Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Sometimes controversies are conversations of the deaf. That may be because  the two positions are not really contradictory, but the two sides keep on repeating their positions as if one does deny the other. Take the different reactions to England's (and Wales', just) recent riots and looting. Anyone who tried to link the events to poverty, to vast income diferentials or to unrelieved consumerism has got jumped on by people accusing them of being soft on crime and excusing violent or selfish acts.

But when historians try to find explanations for the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany, perhaps trying to explain why some people became enthusiastic Nazis, they're not accused of excusing Nazism: it's generally regarded as a sensible thing to do, in order to try to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Looting is wrong and kicking an old man to death is downright evil, but it surely makes sense to ask ourselves why this could happen, why it happened in some places and not others, and how to make it less likely in future.

Similar illogical arguments can happen over sexual assault and indeed any assault. A rapist or a violent robber is totally wrong and totally responsible for his actions. If the victim was drunk and refused the offer of a place in a taxi with friends, it's entirely sensible to point out to others that this greatly increased the chances of an attack (I'm not talking here about stupid comments about jeans etc). To point this out is not to reduce the culpability of the attacker at all. What we seem to be doing here is importing the insurance industry idea of percentages of responsibility (the accident was 60% your fault and 40% his) into an area where it doesn't belong. What I do is 100% my responsibility.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Flying Birds and Dragons

Today, 29 August 2011, at Alton Water, Suffolk, an Osprey flew low over the path just ahead of me! A few minutes after I parked, a Willow Emerald Damselfly landed right in front of me - not such a surprise as Alton Water is probably the best place now for this recent addition to the UK dragonfly breeding population. Then the weather changed.

Not a birder or a dragonflier? Try it.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Human evolution explained

Recent research into early hominid remains and into the behaviour of chimpanzees demonstrates that one of the greatest drivers of human evolution was the need to develop advanced throwing and clubbing ability - in particular, the ability to throw accurately overarm and to hit something hard without losing hold of the object you were hitting with.

 Scientists now have the long-awaited proof that the foremost influence in the development of homo sapiens from australopicethines was cricket.