‘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

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Fall, Creation and Genesis. Can you Adam and Eve It?

Here are some thoughts on Evolution, Creation and the Fall courtesy of Denis Alexander writing in a Guardian Comment is Free article at Christmas Evolution, Christmas and the Atonement: We are not descended from Adam and Eve – but still, Jesus was born to save us - 23rd December 2011

It is firstly to be hoped that Christians on both sides of the creation-evolution divide can learn to dialogue with each other. So this is offered in the context of respectful dialogue. Alexander speaks of the ‘Fact’ of evolution, but we may wonder what experiment he might point sceptics to in order to justify such a categorical statement. Many people remain sceptical of evolution for lack of hard evidence, and no amount of mere rhetoric will persuade otherwise. Of course there is evidence for micro-evolution, but Alexander's claim for evolution extends beyond what can be demostrated through direct observation i.e. it is not repeatable science. Furthermore, scientists usually express reticence even with experimental support, so why use such strong language when the 'evidence' seems to be in the form of a narrative?

Alexander blames the doctrine of the Fall on Augustine, and instead claims that Origen’s view of Adam and Eve and the Fall more closely mirrors his own. However, VJ Torley has pointed out that Origen’s view wasn’t actually that different from Augustine Philo and Origen are not your friends, Dr. Alexander: A short survey of what two Biblical allegorists taught about Adam and Eve

Writing further he comments that “Nowhere does the Bible teach that physical death originates with the sin of Adam, nor that sin is inherited from Adam...” There are though that many Reformed theologians who say that the Bible does indeed assert that; for instance Commentaries on Romans by Osborn (IVP) and Moo (Eerdsman), (i.e. Romans 5:12); Henri Blocher has written similarly in a chapter in a recent book editted by Alexander's friend Sam Berry (with Noble) Darwin, Creation and the Fall

But what I find most perplexing is this final statement ‘Evolution's gift is a complex brain that endows humanity with free will, enabling personal moral responsibilities towards our neighbour and towards God.’ Does he really believe that not only has our physical make-up evolved, but moral awareness and responsibility have evolved too? Of course he believes that God is behind evolution too, so why does he feel the need to write such a statement that appears to the uninitiated to be a challenge to Christian theology in terms of who we are as human beings made in God's image; that is with volitional, emotional, rational and relational capacities? Surely the glory belongs to Jesus Christ at Christmas as the Creator of all things (John 1:3 'Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made').
Andrew S 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Understanding Faith in Society

There are a couple of articles in the Guardian 'Comment is Free' blog. Nick Spencer usefully responds to Trevor Phillips who seemed to misunderstand the nature of faith and action in society. Phillips was accused of suggesting that some Christian groups, because they seek to uphold their faith, are less willing to integrate into modern society than some muslims. Spencer believes Phillips fails to grasp the importance of faith to people. Source: Nick Spencer - Trevor Phillips is muddled on faith and equality - The EHRC cannot have it both ways – faith communities are either right or wrong to adhere to their beliefs

Secondly, Salman Hameed writes an item about creation belief and evolution and the methodology of science. Hameed writes that "Some – maybe most – of the blame [for lack of understanding of science] can be attributed to an education system that does not train people to think critically. Similarly, most people do not understand methodologies of science and the way theories get accepted. For some, scientific evidence has no role in the way they envision the world." The problem with this statement is that science is not just about criticism, but about a balance between criticism and intuition as Michael Polanyi pointed out. Truth in science is therefore determined by a careful balance between the two exercised through the moral conscience. Source: Salman Hameed - When evidence is powerless - Beliefs that give meaning to life can't be dislodged by factual evidence

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Peter Singer, Ethics and Belief in God.

There is an interesting item about ethics and the environment in the Guardian 'Comment is Free' by Mark Vernon - Without belief in moral truths, how can we care about climate change? - Peter Singer admits his brand of utilitarianism struggles with the challenge of climate change in a way Christian ethics does not.

Singer comments that he 'regrets' he doesn't believe in God and that he seems to accept that only faith in a creator can properly ground objective morality.

Tim Mulgan, professor of moral and political philosophy at the University of St Andrews also offered some interesting comments. According to Vernon, he explained "why ethical objectivism may be vital to making a robust ethical case against environmental degradation." This is because "Only a doctrine of creation can affirm that we are fundamentally linked to the natural order manifest on Earth. The fantasy of fleeing this planet, or disappearing into virtual reality, won't actually do. Our island home matters because the lives of human beings go well only when her natural systems go well too. Or, as the psalmist intuited many centuries ago: "Truth shall spring out of the earth."

Monday, 23 May 2011

Aborting girls?

The BBC is reporting a story about abortion in India, and the preference for having male children over female ones. With the possibility now of determining a child's sex before birth there is a relative increase in the number of abortions (foeticide) and even infanticide of baby girls as opposed to male abortions. This is leading to a greater number of male children under 6 years old. The main reason is that male children attract a large dowry for the family upon marriage. A similar situation has arisen in China where there is a preference for male children.
See India's unwanted girls

It will be interesting to see how this impacts upon the whole question of the ethics of abortion generally.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

BCSE, Education Policy and Respecting Religious Diversity

The BCSE, with support from Ekklesia, are campaigning to restrict some religious groups from presenting their views freely, and therefore in a way that respects their beliefs. They wish to stop creationists from claiming any scientific validity for their position. In other words, creationists may only speak in schools if they maintain that their views are not real or even false.  I have blogged about this here

So what will be lost by this? Children will be prevented from asking questions in a way that allows them to think for themselves, but instead will be encouraged to think of education in terms of learning 'official facts.' This will not prepare children for higher education where ideas are debated with more freedom. Science itself will potentially be damaged by this, because science advances through dialogue and is not based on authority. Children from religious backgrounds will feel that their beliefs are not respected in the classroom and will turn off of learning altogether.

One may hope that government ministers have greater wisdom when considering policy in light of campaigns from various pressure groups. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

Exeter School Under Fire by Secularists for Allowing Creationist into School RE Lesson.

A Church of England school in Exeter, St Peter's, has come under fire for allowing Philip Bell of Creation Ministries International to speak in an RE setting  Anger after controversial creationist is invited to talk at school

The question I wish to raise is whether there is room for respectful dialogue on the question of origins in schools. The British Centre for Science Education wishes to remove all such discussion from the classroom, apparently even from RE lessons. But there are still many religious believers including Christians, Jews, Muslim and others who do not accept Darwinism believing it to be an ideology that goes against the core values of their faith. I believe the education system needs to come to terms with such plurality and accommodate dissent and respectful dialogue in this area. There needs to be greater respect for other's beliefs. The irony is that secularists are showing a degree of intolerance that they accuse fundamentalist religious believers of displaying.

The BCSE claim that "It believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves - Science, Education and Reason - and the outcome – Democracy, Pluralism and Liberty." and that its "...campaign is dedicated to keeping all forms of creationism including Intelligent Design out of the science classroom in the UK." but then asserts that "The BCSE is open to all, irrespective of religious or political affiliations, who wish to oppose the tide of creationism in the United Kingdom." In other words, it is opposed to all forms of creationism in the UK, not just in the science classroom, and it is not committed to respecting all religious beliefs, only those that are similar to its own position. One wonders how this ties in with their desire to uphold "Democracy, Pluralism and Liberty?" I would suggest their very basis for existence is muddled and confused.

The Christian message advanced in the first century AD through dialogue, not through human compulsion, and there must continue to be room for dialogue in this area. Christianity has never had anything to fear from such dialogue with people of other faiths and none.
Andrew S 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Is Nuclear Power Safe?

A fierce debate has started over on the Guardian blogs concerning the safety of nuclear power. Helen Caldicott responds to George Monbiot's claim that nuclear power is safe.

Caldicott writes that nuclear apologists, such as George Monbiot, have misled and misinformed us over the risks of radiation, and 'at worst distort evidence of the dangers of atomic energy.' (11/4/2011).

Monbiot has asserted that the Fukushima emergency enabled him to 'stop worrying' and come to 'love nuclear power'. He believes that the fallout from the Japanese disaster needs to be set in the context of other harmful alternatives to energy production, and that atomic power must remain 'part of the mix.'

One of the main problems with nuclear power is that when it goes wrong it does so much harm to organic life and disrupts agriculture and fisheries over decades, or longer. Carbon based fuels, even though they may cause serious problems for human communities around the world, at least run with the grain of creation in that carbon dioxide is a natural part of the eco-system. I don't think nuclear is really the sustainable solution to a low carbon energy mix. 

Friday, 1 April 2011

Have we forgotten Chernobyl ?

Have we forgotten the long-tern health problems of Chernobyl? John Vidal is critical of environmentalists who have downplayed the seriousness of the Fukushima incident.
Nuclear's green cheerleaders forget Chernobyl at our peril - Pundits who downplay the risks of radiation are ignoring the casualities of the past. Fukushima's meltdown may be worse

Monday, 21 March 2011

British Humanist Association is abusing the census

I believe the British Humanist Association is abusing the integrity and therefore the quality of the census by campaigning for people to say they are not religious when given a choice of options. Clearly they don't have much confidence in people to answer as they see fit, but believe they need encouragement to fill it in 'accurately', but also in a way that suits the BHA. (See  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12799801). As a result the BHA risks undermining the quality of an important survey.

I would go further and argue that such campaigning around the census should be illegal because it puts pressure on people to answer in a way that is not necessarily in accord with their deep seated beliefs.
Andrew Sibley 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

William Paley and Theological Utilitarianism

I have discovered that William Paley was a Theological Utilitarian. That is; that ethics begin with a belief that God wishes people to be happy. But for happiness to be ultimately possible we must accord our lives with the will of God. In other words it embraces deontology (that is an ethical systems involving rights and duties), but one that has a benefit in terms of personal and social happiness. We are often encouraged to think of religion as only embracing rules and regulations, but a true Christian approach to ethics involves happiness for people and benefit for society. This is also the message of John 15:9-17 where deontological ethics are bound up with love, peace and joy.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other."

I disucssed some this in my book, Restoring the Ethics of Creation pp.126-129
Andrew Sibley

Monday, 14 March 2011

Response to Simon Barrow of Ekklesia

Simon Barrow has responded to my article on legal matters and human rights Discriminating Christian Confusion. There is a sense I think in Barrow’s writing that suggests he has failed to understand the nuances of a Christian understanding of grace. I would like here then to offer my approach to these matters and to offer some further thoughts that might help to unlock his mind.

My own background is non-conformist and charismatic. I am socially conservative it is true, but some would say more left wing than right wing. I believe in social morality as much as personal morality. I share for instance a frustration at what I see as right wing fundamentalism in the church because it fails to display the love of God and tends to be very fearful of the world, which can lead to wrong thinking and action. One example is over such strong support for the State of Israel that it leads to lack of concern for Palestinians, and I have written a book Zion’s New Name to try and redress the balance. I share Jim Wallis' sentiment about some Christian approaches to politics that the ’right gets it wrong and the left doesn’t get it’. For instance, one irony is that although many evangelical Christians are opposed to Darwinism in America, they are willing to uphold a sort of belief in economic social Darwinism through support of weak social legislation. It is also too easy to think that being strong on law and order is a Christian ideal, but fail to see that mercy has triumphed over judgement (James 2:13). I don’t really support the idea of Christians going to court to force legal judgments because it is a hiding to nothing and it risks legal judgments that may restrict freedoms further, as has happened with the various American creationist court cases.

However, I can’t help thinking that Ekklesia are throwing the baby out with the bath-water in their work. They say they want a more humble Christian church that has a servant heart, and I share that ideal. A bottom up Christian faith that serves and loves instead of overbears. But I can’t help thinking that there is a tendency towards an undermining, evolutionary-socialist mindset in the work of Ekklesia, especially when they side with the British Humanist Association that perhaps reflects an approach similar to Daniel Dennett's observation that evolution as really a ‘universal acid.’ This approach risks undermining the good in the church as well as questioning the abuses of power. Yes by all means question abuses of power, but to undermine all forms of Christian authority and power will render the church power-less to work for social justice. I am not an Anglican, but do not for instance wish to remove Anglican Bishops from the House of Lords on the basis that Christians shouldn’t have any elevated positions in society. We need to regain an understanding of meekness; to be guardians of power, but to exercise it lovingly and responsibly – as we are told the meek shall inherit the earth.

Secondly, the argument that the New Testament interpretation of the Law of Moses provides a sound basis for law is not to claim ascendancy of my beliefs over others for the sake of pride or prejudice. It is instead I believe Christian values that most respect the lives and freedoms of others who are not Christian, and historically has informed British laws and values, at least in part. People of other faiths have rights in the West; but such rights are often not reciprocated where those other faith systems are dominant. Secular humanism offers subjectivity based on human sentiment, and this risks leading to relativism in ethics, a relativism that can lead to the rise of nationalism or fascism where the state or race is idolised. Secular humanism risks creating a vacuum that may be filled by those who have a much more legalistic or dictatorial mindset, whether it is militant Islamists seeking to impose Sharia Law, or secularists who idolise the law. It is noteworthy that the last Labour government, that didn’t ‘do God,’ imposed an increasing number of laws to control social behaviour and allowed economic inequality to increase. If you otherthrow the Christian basis for law and values you will find that you are on a road to greater legalism and less equality.

Barrow though questions whether I am committed to equality and justice. Yes I am, but on a rational basis that seeks to understand the real nature of humanity. Today what we call human rights is really based on utilitarian philosophy and is different from historical forms of human rights. It is an Epicurean and Hume’an based approach to rights and not classical deontological human rights. The ideals of utilitarianism can tend towards hedonism and selfishness where we want our rights to ‘do-as-we-like’ protected without considering our duties towards others. We need to be able to discuss this honestly. It is not deontological, i.e. based upon the logic of duties as well as rights, an approach Aquinas saw in terms of teleology and natural law. Today pressure groups of various forms often campaign for their rights without consideration of duties and have no comprehension of duties towards God and others. Of course a society can emphasise duties to the exclusion of rights, but we have swung a long way the other way in our post-modern society where pressure groups campaign for rights that go beyond an understanding of humanity's instrinsic nature. Post modernism is the unwanted child of modernism. Secular humanists don’t really want it, but it is their offspring nonetheless because secular humanism leads to a rootless, purposeless existence for many, and this risks a loss of respect for others.

If human beings are created in the image of God, as I believe, then that includes the rational, the relational, the emotional and the volitional (as Selwyn Hughes noted). I fear though that some of the modern thinking about rights seeks to deny the volitional, especially in sexual ethics. Modern society has taken something that is really I believe a lifestyle choice, and then seeks to deny the capacity for choice by asserting that it is an intrinsic part of who people are. Then modern society seeks to protect it through human rights legislation and use it as a wedge to discriminate against those who hold to a more traditional Christian understanding of rights and values. Of course it may be claimed that Christian belief is also a choice, but is it appropriate to elevate one set of choices above another in human rights legislation? I don't think it is. This denial of the volitional capacity I believe leads to a loss of freedom for many individuals because there is loss of clarity towards understanding the true human nature and a disjunction between physical reality and emotions and mental thoughts. It is this confusion and loss of freedom for an individual that needs to be questioned in a loving Christian society. It is the truth about who we really are as human beings in an intrinsic sense that will enable people to recover an understanding of the volitional capacity and allow freedom to be regained. This is not at all an unloving approach; many of those Christians taken to court for their beliefs in this area have demonstrated a life time of service towards others irrespective of lifestyle choices. So there is nothing unloving in seeking to recapture a deontological approach to human rights where we develop a true understanding of humanity including the volitional capacity, even in sexual ethics. However, such understanding also needs to be held within a doctrine of grace where Christ comes and indwells the new believer, and then heals the eyes of the heart of the person so that they are able to see their true Christ-like humanity more clearly.

Socially conservative Christianity offers a vision for society as the City of God, based upon love, equality and justice, where power is exercised in humility, and on the basis of understanding the intrinsic nature of human beings in terms of belief that we are created in God’s image; that is volitionally, relationally, emotionally and rationally created. At the same time a Christian vision for society is one that gives freedom and liberty in areas where activities do no harm to others, and I am opposed to the type of Dominionist thinking that seeks exclusivity and control in these matters. A socially conservative Christian vision upholds the family, not as perfect units with 2.4 children, but as the best foundation for society even in brokenness, remembering also that Christ established a bigger family that is the Church community. Alternatives for society, for instance Plato’s city republic of Polis, are much more class-based, where a few Philosophers-Kings rule over the masses. Family ties are broken and people reduced to mere economic units, kept in place by a higher-class military or Polis force. Sadly, aspects of the politics of Plato often have a superficial appeal from both the left and right and have influenced Marxism, socialism and economic social Darwinism and even some forms of Christian fundamentalism that strongly support unregulated capitalism or over-emphasise law and order and control in a legalistic sense. But which vision does Ekklesia share for society, one based upon the rigid, legalistic class-based worldly city of Polis, or freedom, equality, grace and love that comes through Jesus Christ in the Civitas Dei?
Andrew Sibley 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Barbara Forrest - Attacking the Wrong Guy for the Wrong Reasons

Well known Darwin defender Barbara Forrest has got into trouble for attacking the wrong guy for the wrong reasons. She wrote an article in Synthase Journal against Francis Beckwith, but left out a lot of useful information, such as the fact that Beckwith is himself a critic of intelligent design. Read about it here, here, and here.

There is a bigger issue here about trust in the science and religion debate. Is the debate between those for and against evolution so heated now that anything goes, or do some 'see red' to the point where they can't think clearly?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

More Double Standards from Ekklesia?

Ekklesia seem to prefer minority groups if they are of the right sort; that is if they appeal to their liberal-socialist mindset. But for other minorities they are dismissive of people's concerns. For instance Simon Barrow writes that claims of discrimination against Christians in Britain is misleading Misleading claims about discrimination against Christians

He writes further "The argument of the socially conservative Christians who are pursuing these cases to seek to demonstrate 'discrimination' or 'persecution' against Christians in the UK appears to rest on two false premises. The first is that theirs is the only Christian view and should be backed up by law, irrespective of the dignity and rights of others." But I would respond by asking whether traditional Christian views are of such a wicked character that they should not be respected by the law? Should only one view prevail? And if not on what basis except that it does not seem to agree with the present day liberal agenda? When laws are supported only by the majority or popular mandate then we are on the slope to tyranny. The interpretation that Jesus placed upon the Law of Moses, and as outlined by St Paul, have historically provided a firm and loving foundation on which to build a solid legal code. This solid basis is now being lost thanks to the liberal agenda, and it is only replaced by popularism.

Barrow's second point is that "...discriminatory actions justified on religious grounds should provide immunity from fulfilling legal requirements over equality and justice towards others in the public sphere. That cannot be right." What does he mean by equality and justice? We are living in an age where we have invented rights that go beyond a true understanding of the human condition, mankind created in the image of God with both the capacity for suffering, pain and emotions, but also with the capacity for free will - the capacity to make choices. Today people are encouraged to think of their transitory emotions and feelings as being an intrinsic part of who they are, fixed for all time. This takes away from people's ability to see themselves in that volitional capacity. i.e. it is a message that really enslaves people because it seeks to deny freedom to make choices over and above our feelings. We need to move away from seeing people as either gay or straight and to see all instead as volitional beings created in the Imago Dei.

So this liberal-socialist message that Ekklesia promotes takes away from a true understanding of the human condition. It also places a belief in human social progress against a belief in divine grace; a grace that can transform people and bring them into a spiritual place of new birth in Jesus Christ. We reject the claim that those who hold to traditional Christian beliefs are unloving and instead believe in the transforming love of God in Christ that seeks to reach out to all.
Andrew Sibley   

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Richard Dawkins - why he is a Protestant Atheist

Thomas Jackson observes that Richard Dawkins's view of science is really one born out of Protestant principles. Richard Dawkins, the Protestant atheistDawkins does not recognise that experimental science is not value-free but deeply enmeshed with a Protestant myth

This article is worth reading, although it raises further questions about how we understand God's interaction with the world.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Nick Spencer on Christianity, Simplicity and Learning

Nick Spencer writes an interesting piece in the Guardian Comment is Free section. "Christianity: a faith for the simple" . He believes that "Christianity's founding ideals are anti-elitist" and asks whether we "should...be surprised if its followers are less educated than average?"

There are some interesting points in this piece. But I would raise a couple of points.

Firstly, the question of whether Christians suffer discrimination in educational establishments because of their beliefs is an important one. Those who do not hold to the beliefs of the Enlightenment often find their faith marginalised; perhaps it is just subtle, for instance by receiving lower marks for work than someone who holds to the prevailing orthodoxy of secular humanism. But sometimes it is overt.

Secondly, Christians should not reject or despise good education. Many of the early Christian missionaries and saints founded schools of learning and we are instructed in Scripture to study and work hard. What is I think important is to have a humble approach to learning.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Geoffrey Lean asks - do we need GM?

Geoffrey Lean in the Telegraph asks whether we need GM crops. Do we need GM to feed the world? It's not as simple as it seems

He raises the question of whether we need to utilise GM technology in order to feed the world and references studies that suggest that GM may actually damage crop yields.

He writes that the "world’s biggest ever agricultural study – the work of 400 scientists and 60 governments, headed by Dr Bob Watson, now Chief Scientist at Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture – concluded that GM was not the simple answer to poverty. In truth, it could even do more harm than good." Lean suggests there are several problems with the belief that GM crops will be a solution to the growing pressure to increase crop yields in order to feed the worlds growing population.

1. GM takes such a long time to develop that advances with non GM crops through selective breeding programmes are often found to be more productive.

2. GM is focused upon making profit for companies and such companies are not very interested in providing food for the world's poorest farmers who cannot afford the technology. Lean writes that there is a tendency for GM to enhance the power of those wealthy enough to afford the technology, and even if it is successful it may only force the poor farming communities off the land. Poverty then is increased even if yields are increased overall and the poor may not be able to afford to buy food they once produced for themselves more cheaply.

3. GM may actually decrease the yield because the crops are not selected for yield, but for resistance to certain diseases. This may weaken the crops overall. GM crops may also lead to 'superweeds' in the struggle for life.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Law and Religion - Jonathan Chaplin offers his insights

Jonathan Chaplin offers his insights into the recent legal case against the Bulls and legal opinion established by the Lord Justice Laws Law can be influenced by religion - We need a lot more clarity on the subtle relationship between law and religion

Chaplin recognises two problems with Laws' opinion "One is that the state can only justify a law on the grounds that it can be seen rationally and objectively to advance the general good (I paraphrase)." Chaplin believes rightly that this is subjective and therefore not a proper foundation, and that "Laws' other claim is that religious belief is, for all except the holder, "incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence", and that the truth of it "lies only in the heart of the believer"."

Quite clearly many religious believers hold their faith publicly and not only in their hearts, and therefore seek to work it out in the public square exercised with a deep seated conscience. But Laws opinion will lead to the privatisation of faith, where Christians will be barred from certain occupations because of their conscience. The Bulls B&B is closed and the news reports suggest will be sold. So Christians now face discrimination in the work place because of their faith with no legal right to conscientiously uphold their faith. The justification for legal rights within a secular system is one based on democratic legitimacy, but as we know the last government held onto power with less than 40% of the vote and exercised an antipathy or indifference towards the Christian conscience. There is confusion today over the difference between traditionally understood inherent rights and Epicurean pleasure seeking that is justified on the basis of a claimed genetic disposition. Today we have Hume'an Rights not necessarily Human Rights.

It is also evident that there is less legal scrutiny of Islamic conscience in these matters. Lady Warsi claims that there is anti-Muslim discrimination in Britain, and perhaps there is to some extent, but discrimination against Christians is more open in law. Has any Muslim hotelier been brought to book for these same matters for instance? What is needed is a way of balancing the freedom of the individual with the rights of traditional faith communities to practice their faith without the fear of discrimination and persecution at the hands of an increasingly secular state legal apparatus.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Bullying and Intimidation at the hands of other Christians?

I want to raise a serious issue here, and it is this; why do some Christians who in many ways seem tolerant and respectful to others think it acceptable to bully and intimidate Christians who are creationists ?

Stephen Tomkins of ShipofFools website (and deputy editor of Third Way magazine) writes that 'Civility Works - mostly'. Although he calls for civil discourse he argues that "we also at other times need to give vent to anger at ugly and harmful ideas. At times we need to bolster and unify the opposition of right-thinking people to them. At times we need every rhetorical trick up our mucky sleeves to convince waverers that horrid and stupid ideas are horrid and stupid." He is here referring to creationists because he first writes that he thinks creationism is "a bottomless pit of deliberate stupidity."

But why is it acceptable to use 'rhetorical tricks' to 'bolster and unify right thinking people' and so silence those who hold to ideas that are "horrid and stupid" ? If people are right thinking won't they accept an idea on the basis of reason alone? There are of course some beliefs that will look odd to outsiders, such as the Hindu belief in reincarnation, but our response should be one of respectful dialogue.

There are other occasions I have found when admission that I am a creationist attracts accusations of being stupid and a deliberate liar. But what does this really reveal? That perhaps some Christians are cowardly and unable to stand out from the crowd in support of ideas that are not mainstream. Perhaps it is thought that being cool, or a joker, or fitting with the 'in crowd' will somehow lead people to Christ?

In fact if I wasn't a creationist I think I would become one just to expose the weakness of character that such attacks reveal. Such comments I believe reflect the attitude of the playground bully and need to be challenged. Surely we can extend respect to those who hold ideas that may differ from our own.
Andrew Sibley

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Are Christians being persecuted for their beliefs? - Ekklesia again

We have two 'gay' stories in the press at the moment. A Christian couple in Cornwall have been fined for refusing a gay couple a double room. Perhaps they really did break the law as it now stands, but I don't see how these cases against ordinary hard working people benefit the gay community in the long run because it looks vindictive and mean spirited. And it doesn't address persecution from those who are really antagonistic towards gay people. Christians are easy targets.

Another story concerns Mrs Lesley Pilkington, a respected long standing psychotherapist who has offered to counsel people to be healed of their sexual orientation. The British Association of Psychology and Counselling is holding a hearing after an undercover reporter recorded her comments. Ekklesia, with quotes from the Bristish Humanist Association, are getting hot-under-the-collar and reporting this as 'objectionable' and 'wrong.' See Biblically inspired gay conversion ‘therapy’ is objectionable and wrong

I do wonder about Ekklesia. The word is Greek and used for 'church' as the congregation of Israel in the LXX version of the Old Testament. The 'Think Tank' Ekklesia though spend much of their effort attacking a large section of the Christian Church. Are they a cause of division?

There is a division in the church between those who hold to a liberal, perhaps socialist or humanistic agenda and those who are more conservative and traditionalist in their outlook. But there are others who seek spiritual revival and the outworking of God's grace in the present time while remaining committed to traditional beliefs. But many liberal Christians seem to have little comprehension of the concept of 'grace' and believe instead in human centred social progress. This is where the real clash of ideas lies, between those who hold to a theo-centric faith directed by God's grace and those who seek an anthropocentric faith driven by a belief in human progress.

The gay question is complex and I don't have time to discuss it here, but there are many young people confused by popular messages in the media about their sexuality. It isn't good enough to say to such confused people that they were born a certain way because it may lead to a disjunction between confused mental thoughts and deep seated emotional needs to relate to the opposite sex. Christians should have the freedom to counsel young people in this area and offer healing to those who are confused and so bring harmony to thoughts and emotions. There may be others who are genuinely disinterested in the opposite sex, and people should have the freedom to choose their lifestyle, but we shouldn't pretend that all are mentally at ease with the confusing messages they receive via the media. I believe there is divine grace to heal through the dynamis (power) of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Intrusive science is killing penguins

A report in Nature suggests that the tagging of king penguins damages their survival chances. Tagging kills penguins

The write up in the Guardian comments that "The researchers found that the survival rates for king penguins with flipper bands dropped by 16% and the birds produced 39% fewer chicks. The finding raises serious questions about the ethics of banding penguins for research and casts doubt on years of data produced by tagging the birds in this way."

This research highlights some of the distress that excessive scientific intrusion into the life of animals can cause them. Perhaps there is a lesson here that much greater care needs to be taken in gathering data on animals and birds.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Evangelical Alliance and Attitudes to Evolution

There is a new report by the Evangelical Alliance that includes attitudes to evolution amongst evangelicals. The Church of England newsletter suggests it reveals that attitudes are changing to evolution with 6 out of 10 evangelicals now believing that evolution is compatible with Christianity.

Although it is a large sample of more than 17,000 church members and conference goes, the question on evolution is suitably vague and in two parts. Why do experts in this field insist on asking people two questions and allow only one response? Also it is not very well qualified because it doesn't specify clearly what is meant by evolution; even young earth creationist Henry Morris accepted the possibility of fairly rapid micro-evolution for instance. So I don't think it is a particularly meaningful result.

The question; "I believe that evolution and Christianity are incompatible: you cannot believe both"

Personally speaking, if asked this I would want to answer; 'what do you mean by evolution?' If micro-evolution I would disagree with the first part; if macro-evolution I would agree with the first part. And I would want to answer that you can be a Christian and believe in macro-evolution, even though I believe macro-evolution is untrue.

Responses are as follows.
Agree a lot; Agree a little; Unsure; Disagree a little; Disagree a lot.
Evangelical Christian (festival sample)
18% - 8% - 14% - 20% - 39%
Evangelical Christian (church sample)
30% - 9% - 18% - 16% - 27%

Monday, 10 January 2011

Can BCSE only think in Black and White?

The British Centre for Science Education fails to see shades of opinion in creationist thought. From evidence on their blog they seem unable to put together nuanced arguments and dissect people's positions carefully. Instead if you read the BCSE blog you will be left with the impression that all creationists and intelligent design supporters are anti-science and now apparently anti the environment as well. For an organisation that has set itself up as a guardian for good standards in education it is a shame they can't do better than this and look at the picture in a wider context.

For the record, at the Science and Values blog we are concerned with both science and the environment.