- Those magnificent beasts in their flying machines 11/08/2019
- Listen to the NGOs (and documentary makers), not the scientists! 09/08/2019
- Forgetful history 07/08/2019
- Whacko! 05/08/2019
- Reparations for the Norman Conquest, etc 30/07/2019
Monthly Archives: March 2017
The Human Genome Project promised enormous practical advances, took fifteen years and cost $2.7 billion, though under Francis Collins it came in ahead of schedule and under budget. Though there are those who would disagree (which fact is really the main burden of this post), many feel that it failed – or rather, than in succeeding spectacularly, it destroyed its main raisons d’être, as this conclusion from a paper by the Dutch Professor Hub Zwart well describes:
I’ve just come across an interesting new version of the metaphysical position on divine action called occasionalism, that has been termed “Divine Compositionalism” by its proposers, philosopher Walter J Schultz and biologist Lisanne Winslow, both of Northeastern University. It seems to me to have a number of strengths. For background, check out my 2014 piece on the three main metaphysical contenders in Christianity for understanding divine action. In the end, exactly how God acts is beyond our ken, but how we conceive things makes a great deal of difference to how we understand the world.
One more post – probably the last for now – on some of the seldom remarked ills of modernism. And this one is about how we have fallen for that comic inversion of the East London tailor’s adage: “Never mind the quality – feel the width”. As so often in these blogs, it was the juxtaposition of two experiences that set me thinking.
Following on the theme of the last post, secularism, I’ve been re-reading Craig Gay’s excellent, but sadly out of print book The Way of the (Modern) world – or, Why It’s Tempting to Live As If God Doesn’t Exist. It is still available in a Kindle edition – if you can get hold of it, read it. Mine was a review copy, back in the day when I worked for a magazine and got books free. Sadly, freelancing on The Hump lacks the perks.
A good number of studies now demonstrate that small children are predisposed to believe in God, and having a good memory of my earliest years in Beechcroft Drive I remember being no exception to the general rule. That I was made by God, and even that he knew about me and affected my life, was axiomatic to me as soon as I learned to think. This was so even though my parents were at best marginally religious and, in my earlier years, non-churchgoers – my mother’s half hearted attempts to teach me to pray at bedtime had no noticeable effect on me.
I recently noticed one of the “Christian scientists” (not “Christian Scientists”, you understand, which are a different thing) on BioLogos replying to some ID poster with the remark that the genome shows every sign of being cobbled together by chance and circumstance rather than being designed for a purpose. I suppose it drew my attention because it’s one of the common atheist arguments for a purposeless and undirected version of evolution, but used by a Christian it gave pause for thought.
I’ve often criticized BioLogos on this site, but, wishing to give credit where credit is due, I can recommend the latest series hosted by Ted Davis, written by historian of science Stephen Snobelen with some bits of introduction and commentary by Ted. It examines the claims of the New Atheists and connects their work to the “Warfare Thesis” of White and Draper. There are plenty of quotations, links, etc. to enable non-historians to get up to speed on what Snobelen is talking about. It’s a great takedown of the New Atheists as well as of the Warfare Thesis.
Deistic and semi-deistic accounts of God’s creation of the natural world still appear to have much appeal for “sciency” types nowadays, and especially for Evolutionary Creationists. Even in “moderate” minds, which judge God capable of determining, or at least foreseeing, the outcomes of evolution in particular and world events in general, there appears the need to retain an unbroken lawlike chain of material causes. In other words, science must be able to give a more or less complete account of God’s works, at least in the “natural creation”. For God to “interfere” with that chain must be considered at best rare, but in reality a rather distasteful concept altogether.
Lamentably our old friend James Penman has been unable to contribute here for a good while, for various reasons. But he has continued to send me a trickle of old sources on one of his church history interests – Christian beliefs about extraterrestrial life. I guess this is because it’s widely thought that Christian doctrine excludes life on other worlds (enabling atheists to anticipate, with bated breath, the first actual bacteria found on Mars as a final debunking of the Gospel). But it ain’t actually so.
Science, we are often reassured, has absolutely nothing to say for or against the supernatural, and Christians therefore have nothing to fear from knowing more about science. That is absolutely true in principle, not least, as I have been exploring in detail here recently, because science’s methodology excludes the supernatural from its purview, “supernatural” being however defined according to arbitrary and culture-bound criteria. This is of course simply to limit science’s reach to a humanly-constrained part of reality.