Cutty Sark burns

This is not a comment on a brand of whiskey nor the witch in Robbie Burns’s poem. The Cutty Sark was the fastest tea clipper built in Britain. On her maiden voyage she set a speed record for the trip to India: three-and-a-half months. After steam power proved slower but more reliable, clipper ships were retired. The Cutty Sark became a wool ship, a stationary training ship, and then a tourist attraction. She has been moored in Greenwich and undergoing repairs to conserve her fabric.


Today the ship caught fire and the fire spread quickly from one end to another. Police suspect arson and are investigating. The ship’s metal frame remains and some wood had been removed for repairs. The ship may be rebuilt.

Books: The Telling by Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin excels at creating alternative societies, philosophies, rituals, and non-religious religions. This novel is set in Le Guin’s Hainish universe. In it, a student of cultures from a world where thinly disguised Christian fanatics (called “Unists”) have destroyed all books except for their scripture and tried to destroy all non-theological science. Sutty, with a Hindu background, is increasingly worried that she and her family will not be tolerated for long if the Unists invade Canada and cease to honour differing communities, currently allowed to live in “Pales” (ghettos). She takes an assignment to another planet. When she arrives, about sixty years since the latest news because of relativistic effects, she finds that a fanatically secular government has taken over and is determined to wipe out all non-productive remnants of culture, from philosophy to courtesy. Eventually Sutty is allowed to go to a hinterland where traces of the old culture remain. She begins to learn about what is being lost.

This book is another of Le Guin’s marvellous efforts at creating an alternative society in the anthropology of the imagination. She throws off concepts, rituals, poetry, customs, habits, thoughts, songs, architecture, pathways, secret societies, moieties, clans, gestures as a wheel throws off sparks. I just sit back in wonder.

Methodological Naturalism explained

Larry Moran at Sandwalk has a very clear and extensive explanation of the difference between Metholodical Naturalism, a way of doing science, and Philosophical Naturalism, a denial of the existence of gods. It makes a difference because one of the commonest attacks on rational scientific results by fundamentalist religious believers is that scientists are all atheists and that believing in their results makes you an atheist, too, and therefore evil.

Read all about it at Methodological Naturalism.

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