Friday, January 28, 2005

Agnostic Morality

A letter to The Times on Pursuit of Morality without faith says "Since we are all equal in our mortality, it behoves us to make our sojourn through life as serene and non-brutish as possible by helping others out of their difficulties as we would expect them to help us out of ours ... I have never heard of agnostics stoning people for adultery, burning them at the stake for witchcraft, or killing them for insulting the dignity of their preferred prophet or deity.

The only true source of morality is recognition that we are kindred in our mortality; therefore, unless we all row together we will surely all sink together." This is sadly a non-sequitur that evidently neither Hitler, Stalin, Mao not Pol Pot found compelling. A 'morality' which is simply rooted on personal preference won't be much use in extreme situations.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Water into wine - a Theopic prediction?

A question for John Polkinghorne came in today about whether turning water into wine violated the laws of physics. This allowed me to develop my favourite piece of scientific gospel speculation, about how it might have been accomplished. I didn't know about the astrophyical bit until I looked it up - an intriguing example of what could have been a "theopic" prediction like the famous anthropic prediction of the carbon resonance by Fred Hoyle. The really interesting theopic prediction would be that the decay O -> C + Alpha could take place in liquid phase at room temperature! Any brave physicists out there want to try for it?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What is a Marathon

As a keen but v minor sailor I'm still amazed tracking Ellen McArthur. Having been up to 5 days ahead of the previous record she is now almost a day behind, but has kept going and is at last gaining a little time back. It makes my own preparations for the London Marathon pale into insignificance. But then what the Iraqui people are going through preparing for their first real elections puts even Ellen's amazing sporting achievement into perspective.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pray for Iraq

At my local church we're organising a Prayer Vigil for Iraq. On Sunday evenings the church is used by the Syriac Orthodox many of whom are Iraqui, and some of them will join in.

Meanwhile al-Zarqawi has "declared war on democracy" on the grounds that it is "un-Islamic" Odd that the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, is a democracy. But it gives the lie to the liberal/FT idea "they don't hate us because of our values, they hate us becaus of our (ie the US's) policies"Link

Saturday, January 22, 2005

You can't divorce belief and action

Horrific stories about the young satanist who murdered his schoolgirl lover. Meanwhile Satanism has been officially recognised as a religion by the Royal Navy! And under laws banning religious discrimination and "incitement to religious hatred" it might become illegal to suggest that a belief in evil and the devil was wrong, immoral, or could lead to murder.

Of course there have been murderers professing all religions - but still there are real differences between the religion of love proclaimed by Christ (say) and a religion that requires you to kill or smite unbelievers. You can't divorce belief and action.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Empty lives

Just found this item about people living longer if they go to Church. It has long been known at a crude level, but this study seems to have controlled for the obvious confounding factors - eg if you are too ill to get out of the house.

At dinner last night with a client we were discussing the big unmet needs in the world today: he mentioned health and non-polluting energy buy I'd add a proper education which enabled people to live spiritually fulfilled lives. At present we have people living affluent but empty lives - largely because much of western society has turned its back on the spiritual. Interestingly, while waiting for this client I heard two international businessmen at the bar (one in his 30s and one in his 50s) discussing apparently healthy people they know/hear of who just drop dead. They agreed that whereas there are likely to be genetic factors, empty lives could also play a part.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Another contradiction

Dinner last night with Chairman of a client (in my day job). But we discussed Life's Solution and I promised to send it to him. He's read all of Aubery/Maturin, Alan Mallinson and Kent, and getting into Flashman. But nature is more mindboggling than fiction - I told him about the tool-using wasps in Life's Solution.

But today's reflection is that, in addition to the rather deep contradiction in the modernist/secularist worldview that Plantinga skewers with his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, there is a contradiction - harder to formulate precisely - between Liberal Secularism and Darwinism. Lib Sec tends to see humans as something close to a blank sheet of paper, with basic beliefs that include "non-discrimination" meaning "gender/sexual orientation/race are or should be irrelevant" and "carreer primacy" ie "it is outrageous to suggest that having children is more important than a carreer (esp. for women)" However Darwinism holds that the only thing that really matters is the suvival of your genes, which is completely contrary to both these.

Ah well - we live in the Twilight of Atheism!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Welcome

Starcourse.org and Polkinghorne.org have been up for some time and seem to have done some good. Time to plunge into the blogosphere I guess.

I've been reading Simon Conway Morris's brilliant Life's Solution - and hope to post some of it (I have his permission) on Starcourse.org. In addition to the fascinating sweep of his overall argument, there is such a wealth of eye-popping detail, it makes you very glad to be alive.

As computer scientists know the fact that you use random processes in genetic algorithms doesn't mean that the results are purely random - indeed depending on the selection rules you can get anything upto a totally deterministic answer. Simon's thesis that there is a great deal of convergence and that something essentially homind is highly likely to emerge once there is life on earth is highly compelling. At the very least, the claim that evolution is merely randomness and selfish genes is completely debunked!