Saturday Science Links: October 18, 2014
Collection of the best articles of the past several weeks on science (and faith) from around the web.
The evidence suggests that God has chosen to work through a random process, one which involves the routine creation and destruction of millions of cells that never get used. This is the ordinary means by which God maintains our health. The miracles of healing recorded in the Bible are miraculous precisely because they don’t occur by this normal, natural process.
The tension generated by our understanding of God’s character, as revealed in the Bible, and by the reality of the natural world around us has been the focus of much debate within the Christian church since the first century. This series examines critically several of the proposed solutions to this problem, viewing them from the perspective of a geologist, paleontologist, and orthodox evangelical Christian.
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.
It is one thing to say that death is primordial; it is another to view it as the central means of creation. The theological uneasiness about this issue ultimately rests not just on an understanding of God’s creative activity, but also on a particular representation of evolution.
In science, we don’t really know the true way things actually work. What we have are theories—broad explanatory frameworks supported by experimentation, which we can use to make testable predictions about the natural world.
A common challenge to evolutionary theory is that while life does indeed change over time (what is known as microevolution), no one has ever seen one species evolve into another species (macroevolution).
In today’s video, Dr. Rick Colling states that evolution is not merely the imposition of death and destruction and survival of the fittest. Rather, it is about second chances.
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 on “junk DNA”, we explore how genomics can be employed to test for non-functional sequences by comparing sequences between related organisms.
Scholar and musician Jeff Warren addresses the questions of how music is meaningful, and where that meaning resides, by looking at the popular ideas that musical meaning is entirely subjective to the listener and that the meaning of music can be universal. He also explores the recent trend of attempting to explain music via neuroscience. Finally, he looks into the reasons why music continues to play such a critical role in the worshiping life of the Church.
In this video, Pääbo covers a lot of ground, noting several lines of genetic evidence for the evolution of modern humans from earlier hominids in Africa, as well as for the interbreeding between early humans and Neanderthals.
This blog series by Dennis Venema undertakes the task of clarifying numerous aspects of evolution that often become misconstrued by Christians. He first discusses the idea of speciation in a population over time, later applying it to the speciation process that occurred among hominids (human ancestors) which led to modern humans. He continues to support this idea by exploring so called “Mitochondrial Eve,”“Y Chromosome Adam” and other compositional clues of the human genome.
With his standard panache, the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen J. Gould argued strenuously that evolution had no inherent directionality. We are mere accidents; a "tiny twig on an improbable branch of a contingent limb on a fortunate tree".
If the tape was rewound and evolution started over from scratch, Conway Morris says, the evolutionary details would be different, but the end result would be similar: a species characterized by intelligence and complex civilization.
In this six part series, Brian Godawa takes a closer look at cosmography and its relationship to the Bible. After defining cosmography as a theory that describes features of the heavens and the earth, he relates how his own views about the universe have shifted. He then continues to talk about the Mesopotamian cosmography that is so consistently reflected in Scripture. This view of the universe includes aspects such as the firmament, the pillars, the underworld, the heavens above, the watery abyss. He then explains how one understands these concepts in terms of modern scientific thought.
I want to lay out some of the key myths and indicate how Coyne’s discussion can help Christians get a more accurate understanding of evolution.
Many evolutionary critics have identified the Cambrian Explosion as a stumbling block to the theory of evolution, arguing that the “expected transitions between major invertebrate phyla are absent, and that the suddenness of their appearance in the fossil record demonstrates that evolutionary explanations are not viable.” Keith Miller argues that the Cambrian Explosion is not so problematic as these opponents claim after all.
If death did not exist before Adam and Eve, how could God have used evolution to create man? And what about predators and natural catastrophes such as the mass extinction of the dinosaurs?
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.