Science & Faith

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Posted 9/15/15 at 7:53 PM | Mike Keas

Darwin’s Doubt and Intelligent Design: New Resources

In 2013 Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design became a national bestseller, provoking a debate that has engaged reputable opponents. Now a sequel book is available: Debating Darwin’s Doubt: A Scientific Controversy that Can No Longer Be Denied:

Leading scholars in the intelligent design community respond to critiques of Meyer’s book and show that the core challenge posed by Meyer remains unanswered: Where did the influx of information essential to the creation of new body plans come from? In addition to ten chapters by Stephen Meyer, Debating Darwin’s Doubt also includes contributions from biologists Richard Sternberg, Douglas Axe, and Ann Gauger; philosopher of biology Paul Nelson; mathematicians William Dembski and David Berlinski; and Center for Science and Culture research coordinator Casey Luskin. In forty-four chapters, these contributing authors explore topics such as orphan genes, cladistics, small shelly fossils, protein evolution, the length of the Cambrian explosion, the God-of-the-Gaps objection to intelligent design, and criticisms raised by proponents of theistic evolution. Anyone who wants to understand the cutting-edge of current scientific debates over modern Darwinian theory needs to read this book.


Posted 3/18/15 at 4:14 PM | Mike Keas

Science & Christianity: Friends or Foes? Weighing the Historical Evidence

I will highlight resources that support my 2015 Stand Firm Conference presentation, which carried the same title as today's blog. As a historian and philosopher of science, I address the question of whether Christianity has fostered scientific discovery. Earlier I published an essay that addresses some aspects of this question:

  • In the Beginning: Episodes in the Origin and Development of Science,” Salvo Magazine (September 2013). Abstract: Belief in the Judeo-Christian God supported the idea that the universe is predictable and knowable, which is foundational to scientific research. This Salvo article debunks common science-religion myths and shows how Christianity contributed to the rise of modern science.

Discovery Institute hosts a website that explores science and faith. Here are some of its resources that support my main point today:

  • The Roots of Intelligent Design: Use this free collection of readings, audio clips, and discussion questions to explore the intellectual roots of intelligent design in Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and modern thought. Especially suitable for small group discussions or an adult education mini-course of 2 or 3 sessions. This collection is the fourth one listed on the above-linked resource webpage.

Are Christianity and science at war with one another? Not according to leading historians. "The greatest myth in the history of science and religion holds that they have been in a state of constant conflict," wrote historian of science Ronald Numbers in 2009. Dr. Numbers is not an adherent to any religious faith. He is also a leading expert on the history of science and religion. Why does the popular "science vs. Christianity" stereotype continue despite the impressive historical evidence otherwise? While some perpetuate this stereotype out of a deep desire to descredit Christianity, others simply repeat the stories in ignorance of their mythical status.

The truth is that science and biblical religion have been friends for a long time. Judeo-Christian theology has contributed in a friendly manner to such science-promoting ideas as discoverable natural history, experimental inquiry, universal natural laws, mathematical physics, and investigative confidence that is balanced with humility. Christian institutions, especially since the medieval university, have often provided a supportive environment for scientific inquiry and instruction.

Posted 1/30/15 at 9:35 PM | Mike Keas

Intelligent Design & Science/Faith Resources & Events: Videos, Conferences, Research

Let's survey some important recent resources that will help you explore the theory of intelligent design and the theistic religious implications of these scientific discoveries.

  1. The top intelligent design research story of 2014 is: New Paper from Biologic Institute, "Shared Evolutionary History or Shared Design?". If you find this story beyond your level of scientific literacy, you can't miss the design implications of the animations (#2 on my list). Or, here is a more accessible explanation of the significance of the top 2014 ID story: Biologic Institute's Groundbreaking Peer-Reviewed Science Has Now Demonstrated the Implausibility of Evolving New Proteins. As a college science professor, I can attest to just how important this new research is for biology and the theory of intelligent design.
  2. Some of the best online animations of cellular features that dramatically illustrate intelligent design have been produce by Discovery Institute. These include the new animation The Workhorse of the Cell: Kinesin and two older animations linked near the bottom of that webpage that are equally impressive. Such animations help you to simply see that they are designed systems.
  3. Finally, check out the upcoming conferences described below.


Posted 11/20/14 at 7:37 PM | Mike Keas

Remembering Arthur Balfour, Friend of Science and Friendly Opponent to Atheist Bertrand Russell

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

20 Years of Challenging Evolution: Is the Bacterial Flagellum Irreducibly Complex?

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

World War I and Darwinism: New Online Documentary

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

Milestones in a Year of Darwin's Doubt

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

Darwin's Doubt Just Got Bigger: Stephen Meyer's Expanded Edition of Landmark Book, and "The Third Way"

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.

Meyer remarks:

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

Tyson Promotes Naturalistic Spirituality in Cosmos TV Series

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

Neil deGrasse Tyson Revives Sagan's Cosmos TV Series: Naturalistic Religion for the Masses

"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

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