Thursday 10 July 2008

The truth about Islam?

From the Radio Times website:

The Qur'an


Monday 14 July
8:00pm -
Channel 4

Too many Westerners criticise Islam while lacking a basic knowledge of it; this long (two hours) but rewarding primer is full of revelations. It reports what the Qur'an actually says about killing to defend the faith, and about women, and explains how Sharia operates, the differences between Sunni and Shia, and the recent influence of Saudi Wahhabism. It also reminds us that the Qur'an sanctifies Mary and Jesus, and that its emphasis on intellectual enquiry put medieval Muslim scholars ahead of ours. (Not to mention architects, who are lauded daily (7.50pm C4) as part of The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World.) Sticking to analysing the text would have made the film shorter, and perhaps better: the sections on "Islamic" terrorists skate over complex conflicts, giving succour to extremists on both sides. But the discovery that the violent and the virtuous can find support in the Qur'an is central to a portrait of a religion that, like so many others, is built on an arcane, equivocal text.

RT reviewer - Jack Seale

VIDEO Plus+: 4085

Subtitled, High definition

This appears to be part of Channel 4's current Islamic stream of TV. On the same day C4 will also give us The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World and Shariah TV.

It should be interesting.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Women bishops have a problem with reality

On the Today programme this morning:

Thirteen hundred clergy, including several bishops, have written to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in protest at the prospect of women being made bishops. Canon Beaumont Brandie, from the group Forward in Faith which opposes women priests, says this as a warning shot to the Church that they must do something to respect their views.

Listen to the streaming audio here:

The problem with the appointment of women bishops, apparently, is that according to a certain faction within the Anglican Church, they might not be "real" bishops, and consequently any male priests they ordain would not be "real" priests. And therefore any Communion Services these priests conduct would not be "genuine."

I'm sorry, I couldn't help laughing.

Is DNA proof of intelligent design?

"Everything we know about coded information leads us to believe that it requires a designer. DNA is coded information, therefore DNA requires a designer."
I've heard statements similar to the above put forward as scientific evidence for an intelligent designer. Rephrased as a formal syllogism it becomes:
Coded information requires a designer; DNA is coded information; therefore DNA requires a designer.
But the first premise only tells part of the story. Coded information has been produced in vast quantities, by humans. Every instance of coded information, other than DNA, has been produced by humans. Are we to infer that the information in DNA was produced by humans?

The problem with the argument as initially phrased is that everything we know about coded information is probably not everything there is to know about it. Until Darwin, the same logic was used to show that the complexity of life requires a designer. It doesn't. There may well be something fundamentally simple and elegant - the equivalent of Darwinian natural selection - that will explain how coded information can arise naturally. Just because we don't yet know what it is, doesn't make positing a designer (intelligent or otherwise) at all valid.