Thursday, October 21, 2004

Explain this

Supposing that there was somebody on the point of being appointed to a position of significant authority who said that he found the idea of Christianity morally repugnant. Would we be shocked by that? Would we make a fuss about it? Would we expect the media to take any notice? Would we get to hear about it at all?

Well, there is a certain Italian European Commissioner. He doesn't say that. He says that homosexuality is a sin. Not a crime, a sin. Not something that should be punished by the state, but something that is offensive to God. He also says that:
  • he can't change his convictions for political expediency (which I think demonstrates integrity);
  • he would not allow his personal beliefs to affect the execution of his office.
And yet he's put under huge pressure to resign. Barroso, the head of the commission, is put under pressure to reshuffle. MEP's say they will veto the entire commission unless there is a change.

How tolerant we are in Western Europe of religious convictions. NOT!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Some links

What do you have bookmarked? I'm sure you can tell a lot about people from the websites that they have bookmarked. Actually, a lot of people don't even know that you can bookmark pages to come back to. Hint: use CTRL-D - and then the website appears on your list of favourites. And while you are at it, get rid of all the junk that your ISP put there because it wants to get you to use its products.

OK. So what have I got under "Apologetics" - the first heading?
The Bible gateway - the Bible online - a good place if you need a verse or more in a wide variety of translations and languages.
Debate topics apologetic - The website is a set of resources relating to the Muslim-Christian debate, and the page referenced here contains a list of "contradictions" in the Bible, which are countered.
Discovery Institute - Center - this is the Discovery Institute in Seattle (I think), who are pushing ahead the Intelligent Design program, and making waves in the science community.
Facing the Challenge Training Course - this is a course for Christians who want to understand and do something about the challenge of our times. There are also a large number of articles that cast a Christian eye over culture and other things.
The Panda's Thumb - a bulletin board/blogsite basically dedicated to advancing the cause of evolutionism. Go here if you want to argue with somebody - or more realistically some dozen people - about evolution. However, if you aren't a scientist, or aren't very thick-skinned, you may be better off staying away - they don't take prisoners here .....
The Biblical Creation Society - this is kind of the opposite of the Panda's Thumb, without the interaction - a creationist website, with some solid and credible scientific stuff.

A couple of other "apologetic" bits and pieces, that aren't bookmarked:
The Biotic Message - a pretty heavy book (it reads like a PhD thesis) that answers the question "Why are we here?"
After the Flood - a less heavy creationist book, which seems well-researched and historical, outlining the history of human races following the Genesis flood. I don't know how solid the credentials of this book are, but it makes for an interesting read, and the entire text is available on-line.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Why exiled?

Groggs - General Purpose Reverse Ordered Gossip Gathering System - is the mother of all bulletin boards. Actually probably not, but it was certainly one of the few things that made a sojourn "up" in Cambridge worthwhile to a comprehensive lad with ideas above his station. Yes, dear reader, I was PF101. However, since I graduated, my access to "real" computers has been limited, and I don't have the wherewithall to run the bits and pieces that will allow me back. And it gives a fascinating edge of exclusion to the handle I have chosen for this blog.

Incidentally, should anybody who really has anything to do with Groggs happen to wander across this blog by virtue of the power of Google, I was intrigued to read how closely key dates in the history of Groggs corresponded with my time there. Also, tears were nearly brought to my eye at the thought of near-forgotten phenomena such as AG109, the XEAGLE delta function and GROAN. Incidentally, if anybody knows where I can get hold of a tidy PC-runnable version of GROAN, I'd appreciate it - weather forecasts and reviews haven't been the same since I lost access to my GROAN WITH WEATHER and GROAN WITH PSEUD. They've meant something, for a start.

This will be complete drivel to about 99.5% of the potential readers.

Evolution versus Intelligent Design

The story so far ... would actually take far too long to tell. So let me confine myself to recent (i.e. since this summer) history - and see if I can do justice to the science, but explain it in terms that non-scientists can understand.

"The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" by Stephen C. Meyer was published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington on September 29, 2004. Remember that living things are organised hierarchically? - with species being the lowest level of organisation, but there are also genera ("genuses"), phyla, kingdoms and so forth. These are "taxa" or "taxonomic categories". Most of the higher taxa - bits of the hierarchy at the level of phylum - appeared fairly suddenly in evolutionary history - in the Cambrian era - this phenomenon is known as the "Cambrian Explosion".

Now, the new body plans that are represented by the higher taxa, argues Meyer, require large numbers of new proteins and hence genetic information. The various traditional evolutionary models - which include neo-darwinism, self-organisation, punctuated equilibrium, and structuralism - don't have any mechanism that explains how this big increase in information could have come about. Meyer suggested that a new mechanism was required; he proposed that if the traditional options were not able to explain how evolution might have come about, then it might be an appropriate time to suggest that design had been at work.

This would have been just another paper - not the first on Intelligent Design - not the first in a journal - or anything - but somebody in evolution-world noticed it and got the bit between their teeth.

Allegations were made about whether the paper was within the scope of the journal (it was); whether a peer-review process had been carried out by people qualified to review the paper (it had); whether the editor had either ignored or not sought the counsel of the Biological Society of Washington's council (he had acted in accordance with his authority). The allegations were made predominantly by the NCSE - the National Center for Science Education - an apparently neutral title of an organisation that is basically dedicated to pushing for evolution to be taught in public schools in America. Incidentally, one of the many odd things about this organisation is that the evolutionist community alleges that there is a conspiracy to get Intelligent Design into schools!! How ironic!

There has been no formal response to Meyer's paper so far, except on Panda's Thumb, another evolutionist website, that has strong links with NCSE. They, in the form of
Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry wrote a paper called "Meyer's Hopeless Monster" (posted August 24, 2004). This has in turn been responded to by the Discovery Institute in two papers, with more to follow - their website is at http:/ .