Sunday, 29 September 2013

Time to teach the difference between fact and theory

If it is true that teacher Leonard Rogers told a science class that the theory of evolution is "not proven", as reported in the Sunday Herald, he was quite correct. Any scientist worth their salt knows that you cannot prove a scientific theory - you can only disprove one. Complaining parent Adrian Smales should know that as a scientist himself. All that scientists can say with any confidence about any theory is that it fits the facts as we currently know them. Should other facts emerge, the theory may be disproved. Evolution is not a fact - it is a theory. So is creationism. Now, if Rogers has been teaching creationism as fact, he is wrong. It can't be proved any more than evolution. However, if he has been teaching pupils the difference between facts and theories, that is all to the good and will stand them in good stead in the future. Facts are things which we can observe and measure. None of us can observe what happened even hundreds of years ago, never mind millions of years ago, because we were not there. All we can do is observe what has survived until the present time and make deductions about how it came to be there. Those deductions may, or may not, be correct. It is time the myth that evolution is a fact is exposed and children are taught to think and make deductions for themselves, based on the real facts. Is that not what Curriculum for Excellence is all about?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Promises, promises

It seems that the SNP will promise anything if they think it will secure votes. This time it's pensions. Previously it was the council tax freeze, which has resulted in cash-strapped councils cutting services left, right and centre. No longer can voters decide whether they want to pay more for better services or pay less for fewer services when it comes to council elections. The matter is now outwith council control. So much for local government. What Calton wants to know is: what is going to be cut in order to afford better pensions in an independent Scotland? We may not live as long as the English but we are still an ageing population with fewer young people to pay for our pensioners. As Labour's pensions spokesman, Gregg McClymont, says - Nicola Sturgeon "cannot credibly say that something is affordable if she doesn't know how much it costs". Having failed so far to win over the electorate with reasoned argument and hard facts, the SNP are resorting to an appeal to peoples' baser instincts i.e. cash in pocket. Sadly, some people will fall for it and, if we become independent, we'll all pay for it.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Police Scotland - making it up as they go along?

It seems that Police Scotland have unilaterally decided that the Bible is illegal, or, at least, the Gospel of John, which is what a street preacher was quoting from when he was arrested in Perth on Wednesday. Actually, it seems that officers were making up laws on the hoof as, according to preacher Josh Williamson, they first of all complained that he was too loud, then told him that the noise level was not an issue but someone had made a complaint and then, finally, that the content of his message was illegal before arresting him for breach of the peace. They also arrested another man who protested against Williamson's arrest on the grounds that it was a denial of free speech. Now, as Calton understands it, the Police are meant to uphold the law, not invent it. Preaching the gospel is not a criminal offence in Scotland. Williamson was not using amplifiers and was willing to tone his voice down to an acceptable volume if asked to do so. Unfortunately it seems that the Police were determined to stop Williamson preaching and were grasping at any excuse to do so. We still have freedom of speech in this country but only if the Police do not take the law into their own hands. Calton is in total agreement with Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Legal Centre, who has said of this latest arrest that “Freedom of speech is a precious freedom that we must uphold. This injustice must be tackled to halt the chilling effect already felt by many Christians. The threat to freedom of speech is a concern for wider society, not just for Christians. ... It’s evident that police all over the UK need clear guidance on this matter. ... It’s up to police chiefs to take a lead and issue guidelines so that this stops happening.” Calton also wonders if Williamson would have been arrested had he been preaching from the Koran.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Tyrannosaurus - alive and well in South Lanarkshire

Oh for goodness sake. When Calton first heard on the radio about an 'extremist Christian sect' trying to influence schoolchildren he thought they must have been indoctrinating them into being suicide bombers at a gay pride march or mosque. What else would justify the removal of two head teachers and the exclusion of the religious group from the school? It turns out that, actually, a local church had handed out booklets on creationism to primary school children. Some people (and South Lanarkshire council) have no sense of proportion. Calton tends to agree with the EIS when it says that "schools should not be a place for any interest group to push its activities", provided, of course, that it also applies to Stonewall pushing books such as King and King in primary schools. And if primary age children are "too young to assess the contents" of the creationist books, as asserted by the Secular Society, they are also too young to assess the contents of King and King and other books promoting homosexuality. It sounds to Calton like this whole thing is a storm in a teacup whipped up by a few vocal parents, backed by a politically correct council and stirred up by the Daily Record. Have they not got more important things to worry about than whether or not man co-existed with dinosaurs?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The voters in Dunfermline deserve better

Surely it is more important that the various political parties, and the SNP in particular, tighten up on their selection procedures for election candidates to ensure that the electorate in Dunfermline don't get another Bill Walker, rather than discounting good candidates because they happen to be male. Apart from anything else, the people of Dunfermline are not daft enough to vote for someone just because she is a woman, as evidenced by the fact that Willie Rennie beat both Catherine Stihler (Labour) and Carrie Ruxton (Conservative) to win the corresponding Westminster seat in the 2006 by-election. There was a lot of feeling at the time that Ruxton in particular had been parachuted in, over local council leader Stuart Randall, at least partly because she was a woman, causing ructions within the local Tory party. Calton is all in favour of more female MPs and MSPs but positive discrimination and quotas don't work. Candidates have to be selected on their merits. Anything else is unfair on voters.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Do we want to see ourselves as we really are?

Given that Scotland is now the second-fattest nation in the world, do we really want our High Street mannequins to more accurately reflect society? It might be quite effective shock therapy mind you. Shops could always put a burger in one hand, a coke bottle in the other and a fag hanging out the mouth to add to the effect. Calton is struggling to think of any other way of getting Scots to realise how fat and unhealthy they are. It was interesting to hear Jo Swinson wriggling out of directly answering John Beattie's point today that the average woman's dress size has increased from a 12 to a 16 in the last few years but does that mean that we should now be promoting size 16, which is overweight for a lot of women, as normal? Calton thinks not. Being even moderately overweight increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer and other health problems and if a woman is overweight in her 20s, she will probably be obese by the time she is 40. The same applies to men. Yes, there is a problem with anorexia, body image and self-esteem among young people and the use of size 8 or 10 mannequins does not help, however there is an even greater problem now with obesity and there is a danger that using size 16 plus mannequins will simply normalise being overweight. It would be better if models and shop dummies were a healthy size, neither too thin nor too fat. Otherwise Swinson's latest campaign risks undermining all the Scottish Government's efforts to tackle obesity.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Give them a bike

In the 19th century, people moved from other parts of Scotland to Glasgow to find work. Now it seems that a reverse migration is needed, with the news that Glasgow has the highest number of workless households in the UK, never mind Scotland. Unfortunately, the sluggish state of the housing market and a general lack of affordable rented homes in most, if not all, parts of Scotland makes moving to find work very difficult. It also seems to Calton that the welfare system does not encourage relocation. Moving costs money, something which the unemployed do not have. It also requires motivation - the confidence that a move will bring an improvement. The sad thing is that Eastern Europeans are more motivated to come and work in Scotland than some Scots are to move to the other side of the country to find a job. Instead of taking the initiative, many unemployed seem to expect the state to provide for them, both in terms of benefits while unemployed and also by subsidising companies to set up businesses in areas of high unemployment. Instead of moving to find work, people expect work to come to them. Sadly, companies which receive large amounts of public money to locate in Scotland quite often leave when the subsidies dry up. The Scottish Government would be better advised to spend the money on improving public transport and providing affordable rented homes in areas where there are jobs. Grants to enable unemployed families to relocate to areas where workers are needed might also be a good idea. The Government needs to encourage mobility but there's no point in telling people to get on their bike when they don't have a bike to get on.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

SNP - listening for once

Calton is pleased to see that automatic early release is to be scrapped for violent/sexual offenders in Scotland. About time too. Nice to see the SNP actually listening to the concerns of the electorate for once. It would be even better if they scrapped the same-sex marriage bill, now that over 50,000 people have signed Scotland for Marriage's petition against it. That's more than the combined membership of all political parties in Scotland. Who said single-issue politics was dead?

As to the rest of the rather uninspiring raft of legislation introduced today: Calton is in favour of scrapping the right to buy for council tenants. It should never have been introduced in the first place. He also hopes that changes to licensing of scrap metal merchants will bring them into line with England and Wales, thus making Scotland less of a safe haven for metal thieves. And he dearly wishes that Alex Salmond would stop blaming Westminster at every opportunity. It's getting boring. And we still have more than a year to go!

Monday, 2 September 2013

It was the SNP

It seems completely absurd to Calton that an MSP can be jailed for up to a year and still remain an MSP. Whoever dreamt that one up needs their head looked. How can an MSP possibly represent his/her constituents when in prison? If the rules governing MSPs convicted of offences had been properly drafted first time around we would not now have the unedifying spectacle of Bill Walker's brass neck in hanging on to his seat, Willie Rennie's motion to get rid of him and the Presiding Officer scratching around for ways of at least ensuring Walker doesn't get paid if he goes down. Sort it out Trish.

PS. Calton entirely agrees with Willie Rennie that Walker should quit but can't help wondering if the Libdem leader has his eye on the Dunfermline seat - the Holyrood equivalent of the Westminster seat Rennie lost to Thomas Docherty in 2010. (Rennie is currently a list MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife region.) It might have been better if someone else had instigated the motion for Walker to stand down. Somone in the SNP, for instance. After all, it was the SNP who selected him as a candidate.