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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.
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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
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: Made in the Image of God: The Theological Implications of Human Genomics
This series by Denis Alexander reflects on advancements in genomics as well as their theological implications. He focuses on the relatedness of hominin genomes, arguing that this does not interfere with the image of God in humans. The image of God depends more on the capacity for relationship and covenant, not on a list of particular physical qualities. He then discusses why the recent studies of genomics provide “no grounds for genetic determinism.”
Series: Shaping the Human Soul
In Washington DC, Church of the Advent teamed up with The Trinity Forum to offer a series of lectures exploring the synergy between modern science and Christian Faith. This presentation by psychiatrist Curt Thompson and philosopher James K.A. Smith addressed the process of Christian discipleship and spiritual formation through the lens of neuroscience.
Body and Soul, Mind and Brain: Pressing Questions
“Bit by experimental bit,” writes philosopher P. Churchland, “neuroscience is morphing our conception of what we are.” For many, this includes dispensing with the “soul” in favor of biologically anchored processes.
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.
Series: Genetics, Theology, and Adam as a Historical Person
Denis Alexander begins this five part series by discussing both what a model is and whether it is appropriate to use one when building a bridge between scientific truths and theological truths. Providing evolutionary facts about the origins of humans as well as discussing the origin and meaning of Adam in Genesis, he constructs what he calls a Retelling model and a Homo divinus model. Both approaches, he concludes, “suggest that human evolution per se is irrelevant to the theological understanding of humankind made in the image of God.”
Beware Evolutionary 'Just-so' Stories About Religious Belief
As an evolutionary biologist I am fascinated by the emergence of cognitive abilities that make us so distinctive from other living species. There are, however, risks in making up evolutionary "just-so" stories to explain the origins of complex human beliefs.
Does Genetics Point to a Single Primal Couple?
Is the human race descended from one ancestral pair in the recent past? Are we, as C.S. Lewis puts it in his Chronicles of Narnia, the “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve”?
Are We Genetically Predisposed to Believe in God?
While the question of evolutionary predisposition toward religious belief may be challenging, Christians need not see it as threatening. In fact, this is actually a Pauline notion that is explored in Romans 1, where Paul claims that it is in mankind’s nature to “know God”.
In The Bones
I am a fan of the blog "Jesus Creed." Recently it published an interesting post about the transition from fins to limbs as evidenced by fossils of an organism trapped in sediment 375 million years ago.
Beginning with the End in Mind
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.
What does it mean to be human? For the Christian, the answer is complex. In part, it is a reflection of being created in the image of God. But does the science of human evolution pose a threat to that uniqueness?
BioLogos and the June 2011 "Christianity Today" Cover Story
They all together cry out in unison with a loud voice—“Created!” However, they also, in a subtle, but persuasive whisper, add the all-important qualifying phrase—“…slowly and not in an instant!”
How Does a BioLogos model need to address the theological issues
Science and Religion scholar Denis Alexander presents two models for relating Adam and Eve with the findings of contemporary anthropology. This essay was presented at the November 2010 Theology of Celebration Workshop
Surveying George Murphy's Theology of the Cross
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 Does it Mean to Have “Common Ancestry”?
In this brief video “Conversation” Denis Alexander explains that common ancestry does not mean that we are descended from apes, rather, it means that we last shared a common ancestor with them roughly 6 million years ago.
What does the fossil record show?
Fossils provide a unique view into the history of life by showing the forms and features of life in the past. Fossils tell us how species have changed across long periods of the Earth’s history. For instance, in 1998, scientists found a fossil showing an animal at the transition from sea creature to land creature. This tetrapod had a hand-like fin, confirming a prediction of evolutionary biology. Though the fossil record does not include every plant and animal that ever lived, it provides substantial evidence for the common descent of life via evolution. The fossil record is a remarkable gift for the study of nature.