RNA editing – a squid pro quo?

Empty-headed nautilus

Yet another “unexpected” piece of news on evolution was carried by the Washington Post, though here’s a link to the version in The Independent. As you will see, it concerns the remarkable degree to which cephalopod mollusks like octopi recode their RNA for a number of important functions, including (as the relevant study shows) their nervous system. It appears that their proverbial intelligence is not in the genes, but in their editing (the article contrasts them with the Nautilus, a cephalopod that doesn’t recode, and doesn’t therefore predict election results, escape down pipes and so on). Continue reading

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A centenary of structuralism

Preston Garrison has been sending me a trickle of articles on structuralism since I did a piece (primarily) on the vertebrate pentadactyl limb, let’s see, nearly four years ago. He recently sent me a good Nature piece marking the centenary of D’Arcy Thompson’s book on the mathematical basis of form, On Growth and Form. Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Science | 6 Comments

Teleology and the extended evolutionary synthesis

Jonathan Bartlett is an ID guy, but he has commented here, mainly because I mentioned favourably the conference he organised on Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism, which has now become a book that sounds well worth exploring. He recently did a podcast, available on YouTube, suggesting that the unifying theme behind the various disparate strands that make up what is called the “Extended Evoluionary Synthesis” is teleonomy. Continue reading

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How did he do that?

The commonest rejoinder to any design argument in nature, you will no doubt have noticed, is “Who’s the designer, then?” Although the ID reply is actually perfectly rational – that inference to design cannot, intrinsically, tell one the nature of the designer in detail – the question is in reality just an over-elaborate, if hackneyed, attempt to show that there is a hidden agenda of religion which, once uncovered, would render design unscientific in principle and, probably, a threat to the body politic.

It’s Catch 22 – stick with methodological naturalism and design is deceitful creationism: mention God in reply to the question and it’s an illegitimate insertion into science. Continue reading

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Easter and the revised laws of nature

Even within the “semi-deist” version of Evolutionary Creation, the Resurrection of our Lord holds a special place as an example (in some cases the only example) of a true miracle within an otherwise “natural” creation. But the Resurrection isn’t actually a miracle at all. Continue reading

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A brief theological history of secondary causes

BioLogos comments, as Eddie’s last piece details, are all over the theological shop at the moment. That’s brought into almost comic relief by a few threads in which outsiders suggest there are theological problems in Evolutionary Creation, only to be contradicted by a host of BioLogians closing ranks in defence of orthodoxy by disputing any of these these problems exist, whilst simultaneously contradicting each other’s theology. I’m not sure how productive it is priding oneself on being a broad church and then defending the soundness of ones theology. It makes for a lively, if ultimately frustrating, talking shop I suppose.

The ensuing thoughts are prompted by at least a couple of instances of claims there that the Genesis 1 creation story implies God’s creation of a quasi-autonomous earth “bringing forth” forms of life whose precise details, it appears, are not determined by God, but by the earth. Continue reading

Posted in Creation, Philosophy, Science, Theology | 4 Comments

Molinism can’t salvage randomness

A couple of times recently I’ve heard the suggestion, seriously made, that the way to resolve true randomness in aspects of creation, and God’s ability to bring his plans to fruition, is through Molinism. It’s four years since I addressed that idea, and it still seems to be around at the highest levels of theistic evolution and ID, so let’s give it another turn in the spotlight. Because Molinism works even less for “chance” than it does for the “libertarian free will” for which it was first designed. Continue reading

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Some Not Truly Random Observations on a Current BioLogos Discussion: Stuff They Get Away With When Eddie’s Not There

An interesting new BioLogos discussion is based upon a post by one “Dpiiius” who sports the alternate name of “Darius Beckham”.

The assertion is:

“I’m starting to think intelligent design theories are more plausible than the ones advocated by BioLogos researchers. The science is more sound, philosophically honest, and makes more sense of Scripture.”

It’s quite enjoyable for me, as an exile from BioLogos, to observe the ensuing discussion. Continue reading

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Genetic determinism, emergence, eggs and baskets

One product (literally) of genetic determinism (and incidentally another that was, like molecular biology and eugenics, massively funded by the Rockefeller Foundation) is genetically modified seed. Twenty years ago, my son was at college studying aquaculture, and I used to argue with him about GM, which to him was simply a targeted improvement on selective breeding, but to me a potential ecological disaster because of our ignorance of how the genome actually works. He was evidently taught the hubristic reductionist version of genetics I discussed in my recent post. Continue reading

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RIP Trevor Sandford

I’ve just heard of the death of my old university friend, Trevor Sandford, who in those days was part of the best Christian acoustic group around, Water into Wine Band. He first introduced himself by finding his way into my room when I was out, and leaving a cryptic note signed “Rover T”, but before long I met him and found he wanted me to play support to WIWB, or as it was then called the even more unwieldy Bill Thorp’s Water into Wine Band, on a tour of the Cambridge college common rooms and bars.

And so I ended up being Jon Garvey’s Water into Newcastle Brown Ale Band not only for that outing, but on many other occasions whilst our undergraduate days lasted. After that, I went on to medical school and playing round the country as part of an acoustic duo, and “the Band” went professional – which really meant slow starvation – playing amongst other things at the first Greenbelt Festival. We even met up for a joint gig at Oxford University in 1975 before both outfits went their adult ways and our contacts became few and far between.

Trevor was a gentle and quietly spoken guy with a soft Cookstown brogue, a steady faith and a self-deprecating on-stage manner that included telling Irish jokes (“Did you hear about the Irish parachutist who missed the world?”). In a band of contrasting personalities and gifts he was, perhaps, the steady foundation.

He went on to do important things in the field of education and, of course, in family life. But I remember him as a great songwriter, an excellent musician and, most of all, a good friend. Here’s one of his songs.

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