Evolution Basics: At the Frontiers of Evolution, Part 4: Contingency vs. Convergence
Given that both contingency and convergence seem to be significant factors in evolutionary history, it is only natural for scientists to wonder which force has the upper hand. Is evolution primarily contingent, with convergence playing only a minor role? Or is evolution largely a convergent phenomenon, where contingent factors have little overall influence?
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.
The Fossil Record of the Cambrian “Explosion”: Resolving the Tree of Life
Series: Creation, Evolution, and the Over-Active Imagination (2 entries)
“The Language of God” Book Club – Chapter 4
Some people who brook no “god of the gaps” arguments anywhere else look to these three moments as more reasonable places to insert God into natural processes: God spoke matter/energy into existence, God made life out of lifeless matter, and God breathed a soul into human beings.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
Surveying George Murphy's Theology of the Cross
If God himself is willing to die, particularly in such a gruesome way, then perhaps we should at least consider the possibility of God allowing the death of other creatures, too. But would this really be compatible with what we know of God through Scripture?
Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology, Part 3
We find no compelling evidence that the earth’s geological features can be explained by a global Flood. Here we consider three lines of evidence: global salt deposits, the order of deposition of sediment layers in the Grand Canyon, and the sequence of fossils in geological strata.
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.
David Lack: Evolutionary Biologist and Devout Christian
Charles Darwin’s personal struggles and ultimate rejection of Christianity are well documented, and people are eager to link his loss of faith to his evolutionary theory. David Lack, on the other hand, began his scientific career as an agnostic, but shortly after publishing his famous book on the evolution of "Darwin's finches", he converted to Christianity.
Series: Asa Gray and Charles Darwin Discuss Evolution and Design (5 entries)
Many Christians believe that they face a painful choice-- either life was designed by God or it is an evolutionary product of natural selection. Charles Darwin himself believed in this dichotomy, and people ever since have felt the need to "choose sides". However, looking back at history, we find that one of Darwin's chief scientific colleagues, Asa Gray, did not share this perspective. In this three-part essay, part 1 charts the relationship of Asa Gray and Charles Darwin. Part 2 describes Darwin's struggle with the problem of natural evil and design in nature, and part 3 explores how Asa Gray was able to embrace evolution without rejecting the idea of design.
Hominids Lived Millions of Years Ago, but How Can We Tell? (Videocast)
This BioLogos videocast addresses the age of recently discovered hominid fossils and how scientists are able to obtain those dates.
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.
What scientific evidence do we have about the first humans?
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.
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.