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Origins News Roundup for August 20, 2014

From science and religion blogs: quantum uncertainty and God, the remarkable fact that we have come to understand our place in the created order, and the role of theology in making wise choices about the use of technology.

 

Stochastic Grace

I was raised in a household of atheists. My parents were card-carrying members of the American Communist Party, and therefore the atheism in my household was quite close to the militant anti-theism of the so-called “new atheists”.

 

Series: Understanding Randomness (5 entries)

In this series, Kathryn Applegate addresses the concern that randomness implies the absence of God's activity and involvement in the natural world. She begins by clearing up some common misconceptions about the concept of "randomness", and later focuses on the mechanisms of the immune system to demonstrate that God works through random processes to preserve life. Far from being an indication of a "godless" universe, one might conclude that randomness is one of God’s favorite mechanisms for creating and sustaining life!

 

Evolution Basics: Darwin’s Early Observations on Biogeography

For Darwin, both of these observations (that oceanic islands lacked terrestrial mammals, and that endemic species on islands were most similar to a species on the closest mainland) had the same explanation: his hypothesis that endemic, oceanic species were the modified descendants of a colonizing species from the nearest continent.

 

A Plea to My Shepherds

... I would exhort these, my fellow conservative evangelical shepherds and thinkers, to set aside all reticence and fear, emerge from anonymity, and storm the forum of discourse, engaging this most pressing matter with vigor, equanimity, and humility. In doing so, know upfront that there will be few handrails to guide; you will not be building upon an extensive precedence of published conservative thought.

 

Evolution and Christian Faith Grantees Announced

Congratulations to the 37 winners of the Evolution & Christian Faith (ECF) grants competition! ECF is a new BioLogos program designed to support projects and network-building among scholars, church leaders, and parachurch organizations.

 

Where are the Transitional Fossils?

A common argument leveled against the theory of evolution is that scientists have not been able to produce transitional fossils that show the change of one species into another. In this podcast, we address a common misconception about what transitional fossils actually are.

 

Willing to be Wrong

The debate is often not about evidence, but about making sure that others do not transgress our interpretive boundaries and insist that we're wrong. We've bitten from the tree of knowledge and we love its taste.

 

Series: Decoding ENCODE (8 entries)

The BioLogos Foundation explains to the findings of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project and responds to the claims that its discoveries challenge the theory of evolution, especially regarding so-called "junk DNA".

 

Denisovans, Humans and the Chromosome 2 Fusion

The Denisovans, an extinct hominid group that interbred with modern humans, made the news again lately with the publication of a more detailed study of their genome. One of the many interesting findings was that the Denisovans share the same chromosome 2 fusion that modern humans have.

 

The Randomness Project

It is not uncommon to hear voices proclaiming that biology and physics have shown us that—at fundamental levels—nature is random, hence meaningless, purposeless, and without a creator. But how might God work providentially through indeterminate processes? The John Templeton Foundation has provided a generous grant of $1.69 million to support a new research initiative on the theme of Randomness and Divine providence.

 

Series: David Lack and Darwin's Finches (4 entries)

Not only are evolution and biblical faith compatible, but committed Christians have been at the forefront of evolutionary science ever since Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. This series looks at David Lack, an ornithologist and devout Christian who contributed greatly to the understanding of Darwin's finches.

 

Series: The Human Fossil Record (19 entries)

In this series, James Kidder provides an intriguing study on transitional fossils and the evolutionary history of modern humans. He begins by discussing the fossil record, explaining how new forms are classified. He then explains the physically distinguishing trait of humankind—bipedalism. From the discovery of Ardipithecus, the earliest known hominin, to the australopithecines, the most prolific hominin, Kidder focuses on the discovery, the anatomy, and the interpretation of these ancestral remains.

 

Gracious Dialogue

Our desire to engage in gracious dialogue with fellow believers who reject biological evolution has been receiving increased attention in both the Christian and secular press. More importantly, we are being joined in this reconciling project by our brothers and sisters in Christ who have often been defined primarily as our “opponents”.

 

Series: Science and the Bible (22 entries)

This ongoing series written by historian Ted Davis begins with a brief synopsis of his personal background, and then goes on to reveal his passion for debunking “the now-common view that the history of science and Christianity is one of ongoing, inevitable conflict.”

 

The Fossil Record

There are two opposite errors which need to be countered about the fossil record: 1) that it is so incomplete as to be of no value in interpreting patterns and trends in the history of life, and 2) that it is so good that we should expect a relatively complete record of the details of evolutionary transitions within all or most lineages.

 

Randomness and Evolution: Is There Room for God? (Videocast)

This BioLogos videocast addresses the idea of randomness as a part of natural selection, and whether it challenges the possibility of God using the evolutionary process as a means of creation.

 

Series: Randomness and God’s Governance (5 entries)

In this three-part series from Pruim’s chapter in the book Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church, mathematician Randall Pruim explains what scientists and mathematicians mean when they speak of something being “random”. He also addresses God's use of apparent randomness in creation as a part of his sovereign rule.

 

Chance Creation

It should not be surprising that John Cage asked the stuff he used to make paintings to take part in the process—to contribute its own identity to the intentional, purposeful, and determined work of creating “based on chance.”

 

Series: Understanding Evolution: Theory, Prediction and Converging Lines of Evidence (4 entries)

One of the challenges for discussing evolution within evangelical Christian circles is that there is widespread confusion about how evolution actually works. In this installment we explore how evolution is a theory in the scientific sense, how it is supported by converging lines of evidence, and how it can make accurate predictions about the natural world, using whale evolution as an example.

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