Tag Archives: technology

Straw Dogs; Thoughts on Humans and other Animals, by John Gray


Our guide dog puppy Riley

The thesis of this book is that we are all suffering, cruel animals and humans are bent on destroying their environment with technology. Pretty gloomy stuff but very well written. To be honest, I am not qualified to critique the book but I did read it.

Gray presses home his argument with shocking examples of humans behaving badly. He really despises humanism’s hope that things are getting better, and sees secular humanism as an empty philosophy worse than Christianity, because it does not face up to the facts as he sees them. They, ‘…have given up an irrational belief in God for an irrational faith in mankind.’ (Gray, 2003, p.38) Morality does not exist, there is no self and he ventures that what distinguishes us from animals is we, ‘…have learnt to cling more abjectly to life.’ (Gray, 2003, p.131)

Strangely I found his shocking examples rather tame compared to the cruelty and depravity in the bible. Even his thesis is biblical, though he wouldn’t acknowledge it. He reads like the Preacher in Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 ). Indeed Gray writes in the tradition of Wisdom Literature.

Gray’s assessment is unashamedly Godless. He espouses Buddhist awareness and reflection as the answer to human rapacity. Death is the release, and we are burdened by our awareness of time in waiting for it. He concludes,

‘ Other animals do not need a purpose in life. A contradiction to itself, the human animal cannot do without one. Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?’ (Gray, 2003, p.199)

I must admit I found this book made me laugh, as it was so earnest and self reflectively serious. The illustrations made me want to cry, but the bible had hardened me to the depravity of mankind and the destiny of creation. Gray’s whole argument makes sense; it has to, I offer, or faith would have no meaning. I wouldn’t put my trust in them though as someone clever will rip his ideas to shreds one day.

In the bible, God does not prove himself; argue for his own existence, he reveals himself. The sun, the moon and the whole realm of nature are as much bleak as they are inspirational. Nature is as cruel and chaotic as it is rational. God speaks into this.

Yes the bible supports the idea that we are all animals, but take Gray’s advice, look within. There you will find an inner land to explore; there God will reveal himself. Yes, to live is to suffer, but to see, to seek, is to find God and his Image in you.

I have deliberately not given detailed quotes to support my biblical insertions because I want you to read the scriptures and find out if I am right. I’m not sure what merit there is in reading this book, except that it lays bare secular humanists and updates you with examples of the depravity of man.


Gray, J. 2003 Straw Dogs. London: Granta Books 2003.

Should Christians buy Apple products?

Apple EEEK!

Now that’s a thought for the day. Stephen Foley writing in the i, (p.4, 14/02/2012) leads with, ‘Thousands of Chinese factory workers will be given the chance to detail the punishing conditions on assembly lines producing Apple iPads and iPhones…’ We also learn that workers typically earn 30p an hour, working 10 hour shifts with only one break. In 2010 in one factory there was a spate of 13 suicides or attempted suicides.

It’s a difficult one but, whatever you think, how has this made you feel? Threatened? It’s surprising how wedded we are to our technology. Dismissive? It’s not my problem and there are many other equally difficult questions to avoid each day, and I don’t need something else to feel guilty about. They work and they look good; what’s your problem? (Genesis 3:6)

Apple are incredibly brand aware. They ferociously protect their brand image and defend their product integrity. At present they are fighting to ban Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smart phone in the US because it looks and behaves like an iPhone. An illustration used recently at our church noted how Steve Jobs insisted that every part of an Apple product conformed to his design ideals, even the parts you couldn’t see. You can see the parallel aspiration in the life of the church.

What is the Christian brand and how far do we go to protect it?

Luke 4:17-22

If you get a chance read this comments on the i news story. The comments make fascinating reading. I have highlighted Apple but, it has to be said, they have owned up and are trying to do something about it.

Personal Learning Environment

Accessible at http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/tcst
I’ve started to work on a personal learning environment I can share with my pupils. I hit upon Symbaloo as being a good paltform. You simply add tiles of sites and resources, some of which are available ready made and there is a way of making your own. What I liked about thid tool was that you could create your own mix of tiles which you could share and update with pupils as your ideas evolved and more powerfully they could develop and share their own mixes.

I hit upon the idea through this video I saw of a pupil using symbaloo on a blog; Teach Web

The interface is accesible directly from the school web site and contains links to a shared Google Docs folder where teachers can upload work and collaborative documents can be worked on. There is also access to other resources that are used regularly during lessons and School Social Network sites. This is a developing idea but has already proved more popular than the Moodle site. I suspect it is the element of pupil ownership.

My first experiment was to use a collaborative document in Google Docs to enable the students to write their own Geography Exam. This was a fantastic idea as it brought about some interactive revision; some student lead assessment of what we had learned and an evaluation of what’s worth committing to memory.

Also took some of the stress out of the whole process, especially for the first timers in year 7 to see what might appear in the final paper.

Natural History Museum

This Friday saw me on a train with Y7 to Y11 heading for London. We’re a tiny school so this sort of thing is quite easy to organise and the kids are on our side so we always have a wonderful time.

We divided into two groups when we got there. There was a slight delay as the museum staff confiscated all the scissors from the pupils pencil cases then off we went to the Human Body exhibit. Great fun was had around the genetics and reproduction bit and we enjoyed re-entering the womb. We pulled leavers to learn about muscles and bones and then learned about the brain. The exhibits were hands on and multimedia but we had to intervene quite a lot  to get any learning out of the experience. Next the dinosaurs which was all thrills. Some effort had been made to make the exhibit educational but it was a lot of shock and awe.

But this was not the aim of the visit. we were there to take part in an hands-on investigation centre experience. This was lead by an enthusiastic young lady ably helped by 3 other informed and helpful assistants. The children were really in to it. They devised questions, interrogating what they saw and the museum staff helped them go deeper with their investigations. Half way through they were allowed to search on computers to answer some of their questions about the exhibits that didn’t involve measuring and drawing. Everyone was fully engaged and learning. The interaction with the staff was fantastic. An hour was soon over and everyone left happy.

What’s my point? Well the next exhibit we visited was the cocoon. A huge white egg of a thing encased in glass built on the end of the museum, a part of the Darwin Centre. It was high tech. Each of us had a card which collected what we had found through interrogating consoles about the exhibit. We could then log on to a web site when we got home and find out more. It was hard work. As teachers we had to direct and guide so that the children would get something out of this circus. The exhibit was beautiful and packed with activity and opportunity to wonder. My point is,  it took time to access the exhibit; there needed to be intervention. The technology didn’t work without the human element.

I was proud to be the teacher and really pleased with my students as they experienced our value as well as the value of the experience.