Friday, June 18, 2010

a story by william aged 3 1/2

William has been getting really into 'pretend' i.e. made-up stories recently. They usually involve him and his friend Benji and a few of the following: dragons, giants (friendly and non-friendly), monsters, knights, treasure, castles, woods, caves and mountains.

Here's one he made up himself for Su.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Girl

P1000752, originally uploaded by Jon Taylor.

Just testing out exporting from Flickr to my blog. Here's my current favourite piccie of my beautiful daughter.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

God vs The Multiverse

The Anthropic Design argument, otherwise known as the 'Fine Tuning' argument suggests that the extraordinary level of fine-tuning required for the universe to support life points towards a designer. The main alternative theory suggested to explain the 'Anthropic Principle' is the 'Multiverse' or 'Many Worlds' theory which posits up to an infinite number of parallel universes to explain the surprising fine-tuning in our universe.

In the following article, which I found on the God: New Evidence site, Peter WIlliams takes on Dawkins' objections to the anthropic design argument:

Anthropogenic Design Argument - Williams

More on God vs the Multiverse here (slightly cheesy video)

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Match Made in Heaven?

Looking for all the world like the happy couple who've just celebrated their civil partnership, here is our new Prime Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister. After a hung parliament, a situation which I was hoping for, we now have a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, a situation that I was not hoping for (#condem nation is already trending on twitter).

I'm trying not to be too down about the Tories being back in government, but it is hard not to be pessimistic about the next couple of years. I have to say I'm glad I didn't vote Lib Dem, as I was close to doing. I'd be pretty gutted at the moment as, like most Lib Dem voters, I didn't want the Tories in. (not that it feels much better having voted Labour).

However, I can't really say that I blame Clegg for doing what he has. He was in an impossible situation and probably got the best he could out of it, knowing that he was going to be unpopular whichever way he jumped. Much as I would have preferred a Labour/Lib Dem coalition the numbers just didn't work. Besides, it sounds like Labour were being far less flexible in their negotiations with the Lib Dems. Nervous as I am about a mainly Tory government, I'm not sure the Lib Dems had much option. If they had gone with Labour, or even walked away from the Conservatives, leaving them to form a minority government, they would've got slaughtered.

There are a couple of obvious moans for starters. The new coalition government couldn't be any more white, privileged, male if it tried. There are more men called Dave than there are women. The requirement of 55% of parliament in order to dissolve parliament reeks of power grabbing constitution making on the fly. The reduction in MPs and redrawing of constituencies will obviously benefit the Tories.

However, I've decided to try and find a few glimmers of hope, and look on the bright side of what could be a bad situation:
scrapping the idea of increasing the threshold for inheritance tax
taking those earning up tp £10,000 out of income tax
scrapping ID cards
abandoning plans for 3rd runway at Heathrow
extra money for schools taking the poorest pupils

this is all good stuff if it ends up happening, and should have been part of any Labour concessions.

See the rest of the Coalition Agreement here

Of course, the Conservatives were never going to give any ground on immigration, or Trident (although Libs have managed to get the costing of a possible Trident replacement in the Defence spending review).

Clegg could have pushed harder on electoral reform. I'm not sure AV is much of an improvement. Having said that, much as I would be in favour of some form of PR, the British public, not to mention the 24 hour news media, do not seem to have the stomach for the hung parliament/ coalition forming scenario. After four days they were starting to get very twitchy and irritated that these dumb politicians couldn't sort it all out. Maybe there'll be able to get some form of PR for the Lords, and we'll see how that goes.

The big compromise they've had to make is on making the huge cuts now rather than waiting, as Vince Cable always maintained was necessary. In fact, Cable looks the least happy with the arrangement.

My hope is that the Lib Dems manage to have some real influence and help to take the edge off some of the harsher plans of the Torys. A more progressive Conservative party and, in time, a reinvigorated centre-left, Labour opposition with a new leader, and we could be in an interesting situation. Quite what will happen, given the depth of cuts that are about to be rolled out, and the unhappiness of the grass-roots of all the parties, we'll have to see.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Collateral Murder

Double warning:
a) this video contains shocking footage of cold blooded killing
b) this post was written in anger and may not be the most 'nuanced'

So cool, calm and collected. This is business as usual in Iraq. It's all in a day's work. Only the extremely naive would think this is an isolated incident. This video, which was leaked (presumably by someone within the US Department of Defense) to Wikileaks shows the shocking reality of modern warfare. (The above is the shorted, annotated version of the video, the full 39 minute version is on their website)

Apparently after receiving some small weapons gunfire from the area, 2 Apache helicopter gunships surround a group of Iraqis walking in the street. Two of them appear to be carrying weapons, although not using them, and two of them are Reuters reporters, carrying large cameras. Minutes later the gunships have 'engaged' (killed) at least 6 of them, with one left crawling in the dust.

What's shocking is what happens next. As the injured man (the Reuters photographer) is crawling away, the pilots' are heard to wish for him to reach for a weapon so he can be 'engaged' (killed). It's as if they are clocking up points in a video game.

When a van pulls up to collect the injured man the Apache gunners request permission to 'engage' and, although those in the van are unarmed, are given permission. This is, of course, against the Geneva convention, and against any reasonable rules of engagement. They take out the van and half a dozen people with it. Only later does it become clear that there are two small children in the van, who are injured, but miraculously not killed (unlike their poor father).

The tone of the voices on the tape are revealing. This is no big deal. Nothing out of the ordinary. The pilots have become debased and dehumanised. Laughing and joking, they congratulate each other on their sharp shooting. 'Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards.'... 'Nice'... They snigger as a dead body is run over by a tank (oh well, he was already dead, never mind). It's not their fault if children get injured, silly Iraqis bringing children into a battle zone.
Twenty minutes later and the chopper pilots are off onto their next job - unloading 3 'hellfire' missiles into an 'abandoned' apartment block, which it later transpires (according to Wikileaks) houses 3 families).

This is not an isolated incident. This is the nature of the war in Iraq. Of course, the US DoD have fought tooth and nail to stop this material being released. They resisted Reuters demand to have the material released under the Freedom of Information act. It is only down to the courage of a whistleblower and the tenacity of Wikileaks in decrypting the video that this has been made public.

A Defence Department investigation found that those responsible had done no wrong and acted in accordance with the rules of engagement. As Glenn Greenwald argues here this is the rule not the exception. Some reactions to the release of the video have tried to defend the actions of those involved on the basis that it was an easy mistake to make under the circumstances (mistaking a camera for a rocket launcher). This is to miss the point. The main problems are the attack on the van picking up the injured man, and the subsequent cover up.

This is what happens to have been caught on film and leaked. How much more must there be which is not caught on film. Or is caught on film but not released. How much more will appear on Wikileaks I wonder. Of course I don't have the whole story. Of course they are only following orders. They are just doing their job. It is business as usual. War is messy. These things happen. So it goes...

Can't help but think of Bruce Cockburn ... 'If I had a rocket launcher...'

Original Wikileaks page with full video and supporting documents.
Coverage in Guardian
Coverage in Independent
Coverage in Times
Coverage in New York Times
Coverage on BBC

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Test of Faith

Tonight Trinity college are hosting an evening of the Test of Faith tour which I'm really looking forward to. Test of Faith is a new initiative by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion which produces resources for churches and schools exploring the relationship between science and Christian faith.

Here is an introduction to the tour

Tonight our speaker is Dr Ard Louis, Reader in Theoretical Physics at Oxford University.

Here he is talking about evolution and intelligent design

I've taken an increasing interest in the relationship between science and faith over the last couple of years. I've read a few books on the subject (which I may blog about at some point). I'm certainly not an expert on the subject but it does fascinate me. (I'm definitely not qualified to speak on the radio about these things as my so-called friend Jon Swales volunteered me to do! :) )

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

New Perspective on Paul

Jon Swales and I did a session on 'The New Perspective on Paul' at Trinity college. Here are the slides from our presentation.

For more resources on the 'New Perspective' see Jon's blog post here

Friday, February 19, 2010

God: new evidence

Thanks to Clayboy for drawing my attention to this new website God: new evidence which examines ways in which modern cosmology may point to the reality of a creator. They seem to have some interesting contributors including John Polkinghorne.

Looks pretty interesting although the style is predictable nerdy (check the bow tie).

P.S. I've changed the video here to the second one in the series, 'cos the first one was basically just the boffins introducing themselves.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Testing Testing

Just trying out rss2twitter as a way of automatically posting the rss feed from this blog to twitter. I'm also going to use it to publish the rss feed of My Delicious bookmarks. So there.
The Delicious feed seems to be working ok, but not this one. Looks like I can do it from within feedburner, so I'll try that instead.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The God of Glory and the God of Love

I liked this section from Tom Wright's latest book 'Justification'. Taking John Piper to task for his rather idiosyncratic understanding of the 'righteousness of God' as 'God's concern for God's own glory' he says

'...the great story of scripture, from creation and covenant right on through to the New Jerusalem, is constantly about God's overflowing, generous, creative love - God's concern, if you like, for the flourishing and well-being of everything else. Of course, this too will redound to God's glory because God, as the creator, is glorified when creation is flourishing and able to praise him gladly and freely. And of course there are plenty of passages where God does what he does precisely not because anybody deserves it but simply 'for the sake of his own name'. But 'God's righteousness' is regularly invoked in scripture, not when God is acting thus, but when his concern is going out to those in need, particularly to his covenant people.

The 'righteousness of God' is an outward-looking characteristic of God, linked of course to the concern for God's own glory but essentially going, as it were, in the opposite direction, that of God's creative, healing, restorative love. God's concern for God's own glory is precisely rescued from the appearance of divine narcissism because God, not least God as Trinity, is always giving out, pouring out, lavishing generous love on undeserving people, undeserving Israel, and an undeserving world. That is the sort of God he is, and 'God's righteousness' is a way of saying, Yes, and God will be true to that character...' p51-52

Sunday, January 17, 2010

N.T. Wright: Meaning and Myth

Interesting video of N.T. Wright over at the Biologos blog on Meaning and Myth, referring to the interpretation of Genesis 1-3. He talks about the way, in the States at least, these questions are caught up in the cultural and political wars in a way that's not the case elsewhere. He goes on to explain that 'myth' is not necessarily over against 'historicity'. He does think it's still appropriate to think about a 'primal pair getting it wrong', but says he roughly goes along with John Walton's 'cosmic temple' interpretation. He critiques the way literal 6-day creationists are often also dualists who believe that God is going to 'throw the present space-time universe in a trash-can and leave us all sitting on a cloud playing a harp.'

Peter Enns pops up with some thoughts in the comments section. He suggests, and I think he's right, that the big question for evangelicals working through the issues of theology and evolution is not so much Genesis and Darwin, but Paul and Darwin. I think this is clearly going to be one of the key questions for evangelical theology for the foreseeable future.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Alone in the Shed

Did anyone see that Channel 4 programme Alone in the Wild? It was about some guy called Ed who attempted to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness. He was incredibly earnest, and started out doing elborate camera shots of him diving into a lake from 6 different angles and stuff. After what seemed like not very long he broke down and spent the whole of the next 2 episodes crying. He very quickly got to the point where he couldn't catch or kill anything and it all went downhill fast. Eventually the production crew took pity on him and left him a box of food. A short while later he phoned for help and got rescued, then proceeded to cry some more in the hotel room. It was all a bit self-indulgent. Anyway, in his inimitable style here is Adam Buxton with his own version 'Alone in the Shed'. Pure comedy genius.