Category Archives: Science

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 Rather than being withdrawn, the claim then gets transferred to another nation, a bit further downstream from ancient Israel, and round we go again.

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The Lisbon earthquake and plausibility

In my last post on plausibility and credibility I had reason to quote N T Wright on how Deism first divorced God from nature back in the eighteenth century. But I didn’t mention the event commonly identified as the trigger for this radical rejection of the immanence of divine action, a rejection which persists (as I tried to show) until this day. That event was the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

Posted in Creation, Politics and sociology, Science, Theology | 4 Comments

Plausibility and credibility

This post is an occasional (and I feel necessary) return to the concept, fielded by Christian sociologist Peter Berger, of the difference between the “credible” and the “plausible”, sociologically speaking. I can illustrate this from my recent recollection of Bishop John Robinson’s book, Honest to God.

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God as sole Creator in Genesis

There is debate nowadays as to whether Genesis 1 teaches ex nihilo creation, or whether it implies that God used pre-existing materials to create. To some extant the answer hinges on whether v1 is a first act of creation, making a formless heaven and earth which he then organises; or whether v1 is a summary, like the subsequent toledot introductions to sections of the book, and that the formless earth is the material he begins to work on. The two interpretations of this verse have been contested (amiably) since at least the time of St Basil, though the question of creation from something pre-existent seems only to have arisen with … Continue reading

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The 100 year old Saviour (well, not quite)

Last year Joshua Swamidass, an Evolutionary Creationist who believes in a historic Adam, set a challenge called The 100 Year Old Tree to examine the question of the implications of a specially-created Adam. This was predicated on the fact that human beings appear to have a genetic history reaching back long before the young earth time frame for an Adam who is the first progenitor of humanity. Most ECs, of course, also argue that man has genetic footprints revealing his animal ancestry.

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Our local living fossil

It’s become something of a habit – mainly because of writing this blog – to chase up the back-story of any vaguely unusual natural history I come across, because there’s nearly always something interesting to learn. Finding a gaudily-cloured caterpillar once led me to read an entire book on aposematism that gave me entirely new insights into the history and sociology of science. I wondered if some such discovery might be so in  the case of this wee lass, who appeared uninvited in the window-recess of my study earlier this week.  Do you recognise her?

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