A variety of things

By , 6 November 2009 6:39 pm

Thank you all for considering my mystery word last week. I think in the end I probably decided that it needs a combination of words: ‘unsensational-but-satisfying’, ‘delivers-the-goods’, ‘excellent-and-unflashy.’ I suspect that this sort of thing works much better in German than English.

I have just about recovered from my cold/flu. I have no idea whether it was the swine flu but I can’t remember ever having been knocked out so long. It’s a useful reminder not to take good health for granted!

I have started to run a series of lunchtime classes on what is called Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is the semi-formal process of analysing arguments to identify reasons and conclusions and whether the evidence fully justifies the claims. It’s an odd sort of subject; I suspect in the old days you probably did it as part of English GCSE. Nowadays it seems to have gone missing but our higher-level universities, notably Oxford and Cambridge, are increasingly setting test papers which require a fairly sophisticated analysis of arguments using this sort of approach. Anyway it was rather gratifying that my geology room was crammed full with 30+ students today, many of whom have a reasonable chance of being interviewed at least for Oxford and Cambridge. It is actually good because it encourages me to think logically.

I spoke at Swansea University Christian Union this week (it’s been a busy week) on God’s Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence. Phew! There were a hundred or so students and a good atmosphere. The one thing that somewhat perturbed me was that although I touched on all sorts of important and useful things the only questions I got afterwards were all to do with the creation and evolution debate; something that I had alluded to in the briefest possible manner. I find it somewhat disturbing that what is, by any account, a rather peripheral debate (we are all creationists in some sense  has taken centre stage.

What else? Without saying too much I have had a rather intriguing series of e-mails from someone (let’s just call him M.) from the Middle East who knows me as a professional geologist and who has been asking some interesting and penetrating questions about my Christian faith in a very friendly and open way. He has just asked me to explain the doctrine of the Trinity and how Christians can pray to Jesus without committing the sin of polytheism. Well that’s going to be an easy one isn’t it? (Is there an emoticon for irony?). That’s my next task this evening and I would value prayer.

Finally, for those of you who are fans of technology, Mr. Google has given us a nice new present which so far has not been widely publicised. If you use Google Earth (and I use it at least once or twice a day in teaching) turn on 3-D Buildings and Photorealistic on the side panel and take a look at New York, Birmingham, Cardiff or Dublin. All being well if you have a reasonably fast modem connection and a tolerable graphics card you should see the landscape slowly spring alive with wonderful 3-D buildings which really look realistic. (Two tricks for Google Earth that not everybody knows: 1. set vertical exaggeration to around 1.7 in order to make landscape look realistic and 2. use a mouse with a scroll wheel in the middle and press down on it. ) To say it’s awesome is an understatement: I showed it to our head of IT who one presumes has seen everything and twenty minutes later he was still playing with it  like a happy child. On a slightly reflective note, I’m actually wondering whether one of the side-effects of being made in the image of God is that we like to see things as he sees them. But that apart, it’s pretty awesome to swoop and wheel around the skyscrapers. I’m wondering if I do it enough whether it will cure my vertigo.

3D google

3D google

top-down skyscrapers

top-down skyscrapers

Have a good week!

2 Responses to “A variety of things”

  1. Boaz says:

    Hello, Dr. Walley.

    I’m not sure why you would be perturbed about the questions, since there are a lot of people that could construct a logic chain where if the universe came into being in a fashion other than outlined in Genesis (even (or especially) ignoring time, just considering order), then God seems to have lied, and is no longer perfectly good. So an argument straight out of philosophy, logic, and theology, but that has profound implications in those fields: do you really want to follow a God that is not perfect? What would the nature of the afterlife be under such a deity, assuming that such an afterlife exists?

    Boaz, pondering provocative questions

  2. kirsty says:

    Also perhaps a ‘useful’ shibboleth – “You believe in an old earth – you’re a bit dodgy.”, or, alternatively, “You believe in a young earth – you’re just a naïve fundamentalist.”

    Which is not, of course, how we should be relating to each other. But so easy.

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