Category Archives: Philosophy
Ian Thompson has kindly pointed me to a brand new paper, happily accessible online, about animal suffering in particular and the perishability of the world in general – a subject that regularly forms the basis of attempts, from deism to atheism, to distance God from nature on the grounds of the latter’s “immorality”. It’s actually an exposition of the thought of Thomas Aquinas on this subject – accurate, as far as my limited knowledge goes – which shows how our modern mindset is simply looking at the problem wrong. Since it is pretty clear and readable, I’ll simply recommend it to your attention without further comment.
My attention has recently been drawn to the work of Olivier Rieppel, a distinguished palaeontologist based at the Field Museum in Chicago, whose writings appear to show a mixture of scientific rigour with the historical and philosophical awareness so rare in scientific writing now. In other words he has the wit and courage to question received wisdom and go where the evidence leads, and moreover to know why he has done so. His latest book is on turtle evolution, provocatively entitled Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, which intrigues me a great deal, but finding its price is above my current budget at Amazon, I browsed some of his other books there … Continue reading
Last time I touched on the problems Thomistic philosophy has with evolutionary theory’s lack of any way of dealing adequately with the concept of form (formal causation, in Aquinas-speak). I mentioned that Darwin was only able to introduce his theory on “The Origin of the Species” by spending many pages seeking to demonstrate that the concept of a species, meaning a class of “natural substances” sharing a single essential nature, was meaningless anyway. To all subsequent evolutionary theory, this philosophical nominalism has been axiomatic. If evolution is a constant flux of changeable characteristics, then there can be no real genera or species embodying tiger-ness, or hors-itude, or even, come to … Continue reading
Over the seven years of The Hump I’ve dabbled in Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy, mainly for the reason that it deals with intuitively obvious matters such as purpose, and form, to which conventional science (and therefore most theistic evolution) is completely blind. It also deals with divine action, providence, chance and so on in a way that makes the discussions of many Evolutionary Creationists seem frankly half-baked.
Many times on BioLogos, columnists or commenters have deplored the use of the term “supernatural” to describe God’s activity. The usual criticism of this term is that it seems to imply a universe which normally works by itself, with God jumping in every now and then to do “miracles” — understood as violations of the normal causal nexus of “nature”. This would suggest that where nature is acting, God is not acting, and vice versa. Various BioLogos writers and readers have suggested that this would be a “deistic” notion of God rather than a Christian one (the Christian notion affirming that God acts in all things), and many have accused … Continue reading
fun∙ction: from Latin fungor, (a) I perform, execute, administer, discharge; (b) I complete, finish.
Regarding tone, and often regarding contents, one of the more reasonable commenters on BioLogos is Chris Falter. He tries to at least listen to those who disagree with the TE/EC party line, and (with one exception which I will refrain from mentioning here, as it concerns a science other than evolutionary biology), he tends to engage constructively with critics of his views.
A frequent theme in BioLogos writing is that Intelligent Design (ID) theory has contaminated the notion of divine design in nature, so much so that some Christians have shied away from even using the word “design.” One can find this notion expressed in remarks of Jim Stump, who wrote a whole column on “reclaiming” the language of design from the alleged damage it had received at the hands of ID people, and in comments by people like Brad Kramer and Casper Hesp. Casper’s latest remark along this line (in a reply to a new poster, Allison) is: “… the cultural baggage that is linked to the term “design” could be … Continue reading
Preston Garrison has been sending me a trickle of articles on structuralism since I did a piece (primarily) on the vertebrate pentadactyl limb, let’s see, nearly four years ago. He recently sent me a good Nature piece marking the centenary of D’Arcy Thompson’s book on the mathematical basis of form, On Growth and Form.
Jonathan Bartlett is an ID guy, but he has commented here, mainly because I mentioned favourably the conference he organised on Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism, which has now become a book that sounds well worth exploring. He recently did a podcast, available on YouTube, suggesting that the unifying theme behind the various disparate strands that make up what is called the “Extended Evoluionary Synthesis” is teleonomy.