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Showing posts with label Templeton Prize. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Templeton Prize. Show all posts

Saturday, 24 December 2011

UK Minus - Science and Religion, Obama – and Christmas …


The UK has been understandably reluctant to consider what it will call itself when Scotland leaves the union. I have suggested UK Minus, and some refer to it as rUK. Among the speculation in the Guardian letters today, we have the suggestion Former United Kingdom (as in Former Yugoslavia). This is fine until one considers the acronym thus derived, and although it might accurately describe the reaction of the British Establishment to Scotland’s independence, I feel that it is unlikely to be adopted.


The seasonal press and media are boke-inducing at this time of year, an orgy of triviality, religiosity and sentimentalism. I look around despairingly, hoping to find a street urchin to shove up a chimney or a downtrodden clerk to oppress, but such consolations are hard to find. Unfamiliar people pop up out of nowhere – the Guardian gives over its Face to faith column to  Denis Alexander, an eminent scientist, who is director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, based at St. Edmond’s College, Cambridge. A cursory glance at the site and its publications seems to show rather a lot about religion and not too much about science, but this is a superficial judgment. Denis Alexander is the author of a book called Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose? My answer is – well, yes, we do.

The article opens with another question -

“Given the fact of human evolution, here is a good question for Christmas: if we last shared a common ancestor with the chimps about 5-6 million years, and humans have been gradually emerging through a series hominid intermediates ever since, then why did Jesus die? The connection of thought here might not be immediately apparent.”

The last universal ancestor was not a chimp, but the cenancestor, which was around some 3.7 billion years ago. Around 6 or 7 million year ago was the time of the latest common ancestor, but it’s  not for the likes of me to quibble with an eminent scientist – Millennium Man was foraging in Kenya about 6m years ago, and various others hopped about until Australopithecus around 3.6m years ago considerately left footprints on volcanic ash to help Denis Alexander with his Christmas message.

Denis Alexander rather disarmingly says that “The connection of thought here might not be immediately apparent.” Well, yes, it is, Denis – to everyone but The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, who, Templeton Prize perhaps in mind, make a different connection. For the uninitiated, I quote Richard Dawkin’s description of the Templeton Prize – “"a very large sum of money given ... usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion."

The Templeton Foundation’s connection with right-wing causes and a certain kind of free market economics is well-documented. Its objectivity is, to put it mildly, fiercely disputed. The Templeton Prize - £1 million pounds – is enough to make any scientist consider carefully what he or she has to say about the link between science and religion. I am forced to say that, for that kind of dough, I might be persuaded to think again about my atheism and my ‘spirituality’.


I greeted the election of Barack Obama as a great event signalling a new dawn for America and for global politics. His initial attempts to reform healthcare in the US seemed to point towards a new liberalisation of America.

In fact, he has turned into the American equivalent of Nick Clegg – all shining idealism in opposition and pre-election campaigning, and sordid expediency and retreat from principle in power, with the difference that Obama has the reality of power, but has failed to used it.

Mehdi Hasan - Obama's abysmal record – is one of many commentators to document his bleak record in today’s Guardian, and there are many others.

Obama is about to endorse the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) permitting indefinite detention in military – not civil – custody of US citizens who are suspected of having terrorist connections. This pernicious act will also make such detention mandatory for foreign nationals who are ‘accused’ of having links with Al Quaida.

This makes Obama an even more illiberal president than George W. Bush. What the Obama presidency appears to show is that even a liberal, Democratic president is powerless in the face of the conspiracy of unelected power in the United States, an impotence mirrored by that of successive UK governments in the grip of a similar unelected Establishment. In the case of a good man like Obama, it is a tragedy: in the case of the Cameron/Clegg regime, it is a predictable Whitehall farce.

But despite all of this, I am of good cheer, capable of Scrooge-like regeneration, surrounded by those I love and respect, and looking forward to another year’s progress towards the independence of my little nation.

If Scotland must face global corruption and chaos, I want us to face it daien oor ain thing.