Monday, September 25, 2006

Richard Dawkins and 'The God Delusion'

Professor Richard Dawkins is currently giving media interviews for his latest book 'The God Delusion'. In a recent one with the BBC's 'Newsnight' programme, Professor Dawkins made several erroneous comments. He spoke about a religious person's belief in a universe containing a god, whereas Christianity (the religion the professor singles out for criticism) explicitly argues for a God *outside* of the time and space He created. It is like asking where the poet is in his/her poem or to expect an artist to be in his/her own picture. All creation is an act of separation.

Secondly, the professor said that religious people did not give their beliefs much thought. This implies that religion and thoughtfulness cannot go together, something I disagree a great deal with. I came to Christianity only after a very large amount of thought and reasoning. So did and do many other religious people.

The interviewer Jeremy Paxman likewise made a distinction between a 'religious culture' and a 'rational culture' but this is only a false distinction. Religion can be rational - some of the greatest thinkers and scientists throughout history were deeply religious (Sir Isaac Newton for one). It is true that religion asks ultimately for a 'leap of faith', but no leap is possible without first some firm foundation from which to jump.

Again Professor Dawkins erred when he stated that Christianity was an invention of Saint Paul's. Paul taught at a time when many still lived who had been eyewitnesses to Jesus and his original teaching. The early Christian community would not have tolerated the misrepresentation of ideas and beliefs that many among them had themselves been witnesses to.

In the course of the interview Professor Dawkins refers to people with religious beliefs as 'faithheads'. The professor knows better than this. Name-calling is no substitute at all for rational and sincere debate.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Personalised & Autographed Copy of Book Now Available Worldwide

We've restructured the webpage offering personalised copies of my book 'Born On A Blue Day' to accept payments worldwide. Makes a great Christmas gift idea!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Probability Problem

A person is tested for an illness that affects 1 in 10,000. The result is positive, however it's known that the test gives an erroneous positive result in 5% of cases. What is the percentage chance that the person really does have this illness?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sracmbeld Wrods

A fienrd rcnteley snet me a msgaese sohiwng how it's psblosie to raed sracmbeld wrods so lnog as the fsrit and lsat ltretes are in thier rghit psitonios. Tihs is bcuseae radineg ivlonves wrod rgcoentioin and ctxonet.

Hovewer tihs efceft is at laest prtaly rliaent on the coiche of wrdos and dtrsitibuoin of ltertes. For empxale, how esialy can you raed the fllownoig sntnecee:

'gldnraiee aattiinpecs mieduuttls ciinnnaotg eeoornrus amptttes'

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Summer's Obituary - The Autumnal Equinox

The British Summer will officially end on Saturday 23rd September at 4:02am. This is the Autumnal Equinox, the point where nights reach the same length as days.

I personally like autumn very much - the fall of fruit, leaves and conkers from the trees, the crackling of log fires, the peeling and pickling of fruit and vegetables to store over winter, the cooler weather ...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Will Humans Soon Live 1,000 Years? The Answer is No.

There have been a flurry of news reports in the past few days about the possibility that one day soon humans will be capable of living up to 1,000 years.

It's certainly true that the average life expectancy has risen dramatically in the past 100 years: in 1901 life expectancy for newborn babies was 45 for boys and 49 for girls. By 2000 life expectancy was 75 and 80 respectively.

However much of this improvement has come from large reductions in infant mortality due to better living conditions and access to medicine, and not because of any fundamental change in how humans age. There are in fact many reliable reports of long life spans throughout history: Plato (80 years), Augustus (76 years), Pope Celestine III (91 years), Isaac Newton (84 years). The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus of Abdera is reputed to have lived to the age of 109.

Indeed the maximum life span for humans has not really changed throughout human history; remaining around 115-120 years. The oldest-ever person was a French woman, Jeanne Calment, who lived 122.5 years (1875-1997).

It seems that with a healthy diet and regular exercise most people in the developed world today can expect to live somewhere between 70-90 years, with a small number living to or past 100 years. But claims of massively increased life spans in the near future are no more than pure speculation.

And, anyway, isn't quality of life more important than quantity?