Mar 30, 2010

But suppose I had found a living cell ...

Pictures: Left: Wikipedia
Right: Nature paper "Shifting nano clock gears" 2007

Hey folks, put on your molecular/cell biologist hats for a sec. I got this from my mate Will Paley a.k.a. Wikipedia and adapted it to our new molecular context; I'll 'fine-tune' it if I have time:

In crossing a molecular landscape, suppose I pinched my forceps against a liposome, and were asked how the liposome came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had quietly floated there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer (philosophical arguments against the infinity of the past aside.) But suppose I had found a living cell complete with a circadian oscillator (clock sub-system) floating similarly, and it should be inquired how the system happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the system might have always been there.
Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the circadian clock, packaging and coding of DNA and assorted other molecular machinery exists (by definition) in the works of nature; with the details, on the side of nature, being greater or more than I can list here, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.

Some abstracts for those keen beans who nonetheless don't have access to databases:
NB: it appears DNA is close to optimal over at least two parameters; ability to carry multiple messages and in terms of "protein stability and amino acid frequencies" - I may explore this further @ M-E.
I acknowledge that the systems mentioned may be a product of, as one paper puts it "evolution’s watchmaking toolkit" - but I am not sure at all that that would preclude design or purpose; it is reasonably clear that the living cell and the bag of protoplasm have little in common. It may as well be God who gets the credit for these marvels of nanoengineering.

Mar 29, 2010

Wake Up!

Having this critter scurry across your neck at 4:00 in the morning tends to have that effect. Sure, I hadn't finished my tutorial prep or studied very well for the upcoming test, but did I really need another 3 hours??
That is, in case you wonder, my pillow and a decent sized weta. From now on, the window is closed.

Mar 28, 2010

I have placed all my hope

in a crucified man.
As a favourite song affirms; (I would encourage you to read this and/or the Scripture in the previous post aloud)

I have placed all my hope in a crucified man
In the wounds in his side, his feet and his hands
I have traded my pride for a share in his shame
And the glory that one-day will burst from his pain
I’ve abandoned my trust in the wise and the proud
For this fragile, mysterious weakness of God
And I dare to believe in his scandalous claim
That his blood cleanses sin for who ever
Will call on his name

Live or die here I stand
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man
I believe as they beat on his beautiful face
He turned a torturer’s chair to an altar of grace
Where the worst we can do met the best that God does
Where unspeakable hate met the gaze
Of unstoppable love
At the crux of it all there he hangs

I’ve placed my hope in a crucified….

Man of sorrows man of grief
Will he stay beyond belief?

When the purest and best took the force of our curse
Death’s victory armada juddered into reverse…
And either we bow or we stumble and fall
For the wisdom of a suffering God
Has made fools of us all
I gladly admit that I am
But I’ve placed my hope in a crucified …

Man of sorrows man of grief
Will he stay beyond belief?

I have buried my life in the cold earth with him
Like a seed in the winter, I wait for the spring
From that garden of tombs Eden rises again
And Paradise blooms from his body
And never will end
He’ll finish all he began
Creation hopes in a crucified man

When I stand at the judgement
I have no other plan
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

Like the thief nailed beside him
I have no other plan
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

Copyright © 2006 Graham Kendrick
Administered by Make Way Music,

I was fortunate indeed to be raised in a Christian family. Little good it did me in matters of eternity before God came and sought me out. I had had some knowledge of him and even some experience, in his answering of heartfelt desperate prayers; by my middle teenage years I had waded through more crap than most people in safe middle-class New Zealand; but something I suppose clicked into place in particular at Easter camp 2006, Mystery Creek, Hamilton (of all places.) Such that I proudly affirm that God is good and he is living and active in this world.

What did God do?

He showed me that the messy, bitter and ugly past could be dealt with decisively through the messily powerful beauty of the incarnation; not that I always have chosen to go along with that option; he showed me something of the radical reality of Himself and His plans, such that I chose to engage with the world rather than walk in the shadows. I moved from reading fiction to escape; where no doubt hints of God still lay; into non-fiction, a source of even more pleasure; I moved from wanting to make a truckload of money to working to find truth. I put more effort into academia, into projects and people. I somehow chose to study science (still not sure quite how that happened.) I like to think that I am smarter and have a delicious God-given sense of humour; maybe some of it is just "growing up", but things such as deep intellect and wit still make rather little sense in the absence of genuine mind; sans God they could be described as 'nonsense', were it not that such a category could hardly exist. I now have a tough-minded faith that is not afraid to question, to defend and to trust in God's goodness as revealed in this spectacular world, the written Word and my eccentric little life.

Where does your hope lie?

I would enjoy talking about these things with you; as someone still travelling, but now with Someone to follow.

Easter approaches; Jesus enters Jerusalem

Three palm crosses I have made or been given recently, laid on the text of the Passion narrative at the end of Mark's Gospel; "The Englishman's Greek New Testament with Interlinear Translation"
Today is Palm Sunday, when Christians remember the honour Jesus was shown by crowds of ordinary people as he entered Jerusalem as the 'upside-down King', riding not a war horse, but a humble donkey, echoing Zechariah 9:9.
The same crowds which laid their cloaks down for him to ride upon and paused in their festival celebrations to honour him were not slow to turn their cheers into jeers once he had been handed over to the authorities. Let those of us who claim to follow him and aim to glorify his name in these times not be so quick to reject our upside-down King.
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
[Isaiah 53, ESV emphasis my own]

Mar 26, 2010

the best you've got

The best, or in any case most intriguing and appealing, presentation of atheism I've heard for a while was by Cambridge philosopher Dr Arif Ahmed in his debate with William Lane Craig. I disagree with certain Christian bloggers & think he (Dr. AA) did quite well, aside from a condescending attitude and I suspect from my initial listen, some self-contradictions. It did however also help to confirm some suspicions I've had for a little while about the way such arguments run and about the unenviable project of defending the claims of ontological naturalism.

For the mp3, ~25Mb:

For some comment, some of which is productive:

UPDATE: Listening to a discussion between NT Wright & John Dominic Crossan (to get it e.g. right click on Wright, Save Target As...) on the resurrection, I hear a point I think is absolutely brilliant. 1Corinthians 15:58, the end of a key (& early) text on the resurrection shows the consequences of the physical yet also spiritual (both-and) resurrection for our life in this tangible world; our labour is not in vain. Dr Ahmed is wrong, life in this world is important to Christians - yes, as Craig says, because it will determine our future; yes as my initial response was, because our lives are important to God; but most fundamentally because the full resurrection of the dead is yet to come and the Lord has given us work to do.

"May I have your babies?"

"No, but adopting is a great idea. There are tons of babies that are in need of a loving family."

It's been a while, but with so many asking me the titular question, I had to share the above wisdom, taken from

This one is also relevant, since I don't have any musical aspirations:
Q: Can I be in your band?
A: Probably not.

The names of some (presumably Metal) bands amuse me somewhat; like, how about listening to some Municipal Waste in your messy bedroom, or if you're bored with what's on TV, absorb a little Through The Eyes of The Dead or, hey, why not turn to It Dies Today or A Vacant Affair for your wedding band? (It seems the season for engagements after all.)

Mar 18, 2010

tibta - 1st Edn

Things I've Been Thinking About, Edition 1:
(Why anyone would actually be particularly interested in this eludes me slightly; but people keep on visiting this site, so we'll have to see what scares them off / bores them to salty tears which destroy their laptops/ Russian-computers...)

Foundations of the scientific enterprise
The surprise of new friends and slightly older ones
The strategic placement of swearwords in rap music
Public speaking/teaching & inexplicable bouts of nervousness
Honor. And avoiding American spelling in Bible translations
Dignity. Frugality. Money and the ease with which it is spent.
Time and the ease with which it is spent.
Social capital and the ease with which it is spent.
The amount of effort to put into making conversation
The Problem of War in the OT (it's a book and a thought)
The is and the ought
The spoken word and poetic structure
The structure and polemic of Genesis 1-3ish
The nonexistent border between whimsicality and dorkishness.

Mar 13, 2010


P1) I do not like microscopes. (3 reasons: eyelashes, glasses, cluelessness)
P2) I study molecular biology. (It turned out that chemistry wasn't entirely my thing)

=> ??

There would appear to be some kind of problem here. I'm not sure if I even want to think about possible logical conclusions.

I was reminded of the first premise, as well as the second, by my lab on Wed, trying to get red blood cells to splat (that's the correct term) onto microscope slides in such a way that they release their chromosomal contents in a nicely dispersed, clearly visible way. I attempted to tuck my sleeves into my gloves, I centrifuged, I pipetted various mixtures, I waited (as anyone who believes in deep time will know, this is the central task of the biologist), I repeated the process various times and then 2+hrs later I expectantly dropped my cell culture onto the glass slides. As for most of the rest of the lab, it didn't work. So they'll just do it for us. Not too satisfying, strangely.

Perhaps One Day

As part of an interesting pdf put out by the Templeton Foundation (approx1Mb), primatologist Jane Goodall says:

When I was a child, born into a Christian family, I accepted the reality of an unseen God without question. And now that I have lived almost three quarters of a century I still believe in a great spiritual power. I have described elsewhere the experience I had when I first visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. When, as I gazed at the great rose window, glowing in the morning sun, the air was suddenly filled with the glorious sound of an organ playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. It filled me with joy, brought tears to my eyes. How could I believe that blind chance had led to that moment in time—the cathedral, the collective faith of those who had prayed and worshiped within, the genius of Bach, the emergence of a conscious mind that could, as mine did then, question the purpose of life on Earth. Was all the wonder and beauty simply the result of purposeless gyrations of bits of cosmic dust at the beginning of time? If not, then there must be some extra-cosmic power, the creator of the big bang. A purpose in the universe. Perhaps, one day, that purpose will be revealed.

As you might suspect, I believe that in the grandeur of Bach & rose windows, Goodall has missed the best good of all; a humble baby asleep in a manger, the self revelation of the one behind it all; the only one truly worth meeting.

And if anyone noticed an accidental possible sly reference to one of my favourite bands, here's some examples: check it out. And this one. And hey, if you're blessed with more broadband than I, why not this one too?

Mar 12, 2010

another half-finished 1, complete with editing-brackets

This one is about John 1, with a hint of Revelation

Check it out, it's the beginning!
And there's one, just one who's sitting
At [the] right hand of the Holy One.

(Would you plonk 'self down by a King,
bro? No, hell no - I don't think so.
Who could, who would; maybe the King's son?)

He chose to enter Creation.

[Pre-existent, stain resistant;
He is sinless and in glory;
[Mysterious yet consistent;]
Actor, writer in this story]

Pulled down this wall: real vs ideal .
[Platonically-cogitational now relational
Pre-cosmological now temporo-spatial]

[Philosophical confusion?
God's better; ignores the 'meta'
In 'Metaphysics'; He's the Word
As you've heard, He's got solutions.]

For love/fun God only knows why
We bend words in pseudo-rhymes, while
He plays with space, matter and time

He is the true, real, free-grace deal
Others come to [destroy and] steal
He came to save and to heal

He is gonna make, all things, new
‘Tis written down, [for] these words are true.

Rev 21:5 And the one seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new!”
Then he said to me, “Write it down, because these words are reliable and true.”

They are really reliable
He / [T/His word] is undeniable

[[This is genuine; it's for real.

Deny existence or its creator
Both are folly; none is greater

[He is for real.]

[He's said: The truth shall set you free.
If you let it; sufficed for me.] ]]

[Blinded eyes made to clearly see.
Sight of light breaking thru the night
Earth[ly focus] switched on to eternity]

God's law was given through Moses
Grace and truth thru this man Jesus;
God's own [has made] God truly known.

And all the people said: Amen.

Mar 10, 2010

Glorious Mother Russia! (to be said in a thick accent)

It's (semi) official - this site has had a visit from Russia! As they're no longer mostly atheists over there, it's unlikely to be the KGB trying to shut me down, so that's even better! In fact, I'm so excited that I say in a loud slightly slurred voice: "vodkas on the house!" (You can choose any house you like to drink your alcohol atop of, just not mine. The slurring is due to tiredness and that alone.)

If I could remember any of the handful of Russian words I once learnt, I would say something witty for this visitor in the unlikely event that he/she returns. But I don't, so I wont.

Mar 9, 2010


I'm a little tired of the kind of arrogant atheism that belittles wherever it turns up and sees no reason to bother considering what the other side has to say outside of, at best a couple of disciplines which happen to be materialism-friendly at the moment. For some intellectual relief, I think I'll turn to a highly-praised book by a Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, at the University of Oxford no less! ... *reads title* ... uh oh ...

Mar 6, 2010


*"Mono-syllabic" contains five syllables.

1 5

* ... (I'll think of more)

*Myself. A few billion cells and some kind of soul together constituting one Irony.

Cells (mine) + Soul (mine) = Irony

as it stands, it limps and falls. And then dies, as weak things cannot live

"If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for disregarding that suffering, or for refusing to count it equally with the like suffering of any other being. But the converse of this is also true. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of enjoyment, there is nothing to take into account" - Peter Singer

As it stands, this hardly needs refuting it seems to me. The idea that all suffering is equal is intriguing. The idea that being able to "suffer" or enjoy is required in order for someone to be morally important is bizarre. Those in a coma or anaesthetized in hospital would perhaps agree with me; once they woke up anyway. "Suffering" usually means a kind of psychological torment, but I think Singer uses it more in the sense of pain. A richer conception of suffering e.g. that would allow someone wronged/killed whilst in a temporary coma to "suffer" would presumably cause difficulties for his extreme position on abortion and other issues.

Mar 5, 2010

I recommend this event

Perhaps the astute amongst you will realise that I have some bias wrt it. Then again, a biasless situation would I guess be one with no humans in it. And few such situations make for awesome social events, so maybe it's not too much of a problem.

This is an event at which you're allowed to ask those questions which will prove to everyone else how smart you are, like "ah, that's all cool bro, but who made God?" There should be various faculty type folks around and freakishly awesome people like me, so basically it'll be better than whatever's on TV; and even better than whatever show you wish was on TV! Even, possibly, better than Facebook! I won't promise more than that, but
I will be there.