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Saturday Science Links: October 18, 2014

Collection of the best articles of the past several weeks on science (and faith) from around the web.

 

Series: Evolution Basics (50 entries)

Written by BioLogos Fellow of Biology Dennis Venema, this series of posts is intended as a basic introduction to the science of evolution for non-specialists.

 

Ch. 3-4: The Importance of Reading the Biblical Text in Context

When we sit down to read sacred Scripture, we need to develop a rapport with the Bible’s various authors and their worldviews. Otherwise, we will unintentionally demand they communicate in the same manner we do.

 

Reviewing “Darwin’s Doubt”: Introduction

Stephen Meyer and the Discovery Institute seek to make the case for the designer in a purely scientific context, without specifying who the designer is. At BioLogos, we take the approach that science is not equipped to provide a full Christian apologetic.

 

God's Extravagant Love in Creation

Critics of Christianity look to evolution to show how the emergence of human life on earth demanded enormous ruin and ravage, billions of years of apparent waste and futility, species extermination and organism road kill. Not only was the massive dying off rampant, it’s mandatory too.

 

Hydrology of the Bow River

There’s a word beneath the water, and the Bow River belongs to God. Have you been listening?

 

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.

 

Series: Genesis Through Ancient Eyes (5 entries)

In this talk, originally delivered at the BioLogos President's Circle meeting in October 2012, Dr. John Walton discusses the origin stories of Genesis 1-3, and why their focus on function and archetypes mean there is no Biblical narrative of material origins.

 

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.

 

David Lack and Darwin’s Finches

Considering the immense popularity of "Darwin's finches", it is quite surprising to learn that Charles Darwin himself had very little to say about them. In fact, it was actually David Lack, one century later, who conducted the critical research that immortalized the finches in biology textbooks and popular lore.

 

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.

 

What evidence do we have for evolution besides fossils and genes?

Scientists have found multiple lines of evidence for evolution, not just one or two. These types of evidence are independent of each other, coming from sources as different as ancient fossils and modern genetics labs. Evidence also comes from comparing the anatomy of creatures living today. All creatures with four limbs (whether mammals, birds, or reptiles) have the same bone structure in each limb, pointing to their descent from a common ancestor. More evidence comes from biogeography. Isolated islands are missing common species found on the mainland, but are filled with many unique species that can be related by a common ancestor. Finally, evidence comes from embryonic development. As an embryo of a mammal grows, its heart develops through stages similar to fish, amphibians, and reptiles. God’s creation declares the history of life in many different ways. All these ways are pointing to a consistent picture of God creating through evolution.

 

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.

 

Saturday Sermon: Over and Above Naturalism, Part 2

Barkley suggests that material creation is not the end of our understanding (as Naturalists think), but a beginning that unveils the majestic and power of a Creator who loves us.

 

Saturday Sermon: Over and Above Naturalism

Pastor Joseph Barkley of Ecclesia Church extols the greatness of the God who has brought forth incredible works and engaged humankind in relationship. In the first part of the sermon “Over and Above Naturalism,” Barkley admires the factual knowledge unlocked by science, and yet reminds the Church that those material descriptions fail to answer the question of ultimate significance.

 

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.

 

What is the genetic evidence for evolution?

Darwin developed his theory of evolution by looking at scientific evidence available in the mid-1800s. Since then, the whole field of genetics has developed, adding a powerful independent line of evidence in support of evolution. Genes show how the physical traits of living things are handed down and modified from one generation to the next. By comparing the DNA of many organisms, scientists can map the relationships between species. This map is in remarkable agreement with Darwin’s predictions. The structure of chromosomes and particular genetic sequences point to the conclusion not just of common design, but common descent as well.

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