Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"What have the Romans ever done for us?"

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
In commenting about the worldview outlined by Schaeffer below, Corkscrew says:
The general theory is justified by its specific successes. Same goes for our models of the universe. What successes do your extensions to consensual reality have under their belt?
I would argue (with Schaeffer) that, if you can live with the existence of God, this worldview provides, beyond religion, a necessary and sufficient explanation of such non-obvious facts as the presence of the universe at all, consciousness (mine and others'), morality, reason, our sense of justice, our desire for perfection, our perceived freedom as agents, the problem of evil, the meaningfulness of science and the coherence of the scientific method, the pursuit of the transcendent, beauty, aesthetics, desire, the difference between animals and humans, the specialness of the location of the earth within the cosmos, the information content and the apparent design present in life.

And if you can't live with the existence of God, you still have to explain all of those things.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More from Francis Schaeffer

It would be hard to overestimate the impact that Francis Schaeffer's work has had on my life - either directly, or filtered through the many other people who he influenced during the 20th Century. I included a link in the post below to a website which gathers together various items relating to him. Here's a quote from it which pretty much represents my thoughts on philosophy/religion.
Basically, the biblical perspective is this. First, there is an infinite-personal God who exists and who has created the external universe, not as an extension of His own essence, but out of nothing. Something of the nature of this created universe can be found out by reason because that is the way the infinite-personal God has created it. The universe is neither chaotic nor random, but orderly. Cause and effect is real, but this cause and effect is not in a closed system, but rather in an open system -- or, to say it in a different way, it is a cause-and-effect system in a limited time span. Though this universe has an objective existence apart from God, it does not operate solely on its own; it is not autonomous. God is not a slave to the cause-and-effect world He has created, but is able to act into the cause-and-effect flow of history.

Second, God has made man in His own image, and this means, among other things, that man too can act into the cause-and-effect flow of history. That is, man cannot be reduced to only a part of the machine; he is not an automaton.

Third, not only can God act into the world, but He is not silent; He has spoken to men in the historic, space-time situation. The Bible and Christ in His office of prophet have given a propositional, verbalized communication to men that is true about God, true about history, and true about the cosmos. This should not take us by surprise, for if God has made man in His own image and has made us so that we can verbalize facts propositionally to each other on a horizontal level of communication, then it is natural that the infinite God who is personal would also communicate vertically to man in the same way. Of course, we must be careful to make a distinction here. Although God has not given us exhaustive knowledge (only He is infinite), He has given us true knowledge (what I have often called true truth)-- true knowledge about Himself, about history, and about the cosmos.

Fourth, the universe as it is now is not normal; that is, it is not now as it was when it was first created. Likewise, man is no longer as he was when first created. Therefore, from God's side there is the possibility of a qualitative solution for man as he is now and for man's cruelty, without man ceasing to be man.

(Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church Before the Watching World, Ch. 1)
Here's another quick quote ....
When all is done, when all the alternatives have been explored, "not many men are in the room" -- that is, although world-views have many variations, there are not many basic world-views or basic presuppositions.

Scientific American interchange

The debate between non-theistic and theistic beliefs shows no sign of dying down. A couple of letters in this month's SciAm worthy of comment. Here's the first:
You are too generous to religion. Science disproves fundamental tenets of every major religious system, from creation stories to miracles to visions of the afterlife, and after throwing these out there is nothing left beyond a nebulous "religious feeling" and some moral principles, which are largely common sense to begin with.

If this counts as "religion", then perhaps it can coexist with science, but those who profess faith both in science and in one of the established religions make a mockery of both.

Will Nelson, Tucson AZ
This letter is sloppily worded. Science doesn't "disprove" miracles. Perhaps Nelson means that, under controlled conditions, miracles aren't observed to happen. But this doesn't prove that they haven't happened.

Perhaps, instead, he means that miracles are incompatible with philosophical naturalism - PN is unable to accommodate an event that is not explicable by naturalistic processes. But then it is not valid to simply equate philosophical naturalism with science - as has been pointed out many times, modern science was established by people who didn't have a philosophically naturalistic worldview, and yet this didn't invalidate their science. This line of argument would be more credible if a proof for the soundness of philosophical naturalism could be presented - but all we are really offered is a utilitarian, "It seems to work". Since there are other worldviews that are just as sound as philosophical naturalism which don't rule out the possibility of miracles, and within which science can just as well be carried out, the bald assertion that "science disproves ... miracles" is simply false.

If there were nothing left beyond "religious feelings" then I would be happy to agree with what Nelson says - but this has not been demonstrated. Incidentally, you would be right to conclude from this that I am not happy with faith being a kind of post-modern "upper-story" (see Schaeffer - here's a good place to start) phenomenon.

Nelson's use of the phrase "faith ... in science" is telling. It is a "worldviewish" term - one which suggests that Nelson is really talking about philosophical naturalism ("scientism") rather than the scientific method. Also, he sets "faith in science" and "faith in established religion" against each other - which highlights the fact that, if he thinks that belief in established religion is a fundamentally irrational act, then he thinks the same of belief in science.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sixpence None the Richer - the end of the road

I got Sixpence's "Best of" album recently, which allowed me to get to know a few of their songs that I hadn't otherwise come across. "Don't Dream it's over" is on "Divine Discontent", so I was already familiar with it. What I hadn't heard were some of the more overtly Christian songs - like "Breathe", "The Ground you Shook", "Too Far Gone" and "Brighten my Heart" - and a selection of other gorgeous tracks - like "Loser Like Me", "I Need Love" and "Us". The website has tasters of all the tracks on the album.

I wanted to post a video from YouTube for "Us", but it's been taken off. Shame!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Climate Challenge

On the BBC's website is a Flash game. You are the leader of the European Union (or something like that), and you have the opportunity to shape EU policy, and negotiate with other geopolitical blocks in the world. The game looks at the impact your policies have on your popularity - will you remain in office? - and on global warming (assuming you accept the validity of the currently popular models, that is).

The significance isn't that it is a foundation for European political policy, but the game does at least show some of the options that might be available in the next few decades, as well as highlighting the fact that it is unusual to find something that is unequivocally good for everyone all the time.

Grid computing

How much do you use your computer?

No, I mean, like really use it?

What proportion of your CPU cycles are doing any real work? If you are anything like me, not terribly many. The "Idle" process on Windows XP runs at around 60-70%, even when I think I'm busy. I suppose the computer might get a bit more of a hammering if you are regularly playing graphics-intensive games, or videos.

There are ways that your computer can do more useful things. The first example of this (not counting the infamous XEAGLE Delta function) was my father-in-law deciding not to switch his computer off, but using it overnight to calculate pi to (I think) 100,000 decimal places - it may have been more: I forget.

The process of downloading Debian Linux - two DVD's worth - about 9 GB - introduced me to BitTorrent - a means of distributed downloading, which in addition to spreading the download across however many computers had copies (or partial copies!) of the target download, incorporated my computer into the network for uploading as well - so my computer was able to help reduce the load, and hence the wait times, on other servers. Neat!

Finally, there is proper grid computing - a means of doing lots of computing by using the spare processing power on home computers. Today, I downloaded software from Grid.org, which means that my computers at home can be used for a large project to evaluate candidate molecules as anti-cancer drugs. Here is a description of the project:
The United Devices Cancer Research Project will advance research to uncover new cancer drugs through the combination of chemistry, computers, specialized software, and organizations and individuals who are committed to fighting cancer.

The research centers on proteins that have been determined to be a possible target for cancer therapy. Through a process called "virtual screening", special analysis software will identify molecules that interact with these proteins, and will determine which of the molecular candidates has a high likelihood of being developed into a drug. The process is similar to finding the right key to open a special lock — by looking at millions upon millions of molecular keys.

Participants in the United Devices Cancer Research Project are sent a ligand library over the Internet. Their PC will analyze the molecules using a docking software called LigandFit by Accelrys. The LigandFit software analyzes the molecular data by using a three-dimensional model to attempt to interact with a protein binding site. When a ligand docks successfully with a protein the resulting interaction is scored and the interactions that generate the highest scores are recorded and filed for further evaluation.
There are many other distributed computing projects. Here's a list on Wikipedia. So why's your computer sitting around doing nothing?

Low energy lightbulbs

... have to be a good idea, right? The Energy Saving Trust said, on "You and Yours", the Radio 4 consumer programme, that they'd like to see the selling of tungsten lightbulbs phased out, so that only low energy ones were available in the fullness of time. If every house in the UK used three, then over their lifetime they would save enough energy to power the UK for a year (or something like that).

But hang on, correspondents pointed out. The truth isn't that simple. The low efficiency ones are less efficient because they generate more heat than light - a 100W lightbulb generates 80W of heat. If those watts of heat aren't being generated by lightbulbs, the house will be being warmed up less by the lightbulbs, which means that the heating will have to generate more heat to compensate. So there is no net benefit.

But hang on. The truth isn't that simple, either! Firstly, you have to take into account the environmental impact of manufacturing different sorts of lightbulbs. If the impact of making just one low energy lightbulb is lower than that of making the five or so inefficient ones, then this represents an advantage that needs to be considered. Also, for a significant proportion of the year - say six months - homes aren't heated using central heating. So for this part of the year, the heat energy that is produced is simply gradually dissipated - that is, used to directly warm up the atmosphere! - through open windows. Also, a lot of us have lights outside the heated part of the house - in porches, for example. In these cases, all of the heat energy is just lost in any case. And finally, you have to take into consideration the relative environmental impact of the energy sources used - is 80W of heat generated electrically in a lightbulb - with perhaps efficient generation but less efficient distribution - more environmentally friendly than 80W of heat generated through central heating.

The bottom line is that low energy lightbulbs are probably not as good for the environment as the manufacturers would like us to believe. But neither are they as "neutral" as the "You and Yours" correspondents were suggesting. It would take some careful research to get to the real truth of this question.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Christian Thinktank

I've not come across this before, and I don't know how reliable or orthodox it is - it certainly doesn't look particularly lovely - but there's lots on it, about all sorts of "difficult questions" - racism, women, OT ethnic cleansing, oral traditions of the gospels ...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Haeckel's Embryos

Art, in a comment, links to PZ Myers' blog, containing analysis of whether textbooks really do use Haeckel's drawings in a misleading way. Unsurprisingly, the conclusion presented is that they aren't widely so used.

I don't have access to 15 biology text books. However ...

Miller and Levine have written one of the standard biology textbooks. On their website, they say:
British embryologist Michael Richardson and his colleages published an important paper in the August 1997 issue of Anatomy & Embryology showing that Haeckel had fudged his drawings to make the early stages of embryos appear more alike than they actually are! As it turns out, Haeckel's contemporaries had spotted the fraud during his lifetime, and got him to admit it. However, his drawings nonetheless became the source material for diagrams of comparative embryology in nearly every biology textbook, including ours! So, what have we done? Well, we fixed it! In 1998 we rewrote page 283 of the 5th edition to better reflect the scientific evidence. Our books now contain accurate drawings of the embryos made from detailed photomicrographs
So there is an acknowledgement here that the drawings were used by them, and were in widespread use in "nearly every biology textbook" (contra PZ's website, which implies of textbooks generally by reference to the sample examined: "only a minority used Haeckel's figure at all.").

I also have a copy of Alberts et al. "Molecular Biology of the Cell" from 1983. Obviously this predates the Richardson paper, but it is within the 1923-1997 range talked about on PZ Myers' blog. It says:
The Vertebrate Body Plan is First Formed in Miniature and Then maintained as the Embryo Grows
The embryo at the stage when the somites are forming is typically a few millimetres long and consists of about 105 cells. While we have been speaking thus far of Xenopus, the scale and general form are much the same for a salamander, a fish, a chick, or a human (Figure 15-15). Later these species of embryo will grow to be very different in size and shape, but for the moment they can all be seen to share the basic vertebrate body plan. The details will be filled in later as the embryo grows.

Alberts et al., "Molecular Biology of the Cell", p.824, 1983
The text for Figure 15-15 says:
Comparison of the embryonic development of a fish, an amphibian, a bird, and a mammal. The early stages (above) are closely similar; the later stages (below) are more divergent. The earliest stages are drawn roughly to scale; the later stages are not. (After E. Haeckel, The Evolution of Man, London, 1879)

Alberts et al., "Molecular Biology of the Cell", p.825, 1983
The pictures of the earliest embryos are basically simplified versions of Haeckel's drawings, and have little in common with the "actual appearance of vertebrate embryos" which Wells gives on "Icons of Evolution", p.92.

Douglas Futuyma has also written one of the definitive textbooks on evolutionary biology. According to Wells, the 1998 edition used Haeckel's drawings - and in 2000, Futuyma "explained that before reading the critic's accusation he had been unaware of the discrepancies between Haeckel's drawings and actual vertebrate embryos... So Futuyma, a professional evolutionary biologist and author of a graduate-level textbook, did not know about Haeckel's faked drawings."

How strong are the claims made against Haeckel's drawings by proponents of ID? Are they saying, as PZ implies on his blog, that textbooks aren't critical of Haeckel's proposition that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny"? No. Neither do they dispute that there are similarities between the two. ISCID (Intelligent Design website) says:
There are indeed similarities between ontogeny and phylogeny. However, Haeckel's embryo drawings produced to support his theory overemphasized certain similarities and de-emphasized dissimilarities.
The thrust of the charge in this case is that the case for evolution is being supported with evidence that is known to be discredited. There is no dispute that there are developmental similarities in embryos - just that the hand is being overplayed, and misrepresented - as Wells says,
It was Futuyma who mindlessly recycled Haeckel's embryos in several editions of his textbook, until a "creationist" criticized him for it. And it was Gould who (despite having known the truth for over twenty years) kept his mouth shut until a "creationist" (actually, a fellow biologist) exposed the problem.

"Icons of Evolution", p.109
So the post on PZ Myers' blog is factually doubtful, and also misses the point.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Something Sweet and Real" - Tess Wiley

From the album "Rainy Day Assembly" - one of my favourite albums - and all YouTube has from Tess! If you go to Tess's Myspace, you can hear some of her latest songs (Anette - a song in German sung by an English speaker! Respect!), which will be on an album pencilled in for release in April, apparently.

Hoax of Dodos

More detail about the post below ... and yes, my copy of Alberts et al. "Molecular Biology of the Cell" does indeed have a diagram "After Haeckel", and it says of the diagram: "The early stages are closely similar".

"A few textbooks have traces of Haeckel's embryos"

Randy Olson's film, "A flock of Dodos", claims that, in "Icons of Evolution", Jonathan Wells is wrong to assert that modern textbooks make reference to Haeckel's work. At a screening on Wednesday, reported here, he backtracked from this claim.

Hmm. Guess which version of "the truth" will be the one that becomes common currency - the film, or this admission?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Making the internet safer?

I heard about what sounded rather a batty scheme from the home secretary to "monitor identities and emails of known paedophiles", in an attempt to improve safety. I wasn't sure how half-baked it was. If this commentary from Civitas is anything to go by, it was just as half-baked as it sounded on the radio.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

More US protectionism

Let's set aside the issue of the scientific evidence for now.

We can't show evidence for ID or creationism in school because it makes reference to a designer, which might be God, and this violates the first amendment.

And we can't show any evidence that might cast doubt on darwinism either, because students might then want to know if there is an alternative, and we would look really stupid saying, "I can't tell you about this, because it would be against the constitution."

Which means that darwinism has to be the only worldview taught as science in schools.

Which means that people who have done high school science will probably think that any alternative is fundamentally not science, and this inference isn't based on a consideration of scientific evidence, but simply on the basis of the constitution.

Now is science supposed to work by studying the evidence? Or by constitutional fiat?

Let's try again, and again set aside the issue of evidence.

We won't teach creationism or ID in science at university because it contradicts philosophical naturalism - the principle that science is only about natural causes. We won't draw attention to the fact that philosophical naturalism isn't the only way of doing science, and is actually a reflection of a particular philosophical worldview - that is, it is a religious or philosophical belief. We won't mention that most of modern science was founded by people who accepted that the scientific method inferred methodological naturalism but not philosophical naturalism.

Which means that students won't be looking at ID or creationism regardless of the nature of the evidence for design.

Which means that the rising generation of scientists will have not investigated the arguments for themselves, and will simply accept the assertion of the older generation that ID and creationism aren't scientific. This isn't on the basis of analysis of the evidence that they present, but because they have been told this is the case - how many undergraduate students really understand anything of the philosophy of science?

Is this how science is supposed to work?

People accuse the ID community of playing politics. There are almost certainly groups within the US that are doing that. But at least part of the reason for this is because the debate has been closed down politically, and not in terms of science. No substantive scientific case is being made against ID and creationism. Instead, their opponents are more concerned to prevent discussion occurring - and will make reference to the constitution, federal judges and philosophy to prevent discussion of the evidence happening.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sixpence None The Richer - Trust

Well, mostly I'm doing this to see if I can. But this is an amazing song by Sixpence that you are unlikely to have heard.

"If Minds had Toes", Lucy Eyre

My wife bought this for me on a whim for my birthday, and I am so pleased! As far as I know, "Sophie's World", by Jostein Gaarder, was the first book that explicitly directed philosophical questions at people from smart teenagers upwards. This is the second.

A teenager Ben finds himself the subject of a bet between Socrates and Ludwig Wittgenstein, from "The World of Ideas" - a place where some people go after death, supposedly. A variety of philosophical questions (Is death the worst thing that can happen to you? What is happiness? Do we have free will?) are introduced to him, with characters around him arguing for different philosophical positions. As tends to be the way, no conclusions are really reached - but by the end of the book, Ben has (and hopefully the reader will have) a more thoughtful perspective on the nature of life, the universe and everything - and he has a "better life" as a consequence of what he has learnt and discussed.

The principal characters are sympathetic and well-painted. The plot is imaginative and playful. The writing is snappy and clever:
Ben had heard of Plato. And now he'd seen his sports car, he was even more impressed.
And if we are really homo sapiens, then we ought to be thinking about the issues that the author discusses.

Random book meme

... from Miss Mellifluous.
"It must be someone who knows us. But how could they know we would come here on this particular day?"

Joanna was by far the more scared of the two.

"Sophie's World", Jostein Gaarder
HERE ARE THE RULES:

1. Grab the book closest to you.

2. Open to page 123; go down to the fourth sentence.

3. Post the text of the following three sentences.

4. Name the author and book title.

5. Tag three people to do the same.

Actually, I cheated a bit - the nearest book was "Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2007", which would have been boring and pretentious. So I took the second nearest. Consider yourself tagged....

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Covenant longevity

Garbage.

Well, unfortunately, not quite. It has just enough truth in it to be plausible.
Death is subject to the person who knows that he or she has authority over it.
Indeed. That would be God. Christians do not have authority over death.

A "contrived dualism"

I checked what Judge Jones said. What he meant by a "contrived dualism" is the statement that "either evolutionism is right, or creation science is right." This "doomed" creation science in the 80's, and it dooms the irreducible complexity argument today which, being central to ID, therefore shows that ID is not science. I still disagree.

Firstly, from a purely logical perspective, if you really strip these back to the meanings at the core of these words, there is actually an underlying truism. "Either all of the universe and life are present as a consequence of naturalistic means, or not all of the universe and life are present as a consequence of naturalistic means." That's not a contrived dualism: that's a logical necessity. It may be considered to undermine the first amendment - how inconvenient! - but it is only flawed if you destroy language and communication. And given that darwinists maintain that they aren't talking about abiogenesis, few of them can unequivocally say that the first statement definitely applies.

Presumably, that's not what Jones has in mind, though. What he is objecting to is the definite statement that something is irreducibly complex, and therefore a naturalistic explanation must be wrong, and therefore ID must apply - he is asserting that this is not science by analogy with creation science. I don't follow - though again, to follow properly, I guess I need to go to the case that Jones cites. What I think he is probably getting at is that creation science said something along the lines of "The Bible must be right. The Bible contradicts darwinism. Therefore darwinism must be wrong." This clearly isn't a scientific position - fair enough so far.

However, the statement "This object is a low probability object that is irreducibly complex." is a statement that is scientific, unlike the first step in the creationism argument above - it is open to testing, falsification and analysis without reference to anything other than scientific method. And, given the attention that has been paid to supposedly irreducibly complex objects since Darwin's Black Box was written, this is also accepted by the (sceptical) science community as well. The logical consequences if something is genuinely irreducibly complex - that "this could not arise through naturalistic means, and therefore darwinism is an inadequate explanation in this case" also seem to have been accepted.

Jones' assertion that this is "non-science" must certainly come as a surprise to Nick Matzke, for example, who has spent a great deal of effort trying to demonstrate that the concept of irreducible complexity doesn't stand up scientifically. Why, he could just have said that, by analogy with the way creation science was argued for, irreducible complexity was not science. But he didn't. He worked on a scientific refutation of irreducible complexity in the case of the bacterial flagellum instead.

Now, a question. Are photons particles or waves? There is evidence for both. Did we need a court to tell us whether one or other is right? Would it have helped to clarify the debate had a court declared that the evidence for photons being waves was conclusive, and evidence that demonstrated that they were particles was therefore unscientific? Of course not. People continued to work with both - and eventually came to the conclusion that, in actual fact, photons (and indeed, everything else) express properties of both waves and particles.

So why do so many naturalists place such great store on a court judgment in this case?

Judge Jones on whether ID is science

Allygally quotes the Dover judgement in a comment.
After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;
Wrong. Science is not the same as philosophical naturalism. Philosophical naturalism has a ground rule that supernatural causation can't be invoked or permitted. But you don't have to have a PN framework to carry out science.

And, in any case, from a purely logical point of view, even if you accept that proponents of ID believe in supernatural agency, the arguments and logic of ID don't require invocation of supernatural agency, just intelligent agency. To argue that ID insists that there is a god betrays a complete misunderstanding about the nature of the arguments of ID.
(2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation
science in the 1980's;
Not even wrong, at least on the basis of this quote. This is an argument by analogy, presumably from what was the case with creation science. But it is very poorly presented - though I acknowledge that I haven't been back to the source to see if Jones does any better in the rest of the document. But irreducible complexity isn't "central" to ID - in the sense that the rest of ID is built on it. It is one strand of the evidence for ID.

And in what sense was there a "contrived dualism" in creation science? In what sense was it "flawed" and "illogical"? An absolute sense? A judicial sense? A logical sense? In what sense does the analogy work is ID the same? And in what sense does this exclude creation science from being science? This argument as presented is incomplete.
and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.
Wrong. The challenges from ID to evolution have not been refuted. There have been partial responses, and what has become apparent in my opinion is that interpretation of evidence is more about presuppositions than science. If you believe that naturalism explains everything, you will conclude that naturalism explains everything. Those of us who don't are less convinced.

What about acceptance? NCSE - an anti-ID organisation, please bear in mind! - did a survey of science professors in Ohio, which I blogged on here. ID is by no means a majority opinion, but there is certainly a significant minority for whom it would be wrong to say that it "has failed to gain acceptance." This was in 2002, before ID became more visible.

As for peer-reviewed publications - well, this is the classic anti-ID moving-goalpost thing, plus a bit of different interpretation depending upon what you think. Research from an ID perspective is going on, and in any case, given the opposition that ID generates, as witnessed by the Sternberg case that has been investigated with at least some level of formality, is it really surprising that ID hasn't managed to achieve widespread visibility in journals?

At least on this matter of whether ID is science, it doesn't take a legal expert to show that Jones' conclusions are wrong. This being so, how much credibility do you think the rest of his judgment ought to have? Or are you going to say now that he must be right because he is a federal judge?

The priority of the paradigm

Funny, but sad.
"But you can't take away a woman's right to choose to have an abortion!" came a fiery protest from the front row of a classroom of sixth-form students. The young woman was obviously strongly opposed to my (pro-life) opinion and shouted out her objection. But I wanted to challenge her, gently, to find out why she believed this so passionately. So I made up an imaginary situation ...

I said, "Suppose a human egg is fertilised in a test-tube. Now when that happens today, in IVF fertility treatment, one of the many newly formed embryos is then placed in the womb of the mother. But imagine that the embryo is placed in an artificial womb, a machine rather than a woman.

"Who will dicede then," I asked, "whether that baby will be released from the machine and allowed to live or if it will be killed? Whose choice would it be?"

There was silence for a moment. I presumed the students were weighing up if it should be the decision of the father, the mother or both. Then, to the great astonishment of everyone, the young lady in the front row angrily called out, "It's the machine's choice of course!"
This was taken from a pro-life pamphlet from SPUC Evangelicals. 2007 marks the 40th anniverary of the British law change that enabled people to legally have abortions.
Who can sound the depths of sorrow
In the Father heart of God
For the children we've rejected
For the lives so deeply scarred?
And each light that we've extinguished
Has brought darkness to our land
Upon our nation, upon our nation
Have mercy, Lord
(Graham Kendrick)