Monday, July 4, 2011

Very Nicely Done Cartoon Version of Evolutionary Theory.

Here's a great cartoon rendering of the theory of evolution that I found just now from reading Jimpithecus's science and religion blog. In a blog post on June 25 which I only saw today, he links to a great cartoon from another blog explaining the theory of evolution, but in cartoon form, from Darryl Cunningham. Very nicely done indeed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Katharine Hayhoe: Evangelical Christian, Climate Scientist

A wonderful post at Biologos about a climate change scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. Please be sure to watch all three videos at the link. This video needs to go viral and shatter the false dichotomy between faith and science so prevalent in the popular media.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An excellent interview with Francis Collins about Science and Faith

Here's the link to the full video of Francis Collins talking about the Human Genome Project, but in this link, he also speaks about the relationship of faith and science. Well worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

James McGrath and Conspiracy Science

James McGrath has a fascinating piece about the interrelationship between those who believe in Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The mindset that drives belief in nonsense science, such as Intelligent Design or Young Earth Creationism, or the anti-Semitic "Protocols" conspiracy theory, seem to all derive from a desire to easily explain the complexity of the world through either arcane conspiracy theories or overly simplistic narratives that use cherry picked parts of history or science in order to preserve a preconceived notion, whether anti-scientific, anti-Semitic, or racist.

This isn't to say that the destructive force of each of these is identical. Those who believe in YEC or ID aren't typically inclined towards violent imaginations or actions, while many who buy into the "Protocols" do harbor a deep seated hatred towards a specific group (in this case Jews). But the consequences of this kind of thinking is to perpetuate a way of seeing the world that is deeply at odds with how it actually works. Real history and real science, while never perfect, have nonetheless given us a reasonable assessment of the role of specific factors in how the world works.

In both cases, whether in science or in history, these conspiratorial ways of seeing reality betray a deep hostility and fear of complexity. In the case of anti-Semites, they fear/hate Jews and project their fears and all of the world's woes onto an easily identified group, and ironically see them as both preternaturally intelligent and demonically evil, even though historically Jews have been consistently the out group no matter where they live outside of Israel, and have suffered terribly because of that.

In the case of science, the YEC or ID perspectives both posit a mechanism that sees any allowance of naturalistic causes to speciation, especially homo sapiens, as being inherently anti-Christian. And beyond this, there is the argument that modern evolutionary (and for some, astronomical) science is a cabal of academic insiders bent on keeping up scientific orthodoxy even in the light of contrary findings which supposedly subvert the basics of Darwin's theory. But this view is once again a conspiratorial way of seeing how science is done.

Both of these camps consistently fail to understand how proper historiography or scientific research is done. Ultimately it's a rather concrete and static understanding of historical and scientific investigation which is deeply Manichean and won't allow either any gray between the black and white, or an apprehensible reality, whether religious, scientific, or historical, between total comprehension or complete agnosticism. It seems reality is lived in the not quite satisfying middle ground of knowing enough to make sense of most of life.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Darwin Pushed to the Margins in HS science classes

An excellent but also disturbing interview from Rod Dreher with Eric Plutzer about why American High School teachers are so reluctant to teach evolutionary science in their classrooms. Here's one paragraph to get a sense of the article, but read the whole thing. It offers a convincing explanation as to why our HS science curriculum is so mediocre.

Given that only a relative few high school students will continue on to do college-level work in biology, much less become professional biologists, why do you see this as a serious problem?
We see two distinct issues here. The first is that students are being cheated out of a sound science education. All nations are increasingly confronted with important policy choices that are informed by science: Should we mandate vaccines for all school children? Should we take costly steps to reduce carbon emissions? How can we most effectively reduce the incidence of chronic diseases?  For ordinary citizens to play a meaningful role in democracies tackling these issues, they need to be excellent critical thinkers concerning science. They should not blindly accept scientific findings, whether they come from academia, government or industry. But neither should they believe that scientific debates are simply clashes of opinion and values. A healthy appreciation of the nature of science, the persuasiveness of replication, and respect for the necessary expertise is also essential. When teachers tell their students that they can have their own opinions about the validity of evolutionary biology, they are sending a dangerous message to our future citizens.

I do wish Big Questions Online (BQO) would post more, but they're rather dormant since last summer. But at least when they do post something new, it's usually quite good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Teaching Kids About Science in Church

There's a good post today at the Internet Monk about how best to teach preteen kids in church about faith/science issues. Unfortunately (or maybe not!) the gentleman in question has only a half hour to introduce the subject to his class this coming week.

Here's the conundrum Ben is in:

Dear Chaplain Mike,
On Friday, I’ve got 30 minutes to talk to a group of 11-13 year-olds about ‘creation and evolution’.
They haven’t studied anything about either at school, and in the context of the church they go to, there isn’t a great deal of pressure for me to push things either way.
I’m a bit stumped about where to even start: creation/evolution, religion/science, Genesis/Gilgamesh?!
I may just be able to ask them questions and improvise from there, but I’d quite like a backup plan…
I’d be interested to know what advice Internet Monk readers might have.
Ben S

Here's what I recommended in the thread below:

Ditto on what Paul says above. I would also use a simple illustration of how a word or a phrase can have different meanings depending the context within which it is used as a way of showing that some of the biblical terms in early Genesis don’t necessarily have to be seen as meaning “one” thing. Though this is short notice, I would highly recommend the book by Sigmund Brouwer called “Who Made the Moon?” It’s subtitled “A Father Explores How Faith and Science Agree” and it is fantastic for parents of younger and even preteen kids inquiring about faith/science issues. It’s also accurate without being overly technical, since it is meant to be accessible to both a non-scientist parent and the child.
Also a very important point when teaching and dialoguing with the kids. Listen to them! Respect their questions. And please don’t answer if you don’t know. They have a finely tuned BS detector that, I promise, will go off if you try to answer without knowing what you’re talking about. If they stump ya, admit it and tell them, if it’s at all possible, that you’ll look into their question more and get back to them on it. They’ll respect that honesty more than any false bravado. It might also be a good thing to point out a handful of devout Christians who have also been world renowned scientists, whether in biology, astronomy, chemistry, genetics, etc., so that they know that real people can and do live in both worlds without having to give up either. I pray it goes well for him!
What would you do in this situation? With such a short time to introduce something so big to a crowd as scary as 11-13 year olds who have no background about science, what would you want their "first impression" of science to be as it relates to the Christian faith? Again, check out the Internet Monk thread as more people respond. It should be fun and interesting.

The God of the Gaps is not God

I may like to shop at The Gap, but I sure don't want to worship a God of the Gaps. And this essay gives a helpful explanation why.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Do You Believe The Bible To Be 100% Factual/Truth?

I wrote this just a bit earlier in response to a friend's Facebook question:

Do You Believe The Bible To Be 100% Factual/Truth?

I used to be very strongly in the "inerrantist" camp regarding the absolute accuracy of scripture. That isn't to say I read the text in a wooden literalistic way. Even back then I understood that scripture was made up of many different genres of writing. In fact I even decided against going to a seminary several years ago because they didn't hold to inerrancy, and eventually came out to Gordon Conwell partly just for that reason, since they do officially hold to inerrancy. But ironically enough since I've been out here, I've moved steadily aways from the notion of inerrancy for several reasons.

First off, it's one of those doctrines that dies the death of a thousand qualifications. The reason there are so many qualifications is precisely because without them inerrancy would be obviously wrong.

And secondly, whenever there are textual variants among the manuscripts, which there are many, both OT and NT, it's argued that the doctrine of inerrancy is concerning the "autographs" and not any of the manuscripts we now have. But of course there are no autographs around to test this out by. It's therefore unfalsifiable.

And lastly, my interest in science and biology, cosmology, genetics, etc., has forced me to come to terms with trying to reconcile my faith with the modern scientific consensus concerning origins. Now I've never been a "young earth" type to begin with, and grew up on Carl Sagan's Cosmos, so I've never really struggled with accepting modern science. But for a long time I didn't really take the time to see how these two "books" (scripture and nature) of God's revelation related to each other.

So I don't think it's necessary to read scripture like it's a modern science textbook. That's a modernist and frankly fundamentalist way of looking at the text that does it a great injustice. Even within scripture we see different authors reinterpreting previously inspired texts in surprisingly "spiritual" and "metaphorical" ways. And in the early church some of the treatments were really out there at times, and it was considered OK because scripture was seen to be alive, fluid and flexible, precisely because is was "God-breathed."

Anyway thanks man for posting the question. It helps me to process my own thinking right now on where I'm at and where I'm "evolving" in my Christian understanding.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Being Human

Why do human beings so often see themselves as being radically separate from the rest of the "natural" world? I've seen this among both religious and secular people. Are the simple tools of primates or birds or raccoons or beavers less "natural" because they used natural materials for secondary goods? If all of that is still is considered "natural", why isn't all of human behavior likewise considered natural? What's at work here? I suspect this may have more to do with psychology than with theology or science.