‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Friday, 29 January 2010

Climate Change developments

The UK Government's chief scientist has called for honest dialogue on climate change. Quoted from the Timesonline Science chief John Beddington calls for honesty on climate change 27/01/10

"" "The impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the Government’s chief scientific adviser.

John Beddington was speaking to The Times in the wake of an admission by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that it grossly overstated the rate at which Himalayan glaciers were receding.

Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.

He said that public confidence in climate science would be improved if there were more openness about its uncertainties, even if that meant admitting that sceptics had been right on some hotly-disputed issues.

He said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”

He said that the false claim in the IPCC’s 2007 report that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 had exposed a wider problem with the way that some evidence was presented.

“Certain unqualified statements have been unfortunate. We have a problem in communicating uncertainty. There’s definitely an issue there. If there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be the level of scepticism. All of these predictions have to be caveated by saying, ‘There’s a level of uncertainty about that’.” ""

Dawkins back from playing Father Christmas

Dawkins is back from his Christmas break - a shame he didn't listen to the message of Christmas about peace and goodwill to all men but launches into another ill informed attack on religion.

Hear the rumble of Christian hypocrisy: The evangelist who says the Haiti earthquake is retribution for sin is at least true to his religion

Of course for Dawkins a world without religion would be a better one. But when ever atheism has been tried out it leads to great tyranny - a shame he doesn't mention Hitler, Stalin, Lennin, Pol Pot in his article.

But Dawkins is a man of doubt and depressing hopelessness for all mankind. Atheism destroys the basis on which to make value judgements about right and wrong and leads to the tyranny of relativism in ethics. Out of the frying pan into the fire perhaps Richard?

The Christian vision is instead a hopeful one that seeks to make the world a better place, where we protect against natural disasters, where we end poverty, disease, suffering etc.

Yes perhaps Pat Robertson's statement was ill conceived, but there is a spiritual war taking place upon the earth that few of us really understand. Suffering is a problem for theologians, but Dawkins approach makes our very existence meaningless, in which case how can he address it at all? Suffering becomes a useful stick to beat God and Christians with, but ultimately how can Dawkins say that suffering is even a bad thing? Unless of course he thinks he is the sole judge of good and bad and wishes to be seen as God himself.
Andrew S

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Darwinism, Social Engineering and Lark Rise to Candleford

Dr Stephen Hayes has an interesting article over at CSM on the BBC programme Lark Rise to Candleford, which he believes included a blatant piece of Darwin propaganda in a light entertainment drama. Social Engineering anyone?

The programme is available on i Player if anyone wants to watch it through.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Trench Warfare?

Nick Spencer of the Theos 'Think Tank' considers that the last decade has been one of aggressive posturing and thinks those, like him, who occupy the middle ground have had a rough time. He asks Can we climb out of the trenches?

Yes – it would be lovely to have open dialogue in the middle ground, but I would gently suggest that Nick should have a look at his own writing first. He suggests for instance that his fellow believers who reject evolution are guilty of launching verbal explosives. Perhaps some are aggressive in their tone, but there are many of us who simply want an honest dialogue over the evidence. He writes.

“For the most part the explosives have been verbal [in comparison to real explosives]. On the one hand we have encountered placards telling us the Islam will dominate the world and freedom can go to hell, and Christian faith that is able to move mountains of evolutionary evidence. On the other, we have heard of how faith is a virus to be eradicated, and how the Muslim community should be subject to discrimination until it "gets its house in order".”

I would suggest that this is an offensive comparison to those many Christians who are not militant, but seek truth, value and integrity in science. Perhaps he does not understand that scientific finding are always provisional, especially in questions of origins, which are not directly testable. He seems blinded by the rhetoric of those philosopher leaders in science who want to keep the real philosophy of science hidden from the masses. So the productive units in society (you and me) are taught that science is more certain than it is and are thus kept in the dark about matters of philosophy.

Yes – let us end this endless wrangling over origins, but there seems resistance to open dialogue in this area from some leading theistic evolutionists despite many of us from the 'wicked creationist’ side appealing many times for such respectful dialogue. One can only live in hope.
Andrew S

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Dignity and Bioethics

Thanks to Barry Arrington over at Uncommon Descent for alerting me to this; Undignified Bioethics - uncommon descent

The abstract - Undignified Bioethics in the forthcoming issue of Bioethics says this;

"The concept of dignity is pervasive in bioethics. However, some bioethicists have argued that it is useless on three grounds: that it is indeterminate; that it is reactionary; and that it is redundant. In response, a number of defences of dignity have recently emerged. All of these defences claim that when dignity is suitably clarified, it can be of great use in helping us tackle bioethical controversies. This paper rejects such defences of dignity. It outlines the four most plausible conceptions of dignity: dignity as virtuous behaviour; dignity as inherent moral worth; Kantian dignity; and dignity as species integrity. It argues that while each conception is coherent, each is also fundamentally flawed. As such, the paper argues for a bioethics without dignity: an 'undignified bioethics.'

Alasdair Cochrane seems to be arguing that value comes from 'moral status' not from a God given inherent value for all humanity. This is similar to the ethics of Peter Stringer who argues that some animals have greater worth than some human beings. But there is though something worrying about this sort of argument in that it leads to a loss of value in society, as exemplified for instance by the horrors of Nazi Germany where Jews and others were denied their moral worth by a godless system. Perhaps it is logical for materialistic humanists, but even T.H.Huxley saw that there had to be a committment to ethical values despite the lack of scientific support for ethics. Clearly science isn't a good foundational basis on which to build ethics, and those who deny any higher authority are lost in a web of confusion. Humanity though is the loser.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Science and Public Trust

There is a very significant paper by Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz on the BBC website about trust in science

Read it here - BBC 'Show Your Working'

(N.B. This is posted because of what it says about the process of science - not because of what it says about climate change).

A few snippets from the article

A revolution in science

"So we have a three-fold revolution in the demands that are placed on scientific knowledge claims as they apply to investigations such as climate change:

•To be warranted, knowledge must emerge from a respectful process in which science's own internal social norms and practices are adhered to
•To be validated, knowledge must also be subject to the scrutiny of an extended community of citizens who have legitimate stakes in the significance of what is being claimed
•And to be empowered for use in public deliberation and policy-making, knowledge must be fully exposed to the proliferating new communication media by which such extended peer scrutiny takes place.

The opportunity that lies at the centre of these more open practices of science is to secure the gold standard of trust."

"A more open and a better understood science process will mean more trusted science, and will increase the chances of both "good science" and "good policy". "Show your working" is the imperative given to scientists when preparing for publication to peers. There, it refers to techniques. Now, with the public as partner in the creation and implementation of scientific knowledge in the policy domain, the injunction has a new and enhanced meaning."

And a happy new year