I am Neuroscience PhD, a humanist, skeptic, feminist, avid reader, science enthusiast, woolly-liberal über-nerd, and, as of October 2015, father to the Lykketroll.

I moved from England to Norway in January 2012 and live in Lørenskog with my wife, the Lykketroll, and our two aging rescue cats, Socrates and Schrödinger. 

I am on paternity leave from the 4th of July to the 18th of November. 

The job I am on leave from is as an  Associate Professor and Head of Studies at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. My background is in child neurodevelopment (my PhD looked into the relationship between fatty acids like omega-3 and cognitive development in young children) but I now work on a hodge-podge of things roughly within the field of Universal Design of ICT 50% of the time, the other 50% of my time I am Head of the 'General' Studies (Allmenn in Norwegian) Unit, which is comprised of around 24 academics within a range of fields, including mathematics, physics, Norwegian, and technology and leadership.

In between working and doing the usual dad things,  I like hiking and running in the beautiful Norwegian outdoors, cooking and playing video games. 

If I believed in souls I would say that mine was born in Norway. 

I plan to sleep when I'm dead.

Humanistisk Salong: Relaunching the Humanist Journal of Religious Debate

In time gone by there was just one publication on humanist matters in Norway, with theoretical and popular articles issued as Fritanke magazine, but as the appeal of HEF became much broader, it was decided to publish a separate edition for the more academic side of humanism and the Humanist Journal of Religious Debate (Tidsskrift for Livssynsdebatt) was born. 

After a brief hiatus, Didrik Søderlind, the journal’s new editor, launched Edition 1 of 2012, which covers topics as diverse as anti-Semitism, religion and censorship of horror films, circumcision, humanist bibles and bioethics. To coincide with the return of the journal, a new series of Humanistik Salong events have been set up to celebrate the publication of each quarterly edition and to provide a relaxed event, very much in the style of UK Skeptics in the Pub, which I know and love, where speakers can wax lyrical about a particular theme, inform the public and kick-start some debate.

Yesterday’s launch event was attended by around 40 people, which was more than enough to pack the upstairs bar in the quirky Dattera til Hagan. After a brief introduction by Didrik, John Færseth (@JohnFaerseth), a former editor of the journal, gave a short talk about Johan Galtung, a prominent Norwegian sociologist and researcher of peace, who has in recent years been sucked into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and the idea that the Jews control the world. This blog on how six Jewish companies own 96% of world media, touched on by both Didrik and John, is a long but fascinating read. “Once we have absorbed and understood the fact of Jewish media control, it is our inescapable responsibility to do whatever is necessary to break that control … If our race fails to destroy it, it certainly will destroy our race.” Prepare to have your mind blown.

You can read Færseth’s dissection of Gatlung’s ideas here, and in this quarter’s edition of the journal. I'm afraid non-Norwegian readers will have to use Google Translate and do a little deciphering; it’s tougher going than reading it in the native language, but worth it because it’s a really interesting read.

Kjetil Simonsen followed up with a further exploration of the hoax anti-Semitic bible The Protocols of Elders of Zion, outlining its origins in Russia and its spread and effects across Europe. As part of his championing of Jewish conspiracy theories, Johan Galtung is gaining notoriety for suggesting that it might not be a hoax at all. Simonson outlined anti- intellectual, anti-cosmopolitan, and anti-liberal environments as perfect breeding grounds for racist conspiracy theories to thrive, something that was obvious at the start of the 20th century and the world wars and continuing to the present day where right-wing political and religious groups are taking vociferous root in public and political life.

Although I am definitely better at following Q & A sessions in Norwegian than before, I still find them really tiring and hard to keep track of, especially when I can’t hear people so well, so most of what followed after the talks was lost on me. At this stage, what I can understand and learn from these kinds of events is still superseded by the benefits of the social aspects. It was really nice to catch up with a few people I can now count as friends and put some real-life faces to Twitter avatars and Facebook profiles.

The publication of the latest edition the journal couldn’t have come at a better time for me as it's killing two birds with one stone; I get to read and learn about a whole range of fascinating topics, with the added bonus of practising my Norwegian. Although, I’m not sure how much Norwegian teacher will feel if I start writing about the ethics of lopping off foreskins in my upcoming language exam, however good my grammar is.

As a fan of the more academic end of humanist thinking, I can’t wait for the next edition of the journal or Humanistisk Salong.


As an aside, I can’t recommend Evernote and the Android App enough for people wanting to blog about events that they have been to. The ability to make notes and quickly attach photos and audio, which are immediately synced to the cloud, proved absolutely invaluable for keeping on top of yesterday's fast-moving discussions.

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Humanism, faith schools and cheeseburgers: my afternoon with a group of HEF confirmants

Book Review: The Doomsday Handbook: 50 Ways to the End of the World by Alok Jha