Category Archives: Science

Humanity beyond Adam’s line in Genesis

The genealogical Adam hypothesis, which I’ve been dusting off again in recent posts because of Joshua Swamidass’s focus on it, has been accused of being an “concordist” position, designed solely to make belief in a literal Adam consistent with modern discoveries in fields from ancient history to genetics. But to some extent any interpretation is concordist, because we have to reconcile any text to what we already know, or believe we know.

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What it means to be created human

The creation of man, as envisaged by the Bible, isn’t as obviously biological as is often assumed, which is important if one wants to take a “science and faith” approach that doesn’t lapse into mere scientism. Take, as a limiting case, the Christian who, according to both Jesus in John’s gospel and Paul, is a “new creation”. As far as I know, every man or woman who has ever been a Christian was born by generation in the usual biological way, and if one accepts evolution has ape ancestors – none of which has any bearing on the process of their new creation whatsoever, which is of the Spirit.

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What is man – no, really?

“Adam” means “man” in Hebrew (as “human” rather than “male individual”), and quite apart from the deliberate wordplay in Genesis it is generally believed to have some kind of etymological link in Hebrew with “adamah“, meaning “red” and hence “red (=fertile and tilled) soil”. This would not be far-fetched, since our own English word “human” appears to derive from a Proto-Indoeuropean (PIE) root meaning “earth”, thus distinguishing men from the gods of heaven. One question for the “genealogical Adam” hypothesis of my last post, in which Adam is an historical figure and universal common ancestor, but not the first man, is how he gets to take the word for all … Continue reading

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Of nesting hierarchies

I was collecting some tools from our stable (no longer used for horses) and noticed, not for the first time, a hornet buzzing about there. A careful examination confirmed my suspicion that there was a nest hiding in the corner of the ceiling. I decided that with several grandchildren due to be tromping about in there this month, disturbing a few hundred of these of these not especially aggressive, but certainly large and well-armed creatures was not to be entertained. So I confess I terminated their natural history with an insecticide.

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All and everything…

… but nothing at all to do with the book of that name by George Gurdjieff. Science Daily has an article about an interesting recent paper on genes and disease, that in effect sounds the death knoll for the genetic model of disease and opens a potential can of extremely hungry worms for biology as a whole.

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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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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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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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