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.
This is a short post to announce that I have added a further page to the “talks” section of this blog. This is a sermon that I gave two weeks ago at Lady Margaret Hall college, Oxford, at the kind invitation of the chaplain Dr Doig. The sermon is an approximately twenty minute talk which looks at cosmology, and briefly discusses the structure of scientific explanation in general, with a view to showing that these things point towards further layers of meaning in the world, without being able to provide them. It can be found here.
I included in the sermon a brief reaction to something that I know bothers many people, and I decided to display that part here as a “thought for the day” for anyone who does not want to read the sermon. The thought is about whether we matter to God.
This post is to complete a sequence about pain and suffering and how we respond. I didn’t want to leave this as a purely philosophical issue. Indeed the substance of my last post was that this is not an area that is correctly addressed that way. Our practical response is more important than any philosophical point-scoring. So here I will first briefly repeat the conclusion so far, and then add a final point.
This week we had another lecture in the area of the physics of the vacuum (see Whoops! A Universe). It was the 11th Dennis Sciama Memorial Lecture, given by Professor Philip Candelas of the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford. Here are the title and abstract:
Simple Calabi-Yau Manifolds and the Landscape of String Vacua
Abstract: It is widely known that there are a great many vacua of string theory. A small subset of these lead to four-dimensional worlds that are somewhat like the world that we observe. The great majority lead to worlds very different from our own. A vacuum is determined by a Calabi-Yau manifold together with certain extra structure. I will discuss the landscape of Calabi-Yau manifolds and a programme to find realistic string vacua based on simple cases.
You don’t need to understand the technical terms in order to follow the point I wish to make. All I want to emphasize here is that this lecture illustrates very well how completely wrong it is to describe the state of the universe in the absence of matter as somehow simple and not in need of explanation. Some of the best mathematical brains on the planet are puzzling over the nature of vacuum, and it is far from obvious or easy. And yet we continue to see utterly misleading headlines like the following (selected randomly from the web):
Image by Miroslav Duchacek, Wikimedia Commons, File:Giraffe_standing.jpg.
The recurrent laryngeal nerve
You sleek, fit, timorous, towering beast,
Enormous swan, or mis-shaped horse,
I saw your stately, tall progress
And thought, a triffid, or Queen Bess.
Puzzled, or puzzling, as you munch
You seem absorbed, not on your lunch
But on some hint, some alien hunch
That your slim brain-power cannot crunch.
At the web site “Alternative Reel” I found a list of quotes from Richard Feynman, the brilliant physicist, eloquent writer and humane and insightful person. Some of the quotes are in the area of science and religion, so I will comment on them. First I will simply allow Feynman to speak in his own words. There are ten quotes, presented by “Alternative Reel” as follows: