Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas, Daughters and misreported poll

Elder daughter arrived from US on Christmas Eve and we went up to Cambridge to celebrate Son's birthday. The grandsons had been staying with us so we arrived just as Phase I (Children's) party was starting. Stayed in Trinity, went to see them on Christmas Morning (I managed to get to 8am communion at Great St Mary's) and then to C's sister near Banbury for delightful family Christmas - 16 people sat down. Got back on Boxing Day. Read my Christmas Present The Undercover Economist which is excellent.

Dinner last night with some old friends, and I have a slight cold so not running today. O the waistline! Lovely to have both daughters home. Some interesting work, but also work on the WikiPedia article on Mass in B Minor.

Read of ludicrously mis-reported poll in the Guardian, claiming that 82% of people think "religion does more harm than good" when actually it was 82% saying "they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people" and that "Most people have no personal faith" beacuse only 33% of those questioned describe themselves as "a religious person" - also a blatant non-sequitur.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Polls and Grandsons poll pretty much agrees with WMA 37:32:18. By contrast, a MORI poll shows C lead down to 1%. But MORI polls are wildly inaccurate, their last 2 under-estimated the C lead by 6.1% and 5.4% compared with the WMA and by a staggering 7.6% compared with the interpolated figures (ie the average of the present, two preceding and two succeeding polls). There seems to be something really squiffy with their methodology even with their standard deviation of 3.2% (the worst of any pollster) they shouldn't be getting this. I know Bob W was stating categorically that a C victory at the next election was impossible, maybe his people listen rather too hard to him?

Grandsons staying which is great fun though sometimes a bit exhausting!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Carols, Polls and Einstein

3 Carol Services: St Paul's Hammersmith, St Andrew's and St Paul's Cathedral. SPH had choir, orchestra, world premiere of stunning new work by our friend Stuart Turnbull for Soloist, Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, and Hallejuha Chorus sung with congregational participation. Super evangelistic sermon by Vicar (again with ref to Dawkins and God Delusion). St Andrews had augmented choir, pretty considerable attendance including fair number of new people, Mayor and MP came, both with daughters, and read lessons. St Paul's Cathedral was fundraiser for Cancer Research Campaign, sponsored by major firms incl one of our clients, world-famous actors and soloists (incl. Jemma Redgrave, Michael Broadbent, Patricia Routeledge, Thomas Allen, Felicity Lott) Choir, Orchestra, Coldstream Guards Trumpets - magnificent surroundings and raised (I think) over £250k for Cancer Research. One almost feels sorry for Dawk - they just don't have the tunes.

In politics, Opinion Polls appear to fluctuate but Weighted Moving Average which I track is pretty stable, back to 37:32:18 as it was in May. Basically we're in a "phoney war" stage where, to offer a simplistic slogan, the Conservatives have no policies and Labour has no leader. Both of these will change, and then I think we'll see the polls move again.

Got the full text of Einstein's 1940 paper in Nature on Science and Religion which is quite interesting. Dawk completely wrong to suggest that Einstein used "God" in a metaphorical or poetic sense, but it was definitiely in Spinoza's sense and Einstein did not belive in a personal God - he was a strict determinist and disbelieved in human or divine will.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Donkeys Years, Running Club, Appleyard

To the fabulous RSC Much Ado on Thurs - my favourite play and everything just worked, brilliantly! Then Ronnie Scotts but had to walk most of the way home, dearth of cabs. On Fri went to Donkey's Years where our friend Janie is now starring. Great chat and champagne with her in the dressing room, then dinner with our old friends. Sat evening to our running club Christmas party - some of the nicest people, we sat on a new table which filled up with complete strangers (well I knew one man by sight) and we all got on really well. My lovely Doctor neighbour turned out to be great friends of a friend of mine, we texted her and all plan to run together in Feb. Interesting how there is usually some connection but one rarely has time, or motivation, to sit down and discover it.

Bryan Appleyard suggests that Atheism may be one of the trends of 2006 (though religion is another). However The God Delusion may be pretty much the last gasp of this kind of Atheism. It was widely derided and characterised as an Atheistic Rant (Nature portrayed Dawkins as a Sandwich-Board Man). Unless Atheists can engage with the serious arguments of Christians and others, rather than resorting to characatures, they are doomed to increasing irrelevance, if only because of their failure to reproduce.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Daughter, K4K, Baltimore

Elder daughter home on flying visit - delightful. We pulled out of going to admirable Kids for Kids Carol Concert and had delightful meal and chat. Finishing The Mind of the Maker so that she can take it with her on her journey. DLS attacks the idea that life is a load of problems wanting solutions - life is really more like an artist's raw material.

David Baltimore reviewing The God Delusion thinks that D's main aim was to increase tolerance of Atheists in the US. unclear, to say the least, whether denouncing the majority of Americans as DELUDED IDIOTS is the best way to go about this.

Interesting (to me) exchange on my talk page: Do you see the existence of Zeus, Thor, Apollo, Yahweh, Vishnu, or any number of gods all being equally impossible to disprove? There is no reason to think Z, T, A are real, as opposed to Mythological. There is also a profound logical contradiction in polytheism. But pretty well everyone agrees that if the Resurrection of Jesus happened as claimed by c.1bn Christians this would be conclusive evidence of the existence of Y. as interpreted by Jesus (of course like any [alleged] historical fact you can never quite prove whether it happened or not). It is also pretty obvious that if an Ultimate Creator exists this UC is unlikely to be incompetent, so if God exists, one of the major religions is likely to be a reasonable approximation. Even Dawkins seems to agree that, if he had to choose, he'd be an (anglican) Christian.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Church, Shadowlands, Dorothy L

To our local church for Advent 2. Excellent sermon from the vicar, about how Luke 3:1-6's account of John the Baptist contrasts the corrupt power of secular rulers with the prophetic power of God, how we are all called to ministry and mission. He told of a Church in the US he visited which had a sign over the Exit saying "You are now entering the mission field" More and more people in the Choir - a real contrast between the Robed and Unrobed in the Church.

Went last night to Janie doing a Rehearsed Reading of Shadowlands with Charles Dance in aid of a Trust that helps educate children in Nepal. Wonderful performances (on only 2 rehersals!) and I was not the only person weeping at the end. Big party in J's dressing room afterwards - I played The Butler.

The Mind of the Maker really is an excellent book. Dorothy L's insights into the creative process are delightful and profound. Her basic idea is that, just as we can understand God as Father (to some extent) by reflecting on ideal human Fatherhood, so we can understand God as Creator by reflecting on human authorship. And that any creation/authorship involves the Idea, the Energy (roughly: the written work) and the Power (roughly: the work as read). What makes it particularly engaging is that she dissects her own creativite processes and criticises, illuminatingly, some literary failures. She responds to suggestions that she "make" Lord Peter go to the Antarctic (supported with "I could give you lots of authentic material") with "You are very kind." (get to gehennah out of this and write up your own confounded material. Leave my creature alone - I will not "make" him do anything). And her comment on Joyce ("the use of verbal and syllabic associatin is carried so far that...the reader's response is diverted by a conscious ecstacy of enigma-hunting, like a pig rooting for truffles."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mozart's Sister (and Wiki)

Some progress on WikiPedia although the number of words written in talk to get a basic (and important) factual correction to The God Delusion is frustrating. Ah well.

Work has been extremely busy. And on Thurs I went to a remarkable concert at Australia House where Alison Baud had arranged a Mozart's Sister evening with my friend Sally Burgess and the Australian Concert Pianist Piers Lane and Kathron Sturrock who had been an accompanist for Schwarzkopf's Masterclasses. Baud's songs were done brilliantly (perhaps only she and Shostakovich would have dared to do this!) and I got her book signed by all the performers. Kathron rashly agreed to come and play duets with me some time!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Carols, and maybe this is why Dawkins is so angry?

Carol Service at Elder Daughter's college on Sun - attended by many family members and delightfully the grandchildren came to the meal before. The (v envangelical) preacher rather startlingly recommended that everyone read The God Delusion as evidence of the paucity of Dawkins arguments.

Commentators have wondered why he seems to see belief in God as a personal affront . I think I now understand. Dawkins starts his notorious Viruses of the Mind essay: "A beautiful child close to me, six and the apple of her father's eye, believes that Thomas the Tank Engine really exists. ... This little girl is of an age to believe whatever you tell her... I have just discovered that without her father's consent this sweet, trusting, gullible six-year-old is being sent, for weekly instruction, to a Roman Catholic nun. What chance has she?" This is his only daughter, by his second and estranged wife.

When she was ten he wrote a letter to her (published in A Devil's Chaplain) to try to encourage her in some of his ideas.

I am told by someone reliable who knows Dawkins fairly well that the behaviour of his daughter has been a great source of worry and concern to him - as a father of 2 daughters I can well understand his concern and if either of mine went through the difficulties that his has apparently faced I would be very worried and concerned as well. I think that some of his understandable anger and frustration over the situation of his daughter may well be responsible for the rather hysterical tone of The God Delusion.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jacques, Peter Hall, Bowker, Sayers

Daughter is Jacques in school production of As You Like It. Sir Peter Hall was in the audience for the Matinee, and afterwards congratulated her and shook her hand. We saw her last night, and she is very good. Wonderful part, of course.

Work very hectic, and Mother up to see play. So not much time to blog or Wiki. Built up the article on John Bowker who was the first to analyse and critique the God as Virus trope. Reading Dorothy L Sayers' classis The Mind of the Maker - which is full of wonderful apercus.