Monthly Archives: January 2009

Superior Scribbler Award


As a rule, it warms the heart to be recognized by your blogger peers. I’m truly grateful that Stephen Douglas at Undeception has bestowed this honor upon me and I gratefully accept. As his own blog has been extremely influential in my intellectual and theological development, I would normally return the favor; but seeing as he’s already been bestowed this honor by another, I’ll list others who are also truly deserving.

As with all awards, there are some rules and they are as follows:

  1. Each Superior Scribbler must, in turn, pass the award on to five (5) most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received the award.
  3. Each Superior Scribbler must display the award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains the award.
  4. Each Blogger who wins the Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List (scroll down). That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honor!
  5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

I hereby bestow (in no particular order) the Superior Scribbler Award upon:

  • Stephen Matheson at Quintessence of Dust. As the first origins blogger to publicize my blog, I am eternally grateful to him. Not only is he geeky-smart about biology, but he’s also got great taste in music.
  • Steve Martin at An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution. This is where the theological rubber meets the road in the discussion about how belief in evolution impacts Evangelical Christian theology. Steve is on blogging hiatus, but what’s he’s accomplished so far in furthering the dialogue is invaluable.
  • ElShaddai Edwards at He Is Sufficient. He, too, is on indefinite hiatus, which is a shame because he’s one of the most intriguing bloggers I know on the subject of English language Bible translations. Here’s to hoping this award rekindles his blogging passion!
  • Peter Chattaway at FilmChat. Peter is one of my favorite film critics. If it wasn’t for Peter, I’d have missed out on some great entertainment and wasted money on some really bad entertainment. I greatly appreciate his unique Canadian Christian perspective, and his film reviews are usually spot-on.
  • I love geography, maps, and atlases. If you do too, you’ll just adore Strange Maps. I don’t know the genius behind the blog personally, but he can’t be a half-bad guy considering his interests. 😉


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Charlie’s Playhouse (Revisited)

This February 12th, scientists around the world are celebrating the occasion of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. Thus, February is a great time to celebrate with some evolution-themed games and toys from Charlie’s Playhouse!

Charlie’s Playhouse is a brand-new company specializing in the creation of toys and games for children about evolution. The company’s signature product is the Giant Timeline, a huge play mat that illustrates 600 million years of evolution with 67 real-life ancient creatures, 6 mass extinctions, commentary from “Charlie” Darwin, and much more! It also includes an Activity Guide for children ages 4-10.

When (not if!) you buy from Charlie’s Playhouse during the month of February, please mention that you heard about them through me. Charlie’s Playhouse just might reward me with a Giant Timeline of my own. 😉


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“Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” — An Interaction, Part 3

Evolutionary Creation — Chapter 3 — The Creator in a Designed and Evolving Creation

In the third chapter of Evolutionary Creation, Lamoureux offers “an integrated approach to understanding divine activity and intelligent design.” Notice that Lamoureux doesn’t capitalize the phrase intelligent design. This is very purposeful: He does not want evolutionary creationism to be misunderstood as just another sect of the Intelligent Design movement, the leading “institution” of which is Seattle’s Discovery Institute. Admittedly, this chapter might be a little tough to wade through for those not familiar with the philosophy of science, but it is a very important chapter in that it makes an extremely important distinction between evolutionary creationism and deistic evolution.

In the section titled “Divine Action,” Lamoureux provides the reader with a number of categories of divine action: personal interventionism (direct and dramatic), personal providentialism (indirect and subtle), cosmological interventionism
(direct and dramatic), and cosmological providentialism (indirect and subtle). In order to differentiate evolutionary creationism from deistic evolution, Lamoureux is quick to give personal and biblical support to both forms of divine action in the individual lives of human beings, but how God acts outside of the realm of humanity is a completely different matter. While cosmological interventionism is the trademark of young-earth creationism (i.e., the cosmos was created by God over the course of six 24-hour days), evolutionary creationism denies that God worked in this fashion, preferring to look at God’s creative activity as “working through routine and uninterrupted natural processes that He ordains and sustains,” much like the embryological development of a child in the womb.

Next, Lamoureux proceeds to discuss the concept of “intelligent design” (cf. Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:18-23) and takes great pain to differentiate the ancient idea that the cosmos’ “beauty, complexity, and functionality” points to a Creator from the more recent “God-of-the-gaps” argumentation of the Intelligent Design community, which depicts God as a “meddler who tinkers about at irregular times in the making and functioning of the world,” resulting in gaps that “purportedly exist at different points in the continuum of natural processes, and these discontinuities are indicative of where God intervened directly in the cosmos.” While he admits the God-of-the-gaps argument as “logical and reasonable,” Lamoureux notes that “if gaps really exist in nature, then science will identify them, and they will ‘widen’ with further research.” Unfortunately, this paradigm ultimately falls short, as scientific advances in the last several decades have closed or are filling in these gaps with purely natural and rational explanations. Moreover, a God-of-the-gaps approach to science is actually counter-productive to scientific progress and, in some cases, can even destroy science. “Imagine,” Lamoureux asks the reader, “the implications for medical research. If one asserts that direct divine intervention causes AIDS . . . then there is no reason in trying to understand the natural processes through which [this disease] arose. The [AIDS virus] would run rampant through society and health authorities would not have any justification to do research on monkeys from Africa . . . .”

After differentiating “intelligent design” from the anti-science “God-of-the-gaps” paradigm, Lamoureux offers up his own intelligent design model, the Metaphysics-Physics Principle:

In the [physics] compartment, science offers vast and wonderful knowledge about the physical world. But it is dead silent with regard to the ultimate meaning of nature. For example, there is no scientific instrument that can detect whether the cosmos is teleological [i.e., infused with purpose and meaning] or dysteleological. Such a topic is metaphysical and dealt with only in religion and philosophy [i.e., the metaphysics compartment] . . . . However, theologians and philosophers depend on science in coming to their beliefs. They need facts about the world before they can decide on its utmost meaning. Stated concisely, metaphysics requires physics.

To arrive at an ultimate understanding of the world involves a metaphysical jump [toward] the scientific data. This is not a strict logical process like mathematics. In fact, there is no mathematical formula to move from physics to metaphysics. Of course, the jump does involve reason, a logically thought-out process that is objective in character. But it also includes intuition, an immediate impression that is more subjective.

Together, reason and intuition contribute to faith, and together these intellectual-spiritual processes lead to an ultimate belief regarding the findings of science. Indeed, this jump may legitimately be called a leap of faith because that is exactly what it is.Not too controversial so far. At least until Lamoureux asks why, if the cosmos’ attributes point to a Creator, some refuse to recognize this metaphysical reality. The answer, he says, lies in the traditional Christian explanation that sin impedes our ability to make this “leap of faith” (cf. Romans 1:28 and 2 Timothy 3:8-9). Religious skeptics, Lamoureux argues, must “concoct ‘reasons’ to explain away the powerful impact of intelligent design in order to maintain their own psychological stability and comfort.” Ouch. I’m not entirely sure about the whole “psychological stability and comfort” thing. I know plenty of well-adjusted atheists and agnostics who are, on the whole, very “moral” individuals and, in many cases, exhibit more Christian character than some professing Christians I know. Of course, as a theist sympathetic to most of Lamoureux’s views, I wouldn’t want to speak for my atheist and agnostic acquaintances on this matter. They will probably answer Lamoureux much better than I can.

The last major section of Chapter 3 deals with the “anthropic principle,” that is, the “assertion that evolutionary processes seem to be fashioned in such a way that inevitably led to the origin of humanity (Greek anthrōpos means ‘man, human being’). Physicists studying the Big Bang in the 1950s first coined the term. They discovered that the fundamental laws of nature are so delicately balanced that any minor changes would not have allowed the universe and life to evolve. For some scientists, this evidence of a finely tuned cosmos points to the existence of an Intelligent Designer.” From here, Lamoureux discusses some of the scientific data that supports the principle, invoking the views of physicist Stephen Hawking, scientist-theologian Alister McGrath, and others. Of course, Lamoureux is careful to assert that the anthropic principle does not constitute proof of God’s existence. Indeed.

Nevertheless, I hesitate to jump on the anthropic principle bandwagon, and I’m not entirely sure why. There is something about it that gets under my skin. What’s not to say that God couldn’t have designed an entirely different set of physical laws to create the cosmos? And how is it that we can assert that physical complexity and the existence of life couldn’t have come about by these other means? Because we exist in this particular universe with its accompanying physical laws, there is absolutely no method by which we can scientifically test how robust the anthropic principle really is. At this juncture, some may accuse me of sympathizing with the multiple-universe hypothesis, which posits that there could be an infinite number of universes in existence, all of which possess a unique set of physical laws; but this isn’t the case. I am absolutely agnostic on this point because my puny brain cannot conceive of any method by which we can test the multiple-universe hypothesis. To me, the idea that we could defies all logic.

Lamoureux does provide some responses to skeptics of the anthropic principle, but my doubts don’t appear to be included among those to which Lamoureux responds. Alas, my support for the anthropic principle continues to remain non-existent, if not extremely weak.

Bogged down with my language studies, I’m not sure when I’ll get around to posting my review/interaction with Chapter 4 (“The Ancient Science in the Bible”), but I know I’ll enjoy writing it. It was this chapter that really blew me away. Until next month (?) . . .


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Skewed Views of Science


HT: James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix.


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On Keeping Religion in Harmony with Science

The new age cannot live on naturalism or on secularism. Life becomes sterile and futile without the depth and power which come from participation in eternal realities. But this new age cannot any more successfully live on religious faiths that are out of harmony with known truth, or that hang loose in the air, cut apart from the fundamental intellectual culture of the age. The hour has struck for the serious business of rediscovering the foundations, and of interpenetrating all life and thought with the truths and realities of a victorious religious faith.
— Rufus Jones (1863-1948), Christian Faith in a New Age [1932], p.42


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BBC Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” – Darwinism and Religion

Just before Thanksgiving, I was contacted by a BBC Radio 4 researcher looking to include me as a guest on their Sony Award-winning Beyond Belief radio programme. Of interest to them was my blog and my personal journey from young-earth creationism to becoming a supporter of evolutionary theory (commonly referred to as Darwinism in the UK). After a trans-Atlantic 40-minute pre-interview over the phone with one of BBC Radio 4’s researchers, I was informed that they wanted to get me into my local NPR studio and conduct a real interview with Beyond Belief‘s host, Ernie Rea.
Over the course of several weeks, my particular role in the episode “Darwin and Religion” began to take shape. As usual, the show would feature three panelists “who discuss how their particular religious tradition affects their values and way of looking at the world, often revealing hidden and contradictory truths.” In this particular episode, the panelists would be Alexandra Wright, Senior Rabbi of London’s Liberal Jewish Synagogue; Dr. Alister E. McGrath, former Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University and current Chair of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College London; and Dr. Usama Hassan, Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University and part-time imam—each of whom would share their thoughts on their respective scriptures’ creation narratives and, upon listening to excerpts from my 20-minute interview (edited down to about 4 minutes in order to fit the show’s half-hour time slot), would discuss certain aspects of my journey as well as why adherents of their respective faiths feel threatened by the theory Darwin first published 150 years ago.

After a few technical difficulties, the interview went without a hitch. As you can imagine, a lot can be discussed in a 20-minute period and it was a challenge to reduce lengthy explanations into brief soundbytes. Moreover, I was curious as to which portions of the interview they would end up utilizing. Well, the episode aired this morning and I’m happy to report that it was an excellent discussion all around! (It’s available for download directly from BBC Radio 4’s website or as an iTunes podcast.) I admit that I listened to my portion of the programme first (13:23 to 17:13). I certainly didn’t want to publicize this radio appearance before it aired only to sound the fool. Overall, I was pleased with the excerpts themselves. (None of my views were misrepresented, although Dr. Hassan took exception to what he thought was my belief that young-earth creationism is “purely an American phenomena.” If you listen carefully, I never said that nor implied that.)

Of course, it was inevitable that much would be left out as a part of the editing process, in particular, the questions and answers regarding my interpretation of Genesis 1. However, that particular edit didn’t matter so much, as significant portions of my own understanding of the Genesis creation narrative was expressed during the show’s first half by both Rabbi Wright and Dr. McGrath. Another significant portion of the interview that was edited out was my answer to the question, “If you don’t observe scientific evidence for God, on what do you base your theism?” For those who want to know, it was essentially this: “Although I recognize ‘intelligent design’ in what I observe, I do not expect to find scientific evidence of God’s existence; my belief in God is, first and foremost, based on my encounter with a Jewish carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth, who has transformed my life. His presence in and influence on my life is so evident to me that to reject the existence and influence of Christ would be akin to denying the existence of my own wife and children.”

Regardless of the inevitable edits that come with working in this particular medium, I am extremely grateful that BBC Radio 4 took an interest in my journey and I want to thank BBC, host Ernie Rae, and researcher Elizabeth Hunt for allowing me to participate in this particular episode.


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Questions for Answers in Genesis #3

One of the biggest criticisms of young-earth creationist research is the fact that its research isn’t generally peer-reviewed. So when this week’s Answers Weekly email announced that Answers in Genesis’ year-old Answers Research Journal has, since its inception, “grown from a humble start with three peer-reviewed papers to a popular destination for serious creation researchers and a fast-growing repository of investigations from those on the new frontiers of science,” I was intrigued.
I visited the publication’s first volume and clicked on the About ARJ link to get a better idea of how it attained “peer-reviewed” status. This is what I found:

… papers in our journal will be reviewed by the best experts we have available to us through a large network of well-qualified creationist researchers, scientists, and theologians who are the best thinkers in their fields of creationist research.

Let me get this straight: creationist research is peer-reviewed by those who already hold to a creationist paradigm? Sorry, AiG. Having your research reviewed by people already predisposed to your paradigm does not constitute peer-reviewed research. According to Wikipedia:

Peer review (also known as refereeing) is the process of subjecting an author’s scholarly work, research or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field. Peer review requires a community of experts in a given (and often narrowly defined) field, who are qualified and able to perform impartial review. Impartial review, especially of work in less narrowly defined or inter-disciplinary fields …

While AiG’s research has been peer-reviewed from a technical standpoint (and I’m sure many would even call that admission into question), Answers Research Journal violates the spirit of peer review by limiting the research to those who are likely to agree with it. Indeed, peer “reviewers are typically anonymous and independent, to help foster unvarnished criticism, and to discourage cronyism in funding and publication decisions.”

If AiG wants to change the rules of what peer-reviewed research entails, don’t call it peer review. Although I don’t have proof, I’m confident that none of the research in ARJ was ever subjected to review by old-earth creationists (in the case of submissions supporting a young-earth) or evolutionists (in the case of submissions criticizing so-called “macro-evolution”). I would love to be proven wrong, so here’s AiG’s opportunity to see me wear egg on my face.

UPDATE: I love my eggs over-easy. Steve Matheson at Quintessence of Dust was kind enough to inform me that the number of ASJ papers peer-reviewed by an old-earth creationist is > 0.


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The Creation of an Evolutionist on Wordle

If my blog could be summed up in a few words,
I guess this is what it would look like:

Wordle: The Creation of an Evolutionist


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