Friday, 17 December 2010

Agnosticism Is A Nonsense Word

Ok, if you call yourself an agnostic, I reserve the right to call you a wimp; a big girl’s blouse, if you will. It’s a pretty simple conundrum – if I ask you, “Do you believe in any gods?” and you answer, “I don’t know”, you are only “agnostic” in a pedantically semantic sense, in as far as we cannot ever “know” for certain about such things. However, please for one minute consider the term “atheist.” The term simply means, “someone who does not believe in gods”, meaning that all agnostics are inherently atheists as well. If you answer, “I don’t know”, you’re still saying that you don’t believe, because you don’t live your life as if some celestial dictator exists – you’re just reserving judgement until further notice, which is exactly what atheists do, only we do it better. There doesn’t need to be a difference between atheists and agnostics – we essentially believe exactly the same things, but while the former are open about it, the latter hide behind political correctness and (sometimes) sanctimony to avoid having to present an opinion either way. In short, get off your fence.

A propos, this whole concept of “knowing” that there is or is not a divine or supernatural element in our lives is wholly ridiculous – of course we cannot know for certain – we simply have to analyse what we see in the world and come up with the best conclusions we possibly can given the evidence available. It is for this reason that I have a real problem with theists claiming that they “know” a god exists, when they in fact mean that they are certain that a god exists. Knowledge implies verification and actual proof – facts are known because the way the world works can be observed and independently ratified, ending up with a conclusion that constitutes what we consider “knowledge”. Blind speculation and evidence from experience simply cannot count when it comes to such claims, so the notion that a theist can posit that they know that such a being exists is risible – please demonstrate your “knowledge” before you try to make us all see the fairy as well. I’ll let you use the word “certain”, but that’s the limit I’m afraid, chaps. I also see an equal problem with atheists stating that there is categorically no such thing as a god, since that claim would, paradoxically, require omniscience. We are alltherefore, regardless of what we think, agnostic in one way or another - it's on the same level as saying you're a homo sapiens, obviousness-wise.

Charlie x

First Part Nearly Over

So it would appear that the first bit (not quite half) of my time in Angoulême is drawing to a close; all I can say about this is that time is sneakier than Mathew Bloch, and that’s certainly saying something. For my terminal (year abroad-related) post of 2010, therefore, I thought I’d bring a few miscellaneous items to your attention.

Firstly, French dogs are a strange combination of evil and completely insane. Those of you who know me at all well know that I’m not exactly a fan of our canine “friends” at the best of times, but these little blighters take the biscuit. Every single time I go for a run (it’s becoming a daily thing now), the same batshit dog runs alongside me, albeit on the other side of a garden wall, and attempts to eat me. No joke. If it weren’t for the wonders of modern construction technology, I’d be a carcass by now, my entrails being sifted through by a pack of ravenous hounds desperate for human blood. Hyperbolic, moi? The dog-owners also appear to let their beasts urinate and defecate merrily on the pavement without bothering to clean up after them. Ergo, French dogs are not my friends.

I thought I’d come prepared before I left for Angoulême back in late September, and decided to bring a large box of Yorkshire Tea with me, believing it to be superior to any tea I would be able to find in Frog. However, I was thinking about my reasons for doing so the other day, and realised that my rationale was completely bunk. It went something like this: I like strong tea; Yorkshire Tea must be strong because it’s gritty and northern, a bit like Geoffrey Boycott. Not fancy, pretty unattractive, but boy does it get the job done when you need it. It’s the kind of tea you’d drink before disappearing down a mine for 36 hours for £3.70 before returning to beat your children with a riding crop. It’s Yorkshire Tea, so it must be tough. “But”, I hear you say, “The tea itself is not from Yorkshire – it’s from Ceylon or Madras or Peking or somewhere wonderfully subcontinental” (yes, I’m using the Empire words intentionally) – “It’s just the merchants and packing folk who are from Yorkshire.” And you’d be right...maybe they just package it in a special way to make it tougher – don’t ruin the illusion for me, people!

Charlie x

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Whoa, it's been over a week. How time flies etc...

Ok, exciting things would be useful to report at this point, such as my trip to Bordeaux, where they had a Christ(sic)mas Market and, somewhat peculiarly, a rather large antiques' market tacked on at the end of it. While Bordeaux was in itself a rather pleasant city from what I saw of it, the market itself was a tad disappointing. There were no individual-looking stalls, nothing palpably decorative or twee; it was all a little bland it must be said. That and I wanted to buy gloves, but there was not a single glove-selling place which catered for anyone with a Y chromosome. Bad times. However, the trip on the whole was an enjoyable one, and it certainly made a change from a weekend in Angoulême, despite the exciting food that was available there a couple of weekends ago. So yeah, Bordeaux 1 - 0 My Hands.

I have officially decided that many of my students are worse than useless when it comes to actually turning up to things/applying themselves. I discovered today that no fewer than 5 people in one of my classes had been suspended for not doing work or skipping lessons, and was quite frankly astonished that they didn't just get rid of the lot of them and start again. Special mention must go to one of my students today who turned up just to tell me that the others weren't going to, thus saving me 10 minutes' worth of sitting around like a lemon waiting for my non-existent students. He gets a gold star and a sweetie, but the others not so much.

Anecdote alert: I am running semi-regularly at the moment (about four or five times per week on average), and tend to have a pretty similar route every time. However, my regular "back straight", as it were, is a large sports' centre in Ma Campagne which was today being used for some sort of athletics meeting. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I turned the corner, cutting through a gap in the hedge, only to be greeted by 50 or so French cross-country runners hurtling their way around a course which vaguely resembled my regular running route. Cue confusion as this random British boy appears from nowhere into their midst with some momentum, pauses confusedly and scurries off to the side of the course, attracting bizarre glances all the while. At least there was no ice this time...

Charlie x