Monthly Archives: October 2011
Carrying on the habit of a new song every month, I’ve put a new recording on my website. This one was done to try out the new setup after my old system blew up. The song is a few years old, but hasn’t been put on disk before. It’s about the “foundness” of music – though that would apply to much science, too. And as the song says, to theology. Hope you like it. You may notice that links to the old songs no longer work as I’m just replacing them on the front page. I’ll put the whole album up when I’ve finished it, probably early in 2012.
Regarding the paper I linked to in my last post, I just want briefly to emphasize an implicit conclusion from it that may not have been obvious. If you remember, the difference in architecture of E. coli compared to the Linux operating system was taken by the authors as evidence of the difference in “the design principles of the two systems” (sic). Human developers aim at cost-effectiveness and top-down design, whereas bacteria take a bottom-up approach suited to random mutation and natural selection:
One reason I’ve not posted for a few days is that my computer blew up. Quite spectacular – smoke and bangs and everything. A failing power supply took out much of the rest, requiring a new system. The old one lasted nearly ten years, so I can’t complain. But even in that time updates to Windows and so on created headaches in keeping the thing functioning. I’ve had to update drivers for hardware rendered obsolete, buy new compatible programs and so on. I frankly dreaded trying to start again from scratch.
“Choice is an illusion”: True or False?
A quick one prompted by Uncommon Descent’s ongoing campaign against reductionist psychology. UD links to this blog about a book by David Eagleman, which is another of those efforts to show that neuroscience increasingly demonstrates that free will is an illusion.
Clearing out the stable manure this morning my heart was lifted by the sight of a large flock of ravens interacting with a large flock of carrion crows in quite a complex way. It seemed to be one of those “close to nature” moments that is a bit more subtle than sunsets and so on. Consulting my limited library on British birds I couldn’t find anything about such conjoined flocks (strictly it was a congress of ravens with a murder of crows), until it occurred to me that there was probably just a dead deer or badger in the wood nearby. Nevertheless it got me to thinking about the origin … Continue reading
Why is universal common descent so important, though? What does it actually do? It affirms Charles Darwin, of course, who famously wrote of life being “breathed into few forms or one”, but his theory didn’t actually demand it scientifically. He wrote against a prevailing assumption that natural species – if not artificially selected varieties – were unchanged since creation, but descent with modification needn’t imply a single ancestor, and the fossil record available to him certainly didn’t support that.
I was woken from sleep by this this morning. The EU are investing 30m Euros (if the currency doesn’t disintegrate beforehand) in a project to understand human epigenetics. Several references in the piece view this as the successor to the Human Genome Project, with the implication that the latter delivered, in medicine at least, a lot less than was promised, as the clip of Francis Collins demonstrates.
By chance I discovered recently that my old Grammar School zoology teacher, Tony, is living not too far from me. Though he used to be called “Sir”. I’m tossing around whether to contact him after 43 years, remembering those old bumper stickers, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” I have reason to be very thankful to him and his colleague Des (also called “Sir”), who were responsible for getting me to Cambridge and enabling my career in medicine. And additionally, to any understanding I may have of the biological issues raised by evolution. How coincidental, then, that at the same time various British luminaries should be petitioning the … Continue reading
A little more reflection prompted by Karl Giberson’s Guardian piece. There Karl describes “surviving” his youthful evangelical subculture. It should not be forgotten, though, that individuals reject all kinds of childhood backgrounds. The bass player in a band I was once in wore a badge saying “I survived a Catholic School”. I met him at a Pentecostal Church. I’ve also known many people who feel they’ve escaped to Christianity from secular environments – whether from the narrowly materialistic parents who said “Religion won’t get you far in this life,” or from the zealously political homes where Karl Marx ruled and the kids went to party conferences rather than Sunday School. Atheism … Continue reading