‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007


Sunday, 27 July 2008

150 Year Old Monkey Puzzle Tree facing the chop


I couldn't resist this story. Whether you believe in prophetic signs or not, I thought this an amusing piece in light of the forthcoming 150 year celebrations of Darwin's book Origins.

The reason the tree is under threat is because it would seem the tree's needle-like leaves are harming the children. In the same way many Christians believe that Darwin's long rhetorical argument in Origins has damaged the faith of millions of children taught to accept evolution and reject the power of God in creation.

150-year-old Monkey puzzle tree facing chop council says

The tree is at West Cross near Swansea. Any zealous minister's of religion living near Swansea who believe this to be a sign from God should resist the temptation to go out late at night and cut it down. ;o)

As for Darwin's writing; that will continue to be exposed as flawed in the light of advances in science that are revealing a degree of complexity that was unknown to Darwin. Science is opening up gaps in our knowledge faster than they are being closed.
Andrew S

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Viva la evolution?

Denis Alexander has written an article in Third Way magazine that is available online. This generated a lot of discussion, including a welcome dialogue with Rodney Holder. Thanks to Rodney for being willing to engage in discussion over this issue. Read more at:


http://www.thirdwaymagazine.com/334

Andrew S

Monday, 14 July 2008

ID friendly books under attack for speaking out.

Darwinists appear to be getting desperate in their attempts at silencing the design argument. Steven Poole for instance has written a vitriolic piece in the Guardian against Steve Fuller's latest book 'Dissent over Descent.' In fact Poole seems to be straining to find sufficient words strong enough to condemn the book. The Darwinian cage is clearing being rattled when his review so clearly lacks objectivity.

Steve Poole's hatchet job

Denis Alexander has also written a negative review of John Lennox's book 'God's Undertaker' in the August 2008 Christianity Magazine. Alexander seems driven by something in his determined work at undermining ID. I would suggest that a life long commitment to Darwinism might mean that there is reluctance to acceptance another interpretation of the evidence for personal reasons. One wonders what evolutionary science is when it is motivated by personal and cultural reasons in this way? There is some irony that in the run up to 150 year anniversary of Darwin's book, Darwinism itself is crumbling by its failure to engage in rational discourse with opponents and critics.
Andrew S

Monday, 7 July 2008

Biofuels responsible for 75% lift in prices

An unpublished report from the World Bank shows that the EU and US drive for biofuels has lifted the prices of world food crops by some 75 percent.

A basket of food prices by the study shows that food prices have risen by 140% between 2002 and February of this year. The report is so far unpublished, arguably to prevent embarassment to George Bush according to the Telegraph. But it has pushed 100 million people into poverty.

There are now calls to scrap the 10% target for biofuel use in petrol and diesel in the EU, and indeed the UK has moved in this direction. Others dispute the figure of 75%, but it is clear that the dash to biofuels has caused more harm than good with food prices rocketing and rain forests felled. A more measured response is necessary.
Andrew S

Ekklesia, Education and Intelligent Design

Trying to understand Ekklesia is not easy. One minute they are advocating inclusion and dialogue across faith boundaries, the next they are engaged in a political campaign to close down debate in faith education. Ekklesia formed out of ‘Workshop’ in 2002; they claim it is an independent theological training programme of the Anvil Trust. The Anvil Trust wants ‘inclusive Christian learning in today’s diverse world.’ Ekklesia state they want ‘freedom of expression,’ ‘non-compulsion in religion and belief’ the ‘engagement of theology with science and culture’ and ‘respectful engagement with those of other faiths.’

Why then are they so antagonistic to those who believe in divine creation or intelligent design, and are thus campaigning to restrict religious freedom in the classroom? Why are they seeking to deny human rights to those of traditional faith communities, I wonder? By campaigning along side the British Humanist Association, Ekklesia seem to be advocating a specifically secular humanist agenda in education by engaging in political activity against Christians, Jews and Muslims. And they accuse others of being ideologically driven. What of Ekklesia’s ideological motivation? I would suggest it is really metaphysical naturalism. Ekklesia comment that.

“Ekklesia has argued for some time…that ‘intelligent design’ is a serious category mistake and a corrosive force in both theological and scientific discourses. It brings the proper engagement of religion and science into disrepute, and it benefits those who wish to pursue dubious ideological agendas at the expense of a more complex common search for truth and wisdom.”[1]

I have previously commented why this is wrong, not least because it seeks to limit what God can and cannot do. It also limits what science can study and assumes a priori the truth of metaphysical naturalism. But I think part of the problem with Ekklesia can be seen from the following statement.

'… biblical literalists' Simon Barrow comments 'turn God into some sort of super-being, rather than the wholly unconditioned source, flow and destiny of all being and becoming – a very different notion, and central to the developed monotheistic traditions.' [1]

There seems to be a move away from a personal God who is revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ, in favour of some sort of vague theism at best, pantheism at worst. The Bible infact invites comparison between God and man through his creation in the image of God, and this is integral to the theology of the incarnation. Barrow calls for churches to engage in science and religion education to 'discern' the problems with creationism and ID commenting that.

“This is necessary not just to ensure that people are equipped to discern the real problems with movements like ID and creationism, but in order to negotiate the ethical, pastoral, political, economic, spiritual and theological challenges of new technologies, the bio-sciences, genomics and many other disciplines reshaping our world and our condition. The real task ahead of us is not defensive, it is profoundly creative.”[1]

Firstly, there is also some irony that Simon Barrow sees human endeavour in science in bio-sciences and genomics as ‘creative’ while denying the direct creativity of God in nature.

But there is also a subtle, but important distinction between a belief in human centred progress and belief in divine grace or providence that is at work in the world. All that we do as Christians, who are involved in science, must be done within God’s grace. Doing science as human centred progress is arrogant and in effect Faustian science. Such ‘progress’ has resulted in many mistakes through history and led to post modernism with its great distrust of science. There is some irony that Ekklesia, who say they are seeking to develop faith in a ‘post-Christendom’ world are engaged in propping up the failure of modernism in science.

There is also irony in that Ekklesia seek to deny human rights in education while claiming to be for education and human rights. Ekkeslia have no understanding that metaphysical naturalism is in effect ‘dumbing down’ science, because it seeks to teach one narrow philosophy as ‘fact’ and prevent children from thinking for themselves. This is a Platonic conception of education (from Plato’s Republic) based on a rigid class structure where only a small group should be allowed to think for themselves, the majority should be taught to accept facts sufficient to enable them to become competent warriors or productive workers. Karl Popper in Open Society and its Enemies noted that Platonism and Marxism were essentially tyranical and opposed to open societies. Is Ekklesia also opposed to an open society through its political activity against one section of Christianity? I wonder?

[1] Simon Barrow, Theology, science and the problem of ID, Ekklesia.
http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6707
See also:
ISSR Statement falls back on Old Dogmas
http://www.csm.org.uk/news.php?viewmessage=99

Ekklesia tries to undermine Intelligent Design Initiative
http://www.csm.org.uk/news.php?viewmessage=70

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Theos and Faraday seek to ‘Wash Whiter’ or is it a ‘Whitewash?’

The Daz washing powder was once said to ‘wash whiter’ in a popular TV advert. Along similar lines Theos and the Faraday Institute are now trying to wash the ideology from Darwinism. Although they don’t seem to realise that the ideological stains are not something others have put onto Darwinism, but those stains are deeply ingrained throughout Darwinism, and have been since the beginning.

A recent Theos press release states that both Theos and Faraday, together with Templeton funding have joined together to analyse and research the nature and extent of both pro-evolutionary and anti-evolutionary opinion in the UK. Additional they plan to study how such views impact upon ‘theism, atheism and agnosticism.’ The statement also comments that the study will explore the manner in which opinions have sometimes become hardened into ‘ideologies that do little justice to Darwin or Darwinism.’ The project apparently is provisionally entitled ‘Rescuing Darwin’, and is being undertaken to ‘coincide with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species.’ [1]

So what ideology went into Darwinism? Darwin was inspired by the free market economist Adam Smith and by the population growth ideology of Thomas Malthus. Himmelfarb, quoting Spengler, noted that Darwinism was the application of ‘Manchester economics’ to biology and an expression of Victorian ‘greed philosophy.’[2] No wonder it has been so easy for others to apply it back to society. There was also influence from grandfather Erasmus Darwin, the Rosicrucian supporter of revolution. Auguste Comte’s scientism also clearly influenced Charles Darwin; his close friend Harriet Martineau even translated Comte into English. Charles Lyell, the anti-Christian deist and Whig supporter secretly encouraged Darwin to write as part of his 30-year campaign to undermine the Anglican Church (from Lyell's Letters), along with the development of ideologically biased geology. Derek Ager said we have been ‘brainwashed;’ S.J. Gould said Darwin and Lyell were ‘stifling hypotheses’ and ‘closing minds’ to the 'dogma' of gradualism. [3]

Viva la evolution?

It would seem though that Faraday Director Denis Alexander has already decided the outcome of the study by publishing his views in the Third Way magazine [4]. Very skilfully he turns weaknesses into strengths by making bold, but unsubstantiated rhetorical statements.

First of all he suggests that it is one of the ‘deep mysteries of the early 21st century why one set of Christians go round churches trying to persuade another set of Christians to disbelieve the theory of evolution.’ Noting further that this is in a ‘world where people are dying to hear the good news about Jesus for the first time,’ and where ‘thousands are made homeless in cyclones and where millions still live without clean water supplies', he suggests that opposition to Darwinism is a huge waste of resources. In response it should be noted that those who go round to churches questioning Darwinism do so with evangelism in mind and are very interested in Third World development, believing also that Darwinism is a harmful ideology. While Denis Alexander is heralding ‘Viva la evolution’ to the churches, other Christians are telling the world that Jesus is alive. In response it might be asked what purpose Theos and Faraday hope to achieve in terms of promoting Jesus Christ with their research aim stated as being to ‘Rescue Darwin.’

Alexander then offers three ‘facts’ about the debate that he finds mysterious. Firstly, he comments that if Darwinism were lacking in evidence the peer review community would have allowed papers to be published against it, and that Darwinism is not a scientific ‘holy cow.’ This is really an unsustainable claim. Perhaps he has not heard of the evidence presented in the Expelled film, such as the Richard Sternberg affair where Sternberg came under heavy personal attack for allowing a pro ID article in a publication. Peer review has always been more about peer pressure than actual real review. Or perhaps Denis is now suggesting that people who are sceptical of Darwinism should submit material to the magazine of which he is editor (Science and Christian Belief) for peer review. Perhaps someone will soon test your statement Denis.

Secondly, he notes that Darwinism has been ‘hugely strengthened’ by genetics and the genome, again attempting to turn a weakness into an opportunity. However, the genetic revolution has led to a vast increase in our understanding about the complexity of life in DNA and in protein chemistry, a complexity that far exceeds the probabilistic resources of the universe to form by accident. Such complexity was unknown to Darwin. This evidence is highlighted well in John Sandford’s book ‘Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome.’

Thirdly, he claims that anti-Darwinism is a modern phenomenon that developed from the 1960s onwards. This is an odd statement for Alexander to make, especially as he is editor of the Science and Christian Belief Journal, jointly owned by Christians in Science and the Victoria Institute. I can’t imagine he is unaware of the foundations of the VI in 1865, to challenge 'Science, falsely so called,’ or the 700 gentlemen scholars who signed the 'Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences' in the 19th C in support of Scripture, or formation of the Evolution Protest Movement in 1932 by the President of the VI Sir Ambrose Fleming, and other leading members of the VI.

There is a lot more in the article that could be challenged, not least Alexander’s own creation myth of Adam and Eve, but it would be far better for Alexander to engage with those fellow believers who preach the gospel alongside creation instead of seeking to ‘baptise Darwinism.’ “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”(1 Corn 15:22) If the research being conducted by Theos and Faraday is to be truly objective then it is to be hoped that they will consider the evidence for ideology that is not incidental to Darwinism, but ingrained from the start.

Sources


[1] Theos press release 3rd Jun 08 Rescuing Darwin

[2] Himmelfarb, G. (1962), Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, W.W. Norton, New York, p.418

[3] Gould, S. J., Toward the vindication of punctuational change. In: W. A. BERGGREN & J. A. VAN COUVERING (Eds.): Catastrophes and Earth History: The New Uniformitarianism, Princeton University Press, Princeton (New Jersey), pp14-16, 1984. Ager, D. V., The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, The Macmillan Press Ltd, London, pp46-47, 1981.

[4] Denis Alexander, Viva la evolution, http://www.thirdwaymagazine.com/334

[5] http://www.creationism.org/victoria/VictoriaInst1866_pg005.htm

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Thomas F.Torrance and Biological Design

Thomas Torrance, who recently passed away, has been described as one of the leading theologians of the second half of the twentieth century according to his obituary in The Times. [1] Torrance also accepted the reality of the creation account, thus rejecting reductionism and naturalistic accounts of origins in science.

But if you listen to some theistic evolutionists they would have us believe that there is no debate against Darwinism in science or theology. Denis Alexander has just written in the Third Way Magazine (Summer 2008 Vol.31 No.6) along these lines [2]. More about that later, but why the lack of candour I wonder when claiming to be a herald of truth?

Torrance specifically rejected the dualism implicit in the division of reality into ‘nature’ and ‘super-nature’ (McGrath 2008: 77-78). Torrance’s approach to both nature and super-nature involved a view of the Word of God as central to the act of creation, and to the sustaining of creation. For Torrance, God established and subsequently continues to maintain the universe through his creative Word, where, from the biblical tradition, the natural orderly laws of creation were to be considered as echoing the commanding Word of the Creator (Torrance: 1980: 122). In this approach the regularities or laws of nature necessarily respond to God’s command, while the concept of the supernatural, as God’s direct involvement in nature, is also a response to God’s commanding Word.

Torrance was critical of the development of science from Galileo and Newton for a number of reasons. Firstly, it involved a conception of the universe where it was viewed as a closed rigid mechanical system (Torrance 1980: 15-18). This approach to science reached its peak with Pierre Simon de Laplace where everything was to be reduced and broken down to atomistic particles for analysis and explained in terms of laws of physics and chemistry only. Torrance comments that this reductionist and deterministic approach to science left the whole of nature and the universe as a vast machine. Secondly, according to Torrance, the universe of time and space came to be seen as a container of matter and natural laws with the supernatural considered external (Torrance 1980: 18-23). Thirdly, Torrance commented that there was a dualism in this approach between the theoretical and the empirical study of nature (Torrance 1980: 23-27).

Torrance found great attraction in Michael Polanyi’s model of irreducible structure, where it was argued that ‘machine-like’ regularity, including that of biological systems, cannot be explained in terms of laws of physics and chemistry, otherwise biological science would lapse into a damaging reductionism (Torrance 1980: 16, 35; Polanyi 1968). In Polanyi’s system of thought there was a stratified structure to the universe and to our understanding of it, and the non-reducible character of mechanical structures in biology should be accepted as a warranted foundational belief. According to Torrance there is in nature an ascending hierarchy that is open upward, but cannot be reduced downward, as mechanical order cannot be explained by laws of physics and chemistry. This Torrance noted represents a ‘coherent integration from above’ (Torrance 1980: 37-39).

Torrance commented further, like Polanyi, that neither is it possible for the mind or spirit of a person to be reduced to a machine. The human person should be considered a rational centre of consciousness that is not reducible to natural science because this would be to mechanise knowledge. Reducing the mind to an entity within nature in effect diminishes science to nothing. Torrance notes, regarding Polanyi’s irreducible model of reality, that only a person has the ability for rational thought and judgement, and is therefore able to freely believe in truth, discerning objective reality from subjective thinking (Torrance 1980: 66-67). Polanyi rejected Laplace’s impersonal model of thought for a personal one and noted that personal participation is essential for rational thought and for the epistemological foundations of science (Torrance 1980: 66-67).

Torrance also argued that the Newtonian model of science has been replaced by the understanding of James Clark Maxwell and Albert Einstein, where space and time are no longer fixed and reality is understood in terms of forces and fields that intersect with matter. For Maxwell scientific explanations are partial and incomplete, and this led him to understand that ultimate explanations must lie outside of science. A mechanistic conception of reality can only be a partial answer and natural science is limited by humanity’s finite and temporal existence. All science is limited and provisional and thus needs framing and revising in light of eternal truths (Torrance 1980: 54-55).

For Torrance belief is a priority and integral to rational scientific discourse as there can be no knowledge of matter apart from the knower (Torrance 1980:62) It is belief that links our minds to reality, and no human intelligence can operate outside of faith as belief that our experiences are true shapes the way we frame the world in our minds. Belief in truth and belief in laws of nature must be assumed prior to their establishment, as science is based on the belief in the intelligibility of nature (Torrance 1980:63-72). Neither did he believe there was a conflict between science and theology, but the conflict was between a philosophy of ‘order and design’ and a naturalistic philosophy that he called ‘romantic naturalism.’ (Torrance: 2000: 107).

References

[1] Obituary for Professor Thomas Torrance, The Times, 11th December 2007
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article3030568.ece

McGrath A., (2008) The Open Secret, A New Vision for Natural Theology, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

Polanyi, M. (1968) ‘Life’s Irreducible Structure,’ Science, Vol. 160, pp. 1308-1312

Torrance, T.F (1980) Christian Theology and Scientific Culture, Vol. 1, Belfast: Christian Journals Limited

Torrance, T.F. (2000) God and Rationality, Oxford: Oxford University Press