Category Archives: Current Events

Robert Lewis on Ecclesiastes chapter 1

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Sermon by Robert Lewis while pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock.

I want you to take your Bible and turn to the Book of Ecclesiastes. Of all the questions one could ask, the most perplexing, most unsettling, and yet most pertinent questions are the philosophical, such as WHO AM I? WHY AM I HERE? WHERE AM I GOING? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE? WHAT IS MY ULTIMATE DESTINY?

“What is the meaning of Life?” Shalom Aleichem “Life is  a blister on top of a tumor, and a boil on top of that.”

In I Kings 3 God tells Solomon ask what you will and I will give it to you! Solomon asked for wisdom and led Israel to unrivaled greatness.

1 Kings 3:5-15English Standard Version (ESV)

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked,both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Solomon led Israel to unrivaled greatness. For the nation of Israel politically, economically, and intellectually, Solomon’s reign was the fullness of time, but unfortunately the wisdom that led Solomon to the fullness of time also led him astray from God. As the old saying goes “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It was the same for wisdom in Solomon’s case. It is sad to say but the wisdom that Solomon used to serve God became a self-serving the latter years of his life became a life that spiraled downward in all kinds of dead-end pursuits as he tried to grab life apart from God and it didn’t work.  

So he experimented with false gods. He intermarried with pagan wives and blended his culture with the pagan wives and blended his culture with the pagan nations around them and Israel lost her uniqueness.

Solomon indulged his flesh to the full to the extremes and he ruined the unique nation his wisdom had built and when he died that nation crumbled into two warring factions. That was the legacy he ultimately left. There is no record that Solomon ever repented in his later life except for this Book of Ecclesiastes. The book is a public record for all to see all the many vain pursuits of Solomon’s life. At the end of the book it becomes his public pronouncement that there is no life apart from abiding with God. Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s white flag of surrender to God. A public acknowledgement for all to see of life’s vain pursuits and the humble re-recognition by the smartest man who ever lived that life without God is in fact no life at all. Eccl 4:13 “Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king…”

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The theme of Ecclesiastes is VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY! (Eccl 1:2). This is mentioned 38 times in Ecclesiastes. It is all vain this life UNDER THE SUN.

The content of the book is his research that he has done or experimentation he has been involved with to support that thesis that all is vanity. So the book is a collection of personal tests and observations that Solomon has been involved with throughout his life and now looking back over his life he wants to help you understand how he came to that theme he gave in the beginning. For instance, Ecclesiastes 2:1  I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” For Solomon that means all pleasure as much of it in every facet he could participate in. He is going to extract us many do today but really with the resources Solomon had at his command, the pleasures of life, and does it hold meaning?

So look what follows. Here is how he explored pleasure in Ecclesiastes 1:3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

Explored it with his mind, how to stimulate his body with wine. Let’s drink!!! Let’s really drink!!!!! Or it is material things

Ecclesiastes 1:4-10:

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines,[b] the delight of the sons of man.

9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.

Solomon said that he became great and explored it all. Solomon said, “whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…” And what did find it that extreme pursuit of life? v 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

WHAT IS THE CONCLUSION IN CHAPTER 12?

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with[d] every secret thing, whether good or evil.

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Solomon opens Ecclesiastes addressing 3 sound bites that are commonly believed and he answers them with what I call a  PROZAC ANNOUNCEMENT because you need an antidepressant drug like Prozac because you want to be depressed at what he says about life UNDER THE SUN.

The first of these deals with the quality of life.

#1 HOW CAN LIFE BE GOOD WHEN THERE IS SO MUCH OPPRESSION?

Luke 18

v 18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” v 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.

You see “goodness” is a term that can’t be substantiated philosophically by this world. It can only be  substantiated in the higher realm by God. Take a Prozac because life is full of pain, tragedy and upheaval and people live for the lust of their eyes, pride of life which is all passing away when the sun burns out. Ecclesiastes 1:2 Vanity of Vanities. All is Vanity.

If you eliminate God from the equation and think about it for  a while and it becomes the theater of the absurd and meaningless. That is why Carl Sandburg, the great american poet said, “Life is like peeling an onion. The more you peel the more you want to cry.”

I like what the English poet Mathew Arnold wrote in RUGBY CHAPEL:

Striving blindly, achieving
Nothing; and then they die—
Perish;
Life is not good, not in the ultimate sense UNDER THE SUN.
#2 LIFE IS NOT GETTING BETTER AND BETTER!!!!
If you think about life you will see that life in monotonous.
Ecclesiastes 1:3-8English Standard Version (ESV)

What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens[a] to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it…

This life is not evolving like people want us to believe. Life is if you are really a sociologist, or historian or an archaeologist is revolving over and over again in circular patterns. Elton John was right in the LION KING when he sang THE CIRCLE OF LIFE.

You build your kingdom. You become dust. You are forgotten and it starts all over again. In all man has done and worked for what has changed? Just the toys!!!

Man’s pursuits, passions, faults and his end all remain the same.

#3 YEAH IT’S A NEW DAY!! IF YOU SAY THAT THEN YOU DON’T REMEMBER THE PAST!!!

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has been already
    in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,[a]
    nor will there be any remembrance
of later things[b] yet to be
    among those who come after.

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More Richard Dawkins – Hitler and Stalin – Weren’t They Atheists? By Mike J King

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115. Filosofia: Richard Dawkins Vs Alister McGrath

Published on Dec 21, 2012

Neste vídeo: Richard Dawkins Vs Alister McGrath
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More Richard Dawkins – Hitler and Stalin – Weren’t They Atheists?

By 

Expert Author Mike J King

Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion tells us that he is often asked about Hitler and Stalin. Weren’t they atheists? This is a difficult question for him and, as he often does with difficult questions, he tackles it by going on the offensive. The question, he tells us, is put in

“a truculent way, indignantly freighted with two assumptions: not only (1) were Hitler and Stalin atheist, but (2) they did their terrible deeds because they were atheists.”

In fact, the question is a perfectly legitimate one and deserves to be taken seriously. Before we consider it, however, let us briefly see how Dawkins deals with it.

His strategy is to question the two assumptions themselves. He tells us that assumption (1) is irrelevant because assumption (2) is false. In respect of assumption (2) the question that should be asked is:

“whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest amount of evidence that it does.”

Having laid his argument out in this way, Dawkins then proceeds to spend the vast majority of this section on irrelevant assumption (1), with particular emphasis on Hitler’s views on religion. We are treated to a long treatise on Hitler’s religiosity or feigned religiosity – Dawkins vacillates, not sure if he wants to blame the religion of Hitler or that of the German people for the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime. Having spent five pages on Hitler, Dawkins draws an inconclusive conclusion. However, even he cannot find anything remotely religious to say about Stalin. He simply says:

“Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn’t; but even if he was, the bottom line of the Stalin/Hitler debating point is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism. Stalin and Hitler did extremely evil things, in the name of, respectively, dogmatic and doctrinaire Marxism, and an insane and unscientific eugenics theory tinged with sub-Wagnerian ravings. Religious wars really are fought in the name of religion, and they have been horribly frequent in history. I cannot think of any war that has been fought in the name of atheism.”

There are a number of points that arise from Dawkins’ argument. Let us deal with them in turn:

Firstly, despite Dawkins’ obvious desire for it be otherwise, Hitler was not a Christian, and neither were his policies religiously based. The planned extermination of the Jews was a political act of genocide carried out against a nation, not against a religion. Hitler instigated similar persecutions against the Slavs of Eastern Europe. He was undoubtedly an evil racist but he was clearly not religiously motivated. This is supported by the lack of religious input into the rest of Nazi policy. Furthermore, the attitudes of racial inequality assumed by the Nazis were born out of the nineteenth century abandonment of God that followed the publication of The Origin of Species, and the increasing adoption of the principles of scientific racism. Kenan Malik in Man, Beast and Zombie tells us:

“When the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933, they proceeded to execute in practice many of the theories of scientific racism. They enacted eugenics legislation based on American eugenicist Harry Laughlin’s ‘Model Eugenical Sterilisation Law’. This model law called for the sterilisation of the ‘socially inadequate classes’ including the ‘feeble-minded’, the ‘insane’, the ‘criminalistic’, the ‘epileptic’, the ‘inebriate’, the ‘diseased’, the ‘blind’, the ‘deaf’, and the ‘dependent’, a category which included ‘orphans, ne’er-do-wells, the homeless, tramps and paupers’. The Nazis set up special eugenics courts to rule on every case; it is estimated that between 1933 and 1945 some two million people were ruled to be dysgenic and were sterilised.”

It is self-evident that Hitler was not a Christian. Neither did he wage war on behalf of the Christian or any other God. He was undoubtedly an evil racist (viz his attitude towards Jews and Slavs), which is a philosophy far removed from Christianity. It is strange but Dawkins is not the only anti-religious writer determined to depict Hitler as a Christian. Sam Harris does the same in End of Faith.

To spend so much of his argument on this feeble and ill-conceived point merely demonstrates the shallowness of Dawkins’ main argument.

Secondly, it is disingenuous of Dawkins to claim that he cannot think of a war fought in the name of atheism. And let us be clear what we mean by atheism. We do not mean agnosticism, the state of not knowing. We mean a positive belief in the non-existence of God. And when we frame it in such terms we can see that atheism is indeed another form of belief and is thus as much a ‘religion’ as any theistic religion.

Let us consider the historical perspective. As we would expect, the success and popularity of atheism in Europe over the past two hundred or so years has been inversely correlated with that of other religions. Indeed, its success over that time has been due less to its inherent attraction and more to its radical nature (radical at the time, that is), tapping in, as it did, to the democratisation of Europe. By the nineteenth century, traditional religion had lost its way and had become corrupted and little more than an organ of state. Resistance to the Church exploded, and with this resistance came an upsurge in atheism. Viewing atheism in this historical context allows us a different slant on its merits. And there were many, of course, who recognised the evils of established religion but made the distinction between such religion and God. In 1759, Voltaire published the satire Candide, a powerful attack on the French Catholic Church. In this work, Voltaire depicted atheism as an excessive reaction to religious corruption. Eliminate that corruption and atheism would lose its appeal. However, the speed of change in the world pummelled the established church. Change was accelerating in every aspect; social, political, economic and technological and people turned to this alternative ‘new’ religion for a worldview that explained this brave new world. (Incidentally, this contrasts with the United States where the constitution demands a separation of church and state and where atheism was significantly less successful as a result.) Alister McGrath argues in The Twilight of Atheism that a ‘golden age’ began in Europe with the French Revolution in 1789. He says:

“A brave new world lay ahead, firmly grounded in nature and reason. And equally committed to the liberation of humanity from ‘tyranny’ and ‘superstition’. The wisdom of the day was as simple as it was powerful: eliminate God, and a new future would dawn.”

So what happened to the ‘ideals’ of the Revolution? Within a couple of years, the Revolution itself had been replaced by the Terror, a term which became a byword for unspeakable cruelty and persecution. To what extent can we say that Dawkins’ claim that these atrocities were not carried out in the name of atheism is a valid one? Even a cursory examination of the record demonstrates the holes in Dawkins’ argument. Indeed, the Terror was founded in atheism, one of its main objectives being the elimination of God. At its core was the forced annihilation of theism and the implementation of atheism. Armees Revolutionaires, for example, were commissioned to forcibly dechristianise areas of France. Dawkins’ claim that there is not the “smallest amount of evidence” that atheism influences people to do bad things sounds hollow when you inspect the evidence.

Consider a further example; the Soviet state of the twentieth century. This state was built on the principles of Marxism, the roots of which were in the philosophy of materialism. This holds that the world consists only of matter and that every aspect of human life and thought is determined by social and economic factors. That is, that ideas and values are determined by the material realities of life. The idea of God is merely an attempt to cope with the harshness of this material life. In his theory of historical materialism Karl Marx described God as an opiate and argued that the origins of religion are socio-economic not intellectual and therefore need not be argued intellectually. Religion is the product of social and economic alienation. Get rid of economic alienation and you get rid of religion. Hence, atheism is the natural ideology of a communist society.

Alister McGrath, in The Twilight of Atheism, describes the Russian Revolution of 1917 as:

“one of the most important historical events in the history of the world.”

It is significant because it handed the stage to atheism. For the first time, atheism (irrespective of whether you describe it as an ideology, a worldview or a religion) had the opportunity to establish a moral superiority. Of course, we now know that it failed. Stalin, in the name of communism, (for which we have seen that only atheism will fit as a natural ideology), turned out to be, possibly, the most evil man in the history of the world.

And what about other evils committed in this most civilised of centuries. How far had the moral zeitgeist moved when we were needlessly fire-bombing Dresden and the other German cities in cold-blooded revenge? Likewise, what factors were at play when we dropped the second atomic bomb on the Japanese, mutilating and despoiling a generation? I am not saying that I cannot understand why people did these things. I can. I am merely saying that they were the product of the imperfections of man, not of any labels he might be throwing around. Religious differences are seized on by evil men just as are differences in political ideology, race, colour, tribe etc. Man will always find a label to disguise his greed and corruption.

Finally, we come to Dawkins’ concluding statement;

“Why would anyone go to war for the sake of an absence of belief?”

As we have seen. a more thorough examination of the evidence has revealed this for what it is, a silly comment. It merely serves to emphasise Dawkins’ one-eyed view when it comes to his own particular religion.

Mike King – the God Delusion Revisited
Latest work – Love story of loss and abortion

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mike_J_King

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Al Mohler on Daniel Dennett

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WEDNESDAY • July 19, 2006

Belief Meets the Universal Acid—Daniel Dennett Strikes Again

Daniel C. Dennett is at it again. In his new book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Dennett applies his radical vision of Darwinism to belief in God, and the entire question of faith and belief. As you might expect, Dennett doesn’t think much of belief in God.

Dennett is famous for his idea that Darwinism functions as a “universal acid” in contemporary thought–an idea that relativizes all other ideas and reshapes the intellectual culture so that all other ideas must give way or disappear.

Atheism is a central tenet of Dennett’s faith, and he has previously argued that the belief in a personal and self-existent God–any kind of God for that matter–must simply give way to the inexorable progress of evolution. As he sees it, belief in God is a “meme” that functioned for some time as an evolutionary advantage, but has long since outlived its usefulness and now serves as an impediment to the forward progress of the human species.

Accordingly, the concept of God might continue as an intellectual concept that offers a mythological explanation for wonder and beauty, but not in the form of theism or theological realism. In other words, it’s alright to believe in God so long as you do not actually believe that He exists.

In his new book, Dennett calls for what he calls a “common-sense” understanding of religion. For too long, this issue has been avoided out of social politeness, he argues, and now is the time to confront believers with the danger of their belief and the nonsensical nature of their convictions.

The persistence of belief in God does pose something of a difficult question for evolutionists like Daniel Dennett. “According to surveys, most of the people in the world say that religion is very important in their lives. Many would say that without it, their lives would be meaningless,” Dennett concedes. “It’s tempting just to take them at their word, to declare that nothing more is to be said–and to tiptoe away. Who would want to interfere with whatever it is that gives their lives meaning?”

Nevertheless, Dennett argues that to do that is to willfully ignore serious questions. He suggests that some forms of religious belief are more inherently dangerous than others, but wonders whether right-minded (which is to say atheistic) observers should leave believers “to their comforts and illusions” or, in the service of humanity, “blow the whistle?”

Never underestimate Dennett’s capacity for condescension. “Dilemmas like that are all too familiar in somewhat different context, of course. Should the sweet old lady in the nursing home be told that her son has just been sent to prison? Should the awkward 12-year-old boy who wasn’t cut from the baseball team be told about the arm-twisting that persuaded the coach to keep him on the squad? In spite of ferocious differences of opinion about other moral issues, there seems to be something approaching consensus that it is cruel and malicious to interfere with the life-enhancing illusions of others–unless those illusions are themselves the cause of even greater ills.”

The diversity of religious beliefs and the persistence of belief itself provides Dennett with evidence that faith in some form must have served as an evolutionary meme that helped the species to perpetuate itself against the fear of death and tragedy. In other words, the experience of death, he argues, provided the need for some mythological projection of an afterlife in order to assist survivors to continue life and productive work. In an interview with The New York Times, Dennett said: “When a person dies, we can’t just turn that off. We go on thinking about that person as if that person were still alive. Our inability to turn off our people-seer and our people-hearer naturally turns into our hallucinations of ghosts, our sense that they are still with us.”

But make no mistake, Dennett does not allow for a moment that the afterlife, or the soul, can possibly be real. “I don’t believe in the soul as an enduring entity,” Dennett told the Times. “Our brains are made of neurons, and nothing else. Nerve cells are very complicated mechanical systems. You take enough of those, and you put them together, and you get a soul.” Got it?

Dennett’s biological reductionism is almost breathtaking in its inflexibility. Throughout Breaking the Spell, Dennett applies biological reductionism to every conceivable aspect of life–from a parent’s commitment to take care of children to the experience of love. Beyond this, he seems even to suggest that parents should provide their children with an adequate sex education in order to give evolution something of a boost.

One of the most interesting aspects of Dennett’s new book is his suggestion that belief is a less interesting question than “belief in belief.” Accordingly, he attempts to take something of an intellectual step back from the question of belief (at least at some points) and suggests that many persons who appear to be believers actually do not believe in the tenets of their faith, but only in belief itself.

He enters this issue through the prism of the modern cult of tolerance. He suggests that those who call themselves believers in God but advocate tolerance of other belief systems are either disingenuous or confused. That is to say that those who believe in God but are satisfied to see others accept alternative belief systems either do not understand the importance of the question or they do not actually believe in the God they claim as the object of their worship.

Dennett is on to something here, but not what he thinks. He seems to lack any understanding of religious liberty as a social compact and he avoids the idea that persons can be sincere believers and still accept the right of others to disagree. Christians can never be satisfied to know that others reject faith in the one true and living God and resist the gospel of Jesus Christ, but we can accept the fact that we have no power to coerce the soul and we would seek no state coercion, even if available.

A key insight from Dennett’s eccentric theory is the fact that “moderates” in matters of belief are truly in a most awkward situation. “There are moderates who revere the tradition they were raised in, simply because it is their tradition, and who are prepared to campaign, tentatively, for the details of their tradition, simply because, in the marketplace of ideas, somebody should stick up for each tradition until we can sort out the good from the better and settle for the best we can find, all things considered.”

A close look at that statement reveals something of genuine importance–there are persons who believe in the tradition simply because it is traditional–whether or not it is true. To a great extent, this explains the quandary of mainline Protestantism and the inherent weakness of revisionist theologies.

As Dennett looks at the moderates, he sees their faith as something more like “allegiance to a sports team.” Such “belief” can give zest and meaning to life, but is not to be taken seriously as a worldview. He refers to his own allegiance to the Boston Red Sox as “enthusiastic, but cheerfully arbitrary and undeluded.” “The Red Sox aren’t my team because they are, in fact, the Best,” he concedes. Instead, “they are the Best (in my eyes) because they are my team.”

Those who hold to such moderated views of theistic belief are actually affirming belief in belief, rather than the truths themselves. They see religious conviction as something that can provide meaning to life and solace in the midst of sorrow, but not something that is to be understood in terms of a realist conception of truth. In other words, belief in God is helpful and potentially healthy even if untrue.

This is the very formulation Dennett just will not accept. His own self-designated intellectual superiority leads him to look upon moderates with disdain even as he looks upon true believers with pity. Belief in belief is actually no less dangerous than belief itself, if for no other reason than it helps to foster the illusion of widespread faith in God.

As in his previous writings, Dennett straightforwardly suggests that theists should be excluded from all public conversation. Those who base their worldview in theism “should be seen to be making it impossible for the rest of us to take their views seriously,” Dennett argues. Believers are “excusing themselves from the moral conversation, inadvertently acknowledging that their own views are not conscientiously maintained and deserve no further hearing.”

Those who base their worldview on the existence of God and the centrality of that belief are “taking a personally immoral stand,” he asserts.

In an article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dennett suggests that those who believe in God are “disabled for moral persuasion, a sort of robotic slave to a meme that you are unable to evaluate.” So, “your declarations of your deeply held views are posturings that are out of place, part of the problem, not part of the solution, and we others will just have to work around you as best we can.”

His conclusion: “It is time for the reasonable adherents of all faiths to find the courage and stamina to reverse the tradition that honors helpless love of God–in any tradition. Far from being honorable, it is not even excusable. It is shameful. Here is what we should say to people who follow such a tradition: There is only one way to respect the substance of any purportive God-given moral edict. Consider it conscientiously in the full light of reason, using all the evidence at our command. No God pleased by displays of unreasoning love, is worthy of worship.”

All this verbiage amounts to a display of Dennett’s own Darwinist fundamentalism. He is at least as unbending and fideistic in his acceptance of the central tenets of Darwinism as any orthodox believer in God.

This point was eloquently made by Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic in his review of Breaking the Spell in the February 19, 2006 edition of The New York Times. Wieseltier describes Dennett’s book as “a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.” As Wieseltier explains, Dennett’s book is not even based, “in any strict sense,” on scientific research. Instead, Dennett is telling a story and Breaking the Spell “is a fairy tale told by evolutionary biology.” Wieseltier asserts that Dennett provides “no scientific foundation” for the book’s basic argument. “I am not at all claiming that this is what science has established about religion . . . . We don’t yet know,” Dennett admits.

Wieseltier’s rejoinder is classic: “So all of Dennett’s splashy allegiance to evidence and experiment and ‘generating further testable hypotheses’ not withstanding, what he has written is just an extravagant speculation based upon his hope for what is the case, a pious account of his own atheistic longing.”

Even more important, Wieseltier points to the central flaw in Dennett’s argument. “He thinks that an inquiry into belief is made superfluous by an inquiry into the belief in belief. This is a very revealing state. You cannot disprove a belief unless you disprove its content. If you believe that you can disprove it any other way, by describing its origins or by describing its consequences, then you do not believe in reason. In this profound sense, Dennett does not believe in reason,” Wieseltier concludes.

Our contemporary world is a circus of competing worldviews, and Daniel C. Dennett is, along with Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, one of the most radical theorists in the Darwinian camp. Nevertheless, we owe him his due in acknowledging that he (and Dawkins) are simply more willing to say what other evolutionists surely think, for the strident and condescending atheism of Dennett and Dawkins is actually the logical conclusion of the Darwinian project.

In this sense, Breaking the Spell is a truly revealing book, but it doesn’t reveal much insight concerning belief in God. Instead, it reveals the hardening contours of the Darwinian worldview.

 

 

 

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Brett Kunkle of STR quotes Niles Eldridge on Evolution

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Brett Kunkle of STR quotes Niles Eldridge on Evolution

Stand to Reason Speaker

Brett Kunkle

Brett Kunkle

I grew up in a Christian home. I came to Christ at five and was baptized at six. My family was very committed to the local church. I was a leader in my youth group and a ministry intern as a senior in high school. I had plans to serve God in vocational ministry.

But then I met Dr. David Lane.

It was my freshman year in college and the course was Philosophy 101. Dr. Lane systematically dismantled the Christianity I grew up with. In class. In front of everyone. And I was not ready.

Neither are most of our young people.

Now you know why I am so passionate about training the next generation. I’m preparing students so they will be equipped to face their own Dr. Lane. High schoolers, college students, and yes, even wild little junior highers. I’m not just training students but parents and leaders too, those who are responsible for teaching our youth.

So check out some of the unique work I’ve been doing with adults and students. And let’s partner very soon.

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No. The fossil record provides no evidence for macroevolution.

Scientists suggest there is evidence for macroevolution. They point to the fossil record. They argue we have transitional forms. These are intermediate fossils that demonstrate gradual change from one type of species to another. Scientists hold up examples like Archaeopteryx. Maybe you’ve seen this lizard-like-bird fossil in your biology book (if not, google it). Supposedly, it’s a transitional form between lizards and birds. But there’s a major problem with transitional forms in general.

A few potential transitional examples here and there are not enough. Evolutionists need a lot more. Darwin said so himself in Origin of the Species. “The number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great (emphasis mine).” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true we should find tons of transitional forms in the fossil record. But we don’t.

Take Archaeopteryx as an example. Where are the “inconceivably great” number of fossils showing the evolution from lizard to Archaeopteryx? Don’t have them. And where are the “inconceivably great” number of fossils showing the evolution from Archaeopteryx to bird? Don’t have them either. The fossil record should show how you get all the way from lizard to bird. Only one fossil? C’mon. In fact, many scientists today consider Archaeopteryx nothing more than an extinct species of bird. Yeah, maybe it’s a weird-looking animal but so is the duck-billed platypus. And nobody considers it a transitional form between ducks and beavers.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask a paleontologist, the scientists who study the fossil record. Better yet, ask one of the world’s leading paleontologists, Niles Eldredge. When it comes to paleontology, Niles is a rock star. He says the fossil record has produced no evidence of transitional forms. In a moment of honesty, Niles writes that it is no surprise “paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seems to happen.”

No gradual changes from one type of species to another in the fossil record. No “inconceivably great” number of transitional forms. No, the fossil record is not evidence of macroevolution

 

 

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What Does Richard Dawkins Mean When He Says Love Thy Neighbour? By Mike J King

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115. Filosofia: Richard Dawkins Vs Alister McGrath

Published on Dec 21, 2012

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What Does Richard Dawkins Mean When He Says Love Thy Neighbour?

By 

Expert Author Mike J King

Richard Dawkins discusses the concept of ‘Love thy neighbour’ in The God Delusion in order to debunk the claim of religion that it’s main message is love and compassion. How independent do we think this analysis is? Let’s look at this analysis as objectively as we can.

Dawkins begins with the assertion that ‘neighbour’ in biblical terms only refers to the Jews, and that ‘Thou shalt not kill’ really means ‘Thou shalt not kill Jews’. The merit of the idea of ‘Love thy neighbour’ itself is, of course, ignored. Dawkins is far too concerned with the prosecution of his agenda. With regard to truth of the matter, he draws most of his quoted ‘evidence’ from a paper by John Hartnung. Dawkins provides no substantive proof but simply claims that Hartnung’s research demonstrates it to be the case. By way of example of this ‘evidence’, Hartnung refers to a study of Jewish children’s attitudes by an Israeli psychologist George Tamarin. This draws a contrast between the group’s attitude towards the deaths of Jews and non-Jews in the Old Testament. Not surprisingly, the children were much more prepared to countenance the killing of non-Jews than Jews. Dawkins himself concludes that these children have been indoctrinated into a racist attitude by their religion.

This all sounds very telling, but it does not demonstrate much other than that things were very different at the time of the Old Testament. Whether we like it or not, God chose the Jewish nation to receive the word that he was the one and only God. The events of the Old Testament need to be evaluated in the context of that truth. We cannot draw conclusions based on current day interpretations of events that happened thousands of years ago, particularly when those interpretations are made by children. Furthermore, Dawkins’ point that the opposite results obtained by the control group, (where mention of Judea was replaced with a fictional Chinese kingdom), demonstrated that religion had affected the children’s morality, is exactly as one would expect. The religious perspective is that morality derives from God. Therefore, no doubt the children believed that ‘God had his reasons’. For my part, I too struggle with some of the events of the Old Testament but it doesn’t undermine my faith. I realise that we cannot compare current day attitudes with earlier times, when ideas, canons and creeds were propagated and enforced exclusively by violence. I would be confident that if you took out the historical context out of the Hartnung study, the results would be very different.

As regards the New Testament, Hartnung draws the same conclusions, claiming that Jesus was a devotee of the same in-group mentality and that it was Paul who invented the idea of taking the gospel to the Jews. This seems to me to be little more than wishful thinking on the part of Dawkins, and it is interesting to note that he doesn’t expand on this idea except to make the unsubstantiated quote from Hartnung that ‘Jesus would have turned over in his grave if he had known that Paul was taking his plan to the pigs.’ I won’t comment on this except to say that, in my opinion, the language Hartnung uses tells us more about him than his comment tells us about Jesus.

The issue of to whom Jesus directed his message is directly addressed by Geza Vermes in The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. He considers the question: did Jesus intend to address only Jews or did he expect the gospel to benefit the entire non-Jewish world? (Geza Vermes, by the way, is an ex-Christian and ex-Catholic priest). He concluded that there were clear affirmations that Jesus intended only to address the Jews, but equally clear affirmations that broadcast the opposite view. He, therefore, after “having considered the whole evidence”, identified the following dilemma:

“Either Jesus adopted a strictly pro-Jewish stance and the later introduction into the Gospels of pro-gentiles leanings must reflect the point of view of the early church, which was by then, almost exclusively non-Jewish. Or it was Jesus who adopted the universalist stand and this was replaced at a later stage by Jewish exclusivism.”

So, according to Geza, one way or the other, the gospels have been subject to later revision. Either, the almost exclusively non-Jewish make-up of the early church introduced pro-gentile leanings, or Jesus adopted a universalist stand that was later replaced by Jewish exclusivism. Vermes himself adopts the former view, that the verses that reflect a pro-gentile view were introduced to appeal to the non-Jewish early church. Vermes has no proof, (he himself says that, “having considered the whole evidence”, there is a straight choice), he simply chooses one over the other on the basis of his own personal inclination.

Vermes’ is a scholar well-known for his books on Jesus but this does not mean that his interpretation is not open to dispute. There are two grounds upon which we might find fault. Firstly, if the early church was so totally non-Jewish as he claims, then surely the revisions to the text would have been more significant with many of the references to Jewish exclusivity being expunged altogether. Secondly, he ignores the possibility that the gospels are, in fact, accurate and simply reflect different considerations at different times. Considered in this light we can see that, though most of Jesus’ ministry was undoubtedly directed for the most part at the Jews, this does not necessarily mean that his intention was not to bring salvation to all. Upon setting out on his task, he would have been aware that his message would have had to favour the Jews or they would not have followed him. Once Jesus had achieved a critical mass in his ministry, so the target of his message could begin to broaden. This broadening was then handed over to Paul and the other evangelists who brought it to the rest of the world. This interpretation is the one most consistent with the evidence.

Having dealt with the ‘Jewish’ problem, Dawkins expands his ideas on group enmity. Though Dawkins recognises that violence is perpetrated on the name of countless other ideologies, he argues that religion is particularly pernicious as it is passed down through the generations. Without the labels of in-group/out-group enmity he contends that the divide would not exist, and hence the reason for violence would disappear.

Dawkins has a point when he identifies group loyalty as a powerful force. However, there is nothing to suggest that religious divide is any more or less pernicious than any other divide. Man has what Dawkins himself calls “powerful tendencies towards in-group loyalties and out-group hostilities.” The truth is that it is man’s nature to group together and fight other groups, whatever the labels. Much of the fighting and suffering done in the name of religion has nothing whatsoever to do with God, in the same way that much fighting and suffering done in the name of freedom and equality has nothing to do with this ideals. This is explored in more detail in the section on Hitler and Stalin.

Dawkins concludes the section by saying:

“Even if religion did no other harm in itself, its wanton and carefully nurtured divisiveness – its deliberate and cultivated pandering to humanity’s natural tendency to favour in-groups and shun out-groups – would be enough to make it a significant force for evil in the world.”

This point is totally fallacious. It is akin to a child saying, he made me do it, in that it passes responsibility on to someone or something else. Ultimately, man commits evil and is responsible for it. This is nowhere more clear-cut than in Dawkins’ won philosophy. God does not exist, religion is a creation of Man – so where is the culpability? It is simply too convenient to blame ‘labels. Who has created these ‘labels’, ‘forces for evil in the world’, these ‘religions’. Dawkins is hoist by his own petard, because there is only one answer. Man. Therefore, if there is only Man and he has created such forces, if we got rid of religion, you would have to assume that Man would re-invent it all over again, or at least a variety of the same thing (a ‘religion’ believing in no God, perhaps – let’s call it atheism). Unless, of course, you believe in the generally progressive change of the moral zeitgeist, that we have now evolved to a state of superior morality. Even a brief view of twentieth century history debunks any such claim.

Mike King – the God Delusion Revisited
Latest work – Love story of loss and abortion

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mike_J_King

 

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Does Richard Dawkins’ View of The Old Testament Lack Objectivity? By Mike J King

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115. Filosofia: Richard Dawkins Vs Alister McGrath

Published on Dec 21, 2012

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Does Richard Dawkins’ View of The Old Testament Lack Objectivity?

By 

Expert Author Mike J King

Dawkins devotes a section in The God Delusion to the Old Testament. However, there is little objective analysis and his musings are primarily a journey through a number of violent tales, including:

• The tale of Noah – God drowns the whole of mankind except one family and countless animals.
• The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – Lot offers his two daughters to the mob in Sodom rather than hand over two angels. Lot’s wife subsequently died (killed by God for turning around to watch the destruction of the city) and his two daughters who later slept with their father whilst he was drunk.
• The story of the Levite – a Levite gives over his daughter to a mob to be sexually assaulted.
• Various stories about Abraham – Abraham twice pretends his wife is his sister. Worse, he is prepared to sacrifice his son to God on God’s say-so.
• Jephthah’s daughter – If God will deliver him victory in battle, Jephthah promises to sacrifice the first person who comes out to meet him upon his return home from the battle. This person turns out to be his daughter and, despite his grief, he fulfils his vow.
• The slaughter of the Midianites – God incited Moses to attack and destroy the Midianites.
• The many examples of God’s jealousy – God frequently warns the Israelites against worshipping false gods.
• The book of Joshua – this includes a mass of bloodthirsty violence.
• The story of wood-gatherer – a man is stoned for deliberately breaking the Sabbath.

Interspersed with these examples of brutality, Dawkins makes the following points:

• Theologians argue that much of the Bible is not taken literally any more. This says Dawkins is his point; we pick and choose what we want, therefore this is not an absolute morality.
• Despite this, many people continue to take the Bible literally. Many Asian holy men blamed the 2004 tsunami on human misdemeanours. Further examples of literalism are quoted from America’s fundamentalist right.
• He points out that some of the stories reveal the lack of respect accorded to women in this religious culture.

Before we consider each of Dawkins’ points in turn, let us put the Old Testament in its context. C S Lewis describes the Old Testament as the period in history when God tried to hammer into one particular people (the Jews) the nature of his character, that is, that he was the One and only God and that he cared about Right Behaviour. This is the context in which the Old Testament should be evaluated.

Many people argue that we see a different God in the Old and New Testaments. This is not the case. We may see a different side of God in each case but his nature is entirely consistent across the entire Bible. For example, the loving, compassionate God of the New Testament is equally present in the Old Testament. Let us be clear about this because Dawkins’ pernicious portrayal of Yahweh is contradicted in many places. For example, Exodus 34:

“The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

This is an unequivocal description of the God of the Old Testament. There is no doubting his goodness, but perhaps what is most striking is that, exactly like the New Testament, he is a personal God. This unequivocal description of the nature of God and his personal relationship with man contradicts much of what Dawkins says when he relates tales of wickedness and brutality from the Old Testament. Dawkins also (again) confuses God with Man. Many of the stories that he quotes are simply stories of man’s corruption. Look around at the world today and we see exactly the same stories happening every day, Man abusing his privileged position in the universe. It is a gross mistake to ascribe characteristics to God based on these stories.

Another factor we need to bear in mind is one mentioned by Dawkins, that there are passages in the Bible that are figurative in nature and others that are literal. Christians differ in their opinions as to which are which but whatever each of us believes, it does not change the truth of the existence of God. Contrary to Dawkins’ claim, this does not mean that we can pick and choose what we believe in the Bible. Whether something is literal or figurative does not change its underlying truth. The message is the same.

What about the specific stories of violence taken from the Old Testament and quoted by Dawkins? Let us take one take one of them and see if we can make any sense of it; say the case of Jephthah’s daughter. If God will deliver him victory in battle, Jephthah promises to sacrifice the first person who comes out to meet him upon his return home from the battle. This person turns out to be his daughter and, despite his grief, he fulfils his vow. What does this story tell us?

The most striking thing about this passage is that it is about Jephthah, not about God. God is not said to condone the sacrifice. In fact, the opposite is true. The terrible outcome of Jephthah’s oath merely serves to underline the wrongness of his oath. God does not want spiritual deals; he wants obedience. In fact, Jephthahs’ oath reveals a lack of faith because there was no need for him to make it. God would have delivered the enemy in any event. Some may argue that the tale is figurative, others that Jephthah did not ultimately sacrifice his daughter but, for our purposes, the point is irrelevant. These were simply the actions of a man a long time ago and many men have committed similar acts of folly in the interim. Our job is to take a message from the story; perhaps that we should be careful what we promise in the pursuit of our own ends, particularly when these promises are made to God. God does not want promises for the future but obedience for today.

As for the many other stories related by Dawkins, he takes his usual simplistic six-year-old approach to the Old Testament and, taking them out of context, seeks to apply them to the modern world. Clearly, this is grossly inappropriate. Man’s cultural, social, economic and political development in the intervening period means that we cannot judge events in quite the same way. Again, my advice for those interested would be, not to rely on Dawkins, but to do your own research.

Dawkins’ unreliability in matters of religion is underlined by his comment that, if God were all-powerful, he would not be bothered with human misdeeds.

“By the way, what presumptuous egocentricity to believe that earth-shaking events, on a scale at which a god might operate, must always have a human connection. Why should a divine being, with creation and eternity on his mind, care a fig for petty human malefactions?”

Dawkins fails to grasp even the simplest of Christian principles; that God is a personal God and that his purpose is to enjoy a meaningful relationship with Man. In this context, it is inconceivable that God, in his contemplation of the universe, would not always have Man on his mind. He cares about petty human malefactions because he cares for us. As a parent with a child, he knows that all malefactions, no matter how petty, will hurt us, unless checked.

In support of his argument he quotes like-minded people such as American physicist Steven Weinberg, who says:

“religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things it takes religion.”

These are not the words of an impartial observer. Weinberg also said:

“I am all in favour of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue.”

In case there is any doubt to his own personal agenda, consider his partisan interpretation of the anthropic principle:

“Reasoning like this is called ‘anthropic.’ Sometimes it just amounts to an assertion that the laws of nature are what they are so that we can exist, without further explanation. This seems to me to be little more than mystical mumbo jumbo. On the other hand, if there really is a large number of worlds in which some constants take different values, then the anthropic explanation of why in our world they take values favourable for life is just common sense, like explaining why we live on the earth rather than Mercury or Pluto.”

The anthropic principle, rather than a meaningless tautology, is now just common sense. Only someone starting with a preconceived answer would use the anthropic principle to justify any argument. And what of his claim that religion is an “insult to human dignity”? Oh dear, how we elevate ourselves. If there is any “presumptuous egocentricity”, then it is not to be found in religion but in the posturings of such as Weinberg and Dawkins.

Furthermore, I take issue with his statement hat it “takes religion for good people to do evil”. In what name did we fire-bomb the cities of Germany, slaughtering and maiming millions? In what name did we drop the second atomic bomb on Japan, achieving the same? In what name did we napalm the jungles of Vietnam, ditto? The list goes on. For good people to do evil things, it takes religion? Wishful thinking on Weinberg’s part, I am afraid.

Finally, women! Dawkins claims that some of the stories he quotes from the Old Testament reveal the lack of respect accorded to women in this religious culture. This is probably true but it would be more accurate to describe the culture to which this relates as historical rather than religious. I cannot answer for any other religion, but there is no question that Christianity dictates that men and women are born equal and should be treated so.

In conclusion, Dawkins stresses that his main purpose in this section has been to demonstrate not that we shouldn’t get our morals from scripture, but that, in fact, we don’t. To my mind, he has not demonstrated this at all. He shows a lack of basic understanding of the subject he claims to be investigating and has clearly done little genuine research. Furthermore, most of his argument is of the diatribe variety and superficial in nature.

His argument also suffers from the weakness of his own position with regards to the principle of morality. As we have seen before, his view of morality is that it is an evolutionary construct, whether as by-product or otherwise. Therefore, to Dawkins, morality is a word used to describe a behavioural consensus and has no relevance to any standard of goodness; indeed, this standard does not exist. As such, his argument is that morality, as most people understand it, does not exist. We are not good or bad people, we simply act in a particular way consistent with our evolutionary heritage. If circumstances change, and it becomes necessary for us to act in what many would consider an immoral fashion, then so be it. Given this view of morality, how can take his pontifications seriously?

As for relevance to the everyday world, I dare anyone to read Ecclesiastes and not recognise its timeless currency:

“If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things: for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase in the land is taken by all; the King himself profits from the fields.

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless.

As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owner
except to feast his eyes on them?

The sleep of a labourer is sweet,
whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
permits him no sleep.

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:

Wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
or wealth lost through some misfortune
so that when he has a son,
there is nothing left for him.
Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb
And as he comes, so he departs.
He takes nothing from his labour
that he can carry in his hand.

This too is a grievous evil:

As a man comes, so he departs,
and what does he gain,
since he toils for the wind?
All his days he eats in darkness,
With great frustration, affliction and anger.

Then I realised that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:8-20)

Dawkins ends the section with the conclusion that the values of the Old Testament are “pretty unpleasant”. This seems to me something of a simplistic conclusion, particularly as Dawkins’ assessment of the text is practically non-existent. He now turns to the New Testament and asks the question; is it any better?

Mike King – the God Delusion Revisited
Latest work – Love story of loss and abortion

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Here are 10 Bible verses about encouragement!

Here are 10 Bible verses about encouragement.

#1 Bible verse for Encouragement– Our Strength comes from God not from us.

Philippians 4:11-13 (New International Version)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength#2 Bible verse for Encouragement- Do not Fear as God is with you

Isaiah 41:10 (New International Version)

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

#3 Bible verse for Encouragement- We are blessed

Matthew 5:4-12 (New International Version)

4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

#4 Bible verse for Encouragement- Be Strong

Deuteronomy 31:6 (New International Version)

6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

#5 Bible verse for Encouragement- Not Destroyed

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (New International Version)

8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

#6 Bible verse for Encouragement- Power of God in us

2 Timothy 1:7 (New International Version)
7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline

#7 Bible verse for Encouragement- God directs your life

Proverbs 3:5-6 (New International Version)

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

#8 Bible verse for Encouragement- Faith and Hope

Hebrews 10:22-23 (New International Version)

22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

#9 Bible verse for Encouragement- Do not be anxious about anything

Philippians 4:6 (New International Version)

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

#10 Bible verse for Encouragement- In His time

Galatians 6:9 (New International Version)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

PAUSING to look at the life of Patrick Bateson (1938-2017)

——

I was saddened by the passing of Patrick Bateson  on August 1, 2017. Below is the finest tribute I read on his life followed by the best interview I ever seen done of him by Alan Macfarlane

Patrick Bateson (1938–2017)

  • Kevin N. Laland

    Nature volume548, page394 (24 August 2017) | Download Citation

    Biologist who unravelled how animal behaviour develops.

    Image: Royal Society

    Rarely a day goes by without extravagant claims being made about whether some human characteristic — be it intelligence, violence or sporting prowess — is explained by genes or environment, biology or upbringing, ‘nature or nurture’. Patrick Bateson exposed the folly of such false dichotomies. In a 50-year career, he made seminal contributions to almost every topic in the science of animal behaviour, becoming a leading authority on behavioural development.

    Bateson, born on 31 March 1938, decided at an early age to be a biologist. He was influenced by the legacy of his grandfather’s famous cousin, the geneticist William Bateson, and by a keen interest in birdwatching. Bateson was educated at Westminster School in London before beginning an undergraduate degree in natural sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK, in 1957. In 1963, he married Dusha Matthews, with whom he had two daughters. Apart from a two-year fellowship working with neuroscientist Karl Pribram at Stanford University in California, Bateson spent his whole career at the University of Cambridge in the Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour.

    Bateson’s early research was influenced by two luminaries of ethology, Niko Tinbergen and Robert Hinde. Hinde supervised Bateson’s PhD on behavioural imprinting — the tendency of young birds, such as goslings, to latch on to and follow the first moving stimulus they see, typically their mothers. At the time, the mechanisms underlying imprinting were a mystery and hotly disputed.

    Bateson defused the contention through decades of pioneering experimentation into the underlying genetic, neural, physiological and experiential bases of the phenomenon, largely in collaboration with neuroscientists Gabriel Horn and Steven Rose. As psychologists had argued, imprinting is a form of perceptual learning, whereas, as ethologists had maintained, it involves an unlearned predisposition to attend to the physical characteristics of the mother.

    Bateson also studied mate choice, animal welfare, play, learning and memory, and the role of behaviour in evolution. He had an eloquent writing style and published influential books. These included Measuring Behaviour(Cambridge University Press, 1986), an introduction to the methodology of the field co-authored with ethologist Paul Martin, and Design for a Life: How Behaviour Develops(Jonathan Cape, 1999), also written with Martin. Some of the volumes edited or co-edited by Bateson, notably Growing Points in Ethology in 1976 and Mate Choice in 1983 (both Cambridge University Press), shaped thinking in these fields. He edited the influential Perspectives in Ethology series for 20 years, and for 5 years was editor of Animal Behaviour, the leading journal in ethology.

    Bateson held exalted positions in British science, including provost of King’s College at the University of Cambridge (1988–2003), president of the Zoological Society of London (2004–14) and biological secretary and vice-president of the Royal Society (1998–2003). He proved a leader in other ways too, showing courage, integrity and sensitivity in tackling emotive topics, including dog breeding and the use of animals in medical research. Bateson was also commissioned by the National Trust, a UK conservation and heritage charity, to lead a review into the physiological effects of hunting in deer, which resulted in the trust banning the practice on its land.

    Bateson was adept at helping others to develop a more nuanced understanding of tricky issues, such as overly simplistic adaptationism at a time when ‘gene for X’ language was rife. His calm and reasoned writings ensured that the whole organism and a systems perspective remained in sight during the heyday of genetic determinism.

    Bateson maintained a keen interest in evolutionary biology, but envisaged a broader conception of evolutionary causation, one that eschewed gene-centricism and placed the organism centre stage. This led some biologists to view him as a maverick. Nonetheless, Bateson was ahead of the curve in recognizing the evolutionary significance of mate choice, sympatric speciation (when populations of a species in one habitat become reproductively isolated from each other) and developmental plasticity, which have since become mainstream concepts.

    He also recognized the importance of ideas such as epigenetic inheritance and niche construction, which are now garnering increased attention. Behind the scenes, by organizing conferences and workshops and by promoting the work of progressive thinkers, Bateson helped to incubate ideas that are central to the emerging extended evolutionary synthesis.

    An approachable and affectionate scientist, he insisted on being called Pat by everyone. He was open-minded, a good listener and curious about science. Bateson was dedicated to his students and collaborators, and made time for anyone who wanted to discuss their research. He was a loyal colleague, mentor and friend. Pat and Dusha were excellent hosts in their lodge at King’s College. They would warmly welcome all guests, whether graduate students or international dignitaries, introducing them to their collection of cats.

    Patrick Bateson died on 1 August, aged 79. His death marks the end of a glorious era of behavioural research. His legacy will long be appreciated.

    Author information

    Affiliations

    1. Kevin N. Laland is professor of behavioural and evolutionary biology at the University of St Andrews, UK. He worked closely with Pat Bateson for 25 years.

      • Kevin N. Laland

    Corresponding author

    Correspondence to Kevin N. Laland.

Patrick Bateson interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 13th December 2007

0:09:07 Born in 1938 on the Chiltern Hills; father designed the house where I was born; had a brother five years older; William Bateson, the biologist, was a cousin of my grandfather; he coined the term ‘genetics’; he had been working on inheritance for a long time and then Mendel’s book became available and he suddenly realized how important his work was and became a champion of Mendel; although I never knew him he was a figure in the family; he was Professor of Biology in Cambridge for a while and then became Director of the John Innes Institute which was in London at the time; he was prolific and got the whole subject of genetics going; fiercely opposed by group of biometricians; he was to some extent a role model for me; remember being fascinated by natural history lessons as a small boy;  the local school had a very good teacher called Mrs Truscott; had a number of people in our house during the war as mother was Norwegian and as a result had Norwegian refugees, including Karen Spärck Jones; had a very happy childhood

5:59:07 Mother was extraordinarily vivacious and everybody loved her; I hardly knew my father who was wounded and captured at Dunkirk; I used to write to him in the Prisoner of War camp; he was not very well when he came back after the war and only lived for another ten years; he had been an expert in timber drying before the war and during the war took a degree in architecture in the Prisoner of War camp; he had great charm; he had a brother, F.W. Bateson, who was a don at Oxford, an English literary critic; Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist, was a son of William Bateson; I did not meet him until I was a graduate student; I was taken to a conference in U.S. by Robert Hinde as his student and through an error Gregory was also invited; he was astonishingly like my father even though they were second cousins; we still don’t understand why these likenesses occur even though the genetic relationship is not very great; he was a powerful, curiously inarticulate man though acoiner of terms; had a cult following in California though think his book ‘Steps to an Ecology of Mind’ is a dreadful book; I did meet Margaret Mead at a conference who flirted with me as a seemingly younger version of Gregory

13:11:10 After my first school I went to a Prep school in Sussex for five years; I didn’t like being sent off as a boarder at eight and to begin with was unhappy; eventually settled down and had a happy time; from there went to Westminster, initially as a day boy as my parents were living with William Bateson’s brother in Chelsea, looking after him; became a weekly boarder in my second year; initially I didn’t do too well but rose steadily up and by the end was in top sets and had started to do biology, which I loved; also rowing and spent two years in the first eight; hard training and chemistry master was furious at time lost; there was a status advantage in sport that gave me confidence; at fourteen had started going to a bird observatory on the Northumberland coast in my holidays where we caught birds and ringed them to study their migration; we had a neighbour on the Chilterns called Richard Fitter who was a well-known naturalist who had suggested I go there; I had already made up my mind that I wanted to do zoology and wanted to go to Cambridge; there met a schoolmaster who described doing a Ph.D. which sounded like heaven

19:33:06 At school had a very good biology master who had also taught Andrew Huxley; I read ‘Apes, Angels and Victorians’  which I looked at again recently and it is a very good biography of both Darwin and Huxley; reading it at school was the first time I realized how important Darwin was; Westminster had a liberated feel about it; the then headmaster, Walter Hamilton, used to run an essay society which I wrote for and was very helpful in learning to write well; made some good intellectual contacts there, some of which have persisted; I played the cello though not very well

24:06:18 Came to Cambridge for the scholarship exam; should mention that uncle Ned Bateson had been at King’s and keen that I come here; earlier he had take me to see Cambridge and he wanted to take me to his father’s house (father had been Master of St John’s) to show me a little chestnut he had planted; found an enormous chestnut tree had grown; failed to get a scholarship at that point but got a place at King’s in December 1955 and then went to Norway; had a wonderful grandfather who had been Chief Justice when the Germans invaded; the King and Government left but because he stayed he became officially the Government of Norway; he went undercover and ran the resistance; he was never caught by the Nazis and became a hero after the war; I went to live with him and he got me a place in the Natural History Museum in Oslo where I worked every day, learning systematics and how to skin birds; when summer came he introduced me to the NorskPolarinstitut where I got a place as a deckhand doing hydrographical work and went on an expedition to the north of Spitsbergen where I had masses of time for bird watching; came back and started at King’s in October 1957; that winter I went to a conference organised by David Lack at St Hugh’s Oxford for undergraduates; he started as a schoolmaster but then wrote a famous book on the life of a robin and then got a place at Oxford; Niko Tinbergen gave a talk about gulls; I met a fellow Cambridge undergraduate called Chris Plowright who had been toSpitsbergen as a geologist; he was also an ornithologist and we wanted to go there to look at the Ivory Gull; talked to Tinbergen who was very enthusiastic as nothing was know about it; a student of his, Esther Cullen, had just published a brilliant paper on the adaptations of the kittiwake, a cliff-nesting gull, and he was very keen that other cliff-nesting gulls should be looked at; Tinbergen had spent a year in Greenland as a young man and was very keen to go back to the Arctic; the plan was that he should lead this expedition but a few months before we left he developed an ulcer which meant he couldn’t come; I exploited my contacts with the Norwegian Polar Institute and they took us round to the north-east part of the archipelago where we were dumped on an island with all our provisions and two boats; we couldn’t get into the fjord as it was still full of ice but eventually the ice cleared and we could get in and found these pure white gulls nesting on a cliff about 1000 feet up; very exciting to see them; lugged our stuff to the top of the cliff and had five weeks to work on them; found they did not have the adaptations of the kittiwake but it was the first description that had ever been done of them; we nearly got stuck in a blizzard when the boat that was coming to collect us warned us that we were in danger of being iced up in the fjord; Tinbergen was delighted with our results, including very good film; I spent next six months writing up our results

35:47:13 This did conflict with my undergraduate work and only got a 2.2 and feared I’d never be able to do research; George Salt was my supervisor in my first year; he really inspired me, rather severe, but with a formidable mind; after second year did final year zoology which  I loved; taught by Donald Parry and John Pringle; Donald Parry was a kind man but not a very good teacher; at the end of my third year got a first and a University prize; George Salt then suggested I aim at a research fellowship at King’s; by that time I had met Robert Hinde who was willing to supervise me but didn’t want to risk his friendship with Tinbergen by poaching me; did stay in Cambridge; Hinde was Steward at St John’s but soon after got a Royal Society research fellowship; he had come back from Oxford to look after the field station which Bill Thorpe had set up at Madingley; in my first year as a graduate student a Lab was built there and it was renamed as Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour which it still is; Robert has a very sharp mind and reads at an astonishing rate; he was a fantastically good supervisor but very critical; he was like that in seminars where he would tear eminent speakers to pieces; he was unrelenting and people who had experienced this remembered it for years after; as students it taught us to be very critical; do remember that Tinbergen was treated very differently as Robert had a very high respect for him; his paper was on the sorts of questions you can ask about behaviour; question of why gulls removed egg shells from their nests; experimented by putting shells at varying distances from dummy nests and found that the greater the distance from the nest the lower the chance that it would be preyed upon by crows and hedgehogs; suggested this was the reason for the gulls action; this was one of the first attempts to look at the functional significance of a behaviour pattern; he made the point that if you know what the current function of something is it doesn’t tell you why it evolved; it could be that when this habit evolved they were then nesting in marshes where the presence of an egg might have actually encouraged disease; possible that this behaviour pattern evolved for one reason but was co-opted for another later in evolution; he was clear about this but many people still muddle it; Robert a marvellous supervisor and had a number of distinguished student such as JaneGoodall and Dian Fossey, Tim Clutton-Brock and many others

47:38:22 I applied for a Harkness Fellowship and got one to go to California and wanted to work on the mechanisms of behaviour; went to the Lab of a man called Karl Pribram who was a neuro-surgeon andneuro-psychologist; quite different from Robert Hinde; he just loved ideas and was constantly coming up with wild theories; I wanted to work on the neural basis of behaviour and spent two years there; got a rather liberating way of thinking about theory whereas Robert was rather anti-theoretical; an interesting thing to come out of that was an experiment that I did which was to put illuminated panels of letters in monkeys cages which they were exposed to for some time; later they were taken to some apparatus where if they pressed panels letter came up and if they got the right one they got a peanut; discovered that if the monkey had seen one of the letters before then it learnt very quickly; if it had seen two of them then they took much longer to learn to discriminate them than animals that had never seen them before; in a sense they had classified them together and when they had to discriminate between them they had to unlearn the categorisation; this was a new observation and that became the work of one of my graduate students when I came back to Cambridge; I resumed work on behavioural imprinting which I’d done for a Ph.D.; while I was in California I submitted a dissertation to King’s and got a junior research fellowship; an important moment as it changed the course of my life; got this in 1964 and that summer had to interrupt the work I was doing as the Harknessinsisted that we spent three months travelling round the States; they gave us a car to travel to all the main regions; at the time I was a bit fed up as I wanted to get on with my experiment; of course we had a wonderful trip; then continued working there for a final year; had just married before leaving for California

53:29:20 On coming back to Cambridge had a job lined up for me at Madingley as well where I became senior assistant in research and had the responsibility of looking after day to day administration; Bill Thorpe was my boss and Robert had by that time got a Royal Society research fellowship and fairly soon after became director of an MRC unit within the Sub Department; decided to resume the work I had been doing on behavioural imprinting; about that time came into King’s for dinner and sat next to a delightful neuro-scientist working in the Anatomy Department and discovered that he was very interested in the neural basis of learning; that was Gabriel Horn and we started on a long period of collaboration; we think quite differently in many ways but at the same time complemented each other in a really important way and got a great deal out of it, including a long friendship; think that  dining together is a very important way for intellectual ideas to flow; to get this coming together between different disciplines is much more difficult in universities where departments have little opportunity to meet; in Oxford and Cambridge we have this fantastic opportunity to meet people; often in the interstices between disciplines that exciting things happen

57:46:24 At that point Gabriel went on sabbatical to Uganda but when he came back we started working together; we didn’t know what to measure at that time and teamed up with a pharmacologist called LesIversen; he left after a while as he thought we were getting nowhere; Gabriel and I went down to give seminars to a group that Steven Rose ran in London; we wanted to find a biochemist who was keen to collaborate and Steven had been interested in the effects of experience on the nervous system; started an important collaboration between the three of us; then designed increasingly complicated experiments which I think were very important; when you try to look for changes in the brain associated with experience there are all sorts of things that can be going on – the animals can become more active, stressed, attentive, stimulated; if you want to know whether the things you are measuring are specifically related to the laying down of the memory you have to do a whole set of experiments, each of which includes a sub-set of possibilities; devised a kind of triangulation approach which I still think was intellectually very important; sometimes when I see people doing work on the neural basis of behaviour they have not gone through the rigour of excluding alternative explanations; famous example is all the imaging that people do; took us several years but finally able to say pretty confidently that there was an area in the brain which was necessary for the laying down of a memory and specifically related to that; we then needed to identify it much more precisely and at that point Gabriel was moving to; still needed to identify the precise point and developed a technique whereby you take two groups of chicks one of which had learnt as much as it will learn about the imprinting object and a group that has just started to learn; you wait a day and then train both groups for the same amount of time; one group has learnt everything and the other has a lot to learn; they are both stimulated in the same way and at that point you introduce your biochemical marker; then you kill them, slice their brain and see where the activity is occurring; using this technique of under-training or over-training then re-training them next day we were able to find an area of the brain which was particularly related to the laying down of memory; very important as once found the area could belesioned before imprinting or after when memory of the imprinting object would be destroyed; that became the basis for a lot of work, some of which I was involved with, which Gabriel built on which became a very important starting point for a whole programme of research

_______________

Second Part

0:09:07 Experience with Tinbergen and his interest in function still going on in the back of my mind so asking myself what is the function of imprinting; the usual answer is that animals imprint in order to know what their species looks like; I developed the thought that it enables you to know what your mother or father looks like so you can avoid the hazards of responding in a filial way to someone who is not your parent; if you look at ducks you will see that a female will attack a baby that is not her own; sexual imprinting takes place later in development; developed argument that this enables you to identify close kin and when adult you chose a mate who is a bit different but not too different; strikes a balance between inbreeding and outbreeding too much; followed with experiments on a quail colony atMadingley and found they had a very strong preference for individuals who were their first cousins that they had never seen before; whether this goes on in the wild is another matter but it indicated that imprinting provided a standard to offset mating preference against; echoes the preference for cross-cousins in human societies throughout the world; did not like the suggestion that these findings explained the incest taboo which I see as conformist behaviour; another thing I was interested in was the development of mother-offspring relationships in cats and also play in cats as little good systematic work had been done on play; love cats and breed them at home; two interesting things came out of this work, one is that play is heterogeneous i.e. play with each other before play with objects; secondly, there had been idea of parent-offspring conflict which was particularly marked at the time of weaning but I felt this was wrong; found that if the mother was in bad shape the offspring pick this up and wean themselves and go onto solid food; conversely the mother has to be sensitive to the condition of her offspring and if they are in poor shape she will spend much longer looking after them if able to do so; now interested in the ways in which cats develop depending on conditions in the environment; David Barker’s work on the life histories of babies recorded in a midwife’s notes from the early part of the twentieth century; found that small babies were much more likely to get heart disease as adults; association of a mismatch between the environmental conditions at birth and the subsequent change which meant they were not adapted to deal with them; problem acute in places like India where heart disease and diabetes are at epidemic levels; conversely, big babies are poorly adapted for famine conditions; reflections from demography; effects on subsequent generations spawned whole new field of research, epigenetics, where the mechanisms of transgenerationaladaptation are explored; no actual change in the DNA but suppression of some parts of the genome and activation of others which are appropriate for the lived in environment and for their offspring; human migration and adaptation subjects of great interest now because of the health implications

15:00:11 Was critical of Richard Dawkin’s selfish gene hypothesis as it misled people into thinking genes actively determined development although he himself did not actually think that; he went on to argue that communication did not involve the transmission of useful information but was merely manipulation; still people who believe in the selfish gene rather than cooperative behaviour but they has been a shift toward the latter

17:29:16 By the mid-eighties I had been in Cambridge for a long time and had seen how refreshed colleagues were by going elsewhere; then it was suggested that I should be a candidate for Provostshipwhen Bernard Williams retired; I was a bit reluctant but agreed; odd election as a lot of the younger fellows wanted a Provost from outside and had I been one I would have agreed with them; found the campaigning uncomfortable and feared it would divide the college; I was just elected by a few votes; there was a lot of ill-feeling afterwards and I quite often had a really difficult time on the governing body which persisted for quite a few years; about halfway through things changed and it became much easier; that said, it was a very interesting period for me as it allowed Dusha, my wife, and I to work together because the job requires a lot of entertaining; she was a marvellous hostess; it also allowed us to meet people we would otherwise never have met; the most startling of these was Princess Margaret; shortly I took up residence in the Lodge, Jack Plumb, the historian, asked me to invite her to the Advent Carol service; when she accepted, Plumb said she would stay for the weekend; she came with entourage; we had to treat her as royalty and she was a little awkward about coming into an academic household; it went well and having done it once, Plumb again asked us to host her; she came about seven times in all; over the years we got rather fond of her and it became quite a nice relationship; on another occasion the Dalai Lama stayed; he was wonderful, with an extraordinary warmth about him; he brought two monks with him and we were told he would not have any food after midday though he did join us when we ate; was very interested in science and quizzed me about my work; talked about Tibet and the Lama system; was not very keen on the latter though thought the culture of Tibet was important; the Lama system was, in fact, fairly recent; interesting that when the Chinese moved up to Tibet their the women had to move down to lower altitudes to have their babies; set me wondering whether there could have been selection over the centuries to allow Tibetans to survive at high altitude; we had a question and answer session with him and our students and he was asked who did he most admire in the world and he said Gorbachev; by that time (c1991) Gorbachev was very unpopular in Russia, but the Dalai Lama thought he had done more for world peace than anybody; later on John Barber invited Gorbachev to come to a conference in King’s and he stayed with us; whenBukovsky who had been persecuted in the Brezhnev era and had got out, he became a student here, stayed on in Cambridge and became involved in extreme right-wing movement; he wrote to me saying it was intolerable that I was going to host Gorbachev in the Lodge; told him that what was good enough for the Dalai Lama was good enough for me; found Gorbachev fascinating

30:19:19 Another visitor was Salman Rushdie who was then in hiding but we heard that he wanted to give an address in the Chapel; we agreed; incredible police procedure as they feared for his life; they minutely inspected the Chapel and the Lodge garden;Dadie Rylands complained about rough looking types with dogs in the garden; Salman came for lunch and all the guests were carefully vetted; behind every curtain was an armed Special Branch man; sitting in Provosts stall in the chapel, looking up at ceiling bosses which are Tudor roses, seen from the side, look like the face of an angry man; not sure how intentional it was but once you see it you see it all the time; notion that God scowling at me as a non-believer; think I am an atheist as I really don’t believe in a god; was brought up in Church of England tradition and I love a lot of the ceremony; music in the Chapel is wonderful and am a great supporter of the choir and Stephen Cleobury; thought that this was one of the truly great things about this college; I had no compunction about taking part in ceremonies though could have been accused of hypocrisy; predecessor were of similar opinions; coaching for bible reading from Dadie Rylands was just to breath deeply

38:49:47 When I had to take on role of fund raiser that meant quite a lot of travel in the US and meeting absolutely delightful people; there were aspects of the job which I liked very much; also in the second part of my Provostship I instituted the Provost Seminars which were also very good; brought students and fellows together and we had some marvellous speakers; also Dusha and I used to have musical evenings in the Lodge; students would organise the music and we would give them a meal afterwards

40:57:16 One of the changes that occurred during my career as a behavioural biologist was the increasing rigour in the way people worked; had a very bright graduate student, Paul Martin, who came back to Cambridge as a post-graduate for a while; wrote ‘Measuring Behaviour’ with him which has been very successful; marked a change in the subject where people were getting increasingly careful about how they measured and did experiments; downside was that it is very easy to measure things in a trivial way and stop focussing on the big questions; at the same time I was also editing a series with a man called Peter Klapfer where we were trying to encourage people not to be constrained by tight methodology; we invited essays for this series and sometimes got pieces that were incomprehensible so had to strike a balance; many good students at Madingley, particularly in the 1970’s, like Tim Clutton-Brock and Richard Wrangham; also some very good research assistants, one of whom was Pril Barrett now wife of Gabriel Horn and she worked with me on play in cats; Nick Humphrey had been a student of LarryWeiskrantz and gone with him to Oxford; applied for a job at Madingley and he was a delightful and stimulating man, doing interesting work; however he felt increasingly that very few people would actually read his papers and wanted to get at a much wider audience; decided to get involved in television and mistakenly, I thought, gave up his job to make films; in the end the films were not very well done and he had a difficult time getting back into the academic world; in a book that Robert Hinde and I edited celebrating twenty-five years since Madingley was established, Nick wrote a wonderful chapter on the social function of intellects, the most cited chapter in the book which started to become a whole new field on brain development

46:38:23 I had been doing a study for the National Trust on the hunting of red deer by hounds; suspect they thought I would do a whitewash but I decided it was to be done properly; reported to the Trust in great secrecy and on the strength of my report they banned such hunting immediately; I became the object of hatred to hunting people and they did their utmost to ruin my reputation; just at that time I was elected to become Biological Secretary of the Royal Society; I enjoyed the role as it enabled me to encourage the Royal Society to be much more positive in getting science across to the public; AaronKlug was President when I joined and in his quiet way did a lot; he is a shy man  who doesn’t relish a public profile, but a wonderful man; his successor, Bob May, was quite different and very good at projecting science; as Biological Secretary I had to sit on all the sectional committees which deal with biological candidates for the Royal Society; was worried about tactical voting and decided to institute a new procedure which made the voting records transparent and encouraged honesty

51:37:07 When Gabriel Horn retired from the headship of the Zoology Department to become head of Sydney Sussex I agreed to take it over; thought it would not be for very long as we had a candidate from the US, Jared Diamond, who everybody wanted; he wanted to come but the pension arrangements are so much worse here and after a long period of indecision he decided not to; the next candidate also failed to come so my period of headship extended; at the same time I was Provost of King’s; the difference between the department and King’s was striking; department meetings were businesslike and efficient; at King’s there would be long discussions which appeared to be reaching a consensus when someone who had been quiet until that point suddenly lobbed in a hand grenade and shattered the consensus and you would have to start again

54:47:04 Noel Annan was Provost when I was an undergraduate and later became a good friend; an important Provost who got the Research Centre going; Edmund Leach, his successor, was also interesting and we had good discussions on the whole business of nature and nurture; towards the end of hisProvostship he was torn about whether he should give up so he appointed a committee of three to give him advice on when he should retire – Bernard Williams, myself and Ross Harrison – three future Provosts; Bernard Williams was totally different in style; very quick and intelligent but could lose patience with people; it was he who persuaded me to take over as Provost

59:45:06 Advice to a young scientist is to enjoy it

_____________________

On November 21, 2014 I received a letter from Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto and it said:

…Please click on this URL http://vimeo.com/26991975

and you will hear what far smarter people than I have to say on this matter. I agree with them.

Harry Kroto

Nick Gathergood, David-Birkett, Harry-Kroto

I have attempted to respond to all of Dr. Kroto’s friends arguments and I have posted my responses one per week for over a year now. Here are some of my earlier posts:

Arif Ahmed, Sir David AttenboroughMark Balaguer, Horace Barlow, Michael BatePatricia ChurchlandAaron CiechanoverNoam Chomsky,Alan DershowitzHubert Dreyfus, Bart Ehrman, Stephan FeuchtwangDavid Friend,  Riccardo GiacconiIvar Giaever , Roy GlauberRebecca GoldsteinDavid J. Gross,  Brian Greene, Susan GreenfieldStephen F Gudeman,  Alan Guth, Jonathan HaidtTheodor W. Hänsch, Brian Harrison,  Hermann HauserRoald Hoffmann,  Bruce HoodHerbert Huppert,  Gareth Stedman Jones, Steve JonesShelly KaganMichio Kaku,  Stuart Kauffman,  Lawrence KraussHarry Kroto, George LakoffElizabeth Loftus,  Alan MacfarlanePeter MillicanMarvin MinskyLeonard Mlodinow,  Yujin NagasawaAlva NoeDouglas Osheroff,  Jonathan Parry,  Saul PerlmutterHerman Philipse,  Carolyn PorcoRobert M. PriceLisa RandallLord Martin Rees,  Oliver Sacks, John SearleMarcus du SautoySimon SchafferJ. L. Schellenberg,   Lee Silver Peter Singer,  Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongRonald de Sousa, Victor StengerBarry Supple,   Leonard Susskind, Raymond TallisNeil deGrasse Tyson,  .Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John WalkerFrank WilczekSteven Weinberg, and  Lewis Wolpert,

Related posts:

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 53 THE BEATLES (Part E, Stg. Pepper’s and John Lennon’s search in 1967 for truth was through drugs, money, laughter, etc & similar to King Solomon’s, LOTS OF PICTURES OF JOHN AND CYNTHIA) (Feature on artist Yoko Ono)

The John Lennon and the Beatles really were on a long search for meaning and fulfillment in their lives  just like King Solomon did in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon looked into learning (1:12-18, 2:12-17), laughter, ladies, luxuries, and liquor (2:1-2, 8, 10, 11), and labor (2:4-6, 18-20). He fount that without God in the picture all […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 52 THE BEATLES (Part D, There is evidence that the Beatles may have been exposed to Francis Schaeffer!!!) (Feature on artist Anna Margaret Rose Freeman )

______________   George Harrison Swears & Insults Paul and Yoko Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds- The Beatles The Beatles:   I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis Schaeffer spent a lot of time listening to the Beatles and talking […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 51 THE BEATLES (Part C, List of those on cover of Stg.Pepper’s ) (Feature on artist Raqib Shaw )

  The Beatles in a press conference after their Return from the USA Uploaded on Nov 29, 2010 The Beatles in a press conference after their Return from the USA. The Beatles:   I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 50 THE BEATLES (Part B, The Psychedelic Music of the Beatles) (Feature on artist Peter Blake )

__________________   Beatles 1966 Last interview I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis Schaeffer spent a lot of time listening to the Beatles and talking and writing about them and their impact on the culture of the 1960’s. In this […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 49 THE BEATLES (Part A, The Meaning of Stg. Pepper’s Cover) (Feature on artist Mika Tajima)

_______________ The Beatles documentary || A Long and Winding Road || Episode 5 (This video discusses Stg. Pepper’s creation I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis Schaeffer spent a lot of time listening to the Beatles and talking and writing about […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 48 “BLOW UP” by Michelangelo Antonioni makes Philosophic Statement (Feature on artist Nancy Holt)

_______________ Francis Schaeffer pictured below: _____________________ I have included the 27 minute  episode THE AGE OF NONREASON by Francis Schaeffer. In that video Schaeffer noted,  ” Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band…for a time it became the rallying cry for young people throughout the world. It expressed the essence of their lives, thoughts and their feelings.” How Should […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 47 Woody Allen and Professor Levy and the death of “Optimistic Humanism” from the movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Plus Charles Darwin’s comments too!!! (Feature on artist Rodney Graham)

Crimes and Misdemeanors: A Discussion: Part 1 ___________________________________ Today I will answer the simple question: IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE AN OPTIMISTIC SECULAR HUMANIST THAT DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GOD OR AN AFTERLIFE? This question has been around for a long time and you can go back to the 19th century and read this same […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 46 Friedrich Nietzsche (Featured artist is Thomas Schütte)

____________________________________ Francis Schaeffer pictured below: __________ Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” , episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”, episode 8 […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 45 Woody Allen “Reason is Dead” (Feature on artists Allora & Calzadilla )

Love and Death [Woody Allen] – What if there is no God? [PL] ___________ _______________ How Should We then Live Episode 7 small (Age of Nonreason) #02 How Should We Then Live? (Promo Clip) Dr. Francis Schaeffer 10 Worldview and Truth Two Minute Warning: How Then Should We Live?: Francis Schaeffer at 100 Francis Schaeffer […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 44 The Book of Genesis (Featured artist is Trey McCarley )

___________________________________ Francis Schaeffer pictured below: ____________________________ Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR Dr. Francis schaeffer – The flow of Materialism(from Part 4 of Whatever happened to human race?) Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical flow of Truth & History (intro) Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of History & Truth (1) Dr. Francis Schaeffer […]

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PAUSING to look at the life of Sydney Brenner (1927-2019)

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I was saddened by the passing of Sydney Brenner on April 5, 2019, Below is the finest tribute I read on his life followed by the best interview I ever seen done of him by Alan Macfarlane.

OBITUARY

Sydney Brenner (1927-2019)

Mischievous steward of molecular biology’s golden age.
South African biologist Sydney Brenner in 2002.

Credit: Andrew Cutraro/Redux/eyevine

Sydney Brenner was one of the first to view James Watson and Francis Crick’s double helix model of DNA in April 1953. The 26-year-old biologist from South Africa was then a graduate student at the University of Oxford, UK. So enthralled was he by the insights from the structure that he determined on the spot to devote his life to understanding genes.

Iconoclastic and provocative, he became one of the leading biologists of the twentieth century. Brenner shared in the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for deciphering the genetics of programmed cell death and animal development, including how the nervous system forms. He was at the forefront of the 1975 Asilomar meeting to discuss the appropriate use of emerging abilities to alter DNA, was a key proponent of the Human Genome Project, and much more. He died on 5 April.

Brenner was born in 1927 in Germiston, South Africa, to poor immigrant parents. Bored by school, he preferred to read books borrowed (sometimes permanently) from the public library, or to dabble with a self-assembled chemistry set. His extraordinary intellect — he was reading newspapers by the age of four — did not go unnoticed. His teachers secured an award from the town council to send him to medical school.

Brenner entered the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg at the age of 15 (alongside Aaron Klug, another science-giant-in-training). Here, certain faculty members, notably the anatomist Raymond Dart, and fellow research-oriented medical students enriched his interest in science. On finishing his six-year course, his youth legally precluded him from practising medicine, so he devoted two years to learning cell biology at the bench. His passion for research was such that he rarely set foot on the wards — and he initially failed his final examination in internal medicine.

Nobel Prize winners, Sir John Sulston, and Dr. Sydney Brenner, in 2002.

Sydney Brenner (right) with John Sulston, who both shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Robert Horvitz in 2002.Credit: Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Getty

In 1952 Brenner won a scholarship to the Department of Physical Chemistry at Oxford. His adviser, Cyril Hinshelwood, wanted to pursue the idea that the environment altered observable characteristics of bacteria. Brenner tried to convince him of the role of genetic mutation. Two years later, with doctorate in hand, Brenner spent the summer of 1954 in the United States visiting labs, including Cold Spring Harbor in New York state. Here he caught up with Watson and Crick again.

Impressed, Crick recruited the young South African to the University of Cambridge, UK, in 1956. In the early 1960s, using just bacteria and bacteriophages, Crick and Brenner deciphered many of the essentials of gene function in a breathtaking series of studies.

Brenner had proved theoretically in the mid-1950s that the genetic code is ‘non-overlapping’ — each nucleotide is part of only one triplet (three nucleotides specify each amino acid in a protein) and successive ‘triplet codons’ are read in order. In 1961, Brenner and Crick confirmed this in the lab. The same year, Brenner, with François Jacob and Matthew Meselson, published their demonstration of the existence of messenger RNA. Over the next two years, often with Crick, Brenner showed how the synthesis of proteins encoded by DNA sequences is terminated.

This intellectual partnership dissolved when Brenner began to focus on whole organisms in the mid-1960s. He finally alighted on Caenorhabditis elegans. Studies of this tiny worm in Brenner’s arm of the legendary Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge led to the Nobel for Brenner, Robert Horvitz and John Sulston.

Maxine Singer, Norton Zinder, Sydney Brenner and Paul Berg in 1975.

Maxine Singer, Norton Zinder, Sydney Brenner and Paul Berg (left to right) at the 1975 meeting on recombinant DNA technology in Asilomar, California.Credit: NAS

And his contributions went well beyond the lab. In 1975, with Paul Berg and others, he organized a meeting at Asilomar, California, to draft a position paper on the United States’ use of recombinant DNA technology — introducing genes from one species into another, usually bacteria. Brenner was influential in persuading attendees to treat ethical and societal concerns seriously. He stressed the importance of thoughtful guidelines for deploying the technology to avoid overly restrictive regulation.

He served as director of the LMB for about a decade. Despite describing the experience as the biggest mistake in his life, he took the lab (with its stable of Nobel laureates and distinguished staff) to unprecedented prominence. In 1986, he moved to a new Medical Research Council (MRC) unit of molecular genetics at the city’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and began work in the emerging discipline of evolutionary genomics. Brenner also orchestrated Britain’s involvement in the Human Genome Project in the early 1990s.

From the late 1980s, Brenner steered the development of biomedical research in Singapore. Here he masterminded Biopolis, a spectacular conglomerate of chrome and glass buildings dedicated to biomedical research. He also helped to guide the Janelia Farm campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, and to restructure molecular biology in Japan.

Brenner dazzled, amused and sometimes offended audiences with his humour, irony and disdain of authority and dogma — prompting someone to describe him as “one of biology’s mischievous children; the witty trickster who delights in stirring things up.” His popular columns in Current Biology (titled ‘Loose Ends’ and, later, ‘False Starts’) in the mid-1990s led some seminar hosts to introduce him as Uncle Syd, a pen name he ultimately adopted.

Sydney was aware of the debt he owed to being in the right place at the right time. He attributed his successes to having to learn scientific independence in a remote part of the world, with few role models and even fewer mentors. He recounted the importance of arriving in Oxford with few scientific biases, and leaving with the conviction that seeing the double helix model one chilly April morning would be a defining moment in his life.

The Brenner laboratories (he often operated more than one) spawned a generation of outstanding protégés, including five Nobel laureates. Those who dedicated their careers to understanding the workings of C. elegans now number in the thousands. Science will be considerably poorer without Sydney. But his name will live forever in the annals of biology.

Nature 568, 459 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01192-9

Interview with Sydney Brenner – August 2007 – part 1

Full interview with Sydney Brenner, 2007 – part 2

Transcript:

0:09:07 Born in Germiston near Johannesburg 13th January 1927; father emigrated from Lithuania to South Africa where he had a brother in about 1911; mother came from Latvia and she emigrated in 1922 and had lived through the revolution; father repaired shoes and we lived initially in rooms at the back of his shop; mother has ambitions for her children; father was illiterate but had a gift for languages; mother encouraged me to read which I learnt to do from newspapers; went to a kindergarten run by a customer of my father’s who had found me there reading a newspaper on the floor; did first three years of primary school in one year; went directly into standard 2 at the government primary school aged six; meant I was always about two years younger than the rest of the class which was not helpful

5:12:10 After High School matriculated when under fifteen; had won a scholarship to

university to study medicine; had a lab of my own in a garage; can’t remember being influenced by any teacher at the school and got most of my education in the public library; as a child interested in nature and took flies apart and wondered how you could put them back together again; went to University of Witwatersrand aged fifteen; commuted every day, by bicycle, train, then walking; tough regime with lectures or laboratory sessions every day including Saturday morning from 8am; enjoyed it as there did meet interesting people; a man in the botany department working on chromatography let me work in his lab; we did four subject – botany, zoology, chemistry and physics; after the first year moved to the medical school where I did anatomy and physiology; discovered that I couldn’t qualify as a doctor as I would be under twenty-one so I was able to take a year out to do a Bachelor of Science degree in anatomy and physiology; took out three years and did a B.Sc., B.Sc. Hons. then Master of Science by which time I was already doing scientific research; realized I was not a good medical student but did complete another four years to qualify for the sake of a safe job; finished at the end of 1950 and I did go abroad in 1952; had been at Witwatersrand for almost nine years; had become a lecturer while still a medical student teaching physiology; became an expert on calorie intake

13:58:22 At Witwatersrand a most important influence was Raymond Dart the Professor of Anatomy but more so was a man called Joseph Gillman who was a lecturer in histology and later Professor of Physiology; working in the laboratory was a tremendous experience; nothing there so had to make amino acid for an experiment, for example; also built an ultracentrifuge and used it; parents supportive throughout although mother would have been much happier to see me as a specialist doctor; was interested in molecular biology which had not yet been invented; Waddington came out to South Africa for a time and encouraged me to apply to Cambridge which I did; they never replied to my letter; I won a rare scholarship linked to the 1851 exhibition in 1950; Principal recommended me to go to work with Cyril Hinshelwood, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Oxford; accepted to do a DPhil in physical chemistry and went in 1952

19:06:04 In South Africa made films with a group and had made one on Dylan Thomas; had to imagine what England was like from reading but it was a shock when I came here; arrived during the time of food rationing and for two years just dreamt of food; married after a term in Oxford; May was in London doing a PhD; settled in Oxford and both finished in two years; I won a travelling scholarship from the Carnegie Foundation to go to America for four months; had a very good friend in Oxford called Jack Dunitz; had come to Oxford with the idea that I could determine the structure of DNA; heard about Crick and Watson and went to Cambridge to see them in April 1953 with Jack and Leslie Orgel; they had already discovered the structure of DNA which we saw and the implications were just blindingly clear; immediately saw the problems or coding and copying and the work that needed to be done

25:00:21 On that day Francis wouldn’t stop talking but Jim gave me the impression of an irritated bird; they had made a breakthrough but no notice was taken of it for quite a time except for a tiny band of people who saw that this had reformulated major questions in biology; at Oxford there was a club called the Alembic Club of chemists and Fred Sanger came to talk in 1953 as he had just assembled insulin; Robert Robinson said it was remarkable because Sanger had proved that proteins actually had a chemical structure; Sanger was an unique scientist as he saw that determining how the sequence was arranged is important; he devised simple techniques to achieve this; he liked to work in the lab and when he retired he put down his pipette and said “That’s it” and walked out

33:47:19 John Griffith’s role in the discovery of DNA; after D.Phil went to America for four months but in the meantime started to discuss with Francis about coming back to join him in the MRC unit; had to go back to South Africa to fulfil obligations attached to my scholarship but two years later, at the end of 1956, I came to Cambridge; had a three year job at £1100 a year and three children; beginning of an incredibly exciting time in science; Francis read all the time and when he left Cambridge the entire room was full of books on the brain; value of conversation with Crick resulting in productive thoughts; I would try them out in the lab to see if they were right; value of guessing; correct theories and true theories; science similar to a medieval guild with a very good journeymen and apprentices; blinding flashes of illumination; work with Francois Jacob.

SECOND PART

0:09:07 Became a fellow of King’s in 1959; Noel Annan had wanted to get Crick as a fellow earlier but not successful; wanted someone from molecular biology and John Kendrew suggested me; was offered a fellowship at Churchill but preferred to try for King’s and was elected; quite often had tea with Morgan Foster as a benefit of the college was to have friends outside science; other friends at King’s included Francis Haskell, Michael Jaffe, and Dadie Rylands; Bernard Williams and Robert Bolgar; Edmund Leach, Meyer Fortes – always been fascinated by anthropology; did archaeology and palaeontology as a hobby; interested in creating a new anthropology which would include biology and the place of man in the animal world, the natural world and the world of our own creation; we may have the genome of Neanderthal man pretty soon

11:57:10 Originally we were housed in the Cavendish Laboratory; Crick very good at getting extra space and at the end of our time there we were in seven buildings on the site; prior to this the MRC had decided they might have a building somewhere but we did not want to be in a large place with everyone; got agreement for an MRC laboratory of molecular biology and joined up with Fred Sanger who was in urgent need of space; Hugh Huxley and Aaron Klug joined us; I officially became the director in 1979 before which Max Perutz was chairman; retired from the directorship at sixty and got my own small unit to return to science; on final retirement from the MRC managed to raise enough money to continue the lab for some time

19:54:22 Work on nematode worms; genes build the nervous system which then performs the behaviour; needed to determine the structure of the nervous system, it should be a small nervous system so could be finite and that we could make mutations and see how it altered behaviour; then we would hope to see what changes in the nervous system the mutations would produce and then would be able to map those onto the altered behaviour; that program has been partly carried out but effectively it involved doing the anatomy, the full embryology; big advantage of nematodes is according to the literature they had stereotype nervous system, constant number of cells and, it was thought, the same for every nematode of the same genetic composition; could ask under what conditions do you build a nervous system with the same genetic program; nematode ideal as easy to keep in the lab and easy for anyone to work on

29:48:12 Nobel prize awarded to me with John Sulston and Robert Horvitz; “don’t worry” hypothesis described; the virtue of ignorance

38:20:05 Went to Singapore in 1984 and encouraged them to set up a graduate department of molecular biology; from 1999 a huge surge forward and I have been involved in setting up a gigantic operation there but have just retired; advice to a young scientist would be to go to a lab where there is a good mentor; big challenge that interests me is how to reconstruct the past from what we now know; science is a way of solving problems and for a young person, find a good problem and try to solve it though getting into the whole apparatus of science, which is difficult

On November 21, 2014 I received a letter from Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto and it said:

…Please click on this URL http://vimeo.com/26991975

and you will hear what far smarter people than I have to say on this matter. I agree with them.

Harry Kroto

Nick Gathergood, David-Birkett, Harry-Kroto

I have attempted to respond to all of Dr. Kroto’s friends arguments and I have posted my responses one per week for over a year now. Here are some of my earlier posts:

Arif Ahmed, Sir David AttenboroughMark Balaguer, Horace Barlow, Michael BatePatricia ChurchlandAaron CiechanoverNoam Chomsky,Alan DershowitzHubert Dreyfus, Bart Ehrman, Stephan FeuchtwangDavid Friend,  Riccardo GiacconiIvar Giaever , Roy GlauberRebecca GoldsteinDavid J. Gross,  Brian Greene, Susan GreenfieldStephen F Gudeman,  Alan Guth, Jonathan HaidtTheodor W. Hänsch, Brian Harrison,  Hermann HauserRoald Hoffmann,  Bruce HoodHerbert Huppert,  Gareth Stedman Jones, Steve JonesShelly KaganMichio Kaku,  Stuart Kauffman,  Lawrence KraussHarry Kroto, George LakoffElizabeth Loftus,  Alan MacfarlanePeter MillicanMarvin MinskyLeonard Mlodinow,  Yujin NagasawaAlva NoeDouglas Osheroff,  Jonathan Parry,  Saul PerlmutterHerman Philipse,  Carolyn PorcoRobert M. PriceLisa RandallLord Martin Rees,  Oliver Sacks, John SearleMarcus du SautoySimon SchafferJ. L. Schellenberg,   Lee Silver Peter Singer,  Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongRonald de Sousa, Victor StengerBarry Supple,   Leonard Susskind, Raymond TallisNeil deGrasse Tyson,  .Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John WalkerFrank WilczekSteven Weinberg, and  Lewis Wolpert,

Related posts:

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 53 THE BEATLES (Part E, Stg. Pepper’s and John Lennon’s search in 1967 for truth was through drugs, money, laughter, etc & similar to King Solomon’s, LOTS OF PICTURES OF JOHN AND CYNTHIA) (Feature on artist Yoko Ono)

The John Lennon and the Beatles really were on a long search for meaning and fulfillment in their lives  just like King Solomon did in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon looked into learning (1:12-18, 2:12-17), laughter, ladies, luxuries, and liquor (2:1-2, 8, 10, 11), and labor (2:4-6, 18-20). He fount that without God in the picture all […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 52 THE BEATLES (Part D, There is evidence that the Beatles may have been exposed to Francis Schaeffer!!!) (Feature on artist Anna Margaret Rose Freeman )

______________   George Harrison Swears & Insults Paul and Yoko Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds- The Beatles The Beatles:   I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis Schaeffer spent a lot of time listening to the Beatles and talking […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 51 THE BEATLES (Part C, List of those on cover of Stg.Pepper’s ) (Feature on artist Raqib Shaw )

  The Beatles in a press conference after their Return from the USA Uploaded on Nov 29, 2010 The Beatles in a press conference after their Return from the USA. The Beatles:   I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 50 THE BEATLES (Part B, The Psychedelic Music of the Beatles) (Feature on artist Peter Blake )

__________________   Beatles 1966 Last interview I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis Schaeffer spent a lot of time listening to the Beatles and talking and writing about them and their impact on the culture of the 1960’s. In this […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 49 THE BEATLES (Part A, The Meaning of Stg. Pepper’s Cover) (Feature on artist Mika Tajima)

_______________ The Beatles documentary || A Long and Winding Road || Episode 5 (This video discusses Stg. Pepper’s creation I have dedicated several posts to this series on the Beatles and I don’t know when this series will end because Francis Schaeffer spent a lot of time listening to the Beatles and talking and writing about […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 48 “BLOW UP” by Michelangelo Antonioni makes Philosophic Statement (Feature on artist Nancy Holt)

_______________ Francis Schaeffer pictured below: _____________________ I have included the 27 minute  episode THE AGE OF NONREASON by Francis Schaeffer. In that video Schaeffer noted,  ” Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band…for a time it became the rallying cry for young people throughout the world. It expressed the essence of their lives, thoughts and their feelings.” How Should […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 47 Woody Allen and Professor Levy and the death of “Optimistic Humanism” from the movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Plus Charles Darwin’s comments too!!! (Feature on artist Rodney Graham)

Crimes and Misdemeanors: A Discussion: Part 1 ___________________________________ Today I will answer the simple question: IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE AN OPTIMISTIC SECULAR HUMANIST THAT DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GOD OR AN AFTERLIFE? This question has been around for a long time and you can go back to the 19th century and read this same […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 46 Friedrich Nietzsche (Featured artist is Thomas Schütte)

____________________________________ Francis Schaeffer pictured below: __________ Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” , episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”, episode 8 […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 45 Woody Allen “Reason is Dead” (Feature on artists Allora & Calzadilla )

Love and Death [Woody Allen] – What if there is no God? [PL] ___________ _______________ How Should We then Live Episode 7 small (Age of Nonreason) #02 How Should We Then Live? (Promo Clip) Dr. Francis Schaeffer 10 Worldview and Truth Two Minute Warning: How Then Should We Live?: Francis Schaeffer at 100 Francis Schaeffer […]

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 44 The Book of Genesis (Featured artist is Trey McCarley )

___________________________________ Francis Schaeffer pictured below: ____________________________ Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR Dr. Francis schaeffer – The flow of Materialism(from Part 4 of Whatever happened to human race?) Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical flow of Truth & History (intro) Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of History & Truth (1) Dr. Francis Schaeffer […]

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PAUSING to look at the life of Aaron Klug

——

I was saddened by the passing of Aaron Klug on November 20, 2018. Below is the finest tribute I read on his life followed by the best interview I ever seen done of him by Alan Macfarlane.

Aaron Klug credited the scientist Rosalind Franklin with showing him ‘that you have to tackle long and difficult problems rather than publishing clever papers’.Show captionScience

Sir Aaron Klug obituary

Chemist and biophysicist who won the Nobel prize for developing crystallographic electron microscopy
Mon 26 Nov 2018 08.10 EST

One of the mildest, most broad-minded and most cultured of scientists, Aaron Klug was once seen as a radical too dangerous to be permitted access to the US. The state department’s denial of his visa not only ensured he would make his research career in Britain, but also set the stage for his meeting with the X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin that would define his scientific future.

Klug, who has died aged 92, won a Nobel prize in chemistry for his inventive approach to understanding how some of the key components of the living body assemble into its working parts. He was never a headline-grabber; his understated leadership of two of Britain’s foremost scientific institutions, the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge and the Royal Society, steered the scientific community’s response to major upheavals such as the Human Genome Project (HGP), the BSE crisis and the row over genetically modified food.

As a young South African with a Cambridge PhD, in 1952 Klug was on the point of taking up a post in the US. The South African government told the US authorities that his membership of a youth group meant that he was a communist. Offered the chance to “renounce” communism, he indignantly refused, never having taken it up in the first place. No visa being forthcoming, he returned to the UK.

From 1954, at Birkbeck College in London, he began to collaborate with Franklin on her studies of tobacco mosaic virus. They faced the immense challenge of solving the structure, not of a single molecule, but of the complex assemblies of proteins and nucleic acids that make up virus particles.

Franklin’s exquisite technical skill in producing X-ray diffraction images, combined with Klug’s deep theoretical understanding of matter, eventually enabled them to solve the general outline of the structure just before Franklin’s early death from cancer in 1958. He credited her not only with introducing him to viruses, but with showing him “that you have to tackle long and difficult problems rather than publishing clever papers”.

Klug’s fascination with assemblies of molecules and biological complexes led him to develop a new technique. Such assemblies fall in size between individual molecules that can be explored with X-ray crystallography, and structures that are large enough to see with a light microscope.

Electron microscopy covers this gap, but produces two-dimensional images that do not reveal detailed structural information. During the 1960s, working at the newly founded LMB, Klug showed how electron micrographs taken from different angles could be combined to reconstruct the whole structure in 3D. The inventors of X-ray CT scans later developed them from his methods.

He went on to use the technique to unravel complexes of protein and nucleic acid in viruses and in the chromosomes that carry genetic information. It was this work that brought him his Nobel prize in 1982, as the sole recipient.

In 1986 he was appointed the third head of the LMB, an institution that famously had “a Nobel fellow on every floor”. He was notably supportive of female colleagues, and of researchers with projects that were almost recklessly ambitious.

When the biologist John Sulston began to show that sequencing the whole genome of the nematode worm might be possible, he promoted him to head a new division of genome studies. He later negotiated with the MRC and the Wellcome Trust for Sulston to head the separate Sanger Centre (now the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute), which successfully completed not only the worm genome but also one third of the international Human Genome Project.

He went on to use the technique to unravel complexes of protein and nucleic acid in viruses and in the chromosomes that carry genetic information. It was this work that brought him his Nobel prize in 1982, as the sole recipient.

In 1986 he was appointed the third head of the LMB, an institution that famously had “a Nobel fellow on every floor”. He was notably supportive of female colleagues, and of researchers with projects that were almost recklessly ambitious.

When the biologist John Sulston began to show that sequencing the whole genome of the nematode worm might be possible, he promoted him to head a new division of genome studies. He later negotiated with the MRC and the Wellcome Trust for Sulston to head the separate Sanger Centre (now the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute), which successfully completed not only the worm genome but also one third of the international Human Genome Project.

Klug was knighted in 1988, and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1995. The same year he became president of the Royal Society, the UK’s premier scientific academy. On his watch it produced an authoritative report into bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its transmission to humans.

This was the first of several that provided a basis for public discussion and policymaking. Responding to the GM food crisis of the late 90s, another report acknowledged that GM technology could not be deployed without winning the confidence of consumers. Klug recognised the importance of engagement between scientists and the public, and developed the Royal Society’s resources for working with the media.

Klug was born into a Yiddish-speaking family in Zelva, Lithuania, the second of two sons of Lazar, a cattle drover, and his wife, Bella (nee Silin). Lazar occasionally reported for newspapers in Kaunas, then the capital city. When Aaron was two years old and his brother Bennie four, the family migrated to Durban, South Africa, where Bella had relatives. After Bella died in 1932, her sister Rose took her place as the boys’ mother; in due course she married their father and had two more children.

This turbulent start to his life left Klug remarkably unscathed. A voracious reader, he breezed through Durban high school at the top of a class of boys two years older than himself (including his brother). After reading Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif, a classic work of popular medicine published in 1926, he decided to study medicine, and entered the University of Witwatersrand on a scholarship at the age of 15. In the same class was Sydney Brenner, also from a Lithuanian Jewish family, also 15, and also a future head of the LMB and Nobel prizewinner.

During his studies Krug’s interests shifted to pure science, and he graduated in physics, chemistry and biology. He followed this with a master’s degree in physics at the University of Cape Town. There his supervisor was Reginald James, who had survived Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition in 1914-16. James was an X-ray crystallographer who had worked alongside one of the subject’s founders, Lawrence Bragg, at the University of Manchester.

Crystallography appealed strongly to Klug’s polymathic instincts, combining physics and chemistry and requiring both mathematical insight and experimental creativity to explore the atomic structure of molecules in three dimensions. It was at Cape Town, as he later recalled in his Nobel biography, that he developed “a strong interest … in the structure of matter, and how it was organised.”

With James’s recommendation, Klug obtained an 1851 scholarship to go to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, now headed by Bragg, for his PhD. He arrived there in 1949 with his new wife, Liebe (nee Bobrow), a dancer and musician. He hoped to join the new MRC unit at the Cavendish, led by Max Perutz, which was exploring the structure of proteins. But Bragg assigned him to work on a theoretical project on how transitions occur in the microstructure of steel when it cools.

What many might have seen as a dead end, Klug approached as an opportunity: he later said that the work had assisted his thinking about the assembly of virus structures. He advised younger scientists to “equip yourself to do a wider range of things than you are actually interested in immediately. You never know what might pay off.”

The Klugs had two sons, Adam and David. As a family they retained a strong connection to their Jewish cultural roots, attending synagogue and observing festivals. They made many visits to Israel, being particularly attached to the city of Be’er-Sheva and Ben Gurion University, where a research centre is named in Klug’s honour.

Liebe and David survive him. Adam died in 2000.

• Aaron Klug, biophysicist, born 11 August 1926; died 20 November 2018

• This article was amended on 27 November 2018. Adam Klug, rather than his brother David, died in 2000.

Interview of Aaron Klug, part one

Uploaded on Mar 12, 2010

An interview of the Cambridge biologist, physicist and chemist Lord Aaron Klug, nobel laureate, talking about his life and work including that with Rosalind Franklin. Interviews on 11 December 2007 by Alan Macfarlane. For a higher quality, downloadable version with detailed summary, please see http://www.alanmacfarlane.com

Interview of Aaron Klug – part two

Aaron Klug interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 11th December 2007

0:09:07 Born in Lithuania in 1926; father’s father was a cattle dealer and had a farm which was unusual for a Jew; father was trained as a saddler but went back to the farm to help his father as a cattle dealer; realized there was not much future in Lithuania and moved to South Africa in 1929; mother’s family had emigrated there in 1900 (her family name wasGevisser) and had established a business in Durban so that is where we went; learnt English early; have an elder brother; father employed in the Gevisser firm as a hide merchant; he had gone ahead to Durban and found a place to live and the family followed; father’s brother later emigrated to Johannesburg; father much concerned with making a good living and had been regarded as clever; he would go to the synagogue and was interested in the Talmud and when he retired he went for weekly study; when I married in England he sent extracts by post; mother died when I was about six of pneumonia; mother’s younger sister had come with us and later married my father; told that one of the older Gevisser cousins had said it was her duty to marry my father and help bring us up; we still continued to call her aunt though later realized she was our mother and changed to mum

8:36:12 Went to a primary school; lived near the bush; Durban had a white population of 100,000, mainly of English origin who thought of England as home; Britain had taken Natal from the Dutch and in 1870 there was a large emigration to Durban; on our first holiday in England we went to Swanage and noticed that the beach huts there had been copied in Durban, so had the post boxes; as a child knew a lot about England so when I came here knew exactly where I was; later moved to Durban High School where the philosophy was that if you were bright you went into the Latin class (Greek had been abandoned as we had to do Afrikaans as a second language); if you were middling you went into the science class, and the rest made do with geography; I was very good at school and always came first and my brother, second; he was in the same class although two years older; I had been pushed up but he was my protector; we did do one science subject; was very good at Latin; also brother and I went to Hebrew classes and I was pretty fluent in Afrikaans; later when I began collecting ancient coins could read the inscriptions; later when one of my sons started doing Latin at school got an interlingua text but found the Latin word order had been changed to fit the English so threw it away in disgust

15:56:08 Thing that mattered most at Durban High School was sport which occupied four afternoons a week; had cadets on the fifth day; brother was a good cricketer; I was not good at sport and later when undergoing an army medical found that I had an optic atrophy in my right eye; brother keen on music and I began to listen to serious music in last few years at school; in primary school I couldn’t sing in tune; my wife is musical so I do listen; she ran the Cambridge University modern dance group at some time and experimented with Stockhausen and electronic music

19:46:13 No particular inspirational teacher at school; was good at all subjects; at one time became seriously interested in Egyptology and tried to teach myself hieroglyphics and learnt a good deal on the origins of the alphabet; at school read a book by Paul de Kruif called ‘Microbe Hunters’ which turns out to have influenced many people; he was a Dutch science writer and in this book he told the stories of Pasteur and Koch; made me think I should become a microbiologist; at fifteen went to university to do medicine (as did Sidney Brenner) as two years ahead of my age group; no medical school in Durban so went to University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg; sailed through my first year; stayed in my father’s brother’s house; had won a scholarship so did not have any fees; in my second year started doing anatomy, physiology and physiological chemistry; enjoyed dissection to begin with and found physiology and biochemistry much more interesting so decided I should learn some chemistry and give up medicine; went to see the Dean of Science who agreed that I should do a range of subjects – chemistry, physiology, histology, physics and maths; did a four year course instead of three; got firsts in every subject

25:56:05 No particularly inspiring teachers but a man who gave a popular talk on the Schrödinger wave equation had inspired me to do physics; I had intellectual curiosity and found everything interesting; always read history and have continued to do so; where I got inspired was in Cape Town where they were offering a master’s degree in physics; kept myself by teaching practical classes which gave me enough to live on; lived simply in a room in the old slave quarters; parents sent me money but I returned it as wanted to be independent; the Professor was R.W. James and he was an inspiration, not only because of himself but where he had been; he had gone with Shackleton on his polar expedition and been marooned on Elephant Island; he was recruited byShackleton when just out of Cambridge; was a contemporary of Lawrence Bragg; Shackleton asked him if he could sing as they had to supply their own entertainment; I did apply to the South African Antarctic Survey but they wouldn’t take me as I wore glasses; met my future wife, Liebe, in Cape Town; she was a music student at the University and later went to modern dance school; fell in love and was absorbed in the wider culture of a beautiful old city; Durban was provincial in comparison although it had a good library

31:56:03 James had worked with Bragg and in 1937 emigrated to Cape Town to take the Chair; Bragg moved to Cambridge in 1938 when Rutherford died; it is possible that when I came to Cambridge they wanted me to do crystallography as I’d started in X-ray crystallography in Cape Town as James had done; James represented to me the modern Cambridge position; I did the two year M.Sc. course in one year and actually solved the crystal structure of an organic molecule by a new method using Fourier transforms; on the strength of this James thought I should go to Cambridge; I had toyed with the idea of going to London as the crystal structure I had solved was rather unusual and I had taught myself quantum chemistry so when I came to Cambridge I wanted to do something unusual in X-ray crystallography; had heard of the MRC unit doing work on haemoglobin andmyoglobin; went to see Bragg on arrival who told me the unit was full; don’t believe that was true but one of my predecessors from Cape Town had been a lady, Virginia Martin, who proved to be very clever but hopeless at research; asked Bragg what I should do who said there was an interesting problem in order disorder in silicates; I now find them fascinating but didn’t think so at the time; boat took two weeks from Cape Town and for the first two months in Cambridge still had no supervisor; was at Trinity where my tutor was William Hamilton who was not much help; originally thought I might do a Part II but he thought I knew enough for a PhD; finally taken on by D.R.Hartree, Professor of Mathematical Physics, to work on a problem left over from the war on the cooling of steel; in the end I had learnt a lot of metallurgy and worked out a model of phase transition to account for the dissipation of heat; I modelled this on a computer; never published my PhD thesis; Hartreewas not a good supervisor; he was a train addict, but not inspiring; enjoyed my time going to mathematical lectures and learnt group theory, which later stood me in good stead

40:53:01 Married very young and wife went off to live in London to study at the Joos-Leeder School of Modern Dance; the school had been housed by AliceRoughton in Adams Road, Cambridge, during the war but had moved by the time we arrived in Cambridge; my wife kept herself by teaching in a Secondary Modern school; never worked with Bragg; now realize that he may have thought me odd as I only wanted to do things that interested me; however, when I worked on the assembly of tobacco mosaic virus people were trying to understand how the virus assembled and they mixed protein and the RNA and waited twenty-four hours; I managed to do it in two to three hours using the model of nucleational growth that I had developed for my Ph.D. thesis to understand my experiments on tobacco mosaic virus (description)

46:05:14 Spent a year with F.J.W. Roughton, the husband of Alice; worked with him solving the mathematics required for the problem of the combination of oxygen with haemoglobin where both simultaneous diffusion and chemical reaction occur at the same time; used the mathematics developed for PhD; went back to crystallography in London but continued doing things for Roughton; memory ofRoughton household in Adams Road; saw advertisement for a Nuffield Fellowship at BirkbeckCollege where J.D. Bernal was; he was an amazing man who never carried anything through to completion as always interested in the next problem; went to work on protein crystallography with Harry Carlisle who Bernal had recruited from Dorothy Hodgkin; he was trying to solve a protein by some method that didn’t work and he refused to see it; I was banished but still had my Nuffield Fellowship and I found myself in a room next to Rosalind Franklin; I had been there for four months already but had not met her before; she showed me her pictures of tobacco mosaic virus; she changed my life as she introduced me to an important and difficult problem that would take years; I worked with her from 1955 to 1958 when she died; she had come from King’s College to work on the tobacco mosaic virus, work which Bernal had started in the 1930’s but which was interrupted by the war; as a person she was brisk, to the point, and not at all the person painted in Watson’s book ‘The Double Helix’; she was a rationalist; I got on with her quite well and she treated me as an equal; when she died I took over her three post-graduate assistants including Kenneth  Holmes and John Finch who later moved with me to Cambridge; we managed to get a grant from the United States National Institute for Health as we were the only group working on virus structure; in 1958 after her death I took up the problem of polio virus structure which she had started; through the introduction of a new kind of glass managed to solve polio in 1959; showed Bernal the first X-ray picture of polio virus crystals and he said that the picture was worth £10,000; I had not realized that Bernal had to keep raising money to fund his lab; Rosalind Franklin had been hired to work on coals and carbons not on plant viruses; Bernal’s idea was to raise money from applied research to fund pure research; [shows the model of RNA on the staircase of the MRC unit in Cambridge]

Second part

0:09:07 Bernal was a Communist in those days and I didn’t get on with him; in 1956 when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary there was a meeting of University College, Birkbeck and the Fabian Society; Bernal spoke about knowledge of the purges only since Khrushchev’s speech in June that year; later got to understand him and to realize that he looked with  the long eye of history where revolutions move things on; Rosalind Franklin never complained about not having recognition for the important part she played in Crick and Watson’s discovery; blamed herself for not noticing the two fold axis of symmetry in her photograph; she did not know enough crystallography; when at King’s she had worked out the A and B forms of crystal symmetry of DNA; she knew the B form was helical and said so but the A form eluded her; Watson recognised the relationship between the two forms and they got hold of her report which had been sent to all MRC units and he and Crick used her data; had she lived, she should have shared their Nobel prize but there was also Wilkins; he was shy and he and Franklin would never have got on; he was clever and had chosen DNA as a problem but had no punch to go ahead; Franklin had been brought in by Randall, the Professor at King’s, to put more muscle into the DNA effort; irony was that Wilkins, Stokes and Franklin had all attended Bernal’s courses in Cambridge in the 1930’s in crystallography and had all learnt about space groups; none of them twigged to it except Crick; only came out later when he and Watson wrote their paper in 1954, on their route to the discovery of the double helix

6:55:14 John Griffiths’ part in the DNA saga not relevant but Franklin’s work was the key but she had nobody to talk to; if I had been there a bit earlier I would have seen it; [article: ‘The Discovery of the DNA Double Helix’ amended and signed]; Maurice Wilkins was slow and careful whereas Rosalind was quick and decisive, sometimes brusque, so they would never have got on, it was not because she was a woman; worked at Birkbeck 1954-58 and during that time worked out the overall structure of the tobacco mosaic virus and I also developed analytical methods for turning the X-ray data into a map; wrote papers, one with Crick, on how you do this; after Franklin died her students, Finch and Holmes, came with me to Cambridge in 1962 and continued the work; Holmes went off to be Professor of Crystallography at Heidelberg and John Finch stayed with me; Holmes gradually worked out the three-dimensional structure of tobacco mosaic virue but we had an outline of the structure as early as 1958 which is the model on the stairs [see end of film]

13:03:12 In October 1962 I came to Peterhouse as a teaching fellow; John Kendrew was the Director of Studies and I later succeeded him; at Peterhouse I taught a number of subjects as there were not many teaching fellows including crystallography, microspectroscopy and chemistry, and always taught physics; I was later a Nobel prize winner in chemistry, worked in a biological lab. and taught physics; I enjoyed physics and was quite a good teacher; Ken Holmes had been taught by Fred Hoyle and Abdus Salam but never learnt anything as they would just dash off a problem; I was a good teacher as I had to work my way through it; physics stood me in good stead as before I developed three-dimensional image reconstruction I did various optical experiments which I wouldn’t have done if I had not been teaching optics; I occasionally lectured for the University in place of Perutz; later when I introduced three-dimension electron microscopy I was asked to give some lectures; awarded a Nobel prize in 1982 but went on teaching until about 1984 when Hugh Dacre, the Master, said I should become a supernumerary fellow with no teaching duties; accepted but still continued teaching for a few years until I became more involved with the zinc finger work; in 1986 became head of the lab after becoming President of the Royal Society in 1985

16:34:10 Was President for five years; had turned it down five years before and found that I was the only person to have refused it since Faraday, but I had just started a new division at the Lab and I thought that being head of the MRC Lab was just as prestigious; I introduced a department of neuroscience here which we had not had before; as President of the Royal Society had to deal with a lot of issues such as genetically modified organisms which, by the way, with zinc fingers we can do much better now; this is producing what has been called a game change in plant agriculture; zinc fingers are used to modify genes and you can put genes into a specified place; had to deal with privatization from Mrs Thatcher as she wanted to sell off all our laboratories; also started on global warming; every year in my anniversary address I, like the elder Cato, would bring up the subject; started work here with John Sulston on the human genome; Sydney Brenner and others were going round the world creating the Human Genome Organization; John Sulston started out using any sequencing facilities that there were and made huge progress; Brenner had wanted him to work on the products of the genes, the proteins produced by the genes, and to sequence those, or rather to sequence the RNA which is the intermediate between the DNA; I, in contrast, encouraged Sulston to do the whole genome because there you get not just the products of the genes but, probably equally important, the DNA sequences for binding the regulatory machinery; now, ironically, I am working on zinc fingers which are the most powerful weapon for intervening in gene regulation; after turning down the Presidency I did not think they would ask me again at the age of sixty-nine but Alex Todd had been the same age so there was a precedent; my wife enjoyed the challenge and we opened up the place by having lunches and improving the menu; we had a flat in London and I had thought we’d go to theatres and galleries, but was too busy as it also overlapped with being head of the lab

23:10:20 Started in the Lab in 1962 and had my own group, but did spend time working with Crick on chromatin; we published very few things together; had a very good post-doc., Roger Kornberg, who got a Nobel prize last year, and together investigated the sub-structure of chromatin; he discovered working on the chemical analysis of chromatin samples that the histones which are used for packaging the DNA on their own form aggregates; the psychological breakthrough was that the proteins form a globular aggregate like haemoglobin and here could not be sitting in the grooves of the DNA as people like Wilkins had assumed; Kornberg discovered the nucleosome; I did not put my name on the paper though might have done; got him to see not “beads on a string” but string of DNA on beads; I also started work on tRNA; also started an Alzheimer group which is flourishing as I thought we should be doing something that is relevant to medical research; had not realized that Alzheimer’s disease was specific to certain areas of the brain; realized that it must be caused by a malfunction; work had been in the hands of neurophysiologists and they had been cutting sections of Alzheimer brains; I said we must get the material out as had been done with chromatin; introduced chemical separation methods which we’d used on chromatin, chopping up the material with enzymes etc. so we discovered the filaments; work continues but I moved on to zinc fingers

27:43:04 Max Perutz

was head of the Lab when I came here as a group leader; John Kendrew was the head of one of the divisions in the lab called Protein Crystallography; Hugh Huxley was working on the structure of muscle; I was working on viruses; Perutz and Kendrew were working on single proteins; we worked on biological assemblies using both X-rays and electron microscopy; Hugh Huxley was the best electron microscopist of his time, a mystery why he did not get a Nobel prize for his work on muscle; Max was single-minded and determined; wasn’t very learned but as he went along he learnt; not highly imaginative but solved, over a period of years, the structures of haemoglobin both in the oxygenated form and the deoxygenated form and shown the structural transition between them; John Kendrew was very different; a marvellous staff officer, very well organized with a meticulous filing system using a form of punch card; when I told Max how tobacco mosaic virus assembles [shows figures from Nobel Prize lecture] he didn’t believe it; own work on spherical viruses described; collaboration with Donald Caspar [shows model of a spherical virus]; in 1966 Max gave an interview for ‘Science’ and spoke about all the successes of the lab – Nobel prize for Crick and Watson in 1962, and himself and Kendrew, Sydney Brenner’s work on the messenger RNA, and “Klug’s work is very satisfying” but was “very far fetched”; his gift as Director was to let me get on with my work without believing in it; Crick understood it immediately and I know that he put me up for the Nobel Prize; spherical viruses and Buckminster Fuller geodesic domes

40:06:05 Electron microscopy takes a two-dimensional image; 3D image construction allows you to combine all the 2D views mathematically using a computer and producing and three-dimensional image which is the basis of the X-ray CAT scanner; some thought I should have got a Nobel Prize for this work but Hounsfield patented the machine not the technique; felt a bit sore in 1979 when he got the Nobel Prize because he knew my papers and referred to them and I’d exhibited with him at the Royal Society [shows images of electron micrographs of virus particles and describes use of tilting experiments using computer methods leading on to the method for the CAT scanner]; my paper came out in January 1968 and in August Hounsfield took out a patent for building a machine at EMI; to begin with it produced nonsense as he did not collect enough views for the detail he was looking for; however, in 1982 I got the Nobel Prize on my own for chemistry; earlier tried to interest radiologists to take up computer automated tomography based on image construction techniques but they thought it would be too harmful to take a series of X-ray photographs

51:22:18 Work on zinc fingers; became interested in active chromatin which has become susceptible to enzymes which will attack the “open” DNA which correlated with genes which were going to be activated; began looking for a source of active chromatin in large quantities; found that the gene of ‘Xenopus Leavis’, the South African frog or toad, which was present in large amounts; colleague Hugh Pelham had actually worked on it; decided to work on the 5S RNA genes which in this case gets incorporated into ribosomes which are protein synthesis factories; had a new post-doc, Jonathan Miller, and uncovered by purely biochemical experiments over a number of years that this had a repeating structure [shows diagram and the amino acid sequence that came out]; went on from strength to strength [shows number of zinc finger genes from simple forms to human] a marvellous modular system where each finger has a different amino acid sequence which can recognise a short sequence of DNA; so suggested to me a tool for making synthetic fingers having access to genes; now a big technology; with my colleague Yen Choo who formed a company call Gendaq; MRC hold the patents; in the lab started to make libraries of zinc fingers and began to work out the rules of recognition; Gendaq was bought out by an astute American who created a biotech business called Sangamo which may be successful and make some money; now the method of choice, ‘game-changing’ technology; know I’ve been noted for another Nobel Prize for it; I didn’t set out to be a benefactor of mankind but just out of curiosity which is the driving force; its not only thinking but also doing; we used to make fingers in the lab chemically so I had to learn how to synthesise these things; the first paper on zinc fingers appeared 1985; when I wrote it, I thought it was unlikely to be confined to a lowly gene in a lowly animal; needs not just intelligence but also imaginative powers of the “what if” kind; also need some technical expertise unlike Linus Pauling who often proposed things that were unrealizable as he didn’t have enough technical understanding; the truth is in the detail…

—On November 21, 2014 I received a letter from Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto and it said:

…Please click on this URL http://vimeo.com/26991975

and you will hear what far smarter people than I have to say on this matter. I agree with them.

Harry Kroto

Nick Gathergood, David-Birkett, Harry-Kroto

I have attempted to respond to all of Dr. Kroto’s friends arguments and I have posted my responses one per week for over a year now. Here are some of my earlier posts:

Arif Ahmed, Sir David AttenboroughMark Balaguer, Horace Barlow, Michael BatePatricia ChurchlandAaron CiechanoverNoam Chomsky,Alan DershowitzHubert Dreyfus, Bart Ehrman, Stephan FeuchtwangDavid Friend,  Riccardo GiacconiIvar Giaever , Roy GlauberRebecca GoldsteinDavid J. Gross,  Brian Greene, Susan GreenfieldStephen F Gudeman,  Alan Guth, Jonathan HaidtTheodor W. Hänsch, Brian Harrison,  Hermann HauserRoald Hoffmann,  Bruce HoodHerbert Huppert,  Gareth Stedman Jones, Steve JonesShelly KaganMichio Kaku,  Stuart Kauffman,  Lawrence KraussHarry Kroto, George LakoffElizabeth Loftus,  Alan MacfarlanePeter MillicanMarvin MinskyLeonard Mlodinow,  Yujin NagasawaAlva NoeDouglas Osheroff,  Jonathan Parry,  Saul PerlmutterHerman Philipse,  Carolyn PorcoRobert M. PriceLisa RandallLord Martin Rees,  Oliver Sacks, John SearleMarcus du SautoySimon SchafferJ. L. Schellenberg,   Lee Silver Peter Singer,  Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongRonald de Sousa, Victor StengerBarry Supple,   Leonard Susskind, Raymond TallisNeil deGrasse Tyson,  .Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John WalkerFrank WilczekSteven Weinberg, and  Lewis Wolpert,

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