Some philosophy of science behind all the geology

Are the principles of geology justified? Some think all claims of vast ages and geological time are speculaltive.


This blog by Paul Bratermann looks at the issues.

It is interesting he consulted three “God-botherer” geologists!!


Unconformity in the Grand Canyon

Source: 3quarksdaily: In praise of fallibility: why science needs philosophy


Charles Darwin birthday weekend 2018

The flags were out for Charles Darwin this weekend as it was his 209th birthday.f


I was lucky to be there and went to some old haunts.

My first call where Darwin was baptised soon after he was born. This was not the font, fossiliferous though it is.




Next stop was the Unitarian Church where his family often worshipped






It goes back to 1662 when it was a Presbyterian church, which went ~Unitarian. Coleridge preached there as a brass below the hatchment records. Howver later, he became an Anglican and described Unitarianism as ” a feather bed to catch a falling Christian.” I agree!!


There several plaques, one to Darwin and another to a Unitarian businessman and amateur geologist, John Eddowes Bowman, who visited Snowdonia in June 1842 to see whether there was glaciation. He said no but soon both Rev William buckland and Charles Darwin said there was.




One minister was George Case ,who ran a school. Darwin went there before going to shrewsbury School


Dr Case’s school.


Inbetween studying at Edinburgh and Cambridge, Darwin got friendly with FannY Mostyn Owen and they sent letters signed “housemaid” or “postilion”. Fanny married Robert Myddelton biddulph of Chirk Castle in early 1831, and lived in the castle.


In the 1840s Pugin was hired to improve the castle. Among other things he designed at least two fireplaces.


One on side is FMB – Fanny Myddleton Biddulph


And the other RMB – Robert Myddleton Biddulph




Just after Darwin sailed on the Beagle, Fanny and Robert met at the Queen’s Head (where we had lunch today) and then rode to Woodhouse where Robert asked William Mostyn Own for fanny’s hand in marriage. William grudgingly gave it.

Back to science. I July 1831 Darwin tried to teach himself geology, before Sedgwick came to take him round Wales.

He went to an old quarry in Shrewsbury, where there is a recently planted wood.  There he found a volute shell and showed it to Sedgwick a few weeks later. Sedgwick dismissed it by saying it had been “thrown away by someone”. Actually after Darwin returned there in 1838 he realised it was glacial drift and thus the “someone2 who threw away the shell was an ice sheet who picked up the shell way up in the desolate north – probably the North Sea and dumped it there as he got too hot!




There’s an erratic – the Bellstone – at the Morris Hall which baffled all in the 1820s until glaciation explained all.



In July 1831 Darwin tried to make a geological map and coloured it in a bit and marked 4 sites ABCD . Here is one of New Red Sandstone (Permo-triass) just by Nobold! Nearby,he recorded Coal Measures as there were a series of bell pits.




and so to Wenlock Edge which Darwin visited in 1838 after returning from Glen Roy , where he made his biggest geological blunder on the Parallel Roads

He visited a quarry of Ordovician limestone. It survives though overgrown with at least one limekiln.


Much is bedded limestone








But there is some reef limestone as in this photo.


Having visited so many coral reefs in the Indian Ocean  – the subject of his first book – he planned to make an extensive study of all the fossil coral reefs in Britain. He had his eye on many from the Carboniferous.

However illness soon put paid to energetic field geology and so he pottered around Downe House, first with his barnacles and then wrote “The Origin of species”

That is another story

Creationist Ken Ham accused of child abuse

Poor Ken. He gets his own medicine and is accused of child abuse.

Image result for ken ham image

Fair enough. He deceives so many with his creationist falsehoods and tries to convince Christians young and old, they can’t be proper Christians if they don’t beleive god created the world 6000 years ago.

I heard him once and he shouted done any who dared question him.

Not a nice guy

Answers magazine, Oct-Dec 2014 issue

via Creationist Ken Ham Freaks Out After Being Called Out For Child Abuse

How to deal with (Victorian) Creationists and win!

For the last fifty years Young Earth Creationism has been thriving and growing , first in the USA and then throughout the world. It has been opposed by many scientists and the wiser of Christians. At times some Christians have been too reticent.

And so the likes of Henry Morris and Ken Ham have called too many shots over recent years.

Image result for ken ham image

I wonder if Christians today shouldn’t have been as forthright as Sedgwick and Buckland.

During the early 19th century a handful in Britain argued against the geologists with their vastly extended timescales. There has been no full-scale treatment of them , though the Answers in Genesis resident “Historian of Geology” did a Ph D on the “scriptural geologists” and published a eulogy – sorry book – on them The Great Turning Point. He seems to think they were wonderful scientists!

I have only managed to find forty to fifty who went into print and they all tried to rubbish the geologists and insist the earth was young.  Many were Anglican clergy, most notably the Dean of York , William Cockburn , whose activities you can read in my link at he end. As the early 19th century was the time of the Reverend Geologists like Rev. William Buckland from Oxford and


Rev. Adam Sedgwick from Cambridge,


who took it upon themselves to take on these scriptural geologists.

Both Buckland and Sedgwick were brilliant geologists, who made great geological contributions. Buckland was the first to describe a Jurassic mammal and introduced notions of the Ice Age to Britain. Sedgwick made a massive , if not leading contribution to the works out of the Cambrian, Ordovician Silurian and Devonian periods. Sedgwick also taught Darwin geology and took him on a Welsh field trip in 1831.



I have researched Buckland on the Ice Age and Sedgwick in Wales and never fail to be amazed their geological skill. This resulted in much walking over the Welsh mountains in all weather conditions. My most energetic day was a trek over the Carneddau covering 18 miles and over 6,000ft of climbing.

Sedgwick wrote A discourse on the studies of the university in 1833 in the middle of his Welsh explorations. An Anglican cleric Henry Cole took Sedgwick to task, but Sedgwick rightfully shredded him. Then in 1844 he got the same treatment from Dean Cockburn of York Minster. I think Cockburn gets the prize for being the stupidest dean ever, though there are some competitors! I won’t say whom.

Here’s the memorial plaque to Sedgwick in Dent Church


And now read the paper to see how silly Cole and Cockburn were!!


From:K O ¨ LBL-EBERT, M. (ed.) Geology and Religion: A History of Harmony and Hostility. The Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 310, 155–170. DOI: 10.1144/SP310.18 0305-8719/09/$15.00 # The Geological Society of London 2009.

Follow this link


A Short History of Design


In the last quarter of a century Design has come back into vogue with Intelligent Design, following the work of Dembski, Behe and others . Intelligent Design has failed to gain many followers but some conservative Christians still think it a better alternative than either Young Earth Creationism or Theistic Evolution.

Rather than focus on the oft-repeated and valid criticisms I shall consider the history of design since about 1660 and show that Intelligent Design has no roots in William Paley and his classic argument of two hundred years ago.

This is a paper I gave in 2006 to a Christians in Science conference


Above is the Megatherium which Buckland thought exemplified design in 1832


History of design1

Jesus was NOT a refugee

Jesus was NOT a refugee



Over the last few years there have been many refugees and migrants coming to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East. Some come as far as Britain. No one can fail to be touched by their plight. This year we have witnessed the Rohinga refugees from Burma or Myanmar escaping into Bangladesh, with stories of child rape as well as murder. Some girls are dressed in obviously boy’s clothes for their protection.

Image result for jesus flight to egypt pictures

Not that refugees are new, but for decades there have been vast numbers of refugees who may be stuck in camps for decades.

Image result for refugees

Then, many in our world are gripped by poverty, both in Britain, but especially in what was called the Third World.

Most of us in the affluent and effluent West need challenging over these sufferings and there is much in the New Testament and the prophets in the Old Testament to goad us.

However one pair of arguments is very appealing to many, whether Christian or not. This is the claim that Jesus was born into poverty and was a refugee as his family was forced to go to Bethlehem and then flee to Egypt. This is the stuff of much Christian writing and sermons and is found in carols;

Mine are riches, from your poverty

It is a theme in Christian art as the Rembrandt shows

To question or challenge this is to fly in the face of so many sermons and so much Christian appeal to care for those in need, especially refugees. No one with even the weakest of morals could challenge the moral appeal of this, but is it actually true that Jesus was born in poverty and was a refugee. It is good for heart-strings and goading people into action, but is it actually true?

So what about it?

Was Jesus born in poverty?

Was Jesus a refugee?


If we answer “yes” to both, we can make a powerful argument for action on both fronts. But what if neither is true? Or even not quite true.

Let’s consider them with the Birth Narratives of Matthew and Luke ever present. I shall ignore questions of historicity as then would completely derail any discussion. Many use the narratives for moral arguments but hold to varying amounts of historicity or even none. I won’t consider whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem or whether the flight to Egypt took place, or Quirinius’ census. However I will consider the moral and spiritual message of the narratives and ignore historical questions.

Was Jesus born in poverty?

The Gospels are pretty lean and mean on what they say about Jesus’s home background and wealth. Joseph was a carpenter or builder, and so they asked in the synagogue at Nazareth Matt 13vs55 “Is he not the son of carpenter?” We can argue whether tekton  means builder or carpenter. It does not matter as both are artisan skills and that indicates that Jesus’s family were at least artisan and thus not in poverty. With other incidents, like going to Jerusalem at the age of twelve Luke 2 and the wedding at Cana John 2, the evidence points to being anything but in poverty. They were probably not rich, but by no means living in a state even approaching poverty. It is best to say Joseph was comfortable and probably no more than that.

The Holy Family were comfortable by the standards of their day. They did not live in a palace, but in no sense could they be called poor. Joseph and Mary would neither have clothed their family in rags or “fine raiment”.

Was Jesus a refugee?

This needs to be considered in two parts – first the journey to Bethlehem and secondly the journey to Egypt.

On the former and taking Luke’s cryptic account in Luke 2 at face value, Joseph did not flee his adopted town of Nazareth to take refuge in Bethlehem. The reason of the journey was clear. According to Luke, the governor Quirinius had ordered all to go to their home towns for the census. With the Roman authority behind it, there was no desperate flight and would have had a semblance of order. I doubt whether the journey was enjoyable, but suspect they were with others on the journey. Further the family later returned to Nazareth. The journey would not have been pleasant for Mary, but the 70 mile walk to Bethlehem would have been a Sunday School outing compared to the Rohinga fleeing from Myanmar and many other refugees in recent years, including those in the turmoil of WWII. Though that it cannot be regarded as gospel, the Proto-gospel of James written in about 150AD supports my contentions.

And so they came to Bethlehem, where undoubtedly many of Joseph’s relatives lived. It is inconceivable to go along with the traditional story and conclude they were turned away by the inn-keeper and were shunted off into an outhouse or cave. But Luke does not say that and some argue the Holy Family were given a guestroom. If Luke were right then many, but not fleeing hordes, would have made the journey

The flight to Egypt

After the magi went, they had to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod’s wrath. Matthew tells us little and so the story has been embroidered by later writers. Ignoring the embroidery there was an excellent coast road through Gaza to Egypt, which would have made the journey relatively straightforward. The road was used by Roman soldiers as a main route so would have been good.

Matthew only says they “remained there until the death of Herod.” He gave no clue to where they went, but there was a large Jewish population in Alexandria. The great Jewish thinker and philosopher Philo lived there from 25BC to 50 AD. If that is where they went, there were many fellow Jews and probably kinsmen. No one would like to uproot with a tiny baby but this is nothing like the usual ghastly situation of refugees, whether we think of Ruhinga, those crossing the Med, or the many others we have read off in the last 50 years..

We may say they took refuge but were not refugees.





We can safely conclude that Jesus was not born in poverty, nor was he a refugee in the usual sense of being caught up in an enforced mass migration simply fleeing some horror.  Yes, they were forced to go to Bethlehem and then as a family had to take refuge in Egypt

If we take the New Testament picture of the holy family, we must conclude  that Jesus’s home was “mediocre” and neither rich nor poor. By virtue of being a builder or carpenter, Joseph’s family were definitely not poor, and not suffering from poverty. Joseph and Mary would not have taken Jesus to Jerusalem when he was 12  (Luke 2) if they were in poverty. Snapshots of their family life as in the miracle of Cana in Galilee (John 2) reflect an ordinary family, neither rich nor poor. Further they – and especially Jesus, were literate and knew the Scriptures. They wore neither “soft robes” nor rags.

Jesus was NOT born into poverty

So we have lost a powerful and emotional argument to care for the most deprived.

Then what?


What can we base our appeals for action on?


It is far easier to use an emotive argument like “Jesus was a refugee” than to give the straight (boring ) Christian teaching. I wonder if the appeal to Jesus as a refugee partly stems from a general acceptance of Liberation Theology, which though rightfully emphasises the need of the poor,  butfar too quickly pushes aside any concern for the rich or even the unpoor and unrich. It also moves the centre of gravity of the Gospel from Jesus Christ to the liberation stories of Exodus. I need to add here that I started reading Liberation Theology a few years after returning from Apartheid South Africa, where I acquired the nickname Comrade Mike! I found it wanting.

To base ones practice on many issues and not only the issue of refugees and migrants, one needs a basic grasp of Christian teaching in relation to ALL people, before moving to particular groups.

First is the Second Great Commandment “you shall love your neighbour as yourself” which is the basis of all Christian behaviour.


This crops up in so much of the New Testament eg I Cor 13.

Several parables eg Good Samaritan and Sheep and Goats lead on from this

Then, secondarily,  we have aspects of the Old Testament (which must always be seen in the light of the NT. No we don’t imitate Sisera or stone homosexuals etc) There are the caring aspects of Law (Exod 23 vs1 -9, & especially vs 9 You shall not oppress a resident alien .. For you were aliens in the land of Egypt)  and prophecies i.e forthright forth-telling of the prophets (e.g Isaiah 61 vs 1 – 2 which was cited by Jesus in a Nazareth synagogue – Luke 4 vs 16ff) and many of the prophets who were FORTHTELLING against wrong-doing and injustice  and were not concerned with FORE-TELLING.


However all that was enough for getting rid of slavery in about 1800  and many other things great and small, whether education, hospitals, orphans (Barnado) , Childrens Society and so many other things right across the denominations

We need to follow the example of Jesus and his teaching on love rather than making him out to be a refugee.


Appeal judgement further legitimises Cuadrilla ongoing operations – Lancashire For Shale

A short blog from Lancashire for Shale on the recent court decision over the frivolous attempt by child-entertainer Gayzer Frackman and a few Preston Newroad residents to stop exploration at Preston New Road. The two groups alsways seem to get their facts wrong anyway



An appeal against the decision to approve fracking planning permission in Lancashire has failed, demonstrating yet again that the decision to consent was reached properly and that Cuadrilla possesses all the permissions it needs to lawfully explore for shale gas at its Preston New Road site. Three Court of Appeal Justices have today ruled that the …

Source: Appeal judgement further legitimises Cuadrilla ongoing operations – Lancashire For Shale

An appeal against the decision to approve fracking planning permission in Lancashire has failed, demonstrating yet again that the decision to consent was reached properly and that Cuadrilla possesses all the permissions it needs to lawfully explore for shale gas at its Preston New Road site.

Three Court of Appeal Justices have today ruled that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, acted properly when granting planning permission to Cuadrilla in October 2016, and that planning law has been complied with.

It is the second unsuccessful challenge brought by campaigners, who had previously sought to overturn the Secretary of State’s decision through the High Court, which dismissed claims last year.

A Lancashire For Shale spokesperson said: “We are very pleased with the decision of the Court of Appeal. It means that Cuadrilla can continue its operations, which have already ploughed around £5 million into the local economy in just a year.

“However, it’s not just potential suppliers that stand to benefit from a successful shale gas industry here.

“One way or another, Lancashire’s 52,000-strong business community relies on a secure and affordable supply of gas, but most of that gas is currently imported. As the unexpected outages in December showed, our dependency on gas from overseas leaves businesses vulnerable to supply shortages and price spikes.

“It’s vital that we get on with securing more of our own, affordable gas, and Cuadrilla’s work in Lancashire is an important first step in doing just that.”

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla CEO, said: “We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has robustly dismissed both challenges on all the grounds presented, as well as dismissing requests for further appeal. The same challenges were previously dismissed by the High Court in a similarly detailed judgement made in April 2017. We have always remained confident that that the planning consent would stand, particularly after such a lengthy and thorough review of the application and positive recommendations for approval by both the professional Planning Officers at Lancashire County Council and subsequently an experienced Planning Inspector.

“As our lawful planning consent remains in place, even whilst the Court of Appeal case was heard, operations on site have continued to progress well. We have successfully completed our data
acquisition programme in the shale and will commence drilling the horizontal sections of the first of two initial wells this weekend. Local businesses and workers in Lancashire continue to benefit from the significant investment and jobs that our operations are bringing to the county.”

The journey to this point began back in February 2014 when Cuadrilla announced the proposed location of its Preston New Road site, as this timeline shows. It’s clear from this that the decision to grant planning permission has not been rushed, and has instead been properly considered at every stage.

The summary judgement can be found here.