Dec 28, 2010

'Der erste Trunk'

I don't know much about physics, but Heisenberg knew a bit. He said, apparently:

"Der erste Trunk aus dem Becher der Naturwissenschaft macht atheistisch, aber auf dem Grund des Bechers wartet Gott."

Regardless of whether he said it, I like it.

my translation: the first drink from the cup of natural science makes [one] atheistic, but at the base of the cup waits God.

I post this as it was an excuse to use my German and as, in between a few books I'm trying to finish, I'm slowly working my way through a few articles on science, belief, empiricism, intelligent design and other fun stuff. I came across this in the search and the blog seemed to want feeding. Now I've started, its appetite has been awakened, but we'll see if something novel can be found; otherwise it may just have to run on empty.

Dec 26, 2010

21st C Nativity

Here's some post-Christmas humour:

Thanks to Dr Peoples at for the link

More on Christmas & Xmas, from CS Lewis; thanks to Victor Reppert's 'Dangerous Idea':

Dec 23, 2010

what's the use?

From 'the Voyage of the Dawn Treader' (p 137 in my copy):

'But what manner of use would it be ploughing through that Darkness?' asked Drinian.
'Use?' replied Reepicheep. 'Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies and our purses, I confess it will be no use at all. So far as I know we did not set sail to look for things useful but to seek honour and adventure. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honours.

Let us dare treat life as an adventure; with Another's honour more important than our own.

Dec 21, 2010

The Ultimate Presence

All I want for Xmas is a gigantic awesome remote controlled attack helicopter!!!
Someone needs to equip one of these with some kind of paintball weaponry and have war games. Please?!

I've never been a huge fan of Christmas. Maybe I've never really got awesome presents (since when I was small, when most presents count as pretty awesome), maybe I've never really had lots of money to spend on presents or noone to buy for, or maybe a combo of all the above; with other reasons beside, no doubt.

But for a little while now, I have been a fan of Jesus. Not his number one fanboy; I'm a bit too cautious, wannabe-intellectual and introverted for that, but a fan nonetheless. I was going to write a screed here, off the top of my skull; and I may get around to that, but first, I am reminded by my prologue of this curious little song, courtesy of Owl City: "I believe that Jesus is truly the only way; I celebrate Christmas [even though sometimes I cringe about what we've done to it] because it's his birthday."

I figure, now, that my attempts at poetry are more accessible than a 'dear Diary' about faith, virgins, mangers and astrologers (as fascinating as that sounds). So, here's a little something, in the celebrated 'stream of consciousness' style, I was in the process of scribing:

Let me tell you a story.
It doesn’t get boring
It shall not get old
Or pass into the past
Without leaving its mark

It’s a story of grace

This stuff can’t be bought or sold
But let it be sought, and told
Let the sound resound at last
In the marketplace, the public square
and hiding places; halls of fear

‘Cause: God’s love has a face

The medium is the message
The raising of the negligible
Planned from the start
It is stark and powerful
Beautiful, a making new

Slowing right down the pace

Learning to communicate,
Seeking the truth
We will triangulate
Upon something worthwhile;
A trinitarian mystery.

Making sense of the race

Both far and near;
This God has come here

Changing murky to clear
And allowing a new start
For the new year.

Happy Christmas

Dec 14, 2010

The early CS Lewis

I've thought briefly about this English professor recently and am looking forward to watching the new Narnia movie soon. I was pleased to just find this nice little article on his early letters; i.e. letters written prior to his adult decision to follow Jesus Christ, in 1931.

Not infrequently, you will find claims that atheists who convert were never really genuine in their disbelief. I find such claims a little ridiculous, for instance in how they blithely import Christian ideals of belief into an incohesive atheistic worldview (i.e. if atheism is true, the concept of 'genuine' belief is a little strange) - but anyway, have a read if you like:

found via: (2nd post on Sunday 12 Dec) and an internet search.

The moral for me - and I have seen it in my own life - is that unbelief need not be permanent.

Dec 3, 2010

land of the long cloud

This article from the NZ herald concerns me. Obviously we're all aware that child abuse happens, but this story helped to make it more real. That child deserved a hug and a happy home. Children are so precious; it is upsetting.

While good intentions are to some extent praiseworthy, I'm not sure about the necessity or level of benefit of government-provided preschool for under 2s. Emotional reactions, whatever political direction they're coming from are of little help. Perhaps more preschool care is a useful band-aid, but it's not getting at the real issues of abuse and neglect. Maybe it's a good way to ensure a minimal standard of care for our young people - sad and troubling if many of our families really have reached that point. More secure funding for Plunkett would seem to be a very good idea. There are benefits that come from them being a community rather than govt organisation, but whatever the organisational situation, having more caring nurses out in the community aware of all that's happening on the ground could only be a good thing. (It's the kind of service churches could perhaps have provided if we had not lost the goodwill of many in this nation.)

We need a cultural change; we need hearts that care passionately about the issues, but not only that; we need minds that understand the real problems in our society (including the structures supporting and failing to oppose them) and willing hands to do the hard costly work required to enact the change.

A gem:

"There is no argument that alcohol is one of the constant and significant ingredients in alcohol-related incidents”

This is of course taken slightly out of context, but as a philosophy student I find it humourous.
It is from a serious contribution to the 'drinking age' debate from a while back.

time to question atheism, yet again; broken record, I know

Sorry, first off, for the poor structuring/layout/whatever-it's called. 'Formatting' - that's the one. I find it a hassle and can't be bothered getting the html to work. But anyway:

Sometimes I read I'm not really proud of this, but it fills in the time.

Rich likes to show off the emails he gets from crazies. Fair enough; but if he wants to point and laugh at crazies, he should read the forums on his site. Given what you see in various internet forums and comments lists, populated by ignorant young men with self-esteem issues, I can imagine sites such as "" must also receive some interesting emails.

More interesting however for me is the section of the site labelled "converts corner" and the associated "Good" emails that Rich has received. Their spelling, let alone comprehension of the issues, is little better than that of Dawkins' specially-picked (for the purposes of mocking) opponents.

This is an interesting quote:

I was reading on your website the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly section and it
just amazes me how so many christians, who preach about the love and compassion of their religion, can say such vile things, but I think they really need to look in the mirror when they say atheists are "dumb, clueless and hateful", as was quoted in one of the letters from your site. I don't see atheists trying to
brainwash people, or telling people that they're doing to burn in some imaginary hell... that's awful. Atheism has never caused any wars or mass murders.

I do see atheists, a la Dawkins, trying to brainwash people - and lack of belief in God has sadly, I would suggest, been a contributing factor in a number of wars and mass-murders. Incidentally, I don't believe in "some imaginary hell". Unfortunately, I believe in a real one, of some sort. Maybe those who reject God are 'just' extinguished; either way, it's not the best way to go.

Presumably Rich's people are fairly proud of this letter, the first in their list. It's quite revealing -

I've highlighted the interesting and some of the more questionable bits in blue. Commentary below.

I must thank you immensly for your work. I'm getting to the end of your
fantastic book 'The god delusion' and couldn't wait until the end to thank you.
I first got to know about you through Mr Brown's book 'tricks of the mind'.
Having been raised quite alike him in an evangelic christian community, I
related a lot to his story. So, I had to get hold of the book to which he is so elogious.

I gave up my parents (and my) beliefs sometime around my teenage years.
Thinking more and more about my received teachings, I arrived to the simple
conclusion that they just conflicted with common sense! In the past, i've found
myself cornered by my lack of knowledge, which gave the christian defending his
beliefs automatic (perceived in his sense) victory! Needless to say how
nauseating this is. Your book is a gold mine of proof that i hope will put in
doubt every religious believing person that crosses my way from now on.

Another teenager rejects his parents beliefs (or, taking a literal reading, perhaps gave up his parents?), apparently without knowing too much about them (evangelic?). Since when should 'common sense' accord with reality, given atheism/naturalism? e.g. Dennett is rather keen on rejecting common sense - well, when it suits anyway.

"A gold mine of proof". Wow. Just.. wow.

I leave you with some more gems. If you like them, step in to my shoes and/or come visit my bookshelf.

I see the irrationality of religion. My hope is that other
will see the true light. Thank you again. I won't hesitate
to speak my mind and support my position if challenged by
an irrational religious person!


The fervour with which exponents of religious ideals evangelise their
beliefs on an un-informed public, needs to be met with an equally zealous
counteract, to educate and inform.


Incidentally my atheist enlightenment came from understanding that the attraction of two magnets could be explained by physics! I used to carry two plastic magnetic turtles into my Belfast Sunday 'school' in the hope that they would repel the irrational lunacy that I was being force fed, and attract some rational thought.


Now, I am still amazed at the complexity of nature. But it is nature itself, and not such a sill book written by cavemen, that reveals to us the truths of this world. I have finally found my true religion, which is no religion.

If you're not tired yet, read this and the comments to get some grip on people's twisted view of the world: Some are actually proud of the fact that they can't understand Plantinga's argument, or complain that they get a headache from reading it. I could go on; but I humbly suggest that if you think you're smarter than this guy, it is quite likely you haven't read his work carefully enough. If you're an atheist posting comments on Dawkins' website and you think you're smarter than Plantinga, I would like to meet you - I will most probably laugh. I do appreciate it however when people try to actually engage with careful Christian thought - kudos to those people.

Nov 27, 2010

though we know it not

a poem

and a question


It's quite gratifying to get good marks occasionally. My last two (in both senses - I probably won't be doing any more philosophy for a while, if ever) philosophy courses gained me A+s to help drag my grade point average up a little. I feel an A+ in philosophy is somehow particularly noble, though am not sure why. I finally feel too like I might finally be almost living up to my potential in philosophy. But to balance this, I know I didn't put a huge amount of work in to the courses, particularly the second one. Lectures were missed and revision largely consisted in me trying to reinvent the field with the help of the internet, as that was more interesting. I didn't have much background in it for a stage 3 course and to be honest, it seems I snuck in between the academic cracks using my native intelligence; competing against people who, as interested as they may claim to be in philosophy, have been blessed with less of this as well as with less interesting ideas (i.e. I know how to be controversial without going too far) and of course, along with everyone else I've been taking advantage of general grade inflation. I find it hard to believe that high marks in advanced courses have always been given out so easily as they would seem to be now, particularly in Arts courses.

Comparing all this with my molecular biology papers is potentially a little depressing, but to some extent the same goes there, in that I don't have much background in this field either - the difference is that in that realm, it actually shows up in my marks. I can start to see the stereotype of an Arts degree kind of course in my philosophy papers; pity I've only really just got used to the art of intelligently bullsh*tting as that part of my degree comes to an end. Of course, I tend to believe what I write, but I know full well that it isn't particularly rigorous or even, usually, novel - I just also know that it's better than what my classmates are writing.

Taking another tack, I particularly enjoy getting good marks for defending Christian orthodoxy in fields which are generally presumed to have 'gotten over it'. Perhaps I have postmodernism and the tolerant pluralistic society to thank, but I'm seeing that Christian faith stands up well when articulated clearly and when in critical dialogue with other options on offer in the marketplace of ideas.

Nov 24, 2010

Where, o death? Pike River

So it turns out the the miners trapped at the Pike River Coal Mine have died, perhaps en masse - in the recent second explosion if they weren't already killed in the first.

Thousands of people around New Zealand prayed that they might be discovered alive; from the prime minister downwards - but it looks like this hope won't be fulfilled for any of the remaining miners. Were these prayers pointless? Is it time to shrug in confusion and continue life as usual, or reassess how we're going about it all? "If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die"?

Is prayer just a futile attempted exercise in wish fulfillment? Is it necessarily silly? Is the universe ultimately a giant fluke of many atoms, bizarrely ordered; and occasionally heart-wrenchingly disordered, with no-one pulling any strings - or somewhere out there is there someone who cares? Where's the evidence? What kind of evidence do we want?

Why do people die? Why do many die 'before their time'? What is a life well lived and what is robbed from those who die early; and if there is any such thing, by whom is it stolen? If life is not perfect, or if we are not, what is the cause? Where do the ideals we have come from and do they hold any real value?

Death comes for all of us. Some of us are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, others by an explosion, others by cancer, car crashes, drowning, heart attack, murder or chilling accident. Life matters. I hold too, that the ending of a life is truly significant. It's not just a subtle shift in the configuration of a particular collocation of atoms. But why might I think this?

I commend to your attention and study 1 Cor: 15, particularly from verse 12 onwards. I like the option this site gives you to 'listen' to the scriptures; why not check it out?

Nov 23, 2010

to keep up a theme - may as well stay true to the blog's subtitle

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

In my travels I've met a number of committed people of faith from non-Christian families, in some of the most unexpected places, like the Anglican Church - now I've almost come to expect it when out and about in churchy circles.

Here's one I haven't met, a New Zealander who's associated with people I have. Here he briefly talks about marriage and what it might mean, a topic on which I have no clue but am also starting to develop some views. I'll leave the discussion to him. The blog is a collective one called 'kiwifruit' as it's about bearing fruit of the gospel here in New Zealand.

women of the reformation

struggling to find something to post here - too much to do and rather little motivation

this was interesting tho:

Nov 13, 2010

nano to meet you

it seems to me that out of Christians involved in the upper echelons of science, a disproportionate number are involved in Nanotechnology. Why is this? Is Nanotechnology not real science or is it particularly good science, is it coincidence, or am I quite wrong in my supposition?

I think, at least, of James Tour, Cees Dekker, Richard Smalley (deceased, Nobel Prize), Jeff Tallon (NZ) and a couple of British professors at Oxford and Imperial College whose names I can't remember.

Soon I'll write an article of some kind vaguely relating to this kind of thing.

In the mean-time, for some pretty pictures, here's a project relating to one of these people:

Nov 3, 2010

yet, I see

A piece of prose from Jack Kerouak, turned into free-flowing poetry of sorts by moi
(apparently this section provides the context)

Yet I saw the cross
just then
when I closed my eyes
after writing all this.
I cant escape its mysterious
into all this brutality.

I just simply
SEE it
all the time,
even the Greek cross
I hope it will
all turn out true.

Nov 2, 2010

random quotes, sayings and stuff like that

"Anyone who can say with a straight face that Hitler was a Christian.. overdid the plastic surgery." - me

"abortion is highly questionable" - an atheist philosopher from a top UK university

"Wenn du dass glaubst, werdst du mich sehen und verstehen was ich mein wenn ich sag ich will Frei sein." Xavier Naidoo

[Christianity] “was dreamed up by illiterate goatherds 2,000 years ago” – AC Grayling

"If you don’t like the fact that God has intentions for your life, I suggest you simply do not know what those intentions are." - me

Nov 1, 2010

[my name] isn't rich

but Google's sponsored links seem to think so. I sent an email to a friend mentioning "the economics of energy markets" and Google gave me an ad on the sidebar for a BMW dealer in NZ. That was kind of them. Sending emails about science or philosophy (or God!) don't seem to have the same result.

Perhaps this is a hint that I really should keep going with the economics if I want to make money. Fortunately for my sanity, I've given up the "make lots of moolah" plan. I'd probs go with a Porsche anyway.

Oct 25, 2010

sermon draft: the beginning of the Church; radical Jesus community

picture of a model of the 2nd temple in Jerusalem, courtesy of Wikipedia

(From the NET Bible):
Acts 2:42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 2:43 Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. 2:44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. 2:46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 2:47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.


If you know much about the book of Acts, you may have noticed that today’s passage gives an account directly following the event of Pentecost, in Jerusalem. I wonder though, does anyone know what the original Jewish festival was about? Why were people celebrating it and why was it called ‘Pentecost’, for instance?


It celebrated the giving of the law on Mt Sinai, after Israel’s central event figuring and prefiguring salvation – the Exodus from Egypt. God had saved his people from slavery in Egypt, the time partly covered in the movies “Joseph, Prince of Dreams” and “Moses, Prince of Egypt”. This was celebrated yearly at the time of the Passover. And then, after Egypt, God gave a framework for his community; the law, including the 10 commandments. The feast of the law, or the feast of weeks as it came 7 weeks after Passover, was the feast of Pentecost.

Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover festival, we find in all 4 gospels – and in the light of this new, final salvation event, God creates a new community, at the feast of Pentecost. It’s over simplifying it, but we could say that while the old community of Israel was centred on the Law of God – the new Israel, was a community of the love of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The new community is the Church, a vibrant, attractive, missional community. Let’s look at what this passage says about what it means to be a part of this community.

I’m fairly convinced that the Church is worth being committed to. Christian community is worth my time, worth our time. The early Church agreed; we see in our passage in Acts that they met every day, fellowshipping together, praying, eating together and devoting themselves to the doctrine, the teaching of the apostles.

But the modern world disagrees with me; if you agree with me about the importance of Christian community, it probably disagrees with you too, tho perhaps in different ways. Many of you have been around longer than me, so you know what it’s like. Sometimes it disagrees emphatically, but generally apathetically; sometimes I’d also say just pathetically. What we don’t see so much in the modern world is what we read about in this passage in Acts. A little while after Jesus’ death and resurrection the number of people identifying themselves as following Jesus in community in Jerusalem had just grown from 120 to 3000plus people and it was still growing. People joined up on a daily basis.
In New Zealand, how many churches could claim this? None, let us be honest. Now some tell us that in fact we see a trend towards disbelief that can only continue; we see atheists loud and proud, in certain areas anyway, including some populist billboards. Atheists are a real phenomenon and I think most of the church has ignored them for too long. It seems to me that we see people asking questions that have already been answered (to some extent) by the Church, but they don’t know it because the Church is not, unlike the Church of Acts, saying anything in public. We see other religions increasingly prominently in our country as well – if we cede the public sphere further in favour of some kind of privatised religion, we will probably see people converting to these other religions because they claim to offer something the secular world does not. I think we’ve seen this for quite a while in things like the popularity of psychics, crystals, horoscopes and other New Age phenomena. But all of this is not the whole story; the extent to which Christian faith is widespread and maybe even growing, under the secular and pluralist surface continues to amaze me sometimes – I could give various examples. It’s not all bad news for the Church, by any means.

We do have a Church in New Zealand and we will for many years to come, of some sort. Yet frankly what I think we, the reasonably affluent western Church of middle class suburbia, lack in comparison to Acts is the devotion in this passage. If we were actually committed to living out the things in this passage, we would be more visible. Devotion in combination with sound understanding is a powerful mix. On a related note, I love vocal atheists, for instance I really like billboards which try to be clever about religion; and one of the reasons is that they help to clarify things, including, by the way, how dull the ‘New Atheist’ movement really is. The masses in New Zealand float around the middle somewhere, interested in Jesus but not too close to the Church, pulled in one direction or another by popular culture and if the Church’s doors are open, maybe God will yet pull many more in.

Ok, so I’m advocating devotion, but devotion to what? Clearly devotion to God is important for a people claiming to be God’s people; a Church, but this should have practical, visible outworkings and we need devotion to living these out. I can’t tell you what commitment to Jesus should look like for you. I can tell you something about what it looked like in the early church and some of the consequences the world saw of that commitment. I’m told it’s traditional to have three main points in a sermon, so here’s an attempt:

*Firstly it’s commitment to the teachings of the apostles – those who had been with Jesus and were sent out as teachers.
*Secondly these people are committed to fellowship and hospitality; to each other and building up the community
*Thirdly, commitment to prayer.

The rest of what we see happening follows from these. I’ll let you think about some of those details and I’ll focus on the three points.

But first, note that these weren’t self-initiated. This community wasn’t a nice idea a few people had – it only existed in response to what God had done and particularly it was in response to a single sermon which the apostle Peter had preached at the time of Pentecost.

So, a quick look at the first point of commitment; the teachings of the apostles:
Peter was a rock on which the Church was built – the way he built up the church was through preaching through key passages of hope in the Old Testament, relating them to Jesus. Public proclamation of God’s word to a receptive audience bore fruit. This was what I was trying to get at earlier – the Church was visible as a community, it made sure the truth about God was heard – this is still important today. This fruit was developed through further study of the word and the apostles’ teachings, inspired by the Holy Spirit, which we have collected in the New Testament.

Secondly, the early Church was committed to radical hospitality. The Greco-Roman world saw the way that these people treated each other and it showed up as different. The same opportunity exists in today’s individualistic society. Many people want to be able to rely on the state, I suspect because they don’t trust their family, neighbours and community to be reliable. The Church can offer a different kind of hospitality and generosity; I hope that this stands out. The early Church realised that their resources were not their own; they sold them as resources were needed by the community. Not for the sake of some communist or communitarian ideal but because of need and the simple realisation that assets are generally not given to you by God to be sat on. By common consent, these people lived sacrificially.

The Jesus community straight after Pentecost, which had just seen 3000 people added to their numbers could easily have been self-satisfied or triumphalist about their situation. Instead, they committed to prayer as a community. How much more is this necessary in situations like ours today?

Devotion is hard work and it hurts. It’s not the same thing as hype. I’ve seen Christian hype, you probably have too; and I’ve seen it fail - but I’ve also seen the real effects that people genuinely excited for Jesus can have. So there’s a balance there I guess. If there’s one thing the early Church in this passage models that the Church could do with more of, it’s commitment. Not commitment to structures or buildings, but to the unchanging sound truth of the apostles’ teaching, to a way of living that is painful; costly and joyful – and to prayer, which binds it all together.

The challenge I see in this passage is to ask: am I committed to working out my commitment in these three ways? I think so. If we want to see salvation come to people around us, these things are worth working on, in God’s community.

Oct 22, 2010

polytheism, monotheism, atheism and the number of husbands

It's fairly frequently said that much as 'Religion' developed from polytheism to monotheism, we can expect intelligent members of society to catch on to the trend, adopt atheism and for society to gain commensurate benefits.

To my mind, this blatantly commits something like the "xkcd extrapolating fallacy". This should be avoided.

Naturalism is a drastic cure searching for a disease. The bogeyman of 'Religion' does not cut it.

Get rid of God and you lose a lot, including some of your own footing. The phrase "self-defeating" is one which avid naturalists need to learn, relearn and check their thoughts against before they're verbalised too vocally. The turn to monotheism prevented the worship of nature and self - attempting to remove God seems to just result in retrogression. Let's not go there.

Oct 10, 2010

a quale of quail

Yesterday, I had the quale (experience) of, whilst it was quiet and I was walking up my street, seeing two female (I think) quail on a rail (fence top) - it was quite exciting and quaint really. We used to get quail, including baby quail quite frequently wandering up and down our street, until all the neighbours got cats and the good old days switched over into the 21st Century.

I partly write this as I'm studying the philosophy of mind, a course in which I'd like to learn more about qualia (the plural of quale) and free will but won't, maybe because the course has a bit of a physicalist bias and maybe also because these topics can soon get horrendously complex. As a side note, I half-expected the course would turn me into a physicalist (presumably a Christian one - there are some VERY good philosophers in this category) and we'd read lots of stuff by Dennett and maybe I'd do really badly or have to pretend to be a Dennett fan, but it didn't turn out that way (or hasn't so far anyway). I actually got an A+ (93%) for a blatantly theistic essay promoting dualism (not because I felt particularly attached to it so much as just cos I saw a possible gap and wanted to be controversial and run for it) - not a particularly great essay by any account, I had thought. Sooo, that's a bonus. I also partly write this as I'm meant to be writing an essay and am trying to work out how to fit qualia into it, which reminded me of the quail, 'as you [they] do [would]', as they say.

This was just a ramble, but it might encourage me to post more frequently at this blog again. I've been genuinely busy recently, but much of the busyness was probably closely related to the act of being slouched in my chair absent-mindedly scrolling through facebook late at night rather than reviewing lectures on topics I don't really care about; so its value as an excuse is small, a bit like the non-existent baby quail in my street.

Sep 24, 2010

Intelligence Officer

If my university education all goes to custard and/or no one wants to employ me afterwards (particularly likely if I avoid / make a mess of biology and attempt to enter the murky depths of academic philosophy), I could presumably be an "Intelligence Officer" with the RNZAF. Surely the skill set required isn't too formidable and it sounds like the kind of job which a doctorate or two would help in obtaining. Pay is $14.42 an hour! (up to $33.65) At that rate, I'll have my loan for a few decades, but at least I'll be happy and my intelligence could hardly fail to be recognised. If necessary, I would wear a badge.


Sep 18, 2010

paidea - education

Cornell West challenges the plebs and the rest:

weighing the facts

Many atheists are annoyed at how they are, as they see it, misunderstood by Christians.

The fact - and it is indeed a fact - that many people do not treat atheists and their views fairly and with respect does very little to show that the atheists themselves really understand what they are themselves critiquing.

Hypocrisy is rife, integrity is valuable and the truth matters. This is the world we live in.

There is a kind of faith that is easily lost, but I'd rather not have it

read this if you want

Sep 11, 2010


I'm quite enjoying this site:

Some of the Christian ones are ok (I may have added a couple) and there are a few I'm not sure about - are these people atheists or mocking and/or just internet trolls like me?

Arguably one of my favourites is:
"Excuse me? Aren't you to old to have a imaginary friend?"
(Old enough to have passed through primary school in any case.)

By no means are crude errors in spelling and grammar the least impressive thing about The Internet Atheists. Sorry guys, but telling everyone else how smart you are isn't as great as you may think, particularly when so many of your assertions are demonstrably false.

Aug 30, 2010

it's a catch CO2, or release CO2, situation

I'm quite looking forward to being able to drive and owning a car; maybe in a few weeks, all going well. Cars create CO2. CO2 is bad. That's a problem. Maybe I just need to plant more trees (like, at least one) - but trees cost money and money doesn't grow on trees (not that I have any trees anyway). The alternative of non-independence isn't too appealing however.

I figure I'll make up for it later. The same logic which can justify a host of evils. But I NEED this, right?

Aug 29, 2010

Christians are so ... urgh.

The Onion makes me cry. Or cringe, in any case. Come on everyone; cringe with me!,926/

this one's interesting too:,17954/ particularly this salient point: "the reality is most of the smart, qualified people in this country are wasting away in assistant professorships at struggling public universities or making millions of dollars in some venture capital group. In fact, that's exactly the kind of job I would have right now if I were a real person. Which I'm not."

Don't be offended, but

(in other words, get ready to cry);

In letting this blog run downhill, at least in title choice, I was just trying to communicate at your level,

or the level of the hypothetical "you" who reads this blog.

I've decided, after relative failure in that regard and now that I almost have a break from uni and some time to think, that I'll forget about targeting this blog to the audience I know it gets atm and just write stuff that I care about. If you don't like it, the internet is a free country. As it were.

Aug 26, 2010

True humour

From an absolute master (Plantinga) comes this review of science and religion in the standard free philosophical reference, the SEP. You may not laugh much, but it is brilliant, in an appropriately subtle way. There is a reason why this man has, arguably, nigh on single-handedly (with the help of some of his cronies and students) transformed the landscape of analytical philosophy of religion in recent decades.

Here's a taste:

For example, suppose I tell you that I saw you at the mall yesterday afternoon. Then with respect to part of your total evidence base—a part that includes your knowledge that I told you I saw you there, together with your knowledge that I have decent vision and am ordinarily reliable, and the like—the right thing to think is that you were at the mall. Nevertheless, we may suppose, you know perfectly well that you weren't there; you remember that you were home all afternoon thinking about methodological naturalism. Here the right thing to think from the perspective of a proper part of your evidence base is that you were at the mall; but this does not give you a defeater for your belief that you were not there. Another example: we can imagine a renegade group of whimsical physicists proposing to reconstruct physics, refusing to use memory beliefs, or if that is too fantastic, memories of anything more than 1 minute ago. Perhaps something could be done along these lines, but it would be a poor, paltry, truncated, trifling thing. And now suppose that the best theory, from this limited evidence base, is inconsistent with general relativity. Should that give pause to the more traditional physicists who employ what they know by way of memory as well as what the renegade physicists use? I should think not. This truncated physics could hardly call into question physics of the fuller variety, and the fact that from a proper part of the scientific evidence base, something inconsistent with general relativity is the best theory—that fact would hardly give more traditional physicists a defeater for general relativity.

Similarly for the case under question. The traditional Christian thinks she knows by faith that Jesus was divine and that he rose from the dead. But then she need not be moved by the fact that these propositions are not especially probable on the evidence base to which HBC [Historical Biblical Criticism - ME] limits itself—i.e., one constrained by MN [Methodological Naturalism - ME] and therefore one that deletes any knowledge or belief dependent upon faith. The findings of HBC, if findings they are, need not give her a defeater for those of her beliefs with which they are incompatible. The point is not that HBC, evolutionary psychology and other scientific theorizing couldn't in principle produce defeaters for Christian belief; the point is only that its coming up with theories incompatible with Christian belief doesn't automatically produce such a defeater.

Plantinga, Alvin, "Religion and Science", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

bloody haemoglobin!

Eating my breakfast, trying to focus on an upcoming biochemistry test (largely on oxygen-transporting metalloproteins) this (the title) was all I could think for a few seconds - quite depressing; then I realised the irony.

EDIT(2) - lol - 'irony', gettit??.. heme, iron - wow.

As for the 'Root Effect'; ah .. well, you can perhaps guess my thoughts around that one.

EDIT: after a few mins of study, I am more fond of haemoglobin. It is, like much of biochem, so freakin' clever. Whoever made this stuff, I take my hat off to you. As one of my first year lecturers said, (something like) "God is a very subtle biochemist - that's worth thinking about." Two negative allosteric effectors (which reduce oxygen binding, i.e. make haemoglobin give up the O2 it is holding) are carbon dioxide (indirectly, through reactions producing H+ and the Cl- shuttled into red blood cells, to replace hydrogencarbonate, by a Cl- transporter) and higher temperature. It just so happens that both of these conditions are found in exercising muscle, thus facilitating the exchange of O2 for CO2 here and keeping you folks alive. We see here a tight, tight relationship between the structure of the haemoglobin protein tetramer, its function (influenced in the 'right direction' by various different molecules/conditions) and its environment - but at the whole organism level of oxygen transport as well as at the molecular. E.g (as above): the temperature increase in skeletal muscle cells which is a side-effect of respiration also happens to affect the haemoglobin protein in the right way for it to function well when it reaches these cells.

More along vaguely similar lines, particularly on the relations between CO2 and HCO3- (as I recall) here:

Aug 20, 2010

good times on wikipedia

"Swallows are excellent fliers, and use these skills to attract a mate, feed and to sometimes carry coconuts."
Or, I am guessing, all three at once!

But, holey maccaroni, I've got to get me a swallow and test this statement.

Aug 18, 2010

the writing is on the plant cell wall

Recently I have perhaps been too callose with myself and others.

I shall cease and desist and instead spend more time working on my puns.

EDIT: it just turns out my lab report due date got extended. Yayness! Now I can celebrate by thinking of more puns, or more probably, by actually doing a decent job of this report and writing an essay on dualism. Yep, dualism.

Incidentally, the title comes from the original 'Writing on the Wall' in Daniel Chapt 6.

This isn't exactly plant or wall related, but if you're reading this you can't have anything too urgent happening: it has struck me recently that in the grand scheme of thrill seeking, danger-finding and ueber-gambling, the board game grandiosely called 'Risk', for all the potential upset when Papua New Guinea invades Western Australia (or such), doesn't really feature. It's a bit like calling your child "King Alfonso III" when you know, given your lifestyle, he's most probably gonna spend the rest of his life selling, using -or a combination of both options- various chemical substances in dark metropolitan alleyways in order to survive and get some enjoyment from life. It's a little unwarranted, but perhaps its inconsistency somehow excuses it.

Aug 17, 2010

does that make me a stranger?

This blog has got more strange recently, I admit.

I blame the current testing environment.

And science - it does weird stuff to you.

Aug 16, 2010

my best friend's the curator of the universe

This title was so good I decided this post should have some content;
to accompany. So:
A little nonsense verse, written from the back of a hearse
well not really - perhaps a horse, though not that either:
(I'll sort out the metre some other time and place;
I'll be sure as sure to change the pace, just a little later.)

So, I've been thinking
about this world, sinking
into mud of our own creation
The weevil, the beagle, the eagle and the ant
all wait in eager anticipation
of their approaching emancipation

You might find that in Galatians
But for surety you'll have to check.
(Above I'd like to add in the tui and the beaver
but they just don't fit.)

The sun shines blue
and the sea waves cheerily
and I'll take this mostly as true
cos if it ain't then we do verily
have a bit of a problem here.
Note that I don't want to scare you.

The tui warbles, as is quite normal -
but I'd rather not take it all for granted.

Aug 15, 2010

Rhamnogalacturonan II

No, it's not a planet in Star-Trek. (Well, it might be - it's been quite a while since I've indulged-in / stooped-to old sci-fi.) Instead, it's one of the most complex molecules in the biosphere. It's a plant polysaccharide domain, a sub-category of the pectic polysaccharides.

I'll post more on this molecule once I've gone and studied about it. It's got something to do with cross-linking other sugars and borate esters. Bioinorganic chemistry is, from my limited knowledge, quite fantabulous.

If this doesn't fascinate you, you either need to get your brain checked or to stop reading this blog. Now. (If you want.)

Nocturnal Omissions

Decided I should try and stay honest to the banner for once.. Kind of.

I have some interesting stories about uni at night, but I'll keep it P.G. and share this one I've adapted somewhat:

Around 10 o’clock on a Thursday evening, a dude (you can call him Joe if you want) was walking alone, hoping to get from uni to the Sky Tower to catch his bus home, taking a short cut through Albert Park. On the way some guys on drugs of some kind or other jumped out of the bushes from behind, and attacked him; his branded clothing. leather wallet and cellphone were taken (yep, his cellphone - these people had no mercy) and he was left moaning on the ground slightly regretting his travel decision. Note that this story goes downhill before getting better.

Soon someone came past – the Vice President (VP for short) of the Conservative Christian Club on his way home after a late outreach meeting. He, the VP, wanted to get home in time to read the Bible, as was his custom - and realised that if he stopped for the dude, he’d be later than would be usual for the VP, so he (the VP) prayed for him silently and passed by.

But not to worry, it seems the prayer was answered quickly; for someone else approached from the other direction. She was another religious leader (surprisingly common at uni), this time President of the Bible Study Union, popping into uni for a late prayer meeting and some community-building time. Being quite conscious of personal safety and cleanliness and already late for the important meeting, she hurried by with her coffee, while of course praying for the dude’s health and safety (she intended to work for OSH after graduating).

Next, however, a drunken Engineering student came tipsily near, after leaving a crowd of his rowdy mates, recently having topped up their alcohol levels at Shadz, as was their custom. (Note to the particularly slow or non-NZ reader - this probably isn't going to go too well - we all know about Engineering Students!) He saw the dude, now semi-conscious and no longer moaning, laughed a little and got down on his knees on the gravel, dealt to the dude’s bleeding leg, worked out what had happened to the dude and informed the Police, then sorted and paid for a taxi home for him.

Who acted like a good neighbour for Joe?

Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”

Aug 9, 2010

do you mind?!

Since I'm looking into the phil of mind, I'll share this fascinating contribution. Enjoy.

My Philosophical Beginning:A Completely Fictional Account
As it happened, I started out as a Cartesian. And I didn't even know it. Here is what happened. Before I had ever heard of philosophy, I was an art student in a small college called the "California Institution for the Artists and Others" (CIAO). The atmosphere at CIAO was bright, energetic, uplifting, and Mediterranean. Naturally we were never short of olive oil. CIAO offered an unusual, strange, bizarre, and unexpected major; world-renowned curriculum in Food Art. Being dazzled by the unusual, strange, bizarre, and unexpected, I promptly signed up for it. One day the instructor gave us a challenging assignment. We were to create an aesthetically assertive model of a body part using edible stuff. I could readily think of several body parts suitable to be modeled by fruits and vegetables. But I had to be above the ordinary and the mundane. I had to transcend the level of simplistic thinking that would have had me make tibiae out of celery stalks or fingers out of ladyfingers. I rejected every idea that occurred to me within the first hour of receiving the assignment. I had to refuse to listen to the societal authorities. I had to reject all conventions. I had to dig down deep to the very foundations of imagination and aesthetic assertiveness. I seated myself quietly in front of a fireplace. Staring at the fire, I concentrated. I wanted my project to be so strong that its impact was inescapably real, not only formally but objectively. I struggled for hours. Then suddenly, an idea presented itself, clearly. I would create a model of a retina. Next I had to choose the edible stuff to use. Again I concentrated in front of the fire. More hours passed. Then suddenly, an idea came to me, distinctly. I would use a sweet potato. Once I had decided on all aspects of the project, I wasted no time. After six days of intense work, during which I especially struggled to achieve a delicate balance between the rods and the cones, I was ready to put the final touch on my creation. I went to an open studio to choose a special dye. I saw my instructor behind a large table. On the table was a series of ten bowls containing ten varieties of ink. I examined them all very carefully before deciding on the third bowl from the end. I held high in my hand my sculpture of a retina made out of a sweet potato. I wanted my instructor to know which dye out of those ten I needed and for what use. I pointed to the bowl I had picked and said:"Eighth Ink, There, For Eye Yam."

H/T: shamelessly stolen from Takashi Yagisawa:

Aug 8, 2010

Scary little fulla

I'm not too sure if this is a fulla or a fullarette, but either way it's pretty cool imho.
Does anyone else think 'Asgard' when they see this?

don't steal this thought - or link back if you do

This is my considered opinion on the probable recipe for a recent movie:

3/7 ['The Matrix'] + 2/7 ['Oceans 11'] + 1/7 ['Avatar'] + 1/7 ['Titanic'] = ['Inception']

By considered opinion, I mean in this case that it popped into my head (I won't go into the possible details of how it got there) and after a few seconds' thought I see no reason, such as a scary woman with a knife, to deny its veracity.

Aug 7, 2010

webcomik or death

Absolutely splitting my sides with cyanide and happiness - humour FTW!

This one's a bit more serious tho.

(I don't want to kill your fun, but I immediately thought of abortion when I saw it.)

resounding truth

A love poem for you, my dear audience.
(The poem's for you, the love is for freedom.)

Hear that sound?
It's the pounding of chairs
at the end of the day,
cheering my soul and clearing the way
- to freedom.
Do not ever; I say never,
stop them or hold them back!
Let their sound resound, let it be clear,
throughout the years
of all our pointless tertiary education;
let us hear in this sound
the possibility of recreation
which we lack now.

Aug 6, 2010

some tips for n00bs

heya guys; here's some tips, some general advice - for the most part they're pretty basic - collected from experience over the past week and one a little earlier:

If you're a Muslim:

*Don't come up to me with "two questions" and procede to tell me repeatedly how basically everyone's converting to Islam.
*Don't expect me to be impressed by a handful of movie stars (who you can't name) converting to Islam.
*Don't even expect me to be impressed by many nameless scientists converting. I've seen these lists on Muslim sites. They tend in my experience to be of quotes saying something nice about Islam / the Qu'ran rather than actual convertees, but more relevantly why should I care if some scientists who have (e.g.) attended Muslim conferences in Saudi Arabia (perhaps some of you can see the $ubtext here) have converted? Can't you just give me a decent line of reasoning please?
*Don't expect me to be impressed when the only "Christian scholar" who's converted that you can name is a former (minor) American preacher I happen to already know something about because he's all over Islamic TV etc. Apparently there are lots of them, but only poor Muslims convert to Christianity - oh, don't expect me to buy that either. (When I name a genuine Islamic scholar who converted and claim there are a few Imam-types who have, of course it's ignored. Stating the fact that people living in poor Muslim countries who convert tend not to get the claimed "benefits" prompted the general spiel on how most Muslims aren't really Muslim or something like that. Doesn't stop you saying how many Muslims there are though..)
*Don't tell me that Mohammed was (like Jesus) sinless (this is perhaps more controversial, I admit)
*Don't tell me the Qu'ran has no contradictions but the Bible has many and then deny any knowledge of the Islamic doctrine of abrogation. Maybe you know nothing about it, but in that case why are you coming up to argue with me and assuring me that I know nothing about Islam?

*Do: read the New Testament.

If you're an atheist:

*Don't claim that any mention of Jesus in Josephus was invented by Christians.
*Don't assume that Jesus was crucified in 0 AD (that was probs just a slip).
*Don't imply that the only people who matter in/to Christianity are men.
*Don't confuse Tacitus with Suetonius.
*Don't assert in front of 400 people that Jesus never existed and the Christians burned books (presumably in reference to the secular myths around the library of Alexandria)
*Don't tell me that the Anthropic Principle explains the facts I've listed as being best explained by their theistic consilience (order/coherency of universe, rational beings, moral facts, consciousness & free will)
*Don't assume that science - and therefore finding the truth about things - is all about falsifiability
*Do: read the New Testament.

Otherwise, I will be sad.

Aug 5, 2010

books and laughter - a winning combo

There is presumably some way to embed this. I shall continue to presume this but not act on the presumption as it is fairly content-less.


don't deny your destiny

From the website of Destiny Church; I found this perhaps a little ironic:

"A carnal church cannot give birth to spiritual things"

Here's another gem, this time in promotion of Bishop Brian's autobiographical book:

"Never before have the forces of religious, political and social activism converged more powerfully than in the life of Brian Tamaki"

some people would perhaps make a similar case for a guy called Jesus..

Aug 4, 2010


"Pour me a heavy dose of atmosphere." Or maybe I've had enough; took part in a really sad debate. Under-prepared & 4got to imbibe caffeine b4hand. Earnest but not too coherent; Christian-stereotype incarnated. Got slaughtered in th special way skeptics have where doubt/suspicion/worry masquerades as argument & naturalism is assumed cos, hey, we're at a uni. 'Christianity is obviously false, so I'm here to laugh/mock/have-my-beliefs-confirmed(?)' IDK.

Jul 30, 2010

A half-formed poem about perfection:

It's not very sophisticated, but hey it's late
and take it or leave it, it's what I've created:

Let me explain the mystery
of eternity revealed in humanity
-Jesus Christ – God’s story,
at the right time in history
The son of man, claiming divinity
The son of God, part of the Trinity

A time of heightened messianic expectation
The Pax Romana, was appropriate preparation

There were many prophecies of the one to come
He fulfilled them and surprised everyone

He healed in the streets and hung out with the lost
He upset the authorities, paying the ultimate cost

We find him mentioned in Flavius Josephus, Pliny & Suetonius
The Christ-myth hypothesis is simply erroneous

Jesus was hung, taking God’s curse for me
The perfect representa-tive of humanity

After three days in the tomb he was raised from the dead
This was true vindication of what he had said.

Jesus is alive and well today.
Now, we come to the question: what do you say?

Jul 28, 2010

some words seldom heard, from a little bird

A piece of TS Eliot's 'Ash Wednesday'. This may be cliched for anyone into poetry, but I don't mind. I'd like to write more, including poetry, myself; but I have little time a.t.m. and can't beat this in any case.

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

More here.

Jul 24, 2010

It's a Dog-Gone World

You may have heard the word on the street - the police dog 'Gage' is gone.

He was killed in the line of duty. Loads of money has poured in after the media's focus on him, I'm not sure for what purpose precisely but it's probably something charitable concerning dogs. In the news today (TV3 perhaps), there was a short story about an artist who's painted a picture of Gage to give to his owner or handler. The comment was made that Gage, in giving his life, paid the ultimate sacrifice, or something like this.

Interestingly, the words paralleled quite closely this verse:
"No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Dogs are cool, I used to want to have one even. But it concerned me that the suffering of thousands of people every day is deemed less important by some than the death of a dog. Is this a gauge of where our society is at? It'd almost be laughable if it were not so true. Even more so, however, the way the artist talked about this canine companion reminded me of a companion of mine named Jesus. The brief suffering of a dog is an example of the evil throughout this world, but it also points me to the suffering of the God who made the world, taken upon the incarnate Word's self to make the world right. It may seem that evil is rampant, but I can tell you that it is being dealt with and it has been dealt with - for someone with the right credentials has paid the ultimate price for His friends.

Now that, it seems to me, is good news.

Jul 18, 2010


I have some friends involved in this debate:

August 2nd @ 7pm, University of Auckland. Check out the info by clicking the pic.

Jul 14, 2010

books for all

I'm in the fortunate position of owning books. I'd like to lend them to you, perhaps for a tiny fee if they're expensive. If I know you or have reason to trust you. For the most part, you won't find them in your local library - unless whoever owns the library is awesome, that is.

Here are some I think are quite exciting which are on my shelf or there soon:
You'll see they're biased towards apologetics, science and philosophy - it's what I do.

The Reason for God - Tim Keller
a classic case for God and Christian orthodoxy - I have quibbles of course, but it is well-read and philosophically astute.

The Loser Letters - Mary Eberstadt
a little bit of sarcasm never hurt anyone - let's see if the New Atheists agree. Am looking fwd to this arriving.

Justice - Nicholas Wolterstorff
a Christian perspective on Justice from a philosophical theologian at Yale. Repays careful reading.

Embryo - A defense of human life - RP George & Chris Tollefsen
an intro to bioethical issues around abortion and embryo research. Useful in engaging with some biological details.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity Today - James Davison Hunter
am eagerly waiting for this collection of essays on Christianity's place in culture to arrive

The End of Christianity - William Dembski
'the Fall' - how can we make sense of it in light of an old earth? Dembski advocates a retro-active event.

God's Undertaker - John C Lennox
Science and God - a good intro not afraid to deal with scientific facts, stats and philosophy

The Signature in the Cell - Stephen C Meyer
a new summary of the case for Intelligent Design from DNA and the origin of life

Contending with Christianity's critics - William Lane Craig & Paul Copan (eds)
collection of pretty good essays. That was an understatement - some of them at least are 'spot on'.

The Genesis Enigma - Andrew Parker
an Oxford-based evolutionary biologist argues for ... Genesis' essential historical accuracy (!) Fascinating stuff.

Some older gems:

The Missing Gospels - Darrell Bock an introduction to 'gnostic' and other non-canonical early Christian writings from a conservative NT scholar
Jesus & Christian Origins outside the New Testament - FF Bruce
Jesus according to Scripture - Darrell Bock
Finding God at Harvard - Kelly Monroe
Telling the Truth - DA Carson (a collection of essays on postmodernism)
The Case for: Christ/A Creator/The Real Jesus - Lee Strobel
How blind is the Watchmaker? - Neil Broom

Please help me justify buying these by borrowing them. Thanks.

Jul 11, 2010

pair pressure

From 'Dangerous Idea': emphasis added

Loftus [an active internet skeptic - A.Z.] attributes religious belief to sociological conditioning. The elephant in the room is the culture of disbelief that is perpetuated, not by argumentation, but by intellectual intimidation and bullying, which anybody can find at most secular institutions of higher learning. I'm talking about the sort of "nobody believes that anymore" chronological snobbery that makes you feel as if some overwhelming argument was given on the day you were absent. It's the sort of attitude that makes an adolescent feel like a truly independent thinker because he has learned to be critical of his parents' attitudes and has adopted, instead, the attitudes of his peers. The idea that becoming a religious skeptic means transcending sociological pressures strikes me as ludicrous.

Jun 29, 2010

honesty is the theist policy

the joys of 'chat'

atheist: "what a pity he didn't find God in all his long years"

me: "yeah, it is."

Jun 26, 2010

on the absurd - 1

discussing suicide and those who have committed it, in The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus notes:
I have heard of an emulator of Peregrinos, a post-war writer who, after having finished his first book, committed suicide to attract attention to the work. Attention was in fact attracted, but the book was judged no good.

Jun 21, 2010

sweet, sweet freedom - so .. close .. yet so .. far ...

3 days (+ 1 of pure study starting in a few mins), 3 exams; & then I can catch up with life, reading, sleep, Jesus, driving, event-planning, conference-attending, presentation planning, debate planning, essay-writing & studying for next semester.

Anyway, I decided while I couldn't sleep last night that I may start a separate blog with the occasional cartoon of my own. Wowsers! This crazy idea will quite posibly not come to fruition, but if I work out how to draw cartoons it may. Not content to use up your valuable time with one blog, I must express my brain-crap visually as well. Mwa-ha-hahaha..

So yeah, cheers.

Jun 20, 2010

we are geometricians only by chance

A quote from 'Dr Johnson' (I assume Samuel Johnson), taken from an article by philosopher Peter van Inwagen, 'Science and Scripture' in Science and Religion in Dialogue [2010] available online at Blackwell Reference. if you know how to log in as a subscriber, or via your institution if you're so blessed. If you read through this collection in conjunction with their "Companion to Natural Theology", you'll leave your computer [possibly] better educated than I on these subjects; not too small an achievement.

The last few hundred years have seen thinkers who overestimate the intrinsic value of scientific knowledge ... Against this, I would set the following statements of the “great champion of the obvious,” Dr Johnson:

We are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance…. Our speculations upon matter are voluntary and at leisure.

[Scientific knowledge] is of such rare emergence that one man may know another half of his life without being able to estimate his skill in hydrostatics or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.

The innovators whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They seem to think that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars.

Jun 16, 2010

Amerika; Amerika - we're all living in Amerika!

It isn't too often at this blog that I invite you to laugh your ass off, cry or walk away baffled.

This is one of those times. (The post-title is from Rammstein)

You can't really beat this for a story introduction:

An American man has been detained in the mountains of Pakistan after Pakistani authorities found him carrying a sword, pistol and night-vision goggles on a Rambo-style solo mission to hunt down and kill
Osama bin Laden.

Hmmm. Sword vs RPG. Which will win?

Dear NZ Herald: I know you get quite a lot of crap from people who think they're too sophisticated for you, as you don't always cater for their pansy liberal tastes. But don't worry, even if you did get this story entirely from the Associated Press, you have managed to convince me that I am still definitely a fan. Yours lovingly, Andre.

Jun 13, 2010

First! Almost.

I randomly came across a NZ blog site ranking list that has us (ME) at 316 out of 560ish! It’s run by a conservative Christian but has lots of blogs on different things, as the number 560ish indicates. Yay (!?)

a useful reminder

"Living with Jesus one day beats getting 100% in any exam."*
*From a blog I occasionally read. If they're reading this, the author knows who they are. Thanks.

I wouldn't put it quite that way, but I agree and I needed the reminder. Any exam. Jesus is better than any and all such 'success', for amongst other things he knows my mess and loves me still. This reality is more valuable even than Biological Sciences 351 - Molecular Genetics. Even full marks in that annoying International Trade paper could not compare. I write this as someone who has, occasionally at least, known about very good marks first hand - I have, you could say, a bright educational future ahead of me, indeed quite impressive in light of the past; but it is simply crap in the absence of Jesus. Putting an academic's robe and uniquely Professorial humour on it would not change its worthlessness. But God can even redeem this - unwarranted pride and all - and change it; (this too I know first hand, at least in part) this is the Christian hope.

Jun 12, 2010

Mores? We don’t have any mores! – Father Ted

(He actually said “moors”, as in heather-covered hills and such; but I’ll assume it was a clever pun).

Verification, Falsification and a direct challenge to my nontheistic readers

It strikes me as strange: that the same people who insist that science is great because it is falsifiable then go on to request (often vehemently) that religion be the same, but more importantly be verifiable, with catch-cries along the lines of “show me the evidence” or “where’s the proof?” These (verification and falsification) are quite different approaches to gaining knowledge and it is not at all obvious that they fit nicely together. Scientific theories can only be deductively ‘proven’, verified, or even shown to be likely from the evidence if we import in various other quite ‘content-heavy’ premises, which are, interestingly enough, controversial in the philosophy of science. Why are claims about religion held to such a different standard?

As an example of this: we are informed by various scienceocrats/scientismists that there are many different incompatible supernatural claims, we have no empirical way of deciding between them and they must all logically cancel each other out (in some rather obscure way) and therefore, we should all be atheists and Christians are stupid; QED. My response? Well firstly, as is common amongst the neo-godless, this apparently completely ignores the historical dimensions and the actual claims of religions like Christianity. Unfortunately, small matters of essential doctrine like the incarnation and Trinity are just more pseudobabble to those brought up in the absence or wilful rejection of intelligent theistic belief. But more controversially, I have a “tu quoque”; listen up, as it’s quite good imho; here we go: the same, my unsophisticated science-worshipping friends, is true of ANY SCIENTIFIC THEORY. I’ve implied this before, but I’ll make sure you get it: it is not empirical fact that will (can) decide between the many logically possible theories/laws etc that could account for the finite collection of observations made thus far (in many scientific fields if not all) but assumption about the nature of the universe. I have no intention to deny Science; as I've said before, I look forward to earning money from this awesome enterprise -I just hope to point out how ridiculous a common view on Christian faith is.

The assumptions are rational, you may cry. Well, so is Christian theology – and it’s probably better developed than the philosophy of science. When you add in little things like revelation and the aforementioned incarnation, we have a pretty good case. You, on the other hand, are blind guides making it up as you go and irrationally certain of beliefs which are quite simply foundation-less.

Jun 11, 2010

Weinert on Naturalism & Evolution

I'll have to finish this post another time; got distracted with Hawking & co.

Reading thru one of my phil of science textbooks on Inference to the Best Explanation & Darwin and such, I find a section which seems particularly non-rigorous. The text hasn't impressed hugely with its earlier account of Copernicus, Galileo and such (described as "the loss of centrality") - it doesn't seem to have taken into account much of the modern work in the history of science such as you'd find here:, but that's another story.

"To trust in evolutionary theory means to adopt naturalism."

The section in question seems to sloppily slip between methodological and metaphysical naturalism and doesn't bother to justify the 1st, let alone the 2nd; it also conflates different hypotheses of "design" when it suits and ignores the quote from Darwin it gives in a footnote on the same page, about the relative plausibility of teleological evolutionary accounts - but I'll tell you more about it soon.

Stephen Hawking is Wrongburger

I'm sorry guys/gals, but I've gone and read atheist websites again - this time the main culprit was Pharyngula, while I was looking for a story I'd seen at some newspaper/media site. The story was on Stephen Hawking and the highlight for the cats we at this blog like to call the "New Atheist Heroes" was this quote:

"There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

Now, let's think about this, Steve (& PZ, Pharyngula author too. And your homeboys.) Let's think about it with reference to a specific religion, so you can't try a switcheroo if you get nervous and start talking about cargo cults or Wahhabi Islam. Why not, hmmm... Christianity?

You see, Christians could conceivably quite easily claim that this faith of theirs was based on two things (I'll number them just in case): 1) observation (and experience) of Christ's life, death & resurrection. 2) thinking about what this means in the light of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit's continued witness to the Church i.e. reason. So, these two things are, or at least were originally, observation and reason. Funny that. Did you see what I just did there? Yeah, I turned your amazing (-ly flawed) observation around, but also I pretty much completely avoided Christian apologetics. I could have given you a list of reasons that naturalism is not particularly likely but Christian theism is, given the evidence we have at hand; but I didn't need to as your claim is quite easily rebutted by the fact that (while you're not specific about it), you're critiquing religions which have an historical basis which you conveniently ignore.

And it gets better. Because when we come to science, it turns out its foundations maybe aren't so independent or self-sufficient. Science works, you're quite right. Let's ask that scary next question, folks; "why does science work?" Maybe you'll say it's cos it has a good base i.e. in observation & reason. But that's problematic or at least not quite enough to satisfy; for observation & reason do not ground themselves very well. Science, if it is to make any claims to truth or even probability, or to make predictions, must assume certain things about the world. There are various metaphysical assumptions needed for modern science (I've alluded to these in the past on this blog and am likely to continue doing so) e.g. that generally, it is the simplest hypothesis fitting the evidence which is most likely to be true (or have useful predictive ability). An assumption that is far from obvious if you think about it.

And is science devoid of more standard appeals to authority? Ah -no, not really. Science, as it involves the transmission of knowledge, clearly must include appeals to authority in some form or other, a bit like that dodgy old faker, Religion. Ummm, but the claims of Science can, it will be said, all be tested - however, well.. it seems the historical claims of science can't really be tested in this experimental sense. So maybe the central claims of Christianity are a bit like an historical science? Intriguing idea, but not quite right either, as Christianity has quite a lot to do with Jesus Christ - a person, who is active today. But this brings up another field or three; like "theology" and the metaphysics of persons. Topics that I will leave for another post, or multi-volume Magnum Opus perhaps.

I leave the last word to someone who held a chair at Cambridge alongside Dr Hawking for a while, that is, John Polkinghorne; not for a proof, but for relevant questions: from

"A lot of my friends in the academic world are both wistful and wary about religion. Wistful because they see that science doesn't tell you all you need to know, but wary because they think religion is ultimately based on submission to authority and signing on the dotted line. They don't want to commit intellectual suicide - and neither do I."
Polkinghorne is the first to admit that there are no knock-down arguments for the truth of religion, although he sees his commitment not as blind faith but as "an existential commitment that goes beyond simple rational motivation, although it builds upon it".
And he argues that "theists explain more than atheists can". He appeals, for example, to "the rational beauty of the world" uncovered by physics: "A lot of physicists, including Einstein, have a sort of cosmic religiosity."
The problem is that such beauty is only revealed to a privileged group of people with the right sort of training and mental ability; the rest of us have to take it on trust. If such "beautiful equations" are indeed pointers to God's existence, Polkinghorne agrees, "it does seem strange to say that's just a bit of luck for the chaps who happen to be good at mathematics".

I (Meta-Eq author) can only say that specialising in a field like physics or in other areas that demonstrate the beauty and order of creation, comes with its own advantages.

Oh for the days

Oh for the days when I was growing up fast
When a monopoly was a board game
Biology was something to do with plants
And I didn’t really feel the need to ask

When finances were for grown-ups, stress was broken toys
good time management was obeying someone older
Statistics was playing cricket with passing cars
And writing essays was reserved for CS Lewis

Oh for the days when people were easy to please
When friendships were facile if infrequently made
When ‘goodness itself’ was occasionally doing chores
The main problems were lack of ambition and being bored?

Oh for the days of innocence and ignorance
when philosophy was remarkably easy
proof-texting was advanced theology
and colourful chemicals proof of intelligence?

Oh for the days when life was not a maze
When insecurity existed unnoticed always
When my lack of personality was quiet
And I had absolutely nothing at all to say

Oh for the days when God was found in churches
In theory only it seemed, and perhaps just on Sundays
When I had no answers and nor any questions
And it was all good while material wants were met

Oh for the days?

Jun 10, 2010

read this and get annoyed

Yay for New Zealand. (I found it indirectly; I only visit that particular trash-heap infrequently. I say trash-heap not, so much, because of the ego-centric main man as due to his followers).

Read the comments and see how pathetic the worship of the New Atheist Heroes is.
If you're one of these fanboys/girls, please: wake up.

If you doubt the signatories are real scientists, here's an example:

There are a number of distinguished others I am aware of or know myself; the group signing this is it would appear a fairly ad hoc one, assembled in response to Dawkins. Those who think there are only 11 or so genuine scientists who are Christians in New Zealand are ignorant; there is no better word.

On another vaguely related note, I note an irony: the inventor of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, (the late) Anthony Flew, in his later years seems to have been despised as not a true philosopher for having given up his atheism for a kind of Deism. I am reminded of this possibility by the ad hominem attacks by loser internet nobodies on these highly-qualified NZ academics who think the New Atheists are jerks (yeah sure, maybe there was a little irony in that sentence).

On 'another another' note, perhaps it's my English that is deficient, but I find this humorous:
Dr David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London Metropolitan University, said:
It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater ability – or perhaps willingness – to question and overturn strongly felt institutions. ( [can you, even in the cultural sense [e.g. marriage], strongly feel an institution?]

Jun 8, 2010

The 'Arrrggh-ument' from Divine Hiddenness

P1) We can't see God - and we've even looked under the bed!
[suppressed premise P2) If you can't see someone (even after looking under the bed), they can't see you]
C1) Therefore, God cannot see us
C2) Therefore, we can have sex! With each other! (or whoever)

But seriously, I found an article on Divine Hiddenness (after I'd made a note to post this) in 'Faith and Philosophy' - a journal available thru your friendly local academic library that I recommend. It was somewhere amongst the 2008 articles, by a guy called Douglas V Henry (the V is actually a V; not a 5 I believe) and seems worth a read. I don't usually recommend things I haven't properly read, but I'll take this down if it turns out to be crap, in a few weeks; after the current time of Testing.

The ‘Arrggghh-ument’ from Evil

P1) The world appears to contain pointless moral evil
P2) As materialist pirates, we don’t believe there’s such a thing as “moral evil”

C1) Therefore, we can all have sex! With each other! (or whoever)

Picture: Wikipedia

Jun 6, 2010

clever, I grant you that. But misguided

One thing atheists have an advantage in nowadays, or so it would seem, is satire.

Here's a clever example, which almost looks like it might be attacking both sides; before choosing the only reasonable option, mocking modern Christians and their pretensions to rock music and motivational speaking success (the last one was my own little pet hate) cos science has proved them wrong.

Of course, someone (like myself) looking to create good Christian satire cannot just go ahead and mock science (God no!). For one, I actually intend to be scientist (at least for a little while) and it'd not be much help in finding an academic position if it was known that I'd called all scientists "evil lab monkeys who couldn't attack a philosophical argument if it sat strapped to a bench in front of them trying to poke its own eye out with a scapel" (hypothetically, of course); but perhaps more importantly, science is actually sacred. You can't touch that without getting burned, poisoned, 'accidentally' exposed to mutagens, left inside an active volcano, situated in front of beams of protons, forced to integrate ginormous expressions 'by parts', or similar.

I do nevertheless have some ideas for satire; as with most ideas, they're partly stolen and partly God-inspired. They involve.. well, sex, of course; but also a subtle attack on the assumptions of naturalism. The problem is that if you get too subtle, it'll go over most people's heads - and I'm wondering whether satire, for all it's pretensions to intellectousity (yep, it's a word, now) is generally aimed at those whose brows are situated closer to the ground than the mean; and that as such my critique would miss its target.

So.. I'll let you know if I come up with something good, perhaps after exams.