Today is Charles Darwin’s 206th birthday 15

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Posted under Science by Jillian Becker on Thursday, February 12, 2015

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The vanishing god 18

His only existence was in the superstitions of human beings.

Now even that dim identity is fading away.

We have watched the religious retreating until their backs are to the wall.

Once firm beliefs – in the name of which believers would put disbelievers to torture and death – have quietly been abandoned within the stretch of living memory.

It’s not long since Christians believed in a physical Heaven and Hell. After all, a bodily resurrected Jesus Christ has to have a physical dwelling place. The Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ was physically hauled up into  Heaven – the hauling job by angels is called her Assumption – so there had to be some solid ground to put her on once they got her up there. And if sinners were to suffer in hell, they needed nerves and a brain to suffer pain from being burnt with actual fire.

What theologians speak of that now – or of the Trinity? Only simpletons do. Many among the laity do go on believing in an old bearded man named God, somewhere in the sky, dressed in a kind of nightshirt, with his son, a pretty young man – golden curly hair, blue eyes, also in nightwear – seated beside him on something-or-other, among billowing clouds in a rosy dawn. But that’s all for the commonalty in this twenty-first century since the chosen birthdate of the putative Savior Christ; not the great thinkers.

Science has done what it was bound to do: show up religious accounts of how the universe came into being, and how mankind arose, to be nonsense. Highly imaginative  nonsense. In some aspects, highly ingenious nonsense. But nonsense all the same.

Theological defense of the existence of “God” has steadily dwindled. It came all the way down to the dogma of “intelligent design”. And that’s also manifest nonsense. Whom does it deceive (not counting the gulls and simpletons)? Our universe is so obviously not designed. A design is for a purpose, and the propounders of the idea can point to no purpose. And where is the evidence of intelligence, when life forms fail, hideous deformities occur, animal survives by devouring animal …. the list of natural events that are easily explained by evolution but not by the idea of intelligent design could be very long.

Proponents of “intelligent design” at least had the sense to drop the notion that the supernatural Designer was benevolent. It must finally come home to even a dull mind that the Designer, or god, who made (for example) Ebola, is not a source of unqualified benefit to humankind.

The defense is worn down to the wire. The result is utter confusion.

The Catholic Church cannot allow the “intelligent designer” to take God’s place; cannot have God reduced to an architect who could shout “Hey presto!” at his drawing board and have his design spring into existence. Or don a robe decorated with moons and stars and meteors, and a tall pointed hat, and take a wand in his hand, and wave it about in some medium of ultra-space and so fill an infinite void with galaxies – and prepare Jesus Christ to be born from the womb of a virgin on the little planet Earth.

But how then can it cope with the challenge of science?

To see its best effort, witness this crap, this stew of anachronistic notions thrown into the pot with gobs of scientific truth. It shows how Roman Catholicism does not know what to say, and can only dither vague denials and assertions that add up to nothing – like these, gabbled just the other day by Pope Francis, head of that once powerful and terrible, tyrannical and cruel institution, the Catholic Church (a relic of the darkest centuries of human history):

Delivering an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis continued his habit of making provocative, seemingly progressive statements. The pontiff appeared to endorse the theory of the Big Bang and told the gathering at the Vatican that there was no contradiction between believing in God as well as the prevailing scientific theories regarding the expansion of our universe.

He said:

When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.

The pope avoids gesturing at the thorny issue (at least for some Christians) of whether humans descended from apes. Atheists argue, moreover, that understanding the Big Bang and what emerged from that cosmic moment obviates a need to believe in a deity. On that count, Francis obviously disagrees. He repeated the idea of God not being a “magician,” an entity that conjured all into being.

“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

In other words … God is more a clockmaker than a conjurer of miracles.

Could anything be less like a clock designed to work in a fixed unchanging manner for a particular purpose than this universe of ever-changing matter?*

Such thinking is not new for the Catholic Church, which for six decades — since the reforms of Pope Pius XII — has espoused belief in theistic evolution. That hinges, of course, on the fundamental acceptance of a higher power.

A 2006 article in the Vatican’s main newspaper also distanced the Catholic Church from the idea of “intelligent design,” which it said should not be taught in schools as science. …

What the church does insist upon is that the emergence of the human supposes a willful act of God, and that man cannot be seen as only the product of evolutionary processes, it said. The spiritual element of man is not something that could have developed from natural selection but required an “ontological leap”.

Francis’s more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, espoused this view and found the American debate between creationists and those who backed evolution “absurd’. He asked in 2007 why “those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God”. And then went on:

This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.

Skeptics and atheists, though, may agree with the importance of those questions. But they’re still looking for very different answers.

We sure are, bro!

The intellectually beleaguered theologians of the Catholic Church saw that some interpretation, some clarification of this garbage was needed. So they’ve come up with this, from the Catholic News Service, by John Thavis:

Intelligent design not science, says Vatican newspaper article

Intelligent design is not science and should not be taught as a scientific theory in schools alongside Darwinian evolution, an article in the Vatican newspaper said.

The article said that in pushing intelligent design some groups were improperly seeking miraculous explanations in a way that creates confusion between religious and scientific fields.

At the same time, scientists should recognize that evolutionary theory does not exclude an overall purpose in creation – a “superior design” that may be realized through secondary causes like natural selection, it said.

What overall purpose?

The article, published in the Jan. 17 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, was written by Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna in Italy.

The article noted that the debate over intelligent design – the idea that certain features of life and the universe are best explained by an intelligent designer rather than adaptive evolution – has spread from the United States to Europe.

The problem with intelligent design is that it turns to a “superior cause” – understood though not necessarily named as God – to explain supposed shortcomings of evolutionary science. But that’s not how science should work, the article said.

If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model. But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science.

The article said a Pennsylvania judge had acted properly when he ruled in December that intelligent design could not be taught as science in schools. [The judge said:]

Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation.

From the church’s point of view, Catholic teaching says God created all things from nothing, but doesn’t say how, the article said. That leaves open the possibilities of evolutionary mechanisms like random mutation and natural selection.

God’s project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction.

What the church does insist upon is that the emergence of the human supposes a willful act of God, and that man cannot be seen as only the product of evolutionary processes .. The spiritual element of man is not something that could have developed from natural selection but required an “ontological leap’ … 

The article said that, unfortunately, what has helped fuel the intelligent design debate is a tendency among some Darwinian scientists to view evolution in absolute and ideological terms, as if everything — including first causes — can be attributed to chance.

Science as such, with its methods, can neither demonstrate nor exclude that a superior design has been carried out.

From a religious viewpoint, it said, there is no doubt that the human story “has a sense and a direction that is marked by a superior design”.

What direction? Going where? Why?

So if God may not be boiled down to an “intelligent designer”, then what is he? What is this new orthodoxy of the Catholic Church? He’s still “the creator of all things from nothing”. But he didn’t create things exactly as we know them at this passing moment. He launched evolution. By a special “willful” act he had humankind “emerge”. (Whether from earlier ape-like Hominoidea or not is left an open question.) Man’s unique “spiritual element” could not have developed through evolution. So it must have been put in him by God. Man’s spiritual element, it may be inferred, proves the existence of God.

God is a launcher of evolution, into which process he uniquely intervened to create humankind, to which he gave something new in the universe, a “spiritual element”.

This new Catholic God is not very different from the old Catholic God, but he seems to have shed his son and the Holy Ghost. At least neither the Professor of evolutionary biology nor the befuddled Pope says what’s happened to them.

So even the “intelligent designer” fades out. The old Creator is glimpsed as the launcher of a process through billions of years which finally did not result in the creation of humankind. That was a special new creation. For what purpose is still not said.

He is very frail, that being. Very thin, transparent, ghost-like. Going, going … almost gone.

 

* We do, however, accept Karl Popper’s splendidly explicated thesis that “all clouds are clocks and all clocks are clouds” in his lecture “Of Clouds and Clocks”. In his sense only, having nothing to do with theological “intelligent design”, organic things may be said to be clock-like. You can find the lecture here, or in the collection of Popper’s essays titled Objective Knowledge.

One third of Americans do not believe in evolution 14

We hate to concede anything to the Left, but it seems that on one subject there are more sensible Democrats than Republicans.

This comes from Pew Research:

Six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

About half of those who express a belief in human evolution take the view that evolution is “due to natural processes such as natural selection” (32% of the American public overall). But many Americans believe that God or a supreme being played a role in the process of evolution. Indeed, roughly a quarter of adults (24%) say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”

These beliefs differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.

There also are sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.

Views About Evolution by Party Affiliation

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There are sizable differences among partisan groups in beliefs about evolution. Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).

The size of the gap between partisan groups has grown since 2009. Republicans are less inclined today than they were in 2009 to say that humans have evolved over time (43% today vs. 54% in 2009), while opinion among both Democrats and independents has remained about the same.

Differences in the racial and ethnic composition of Democrats and Republicans or differences in their levels of religious commitment do not wholly explain partisan differences in beliefs about evolution. Indeed, the partisan differences remain even when taking these other characteristics into account.

Differences by Religious Group

A majority of white evangelical Protestants (64%) and half of black Protestants (50%) say that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. But in other large religious groups, a minority holds this view. In fact, nearly eight-in-ten white mainline Protestants (78%) say that humans and other living things have evolved over time. Three-quarters of the religiously unaffiliated (76%) and 68% of white non-Hispanic Catholics say the same. About half of Hispanic Catholics (53%) believe that humans have evolved over time, while 31% reject that idea.

Just as religious groups differ in their views about evolution in general, they also tend to differ in their views on the processes responsible for human evolution. For instance, while fully 78% of white mainline Protestants say that humans and other living things have evolved over time, the group is divided over whether evolution is due to natural processes or whether it was guided by a supreme being (36% each). White non-Hispanic Catholics also are divided equally on the question (33% each). The religiously unaffiliated predominantly hold the view that evolution stems from natural processes (57%), while 13% of this group says evolution was guided by a supreme being. Of the white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants who believe that humans have evolved over time, most believe that a supreme being guided evolution.

Do people tell the truth to pollsters? Pew explains how the poll was conducted. The methods are well-tested. The margin of error is small (+/-3.0 percentage points.) Still, we can doubt the accuracy of the figures. Especially on subjects touching on religion, some might say what they believe listeners around them expect them to say rather than honestly give their opinion.

Nevertheless, we have to accept that millions of Americans don’t believe in evolution. And even among those who do, there are millions who believe that it’s “guided” by a supernatural agency.

And the percentage of Republicans who believe in evolution has actually dropped since 2009, from 54% to 43% – while the number of Democrats who believe in it has risen from 64% to 67%, if the poll is to be trusted.

Depressing news.

 

(Hat-tip Frank)

Posted under Christianity, Commentary, Mysticism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, January 3, 2014

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The survival of the stupidest? 6

Has evolution ended with Homo sapiens?

On this question, Tom Chivers at the Telegraph reports a fascinating disagreement between Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Adam Rutherford.

We have chosen some excerpts. Read it all here.

Like every other species on Earth, Homo sapiens is the product of more than three billion years of evolution: random, blind changes put through the filter of natural selection, leading from one simple original form to all the startling variety of life we see around us. Humanity’s lineage split with that of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, six million years ago, and our ancestors have been evolving separately ever since. In that time we have gone from short, robust, hairy apes – perhaps partly tree-dwelling and knuckle-walking, like chimps – to tall, gracile, naked humans. It has been quite a journey.

But is that journey over? It might be, according to Sir David Attenborough, who said … “I think that we’ve stopped evolving. Because if natural selection, as proposed by Darwin, is the main mechanism of evolution – there may be other things, but it does look as though that’s the case – then we’ve stopped natural selection.”

To support his case, he points out that, unlike any other species, we can use technology to keep ourselves alive until breeding age, when otherwise we would have died. Specifically, he points towards the vast improvement in infant mortality rates: “We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 95-99 per cent of our babies that are born. We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were.” …

And what will happen next fascinates us even more. …

Attenborough … is suggesting something at once prosaic and startling: that human evolution ends here,that we are the final stop on the journey. You can understand his reasoning. After all, if we (at least in the affluent, technologically advanced West) can take even the most vulnerable babies, babies who would have died within hours of birth a hundred years ago, and keep them alive – essentially repair them so that they can live into adulthood and breed – have we not ended the cruel process of natural selection?

It’s not that simple, says Dr Adam Rutherford, a geneticist, author of Creation …  “He is absolutely right that the selection pressures on humans have radically changed, … And he’s right that one of the most profound changes to those pressures is infant mortality rates. But that’s not really, in a pure scientific sense, how evolution works.”

The fact that certain evolutionary pressures have been reduced – for example, the requirement for a baby’s lungs to be fully developed and functional by birth, now that we can keep that baby alive on a respirator until its lungs are grown – does not mean that all of them have gone. “The robust answer to the question ‘are humans evolving?’ is: we don’t know, because the timespans are too short to make a judgment,” says Dr Rutherford.

While we can watch evolution happen in viruses and bacteria – or fruit flies, or mice – human generations are just too slow; even the longest-lived of us can only reasonably hope to see great-grandchildren. Our split with the chimps takes us back to our great‑times-250,000-grandparents.

We can look at our own recent history, though, and at our genes. Several studies have suggested that human evolution has actually speeded up, not slowed down, since the advent of agriculture in the last 10,000 years – an eyeblink in evolutionary terms. In the past few thousand years some humans have evolved the ability to digest milk, unlike any other adult mammals. …

“If you look at changes in the frequency of genes in a population, which is the true measure of evolution, then I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that we’re not evolving,” says Dr Rutherford. The question, of course, is how we’re evolving.

There have been various suggestions, of varying stupidity, up to and including the suggestion that we’ll evolve fatter thumbs to help us text. (“That’s called Lamarckism, and it’s just wrong. The Jewish people have been cutting foreskins off their boys for 5,000 years and one hasn’t been born without a foreskin yet,” snorts Dr Rutherford.) More obviously plausible hypotheses include the idea that our tendency to have children later in life will select against people who are unable to do so.

What won’t necessarily happen is that we’ll become cleverer, or in any arbitrary way “better”, than we are now. Evolution doesn’t work that way.

The 2006 film Idiocracy suggested that clever people are having fewer and fewer children, while stupid people are having more, so the future of humanity is one of everyone being thick. That was a joke, but it illustrates quite neatly that evolution is not a stairway to a glorious pinnacle called “humanity”; intelligence is not the culmination of evolution, it’s just one tool that works for one species at the moment, just as sonar works for bats.

If powerful brains become less useful in future, then we can expect them to dwindle away, like the eyes of cave fish – they’re expensive, energy-draining things, and natural selection is a brutal accountant.

And if we contemplate the intellectual quality of those who have risen in recent years to the commanding heights of political power and academic authority in the West as a whole, we might suppose that the decline of brain-power in the human species has already begun.

Posted under Commentary, Science by Jillian Becker on Saturday, September 28, 2013

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Watching evolution 2

We find this article so interesting we quote it almost in its entirety.

Titled Evolutionary Innovation Caught In The Act, it is by Hristio Boytchev at the Washington Post.

Scientists following the evolution of a single strain of bacteria reported that it underwent several steps of mutation, surprising in its complexity, to acquire the ability to use a new food source.

The findings … are the result of an experiment started 25 years ago by Richard Lenski of Michigan State University.

“When I started that project, I thought I would find one or two mutations and be done with it,” said Zachary Blount, a member of Lenski’s lab. “But instead, there may be dozens of mutations working together.”

“Creationists sometimes argue that even two mutations for one trait is too much complexity, yet here we see that evolution manages that with ease, he said.

To study evolution in real time, Lenski followed the descendents of a single E. coli bacterium, a bug that normally populates our intestines. Bacteria have short life spans and in this experiment went through more than six generations a day.

Every day for 25 years — over 50,000 bacterial lifetimes — members of Lenski’s lab transferred the E. coli into a new flask with sugar solution. Every 500 generations, a part of the population was stowed in a freezer, creating a fossil record that can be brought back to life.

One day in 2003, the scientists observed something peculiar: A flask was much more densely populated than usual. At first the scientists suspected contamination. But then they found that after 30,000 generations, the bacteria had discovered how to use a different chemical as a food source. Citrate, the chemical in question, is given to the bacteria to help them absorb minerals and cannot normally be digested in the presence of oxygen.

What the researchers found was that a gene, normally responsible for letting citrate into the cell only in the absence of oxygen, had moved to a new location in the bacterium’s DNA. There it was controlled by a different switch, enabling citrate to enter even when oxygen was present. But this was only the second of three steps …  An additional set of mutations were necessary in the beginning; the final step was multiplying the gene inside the DNA to make the bacteria much more efficient in their absorption of citrate.

The scientists conclude that these three stages may be universal evolutionary principles.

“Even evolutionary changes that seem to be very sudden and dramatic may typically require a series of multiple steps drawn out over much longer periods of time than meets the eye,” Lenski said.

Creationists could see evolution happening if they had any desire at all to know the truth. But they prefer to believe a lie.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, News, Religion general, Science, Theology, United States by Jillian Becker on Thursday, September 20, 2012

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Can this be true? 5

From the Telegraph:

Creation, [a film] starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin’s “struggle between faith and reason” as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans [according to whom?] believe in the theory of evolution

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment [by whom? when? where?] dismissing evolution as “a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying”.

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

“That’s what we’re up against. In 2009. It’s amazing,” he said. “The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up. It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There’s still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It’s quite difficult for we [sic] in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules.”

Does it? It’s hard for us in the US to believe that only 39% believe in evolution. And they almost entirely confined to New York and LA? What rare birds we country-bumpkin atheists are, if that is so!

But the writer of the article, Anita Singh, seems rather too vague, lacking attribution, to inspire much trust in her report. And it has the ring of a typical piece of European anti-Americanism.

Anyway, someone should seize this entrepeneurial opportunity and screen the movie. We suspect that millions will want to see it as much as we do, whatever they believe about evolution.

Posted under Christianity, News, Religion general, Science, United Kingdom, United States by Jillian Becker on Saturday, September 12, 2009

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Evolution 4

 We are proud and happy to tell our readers that yesterday we were cited by, and linked to, that great website LITTLE GREEN FOOTBALLS as a blog that consistently speaks for evolution and against the nonsense of creationism:  

Some Anti-Creationism Bloggers

BLOGOSPHERE | Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 9:35:50 pm PST

Earlier I mentioned in passing that I’d link to any bloggers who aren’t down with the “intelligent design” creationist movement — conservative/liberal/other. Here are some of the bloggers who’ve responded so far, and it’s not the usual geeks from ScienceBlogs:

Defining “Creationism” Down

Noblesse Oblige » Which Controversy? Discovery Institute vs Science

Daimnation!: Darwin’s next fight

The Atheist Conservative : If I saw an angel or if man was made of brass

Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Darwin

Well That’s Just Dandy….: I Don’t Know Why This Is So Hard To Understand….

Kerplunk – Common sense from Down Under: The Discovery Institute’s willful destruction of Christian values

sisu: ‘Why can’t we get over our post-Marxist nostalgia?’

An old friend and philosophy geek: Blog Here Now 

Thank you, Charles Johnson!

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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If I saw an angel or if man was made of brass 3

Jerry A Coyne, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, reviews two books – Saving Darwinism: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, by Karl W Giberson; and Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, by Kenneth R Miller – which try to reconcile science and religion, and fail of course. 

Read the whole review in The New Republic.

An extract:

The most common way to harmonize science and religion is to contend that they are different but complementary ways of understanding the world. That is, there are different "truths" offered by science and by religion that, taken together, answer every question about ourselves and the universe. Giberson explains:

 

I worry that scientific progress has bewitched us into thinking that there is nothing more to the world than what we can understand…. Science has perhaps gotten as much from the materialistic paradigm as it is going to get. Matter in motion, so elegantly described by Newton and those who followed him, may not be the best way to understand the world…. I think there are ways, though, that we can begin to look at the creation and understand that the scientific view is not all-encompassing. Science provides a partial set of insights that, though powerful, don’t answer all the questions.

 

Usually the questions said to fall outside science include those of meaning, purpose, and morality. In one of his last books, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, Stephen Jay Gould called this reconciliation NOMA, for "non-overlapping magisteria": "Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain these facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings and values–subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve." Gould offered this not as a utopian vision, but as an actual description of why the realms of science and religion do not overlap. As a solution to our perplexity, this is no good. In a spirit of pluralism it ignores the obvious conflicts between them. Gould salvaged his idea by redefining his terms–the old trick, again–writing off creationism as "improper religion" and defining secular sources of ethics, meanings and values as being "fundamentally religious."

The NOMA solution falls apart for other reasons. Despite Gould’s claims to the contrary, supernatural phenomena are not completely beyond the realm of science. All scientists can think of certain observations that would convince them of the existence of God or supernatural forces. In a letter to the American biologist Asa Gray, Darwin noted:

 

Your question what would convince me of Design is a poser. If I saw an angel come down to teach us good, and I was convinced from others seeing him that I was not mad, I should believe in design. If I could be convinced thoroughly that life and mind was in an unknown way a function of other imponderable force, I should be convinced. If man was made of brass or iron and no way connected with any other organism which had ever lived, I should perhaps be convinced. But this is childish writing.

Posted under Christianity, Commentary, Judaism by Jillian Becker on Thursday, January 29, 2009

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Evolution observed 0

 This great event has just been reported by Little Green Footballs.

In an experiment that has been underway for 20 years at Michigan State University, biologist Richard Lenski has actually observed evolution at work in E. Coli bacteria.

A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers’ eyes. It’s the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.

And because the species in question is a bacterium, scientists have been able to replay history to show how this evolutionary novelty grew from the accumulation of unpredictable, chance events.

Twenty years ago, evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski of Michigan State University in East Lansing, US, took a single Escherichia coli bacterium and used its descendants to found 12 laboratory populations. The 12 have been growing ever since, gradually accumulating mutations and evolving for more than 44,000 generations, while Lenski watches what happens.

Mostly, the patterns Lenski saw were similar in each separate population. All 12 evolved larger cells, for example, as well as faster growth rates on the glucose they were fed, and lower peak population densities.

But sometime around the 31,500th generation, something dramatic happened in just one of the populations – the bacteria suddenly acquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient in their culture medium that E. coli normally cannot use.

Indeed, the inability to use citrate is one of the traits by which bacteriologists distinguish E. coli from other species. The citrate-using mutants increased in population size and diversity.

“It’s the most profound change we have seen during the experiment. This was clearly something quite different for them, and it’s outside what was normally considered the bounds of E. coli as a species, which makes it especially interesting,” says Lenski.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, June 18, 2008

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Evolution trumps intelligent design 6

Here is a long video (nearly 2 hours) which is thoroughly worth watching.  Scientist Ken Miller’s lecture on evolution versus intelligent design is absorbingly interesting and often very amusing.

Continue listening into question time. One of the questioners suggests that evolutionists – and so by implication atheists – must be on the political left.

The fact that many atheists think this way, and are probably driven leftward by their non-belief in the existence of God, shows how important it is for those who think as we do to demonstrate that conservative politics fit easily with atheism.

The lecture itself carries this message in the fascinating story of a Republican judge who came down firmly on the side of those who argued for evolution.

 

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Monday, May 26, 2008

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