The charismatic Cox

Our contributor, Brendan, recently brought the scientist, Brian Cox, into the discussion. I asked him to hold hard for the time being because an interesting letter on the subject was published in the Catholic Herald last week. I have the permission of the writer to post it here, so that we can comment on it.

“Dear Catholic Herald,

I’m sure many readers are watching and even enjoying the BBC2 series The Human Universe (Tues 9pm). Its potential challenge to christian belief and evangelism though will not be lost on most.

Prof Brian Cox, the presenter, is potentially a much more dangerous influence than, say Richard Dawkins. In promoting his New Atheist agenda, Dawkins abandoned science and adopted ill-informed ridicule as his weapon of choice. As such Dawkins was rejected even by many mainstream atheists. Even Stephen Hawking did not manage to make a coherent case for atheism, constantly confusing, as he did, mechanism with agency.

Cox is much more dangerous, whether he intends it or not (but I’m inclined to think he does intend it) firstly because he is telegenic and affable – not a fault of Dawkins! Secondly, Cox is careful to make constant reference to current scientific thinking. Therein lies the danger. Each point he makes starts with a scientific fact or hypothesis that most of us wouldn’t argue with. Then he switches to part of his own worldview, which is not, by any means, an obvious conclusion from the preceding piece of science.

The prefix to episode 2 was “Professor Brian Cox explores our place in the universe. He tackles the question that unites the seven billion people sharing this planet – why are we here?” His exploration was not very exploratory (apart from the nice scenic backdrops). Our “God hypothesis” was dealt with in a single sentence which was, to paraphrase:- “The ancients believed that the universe was created by the gods – it wasn’t”. As with every previous attempt by a scientist to explore the question “Why are we here” he ended up exploring the question “By what process did we come to be here” which is entirely different. There’s that confusion of mechanism with agency again.

In the most recent episode (4 Nov) he makes the following statement (again to paraphrase):- “Mankind lives on an insignificant speck within a vast uncaring universe. His survival (ie salvation?) is in his own hands” and “It’s vital that we abandon superstition” which I presume he intends to mean religion.

Please let us not be fooled into believing that these are simply one person’s opinions which he is entitled to, and so it really doesn’t matter. It does matter. This is first class telly and it’s influencing millions. I’m not hearing the Christian counter-argument, but please God, let’s hear it soon. There are plenty well-qualified to provide it, so hopefully they are suiting up right now!

Alasdair Brooks”

I’m not hearing the Christian counter-argument, but please God, let’s hear it soon. We have certainly discussed similar matters on this Blog from time to time, so we may hope to put forward some coherent ideas about the relationship between science and faith.

Do we think that programmes like this push the general public away from religious belief, satisfied by the charismatic Cox that faith explanations are superfluous? “”I had no need of that hypothesis.” answered the scientist, Laplace, to Napoleon, who had queried the absence of God in his book.

Alasdair Brooks distinguishes between mechanism and agency. Thus for example, the concept of evolution merely shows us one way through which the different species were developed, but tells us nothing about who is responsible for this process and the creation in which this happens. Why is this distinction ignored by Cox – who is nothing if not intelligent?

Do we see the situation as likely to become more extreme as science delves deeper in its understanding. For instance many scientists in the field will tell us, as a matter of fact, that free will does not exist.

I am an admirer of the British Humanist Association. Admirer? Yes, they are energetic and competent in putting their secularist views in front of the public. They have been influential in many campaigns. Why are we less successful, and what should we be doing about it?

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94 Responses to The charismatic Cox

  1. Brendan says:

    Just recently – as reported in Catholic Voice – Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said,… ” the world faces a fundamental crisis of changing anthropology “. The proposition that ‘ mechanism ‘ checkmates ‘ agency ‘ is the growing pseudo-philosophical view , reinforced by verifiable science ( and sometimes disputed science ), is the preferred avenue for those who take a wholly anthropocentric view of how and why we got here. The young Brian Cox – telegenic,a musician who plays in a pop group, using basic language of ‘ today’ relating directly to British youth ( to the applause of the liberal elite that run the country’s media machine) , giving tokenistic, almost sycophantic deference to a bullock in Hindu India – is perfectly cast.
    Personally I would like to see – coming from the small pool that I swim in – a heavyweight such as Father Andrew Pinsent ( perhaps suited differently ) to take this prevalent world view to task on air. As Alasdair Brookes perceives , this is proving a far greater threat than the usual ‘ Dawkins Effect ‘ and indeed one can detect something of an anthropocentric attitude in the Church since the 1970’s which has corrupted and reduced some of its teaching to a mere cypher after Vatican 2.
    So come on Father Andrew, get suited up !

  2. Nektarios says:

    Brian Cox is a product, a result of his education, his upbringing, and other factors which we can outline here.

    Christians, in the last 80 years or so, have only been seeing things as bits and pieces which have gradually begun to trouble them and others, instead of understanding that they are the natural outcome of a change from a Christian World View to a Humanistic one; things such as over-permissiveness, pornography, the problem of the public schools, the breakdown of the family, abortion, infanticide (the killing of newborn babies), increased emphasis upon the euthanasia of the old and many, many other things.

    All of these things and many more are only the results. We may be troubled with the individual thing, but in reality we are missing the whole thing if we do not see each of these things and many more as only symptoms of the deeper problem. And that is the change in our society, a change in our country, in the Western world, from a Judeo-Christian consensus to a Humanistic one.
    That is, instead of the final reality that exists being the infinite creator God; instead of that which is the basis of all reality being such a creator God, now largely, all else is seen as only material or energy which has existed forever in some form, shaped into its present complex form only by pure chance.

    The word Humanism should be also be carefully defined. We should not just use it as a flag, or what younger people might call a “buzz” word. We must understand what we are talking about when we use the word Humanism. Humanism means that the man is the measure of all things!
    If this other final reality of material or energy shaped by pure chance is the final reality, it gives no meaning to life. It gives no value system. It gives no basis for law, and therefore, in this case, man must be the measure of all things.

    So, Humanism properly defined, in contrast, let us say, to the humanities or humanitarianism, (which is something entirely different and which Christians should be in favour of) being the measure of all things, comes naturally, mathematically, inevitably, certainly. If indeed the final reality is silent about these values, then man must generate them from himself.

    So, Humanism is the absolute certain result, if we choose this other final reality and say that is what it is. You must realize that when we speak of man being the measure of all things under the Humanist label, the first thing is that man has only knowledge from himself. That he, being finite, limited, very faulty in his observation of many things, yet nevertheless, has no possible source of knowledge except what man, beginning from himself, can find out from his own observation. Specifically, in this view, there is no place for any knowledge from God.

    But it is not only that man must start from himself in the area of knowledge and learning, but any value system must come arbitrarily from man himself by arbitrary choice. More frightening still, in our country, at our own moment of history, is the fact that any basis of law then becomes arbitrary — merely certain people making decisions as to what is for the good of society at the given moment.
    Notes from: Dr. Francis Schaeffer

    • Alasdair says:

      “any basis of law then becomes arbitrary — merely certain people making decisions as to what is for the good of society at the given moment”
      I’ve heard that in American apologetics circles this is known as “the great WHO SEZ?”.

  3. Brendan says:

    Can I add to Zara’s list, Michael Coren’s ” The Future of Catholicism ” – I found it riveting.

  4. Geordie says:

    Am I the only person who disagrees with the notion that Brian Cox is charismatic? I can’t watch his programmes for more than ten minutes without falling asleep. His slow speech makes fascinating subjects boring. When I look back at some of the presenters we’ve had on TV, Brian Cox is way down the list; e.g. AJP Taylor (brilliant), Alan Clarke and Professor Bronowski, to mention but three.
    Hedonism is the secularist’s greatest weapon not Brian Cox.

    • overload says:

      Add to hedonism: Satan (ooops, I meant to say Santa), and the anointed tree.
      And the humbuggery and curse of this secular nation: our Queen who was officially ordained by God and was given a Bible as the rulebook at her coronation. This concern is easily dealt with if you are an atheist: it is merely ritual and superstition, so there is no obligation or moral issue (even if you believe in morals). And the C of E seems to have no objection with being tied by this particular dog leash of confusion and lukewarmness.

    • Brendan says:

      Geordie , I agree with your disagreeing. But while part of his narrative is somewhat unpalatable to many, he does hold our attention through his personal ‘ charisma ‘.

  5. Singalong says:

    My observation is about the excessive focus on themselves which was apparent in our youngest child’s education at a Catholic school, which finished about 18 years ago. Of course, adolescents especially need to know about themselves, but a religious school must develop this natural interest and move out towards God, and neighbour, and this did not seem to be happening nearly enough. We are still storing several very self orientated pieces of art work. One is our child’s name, with each letter beautifully coloured and illustrated with a selection of personal favourite things, individual happiness and personal fulfillment emphasised as the most important aim in life. It seemed to lead to a much used phrase lately, that I am spiritual but not religious, I appreciate art and music and beauty in all its forms and that is enough.

  6. John Robinson says:

    I write in relation to your question about how to combat the influence of secularism that you attribute to Professor Brian Cox. A suggestion:
    We had this sort of problem at the time of the Reformation—nobody sufficiently well informed, charismatic, quick off the mark and well able to use all the means of communication available at that time. The nearest we came to it was Edmund Campion but he was quickly eliminated by our enemies. The English College at Douai made a noble attempt to train men in the eloquent use of apologetics.
    Secularism has been around for a long time we have had plenty of warning. The answer might be a person equally learned, in the breath of science, as is Brian Cox, and with an equally charismatic personality, who has also a sound grip on philosophy and theology; and who is also wanted by the BBC. The alternative would be to convert Brian Cox.
    We should have learnt by now to anticipate problems of this sort and to have a special college to train carefully selected candidates in what is going to be required, to be experts in the use of the media and to move with speed. Other organisations have such highly trained and flexible forces, for example the SAS.

    • Quentin says:

      While we fall far short of what John Robinson recommends, we do have a lay organisation, Catholic Voices. (Check them on the internet.) Their well trained speakers are often on the media — particularly when some Catholic issue is in the news. We should support them strongly.

      In the old days we had the Catholic Evidence Guild. I used to speak in Leicester Square or at Speaker’s Corner. I can assure you that the training was rigorous, as the crowd could make mincemeat of you. I don’t think that speaking in such public places is useful nowadays, but there are other opportunities.

      Some will remember that I tried to promote our use of opportunities on secular blogs to get across the Catholic view. I fear that, with one exception, no one took up the challenge. I continue. And I will often find myself (on a subject like abortion or faith schools) the only Christian voice among a hundred who insist on the ‘right’ to kill individual human beings, providing you don’t have to look them in the eye.

      • milliganp says:

        Quentin, in your role trying to counter error in the blogosphere, have you ever considered the considerable problem presented by the Catholic Herald Website bloggers and their vociferous commentators. Recently we’ve has Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith railing against “songs of Praise”, a program he freely admits he has never watched. Mark Greaves tells us of 5 celebrity fans of the Latin Mass, one has never been a Catholic and the other four no longer practice! (Dr.) William Oddie uses his usual technique to create an indirect attack on Pope Francis. That’s before you consider the rabid comments frequently posted on these blogs.
        What’s the point of us defending our faith, when our “leading” Catholic newspaper is a hotbed of criticism of the Pope and most of our national Bishops and rarely contains a comment that could be described as Christian.

    • John L says:

      I seem to remember being taught apologetics as part of R. I. in a Catholic grammar school.
      I constantly read bitter complaints that what is now taught in our schools falls far short of what caring parents feel their children should be taught of the Faith. These complaints seem to fall on deaf ears – “Teacher knows best”, or is it, in the case of the syllabus, “The Bishop knows best”? Just where does the responsibility for religious ignorance lie? Please don’t reply “With the parents”. I believe most parents do their best. but require “professional” back-up.
      We now teach Maths without the multiplication tables, and teach the Catholic Faith without the Catechism – much the same approach. The professionals claim it’s better, but the results suggest otherwise.

      • Brendan says:

        Interesting, John L.
        I also went to a Grammar School – a state one. The interest is in our different ( similar ?) experiences. My experience was almost totally secular and rationally existential, having the potential for producing the atheists of the future, while yours – dare I say it – held the unfortunate capacity for producing the same. Why didn’t I turn out a – theist ?
        Because my parents, my predominantly Irish ancestors, my God gave me the capacity to discern right from wrong – even though my ‘ faith ‘ was fragile. When I look back to it all I can say it was , as simple as that. Even to the point where I knew instinctively, that because of my Faith , there was something wrong in not being ‘ allowed ‘ even to pray the ” Lords Prayer ” with fellow students and my teachers. The same was true when I was excluded from what passed as R.E. Even that appeared to be taught rather grudgingly at times.That is why – with all the opportunities available today – I lament the state in particular of Catholic R.I. today. Never mind, the Divine Wind of change is coming !

      • St.Joseph says:

        John L
        My children went to Grammer school, Same sex schools.
        In those days the local parish priest MSFS went in to teach the catholics.
        I dont think that happens now,my 5 grandchildren some now left for Uni went to a Catholic school, One in Glos; others in Herts.
        Now a days a lot does depend on the parents I believe!

      • overload says:

        “where does the responsibility for religious ignorance lie?”
        In my case — I had no contact with the Roman Catholic Church until 5 years ago — it appears to have been an uncertain and unhappy balance between my parents (atheists in secular marriage) and the priest who Christened me (my grandfather) / the C of E. And add to that the nation at large (re. my comment above, Nov 21 6:54 pm), which does include the state comprehensive primary and secondary schools I went to. (And, since there is only one Church, the responsibility is indirectly also the RCC’s, in some form or another.)
        …I find this to be a desperate tangle / can of worms / black hole.
        My first serious ‘religious instruction’ (other than the slight beginnings in an encounter with Quakerism, and Quaker community) was initiated by experiences with drugs (Cannabis, MDMA and LSD), in mental/spiritual delusion and breakdown, and what followed.
        Accursed black hole won’t (can’t) go away, but hey… God is good.

  7. Geordie says:

    Good idea, John Robinson. Perhaps the hierarchy could implement this process. Seminaries could prepare laymen and future clergymen for the secular onslaught, which has begun and is going to get worse.

  8. Quentin says:

    May I remind contributors that comments should not exceed 600 words. (see ‘Express an Opinion’, above.) Take consolation from the fact that shorter comments are likely to have much greater impact, and one may of course make further comments if this is needed. I would suggest that a maximum or 2-300 words should be our target.

  9. Brendan says:

    ” Why is this distinction ignored by Cox – who is nothing if not intelligent ? ”
    Speaking from the outside I know nothing of the spiritual / philosophical ethos that underpins our Tertiary/University education in Britain today. By all accounts good Religious Instruction – as opposed to R.E. – in State as well as Catholic Secondary Schools is generally fragmentary, too humanistic/ anthropocentric and lacking in scriptural rigour – in the case of Catholics based on their Catechism.
    It is not surprising then that the average student when reaching Tertiary level will have imbibed nothing more than a weak grounding in Christian morals/ethics with which to compete with conflicting philosophies that will come their way. I read today in the ” Catholic Herald ” of a pro – abortion group of students at one of our supposed ‘ A-List ‘ university colleges ( Christ Church, Oxford ) who have forced the college authorities to deny open debate by a pro -life group on the campus. Intelligent or not, I suggest that Professor Cox is living proof , among many other examples ,of what is now being turned out by our universities at an increasing rate – ostensibly liberal in outlook but intolerant in practice .
    As a Catholic I have confident that the entire Church under our present Pope is at last beginning to see the problem and by next October ( Synod Meeting ), by God’s grace will meet the demands needed to reverse this mess.

  10. Ignatius says:

    The last Brian Cox programme I watched contained the revelation that all water had been around ever since the big bang….what a revolting thought! Here is my devastating rebuttal in under 300 words:

    Crocodile Tears

    They tell me its a lie,
    That water is never ever
    Fresh or completely clear
    Science says its all been around
    Molecule by molecule
    For many a long and grubby year.

    All that pure bubbly Evian stuff?
    Friends, we’ve been taken to the cleaners!
    Its all been lying in stagnant ditches,
    Getting stuck in clouds
    Then passing through
    The colonic tubes of mangy old hyenas.

    The big bang, you see, went off crash
    Long before this planet earth was born
    All water became immediately present,
    Locked into a binary form.

    Thus fluid recycling is now the norm
    And thanks to science I too know why,
    Hugely appealing crocodile tears,
    Are the only ones you seem to cry…

    PS No one I know place much store by Brian Cox by the way, none of my students that is – even the radical atheists among them.

    • overload says:

      Ignatius, thanks for your poem. Not quite sure about this but I’ve been trying to tinker with it, as addressed to Mr Cox…

      You tell me its a lie,
      That water is never ever
      Fresh or completely clear

      Thus fluid recycling is now the norm
      And thanks to Christ and science ’swell,
      I now know why
      Hugely appealing crocodile tears,
      Are the only ones you seem to cry…

      On a related point, I am wondering about the Genesis story, in which water is created before light. Did Brian’s programme about water offer any insight into this? A bit of his most recent I saw on iplayer, he was talking about an afterglow of light from the big bang, visible now, generated from a hundred or so thousand years after the big bang. I didn’t see anything about water.

    • Peter Nyikos says:

      If that’s really what Brian Cox said, then he should stop pretending to be well versed in science.

      Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen and helium came with the big bang, but the general consensus is that oxygen only started being produced by thermonuclear fusion in stars, and is still being produced, while the store of hydrogen is constantly diminishing — again because of fusion.

      As for water–pah! There are molecules of H2O in interstellar space, all right, but whether you call it “water” or “ice” or “water vapor” depends on many H2O molecules coming together, and there being enough molecules close together to give meaning to the concept of temperature, which is generally understood to be a function of molecular motion.

  11. Nektarios says:

    The countries that now constitute the world shows that only 25 of these countries have any freedoms at all. What we have, and take so poorly for granted, is unique. It was brought forth by a specific world view and that specific world view was the Judeo-Christian world view especially as it was refined in the Reformation, putting the authority indeed at a central point — not in the Church and the state and the Word of God, but rather the Word of God alone.
    All the benefits which we know — I would repeat — which we have taken so easily and so much for granted, are unique. They have been grounded on the certain world view that there was a Creator there to give inalienable rights. And this other viewhe Humanist view, which has become increasingly dominant, of the material-energy final world view (shaped by pure chance) never would have, could not, has, no basis of values, in order to give such a balance of freedom that we have known so easily and which we unhappily, if we are not careful, take so for granted.

    We are now losing those freedoms and we can expect to continue to lose them if this other Humanist world view continues to take increased force and power in our county. We can be sure of this. I would say it again — inevitably, mathematically, all of these things will come forth. There is no possible way to heal the relativistic thinking of our own day, if indeed all there is is a universe out there that is silent about any values. None, whatsoever! It is not possible. It is a loss of values and it is a loss of freedom which we may be sure will continually grow.

    A good illustration is in the public schools. This Humanit view is taught in our public schools exclusively — by law. There is no other view that can be taught. There is only one view of reality that can be taught, and that is that the final reality is only material or energy shaped by pure chance.

    It is the same with the television programs. Public television gives us many things that many of us like culturally, but is also completely committed to a Humanistic propaganda position that the last reality is only material / energy shaped by pure chance. Clark’s Civilization, Brunowski, The Ascent of Man, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos — they all say it. There is only one final view of reality that’s possible and that is that the final reality is material or energy shaped by pure chance.

    It is about us on every side, and especially the government and the courts have become the vehicle to force this anti-God view on the total population. It’s exactly where we are.

    The abortion ruling is a very clear one. The abortion ruling, of course, is also a natural result of this other world view because with this other world view, human life — your individual life — has no intrinsic value. You are a wart upon the face of an absolutely impersonal universe. Your aspirations have no fulfillment in the “what-isness” of what is. Your aspirations damn you. Many of the young people who come to us understand this very well because their aspirations as Humanists have no fulfillment, if indeed the final reality is only material or energy shaped by pure chance.

    • Brendan says:

      Nektarios – and this process of a Church ‘ refined ‘ will go on until all things are gathered together in Christ the Lord ( the feast commemorated this Sunday ). There is our hope. As a Catholic we have many promises given by The Saviour which lead my ‘ world view ‘ to the virtue of hope . So let us all say in this endless journey – even along with the Brian Cox’s of our world …..Maranatha !

      • Nektarios says:

        I can agree with you. Even so we must as Christians, according to our talents, make clear to the world the perilous and dangerous journey Humanism and Secularism is leading them into. The Brian Cox’s of this world need to be challenged, as do most philosophers, liberal theologians and the like today, who neither know or practice virtue or hope in Christ.
        Government and the Law and medical ethics also need challenging, as they are going down the road of tyranny on the one hand and arbitary law making on the other.
        Yes, Brenden, let us abide in Him with knowldge and understanding, knowing the not just the Word, but the power of it.

    • Peter Nyikos says:

      C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the third (and by far the most intricate) book in his space trilogy, depicts an organization that substitutes the worldview of secular science for the Judeo-Christian, with unnerving effects. A group of students and faculty at my university have been discussing it Thursday evenings all semester at the house of the Episcopalian campus minister.

      At our most recent meeting, a graduate student who teaches a section of the introductory course in Biology related how he is discussing the broader issues of science in these last few days of the semester, and will be bringing up the point: “As a scientist, I can tell you how you can kill 10,000 human beings. But also as a scientist, I can NOT tell you whether you SHOULD do it or not.”

      • Brendan says:

        And so , I believe it shall remain in our dimensional time. One day in God’s time all will be revealed, but I suspect it will not matter . Even ‘ science ‘ with all its seemingly infinite possibilities will be consumed/ ?assumed into an everlasting ‘ love ‘. Corinthians 1 Chap. 13.

  12. overload says:

    Are Catholics in competition with the secular world? I suspect this mentality to be largely a misunderstanding of the gospel.

    Nektarios & Brendan, do you propose we maintain a Christian and Judaic faith / world view?

    Quentin, I take your point about short comments. However, I am hoping this blog’s agenda is not exclusively on auto-pilot?

    • Nektarios says:

      Yes, overlord, that is the only worldview that is given by God for our good and Salvation.
      It is the only worldview that God gives inalienable rights to Man and freedoms.
      The sad thing to observe and needs to be tackled head on within all of the mainstream churches are the liberal and humanstic tendencies so prevelant today.

    • Brendan says:

      Overload. Yes in an existential sense ” we ” Catholics are in competition with the ‘ secular ‘ powers of this world. Note Saint Paul’s ” in the world, but not of the world “. Also the obvious ramifications of Jesus to Pilate …. ” my kingdom is not of this world. ”
      Every Christian intuitively ‘ knows that ‘ His kingdom ‘ is not in competition with the ‘ physical world ‘ as was made by Him but includes the same world but under a new reality. To paraphrase Saint Paul……. ” we must not conform as our ‘ fallen ‘ world presents itself to us , but ALL must be reformed in the newness of our minds to transform this new reality – Gods Kingdom – from our fallen world.
      Overload. As a Catholic Christian and not a Judaic Christian or a Protestant Judaic Christian, any notion of observing two different faiths however syncretised into one by accident or design is not possible. The Bible Story is a gradual disclosure of Himself and His will for humanity ( including all creatures ) from beginning to end. Because God finally reveals Himself in The Saviour ( The Christ ) , I believe that we can only – except with Judaic reference because of the importance of the Jews as The Chosen People in first hearing the Word – ‘ maintain ‘ a purely Catholic Christian world view with any credibility in our world.

  13. Nektarios says:

    Now I want to say something with great force, right here. What I have been talking about, whether you know it or not, is true spirituality. This is true spirituality. Spirituality, after you are a Christian and have accepted Christ as your Savior, means that Christ is the Lord of ALL your life — not just your religious life, and if you make a dichotomy in these things, you are denying your Lord His proper place. I don’t care how many butterflies you have in your stomach, you are poor spiritually. True spirituality means that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of all of life, and except for the things that He has specifically told us in the Bible are sinful and we’ve set them aside — all of life is spiritual and all of life is equally spiritual. That includes (as our forefathers did) standing for these things of freedom and standing for these things of human life and all these other matters that are so crucial, if indeed, this living God does exist as we know that He does exist.

    We have forgotten our heritage. A lot of the evangelical complex like to talk about the old revivals and they tell us we ought to have another revival. We need another revival — you and I need revival. We need another revival in our hearts. But they have forgotten something. Most of the Christians have forgotten and most of the pastors have forgotten something. That is the factor that every single revival that has ever been a real revival, whether it was the great awakening before the American Revolution; whether it was the great revivals of Scandinavia; whether it was Wesley and Whitefield; wherever you have found a great revival, it’s always had three parts. First, it has called for the individual to accept Christ as Savior, and thankfully, in all of these that I have named, thousands have been saved. Then, it has called upon the Christians to bow their hearts to God and really let the Holy Spirit have His place in fullness in their life. But there has always been, in every revival, a third element. It has always brought SOCIAL CHANGE!

    • overload says:

      Nektarios, have you heard of the Welsh revival 1904-5? This is said to have influenced the beginning of the Azusa street revival — considered the beginning of Pentecostalism — in LA a few years later, which saw social change with blacks and whites (and rich and poor) mingling together freely in a time and place when racial integration was unacceptable.

      From what I have read on Wikipedia (often without references), Evan Roberts, who took handle on the Welsh revival, saw a vision of a cheque for 100,000 souls saved. Within a year, he was the most famous man in Wales, and he couldn’t hack the fame or the popularism which was taking over the movement. He had some kind of breakdown, and after some kind of dark night of the soul, ‘retreated’ to a life of intercessionary prayer. Many of the saved in wales are thought to have been miners who then headed of to die in WW1. I am inspired by the thought that the pubs became empty, and the pit ponies could no longer understand commands due to sudden absence of swearing.

      Roberts apparently had four simple and powerful teaching points about true conversion:
      1. Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ
      2. Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about
      3. Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly
      4. Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ

      • Nektarios says:

        Yes, overload I am aware of the Welsh revival and various other revivals too.

        Cambridge historians who aren’t Christians would tell you that if it wasn’t for the Wesley revival and the social change that Wesley’s revival had brought, England would have had its own form of the French Revolution. It was Wesley saying people must be treated correctly and dealing down into the social needs of the day that made it possible for England to have its bloodless revolution in contrast to France’s bloody revolution.

        Another revival – the Great Awakening, that great revival prior to the founding of the United States, that opened the way and prepared for the founding of the United States. Every one of the great revivals had tremendous social implications. What I am saying is, that I am afraid that we have forgotten our heritage, and we must go on even when the cost is high.
        I think the Church has failed to meet its obligation in these last 60 years for two specific reasons. The first is this false, truncated view of spirituality that doesn’t see true spirituality touching all of life. The other thing is that too many Christians, whether they are doctors, lawyers, pastors, evangelists — whatever they are — too many of them are afraid to really speak out because they did not want to rock the boat for their own project. I am convinced that these two reasons, both of which are a tragedy and really horrible for the Christian, are an explanation of why we have walked the road we have walked in the last 60 years.
        We must understand, it’s going to cost us as Christians to take a stand on Humanism, Secularism and the poisonous fruits of these things.

  14. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    Brian Cox is “telegenic and affable” says the letter writer. Bit like Pope Francis, then? When will people refrain from accepting a belief because it is proposed by an attractive person? In fact the idea of creation is nonsense. Think about it: creation requires a movement from nothingness into somethingness. What nature does nothingness have? Can you even imagine nothingness? It is a negative idea,– an absence of thingness. If nothingness is God’s start point then his start point by definition does not exist. Brian Cox is very wise not to tangle himself up in questions which can’t be answered because they can’t be framed.

    • Nektarios says:

      What you have just posted above is a classic movement of Humanistic thought and philosophy, essentially, man is the the centre of all things. Clearly you have indeed
      understood nothing. You proceed from your petty little limited humanistic centre, being the centre of all things.
      So I say, you have understood nothing on Creation. You have no answer to the Cosmos
      nor indeed your own place in it and why. This is the limited position of the Brian Cox’s of this world.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        Nektarios, I have noticed other comments at length from you about spirituality etc. So it is sad to see that you use an insulting phrase “petty little limited” in order to put me into your inferior place. Am I to assume that your spirituality is only for Sundays? Or do you simply not have the vocabulary of debate?

      • Nektarios says:

        My apologies for any offence and I withdraw the offensive comment.
        When we come to see we truly are nothing, `no thing’, a thing being, that which is made as different from that which is created.
        As for my debating skills – Effective enough, but otherwise absolutely hopeless.
        As for my spirituality being only for Sundays, if so then every day for me is a Sunday!

    • Alasdair says:

      AD is a bit behind the curve on this one.
      Firstly Brian Cox, being unwise, has indeed tangled himself up in questions which he cannot answer.
      On the notion of nothingness:- Material Nothingness is defined as absence of either Mass or Energy (interlinked by the well-known Einstein equation) as in the situation supposed to “exist” before the Big Bang. We cannot imagine anything not composed of mass and energy in combination, because our imagination is limited. However, in addition to, mass and energy, the two material quantities, there are postulated to be two more fundamental quantities, Information and Volution. These are nonmaterial quantities and may be independent of mass and energy.
      Hence (perhaps) “In the beginning was The Word”, where the Word (God’s word) is both information and volution.
      Source: “In the Beginning Was Information” – Dr Werner Gitt – ex director, German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        Sorry not to come back on this before — I had other fish to fry. Your friend Werner Gitt is talking nonsense. That’s largely because he is an obvious crackpot. Google him. Information requires someone to be informed; it cannot exist on its own. Volution is simply a whorl or a roll; in this context it has no useful meaning.

    • Peter Nyikos says:

      AD, you are barely coherent. According to traditional Christian theology, God had no beginning, but exists eternally. Until you flat-out deny this, you cannot claim that creation is “nonsense” any more than you can say that the creation of the very sentences which you posted is nonsense, because you created them — you moved them from nonexistence to existence.

  15. Ignatius says:


    In fact the idea of creation is nonsense. Think about it: creation requires a movement from nothingness into somethingness. What nature does nothingness have? Can you even imagine nothingness? It is a negative idea,– an absence of thingness. If nothingness is God’s start point then his start point by definition does not exist. Brian Cox is very wise not to tangle himself up in questions which can’t be answered because they can’t be framed…”

    There is a good point and a bad point here. The good point is that you are aware of the problem. The leap from ‘no matter’ into ‘some matter’ is a big leap.. which is why scientists appear to be furiously studying the ‘moment before the big bang’…and coming up with ‘dark matter’ or ‘anti matter’…all sorts of clever proposals. The poor point is where you simply decide that because you personally cannot ‘image’ the possibility of a state of ‘no things’ that state must ‘by definition’ not exist. I suspect a good scientist would probably be saying right now:
    “hmmm…what are the categories for us to consider ‘no thing ness?…how may we conceptualise this state?”
    I would guess there is probably quite a bit of that kid of ‘blue sky thinking’ going on among physicists right now even as you rule out the possibility of ‘no thing ness’.
    Of course Brian Cox isn’t stupid. Not being a theologian and wanting to make a pretty slick programme about science he only wants bite sized answerable chunks so the footage of the programme can tear about from place to breath taking place.
    Actually Cox has a lot to offer the intelligent catechist, I use his shows quite lot to talk to people about creation and the process of it. Have you for example thought through the implications of matter having an eternal basis as per Cox? You know, when he claims we are all made of star dust?

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      Yes, precisely by definition. What is nothing like? Answer: nothing. So try and imagine nothing. And good luck!

      • Ignatius says:

        Hmmm, AD that’s a pretty poor answer in which I detect an element of the facile. So what is No thing? an absence of particulate matter? an absence of force? surely you can do a bit better than simple dismissiveness…how about banging on your big science drum? I’m sure Professor Cox would be interested in the question too.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Advocatus Diaboli.
        I believe that what we see as nothing is the invisable that God made with the visible.
        It will all be revealed.

  16. Brendan says:

    O.k. – A.d., try this one.
    The idea of comparing Professor Cox to the Pope is irrelevant and extraneous to the argument of existence. Each one ( in fact everyone ) can appear to have ” affable and telegenic ” characteristics. It is the ‘ notion ‘ or ‘ idea ‘ that is eternal not a persons ‘ characteristic ‘. Theist or atheist can use the same ‘ idea ‘ but come to a different conclusion.
    We both in all probability, agree that we ( animate life ) exists and that a table ( inanimate life ) also exists. But where do they come from if not made by someone/something. The same as life on our Earth patently exists and the firmament is in constant process of change, we are told. Unless by magic/trickery/illusion – which means it cannot exist of itself – there must therefore have been something which through process of change produced a table , us , and Earth and its firmament. What can that be to make animate and inanimate which make up our existence . A Creator, a First Cause – having the ability to do what we cannot do, and is therefore greater than us. Let’s attach a name- Creator God. Therefore if nothing comes from nothing, the fact that things DO exist must mean that before nothing existed someone/something must have thought no things into something. Let’s say he passed one of his greatest capacity’s – the primal capacity – as a gift onto/into human life. That of ,’ thought ‘ .
    There IS a ‘ framework ‘ then for the Brian Cox’s of our world to ‘ think ‘ about . Rationally speaking, why they choose to dismiss it or prefer to gloss over it is of course for them to answer.

    • Alan says:

      “there must therefore have been something which through process of change produced a table , us , and Earth and its firmament. What can that be to make animate and inanimate which make up our existence .”

      I agree. There is something at work that we don’t yet or cannot understand, but I wouldn’t go further and read into that lack of understanding the need for an intelligent agent or give it such a name/title. We have spotted such agents in the mysteries of the world time and time again, we are past masters at doing so, and we have repeatedly been premature in fleshing those “agents” out. The example Quentin offers of evolution might not tell us anything about the creator of that process directly, but there is something we might be willing to consider. In that process we have, entirely regardless of how how it can to exist, at least the potential for a mechanism that generates complexity from “relatively” simple conditions. Just as we have the same potential in all manner of other such processes. The “creator”, in this isolated example, is not obviously “greater” than the creation. Not in terms of intention or wit at least.

      So who would once more write off the potential of process or mechanism to have established the conditions in which something like evolution takes up the reins? Who would decide instead that God must clearly be involved somewhere along the way? Not Cox or Hawkins apparently. Not even the bulk of the Christian scientists I have listened to would be so bold. They tend to rule few things out while holding a faith in one answer. And I’ve not the confidence in our current knowledge of things to dismiss such alternatives either.

      • Brendan says:

        You make fair points. Just to say that in my own state of ‘ current knowledge ‘ – which is all , speaking rationally I have to go on – in ‘ faith ‘ I am still moved to believe in at least the probability ( through revelation ) Alan of there being a God. While I am not competent to try and express an ? opinion on this in terms of ‘ scientific sense ‘, as a theist ‘ I ‘ believe, and the only being that has knowledge of that is God.

    • Alan says:

      Above should have been – “entirely regardless of how it came to exist”.

  17. Brendan says:

    Nektarios, in answer to your post of 1.07pm – You have no argument from me there!

  18. overload says:

    AD, God cannot be said to be nothingness, because this presupposes a distinction originating from within thinginess. Buddhism says that there is something which is without foundation, not born, not created, imperishable.
    Brendan, according to this scientific way of thinking, it cannot be personified (or even called creator as such). And indeed from a Christian perspective, God as creator is not scientifically a straightforward concept, since we have the Word/Jesus who is begotton/born, not created (God gives birth to Himself and creates through Himself).

    Here is (as far as I can tell!) a scientific analysis of the “inconceivable beginning” of both our own selves, and our universe:

    “If one is asked, ‘Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for aging and death?’ one should answer, ‘There is.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition do aging and death come?’ one should say, ‘Aging and death come from birth as their requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does birth come?’ one should say, ‘Birth comes from becoming as its requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does becoming come?’ one should say, ‘Becoming comes from clinging as its requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does clinging come?’ one should say, ‘Clinging comes from craving as its requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does craving come?’ one should say, ‘Craving comes from feeling as its requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does feeling come?’ one should say, ‘Feeling comes from contact as its requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does contact come?’ one should say, ‘Contact comes from name-and-form as its requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does name-and-form come?’ one should say, ‘Name-and-form comes from consciousness as its requisite condition.’

    “If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does consciousness come?’ one should say, ‘Consciousness comes from name-and-form as its requisite condition.’

    • Brendan says:

      Yes Overload, there is something that is ‘ imperishable ‘ and therefore can always be said to have always existed. But I am not Buddhist by believing that we can ‘ know ‘ God because he revealed himself to us in the Word. And not only that, God shows Himself to be mysteriously multifaceted in with his ‘Spirit ‘ being , a Triune God. There is the reality of foundation that seems Buddhism comes to negate.
      By your interesting and rather convoluted pathway in coming to Christ, do you think you have have imbibed a somewhat syncretist world view which seems to run counter to the revealed truth in Christianity ?

      • Brendan says:

        Obviously ‘can know ‘ should have read ‘ cannot know .’

      • overload says:

        Brendan, did you manage to read my comment (November 21, 2014 at 11:18 am)? This was deleted along with Zara’s comment according to Quentin’s strict quality control.
        I think there is a problem with ‘synthesis’ (and what problems does the Church have in this respect with science?). For instance, I have encountered this problem meditating as part of the WCCM, which in some respects is Christianity watered down with Buddhism, and Buddhism watered down with Christianity — however, I would not wish to portray this community in such a negative light, since I hope that it belongs to Christ’s Church, and may be tending to a necessary communication, and also to neglected needs within the Church (inc. certain lost souls).
        In my faith and experience: I can look through a window into the Buddhist Dharma and its fruit (ie. the “noble eightfold path” to awakening: nirvana), I cannot technically go through that window (I have not got the means), nor can I faithfully leave behind what is on this side of the window. Christ Jesus is my Lord and Saviour, not the Buddha, who was (is still?) teacher and Lord of quite a few.
        I believe the two doctrines of Christianity and Buddhism to be THE two perfect doctrines, operating as two separate modes; like two sides to one coin, if you like. (Yet there is an evolution: the cross of Christ has come from — and has superseded — the ‘Dharma’)
        Head knows (subtly, indirectly) about tail, tail doesn’t know about head (and doesn’t need to), tail was made because of head, tail comes before head, tail describes that which (without head) is the final reality. (Holy Scripture attests to this last point: the final reality is without the head.)

      • overload says:

        “interesting and rather convoluted pathway in coming to Christ”. It is difficult to say (at least for my sake) whether this is a curse or a blessing.

      • overload says:

        “Head knows (subtly, indirectly) about tail, tail doesn’t know about head (and doesn’t need to)”
        Change that to:
        Head knows (subtly, indirectly) about tail, and needs to.
        Tail perhaps knows about head (ie. Melchizedek gives bread and wine to Abraham), but doesn’t need to, and cannot disclose if it does without disrupting its own form.

        I apologise for the obscurity of my thoughts.

  19. Vincent says:

    AD’s argument has weight. But this is because we explain ourselves in terms of time. God is outside time, and so is his act of creation. Creation was the start of time from our point of view. But from God’s point of view it is eternally present to him. The ‘nothingness’ simply stands for the concept that he need not have willed to bring about creation..

    • Alan says:

      “But from God’s point of view it is eternally present to him.”

      Outside of any reference to time what does creation mean? Re-fashioning something that exists anyway? I have watched William Lane Craig try to offer a formula for the beginning of time (I would have liked to amend it slightly!) , but when it came of offering actual examples of the beginning/creation of anything he would always reference a time when that thing didn’t exist by way of contrast. Not something we can do for the material world I don’t think.

  20. Ignatius says:

    AD:Just in case your imagination is still failing you here’s a bit of a start:…/what-happened-before-the-big-bang-158481..
    Isn’t science the disciplined use of the imagination by the way?

  21. Ignatius says:

    AD: the link from yesterdays Independent doesn’t seem to fire. I’ll post it again but should it fail then Google ‘what came before the Big Bang’….pick any link you like.…/what-happened-before-the-big-bang-158481...

  22. Peter Nyikos says:

    Not being able to view Brian Cox’s program, all I have to go on is little spoonfuls that get served up here and in various places like Wikipedia. Your article, Quentin, presupposes familiarity with the program and tells me nothing about any real challenges posed by what Cox says. What Ignatius relates about water creates quite the opposite impression, that Cox is a dilettante hardly worth paying attention to; see my reply to Ignatius.

    The following excerpt from the Wikipedia entry, on the other hand, does suggest some depth to his thinking:
    `He argues that the difficulty inherent in the development of eukaryotic cells represents such a barrier to the emergence of intelligent life that Earth may be the only planet where this has taken place.’

    But that is just one difficulty. Far bigger, in my opinion, is that of getting from primordial soup to just the first prokaryote. Also, meiosis and fertilization is a great leap forward from a eukaryotic cell that simply duplicates by mitosis. And then there is the quantum jump from mere multicellularity coming from meiosis and fertilization (already here at least 1500 million years ago) to animals with organized tissues and organs and motility, which took over 900 million years more to perfect.

    The evolution of intelligence had yet more hurdles to overcome. Without the conquest of land, in which only two animal phyla — Arthropoda and Chordata — were completely successful, intelligence would have been most unlikely to evolve before the sun will have spent its nuclear fuel. And only the extensive internal skeletons of vertebrates made large size required for intelligence possible.

    I could go on and on, but I will finish with the next big step in our evolution, told by Loren Eiseley in The Immense Journey.

    `Perhaps there also, among rotting fish heads and blue,
    night-burning bog lights, moved the eternal mystery,
    the careful finger of God. The increase was not much.
    It was two bubbles, two thin-walled little balloons at the
    end of the Snout’s small brain. The cerebral hemispheres
    had appeared.’

    Eiseley was no creationist, he didn’t even profess any religion, but it seems he would have had no trouble besting Cox in discussion, and brought a much greater appreciation of what a religious mindset has to offer. For more on him see:

    • Alan says:

      Eiseley says “perhaps” when he was speculating. Cox says “may” when he wonders about the unknown. Estimating the likelihood of the evolution of intelligence has no greater confidence I suspect. It wouldn’t be the first thing in nature to seem unlikely when we didn’t know enough about it.

  23. Nektarios says:

    Apart from Christianity, one is left with two choices—escape into the unreality of mysticism, or descent into nihilistic barbarism that debases humans by reducing them to machines. Christianity alone, because it is true and therefore comports with the lived reality of human existence, has the power to solve this existential dilemma. But Christians cannot effectively present the gospel in this modern era until they first learn to speak the language of twenty-first -century culture and thereby persuade non-Christians and sadly many Christians to face the logical conclusions of their presuppositions.

  24. jimbeam says:

    Indeed, I agree, since, that is, one is not living in India BC.
    What counts, sir, is not whether one thinks that God exists as the Creator of All, or even that one thinks Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. What counts is that one accepts and receives the life given, the life which is eternal (that which is not of—and does not depend upon—the created universe, and yet is available here-and-now); that one lives/dies according to this life, sharing this life; that one clings to this life and the shared hope of this life (and to no superficial/temporal creation or fabrication of life). Thus one does receive the Holy Spirit, and one does God’s will, in Jesus’ name — whether one thinks so or not is, perhaps, another matter?

  25. Brendan says:

    St. Joseph. re: ‘11.55am.’ Absolutely ‘ !

  26. Geordie says:

    John L,
    Don’t blame the teachers. Many of them have been protesting about the syllabuses which they have to follow for more than forty years; to no avail. Bishops don’t listen to the laity (or the clergy for that matter) and the bishops (apostles) are the people whom Our Lord told to go and teach all nations. God, have mercy on their souls.

    • Nektarios says:

      Now, we must recognize something from the Scriptures. When the government secular, humanistic, or indeed ecclesiastic negates the law of God, it abrogates its authority. God has given certain offices to restrain chaos in this fallen world, but it does not mean that these offices are autonomous, and when a government, secular or ecclesiastic commands that which is contrary to the Law of God, it abrogates its authority.

      Throughout the whole history of the Christian Church, (and again I wish people knew their history. I stress what happened in the Reformation in reference to all this) at a certain point, it is not only the privilege but it is the duty of the Christian to disobey the government secular or ecclesiastic. Now that’s what the founding fathers did when they founded America. That’s what the early Church did. That’s what Peter said. You heard it from the Scripture: “Should we obey man?… rather than God?” That’s what the early Christians did.

      Caesar, under some name, thinking of the early Church, has been put upon the final throne. The Bible’s answer is NO! Caesar is not to be put in the place of God and we as Christians, in the name of the Lordship of Christ, and all of life, must so think and act on the appropriate level. It should always be on the appropriate level. We have lots of room to move yet with our court cases, with the people we elect — all the things that we can do in this country. If, unhappily, we come to that place, the appropriate level must also include a disobedience to the state.

      If you are not doing that, you haven’t thought it through. Jesus is not really on the throne. God is not central. You have made a false god central. Christ must be the final Lord and not society and not Caesar.
      May I repeat the final sentence again? CHRIST MUST BE THE FINAL LORD AND NOT CAESAR AND NOT SOCIETY.

      • overload says:

        I cannot understand the idea of truly ‘Christian’ state, I believe this to be (for us gentiles) impossible, the gospel message revolves around the reality that we live in a fallen world (we are in the world but not of the world); neither the state nor even the RCC can live up to a Judaic ideal. Pre Christ Israel (except for a few golden moments) couldn’t live upto the Jewish ideal, so they become vulnerable and had to compete with other nations for survival, loosing track of the difference between acting in obedience to God and acting upon their own initiative. Apparently the nation of Israel is the only nation that (according to The NT) has any hope of this integrity in this world (when it accepts Christ) — see prophesy Romans 11.
        Christ is always in control, “all authority comes from God”, we must obey authority except in matters of conscience and faith. We are not trying to conquer this world — not possible — contrary to prophesy and dogma — we are (yet whilst living within it), trying to escape this world (and help others to do the same), since we are not of this world, we hope for the heavenly kingdom, just as Christ did not come to save Israel from the Romans but die on the cross as a sacrifice for us / to sanctify His bride, and to return to His Father.

      • overload says:

        Bear in mind that scripture indicates to us that this world is still under the domain of Satan, apparently until the End Times come, at which point apparently he will wake up to being thrown down to earth (kicked out of Heaven). Until then, scripture indicates that he and his Angels still (in some way or another) have power and authority in the “heavenly realms”, over this world. Ie. see Ephesians 6: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood”.

  27. Nektarios says:

    I am not advocating a Christian theocracy or state, but I am advocating the Lordship of Christ.I thought it was clear in the last line I posted which I repeated.

    • overload says:

      Forgive me if I am speaking impetuously/presumptuously (I hope not), however, perhaps you mean to say that the Pope (not so much the human being Jorge Bergoglio, but the Papacy itself and the self righteousness of the RCC), is to be humbled before the eyes of Roman Catholics?
      I am reminded of the letter to the seven Churches (Revelation 3:8) — “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.”

  28. milliganp says:

    Surely our vocation as followers of Christ is to live the Gospel commandments of love of God and neighbour and, by living those commandments to become the presence of Christ in the world. We are called to convert by example, not by logical argument. So many people say they are ‘spiritual but not religious’, this points to a need we all have for purposeful lives and spiritual fulfilment.
    Brian Cox offers the idea of purposeless existence which is a mere by-product of a cosmological accident. It’s not a great idea to sell and not a difficult one to challenge in any serious conversation.
    The sting in the tail is that we have to be Christ like to truly represent Christ to the world. The sad reality is that most religion, both at an institutional and personal level, is so introspective and self seeking. That does not convince anybody.

    • Alan says:


      “Brian Cox offers the idea of purposeless existence which is a mere by-product of a cosmological accident. It’s not a great idea to sell and not a difficult one to challenge in any serious conversation.”

      It’s not an idea with a great deal of appeal, but it’s an idea that a fair number of people (including many as or more intelligent than the professor) consider possible. Should I think that none of them are taking the subject seriously or is it that they have not been exposed to the challenge?

  29. Ignatius says:

    “The sting in the tail is that we have to be Christ like to truly represent Christ to the world. The sad reality is that most religion, both at an institutional and personal level, is so introspective and self seeking. That does not convince anybody…”

    I think you have to be careful with this. If I were to assess my own level of ‘Christ like ness’
    then it would not be very high on the scale…..get my local parish all at a meeting arguing like feral cats over changing Mass times and you wouldn’t be much impressed. Each week I look out from the altar at those gathered and can easily find myself thinking:
    “Gosh , where on earth did this gang emerge from!”
    This being because my gang, and me with them, are from a pretty poor and down at heel parish. If you came in for coffee afterwards you would search in vain for any outer sign of spirituality at all. Yet these are, to put it bluntly the chosen of God for whom Christ went to the cross. I would guess that hidden away in all those lives is a treasure we cannot see feel or count for ourselves, but others have probably noticed it at some level or another. You are right in that none of us are Peters, Pauls, or Popes…but each of us has probably been Samaritan, friend, prayer of prayers, shoulder to cry on, benefactor, visitor for somebody- and the sum of small acts is probably greater than we think. Most people I question think Brian Cox to be a little bit too good to be true, a kind of space hippy a bit removed from the everyday run….no one would say that about our parish gang!

    • Singalong says:

      Milliganp Nov 24, 4.58, and Ignatius Nov 24, 9.44

      Perhaps this is the reason for the popularity of evangelical churches, especially in South America, that their services and gatherings display many of Christ’s teachings so explicitly and emotionally, that a newcomer does not need any background or teaching to know what is going on.

      • Ignatius says:

        Yes this is true I think. When I first got swept up into the charismatic house church movement in the 1980’s you could just join in with exuberant worship and hear explicit teaching without any prior knowledge! In Catholicism we have so so so so many words rules and complicated concepts that a person could be forgiven for regarding us as a complex and archaic cult.

      • St.Joseph says:

        What rules would you consider to be unnecessary in the catholic church.and ought they be removed.?

  30. Iona says:

    I am puzzled by these references to Zara. I can’t see anyone called Zara posting.

    I have not been watching Brian Cox (for one thing, I haven’t got a television. – Yes, I know I could watch the programmes via the internet but don’t feel much inclined to). So I don’t know if I’d consider him charismatic or not. The visual medium is a very convincing one, inclined to sweep us away emotionally, and the televisual medium can be very easily manipulated so that we can be swept any way the producers want us to be. So I would prefer to keep my feet on the ground and deal in arguments which necessarily have to be put in words.
    However, as for presenting counter-arguments to the televisual Brian Coxes of this world, I don’t see how this is to be done. Would any producer want to include in his (or her) programme the kind of person who could adequately counter the humanist/secularist world view? (except, of course, on specialist channels like EWTN which people who are convinced by the Brian Cox series wouldn’t tune in to).

  31. Iona says:

    Why have the November 24th posts, (including mine of a couple of minutes ago) gone in 4 places up, above three November 21st and one November 22nd? – Makes nonsense of my question about Zara, since it now precedes any mention of Zara.
    Maybe that’s the point. Maybe the website is forcing us to think about the nature of time, sequence and causality.
    Now to post this, and see where it comes to rest.

  32. Peter Foster says:

    The statement attributed to Brian Cox: “The ancients believed that the universe was created by the gods – it wasn’t”, is an assertion without an explanatory justification. No concepts of science have been adduced in support of it.

    It is simply his belief.

    However, it is a fact that for the ancients and also through mediaeval times, the explication of disease, hurricanes, crop failure, and the celestial sky invoked the direct action of spirits. (Such animistic ideas are still widespread in parts of the world) Their explanatory power is now rejected by “modern” man and replaced by an understanding developed through the concepts of science.

    It is possible that Brian Cox and others use the inductive method to infer that because many explanations dependent on the actions of spirits have now been shown to be or false or unnecessary: the idea of a creator perhaps viewed as a spirit is therefore redundant. However, the method of induction is not logically conclusive.

  33. Hock ( formerly Claret) says:

    I am among the few on here who have never heard of Professor Cox or his TV programme until I logged onto this contribution.
    I have the feeling I have not missed much.
    Like many others before him, his star rises and shines briefly, before fading away.
    A year from now he will probably be forgotten unless the TV company that hired him want to make some more cheap TV with a few repeats.
    Even good old Richard Dawkins is no longer making the headlines. Perhaps because one of his more recent contributions to human existence was to, in effect, denounce Down’s Syndrome, babies in the womb. From my memory this was something to do with his idea of responsible parenting being to abort them. His popularity suffered as a result.

    • Alasdair says:

      No H(fC) you have not missed much, don’t worry on that score. The concern though is what effect he has upon those with less faith and less intelligent than thee and me!

  34. Brendan says:

    Overload – you’ve picked the right name there – ha,ha! I’m struggling to keep up with you.
    In answer to first post – Nov. 24th, 2.47p.m.
    Our first responsibility to address our ignorance of The Catholic Faith is inescapably with ourselves . But ultimately it is the Bishop ( the successor to The Apostles ) who must bear the greater responsibility for the ‘ evangelization ‘ of his flock.
    In answer to post Nov.24th, 5.05p.m.
    The Christian will know in ‘ good ‘ faith , that nothing is impossible with Christ.
    In answer to post Nov. 25th, 11.53a.m.
    I agree that the ‘ synthesis ‘ of religion and science is is probably the most imponderable question in the atheist/theist debate – as is demonstrated so very clearly in this blog of ours – dare I say we ( theists ) are getting closer to an ‘ answer ‘ ( if one is possible) in terms of positive performance in that ‘ race ‘.
    You may have misunderstood the word ‘ syncretist ‘ for ‘ synthesis ‘. A modern explanation that comes to my mind of syncretism is the ‘ supermarket affect ‘. The ‘ pick and mix ‘ from various world religions to form in effect a new ‘ Religion ‘. Which to the committed Catholic seems to be increasingly the norm of Reformed Protestant Christian Churches.
    One could make a claim that Brian Cox falls into this syncretist category.

    • overload says:

      “Our first responsibility to address our ignorance of The Catholic Faith is inescapably with ourselves”
      I agree, this is the reality we must face. But logically, and emotionally, it’s “not fair”.

  35. overload says:

    Brendan, I am not sure that it is not you who has got the words confused. Sythesis vs Synchronization. To be avoided vs to be (correctly) sought / embraced. Hmmmmm. I am miffed now.

  36. Quentin says:

    (duplicated from “God?”)

    “The Final Frontier? A Horizon Guide to the Universe” BBC4 26 Nov. Link to replay =

    This is an overview of the history of the scientific understanding of the universe. The last fifteen minutes or so discusses in some detail the question of something emerging out of nothing. Indeed, this turns out to be the final frontier. Well worth watching.

    • Marcus Wigan says:

      As a scientist myself, I note that the continuous flow of challenges to belief, proof, and verification systems cannot be settled by any one point of view — pro or con.(and there are all too many Christian, Islamic, etc etc views within each category anyway — all conditioned by social structures of the time of course)

      I think that one cogent comment on Cox is an appeal to Virtue Ethics. I have, since doing an advanced course on morality given by Prof Raimond Gaita (an estimable man), I am finding this a useful member of my portfolio of perspectives on which to debate and clarify discussions such as those of Cox.

      As an aside, I sadly tend to agree that, in spite of the near innumerable number of supposed exoplanets, the likelihood of an intelligent race with any overlaps with our physical or conceptual experience becomes even more remote as we learn more. To that extent I side with Cox and not Sagan.

  37. John H says:

    Couldn’t we be a bit less clever when challenging Prof. Cox? When first Herman Goering was interrogated at Nuremburg he ran rings round his opponent – he was extremely bright and a brilliant debater. Then Maxwell-Fyffe, ( I think it was), was brought in and he simply concentrated on Goering’s one weak spot – he had ordered the murder of the RAF officers who had escaped from Stalag Luft 111. This ultimately proved his undoing.

    In the case of Prof. Cox we should insist that he, or his champions, answer two questions; 1) How did the Big Bang happen, ie what material existed that was able to combust and how did it get there? 2) How did life begin?

    • Alan says:

      Admitting we basically don’t know enough to answer either question confidently seems like more of a strength than a weakness to me.

    • milliganp says:

      The fundamental flaw in both propositions is that they are still “God of the gaps” arguments. A recent article in a learned journal showed that it was possible to spontaneously create universes out of a metastable quantum vacuum (who created the metastable quantum vacuum, I hear someone ask).
      We need to end the obsession with proving God; if God was obvious, faith would be meaningless. Shakespeare lives on because his works were so great, Christ lives in the heart of the Christian through the power of the Gospel – let’s stick to what we are supposed to be good at.

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