- At last! An end to not-understanding-evolution misery! 20/10/2017
- If the Universe is flat, is it round? 16/10/2017
- The biblical doctrine of natural evil… not 13/10/2017
- Martin Luther King on mankind 12/10/2017
- On being English 10/10/2017
Category Archives: Science
I’ve commented more than once on how the accusation “You don’t understand evolution” gets slapped on practically everybody, from Fundamentalists to senior evolutionary biologists. If you already know your ignorance you’ll be used to hearing it should you ask the wrong questions at places like BioLogos (I’ve had it thrown at me there twice this week already, though I’ve studied it a bit over the last 50 years or so). Even if you’re highly trained, though, you are not immune (as my piece linked above demonstrates). In both cases, the ultimate reason is probably the same.
I’m pleased to hear that the Nobel Prize for Literature this year has gone to Kazuo Ishiguro. The Nobel Press Release said: “The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2017 is awarded to the English author Kazuo Ishiguro, ‘who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world’”. That description may surprise some unfamiliar with him, when they see the name, but his “Englishness” was stressed with pleasure by an erudite interviewer on the BBC.
Recent internet postings here, here and here make public a disagreement between the movers and shakers at BioLogos and Joshua Swamidass, who of course has posted here and shares our desire to see a genuine rapprochement between historic (particularly Evangelical) Christianity and science. I share his pain in finding his attempt at Peaceful Science being dragged into the culture wars. I regard him as colleague-in-arms on origins and as a brother. I even agree with him sometimes!
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
Our house, according to our neighbour (who was there) was built in 1969, but on a 2½ acre plot that was already surrounded on three sides by traditional “devon banks”, and on the fourth by a lane. So it’s a field with some kind of history, but mostly unknown to us as we’ve only been here eight years.
Spoiler alert: this is a change of tack from recent serious philosophical posts. The only real conclusion will be, “What an interesting world we live in”, with a slight flavour of that old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”
In a comment on a previous post about the role of creation in the origin of species, Noah asks: What would you say about the randomness we observe in the process of evolution? …I guess it’s similar to our discussion on why it takes thousands/millions of sperm to fertilize an egg if God intends me to exist. We’re presented with a reality that sure as heck seems to involve a ton of randomness, not just in events (car crashes, etc.) but in being (how many things had to happen by chance for me to exist?).
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
One of the points made by Michael Chabarek in the book I reviewed in the last post – perfectly valid as far as I can see in the primary sources – is that to Thomas Aquinas, the special creation of Adam (and of Eve from him) was an essential truth of the faith. Apart from his understanding of Scripture, this had to do with the immutability of fundamental natures (substances), as I mentioned briefly in my post, but also with the special nature of man as both a spiritual and an animal being, whose immaterial aspect (aka soul) cannot even in principle be formed by material secondary causes. On the … 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.