Godly Science has moved to WordPress

Because Blogger will no longer support FTP blogs after may 1st I have moved Godly Science to WordPress. This default theme will soon be replaced by a custom designed theme.

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The Triumph of Force over Logic

In the debate between faith and science, irrational though the premise that they must be antagonistic might be, it is common for scientists to try to take the moral high ground and declare that logic is on their side. Of course, there is a world of difference between what a mathematician calls logical proof and the kind of ‘proof’ usually settled for by other branches of learning, especially in the biological sciences, but that is another story.

What I want to give here is possibly the first example of this high ground not being attained. And the protagonists here are mathematicians, who do know the meaning of rigorous proof. The ancient Greek Pythagoras is credited with being the man who put scientific and philosophical investigation of the world onto a sound foundation. His school, the Pythagorean Brotherhood, collected a vast body of mathematical knowledge and established the principles of logic by which the reliability of such knowledge could be made certain.

However, even Pythagoras failed to live up to his own ideals. He had spent his life establishing a view of the universe based on the harmony of natural numbers and fractions. When one of his students, Hippasus, showed him that a mysterious number, the square root of two, could not be written as a fraction, that it was in fact an irrational number, one might be excused for thinking that Pythagorus would share his delight that a whole new field of investigation was opening up before them. This was not to be the case.

To quote Simon Singh, in Fermat’s Last Theorem (or Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem):

The consequence of Hippasus’ insight should have been a period of discussion and contemplation during which Pythagoras ought to have come to terms with this new source of numbers. However, Pythagoras was unwilling to accept that he was wrong, but at the same time he was unable to destroy Hippasus’ argument by the power of logic. To his eternal shame he sentenced Hippasus to death by drowning.

The father of logic and the mathematical method had resort to force rather than admit he was wrong. Pythagoras’ denial of irrational numbers is his most disgraceful act and perhaps the greatest tragedy of Greek mathematics. It was only after his death that irrationals could be safely resurrected.

So, the so called ‘moral high ground’ of science actually started off in a bit of a valley. And these were mathematicians, who really do know what proof means, not biologists, chemists and other human scientists, for whom proof seems to be more like a blend of economics and politics.

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Scientific panic about Answers in Genesis Creation Museum opening

I was fascinated by a report from the BBC, rebroadcast on Australia’s News Radio this morning, about the new Creation Museum just opened in Kentucky by AnswersInGenesis. I don’t want to discuss the creation versus evolution debate just now. Rather, what struck me about the interview with a spokesperson from New Scientist magazine, was the evangelical fervour with which the museum was rubbished by this “objective scientist”. It brought to mind the anti-religion diatribe by Richard Dawkins recently rebroadcast on ABC television. I wrote elsewhere about the sheer embarassment caused by Dawkins and his The God Delusion to scientists and even his fellow atheists.

The BBC reporter remarked about just how religious the New Scientist person seemed. Listening to his tone of voice as he used such emotive words as ‘dangerous’ and ‘lies’, and made statements like “every scientist in the world believes the earth is 5 million years old, give or take a few million“, one could hear the beginnings of a panic attack within the ‘scientific’ media. I wonder what Ken Ham of AiG would make of those error bars? It’s not very far from saying 5 million years +0/-4.994 million years.

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Virgin Birth – but it’s a Shark and a Mouse

“Virgin births are possible in female sharks, according to a new study that found a captive female bonnethead shark had reproduced without having been near a male in three years.” reports the ABC today.

Director of the Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska, Dr Lee Simmons, was surprised when one of the three female bonnetheads gave birth to a 20 centimetre long offspring. Unfortunately it died the same day after being injured by a stingray in the same exhibit. The pup was sent to the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University for analysis where it was found that it had no paternal DNA. It also had half of its mother’s genetic diversity, indicating the mother gave birth through a non-sexual mode of reproduction known as automatic parthenogenesis. This involves the female creating an egg that contains 50% of the mother’s genes, which was then fertilised by a tiny, genetically similar cell called a sister polar body.

While fish, insects and birds have been known to reproduce in this way, it was thought to not occur in mammals. However, today’s issue of the journal Nature reports that a team led by Dr Tomohiro Kono from the Tokyo University of Agriculture have produced a fatherless mouse, which they have called Kaguya, after a mythological Japanese princess.

Lest this gives hopes to advocates of a completely lesbian lifestyle, their research only further confirms the necessity of a male partner in mammalian reproduction. Australian embryologist, Professor Patrick Tam, from the University of Sydney‘s Children’s Medical Research Institute, says that the mouse, the only success from 28 other attempts, was only born because one of the female genes responsible for “imprinting” the DNA was first removed.

The gene H19 was deleted in the donor egg before transferring its genetic material into the recipient egg. This gene, only expressed in females, is in a general region of the genome that is important in embryonic development. The researchers reported, “The results suggest that paternal imprinting prevents parthenogenesis, ensuring that the paternal contribution is obligatory for the descendant.” According to Tam this means that “males are not dispensable in the natural situation.”

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Testing BlogJet

I have installed an interesting application – BlogJet. It’s a cool Windows client for my blog tool (as well as for other tools). Get your copy here: http://blogjet.com.

It allows you to edit posts for your blogs while you are offline and publish them later.

“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” — Albert Einstein

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The green fervour: Is environmentalism the new religion?

Religion News Blog is not a blog I take a lot of notice of, as it is usually full of negative reports about the seemier side of religion, and I am a follower of Jesus who hates ‘religion’ with a passion. However, ocassionally it has a gem.

This article, The green fervour: Is environmentalism the new religion? is a good example. Joseph Brean, of The National Post, Canada, reviews The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction by Vancouver-based author and mathematician David Orrell. In his book Orrell sets out to explain why the mathematical models scientists use to predict the weather, the climate and the economy are not getting any better, just more refined in their uncertainty. What he discovered, in trying to sketch the first principles of prophecy, was the religious nature of modern environmentalism.

Of course, to anyone who has been watching this movement, and has had to relate to many of its adherents, this comes as no surprise, steeped as it is in the worship of Gaia, in paganism, in the Goddess cult, ‘alternative’ lifestyle, natural ‘therapies’ and New Age philosophy, etc.

One of my concerns about religions is how almost invariably the object of worship is considered so overwhelmingly important that the place of people is relegated to a distant second. In fact, as can be seen in much of the environmental religion, when humanity gets considered it’s either as a scapegoat for all the destruction, or as a political bargaining chip in the achievement of ‘more important’ goals – the saving of the planet. But, the saving of the planet for what? or who? The same might be said of the right-wing evangelical branch of the ‘scientific’ religion, Darwinism.

Brean says:

This is not to say that fearing for the future of the planet is irrational in the way supernatural belief arguably is, just that — in its myths of the Fall and the Apocalypse, its saints and heretics, its iconography and tithing, its reliance on prophecy, even its schisms — the green movement now exhibits the same psychology of compliance as religion.

Dr. Orrell is no climate-change denier. He calls himself green. But he understands the unjustified faith that arises from the psychological need to make predictions.

He then looks at how the green movement appears to emulate an Old Testament prophet, or the oracles of ancient Greece, attempting to predict so many things, such as the change in the weather, the loss of species, to the ultimate demise of the planet. It’s not the concern he is calling into question, but the ‘prophecying’.

Brean quotes John Kay of the Financial Times, writing about future climate chaos:

Christians look to the Second Coming, Marxists look to the collapse of capitalism, with the same mixture of fear and longing … The discovery of global warming filled a gap in the canon … [and] provides justification for the link between the sins of our past and the catastrophe of our future.

Here is an excerpt, from Kay’s website of what he said:

Environmental evangelists are [therefore] not interested in pragmatic solutions to climate change or technological fixes for it. They are even less interested in evidence that if we were really serious about reducing carbon emissions we could do so by large amounts without significantly affecting our economies or our lives. Windmills on roofs and cycling to work are insignificant in practical consequence, but that is to miss their point. Every ideology needs rituals of observance, which demonstrate the commitment of adherents…Business should treat the environmental movement as it treats other forms of religious belief.

Business leaders do not themselves have to believe its doctrines. Indeed we should be wary if they do: business linked to faiths and ideologies is a sinister and unaccountable power.

As you can imagine, self-described tree huggers were not pleased, but I’ll let Brean have the (second) last word:

All of this might be fine if religions had a history of rational scientific inquiry and peaceful, tolerant implementation of their beliefs. As it is, however, many religions, environmentalism included, continue to struggle with the curse of literalism, and the resultant extremism.

My last thought: let’s not forget to include scientism in the above! Where scientism was the alternative religion of modernity, in postmodernity it has been supplanted by environmentalism. The fascination comes from watching science become more and more esoteric as its high priests fight to retain their high gnostic status.

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Cognitive dissonance?

In Uncertain Principles Chad Orzel reports on a story in the New York Times about a young earth creationist studying paleontology.

Even though Marcus Ross’s work is “impeccable,” according to David E. Fastovsky, Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser, some people have a problem with the fact that he is a “young earth creationist”, that is, he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

They would like him to be denied the degree, because it gives creationists an air of authority.

To Orzel’s credit, though a believer in atheism himself, he disagrees:

… if he’s done the work needed to get a Ph.D., and written it in a manner
entirely consistent with accepted scientific beliefs, are there really any
grounds for denying him the degree?

I would say no– we’re not the Bar Association, and there’s no character requirement for getting a doctorate. He’s done the work, and he can talk the talk, so give him the degree. To the extent that there’s a problem at all, it’s a societal problem– too many people take the Ph.D. as a sign of real authority, when in fact, doctors of philosophy are as likely to be nutty as anybody else. But I would expect this to generate a fair amount of heat (though precious little light) in science blogdom.

I would go further than this. If such a degree could be denied, then what about all of the non-Christians with theology degrees. Most universities don’t require belief as a prerequisite to study the Science of God. Mine certainly didn’t, and it made for some very interesting and healthy debate at seminars!

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Welcome to Godly Science

Welcome to Godly Science. In this blog and website I want to explore the relationship between science and Christian faith. As someone who has had a career in both areas and is still passionate about both, I would like to look at ways in which science and Christian faith can enhance and build on each other, as well as where they appear to come into conflict.

I say ‘appear’ here intentionally, because both science and faith are endeavours which try to uncover ultimate truth. If they truly conflict, then one or both has not found the truth in that area, and this is important to understand if such truth is to be discovered. In this postmodern age where ‘truth’ seems to be more and more devalued, this must be worth doing.

I welcome comments on the posts here, and will set up a discussion group if it seems warranted.

Enjoy!

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