Building 83 Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is a group of fortified islands which guard the approaches to Helsinki. This is Building 83, which is used as residential apartments.

For more information, visit (or if you don’t speak Finnish).


An 1881 case of slavery?

Whilst browsing the 1881 census for members of my mother’s ancestral family, I came across a rather disturbing census entry for Weymouth in 1881. Here we have a surgeon and his wife, both originally from Dorchester in Dorset, whose children were born in South Africa. The children, who are 12, 7 and 4 have a nursemaid. The shocking thing is that this nursemaid is 11, a Zulu girl taken from her homeland, and given the appallingly degrading name of “Jumbo”. And to make it worse for this child, torn from home and her own culture, she’s described as a kleptomaniac.

I find it very hard to see this as anything other than a case of slavery in Dorset, more than 50 years after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. But then, South Africa was always a different story when it came to the treatment of native peoples by white colonialists.

Church nominees on Education Committees; Petitions Committee writes to Scottish Government (for 3rd time)

Primate's Progress

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better for our Petition to remove unelected Church nominees from Scottish Local Authority Education Committees, things got better.

nov24_0 Spencer Fildes and Paul Braterman testifying to Public Petitions Committee

The Scottish Secular Society is petitioning the Scottish Parliament for the removal of the theocratic anomaly, according to which every Local Authority Education Committee in Scotland must include three representatives of religious bodies. These church nominees are not answerable to the electorate, nor to the elected Councillors, and do not even have to declare an interest.

The Public Petitions Committee has now discuss the matter at three separate meetings. At its November 24 meeting last year, it took evidence from Spencer Fildes, who is advancing the Petition on behalf of the Society, with minor contributions from me, and agreed to write to interested parties, including of course the Scottish Government. So far, so…

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Glasgow local elections; my preferences based on secularism issues

Here’s some good information for Scottish electors casting their votes in next week’s local council elections. If you’re interested in seeing which parties take a positive position on secularity in society, Paul’s article is essential reading.

Primate's Progress

Life goes on at local level, and I urge you to cast your local vote on local issues. Here, for me,* the order of preference is clear, based on my educational and secularist concerns:

Greens > SNP ~ Labour > LibDem >> Conservative

Marble staircase, Glasgow City Chambers (click to enlarge)

My reasons are apparent below.

Under the system used, it is important to list all your preferences (or as pedants point out, all but the last of your preferences) in order

I asked all parties a series of questions saying I would publicise their response or lack of it. SNP replied with specific answers. The Greens referred me to their manifesto. Other parties did not reply at all. I give below SNP replies, and such information regarding the other parties as I could gather from manifestoes and other sources (note that this introduces sampling errors); direct quotations from party…

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Socrates is still mortal, but fallacies aren’t fallacious

Primate's Progress

Updated repost of The Fallacy Fork and the Limits of Logic, at 3 Quarks Daily

No quiet moment; Theresa May calls snap UK election (BBC)

I had been waiting for a quiet moment to write about this, but there isn’t going to be a quiet moment, so now will have to do. [Update: these words went up on 3 Quarks Daily last Monday. On the Tuesday, Theresa May called a snap UK General election]

Debaters regularly accuse their opponents of using fallacies. These can be formal fallacies, such as simple errors of logic, or informal fallacies, such as appeal to authority, ad hominem and strawman arguments, among others. If a piece of reasoning depends on any of these fallacies, so it is claimed, the conclusion does not really follow from the premises, and while it might still be true we have not been given any good reason…

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