I’ve sent out the FESQI bots again this week to scour the internet, and here are the “Missing Links” they’ve brought back.
I like browsing through the 13.7 blog at NPR, which describes itself as “commentary on science and society.” Bill Mesler has a new piece there, “Did Life Begin on Mars?” In many people’s minds, the scientific search for the origins of life is tightly wedded to the science of evolution, and because there is no consensus on the former, they think it undermines the credibility of the latter. But the science of evolution no more depends on having a confirmed theory of the origin of life than the US Government depends on knowing who first set foot on this continent. The theory of evolution assumes the existence of organisms that can reproduce. The question about where those first replicating organisms came from has a profound theological answer: God created life! But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a process involved that could be described scientifically too. At BioLogos, we believe that God created the Hawaiian Islands too, and yet there is a process involved that science can describe comprehensively. Perhaps the origin of life is similar… or perhaps it’s not and God did something outside the scope of what science can describe. We also think that is possible. Mesler says that the more we learn about the early conditions on earth, the less we see how life could have formed here, and the more we learn about the early conditions on Mars, the more promise it has for finding a pathway from simple organic molecules to an organism with self-replicating RNA. We at BioLogos think we ought to follow the evidence where it leads. In other words, BioLogos is open to both a natural and miraculous origin of life—God gets the credit either way. But by taking this position, BioLogos will get criticized from both sides: from atheists who think our faith commitments are silly, and from creationists who think our acceptance of science is unbiblical.
Speaking of such critics, last week Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham asked, “Can we take the Bible seriously but not literally?” Evidently his answer is “yes”, since he notes that some parts of the Bible are obviously not meant to be taken literally. That’s encouraging. But then he also says, “Different genres require different ways of reading. But it’s really not complicated.” I suppose where we would differ is that we think serious Bible interpretation is more complicated than that. Not all of us need to get PhD’s in Bible, learn the original languages, and study the cultures in which Scripture was given. But I suspect that some biblical scholars might take exception to Ham’s claim that their work boils down to, “We’re only supposed to interpret God’s Word literally where it’s meant to be taken literally. This is pretty straightforward.”
We share Ham’s faith commitments, but not his view of science. Jerry Coyne’s blog is generally the photo negative of that: he militantly attacks religion of every stripe, but presents scientific details deftly. This week a guest blogger gave a list of the best books for learning about the science of evolution: Your essential evolution library. I’ve read a couple of these, and have now put a couple more on my Amazon wish list. Speaking of wishes, I wish that everyone who criticizes the science of evolution in the name of faith would read these books first, so they know what they’re criticizing.
Finally, this week’s “find of the century” in the world of science was the discovery of Homo sapiens teeth in China from 100,000 years ago. Undoubtedly we will cover this story in future blog posts. Browsing stories about it led me to this feature from Time Magazine about cover stories it has run on discoveries that have helped to explain human origins. Unfortunately the popular media tends to describe these discoveries with phrases like “this will completely rewrite the story of human evolution.” Such headlines probably attract more eyeballs to their stories, but they don’t help in developing confidence about the trustworthiness of science. Will next week’s discoveries completely rewrite what we claim to know today? Can we trust anything scientists say? The trick, as we’ve said before, is to realize that while fallible, science really does make progress toward the truth. If you believe that God is the author of nature and the one who endowed us with minds capable of discovery, you wouldn’t expect it to be any other way.
OK, one more. DNA testing on the Shroud of Turin shows… that the cloth has come into contact with people and plants from all over the world. Hmmm… Interesting.