Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thankfulness and junk science commentary

Really helpful talk in Church by Mark Riches and his team from Tacoma. Although they still haven't quite "got" England and jump rather too facilely from "St Paul says we should give thanks always" and "grumbling against God is condemned in the Bible" to "ingratitude is a sin", viewed positively their encouragement for us to be thankful to God at all times is great (and very much mainstream CofE). We both went away really uplifted, and although it'll be wonderful to go back to the Life Groups 2 more sessions of this will be helpful.

Article in The Times complains about the low esteem in which science is held. But mMuch of the low esteem of science is driven by the handful of highly visible popularisers (like Dawkins) who falsely claim that science shows that God does not exist and establishes that we are "lumbering robots" controlled by our "selfish genes" or "computers made of meat", and that religion is a "virus of the mind". The media loves this rot, and real scientists like John Polkinghorne, Martin Rees, Denis Noble and Simon Conway-Morris who refute this tosh are almost ignored. If the choice is between "science" and humanity then humanity will of course reject such science. A responsible media should allow real scientists to get the true message across.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Graduation, Birthday, Facts

To Cambridge yesterday where our son was awarded his PhD - so he's now a Dr Dr. I'm pleased to say that of the 28 awarded degrees not one asked for the "in the name of the father, and the son and the holy spirit" formula to be omitted: last time I observed this in 2006 the proportion was 11%. In Heffers The Dawkins Delusion? is prominently displayed alongside The God Delusion and they've sold 86 copies in the few days that they have had it, compared to 36 of TGD in the same period and just 500 overall. I bought John Polkinghorne's latest (Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship) as well as a Denis Alexander's (Beyond Belief: Science, Faith and Ethical Challenges). Then a delightful family dinner celebrating his graduation and my birthday.

Good heavens, not another ignorant recycling of the "religion is an opponent of science " and "science has disproved religion" tropes! Read some real scientists who have studied the issue seriously, like John Polkinghorne, not PopSci writers who pontificate about god and philosophy without any serious engagement with, or background in, either topic. FWIW the Bp of London never said that flying on holiday was a sin either, but that “selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car are a symptom of sin.” If Portillo wants to be treated as a serious commentator, he should get his facts right.

Great that the CofE is planning to create another 100,000 places in its schools. Niall Ferguson is also very perceptive, pointing out that it's not poverty that fuels Islamic extremism.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ruth Palmer, and can the RS dispel the Misunderstadings from Dawkins?

Brilliant Ruth Palmer came round and we played 2 movements of Beethoven's 7th Violin Sonata, which she is doing at the Wigmore Hall on 14th May. Grab tickets for yourself and friends (and if you are coming let me know, we may be hosting a party for her afterwards).

It'd be great if the Royal Society could find some way to emphasise that there is a wide spectrum of religious views in the society from (one) miliant atheist to (two) ordained priests and that, while individual members may interpret the scientific evidence in many ways, it is no more the view of the Society that "science has disproved God" than it is the view of the Society that "science has proved God".

The reason why I think this matters and may be fairly urgent, apart of course from intellectual honesty (but there are many public misunderstandings of science - wouldn't it be great to have a Professor for Public Understanding of Science who could dispel them, rather than create them!) is that the serious concerns about the decline of UK science undergrads are related to the widespread perception that science is de-humanising. Dawkins's highly unfortunate "Selfish Gene" metaphor and his disastrous "Lumbering robots" trope (ably refuted in Denis Noble's The Music of Life) have played important roles in this. His latest rants (anyone who believes in God is "deluded" and probably insane, their minds hijacked by a "mind virus" - bringing up children in their faith should be considered child-abuse, and his critics are "parasites" and "fleas"*) will just make things worse if the public gets the idea that these are the views of scientists in general, as he claims they are.

Very unclear what can be done, but reflecting on the problem, a solution may become apparent to wiser minds than I!

* the latter in a letter to The Times signed Richard Dawkins FRS!

ABoc, AfD and Stations of the Cross

Fine article by ABoC on Why the Anglican Communion Matters. I've been doing lots of work on Alister McGrath's books, a fascinating author. Looks as if the Wikipedia Deletion vote on the article on The Dawkins Delusion? is settling towards "keep", but musn't be complacent - anyone can vote, please do! Lovely supper party last night though 6 of the people invited couldn't come. We had Jonathon Brown whose amazing Stations of the Cross are up in our local Church at the moment.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dawkins Delusion - and Church Schools

Much work on the Wikipedia article on The Dawkins Delusion? - which I hope survives the vote for deletion. It is much better if arguments are presented for people to evaluate than if they are supressed.

Interesting article in Telegraph on church schools, with typical atheist trope comment. I reply: "It is humanity - not "religion" that has this dark side (as the far more bloody atrocities of atheist regimes demonstrate). The Christian faith insits that "if we say we are without sin, we are a liar" and is built on the love of God transcending religiously motivated violence. No-one thinks belief in God "guarantees good conduct" but it greatly improves the chances, on average."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

CofE trope, and what about "most famous living scientist?"

It's very unclear that the "CofE in inevitable decline" trope regularly trotted out by journalists is valid. What seems to be happening, broadly, is a decline of the liberal and anglo-catholic wings and a growth of the evangelical wing, with the result that an overall decline has now become a net growth, especially in London. The steady stream of people wishing to become ordained in the CofE, including some outstandingly able young people with first-class minds and educations, is a very encouraging "leading indicator" and there are plenty of other signs of growth.

Meanwhile the Dawkins situation reaches new heights of absurdity.On the admittedly slightly crude test of google hits we have:
  • about 1,330,000 for "Albert Einstein" Scientist.
  • about 1,210,000 for "Richard Dawkins" Scientist
  • about 1,170,000 for "Charles Darwin" Scientist.
  • about 1,120,000 for "Isaac Newton" Scientist.
  • about 1,090,000 for "Stephen Hawking" Scientist.
It's pretty clear that Dawkins, far from contributing to the public understanding of science, is now bringing science into disrepute.

Can anything useful be done? One possibility might be for the RS, ideally in conjunction with the BA, to have a proper debate on a topic like "Is Religion a Delusion?" with voting (and perhaps speaking) restricted to academicians. At the moment the only Dawkins debate scheduled seems to be the "Intelligence Squared" one which is (farcically) chaired by Polly Toynbee and pits Dawkins against Roger Scruton and Julia Neuberger rather than (say) John Polkinghorne/Simon Conway Morris or Keith Ward.

I think there is a real danger that, unless the RS does something, it will become tarred by the brush of its presently most famous Fellow, with consequent continued decline in public support for, and confidence in, science.


I've been sent a flyer for a lecture by Dr John Lennox on "The Dawkins Debate" at St Peter's Black Lion Lane (London W6 9BE) 20:00 on the 21st March. Should be interesting, I'll try to get along.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Dawkins Delusion? out - and JCP

Our IT system has been giving problems and these were fixed yesterday, with the result that a load of EMails for John Polkinghorne came to light. I sent one set off but there are more - lots to do. I've also been ill with a filthy cold. I was speaking to John and he mentioned that The Dawkins Delusion? has come out so I've built a decent article about it in Wikipedia which will allow people to see the main lines of arguments. Despite being not well distributed (Amazon.co.uk says it's on 2-3 weeks delivery) it's got to #59 in the Amazon books, and I understand that it's in its 4th printing already. I do hope it gets the reviews and coverage it deserves. Not available at Amazon.com yet alas.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Windfalls"

It is ridiculous to call this a "windfall". They are making this money because they have saved and worked hard. Giving the impression that any financial gain made by staff or investors is a "windfall" simply perpetuates the anti-business bias of the BBC.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Anglicans & Readings in St John

I wholly disagree with the Telegraph's Editorial calling for the breakup of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion, like the Commonwealth, my look odd but it a great force for good in the world. ECUSA does need to be disciplined but it is right that Schori be invited to hear the concerns and explain her position. I hope that wisdom and reason will prevail. It seems to me that the communion is a microcosm of the Church as a whole - a wide spectrum of views but unity in one Lord Jesus Christ.

Half-Marathon yesterday went well - just under 1:50 which is 6 mins better than previous times, and that was with two difficult hills. Church lovely as well, as the centre of the Week of Prayer they had Eucharist in all 3 services - an Evangelical church which understands the importance of the Eucharist is rare and wonderful indeed. Lovely sermon on forgiveness.

I dipped into William Temple's Readings in St John's Gospel this morning, a great classic which I should read more.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Notes on a Scandal and Self-refuting ideas

Just back from Notes on a Scandal - Judi's performance amazing and Cate B also wonderful - although would anyone that attractive fall for a schoolboy we wonder. Resting before Watford Marathon tomorrow so yoga and early bed. Started Self refuting ideas article in Wikipedia - fascinating. Reading John Lucas' The Future which is very interesting.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Boston, Prayer and Tony Wright

On Sat I had to fly to Boston with a client, fly back that evening to support my elder grandson at a chess tournament on Sunday in Cambridge (he scored 4/6 but should have won both the games he lost, and was selected for the County Squad) and then met up with younger daughter at HTB for a remarkable service. At the end Nicky Gumbel got all the people who were in any ministry team up to the front to be prayed for, and then invited anyone who wanted healing to come and be prayed for by a member of the ministry team. Soon he had to call for reinforcements! Got back home Sun evening (in the same clothes I left in, no time to change).

Super life group on Tues with lots of prayer. We split into 2 groups I was with 2 Australians a S African and a Frenchwoman. Psalm 55 very relevant!

Politics has a v fin de siecle feeling. This gem from PMQ: Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): Can it be true that we had to pay GPs a lot more money to do a lot less work, and that now we have to pay them a lot more money to take on the work that we paid them to stop doing?