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Posted 11/20/14 at 7:37 PM | Mike Keas
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I -- and this past week provided a terrible reminder that conflicts stirred by the war remain with us. In Israel, a pair of Palestinian Muslims turned a Jerusalem synagogue at morning prayers into a bloodbath, a reminder to Israelis (as if one were needed) of their vulnerability to terrorists fanatically opposed to the existence of the state. Observers with a long memory may have recalled how a 1917 promise by the British Empire to aid settlement of the Holy Land made possible the establishment of a Jewish state. In Israel, the famous Balfour Declaration, penned by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, is intensely honored along with its author to this day.
However, while the name of Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930) lives on most famously for his connection to British Middle East policy, his contributions to philosophy are fascinating and important, and should not be forgotten.
Balfour was a statesman, Prime Minister (1902-1905), and philosophical defender of Christianity and its harmony with science. His thought can be appreciated by contrasting him with one of his most formidable contemporary counterparts, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), famed philosopher and author of pithy essays such as "Why I Am Not a Christian." Timothy Madigan, Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. John Fisher College, and officer in the Bertrand Russell Society, recently celebrated the Russell-Balfour comparison in the pages of Philosophy Now ("The Paradoxes of Arthur Balfour"): FULL POST
Posted 9/18/14 at 9:20 PM | Mike Keas
About forty years ago biologists discovered that some bacteria swim by means of a rotating flagellum, which is a long whip-like propellor connected to a rotary engine that is situated within the cell membrane. About twenty years after this discovery biochemist Michael Behe began to argue that the bacterial flagellum and many other molcular machines within living cells exhibit the property of "irreducible complexity," which implied that the likelihood of their origin by means of an unguided material process is beyond reasonable belief. What has become of this argument in the last twenty years? Has the overall trajectory of research supported or eroded Behe's case for the "irreducible complexity" of molecular machines like the bacterial flagellum?
In his book Darwin's Black Box (1996) Behe explained that irreducibly complex systems could not have arisen by a gradual step-by-step neo-Darwinian evolutionary process.
The flagellum is a long, hairlike filament embedded in the cell membrane. The external filament consists of a single type of protein, called "flagellin." The flagellin filament is the paddle surface that contacts the the liquid during swimming. At the end of the flagellin filament near the surface of the cell, there is a bulge in the thickness of the flagellum. It is here that the filament attaches to the rotor drive. The attachment material is comprised of something called "hook protein." The filament of a bacterial flagellum, unlike a cilium, contains no motor protein; if it is broken off, the filament just floats stiffly in the water. Therefore the motor that rotates the filament-propellor must be located somewhere else. Experiments have demonstrated that it is located at the base of the flagellum, where electron microscopy shows several ring structures occur. (p. 70-72) FULL POST
Posted 8/20/14 at 9:54 PM | Mike Keas
This summer marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. By August 1914 many nations had joined the horrible conflict that would take 16 million lives. Although many factors contributed to the beginning of the Great War, a new documentary from Discovery Institute explores the Darwinian ideological connection.
The documentary relies heavily on the work of historian Richard Weikart who is one of the worlds leading experts on German Darwinism up through the Second World War. He has published many essays in refereed journals about the history of German Darwinism as well as several books on this fascinating topic.
The Biology of the Second Reich: Social Darwinism and the Origins of World War I debuted a few days ago. This 14-minute documentary introduces how Darwinian racial theory helped drive German intellectual and military leaders in the years leading up to 1914.
One of the key sources for the argument advanced in this documentary is Headquarters Nights by Darwinian biologist Vernon Kellogg. This book chronicles some of Kellogg's conversations with German officers and intellectuals during the early part of World War I. Here is one excerpt from that book (some of this is in the documentary): FULL POST
Posted 7/16/14 at 11:08 AM | Mike Keas
Let's review recent significant discussion of Stephen Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Darwin's Doubt passed the 500-reviews milestone on Amazon just before the book's one year anniversary on June 18. Reviews, both popular and professional, indicate that even many critics of intelligent design have found it difficult to simply ignore Meyer's bestseller (although many of the critical reviews display ignorance of the book's precise evidential arguments).
ENV put it this way:
What's the biggest failure of the critics who tried to knock down the argument Steve Meyer makes in Darwin's Doubt -- Matzke, Prothero, Cook in The New Yorker, Farrell in National Review, etc., with the important exception of Marshall in Science? As Meyer says above [use link above to see video], it's the failure to wrestle with or really even to properly acknowledge the book's main argument. That is, the problem of where all the new genetic and epigenetic information needed to build the Cambrian animals came from. FULL POST
Posted 6/4/14 at 8:40 AM | Mike Keas
Nobel laureate Francis Crick once warned: "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." What Mad Pursuit (1990), page 138. Why is the constant reminder needed? Repeat the mantra often enough, and it might ward off the doubts one naturally has about materialistic theories like neo-Darwinism, when seeing the jolting appearance of design at all levels of nature, from the fine-tuning of the universe for life, to life itself.
A year ago Stephen Meyer published Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. This was a game changer for the evolution debate. Yesterday, Darwin's Doubt just got bigger in its expanded edition, which sports a new 35-page epilogue in which Meyer answers the more substantive challenges to his argument -- from scientists including Charles Marshall, Donald Prothero and Nick Matzke. The epilogue digs deeper into the origin of biological information, the time frame of the Cambrian explosion, cladistic classification methods, and the mystery of the missing ancestors.
Having considered the arguments in Darwin's Doubt, readers will recognize the challenge it offers to traditional evolutionary thinking and perhaps wonder how stalwart defenders of evolutionary theory have responded. FULL POST
Posted 5/3/14 at 3:37 PM | Mike Keas
Neil Tyson and the Cosmos TV series crew are to be congratulated for their contribution to science education, but they have also made many unsubstantiated scientific, historical, and theological claims that do not bear up under close scrutiny. I'll focus on Tyson's promotion of naturalistic spirituality.
Tyson proclaims "Our ancestors worshipped the sun. They were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and stars because we are their children." Just because all life is built out of elements cooked up in stars, does not mean that reverance for stars like our sun is appropriate. Furthermore, the recipe for life is much more complicated than "just add water" to heavy elements cooked up in suns. FULL POST
Posted 3/13/14 at 6:20 PM | Mike Keas
"The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be." That's how Sunday's premiere of the new TV series Cosmos began. This echo of Carl Sagan's famous statement of naturalistic faith is the organizing assumption for this new series, now hosted by the best known planetarium director in the country, Neil deGrasse Tyson.
For ENV's responses to the Cosmos premiere, see:
The historically inaccurate material on Bruno that dominates the premiere episode has been debunked mutliple times by historians of science. See, for example, Jole Shackelford's essay about the myth "That Giordano Bruno Was the First Martyr of Modern Science" in the book Galileo Goes to Jail: And Other Myths About Science and Religion, edited by Ronald L. Numbers, 59-67 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009). Although this book's essay on intelligent design is inadequate, the other essays, like this one on Bruno, are well done. Jay Richards' blog linked above gives you the essential information you need about what really happened to Bruno, and why. FULL POST
Posted 2/19/14 at 10:39 PM | Mike Keas
The War on Humans, an important documentary from Discovery Institute that explores the growing disparagement of the value of human beings, is now available for viewing. The ebook by the same title is also available for $1.99 (Kindle or Nook).
About the Ebook
The environmental movement has helped produce significant improvements in the world around us—from cleaner air to the preservation of natural wonders such as Yellowstone. But in recent years, environmental activists have arisen who regard humans as Public Enemy #1. In this provocative e-book, Wesley J. Smith exposes efforts by radical activists to reduce the human population by up to 90% and to grant legal rights to animals, plants, and Mother Earth. Smith argues that the ultimate victims of this misanthropic crusade will be the poorest and most vulnerable among us, and he urges us to defend both human dignity and the natural environment before it is too late. FULL POST
Posted 1/30/14 at 8:50 PM | Mike Keas
The new War on Humans website asks:
Are humans the enemy? Should pigs and plants be given constitutional rights? The War on Humans e-book and companion documentary explore how a new generation of activists are pushing a radical agenda whose ultimate victims may be the poorest and most vulnerable among us.
On Monday, February 3, watch the free premiere of The War on Humans, a provocative documentary from Discovery Institute that explores the growing disparagement of the value of human beings -- in the name of saving the planet. The premiere will be at Northwest University in Kirkland, WA. Register now. Or, watch the full documentary at YouTube when it premieres during the week of February 17, 2014. Find the documentary YouTube link at the War on Humans website when it is available. Watch the trailer now (scroll one screen down to find it there). FULL POST
Posted 1/6/14 at 10:03 AM | Mike Keas
Evolution News & Views, a leading news source on evolution and intelligent design, lists all of its Top-Ten Evolution Stories of 2013 here, except story #1, which is posted here. This top-ten list should be familiar to my readers at CP, because I have reported on all of them when they were happening, except for a few which I shall mention below. I encourage you to read all of those stories unfamiliar to you as we reflect on the year 2013 with hindsight. To read all the top-ten stories, use the two links above.
Here are the stories that I did not report here at CP: FULL POST