22 Oct 2002 mbp   » (Master)

I've now mostly moved into my new apartment. I feel really grown up to actually (fractionally) own it. I have taken advantage of my newly acquired right to bang and drill holes in the walls.

After much prodding earlier in the year from my brother in law, I finally read The Science of Discworld. It's really excellent. The title might make you think it will be a bit too silly, but it's not at all. As well as a nice and entertaining overview of major areas like physics and evolution, it also has probably the best explanation of the epistimology and social processes (Popper and Kuhn) of science that I've seen in a general audience book. It is quite fair to compare it to Gould or Dennett, and perhaps gives an even better under standing of the way science actually progresses, rather than presenting it as a body of immutable facts. And I like their suggestion that space elevators will have elevator music.

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I was flabbergasted to read this story in the AFR, quoting John Moses speaking at a memorial for Bali bombing victims:

In Canberra, Prime Minister John Howard lit a candle in StPaul's Anglican Church and listened while priest John Moses sermonised on the inadequacy of "sentimental humanism". [...]

"Decency without doctrine ... spiritual laziness," he called it. [...]

Speaking to the Prime Minister, Professor Moses said it was necessary for Christ to become the conscience of the state and the role of the state was to be an instrument of God.

I don't know whether it's more distressing to me that somebody would espouse such an opinion in this century, or that it would apparently get a hearing from Howard. I suppose I'm not surprised by the second, but it still disappoints me to see it.

"Decency without doctrine" actually sounds to me like an superb practical approach to morality in a pluralist modern world. I cannot understand the imbalance of mind that makes one want to respond to supposed religious violence by re-establishing a state religion.

In any case, even if we wanted to go along with that, it seems to me that Jesus would have encouraged people to turn the other cheek. I don't suppose anyone holding that opinion would be invited to speak at official functions.

search-and-replace:

It is necessary for the Koran to become the conscience of the state, and the role of the state is to be an instrument of Allah.

Mm. Doesn't sound so reasonable (to western ears) now, does it?

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