Faithful to Science

blog on science and religion

Category: creation (page 1 of 2)

Adam and Eve, part 1

This is a summary of thoughts on Genesis chapters two and three (the Garden of Eden). I simply present a list of propositions. I hope it is helpful.

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The image and the days (Genesis 1)

Recently I was invited to speak at church about the passage in Genesis chapter 1 where the human race is introduced, and the much-pondered words “in the image of God” are written. You can find the text and some accompanying pictures here:

imagodei_blog           [3 MegaBytes; Microsoft Word file]

Our church web-site also has recordings of the sermons, and this one will be there for a while. The link is here (click ‘Talks’):

Talks

In this post I will simply share a few images and brief comments.

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Beautiful evolution

I am posting a thought on Darwinian evolution. There is already quite a lot of material on this subject on this site. This week I am sharing a thought which might help as a way in for teachers or pastors who wish to gain, and hence offer to others, a brief impression of the big picture.

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The goodness of which it is capable

This post is to complete a sequence about pain and suffering and how we respond. I didn’t want to leave this as a purely philosophical issue. Indeed the substance of my last post was that this is not an area that is correctly addressed that way. Our practical response is more important than any philosophical point-scoring. So here I will first briefly repeat the conclusion so far, and then add a final point.

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Philosophical arguments from pain and suffering, part 2

This is the second part of a presentation of a philosophy paper by Peter van Inwagen. You can find the first part here.

In the first part, I presented van Inwagen’s specific reaction to a certain specific argument. This argument presents the claim that the pain of the world gives a prima facie case for the hypothesis that the ultimate source of the world is indifferent to it. Van Inwagen replies simply by showing that the case fails because the premises do not entail the conclusion. However, this discussion is unsatisfactory as it stands because it is too dry. It doesn’t really grapple with the problem of pain. It grapples only with the structure of a certain logical (or illogical) argument.

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But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

 

by R.S. Thomas, from the collection Counterpoint, 1990

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Talking about faith and science

This post is mainly to announce that I have now added a further talk to the resources section. You can find it here:

http://grievingturtle.com/resources/talks/faith-and-science-hbc-oxford-0915/

Here is an extract from the talk:

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A transparently feeble argument

Photo: Richard Arculus, www.flickr.com/photos/29261553@N08/2742916836

I begin with a lengthy quotation:

“So, cumulative selection can manufacture complexity while single-step selection cannot. But cumulative selection cannot work unless there is some minimal machinery of replication and replicator power, and the only machinery of replication that we know seems too complicated to have come into existence by means of anything less than many generations of cumulative selection! Some people see this as a fundamental flaw in the whole theory of the blind watchmaker. They see it as the ultimate proof that there must originally have been a designer, not a blind watchmaker but a far-sighted supernatural watchmaker. Maybe, it is argued, the Creator does not control the day-to-day succession of evolutionary events; maybe he did not frame the tiger and the lamb, maybe he did not make a tree, but he did set up the original machinery of replication and replicator power, the original machinery of DNA and protein that made cumulative selection, and hence all of evolution, possible.

“This is a transparently feeble argument, indeed it is obviously self-defeating. Organized complexity is the thing that we are having difficulty in explaining. Once we are allowed simply to postulate organized complexity, if only the organized complexity of the DNA/protein replicating engine, it is relatively easy to invoke it as a generator of yet more organized complexity. That, indeed, is what most of this book is about. But of course any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself. Far more so if we suppose him additionally capable of such advanced functions as listening to prayers and forgiving sins. To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like ‘God was always there’, and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say ‘DNA was always there’, or ‘Life was always there’, and be done with it.

“The more we can get away from miracles, major improbabilities, fantastic coincidences, large chance events, and the more thoroughly we can break large chance events up into a cumulative series of small chance events, the more satisfying to rational minds our explanations will be.”

— Dawkins R., “The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design,” W. W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.141.

 

This passage from a book by Richard Dawkins is the subject of this essay. I have quoted it at length in order to be fair to the original and in order that the present essay can be self-contained.

When I first read this passage, many years ago, I remember being puzzled by it. It sort of “threw” me. It seems at first as if it is a display of lucid rational argument, and it appears to carry the sort of force which a good argument carries. But, as I will explain, once you look at it more carefully both the lucidity and even the very notion that the above quotation is a reasoned argument become questionable.

There are several strands of thought that have become tangled to create this muddle. In order to untangle them, the following is divided up into sub-headings.

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The Place

image from http://wildlifesnaps.com/search_results.php?species_common=Martin,+House

Carnsore Point, Co. Wexford, Ireland. September 20th, 2009.

 

A poem by R.S. Thomas:

 

The Place

Summer is here.
Once more the house has its
Spray of martins, Proust’s fountain
Of small birds, whose light shadows
Come and go in the sunshine
Of the lawn as thoughts do
In the mind. Watching them fly
Is my business, not as a man vowed
To science, who counts their returns
To the rafters, or sifts their droppings
For facts, recording the wave-length
Of their screaming; my method is so
To have them about myself
Through the hours of this brief
Season and to fill with their
Movement, that it is I they build
In and bring up their young
To return to after the bitter
Migrations, knowing the site
Inviolate through its outward changes.

 

R.S. Thomas, included in R. S. Thomas, Collected Poems: 1945-1990

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And stands about the woodland ride

 
 
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
 
 
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
 
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
 
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
 
 
A. E. Housman (1859–1936)

from A Shropshire Lad (1896) by A. E. Housman (1859–1936).  (copyright policy)

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