Origins News Round-up for November 15, 2013

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November 15, 2013 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now, History of Life, Science as Christian Calling

Today's entry was written by Jim Stump. You can read more about what we believe here.

Origins News Round-up for November 15, 2013

8.8 billion earth-like planets in our galaxy? The latest interpretation of the data from the Kepler space telescope is that of the 40 billion stars in our galaxy that are like our sun, 1 out of 5 of them has a planet in the habitable zone. The original research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. How likely is it that there could be life on these planets? A story at the New Scientist suggests that the first life we find might be purple microbes. Of course we might be unwittingly transporting life to outer space: NASA reveals that it has discovered a new species of bacteria thriving in its ultra clean rooms used for building spacecraft. Theological reflection on these sorts of things goes by the name of “astrotheology” nowadays. Ted Peters is working in the field: find a short article here, and a longer one here in Theology and Science.

On the scientific search for the origin of life on this planet, one theory now is that it may have begun in ice, as researchers found that some RNA enzymes work better in the cold. Scientists at the University of Chicago report that speciation requires few genetic changes in some instances. A story on The Conversation claims that our understanding of species today comes from theologians’ and natural philosophers’ reflection on the story of Noah’s Ark.

From some other blogs: Roger Olson discusses the role of science in modern theology. He claims that much of modern theology has attempted to extricate Christianity from conflict with science, but that in doing so it has led to problems with divine intervention. James McGrath claims that when Young Earth Creationists challenge what scientists say about the natural world, they depart dramatically from the example of the biblical authors themselves. And on the occasion of Billy Graham’s 95th birthday last week, we point back to a sadly discontinued blog from a few years ago quoting Graham’s thoughts on evolution.

Finally, significant news in the academic field of science and religion: Alister McGrath has been named the new Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion at Oxford, to begin April 1, 2014.

 


Jim Stump has served as the Content Manager at BioLogos since August 2013. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates the existing content. Jim's PhD is in philosophy from Boston University where he wrote a dissertation on the history and philosophy of science. He is the author (with Chad Meister) of Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010) and the editor (with Alan Padgett) of the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Jim is a frequent speaker at churches and other groups on topics at the intersection of science and Christianity.


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Paul Lucas - #83533

November 15th 2013

I’m going to talk about the “understanding of species today” article.

There is a general biological reality to species; they represent populations of individuals.   The problem with “species” is that people seem to want a precise definition that works for every population.  The idea with the classification is that biology will have discrete and separate populations that are always discrete and separate.  However, species are not are not always tidy and discrete.  And this is because evolution is true!  In evolution, species transform to new species over many, many generations.  In the process, there is no hard and fast way we can tell exactly when the new species happened.  IOW, if species A transforms to species B over 1,000 generations, we cannot (by the very nature of the process of evolution) say “Here at generation 500 we have species A and at generation 501 we have species B.”  All we can do is look at generation 1 and say “Species A” and at generation 1,000 and say “Species  B”. 

Yet the various definitions of “species” treats populations as static in time, not the dynamic in time we know from evolution.  Therefore, whatever “definition” of species we try to make—morphological, biological, genetic, etc—there are always going to be populations that are in the process of evolution such that they lie between 2 species.  That does not make species “faith” or useless, it simply means we can’t make a comprehensive definition that will separate all populations into discrete species—because evolution always has some populations in a continuum from one species to another.

So, the only biological reality is “species”.  All the higher taxa are groups of species.


glsi - #83536

November 15th 2013

Paul,

What you’re describing is classic Darwinism, e.g., the slow, gradual change from micro to macro evolution.  It would be a good theory if it were not for the factual evidence of the fossil record which shows no such thing.  After 150 years or so a good theory needs some good evidence to back it up.  In my book, that’s plenty of time to put together at least one example of all of this alledged gradual change between species.  It’s just not there.


beaglelady - #83540

November 16th 2013

Would you be interested in a free course on genetics and evolution so you can learn about the evidence?  It’s online, free, and taught by a professor at Duke.

 

Just go to www.coursera.org and look up “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution”


glsi - #83541

November 16th 2013

If he’s found some fossil evidence showing macro evolution to have occurred as Darwin predicted I’d love to take a look at it.  I think I’ve pretty much looked at all the theories already, but thanks for the link.


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