History vs. Science as enquiry into Truth
Nov 22nd, 2007 by teragram

Zoomie’s most recent post, though only tangentally related, reminded me of a topic I wanted to blog.

As I was thinking about arguments I could have used in that debate*, I realised that “theological enquiry” (for want of a better phrase) is much more like historical enquiry than it is like scientific enquiry (for one thing, much of it is historical enquiry). Many of our peers have somehow been convinced that if science doesn’t show it, then you can’t know it (for any useful value of “know”). That’s not actually the way they live though. Not only do they accept the word of people they trust, but they also believe the history books.

We all know that science must be open to revision based on new evidence, but history is open for debate in quite a different way. It’s okay for us to have differing opinions on historical events even though it actually only happened one way. In a sense, this is because we have accepted that we are working with limited evidence. Within science, the reputation and trustworthiness of the source of any given claim has very little relevance. Experiments can be repeated by other teams in slightly different circumstances to see if the same results are obtained. You can’t re-run the fall of the Roman Empire. Either you were there, or you weren’t (I’m assuming you weren’t).

Historians differentiate between primary evidence (effectively eye-witness accounts), secondary evidence (close in time and relation to the event), and tertiary evidence (usually interpretations of primary and secondary evidence). They must also try to account for the reliability of the witness in question. Should we take Caesar’s account of the gallic wars literally, or can we assume that he was trying to portray a particular angle for his own aims? The historian is treading on much less sure ground, but that doesn’t make her work irrelevant or useless.

When we enquire into the nature of God we are often asking historical questions: “Did Jesus really rise from the grave?”, “Did Jesus actually walk on water?”, “Did many of the first Christians really give up their lives for what they believed?”. Many of our other questions are historical in a much more personal way: “Does God answer prayers? Can I believe the accounts of other people who claim their prayers were answered, and can I believe my own memories of answered prayers?” Historical questions have to be answered with the right methods. Who are the people on whose testimony we are relying? How reliable are they? What can we assume about their agendas and contexts? How close to the event were they? Is there a contradictory testimony? Can we come up with alternative (viable) explanations? And so on.

Well I’m not sure I’ve made my point very clearly, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.


* Just because I’ve decided not to participate, doesn’t mean I can stop thinking of arguments I would have used 🙂

Debate on teh intertubes
Nov 9th, 2007 by teragram

Have you ever had one of those conversations where you’re doing your level best to be polite, articulate, sensitive and winsome only to be told that you’re condescending, insulting and annoying? If so, it was probably on the Internet. Adding little smilies and self-deprecating jokes will only get you so far. Eventually, unless you’re on a different ‘net than I am, your “opponent” will completely misconstrue all of your carefully worded arguments and take them as a personal affront.

Is there any way to break out of this cycle? When I want to say “actually, you are the one who is being condescending”, is it time to let the thread die? If I walk away now, will all my hard work come to naught? Is naught the very best I could possibly hope for anyway? Perhaps the lesson here is never to get involved at all.

Sadly, I don’t have any answers to these questions. But, as C said, writing them down is probably more constructive than responding to the thread that gave rise to them. It’s going to be hard, vast audience, to resist that thread. I offered to leave several times, and was repeatedly asked to stay. The things they are saying are crying out for a response. They need a sense-injection! But, alas, they cannot recognise sense in me. I am a Christian and therefore necessarily preaching, rude, aggressive, insulting and condescending. But not wrong, no, no, they would never say I was wrong.


Wot! no recipe?
Oct 10th, 2007 by teragram

Despite all appearances, this is not a cookery blog. I have been thinking about, and experiencing, things other than food in the last few months, but none of them have made it onto your screens. Some of them would be inappropriate, some of them would be boring, but mostly they would be my PhD. Yes, I am in the final phase of the final phase. My deadline is the 31st of October. It is particularly unfortunate then, that the only “writing” I managed to do today had to be undone because it was wrong. *sigh*

Well the icecream van has stopped playing the incessant tones of a nursery rhyme I can’t quite place, or else has moved out of earshot. The Boy Next Door is not playing his guitar, strains of AC/DC riffs degenerating into random twiddling. So why am I writing this, instead of writing that? Responsibilities in the morning and celebrations in the evening are sandwiching my day, and the sandwich filling (work) has all squeezed out the sides. If only my work were more like jam. I do hate that feeling of doing a few domestic bits and pieces, grabbing a bit of lunch, reading a few mails to settle in, and then realising that there’s one hour till I have to get ready to leave, and nothing on my todo list that could be satisfactorily done in less than two.

Rest assured my friends, when I have fallen off the cliff of graduation, doggy-paddled in the sea of directionless-despair and swum to the shore of whatever’s next this blog will return to its standard, scintillating service.

Tg – in the court of king Caratacus

Coleslaw 55
Oct 5th, 2007 by teragram

Last night we had the kind of dinner that you see on cookery programs and go “yeah right”. Chicken and goat’s cheese pizzas, lamb & veg skewers, and home-made coleslaw. The coleslaw was based on the one my Mam used to make, and it was such a strange feeling. I grated the carrot, and thought “that looks right”. Then I grated the cabbage, and it mixed a bit with the carrot in the food processor and I couldn’t believe how right it looked. Then I added the salad cream and I was right back at number 55 (before the council changed the door numbers) with the little fridge by the arch into the kitchen. I couldn’t believe how good, and homey it smelled 🙂 So here’s the dead-easy recipe for “coleslaw 55”:

1 large carrot
1/4 of a white cabbage
Heinz salad cream

Grate carrot and cabbage in food processor (the bigger the holes in the grater, the better)
Mix thoroughly
Add salad cream sparingly to taste



P.S. I made the stuffing again the other night with olive oil, and it was actually nicer 🙂

Homemade stuffing
Sep 24th, 2007 by teragram

Chopped pecans (1/4 of a tescos bag for two people)
Breadcrumbs (gluten free breadcrumbs are *so* easy to make 🙂 )
1 onion, quartered and sliced

Mix the ingredients, put them in the pan under the chicken
Pour the oil from the chicken onto the stuffing whenever it’s pourable (anyone know if chicken fat is worse for you than olive oil?)


Tasty soup
Aug 26th, 2007 by teragram

I guess it’s got something to do with the fact that our kitchen has been on the edge of being installed for at least a fortnight (the finishing touches are going on as I type), but the temporary kitchen has been rather under-supplied of late. This has led to some (rather successful, if I do say so myself) improvisation. Here’s how I made tonight’s.

1 large parsnip
2 medium potatoes
2 small sweet potatoes
2 onions
6 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
2 large tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube
Kettle of hot water

Chop em up (if you want thick soup, cut the potatoes small so that they can dissolve completely)
Stick em in a big pot with the stock cube
Pour on enough hot water to cover most of the veg (if you cover it all it’ll be too much water)
Bring to the boil and then simmer till done (about 30 – 40 mins)


Vegetarian Paella
Aug 22nd, 2007 by teragram

I don’t know how to pronounce it, but I know it tastes good!

Feeds: 2 (actually, the amounts below are what I’m going to make next time, what I made today wasn’t enough)

1 yellow pepper
1 courgette
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 handful of mangetout
(all chopped as you like them)
Olive oil for frying
1 and 1/2 cups of brown rice
1 vegetable stock cube
a little salt
4 cups of hot water

Fry the onions and garlic until they smell great
Add the courgette
Sprinkle with some salt (this really improves the taste of the courgette)
Fry up for a couple of minutes
Add the hot water to the stock cube and mix well
Add the pepper and mangetout and fry up a bit
Add the stock
Add the rice
Boil till the rice is cooked and the water’s gone (should hopefully happen at the same time)
If you can, let the stock/starch stuff at the bottom caramelise a little
Leave to stand for 5 minutes



Jun 12th, 2007 by teragram

You may have heard of these guys. It’s a service C&I are subscribed to. You pay a monthly subscription based on the number of DVDs you want to have at a time. Then you make a list of films you want to watch, they send them to you (we get two at a time) and as you’re finished with each one you send it back. When they receive it they send you another. It’s a great way to get to see loads of films you’ve been meaning to get around to, and the whole thing is very well organised. The DVDs arrive in pre-addressed and stamped packaging so returning them is super-easy. You can keep them as long as you like too, since the payment is just monthly subscription; there are no late fees. And if you let me “recommend” you, I get a free month!


Roast chicken with cabbage
Jun 6th, 2007 by teragram

Very simple meal, but tasty:

Serves 2__
Chop up a carrot, a parsnip, a sweet potato and an onion into bite-sized chunks [1]
Chop the root-end off *loads* of garlic cloves [2], but leave the rest of the skin on
Pour on some olive oil and herbes de provence and mix well
Lightly oil two chicken breasts (preferably on the bone with skin on) and season with salt, pepper and herbes de provence (fresh thyme is a major plus)
Pop all the veg around the chicken on a shallow baking dish
Roast for about an hour (juices run clear, yada yada)

Chop up enough cabbage for two, and boil for about 20-30 mins (I wasn’t timing it) in water seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika


[1] Next time I’m going to steam the carrot and parsnip for about 5 mins before roasting them
[2] There’s a high possibility, unless you’re a garlic-hating freak, that while you eat you’ll be wishing you’d put in more garlic

A request
May 30th, 2007 by teragram

So, as you probably know, we’ve bought a house. Said house is not exactly in tip-top condition, and that’s where the request comes in. We need to get quotes for the following services and products. Any suggestions would be appreciated (preferably by email, but a comment will do 🙂 )

Fireplace (to buy and install)
Heating system
Kitchen appliances
Kitchen cabinets
Wooden floor sanding and varnishing


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