Archive for the ‘Science’ category

Dawkins On The Improbability Of God

5 June, 2007 EUTC

In The God Delusion Dawkins responds to claims that certain entities are too complex to have formed by chance by arguing that since such a designer must be even more complex, he must also be less likely. He turns this into his argument for why there is almost certainly no God: since a creator God (particularly one like the Christian God) is extremely complex, He is also extremely improbable.

The problem with this argument is that Dawkins gives no reason why the probability of an uncreated spiritual entity is thus dependent on its complexity. It might make sense for biological entities where there is some mechanism for chance formation in mind, but why should the probability of God existing depend thus on His complexity? Dawkins’ main argument for atheism turns out to be fundamentally flawed.

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Statistical and Scientific Basics

22 January, 2007 EUTC

Over at Scienceblogs, a number of contributors have started producing posts that explain basic concepts within their fields.

Mark Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math has been producing posts on concepts within statistics. So far he has written on the topics: mean, median and mode; normal distributions; standard deviation; margin of error. Others are covering topics in Physics, Biology and Mathematics. An up-to-date list is being held here.

A Real Icon of Evolution

30 September, 2006 EUTC

Nick Matzke has put together some charts of the cranial capacity of hominin fossils vs the age of the fossils. Hominins are humans and supposed ancestors of humans. The charts show a gradual trend of increasing cranial capacity as the fossils become more recent. They are striking illustrations in support of evolution.

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A Snake with Legs

22 September, 2006 EUTC

John Wilkins has written a post discussing the report of a snake with legs. The biological explantion is that genes that normally prevent legs from forming happened to be switched off (I assume this just takes a small mutation), reversing the evolutionary loss of legs that earlier species had.

This is a small example of the kind of thing that contributes to my opinion that the scientific evidence really makes it look like evolution is true (for more on my tentative thoughts on this see my previous post here). The snake legs are such a strange occurence, yet they make perfect sense within the evolutionary framework.

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Evolution and Morality

19 September, 2006 EUTC

Jason Rosenhouse has written a review of Lee Alan Dugatkin’s new book The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness. This book considers the history of the work done by scientists in explaining the evolutionary origins of altruism. The idea that survival of the fittest could lead to behaviour that benefits others does appear strange, but scientists have made some progress in explaining how some such behaviour could evolve. The explanations that science does provide do seem to require an advantage from the altruistic behaviour, either kin altruism which involves helping family (so family and consequently shared genes gain an advantage), or its expected to leads to future reciprocal help (with net benefit).

But do those things really explain morality fully? I don’t want to turn this into a God of the Gaps argument, just because science doesn’t have answers doesn’t prove that there is no natural explanation. That said, where does morality come from? Maybe science has something to say about some of it, but I still believe that Christianity has the best answer.

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Roman Catholicism Continues to Support Evolution

5 September, 2006 EUTC

The Roman Catholic Church officially endorses the theory of evolution as scientific fact, while acknowledging God’s hand behind it. Recent events had led some people to think that it was in the process of changing its view on this towards supporting Intelligent Design, but as this article shows, this is not the case. [HT: John Wilkins]

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Some Links on Science and Religion

11 July, 2006 EUTC

Thabiti blogs about a project to explore the intersection between Pentecostalism and Science. I’m curious as to what this research might entail. While I believe that science necessarily excludes supernatural hypotheses, there is room for it to examine the natural effects of the supernatural. The link between the supernatural causes and the natural effects, while reasonable for those with faith, is itself not scientific. For example, scientists could describe speaking in tongues according to grammatical structure, and analyse the regions of the brain that are active while it occurs, it is up to people speaking theologically (rather than scientifically) to discuss whether the phenomena is caused by the Holy Spirit.

Justin Taylor links to a Mark Driscoll post answering questions about Creation, and results in some interesting debate in his comments section on the interpretation of Gen 1,2 in the light of science.

The Island of Doubt has a post on 2 recent magazine items related to science and religion, while Uncertain Principles links to another such article from Phyiscs Today.