makes them slow. Instead, yachts like Sailrocket have a hydrofoil resembling an underwater wing to keep them upright. The grip and the drag from this hydrofoil determine the top speed, not the strength of the wind.

Yachts that sail on ice or sand have a solid surface to push against, and so can go even faster than boats on water. The sand yacht Greenbird holds the record for a wind-powered craft at 126mph, achieved with winds blowing at just 30-50mph.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/17/how-sail-faster-than-wind-vestas-sailrocket-sailing-weatherwatch

MISSIONARIES & being a missionary is getting more dangerous … again.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Being a missionary in New Testament times was a dangerous occupation (2 Cor. 11:23-26). Yet in the past three centuries the missionary has been looked upon as a purveyor of health, education and Good news. But the “Religious Freedom in the World 2016 Report” paints a dangerous but essential future for outreach as large swaths of the world are forcibly experiencing a religious monoculture.

The U.K. Guardian newspaper explains, and then quotes, the report:

“(The report) argues that the ‘Islamist hyper-extremism’ of Isis – a phenomenon whose hallmarks are systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups, unprecedented levels of cruelty, a global reach and the effective use of social media – is having a devastating impact around the world.

‘In parts of the Middle East –including Syria and Iraq – this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of Africa and the Asian subcontinent,’ says the report. ‘The intention is to replace pluralism with a religious monoculture’.”

Read the complete report here: http://www.religion-freedom-report.org/

Here is how The Message bible translates Paul’s missionary work:

“Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I’m their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can’t believe I’m saying these things. It’s crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I’m going to finish.)

I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.”

“And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.

If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus. The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus knows I’m not lying. Remember the time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted guards at the city gates to arrest me? I crawled through a window in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.”

‭‭
– 2 Corinthians‬ ‭11:23-33 ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/2co.11.23-27.msg

“‘Islamist hyperextremism’ could bring world to brink of catastrophe – report” by Sam Jones, Guardian Newspaper, 11/15/16 retrieved from http://www.religion-freedom-report.org/

EXCELLENCE & The Trouble With Excellence

The Trouble With Excellence

by , The Guardian Newspaper (UK), 12/19/14.

No scientific organisation is complete without an aspiration towards excellence. The Royal Society promotes ‘excellence in science’. Conferences bear titles like ‘Excellence 2012’ (with the strapline ‘Excellence revisited – the value of excellence’). Places from Nairobi to New York are looking to build ‘centres of excellence’. Developing countries, with the encouragement of bodies like the World Bank and the Commission for Africa, construct copycat science policies that aim to catch up with the world’s scientific leaders in a form of race, downplaying local needs and strengths.
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In October my institution, University College London, celebrated two events that are both in my view excellent: a Nobel Prize for neuroscientist John O’Keefe and the launch of an Engineering Exchange, working with local communities to conduct research projects relevant to their needs that. Only one of those would satisfy the standard criteria for excellence set by many institutions.

‘Excellence’ is an old-fashioned word appealing to an old-fashioned ideal. ‘Excellence’ tells us nothing about how important the science is and everything about who decides. It is code for decision-making based on the autonomy of scientists. Excellence is judged by peers and backed up by numbers such as h-indexes and journal impact factors, all of which reinforces disciplinary boundaries and focuses scientists’ attention inwards rather than on the problems of the outside world. Scientometrics work by Ismael Rafols and colleagues has revealed how journal rankings discourage interdisciplinarity by systematically evaluating disciplinary research more highly. When added to the other institutional pressures of reward and recognition in science, we might regard ‘excellence’ as something worthy of policy scrutiny rather than blind support.

Prioritizing ‘excellent’ research perpetuates the reproduction of scientific elites and the concentration of scientific research in particular disciplines and places. Robert Merton called it the Matthew Effect after the Gospel relating Jesus’s parable of the talents: ‘unto every one that hath shall be given… but from him that hath not shall be taken away’.

The European Research Council (ERC) claims it uses “excellence to recognise excellence”. It is ironic that the ERC’s erstwhile president, Helga Nowotny, has long wrestled with the definition of excellence as a science policy scholar. In 2012 she claimed “excellence itself is multidimensional”. After standing down in 2013 she acknowledged that narrow criteria of excellence would indeed tend to concentrate research funding.

Twenty years ago, Nowotny and her co-authors recognized in a book that if academic research was to serve society there would have to be “a redefinition of excellence among academics, of their career aspirations, of their disciplinary contributions, and their institutional loyalties.” Their book described science moving from ‘Mode 1’ to ‘Mode 2’:

“Success in Mode 1 might perhaps be summarily described as excellence defined by disciplinary peers. In Mode 2 success would have to include the additional criteria such as efficiency or usefulness, defined in terms of the contribution the work has made to the overall solution of transdisciplinary problems.” (p. 33)

They went on to argue that, as universities reconsider their place in societies and economies, there needs to be “a redefinition of excellence among academics, of their career aspirations, of their disciplinary contributions, and their institutional loyalties.” (p. 156)

That has not happened. Instead our sense of excellence has narrowed. In response to growing pressure on scientists to demonstrate their relevance, ‘excellence’ has taken on a negative definition, as the opposite of ‘impact’. In Britain, Research Councils and the REF now talk about ‘excellence with impact’. Researchers are asked to show how their work influences the real world but ‘impact’ is an end-of-pipe idea. There is no consideration upstream of socially-important important research or, as Nature put it in a 2013 special issue, ‘the science that matters’.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/dec/19/against-excellence

TECHNOLOGY & Bad predictions made by technological optimists

In 2014  Bill Gates offered a prediction:

By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution.

From the litany of bad predictions made by technological optimists, Gates would have done well to recall that in 1959 CP Snow had made a similar one, albeit with a longer deadline:

This disparity between the rich and the poor has been noticed… Whatever else in the world we know survives to the year 2000, that won’t.

These statements suggest great faith in the power of science to cure social ills. Needless to say, the gap between rich and poor has grown since Snow’s day. Poor people have got better-off thanks in part to the benefits of science and innovation, but the rich have benefited more, and the problems of poverty persist. Tackling grand challenges means going beyond what Evgeny Morozov calls ‘solutionism’, in which problems are redefined by technologists to suit the tools they have available.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/dec/19/against-excellence

SCIENCE & Why Technology Won’t Solve Poverty (but the Church might)

The Moon and the Ghetto

by , The Guardian Newspaper (UK), 12/19/14.

In 1977, economist Richard Nelson posed a question that remains central to science and innovation policy: how is a rich country like America able to put a man on the moon, but is unable to solve the problems of its own ghettos? In September of this year, after the excitement that came with the launch of India’s latest space adventure had subsided, even those unfamiliar with Nelson’s work asked similar questions. The Economist wondered ‘how a country that cannot feed all of its people can find the money for a Mars mission’.

The first answer to Nelson’s question is that science and innovation are tied to social choices. There are good reasons why the Indian government should choose to invest in ambitious hi-tech programmes while also working towards public health just as there there are good reasons to challenge their balance of priorities. The discussion is a legitimately democratic one.

The second answer to Nelson’s question is that the problems of space and the problems of poverty are qualitatively different, demanding very different approaches. Space missions are about technological problems with technological solutions. It is normally clear whether or not they have succeeded. There is far more disagreement about causes and cures for ‘wicked’ problems of poverty or climate change. Science alone cannot give us the answer.

Earlier this year Bill Gates offered a prediction:

By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution.

From the litany of bad predictions made by technological optimists, Gates would have done well to recall that in 1959 CP Snow had made a similar one, albeit with a longer deadline:

This disparity between the rich and the poor has been noticed… Whatever else in the world we know survives to the year 2000, that won’t.

These statements suggest great faith in the power of science to cure social ills. Needless to say, the gap between rich and poor has grown since Snow’s day. Poor people have got better-off thanks in part to the benefits of science and innovation, but the rich have benefited more, and the problems of poverty persist. Tackling grand challenges means going beyond what Evgeny Morozov calls ‘solutionism’, in which problems are redefined by technologists to suit the tools they have available.
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One need only look at neglected diseases to realise the disparity between scientific research and human needs. Early policy reports identified a 10/90 gap – only 10% of the world’s health research funding goes to 90% of the world’s disease burden. Thomson Reuters found that the disparity is even more stark when we consider published research. The number of papers on elephantiasis and intestinal worms, which together affect more than a billion people, is less than a tenth of the figure for diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

With a rising tide of public science spending, it is easy to overlook social choices about how money should be spent. But even as spending on university science grew in Europe and the US through the 90s and 2000s, budgets in strategic areas like agriculture, defence and energy were allowed to ebb away. As Nanoscientist Richard Jones argued in a recent lecture and in a policy report last year, the effects of this shift for innovation in energy have been disastrous. Just as our awareness of climate change was demonstrating the need for new sources of green energy, the UK and others were cutting off major sources of innovation and expertise. We are spending next to nothing on energy research because nobody is taking responsibility for it. As science budgets across the world flatline or decrease, hard choices about priorities can no longer be avoided.

Wishful thinking and scientific excellence will not counter neglect. We need, first, to acknowledge that there are problems with systems of funding, reward and recognition in science and, second, to encourage new models of inter-disciplinarity, so that different perspectives can negotiate problems and innovate with various responses.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/dec/19/against-excellence

 

 

GREEKS & a Book review: Introducing the Ancient Greeks by Edith Hall

“Introducing the Ancient Greeks review – the culture that shaped our world”

by Natalie Haynes, The London Guardian Newspaper, 7/12/16.

… Between 800 and 300BC, the “Greek miracle” took place, the Mediterranean world advancing so rapidly that it seems impossible in retrospect. The Greeks invented virtually every literary form, from history and biography to tragedy and comedy. They perfected ships with multiple banks of oars and began to ask questions about the nature of the world and our role within it. As the leisured elite of the 5th century BC could hear Socrates pontificating about truth, beauty or justice, so ordinary Athenian citizens could vote to decide on their city’s future.

greeks_cover_3278489aThe preface of Edith Hall’s masterly study begins here, but she is quick to explain that the Greek miracle was only a chapter of a much longer story. Her new book pulls off the twin feats of being a chronological history covering about 2,000 years, and a thematic history covering 10 characteristics that define the Greek character, not least their seafaring prowess, inquiring minds and fierce competitiveness. There is much here to entertain and inform the most enthusiastic classicist as well as the general reader, at whom its title suggests it is aimed.

Hall has an uncanny ability to offer up facts you haven’t come across before: “The Athenians believed it was the duty of every father personally to teach his sons how to read and how to swim: the proverb characterising the most uneducated type of man said he could ‘neither read nor swim’.” It’s a gratifying example of how the book works: not only does she make her point about swimming, she reminds us that the Athenians enjoyed mass literacy too. And no wonder they were so obsessed with the sea: as Hall points out, Greece’s “number of headlands, inlets and islands makes the proportion of coastline to land area higher than in any other country in the world”.

She is especially good on the nuance that thrives in every corner of the Greek world. The Greeks may have preferred dividing things into polarities (rather than “everyone in the world”, an ancient Greek would have said “both Greek and barbarian”), but their world was never as binary as this tendency suggests…

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/12/introducing-the-ancient-greeks-review-edith-hall

ATTENDANCE & Church of England decline heralds calls for innovative use of church buildings #TheUKGuardianNewspaper

by Esther Addley, The Guardian Newspaper, 6/8/15.

According to the annual British Social Attitudes survey, in just two years between 2012 and 2014, the number of people describing their beliefs as being Church of England or Anglican fell from 21% to 17%, a loss of 1.7 million people – leading the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, to repeat warnings that the church is “a generation away from extinction”.

Britain is not necessarily becoming more godless – in the same period, the number of Muslims grew by a million, amounting to 2.4% of the population – just less the proportion of Anglicans. That has implications enough for the church in the inner city, but what are the ramifications in the countryside where, for a thousand years, the Church of England has often been the institution that holds rural communities together?..

Read more at … http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/07/church-of-england-decline-heralds-calls-for-innovative-use-of-church-buildings

WESLEY TOUR & The Pennine Way at 50: where to eat and stay along the route #WesleyTour

Read more at … http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2015/apr/24/pennine-way-50-where-to-eat-drink-stay

HUMAN TRAFFICKING & Modern slavery affects more than 35 million people, report finds

Read more at …http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/17/modern-slavery-35-million-people-walk-free-foundation-report

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