Archive | March, 2011

Welcome to Think Week 2011

21 Mar

(From February 23rd, 2011)

It’s sounds like joke, but this week is “Think Week” at Oxford.  Not quite sure what they believe we’re doing in all the other seven weeks of term, but nonetheless this week has been dubbed so and is characterized by special guest lecturers centered around athiest, humanist, and secular themes.  This makes sense once you realize that these lectures are sponsored by none other than the British Humanist Association and the Richard Dawkins Foundation among other private donors.

Now we have yet another problem with the title; for calling this week “Think Week” implicitly implies that athiesm/humanism/secularism all support the activity of thinking more than those of more religious persuasions.  Hmmm, interesting.

The reason I bring up “Think Week” is because last night I went with some friends to hear a public discussion between famed evolutionary biologists and researchers Richard Dawkins and A.C. Grayling.   Disappointingly, it was not a debate, since it’s hard to have a debate between two people who agree with each other. However, we did enjoy watching a very interesting and very cordial armchair discussion between the two high-profile scholars.

The event was held at the Oxford Examination Schools — a huge and magnificent building full of multiple floors of classrooms and lecture halls.  All tickets had to be applied for or bought in advance and even then, the line to gain admittance stretched halfway down the street.  There were too many people to fit into one of the large lecture halls so many people had to sit in the overflow room across the hall…including us.  It wasn’t bad though, after finding a seat that was strategically close to the overhead speakers, we simply watched the discussion unfold by way of video camera and projector that was connected to the other room.

The discussion commenced in typical British fashion, both characteristically friendly and characteristically verbose, in which both scholars entertained what it would take to make them believe that God (or the supernatural in general) exists.

Their discussion was interesting, but — as several people pointed out during the time for questions — Dawkins and Grayling’s processes of reasoning seemed rather circular.  “Supernatural” by their definition refers to anything that defies or supersedes the laws of physics.   …but then they later stated that, as scientists, they only take into account laws of physics when viewing the world…so in other words they require physics to explain something that exists outside the laws of physics.  Anybody detect a possible problem here?

I’m not always one for philosophical debate and I try not to get myself wrapped around theory but it was definitely an interesting discussion and I’m glad I went.

(For more info go to



21 Mar

As an American in the old motherland it’s easy to feel that you have relatively little claim to cultural sophistication. It’s not even a contest really:  England has castles and cathedrals; America has Super Wal-Marts and burger joints.  However, lest you feel discouraged by such seeming cultural inequity, don’t forget that there’s at least one day reserved to revel in our unique American heritage.  I’m talking about the Super Bowl of course!  Even the Brits are jealous of it.  I haven’t heard them say as much, but I am almost sure that they envy our new-and-improved take on football.  They’re football teams don’t even have mascots…Clearly inferior.

Anyway, there was about 15 of us that piled into Rowena and Andrew’s apartment to eat and watch the game together.  Because of the 5+ time difference the game didn’t start here until 11 pm.  And, yes, we stayed up for the WHOLE entire thing.  We didn’t go home until 4 am.  Sure, most of us had class/schoolwork the next day but collectively agreed that it was totally worth it to stay up.

The group was pretty equally divided between Packers fans and Steelers fans.  I had decided about a week before that I was going to be a Packers fan for two reasons: (1) I’m friends with Chris who’s from Wisconsin; I even watched a prelims game with him to show my moral support. And (2) the Packers are the only team associated with food. Cheese! Yummmm.

So we sprawled out in Rowena’s living room, ate cheese, and watched the game…peppered with explanations of the rules to our British friends…and criticisms of the ridiculous halftime show (“What the heck is Fergie doing?” “Black-Eyed Peas need to quit” and “Thank you, Slash and Usher for being the only redeemable qualities to this halftime”…etc.)

By the end of the night the mixed crowd became rather segregated, with the guys sitting on one side of the room, intently watching the tv, and the girls (a.k.a. the FUN people) goofing off and eating chocolates on the other side of the room.  Oh, how I love the Super Bowl.

1 Term Down! Celebrations and Musings Upon Hilary…

18 Mar

Today is my last full day in Oxford. Tomorrow I’ll leave behind the city of dreaming spires and embark on a 4-week long adventure that will take me through the Irish coast, the Scottish Highlands and eventually the countryside of Eastern Europe. My anticipation mounts and thoughts race ahead to the next few weeks as I sit here amongst piles of scattered clothes, suitcases and papers I’ve managed to accrue over just one short term. But even as I thumb excitedly through guidebooks and fresh Euro bills, I cannot forget the fun I’ve had so far and all the events that have led up to this very moment. I’m speaking of all the friendships, all the sights, all the lessons learned inside of the classroom and out, that have made the last 3 months some of the most colorful and enriching months of my life.

So I now take time to reminisce about such events…and I hope that in doing so I can make up for my lack of frequent updates and terrible blog neglect! Maybe once I master the evasive art of self-discipline (my official project for Trinity Term!) then you’ll actually be able to read the ‘Daily Tea’ on a daily basis, BUT for now here’s the reader’s digest/comic book version of my last few weeks…enjoy!

See you in Ireland next!  ❤