There has been a lot of water flow under the bridge since the last installment of Missing Links. I’ve racked up some frequent flyer miles, speaking at Pepperdine University in the unbelievably gorgeous seaside town of Malibu. And then Brad Kramer and I manned the booth at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Atlanta, where our Senior Advisor for Dialogue Darrel Falk also had a session with an Answers in Genesis geneticist. Look for more on our time there on Brad’s blog in the near future.
Of course the internet did not stop churning out information. According to this article, every minute of the day there are:
- 300 hours of new YouTube videos added
- 347,000 tweets
- 3 million Facebook posts (and 4 million likes per minute)
- 4 million Google searches
- 204 million emails sent
Is it any wonder we feel like we can’t keep up? Well, fear not: the FESQI bots have been roaming the internet to find some interesting articles you may have missed over the last few weeks while you were trying to manage your social media habits.
The corner of the internet where those in my professional discipline hang out was abuzz with responses to Marco Rubio’s not-so-carefully-thought-through comment on welders and philosophers. One of my favorite pieces on this was an interview with Stanford Philosopher Ken Taylor, who himself was a welder for a while. There’s nothing wrong with manual labor. I spent summers during graduate school working in a wood cutting factory, sometimes spending eight hours a day off-bearing 16 foot long boards from the moulding machine. There were good, honest people who worked there (and a few who might not fit that category). I’ve taught through Plato’s Republic enough times to be convinced that we’ll be most fulfilled when we work in those areas for which we’re most particularly suited. (I think Paul had something relevant to say about this too.) For some that manual labor; for others it’s philosophy. Here’s a short piece by a Cambridge physicist who spoke at the festival of the humanities in London, concluding with: “So let us revel in our capabilities on all fronts, recognizing that we each have different strengths and weaknesses. Being human is not about living in any particular silo. It’s time to ban the damaging polarisation that sets one part of the research community against another and celebrate our humanity as well as the Humanities.” This goes for setting intellectual work against vocational training too. The irony in the Rubio comment was that it dismissed philosophy after giving the appearance of having thought carefully about the role of philosophy—which is itself the discipline of thinking carefully about things!
Speaking of self-referential incoherence…this post at the Discover Magazine blog really makes you think: Meta-Neuroscience: Studying the Brains of Neuroscientists. If you put neuroscientists into fMRI machines and watch what their brains are doing while they’re studying other people’s brains, does it explain why they think what they do about how we think?? Perhaps there are neural correlates for the tendency in some people to reduce the mental to the physical?? Actually, all it shows is that neuroscientist brains are more excited by the prospect of publishing in Nature Neuroscience than they are by seeing stacks of money.
Last week at Slate.com an article proudly proclaimed, “Evolution is Finally Winning Out Over Creationism.” The author drew from the recent Pew Survey we reported on here, and supplemented this with data from a 2014 Gallup poll. It seems to me that her piece underscores the need for more fine-grained surveys and analysis. She notes that the percentage of Americans who say they believe in evolution guided by God dropped from 40 percent in 1999 to 31 percent in 2014. But how do Americans understand this question? If we limit evolution to the scientific explanation (as opposed to the naturalistic ideology), we at BioLogos would question whether we need to include reference to God’s special actions for that any more than we do for explaining photosynthesis. But of course we wholeheartedly affirm that God created human beings, while accepting that evolution is the best scientific description of that process of creation. Admittedly, affirming both of these cuts across the simplistic categories in which the debate is typically framed and causes some confusion whether to tick the “God-guided evolution” box on a survey. The Slate piece unabashedly celebrates the demise of religious commitment as positive for the future of science. That seems to me like saying we could get rid of steroid use in baseball if we’d just eliminate all sports. Certainly we can think more carefully about the relationship of science and religion.
In fossil news, the University of Oxford announces that the discovery of a new 170 million year old fossil on the Isle of Skye leads researchers to conclude that three previously recognized species of a mouse-sized mammal are in fact just one. These kinds of headlines fuel the evolution skeptics to keep claiming “science is always changing, you can’t trust it.” There must be a standard template somewhere in the “How to Disseminate Science” handbook that says you report on science stories by saying, “We used to believe X; now we know that X is wrong and Y is correct.” The superficially sharp consumers of such stories recognize that today’s Y could be tomorrow’s X. And rarely do the stories themselves give any reason to question this. It takes more careful and sustained thinking about science to recognize that while the impulse of science is to question everything and continually subject findings to attempts at falsification, there really are explanatory systems that become settled. We’re not still questioning whether the earth orbits the sun or whether germs cause disease. The fact that new data on fossils and genetics will continue to refine explanatory systems of evolution does not at all preclude 99% of professional biologists from accepting evolution as settled science.
Finally, it seems a little early to be starting in the on the “best of 2015” posts. Isn’t December part of the year? But Real Clear Science has decided they’ve seen enough to declare the Top 10 Websites for Science in 2015. There are lots of great resources here for finding the latest information about what scientists think about the natural world. Whether they acknowledge it or not, they are shining a spotlight on the handiwork of God.