Back to the Blogosphere

As is the way with all New Years resolutions the world over my ‘blog resolution’ to keep the updates constant and regular has failed miserably. This failure is due to many reasons not least of which is that I can’t quite mentally justify taking the time to write a blog post when I have a daunting (and ever increasing) amount of work to do every week to keep up with my university studies. This has resulted in the blog being totally neglected over the past few months… but despite this it has not been totally forgotten. In fact, I’ve found that over the past few months I’ve become increasingly aware that I really miss writing for pleasure about the things that intrigue and interest me.

Peering back into the echo chamber...

When I started blogging it was primarily because I wanted to make sure that while I was working in a relatively dull office job I had some motivation to keep reading studies and research relevant to my academic interests and to create a record of  my thoughts and research that I could go back and refer to if I ever needed/wanted to. Of course it was not an entirely private endeavour and I also hoped that at least some others would read the posts, find something worthwhile and occasionally leave comments telling me what they thought about the topic or my perspective.

One thing I had not been prepared for was that blogging could have any kind of significant impact or that it could introduce you to an entirely new community of people. My experience with the Simon Singh case and subsequent meetings with fellow UK skeptics woke me up to these possibilities and are now a significant motivation for getting back on the blogging horse.

My main motivation however is that I have decided that the best way to try and avoid blogging from interfering with my studies is to try and make it a part of my study. Two of the three things this blog is supposed to be about are anthropology and religion and I am currently studying ‘Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology‘ which involves reading papers every week about the cognitive science of religion! Writing a coherent description of research or topics necessarily requires that I actually have a coherent understanding of said research or tipic and so it seems entirely silly that I haven’t been using the blog as an opportunity to help me study and push what I am reading into my longer term memory!

I’m going to try and rectify that situation now and so I will begin blogging again from this week on. To give myself even fewer excuses I am also going to try and keep to a blogging schedule of just one post a week posted on Saturday. If I find myself with extra time or something terribly interesting happens I may write more but one post a week- with my current schedule- seems like a perfectly feasible target so that’s what I’m going to aim for.

So that’s that… I’m back and there is nothing anyone can do about it!

With Friends like these.. the BCA and Dr. Milgrom

Lionel Milgrom

Thanks to investigative blogger gimpy I was made aware of an article published in an alternative medical journal a few days back by Lionel R. Milgrom, a prominent British homeopath. Gimpy will be producing a more detailed analysis 0f the lunacy in this article and the failures it represents in the (near?) future and when he does I’ll post a link to it (here it is) but until then I couldn’t let the sheer forehead slapping stupidity of this article pass without offering some comment.


Busy, Busy, Busy

I thought I should let folks know that I have not actually abandoned blogging but have instead just been rather busy with family visits, travelling and ceremonies. I had originally intended to try and keep up with my posting during this past week or so but that turned out to be slightly too optimistic.

Anyhow, I will be back in London today and back to blogging soon after.

Until then here’s a little hint as to whats been going on:


Is there Religion in Japan?

Agon Shu's Hoshi Matsuri... one of many religious ceremonies in Japan

Agon Shu’s Hoshi Matsuri… one of many religious ceremonies in Japan

At first glance the question of whether or not religion exists in Japan seems like it is rather straightforward and may be even a slightly silly question to ask. I mean how could anyone doubt there is religion in Japan? Just look at all those Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples! And what about all those famous Zen monks or those new age religions? Aren’t those clearly signs of religion in Japan?

My answer would be yes… but despite this seemingly straightforward answer, the question continues to raise its ugly head in both academic papers and, more recently, in the comment section of my blog (in particular any time ‘religion’ is mentioned alongside the topic of ninjas)!

The basic arguments presented in both cases are almost indistinguishable. Which means that I can address the arguments of both the ninjutsu practitioners and the academics in one fell swoop… (or at least that’s the idea!)


Science & Skepticism Fest

I apologise for the long delay in posting. I have not been blogging lately due to the ridiculous sunny weather which London and myself are currently enjoying. However, now that the initial shock of seeing the sun for such extended periods has begun to wear off a little I’m going to try and get back to my regular blogging schedule (which in case anyone is wondering is supposed to be a post every 3-5 days).

Now although I have been enjoying the sun, I have not been completely slacking off as I have also been attending a couple of sciencey/skeptical events in particular ‘The Night of 400 Billion stars (and maybe some string theory)‘ at Bloomsbury Theatre and the Skeptics in the Pub/Ben Goldacre ‘Troublemakers Fringe‘ alternative to the ‘World Conference of Science Journalists’ at the Penderel Oak.

So I thought it might be a good way to get back into the blogging swing to give a ‘short’ roundup/review of both events. Here goes…


Dr. Monster and making Buddhism a Religion

NetsukeAfter a number of posts covering skeptical issues I thought it’s about time to examine another study on the topic of religion.

This time the study title is “When Buddhism Became a ‘Religion’: Religion and Superstition in the Writings of Inoue Enryo” published in 2006 in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies by Jason Ananda Josephson.

If the title sounds confusing don’t worry, the basic premise of Josephson’s article is that it was not until the Meiji period and the arrival of foreign influences that the concept of ‘a religion’ developed in Japan and as such prior to this period Buddhism was not ‘a religion’. Josephson argues that in seeking to make Buddhism fit with the ‘Western’ category of religion a number of practices and beliefs particularly those relating to demons and magic which had previously been central to Japanese Buddhism were eliminated.


The Invention of Martial Arts

Judo Throw

Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger are two Marxist historians famous for promoting the concept of the ‘invention of tradition’. This concept is based around a Marxist inspired analysis of traditions which questions the validity of any assumption that they are timeless edifices created organically and haphazardly. Instead, Hobsbawm and Ranger contend that in reality ‘traditions’ are often relatively modern constructions created in the service of specific agendas and hence are ‘invented traditions’.

This concept was originally applied by Hobsbawn, Ranger and their co-authors in 1983 to the ‘invention of traditions’ in an European and, in particular, a British Colonial setting. In 1998 however the Mirror of Modernity edited by Stephen Vlastos was published which comprised of a collection of articles looking specifically at the ‘Invented traditions of Modern Japan’. There were many interesting and quite suprising topics covered in the articles and I hope to address several of them in future posts but the one I am interested in examining now is Inoue Shun’s examination of Judo and it’s role in ‘the invention of the martial arts’.