Monday, October 09, 2006

Just me ranting . . .

Companies can be really annoying. I doubt anyone needs convincing of that, but my current gripe is rather amusing, so I’ll share it.

When I moved into my new flat I phoned Power Company (I won’t use the real name) to let them know to start my account from my move in date, and that the old occupiers had moved. After a month I duly got my first bill, addressed to me. I also got a bill addressed to ‘the occupier’, for the account of the previous occupiers. It started:

Dear occupier,

We notice you have now moved from this address: please settle your account . . . etc

I phoned Power Company to explain to them that ‘the occupier’ was an indexical, and that while it used to refer to the people who had the unpaid account, it now refers to me. I also tried to explain that ‘the occupier of flat X no longer lives in flat X’ can never express a truth, but without much success.

I thought that was the end of it until I received a letter from their solicitors (again, addressed to the occupier) demanding payment. And the funniest thing is, when I phoned them up to politely explain again, they chastised me for opening someone else’s mail! Again, I tried to explain that if you write ‘to the occupier of flat X’ on the envelope, then that is to address it to me, but they didn’t seem to be getting this.

On another totally frivolous note. I’m interested in whether particular issues of religious faith can be reconciled with science. The current hot topic here, I guess, is creationism. Some Christians appear to think they’ve got reason to hold that the Earth is only six thousand years old, and that humans were created in close to their present form. This seems straightforwardly incompatible with the scientific view that we evolved over rather a longer period. But perhaps not. Consider the eternalist/presentist debate. The eternalist thinks there is a past time with dinosaurs, the presentist thinks there is only the present time, but that it is true at the present time that there were dinosaurs nevertheless. I think the creationist should hold that there are past times only six thousand years into the past, but that it is nevertheless true that prior to this such-and-such was going on. It’s true that there were apes who would evolve into humans; but nevertheless, there are no past apes who are our ancestors. That seems like a perfectly consistent view. I wonder if I can get a grant to put this view across to US high-schools. Would that count as knowledge transfer?

Sorry this post has been a bit frivolous. That’s what we get for working in something like philosophy. Oh for the rigour and intellectual honesty of science, where they’ve just discovered that having a cup of tea can relax you. Well, no one could have told you that! – I’m glad the research money is being put to good use.

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