How the human mind develops concepts is a wonderful thing. My mental schema for that most iconic of British birds, the robin, is built upon the foundation a song I learned from Miss Jerome (a wonderful teacher) for my first Christmas at school. Apart from an even more juvenile nursery rhyme involving cold north winds and what Robin does when they blow (poor thing), it was possibly my earliest exposure to the bird, maybe even pre-dating my seeing it in the feather. Continue reading
Michael Polanyi was one of the great polymaths of the twentieth century, contributing significantly to chemistry, philosophy, sociology and economics. He was also a devout Christian. His work included a thorough critique of the scientistic positivism of his age (raising its tattered standard again in the populist New Atheism in ours), arguing cogently for a far deeper and broader understanding of epistemology. A friend of Einstein and other great scientists, he wrote usefully on academic freedom too – again apparently foreseeing and warning against the political and ideological restrictions now seen in the research sciences. Continue reading
The second part of TOF’s series on the dangers of (scientific) models is now up. It goes into more technicalities than the first part, but is pretty instructive. I’m not sure yet where he mainly wants to take the series, but some applications should be obvious – except for those whose models of knowledge won’t let them see it. Continue reading
I can’t have been more than eight when a Sunday School teacher told me that God lights the stars in the sky at night to show the way. Mr Sutton, his name was. Even now I think he was being simplistic given the age-group – but then not all my fellows watched the Brains Trust on Sunday afternoons. I, however, had the Boys Book of Astronomy, and a mother with a strong skeptical streak, so with all the scientistic priggishness of my advanced years I told him he was wrong, and that the start were giant, distant balls of gas like the sun, and shone all the time rather than only at night. Continue reading
I’d intended to leave the question of universals – of nominalism and realism – behind after two posts. But two things have prompted one more look at the subject. The first is a piece by Vincent Torley on Uncommon Descent about Early Darwinists and racism, which coincided with some remarks I made on my first thread. The second is an essay by Stephen J Gould on the historical contingency of human equality. Continue reading
More by chance than intention I’ve been examining some classical philosophical ideas in the last few posts, and how they unconsciously shape science generally, but also in particular Christian approaches to creation. I first looked at Aristotelian categories of causation here, here and here,and showed how modern science’s refusal to acknowledge anything but efficient and material causation hampers its own work (formal causation being necessary to understanding information and form, and final causation being smuggled in by the back door anyway).
But I also showed how we modern Christians, by taking a similarly restricted view of causation, can make a proper understanding of God’s work in creation impossible. Continue reading
I foolishly allowed myself to sidetrack the discussion of my own recent post
on these two major philosophical alternatives (nominalism and realism) into a conversation with Lou Jost on the TOE itself. I blame the fact that I was preparing the piece on neutralism and adaptationism, which nudged me out of philosophy mode. Not that the discussion hasn’t been interesting, even useful, in itself, but it has perhaps prevented the theists here from grappling with the important issues of the nominalist-realist question. So I want to spend just a few more words on it before moving on to another significant philosophical issue in a different post.
Go to the Ant – Ghillean Prance
Here’s a review of a book of meditations on scriptural passages related to nature, published by the Iona Community. I’m not really one for books of meditations (with the notable exception of the work of Thomas Traherne), but I got this one because it’s by a near neighbour, Prof Sir Ghillean Prance, FRS. Ghillean has an astonishing CV – amongst many things botanist, Amazon explorer, Fellow of the Royal Society, former director of Kew Gardens, scientific director of the Eden Project, vice-president of Nature in Art Trust and a trustee and former chairman of Peter Harris’s A Rocha. Peter is astonished how he packs in so many activities even in retirement. Continue reading
Blogger Bilbo, an occasional visitor here, has paid a rare compliment to biochemist and creationist-witchfinder Larry Moran for his clear explanation of the difference between neutral theory and genetic drift. Continue reading
In church Sunday morning, Keith B. Miller, a geologist at Kansas State University (editor of “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation”), stood and read this modern scientific Psalm written by Walt Hearn. Hearn holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry, University of Illinois, and has written several books on science/religion subjects and served as editor for the ASA from 1969 to 1993. This piece was published originally under the title: “63 Thanksgiving” in a 1963 issue of HIS magazine. It is also on the ASA website here, where I found it to reprint below.