Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Top 20 Celebrities with Degrees in Philosophy and Religious Studies

One of the teachers at my old school had in his classroom a set of posters of celebrities who studied History at university, including such luminaries as Gordon Brown, Michael Palin, and Shakira.

I thought the posters were a great idea, and was impressed by the amount of time my colleague had obviously spent putting the posters together. So, deciding that it was time for the RS department to step up to the plate, I set about creating my own set of posters of celebrities who'd studied Philosophy or Religious Studies. I was right about it being a time consuming business: It took me hours to track down the names and create the posters.

To my slight annoyance, my colleague later told me that he'd found all his posters on the internet. History teachers eh? Always cutting corners...

Anyway, I still think that knowing that there are a few celebrities who've studied Philosophy or Religion is a good way to help students think about the question "what could I do with a degree in this?" So in no particular order, my top 20 famous people who studied Philosophy or Religion at university are:

Win Butler - Musician (Arcade Fire). Studied Religious Studies at McGill University.
Bill Clinton - Former US President. Politics, Philosophy and Economics, University of Oxford.
Iris Murdoch - Author. Philosophy, University of Oxford.
Katy Brand - Writer, comedian. Theology, University of Oxford .
Ricky Gervais - Comedian. Philosophy, University College London.
Christy Turlington - Model and businesswoman. Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy, New York University.
Aung San Suu Kyi - Burmese politician and Nobel Laureate. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
Yvette Cooper - Shadow Home Secretary. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
David Cameron - Prime Minister. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
Miles Jupp - Writer, comedian. Divinity, University of Edinburgh.
Ed Miliband - Labour Party Leader. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
Martin Luther King Jr - Civil Rights Leader. Theology, Boston University.
Matt Groening - Creator of The Simpsons. Philosophy, Evergreen State University.
Bruce Lee - Actor and martial artists. Philosophy, University of Washington.
Moby - Musician. Philosophy, University of Connecticut.
Yann Martel - Author (Life of Pi). Philosophy, Trent University.
Justin Vernon - Musician (Bon Iver). Religious Studies, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Mike Brierley - Former England cricket captain. Classical and Moral Sciences, University of Cambridge.
JB Gill - Musician (JLS). Theology, Kings College London.
General Sir Richard Barrons - Commander, Joint Forces Command. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.

There are a number of other names I could have added: There are dozens of other politicians with Oxford PPE degrees, but I'm not sure our current crop of MPs are the best advert for the study of Philosophy. Footballer Joey Barton is studying Philosophy at Roehampton University, but I've left him off my list because, well, he's Joey Barton. Another footballer, former Charlton Athletic defender Richard Rufus, apparently studied Theology, but doesn't appear because I can't find the details of where he studied or at what level. There  also seems to be a bit of doubt about whether Bruce Lee actually attended Washington, but the rule of cool keeps him on my list.

I'd be keen to hear about any other names I could add to my list, particularly if they are well-know in the UK, female (not enough on my list at the moment), or from a field that isn't currently represented.

The original set of posters I created can be downloaded here (you'll need a TES login).

Saturday, 2 November 2013

A Suggestion for Neil Godfrey

Photo credit: sxc.hu
Neil Godfrey has written an interesting blog post about the inspiring story of Jack Andraka, a 16 year old high school student who, with a bit of help from Google, Wikipedia, and some open access journals, has developed a revolutionary new test for pancreatic cancer.

Andraka wrote to 200 established scientists asking for the help he needed to put his theory to the test. 199 politely declined, but one scientist, Anirban Maitra, a Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, offered Andraka assistance, in the form of lab access and the support of a postdoctoral chemist.

Neil questions whether Andraka would have been taken seriously if his area of interest were Biblical Studies, rather than medicine. He writes: 

The ideological nature of [Biblical Studies] will never allow it… Andraka the Bible student would be scoffed at as not having qualifications, not having published, not being a “real Scholar”. And the one out of 200 who might be sympathetic to his views would probably have to remain silent for fear of ridicule and security of tenure. 

Now, having studied Religious Studies at degree level, having no job in academia protect or religious beliefs to defend, I have to say that I disagree with Neil’s assessment of Biblical Studies. However, I think that the story of Jack Andraka suggests a way of objectively testing Neil’s claims about Biblical Studies, and what's more, I’d be more than happy to work with Neil to do this.

Overall, it seems that Neil is offering a hypothesis about Biblical Studies, which is:

A) A proposal from a non-scholar requesting assistance from Bible scholars would receive a more negative response than the proposal from Jack Andraka. Therefore:

B) Biblical Studies is more ideological than the sciences.
I think that we could design a straightforward experiment that would test whether statement A is true, and as a consequence establish the validity of statement B. The experiment would work something like this:
  1. We know that Jack Andraka received a positive response rate of 0.5% (one positive response out of two hundred requests), so an equivalent request to Bible scholars should be receive a lower response rate, assuming that statement A is true.
  2. We could agree upon and outline an idea that we think has some merit and that might improve Biblical Studies in some regard. 
  3. We would then contact 200 established Bible scholars, requesting as non-scholars some form of assistance necessary to develop our idea (e.g. translating a particular passage, help learning a language, access to a particular text or artefact.)
  4. We would then compare the positive response rate of Bible scholars with the positive response rate that Andraka received (0.5%).
  5. If our experiment resulted in a lower positive response rate from Bible Scholars than Andraka received (i.e. below 0.5%), then statement A would be proven and I think we would have good grounds to think that, by implication, statement B is likewise true. Conversely if the positive response rate were equal to or greater than 0.5%, then statement A would be false, and we would likewise have good grounds to doubt the truth of statement B.
Neil rightly points out that most theories or claims within Biblical Studies claims are not capable of empirical testing in quite the same way as scientific theories (which would equally apply most Arts/Humanities subjects). However, since we’re interested in how scholars respond to novel ideas from non-scholars, rather than the truth of those ideas, this wouldn’t really matter to the experiment I’ve suggested above. 

Of course, I’d welcome any suggestions to revise or improve my proposed experiment: Agreeing on an idea that we both think is worth investigating might prove tricky, as might establishing in advance what counts as a “positive response”. The way I’ve formulated Neil’s hypothesis in statement B might not quite reflect Neil’s actual argument, and need a bit of refining. We’d also need to check that the figure of 1 out of 200 scientists offering help is true rather than a piece of journalistic exaggeration. However, I don’t think that any of these issues are insurmountable with a bit of good will on both sides.

So how about it Neil?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Free E-book: Religion and Science

Mel Thomspon has made his A-level Religion and Science textbook available online and free of charge here. Very kind of him, I'm sure you'll agree.

It includes chapters on the origins of the universe, evolution, free will, and miracles, besides others on the history of science and the scientific method.

Religion and Science sells for £70 on Amazon, so getting it for free is like me paying you £70 to read a book, right?

Mel's website is also worth a visit, and contains summary notes for a range of A-level topics.

H/T: The Facebook Campaign to Improve AQA Philosophy.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Though Experiment #2: Hot Bricks and Wet Fur

Photo credits: sxc.hu
I came up with the following simple thought experiment that I used with my year 12s today:

Imagine that you are walking home one evening when you notice a fire in your neighbour’s house. Do you have any moral responsibility to try put the fire out (or at least call the fire brigade)?
Assuming that your answer is yes, is your duty to your neighbour or to the house itself?
The next day you are talking a walk along a nearby canal bank when you see your neighbour’s dog: it has evidently fallen into the canal and is unable to get out again. It is still swimming but seems exhausted and in danger of drowning. Do you have any moral responsibility to try to rescue the dog (or at least call the RSPCA)?
If your answer is yes, then once again: is your duty to your neighbour or to the dog itself?

The aim of this particular thought experiment was to illustrate the concept of moral status, and particularly how it might (or might not) apply to animals. Adapting a definition found here:
Moral status means that a particular thing matters for its own sake, so that we must pay attention to its interests when we consider actions that might affect it.
Moral status is different from moral goodness. Some beings may act in a morally good way, some may act immorally, and others may be incapable of moral action (e.g. new-born babies), but deserving consideration in others' moral reasoning is different from acting morally oneself.
When a thing has moral status, we may not act toward it in any way we please, disregarding its well-being, preferences, or continued existence. We owe some moral obligations to that being itself. As moral agents (beings capable of doing right or wrong), we must care to some degree about what it wants or needs, or simply what it is; this imposes some limitations on how we may act toward it.
In the first scenario, of the neighbour’s burning house, most people would agree that we have some duty to act, by trying to put the fire out or dialling 999. They would, however, be motivated not by any sense of duty towards the house itself, but instead by concern for the house’s occupant, because their life may be at risk, or because of the distress and difficulty they would suffer if they lost their home in a fire. Houses therefore, and I would say all inanimate objects, have no moral status. If we do consider such things in our actions, it is only because of their relationship to some being that does have moral status (in this case, our neighbour).
Photo credit: sxc.hu
In the second scenario, of the neighbour’s dog, if you would not act to try to save the dog, or your action to save the dog was motivated only by a desire to save your neighbour from distress caused by losing the dog or the financial inconvenience or buying a new one, I think that you would agree that animals have no moral status. Dogs, you would say, deserve no more consideration for their own sake than inanimate objects.

However, I suspect that most people would act to try to save the dog. Furthermore, I'd say that in acting, most people would be primarily thinking about the dog (recognising that it might be distressed or its life in danger) rather than the dog’s owner. That is, they would see their duty as being to the dog, not to some other being. 

If so, I think you’d have to conclude that animals do have a moral status. Of course this doesn’t tell us whether the moral status of animals is the same as or different to that of humans, but I’d argue that it would be morally inconsistent to rescue the dog in the above scenario, but then act as if animals have no moral status in ethical questions such as the use of animals for food, entertainment, or medical experiments.

My year 12s seemed to mostly agree with this line of reasoning, but as always I’d be interested to hear any feedback. How would you respond in the house and dog scenarios and why? Or do you think there are problems with the though experiment or the conclusions I’ve drawn from it?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tweeting Jesus?

Was Jesus the world's first tweeter? Well, yes according to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Vatican's Council for Culture.

Ravasi says that Jesus "used tweets before everyone else, with elementary phrases made up of fewer than 45 characters like 'Love one another' "

Firstly, the cardinal is just plain wrong here. Even leaving aside the considerable difficulties in figuring out exactly what he did and didn't say, Jesus was hardly the first person to express himself using pithy sayings - there are plenty attributed to the Buddha ("The mind is everything. What you think, you become") and Socrates ("The only thing I know is that I know nothing"), both of whom lived centuries before Jesus.

Secondly, am I the only person who finds all comparisons between ancient and and modern things somewhat grating? A couple of years ago, I watched a documentary in which a TV historian described medieval castles as being "the aircraft carriers of their day." Really? Did medieval castles float? Or cruise at 30 knots? Could you even use them to launch a squadron of F/A 18 Super Hornets?

Dover Castle: Cruising Speed 0 knots. (Photo: Wikipedia)
So in the case of our tweeting Jesus, I'm not sure how you can compare oral messages, heard and passed on by perhaps a handful of people at a time, to a mass medium like Twitter. In the few seconds it takes his publicist to type a tweet, Justin Bieber can tell 45 million people how exciting his breakfast was - a figure roughly equivalent to the entire population of the Roman world in Jesus' time.

There's also a hint of desperation about these comparisons, as if the person making it is hoping that the perceived coolness of the modern will somehow rub off on the ancient. In Ravasi's case, the logic seems go something like this: "Twitter is cool and trendy. Jesus is a bit like Twitter. So Jesus must be cool and trendy too. Please come back to church."

Anyway, don't all the cool kids use Snapchat these days?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Russell-Copleston Debate Linked and Mapped

I've found this link to a public domain audio file of the famous debate between atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell and Catholic priest F.C. Copleston (who, as far as I know, is unique in the history of philosophy for having a name that sounds almost exactly like a non-league football team).

Like other links I've found, the portion of the debate we hear covers a discussion on the cosmological argument, focusing on contingency and necessity. From Copleston's comment at the end of the clip, it seems that they then went on to talk about religious experience. I'd be interested to know if a link of the full debate exists anywhere?

Below, I've also shared a mind map I drew of the some of the key points in the debate.

Asking students who they think "won" the radio debate is always an interesting exercise. I'd say that overall, my students have tended to think that Copleston shades it. Any views or comments on this point are welcome!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Teen Exorcists

How could a TV programme called Teen Exorcists not be on some level awesome? This BBC show follows three karate-chopping all-American girls as they tour the UK, visiting churches, exorcising evil spirits and generally kicking demon butt.

Teen Exorcists
Teen Exorcists. Photo: BBC
As you might expect from BBC Three, the focus is more on the girls and their unusual lifestyles than on the evidence for the reality (or otherwise) of evil spiritual entities. 

The show does raise some interesting questions about how popular culture might influence religious beliefs and practice: for a group who claim to reject much that the modern world stands for (they see Harry Potter as dangerous black magic), the three girls seem to have more than a hint of Buffy The Vampire Slayer about them...

The show is available on iPlayer until September 18th.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Philosophy Quotes You Should Know #1

Quotation Mark
Philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell, after being asked what he would say if he died and was brought face to face with God in the afterlife:
"I shall say 'God, why did you make the evidence for your existence so unconvincing' "

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Anselm's Ontological Argument Made Simple

It's that teaching the ontological argument time of year again. This is a little chart I use to try to make the logic and flow of the argument a bit easier to follow:

Anselm's ontological argument flowchart

HT: C. Ransom

Monday, 2 September 2013

Simon Schama: The Story of the Jews

Simon Schama: The Story of the Jews

Historian Simon Schama has a new TV show which started yesterday, The Story of the Jews, which should be a great watch for students of A-level History or Religious Studies. 

Last night's episode looked at the beginnings of the Jewish story, and the emergence, around 3,000 years ago, of the Jews as a distinctive people. You can watch it here on BBC iPlayer. Schama also briefly discusses Freud (who we look at in our unit of work on Psychology and Religion). 

Friday, 30 August 2013

How to Get an A in A Level Religious Studies

A grade essay

The holidays are ending and a new term is upon us. With a fresh group of Year 12 students chomping a the bit to get started on their A level course, I thought I'd post a few tips on what you need to do to get an A or A* Grade in A level Religious Studies, though I'm sure many of the points apply just as well to other subjects. Most of them are pretty straightforward, but in my experience, successful students tend to do the basics consistently and do them well. So here we go...
  1. Put the work in. Attend every lesson, complete all the work set. In the event that you are absent for a lesson, don't wait to be asked to catch up on the work you've missed.
  2. Learn the jargon. You have a bewildering bunch of technical terms and strange names to get your head around: The Irenaen theodicy, Anselm's ontological argument, the fallacy of composition. You know the sort of thing, or at least you will. Write new terms into a vocabulary book or word list, and use mind maps to help you keep a grip on how they all fit together.
  3. Act on feedback. Those words your teacher scribbles in red next to your grade are not just there for decoration, they're actually the important bit. Your grade is like one of those "you are here" arrows on a map. The comments are (or should be) like a set of directions that tell you how to get to where you want to be. Read feedback carefully, act on it, and your work will improve.
  4. Talk in class. No, I don't mean about last night's Geordie Shore or, or that totes amazing party at the weekend. Ask questions. Clarify concepts and ideas if you are unsure. Participate in class discussions and respond to the contributions of your fellow students. Answer your teacher's questions, and don't be afraid of giving the wrong answer sometimes: you learn more from one wrong or half-right answer than you do from a thousand "I don't know" shrugs.  
  5. Read. Questions. Carefully. Your A level grade isn't determined (at least not directly) by how clever you are or how hard you've work over the two years of your course, but by how well you can deploy knowledge and arguments that are directly relevant to the questions that appear on your exam paper. Whether you're completing an essay for homework or you've just turned over your final exam paper, take the time to read the question carefully and think about exactly what it's asking you do. Take it from me me, this is important: The last three minutes of my A level Sociology exam consisted of blind panic and a desperate attempt to write and the disabled above every other sentence. Not fun.
  6. Plan your essays. Again, this will help you to keep your answer relevant to the question. Your plans for homework essays should be detailed, but you should take a minute or two to sketch out a quick essay plan even in exams.
  7. Read widely. There is not enough time in lessons to cover every possible theory, argument or philosopher. To bag that A grade, you'll need to do some reading yourself. As well as your textbook, your classroom or school library has a whole bunch of other books, journals, and newspapers. Read them, and make notes on everything you read.
  8. Revise smarter. Revision should be constant throughout the year, and your serious revision should start a couple of months before your exam, not a couple of nights before it. Use your course syllabus to assess your own knowledge and plan your revision to address any gaps or weaknesses. Resist the temptation to focus on material you 're already comfortable with. Make your revision active: Don't just read through notes or your textbook, use them to produce plans, essays, and mind maps, or memorable stories, acrostics, and rhymes. Better still, learn from memory experts and use peg and loci techniques in your revision.
  9. Know what examiners are looking for. Exam mark schemes can be found online through your exam board's website. Use these to self-assess your work: How do you think an examiner would mark it? You can also find examiners' comments for specific past paper questions, which outline the material expected in a good answer. If you find something you don't know or aren't confident with, you need to learn it.
  10. Don't settle for less than an A. If you hand in some homework that gets below an A grade, use that feedback I mentioned in #3 to re-write it so that it's worth an A, then get your teacher to remark it. If you're using a computer to write your essays, improving them should actually be pretty quick. You're aiming to build up a store of good essays to revise from.
  11. Tackle as many essay questions as possible.  If you look back at past papers, you'll notice that the same questions tend to repeat themselves in different years, perhaps with slight changes. Use past papers to compile a list of previous questions, and brainstorm with friends on other topics that might come up. Write answers for as many of these as you can, or create detailed essay plans, and use them in your revision. The more questions you've tackled, the better prepared you'll be for your exams. 
  12. Practice writing in exam conditions. Fairly self explanatory, but get in the habit of writing timed essays without your notes in front of you.
  13. Work co-operatively. Share your best essays a revision resources with colleagues and copy theirs to revise from (this does not mean copying their homework!) Swap revision resources. Revise in pairs or as part of a group. 
  14. Develop an academic style of writing. A proper description of essay technique really deserves a separate post. Briefly, remember to use a formal essay structure with introduction, a main body set out in paragraphs, and a conclusion. Pay attention to spelling, punctuation and grammar, and use relevant religious/philosophical vocabulary. Make sure your essay consistently addresses the question and avoid waffle. It takes time to develop a good essay style, but wider reading and drafting essays will help. 
  15. Learn how make an argument. This links to the point above on essay technique. About a third of the marks available on your exam paper depend on your ability to put forward a reasoned argument. A good argument puts forward a clear point of view, supported by evidence. It also considers opposing views and shows why they are unconvincing, again using relevant evidence. Don't wait until your conclusion to give your point of view, make your overall argument clear from the first paragraph.
If all that sounds too complicated, a simpler method is this one outlined by Libby Ahluwalia (whose books you should go and buy immediately):
One method is to attend all the lessons, do all the work set, read and act on the feedback, read around the subject and start revising no later than March... another method is - no, there is no other method.
Great advice. If you think I've missed anything out or have any ideas of your own, please post a comment below.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

GCSE Results

Champagne (non-alcoholic, of course)

Congratulations (or commiserations) to everyone who got their GCSE results this week. There were some very good results at the Duke of York's (go Chemistry!), and I was really pleased with the RS results. 

Nationally, there has been another drop in the proportion of students attaining the highest grades, with fewer students attaining A*/A grades (from 22.4% of entries in 2012 to 21.3% in 2013). The percentage of students gaining "good" A*-C pass grades has also fallen, to 68.1%. Call me a cynic, but I suspect that this trend towards lower GCSE grades will be reversed just in time for the next election...

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Young Catholic Minute

I've been trying to put together some resources for the AQA Religion and Contemporary Society course I'm teaching for the first time next term, and I remembered the Young Catholic Minute website, which I though I'd share here.

The site is run is run by and for young people, and has a number of short videos giving Catholic views on issues of ethics, politics, and relationships. When I've used them in class students have found them pretty amusing (perhaps not always intentionally) - click the video below to get an idea.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Zombie Bible

Have you ever found yourself reading some of the draggier bits of the Bible and thinking that a few flesh eating zombies on the rampage through Jerusalem would liven things up a bit? If so, I have good news in the shape of The Zombie Bible

Zombie Bible creator Stant Litore re-imagines biblical stories as part of humanity's struggle with the undead, and the result is pretty darn good. I read two books in the series, Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows, and What Our Eyes Have Witnessed on my recent honeymoon (very romantic I know) and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the next one. They're pretty cheap on Amazon, so give them a try!

Thanks to Hugh Pyper for The Zombie Bible to my attention.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Tom Holland on the Evidence for Jesus and Muhammad

In the Shadow of the Sword
Photo: Wikipedia

One problem with mythicism is that while mythicists  love to claim that the evidence for Jesus' existence is weak, if you actually take the time to compare the sources we have on Jesus to those we have for comparable historical figures such Muhammad or the Buddha, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the evidence for Jesus as is at least as good, if not better.

One person who is well equipped to make such a comparison is journalist and historian Tom Holland, who has written extensively about the ancient world and the origins of Islam.

In this interview on Australian radio, Holland (who says he is sure that Muhammad existed) points out that:
The gospels you have in the New Testament are actually much closer in time to the life of Jesus than the earliest biography of Muhammad is to the life of the prophet.
Holland goes on to say:
Jesus is elusive, but in a way you'd expect him to be, because he's a criminal in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire, so in a sense it's amazing that we have anything about him at all. We have Paul's letters, which start to be written within twenty years probably of the crucifixion, and Paul clearly thinks that Jesus existed. So in a sense, the evidence for Jesus is kind of stronger than for Muhammad.
 Many thanks to Neil Godfrey for drawing my attention to this.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Life of the Buddha - Free Ebook

The Buddha

I'm already on summer holidays (yay), and I'm planning on spending a bit of time over the summer reading around Buddhist ethics and traditions. My school has a fair number of Buddhist students, so to reflect this I'd like to incorporate more Buddhist perspectives into my GCSE RS classes in ethics and philosophy. 

As a starting point, I've found these free pdf and ePub versions of E.B. Cowell's translation of  the Buddhacarita (Life of the Buddha), which I thought I'd share here.

The Buddhacarita, the earliest full biography of the Buddha, was written by the Indian poet Ashvagosha in the second century C.E., some 500-600 years after the Buddha lived (actually, the dates of the Buddha's life are a matter of some debate). Much of the original Sanskrit version has been lost, but translations survive in Chinese and Tibetan.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Michael Ruse on "Does Life Have a Purpose?"

Why did the Stegosaurus have plates?

This essay by philosopher of biology Michael Ruse examines the concept of purpose in biology, tracing its history from Aristotle to the present day. I particularly like his description of Aristotle's prime mover: "rather like some junior members of my family, this God spent Its time thinking mostly of Its own importance"

You can read the essay in full here, or download a kindle version here. HT: The Facebook Campaign to Improve AQA Philosophy group.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Buddhist Ethics: Five Precepts Revision Postcards

The Five Precepts: No. 3

A few weeks ago I uploaded a set of Christian ethics revision cards, to help students remember some of the key Bible verses that relate to the ethical issues we study at GCSE. I was pleased to see that quite a few students did actually put them up in their cubicles (I work in a boarding school), and rather natty they looked too.

In a similar line, I've created a small set of revision postcards illustrating the Five Precepts, the basic ethical code of Buddhism. As with the Christian ethics postcards I uploaded a few weeks back, the idea is to get the students revising them so they can easily incorporate them into their exam answers.

You can download them as a pdf here, or if you have a TES account, as a Word document here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Who Were The Greeks?

Who Were The Greeks? is the title of an upcoming BBC programme, which looks like essential viewing for anybody interested in ancient Greece or its influence on our world.

According to the show's website:
Classicist Dr Michael Scott uncovers the strange, alien world of the ancient Greeks, exploring the lives of the people who gave us democracy, architecture, philosophy, language, literature and sport.
Travelling across Greece today, Michael visits ancient cities and battlefields, great ruins and wild countryside, all in his search to uncover how the ancient Greeks thought and lived. What he finds is that ancient Greece was a seething tornado of strange, unsettling and downright outrageous customs and beliefs, inhabited by a people who could be as brutal as they were brilliant.  
Who Were The Greeks? starts on BBC Two tomorrow at 9.00 pm, and will be available on the iPlayer here for UK viewers. You can get a sneak preview here.