Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Neurodeterminism's death warrant, and a great review of The God Delusion

A commentator asks whether I still think neuro-determinism is dead. And AC Grayling in this month's Prospect recognises that "the very idea of ethics presupposes freedom of the will" and seems to lament the apparent scientific indications supporting the deterministic side of the argument.

To answer my respondent: yes absolutely in the sense that there is a killer argument against it, but since the argument is given in Appendix B of Questions of Truth (which is out next month in the US) I guess we can actually only say that it's death warrant has been signed!

We really need to underpin this with a scientific paper (referred to in the book as Beale & al, forthcoming) and actually writing the scientific paper (with Prof Hava Siegelmann & one of her students) is taking ages. This is partly because we have all been so busy and also because there is a very cool result which tends to confirm that what happens in the computer models actually happens in the brain. We have also cleared the first stage of a $900k research grant application which will allow us to flesh out a lot of the detail over the next couple of years - the full applicaton has to be in by the end of March and realistically therefore the reserach will start in Sept 09.

A fine review of The God Delusion appears in Faith and Philosophy (Vol 25 No 4 pp447-451) by Robert Oakes at Mizzou. He points out that Dawkins's style is platitudinous, cliche-ridden and sophomoric (Dawkins is particularly fond of the cliche of "consciousness raising"), suggests that a fact-checker would have been helpful, and that Dawkins seems unaware of the distinction between a skeptic and an atheist (p4). In addition to remarking that Dawkins' postulate (p.31) that "Any creative intelligence of sufficient complexity to design anythin comes into existence only as the end product of gradual evolution" begs the question in many ways, he also notes that "even we become so drunk with charity and grant" this postulate it fails to imply that this universe has not been designed by a transcendent intellect, who could (logically) have come into being in a preceding universe. Pity it came out so late, but I think we are now moving decisively into a post-Dawkins era.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bond, Allen, Noah and the Gospels.

Two friends (one old, one new) who are members of BAFTA came round last night and we watched two of the movies they have to see as part of the BAFTA awards.

Before supper we saw Quantum of Solace which I found vapid (apparently they don't start with scripts in a Bond movie, they start with the casting, and you really got the impression that it was one stunt after another - although the meta-theme of finding out about Quantum at least provides some super-structure for the next few movies.

After supper we saw Vicky Christina Barcelona which was superb. Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz were both outstanding: Cruz with her tremendous firely screen presence when necessary but also doing vulnerablity and tenderness, and Hall doing exquisitely subtle looks and gestures. I met Rebecca Hall years ago when she was doing Rosalind in As You Like It at the Theatre Royal Bath but have not seen her since. Her Dad tolds us that she was doing A Winter's Tale in NY which was then coming to London, we should definitely go and see her in that.

Woody Allen also starts without a detailed script and there is lots of improvisation. But it works partly because he has superb actors exploring deep comedic themes, and partly because he is also the writer (Quantum has 3 credited writers, always a bad sign).

An e-correspondent has been asking about Genesis and Noah's Flood. Do we believe Noah's tale is just a plagiarized text from the Epic of Gilgamesh? If we say Noah's flood must not be taken literally, how come God Himself does when He spoke with the prophets?

It seems very probable that Noah's Flood refers to some historical event – a catastrophic inundation of which we know there were many. But the Bible is concerned with explaining, in deep but understandable language, fundamental truths about the relationship between God and humankind, and these truths are true and taken as such in the rest of scriptures. It is reasonable to suppose that the flood in Gilgamesh refers back to the same inundation. But this doesn't mean that the Bible is "plagiarised" (a category that would not have been relevant in the ancient world) you would expect a great flood to leave traces in all cultures that had experienced it.

My correspondent quotes Isaiah 54:9 against this (God comparing the situation now with Noah). But people often compare a situation today with something in (say) Hamlet. They do not do so because they think that Hamlet is “accurate history” in the modern sense, but because it gives a very accurate and deep account of the realities of human nature. All story-telling is selective and uses images. The story of Noah’s Flood leaves out many details that an archaeologist might consider important and uses images in a way that would not be used in a paper read to the Royal Society: this does not make it untrue, it just stems from the fact that it is not about archaeology or science.

We can perhaps place Quantum of Solace, Vicky Christina, Hamlet, Noah and the Gospels on some kind of continuum or spectrum. Quantum is pure fiction, telling us nothing deep about the human condition (except perhaps Bond as a cultural phenomenon) although you can trace some historical precedents for some of the characters. Vicky Christina is quite deep fiction and does tell us quite a lot about spiritual and human reality. Although there is no particular reason to think that this was based on a specific incident, there must have been many students visiting Barcelona who have fallen for charismatic artists in complicated relationships. Hamlet is based indirectly on the then-definitive 13thC Danish History, although this was itself based on legendary sources. But it contains many deep truths about humanity. Noah shows some of the most fundamental facts about humanity and how we relate to each other and God. And the Gospels tell of the deepest and richest relationships and truths as well.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Evolutionary Benefits of Faith and Music

Remarkable article by Matthew Parris in The Times: As an Atheist, I truly believe that Africa needs God. He writes: "In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good." Superb. Whether or not God exists there is clear evidence that Christianity is beneficial in evolutionary terms. Dawkins's ranting is a scientific travesty. Of course some people are harmed by some religious beliefs (and have been harmed by professing beliefs that they consider Christian) and many dreadful things have been done in the name of Christianity (though never I think actually in the spirit of Christianity). But as Dawkins knows perfectly well evolution does not work by extremes but by averages. On average the benefits far outweigh the occasional "misfirings of something useful".

The Economist also alleges (perhaps wrongly) that Steve Pinker does not see the evolutionary value of music, comparing it to "cheesecake". But it is clear that an ability to sing inspiring and memorable songs together has a huge evolutionary advantage, esp in pre-literate societies.
  1. Working effectively together for a common purpose, whether fighting or doing other labour, is enormously helful and greatly facilitated by song and music.
  2. Storing information and making it accessible to members of the community is done far better by song and poetry than by simple memorization. This is (at least in part) because songs have their own "error correcting codes" since if you get the words wrong it won't fit into the pattern (rhyming, scanning whatever) and also use slightly different parts of our brains to remember tunes and words.
It would be interesting to see whether there was any correlation between musical appreciation and religious belief.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Singing Carols for Pinter

Pinter and Ertha Kitt have both died.

Janie was a friend and neighbour of Pinter's. She played the "Joan Bakewell" part in the Peter Hall revival of Betrayal, and he contributed two poems to the Concert for Peace she organised at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane just before the outbreak of the 2nd Iraq war. On a couple of occasions I went with Jane and her friends carol singing in aid of Christian Aid and we'd end up singing outside Pinter's house. The second time he had just got his Nobel so we sung some slighly modified words. I cannot find or remember them all, but selected lines were:
"The First Nobel, the Angel did say,
Was to a certain playwright in Notting Hill way"
"Nobel, Nobel, Nobel, Nobel ...............(2 -3 bar's rest)...

Stockholm says Pinteresque pauses are swell"
"So let us all, with one accord
Petition to Tony to make him a Lord"
The thought of Blair appointing Pinter to the House of Lords, and the trouble that would then have ensued, was too delicious to contemplate.

We have of course had Nobel Laureates in the House of Lords: Lords Porter, Kelvin and Todd spring to mind, and if you include Crafoord Prizes (as is only reasonable) then both Bob May and Martin Rees. Obama has nominated Steven Chu (who won the Nobel for Physics jointly with our endorser Bill Phillips) as his Energy Secretary. Chu would be the first person appointed to the (US) Cabinet after winning a Nobel Prize.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Realism in medicine, science and Christmas

To Cambridge yesterday to celebrate Son's birthday: a rolling party from Tea to 10pm, though we had to go just after 9 to catch the last train home. One of his friends has become an actor and playwright after getting a DPhil in bio-science, and is thinking of writing a play about what happens in a lab. I think it might be better as a TV series because you can develop the characters more and reach more people. It would really help people engage and understand better, and could reach millions. A hospital administrator there reckoned that 90% of her time was wasted by pointless government targets and form-filling, and a GP explained that GPs worked because they have got so good at manipulating government targets that they can tick the boxes with ease and then get on with real medicine - like my cousin's practice, hers has weekly meetings where interesting cases are discussed and shared and this is a critical dynamic.

On the way back started reading a very interesting paper by Sophie Allen called What's the point in Scientific Realism if we don't know what's really there? (RIP Suppliment 61:97-123). Her point is that even the idea that "Most of the essential unobservables of well-established current scientific theories exist mind-independently and mostly have the properties attributed to them by science" is deeply problematic (without the qualifications in italics is it clearly false) because the history of science shows that many "well-established" unobservables turned out not to exist, or not to exist in anything like the form supposed, and that taking science (such as Quantum Mechanics) seriously means that apparently firmly-established principles must be open to revision. She also points out that there could well be two alternative theories which give identical predictions but which postulate different sets of unobservable entities: indeed the "hidden variable" formulations of QM may be examples of this.

The position John and I hold which we call Critical Realism (although Wang-Yen told us that this is not the right name in philosophy of science circles at present) would hold something like: "Most of the essential unobservables of well-established current scientific theories refer directly or indirectly to entities that exist independently of human minds and most of the operational properties attributed to these unobservables by science will turn out to be valid mutatis mutandis, so it is a good working assumption that these properties are valid at least within their domains of application." Science tells us important things about how the world really is, but it must not be Idolised because then, not only is it damaging spiritually, it is spoiled in its own terms. By putting science on an excessive metaphysical pedestal you actually make deep scientific progress impossible, since this deep progress often involves showing that "well-establised current scientfic theories" need fundamental revision.

The interview in the Daily Mail with John Polkinghorne & other scientists duly appeared, though no mention of QoT (as had been agreed). Ah well, perhaps they will run an extract from the book nearer the time.

Midnight Mass Holy Communion at St Pauls Hammersmith was great: good sermon from Ash and carols sung with gusto and (at least from where I was sitting) bass and descant parts. The reality of Christmas also works on many levels. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A somewhat awesome awakening

Martin Beale Memorial Window in St Merryn Church
Back from visiting my mother at our family house in Cornwall, for the anniversary of my father's death. She has a party every year - before that we visited his grave and prayed by his memorial window in St Merryn Church. He died in the main guest bedroom - he was too ill in his final days to get along to the master bedroom at the end of the corridor. It is somewhat awesome going to sleep and waking up in the bed that your father died in on the anniversary of his death. I'm sure he would approve of Questions of Truth.

I came across David Sloan Wilson's incisive analysis of why Dawkins is wrong about religion from an evolutionary PoV. I wish I had seen this before we finalised QoT. Sloan Wilson supports the point that, whether or not major religions are true, they are certainly adaptive from an evolutionary PoV, and characterises Dawkins as "just another angry atheist, trading on his reputation as an evolutionist and spokesperson for science to vent his personal opinions about religion."

John and I believe that we can help advance the science/religion debate and "Zeitgeist" decisively into a post-Dawkins phase: there is widespread agreement amongst pretty well all serious commentators whether theist or atheist that The God Delusion went far too far, misrepresenting the scientific and philosophical arguments and grossly over-claiming. Working together to explore Questions of Truth seems a more constructive, humble and beneficial approach than shouting "Deluded" and "Damned" across the trenches of culture wars.

Both in the Obama-led US and in the wider world, we believe that this approach, which has always been rational and our preferred method, is increasingly seen to be in tune with the real and urgent needs of humanity.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Farewell to the Cafe Royal

On Friday we had Christmas dinner party of Sciteb team and collaborators. Of course people in Harvard couldn't make it but otherwise we had everyone but two - and this delightfully included Bob May although sadly not Judith who had to be at another event. It was the last party ever in the Penthouse of the Cafe Royal (which is being closed and redeveloped into a 6* hotel) and we had a tour of the whole building including the Cellars from the General Manager.

Much of the contents are being auctioned at Bonhams in January including the amazing photographs of people who frequented it. I particularly admire Max Beerbohm, whose incomparable "Seven Men, and Two Others", consisting of fictional reminiscences of remarkable people he had knows, is one of the funniest things ever written. Particularly outstanding are his "reminiscences" of:
  • Enoch Soames, a minor author who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for being able to visit the British Museum Library 100 years after his death to see if he is still remembered. He bitterly reproaches Beerbohm as a bungler on his return when he finds that the only reference to him is ... as a fictional character in a satire by Max B.
  • "Savaranola" Brown, a terrible playwright who unfinished play in blank verse about Savanarola, cramming in every remarkable person from the Renaissance of that time (incl esp Lucrezia Borgia and St Francis) is beautifully awful, for example having L.B. conclude a scene with : Though love be sweet, revenge is sweeter far/ To the piazza - ha ha ha ha ha.

They gave me a copy of Mr Churchill by Philip Guedalla which was in the shelves. I had never heard of him but he was a prolific writer with a fine style. He opens in England of 1874, with "men of seventy, born before Trafalgar and distinctly remembering Waterloo,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Harvard and Ground Zero

Back from an amazing few days in the US. Harvard on Sun, Mon, Weds & Thurs and NY on Tues. The weather was extraordinary - at lunchtime I saw a guy running by the Charles in shorts with his shirt off. Saw Elder Daughter and Son in Law for dinner on Sun night, and to my additional delight Honorary Daughter - ED's utterly brilliant best friend who was visiting them.

I stayed on Mon night at the Algonquin which has amazing charm and I love because of the Thurber/Parker/Benchley connection. On Tues am I met Ellis Rubinstein and some of his colleagues at the NYAS. They have this extraordinary view which looks down on Ground Zero so we can see the rebuilding. I also had a major client-related meeting which meant I was working all hours and sadly didn't have time to catch up with my brilliant friend Gloriana (or indeed anyone else).

Weds and Thurs some remarkably productive discussions with Martin Nowak and colleagues. Also managed to catch up with Hava - we have a wonderful conjecture with Denis Noble that Hava thinks she can prove: she has promised that I can be a co-author (fair enough it is my conjecture) that will nail the "gene is a computer program" misconception once and for all. Fascinating discussion with James Fowler from UCLAUCSD who was visiting PED. He thinks freewill is an illusion - common amongst atheistic academics in the US. I hope I gave him something to think about: there is quite an extensive discussion of this in Questions of Truth. We have a review coming out in Library Journal - apparently it is very rare for a book to get reviewed in Publishers Weekly and LJ - so this is a good omen.

Flew back Thurs evening and had an important client meeting at 11:30 that morning. I'll blog Fri evening later - it was great too.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Music, and Science upsetting simplicistic "progresives"

Wonderful evening last night as Ruth Palmer came round to play Brahms 3rd Violin Sonata. I had worked very hard on the piece and benefited greatly from Kathron's tips, but also it is amazing how the privilege of playing with a great player lifts your game. Ruth had just returned from a Concert tour in the North of England playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Orchestra of Opera North. She also did a Brahms 3 recital, and has another planned in London on March 1.

Our guests included Clive Coen who had planned to read music but spent some of his "gap" between school and university at the U of Illinois meeting John Cage: Cage introduced him to Buckminster Fuller and this led to Clive deciding to become a (neuro) scientist.

I'm delighted to say that my introduction of Hava to Denis Noble is bearing fruit. We made a lovely conjecture when we all had dinner which it would be great to prove and publish.

Meanwhile interesting papers in Science further develop two themes that greatly interest me:
A middlebrow "progressive" who was keen to have a QoT event at his organisation has backed off. Clearly anything that allows real science to disturb the cosy assumptions of his tribe is off the agenda. Ah well.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kids for Kids, Anne Finch and a date at the AAAS

On Weds went to the Kids for Kids Christmas Concert, which we support with great enthusiasm. Eamonn Holmes was the compère, and we had Sadiq Al Mahdi the former PM of the Sudan and leader of the main opposition party there. Both gave tributes to Patricia and Sadiq read a summary of some of the poems he reads to his grandchildren.

Ruth Rendell also read an extract from "All is Vanity" a poem by Anne Finch which she wrote in about 1697. I had never come across Anne Finch and would love to find out more: it was very interesting chatting to both Sadiq and Ruth, and of course Patricia and our guests, at the reception afterwards.

We have a definite date and time for the US Launch: Sun 15th Feb 14:00-15:30 at the AAAS Annual Meeting. All we need now is to hear from Jim McCarthy who will be chairing it. We'll have the Questions of Truth stand at the Exhibition and we can talk to people then.

Had a 2 hour lesson with Kathron Sturrock yesterday to prepare Brahms 3rd Violin Sonata. She is an amazing teacher: I'd love to have one session a month with her it would do me an enormous amount of good.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Onora O'Neill and Kathron Sturrock

I'm delighted to say that Onora O'Neill has confirmed that she will chair the Panel Discussion at the Royal Society to launch Questions of Truth in the UK.

Work is going well and I'm also working v hard on Brahms 3rd Violin Sonata which Ruth Palmer is coming round to play. The brilliant Kathron Sturrock has very kindly agreed in principle to give me a session on this on Thursday. I have heard her play twice - she is wonderful - and I dimly knew she was a Professor at the RCM and had worked with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. I didn't know that she had also won a scholarship to study under Brendel and was then invited to study with Rostropovich. Help!

Depressing outcome of the votes following the debate on Greengate in the Commons, but eventually truth and justice will prevail.

Whose Kingdom is it?

Questions of Truth will be out in the US on Amazon.com in less than a month. It all seems very real! We'll be sending the uncorrected proofs to a number of potential reviewers etc.. in the UK later this week. And the US launch is barely two months away.

Pope Benedicts Jesus of Nazareth continues to sparkle. He makes the very important point that translating euangelion (the Gospel) as 'Good News' "sounds attractive, but ... falls far short of the order of mangitude of what is actually meant...the Roman emperors...understood themselves as lords, saviours and redeemers of the world. The messages issued by the emperor were called in Latin evangelium, regardless of whether or not their content was particularly cheerful or pleasant. The idea was that what comes from the emperor is a saving message, that it is not just a piece of news, but a change of the world for the better." This chimes well with what Tom Wright says: the creed "Jesus is Lord" implies "and Ceasar isn't".

It will be interesting to see how Parliament reacts today in the debate over the motion to set up a committee to look into Greengate. The Government is clearly trying to subvert the Speaker's intention by packing the committee with Labour supporters and preventing it from working until the police enquiries have stopped. The Speaker appeared to agree with Theresa May's concerns about this. And the goverment's position seems to be that the Police are above Parliament.

As far as I can see there is no possibility whatsoever that what Damien Green did could be held to be conspiracy to misconduct in public office. Not only has it been long established that MPs can receieve such information, even if it is an Official Secret, but it is an essential ingredient to malfeasance in public office that the act complained of was done by the defendant "excercising his power as a public officer" (or "under the color of office"). Since the (alleged) mole was plainly not acting in an official capacity in leaking - it was no part of his official duties to communicate information to MPs or the press - he cannot have committed malfeasance in public office by doing so. One does wonder what legal advice the police took on this.

It seems rather typical of the Ian Blair era that the Director of Legal Services (Ed Solomons) seems rather a marginal character in the MPS Organisation. It seems that he has a BA in Accounting and Finance from Middlesex Poly and no Law Degree (though he is of course a qualified solicitor with 29 years experience) and joined the Police in 2006. His letter to The Times today opposing his learned views to that of two brilliant QCs (Geoffrey Robinson QC and Mark Lomas QC) does not inspire much confidence.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Freedom and Oxford

The appalling Greengate affair rumbles on. The Government appears to be staggeringly tone-deaf in its response. There is genuine outrage and shock in all sides of the house, and the press are pretty well unanimous. Today's FT Editorial is quite right: "the House of Commons authorities – whose role is to uphold the freedom of MPs to do their parliamentary duty – were shockingly passive and compliant when faced with a request from the police that ran up against that right.... Parliamentary privilege... is meant to protect their parliamentary duties... MPs should ...be able to hold the executive to account: it is in the public interest that this includes revelations such as those that came Mr Green’s way.Officers should have considered whether Mr Green was likely to be convicted of the offence. After a nanosecond to get to “No”, they should have ended their ­pursuit...you can never entirely take the politics out of policing. But you can – and should – take the police out of politicking."

My second Prospect Article with Colin Howson (still awaiting publication!!) concludes "science and free enquiry go hand in hand, and those who threaten one threaten the other, and with both all our freedoms." The same principle applies for parliamentary privilege. The police obtained access by bamboozling the manifestly inadequate Serjant-At-Arms: none of her predecessors would have allowed themselves to be intimidated by a Police Superintendent.

Quick trip to Oxford yesterday to do some work with Bob May - such a great guy and full of charming though sadly un-bloggable anecdotes. Oxford still seems terra incognita despite the fact that I now have a number of collaborators there. But it must be admitted, even by a Cambridge man, that many of the buildings are striking. I walked back from Bob's faculty to the railway station, passinge several colleges, the Sheldonian and a big sign from the Jewish Society wishing people a Happy Christmas.

The conjunction of the Karen Matthews and Baby P cases is causing even "liberal" commentators to notice that there is something appalling about the way in which our state actively encourages and subsidises, to a huge extent, these people's dreadful lifestyles. It is not accident that both women were living on vast state subsidies with multiple children by multiple "partners". Of course no-one, however regular or irregular their domestic arrangements, is either not in need of divine love and forgiveness or outside its scope (consider the "woman of Samaria") but taking a non-judgemental attitude too far merely breeds appalling misery. Deborah Orr quotes a fellow-liberal-journalist who tried to suggest that people objected to Matthews because of her class. Not her class, but her appalling behaviour, which would be just as appalling in a Duke!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

RSA dinner at the President's home

Dinner last night to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal part of the RSA. Our President, who has served for over 50 years, arranged a dinner in his London home: the first time I have been to dinner there. The pictures are amazing, including a portrait of Rembrandt and his wife, several Canalettos, van Hals etc... Met many interesting people including Sir Roy Goode and Kristina Bols who runs svaja a designer of glass artefacts.

The RSA's CEO was most interested in our book, and it is possible that there will be an event at the RSA. Watch this space.

Work has been incredibly hectic, so not enough time to attend to book-related matters. But the website is now up, at least in preliminary form.

The appalling conjuction of Greengate and the devastating European Court judgement on DNA records should, in any rational world, call time on Jacqui Smith. A former schoolteacher who has no legal background whatsoever she is so manifestly out of her depth that it is almost painful. She is virtually certain to lose her seat at the next election, given her wafer-thin majority, and this deprives her of parliamentary support because she won't be in a position to return favours. To have a genuine QC opposing her (as opposed to Political QCs who would never have made it on their own merits) only makes matters worse.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Royal Society and Pope Benedict

Last night at the Royal Society, for their fascinating St Andrew's Day gathering. Naturally saw Martin Rees, Peter Williams and Bob May, also Keith Peters and Juila Higgins. Also met Dr Chris Smith who in addition to being a Clinical Lecturer at Cambridge runs and presents The Naked Scientists, and won the Kohn Award. Also John Barrow who won the Michael Faraday Award and Robin Clark who gave the Bakerian Lecture.

Prof Clark is an expert on amongst other things Lapis Lazuli. He is also a Kiwi, and told the story of how Rutherford had 4 pieces of good luck and 1 piece of bad luck.
  1. As a kid he always used to go sailing with his brothers. One day his father kept him back to help him gather flax. His brothers were drowned.
  2. There was one Scholarship from his Primary School to the very good secondary school Nelson College. He came 2nd, but the Headmaster raised the funds.
  3. There was one Scholarship from his secondary school to the premier University in NZ. Again he came 2nd but was nevertheless admitted and funded.
  4. There was one Scholarship from that U to Cambridge. He came 2nd but the person who came 1st had recently married and his wife didn't want to go. So they were persuaded to accept Rutherford.
The piece of bad luck was that, when he was 66 and a Peer of the Realm, he felt ill and went to his GP, who said "I think you have a hernia, but I can't operate because you are a Peer". He was referred to the Regius Professor of Physic who said the same. So he was referred to a Peer in Harley Street - but by then it was too late and he died.

The book Jesus of Nazareth continues to amaze, with an enormously insightful analysis of the temptations: seeing the 2nd temptation as trying to make God conform to human categories and the 3rd as the perennial and pernicious temptation to intertwine state power with religion. Jesus rejects all worldly authority in the temptation - after his resurrection he can say "all authority in heaven and on earth is given to me".

Monday, December 01, 2008

Greengate, and the Pope on Jesus

William Rees-Mogg in an excellent piece in The Times makes the point that the arrest of Green and the search of his offices was "a much more serious crime than the one they imagined they were investigating. Contempt of the House of Commons". Dennis McShane, a Labour former Minister, says this is "is a serious crisis for the authority of Parliament and the Speaker". The Times also makes the point that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction in the light of the Murer case, and it is hard to imagine how a competent lawyer could have advised otherwise.

Meanwhile I'm reading the Pope's excellent Jesus of Nazareth as an advent book. Full of fascinating insights, such as how the Baptism of Jesus in a sense contains and prefigures his crucifixion and resurrection. Work is also very hectic, and I am practicing Brahms 3 hard because Ruth Palmer is coming round to play it in a couple of weeks.