Monthly Archives: February 2014
I’d intended to leave the question of universals – of nominalism and realism – behind after two posts. But two things have prompted one more look at the subject. The first is a piece by Vincent Torley on Uncommon Descent about Early Darwinists and racism, which coincided with some remarks I made on my first thread. The second is an essay by Stephen J Gould on the historical contingency of human equality.
More by chance than intention I’ve been examining some classical philosophical ideas in the last few posts, and how they unconsciously shape science generally, but also in particular Christian approaches to creation. I first looked at Aristotelian categories of causation here, here and here,and showed how modern science’s refusal to acknowledge anything but efficient and material causation hampers its own work (formal causation being necessary to understanding information and form, and final causation being smuggled in by the back door anyway). But I also showed how we modern Christians, by taking a similarly restricted view of causation, can make a proper understanding of God’s work in creation impossible.
I foolishly allowed myself to sidetrack the discussion of my own recent post on these two major philosophical alternatives (nominalism and realism) into a conversation with Lou Jost on the TOE itself. I blame the fact that I was preparing the piece on neutralism and adaptationism, which nudged me out of philosophy mode. Not that the discussion hasn’t been interesting, even useful, in itself, but it has perhaps prevented the theists here from grappling with the important issues of the nominalist-realist question. So I want to spend just a few more words on it before moving on to another significant philosophical issue in a different post.
Go to the Ant – Ghillean Prance Here’s a review of a book of meditations on scriptural passages related to nature, published by the Iona Community. I’m not really one for books of meditations (with the notable exception of the work of Thomas Traherne), but I got this one because it’s by a near neighbour, Prof Sir Ghillean Prance, FRS. Ghillean has an astonishing CV – amongst many things botanist, Amazon explorer, Fellow of the Royal Society, former director of Kew Gardens, scientific director of the Eden Project, vice-president of Nature in Art Trust and a trustee and former chairman of Peter Harris’s A Rocha. Peter is astonished how he packs … Continue reading
Blogger Bilbo, an occasional visitor here, has paid a rare compliment to biochemist and creationist-witchfinder Larry Moran for his clear explanation of the difference between neutral theory and genetic drift.
In church Sunday morning, Keith B. Miller, a geologist at Kansas State University (editor of “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation”), stood and read this modern scientific Psalm written by Walt Hearn. Hearn holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry, University of Illinois, and has written several books on science/religion subjects and served as editor for the ASA from 1969 to 1993. This piece was published originally under the title: “63 Thanksgiving” in a 1963 issue of HIS magazine. It is also on the ASA website here, where I found it to reprint below.
Peter Harris was a friend of Jon’s at Cambridge many years ago. He is President and Founder of A Rocha, an international environmental organization with a Christian ethos. This article is the third and final of three from a paper prepared for The Lausanne Movement’s Theology Working Party in Beirut, Lebanon in February 2010, under the chairmanship of Dr Christopher J H Wright. It also appeared in the July 2010 Evangelical Review of Theology (Vol 34 No 3), but is posted on The Hump as an introduction to yet another important aspect of the Christian doctrine of Creation. Whatever our conclusions about the possibilities for society and the earth which … Continue reading
I’ve been reflecting a little more on some issues I raised in a reply to Merv on Eddie’s thread. It builds on the ongoing consideration of the Aristotelian idea of formal causation, but the involves more global implications of the philosophical divide between realism and nominalism – broadly, whether there are genuine universal “types” or just multitudes of individual things that we humans lump together for convenience.
May I point you to yet another mind-expanding blog by The OFloinn, looking at the limitations of scientific models and whence they arise. Note particularly how he categorises phenomena into organised simplicity which can be understood in detail (like Newton’s Law of Universal gravity – though that only describes what gravity does, leaving its nature as a magic force); disorganised complexity which can only be understood statistically (like the n-body problem, chaotic systems and so on) and which depend (note that word well) on the individual components being unknown and independent; and organised complexity, where there are multiple interrelated factors, which can be understood neither by simple individual laws nor simple statistical … Continue reading
The Biologos thread on the Ham-Nye debate has prompted good conversations there and in a few posts here – very few actually about creationism versus atheism, which is understandable enough as neither site is either creationist or atheist. One titbit was a very gentle dig at New Testament scholars by Ted Davis speaking as a historian, about the criteria they use to date the gospels: In the absence of hard evidence, I regard the date of the composition of the various gospels as highly conjectural, and if I were a biblical scholar (obviously I’m not), I would hesitate to be too dogmatic about such a theory-laden conclusion.