According to Matthew

King’s College statistical geneticist Michael E Weale has just published a new article  on Patrick Matthew, the discoverer of evolution by natural selection, in the Journal of the Linnaean Society. You may recall that this was the journal in which Darwin and Wallace’s theory was first announced, some three decades after Matthew’s publication. Continue reading

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Can God use atelological processes to meet his aims? – 2

If God is the universal author of natural events in the way described in the previous post (following the position of classical thinkers like Aquinas in denying the univocity of God and affirming his concurrent acton in the world) we would expect that, in their own domain, natural processes should give a complete explanation of events. God is evidenced by such explanations, not by their absence. God acts from within nature. And so they are right who say that it is a wrong approach to look for gaps in knowledge to demonstrate God, for that is to limit God’s activity to the miraculous. Continue reading

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Can God use atelological processes to meet his aims? – 1

Darwinian evolution is an atelological theory of origins. Theism is the belief in a “Hands On” God who acts for clear purposes. On the face of it, then, the title of this piece is an oxymoron. Purposeful purposelessness is a flat contradiction. And so in such a context, it would appear that “guided evolution” can only mean the miraculous imposition of intention on the unintentional. That would make biology intrinsically supernatural, with the concomitant that its directedness would be evidence for God as evolution’s principal efficient cause. Continue reading

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Unmediated experience

In my youth I was a keen photographer – and I mean I started processing my own films when I was twelve. But there was a stage in my teens at which I stopped carrying my camera everywhere because I realised I was no longer participating in events, but just recording them through a viewfinder. Continue reading

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Arguments for the framework view of Genesis – part 2

Summary: The nature of the language in Genesis 1 tells strongly against the view that it is a straightforward historical account. Quite simply, a straightforward historical account would not be written as Genesis 1 is written. The style and genre are not that of historical prose. Continue reading

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Arguments for the framework view of Genesis – part 1

Among views of Genesis 1 held by Reformed thinkers, the Framework view has attracted much positive interest over the past hundred years or so. It is not, however, a novel view, as we shall see. The basic idea is that the week of Genesis 1 is a “literary framework”. Its highly artful, complex, quasi-poetic form shows that it isn’t a simple historical narrative; no one would communicate such a narrative in such a form. It is an “exalted prose hymn”. The material of the prose-hymn is arranged into the shape of a week, but it portrays God’s creative activity in a topical or thematic way rather than strictly chronologically. E.g. days 1-3 form a perfect parallel with days 4-6, the text “revisiting” the first three days in its account of the second three. How much time the creation week took (whether short or long) in real “calendar time” is not addressed by the prose-hymn.

Augustine, arguably the most brilliant and influential of the early church fathers, and first great defender of the doctrines of grace, is the fountainhead of the “Framework” view. He teaches his version of it in his Confessions and his commentary on Genesis. Some form of the Framework view is found among the great Augustinian theologians of the Middle Ages, e.g. Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas. It has been accepted and defended among modern thinkers by (for example) W.H.Griffith Thomas, N.H.Ridderbos, Meredith Kline, Lee Irons, Henri Blocher, Bruce Waltke, Tremper Longman III, Gordon Wenham, John Walton, and J.I.Packer.

A variant is offered by notable Reformed Old Testament scholar and Intelligent Design thinker, C. John Collins, whose recent commentary on Gen.1-4 offers a lucid exposition. The illustrious Hugh Miller (1802-56) held a view somewhere between the Day-Age view and Framework view: he thought the days of Gen.1 were not “days of creation” but “days of revelation”, in which visions were given to Moses regarding different aspects of God’s creative activities. However, Miller also held that each visionary day referred to long ages of geological time.

In this two-part essay, I offer a summary of arguments in favour of the Framework view. The bottom line is that the nature of the language in Genesis 1 tells strongly against the view that it is a straightforward historical account. Quite simply, a straightforward historical account would not be written as Genesis 1 is written. The style and genre are not that of historical prose. Continue reading

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Divine image or pareidolia?

BioLogos is currently doing a series with the strapline: “A continued examination of the genetic evidence that God designed humans by way of common descent.” This is actually more an attempt by Dennis Venema to demonstrate the truth of a Neodarwinian account of human origins than simply an appeal to common descent (still less to divine design), but in fairness it would seem that the description is the result of sub-editing as it does not occur in the articles themselves. Continue reading

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Do the Brontosaurus

It’s nice to see that the genus Brontosaurus is being rehabilitated after over a century of being rudely lumped together with Apatosaurus. For many of us amateurs, of course, it never needed rehabilitation, having been far more iconic than its alter-ego throughout the last century. Continue reading

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God, unbelief and universal morality

A recent thread on disputes about the nature of information quickly degenerated into the kind of denegration of religious faith usually (though just as unproductively) seen on apologetics sites, which was why I asked for it to stop. Debating such matters is really outside The Hump’s remit – we are here to discuss the implications of holding Christian faith for science; other sites exist to argue about the validity of Christianity itself with anti-theists. I’m not sure why anyone would prefer to debate with apologetics amateurs rather than with the full-timers, other than lack of confidence in ones arguments. But that said, since Christians see morality as a fundamental part of God’s creation, it has an obvious place in any discussion about the alternative view that there is no creation, and hence this post. Continue reading

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Truth from afar

Rounding off my meanderings in Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions I just want to pick up on a point I mentioned near the close of the last post.

Kuhn says that, in his view, it is a mistake to see science, in its various paradigmatic guises, as converging on the Final Truth of reality, preferring to see it as extending from where it is now. In other words he is committed to the value of science, and its progress, but more in terms of its utility in solving problems than in the grand ambition of reaching ultimate truth. In this, actually, he seems to echo part of the mediaeval concept of science, in which nobody seriously thought one could understand the world fully as it is, but at best find ways that were descriptively or predictively useful – hence “saving the appearances”. Continue reading

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