Faithful to Science

blog on science and religion

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“The God hypothesis” and “this human slave”

Last week I posted a thought in which music in major and minor keys is used as an analogy for ways of thinking or of seeing. I did not develop the analogy; just hinted at it. Now I will develop it a little.

The sort of activity that tries to “turn minor chords into major chords” in this analogy is any activity where a naturalistic or scientistic world-view is imposed on the very framework of a discussion, so that a view which does not accept that world-view is prevented from even being expressed in its own terms. Here I am using the word ‘scientistic’ not for science, but for a philosophical position which puts analysis and dissection into low-level physical causes at the centre of all discourse, as if that were the most important thing, or only way of getting at truth.

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Unfamiliar music

Imagine someone whose experience of music has been limited: they have only ever heard tunes and harmonies that are in a major key. Now suppose they come across some music in a minor key. They might, perhaps, find it difficult to like at first. They might even feel that it is not proper music, or that it is out of tune, or discordant. What attitude might such a person adopt? They will notice that other people like this other music, so they might decide that the problem is with their own hearing. Or they might decide that their own hearing is fine and the minor key is simply unmusical. It would be a pity if they concluded that, but it makes some sort of sense. But what would be oppressive, what would be objectionable, would be the claim that the quality of music in a minor key can only be properly assessed by first making a ‘correction’ of each minor chord or interval into a major counterpart.

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A lesson of scripture in the interests of peace

Events in Syria and Europe have made me decide to postpone some other thoughts and instead comment on something at the heart of Islam. This overlaps with a Christian issue, and it needs careful handling, so this is a long post (almost 3000 words). I hope readers will give it a fair hearing.

This blog is not a commentary on political and religious affairs in general. It is about science and religion. However, now more than ever, we need accurate thought about what will help, in the long term, to overcome religious violence, and therefore I am posting here some relevant material. I will be discussing the way we approach the Bible and the Qur’an.

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Science jokes 2

Here is a second collection of science jokes. The first collection is here.


 

“Do you know the name Pavlov?”
— “It rings a bell.”

What does a subatomic duck say? (The answer is so obvious that you will have to supply it yourself.)

There is no logical foundation of mathematics, and Gödel has proved it!

A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a beer. Bartender replies, “For you, no charge”.

 

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(An old one, carefully reworked:)

An engineer, a logician and a mathematician are staying in a hotel.
The engineer wakes up and smells smoke. He goes out into the hallway and sees a fire, so he fills a trash can from his room with water and douses the fire. He goes back to bed.
Later, the logician wakes up and smells smoke. He opens his door and sees a fire in the hallway, and also a trash can lying there with some water in the bottom. He thinks a little and then he says, “A solution exists!” and goes back to bed. Fortunately the engineer woke up again and put the fire out.
Later, the mathematician wakes up and smells smoke. He looks in the hallway but there is no sign of any fire. But he notices the wet trash can, and thinks hard. Then he lights a match and sets the hallway on fire, saying to himself as he returns to bed, “Thus we reduce the problem to one which has already been solved.”


 

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The following are from http://www.jupiterscientific.org/sciinfo/jokes/astronomyjokes.html

“Why does the Moon orbit the Earth?” An auto mechanic: “To get to the other side?”
(This is sort of an intriguing answer if you think in terms of the principle of least action.)

“Which is more useful, the Sun or the Moon?”
A thirteen-year old: [Pause] “I think it’s the Moon because the moon shines at night when you want the light, whereas the Sun shines during the day when you don’t need it.”

Before docking with the International Space Station, what must the pilot of a space module first do?
A: Put money in a parking meteor.   (sorry)

Niel Armstrong: “Oh no, Mission Control, I just stepped on Buzz Aldrin’s toe. What should I do? Over.”
Mission Control: “What do you think? Apollogize.”


 

There are two types of people in the world. Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

How can you tell the difference between a chemist and a plumber?
Ask them to pronounce “unionized”.

Why did sin get a tan?
Just cos.

Dean, to the physics department. “Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff. Why couldn’t you be like the math. department – all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper.”

An engineer, and physicist and a statistician are walking in the woods when suddenly a hungry grizzly bear comes running towards them. The engineer fires his rifle, but shoots high. The physicist has a go, but shoots low. They look at each other. “Hooray!” says the statistician, “we got him!”

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Happy Christmas!

A short positive post

Dear regular readers,

this is just to let you know that I realise I have been a bit intermittent posting recently. I have lots of ideas of things to post but have held back a bit while I consider them. The terrible events in Syria and Iraq, and their spill-over to other parts of the world, have been giving all of us pause. Today though I will share a good news story, and will follow this brief post with a light-hearted one in a few days.

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But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

 

by R.S. Thomas, from the collection Counterpoint, 1990

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Faith and Reason

You can find much discussion of the concept of faith in the talks and books in the resources section of this blog. Here I will say some more about the roles of faith and reason.

Reason is about being receptive to persuasion, and honest enough to follow a sequence of steps where the connections can be shown and seen.

Faith is essentially a kind of willingness combined with a sense of value.

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The Zygon Inversion

[The above image is from the BBC website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06phcqv]

This week I watched the latest episode of Dr Who. It was an episode called “The Zygon Inversion”, written by Steven Moffat and Peter Harness. The climactic scene was thought-provoking, and I am quoting it here. Dr Who is a science fiction series, so it is loosely connected to the science theme of this blog, and I will explain the connection to faith at the end.

The scene is very well played by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Capaldi is in the role of the Doctor, trying to persuade the alien (Zygon) called “Bonnie” (played by Jenna Coleman) not to launch on all-out attack on the human population. In the middle we hear briefly from a human character called Kate (Jemma Redgrave).

Here is the script, picking up with the Doctor speaking: Continue reading

Prayer

image: Prayer by Graham Dean, see http://paintingandframe.com/prints/graham_dean_prayer-8947.html

 

We have to abandon all claims to know, and opt instead for the choice of seeking to learn, admitting that we have much to learn, and humble enough to allow that seeking to learn can include, yes, simply asking.

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A short explanation of a short introduction to what may well be

The title to the previous post, “A short introduction to what may well be,” was chosen carefully. The sketch I gave there was a sketch of something that may be right, and also, and perhaps more importantly, it is a good possibility—something that may well be, in the sense that it would be well, good, if it were so. All manner of things would be well. And, of course, it might be right in the sense of actually true, too. Or it might not.

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