Kuhn’s predictions make prediction harder

Several decades ago I had a patient with complex needs that boiled down to what’s called “personality disorder”, combined with a low IQ. The problems presented as a great dependency on a weekly fix of doctor, on whom she could offload her many nebulous problems and vaguely uncomfortable feelings. She actually managed reasonably well on that. Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Politics and sociology, Science | 4 Comments

RIP John Renbourn

Thursday saw the passing of one of the great acoustic guitarists of the world – and one of the formative influences on my more limited technique. Continue reading

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Magic in an age of incredulity

Have you ever noticed how many serious academic bloggers are addicted to science fiction? Hardnosed researchers of evolutionary biology, or analytic philosophy or even critical theology will throw in regular posts about the latest Dr Who or Star Wars story. That got me wondering why magic remains so popular in fiction, in an age when nobody believes in magic.

For science fiction, after all, is only really the supernatural set within pseudo-science rather than demonology (if you don’t count Phillip Pulman or Terry Pratchett, where it is set in demonology). As the introduction to one of the sci-fi anthologies on my shelf says, a story beginning “The last man in the world was sitting reading, when there was a knock at the door” would have been a ghost-story in the nineteenth century, but is science fiction now. Continue reading

Posted in Politics and sociology, Science | 5 Comments

Blues is truth, and so is Science

There are probably not many readers here who would fully endorse Brownie McGhee’s dictum that “Blues is Truth”. Whilst you might well agree with me that the blues is a music very expressive of the human condition, you’d probably consider that its truth lies in a fairly restricted sphere. You might even wonder if its practitioners always bare their souls honestly, rather than playing what they know their audiences will pay for. Then again, though Leadbelly said “There never was a white man had the blues” it owes its continued popularity, and even existence, to the efforts of a generation of white, British Grammar School kids like Eric Clapton and Brian Jones, who never knew what a mojo is, quite apart from how to get theirs working. Continue reading

Posted in Politics and sociology, Science | 2 Comments

Sheldrake and divine action – a thought experiment

I’ve mentioned Rupert Sheldrake in a few posts, and his name has come up in comments, usually with the slant, “He’s probably nuts, but there are more things in heaven and earth…” In retrospect I have underestimated the extent to which we nowadays live in intellectually muddied waters (even here one has had to learn that “scientifically discredited” may mean no more than “Jerry Coyne’s trolls scoff at it”). There’s a long and interesting interview with Sheldrake on Best Schools, which shows that he’s read and studied a lot more than many of his detractors. That doesn’t make him right in his theorising, but it does make him more worth reading than many (as is, for example, Stephen Jay Gould, coming from a completely different position). His great strength is in investigating carefully what others dismiss out of hand. Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Science, Theology | 6 Comments

The eclipse of the camel

Well, a near total eclipse of the sun occurred here in Britain yesterday, and I was in a position actually to take some photographs. To be precise I was pulling up brambles behind our garden fence, so in a perfect south-facing position. Here’s what I got: Continue reading

Posted in Creation, Science | 10 Comments

Knowing and creating

An interesting interview with one of those proposing non-Darwinian models of evolution, Luis P Villarreal, on Huffington Post. His virus-centred approach is just another one of many recent advances, but it highlights an aspect that in his estimation has been woefully sidelined in evolutionary studies. Continue reading

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Heaven is up there… sort of

J Richard Middleton has a piece on his publisher’s blog expanding an idea that was implicit, though not stressed, in his book A New Heaven and a New Earth, which I briefly reviewed here. Continue reading

Posted in Creation, Theology | 4 Comments

Reasons beyond reason

There’s a thought-provoking podcast on Randal Rauser’s blog, featuring philosopher Michael Rea on naturalism. He starts by carefully defining “naturalism” in accordance with those who most espouse it in the academic literature (because it’s one of those words that has ended up meaning almost anything and everything). His main conclusion is hardly new – that naturalism, understood as the decision to accept as authoritative only scientific epistemology, cannot be justified by naturalism. Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Science, Theology | 22 Comments

Eager beavers and missing lynx

Exciting times ecologically close to home. Just a dozen miles from here, the first wild beavers to be seen in Britain since they were hunted to extinction in the eighteenth century have been granted UK citizenship. Presumably introduced deliberately (as none have been known to escape from captivity) the fate of the half-dozen or so living on the River Otter has been in the balance, as the risk of their carrying infection was discussed. Continue reading

Posted in Creation, Politics and sociology, Science | 3 Comments