The Stories We Tell: Science, faith, and cultural distinctiveness

Tiamat
Babylonian cylinder seal. Ben Pirard at nl.wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time, there was a goddess called Tiamat. Tiamat was the ocean, chaotic and powerful. Tiamat’s husband, freshwater, was bothered by the noisy younger gods and wanted to kill them but Tiamat disagreed and warned her son. When Tiamat’s husband was then killed by the younger gods she wanted revenge, so she made eleven monsters to hunt them down – including her own children. 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 make 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 – bloodthirsty and violent epic. I wonder what the parents might have thought about their children being exposed to stories like this? Continue reading

Book Preview: Is There Purpose in Biology? The cost of existence and the God of love

t-lymphocyte-killing-cancer-cell-wellcome-images-odra-noel.jpg
‘St George and the dragon’, an artistic interpretation of a T lymphocyte killing a cancer cell, Wellcome images, © Odra Noel

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

Book Preview – Reason and Wonder: Why science and faith need each other

IMG_5055
© Ruth Bancewicz

‘from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved’

Charles Darwin

…the origins of all species, including our own, are found in natural processes that can be observed and studied scientifically. In other words, evolution demonstrates that our own existence is woven into the very fabric of the natural world. Seen in this light, the human presence is not a mistake of nature or a random accident, but a direct consequence of the characteristics of the universe. What evolution tells us is that we are part of the grand, dynamic and ever-changing fabric of life that covers our planet. To a person of faith, an understanding of the evolutionary process only deepens our appreciation of the scope and wisdom of the Creator’s work.

For Christians today, the scientific successes of evolutionary theory present Continue reading

Guest Post: Evolution and Education – Why Faith Schools Should Teach More Biology

teaching-661748_1920Education has come surprisingly late to the science and religion discussion. However, we are now beginning to see articles emerging about the importance of schooling for people’s views about various aspects of science and religion. One of the most interesting of these articles is one that has just appeared in the prestigious journal Public Understanding of Science, authored by Dr Amy Unsworth at The Faraday Institute in Cambridge and Professor David Voas at University College London.

What Unsworth and Voas did was to cut through a lot of what has been written about the effect of faith schooling on people’s understanding of evolution and views about it by actually collecting some rigorous data. They obtained Continue reading

Guest Post: Purposeful Life – goal-oriented organisms and faith in the Creator

B0010971 Salmonella Typhimurium infection of a human epithelial cell
Salmonella infection of a human epithelial cell (cropped), by David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Wellcome Images, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

A horde of salmonella bacteria invades a mouse’s guts. The rodent’s immune system is on the alert, but something unusual happens. A minority of the invaders throw themselves onto the mouse’s colon bugs, even though their attack is too risky and they die. Their comrades take advantage of the breach, yet they are not as aggressive themselves.[i]

The berserk salmonella “are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the greater good”, a researcher explains. “You could compare this act to Kamikaze fighter pilots of the Japanese army.” This scenario raises the question, did they do that on purpose? Of course bacteria do not have conscious intentions, but it is at least possible that in another sense there is genuine purpose in this behaviour. This is also an important point from the perspective of Christian faith, which involves belief in a purposeful divine creation. Continue reading

Guest Post: Signing the Biological Peace Treaty

Alice and REd Queen from aliceinwonderland.net

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” [1]

The crazy world depicted by Lewis Carroll in “Through the Looking-Glass” is such a fast-changing and dynamic place that you need to run and run just so you can stay put. The living world operates in a similar way, with a perhaps surprising outcome. Continue reading

Guest Post: A Hominin By Any Other Name (Would Be Just As Wise)

man-in-the-mountain-1396693-1280x960 Kristin Smith freeimages
by Kristin Smith, freeimages

If you were asked to define the entire human species with one word, what would it be? Think about it. Tricky, isn’t it? When Linnaeus formalised the scientific method of naming species in the 18th-century, he settled on ‘wise’ as our defining characteristic. He called us Homo sapiens, literally meaning ‘wise man’. Was he right to do so? Is that what God created us to be? Continue reading