Category Archives: Politics and sociology
Uncertainty – the Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics by William Briggs (Springer, 2016). The world really does need a book on the philosophy behind probability, and this is it.
Last night Channel 4 aired the documentary on the genome sequencing and facial reconstruction of Cheddar Man, the 8,000BCE mesolithic skeleton discovered in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge a century ago. It was interesting and well done, though of course the “Hey Presto” effect of unveiling the reconstruction was lost because his photo has been splashed over every newspaper and TV channel for the last fortnight.
The revelation that senior figures from the major relief charity Oxfam, whose income is £400m annually, engaged in prostitution and possibly the abuse of minors whilst doing relief work after the Haiti earthquake, has shocked the nation. That’s especially so as it emerges just how many other major charities have experienced the same, and largely winked at it, over recent years. Some in the know speak of deliberate infiltration of the charity industry (sic) by abusers.
The conversation on BioLogos about the implications of Lenski’s E. coli experiment continued, between Richard Buggs and Joshua Swamidass, after I wrote my piece on it here. It turns out that, after discussion, they agreed that, in contradiction of my conclusion, the situation with respect to human genetics is less unpredictable, rather than more, as I suggested there, because of the highly mutable nature of bacteria in comparison to mammals. Lenski therefore seems to have been dropped from the discussion as irrelevant. As Joshua writes, “Retractions are good”!
Over at post 449 of 462 on the BioLogos debate between Dennis Venema (BioLogos staff member) and Richard Buggs (chief researcher in Plant Health at Kew Botanical Gardens) on population genetics predictions about early man, Richard replied to, I think, my only previous contribution on the thread. In that post I had ventured a concern I addressed in more detail in a post here:
There’s an interesting, and rather long, podcast here in which philosopher Lydia McGrew calls out New Testament scholars, as an entire guild, on what she perceives as systemic errors in their basic methodology, and particularly in the field of what is called “redaction criticism”. I have to say I agree with most of what she says, but there has also been a backlash from evangelical NT scholars contradicting her, partly on the basis of credentialism, ie that since she herself is not a trained New Testament scholar, she has no warrant to criticize those who are.
Over at BioLogos, Joshua Swamidass has started a new discussion, entitled “The Lutheran Option”. In it, Joshua makes the point that the Lutheran voice has rarely been heard in origins debates in the USA, and calls for a more balanced discussion in which characteristically Lutheran theological emphases are heard, alongside the more commonly heard Calvinist/Reformed and “Wesleyan” points of view.
On two occasions in the last week, BBC radio scientific programmes have claimed to offer “evolutionary explanations” for observed human phenomena, though admittedly one might (memory is hazy) have been a food programme interviewing a scientist.
One of the frustrations of web discussions about theology and science is that so many of the participants in the discussions choose to argue with a vigor all out of proportion to their knowledge of the subject at hand. It is easy enough to summon examples of individuals from all camps (YEC, OEC, atheist/materialist, TE/EC, and ID) and from all sites (such as Uncommon Descent, The Skeptical Zone, BioLogos, and Panda’s Thumb) who are guilty of forming opinions about authors they have not read, of taking strong positions in advance of learning the subject-matter, of affecting to more knowledge than they have, etc.
The commenter “Bilbo” recently stirred up a very constructive hornet’s nest at BioLogos with his thread on the origin of life (OOL). I appreciated the way he held the feet of the materialists (and of those ECs who lean to a materialist portrait of nature) to the fire on this question. However, he doesn’t always achieve constructive results, as can be seen from his new thread on the alleged sneaky machinations of people associated with Discovery.