Book preview: Creation or Evolution – Do we have to choose?

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© Aureliy Movila, Freeimages.com

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

Guest Post: Doing Faith and Science Like It’s 1718

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I was seated in the Bell Memorial Union at California State University, Chico, on a beautifully sunny fall day, interviewing one of my students, Giovanni, 19, who grew up in a devoted Catholic family and attended one of the finest Catholic high schools in the Silicon Valley before heading to Chico State.

These conversations always fascinate me because so many emerging adults—those 18-30 year olds among us (perhaps even reading this blog)—are declining to affiliate with any religion. When asked which box to check in response to “What religion are you?” 35-40% will mark “none.” I want to find out why. One key reason, noted by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group,emerging adults are becoming “nones” because they see the church as “antagonistic to science,” unwilling to take in, or take on, its insights and challenges. Continue reading

Guest Post: Entropy, Life and the Kingdom of God

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The Crab Nebula, a stellar explosion, a little hard to put back into an ordered state. Photo: Robert Sullivan/ Hubble – creative commons @flickr.com

That brilliant and entertaining atheist Steven Pinker has defined ‘the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.’

That might need a bit of explaining, not least to me. Entropy is, crudely, the measure of disorder in the universe. A low-entropy state is an ordered state; high entropy is a  disordered one. Because disorder is much more likely than order, disorder (high entropy) tends to be what everything leads to. Continue reading

Book preview – John Polkinghorne: Can a Scientist Believe?

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When I left the full-time practice of science and turned my collar round to become a clergyman, my life changed in all sorts of ways. One important thing did not change, however, for, in both my careers, I have been concerned with the search for truth.

Religion is not just a technique for keeping our spirits up, a pious anaesthetic to dull some of the pain of real life. The central religious question is the question of truth. Of course, religion can sustain us in life, or at the approach of death, but it can only do so if it is about the way things really are. Some of the people I know who seem to me to be the most clear-eyed and unflinching in their engagement with reality are monks and nuns, people following the religious life of prayerful awareness. Continue reading

Guest Post: The military, rogue soldiers and the immune system

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Regulatory T cells have prevented damage to a transplanted skin graft caused by other immune cells as can be seen by the skin being intact (red) as well as the vessels (green). The blue colour stains all the cells present in the skin. © Sim Tung, 2016

“Are there any supplements I can take to help my immune system?” “Will going vegan boost my immune system? Or what about organic food?” These are just some of the questions I get asked when I tell people I am a PhD candidate in immunology.

Those who aren’t yet bored of hearing about my PhD normally ask heavy questions that require technical answers. After all, how do you explain your field of work without throwing in the big fancy words? I myself can barely understand jobs in Finance or IT – cue Chandler Bing failing to explain ‘data-reconfiguration-and-statistical-analysis’ to his Friends for 10 years.  Anyway, in these moments it feels pretty awesome to see someone get excited and curious about science instead of Love Island. Continue reading

Book Preview – Slaying the Dragons: Destroying myths in the history of science and faith

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Science as we know it stems from monotheism.

The Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian, Polynesian, Chinese, and Meso-American cultures all built up complex and sophisticated systems for making sense of the natural world as they understood it within the context of their environments. … “Nature” was not conceived of as having an independent existence, but was, rather, an expression of many fickle deities in action, and could suddenly change at the failure of a sacrifice or the omission of a ritual. Continue reading

Guest Post: A Human Particular

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© Fiona Rich

The mist wisped its way over the sea towards the shore, curling over the beach and on to the promenade.  A deepening haze softened the contours of the beach huts and the cliffs behind.  I walked more slowly, feeling my way ahead.  The air was unusually still.  Scanning the beach I glimpsed a shape there.  It seemed to be blue and white; an abandoned deckchair perhaps?  Coming closer I could see it was a figure stretched out in the sand. Probably one of those giant puppets from yesterday’s carnival.  Then I heard a faint moan.  I approached cautiously.  As I drew closer I could see wide canvas trousers and a short jacket with brass buttons. A scene from my childhood floated past me.  It was a wet day and I was asking when it would be dry enough to play outside.  ‘Is there enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers?’ my mother asked, looking up at the sky.  So perhaps this figure was a sailor?  He seemed rather small.  There was seaweed hanging from his body.  Had he nearly drowned and been washed ashore?  I hesitated, being somewhat squeamish and also aware that I was on my way to a rehearsal. Continue reading