Friday, 24 March 2017

Flaxen Saxon reads the first lesson.......




One of my colleagues, a highly intelligent individual, is also a devout and active Christian. I mention this because in my work she is an anomaly. The rest of the department, including the author, are atheists. Out of 25 scientists, there is just a single believer in an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent deity. We as a group are nothing special in this respect. Scientists, on the whole, are notoriously atheistic and non-religious. A study of American scientists (members of the National Academy of Sciences) in 1998 revealed that only 7% believed in a personal god. Contrast this poll with the .opinion of the general American population. A GALLUP poll of 2011 showed that 92% of the American public believed in god. Interestingly, in North Western Europe and Australasia non-believers outnumber the devout these days.

Over the years I have noted a trend amongst my god fearing colleagues. Most come from a devoutly religious family and from a very young age were exposed to a form of 'Super-Christianity'. The family environment would totally revolve, even spin, around devotion to god. Every aspect of their formative life has been influenced by this Christian context. Having said that, I've known a lot more colleagues who have reacted to this environment negatively by discarding religion and embracing atheism. I accept that my response is an over generalisation and represents my narrow personal view and experience.

I have also noted that Christian scientists come in two flavours: There are those who feel happy to compartmentalise their belief and keep it entirely separate from their professional duties. The analytical part of their brain, for the most part, disturbs their religious beliefs, not a jot. They are content to accept 'faith' as a valid mechanism for devotion without critically analysing the notion of 'faith' as an objective vehicle for obtaining knowledge. They are usually well versed with the New Testament but are selective when it comes to the Old; difficult passages, from a moral perspective, are only faintly perceived. In my experience, they are totally ignorant with regard to modern theology and biblical criticism. Their belief is very much of the heart and not of the head. The second variety is a rare beast indeed. They honestly hold true that science and religion are compatible and will go to great lengths and even greater mental gymnastics to reconcile science with theology. Usually, these scientists are highly knowledgeable when it comes to a close analytical reading of the bible They go as far as to dismiss literal interpretations of scripture and consider biblical miracles as either over zealous story telling or normal phenomenon misinterpreted. They apply their critical training to theology and can be rather inventive in their reasoning. However, they duly stray from the true path of verifiable science and in consequence become theologians with all its epistemological ramifications and reliance upon sophistry. 

Returning to my colleague: As I recall she does not belong to a mainstream congregation as such. There is no central meeting area and members congregate in their homes or hired halls. Like many similar ‘churches' the members are very active and devout. Contrast this with the typical Anglican attendee on any given Sunday morn. The church organises various social activities and members are involved in ‘good works’ within the community and at the national and international level. Members also err toward the ‘happy clappy’ crowd and there is an emphasis on uplifting inspirational preaching and musical interludes. There is also a trend toward fundamentalism and literal biblical interpretation although my colleague is not completely in tune with this sort of doctrine. Like the vast majority of professional biologists, regardless of religious belief, she is a firm advocate of evolutionary theory. I would put forth that it is very difficult for a seriously minded biologist to disregard evolutionary theory in preference to the so-called alternative explanation of intelligent design. As an aside, do not be beguiled with the term ‘intelligent design’. It in no way reflects a coherent scientific theory and is simply a fancy way of saying: “an unknowable supernatural entity by means unknown causes things to happen”.

Anyway, my colleague's teenage son recently returned from a Christian residential camp. Once home he took great delight in telling his parents that he no longer believed in evolutionary theory and henceforth intelligent design would shine like a beacon on the road to enlightenment. My colleague was totally mortified and completely at a loss to understand her son's rejection of a sound scientific theory. A theory supported by a great wealth of empirical observational evidence. To her mind a belief in god and an adherence to evolutionary theory are compatible. God's wisdom has supplied a mechanism and evidence to support his act of wonder........


My colleague's son is young, naive, impressionable and perhaps a little in awe of his camp leader and mentor. He has much to learn and hopefully, with time and maturity, will develop the level of discernment necessary to escape the intellectual torpor of fundamental and moribund theological dogma. Arse. 


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Philistines

Ouch, that bloody hurt that did!
I've always thought that the Philistines have had a rough deal from 'history'. In the bible the Philistines are portrayed as depraved polytheists addicted to brute strength and strong liquor. Today, their very name is synonymous for coarse, rude and brutal behaviour. But of course, our opinion of the Philistines and their culture is almost wholly dependent on testimony from their implacable enemies, the Jews. Recent archaeological evidence and research are starting to reveal a startlingly different picture as painted by biblical writers.

As a preamble, it is worthwhile to consider the origins of the Philistines. Modern scholarship indicates that the Philistines burst upon the pages of history in the middle of the 12th century BC. They appear as part of a mass of migratory peoples seeking plunder and settlement. They attacked the whole eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean and Aegean causing the collapse of several powerful empires including the Hittites. They even had the temerity to attack the Egyptians. Pictorial Egyptian evidence gives a graphic account of a sea battle against the marauders. The Egyptians prevailed and magnanimously resettled the defeated people in Egypt and Canaan. The Egyptians called these people, Peleset and it is these people who evolved into the Philistines as described in the bible. Thus, the Philistines did not become established in the Middle East until the 12th century BC. The account in the Old Testament where Abraham encounters the Philistines (c 2,000 BC) is clearly an anachronism. This is understandable, as according to contextual evidence, the Old Testament wasn’t written until the 6th century BC.  

Israel of the 10th century under the famous king David was supposedly a sumptuous and vibrant place, at least according to bible. Jerusalem under Solomon flourished as a majestic city of opulence. Unfortunately the archaeological evidence does not bear out the biblical description and it seems the Jerusalem of the period was a small unimposing settlement. Some would even challenge the historicity of the great king David himself. The story of David contains mythic and legendary motifs recognisable throughout epic storytelling worldwide: local boy does well; defeats a formidable foe/monster against all the odds; wins the hand of the king's daughter and eventually becomes king. That said, there are passages in the bible which dramatically reveal David's all too human foibles. Even though the writer is clearly pro- David and aims to glorify his life and the city of Jerusalem he portrays a deeply flawed human being: the sending of Uriah the Hittite to his death so David can marry his wife, Bathsheba and the temporary defection to the Philistines are just two examples. On balance, I would side with those who consider David as a real person from history, although I would argue that his life, accomplishments and the splendour of his kingdom have been embellished somewhat. As the Jews are fond of telling: “If David did not exist he must have had a brother of the same name”. There is even doubt cast about whether he killed the gigantic warrior, Goliath, as elsewhere his slaying is ascribed to Elhanan, the son of Jair (II Samuel 21:19). The bible is replete with such contradictions- go seek and ye will find.

As for the Philistines themselves, we are woefully deficient in knowledge concerning important features of their lives. There is much controversy concerning the language they spoke. Some scholars aver that the Philistines spoke an Indo-European language which would be in accord with a proposed Anatolian origin. Others note that Philistines and Jews in the bible seem to converse freely during encounters suggesting that the Philistines spoke a Semitic language. However, this may have been a simple literary device aimed to maintain the narrative flow.   

Archaeological findings agree that in the 10th century the Philistines were a distinct entity from the surrounding Canaanites but as the centuries progressed they lost their individual identity and became assimilated into the indigenous population. The Philistine population were originally confined to five cities: Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Ekron and Gath. The ruined sites have been extensively worked by modern archaeologists and their findings belie the biblical reputation of the Philistines as uncouth barbarians. The rich pottery and stoneware unearthed as well as the dwellings indicate a rich cultural style and a high degree of civilisation. Evidence throughout the Middle-East strongly indicates that during the 10thcentury BC it was the Israelites who lived in rather drab, uncivilised conditions. In contrast the Philistines had a sophisticated war machine led by a warrior aristocracy with organised foot soldiers and archers and a flourishing economy based on maritime commerce. In comparison to the Israelites, bound by the hill country, the Philistines were an advanced commercial and industrial society.

Thus the archaeological evidence does not support the biblical account. This is perhaps no surprise. Firstly, the written account of the 'history' of the 11th and 10th centuries BC was not transcribed until the 7th or 6th century BC, perhaps during the Babylonian exile. The Babylonian defeat and exile left a deep scar upon the Jewish psyche and heroic accounts of a supposed glorious past are perhaps forgivable. A time when the Jews abided by Yahweh's covenant and received the bounty of their Lord. The parlous state of the Jewish people in exile was a direct result of failing to please a demanding deity. For a people totally drenched in their notion of god, this was a powerful reminder that greatness could be rekindled but only if Israel chose to reaffirm the compact with Yahweh. However, Yahweh was a jealous god and occasionally capricious. And secondly, what really happened 350 tears earlier could only be darkly discerned based on oral tradition, poetry and scraps of written disparate texts. Add to this mix a heaped tablespoon of theological devotion and a dollop of legendary storytelling and we end up with a purported 'history' of the Jews. The writers of Deuteronomy were not able or interested in writing objective history (whatever that might be) as understood by the modern mind. The Old and New Testaments are a composite of literary genres but, for the most part, reveal surprisingly little about the passage of real verifiable historic events.

Let me finish with the lamentation of David on the death of Saul and his son Jonathan at the hands of the Philistines:

"Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Internet Dating

According to ‘folklore’, there is someone for everyone in the magical realm of love. I would disagree, I know a few poor benighted buggers who have been rejected and marginalised and left firmly on the shelf to gather dust and detritus. Bereft of social grace or aesthetically challenged, or both, these individuals shuffle alone in a world indifferent. Interesting to note: folk lacking in the looks department are often socially inept as well. When the Lord taketh away he does so with a very large spade.

But in the wonderful internet age, even the strange, ugly and the inept should be able to find similar and even perhaps corner and enslave the elusive emotion called love. In fact there are a number of specialist sites which cater for every special need and every bizarre breed of the human species.

Love at first scratch
Skin allergies are on the increase in the Western world, so it makes sense that there should be a dating site to cater for those infested with interesting skin eruptions. Love over a rare steak, a bottle of wine and camomile lotion. Gaze into one another’s rheumy eyes and count the pustules. Could it get any more romantic, especially when you note that the floaty bits in your tomato soup ain’t peppercorns?



It’s gone viral
Herpes is not just for Christmas, tis for life. Actually a dating site for those infected with herpes makes a lot of sense. Once you have got it, that’s it, you are stuck with the infection for the rest of your life. And if your partner has already got the virus you can’t pass it on to them. No guilt, no psychological trauma. And you get to idle away the long winter nights comparing lesions. If you time it right you can arrange for the sores to progress together so reaching a shuddering climax of chaffed scabs. Believe me, it works.  

No comment
                                

Darwin Dating
This site applies a ‘natural selection’ process before you can join. You submit your photo and other members vote. If you are deemed attractive enough, you are in. As the administrator’s state:Darwin Dating is an online dating website created by 4 friends who were sick of dating websites filled with ugly, unattractive, desperate fatsos”. Frankly, I approve. If you are spending your precious time looking for a date you don’t want to spend hours trawling through pages of barely human swamp creatures with questionable hygiene practices, do you? And to be fair there are sites for ugly people as well.




Birds of a feather
There are a few sites dedicated for ugly folk. This is where you can meet others as physically repellent as yourself. No point in striving to land a beautiful blond if your visage is one that would worry rats. In genetic terms this is called ‘assortative mating’ and there are many examples within human societies. Thus folk tend to marry within their socio-economic class. Doctors marry other doctors and contrary to popular imagination, in general, do not marry nurses- nurses marry coppers. I’ve had a quick look at a few of the photos of the denizens of these ugly dating sites and I have to say there are some prime specimens out there. The thing that worries me is that these folk may find each other thus producing issue as physically unattractive as themselves. All other things being equal, physical attractiveness is governed by genetic factors. If you bump an ugly don’t be surprised if the resultant offspring resemble Quasimodo. As for unattractiveness equating with low IQs- don’t get me started, I wouldn’t like to sound elitist, would I? The fact that the ‘fruits of my loins’ are 6 foot handsome/beautiful creatures with IQs in excess of 150 bears brutal testament to my thesis.

Choose me


Elasticated waist 
And finally. Would you like to meet some weirdo who wanders round in diapers in their spare time? No problem, because there is a dedicated website for people just like you. As for spare time, I get the distinct impression that these folk have a lot of it. Judging from the stains exuding from the barely absorbent material, most of them are downright unemployable. And why are all the members, fat, ugly and incontinent? Perhaps I'll leave this conundrum (and diapers) for my readers to unravel?

And he still can't get a girl friend


Toodly Pip



Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Torso Kid


I'm intrigued. No doubt he's strapped to a motorised skateboard toting a 44 Magnum in his prehensile penis while his capacious scrotum laps over the edges like a furry inflated saddle (provides stability).  

Thursday, 2 March 2017

BOW

My 45 pound recurve- who's a pretty boy den?


I'm not sure if any bugger cares, but I'm going to tell my story, regardless. For the past three months, I've been immersed in the art of archery. I used to shoot a bow way back and I reckon my average draw weight was about 60 pounds back then. These days I've taken account of my lost skill and advancing age and bought a bow with a draw weight of 45 pounds at 28 inches. I did my homework and made a decent purchase for a good price. I chose well with the lower draw weight and with a bit of practice I think I could achieve the 60 pound draw weight of old; not completely knackered then.

Not only have I started to shoot a bow, I've decided to have a go at making one or three..... My first attempt was pretty shit, I will acknowledge. Of course, a master bowyer will apprentice for six long years before applying his craft, so perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on myself. Anyway, my first bow was fashioned out of pine. As anyone familiar with bow making will know, pine is a poor wood for making bows. However, it allowed me to hone some lost skills and placed me in good stead for future projects. Actually, the pine bow was okay and drew 20 pounds without breaking but the tillering left much to be desired. All said, not a bad first attempt.

The main problem I'm experiencing is obtaining suitable wood for making a decent bow. Every DIY place in Wellington stocks only pine. One owner of a DIY store lamented the fact that hardwood was way too expensive for most purposes these days. After a little research, I managed to find a small timber yard which stocked a variety of suitable hardwoods, at a reasonable price. The fella at the yard was very helpful and sorted out a piece of European Ash for NZ$14. On first inspection, it seems fit for purpose. The only problem with kiln dried wood, as far as I can see, is that it might be a little too dry and therefore brittle. I'm working on the wood as I write and will report back on the finished product- might take a while.

There are a few native hardwoods which can be worked to make bow staves. I've started to harvest pieces of manuka, kanuka and other woods which I hope will be suitable. The staves are currently stacked under the house undergoing the slow process of drying.

My other bought bow is a primitive Mongolian self-bow with a draw weight of about 40 pounds. I call it 'Mongolian' because of its superficial resemblance to the 'type'. True Mongolian bows, were and are, a composite of wood, horn and sinew. I decided not to go the way of the compound bow. For those unfamiliar with bows, compounds are a highly engineered modern variety replete with cams, pulleys, specialised arrow rests and sophisticated sights. They are more forgiving than traditional bows and given similar archery skills, more accurate. Both my bought bows, in comparison, are somewhat simple, although my 45 pound recurve has limbs of hard Maple with a fibre glass overlay and a cut-out arrow rest on the riser. The bow is fast, clean shooting, whisper quiet and endowed with highly pleasing lines. Overall an efficient and very beautiful bow. If I were of a refined disposition I might be tempted to call it 'a work of art': but I ain't, so I won't. My custom wooden arrows are fletched with turkey feathers and give a very satisfying thud on impact.

The 'Mongolian'


I've been practising and can place a loose grouping with the 45 pound bow at 35 metres. I can only hit the target with the Mongolian bow at no more than 20 paces; more practice required.


Compound bow


To date, I've only used the bows for target shooting but intend to have a go at hunting. Bow hunting is legal in NZ with a permit and a bow 35 pound and over. Apparently, there is good wild pig hunting hereabouts. Need to enthuse my son and son in law and hire a couple of 'pig dogs'. I have no problem with hunting as long as the meat is for the pot. I used to hunt rabbit as a lad with my taciturn granddad and a couple of ferrets. Roast rabbit is the best.
  
So that is why I haven't been as diligent and active on my blog of late. Must try harder.    


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Friday, 24 February 2017

Flaxen the Guru



Upon leaving the ‘Felching Ferret Hostelry’, Tipton, last Saturday night I became aware of a sudden spiritual rebirth. As urine trickled down my left leg, my soul and trouser leg became imbued with a warm moist awakening. I always knew I had the power to inspire and encourage the flow of bodily fluids and prana not only in myself but in others as well. Folk seeking distilled ethereal wisdom would often seek me out in the saloon bar and beseech me to share the knowledge of the ancients passed down generation after generation to special, insensitive initiates. I am one of those who has drunk deep from the well of unconsciousness (every Saturday night) and has become one with the universe and bed sheets. People have come to recognise that I’m a ‘font of insensible, arcane truth’. Indeed, as I leave the ‘Ferret’, folk will berate with the oft-shouted refrain: “Flaxen, you are a dozy font!”  

Consequently, and by request from Sharon the barmaid, I have decided to share my sapience to all folk who hunger for cognisance in a world obsessed with material wealth and the Kardashians. I am the way to spiritual nuance. Take large draughts from the chalice containing the pure spirit (150 proof) and revel in unrestrained, narcotic ecstasy. Heed my words and know peace.         

The following wisdom impinged upon my very being after waking up on a park bench, totally naked, at 4.00am in the morning, with a Chinaman sucking my toes.
Today’s lesson :    

We exist as sub-atomic particles.

You and I are starseeds of the galaxy. Freedom is the driver of rejuvenation.

This life is nothing short of a flowering paradigm shift of pranic rebirth.

The future will be an enlightened flowering of learning. Imagine a summoning of what could be. It is a sign of things to come.

Rebirth requires exploration. The goal of bio-electricity is to plant the seeds of serenity rather than bondage. By summoning, we self-actualize.

The complexity of the present time seems to demand an unveiling of our hearts if we are going to survive. Yes, it is possible to erase the things that can extinguish us, but not without coherence on our side. Illusion is the antithesis of balance.

Throughout history, humans have been interacting with the solar system via electromagnetic resonance. This story never ends. The dreamscape is approaching a tipping point. We must learn how to lead sacred lives in the face of bondage.

We are at a crossroads of aspiration and pain. Humankind has nothing to lose. Who are we? Where on the great journey will we be aligned? Are you ready?

Arse, wank, fick, bollocks




Next week Flaxen will dissect the essence of chi and place it in a bucket. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Silver Fox

Silver Fox

I gave a presentation to my peers the other day entitled, 'The Genetics of Dog Domestication’ and I’ve decided to share my abundant wisdom in a truncated form, minus all the pesky population genetics and statistics. 

The presentation was inspired by a video I watched concerning the ‘Silver Fox Experiment’. The experiment was initiated in the USSR during the late 1950s. Apart from the science, there is an interesting backdrop to the story. Read on and weep.

Soviet political ideology of the 30s, 40s and the early part of the 50s, considered classical Mendelian genetics and Darwin evolutionary theory as contrary to the tenets of Leninist- Marxist ideology. Instead, Soviet policy embraced Lamarckian theory which was thought to be more in tune with the needs of the proletariat. To understand Lamarckism a little digression is required (surely not, Flaxen!). 

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed a theory of evolution in the early 19th century which did not rely on natural selection in the Darwinian sense. His theory concerned the inheritance of acquired characteristics. The giraffe is generally used to illustrate the theory. Imagine a giraffe stretching its neck to reach leaves high upon a tree. The very act of stretching causes the neck to become longer. According to Lamarckian theory, the characteristic of extra neck length becomes passed on to the offspring. Thus the environment directly acts on the organism (acquired characteristics) and alters the genetic material. No rational scientist today would seriously consider Lamarckism as a mechanism for influencing evolution in this simplistic form. However, this pre-Darwinist theory was a serious contender in the day before the proposal of evolution by natural selection and the discovery of Mendelian genetics.
  
Lamarckian ideas became ingrained within Soviet science and it is estimated that Stalin executed, imprisoned and exiled more than 3,000 mainstream biologists. The 'new science' was heavily promoted by Trofim Lysenko (1928), a barely literate agriculturist. He claimed he could dramatically increase crop yield by exposing wheat seeds to extremes of cold and/or humidity. Lysenko's fantastic claims gained support from the Soviet elite as it promised huge increases in the food supply and provided hope for the alleviation of devastating famines caused by Soviet mismanagement of collective farms. Needless to say, the whole venture was a disastrous failure and only abandoned after the death of Stalin in 1953.  This sorry affair reverted Soviet biology back to the dark ages and was directly responsible for the death of millions by starvation. Digression endeth.

Science can not be organised according to political or religious dictates and dogma. In their quest to bend all aspects of society to the yoke of communist ideology the Soviets ultimately broke the back of Russian and Eastern bloc science. With our benefit of hindsight, we can appreciate that communism is a failed political system. In relation to society, it fails because it strives to stifle innate individuality and creativity. People are not part of a collective and rail against conformity and structured banality. Science cannot be structured or made to fit a political scheme or precept. Good science should be free from all interference, politics included. Of course, this represents the 'counsel of perfection' which can never exist in the real world. Even in so-called liberal democracies, political interference is rampant but not as blatant and as stifling as existed under the Soviet regime. Rant over.

Back to the silver fox  
Khrushchev began to reverse Soviet genetic policy in 1959 and in that year Prof Belyaev became director of the genetics research institute in Novosibirsk, Siberia. The worthy Professor collected prime fox specimens and began a selective breeding programme. He only chose individuals which exhibited ‘tame’ behavioural characteristics. He continued to select only those foxes which showed the least fear and aggression in the presence of humans. Within six generations he started to notice some interesting features present in the selected animals. As stated, the only trait selected for was tameness; physical properties played no part in the selection process. The animals became tractable, unafraid of human contact and contained all the qualities of behaviour expected in the domestic dog. Also, they exhibited other features which we would normally associate with the dog. Some developed curly, wagging tails and floppy ears. The muzzle became shorter and the coats became multi-coloured. By selecting for one trait a host of physical attributes also became manifest. This phenomenon is not unknown to geneticists and even has a fancy name- pleiotropy. All professions like to confuse non-initiates with fancy technical jargon and genetics is no exception- keeps the proles guessing. Anyway, the term simply describes the situation where one gene influences more than one seemingly unrelated trait.

It is known from genetic studies that the dog is descended from the grey wolf. It has been estimated from proto-dog burials, that the wolf first became associated with human populations about 14,000 years ago. The advantage of two intelligent species coming together in mutual harmony is rather obvious. The wolf would provide protection and act as a sentinel. More importantly, the wolf would greatly assist with the hunt and help to bring down fleet of foot prey. The wolf/dog, in turn, would receive shelter, protection and hopefully a regular and predictable food supply. The fact that both species exhibit an ordered social hierarchy would help to mesh the species into a beneficent mutualistic whole (Flaxen spouting bollix).

Tis sobering to contemplate that the white fluffy creature gently snoring and not so gently farting on my lap is fully capable of mating (a few mechanical considerations aside) with a wolf to produce viable offspring. Although the progeny is likely to offer you their paw before biting your leg clean orrrrrrffff.

The ‘silver fox project continues to this day and it is possible to purchase one of these stunningly beautiful creatures for US$7,000. I hear tell that the Pitts have adopted two and Miley Virus keeps one in her Beverley Hills condo. She also owns a ferret called Shagger. Nuff said.

Behold the wolf