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.