God Decides, We Measure
The former chair of the Harvard University physics department muses on how faith gives meaning to his scientific work.
Geologist Keith Miller examines the "Cambrian Explosion", a period of rapid evolutionary diversification approximately 575 million years ago, and whether it poses a challenge to evolutionary theory. From the June 2014 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith from the American Scientific Affiliation.
With From the Dust, it was our goal to help Christians see the complexity of the issues raised by modern science, as well as help them to courageously engage with the theological conversations happening within the sphere of Christian culture today.
It should be noted that indeterminacy does not imply that God does not have foreknowledge of future events. Christians ought not to be uncomfortable with the idea of God interacting with his creation through chance.
In this talk, Professor Plantinga addresses the fact that many contemporary thinkers—including many theologians—believe that God cannot perform miracles, providentially guide history, or interact in the lives of people, as these activities would be contrary to science. Plantinga, on the other hand, makes the case that this popular view is mistaken; excluding divine action in the world is not a central feature of natural science itself, but a philosophical or theological preference that has been added on to science (and can just as readily be removed). Plantinga concludes that it is completely logical to accept the miracles of the Bible and support contemporary science.
This BioLogos videocast addresses the age of recently discovered hominid fossils and how scientists are able to obtain those dates.
In recent decades, scientists have discovered more about the beginnings of humanity. The fossil record shows a gradual transition over 5 million years ago from chimpanzee-size creatures to hominids with larger brains who walked on two legs. Later hominids used fire and stone tools and had brains as large as modern humans. Fossils of homo sapiens in east Africa date back nearly 200,000 years. Humans developed hearths for fire, stone points for spears and arrows, and cave paintings by 30,000 years ago. By 10,000 years ago, humans had spread throughout the globe. Genetic studies support the same picture. Humans share more DNA with chimpanzees than with any other animal, suggesting that humans and chimps share a relatively recent common ancestor. Also, the same defective genes appear in both humans and chimps, at the same locations in the genome—an observation difficult to explain except by common ancestry. Genetics also tells us that the human population today descended from more than two people. Evolution happens not to individuals but to populations, and the amount of genetic diversity in the gene pool today suggests that the human population was never smaller than several thousand individuals. Yet all humans, of all races, are descended from this group. Humanity is one family.
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.
One way to resolve the apparent conflict between the Bible and science is to say that the world merely looks old. Perhaps God created it 6,000 years ago, but made it look millions and billions of years old. While God certainly has it in his power to do this, this view raises a theological challenge for the Christian: it makes God out to be a deceiver. It would have God revealing things in the universe that are contrary to what he reveals in the Bible. The lie would be not just in a few places, but embedded in galaxies, in stars, in rocks and fossils, and in our very DNA. If we trust that “The heavens declare the glory of God”, we have to trust that they truthfully declare the history by which God made them.
In today's video, Oxford physicist Ard Louis discusses the famous debate between renowned evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Simon Conway Morris over the idea of evolutionary convergence.
For many, the importance of apparent randomness in evolution can be a major stumbling block when considering whether God could have created through an evolutionary process.
In our first Distinctions video -- featuring biologists Sean Carroll and Kerry Fulcher, Smithsonian Human Origins Program director Rick Potts, and Old Testament scholar John Walton -- we look at the concept of randomness.
Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Scientists become fairly comfortable with a certain level of uncertainty within scientific data, notes Kathryn Applegate, but that is not the case for most people, especially where faith is concerned
Evolution includes random factors in both genetic mutation and natural selection. In popular usage, “random” often means “without purpose.” Some atheists have described evolution as proceeding by “blind, purposeless chance.” But to scientists, “chance” simply means unpredictability. God could choose to use random, unpredictable processes to accomplish his purposes in creation.
In this paper, physicist Ard Louis, a "scientist who believes in the miracles of the Bible", looks at the implications science has on the acceptance of miracles.
In this video conversation, Karl Giberson notes that have to be careful about projecting our idea about human creation onto God because the notion of a human creator is an entirely different concept.
The “Cambrian Explosion” refers to the appearance in the fossil record of most major animal body plans about 543 million years ago. The new fossils appear in an interval of 20 million years or less. On evolutionary time scales, 20 million years is a rapid burst that appears to be inconsistent with the gradual pace of evolutionary change. However, rapid changes like this appear at other times in the fossil record, often following times of major extinction. The Cambrian Explosion does present a number of interesting and important research questions. It does not, however, challenge the fundamental correctness of the central thesis of evolution.
Given that evolution accounts for the diversity of present life, it might seem as if God plays no role in the process. But our modern understanding of physical laws, combined with a proper understanding of God’s relationship to time, can be synthesized into a robust Christian worldview.
God acts in more than one way in the natural world. God sustains the regular patterns of the physical world, but sometimes chooses to act outside of those patterns. God’s regular patterns are what scientists describe as natural laws (like gravity or photosynthesis). God’s actions outside those patterns are usually called supernatural actions or miracles (like raising someone from the dead). Evolutionary creationists believe in the miracles of the Bible and that God can do miracles today. Evolutionary creationists also believe that God is just as involved in the regular patterns of the universe as in miracles.
(Updated on March 10, 2012)