Daryl Ilbury

Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Religious freedom gets a kick in the nuts

In Eish! on April 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

Headstart for happiness?

I find it fascinating that I can sit in a room with representatives of the three main monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) and they will each do two things:

1. Defend the sole authenticity of their individual faith; and, ironically,

2. Defend the concept of religious freedom; i.e. that we are all free to choose to belong to an opposing religion

Of course there are two subtle, seldom uttered, but intrinsically entrenched manifestos that go with these:

1. The other two religions are actually wrong; and,

2. Religious freedom is not extended to those who don’t adhere to any type of religion; i.e. if you don’t believe in God, that’s inexcusable.

Which is why the case of Alexander Aan seems to receive little in the way of any attention. Mr Aan is facing jail time in an Indonesian jail for writing “God doesn’t exist” on his Facebook page and starting a Facebook account for atheists. He also posted a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Mohammed (arguably not the cleverest of things to do, but still a statement of freedom of expression and religion).

Support for Mr Aan has been limited because atheism is shunned upon in most countries. If he were a Christian and facing imprisonment because of his religious views, you can just imagine what a global furore there would be.

Yesterday the Asian Human Rights Commission launched an appeal in support of Mr Aan.

There is of course no proof that God exists, just the evidence that millions of people around the world not only claim he/she does exist, but that they know exactly what he/she is thinking all the time and purports to be the sole authority to speak on his/her behalf; and, furthermore, that anyone else that claims the same is wrong! There’s a word for that: “ridiculous”. Psychologists call this state “mass delusion”.

I am an atheist, and I will defend my freedom to say so.

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You know you’re doing something right when…

In Science on April 18, 2012 at 10:54 am

I have been interested in science ever since my particularly brilliant but eternally absent father left me a science textbook as a 10th birthday present. I never saw much of him, but I knew he was a genius, and a scientist; so I sought surrogate fathers in more visible top scientist communicators such as Carl Sagan and Patrick Moore.

It’s also why I dedicated so much passion in joining my wife (a science teacher at that time) to the development of our science communications company back in the late 90’s. It was tremendously successful, although emotionally draining. So…when a topic was needed for my final Masters in Science Journalism project; it made sense it would have something to do with the communication of science.

The topic popped into my head in an instant: an analysis of the state of science journalism in South Africa. So far I have made contact with the office of Naledi Pandor – the Minister of Science and Technology – leading journalism academics, editors, science journalists and various organisations considered stakeholders in the coverage and communication of science in South Africa. Every single one of them, without exception, has replied both immediately and with distinct interest.

I guess I must be doing something right…or at least something seriously needed. Stay tuned…

Crusty old fart? Maybe not.

In Random on April 13, 2012 at 8:37 am

A proud crusty old fart...and his kids

Yesterday was my birthday. I am not going to broadcast my age to the world; suffice to say I slipped grudgingly out of my 40s. You do the maths. Anyway, contrary to my entrenched abhorrence of all things warm and fuzzy, such as emotions, I couldn’t escape the flashes on introspection that clawed at my conscience.

I started thinking along the lines of “what have I done with my life” and “where’s my value”?

My beautiful wife, for example, who is about my age (playing it safe here), has three top selling books under her belt; is a respected authority in scenarios and scenario planning; and finds herself in never-ending demand from all over the world for her insights, wisdom and counselling in all things pertaining to corporate strategy.

What have I done?

So I started some goal accounting. Even though I have been in radio for…well…ages, I had always set my sights on being a writer. So I went to my website where I have kept most of my columns (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde: keep your website updated, you always need something sensational to read on the plane) and realised that I have written over 200 columns, all of which have been published. At an average of 900 words per column, that’s about 180 000 words. That can’t be too bad.

And then in the last two days I received a couple of interesting e-mails. One was from Robbie Stammers, one of my editors, who told me I had been nominated for a Tabbie Award for my writing. Leadership magazine has been good for me, and has earned me a number of PICA nominations for Best Columnist.

The other e-mail was an an invite to write for Business Day, South Africa’s top business daily.

This all comes on the back of comment by a fellow student who surmised, seemingly admirably, that whereas men my age normally get themselves mistresses or motorbikes, I had decided to get a Masters.

But all that pales compared to the moment I sat down with my family for my birthday dinner last night, and proudly put my arms around our kids for this picture.

Crusty old fart? Nah…just getting started.