*be sceptical - take nothing for granted!
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The other day I found myself killing time in Chatswood waiting for my car to be serviced. A long stay in a coffee shop seemed a good option but I would need something to read - not too heavy. In a bookshop I found the latest Dan Brown: Origin. Dan might not be le Carré but like Lee Child and Clive Cussler he's a fast and easy read.

A quick flick told me Professor Langdon was on yet another wild-goose-chase around the real churches; art galleries; palaces and tombs of Europe (in this case Spain), with another beautiful yet somehow unattainable woman. In that respect the good professor is not a James Bond nor even Jason Bourne.

I won't be giving much away by telling those of you who have not read Origin that the plot rests on a billionaire computer geek's pre-recorded 'proofs' that: life arises spontaneously as a result of the natural laws of this universe; and that with increasing intervention of technology humans are evolving - so that in a relatively short time our descendants will cease to be human.

While the thwarted multimedia presentation of these 'proofs' to the world makes for a fast paced thriller as the the bodies pile up, the presentation's eventual revelations turn out to be disappointingly mundane. 

Last century I began writing my essay for my then young children: The Meaning of Life in which both of the "breathtaking truths" (referred to on the back cover of Origin) are discussed as current ideas - two decades ago.  See the chapters on Life (particularly in respect of entropy) and Evolution (particularly in respect of technology).

So Origin is not very original. Well, what did readers expect?  This is a popular thriller not a paradigm changing scientific paper or a theological revelation (perhaps as a result of a new Marian Apparition?).

 

Post Script

Since writing this commentary the scientific world has been taken aback by the announcement a young scientist, He Jiankui, at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, that he had successfully used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to edit a gene in several children.  Two girls, twins, have been born and are thriving and another gene-edited baby is on the way.   Thus Human evolution has been given a small shove forward and what is now just a trickle may become a flood.

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Travel

Egypt, Syria and Jordan

 

 

 

In October 2010 we travelled to three countries in the Middle East: Egypt; Syria and Jordan. While in Egypt we took a Nile cruise, effectively an organised tour package complete with guide, but otherwise we travelled independently: by cab; rental car (in Jordan); bus; train and plane.

On the way there we had stopovers in London and Budapest to visit friends.

The impact on me was to reassert the depth, complexity and colour of this seminal part of our history and civilisation. In particular this is the cauldron in which Judaism, Christianity and Islam were created, together with much of our science, language and mathematics.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Merry Christmas

 

 

 

As Tim Minchin sings in White Wine in the Sun [turn on your sound...] Christmas is a time for family.  Last year our family got bigger.  Tilda Charlotte was born in Germany. This Christmas she is walking and sort of talking (a couple of German words at least).  So the lyrics:

And if my baby girl
When you're twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You'll know what ever comes
Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun
When Christmas comes
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun Darling, whenever you come
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Waiting for you in the sun Darling, when Christmas comes
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Waiting
  

have a special meaning this year:  I really like Christmas - It's sentimental, I know.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Luther - Father of the Modern World?

 

 

 

 

To celebrate or perhaps just to mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his '95 theses' to a church door in Wittenberg and set in motion the Protestant Revolution, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been running a number of programs discussing the legacy of this complex man featuring leading thinkers and historians in the field. 

Much of the ABC debate has centred on Luther's impact on the modern world.  Was he responsible for today or might the world still be stuck in the 'middle ages' with each generation doing more or less what the previous one did, largely within the same medieval social structures?  In that case could those inhabitants, obviously not us, still live in a world of less than a billion people, most of them working the land as their great grandparents had done, protected and governed by an hereditary aristocracy, their mundane lives punctuated only by variations in the weather and occasional wars between those princes?

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