Sunday, March 29, 2009

Did Keats really claim that Newton unweaved the rainbow?

My daughter is currently writing an essay for English on Keats poetry. (She is doing the International Baccalaureate, which I think is a great program). She asked me some stretching questions about the relationship between romanticism and the Enlightenment. This sent me on a search to track down the real story behind Keat's attitude towards science. An excellent posting on the Siris blog argues that Keats actually was not opposed to science but rather scientism and the Merely syndrome, i.e., the rainbow is merely a refraction of white light into its component colours. Richard Dawkins wrote a whole book, Unweaving the Rainbow, attacking Keats supposed opposition to science and asserting real beauty was found in scientific discovery and understanding.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How "something" can come from "nothing"?

Some of the tired old science-religion discussions concerning the origin of life claim that the emergence of complex structures from simple systems is not physically possible and violate the second law of thermodynamics. However, this is incorrect. The second law is a statement about CLOSED systems. (Your room gets messier and messier when there is no external energy input to organise it).

For those who wish to see some cool YouTube videos and a more technical discussion may find a recent post on my work-related blog interesting.

One of my favourite pieces of church music

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the wonderful world of classical church choral music. I bought a CD of St. John's Passion, composed by J.S. Bach (the inspiration for the name of this blog!). The rich interplay of theology, melody, Biblical text, harmony, intensity, creativity, and personal reflection embodies an incredible creative work. I was delighted my daughter has invited me to a forthcoming performance by the Brisbane Chamber Choir.
The work tells the story of Jesus’ capture, interrogation and the events leading up to his crucifixion and burial. The complete words are available here.

Appropriately, Good Friday (April 10) is the performance date.
St John’s Cathedral, Ann Street, Brisbane is the location.
Time is 7pm. Cost is FREE!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Talk on thriving as a Christian while a postgraduate student or postdoc

An outline of the text of the talk I gave to a group of graduate students is here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why is history important?

I am a scientist but I think the humanities, and especially history, are just as important. It is disappointing how (due to the rise of postmodernism and economic rationalism) that they are less of a priority in universities, both to students and to administrators.

I recently came across an address that C.S. Lewis gave to Oxford undergraduates during World War II. Part of it is:
Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether.
Most of all, perhaps we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many place is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune form the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.
The complete address is available here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How to thrive as a Christian while a postgraduate student

I am giving a talk on this topic to a group of Christian postgraduate students at University of Queensland (where I work) on wednesday.
Here are a few points.

Growing as a Christian

Keep perspective,Pray, Stay in the Word, Stay in Fellowship, Be a witness in life and word

Some practical suggestions to save (significant amounts of) time

Manage your supervisor, Know the literature, Dont get isolated, Get help, Protect your mental health

Read “A Ph.D is Not Enough!” by Peter Feibelman.

Emergence and reductionism in the dialogue between science and theology

On January 20, I gave a seminar on the role of the concept of emergence in the dialogue between science and theology at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.
Click here for the powerpoint presentation and here for the video.
The related paper has been accepted for publication in the Scottish Journal of Theology.