It’s day 24. Traditionally this is a double window, so you get two videos.
First up is a clip for people who are not having a good Christmas. At the worst times, where can you find hope as an atheist? One answer is from the Christian philosopher Boethius who wrote the Consolation of Philosophy. Written by a man awaiting execution it includes the idea that History is a wheel and that life is in constant change. The clip below is from the film 24 Hour Party People where Boethius and his wheel make a couple of appearances.
Finally here’s the last song from Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People from last year. If I’d realised someone had uploaded the whole thing then I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the advent calendar. But it’s a good song to finish with.
Wherever you are have a great holiday season.
Carl Sagan hasn’t had much of an influence on me. I’ve read and enjoyed Demon Haunted World, but I’ve never seen his television series. Science inspiration for me as a child was Magnus Pyke, David Attenborough and Tomorrow’s World (before the BBC relaunched it to death). It’s my loss obviously as Carl Sagan was clearly a gifted writer, and Pale Blue Dot is as moving as any poetry you’ll find.
The idea for the collection of videos as an advent calendar was inspired by Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People put together by Robin Ince. He’s one of the best comedians that draws inspiration from science because he joyfully uses it as a tool for highlighting absurdity as opposed to a self-consciously worthy way. I highly recommend his Radio4 series (with Brian Cox) The Infinite Monkey Cage available as a podcast.
If there are going to be songs, then obviously Tim Minchin has to be singing one of them. I chose this because it’s a some that can make me feel homesick for a place I’ve never been.
Douglas Adams fell in love with the Kakapo, and it’s one of the creatures he talks about in this video from earlier in the advent calendar. If you haven’t watched that yet, you should. It’s long but well worth it. If you have seen it, this is what a kakapo looks like.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of fall of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite from orbit. It’s an example of how scientific progress so often doesn’t make much sense without the social context. David Hoffman shows why the rest of the world was worried by the presence of a small metal ball that was briefly in orbit.
Dara O’Briain and David Mitchell demonstrate why I don’t believe in telepathy. It’s not so much the fact that psychics and telepaths do no better than cold readers. Cold reading is a skill, and someone who knows how do it it probably could leave you feeling stunned and a little bit violated.
It’s simply if telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis etc is real, why aren’t any animals using it to an evolutionary advantage?
There’s a few tracks you could choose from the Streets if you wanted an atheist song. Never went to Church might be a more obvious choice, but Everything is Borrowed is a bit more upbeat.
Christmas is a time for family. Here’s Louise Leakey talking about the work she’s done with her family, as she dug up some of yours.