A 2016 Update

It’s been a long time since I posted on the blog and it’s also quite late in the year to be giving a 2016 update, but I hear there is no time like the present to get things done so without further adieu…

2016 has been quite a busy year for me.

The first major milestone (and one four years in the making) is that I submitted, successfully defended, and completed the requested minor corrections for my PhD thesis. So I am now done with my DPhil at Oxford and have become Dr. Christopher Kavanagh. All I have left is the official ceremony to attend (which I will do in November) but there is no more work to be done on the thesis. As you can imagine this is a pretty big deal for me and one that I am still internally celebrating, although externally nothing has really changed in my day-to-day life.

Me prior to my thesis defence in Oxford’s archaic garb

The next noteworthy development is that I managed to secure a post-doctoral research position at… (wait for it)… Oxford! Yes, that’s right, I am staying exactly where I am and continuing to work as a member of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (ICEA) f0r at least the next three years. More specifically I will be continuing to work with my PhD supervisor, Harvey Whitehouse, as a coordinating researcher on a large scale ERC funded project that is set to examine rituals and their effects on people using a diverse range of approaches. Location wise I will remain primarily based at Masaki Yuki’s social psychology lab in Hokkaido University in Sapporo but will be travelling about to field sites/meetings outside Japan as and when is necessary.

So that’s what has been going academia wise. Now before the new project kicks off in November I am working hard to finalise a bunch of journal articles based on data from my thesis and also finishing up some older papers that I had put aside during my PhD studies.

In terms of blogging I have been much less productive. I was kindly offered the opportunity to start a new blog over at Patheos which I did and you can find here. It’s called Cognitive Demons and it addresses very similar topics to what I was writing about here, minus the more personal political commentary. However, you might also notice that I haven’t exactly been consistent with my posting there- which is a shame and something I am hoping to rectify.

And this leads me to the issue of what to do about this blog. I have a strong attachment to this blog not just because of how long I’ve had it but also because this remains my own space where I have complete independence and do not need to be concerned with things like ‘for profit’ copyright restrictions. This is not to suggest I have experienced any problematic editorial oversight at Patheos but it is still the case that this space feels more like my personal ‘home turf’.

When I joined Patheos I checked if it was possible to ‘cross post’ my content so that the blog here wouldn’t languish without any content updates for months and was reassured that there was there no issue with doing so. Unfortunately the only thing I failed to factor into my considerations was whether I would remember/be motivated to do so myself and it seems that this was really the only crucial factor. With that mea culpa I am now giving notice that over the next few days I will be migrating a copy of all of the existing Cognitive Demons content over to here. My goal in doing so is that I would still like to maintain one location where all of my dispersed writing can be collated and easily referenced, regardless of where I end up writing and blogging.

You might also remember that I was previously attached to the Genealogy of Religion blog run by Cris Campbell. The website has been dormant for over a year and I haven’t heard from Cris so I’m guessing that he also has gotten a bit snowed under by his academic work also. If so he has my sincere sympathies but whatever the case I won’t be posting on the site for now so just a in case you were wondering update.

I’ve also been writing some articles for Aeon- a website that hosts short and long form essays and documentaries. I just recently wrote a long piece about definitions of religion, ‘religion’ in Japan and the widespread bias of focusing on beliefs rather than practices. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and the response it garnered.

If interested you can check it out here: Can Religion be based on ritual practice without belief?
I also wrote a shorter post about the debates over Easter Island: The Easter Island controversy has no single simple answer.

So that’s how things stand right now.

Any questions or things you are wondering about feel free to ask in the comment section but expect updates and content to start appearing again over the next few days.

Side note: Finished writing this during the first Trump/Clinton presidential debate- it’s just so infuriating to watch

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!

Hiatus coming to an End!

The End is NearI believe the traditional way of announcing a hiatus is to do so before it is due to happen rather than when it is about to end and I also believe that there are many self evident good reasons for sticking to that traditional order.

Nevertheless, throwing caution to the wind, I am now announcing the end of my non-announced hiatus!

So that schedule of a new post every 3-5 days I mentioned about a month ago will now be kicking in.


Simon Singh Case Response Roundup

Spread the News

This post originally started life as a roundup of the links available on the Simon Singh case before the support meeting or the announcement that he intended to appeal the decision from the preliminary hearing. It has grown continuously since then and so now I am going to reorganise it so that it provides a chronological and comprehensive list of all the material available online on the case. The most recent coverage will thus always be available around the bottom of the list.

Before getting to the links two sites worth visiting and signing up to for updates are the Sense about Science site for the campaign Keep Libel Laws of Out of Science and the blog of skeptical, legal blogger Jack of Kent who has been providing detailed coverage and legal analysis of the case since it was first announced (the Bad Science bloggers also do alot of good work though they are also covering alot of other stories). Ok so now onto the links.

Updates will be announced here:

UPDATE 23/09/09: In light of the next fast approaching court date wherein Simon and his lawyers will try to ‘appeal to get his appeal heard’ I thought I would update the links. This will take a few days so please bear with me but I’ll try and get everything. Interesting developments with the Lib Dems and Richard Dawkins too so plenty to keep up with!
UPDATE 1/08/09: After Simon’s article was reposted so widely seemed like a natural time to update. SOrry it’s took so long been rather busy as of late!

UPDATE 17/07/09: You’ve guessed it more links!

UPDATE 30/06/09: More and more links and some more developments regarding the complaints. Have also started to re-edit the page so it’s a bit more relevant to what’s happening now!

UPDATE 18/06/09: Wow! A lot has been happening lately, new links being added now… going to try and update this weekly now!

UPDATE 11/06/09: A bloggers work is never done. New links added.

UPDATE 10/06/09: Alot of new links added which include some interesting developments… (thanks to Le Canard Noir in particular for bringing some surprising links to my attention).

UPDATE 06/06/09: New links added mostly courtesy of another new and nicely organised roundup over at Zeno’s blog– check it out!

UPDATE 04/06/09: Simon announces he will appeal! New (very  important) links added... see the bottom of this page!

UPDATE 03/06/09: New links added.

Anyone who comes across any I’ve missed please leave a link in the comment section and I’ll add them in. Alright, here goes: