Sunday, October 29, 2006
At last after 73pp of such drivel, we get to "Arguments for God's existence". At last, I thought, something to get my teeth into. He gives the first 3 of Aquinas' "proofs" (Unmoved Mover, Uncasued Cause, Cosmological Argument) and then simply says that "they make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune from this regress" and that even if the regress terminates "there is absolutely no reason to endow that terminator with any of the properties normally ascribed to God".
Saturday, October 28, 2006
* In fairness to do this properly you should match the age cohorts and this would reduce the over-representation of atheists and Muslims. But the point remains: the data are there, Dawkins doesn't use them because they don't support his "argument"
Friday, October 27, 2006
The BBC very upset that the government has backed down on forcing faith schools to take 25% of their pupils from other/non-faiths. Of course the main reasons are (a) BBC is v anti-religion and (b) most BBC people live in London where almost the only chance of a decent-ish free education is from a faith school.
It also emerges that there is now clear evidence of a link between abortion and mental illness - so leading medics are calling for the guidelines to be revised. Though I wonder how much of this is explianed by the fact that Christians are much less likely to have abortions, and much less likely to be mentally ill.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
- In addition to comparison with Huxley he can be compared to Russell and Haeckel
- The more nuanced view of genes-eye evolution as one of the ways to think about evolution is an improvement on the "lumbering robots" approach of The Selfish Gene criticised well by Dennis Noble.
- The evolution of Altruism is still a very hot research topic and not well understood.
Utterly scathing review by Terry Eagleton (a leading Marxist) of The God Delusion in the LRB. Margaret Cook in the New Statesman also clearly finds it embarrassing ("Maniacal dance ... hurriedly formulated ...personal vendetta, complete with elitist undertones and some uncomfortably dictatorial passages...negligible insight into the way humans behave.") He fares no better in the New York Times. ("scattershot reasoning...Shirking the intellectual hard...failure to appreciate just how hard philosophical questions about religion can be makes reading it an intellectually frustrating experience"). And these are all from atheists/agnostics!
I have got Sacred Causes and it's brilliant so far. For example:
- There are encouraging signs that the Churches ... are ready to make certain non-negotiable positions clear rather than to mouth the platitudes of a discredited multiculturalism that only exists in the Left university and within local government, neither of them at the cutting edge of European thinking.
- How many atheistic liberals run soup kitchens for homeless drug addicts? Is the culture of guns and gansta rap, which thrills progressive commentators, a better alternative to the thriving black pentecostal churches?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
- Although the successor of Thomas Huxley and Bertrand Russell in the public imagination, his predecessors were unquestionably intellects of the first rank, and Dawkins is much more like Ernst Haeckel.
- The evolution of altruism is currently a very hot topic in biology, and by no means fully understood.
- This is contrary to his unfortunate assertion that we are nothing but "lumbering robots" to propagate our genes which has taken hold in some parts of the popular imagination.
Excellent article in Prospect about the demographic advantages of believers - confirms much of what I have long asserted. And if religion is good for the survival of your genes, in what sense can Dawkins and Dennett claim that it is harmful. Dawkins has has 3 wives and only one child - I am the other way round. On my view this has little to do with the validity of my views, but Dawkins' genes are dying out.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Back from delightful sailing holiday in Bodrum. Excellent family atmosphere with young couples delighted with the childcare/kids clubs and relaxing in each others company. The confraternity of sailing gives it some of the feel of an extended family. In some ways redolent of how a good Church should be.
Finishing reading Tom Wright’s masterly Simply Christian. He talks about how, “as a newborn baby breathes and cries, so the signs of life in a new born Christian are faith and repentance, inhaling the love of God and exhaling an initial cry of distress. And at that point what God provides, exactly as for a newborn infant, is the comfort, protection and nurturing promise of a mother” He likes the Church to “a family business” and stresses the importance of “groups of a dozen or so who will meet to pray, study scripture, and build one another up in the faith”
He is also superb on the authority of scripture: “the authority of a love story in which we are invited to take part”
Reflecting a bit on the Dawkins issue. Tempted to buy the book to help refute it, but this would undermine my principle of not putting money into the hands of authors like Dawkins and
It seems to me that philosophically the definition of God is “the Ultimate Creator” It is (probably) logically possible that there is no Ultimate Creator but it is simply nonsense to ask “who created the Ultimate Creator”, so to ask “who created God” simply shows that you don’t understand the concept. In which case you should not be taken seriously when you write a book about it. Of course the mere existence of an UC leads to nothing very much but Christianity is “Jesus is Lord” ie, philosophically, that the UC is uniquely identified with the Jesus of the New Testament. And from this ‘simple’ statement (J=UC) a huge variety of life-changing consequences flow. Not least that, in the light of Christ, the Universe makes sense.
Another of Dawkins silly non-arguments is that, because God is more complex than the Universe, God explains nothing. But, although the reality of God is of course infinitely complex, the concept of God is very simple. And it is a concept that provides philosophical or scientific explanations. The quantum vacuum would be a scientific analogy. And the implications of the Einstein equations are of immense complexity, even though their formulation is relatively simple.
Michael Burleigh has written another book – sounds splendid from the review I have read. Must get it.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
A freind of my elder daughter's was going to be at the Cambridge Union last night where Dawkins was giving a lecture to promote his latest rant, and emailed whether it was true that Big Bang was proposed by Christians, and opposed by atheists on quasi-religious grounds. Yes - indeed the proposer was a Georges-Henri Lemaitre, a Catholic Priest who was also a considerable scientist (literally applauded by Einstien who apparently said "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.") Will be interesting to hear how it went.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Today a story that "Terry Waite has abandoned the CofE" in favour of the Quakers, because of trendy vicars. But firstly, it seems that he hasn't abandoned the CofE, merely that he sometimes pefers to attend Quaker meetings. Secondly, on balance the informal Evangelical services are bringing in far more people: the Diocese of London is growing consistently. It is a glory of the CofE that there is a diversity of styles, but one Spirit.
Met some fascinating and encouraging people on a course last night, including an amazing story from a former model and drug user who is now ... a CofE curate!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Really inspiring sermon at SPH on Sunday and very interesting first evening of Welcome Course: so much encouraging work being done.
Reading more of Peter Enns Interpretation and Incarnation: he is talking about how the OT is interpreted in the NT, making the point that although these interpretations are often not what the original human authors must have intended, these are what the scriptures meant because everything should be interpreted in the light of Christ's coming.
Very interesting how the Muslim Veil debate is shaping up. Came across a very vituperative site by an ex-Muslim which he promises to remove if proven wrong. This gives many worrying verses in the Koran and Hadith. I wonder.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Ran along the cliffs yesterday and then surfed with my mother. But it's too windy today for either.
Glanced at The Way the Wind Blows - autobiography of Alec Douglas-Home, the most deeply obscure PM of my lifetime (and last OE). Nice self-deprecating sense of humour, eg him to BBC make-up lady:
Q. Can you not make me look better than I do on television?
Q. Why not?
A. Because you have a head like a skull.
Q. Does not everyone have a head like a skull?
He also deplored the fact that "A habit of Tweedledee-Tweedledum politics had grown up in which, whenever the PM spoke, whether sense or nonsense, the Leader of the Opposition was expected to knock him on the head, and vice-versa."
Interestingly the book, written in 1976, has no index entry for Thatcher.
His book concludes with the story of a man who was walking along the street when he was intercepted by a zealous lady who asked, "Sir, are you saved?". He answered "Yes." and tried to walk on. But she persisted. "Why then are you not dancing in the streets and crying alound praises to God". "Because Madam," he said, "I consider it to be so narrow a squeak that I had better keep quiet about it."