Science & Faith

CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Posted 8/3/13 at 6:00 PM | Mike Keas

On Being Skeptical of “Skeptics”: Dialogue on Darwin's Deeper Doubt

I will postpone the promised sequel to Darwin's Deeper Doubt in order to interact with two of my readers.

Steve Pond commented on Darwin's Deeper Doubt:

Sorry, but whatever Darwin's thoughts on this and that what has it got to do with the work done of evolution over the past 150 years? Mike's article shows how for him just how powerful the argument from authority is. If Darwin was shown to be a rapist it would have no bearing on evolution what so ever.

Steve, in the last paragraph of Darwin's Deeper Doubt I wrote:

I shall leave you hanging, for the moment, as to what we can discern from this episode in the history of science. In my next blog I shall explore the latest word on this matter, as articulated in Alvin Plantinga's book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011). Plantinga quotes Darwin's "horrid doubt" and then takes it to the next level of analysis in light of everything we have learned about human reasoning and science since the time of Darwin.

So, that makes your criticism a mere straw man argument (knocking down an argument that another person does not make, and implying that you have defeated their argument). I never claimed anything that you attributed to me. My last paragraph quoted above makes clear the topical distinction between my last blog (historical) and the one to come (state of the art today). Patience, my friend. FULL POST

Posted 7/30/13 at 6:22 PM | Mike Keas

Darwin's Deeper Doubt: Horrid!

The year before Darwin died in 1882 he had his infamous "horrid doubt" about the reliability of evolved human mental capabilities. Darwin's crisis of materialistic faith has been analyzed and amplified by such luminaries as C. S. Lewis, and one of today's leading philosophers, Alvin Plantinga (in his book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, 2011). Darwin apparently went to his grave with his "horrid doubt" unresolved. Too bad for him, because this doubt cut much deeper than his doubt about the ability of his evolutionary theory to overcome the evidential challenge of the abrupt appearance of most animal body plans in the fossil record (the subject of Stephen Meyer's new book Darwin's Doubt). Let's dig deeper into Darwin's "horrid doubt" than Michael Flannery did recently.

What was Darwin's "horrid doubt"? In his own words:

But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? FULL POST

Posted 7/23/13 at 11:46 PM | Mike Keas

James Le Fanu on the Mystery of Life and the Future of Science

Dr. James Le Fanu observes that science today finds itself in both "the best of times and the worst of times." Despite enormous funding of large scale scientific research, we are not seeing the same returns that we had a century ago with breakthrough discoveries of the fundamental laws of nature. Has the prevailing methodology of science reaches its limits? Is there a deeper worldview problem? Let's explore Dr. Fanu's treatment of these issues.

Dr. James Le Fanu

But first, why should we listen to Dr. James Le Fanu? He is an international award winning author who for the past twenty years has contributed a twice weekly column on medicine, science and social policy in several British newspapers. He has also published in professional journals such as The British Medical Journal and Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Here is a science journalist who is also an accomplished medical science practitioner. He recently gave a lively talk about the mystery of life and the future of science that has just became available in a three part podcast series (linked below).

Le Fanu is a reliable science journalist. You won't be disappointed with his fact handling as perhaps you were with Gareth Cook, the Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist addressed in my last blog. Mr. Cook errored in some basic facts about the Cambrian explosion (such as its time span), and then refused to deal with this problem when I brought it to his attention both in private email and on my blog. Science journalists need to be more responsive to fact checkers.

Dr. Fanu is the author of several books, his most recent is provocatively entitled Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves (2009). Here is a description of this book, which also is the subject of his recent podcasts that I shall point you to below:

In this daring treatise on the current state of scientific inquiry, James Le Fanu challenges the common assumption that further progress in genetic research and neuroscience must ultimately explain all there is to know about life and man’s place in the world. On the contrary, he argues, the most recent scientific findings point to an unbridgeable explanatory gap between the genes strung out along the Double Helix and the beauty and diversity of the living world—and between the electrical activity of the brain and the abundant creativity of the human mind. His exploration of these mysteries, and his analysis of where they might lead us in our thinking about the nature and purpose of human existence, form the impassioned and riveting heart of Why Us? FULL POST

Posted 7/19/13 at 4:15 PM | Mike Keas

What is the Significance of a “Darwin's Doubt” Review by a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Science Journalist?

Wikipedia Commons (artistic reconstruction based on fossil evidence)
Here is one of the animals that first appeared in the Cambrian explosion. This extinct sea creature had five eyes.

I ended my last blog with a comment that prompted a response from Gareth Cook, who is the Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist who authored The New Yorker review of Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt:

When Dr. Stephen Meyer appeared on the Michael Medved Show last week, the two men discussed … the very prominent review of Meyer's book that appeared in The New Yorker. Learn just how significant this review was. It turns out that The New Yorker offered an affirmation (while also trying to critique the book) of the high level of scholarship in Meyer's book.

The imprecise prose of my last sentence drew this blog comment from Gareth Cook:

Mike, I wrote the review in the New Yorker, and your statement that I affirmed its "high level of scholarship" is simply untrue. I called it "a masterpiece of pseudoscience." Please correct your post, and I would encourage readers to follow the link to the New Yorker article. FULL POST

Posted 7/16/13 at 8:19 PM | Mike Keas

Darwin's Doubt: Critical & Friendly Reviews of Meyer's Best-Selling Book

Stephen Meyer's new book, Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, appeared on July 7 in the #7 place on the New York Times hardback nonfiction list. See it here. The Times accurately summarizes the thesis of the book:

DARWIN'S DOUBT, by Stephen C. Meyer. (HarperOne.) The theory of intelligent design best explains the appearance of animals in the fossil record without apparent ancestors.

Indeed, Meyer's book is about how the scientific theory of intelligent designed is strongly supported by the geologically sudden appearance of complex animal life in the Cambrian explosion, about 530 million years ago. Here is an infographic introduction to the book copied below (note the three numbered items on the first graphic and the explanation of each these on the second graphic). FULL POST

Posted 7/12/13 at 11:32 PM | Mike Keas

Rediscovering Lee Strobel: The Case for a Creator, Christ, and Faith

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel is best known as the author of his "case for" series: Three books and three DVD documentaries by the same titles. They should be read (or viewed) in this order:

You can order the books and DVDs in bulk here (including a set of all three DVDs in one large case). Amazon even has the Kindle version of The Case for Faith for $1.99 (that is the best deal I have ever seen for this book). FULL POST

Posted 7/8/13 at 8:44 PM | Mike Keas

Are Americans Losing Religious Faith? How Rodney Stark and Michael Medved Respond

Rodney Stark's July 4th Wall Street Journal article The Myth of Unreligious America explains how the press has misinterpreted a few recent surveys about religion in America. Here is how this leading sociologist summarizes the data that is often misinterpreted:

According to Pew, 8% of Americans in 1990 gave their religious preference as "none." By 2007, that response had nearly doubled to 15%, and in 2012 the "no religion" response had climbed to 20%. Earlier this year, an analysis of the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago tracked a similar trend, also citing the 20% no-religion response.

Many interpret the numbers to mean that America is heading down the secular road. In a survey published this month by the Pew Research Center, 48% of Americans say the growing number of "people who are not religious" is a bad thing for American society (and only 11% say it is a good thing).

But I disagree with the notion that the U.S. is heading toward becoming as unchurched as much of Europe. One reason is that saying you have "no religion" is not the same as disbelieving in God. Many people who say they have no religion are simply saying they have no official religious affiliation. They may actually have strong personal beliefs. The increase in the "no religion" group may also be an illusion caused by the rising nonresponse rate to survey studies. FULL POST

Posted 7/5/13 at 6:07 PM | Mike Keas

The Chronicle: Story of Philosopher-Apologist William Lane Craig in the Leading Academic Newspaper

Philosopher William Lane Craig

In the Chronicle of Higher Education Nathan Schneider, playing off the "new atheism" designation of Dawkins and company, has written a fair-minded article: The New Theist: How William Lane Craig became Christian Philosophy's Boldest Apostle. When Schneider told evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins about the Craig Chronicle project "the muscles in his [Darwkins'] face clenched." Dawkins twice proded Schneider: "Why are you publicizing him?"

Dawkins has done his best to ignore Craig and downplay his significance. The new Chronicle story on Craig is not playing by Dawkins's self-serving rules. Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, has refused to debate Craig one-on-one, probably because he knows how knowledgable Craig is about philosophy, science, history, and theology. Even fellow atheist Sam Harris called Craig "the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists." Schneider communicates most of this, and more, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is the world's leading academic newspaper. This is bad news for the new atheists.

Craig is an academic heavy weight, especially in the field of philosophy. Among professional philosophers in the field of philosophy of religion, Craig's "books and articles are among the most cited," Schneider reports. Craig's holds a faculty appointment at Biola University, where he teaches in the largest philosophy graduate program in the English-speaking world, Schneider mentions. The M.A. program in Philosophy that Craig teaches in is a sister program to Biola's M.A. program in Christian Apologetics and M.A. in Science and Religion--a program in which I teach as an adjunct about as frequently as Craig teaches at Biola (Craig spends most of his time on research rather than teaching).


Posted 7/1/13 at 11:22 AM | Mike Keas

Artificial Intelligence: Germans Create Ape Robot

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) combines engineering and computer science to develop systems that can respond to their environment in ways that are similar to the natural intelligence in humans and animals. German AI experts announced last week the creation of a robotic ape.

The Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Germany has released videos of one of its projects. They made a robotic ape that moves like a gorilla by walking on its feet and knuckles. Remarkable, but of course the artificial gorilla can't reproduce itself and do many other things that real gorillas do.

The robot ape research team at DFKI have described their endeavor:

The aim of the project iStruct is the development of a robotic system as well as of biologically inspired structural components which, if applied on the robotic system, effectively improve the locomotion and mobility characteristics. In order to achieve this goal, an improved perception of the environment and the own condition is needed. FULL POST

Posted 6/28/13 at 2:42 PM | Mike Keas

Meet Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig: German Darwin Critic

Today I introduce Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, Senior Scientist (Biology), Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Emeritus, Cologne, Germany. He spent most of his career as a plant geneticist at the prestigious Max Planck Institute. Although he retired in 2008 (in Germany you have to retire at the age of 65), he has continued his research since then. As a prominent critic of neo-Darwinism in Germany, especially over the past decade, Dr. Lönnig is someone worth getting to know. He has also lectured in many educational institutions in Germany over the past few decades, including institutions that I encountered as a Fullbright scholar before the demise of the Berlin wall.

Dr. Lönnig's homepage highlights some of his research and popular lectures, both in German and English.

In a few recent podcasts (in English) Dr. Lönnig explores the origin of carnivorous plants, which is his area of specialty.

Dr. Lönnig also recently recommended Steve Meyer's new book with these words: FULL POST

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