If you have have not read Schrödinger, read this first. As this is a disturbing and not an easy read, perhaps the BBC would be a little easier to grasp.

Schrödinger, The Elusive Intellectual Cat – An Oration
If you prefer to listen than read, you may do so here.


This post contains material which may be difficult for those of a sensitive disposition to read and view. If you are likely to take offence at the site or sight of an iron maiden, then you are advised not to proceed but to press the back button on this webpage, to clear your cache, and remove any links to this page from your web-history. Please do not remove any links to the home page but retain them for future delectation and degustation.

If however you are you have understood Schrödinger, then you will understand that no felines have been hurt in the production of the image, which for the most part has been produced by artificial intelligence as instructed by the mind of Coco, which has a modicum of real, though still imaginary, intelligence, and if you have ever visited the Far Side you will also understand that the image is not an attempt to produce a pastiche of the works that you may find there. The skill, albeit aided by computer generated imagery, used in this production cannot match the skill of the artists on the far side, nor their ability to represent and interpret unlikely, but not impossible, social circumstances in a novel, and often bewildering, manner, so as to catch the readers and viewers off guard in their understanding of the words written and the images presented.

Finally, did you hear the radio presenter talking about Coltrain recently? He, in the generic sense, though a musician spoke of always listening to music as a listener and not as a musician. Coco thought that rather odd, because the only way you can listen to music is as a listener. You cannot listen to music as a spectator for the organs of spectacle are not susceptible to providing interpretable responses from the brain (except perhaps for those of allodynia), you must use the organs of hearing to understand the perturbations of pressure in the atmosphere which envelops you. Whether, if you are a musician, you are capable of laying aside your musicianship when listening to another musician is a moot point, but not relevant for there is no disagreement between being a listener who is not a musician and a listener who is, except perhaps when it comes to an interpretation or criticism of the performance to which the listening had been applied. Both the listening musician and the listening non-musician heard, and listened to, the same sounds.

Penultimately, yes, that should precede finally, but Coco now considers that Coco has written enough, though you may disagree and consider that Coco has written far more than necessary (Coco would not wish to disagree with you over your concluded opinion for then we would both waste much hot air, or finger energy should the discussion, debate, argument or conversation proceed in a written form over that which is of less than ephemeral interest to any of the readers of this page) and that this page may now be long enough to have prevented the image below from being viewed before you had read the warning above. If you have not read the warning, please return to the top of the page to read it. If you consider that it is safe to do so, you may proceed.

Please note that if you do proceed, you confirm that you have read the warning, have taken heed to it, and shall hold harmless Coco, his representatives, this website and anyone and everyone else should you suffer any feeling of offence after proceeding other than yourself. Furthermore, if you feel any sense of let down after proceeding, you also hold yourself responsible for following your fingers rather than your nose and your conscience and thus provoking the response within yourself.

You have been warned!

Kitty considered the position carefully and, despite her feline disposition, realised that whatever Schrödinger may have said, there was only one way she would come out of the box.


It was a recommendation of and a listening to Professor Angus Dalgleish, physician, oncologist, pathologist, medical researcher and author that prompted the thoughts.

The Professor makes a good point. There is a lack of consensus in many areas of science, and perhaps especially true in the context of cosmological and the design of bio-chemical machines, where radically contrary views may be held by main-stream scientists, but who rise up together when anything approaching a Biblical perspective on the known facts is introduced to silence the proponents of what is an alternative and more credible explanation than their own. Even Coco’s use of the word design in the preceding sentence will provoke the ire of such opponents of the scientific method to which they pretend to adhere but abandon when it does not suit their ideology or philosophy.

It is difficult however for the layman to assess and test the different points of view and ultimately comes down the question, as Coco read elsewhere in a different context, ‘who are you prepared to believe?’ whilst at the same time keeping only a tenuous hold on the current scientific thinking, for as has been seen very clearly in the last 500 years at least, current scientific thinking can be rapidly overturned by a new and aberrant ‘fact’ or a new explanation for a well-known fact that had previously not been adequately explained.

What Coco would suggest however is that we should not believe those who seek only to silence the opposition and are not prepared to let you listen to any alternative presentation or explanation.

The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbour comes and examines him. Proverbs 18.17

Anti-scientific woke

A dangerous work(around)

You may have heard the expression: Rubbish in, rubbish out.

Forty years ago Coco used a early version of SuperCalc (SC2 – a spreadsheet like Excel for those who cannot remember) for the preparation of monthly reports under the operating system C/PM. It was ‘cutting’ edge at the time using simple lists of transactions which were converted into a report showing monthly, cumulative and projected figures against a flexible budget. Coco shall not go into the technical details of this. It was not many months before Coco noticed that the report sometimes did not balance.

How could that be? The original data was complete, and balanced. Careful examination of the code indicated that nothing had been left out. It was only when Coco had set the code to run step by step, updating the display at each step, that quite by accident the problem revealed itself. As you will know, and if you do not, ledger accounts have two sides, a debit (on the left) and a credit (on the right). The code identified separately each debit total and each credit total for every account. This is important for the grand total of the debits and the credits must agree. In order to obtain the balance on the account for the report, the difference between the debits and the credits on each account must be determined. That was a very simple action. Put the debits into column A, the credits into column B, calculate the balance in and pick it up from column C.

This is where the mistake occurred. As SuperCalc accepted the values in column B it erased the value in every 16th row, and only every sixteenth row, in column A.

It is said that, for a given set of inputs a computer will always give the same result. You may give it that set of inputs any number of times, nothing will ever be different. If something is different, then it you must look at the programme not the inputs.

Coco never found out what it was in the SuperCalc code that prompted it to do this, but it was consistent. The correct solution was to fix SuperCalc, but my solution was not to try to fix SuperCalc but to fix the data to work around the error. Coco added dummy accounts into the system, each of which would have no data assigned to them and would fall onto these 16th rows. After that the reports balanced. It was a concern however that there might be something else lying around which would creep up unawares. We found such things were lurking later, when the then victorious Excel now and again got an arithmetic calculation wrong. The problem is still with us today if we expect say +(1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1) to be 0, it is not quite zero.

So we consider the mRNA vaccine, where it is reported (Covid study: mRNA vaccines could be fine-tuned) that there is a one in three probability that the ribosome will incorrectly read the data held in the mRNA. The solution is, so they say, to use non-slip mRNA, which will eradicate the incorrect reading of the data. They speak of the data as code, and code it is, just as this note is itself written in an alphabetic code which we read with our eyes and interpret with our brains.

The data, the code, however is read (just as Coco’s data was read by the SuperCalc code) by a ribosome, which is itself a complex chemical machine with its own code that interacts with the data in the mRNA. If one in three times the reading of the data produces a different result it suggests that it is something in the ribosomes that are reading the data that is different. Changing the data may, as it did for Coco, skip the thing that we do not understand that actually makes the difference, but the thing we do not understand is still there waiting to catch us out in different circumstances.

There is another possibility. Coco mentioned above that a given set of inputs will always yield the same output. We have seen many situations in the electronic world where this did not seem to be the case. Careful examination showed however that the starting conditions, which we thought were identical were not. A prior process, which may or may not have taken place, influenced the results of the later inputs. There was, if you like, an unknown input over which we had no control, which changed the result. This was unlike Coco’s SuperCalc problem.

Should we not try to understand why the same set of data, the same code, produces different outcomes one in three times before we say we have fixed it? Coco did not fix his problem, Coco merely worked around it, not knowing what other problems may arise later. What is it that causes the ribosome to read the data ‘incorrectly’ one in three times? Or is it that it is the two in three times that it does what we want it to do that is the incorrect result?

The unintended result of the misreading, or possibly correct reading, of the mRNA is the production of a few unintended proteins. Coco thinks that the implication is ‘harmless’ proteins, but that is not actually said. So the workaround is to change the mRNA, the data, in such a way that the ribosome will always read the data as we want it to: but do we understand why it read the original data in two different ways, not just occasionally but quite regularly? What else was going on? What was the unknown input that caused the data to be read in either of the two different ways? We have not addressed that, have we?

To address the matter with a workaround in the data is both reckless and negligent. When Coco used a workaround, he was only dealing with the reporting of how money gathered and how it had been used, the reporting is important, yes, but mRNA affects people’s lives.

International Lymphoedema Framework – Uganda Framework

There is excitement in the world as the ILF begins an epidemiological (for those of you who do not understand that word, let Coco stand alongside you) study to ascertain the prevalence of lymphoedema in Uganda.

It is well known that lymphatic filariasis is endemic in tropical countries, alongside other mosquito borne diseases, but the real extent of the problem and its expression among the people is not properly understood.

Lymphatic filariasis is only one of the causes of lymphoedema in East Africa, all of the other causes, whether primary or secondary are also present, though the mix will be different than in Europe, and other parts of the world.

The International Lymphoedema Framework, through its chairman, has provided funding for the study which will be lead by Dr Arthur Bagonza of Makerere University in two districts in the village regions of Uganda.

Basic training in the identification of three stages of progression of the disease has been completed in Kampala this week and the lead field workers are ready to take the tool out into the field to complete their survey. Dr S Narahari of the IAD, India, and Professor Christine Moffatt will act as referees to confirm or vary the stage assessments made by the field workers.

The survey will assess the numbers and proportion of individuals in the community affected together with the impact of the disease upon the quality of life of the sufferers. The results will be used to inform the Ministry of Health, who have given their unqualified support to the study, in the allocation of resources to combat the problem and relieve the suffering.

Dr Arthur with Dr Alfred Mubangizi, Assistant Commissioner Health Services – Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Ministry of Health with the rest of the team who attended the inaugural meeting.

The Ugandan framework, lead by Dr Arthur Boganza and Lydia Kabili, is a newly formed framework within the International Lymphoedema Framework and benefits from a longstanding relationship with Prof. Linda Gibson and Makerere University.

Venn diagrammed

Venn diagrammes often convey important information in quite straightforward, easy to understand ways. Take this one from TR for example, it illustrates clearly some of the issues and benefits of a mixed work-life pattern that involves working from home and in the office. They call it hybrid working:

Hybrid working

As may easily be understood from the diagramme, when you are in the office you should spend your time planning your social activities, and when you are at home you should eat well. In both places you should set practical goals and manage your time in order to achieve these goals, whilst presumably at the same time, though it is not said, doing enough to satisfy your reviewer that some work has been done.

That was the view in August 2021. A quite different view was given just a year earlier in September 2020 by the Salo organisation in this diagramme:

Worklife balance

There is clearly no overlap between work and giving to the community. All those so-called community and charitable activities of an organisation are therefore ruled out and can only, on the basis of this understanding, be understood as self-congratulatory tools of the organisation.

In a similar vein we have a contrast between home and family and well-being. There is no overlap, with the suggestion that if you wish to have a home and family you must accept the consequences of poor health.

Both of these different expressions of the overlap between the home and the office, which some call the work-life balance, but here seems more like the worklife balance, arose as a result of the consequences of the coronavirus infection which had consequences across the globe. Coco rather thinks that the designers of the diagrammes somehow fell short of their target and missed the point. The prize surely however for one of the best Venn diagrammes however must go to the designer of this one:

Misplaced values

which was published seven years earlier in August 2014, and quickly reported both (sic!) by The Baron, The Poke, BMO to Coco (on the 22nd), and several other organisations.

It shows quite clearly that, as every reporter knows, the facts must not get in the way of a good story.

It also perhaps helps one to understand why in 2018 (13 July) there were ten reasons, [the video appears to fail on the webpage, but may be found here on Youtube]

Ten reasons

but by August 2023 there were only five reasons to join the business, none of which actually relate to the business itself.

Five reasons

The images used above may be copyright, so please be careful with them. They have all been used in the public space, so Coco considers that their reproduction here is fair use, and is in any event for educational purposes only to help the reader understand how things can go wrong with Venn diagrammes. Of course in saying this Coco assumes that the designers of the diagrammes did not intend to convey the message that they do in fact convey. In the manner of a Hitchcock movie, Coco may be mistaken.

Could any more be said?

Only a reporter truly knows.

Whilst not many disabilities disqualify, dysanagnosic dyslexia must surely of the proof-reader a disqualifier be.

Debate and dogma

Debate is valuable. Debate and disagreement are necessary in science. Debate is dangerous.

Three statements and it may surprise you, or else it may not, that these statements are not incontrovertible; indeed, they provoke as much controversy as these:

Dogmatism is valuable. Dogmatism is necessary. Dogmatism is dangerous.

Why should this, that debate is dangerous, be?

Often it may arise because reputations or careers are at stake. If the foundation of your life is that science which says A is true and another comes along and asks the question: How do you know A is true? Have you considered this set of data? Does it not suggest that A may not be true in all circumstances? then from your perspective the very asking of the question is a personal challenge not a scientific one.

So in a very simple case, you may notice that if you pump 1 kilocalorie of energy into 1 kilogram of water its temperature rises by 1°C (A is true). If therefore you conclude that when you pump 110 kilocalories in its temperature will rise by 110°C, you may be disappointed unless you also increased the pressure under which you heated the water to at least one and half atmospheres. Change of state effects would disrupt the thermal elevation – you may even lose enough water in trying to do so for the espresso that you would have had in order to recover from the falsification of your paradigm had you not the change of state occurred. A is not always true, or if it is true it is true only in specific well-defined circumstances, and so your understanding must be improved. You may want to hold onto your idea that A is true, but the data is against you, or is it? Look again. You may think that you must now say A is not true, but the actual position may be that A is not true only under certain, perhaps clearly defined but perhaps not, conditions.

We should note here, though it is not our main point that it is folly to base our paradigm of life upon our own transient scientific understanding of the way the world works. We are here speaking of derived paradigms, not underlying paradigms which we shall address shortly.

Scientific methods and historical analysis

Now our understanding of the relationships between heat, temperature, pressure and water is quite well understood. We are dealing with a simple (but it is a three body problem) molecule with well (is that really so?) understood properties. Experiments may be easily defined and conducted in well controlled ways, and repeated indefinitely by unrelated individuals who will, within the limits of observable experimental measurement, always obtain the same results, but our understandings elsewhere are not quite so clear. Experiments may not be possible or, if they are, controls may be difficult to impose. We may not know or even understand all of the factors which may influence the outcome. When Rutherford fired his artillery at a sheet of little more than tissue paper he expected nothing other than to punch holes in it. The data obtained however required a rethink. Some of the artillery shells, alpha particles, bounced back off the thin film of gold leaf.  Whilst Rutherford was able to describe what was happening, a proper theoretical understanding of what was taking place would not be available until several years later.

We not only require then data, which Rutherford had, but we need a robust framework within which that data may be interpreted. The old ideas of phlogiston and æther were abandoned when it was found that they could no longer explain the data that became available. Now however in the presence of the hypotheses concerning the warping of space one may wonder: how can something which is the lack of existence of anything, ie emptiness, be warped. Does not this suggest the presence of a substance, an æther, which is presently yet undetected, in that emptiness which is the thing that is being warped? That however is not a discussion for this article.

When we being to look at things rather more complex than water, though they are structures in which water is a major component, and indeed the symptom if not the cause of the problem, such as a biological machine, driven itself by smaller complex biological components, with its own messaging, delivery and disposal systems some of whose functions overlap and which are mutually dependent upon each other as well as upon the other components of the machine whose efficient function is also required for the maintenance of the systems of communication, we may have to acknowledge that our understanding of the behaviours of this system is somewhat less than our understanding of the behaviour of water. We are also faced with the fact that we cannot design experiments to perform on these machines, for that would be unethical, which would allow only one part to function whilst holding the others in stasis. We are therefore left with only the possibility of RCT (randomised controll(ed) trials) and clinical observation. These may result in significant quantities of data, from which tentative conclusions may be drawn until we have a robust theoretical framework from which explanations may be drawn and predictions may be made.

In some circumstances we have to resort to forensic analysis of the data which has many useful, indeed valuable, techniques associated with it, where there is no possibility of repetition of a single one time event, in order to understand it. Now I need say no more here than that forensic examination is simply another word for guess work in which the actual solution after all the possible explanations have been considered and shown to be wanting is the ‘impossible’ explanation. Darwin left this teasingly in his hypothesis concerning origins laying down clearly the grounds on which his hypothesis must be tested and leaving later generations to show the wantonness of his hypothesis.  Mendel began this work and it has continued in many guises to the present day with perhaps greater and greater skill being shown than of which Darwin ever dreamed in the elaboration of the hypothesis in the vain hope that somehow it may be possible to avoid the consequences of a failure at the quite simple test that he proposed. The resultant edifice is not even built on sand, it is built upon the impossibility of two mutually exclusive requirements existing at the same time, not to mention the uncountable (though not in the mathematical sense of the word) number of violations of the principle that change must only take place in simple single steps.

The possibility then must be left open that whatever conclusions we draw may be falsified by another set of data drawn from a different RCT or set of observations in other circumstances.

Contemporary events

In recent days we have heard many say that you must follow the science, but the science has been inconclusive and contradictory. At times the message drawn from this has been inappropriate and non sequitur. For example to say that acquiring immunity from a particular disease will protect others is patently untrue . If I have immunity from say TB then I am more likely to carry the disease unknowingly and therefore become a greater danger to those whom I meet who have no immunity. We only need to think of the case of Mary Mallon to understand this. I am being more socially responsible by not acquiring immunity, for then I would know when I were ill and could take appropriate steps to protect others. There are many other things that could be said both about the messages drawn in respect of the recent global infection and the quality of the data on which they are based, again however this article is not the place for that discussion.

Underlying paradigm

A second reason perhaps for debate being seen as dangerous is that it not only challenges the conclusions drawn from the data but undermines the paradigm which lies behind the specific interpretations of the data. The paradigm is held dearly by those who hold it, for they have an abhorrence, which some are not afraid to display, towards alternative paradigms within which alternative understandings of the data may be held, and which each can yield contrastingly different conclusions than the opinions generally held.

The hostility to any alternative view, even if it can be supported by rigorous mathematical calculations using the same data and mathematics that the majority view use, leads to a stifling of debate and ultimately to a stagnation of science. The silencing of those whom you see as your opponents in science is detrimental to progress.

It is exceedingly important in science that you recognise those who disagree with you as being honest scientists. None of us are infallible, and none of us have a perfect understanding. Archimedes was wrong. Pythagoras was wrong. Galileo and Copernicus were wrong. Einstein and Bohr were wrong. Only two of us were right, and I cannot remember who the other one is.  Of course I jest, but you, dear reader, know what I mean.

It is not, at least from a scientific perspective, wrong to hold different underlying paradigms for to hold a paradigm is necessary in order to offer interpretations of data, but we cross the line when we say that our interpretation is the only valid one.

The correct position – to encourage debate

Every true scientist lays down a challenge for every other scientist: This is my hypothesis A is true, disprove it if you will, please. His delight is, and if not is, it should be, that you take up that challenge. If every other scientist does not rise to the challenge then no progress will be made and we shall do nothing more than promulgate the same false ideas with which Galileo agonised. It is not until we have demonstrated that A cannot be false that we have any real certainty that A might be true. The scientist must live dangerously, expecting that every one else will wish to prove him wrong and in failing to do so demonstrate that he might be right.


Debate is valuable for it is the life blood of progress. Debate and disagreement are necessary in science for we do not have a complete and perfect understanding. Debate is dangerous for it challenges our well beloved but imperfect understandings of how things are and may require us to change.

The corollary ‘Dogmatism is valuable. Dogmatism is necessary. Dogmatism is dangerous.’  has also been demonstrated in this short article. It is left as an exercise to the reader to deconstruct and reconstruct the article appropriately.

International Lymphoedema Framework

I have just returned from the International Lymphoedema Conference 2023  #ILF which was held in Nottingham. It was a wonderful scientific, medical and therapeutic conference for any who would have any interest at all in lymphoedema in its many and varied forms. Much of the science went over my head, especially when presented by the Dutch, but it was still possible to detect some conflicting hypotheses and the robust debate among and between the participants. Such debate demonstrates a very healthy environment for the development of sound science based upon real-world evidence. Among the participants were the #theila the International Lipoedema Association whose stall was well worth the visit. What has lipoedema to do with lymphoedema? You may well ask, but I shall offer no explanation here for fear of misleading you, save to say that those who know know. Do visit their websites:
International Lymphoedema Framework
International Lipoedema Association

ILA Stall

More pictures from the conference – password required – here

More may be read about the involvement of ILA in the conference here. Note especially the engaging discussions: Thought-provoking discussions led to a deeper awareness of the challenges faced by the lipoedema community. It is a well thought out understatement indeed.

Total energy consumption

One cannot but be impressed with the work of Greene and his students, not just at winning the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, but for the 40% improvement in the efficiency of solar cells that resulted from the application of their work. The report may be read here: (Queen Elizabeth Prize: Solar team wins prestigious engineering award)

We are also provided with an impressive graph which appears to show that in 2021 solar production of electricity was nearly 50% of that provided by coal. Closer inspection reveals that not all is well with this graph. The percentages do not add up to 100. Something is missing, and most of the missingness can be filled by oil and nuclear, nearly 14% in 2010 falling to 10% in 2021. I am aware that the graph runs to 2022, but I have to restrict my comments to 2021 not having additional data for 2022.

It looks good, but is it?

The second problem we have is that it does not take into account the increase in consumption of electricity since 2010. In 2010 total production was roughly 21TWh, increasing by 25% to 28TWh in 2021. The graph shows nice falling lines for coal and natural gas, which are of course big carbon dioxide producers, as if we are reducing our dependence upon them. If we apply the 25% increase in consumption to the graph however all of the lines tend upwards.

The real problem however is that we appear to be looking solely at electricity consumption. This rather distorts the issues, giving a false impression of how well we are doing in our progress towards the combat of the factors that influence unwanted climate change. A different analysis can be seen if we look not only at electricity consumption, but at the energy costs of electricity production. Coal then comes in at 36%, solar at only 4%. For coal you get out in electricity about one third of what you put in. When you factor in other uses of power, such as transport (shipping, petrol and diesel vehicles, etc) then the picture yet quite different as you may see in the graph below.

Quite a different picture when total energy costs are factored in

Given that the figures behind this have been compiled by BP if there is any bias in them at all it is likely to be in favour of fossil fuels, rather than the other way round, but I have assumed there is no bias. Solar costs are about 3TWh for 2021. Coal is about 44TWh. There is quite a good discussion on explaining why we need to look at the production costs of the power we use not just at the power we consume.

The good news is that renewables, which consisted of only 14% of total energy use in 2010 in 2021 consisted of 17%, and increase of 45%.  This mitigated the increase in fossil fuel use, but we still managed to increase out consumption of fossil fuels by 12%.

Let me add in closing that the BBC graph is accurate. It describes precisely what it claims to describe. It could make a nice marketing tool for an electricity supply company that wanted its customers to feel good about buying from them, but it does not provide the information we need to assess where we are in our efforts to decarbonise energy production.

Summary figures:TWhTWh
Fossil fuels121480136018112%
Other sources1901927691146%
Fossil fuels86%83%
Other sources14%17%
Detailed figures may be obtained from the data set available at


I came across a new word today and thought to look it up. Well, it is not exactly a new word, but it was used in quite an unexpected context. The abyss is what we expect it to be, a deep, unfathomable hole, pit, mine labyrinth or whatever else may have the physical quality of depth, such as the sea. We speak of the abyss for depths beyond the fathoms we can count on two hands. So what is abyssal?

We also speak of the unfathomable wisdom of God. Paul declared: ‘O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable are his ways.’ His thinking is unfathomable, and therefore we could say abyssal. We speak of quiet rivers that run deep, in the context of men of few words but who think deeply, and when they speak, speak wisely. We could say of them that they are abyssal thinkers. They have abyssal thoughts. Just in case it needs to be said, but I hope the next few words are wasted, abyssal (deep) is not abysmal (out of the deep). Abysmal has a similar meaning, but it is, perhaps we could say, the negative form of the word. Abysmal thinking does not bear the fruit of wisdom but rather of folly.

So, when I heard the word used of thinking in a sociological context my understanding was quite straightforward. We need abyssal thinking in order to evaluate, analyse and understand the particular set of data that was being presented to us. I could hardly disagree. Deep thinking is indeed required to understand a complex data-set. Sometimes I wonder why we use jargon like that – data-set – a list of facts. We have to marshal our facts, place some on the right, and some on the left, and between them, the abyss. Woe to you who place the facts on the wrong side, your conclusions will be as defective as your placements.

But no, so it seems, we do not need abyssal thinking. We have to abandon it. At that point I understood that perhaps there is a meaning hidden somewhere in the abyssal depths of language to the word which I had failed to grasp. A quick read of a Wikipedia article might be a good place to start before reading the academic paper, so I looked up ‘abyssal – sociology’. Yes, Wikipedia has an article. What happened next may have been an artefact of the bug within my browser, but this is the article as you may see (or otherwise) in the picture below.

Abyssal – sociology

Yes, I have edited the screen shot. I have removed the endless (following an example and to use the word incorrectly) list of other open tabs, cut out my favourite icons, and removed some of the white space at the bottom of the screen, nevertheless what you see in this picture is what I see in the browser. I took it to be a message about the true meaning of abyssal. Just as it means unfathomable, it is itself unfathomable, as I was about to discover.

The article does exist. Refreshing the page brought it back out of the albanic abyss. Now recently I found myself in agreement with a sociologist, but today perhaps not. The opening words of the paper seem innocuous enough: Modern Western thinking is an abyssal thinking. I think (sic!) that that statement would even be true firstly without the first word and then also without the second. When we think we do it in order to reach a conclusion. We have to work something out, and that working out requires that we separate one side of the arguments from the other. There is an abyss between the arguments for (pros) and the arguments against (cons). Our thinking must identify that abyss and correctly position the evidence around it. (My quantumly minded friends may leave aside any notion they may have of the possibility of tunnelling through the abyss, and fans of Star Trek should for the time being refrain from using their warp drives). This is the way that logic works.

The paper then goes on however to present quite a different understanding of abyssal thinking. The abstract gives the game away by telling us that in the context of a particular struggle that a new kind of thinking is required, a post-abyssal thinking. I have misunderstood the use of the word abyssal. Indeed, if I have any kind of correct understanding at all of what is being said, it would not matter what word was used, as it is simply being used as a peg on to which to hang his argument that the ‘West’ (whatever that may mean) has a lot for which to answer if it is going to redeem its ‘colonial’ past, suggesting indeed that what is actually required is the overthrow of ‘Western’ thought.

We could have easily as said ‘Modern Western thinking is Tweedledeedum thinking‘. The paper does identify some parts of some Western thinking that is flawed, and clearly where thinking is flawed (Tweedledeedum) then it should be abandoned. A little careful abyssal thinking will help us find out those flaws.

Secondly, the paper does not appear to be about active thinking, that is what we do when we work with our minds to solve a problem, but rather about passive established opinions, which may be held thoughtlessly, and which may drive our actions and our views of other people.

I expect to be told that an overthrow is not what is meant. I disagree. The modern solution to many problems has involved an overthrow. The French revolution fell into the trap. Marx clearly propounded it, and we see the consequences in the countless deaths both in the Soviet Union and China as a consequence of the ruthless application of his doctrine. It is not true to say if we destroy everything we shall have a better world, but it suits those who want power in their own hands and not the hands of somebody else.

Thirdly, the paper appears only to be destructive in its intent. It characterises all modern Western thinking as abyssal (actually, I think it really intends to say abysmal), but there is much in Western thinking that is quite different to the straw man that it sets out.

Where is honour, respect, personality and individuality given to women if not in Western thought? Where is equal honour given to all men and women before the law without distinction as to class, caste, or religion if not in Western thought? Where is the rule of law respected above the rule of the despot if not in Western thought? And what is the invisible hand beneath this, if not the hand of God in his Word, which shows what he in his providence has established for the good of mankind? Without the influence of the Word of God in our society, we would be as bleak as those that are characterised here as on the other side of the line. I am not suggesting that all is as it should be, but certainly it is the case that not all is not as it should be.

I would like to take some words from the paper and apply them in a different context.

To give an example based on [events in the past twenty years, Cathay’s] modernity may be characterised as a socio−political paradigm founded on the tension between social regulation and social emancipation. This is the visible distinction that founds all [eastern] conflicts, both in terms of substantive issues and in terms of procedures. But underneath this distinction there is another, invisible one, upon which the visible one is founded. This invisible one is the distinction between metropolitan societies (Peking) and colonial territories (Hong Kong). Indeed, the regulation/emancipation dichotomy only applies to metropolitan societies. It would be unthinkable to apply it to colonial territories. The regulation/emancipation dichotomy has no conceivable place in such territories. There, another dichotomy would apply, the dichotomy between appropriation/violence, which, in turn, would be inconceivable if applied on this side of the line. Because the colonial territories were unthinkable as sites for the unfolding of the paradigm of regulation/emancipation, the fact that the latter did not apply to them did not compromise the paradigm’s universality.

Perhaps a Marxist would disagree with the suggested emendations.

As for abyssal thinking, I suggested at the start that this word does indeed characterise our thinking, whether we are Western, Eastern or Southern, but let us be careful that it does not also characterise the outcome of our thinking. Our words to others should not be abyssal, lest they be unfathomable, incomprehensible and abysmal.

It is only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who is unfathomable, unsearchable, inscrutable, abyssal, which we may sum up in but one word, ineffable, but revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Glory to his Name!

The paper by the way may be found here:

And a refutation of abyssal thinking in the context of racialised bilinguality here:

Health Care or Profit

I am astonished. I find myself in agreement with a sociologist. ‘The market in health care is not a means of achieving competitive efficiency but a pseudo-market for creating private value at public expense.’

But I suppose agreement comes in that he is speaking to the least favourite part of my education in accounting, economics. Now when a sociologist speaks to economics one would wonder whether you need to find a pinch of salt, but then you already know that you need more than a pinch when you read any of my comments on economics, so my agreement with the man does not lend any support to what he wrote.

However little I understand economics, the use of words like competitive efficiency and pseudo-market, or even market on its own let alone any pseudosity about it, are warning signs of the first degree.  As an aside, if you know what a warning side of the second degree is you are at least one step ahead of me; please share your thoughts. The conclusion however stands up to all the scrutiny of the much less glamourous side of accountancy. If a service is provided by a non-profit organisation then it will, all other things being equal, cost less than an organisation that is set up for profit. This is an obvious conclusion for there is one significant cost within the organisation set up for profit which is not in the non-profit organisation. That additional cost is not taxation it is the return to the owners of the organisation. That return may be in the way of dividends or the super-profit of the owner being the amount in excess of the wages he would have been paid had he been employed by the organisation.  

Of course not all other things are equal, and the inequalities in the other things will drive the cost up or down. The costs of raw materials are likely to be different for the greater purchasing power of the National Health Care System (NHCS) should be capable of procuring raw materials more cheaply than the other organisations. Staff costs may be different in the other organisations for several reasons:

  1. The other organisations will not be bound by the national agreements of the NHCS;
  1. rates may be higher as a consequence of the expectation of staff that working for a private organisation should be remunerated at a higher rate then working for the NHCS
  2. rates may be lower as a consequence of the transfer of the pension costs away from the NHCS
  3. Base staffing levels within the NHCS may be kept lower if an other organisation is providing staff. The risk of having more staff than can be usefully employed is passed over to the other organisation.
  4. The other organisation will wish to be compensated for taking on the staff level risk.
  5. Where base staff levels are inadequate, the NHCS becomes dependent upon the provision of staff by the other organisation who are then able to charge a premium for the staff they provide.

On balance I would consider that it is likely that staff costs will be greater when taking into account a value for each of these factors, notwithstanding that in some local cases the costs may be lower. I am sure there are economists out there who will point out that I have missed many other factors which influence the cost as not all things are equal.

I cannot but then agree, though I say it with a heavy heart being on the purer side of the spectrum of scientists, with the sociologist that the market in health care is a means of creating private value at public expense.

Or, as the man on the Clapham omnibus might say: Those who wish to make a pretty penny out of health care will relish the thought of its privatisation. If we wish to retain our NHS then efforts to privatise any part of it should be resisted.

The sociologist is Robert Dingwall. In he is reviewing two books which analyse the response in France to the presence of Covid-19 in the population, and draws interesting comparisons with the UK’s response.  I commend it to you.