I saw you, person who has the syndrome called Down’s syndrome (it is also called Down syndrome), and I wish to say simply that you are my brother or my sister. I am glad to have you around. I saw that you needed some extra support, but not as much, I noticed, as the support given to the rich by their hoards of servants and employees. I saw that some time and money goes in your general direction, but not as much, I noticed, as gushes through the pipeline to the successful, the “professional class” and the super-citizens, the “leading X of their generation”.
There is a man called Myron Ebell who is referred to in mainstream media as a “climate change skeptic”. In a press conference I saw him saying that regulations designed to help mitigate or reduce the pace of climate change were a restriction on liberty: “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world”.
This is the equivalent of saying that regulations designed to prevent one person from flooding another person’s house are a “restriction on liberty”. Or it is like saying that laws designed to prevent one group of people from poisoning another group by contaminating the air are a “restriction on liberty”.
It would not matter very much if a man called Myron Ebell said such things, if it were not that Mr Trump, the new president, has invited him to lead policy on environmental issues in his transition team, and Mr Trump now proposes that a man of similar views, Mr Scott Pruitt, should be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.A. But the U.S. Senate does not have to accept this. They have the responsibility of voting one way of the other on Wednesday.
There are threats to freedom and prosperity associated with climate change, but they are in precisely the opposite direction to the one claimed by Mr Ebell. Economic studies repeatedly indicate that we and our children and their children will be better off if we act now to mitigate the problem. There is an international consensus on this. This is not a consensus designed to make life worse! It is a consensus designed to make life better!
I have written about this because climate change is one of the most important issues of our time. It is no longer appropriate, if it ever was, to cross our fingers and hope for the best. We do not have to, and should not, accept the proposed appointment of Mr Pruitt.
American friends: why not send a quick email to your Senator? British friends: let’s find ways to help people be more reasonable about climate change.
Sorry to go blog-silent for a while. International events have once again intruded on the things I would have liked to write about. The change of administration in America has caught so much attention, mine included, that it is hard to write about anything else. But I haven’t forgotten that this is a science and religion blog, so I will try not to go too far off that theme.
For a little Christmas fun, here is a third collection of jokes with a sciencey flavour. Click to enlarge the pictures.
What is the definition of a tachyon?
—It’s a gluon that’s not completely dry.
Doctor, doctor I’ve come out in spots, like cherries on a cake.
—Ah! You must have analogy.
Recently I attended the annual conference of Christians in Science, which took place in Oxford. The theme of the conference was miracles. There were several presentations, all of high quality, and discussion times. Since then I have been turning this subject over in my mind.
Recently I was invited to speak at church about the passage in Genesis chapter 1 where the human race is introduced, and the much-pondered words “in the image of God” are written. You can find the text and some accompanying pictures here:
imagodei_blog [3 MegaBytes; Microsoft Word file]
Our church web-site also has recordings of the sermons, and this one will be there for a while. The link is here (click ‘Talks’):
In this post I will simply share a few images and brief comments.
I would be willing to be called theist in the sense described in this previous post, and I would like to encourage others to try to understand what that means. I hope that this will help other people to find for themselves a better sense of their own role and possibilities. I also affirm the right of atheism to express itself in the world, with full rights of citizenship, and to earn all the respect it can by motivating good lives and work for peace, justice, science and all the arts.
This post is a continuation of a theme I addressed in a piece on fascism on August 23rd. You may ask, why did I include a piece on fascism in a blog about science and religion? It is because I think I can detect totalitarian thinking in some of the material published and positions advocated in this area. I already discussed one issue related to this, namely the attempt to suppress dissent by redefining the very words that other people have adopted:
[Changing the meaning of words]
In this post I will expand on another issue: assessing people not by how they behave but by how you label them.
a moving story from Sub-Saharan Africa
This week I watched a lovely episode of the BBC documentary series, Ingenious Animals (Oxford Scientific Films), presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The episode was about examples of animal intelligence, and the most beautiful example concerned a great big rat.
[image from https://www.instapainting.com/requests/56455ed390f1f8204b8b45c7]
In this post I want to offer a short definition of the word ‘Theism’. I think I am some sort of theist, but I find that most of what is written on the wikipedia page for this word is quite alien to me. It says there that theism is “the belief in the existence of …” where for the dots you can put some sort of entity called a ‘deity’. But that is not how it works in my experience, and that is not how a lot of careful thinkers and writers have expressed it. The thoughtful theist does not consider that there is another ‘thing’ to be added to the set of all things, after one has exhausted what there is in the physical universe. It might seem like that, but I find it to be more subtle and hard to describe. The one Whom we learn to encounter is not ‘another thing’ but that which makes all things possible. As I say, it is rather subtle and quite open-ended.