Faith vs. Fact – Book Review

A review of Jerry Coyne’s Faith vs. Fact. This is an educated layperson’s view of the book.


One of the things I was fortunate enough to receive this Christmas was a copy of Jerry Coyne’s latest offering, Faith Versus Fact. One recent review came to the author’s attention and was featured in this post on the blog Why Evolution is True, which takes its title from a previous book by the same author. I hope that my review is received more favourably in that quarter!



This book was one of two that I had indicated a desire to receive, the other being Robert Harris’ Imperator (watch this space…) but the fact that I had been at least part expecting to get it did not lessen the delight when that expectation was realised.

As someone who read and enjoyed Why Evolution is True (I refuse to even attempt to compare the merits of this book and Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth – suffice to say that I heartily recommend both books to give you a thorough grounding in the evidence for evolution) I had some initial expectations – copious evidence well laid out prominent among them.

Suffice to say that Faith Vs. Fact is a quite superb read. I particularly recommend to your attention chapter five “Why Does it Matter?”, which deals with a variety of important situations in which placing faith above reason has disastrous consequences (this chapter is not for the squeamish – ti contains some strong meat).

I will conclude this piece by suggesting that reading Faith vs. Fact should have a prominent place on your “to do” list.


Future Plans

A post setting out future plans after a quiet period.


It has been a while since I did anything on either this blog or my website, due to it being Christmas, and me spending a few days with family. I will be resuming posting properly from tomorrow, and for today will let you know what is in store and share some recent pictures from work.


I have several ideas for posts on the blog:

  • A review of Steve Silberman’s book Neurotribes
  • A review of Jerry Coyne’s Faith Versus Fact
  • A review of Robert Harris’ Imperator
  • Something about Spectre, which I saw on Boxing Day



Other ideas besides these will occur to me, but at the moment I have two definites:

  • A post about some London Underground playing cards
  • A post about London: A History in Maps (three of the maps do relate specifically to London Transport.



Just a few today, featuring stamps that will be going under the hammer on January 27th…


Great Centenary Charity Auction II

An account of last night’s presentation at Fakenham Racecourse.


The first Great Centenary Charity Auction was held on June 28th 2015, and the Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College London benefitted to the tune of £20,000. The second auction, for which we have already received some donations, will take place on June 29th 2016. This post is about an event that took place last night at Fakenham Racecourse which was simultaneously a presentation of certificates for those who had contributed to the success of the first auction and the official launch of the second.


The journey there was uneventful, and I arrived very early, having walked direct from Oak Street where the bus drops off down to the racecourse. Once I had located the event, which was happening at a…


Rather than use the same venue that had been used for the auction, we were in the newly opened Cool Roxy Owners and Trainers Bar (named in honour of one of the most famous horses to have raced this course).


Within the bar was a nice display which served as a backdrop for the presentations.

The bar itself had some very interesting features…

Because we had the great good fortune to have the head of The Royal British Legion, John Crisford, taking part in the presentation we also had a standard bearer…



Auctioneer and Director of the Great Centenary Charity Auction David James told everyone the names and a bit about each person who was collecting a certificate, and they received their certificates and posed for a photo (one of the pictures of someone posing with their certificate looks different from the rest because the official photographer could not do the photograph of himself!).


Here are some of the more important documents for you to see…

A hi-res scan of the certificate.
The flyer for the auction
Info about the Blast Injury Studies Centre
Early donations for auction II


The plan had been that since there are no buses running from Fakenham late enough for me to get home under my own steam my parents would give me a lift back, but they forgot. Thankfully, a very helpful member of staff at the Bull on Bridge Street was able to locate a taxi, and my parents covered the fare for me. By the time I made it home I was too knackered to check and edit the photos, so I attended to that at 6:30 this morning, before setting off for work. I will conclude this post with a few mor pictures that are tangentially connected to its subject matter…

A Monday Mixture


Not really a proper post this time, just a few unrelated things to get down and a handful of pictures.


Which? have launched a super-complaint against the railway companies demanding that they make it easier for customers to claim refunds (good timing, as we are firmly in the season for delays). I have three links for you to follow up:

  1. The post I have just put up on my London transport themed website
  2. Which?’s own press release
  3. Which?’s petition, which I urge to sign and share.




Strictly Come Dancing is over for another year. On Saturday night we were privileged to witness a spectacular grand-final in which tremendous stories attached to all four of the pros who had guided their celebrities that far. For Giovanni, it was his first series on the show. At the opposie end of the experience spectrum, Anton has been involved as a pro on Strictly since it started but had never previously made a grand final – 13th time lucky for him! Kevin made history by guiding a third successive celebrity partner to a grand final appearance (and for my money should have won the series). Aliona, the sole female pro to guide a partner to this year’s grand final also made Strictly history by becoming the first pro to guide two partners to a series victory (also Harry Judd in 2009).

The grand final was so superb that even the Judge Jeffries of the dance floor (aka Craig Revel-Horwood) managed to locate his 10 paddle.



Christmas tree without using the flash – does better justice to the lights.
Christmas tree with flash – does better justice to the tree.


A 125th Anniversary Special

Flagging up my website ( post about the Northern line, released on the 125th anniversary of that line opening


This is both another shout out about my website, and a flag up of what is probably my longest ever post.


On December 18th, 1890, the City & South London Railway opened, covering a modest six stops, from Stockwell to King William Street. This little line marked the breaking of a new frontier in public transport – making use of the blue clay on which London is built it was in deep level tube tunnels, a technique made possible by the development of electric locomotion as an alternative to steam. This City & South London is now part of the line that in my website post I dubbed London Underground’s Worst Bodge Job – The Northern line.


I hope that you will share this, and also read my website post and spread the word both about the post itself and the website.


An Updated Version of “South Kensington”

A flag-up of the latest addition to my website,


Keen followers of this blog may remember a piece I did a while back under the title “Special Post – South Kensington”. You should also know that since I produced that post which was the first piece of London Underground themed writing that I shared publicly I have created a London transport themed website,


I have just put up a post on that site covering South Kensington, as I thought that there should be a post on the site that mentions where it all started. I urge you all to read and share the new version of the South Kensington post.


Compensation for Public Transport Problems

An account of how I gained deserved compensation from Stagecoach for unacceptable delays to their X8 service between King’s Lynn and Fakenham


This post is mainly taklen up with an email exchange between myself and various people at Stagecoach, who since they took over Norfolk Green have run bus services ion my local area. Last week, after five successive journeys that were late, sometimes by very large margins I decided it was time to contact Stagecoach about the X8 route between King’s Lynn and Fakenham, which I use to get to and from work, at a cost of an hour’s wages per working day.


This starts with my opening email, sent on Friday morning, 24 hours after the last of the five delayed journeys in question…


This is the text of my initial email, with the subject being “poor servcice on X8 between King’s Lynn and Fakenham”:

To whom it may concern

I use this service to travel to and from work, and it has been plagued by punctuality problems for some time. This week the situation has finally become so 
unacceptable that I have decided I have to write to you. My working days this week were Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday, and in chronological order the 
experiences I had were:

Tuesday AM: bus was over 20 minutes late at King’s Lynn (it is supposed to leave at 8:45, and both 8:55 to Spalding and 9:05 to March which were running to time 
came and went before it).

Tuesday PM: bus was over half an hour late.

Wednesday AM: bus was 15 minutes late at King’s Lynn.

Wednesday PM: bus was over 10 minutes late

Thursday AM: bus was just under 10 minutes late at King’s Lynn (The 8:55 to Spalding was already standing in bay C, so this bus used bay B).

Thursday pm: Mirabile dictu this bus was actually on time.

Five buses out of six being not just late but significantly late cannot be considered acceptable by anyone. I also point out that as someone who is very conscientious 
about arriving in good time (especially given that this service runs hourly) I spent considerably more time waiting for this buses than documented above (5+ minutes for 
each journey). As a final point, this bus service is expensive enough that each journey swallows an hours wages. I would like to suggest that what has happened this 
week is sufficiently unacceptable to warrant financial compensation. My suggestion is that given an expenditure on my part of £20.70 compensation of £15 would be 
appropriate. If you agree, you could send a cheque to:

Thomas Sutcliffe
117E High Street
King’s Lynn
PE30 1DD

As a final point, I have various press contacts with whom I could share this story, a well supported blog and an even better supported twitter account. Just how hostile 
to you my final write up of this story is depends on the speed and nature of your response to this communication.

Yours sincerely

Thomas Sutcliffe


That afternoon I received this initial response:

Message Received: Dec 11 2015, 03:14 PM
From: “Amy Fields” 
To: “Thomas Sutcliffe” 
Subject: Re: Poor service on X8 between King;s Lynn and Fakenham

Good Afternoon Mr Sutcliffe 

I am sorry to hear the circumstances that have brought you to contact us. 
We will be looking further into the matter and I will be passing this over 
to the Assistant Operations Manager her attention who will be in contact 
in due course regarding this matter,

Would you be able to advise me if in the morning it is always the 8.45am 
bus you catch in the morning and would you be able to let me know what 
time you catch the bus home so that we can look at the correct journey.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the delays you have been 

Kind Regards
Stagecoach in Norfolk
Hamlin Way
King’s Lynn
PE30 4NG

Tel: 01553 776980

Registered Office : Stagecoach (East) Ltd, Daw Bank, Stockport, Cheshire, 
SK3 ODU. Registered in England & Wales No. 1673542

I duly fired back this response of my own:

Dear Amy

Yes – the 8:45Am is my regular morning bus, and the one that applies to all the journeys mentioned in the initial email. My regular bus home, and again the one that applies to all the journeys mentioned in my first email is the 17:38. I look forward to learning the final results of your investigations. 

Thomas Sutcliffe


Finally, this afternoon (given that I sent my initial email on a Friday morning I considered Monday afternoon to be not unduly tardy), I received this message…

Message Received: Dec 14 2015, 04:06 PM
From: “Lisa Addison” 

Subject: X8 Service

Dear Thomas,
I am writing in response to your email dated 11th December 2015 regarding 
service x8
Thank you for bringing this to my attention and I apologise for any 
inconvenience caused
I have investigated your comments regarding the Kings Lynn and Fakenham 
departures due to depart at 08:55 and 1738 hours respectively. On 
investigation and after tracking the services via our Greenroad system, 
which is GPS based, I can confirm that unfortunately the journeys stated 
were indeed operating excessively later than scheduled. One of the reasons 
for this is due to traffic related issues in both arriving into Kings Lynn 
in the mornings but also the service departing from Norwich in the 
afternoon. The second is that the vehicle that operates both the AM and PM 
journeys operates a school service prior to the X8. This more than not 
incurs lateness primarily down to departing the school grounds and then in 
turn operating light to the relevant starting points thereafter i.e Kings 
Lynn and Norwich respectively.
I appreciate that the above is not acceptable therefore and as a matter of 
course I have copied our commercial manager into this response in order 
that this ongoing reliability issue can be addressed. 
As a token of goodwill and part compensation I will post, via a postal 
order, the sum of £15 for inconvenience caused.
May I take this opportunity to apologise for the inconvenience caused and 
you can be assured that further investigations will be forthcoming into 
the reliability of the X8 service.
Yours sincerely
Lisa Addison
Assistant Operations Manager
Stagecoach In Norfolk
The Bus Station
Vancouver Centre
Kings Lynn
PE30 1DS
Tel :- +44(0)1553776980
Email :-
Web :-

I concluded the exchange by sending this brief acknowledgement…

Dear Lisa

Many thanks for getting in contact with me regarding the problems I have highlighted and for agreeing to compensate me as per my request. 

Thomas Sutcliffe


An acceptable resolution has been arrived at. I woulkd point that although I expressed myslef quite forcefully in the opening email there was no bad language on either side, and I cast no aspersions on the ability of anyone at Stagecoach to do their jobs. I do hope you have all enjoyed this post even though it includes no pictures.



Brief coverage of an important meeting that took place in Norwich this Friday.


This meeting took place at Blackfriars Hall in Norwich on Friday. It featured an excellent panel of speakers plus contributions from local activists.


With the meeting starting at 7:00PM I had either to arrange to stay overnight in Norwich or get back to my flat at about 1AM. Fortunately I was able to find somewhere to stay overnight in Norwich, which made the event more manageable.


The meeting was well worth all the travelling to get to and from it. There were many excellent contributions, both from the platform speakers and from local activists. As for one piece of future activity, there was a leaflet awaiting us on the seats…


For the rest of this post, I have two sets of pictures, first those showing aspects of the meeting…

My second set of pictures focus on the hall itself, which is in a building called The Halls, which adjoins another historic hall, St Andrews Hall.

Although I stress once again that I enjoyed and appreciated every contribution, I have also to say that I was drawn to this meeting by the presence of two particular individuals, Jo Rust (who showed considerable enthusiasm about my presence when we met just outside the hall as I was heading to take my seat) and Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK who was as impressive in person as he is in the pages of his blog.

Please share this and help spread the word, especially about January 16th.


Australian placental cats

An excellent and informative piece from a splendid blog site.

Why Evolution Is True

by Greg Mayer

Australia is a zoogeographer’s dream world—it’s the most spectacularly distinctive place on Earth, and we know why. Around 250 million years ago, most of the world’s continental plates amalgamated into a single super-continent—Pangaea. During the Mesozoic (the “Age of Reptiles”), Pangaea began breaking up, with many of today’s southern continents (South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and India) pulling away to form the somewhat smaller super-continent of Gondwanaland.

The continental breakup continued, with the various parts of Gondwana separating from one another (hence the traditional rallying cry of irredentist geologists, “Reunite Gondwanaland!”). Africa, India, and, most recently, South America eventually bumped into the northern continental masses, making for interesting geology, and—of the greatest importance for zoogeography—allowing large land animals to move between the major land masses. Such animals are not, in general, susceptible to “occasional means of transport”, as Darwin called them, that allow birds, bats, and smaller animals…

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