Dec 31, 2009


My carnivorous friend here derives from Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey, sometime 1-300ishCE. An epic place - it was the 2nd largest city after 'Rōma', had a massive theatre (where St Paul was almost mobbed in 54CE), aqueducts and from c135CE it had a massive public library - it was the shiz of the province of Asia, or close to.

Dec 29, 2009

MSG; presumably ok for me

I just opened a tin of Pringles (of course, there is rather little left, content-wise). I'm always a bit suspicious of these delicious crisps in a can - for one, reasonably-ordinary food should not taste this good and be this addictive; but predominantly for the second reason i.e. that these little Belgian (yes, Belgian) wonders contain monosodium glutamate, a form of glutamate and a chemical (everyone knows you can't trust 'chemicals'!) given the terror-inducing acronym MSG. Turns out that there is little to be concerned about in consuming this stuff. Amazing what you learn.

Also courtesy of the Wiki
(Procter & Gamble produce these tasty tasty snacks): "In a London courtroom in July 2008, Procter & Gamble lawyers successfully argued against Keiron Williams that Pringles are not crisps, as their actual potato content is only 42%. This exempts Pringles from the 15% Value Added Tax for potato chips and potato-derived snacks.The Court of Appeal, however, has reinstated the tribunal's decision. A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble stated that they have been paying the Value Added Tax protectively and therefore will not owe back taxes." How sneaky. 42%!

Dec 26, 2009

who could've knuthed it?

Not I, said the non computer scientist

Ah, my friend, xkcd:
'casion'ly, you amaze me;
frequently you confuse me.
Quite often you amuse me.

For those not in the know.

"The whole thing that makes a mathematician’s life worthwhile is that he gets the grudging admiration of three or four colleagues."

"Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do."

"A mathematical formula should never be "owned" by anybody! Mathematics belong to God."

"I can’t be as confident about computer science as I can about biology. Biology easily has 500 years of exciting problems to work on. It’s at that level."

"An algorithm must be seen to be believed."


I should say something about economics, since I've promised as much in the sub-heading of this esteemed web-log.

Here's an interesting book, or so it seems. If anyone feels the need to buy me a book, this would do. Capitalism has got a bit of a bashing in recent times, though it was interesting to see, can't remember where (I admit it - I read too many right-wing blogs), the recent meltdown blamed on too much socialism! Of course, to be honest, too much socialism is always the problem - if only America officially ignored more poor people (and maybe, shhhh, privately helped a few), it would be truly great! Excuse the cynicism - truth is, I'm a fan of private enterprise.

I could I guess say something about commercialism around Christmas, but it's all a bit cliched and it's over for another year, thank goodness. I'm just sorry it's all gotten so messed up. I'm a fan, I think, of the advent conspiracy

Peace out & happy new-year

Dec 23, 2009

We're dreaming of a 'bright' Christmas?

a new post elsewhere. click if you dare.

must be getting desperate

kindly stolen from:

which just reminds me someone repeatedly spelt it as 'desparate' on another NZ blog. Oh, the shame.

sometimes life annoys one

The picture of the swimming rat is irrelevant, but it was unused; and actually seems to capture the feeling nicely enough.

Dec 20, 2009

“The world is my country, and to do good my religion”

According to an atheist club site I randomly came across while researching the (possibly) next article. I’ll stop talking about atheism so much soon, but I see some issues with the statement. First is one of grammar – I’ve always, in general, thought it a bit off somehow to place a comma in front of the conjunction “and”. This complaint was of course extremely petty, and to be honest Christians, and perhaps evangelicals especially, are rather poor at grammar (the extreme liberals like to avoid logic, so I guess we had to give something up to be fair), and other such stuff, judging by various books published by Christian publishing houses which I’ve read. Or maybe, like the atheists, they just can’t afford decent editors. I'm not even too sure about the "look ma, no, and" (I just made that up) rule - any suggestions?
What hit me first though, was the question of where precisely the normativity is coming from – what is it to “do good” and why bother? Specifically, what is “good”; is it perhaps just subjective? Of course, there are plenty of non-theistic ethicists who can at least attempt a cogent answer to this. I’m interested in the is/ought issue here. If any of these ethicists are reading, please give me a bell, or an email or a comment or something; as I think you ought to!
I’m not sure what the world being one’s country means really, but I think it’s some kind of reaction to North American (it might have been Canadian, so I dunno exactly) patrio-religionism. Maybe, on another note, only non-theists are allowed to believe in world government(?) – but why (leaving the government aside), stop at the world? It seems a bit narrow of this club (I am assuming that they intend to refer to earth); particularly if we live infact in a multi-verse.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Children are amazing sources of philosophical insight. Imagine, if we hooked them all up Matrix-style in rows ... but no. The children currently visiting my family’s New Zealand Wunderhaus are particularly good at speculating on death; last visit the two older ones turned out to be nihilists. This concerned me. This time one of the main highlights has been overhearing their discussion on ways to cheat in a wrestling match – the superior-most idea seemed to have been to kill the opponent without the referee noticing, thus obviously, by virtue of the ‘3 second rule’, guaranteeing a win. That was pretty good, but (and I’m almost certainly reading too much into this) the real stunner for my philosophy antennae was the littlest one quietly wailing, as the others got in the car and said little one did up their sandals [reminding me now of this; Mark 1:7], “don’t leave me behind”. It was a bit sad at the time, but it was oh so human and I can identify with it to a scary extent. “Don’t leave me alone; don’t leave me behind!” is a concept that most humans can understand. Maybe we’re just social animals, or maybe we are more – I don’t really know I guess, but I know that in the face of an apparently uncaring cosmos, (and I promise I'm not referring to any End-Times books here - I'm just being slightly disturbingly genuine) I’d much rather not be left behind.

Dec 17, 2009

It's a set up! Grab the tin foil hats!

The universe, life, the universe - it's all a set up! Sometimes it would appear so anyway.

Does anyone else find themselves wondering whether the Truman show is for real and they're the loser on the set; and then realise it's rather unlikely as the Truman show has absolutely nothing on this one? Of course, if this all really is something like the Truman show, someone is now saying a naughty word or two I suppose - but as I said, it probably isn't; as it is all just too ridiculous to be on TV, which is generally really rather bland; but of course, maybe that's 'cause the TV I (don't) watch is all produced, or filtered somehow, just for me, or maybe a few others too. There's also the Cartesian demon possibility, I suppose; but I do slightly prefer the Truman show option, as radical scepticism is even more depressing, not to mention a bit dumb. One thing is clear: the set-up is intricate.

Yes, I may have slight ego issues. But, so do you.

an old spring slowly sprung?

“There are many people who do not believe that God exists . . . . They consider that the universe has always been as it is now and is ruled by chance rather than by Providence.” Peter of Cornwall, circa 1200 CE.
In recent centuries, the universe has got a lot older for Christians – and in recent decades, a lot younger for atheists. 14-17 billion years may seem quite old to someone not long past 17 years; but compared to an infinitely old universe, this one is a spring chicken.

Dec 12, 2009

the last piece

"Bookshops are one of the last pieces of evidence that people are thinking." Jerry Seinfeld.

This reminds me of the stereotypical German joke; you know it well; something about the captain of a ship in trouble calling a German coastguard, yelling "we are sinking!"; "vell, vhat are you sinking about?" retorts the dim German, preferably in a delightful accent which takes good note of the vowels as well as the consonants.

Anyway, having visited a bookshop or three in the last few days, notably the Queen St not-so-creepy-Santa Whitcoulls store, it's interesting to see what NZers are thinking about. Conspiracy theories, Buddhism and of course, sparkly vampires are 'in'; with half a handful of exceptions, science, academia and orthodox Christianity are so far out that they are presumably either cryogenically frozen or dying of frostbite.

Dec 10, 2009

Where are the Zogons?

I see no reason to seriously doubt that human persons are the crowning work of God’s creation, made in his image, as we find claimed in the first chapter of the first book of the Torah. [Before you fall asleep or say "blah, blah, blah" under your breath, I note that this piece has only had a few minutes put into it, but the title phrase is so good I might turn it into a proper, (or at least a more proper) article; feel free to share your perspective.]

Humans are pretty cool; messed up for sure, but still pretty cool. In us is a potential for self-awareness, rational reflection and theorizing about the nature of the universe which the chimpanzee would perhaps be envious of if in fact he gave a sh*t. In slightly more estimable language, Graham Cole, Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, says: “We may share an enormous amount genetically with a chimpanzee, but will the chimp ever know it?”

Yet, with Genesis in mind, I can quite easily imagine a situation, where, after some further investigation in geographical areas not known by the ancient Hebrews; other continents, the ocean, or other planets; it was discovered that humans are in fact inferior, in terms of characteristics that might reasonably be ascribed to God (should God exist), to another class of creature. Let us call such a creature a Zogon. If a Zogon or their ilk were found to exist, the sceptical child (if we are allowed to label a mere child as ‘sceptical’) could easily ask in Torah class or in Sunday school, “but what about the Zogons?” But, friends, such a child is out of luck, as there are no Zogons! The absence of Zogons and the very real existence of human persons together provide a challenge for the atheist which, as a member of the latter species, they ought to be cognizant of and perhaps concerned about.

Douglas Adams may tell you, if he were alive and took his ‘Hitchhikers’ series a bit too seriously, that the search for the Zogon is unnecessary as we already have on this planet the species Rattus norvegicus and Tursiops truncatus . In response I’d say if given the chance “your books are funny, Doug, but your atheism is the really sad joke in this context; and even the genetically engineered illicit lovechild of a lab rat and a dolphin has nothing on humanity.

Flippancy aside, I am fully serious that if you can show me a Zogon I will have to put much work into reconsidering my theology concerning Genesis. Regardless, with your presence and the use of just a common household mirror, I can quite easily show you a human being – and this, as various postings in this blog have hinted at, is an astounding fact indeed.

Dec 9, 2009

ninja vs pirate - off the cuff

Now, it may seem that it depends on the time periods and specific cultures from which the competitors were chosen; but I suggest it also depends largely on what you mean by "fight". For instance, a debate wouldn't last very long unless they both spoke the same language - and even then, the ninja's throwing stars would have to be carefully guarded I would suppose.

And what if the pirate was Somalian? What of it, you ask. It is nothing to do with his/her nationality as such, but a Somalian pirate has access, some of the time, to massive oil tankers, not to mention speedboats and AK47s - even a really fast ninja may have difficulty outrunning AK47 fire, or more explosively, the actual fire from a burning oil tanker.

You see, you really have to think about this kind of thing. I'll soon be quietly asking the right people for a new chair at Oxford, funded no doubt by a Microsoft billionaire - "Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy" - then when I'm appointed and had some chance to be controversial and start a lecturing circuit and manage to convince people to pay me for Skype appearances, I'll write a book about the conflict, solely, of course, from the Pirates' perspective - what say I call it (I think after a Margaret Mahy book) "the Greatest Show on Earth"?

de-personification; a recalibration

While I'm on a theme, I'll run with it a bit. I attribute this thought, paraphrased, to that beloved-of-evangelicals oxford don from the era of WWII (surprisingly enough, not Dawkins.)

-The de-personification of objects does not require atheistic materialism.
-It was quite effectively introduced with Christian theism.
-i.e. the world is natural, but its creator lies outside of nature.
-The depersonification of people - now that requires atheistic materialism!

too complicated

It’s interesting that Richard Dawkins on one hand is well known for criticising the of concept God, i.e. the God of Christian theism, as being a being too complex to actually exist; or at least have any explanatory power – and yet he is found suggesting that if God does exist, he’s going to be “bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible” than our current God. Is it just me, or is it the Dawkins claim that some kind of God type thing could possibly exist but only if it’s a bit more complicated than those religious dolts think?

Perhaps we should just take this as Dawkins admitting he has no interesting philosophical arguments against God’s existence. This, in any case, has been clear enough to various philosophers for a little while.

"and nothing remained"

I'm not meant to be posting today, but there is so much exciting stuff I've found in the last couple of days I feel a need to share a smidgeon.

“It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted, by many persons, that Christianity is not so much a subject of inquiry; but that it is, now at length, discovered to be fictitious. And accordingly they treat it as if, in the present age, this were an agreed point among all people of discernment; and nothing remained, but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of reprisals, for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.”

This complaint was written, not by me (though I too appreciate the tasteful use of commas and semi-colons), but by another churchperson, also of Anglican extraction. In 1736. A guy called Joseph Butler wrote this: well before the so-called Victorian crisis of faith; eons before Dawkins; before Darwin, before anthropological study attempted to relativise all religions, before higher criticism, modernism and postmodernism and serious investigation into the historical accuracy of the biblical record, over 250 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and my own entrance into the world.

Also just prior to the 18th Century 'First Great Awakening' – the revival that swept through Britain and the U.S., arguably giving birth to that behemoth of modern day religion, evangelicalism.

Dec 8, 2009

Revival – it’s good for you!

I suggest that Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, Agnostics, Hindus and Evangelical Christians alike should be praying for spiritual revival in, for instance, our universities; and the rest of society i.e. we should all be praying for a massive stirring up of the Church in New Zealand.

What the hell, mate - you've gone insane!! (You may be thinking.)

But no. In any case, I do not think so.

Atheists may well not be inclined to prayer. Yet maybe with the following in view, it's worth a try? I hope to do some more work on this sometime, but I hear at least rumours of fairly clear evidence that evangelical revivals are good for society; good for education; good for humanism; good for happiness; good for health; good for people. Think about things in society that contribute to human flourishing and well-being - concerning, say, social cohesion, education, health and the promotion of the dignity of the person and respect for life. Think about where they have their roots; historically & philosophically. Talk to me about it if you want.

And if my hypothesis is right and if you care about 'Noo Zillund' society, you may be pleased to hear it - as I suspect this coming year will be at the least an interesting one for Christians in this little land - and quite possibly (are you hearing the careful qualifications here?); in the disappointed face of the long-awaited and long-missing secularisation-caused decline in religion; a good one.

We see it in a number of places around the world atm - and as sidelined, belittled and disregarded as Jesus may be this particular Christmas in this particular place, He ain't dead.

Is Global Warming for Real?? - You Decide!!

I don't know whether to crack up or cry quietly at the state of the media in NZ exhibited nicely in Close Up's special tonight. I don't, I note, know what the result was and I do not really care.

The topic is interesting, I guess. It is complicated and I am sympathetic to the doubters of anthropogenic warming a la Wishart, but do not side with them. Regardless of which side; if any; is correct, the evangelical Christians who seem to think it is their God-given duty to deny climate change disappoint me and appear to me to do the gospel a disservice; but they are entitled to their opinions.

Wishart, the 'sceptic' in the debate (& a convert to conservative Christianity, pit for the 'debate' against Gareth Morgan, incidentally an atheist - note that to spice it up a little, both of them are towards the right wing classical liberal / libertarian side of politics) made an off-the-cuff remark that if we are to say that a lack of action on the climate question is irresponsible the same may be said about lack of action re: the God question. Indeed Ian; if there is some evidence for either God or global warming, further action may well be warranted.

So that's interesting, but you might wonder how the religious affiliation of those discussing climate change is relevant and the answer is: I'm not quite sure. But it intrigues me that on both sides of the debate we find vociferous religious people and vociferous non-religious people (e.g. Ian Plimer contra a changing climate.)

The moral of the story? Have a lovely summer Christmas folks! And be glad it isn't snowing, particularly, I suppose if you're pregnant and need to use a donkey for transportation, as that would kinda suck.

Dec 3, 2009

Eeyore is so hilarious I almost want to cry – how did I miss this stuff?

Exempli gratia:
‘If anybody wants to clap,’ said Eeyore when he had read this, ‘now is the time to do it.’
They all clapped.
‘Thank you,’ said Eeyore. ‘Unexpected and gratifying, if a little lacking in Smack.’

‘I’ve got a sort of idea,’ said Pooh at last, ‘but I don’t suppose it’s a very good one.’
I don’t suppose it is either,’ said Eeyore.

(If anybody wants to laugh, now is the time to do it.)

Dec 2, 2009

The Multi-tasking Blogger

I generally have an aversion to multi-tasking. It gets complicated.

However, I have been known to also blog (once) at Thinking Matters.

(sorry, can't get link to work atm.)
And yes - it's spelt incorrectly, but not in the actual post.

In case you wondered what I do with my time.

I do, I note, do other things too; like reading books. I'm a fun guy

Does "Trust" play an important role in science?

I think so. I intend to one day write a bit more about it.


Trust in fellow scientists & published results
Trust in equipment, techniques & presuppositions
Trust in rationality & reasoning
Trust in the comprehensibility & consistency of the universe

"Oh, Oyster of Wisdom: Barf me your Pearls!"

I got nothin to add to that, I just thought it was nice.
(You may consider this blog a string of pearls if you wish. It would perhaps follow that I am a vomiting crustacean - and it's not too bad a living.)