Socrates the Gadfly

The philosopher Socrates was a great nuisance to the powerful people in Athens long ago. So much so that he called himself the “gadfly”. Why was he a nuisance and why did he call himself a gadfly?

As you may know, a gadfly is flying insect with an extremely painful sting.

Socrates was a nuisance because he kept pestering and stinging the powerful leaders in Athens with difficult questions which showed up their ignorance and their failure to know what they were talking about. He kept stinging them like a gadfly. And Socrates did this in public debate – to the delight of the youth in Athens who no doubt then started questioning the wisdom of their elders.

This was too much for the exposed elite. Like Joseph’s brothers they decided that “the dreamer has to go”. In this case it was Socrates who had to go.

Like a gadfly!

So, the exposed and stung elite trumped up a charge against Socrates: “Corrupting the youth of Athens” (code for: “He persuaded the youth to think for themselves”).

We all know the result. Trial, death sentence and the hemlock.

And another result: Socrates became one of the most respected philosophers and seekers after truth, of all time.

A word of caution: Think twice before you decide to become a gadfly.

Matrix thinking and a warning during COVID19

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

The matrix below is offered to help us think about the relationship between Shut Down Options, the Economy and the Health of the Population. The matrix applies to any country. Even seeing where the matrix is wrong and how it can be improved may help. I hope so.

It goes without saying we need a vaccine desperately and also, if possible, a cure.

Our thoughts are with all those suffering during the pandemic.

In the meantime the question is: What is the best way forward for the economy and the health of the population?

Options Matrix


Photo by Pixabay on

The only option to save the economy and the health of as many people as possible is to have a limited economic shutdown combined with limited social distancing (strictly enforced), supported by a general population committed to self-enforcement.

Warning: Committed self-enforcement by the general population is vital.

Keep safe.

A huge thank you to all Health and Essential Workers world wide.

Thank you.

Do animals have rights?

“Animals have done us no harm and they have no power of resistance. There is something so very dreadful in tormenting those who have never harmed us, who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power.”
― Cardinal John Henry Newman

Photo by Tobi on

Are we happy with the way we directly or indirectly treat animals?

How honest is our answer?

The lesson of the trains and the fly

When you are faced with solving a problem make sure you choose the best method to solve it.

Often there is more then one way to get the correct answer.

And, often one way is more difficult that another.

Always ask: Are there several ways to get the answer?

Do you remember the famous example of the fly flying between two oncoming trains?

  • Two trains are approaching each other.
  • Each train is travelling at 50 mph.
  • They are on the same single track.
  • They are 100 miles apart.
  • A fly is on the front of the engine of one of the trains.
  • As the trains approach each other, the flies to and fro between the two approaching trains – going from engine to engine.
  • The fly flies at 72.7 mph.
  • The trains crash and the fly is killed.
  • The total distance the fly flies is the total of the diminishing distances between the two trains up to the moment of impact.

The question is: What is the total distance flown by the fly?

There are two ways of working out the answer

The first way is mathematical.

Good luck doing it this way. You are going to struggle. Unless of course you have a brain like John Newmann the physicist and mathematician who apparently worked it out mathematically in seconds.

The second way is to use logic.

  • How long does it take for the trains to collide? Answer: 1 hour
  • How fast is the fly flying? Answer: 72.7 mph.
  • How far does the fly fly in one hour: Answer: 72.7 miles
  • And that of course is the answer: 72.7 miles

(Tough luck John Newmann)

So, what is the lesson of the trains and the fly problem?

The lesson

When you are faced with solving a problem make sure you choose the best method to solve it.

Finally. Just for fun.

Have a look at what may gone through mathematician John Newmann’s head in seconds




Spoiler alert: I am about to punch light years above my weight!

Let us go.

“Antinomy” is not a word that pops up a lot when we are reading, unless we may be reading about logic, philosophy or theology.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines “antinomy” as:

“Antinomy, in philosophy, contradiction, real or apparent, between two principles or conclusions, both of which seem equally justified; it is nearly synonymous with the term paradox.” See definition

Let us look at some examples of some antinomies. There are apparently plenty of them in the Bible and in Science.

Biblical antinomies are behind “God’s sovereignty vs. free” will debate (compare John 3:16 with Ephesians 1: 11).

In Science, the question is asked: Is light a particle or a wave? Can it be both?

(Take it easy. I warned you that I would punch above my weight!)

So, how are antinomies dealt with?

A humble theologian might say:

“Scriptural antinomies arise out of revealed truth beyond the capability of our finite minds to comprehend. There may be theology above our anthropomorphized understanding of God and His ways that will show that there are not contradictions. I gather this may be the road down which Immanuel Kant may have traveled. To reject Kant’s approach may require Biblical interpretation worthy of a gold medal in verbal gymnastics to resolve Biblical antinomies.”

A humble scientist might say:

“The contradiction between two laws of science may only be apparent. Science may one day come up with an explanation. Perhaps one or both of the laws will be shown to be wrong. Let us keep an open mind,”

An open-minded logician or philosopher might say:

“There may be laws of logic beyond our finite ability to reason which show that there is logic beyond the law of contradiction which states that “contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time”. The perplexing antinomy may not exist in this higher logic.”

Who knows?

Antinomies are here to stay!

How do you deal with them? Good luck!

Oh yes- Don’t forget my spoiler alert!


Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash