Tuesday, 25 April 2017

ANZAC Day, 25th April 2017



Today is ANZAC day when Australians and New Zealanders commemorate their war dead. ANZAC day focuses heavily on the Great War but not to the exclusion of other conflicts. The war to end all wars was nothing of the sort and set the scene for an even greater war. As one French General prophetically remarked at the end of the Great War: "This is not peace but an armistice for twenty years".

The end of the Great War was the beginning of the modern age and the true end of the Victorian era. Men of a thoughtful temperament became changed. In the summer of 1914, concepts such as honour, King, God and Country actually meant something in the hearts and minds of men- at least to the educated classes. Those who endured the horrors of war no longer thought this way. It is no coincidence that the growth of atheism in Britain can be traced back to this time. Before 1918, atheism was virtually non-existent in England except amongst a few foppish, fey intellectuals. In 1914 people actually believed that 'right could defeat might'. Only a madman or an intellectual dullard could hold this belief in 1918. The big battalions would always prevail in the end. It has always been this way even though French strategists of 1914 thought they could win battles by sheer élan alone. Of course, morale and fighting spirit are important components on the battlefield however, they count for nought when you charge into machine gun fire in conspicuous blue uniforms as if on a Sunday parade. Of all the combatants in 1914, the Germans appreciated the most the importance of major force in war. Although the much vaunted German army couldn't resist the occasional showy flash on the battlefield which cost them, dear.

We can chart the war in poetry. The jingoistic simple patriotism of 1914 slowly gives way to a sombre timbre. The poetry of 1914 is rather mundane and lacks emotional depth while the poetry of 1917/18 is red raw with all the nerves of the poet exposed. Bitter as the cud it captures the horror of modern war and encapsulates the helplessness of men exposed to an indifferent mincing machine. Those who survived not only carried physical scars but bore deep emotional gashes that always wept and never healed. My grandfather went to war as a man full of good humour and jest. On return, he was spent, deeply reflective and spent too much time on his own.

I've chosen a piece from 1919. It is a post-war poem by the English poet, Siegfried Sasson. Please read and weep.         

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz--
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench--
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack--
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads--those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Belated Easter Post

Watch and weep
Yes, I'm well aware it isn't Easter. I might be mad but strangely enough, I have a very sane conception of the passage of time. I was fervently hoping to post this erudite piece for Eastertide but real life intruded and I had to prepare for a difficult lecture this week. Thus, my readership missed out on my wisdom and had to wait a whole week before this much-anticipated piece came to full fruition. Please forgive me.

A very good friend contacted me the other day, by email. Yes, I do have friends, but as a very wise man once said: “Never have more friends than fingers on your right hand after a chainsaw accident”. I’m starting to digress. My friend is a Christian and considers the Flaxen haired one an unrepentant sinner ripe for conversion to the one true path that leads to the light……… Anyway, at Eastertide, he thought it a good idea to direct my attention to a film entitled, 'The Case for Christ' by a chap called, Lee Strobel. The thrust of the film is to provide absolute proof that Jesus died and rose from the dead after three days.

Before tackling the film, I would like to make a few points about the concept of the resurrection from a rationalist perspective. Most Christians seem happy to accept the resurrection without considering the profound implications of their belief. I, like Paul/Saul of Tarsus, devoutly believe that if Jesus didn’t come back to life after three days then Christianity as a true belief collapses into the dust of woe and despond and therefore, is no more. Out of respect for my friend I decided to watch the film in its entirety. But even without watching a single frame I can put forth a very good argument for the falsehood of the ‘resurrection’. 

Over the past four hundred years, very clever men have been uncovering, divining (even winnowing) and refining this pesky concept called knowledge and very importantly, determining how we can distinguish between concepts that are worthy of the name and concepts that deserve to be consigned to the mental bin of false belief. When someone says to me that a dead man has come back to life, I am honour bound to ask two salient questions. "Was the man truly dead or just resting? Mayhap he was in a state of suspended animation, coma or had partaken of a drug, such as curare, which temporarily robs him of his sensibilities. Or did the person undergo true biological death?" For me, as a biologist, true death of a human happens at brain death. This occurs when the brain cells are deprived of oxygen and therefore stop metabolising. This process starts about eight minutes after being deprived of oxygen. Once cell death sets in the process is irreversible; enzymes unfettered start to digest the cell turning the insides into a biological soup. Although, cells in the muscle of the deceased may still be viable two days after brain death, the loss of brain cognitive function which necessarily follows brain tissue death, really defines our demise.

If true death is to be reversed then the natural order of causality could/would not apply. What is required is a bona fide miracle formulated by the hand of god. But I ask you, how many miracles do we experience in everyday life? A miracle, by definition, is the suspension of natural order and causality. But, natural order is how things work and it has always been this way. I would contend that miracles never happen. To accept that a single miracle has occurred carries grave epistemological consequences. If we allow one miracle to occur then why not two, or a million. A world with miracles soon becomes a morass of inconsistency- a world where acorns can grow into theologians and where the dead roam the earth. David Hume's sobering take on the problem, although written in the 18th century, is still resonating relevant today. For your edification, I quote in full:

"No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish".

As for the film: Tis total crap and does not put forth a single coherent argument and consequently is not worthy of contemplation by my prodigious intellect. All the so-called experts are Christian believers/apologists and are convinced of the resurrection anyway, regardless of any purported evidence. Hardly an unbiased panel to assess the verity of the resurrection.

I truly believe that my friend thought I would somehow be convinced by the film. When I told him that I was unimpressed and that the film skirted over the main issues he genuinely looked sad and shook his head and said. "Flaxen, you may be a god amongst men, clothed in mortal guise. A face so fair and radiant that mere mortals can only stare for but a while lest their retinas become seared and their kneecaps move about a bit, but Sir, you are also a rampant rationalist and possess, no soul".  I countered thusly: "Indicted on all accounts. To not think rationally is equivalent to not thinking at all". In mitigation to my poor friend, he's totally ignorant of the ways of science and philosophy and holds a degree in Sociology- may the gods grant him peace for he shall receive none from me.         




Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dat one lazy hound....


Hollerin' hound dog so forlorn,
The laziest dog that ever was born.
He's a hollerin' cos he's laying on a thorn,
But he's just too tired to move over.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Shagger the ferret

Shagger in his prime

I've owned a few ferrets in my time. When young I'd go out on the heath with gramps and Shagger, the ferret, grubbing for rabbits for the pot. Old grampa was a veteran of the Great War and said very little. He seemed to me, a towering giant, although my father attests that he stood a majestic 6 foot 3 inch. As a young boy, I was in awe of my grandfather. He had a certain presence and spoke volumes by being silent. And grandfather was a silent man. However, if I talked out of turn or transgressed in any way I'd receive a swift clip to the head accompanied by a few terse words delivered in his thick black country accent.

Anyways, we would catch a few rabbits and granddad would dispatch the poor buggers with a deft slap to the neck and the struggling would cease. One day, out and about, dad's Staffordshire Bindle Bull Terrier got loose and killed Shagger with a growl and a flick. I was mortified as I truly loved that ferret. Even though the nasty bugger would bite and chew heartedly at my hands when handled. Even today, when my hands get a tan, I can still see the thin tracery scars left by Shagger's tender ministrations; Shagger's legacy.


I've owned a couple of ferrets since then, but none could remotely compare to the original, and best-loved ferret, called Shagger.  

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Flaxen's random, esoteric, bollocks

Nothing is impossible, except impossibility



Conscious living requires exploration. The infinite is electrified with supercharged waveforms. 
This life is nothing short of an unveiling rekindling of zero-point fulfillment.

Who are we? Where on the great quest will we be re-energized? Humankind has nothing to lose. We are at a crossroads of coherence and stagnation. 

We are in the midst of a zero-point invocation of divinity that will let us access the quantum soup itself. Throughout history, humans have been interacting with the quantum matrix via frequencies. Our conversations with other warriors have led to an invocation of pseudo-higher consciousness.

Reality has always been aglow with starseeds whose dreams are opened by love. We can no longer afford to live with selfishness. The complexity of the present time seems to demand an unfolding of our lives if we are going to survive.

You and I are starseeds of the galaxy.
You may be ruled by yearning without realizing it. Do not let it obliterate the birth of your story. Suffering is born in the gap where beauty has been excluded. Only a seeker of the solar system may leverage this wellspring of interconnectedness.


The grid is approaching a tipping point. The vision of starfire is now happening worldwide. It is a sign of things to come.

Normal service will be resumed for the Easter post 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Enfant Sauvage

Before reading Flaxen's bespoke writings you are strongly advised to follow and digest the material on the following link. Otherwise, you may be moved to think that the author is utterly and unrepentantly.........
stark raving bonkers.



Shock breaking news from the rain drenched, wind swept, sun eschewing town of Tipton on the Tip. Whilst walking her enigmatic ferret, Shagger, Mrs Edna Mugumbo came across a troop of feral gypos foraging in the local midden pit. Amongst the mangy, filthy, unkempt and illiterate group she noticed a half grown human child not yet past the age of majority. The child crawled on all fours and aped the animal's atavistic grunts. Edna noticed that the child appeared very comfortable with the wild animals and even engaged in troop activities such as stacking scrap metal into piles; fashioning pegs from the finest dried dog shit and all the while managing to avoid paying tax, of any description. Mrs Mugumbo alerted the relevant authorities and the intrepid 'Gypo Squad' under the auspices of inspector, Enoch Mugumbo (no relation) of the yard swung into concerted inaction. After reviewing the evidence in the local hostelry, 'The Feltching Ferret' and imbibing 15 pints of the local brew, 'Ole Throat Gobbler' the dauntless team descended onto/into the midden pit like men deranged.

After much swaying and staggering they managed to secure the gypo cum child but only after running a gauntlet of fortune tellers and purveyors of smelly, crudely fashioned pegs. At one stage during the proceedings, they were offered an alabaster bust of Michelangelo's David endowed with a suspiciously large phallus. As one critic was stirred to note: "Michelangelo's David has little to do with the fluid genius of the high renaissance, as such, and indeed takes too much from Classical Greek sculpture without adding the subtle but majestic sweep of the genre. The effect is almost a caricature and bemoans a florid abandon of the classical roots it labours and seeks to emulate. Arse".

Finally, after being told that, collectively they had lucky faces and that they would all inherit great wealth from an unexpected source, they managed to escape with the child and a whippet called Bob.

The child was whisked to Tipton General Infirmary for the Infirm and there examined by the renowned Doctor, Josef Mengele. The good doctor noted that the savage infant displayed all the hallmarks of a gypo child and hence was deemed non-human. Consequently, the child was consigned to the experimental wing of the hospital where Mengele injected coloured dye into the gypo's iris in order to mimic Aryan humanity.

On a happier note, Bob the Whippet has been re-homed with a nice middle-class family in Solihull. To date, the whippet has managed to steal all the garments off the neighbour's clothes lines, collected sundry copper wire from various industrial locations and all this without paying a lick or pant of tax.

We certainly live in wondrous times. Double arse.



Inspector Mugumbo. in repose

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Philosophy and Science?

Behold, a Great Man


Scientists, in general, are ignorant of philosophy and conversely the average philosopher is not well versed in the scientific method. Fair enough you say, philosophy and science are two completely different rational belief systems without overlapping areas of interest. Philosophy is mainly concerned with uncovering knowledge by thinking very hard about the topic in hand and Science, on the other hand, is about empirical observation of the ‘real world’ and developing ideas to explain that reality (what is reality?). Some would argue that theology completes the trilogy of knowledge systems. I would disagree and argue vehemently that theology is not a rational belief system at all, but I don’t have space, or remit, to espouse my reasoning in this post. I would further contend that science and philosophy do have a point of contact and that contact lies in the realm of epistemology. At this point, I should be drawing a Venn diagram, but frankly, I can't be arsed (arse).

In brief, epistemology is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature, methods and limits of knowledge. It asks the following questions: What constitutes knowledge and how can we distinguish between true and false knowledge? As scientists, our endeavour should be to uncover new knowledge so it stands to reason that we should have a rational and coherent appreciation of what ‘knowledge is’, if it exists as a meaningful concept, at all. This is where we introduce the philosophers, or philosopher, in this case, as I will be dealing with one extraordinary man, Karl Popper, who is considered the most influential philosopher and commentator of science in the 20th century.

Popper was born in Austria in 1902 and took up tenure at Canterbury University, New Zealand in 1937. In 1946 he was offered a teaching position at the London School of Economics where he stayed until his retirement in 1969. Enough biography, Flaxen. His early work focussed on differentiating valid empirical scientific theories from none scientific appreciations of existence, such as metaphysics. It could be conceived that Popper extended the work of the British empirical British philosophers such as David Hume. If you would like to know more about Hume, click on the link and be enlightened.

Popper thought that there should be a valid distinction between knowledge which is inherently scientific and knowledge which is not scientific. In this respect, Popper was not unique or original in his thinking. His originality lies in his concept of falsification. Thus, counter to how most scientists think, theories instead of being reinforced by experimental evidence, the scientist should actually strive to contradict and hence falsify his cherished theory(s). In contrast, adherents of metaphysical theories are mostly concerned with making observed reality fit their theories’ prediction. Sigmund Freud’s concepts are of this ilk and consequently, have no truck with real science. To be fair to Freud, he never claimed that his theories were verifiable by empirical experimentation. Intellectually, Freud was a direct descendant of the ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and clearly was an unrepentant adherent to a lost intellectual age. 

Popper believed that pragmatic scientists strive for truth. However, attainment of empirical truth is forever elusive and always lies just beyond/behind  the epistemological horizon. Thus, empiricism can never provide absolute evidence for a particular theory. On the contrary, scientists, according to Popper, should constantly and consistently strive to refute their theories. Of course, all this sounds horribly counter-intuitive but from a logical perspective, it is perfectly consistent. However, whether scientists actually behave in this way is entirely a different story.

Frankly, as a practising scientist, I am not enamoured by Popper’s postulations. It has an air of over-intellectualisation (not a real word- but I'm sure you get the drift) which is not in tune with real life. Philosophers have a tendency to do this. Whether they are describing what happens in real life does not seem to bother them, at all. All is subsumed to apparent intellectualism. Furthermore, Popper seems not to consider the human psychological perspective. Few scientists set out to falsify theories, more often their experiments are devised to confirm beloved postulates. In the event of the data not fitting the theory, it is a brave scientist who advocates the abandonment of a well-established theory. Much work and experimentation would have to be done to overturn established scientific paradigms. And indeed, a revolution in scientific theory is relatively rare. In most cases, the theory is not discarded but modified and basic tenets remain unsullied. There are more technical objections to Popper's contentions but I am not inclined to outline here. Any university level textbook on philosophy will give a solid appreciation of the problems. But of course you could do what everyone else does, these days- go check out Wikipedia; the font of all wisdom and knowledge, allegedly.