Re: The Nature of Atheist - Christian dialogue

From: Iain Strachan (iain.strachan.asa@ntlworld.com)
Date: Fri May 02 2003 - 14:25:51 EDT

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    Michael,

    Thanks for writing back, and for keeping the tone at a more civil level. I
    appreciate that.

    > My rewrite of Hopkins was to make a very serious point as was my being
    > shredded and bleeding while falling off a mountain.
    >

    I hope I didn't offend you by suggesting you were playing it for laughs. As
    an amateur poet, I once attempted to do a parody of a Hopkins sonnet, for
    purely humorous intent. I had assumed that was the normal thing when you do
    a parody.

    > IG Guiness is a blood relative of Os Giunness, simple as that.
    >

    I didn't know that. He never mentioned that when I met him to discuss
    Shostakovich, although he knows very well that I am a Christian. His own
    position seems pretty hostile to organised religion.

    Can I at least present to you how I got involved in this? I'm not going to
    bombard you with numerical facts as I perceive that's not what you're
    interested in; but at least perhaps I can get you to see that the evidence
    I came across wasn't something I felt I could ignore with integrity. As I'm
    sure you'll agree, many evolutionists (and IDers for that matter) accuse the
    YEC people of simply ignoring the scientific evidence we see about us. It's
    not my purpose to discuss whether indeed they do, but let's suppose for the
    sake of argument that the YEC crowd are a bunch of ostriches who ignore
    anything that counters their cherished beliefs.

    The point I would draw to your attention was that my initial response to
    bible numerics was similar to yours, and I wanted to ignore the evidence, or
    pretend it wasn't valid. It started with plain curiosity about something
    not remotely connected with the bible. I had read that Dmitri Shostakovich
    (my favourite composer) had intended to write a set of 24 string quartets,
    one in each key & as a result, knowing a bit of music theory, I wanted to
    see if the ones he completed before his death (he died after writing 15),
    had any logical sequence. Nothing sinister about that, I'm sure you'll
    agree; just natural curiosity. I found that the sequence of keys was most
    peculiar, and it pointed to me to a "discovery" that he intended to weave
    his initials into the sequence as a very simple mathematical series. No one
    else had pointed this out before, but since I published it, two fairly
    distinguished musicologists have taken it up, and pronounced the theory
    essentially correct. But as a scientist, I wished to confirm it by looking
    into it in more detail. If there were number games in the keys, perhaps
    there would be similar patterns elsewhere. I uncovered a great deal that
    confirmed that Shostakovich (like many composers before him), did indeed use
    number games/number symbolism in the construction of his music; even down to
    the opus numbers. I also found stong evidence that he used gematria, in a
    tradition that stretches back at least as far as J.S. Bach.

    It was around this time that I found via intenet searching that Ivor
    Grattann-Guinness had written papers concerning numerology in Mozart and
    Beethoven's music, in particular Beethoven's opus numbers (which Beethoven
    chose himself, as did Shostakovich). I wrote to IGG for a copy of his paper
    & presented my Shostakovich findings to him. He was immediately very
    helpful, and stated "Your Shostakovich data stuns me". It was good to hear
    this from such an eminent mathematician (If you search for Ivor
    Grattann-Guinness on Amazon.co.uk you will find about 12 books; all of them
    pretty learned tomes on the history of mathematics from the ancient
    Babylonian times to a few centuries ago). When one is working alone in a
    field such as this, it is good to get the opinion of an acknowledged expert
    in the field.

    In response to one of my emails, IGG told me as an aside that early
    Christian gematria were riddled with multiples of the number 37; a number
    with a long history - apparently Plato was fascinated by the number. My
    immediate feeling on this was one of shock and dismay. IGG was referring to
    the New Testament, which I, like you believe to be the inspired word of God.
    Much the same as you, the thought that Luke, for example, might have been
    messing around with numbers in composing his text was hardly an edifying
    one, and undermined the credibility of it. So I did the ostrich thing; I
    ignored IGG's lead on Bible numerics, and tried to pretend that it didn't
    exist. Maybe IGG was deluded, or didn't really have enough data. Maybe he
    was pursuing his own agenda to undermine religion.

    It was only some time later, when I was doing a Google search on historical
    uses of triangular numbers (there are a few prominent uses of 153 in
    Shostakovich's music), that I found Vernon's web site. I'd come across a
    number of Bible numerics web-sites before, and had felt they were all most
    unconvincing and largely fanciful imagination; one can do anything with a
    little ingenuity with numbers, and there are plenty of nutters out there who
    are ingenious with numbers. I suspect some of them spend their whole day
    fiddling with calculators. Pretty sad if you ask me. But I was forced to
    admit that Vernon's work was different. There was, of course, far too much
    material to take in, but it was clear there was a coherent and elegant
    mathematical core to it; concerned with the packing of circles into a
    hexagonal grid; a technique that is exploited to a fair degree in my
    academic field of neural networks. Furthermore, it was far more elegant in
    its conception and depth of relationships than anything I'd seen in
    Shostakovich, or seen written about other composers. Shostakovich was a
    bungling amateur compared with whoever was responsible for the pattern, for
    example in Genesis 1:1.

    So I hope it's clear to you that I was confronted with evidence I couldn't
    just dismiss; I had to find a way to deal with it, just as most Christians
    have to find a way to deal with the theory of evolution, which also can
    undermine faith (especially when protagonists like Richard Dawkins say it's
    the only possible way to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist).

    I now have to live with the fact that there is overwhelming evidence of
    numerical patterns in the bible & I have to see how that affects how I
    believe the bible was constructed, the nature of Divine inspiration, and so
    forth. I didn't deliberately set out to find it; it was almost as if it
    found me when I was really interested in something else. I don't really
    know why I like the music of Shostakovich so much, which led me down this
    path. All his music is dark and anguished, and I'm not a dark and anguished
    sort of person. I don't claim to know what it's "for" (Vernon obviously has
    his own agenda on this one, but it's not quite the same as mine). But I do
    hope you can see that for my part, it is something I do not feel would be
    honest to ignore; just as you don't think it's honest to ignore the evidence
    of great age of the earth. And also, that given this issue is related to
    the Bible, that it's not an unreasonable thing to do to seek a forum of
    scientifically inclined Christians with whom to discuss the matter.

    You have written elsewhere on the ASA site, quite convincingly about how you
    feel that evolutionary theories can give you an insight into your Creator.
    That has been your intellectual journey, and it has brought you closer to
    God. Is it so unreasonable to suggest that my very different intellectual
    journey might perhaps have offered me a different (and not even necessarily
    contradictory) insight into the Creator?

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter. I don't ask people
    to agree with my position on this; but I do ask people not to insult my
    intelligence and treat me as a nut-case, or someone who is self-deluded. Is
    that really too much to ask?

    I should add that I've become well acquainted with Vernon; he's a good
    friend, and we frequently converse on the phone. Vernon's been on this list
    much longer than I have & has developed a thick skin. My skin's not that
    thick; hence my frequent moans about the way people treat each other. But
    after all; we are Christians; we are supposed to love each other.

    In Christ,
    Iain Strachan.



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