Monthly Archives: November 2011

Song of another month…

Just to say I’ve replaced the song on my website front page with this new offering. This is You Ain’t Gonna Take My Home, which was another of those originally conceived for a film score. It’s about an  elderly, poor, man being visited by a bureaucrat telling him he’s going to be reallocated to some kind of new accommodation. But we don’t all lie down and submit… As before, this should stay up about a month , and I’ll aim to put the whole album online when it’s finished in the New Year.

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The imposition of illusory design on science

In an exchange I’ve had with Hornspiel on BioLogos, he suggested that “design” was an unnecessary and unwelcome new addition to science as it has been practised for the last 400 years. His implication is that teleology has been rightly excluded, citing the usual arguments for methodological naturalism. I want to leave methodological naturalism aside for a moment, and look at the actual place of design in science, historically.

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The Theologian’s Guide to James Shapiro’s Book

Since Penman keeps asking me, and since he’s the only person who reads this blog apart from a few hundred spambots, here’s an attempt to summarise what James Shapiro is presenting in Evolution – a View from the 21st Century for a complete non scientist. Those with scientific training will realise it is grossly inadequate, but I’ve done a more critical review here!

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Adam and the yuk factor

There’s been a lively exchange on the website of Catholic philosopher Ed Feser in response to a paper by Kenneth Kemp, putting forward a version of the Homo divinus model of anthropology. You may know that this is the theory that seeks to reconcile scientific accounts of human origins with a historical first couple, and I’ve expressed qualified support for it before, eg here . The discussion has provoked some reaction from Uncommon Descent’s Vincent Torley both on Ed’s blog and in his own articles. One of his main problems is with the concept that newly ensouled/rational humans would then necessarily intermarry with irrational “pre-Adamic” men, a concept which seems … Continue reading

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The illusion of illusion

In my last post  I looked at how the real heart of Darwinian evolutionary theory is a mental concept, comparable to the Anthropic Principle, that enables one to conceive of design witout a designer. This is what makes the theory so malleable to any actual data. I want to  carry on with the example I was using there of the first self-replicating molecule, as it’s relatively uncomplicated to imagine. The question, you’ll remember, is whether it makes any difference (for a theist) to consider such a complex and closely specified self-replicating molecule as the work of God-as-designer, or as the work of God-as-behind-a-rational-and-scientific-fluke-of-extreme-improbability. I concluded that the only real difference … Continue reading

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Theory, or mental back-flip?

What did Darwin actually present in 1859? I suggest it wasn’t so much a scientific theory as a plausible new way of looking at things. It wasn’t his evidence that “swept away the illusion of design” but the mental flip that suddenly enables one to see how design could happen without a designer. Darwin presented some evidence for descent with modification, but that in itself wasn’t new but common currency in the scientific community. His Big Idea was natural selection, and the only evidence he presented for that was a comparison with artificial selection. If a breeder can select for useful traits, why should not nature itself do so? It’s … Continue reading

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The vagaries of vagueness

One thing you notice as soon as you participate in evolution discussions is that you don’t understand anything about evolution. This is true whatever your background. You notice in most of the criticisms of a biochemist like Behe or an origins-of-life PhD like Meyer that they somehow neglected to learn the rudiments of evolution. My own background was zoology and medicine, but it has never prevented the “You don’t understand the first thing…” accusations. Some people might argue that those with weak arguments prefer to say, “You wouldn’t understand…” than argue their case, but the alternative is to go back and try to reach that basic, essential comprehension. So let’s … Continue reading

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The river of ideas

 I posted a piece about my old edition of The Cambridge Natural History a week or two ago, including a reference to the section on man. Yesterday I was browsing through a very nice collection of quotes on evolution on (quite a labour involved there), and noticed some familiar words and concepts. See what you think of this series.

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More on protein synthesis

Another interesting paper, again brought to my attention by an ID website (sorry). But again, I was interested in looking at the original in PLoS Genetics, which fortunately for us all has open access. The basic finding is a surprisingly high number of de novo protein-coding genes in the human genome, to the tune of 60. This was compared to chimpanzee and other primate sources. This, they say, is three times more than what was found hitherto – but then they looked harder.

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Prior commitments – 2: theistic

My last post showed the prevalent, and crippling, metaphysical bias of those who assess the evidence for evolution with a materialistic prior commitment. Richard Lewontin makes the case eloquently. Despite the popular rhetoric, though, theism as such has very much less at stake in the matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, God could have created using evolution, or in pretty much any other way. In practice things are not that simple, if we look at specific examples.

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