Friday, November 30, 2007

White Man's Burden

A tribute the Kipling's White man's burden. Some people think that white man's burden has something to do with the US invasion of (previously Spanish) Philippines. I just think Kipling was a frustrated office worker:

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to offices
To serve their bosses' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
You're new-caught sullen peoples,
Half caffeine and half child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In queues to abide,
To veil the threat of error
By cheque and show and pride;
By open speech rejected,
An hundred times made plain:
We seek another's profit,
And work for no one's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Pointless flame wars of hate--
Fulfil the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness wait;
And when your goal is nearest
The end of waiting sought,
Watch sloth and office Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But foil of serf and sweeper--
In even common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go demand of them your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
To blame those who do better,
To hate those who guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought it us this bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not aim for art--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To free your human heart;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh on God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold edged, but dear-bought paychecks,
Will trade your life for beers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


We can get a £0.01 flight across Europe. It is a similar distance to people in Sudan and Sub-Saharan Africa. How can we possibly have let things like this happen?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Francis Colins

Francis Colins is the leader of the Human Genome Project. This was a really interesting talk that made some good points both about science and Christianity. He read Mere Christianity and it had a deep impact on him, as it is having on me. It is inspiring to see someone so brave to cross the gap between Christianity and science when atheists are on the war-path trying to silence people like him, to claim science as their own.

Among the more interesting things he says in this video:
I find not a shred of conflict between what I know as a scientist and what I believe as a believer. I know that surprises a lot of people. I think that is unfortunate, because the public often only hears about the conflict - about the idea that there are irreconcilable differences between believers and scientists.

I could quote of lot of what he has to say, because it is relevant to me:
The idea that He would be threatened by our puny minds trying to understand how creation works just doesn't make a lot of sense... If in the process we discover things which don't fit with our preconceived notions, then we have to struggle with that - and we should do so with all great intensity. But I don't think we have to worry that in the end somehow truth is going to end up being in conflict with truth.

But maybe it's best if you watch the video yourself.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity

I am currently reading C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. I have to say. It's gold. I don't agree with all of his arguments for believing Christianity, but the way that he describes Christianity fits together rationally and logically. I love it.

Here are some of his thoughts on science:
You cannot find out which view is the right one by science in the ordinary sense. Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like "I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2.20am on January 15th and saw so-and-so," or, "I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such and such a temperature and it did so-and-so." Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what I believe it's job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science - and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes - something of a different kind - this is not a scientific question. If there is something behind, either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men, or make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements which science can make... Suppose science became so complete that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not clear that the questions, "Why is there a universe?", "Why does it go on as it does?", and "Has it any meaning?" would remain just as they were?
Or his view of God, which is something quite terrifying and awesome. He is unapologetic about this, saying:
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with, and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over this pre-war wishful thinking about politics. It is time we did the same with religion.
And I particularly liked how he talks about the problems in the world. I have seen New-Agers actually say this. I found that view quite inhumane and disturbing.
Confronted with a cancer or a slum, a Pantheist can say, "If you could only see it from a divine point of view, you would realize that this was also God." The Christian replies, "Don't talk damned nonsense."
He then goes on to argue, convincingly for me, that
Evil is a parasite, not an original thing.
So why did God let there be evil in the world? Why allow us free will if he knew it would end in bad things? Lewis says,
Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also that thing which makes possible any love, or goodness, or joy worth having. A world of automata - of creatures which worked like machines - would hardly be worth creating.
Provoking stuff. Even more so when he gets on the topic of Jesus! Then things really get good. I think a lot of people have read this already - that Jesus was either mad or the son of God. He cannot simply have been a virtuous teacher.

But getting back to the topic that I've been wondering about in this blog. He writes about revelation:
In other words, I believe it on His authority. Do not be scared of the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the solar system, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of blood on authority. None of us have seen the Norman conquest, or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you would prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.
I'm only halfway through. I've been reading classics, both from China and from the West recently and none have excited me as much as reading this book!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Seven wonders of the World

I'm likely to see the Taj Mahal soon, which is in my list of the seven wonders of the world. Here's mine. What's yours?

(1) Angkor Wat
Photo shapeshift with some rights reserved.

(2) Pyramids

(3) Machu Picchu

(4) Terracotta warriors
(5) Great Wall of China

(6) Petra

This photo by nonmipare with Some rights reserved.

(7) Taj Mahal

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Not the first

The more that I read, the more I find that I'm not the first to think about the relationship between science and religion. Right from the beginning Christian writers were wondering if and how far they should accept the philosophy of the Greeks.

Justin Matyr (100-165) who wrote around 100 years after Jesus' death writes:
Whatever either lawyers or philosophers have said well, was articulated by finding and reflecting on some aspect of the Logos. However, since they did not know the Logos - which is Christ - in its entirety, they often contradicted themselves.
He seems to think that the scientific and philosophical search for the truth is only completed with Christ.

Clement of Alexandria (150-211) has a similar position - that science can be thought of as preparing the way for the gospel.
For philosophy acted as a "custodian" to bring the Greeks to Christ just as the law brought the Hebrews. Thus philosophy was by of a preparation which prepared the way for its perfection in Christ.

Tertulian (200AD) disagrees completely - saying that philosophy is a pagan outlook and has nothing to do with Christianity and had led to heresies introduced into the church.
For philosophy provides the material of worldly wisdom, in boldly asserting itself to be the interpreter of the divine nature and dispensation.... What is there in common between Athens and Jerusalem? Between the Academy and the church?

I think that he's right. If we use pagan philosophy as the basis of Christianity, rather than God, we will ultimately glorifying ideas and placing them too high.

Augustine (354-480) argues that pagan philosophies are not entirely false, but have some truth which comes from God - and should be used by Christians.
If those who are called philosophers, particularly the Platonists, have said anything which is true and consistent with our faith, we must not reject it, but claim it for our own use.
Augustine was probably a Berber and came from Hippo which is in present day Algeria. From what I've read so far, I like the guy. He also says some interesting things about the interpretation of Genesis.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Four views of science and religion

There are at least four different views of religion and science relate to each other. There is definitely more to it than religion just being against science and vice-versa.

1. Continuity

This is the liberal view. It says that science casts light on how God carries out his plans for the universe. This means continually re-interpreting scripture in the light of science and even predominant cultural values.

This beautiful photo by by Are You My Rik? falls under the Creative Commons license.

2. They talk about different things

We have to be careful when comparing things to make sure we're not comparing apples and oranges. Religion often concerns itself with morals, with actual history and with God. Science with mechanisms. For Barth, for example, science has its place, but that place is not explaining or justifying the Christian faith. In fact, if we do try to know about God through reason alone we are setting a pale imitation of the real God,
Setting up a false god [that] will not lead him in any way lead him in any way to a knowledge of the real God. On the contrary, it will keep him from it.
This photo by automania falls under a Creative Commons license

3. Dialogue and Convergence

Science and religion are in a dialogue which will lead to some convergence in common areas. Both are committed to realism, and to finding the truth. They can interact, which is to the benefit of both.

Photo by phil_h under a Creative Commons license.

4. They're at war

In this view there's outright conflict between the two. Not only do science and religion talk about the same thing, but it's not going to be possible to fix the differences!

This photo is by jimfrazier under a Creative Commons license

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Who am I?

Here's a picture of me that my girlfriend drew using Inkscape, which she was using for the very first time. She has real talent:

I'm a working physicist. My interests are primarily quantum information and quantum control. As you might be able to tell from my first post, I'm also a Christian. Recently I've been thinking a lot about if those two ideas fit together, and if so, how do they fit?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What is faith?

This image in the poster is by Calca and falls under the CC-Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Feel free to use the poster where-ever you like.