Monthly Archives: September 2013

David Attenborough the vitalist

David Attenborough is by far the greatest populariser of evolution this side of the Atlantic – far more so than the Gnu posterboy Richard Dawkins – and I suppose, because of the sheer quality of BBC documentaries, perhaps he is on the western side as well. But what kind of evolution does he actually believe? It’s pretty clear from interviews and pronouncements on the subject itself that he’s a fan of Darwin, and doesn’t depart in any important respect from classical Neodarwinism. But the stuff he prepares for popular consumption – that by which he has become a “public institution” – paradoxically preaches a quite different doctrine. And that actually … Continue reading

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Science and probabilities

At the heart of the concept of Intelligent Design, though surprisingly often obscured in the discussion, is the issue of probabilities. William Dembski’s work, for example, seeks to show that the probabilities of, say, self replicating molecules arising by known natural processes are too low to be practically feasible. In contrast, he argues, a process that is intelligently planned is, by its nature, improbable (like the contents of this post), and so is a good candidate explanation for complex, organised, entities. I don’t think that would be controversial if it didn’t lead to theological conclusions.

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The Lord of (natural) history

It’s a fundamental fact of classical Christian (and before that, Jewish) theology that Yahweh is the Lord of human history. It is arguably that perspective that gave the west its concept of time as a linear trajectory, rather than as the endless series of cycles in other cultural traditions. Let me demonstrate with a few biblical examples.

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Astronomy and the march of metaphysics

I watched an interesting documentary on the Antikythera mechanism  yesterday. You’ll probably be aware of its existence as a corroded, but obviously complex, artifact retrieved from an ancient shipwreck a century ago. Within my own memory, it was an obscure object that raised the mystery of whether ancient Greeks could really have produced such a sophisticated geared mechanism, or whether it was recent, or alien. Now, through modern technology and some really hard work, its function is now known in some detail, and its inscriptions deciphered.

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Wits and Woo

Blogging has still been rather down my list of priorities recently. This is partly because of the need to clear a huge swathe of brambles and nettles on the Garvey estate – Genesis 3.18 has been much in my mind, though with theological nuance added by my being able to wolf large quantities of sweet blackberries from the former. I passed on the nettle soup. The other reason for not posting much has been the continuing need to work on new material for my band and, associated with it, the realisation that my equipment has needed work to keep it up to par.

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At the movies again!

Well, as I said in the last post I’m not a movie-goer (or haven’t been since I was a kid and seemed to see everything that came out with a “U” certificate). But we sat down last night to watch a long-recorded video of The King’s Speech, and jolly entertaining it was too. 

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At the Movies

There is a kind of low-level scientism operating in the medical profession which, given the humanitarian nature of the pursuit, may seem surprising. But the reason is simple – from the time they start university, medical students are intensively engaged in scientific education and long working hours, and other interests tend to go by the board.

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Jesus of Nazareth, D.D.

An interesting guy visited our church yesterday. He’s a GP and sports doctor, from a Jewish family, and presented a thesis that Jesus, far from being a poor and uneducated man, was likely to have been through the Rabbinic schools in Jerusalem and to be on an educational par with the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees he debated. Even his background as a carpenter (Gk τεκτων), the son of a carpenter, may well indicate high social status and even a family background of theological training.

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