Monthly Archives: June 2011

Vestigial Cetacean olfactory receptors

Like most consensus scientific theories, common descent is supported by patterns of evidence rather than by a few disconnected observations. As Stephen Jay Gould said, “We know that the sun is hub of our little corner of the universe, and that ties of genealogy connect all living things on our planet, because these theories assemble and explain so much otherwise disparate and unrelated information—not because Galileo trained his telescope on the moons of Jupiter or because Darwin took a ride on a Galápagos tortoise.”

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Filed under Biology, Evolution

Theistic evolution as creationism for academics (part 2)

Biologos, the Templeton-funded brainchild of NIH director Francis Collins, has an article written to defend the fine-tuning argument from the accusation that it is of the God-of-the-gaps form typical of all Creationisms. Their exegesis of the argument begins with the statement, “Unlike a God-of-the-gaps argument, the argument for fine-tuning uses science without divine action to reveal the impeccable precision of our Universe. […] Fine-tuning does not try to draw attention to where science has failed, but rather emphasizes how science has revealed the intricate balance of the universe.” Now reread that passage while substituting the phrase “intelligent design” in place of “fine-tuning” and see how difficult it is to imagine Stephen Meyer writing it. Continue reading

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Filed under Accommodationism, Christianity, Religion, Science

Theistic evolution as creationism for academics (part 1)

On December 20th 2005, the landmark science education case in Dover, Pennsylvania was settled with the honorable John Jones finding that Intelligent Design (ID) was “not science,” and was unable to “uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”

The key player for the evolution lobby was the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). One of the NCSE’s expert witnesses was Brown University biologist, Ken Miller, who has written extensively on his views regarding Christianity and evolution (most notably in “Finding Darwin’s God”). The fact that Ken Miller is a practicing Catholic seems to have been a key factor in the NCSE’s selection, as it allowed them to decouple evolutionary biology from atheism. (Another witness, a Catholic named Julie Smith, was the parent of a girl who had been labeled an “atheist” for accepting evolution.) Continue reading

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Filed under Accommodationism, Christianity, Religion

Does science have anything to say about the supernatural?

A good place to start in any productive conversation is to define one’s terms. Carl Sagan said of science, “Science is more than a body of knowledge… It’s a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe.” Science is just a particular species of skeptical inquiry. As the purpose of this post is to investigate the scope of science and whether or not its authority extends to claims of the supernatural, defining what science actually is is of paramount importance. Another similar definition was used by the great paleontologist and author Stephen Jay Gould: “Science is a battery of observational and inferential methods, all directed to the testing of propositions that can, in principle, be definitely proven false.” Curiously, Stephen Jay Gould considered religion to be compatible with his definition of science. In his 1997 book, Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, Gould set out his vision for the relationship between science and religion, known as “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” or “NOMA.” He wrote, “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.” Today, this idea is commonly phrased as “science and religion are ‘different ways of knowing.’” NOMA is embraced by many theists and atheists who argue for the compatibility of religion and science. This position is commonly known as ‘accommodationism.’ Increasingly, however, religious scientists, progressive theologians and sympathetic secularists seem to be moving away from NOMA and suggesting open interaction between science and religion.

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Filed under Accommodationism, Religion, Science