Monthly Archives: July 2017

Two ways

For most of my life I’ve tried to avoid the idea of Jesus as a moral teacher, both because of the gospel of grace and forgiveness versus moralistic self-help, and because of my awareness of C S Lewis’s famous argument in Mere Christianity: A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

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Lies, damned lies, and cladistics

That title is, of course, a gross exaggeration or indeed a calumny (but hey, it sounds good!): cladistics is a tool that is useful according to how it is used. But a major 2009 paper on the evolution of birds addresses some pitfalls in its common use, and points out that: Cladistics should be treated not as a way to test phylogenetic hypotheses but as an exploratory method, useful, if handled sensitively, for comparing and evaluating hypotheses.

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Letting teleology into science, or not

fun∙ction: from Latin fungor, (a) I perform, execute, administer, discharge; (b) I complete, finish.

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Understanding the times

I was listening to Bob Dylan’s Talking World War III Blues in the car last week. Those who were of responsible age back in 1963 may remember it’s about Dylan recounting his dream of being the only one alive after a nuclear war to a psychiatrist, who eventually interrupts him saying he’s been having the same dream, only he was the only one left alive (“I didn’t see you around”). It goes on: A lot of time passed and now it seems Everybody’s having them dreams

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Imponderable probabilities

One of those arguments that seems intuitively wrong, but is hard actually to refute, is the claim that the probability of something that comes to exist in nature, particularly something that seems designed, is impossible to calculate. The fact that something exists, they say, makes its probability 100%, and so it cannot be judged unlikely in advance. Thinking mathematically, since any set of values is as rare as any other, for example in the case of parameters in cosmic fine tuning or the DNA sequence of some astonishing creature, there’s really nothing to wonder about in their existence, as opposed to anything else existing instead.

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More natural history from the camel’s eyrie

Last month we brought you the living fossil in my study. This month, for your oblectation, I present the astonishing acrobatic abilities of Megachile centuncularis, which has evolved to make its nest in steel patio tables.

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Genealogies and Adam

Joshua Swamidass has concentrated attention at BioLogos on the idea that the biblical Adam, as one common ancestor of the present human race, is scientifically viable, irrespective of genetics. That has focused my attention on the genealogies originating from Adam not only in Genesis, but in 1 Chronicles and in Luke’s gospel. The issue concerning me today is not directly how these support, or otherwise, the “Most Recent Common Ancestor” framework, but their purpose.

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Drifting downstream on the celestial ocean

The recurrent pattern of the slowly ongoing discussion on Hebrew cosmology at Biologos is interesting. An allusion to Seely, or to some other secondary source, is adduced to assert that such and such a nation believed without exception in a solid firmament and a celestial ocean “just like Israel”. I refute this from primary sources or specialist literature. Rather than being withdrawn, the claim then gets transferred to another nation, a bit further downstream from ancient Israel, and round we go again.

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The Lisbon earthquake and plausibility

In my last post on plausibility and credibility I had reason to quote N T Wright on how Deism first divorced God from nature back in the eighteenth century. But I didn’t mention the event commonly identified as the trigger for this radical rejection of the immanence of divine action, a rejection which persists (as I tried to show) until this day. That event was the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

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