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.