Archive for August, 2008

Things to make and do

This, I think, is the gist of it when it comes to our role in the new creation, what it means for us to be in, and help build the kingdom of GOD:

“Every act of love , gratitude and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of GOD and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings, and for that matter one’s fellow non-human creatures; and of course every prayer, all SPIRIT-led teaching , every deed which spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of JESUS honoured in all the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of GOD, into the new creation which GOD will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of GOD.”

NT Wright
Surprised by Hope

The only way is up (baby…)

To begin with. Being critical of Darwinian evolution is not  a popular or wise thing to do. Not because of what you may actually say, but the fact that you become immediately pigeon holed. There are no shades of grey, there is only black and white. You are either Richard Dawkins or Ken Ham.

Added to this is the unfortunate implication by association, that if you have an opinion on one thing, then that automatically involves having a lot of other opinions that have not necessarily been expressed. People in certain pigeon holes apparently are only allowed to subscribe to the rules of the said pigeon hole.

And when I say it is “not popular” I mean in terms of book sales and newspaper articles and things smart, thinking people are unlikely to say. Being critical of certain aspects of Darwinian evolution is of course popular in certain circles. Though these circles tend to be ridiculed by the book sales and newspaper articles people.

And indeed I think that what I am about to say is not in the slightest bit critical of Darwinian evolution, when we speak of evolution in its strictest biological sense.

Indeed the whole problem is that we rarely speak of evolution in the biological sense. Instead we speak in terms of what CSL called popular evolutionism. The idea that Darwinian principles can be applied to all spheres including politics, society, ethics even aspects of culture, art and criticism. The idea that everything is moving “forward” to some as yet undetermined goal. That it is inevitable and irresistible as biological natural selection may be.

In the 18th/19th century you would be forgiven for thinking that there was a fair chunk of truth in it, though you would have to be selective in what you chose. New discoveries in science, technology, medicine and industry were coming at a rate unparalleled in human history.

A cursory glance back in retrospect at the century just past may not perhaps fill us with the same optimism. “Another century spent pointing guns, at anything that moves…” We have not exactly covered ourselves with glory. Have we lost faith in our politics because to be frank, we’ve heard it all before and quite simply it doesn’t work.

It is of course impossibly hard to compare history as like with like. We come up against such staggering problems such as what standard are we comparing it with? Or whether it is fair for a modern ethic and moral to judge a babylonians lifestyle?

But you will (caution, gross unqualified generalisation approaching…) find few who think that we’re moving forward (where exactly are we moving forward to again?…) at a particularly high rate of knots.

I find little to suggest that such popular evolutionism rings true today. Perhaps mere common sense would tell us that.

But what of Darwinian evolution itself. Whatever (if any) beefs I have with Darwinian evolution as the bearded one himself described are not for discussion at the present time. My question/concern is that it is surely something we can no longer apply to homo sapiens. How we got here is one question, where we are going is a whole other ball game.

By nature all estimates of when human culture got going will be vague and inaccurate (either the dating or the definition of culture) but some would place that roughly around 30 000 years ago (doodles on the walls of french caves, evidence of organised farming…). Along with the development of what we would call rudimentary culture is the idea of a moral ethic (even harder to date), an idea of right and wrong and action to be taken accordingly.

As to what evolutionary advantage that provided at the time it has unfortunately taken us up a blind alley. We have indeed shot ourselves not merely in the foot but right through the double helix itself.

A morality and an ethic may have allowed group cohesion and improved survival, but it also gave us that nasty peculiar human ability (desire was always there, just not ability…) to preserve our young. Not merely the ones that could struggle by as long as they didn’t get eaten, but the runts, the deformed, the blind, the weak. And we got so damn good at it, and felt that it was so important (in the idea of right and wrong) that all of a sudden, the runts, the weak, the sickly and the blind were at like rabbits and having their own runty, blind, weak, sickly offspring (incidentally that’s us if you’re not paying attention…)

This is no longer survival of the fittest, it’s survival of whoever we can help to survive. And alas that lies some way off the map that Darwin painted us. The day we stopped evolving was the day our brains outgrew our dicks.

There are a few (and thankfully still only a few – eminent philosophers,eugenicists, some chap named Adolf) who would follow this to perhaps its logical conclusion. That if we want to evolve then we need to rethink our morals and we need to revalue the runty, blind, weak, and sickly. Some people know where they want to go and how to get there.

Most take offence at the idea of the runty, blind, weak and sickly – rightly so. We need to proclaim our humanity as precious and treasured, we need to defend what it means to be human beings (I think therefore I am) and fight against us becoming humans evolving. We have not evolved for a long time. And unless we shake this damned morality we never will…

At the bottom of everything

[With thanks to John Lennox]

I find science interesting for lots of reasons. I am no serious student, mine is more of a pub-quiz type knowledge. But I find the more we find that perhaps the more questions we have, and the less sure we are about things that we were pretty sure of before. The extraordinary complexity of the world, universe and bodies we inhabit is so mind-bogglingly huge that it takes  while to get your head around.

Now I’m not sure the astonishment we feel is any kind of proof of a creator GOD as perhaps some do. It’s really just the goldfish thing – “oh look a bridge, how marvellously wonderfully exciting, I could go through it and make friends with it and eat my dinner off it, it’s all so exciting… … … oh look a bridge, how marvellously wonderfully exciting, I could go through it and make friends with it and eat my dinner off it, it’s all so exciting…” etc…

We may be amazed simply because we are, not because it’s actually amazing.

But the extraordinary complexity does perhaps ask some questions of chance and applied mathematics – these being the apparent explanation/arbiters/creators/meaning of our existence. Chaos is not known for producing order all on its own. We have a problem here.

I like the fact that we’re mostly made up of nothing, mostly made up of gaps between particles. We feel awfully solid, but at a molecular level, the space between the particles that make us up is greatly bigger than the particles themselves. If we could find something small enough, with enough manoeuvrability we could make our way through ourselves without hitting anything.

As for the particles themselves, we’re not entirely sure they’re there, being less certain of where they are the closer we look at them. They make for fine explanations of observed reactions, but I can’t say we’re that certain that they are quite what we describe them as.

We’re also pretty unsure about the light itself, whether it behaves as a wave or particle seems to depend on one’s point of view.

Now none of this is proof for a creator. I’m not sure we need to prove one. All we need for now is space to doubt. Something perhaps no longer afforded to us if the pure materialists have their way.

Maths, ever the friend of the lonely theists… [Again my thanks]

Weather with you

Purely for the kiwis really.

Ireland in mid-summer.

Flightless Bird, American Mouth

If I was Scottish (or Norwegian) I’d feel a  bit ashamed of this. Though maybe I’m just jealous.

Bushfire fairytales

As robbed from the door

Most likely you go your way and I’ll go mine

Getting older (yes this may be one of those type of blogs…) brings with it mainly downsides. Heaven will be me and Simy at the age 7 and 9 respectively ctcling round Castlewellan lakes and feeding the ducks before a fried brekkie in the caravan. It has been mostly downhill since then.

Now I’m not at the fat, balding, mid life crisis stage, being mercifully none of the above. But I am finding myself increasingly set in my ways. There was time when enjoying your own company was pleasanty novelty but I find as I get older it becomes something of a neccessity. As I (we?) get older I seem to get less tolerant of other people, other people’s ideas, other people’s personalities, other people’s routines. Used to be you’d stick a stack of us together and we’d just get on with the bant and not think any more about it. Now we’ve all grown up (and thankfully differentiated into actual people as opposed to the homogenous mass of opinion, fashion and personality of being teenagers) and we all (to some degree) need “our own space”, be that physically on our own, or “our own space” in a social setting.

Bottom line, as I get older it seems that I don’t “suffer fools lightly” and perhaps am no where near as (naturally) tolerant as I used to be before I ruined my life by thinking about everything.Far too much I am used to “getting things my own way”. I suspect this is why old people in churches give themselves a bad name (with notable exceptions) and indeed is what scares me about growing up in the church myself.

There are of course plus points, which would inculde (normally) being able to grow a beard. Though perhaps I’m a bit fixated on that one. You’d think by 27 and being neither fat nor balding I’d at least be grateful, and not harping on for some decent facial hair…

But I figure the best thing about getting older (and grumpier and less tolerant) is that you finally get away from that nauseating tendency to care about what other people think. There comes a point where you’re contented to not have the approval of the people around you. And all of a sudden you find yourself free to enjoy things because… well… you actually enjoy them, as opposed to doing them because it is the “done thing.”

Every cloud and all that…


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