Category Archives: Philosophy

The clarity of mud

Last week’s Royal Society symposium – on whether the Evolutionary Synthesis should be extended, or whether (as some appeared to imply) all the dramatic new mechanisms found recently were successfully and silently subsumed into standard population genetics several centuries ago -had a slide that caught my attention. It caught the attention of ID people in the audience as well, which is how I came to be aware of it. It was in Andy Gardner’s talk expounding the virtues of “weak adaptationism”. Here’s the pic:

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A History of Providence – Part 3

In the last post I sketched in a few gaps in James Penman’s account of the doctrine of providence in the biblical and Patristic periods. In the past I’ve done some work on the mediaeval view, in the shape of Thomas Aquinas, and in perhaps drawn some more surprising conclusions from the writings of Jacobus Arminius (given the not infrequent assertion that universal providence is incompatible with libertarian freedom of the Arminian type).

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His own received him not

Back in March I did a piece arguing against the univocity of God’s being and ours (as the root of many current theological evils), and used the metaphor of those authors who have appeared as characters in their own fiction, but can never truly be seen as occupying the same world as their creations. It’s a useful analogy, I think. I was reminded of it again last weekend when, waiting around for news of our daughter’s new baby (It’s a girl! It’s a girl!), I was re-reading G K Chesterton’s excellent introduction to Geoffrey Chaucer. Chesterton writes how Chaucer, in Canterbury Tales, is another of that select band of authors … Continue reading

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A brief history of chance

Somebody at BioLogos, following a common line, recently expressed hesitation about whether God intended the particular life forms that we have, and based this on what he said was the long-argued question of free-will versus determinism. The idea was that God, by allowing true (ontological) randomness in evolution, was in some way casting his vote for free-will rather than determinism.

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Time and chance

The BioLogos comment of mine, to which I alluded in the last post, has generated a lot of discussion. I would (naturally!) say that those who disagreed with my basic position didn’t understand it, and I think a couple of possible reasons pertain to that.

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Is natural selection science (or philosophy)?

I intervened on one of the many current threads against about Intelligent Design at BioLogos yesterday in response to the oft-repeated claim that evolution is not random because natural selection is not random. I suggested that, as per my last post, part of the rational limitation of science ought to be the recognition that it can only construct theories about repeatable regularities, whereas it can merely observe and list the contingent – and natural selection is firmly in the latter category. I concluded my comment thus: If science is the study of the repeatable, what makes natural selection any more a scientific process, than is contingent history – which is … Continue reading

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Wittgenstein on science as one tool in the box

Jay Johnson, over at BioLogos (though he posts here too) pointed me to the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein in relation to science and its limits, a subject opened up by Joshua Swamidass’s airing of the issue over the last month or two. I’ve not read Wittgenstein, except in quotations regarding his dense analytical work on language, and suspect I would mostly find myself out of my analytic depth if I did. But his thinking on scientism, apparently a core concern of his, fits into a stream of ideas I’ve followed over the last couple of years via the work of Arthur Eddington, Michael Polanyi and others. Jay points to a … Continue reading

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The foresight saga

According to Open Theist Thomas Jay Oord in a BioLogos comment to our Eddie Robinson, Calvinists and Thomists are much less easy to persuade to change their views on the fundamental nature of God “from reason, Scripture and experience” than Arminians, Pentecostals, Anabaptists and others. Maybe that explains why I’m fated not to be impressed, though it does raise provocative questions about the reasons this might be so.

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Where the “undetectable God” takes you

A new post on Fr Aidan Kimel’s blog Eclectic Orthodoxy caught my eye, because it references the late Hugh McCann, whose book Creation and the Sovereignty of God impressed me greatly recently. McCann seeks to show how true libertarian freedom is compatible with – and even depends upon – full divine sovereignty over all created events.

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Some thoughts on information and meaning (3)

One of the most surprising things about the universe, until one takes the freedom of a Creator into account, is its contingency. Perhaps I dealt with that a little in the first essay in this short series, in which I mentioned the restrictive nature of “Humpish information”, excluding all kinds of other possibilities, as well as its communicative and teleological (and therefore non-scientific) nature. But it’s even more surprising when one considers the number of things that are true, such as valid mathematical constructions, but which don’t pan out in actual reality. One would expect truths of logic to lead to necessary reality (as the Greek philosophers seem to have … Continue reading

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