Monthly Archives: October 2014

Evolutionary trajectory

A particularly zealous reader may recall that in my recent piece on the fossil record I raised a question, in passing: “…as an exercise, can you say what in Neodarwinian theory precludes a cyclical, rather than linear and branching, evolutionary process?” Despite claims like Koonin’s (2009) that there is no tendency to greater complexity in evolution, the most basic finding of palaeontology is the overall trajectory from simple (if that word means anything in biology) single celled organisms to, well, humans, or at least higher life-forms. Whether one calls it progress or not, what is undeniable is that it is a trajectory, or rather a branching series of trajectories, which … Continue reading

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The Pope, autonomy, internal law, freedom and autonomy (again)

Pope Francis’s statement on the Big Bang and evolution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was reported recently, but surprisingly there doesn’t seem to be a full translation of his Italian statement online. So, not speaking Italian, I had to use Google to translate the original if I was to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, rather than via the misleading press reports. Paradoxically, knowing that I was dealing with a poor translation has been a help in understanding the whole.

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On the fossil record

BioLogos has, for the second time, reissued a 2011 video on transitional species. To be truthful, it’s pretty simplistic, as I wrote in reply to its previous incarnation last year. In the accompanying text the BioLogos piece says: “The fact is that the number of transitional species is massive and it grows with each passing year.”

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Modifying the environment

I’ve not written much about genetically modified organisms in the nearly four years The Hump of the Camel has been in existence. This is partly because, for several years until recently, it was a non-issue in Britain, having been put on the back-burner by public outcry. And it’s partly because, although I’ve been disquieted about its risks myself, a number of benevolent and wise people have supported it.

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Getting it in the neck

I’ve returned more than once (including in song) to the theme of tetrapod pentadactyly, because it opens up structuralist and other non-Darwinian aspects of evolution to consideration. A close runner up for my interest is the case of the giraffe (no song on that, so far), because it was an icon of Lamarckian evolution that became an icon of Darwinian evolution – before both tales were shown to be mere folk-tales by the actual study of giraffes: the long neck cannot possibly be explained by access to high sources of food, either by Darwinian selection or Lamarckian acquisition.

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The modern myth about design arguments

I’m grateful to GD for pointing us to an article about the Cappadocian theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, and his use of science language. The writer works just 20 miles down the road from me, it seems, and there is indeed a freely available version of it here. The particular (small, but important) thing I took from this piece was how in arguing against the materialist pessimism of Epicurus, the saint, through the mouth of his dying sister, says that Epicurus and those like him failed to understand that “a Divine power, working with skill and method, is manifesting itself in this actual world, and, penetrat[es] each portion.” That speaks to … Continue reading

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Still hanging in the air…

…unanswered questions on BioLogos style evolutionary creation. Dennis Venema published the penultimate part of his series Evolution and the Christian on BioLogos a week ago (the final episode was an appeal for speaking out the truth in love – well, I’m all for that).

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Fundamentalism, materialism and their family reunion

The ongoing series on BioLogos in which former Creationists testify to their coming to peace with evolution says more, in my view, than the simple message that evolution and faith are compatible. It says something about conversion psychology.

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Léon Croizat and other lunatics

Many years ago I was part of a group of doctors in Essex, UK, who met with local police officers to discuss drug misuse. The police spokesman, tongue firmly in cheek, said: “Essex doesn’t have a drug problem, because we don’t have a drugs squad.” Later, of course, one was formed, and as if by magic there was a problem to solve.

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Reality check

One of the things I noted in the post about my reading of Sir Arthur Eddington’s The Nature of the Physical World was the way that a mind-based metaphysics reverses the emptying out of reality that materialism entails. Since I think this is a significant insight I want to devote a whole post to unpacking it a bit more.

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