new paper from Michael Denton

I was pleased to come across this very recent paper [here] from one-time New Zealander (I don’t know where he’s based now) Michael Denton, an agnostic (as I understand) biochemist/geneticist whose 1998 book ‘Nature’s Destiny’ was very influential, along with Michael Behe’s ‘Darwin’s Black Box’ and Paul Davies’ ‘The Fifth Miracle’ in leading me to study molecular biology; I read them in 2006 in the midst of a time of quite intense religious, philosophical, and scientific exploration and am grateful to God for the book selection on offer in my local library at that time.

The contents of the paper are largely familiar from Denton’s book, with some updates regarding recent findings in extremophile microbes. His thinking occupies a very interesting place between considerations of the fine-tuning of fundamental physical laws (which is very popular in academic theist circles) and less academically popular but nevertheless well-known modern design arguments in biology; working in this ‘gap’, Denton considers the shape of biochemistry as it relates to animal physiology and the constraints on it from deeper chemical/physical laws. I’d like to see it formally integrated with other teleological considerations in biology such as those arising from trends of evolutionary convergence – perhaps one day I’ll get on to that.

A particularly striking quote which I am likely to use at a later stage:

At the very same time that Nietzsche famously proclaimed, “Nihilism stands at the door”, new discoveries in organic chemistry and biochemistry, unrecognized at the time, were providing the first hint that life on earth might after all be the result of design and not the accident of deep time and chance that was increasingly assumed.

Nietzsche – might have benefited from considering the fitness of the environment for life!

 

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Jesus still stands

On a dark afternoon with nails through his hands

my Lord was hung from a ‘tree’

but that wasn’t the end, and this man now stands

at God’s side eternally

 

 

The leaders of the time tried crucifixion

to end the life of Jesus

sentenced to die, in an unjust conviction

to suffer instead of us

 

 

The cross happened, it is well attested

in a range of documents;

the same picture has been multiply painted

by sources independent

 

 

The resurrection occurred too; this we know

by means of testimony

it’s good enough in science and friendship, so

consider trusting today!

 

 

Why trust old books on issues of importance??

Because their stories up-stack

and provide consilience and coherence

which the alternatives lack

 

 

The truth of all this has real consequences

it is either true or not

and as the case rests on sure evidences

I’m willing to take the bet

 

 

Don’t discount this without seeing if it’s true;

invent your own solution –

Christ’s resurrection shows only God renews

all else is mere confusion

 

 

This gives a grand view of God and mankind;

makes sense of humility,

justice, science, truth and forgiveness you’ll find

it’s well worth considering.

 

 

for more detailed discussion of related issues:

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.co.nz/2011/06/separating-supernatural-from-natural-in.html

http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Mcgrew-McGrew-The-Argument-from-Miracles.pdf

http://www.apologetics315.com/2011/09/are-new-testament-gospels-reliable-mp3.html

a utilitarian’s ‘should’

A utilitarian should be clear where they get their ‘should’ from; it is not entirely clear to me, but I need to read up on it more – it probably should be quite obvious given the popularity of the doctrine.

I can see how it makes some sense in the context of public policy making by democratically elected bodies – they’re elected to maximise the good for the ones voting for them. Underlying this is a conditional – if we want to achieve the maximum good/wellbeing, then we should …

However, I don’t see why the first part of the conditional is simply ‘rational’ or obvious to hold to without importing further moral considerations. As such, I struggle to see why (absent the existence of moral facts rather than merely scientific-esque facts about wellbeing) people would be obliged to act on utilitarian reasoning when it doesn’t maximise their own wellbeing.

I’ll hopefully work more on this at some later stage, but that’s the gist of my worry, for now.

Here’s a bunny – it seems to relate to utility in some way!

Marriage Equality Tees

But what do we mean by marriage equality? Buy one of these tees if you’re a true believer!

1st Tee

2nd Tee

 

[ This is a whimsical posting. I’m not sure what to think of the idea of the slippery slope, myself – though I do think marriage equality is a fairly silly slogan, and that changing the contours of marriage law makes some forms of discrimination quite ad hoc – but there’s plenty more on that in other posts]

On a more serious note, odd relationships do exist out there – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7662232/Grandmother-and-grandson-to-have-child-together.html

Easter and the Zombie Invasion

This post is a quick one, based (largely) on personal experience.

When a mechanic tells you that your car brake pads are getting thin, you work on getting them replaced fairly soon.

When you’re hungry, you consider your options for food in the not-too-distant future.

When you feel sad, it tends to get your attention, and you generally try to do something about it.

When you’ve got good reason to think that your town has been invaded by zombies, you reach for the shotgun. And the napkin with the escape plan all worked out. And you think pretty carefully about transport options for getting the heck out of this place.

When you begin to realise that the world is governed by a holy and just God, that He acts in the world today and went to great lengths to rescue people, like yourself,  who oppose him…  you invest seriously into finding out whether this craziness is true. You get into the Bible, you do what you can to find out whether God exists and what any such God might be like. You look at the conflicting claims and make up your mind. You live in light of the evidence as you see it. You don’t just say “meh … maybe there’s something there, maybe not; other people can look into it if they want, but it’s not really my thing.”

reflections on Mark 14:61b-65

These sentences stood out to me for a few reasons.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?” You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

Some points that the text makes:

Jesus claimed to be the long-awaited messiah, God’s chosen one.

Jesus claimed to be fulfil the role of the ‘one like a son of man’ referred to in Daniel 7:13-14 [here].

He was making big claims – big enough to be considered blasphemous by the Jewish high priest of the time.

Anther thing I take from it:

Two phrases suggest to me that Mark wants the reader to make their own decision about this man Jesus – who was he; who is he to you?
– “You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” A clear question, with relevance for everyone who’s read up to this point in Mark.
– “the guards received him with blows.” How will I receive Jesus. How will you? Does he deserve to be beaten down by us, or raised up?

Some questions raised:

What did the high priest have in mind when asking Jesus whether he was the “Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Following on from this, was it Jesus’s claim to be the messiah that was considered blasphemous, or something else, or is it a case of ‘both and’??
Why did the high priest, chief priests, elders and scribes, consider Jesus worthy of the death penalty?
Why did some demand that Jesus “Prophesy!” as they struck him and spat on him? Did they think him unable to do so – were they ignorant of his works in Galilee? 

 

Jesus before Caiaphas – Matthias Stom (c. 1630)

The Cost

A good simple song from ‘Rend Collective Experiment’.

I’m enjoying listening to some of their stuff, along with material from ‘Emu Music’ and ‘Sovereign Grace Music’ (from Ireland, Australia, and the U.S. respectively), amongst other things in the worship genre. This isn’t the only stuff I listen to, but it’s a large portion as I find it helpful in orienting my life in a way that seems closer to ‘flourishing’ than would otherwise be the case.  I hope to get back into listening to podcasts, too, and perhaps I’ll comment more on some things worth listening to in that realm on a later occasion.

Enjoy.