Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of Democracy

September 24th saw the Labour leadership, for the second time in a year, being handed over to Jeremy Corbyn. After winning 61.8% of the vote, he secured his place once again as labour leader with an even greater mandate than last year. Over half a million people voted in this election, allowing Corbyn to collect 313,209 votes in his favour; 199,980 more than that of his competitor Owen Smith. The process is, of course, wholly democratic; anything less would certainly be rejected within the UK. Although, with our generation never having experienced anything different, are we certain that democracy is in fact the best for our country?

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Is it a good idea to lift the ban on new selective schools?

The recent proposal to end the restrictions on the creation of new grammar schools has caused great controversy as Theresa May confirmed that her government will reverse the ban which started in 1998. Many oppose this move, claiming that it will increase inequality in society. But are they right?

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Why Has the Great British Bake Off Moved to Channel 4?

On the 13th of September, the company that makes the programme, Love Productions, announced that after the end of this current season, the next season would be aired on Channel 4.

Pulling in well over ten million viewers  on a frequent basis, it has been described as a ‘cash cow’ due to its reach and also due to the fact that five million viewers are under the age of 34. For a programme aimed at a channel with an average viewer age of 62, this has been considered to be a remarkable feat by bosses.

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A Perfectly Imperfect World

One of the prime arguments against the existence of God is the presence of evil on Earth. The problem of evil creates an impossible clash of God’s qualities – otherwise known as an Inconsistent Triad. God is viewed as omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient; but with regards to the presence of evil, the three are logically inconsistent. If God was omniscient, he would be aware of existing evil and suffering in the world; if he is omnipotent, he can put an end to it and if he was omnibenevolent, he would want to. Yet suffering persists, therefore many use the presence of evil to disprove divine existence.
Saint Irenaeus was a 2nd century philosopher, who recognised this conflict of divine ability and proposed what is now known as the Irenaeun Theodicy. This entailed a two stage process in which humans require free will and the experience of evil in order to develop into perfect moral beings. It is in this way that he burdens the blame of earthly evil on God, but with good cause.
He suggested that humans were originally created in the image and likeness of God and, having fallen from this into an immature ethical state, we still retain the potential to achieve moral perfection. God had to give us free will and by doing so he had to also allow the freedom to disobey him, thus permitting the possibility of evil. What’s more, God cannot remove this evil because he would then have to compromise our freedom.
Through struggle and experience of consequences for our actions, we understand the meaning of morality and can begin to distinguish between what is ethically right or wrong. By doing so, we choose to honour God through our actions as oppose to succumbing to instinct. Irenaeus concludes stating that, following this deliberate process of human development, we return to ‘children of God’ having regained God’s likeness.
Irenaeus believed that suffering was firstly useful as a means of knowledge; for example, hunger leads to pain which equals a desire to be fed. Through pain, we have a greater sense of empathy and a more compelling incentive to help lose less fortunate. Not only this, but he also regarded evil as an effective tool for character building. In other words, suffering offers the opportunity to grow spiritually by assessing the consequence of evil actions and amending moral principles accordingly.
Ultimately this theodicy allows the existence of evil and God to be simultaneous. From this perspective, it becomes comprehensible that God may have permitted suffering for the benefit of human values. Through this whole process, humans develop into the likeness of God – consequently evil is not only explained but justified.
John Hick, a theologian and philosopher of religion, has since developed the opinions of Saint Irenaeus, emphasising greatly the importance of individual human development. He likened the goodness of one’s own actions to that of a robot, if God had engineered humans to be perfect from the beginning. Love and morality would be automatic and without deliberation. Thus, he resolved, not genuine. God desires genuine love and obedience, so for that reason, free will is necessary (and with free will, as mentioned before, comes the unavoidable presence of evil).
Their opinions are mirrored by that of many others, including British philosopher, Richard Swinburne who agreed that to make free moral choices, humans must have experience of consequences preceding their own evil actions, so natural evil must exist to provide such choices. In his words “we would never learn the art of goodness in a world designed as a complete paradise.”
However, within this theodicy lie a number of crucial problems. On a fundamental level, through this perspective, everyone is subject to suffering, everyone is a victim. The only way, Irenaeus states, to justify suffering imposed by God is to offer a supreme life in heaven. Therefore every individual, no matter their own actions, must be repaid for their anguish in eternity in heaven – which many would argue is simply unjust. This results in a dangerous lack of incentive both for moral decisions and for individual soul development which is, in itself, detrimental to the aim of the theodicy. Similarly it does not correspond with the biblical teachings of eternal punishment; if every human moved to God’s likeness, there would be no requirement for hell despite the lessons of the Bible.
Finally, and perhaps most contentious, is the extent to which God allows this evil. Surely, the same moral lesson would be achieved through the murder of 1 million, as oppose to 6 million Jews in the Holocaust? How can a God who allows extensive and unnecessary evil remain truly benevolent?
By admitting God’s responsibility for evil on earth whilst justifying his intentions, St Irenaeus’ Theodicy defends the probability of an omnipotent/scient/benevolent God in the face of an evil world, successfully providing explanation for the presence of evil and suffering. God deliberately fashioned an imperfect world in the best interests of humanity – and though this earth is not designed for the maximisation of pleasure or minimisation of pain, it is perfect for the purpose of soul development. Despite this, the main problem is that if the intention of the designer was to encourage good over evil, then the system would be at fault, considering the outcome from both is the same.
There are such a great number of theodicies, including this one, that try to demonstrate how both evil and God can be in existence, with varying levels of success. Though many are convincing, none are without their flaws, with no exception for that of Irenaeus.

Facebook, Trump and Freedom of Speech

Whatever your opinion may be of Donald Trump, he has mastered the art of social media. Boasting over 6 million followers on twitter (the most out of any presidential candidate) his account regularly posts incendiary remarks to garner attention from the media and to fire up his supporters. Through a cleverly crafted series of hashtags designed to discredit opponents and pander to voters (#LyingTed, #LowEnergy and of course #MakeAmericaGreatAgain) Trump remains controversial enough to keep himself in the spotlight and entertaining enough to maintain and bolster his followers.

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Artificial Intelligence and Go

In 1997, a game of chess redefined the way in which we viewed computing. Gary Kasparov, the current World Chess Champion, faced off against Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer developed by IBM. At a time when computing advances had been constant and exponential, many viewed this match as the ultimate test: Man vs machine. In fact, some went so far as to say that the future of the human race hung in the balance. But many were confident in the human ability – after all Kasparov was unbeaten, at the age of 22 he was confidently the greatest living chess player. The only problem was his opponent wasn’t living.

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Eating Disorder Awareness: Time to Act

I passed a sign this week that said 1 in 5 people at university will be affected by a mental health problem; I couldn’t shake this off for the rest of the day. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was the number 5, over the past 3 years 5 of my friends have had anorexia, or maybe it was the fact that a few hours later I got a text to say that one of my friends was going into hospital, or maybe it was the fact that it’s national eating disorder week.

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Doping in Sport- is it really an issue?

The use of performance-enhancing drugs, or doping as it is more commonly known, is becoming more widespread and more effective in the modern world in all areas of sport as technology develops. Currently possibly the sport most affected by doping is athletics. During the past few days the situation has worsened significantly as Russian athletes have been put on a provisional ban from the sport following an increase in doping tests and doping awareness as a whole within the sport. This increase in the efforts to try and prevent doping has arguably been caused by the appointment of Lord Coe as the President of the IAAF who has made his dislike of doping in athletics by going to the extent of saying that his beloved sport may not have a future if doping cannot be eliminated.

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Looking Up

 

In an interview last year, actor Chris Pratt, stated that to fight the objectification of women in the Film industry was to ‘Not objectify women less, but objectify men just as often as we objectify women.’ However Pratt has not realised male characters in Film, amongst other role models, have been objectified to something for a very long time: Gender stereotypes. And there have been no benefits.

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Kanye West: A Study in Egomania

In today’s society there is no escaping the infamous Kanye West and his polarizing antics. He has always attracted public scrutiny for his actions in the past with his, perhaps most criticised and memorable act of infamy being his interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the 2009 VMA’s. This prompted outrage in the media and even President Barack Obama weighed in on the incident, labelling him ‘a jackass.’ However it could be argued that as of late, he has reached new levels of shocking and baffling idiocy.

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