Sunday, October 30, 2005

You never can tell

Went last night to the Peter Hall production of You Never Can Tell - a flawed but brilliant Shaw play - brilliant production and fabulous cast. Who but Shaw could begin with a tooth extraction in a Dental Surgery, or have as the star a sagacious waiter whose son is a QC?

Get back and find that barbarians have killed over 50 people with 2 car bombs in Delhi, beheaded 3 schoolgirls in Indonesia on the way to a Christian School. Meanwhile the way that much of the BBC-listening public has reacted to another barbarian calling for Israel to be "wiped off the face of the map" is profoundly depressing. Though great that the chief Palestinian negotiator condemned these comments.

The anti-Bush hysteria grows and grows, with people like Max Hastings utterly damning of him. Well hang on, the Iraqui constitution is overwhelmingly approved in a referendum, and the 2000 American dead in nearly 3 years is a small fraction of those killed on the roads in the US or by smoking or obesity. Don't be so certain of the future, Sir Max. You never can tell.

V good chat with my brilliant Medic/Scientist son. An e-correspondnent has sent a 'proof of the existence of God' arguing that, becasue it needs at least 100 mutations to make an eye (say) and that the likelihood of each occuring is at most 10%, the probability that these have occurred by chance is less that 10^-100, which is considerably more than the number of atoms in the universe. Have to remind my e-correspondent that there is no guarantee that these are statistically independent. But ask my son if there has been any progress towards making more reasonable back-of-the-envelope calculations. No, it's far too complicated: they can do stuff with protein evolution but that's about it. He points out that working out the behaviour of ethene from Quantum Mechanics is pretty well at the limit - and I find today that the world's most powerful supercomputer (Blue Gene L) can just about simulate a 43,222 atom system (rhodopsin & water) using classical mechanics at a rate of - wait for it - 50ns per day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

There cannot be ...

Saw younger daughter off to Florence with her best friend - they are leaving tomorrow early. Just getting back into running fitness - I went from 3:53 Predicted Marathon Time to 4:11 on Mon but back to 3:53 this am.

Bible reading was Gallatians 3:28 reads in Greek ouk eni Jew nor Greek ... slave nor freeman ... male and female. ouk eni means "there cannot be" which is an interesting slant on the standard translation.

E-correspondent has claimed to prove the existence of God because the probability of the eye evolving is very low (he estimates 100 events of <10% probability). Sadly I have to explain the concepts of statistical independence and prior probabilities. Evolution is surely like gravity - a pervasive law but not the whole story. After all, no-one thinks that gravity disproves the existence of God!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

From Trafalgar to the Virgin Birth

Gypsy Moth IV on the battle site at Trafalgar
On Weds pm flew out to Jerez to join the UBS Oyster Trafalgar Regatta - an amazing, unforgettable experience. I missed the first race which was on Weds, but we had 3 races on Thurs with a dinner in the evening addressed by an expert on Nelson, and then on Friday we cast off at 0630 to sail from Puerto Sherry to a rendezvous off Cape Trafalgar where 29 Oysters and a powerboat Committee Boat met up with the Lord Nelson and Gypsy Moth IV to commemorate the battle, laying wreathes. There were a couple of other boats including one owned by someone whose ancestor had fought at Trafalgar. The weather was much as it was 200yrs ago, light winds and a swell, and it was awesome to think of this decisive engagement being played in such slow motion. After the solemnity (including Nelson's Prayer) and the photos many of us went for a swim - water 20C v nice, and then the long motor back to port, change to Black Tie for a prizegiving (our boat came 3rd/19 in the class) and dinner - including toast to The Immortal Memory. The strong Christological echoes of the Nelson 'myth' are obvious - perhaps in 1600 years there will be idiots who claim that Nelson never existed!

Today we had the grandchildren and went back to our parish church, where brilliant Fr Donald was preaching. He gave an intriguing sermon defending the historicity of the Virgin Birth in the light of Matthew 22:41-45 (the set text): Joseph was a descendant of David, we know Jesus considered himself (rightly) to be the Messiah, if Jesus considered that the Messiah is not a descendant of David it follows that Jesus considered that he was not the son of Joseph.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Those who live by the sword

At lunch party yesterday one of the guests (a liberal christian) was laying into the hypocricy of Blair/Bush for "killing 100,000 civillians in Iraq" and anyway no Christian should bomb people. Asked if that meant that we shouldn't have fought Hitler he changed the subject. The whole issue of Christian pacifism is a big one - there is no doubt that violence and war should be a last resort. On the other hand soldiers in the NT are not called on to abandon their profession, and as a much wiser guest put it yesterday, "sometimes as Christians we have to use our strength to protect the weak". Even if it were true that 100,000 civillians died as a direct result of Coalition forces in the Iraq war (only in the perverted logic of Guardian readers can the murders of the Insurgency be blamed on Bush/Blair) Saddam killed millions. And Iraquis in their millions have voted for the new constitution - though whether it has avoided 75% rejection in 3 provinces remains to be seen.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

If thou, O Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss

Although I'm strongly against illegal drugs, I think David Cameron is quite right not to answer such questions about his private life before he entered public life. How are people of calibre to be persuaded to enter politics if there is such a witch hunt. Once they are in public life then the public has a right to know about their activities - a minister who is unfaithful to his wife is more likely to be unfaithful to his country. I actually posted a comment on the Daily Mail website disagreeing with their editorial (as did 75% of the commentators!) and sent an email to Cameron - got a very quick nice reply - how smooth and efficient.

Psalm 130 springs to mind. I remembered "if it were to be noted what is done amiss: O Lord, who could stand". But the AV has "If thou, O LORD shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand", Cranmer "If thou, O Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss: O Lord, who may abide it?" and the REB "If you LORD should keep account of sins, who could hold his ground?"and RSV "If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?"

The Hebrew is a bit gnomic - I wish I could understand it. The word for 'mark' is (I think) shamar which is only used in that sense 3x in the OT, and can mean "attend, avoide, besiege, beware, care, careful, charge, cheris, give heed, guard, heed, herd, hold fast, keep, keep charge, keep in mind, keep watch, keeper, mark, obey, observe, pay regard, perform, preserve, protect, regard, save, secure, see, show, spare, spy, take care, take heed, wait, watch, watch over and watchman'. What a language! It is cognate with the word used in "Hear O Israel..."


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Winston & Plantinga

Ran 16-miler in 2:18:15 vs target 2:20, just under a 4h Marathon equivalent. It's 59% age-graded. Must try for 3:44 in London 06. Tires your mind and muscles.

I see that Lord Winston is propounding the fact that Religion has survival value. This of course brings into focus Plantinga's wonderful Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

Heard interesting BBC History programme on Radio 4 about past Tory Leaderhip Elections. Randolph Churchill (Winston's son) was campaign manager for Quentin Hogg. When a BBC interviewer put it to him that most of the (Tory) Cabinet didn't want Hogg he replied "who cares what the Cabinet thinks"

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Paul and Theatre

Went to Epitaph for George Dillon last night. Despite 2 v g stars and strong supporting cast, it doesn't quite work. I think it's the script, although possibly the direction not great and theatre only 2/3 full on a Friday night. There are some interesting ideas and good lines. Especially like the way the boring churchwarden, mocked for faith in the teeth of evidence, asks aspiring playwright George if he has faith in his own talent, and then "where's your evidence?" But it's very hard to write a good play.

Reading NT in Greek continues to pay many dividends. Paul is a much catchier writer in Greek than in translation. "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" becomes
ton dromon teteleka
teen pistin teteereeka


There's a new Howard Brenton play about Paul at the National Theatre. Despite following a 'secular interpretation of the resurrection' and presumably the bogus AN Wilson line on Paul, it's interesting that the NT and Brenton wants to engage with him.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Nobels and redefinitions

The prize in Medicine & Physiology has gone to 2 intrepid Australian doctors who pursued a hunch and redefined what caused stomach ulcers - in the process pretty well obsoleting what were then the best-selling drugs in the world. Now the prize in Physics has gone to pioneers of quantum optics, one of whom worked out the basic theory and two of whom pushed measurement techniques to extraordinary lengths. One of the issues which their work enables people to explore is whether there are changes in the fundamental constants over time. However there is a slight problem, in 1983 the meter was defined as "the distance light travels in 1/299,792,458s"

Redefinitions are tricky things - immensely powerful but sometimes making questioning orthodoxy almost unthinkable.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Article out - and Return of the King

Well the Sunday Times article is out, with a link to the book website, but as yet only a trickle of visits. At least it means I've been able to post the un-edited article since (inevitably) the final editing process - to which I was not party - garbled things a bit.

Went to our old church today - very full due to 2 baptisms. Then had old friends round to lunch and to watch the extended Return of the King - wonderful. Let's hope and pray that the Narnia films are as good, an immensely successful.