A theological lens on “random with respect to fitness”

In the last few posts, I’ve been trying to point out the epistemological limits of science (and how they are routinely transgressed). In particular, I’ve tried to show how “contingency” and “randomness” are, in effect, epistemological black boxes in science. To say something is random, in science, should mean nothing more than “we do not fully understand the causes, and cannot predict the effects.” Continue reading

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The folly of defining randomness randomly

After 190 or so posts  in the BioLogos thread to which I refer in the last two columns, I’m still not convinced that my central point has been answered in the to-and-fro about the definition or modelling of natural selection. Continue reading

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A short afterthought on extinction events

The last post was about the importance of contingent extinction events in the trajectory of evolution. It occurs to me since that, in the context of Evolutionary Creation, the “creative catastrophism” of these undermines one of the commonest arguments used by TEs for the sufficiency of “natural causes”, usually against ID and any form of Creationism. Continue reading

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Time and chance

The BioLogos comment of mine, to which I alluded in the last post, has generated a lot of discussion. I would (naturally!) say that those who disagreed with my basic position didn’t understand it, and I think a couple of possible reasons pertain to that. Continue reading

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Is natural selection science (or philosophy)?

I intervened on one of the many current threads against about Intelligent Design at BioLogos yesterday in response to the oft-repeated claim that evolution is not random because natural selection is not random. I suggested that, as per my last post, part of the rational limitation of science ought to be the recognition that it can only construct theories about repeatable regularities, whereas it can merely observe and list the contingent – and natural selection is firmly in the latter category.

I concluded my comment thus:

If science is the study of the repeatable, what makes natural selection any more a scientific process, than is contingent history – which is as much as to say a product of providence?

That it drew considered responses from Merv Bitkofer, Sy Garte and GD (all Hump persons, of course) did not surprise me – but it also more interestingly received a “like” from Joshua Swamidass. Continue reading

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Wittgenstein on science as one tool in the box

Jay Johnson, over at BioLogos (though he posts here too) pointed me to the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein in relation to science and its limits, a subject opened up by Joshua Swamidass’s airing of the issue over the last month or two. I’ve not read Wittgenstein, except in quotations regarding his dense analytical work on language, and suspect I would mostly find myself out of my analytic depth if I did.

But his thinking on scientism, apparently a core concern of his, fits into a stream of ideas I’ve followed over the last couple of years via the work of Arthur Eddington, Michael Polanyi and others. Jay points to a summary article here, which I commend. Continue reading

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Neuhaus’s Law

A few events coinciding set ones mind on interesting tracks. Continue reading

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More on pseudoscience

Bible scholar Michael Heiser specialises in slightly more esoteric aspects of the Bible, such as what is taught about supernatural beings in it (often passed over in a mixture of monotheistic embarrassment and academic naturalism). He is also interested in astronomical questions, and is a champion of Ernest L. Martin’s detailed theorising about what the Magi saw that took them in search of the child Jesus, and when it occurred. Continue reading

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When I was a child…

It doesn’t show much now, but when I was a kid I was quite a science fiction buff. I was eleven when Doctor Who first screened in 1963, and I remember sharing knowledgeably with my friends about what good sci-fi it was compared to most of what had been on TV.

That was certainly true: it took a stroke of genius to portray the TARDIS as having a broken camouflage circuit so it turned up incongrously as a London police telephone box amongst Daleks or Mongolian hordes. And likewise it was genius that it did not roar like a rocket, nor whirr like your average flying saucer or time machine, but instead groaned like a woman in labour as it strove to enter space-time, and sang like a whale when it had done so. The spacecraft was a living thing.

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The non-problem of cosmic fine tuning

There’s a very nice podcast here by Australian cosmologist Luke Barnes answering the common objections to Cosmic Fine Tuning. And very amusingly, too.

His blog is good value as well. It majors on CFT too, and is notable in critiquing even-handedly (if not without scorn when deserved!) arguments not only from physicists, but from atheist apologists like Richard Carrier and Christian apologists like philosopher William Lane Craig and OEC astrophysicist Hugh Ross. I should add that it comes across clearly, but not crudely, that Barnes himself is a Christian theist. Continue reading

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