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Alister McGrath and theistic evolution

Alister McGrath is a well-known Christian theologian, priest, and author of many apologetic books. In one of them, “The Dawkins Delusion”, he fiercely opposes the pseudo intellectual arrogance of Dawkins’ atheism. In general I appreciate much McGrath’s work in defense of theism. For this reason I sincerely regret the need to criticize some of his opinions about theistic evolution (TE), as expressed in his interview with Nigel Bovey,”The universe is not an accident.” McGrath rightly supports the ontological and logical necessity of a Creator of the universe, who provides to it and to all of its beings all meaning and reality, and makes it something quite other than an “accident”, as the title of the interview makes clear. Bovey asks: Read More ›

Separating Darwin from his mentor Malthus?

Malthus was the original population bomb guy. A recent paper by Lemin Wu (June 2015) offers A Darwinian Explanation of the Malthusian Trap: Abstract: This paper shows that the Malthusian mechanism alone cannot explain the pre-industrial stagnation of living standards. Improvement in luxury technology, if faster than improvement in subsistence technology, would have kept living standards growing. The Malthusian trap is essentially a puzzle of balanced growth between the luxury sector and the subsistence sector. The author argues that balanced growth is caused by group selection in the form of biased migration. It is proven that a tiny bit of bias in migration can suppress a strong growth tendency. The theory re-explains the Malthusian trap and the prosperity of ancient Read More ›

PZ Myers misrepresenting late Christopher Hitchens?

From Godless Spellchecker: PZ Myers has a habit of publicly disagreeing with the more successful figures in the ‘atheist movement’, which would be fine normally. Disagreement is healthy. It’s just that when PZ ‘disagrees’, he tends to reach for the worst possible smears available to make his point. This behaviour has been going on for years, but has recently been distilled in its most toxic form thanks to his interactions with Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland. I urge you read about that here. Anyhow, Myers was engaging in a bout of Hitchens bashing on Twitter: Godless Spellchecker: … Darwinian evolution at work: Descent of Man division, we would guess. See also: Anything by Bach, for relief. or Devolution: Getting back Read More ›

Could epigenetics change perspectives on adoption?

Further to two stories that just whistled past, Epigenetics: Altering ant behavior and Epigenetics: Mouse diet affects sperm RNA, a thought occurred to me: For many years, I’ve seen and heard people who were raised by adoptive parents obsessing about their “real” parents. They seem to believe that their DNA parents conferred on them a magic key of same kind, and they must find it in order to even know who they really are. Is that true? Why isn’t what they have been doing most of their life who they really are? Unless one has some basis for actively rejecting everything one has learned growing up, most likely, one’s “real” parents are whoever has acted as a parent over the Read More ›

Epigenetics: Mouse diet affects sperm RNA

From Eurekalert: Two new studies in mice demonstrate how a father’s diet affects levels of specific small RNAs in his sperm, which in turn can affect gene regulation in offspring. These results add to the growing list of ways in which a male’s lifestyle can influence his offspring, including through the sperm epigenome, microbiome transfer and seminal fluid signaling. (American Association for the Advancement of Science) More. Another reason to treat your breeding mice right. See also: Epigenetics: Altering ant behavior and Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room! Follow UD News at Twitter!

Epigenetics: Altering ant behavior

From New York Times: Among Florida carpenter ants there are the so-called majors, brawny soldiers that guard the colony, and the smaller minors that act as foragers. But membership in these castes is not set in stone, a new study found. By treating ants with chemical compounds, researchers were able to make young majors behave like minors. The compound manipulates the ants’ epigenetic makeup, which governs which genes are turned on and off but does not alter their DNA. “These are long-term, permanent changes that occur when we inject the brain with these chemicals,” said Shelley Berger, an epigeneticist at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors. More. See also: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted Read More ›

Darwin’s Catch-22: Too much nothing or too much junk

From Evolution News & Views: #6 of Our Top Stories of 2015: Peer-Reviewed Paper Reveals Darwin’s Unavoidable Catch-22 Problem A new peer-reviewed paper in the journal Complexity presents a computational model of evolution which shows that evolving new biological structures may be deterred by an unavoidable catch-22 problem. The article by physicists David Snoke, Jeffery Cox, and Donald Petcher begins by observing that in order to produce a new system, evolution first needs to try lots of new things. It must generate many, many variations upon which natural selection can act in order to “find” something useful to retain. But that comes with a potentially fatal cost. In the scenario proposed by Darwinian theory, you’d end up with an organism Read More ›

Dawkin’s metaphysical ladders are missing too many rungs?

From theology professor Paul-Louis Metzger at Patheos: Science, Metaphysics and Metaphorical Ladders: When Science is Theology For those who think that metaphysics and theology are antiquated disciplines that have no place in our scientific age, please think again. Take one prominent contemporary example—Richard Dawkins. Like Freud, he is an anti-theology theologian in disguise. The anti-theological Dawkins presents theological or metaphysical claims. His fundamental thesis that the gene is selfish and that it governs all reality is not a hypotheses that Dawkins could readily jettison on the basis of empirical observations. Rather, it serves as a ruling construct that governs his approach to the data. This is how theology and metaphysics function. In other words, theology and metaphysics function as overarching Read More ›

Dawkins becomes theistic evolutionist? … Hmmmm.

Okay, we are just passing on what philosopher and photographer Laszlo Bencze heard from a bearded turtleneck at the local Ice Ball, wrapping up the New Year’s festivities: Turtleneck: Yes, it finally happened—but not like we’d expected. Move a little to the side, okay; you’re blocking my line of sight on the vodka… … Oh, look, … here … He then shoved a crumpled piece of paper into Bencze’s hand and rushed out to wait in the Horton’s for the last westbound bus. The paper read, [FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/2/2016] WHY I AM NOW A THEISTIC EVOLUTIONIST—Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL Those of you who have read my many books and articles may find it strange that I have modified my stance Read More ›

Debunking the debunker: How Sean Carroll gets the fine-tuning argument wrong

In a new 9-minute video, physicist Sean Carroll eviscerates the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. Or does he? Apart from its science-of-the-gaps optimism, the video’s main flaws are that it fails to state the fine-tuning hypothesis correctly, and employs poor Bayesian reasoning. But first, let’s have a look at the video, which was posted on Youtube by a user named bdwilson1000: The text of Dr. Sean Carroll’s video can be found in the opening speech of his debate with Professor William Lane Craig on the topic, “God and Cosmology: The Existence of God in Light of Contemporary Cosmology” in March 2014. Professor Jerry Coyne has provided a handy summary of Dr. Carroll’s five main points in a post Read More ›

The flying horse defends himself against Dawkins

We received this memo, and if we knew how, we probably wouldn’t tell you. We suspect we know who it is from. We will just copy it here: Look, I don’t want to interfere, as you people all seem to be enjoying the fight. But just a couple of things for the record: Richard Dawkins walked out on a journalist who professes to believe I exist. I hear Dr. Dawkins even tried coining a new word for the Urban Dictionary, modelled on the name of someone who criticized him for doing so. The skinny: I am a supernatural being, and thus beyond the purview of this-worldly science. Whether I exist can’t be deduced simply from common sense either, because the Read More ›

Excerpts from biologist Wayne Rossiter’s new book contra theistic evolution

Waynesburg University (Pennsylvania) biology prof Rossiter offers excerpts from In the Shadow of Oz:   So what exactly is being espoused by the theistic evolution camp? Before we start to offer thumbnail sketches, we can more basically describe this view as an attempt to unify theism and evolutionary mechanisms. Most readers will interpret this as a marriage between God and Darwin, but there is much more at play here. With titles like, The Reconciliation of Christianity and Biological Evolution, Finding Darwin’s God, and How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, it seems obvious that theistic evolutionists also want to give the impression that they’re proffering a view that deals only with the narrow interface between theism and Darwinian evolution. But, the content of those books tells Read More ›

Linguist Noel Rude on George Will and the secular creationists

Rude on Will’s conflation of progressives and creationists: Will is an atheist and dumb about Darwin. But he brings up an interesting point. There is a difference between design by central planners and design by the cooperative efforts of multitudes of individuals. Thomas Sowell (don’t know where he stands on Darwin) waxes eloquent on this. He asks: What is more intelligent–a small cadre of experts or millions of individuals making decisions in their own self-interest? Creativity arises from individuals–not committees. The goal of groups is stability, and stability is opposed to creativity. Scientific breakthroughs come about via individuals. Great art and literature are the inspiration of individuals. Composers compose and orchestras perform–not so much the other way around (though I do Read More ›

Commentator George Will thinks progressives are like creationists?

Or versa vice? From commentator George Will at National Review: Creationists of the Secular Kind “Secular theists” — economist Don Boudreaux’s term — produce governments gripped by the fatal conceit that they are wiser than society’s spontaneous experimental order. Such governments’ imposed order suffocates improvisation and innovation. Like religious creationists gazing upon biological complexity, secular theists assume that social complexity requires an intentional design imposed from on high by wise designers, aka them. In The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, Matt Ridley refutes the secular creationists’ fallacious idea that because social complexity is the result of human actions, it must, or should, be the result of human design. In fact, Ridley says, “Far more than we like to Read More ›