My kids love Winnie the Pooh. They love to parade around our flat and sing, “The wonderful thing about Tiggers is Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made of rubber, their bottoms are made of springs!” It’s a song that Tigger the tiger sings in the Disney film Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Tigger is explaining to Pooh Bear the things that make him so wonderful. All of the individual parts that make up Tigger are the things that make him so wonderful. Is this not also true when we look at nature? Continue reading
All Christians are, by definition, creationists. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament expresses this very clearly when he writes:
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:2)
We cannot come to know God personally by faith without also believing that he is Creator of all that exists. The Apostles’ Creed affirms: ‘I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth’, a declaration central to the beliefs of all mainstream denominations. So Christians are by definition those who believe in a creator God; they are creationists. Now of course there is the slight problem that in common usage the term ‘creationist’ is attached to a particular set of beliefs held by some Christians, as well as by some Muslims and Jews, and these beliefs relate to the particular way in which it is thought that God has created. For example, some creationists believe that the earth is 10,000 years old or less. Other creationists believe that the earth is very old, but that God has intervened in a miraculous way at various stages of creation, for example to bring about new species. Since words are defined by their usage, we have to accept that this is the kind of belief to which the word ‘creationist’ refers. But this should not mask the fact that in reality all Christians are creationists in a more basic sense – it is just that they vary in their views as to how God created. Continue reading
The simple act of buying a coffee and a croissant in a coffee shop rests on a massive chain of cooperation dating back thousands of years. There was the growing and processing of raw materials, sourcing and supplying them, manufacturing products, setting up a business, training staff, and so on. Perhaps the most important links in this chain were the people who shared their knowledge about all those processes across the globe, and over many generations.
Humans are unusually cooperative, but other living organisms also play the same game. In Supercooperators: Evolution, Altruism and Human behaviour, or Why we need each other to succeed, the biological mathematician Martin Nowak, and his cooperating co-author the science journalist Roger Highfield, explain how this process works. Continue reading
For me as a biologist, evolutionary and developmental biology – evo devo for short – is one of the most wonderful, illuminating, useful areas of study. In the last few decades we have gone from guessing at how things might have evolved, to having some actual mechanisms of how organs, and even whole organisms, can change. As a Christian, I am interested in this subject first of all because it’s fascinating. Having been freed by Biblical Scholars from feeling that I need to read the Bible as a science book, I can now go and explore God’s world using the tools of science, thanking him for all the incredible things I find. Secondly, this knowledge is incredibly useful. The more we learn about how our bodies develop and grow, the more we can treat disease. Continue reading
Remembering UK scientist R. J. “Sam” Berry (1934–2018), a real scientist with real faith
“As a Christian at university, I was faced with a hierarchy of possibilities. The really holy people became missionaries, the rather holy people were ordained, and the fairly holy people became teachers; the ‘also rans’ did all the other jobs in the world,” so wrote R. J. Berry in his book Real Science, Real Faith. Having discovered that he either couldn’t or shouldn’t do any of the “holy” jobs, Berry, known to most as Sam, eventually realized “that we have all been given different talents and callings, and that there is not (and should not be) such a thing as a typical or normal Christian.”
Sam Berry was anything but a normal Christian. He attended his local church regularly, went to the monthly prayer meetings whenever he could, and served on the church council. For the last 30 years of his life he was licensed to preach, and for about 20 years he took part in national synod meetings. This would have been a huge commitment on top of a regular job and raising three children, but Sam was a high-capacity person who was not content to conform to the stereotype of “also-ran”—those who run races but never win. He demonstrated to the best of his ability that every single Christian is in full-time ministry.
“Once upon a time, there was a demiurge called Tiamat. Tiamat was the ocean, chaotic and powerful. Tiamat’s husband, freshwater, was troubled by their sons – the gods – who had come together and made great noise, and wanted to kill them. Tiamat disagreed and warned them. But when Tiamat’s husband was then killed by the gods she wanted revenge, so she made eleven monsters to hunt them down. In the end, the young champion Marduk challenged Tiamat to a battle and killed her. Marduk cut Tiamat in two, using one half of her body to create the heavens, and the other the earth.”
When the people of Israel were exiled in Babylon, if any of their youngsters ever got to receive an education they might have been taught the Babylonian creation poem Enuma Elish. The highly abbreviated version I have given here is just a flavour of this extremely – to my ears – somewhat violent epic. I wonder what the parents might have thought about their children being exposed to stories like this? Continue reading
Reactions to the question “Is There Purpose in Biology?” are likely to vary greatly. One reaction will be “of course not”: watch your favourite natural history programme and it’s obvious that chance rules. Some animals get lucky and do well, others get eaten young, and there’s no overall rhyme nor reason to it. Others responding to the same question, most likely coming from a religious worldview, will respond “of course”: God has an overall purpose for everything, including biology. Others, perhaps the majority, are more likely to say: “Well it all depends on what you mean by purpose…” Continue reading