My attention has recently been drawn to the work of Olivier Rieppel, a distinguished palaeontologist based at the Field Museum in Chicago, whose writings appear to show a mixture of scientific rigour with the historical and philosophical awareness so rare in scientific writing now. In other words he has the wit and courage to question received wisdom and go where the evidence leads, and moreover to know why he has done so. His latest book is on turtle evolution, provocatively entitled Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, which intrigues me a great deal, but finding its price is above my current budget at Amazon, I browsed some of his other books there instead of buying. Continue reading
Our house, according to our neighbour (who was there) was built in 1969, but on a 2½ acre plot that was already surrounded on three sides by traditional “devon banks”, and on the fourth by a lane. So it’s a field with some kind of history, but mostly unknown to us as we’ve only been here eight years. Continue reading
Spoiler alert: this is a change of tack from recent serious philosophical posts. The only real conclusion will be, “What an interesting world we live in”, with a slight flavour of that old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Continue reading
In a comment on a previous post about the role of creation in the origin of species, Noah asks:
What would you say about the randomness we observe in the process of evolution? …I guess it’s similar to our discussion on why it takes thousands/millions of sperm to fertilize an egg if God intends me to exist. We’re presented with a reality that sure as heck seems to involve a ton of randomness, not just in events (car crashes, etc.) but in being (how many things had to happen by chance for me to exist?).
Last time I touched on the problems Thomistic philosophy has with evolutionary theory’s lack of any way of dealing adequately with the concept of form (formal causation, in Aquinas-speak). I mentioned that Darwin was only able to introduce his theory on “The Origin of the Species” by spending many pages seeking to demonstrate that the concept of a species, meaning a class of “natural substances” sharing a single essential nature, was meaningless anyway. To all subsequent evolutionary theory, this philosophical nominalism has been axiomatic. If evolution is a constant flux of changeable characteristics, then there can be no real genera or species embodying tiger-ness, or hors-itude, or even, come to that, basic human nature. Continue reading
One of the points made by Michael Chabarek in the book I reviewed in the last post – perfectly valid as far as I can see in the primary sources – is that to Thomas Aquinas, the special creation of Adam (and of Eve from him) was an essential truth of the faith. Apart from his understanding of Scripture, this had to do with the immutability of fundamental natures (substances), as I mentioned briefly in my post, but also with the special nature of man as both a spiritual and an animal being, whose immaterial aspect (aka soul) cannot even in principle be formed by material secondary causes. On the other hand, since to Aquinas the soul is not an “add-on” to man (as it seems to be to Descartes), but the “hylemorphic” formative principle of the whole man, it was necessary for body and soul to be created together in the beginning. Continue reading
Over the seven years of The Hump I’ve dabbled in Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy, mainly for the reason that it deals with intuitively obvious matters such as purpose, and form, to which conventional science (and therefore most theistic evolution) is completely blind. It also deals with divine action, providence, chance and so on in a way that makes the discussions of many Evolutionary Creationists seem frankly half-baked. Continue reading
I’d like to follow up Edward Robinson’s piece on the “natural/supernatural” distinction by showing some examples of how meaningless the concept of “natural” is in everyday life. Of course, for the card-carrying believer in Naturalism as a worldview, “natural” must mean “everything”, which makes it a useless word anyway – unless it’s used in contrast to “artificial”, which as I’ll show is not without its problems either. Continue reading
Many times on BioLogos, columnists or commenters have deplored the use of the term “supernatural” to describe God’s activity. The usual criticism of this term is that it seems to imply a universe which normally works by itself, with God jumping in every now and then to do “miracles” — understood as violations of the normal causal nexus of “nature”. This would suggest that where nature is acting, God is not acting, and vice versa. Various BioLogos writers and readers have suggested that this would be a “deistic” notion of God rather than a Christian one (the Christian notion affirming that God acts in all things), and many have accused ID (intelligent design) of holding to such a notion. (It doesn’t, but that’s not my concern here.) Also, often the discussion is accompanied by the claim that the notion of “supernatural” activity is not found in the Bible, and that “miracles” in the Bible do not have the Humean sense of violations of the causal nexus, but are merely “signs” or “wonders” wrought by God. All of these points have some truth to them, but there is value in pursuing the question further. Continue reading
I’ve done several articles recently more or less motivated by the Genealogical Adam hypothesis, and Joshua Swamidass has asked me to put links to them, and to his own article at Peaceful Science, which is mainly about the science of the thing. I will do this below the fold, as well as linking to various others I did between 2011 and 2015, considering “matters arising” from treating the idea of a historical Adam as the forbear of all living men, though not the sole original ancestor.
I hope you’ll forgive the fact that these pieces arise from thoughts as they have occurred to me, rather than being a systematic development of Genealogical Adam, which must await some further, more comprehensive, work. Continue reading