Monday, October 17, 2011

Fish Rescue!

Every year Trout Unlimited goes into closed irrigation canals across Alberta and pulls out the trapped fish who would otherwise freeze to death.  Last year, in five canals, over 20 000 fish, both game fish and 'minnows' were rescued by Trout Unlimited volunteers.  This past October 1 myself and some friends from three Calgary churches joined biologists from Trout Unlimited in identifying and releasing fish trapped in a High River irrigation canal back into the wild.  Although the numbers have yet to be released, we handled well over 1000 fish.  We saw quite a diversity, including brook chub, longnose dace, mountain suckers, white suckers, longnose suckers, trout-perch, slimy (?) sculpin, brook trout and rainbow trout.  The morning was wet and miserable, but by lunch the sun was shining through.  I wanted to thank all those who participated (particularly those who were afraid of fish but bravely handled them).  It was, I think, an all-around positive experience.  'Rule over the fish of the sea...' (Genesis 1:28).  While they might not have come from the sea, I think this group followed the principle of the matter.  Some fish doomed to death were given a new lease on life.

Below are some photos from the rescue. 

Friday, October 07, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #9

Hi folks!  My Master's thesis is coming along, but it is a time-consuming and tiring process.  I have until November 7 to submit, and then I defend on Dec 1!  I am quite excited about the results, but I do wish I had another month to think about the ramifications of everything I've found.  When I'm done this mad spree of writing, I will be back on here again regularly and will tell you all about what I do.

In the meantime, here's another comic!  Because that is literally all the brain power I have left right now.  I guess its maybe offensive.  I think its kind of funny.

If only it were that easy.  Thanks once again, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #8

Sorry folks, but I think things are going to be rather quiet on here until December.  I am in thesis writing mode, and it has become unexpectedly stressful.  I'm not going to have the luxury time I once had for quite a while.  Please check in, as I will try to post comics or videos, but there will be no articles.

Today I don't actually have a comic for you, just an amazing work of art I stumbled upon somewhere online.  The number of 'Jesus with dinosaur' images is staggering.  I'm not quite sure the point, but it is usually in the context of Young Earth Creationists arguing that humans and dinosaurs once co-existed.  Since kids love dinosaurs, there are many children's books put out by such organizations with truly inspired images.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Seattle, Days Three through Five

The Conference of the American Fisheries Society is now officially over, and I am exhausted.  It has been a long but intellectually stimulating time, and I am thankful that I came.  I saw numerous good, some remarkably bad, and a few outstanding talks over the past few days, ranging from topics as diverse as plasticity in maximum critical temperatures for salmonids, to the negative role played by the media when it comes to reporting on overfishing (and where scientists go wrong when they create press releases); from mortality associated with catch-and-release bluefin fisheries, to how the Marine Stewardship Council's anonymous pre-assessment  for MSC certification has changed the state of the fishing industry.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Seattle, Day Two

Hello folks, I just wanted to give a brief update on the conference so far, before I run down to the Seattle Aquarium for a social.  Yesterday (Monday) was the first day of talks at the American Fisheries Society conference.

I figure most of you don't know what a science conference is like, so forgive me if I get into too much detail.

The day began dreadfully early.  The plenary talks began at 8 am at the beautiful historical Paramount Theatre.  It opened up, surprisingly, with a prayer in the language of one of the Native American tribes that fish salmon along the Washington coast.  What was even more surprising was that the prayer was not an invocation to the Great Spirit, but was actually a Christian prayer ending with 'the name of your son Jesus, amen.'  This was followed by a traditional Shaker song in a native tongue.  It was certainly an intriguing and unexpected beginning to a scientific conference.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Seattle, Day One


Well, I have arrived in Seattle safe and sound for the 141st annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society (AFS).  If you can believe it, fisheries scientists having met every single year since just after the end of the Civil War, and today I have become a participant in that long tradition.

This is by far the largest conference I have ever attended, with over 4600 people registered, 2000 of which are giving talks and another 500 of which presented posters this (Monday) evening.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Conference Time!

Sorry for no real post today.  I'm getting ready for a conference in Seattle (American Fisheries Society, you can read about it here).  I will be one of 2000 people giving actual talks during the conference, plus who knows how many poster presentations.  It should be a fun conference, I will try to keep you updated as it goes.

My talk is not until Wednesday, so I will have plenty of time to be nervous!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #7

Today's comic comes from our Young Earth Creationist friends over at Answers in Genesis (AiG).  Here we see, pictorially represented, a standard argument used by AiG and Creation Ministries International (CMI) (indeed, I heard Richard Fangrad use this argument himself).  Evolution and Creation, they argue, are both interpretations of the same evidence.  The Christian looks at the facts of the natural world, such as fossils and genetic similarities between organisms and mass extinctions and sedimentary rocks, and interprets those objective points of data through the lens of scripture.  This provides them with an overwhelming belief in the majesty of a creator who shaped the world according to a literal reading of Genesis.  The evolutionist looks at those same facts and interprets them through the lens of The Origin of Species and other such evolutionary texts, and comes to an overwhelming belief in the truth of blind, random evolution.  The only difference between the two viewpoints is their explanatory framework.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Foolish Wisdom - 1 Corinthians and a Defence of Higher Education

In 1 Corinthians 3:18-20, Paul has some seemingly searing words for academics:

‘Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”’

Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:20, Paul writes, ‘Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Genetics and the Origin of Species

The mule is a famous example of a sterile hybrid.  Photo circa 1937

We are officially almost finished our summer-long read through Dobzhansky’s evolutionary classic, Genetics and the Origin of Species.  We have spent an awful lot of time talking about genetics – about mutations, and how their value is context-dependent; about chromosomes, and how breakdowns during cell replication and gamete production can lead to large-scale changes; about natural selection, and how it affects gene frequencies; but now it is time to actually roll up our sleeves and delve into the ‘origin of species’ part of Dobzhansky’s book title.  Last week we explored polyploidy, a form of instant speciation that is solely due to reproductive incompatibilities brought about by chromosomal mismatch.

In other words, last week we saw that a simple genetic cause (chromosomal duplication) led to instant speciation, simply because the polyploid and its parental form could not successfully reproduce (or, more precisely, their offspring could not reproduce); that is, the polyploidy event caused a reproductive barrier to form between the parent and its polyploid offspring.  They were reproductively isolated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #6

Here's another bit of irreverent humour from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, poking fun at the Creationist misuse of 'theory'.  When biologists speak of evolution, they can speak of evolution as a 'fact', by which they are referring to things like experimental evolution in which change in a species is documented and not inferred, and they can speak of evolution as a 'theory', by which they mean that evolution is an explanatory framework which includes and explains, under a unifying whole, a disparate group of facts that had heretofore been considered separate.  Thus the Darwinian theory of evolution explains, among other things, the genetic similarities between all living things; adaptation; biogeography; palaeontology; morphological similarities; homologies; and a whole host of other things.  When Creationists say that evolution is 'just a theory', they mean something very different.  They quote the biologists who use the word theory, but they do not use it in the elevated sense of the biologist; instead they use it in its colloquial sense, as 'sheer speculation' or 'unproven'.  The above comic captures fairly well (and hilariously) the frustration that biologists feel over the consistent misuse of this important word.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Even You Can Create a New Species - The Curious Case of Polyploidy

There are currently 1.7 million named species of plants, animals and algae on this planet.  This does not include the vast array of bacteria and other such single-celled creatures.  And those are only the ones we know about – based on rates of discovery, the National Science Foundation estimates that we have only described 10% of the world’s true diversity.  Most of these organisms will likely be small or marine, but not all; twenty-five species of primates have been discovered since 2000 alone.  And then this diversity really only scrapes the surface of the total diversity that has ever existed, with a mind-boggling number of plant and animal species known only from the fossil record.

Theodosius Dobzhansky, in Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), presents, in chapters 7-9, an introductory treatment on the topic of speciation.  He brings genetics and natural selection and various observations together to provide a compelling account of how new species are formed.  This would be the groundwork used by Enrst Mayr, who would develop the modern Biological Species Concept.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Communion and a Call for Social Justice

I have, for most of my life, gone to a church that practices weekly Communion (what you may also know as the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, depending on your background).  Unlike Catholic traditions, my evangelical church would pass out tiny little cups containing grape juice, and would have tiny little portions of unleavened bread.  We would, as a body, take these little tokens/symbols (for us, not Sacraments) and ‘partake’ of them.  That was always the phrase.  ‘Partake’.  It was never ‘eat’ or ‘digest’ or, heaven forbid, ‘masticate’.  We were much more respectful than that.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Natural Selection

We continue with our (seemingly unending) walkthrough of Dobzhansky’s evolutionary classic, Genetics and the Origin of Species.  Today we will finish his chapter on Selection; the rest of the book will be a cakewalk in comparison.

Natural selection was not unique to Darwin, having been recorded by numerous others, including the watchmaker-hypothesis’ William Paley.  But for these pre-Darwinian writers (with two minor exceptions, noted in the opening of the sixth edition of the Origin of Species), natural selection was simply a way of preserving the created species.  Forces would try to alter the species into less-adapted products; natural selection would winnow out those mutant forms, allowing the species to remain relatively pure.  Selection, then, was like a hangsman, killing off what nature abhorred.  Darwin’s major insight was to raise the status of natural selection from preserver and destroyer to the primary creative force in nature.  (I am indebted to Stephen Jay Gould’s book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory for much of this discussion).

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #5

Today's comic was clearly inspired by the teaching of Creationism in the school system.  Unfortunately, it is more insulting than inspired.  The school board in question is represented by a large-bodied cartoonish imbecile who is apparently not as 'evolved' as modern humans.  This comic would lead you to believe that the school board has less intelligence than a Neanderthal!  I am somewhat torn by this comic - I understand why people would find it funny, but this sort of name-calling is less than helpful, and is a real mischaracterization of the people who make up the Creationist movement.  Contrary to the public perception, Creationists are not idiots.  Philip Johnson, for example, is a leading Creationist and Intelligent Design proponent, yet teaches law at the University of California - Berkeley.  Last I checked, UCB does not hire slobbering morons.  The people that I have met who are strong Creationists may be stubborn to the point of annoyance, but they are intelligent people with, often, intelligent critiques.  It is just that their body of knowledge tends to be in a different direction than the body of knowledge that evolutionists have.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Natural Selection and Population Growth

christmas island crabs
The yearly population explosion of crabs on Christmas Island was possibly due to the extinction of a native predator; the recent introduction of the yellow crazy ant has started bringing this population back down

By this point in our walkthrough of Dobzhansky’s biological classic, Genetics and the Origin of Species, we have seen how much raw phenotypic variation exists in the wild, and how this variation is generated by several different mechanisms, including mutations.  And we have discovered that some of this phenotypic variation, namely, genetic variation, is passed from parents to offspring.  Without heritable genetic variation, there can be no evolution.  But what drives evolution?  As we saw last week, evolution can be driven by mutation pressures and genetic drift.  But usually when we think of evolution, we are thinking of evolution by natural selection.  Dobzhansky devotes chapter six to this important topic. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #4

Today's comic is classic, in the sense that several other comics feature a similar joke.  Here we have a teacher holding up the Bible and instructing the children to get out their 'schoolbook' Bibles to learn about the subject of Intelligent Design (ID).  Clearly, this is a critique about Intelligent Design being taught in the classroom, which was a big topic when the Dover Area schoolboard tried to read a statement about ID to their class a few years ago.  Their argument was that ID presented a non-religious alternative to evolution.  Indeed, the proponents of ID are adamant that ID is not the same thing as Creationism, that it disregards religious arguments, and that it focuses on the scientific evidence for design.  They argue that, once one has seen the evidence for design, they are free in their religious beliefs to attribute that design to their deity, but that step is not a necessary part of ID.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Evolution is Math is Fun!

Evolution is ultimately mathematical.  This is in part why I have taken so long to continue with Dobzhansky’s book, Genetics and the Origin of Species – we are now getting to the math.  But the math cannot be ignored – in the early 1900s, some brilliant mathematicians developed formulae that predicted what biologists would spend the next seventy-plus years confirming experimentally.  Darwinian evolution is a case in which number (largely) preceded biology.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #3

Morning folks.  Here is one of my favourite comics.  From its unintentional racism, to its false dichotomy (evolution instead of Jesus, as if one precludes the other), this comic is firing on all cylinders.  It was penned by Jack Chick of the infamous Chick Publications, who has been creating hate-filled ultra-fundamentalist tracts since the 1960s.  This particular one is copyright 2004.  You can buy these tracts on their website for 16 cents a piece, if you want to make an interesting collection.  Chick has been widely criticized by Catholics and Protestants alike, but his 200+ different tracts have been published in 100 languages and have been widely disseminated.  I think this comic will speak for itself about Chick's extreme fundamentalist beliefs, and how he views evolutionists (hint: they are very angry and argumentative).  Look for a shout-out to Dr. Kent Hovind, the Young Earth Creationist I saw speak when I was only a lad, and who is now serving serious jail time for tax evasion.  What is so sad to me is the mixture of real Christian beliefs with outright lunacy; the one taints the other.  It certainly shows why Rob Bell felt the need to write Love Wins.

Best line: '[Evolution] was created by the devil to keep kids out of heaven.'

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Response from the Minister of Fisheries!

A few months ago I wrote a letter to the Minister of Fisheries addressing a few key issues concerning Canada's oceans, as part of the social action section for a course my friend was teaching on social justice.  The issues addressed included the implementation of the Precautionary Approach for protecting Canadian fish stocks; the appalling lack of information given to consumers about the fish they consume; the lack of regulation in marine protected areas, and the paucity of such areas; and the insanity of determining an stock's endangered status based on socioeconomic considerations.  Considering that it was election time, I did not really expect a response, and so I was delighted to find a three-page letter from Senior Assistant Deputy Minister David Balfour of Ecosystems and Fisheries Management waiting for me in my mail when I returned from my trip out east.

It was a surprisingly candid and lengthy response to each of the issues I brought up.  Since we are talking about the Canadian government, there is much emphasis on what has been done and little about the criticisms.  But at least I now know that they know that there is at least one concerned Canadian out there.  For me, the most surprising admission in the letter is towards the end, in reference to the classification of endangered species in Canada.  It is somewhat shocking - see if you can spot it!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics #2

Today's comic is from the Young Earth organization Answers in Genesis.  This comic shows that Young Earth Creationists have a real concern for how Christians in general treat scripture.  Those that believe in an old earth and/or the theory of evolution do not turn to Genesis to find out how God created the word; they treat Genesis in a non-literal manner, whether as allegory or myth or poetry.  YEC are unsettled by this.  Genesis, to them, is the 'book of beginnings', a recorded history of the beginning of God's covenant with His people and the beginning of the world itself.  And this account of beginnings is a literal historical narrative.  Those outside of the Christian faith may find this comic illuminating because it reveals a divide in Christianity between those who treat Genesis' opening chapters 'literally' (although even the literalists tend to allegoricalize when convenient) versus those who do not.  Christianity is not a monolithic religion with each Christian believing the same thing.  There is an incredible amount of diversity, a diversity which Answers in Genesis finds disturbing.

This comic also questions what Christians take to be authoritative.  Is the only authority the Book of God's Word, or can we also turn to the Book of God's Works?  Is creation as authoritative as scripture?  Can a Christian, in good conscience, turn to the books of science to understand beginnings rather than the 'book of beginnings'?  For YEC, the answer is clearly no; for other Christians, the answer is not so clear.

Yes, I realize today is actually Wednesday, but I've been at camp in PEI all week with a bunch of grade 2 and 3 students, and I did not come to this realization until just now.  Deal with it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Morning Comics

Hi all!  I've been spending a lot of time on here writing about science instead of science and religion (although I would argue that to discuss science and religion, religious people need to understand science, and scientists need to understand religion, which is what motivates these posts), so as I prepare to leave Quebec I wanted to share a science/religion comic with you.  I find these things all over the internet, and I am amassing a collection of them.  I'll post one from time to time.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Humans come in different shapes, sizes, colours, temperaments, propensities to disease and the like.  Although the human population continues to increase, we seem to never run out of variations on the human ‘type’.  All of the dog breeds of the world ultimately descend from the same wolf ancestor.  The bulldog, the terrier, the great Dane, the German shepherd, were all produced when humans took existing varieties and made some choice selections.  The same goes for our agricultural products: kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower all descend from the same wild cabbage species.  The fruit fly Drosophila pseudoobscura, according to Dobzhansky, has seven different types of Y chromosomes; there are strains of wheat with 7, 14 or 21 chromosomes.

Without variation, there can be no evolution.  Dobzhansky spends the first four chapters of his book driving this point home, because it is that essential.  If variation was not continually being produced, there would be no differences between individuals; without differences between individuals, there would be no selection; and without selection, there would be no adaptation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Joy of Chromosomes (Part 3)

Last week we talked a bit about chromosomes, the process of sperm/egg/pollen formation, and how missteps during meiosis can lead to chromosomal mutations in terms of numbers of chromosomes.  We defined haploidy and polyploidy as the loss or gain of an entire set of chromosomes, and monosomy and polysomy as the loss or gain of a single chromosome.   We also saw how species and races contain variability, not just in the content of their DNA, but also in the number of chromosomes that they have.  Humans, for instance, have one less chromosome than the other great apes; a single species of Iranian climbing weed has populations with vastly different numbers of chromosomes.

Today I’d like to continue following the layout of Dobzhansky’s book, Genetics and the Origin of Species, by continuing to categorize chromosomal mutations according to changes in their structure.  Structural mutations do not affect the number of chromosomes within an organism, but rather alter the layout of genes within a chromosome.  Structural mutations can be classified as follows:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chromosomes, Chimps, and Human Evolution

I have been working hard in Quebec collecting my microarray data, and between that and a great visit from my dad over father's day, I simply have not had time to write the next article on chromosomes.  But in anticipation of the evolutionary importance of chromosomal mutations, here is a video clip from evolutionist and Catholic Kenneth Miller, discussing what I consider to be the single most powerful evidence for the evolution of humans from a primate ancestor, and it involves a chromosomal mutation.

The court case he refers to at the beginning is the trial that occurred in Dover, Pennsylvania, in 2004 over the religious nature of Intelligent Design.  Kenneth Miller testified against the school board, arguing that ID has no place in a science classroom.  The part of the lecture I am showing was part of a tour he gave after the court case, explaining exactly what he, as a religious man and a scientist, has serious issues with ID.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Joy of Chromosomes (Part 2)

Chromosomes are the carriers of genes.  Each chromosome acts as an individual, faithfully passing its structure on to its offspring each time a cell divides.  But ‘faithfulness’ has its limits – occasionally a ‘mutant’ chromosome is produced that will then be replicated.  The number of chromosomes within a cell can also be faithfully replicated down the generations, but occasionally they too can change.

When we talk about chromosomal mutations, then, we need to differentiate between changes in chromosome number and structure.  Today, we will talk about number.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Joy of Chromosomes (Part 1)

So, you have found yourself transported in time to the 1930s, and you have a strong desire to study mutations?  But those uncivilized brutes have yet to develop methods for examining changes in DNA?  Never fear!  You can do the second-best thing, and rediscover everyone’s favourite pastime: karyotyping!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

All Species Are the Products of Mutations

Summary so far

To recap our story: evolutionary biology’s ultimate quest is to explain the diversity and discontinuity we see in the natural world.  A whale and a mouse are two very different things; they do not insensibly blend into one another.  Yet despite their discontinuity, they also have very similar body structures.  What accounts for this?  And why in less extreme cases is this discontinuity at times fuzzy, such that we have difficulty telling if two different populations are different species, or merely varieties of the same species?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mutations: The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral (Part 5)

Lesson 5: A single mutation cannot create a new species

There was some debate during Dobzhansky’s time about whether new species could be formed through the birth of rare ‘monsters’.  Such monsters would be the product of a mutation, and would be effectively shut off from the rest of the population, forming their own species.  This theory was called saltationism.  Saltationists argued that a single mutation can have a very large effect.  A mutation somehow produces fundamental changes to the species, such that a new species is formed.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mutations: The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral (Part 4)

We have so far learned from Dobzhansky that:

1.       Mutations are common in nature and are the source of all diversity
2.       Mutations can be really bad, to the point of being lethal, but there is a gradient from bad to good; bad mutations can hide as recessives within a population
3.       Environmental change (or a change in the genetic background) can turn a ‘bad’ mutation good, and a ‘good’ mutation bad.  Mutational value is contextual.

Lesson 4 – A single mutation can have a multitude of effects

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Mutations: The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral (Part 3)

Lesson 3 – The value of a mutation (good, bad, or neutral) changes with the environment.  A mutation that appears to be bad in one context, might be good in another.

So far we have seen that mutations are common enough in nature, that bad mutations can hide as recessives within a population (contributing to the population’s overall genetic diversity), and that mutations can have anywhere from hugely negative effects (ie lethal mutations) to almost negligible effects.

What Dobzhansky has not yet shown is that mutations can be beneficial to the organism.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mutations: The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral (Part 2)

Lesson 2: ‘Bad’ is a relative term.  Some mutations are worse than others, and even really bad mutations can hide in a population.

As we saw yesterday, mutations occur frequently in nature.  Inheritance of parental traits is conservative, in that it is usually quite faithful; but if it is completely faithful, there can never be variation in a trait.  Mutations counter this ‘copy fidelity’, acting as an opposing ‘force’ that produces variation.  Dobzhansky inferred from this that all of the heritable variation that we see in nature is due to mutations that have occurred either recently or in the remote past.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mutations: The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral (Part 1)

Chapter two of Dobzhansky’s Genetics and the Origin of Species is a summary of lessons learned surrounding the enigmatic ‘mutation’.  What is so fascinating about this is that, first of all, he addresses a number of misconceptions that the public still have about mutations today, and, secondly, he did this without knowing the mechanisms behind mutations.  For example, today we know that point mutations can occur in DNA.  This is when one of the bases in a DNA molecule gets swapped for another one.  Thus a C (the molecule cytosine) get could replaced with a T (thymine), which could potentially affect the appearance or behaviour of the organism.  In 1937, everyone knew that biological information was stored in the chromosomes.  It was known that chromosomes were somehow composed of genes (stuffed into the chromosomes like a sausage, according to Dobzhansky), and that sometimes parts of chromosomes could break off, switch around, go missing, get doubled.  But no one knew that genes were made of DNA.  No one knew that there were four 'letters' to DNA.  No one knew that mutations could occur in the DNA.  Yet Dobzhansky could still with full confidence talk about point mutations!  He knew they had to exist, even if he could not explain how.

Today I would like to give a snapshot of the lessons Dobzhansky learned when studying mutations.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Big Questions of Evolutionary Biology - A Guide to 'Genetics and the Origin of Species'

Perhaps you don't believe in evolution.  Rob Bell, in Love Wins, asks people who say they don't believe in God, 'Which God?'  When they describe their understanding of the Christian God, Bell often discovers that he doesn't believe in that God either.  So if you don't believe in evolution, 'Which evolution?'  What is your understanding of evolution?  Because odds are, if your knowledge comes from Creationists, it is going to be filled with misunderstandings.  The best way to understand evolution is to delve into the writings of evolutionary researchers.  This is exactly what we will be doing over the next few weeks, as we explore Theodosius Dobzhansky's 1937 evolutionary classic, Genetics and the Origin of Species.  I will try to limit the scientific words that I use (or at least define the difficult ones), but I make no apologies.  If you want to know if evolution is true, you're going to need to learn some jargon.  Thankfully, Google dictionary exists to help us out!  If you're an evolutionist, you may also be surprised to read what evolutionary biology was like in the 1930s, and it may challenge some of your own beliefs as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Special Creation Failed - An Introduction to Genetics and the Origin of Species

Special creation, defined as the direct creation of fixed (unchanging) species by God, was the predominant view of the origin of species among scientists during Darwin’s time.  Writes David Reznick in The Origin Then and Now, ‘Today we think of the advocates of special creation as representing non-scientific, religious opponents to evolution.  In Darwin’s day, they were the scientific establishment.  Virtually everyone, ranging from his professors at Cambridge to all those who had the greatest influence on Darwin’s intellectual development, advocated some form of special creation.’

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cool Fish - Rapid Evolution, Stickleback and Evolutionary Biology in Canada

Dr. Rowan Barrett, currently of Harvard but previously of UBC with Dolph Schluter, presented an interesting experiment at the CSEE conference last weekend that I wanted to share with you.  My goal in sharing these experiments are twofold:  first, I think the research being done in Canada needs to be celebrated, but we researchers do a poor job in communicating our findings to the public; and secondly, and more in the spirit of this blog, I think a lot of evangelical Christians hear ‘evolutionary biologist’ and immediately assume that they are biologists of fantasy, interpreting the world through a dishonest lens.  I hope that the Christians who read about these experiments will realize that these researchers are not trying to pull the wool over our eyes; instead they are following the evidence, trying their best to understand the complexity of this dynamic world.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Its Not You, Its Me - Sex, Fruit Flies, and Evolutionary Biology in Canada

I’m back!  Sorry I’ve been silent for the past week.  I just came back from five days in Banff, Alberta (with amazingly beautiful 20-degree weather the entire time, which is unheard-of in Alberta in May).  Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to enjoy the scenery, as I was responsible for registration for the 2011 conference for the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution.  My supervisor, Sean Rogers, was in charge of the event, and pulled off what I think is unanimously considered the best CSEE conference to date.  Not that the ones in the past were bad, but this year’s venue at the Banff Center was simply perfect, and I am happy to have been a small part of it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

God in the Origin of Species

It is an interesting and much-observed phenomenon that the language of technology can be appropriated for describing the world in new ways.   The best example of this today comes from philosophy of mind and consciousness, where analogies from the computer sciences have helped us envision how the mind operates.  It is interesting to ponder how our concept of mind would have developed without the advent of computer processors.

In the 1600s one of the most remarkable pieces of technology was the clock.  The clock had indeed been around for hundreds of years, but by the late 1500s it had gained an unprecedented level of complexity.  The second Strasbourg clock, for example, which was completed in 1574, contained moving statues and automata, played music, and could track both the time and the movement of celestial bodies.  One of the great ironies of history was that a device whose history began as a simple shadow caused by the movement of the sun, would become one of the most powerful images for the movement of the universe.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What is Bathybius? A Look at the Origins of Life in 1870


I have found a treasure trove of old science papers – every paper every published in the American Naturalist, from 1867 to today.  These papers are fascinating, giving me some much-desired insight into the state of biology shortly after the publication of the Origin of Species.

Today I wanted to share a story that is partially revealed in the 1870 paper, ‘What is Bathybius?’ by W.C. Williams.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is Evolution Like a Tornado Through a Junkyard?

When I was in high school I remember being dragged by a friend to the lunch-period Christian club.  It happened to be year book picture day, and so my reluctant visit is now forever etched into history.  To my delight, the talk was on evolution – as I have shared before, this was a topic I found endlessly fascinating, primarily because the entire concept seemed so very absurd.  The leader of this group told us a hilarious analogy, one which I would hear repeated by other Christians across Canada, and read on numerous Creationist websites.  I assume this means that most of you have heard it too. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Other Side of Fundamentalism - James Orr's 'Science and the Christian Faith'

When people think of Fundamentalist Christians, they (I'm sorry to say) tend to think of closeminded, loudmouthed, arrogant people who wouldn't recognize valid evidence or a rational argument if it hit them upside the head.  Although in my experience there are definitely some of these, this, like all stereotypes, is a dangerous mischaracterization of the richness of viewpoints that exist among Fundamentalists.  Fundamentalist Christians are just like everyone else - they are eager to know the world, and they are prone to making mistakes.  

Last week I remarked on an article published in 1911 in The Fundamentals, a Protestant journal that would come to define Fundamentalist Christianity.  The author, who remained anonymous, joyfully bashed both evolution and those who would preach it, but he (or she) at times confused scientific controversy over the role of natural selection, with a scientific disavowal of evolution itself.  The article is certainly insightful, witty and quite well-written - there is nothing slack-jawed or unintelligent about it - but by posting it on this site I may have led you to believe that all Fundamentalists have been historically opposed to evolution.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Special Bonus

Since I missed my post last Friday, you get two posts in one day!

The Birth of Fundamentalism

Between 1910 and 1915, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles published a series of essays collectively referred to as The Fundamentals.  They were written as a response to various perceived threats against an orthodox Protestant faith, and reaffirmed those doctrines that were considered fundamental to a vibrant Christianity.  The denounced philosophies included liberal theology, the 'higher criticism' of scripture that was reaching America from Germany, Catholicism, Mormonism, atheism and many others.  It is from the title of these essays that we get the term 'fundamentalism' and 'fundamentalist Christianity.'

Although at least one of the early Fundamentals articles was sympathetic towards evolution, this changed with the article 'Evolutionism in the Pulpit', published in 1911 by an anonymous author.  The entire text is below.  It is a witty and scathing critique of Darwin's theory of evolution, and should give you a good sense of some of the reasons why the Fundamentalist movement was so successful.  Before you read it, though, I wanted to highlight a few items of interest:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Debunking Design - A Conclusion to Hume

We have finally reached the end.  I know it has been a long journey, but at last we today finish David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.  I thank you all for your patience as we go through this remarkably important book.  You may wonder why I have bothered with this book on a science-religion blog; the answer is that, by refusing to be content with knowledge derived solely from philosophy or revealed religion, Hume paved the way for the empirical experimental method.  More specifically, though, Darwin cited Hume as a ‘central influence’.  You can readily see why: Darwin was up against a standard view of the world, which saw both the design of God in the complexity of nature and the goodness of God in the harmony of nature, as revealed through the opening lines of Genesis.  To question the standard interpretation of revealed religion, to wonder if our experience of the world could possibly address the question of life’s origins, was a very Hume-ian thing to do.

Friday, April 08, 2011

An Open Letter to the Minister of Fisheries

If you are at all concerned about the future state of our oceans, I have written a letter to Gail Shea (our Fisheries Minister).  Feel free to copy this letter, sign it, and mail it to her.  If you need a refresher as to why this matters, read my Lament for Canada's Oceans.  With an election forthcoming, now is the time to let our government know that we care about the future of our fisheries.  I must cite the work of Dr. Jeff Hutchings as the inspiration for much of this letter.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Designing Evolution - Christianity's Influence on Darwin

The following is a paper I stumbled on today, that I wrote for my Science and Religion class at Dalhousie on February 13, 2009.  Although it is not nearly as detailed as it deserves, I think its a good introduction to this topic.  Enjoy!  (P.S.  I remember I did well on this paper, but I don't remember how well.  But the clever title was certainly worth an A itself).

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Miraculous Stories - Can We Trust Them?

Imagine someone were to run into your classroom or workplace and shout out, ‘I just saw a dead man come back to life!’  Would you believe him?  Even if you believe in the possibility of miracles, would you trust his testimony?  In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume argues, quite powerfully, that miraculous stories can never be trusted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why I Don't Hate Rob Bell

Last week I read an interesting blog post from Tim Challies, entitled The New Evangelical Virtues (follow the link to read it; it is quite short).  It was written primarily in response to the publication of Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.  For those of you who have been living under a rock over the past few weeks, Bell, a pastor at Mars Hill and a leader of what has been called the 'emerging church', an increasingly popular postmodern Christian movement, wrote a book about God's grace and hell, which the day after its release was the fifth most popular book on Amazon and made number two on the New York Times bestseller's list.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Accusing God: Suffering, Scripture and the Book of Job

The topic of suffering often comes up in religion-science dialogues, generally in the context of 'How could a good, all powerful God allow evil and suffering?'  This is a valid question, with a deep theological, philosophical and experiential history.  I do not at all intend to engage with this topic, but I would like to suggest that the Bible has some deeper insights into this than is usually recognized.  Take, for instance, the Book of Job, an ancient text found in the Old Testament.  For me, Job is one of the most honest and forthright religious texts when it comes to suffering.  It looks God square in the face and calls him on the injustice of it.  There is no 'this is the best of all possible worlds' Liebnizian view of the world in Job; nor is there a Robertsonian 'they got what was coming to them' mentality.  Suffering is viewed as inherently out of whack with the world and Job, who experiences the full brunt of a God-given suffering, gives vent to the frustrations that we all feel.  He does not come to an explanation for suffering in the end, but does find a partial solution in the faith in a God who can and will end it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Does the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy) Contradict Evolution?

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew how entropy and evolution could be reconciled.  This is not a theological question, nor is it a biological one – it is primarily rooted in physics.  Now, as a biologist I can talk for hours on the experiential evidence for evolution without ever once having to think or refer to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  I have been told that the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which deals with entropy, is the one solid empirical fact we have about our universe, that it will hold true even if everything else we know turns out to be false.  I cannot speak to the truth of that, but I do know that evolution is a real phenomenon, and if entropy is as real as physicists claim it is, then the two truths cannot contradict one another.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Miracles - Real, or Delusions?

Are miracles possible?  They are certainly a common enough phenomenon, if you believe the reports of others.  People claim to have had visitations from angels, they see Mary’s face in pretty much everything, there are claims of faith healings and people rising from the dead.  Miracles are foundational to many religions but take an especially central place in Christianity, with the resurrection of Jesus.

Odds are none of us have experienced what we would consider a bona fide external miracle.  (At least, I have not).  Without such experience, though, with the only evidence of miracles being the reports of others, is there any rational reason for believing in the possibility of miracles?

No other thinker has had such an influential effect on the philosophy of miracles than David Hume.  Written in the 1700s, his arguments against the possibility of miracles and against the credibility of testimonies concerning miracles still reverberate with us today.  Here, I summarize his arguments against miracles, and suggest where I think Hume went wrong.  (You may need a Hume refresher - read Hume's Arguments in 10 Points)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Lament for Canada's Oceans

This weekend I had the pleasure of showing the documentary The End of the Line for a social justice class at Alberta Bible College.  This movie came out several years ago to strong reviews from the likes of Roger Ebert, and happens to prominently feature my honours supervisor, Dr. Jeff Hutchings, along with my ecology professor, Dr. Boris Worm (also of Sharkwater fame), and some other outstanding researchers from Canada and abroad.  The movie focuses on the plight of the world's fisheries, and shows how greed, mismanagement and uninformed consumers have worked together over the past sixty years to decimate our planet's fish stocks, such that historically plentiful fish (like Atlantic cod and bluefin tuna) have been hunted almost to the point of extinction.  Indeed, most of the fish species that we eat have been reduced to 10% of their normal levels, with a projected depletion of all of our fish stocks by 2048.  You can watch the trailer below:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Creation, Redemption, and the Church

Last fall, I was invited to give a talk on environmental ethics to the pastors and workers within the Churches of Christ in southern Alberta.  We met at Bow Valley Christian Church in Calgary.   I was nervous going in, knowing that my message would contradict the long-held assumptions of many of those in attendance.  But I was convinced that, being rooted in scripture, they would have no choice but to change their ways of thinking about the environment.  Fortunately, my mind had exaggerated the resistance.  A good number of them already agreed with me, but had not investigated the theology behind it.  Others told me afterward that they were initially sceptical, but I had convinced them.  A third group, in the vocal majority during the Q & A after, but a minority among the pastors, yelled at me and told me to 'get my head out of the sand.'  Fortunately, I think they completely misunderstood my message.  The following is the complete sermon that I delivered, minus the slideshow (when reading Genesis 1-3, I showed pictures of creation followed by human-caused environmental destruction).  Here is the sermon:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Animal Mind (Thinking About Thought - Part 4)

Chapter XI: On the Reason of Animals

How similar are we to the animals?  What makes us uniquely human?  Is it our ability to think and learn about the world?  As Hume has already shown, we do not understand the world through reason, we understand it through experience.  In this chapter, Hume expands his theory to include non-human animals.  In doing so, he knocks down at least part of the wall that separates us from our animal kin. 

Friday, March 04, 2011

What Is Free Will? (Thinking About Thought - Part 3)

Hume has so far developed a fairly convincing argument for how the human mind forms ideas about anything.  You can read his theory in Part 1, Part 2, and the Summary.  Now Hume devotes the rest of his book, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, to applying his theory to various philosophical problems.  If you are wondering why I am bothering to go through this book, it is because, first of all, I find Hume to be fascinating and convincing; secondly, his arguments shaped how later influential philosophers and theologians thought; thirdly, he is often quoted today by the new 'militant' atheists (like Richard Dawkins), and finally, this book provides his argument against miracles, which is often quoted but can only be understood and critiqued in light of the whole book.  With that said, today we will look at the problem of free will.  Argues Hume, free will (liberty) is not opposed to necessity - in a common sense outlook on life, both work together to give us true freedom.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What the Monk Said to the Scientist

I read a lot of fiction.  I know many people who think it is a waste of time, but every now and then I find gems that make it completely worth it.  Case in point: A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter Miller Jr.  This has become one of my top ten favourite works of fiction.  I just finished reading it the other day, and it blew me away, more so considering that it was first published in instalments in a Science Fiction pulp magazine.  It is the only work from such a source to be considered literature, and despite being first published fifty years ago, has never gone out of print. 

The story is divided into three sections, spanning 1800 years of future history after a nuclear war destroys our own culture.  The events occur within a monastery established by a long-deceased martyr named Liebowitz, who founded the monastery to protect the written records of the past civilization from those who would seek to destroy it.  The monks studiously preserved charred remains of books and blueprints, but with little idea of the knowledge they contained.  The three sections of the book roughly follow our own history (hitting a theme of Miller’s: the circularity of history), from the protection of knowledge after the fall of Rome, to the Renaissance, and finally to the rise of a technological civilization.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hume's Arguments in 10 Points

I understand that my last two posts summarizing David Hume's arguments from the 1748 book An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding have not been of considerable interest to most.  I trust it is because my chapter summaries were rather long, as I summarized each page rather than each chapter (Part 1, Part 2).  This was more for my benefit that for your own.  So here I present a one-page, 10-point summary of his theories regarding human knowledge, and hopefully you will find it more rewarding.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thinking About Thought (Part 2)

Here I continue to read through An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume.  You can read Part 1 here.  This will likely be a five-parter.  I have been finding this book to be quite interesting, and I hope you will agree.

Chapter IV – Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding

Part I

So far Hume has focussed on the different perceptions of the mind: impressions, which include things like hearing, seeing, feeling, willing, loving, etc, and ideas, which are copies (recollections) of impressions.  Then he dwelt on associations of ideas, and defined them as resemblance, contiguity, and cause and effect.  In this chapter, he turns to those objects that we actually think about.  He divides the chapter into a series of questions:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thinking About Thought (Part 1)

Several years ago I was at an amazing used bookstore in downtown Halifax when I stumbled on a small work of philosophy written by David Hume.  About the only thing I knew about Hume was that everybody quoted him all of the time, both Christians and non-Christian scientists, sometimes positively and sometimes not.  Whoever he was, he seemed to be pretty important.  A character on Lost was even named after him, so I knew it had to be pretty serious.  It was somewhat of a shock, then, to discover that he wrote what he did in the mid-1700s.

It took me two or so years, but I finally sat down to read his book, and I more devoured it than read it.  He wrote, not like a philosopher, but like a kindly grandfather showing the way.  His English was surprisingly modern, and his thoughts were even more so.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Tale of Four Scholars

In February of 1829 the Earl of Bridgewater died, and left as his legacy 8000 pounds sterling for the express purpose of publishing 1000 copies of a writing ‘On the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation’.  This publication was to be directed by the Royal Society of London, a society which still exists today and is best known for its prestigious scientific journals, Proceedings of the Royal Society and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.  Given today’s inherent assumption that science and religion are in conflict, one would expect the Royal Society to have turned down the Earl of Bridgewater’s final request.  But, shockingly to us, but not to the scientists of the 19th century, the President of the Royal Society agreed.  Seeking counsel from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, the President of the Royal Society chose eight of the leading intelligentsia of England and Scotland to publish eight volumes on natural theology.  These eight volumes became the Bridgewater Treatises, and were as follows:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Darwin's Deathbed Confession?

In 1915, an interesting article appeared in the Baptist Boston-based journal Watchman-Examiner.  It was written by one Lady Hope, and read as follows:

‘It was one of those glorious summer afternoons, that we sometimes enjoy in England, when I was asked to go in and sit with the well known professor, Charles Darwin.  He was almost bedridden for some months before he died.  I used to feel when I saw him that his fine presence would make a grand picture for our Royal Academy; but never did I think so more strongly than on this particular occasion. 

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Great Invisible Pale Blue Dot, and Slug Sex

This weekend I am extracting RNA (it is 8:30 pm on a Friday night and just now have a 15 minute break as my RNA precipitates in isopropanol) and simply could not write a lengthy article, which I am sure upsets you all.  But never fear!  I wouldn't leave you with nothing.  So below are two fascinating videos.  It is your homework to watch them and reflect on their theological significance.

For the first video, the first Youtube comment was '266 evangelical christians were scared off by this video.'  Why would someone immediately think negatively about evangelical Christianity when seeing this video?  Is there anything in it for evangelicals to fear?

What is the theological significance of this video?  I promise you, one exists.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Did Jesus Have Only 24 Chromosomes?

I heard a curious story a while back by someone giving a communion thought at church, and since then I have heard the same story by a few other Christians in a few different provinces.  This is by no means a story influencing the majority of evangelicals, but it is quietly making its way into peoples’ minds.  And since we've been talking about fringe Creationist tales, I thought this would be appropriate.  The full story can be read here, but it goes as such:

In 1978 an avid archaeological enthusiast (with no academic training in archaeology) was walking in Jerusalem when he received word from God that the infamous ark of the covenant, the holy container for the 10 commandments, the symbol of the presence of God and the destruction of Nazis everywhere (Indiana Jones reference, in case you didn't get it), was hidden in a nearby hill.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Welcome to Jurassic Park

When I was a child, I was really into dinosaurs.  (Alright, let’s admit it, I’m still really into dinosaurs).  I had stacks of books about them, both fiction and non-fiction.  I spent literally hundreds of hours among the crushed-up gravel of our driveway, finding the remains of ancient sea life embedded in the limestone.  I even found two large, complete, perfectly fossilized snail shells along the shore of Lake Erie, and to this day they number among my most prized possessions (not dinosaurs, I know, but I’ll take what I can get).  There was something about dinosaurs that sparked my imagination, that opened up undreamed-of possibilities, that showed me that I was a bit player in a story far larger than anything I could conceive. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Lazy Baker: A Love Story

Since this blog is brand new, I am attempting to set up a routine: every Tuesday publish something light and fun, and every Friday (or Saturday) publish something a bit meatier.  In that light, I offer you a modern-day parable.  Wrap yourself up in a warm blanket, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and let Uncle Morris read you a bedtime story.  (Oh, and in case you wish to purchase the above terrifying picture, the least I can do is link to the site I stole it from.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Arguments Creationists Should Never Use, As Declared by Creationists

There was an interesting article recently promoted by Creation Ministries International (CMI), a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) organization, entitled Arguments We Think Creationists Should NOT Use.  I found many of the statements to be quite surprising, with some significant implications for the future of the YEC movement.  You can read them below; I intend to talk about their implications in my next post.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Symphony of Science

After that massive 'Chaos and the Deep' article, my brain is fried.  So instead, enjoy an entertaining music video featuring real scientisits stating metaphysical perspectives to a catchy beat. You can view more at Symphony of Science.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chaos and the Deep (Part 3 of 3)

'By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.' (2 Peter 3:6)

Tehowm and Creationists
Now that we have flogged the image of tehowm to death (but hopefully gleaned some insights along the way), it is time to relate all of this back to the relationship between evangelicalism and science.

Chaos and the Deep (Part 2 of 3)

The heavenly ocean and the earthly ocean  
Genesis 1:6 reads ‘And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters (mayim), and let it divide the waters from the waters.’

It is difficult for us to think like an ancient human.  We are taught the water cycle at an early age.  We give our children books entitled ‘Why is the sky blue?’  But the Hebrews did not have access to the same knowledge we have today.  When they looked at the sky, they saw, just beyond the horizon, a vast blue, so far away that even the sun seemed to be contained by it.  At night they saw lights twinkling in the sky against a deep black.  There is only one thing on earth that is vast and blue: the ocean.  And where does rain come from?  The sky.  It only made sense that this blue sky was in fact a heavenly ocean.

Chaos and the Deep (Part 1 of 3)

‘Go, and speed; Havoc, and spoil, and ruin, are my gain.’
- Chaos to Satan, Paradise Lost, Milton

‘…darkness [was] upon the face of the deep…’ (Gen 1:2)

How are we to read Genesis 1?  Some evangelicals argue that a plain, literal reading of Genesis is the only truly Christian way to understand it – anything less invalidates the very authority of Christ.  Genesis 1, they argue, was revealed to us as a guide to the how of the Creative process.  Yet the very opening of Genesis delivers a fairly decisive blow to this notion, with the enigmatic phrasing of ‘the deep’ and ‘the waters’.  It is the purpose of this article to plumb the depths of this mysterious image used throughout scripture, and in the process to challenge some long-cherished beliefs of evangelical Christianity.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

James McCosh - America's first pro-evolution preacher

It is often assumed by Creationists (and scientists) that the religious reaction to Darwin's Origin of Species was one of hostility.  The infamous Huxley-Wilberforce debate (1860) and John William Draper's History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) were certainly instances of this anti-evolution attitude, and the popularity and political power of the Anti-Evolution League of America (1924) is an historical fact.  And yet, the reaction among many religious leaders was more varied than popular history would suggest.  Take, for example, James McCosh (1811-1894), a Scotsman and supporter of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, who reigned as President of Princeton from 1868-1888, and who was considered to be one of the world's pre-eminent defenders of the faith.  And listen to the shock Lippincott felt when he wrote, in an 1880 article in the American Naturalist, 'It appears that Dr. McCosh, one of the ablest defenders of the Christian faith against the attacks of modern infidelity, is a pronounced evolutionist! '

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Challenges of Evangelical Evolutionism

Are evolution and evangelical Christianity compatible?  That is the ultimate question that I will be asking in future postings to this blog.  The answer, in my mind, is a resounding yes - the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, but so is my experience of God.  These two truths, then, cannot contradict one another.  There must be a harmony between them.  This harmony, however it gets worked out, is generally known as theistic evolution.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Here We Go Again...

I am a Christian, and I am a scientist.  But mostly, I am just bored out of my mind.  Which is why I have decided to start this blog, featuring my half-coherent ramblings on the intersection between science and faith.