Darwin and Pasteur

Charles Darwin seated
Charles Darwin

On November 24th, 1859, the naturalist Charles Darwin published a book entitled On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In it he offered his views on how God had created the living world. He summarized his overall view thus:

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled.


Newton’s Views on Science and Theology

For the second edition of his Principia in 1713 Newton wrote an essay known as the General Scolium (introduction) in which he defends his views on several scientific and theological questions. There is an English translation of the expanded version from the third edition.

In this essay he hints at his theological views which during his lifetime were only shared in private. A few were published after his death, but the vast majority of Newton’s papers on all subjects except physics became available for scholarly study only in the middle of the 20th century, more than 200 years after his death.

His discussion of the meaning of the word “god” is considered a subtle dig at Trinitarianism. He argues that “god” is a title, not an intrinsic attribute of any person. A God exists when a superhuman being has a dominion. What he does not make explicit is his subordinationist christology: that Jesus, though “God”, is God only in the relative sense that he is a superhuman being and rules over a domain. But in Newton’s view this does not make him the Supreme Being or True God of monotheism because his domain is delegated to him. (He did make this understanding explicit in his unpublished writings.)

He goes on to argue that there is a supreme God who exists by necessity and has always existed. He sees the supreme God as a non corporal being, without a body or physical location. If this concept is impossible to understand, it is only because it is totally alien to human experience.


Institutional Memory

Knowledge is a slippery thing. If we don’t take care we can lose it. Organizations loose it when members leave or retire without passing it on to their replacements. Suddenly the organization does not know how to do part of its job and has to spend time and money finding out again. Sure, sometimes new blood brings fresh ideas which work better, but more often the organization just makes painful mistakes until the lost experience can be regained.

Human societies experience the loss of Institutional Memory when one generation fails to pass enough of what it has learned on to the next.

As a child in the 1970’s I watched family dramas on TV. By “family” I mean that they showed children growing up, having adventures, and dealing with situations in life which were new for them. I particularly remember The Swiss Family Robinson. The children often approached difficult situations by doing what they had seen their parents do. When things did not work out they often discussed the problem with their parents and then tried again.

These shows were entertainment, not instructional films. The writers were not primarily conveying lessons to children. They were creating dramatic tension and having their characters resolve it in the tradition of the Western story arch. Getting advice from persons with more experience (often parents) was a natural part of the story.


Fire Dogs

The following story is from Lev Tolstoy’s First Russian Reader of 1875. This is my translation. As far as I know it has never before appeared in English.


Electrical Power and Power Loss

Basic Electrical Units

A volt is a unit of electrical potential. Electrical potential in turn is the force which a power source (such as a battery) applies to a connected device in order to push electrons through it. Electrical potential (voltage) is comperable to the presure which a pump applies to a plumbing system in order to push water through the pipes.


Communicating Clearly About Computing

Those of use who work in IT are frequently called upon to explain our work to people who are less familiar with computers than we are. It should be our goal to speak and write as clearly as possible. To do that we must avoid jargon, slang and expressions which are easily misunderstood. We should not write to be understood. We should write so as not to be misunderstood.

Waiting to Bite: BIND and Invalid Zone Files

It looks like Webmin lets you create DNS entries which BIND 9 does not like. When it sees one it refuses to load the whole zone and keeps what it has in RAM. This may go unnoticed for months until the server is rebooted. BIND then restarts with that zone completely empty!

Draco’s Policies were Draconian

Have you every wondered why we call a harsh policy “draconian”? This is one of those words which comes from the name of a famous person.


I have been grieving ever since Voicepulse canceled its flexrate program and been looking for a new low-price provider with good quality.

Reducing Echo in Telephone Handsets

A common source of echo in VoIP phone systems is the telephone handsets. Of course, non-VoIP phone systems have this source of echo too, but it often is not so evident because without the buffering the echo delay is not as long.

Old Bell 500 series telephones have a wad of cotton wool in the handset to prevent sound from traveling from the receiver, through the hollow handset body, to the transmitter. But, many modern telephone handsets lack this important component. Here I show how I added cotton wool to the handset of a Linksys SPA-841 in order to reduce echo.