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Science and Theology

Titlu: Science and Theology. An introduction
Autor: John Polkinghorne
Editura: Fortress Press
Anul apariţiei: 1998
ISBN: 0-8006-3153-6
Preț: 25$

Recenzie de Valentin Teodorescu

Introduction

In his book Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister McGrath affirmed that there are three main approaches to the relation between Christian theology and natural sciences today: one that affirms the continuity between science and theology (the Christian faith should be reinterpreted in terms consistent with the accepted wisdom of the age), a second one that affirms the distinctiveness of theology and science, and a third one that affirms the opposition between theology and science [1].

The position of John Polkinghorne, whose ideas I will try to evaluate in this essay, seems to be the second one (theology and science are distinct, each of them having its own sphere of competence); but he also considers that they can mutually interact, to the benefit of both.

Polknighome himself, in Science and Theology, the book to which I will especially refer, calls the first position „assimilation” the second position „consonance” considering himself a consonantist.[2]

In the present essay, I intend to show, using some examples from his book, that generally he achieved his goal: the ‘intermarriage of scientific and theological insight’ to which he refers is cogent and elegant, and any open-minded reader will find it extremely compelling.

However, in my opinion (which I admit that is corrigible), there are some cases when his proposed solution may not be in perfect agreement with what the Scripture says, or when, at least from my point of view, the supposed agreement is debatable.

My essay is divided in two parts. The first part refers to the insights that theology offers to science, and connected with that, to the possibility of a natural theology. The second part refers to the insights that science offers to theology: on the one hand to the way in which some scientific theories such as quantum mechanics, quantum cosmology and chaos theory may give insights to biblical doctrines such as Creation, Fall and God’s Attributes; on the other hand to the way in which the scientific epistemology (especially) may give insights to the doctrine of Christ. (mai mult…)

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Titlu original: The Language of God – A Scientist Evidence for Belief
Autor: Francis S. Collins
Traducător: –
Editura: Free Press
Anul apariţiei: 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-8639-1
Preț: 10 $

   

 Recenzie de Valentin Teodorescu

– Primele două părți ale recenziei pot fi citite aici și aici

If in the area of the transitional fossils and the evolutionary mechanism dr. Collins does not seem (to us) very convincing – and some of his critics explain that evaluation by his eventual lack of close familiarity with the critical literature in this direction (due to the fact that this is not his area of specialty) -, what can we say about his arguments coming from his area of expertise, the Human Genome?

Here his arguments seem to be more powerful indeed: for example, he argues that the existence of some repetitive elements – which originated, in his opinion, in some “jumping genes”, and which could be found in the same places in the mouse’ and human’ genome – is a proof of a common ancestor between humans and mice. He affirms that, although some of these kinds of elements might be functional – and not Junk DNA sequences –, this cannot be the case with the aforementioned example, because there are, in the case of the mouse and the humans, some repetitive elements which became one-legged – losing a part of their AND sequence, and, as result, losing any possibility of functioning. In many cases, observes Collins, these one-legged elements are found in parallel positions in human and mouse genome. This seems to be a proof of their common descent, because this process can happen only during the migration of a jumping gene – when the respective process cripples this gene.

Another argument refers to some pseudogene cases (gene with one or more defects which make their original information useless). For example, the caspase-12 gene of the chimpanzee and mouse functions perfectly, but that of the humans does not: why would God insert a non-functional gene right in this place?

And last but not least, the difference between the 23 chromosomes pears of the humans and the 24 chromosomes pears of the chimpanzee seems to be the result of a fusion between two chromosomes of medium size of the chimpanzee, 2A and 2B, which resulted in the chromosome 2 of the human. The fact that those sequences are found exactly where the theory of evolution has predicted seems to confirm the idea of a Common Ancestor.

How could we answer to these real and serious challenges to the Creationist model – which clearly would suggest (at least) the truth of the “Common Ancestor” hypothesis? (mai mult…)

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Titlu original: The Language of God – A Scientist Evidence for Belief
Autor: Francis S. Collins
Traducător: –
Editura: Free Press
Anul apariţiei: 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-8639-1
Preț: 10 $

   

 Recenzie de Valentin Teodorescu

Partea întâi și a treia pot fi citite aici și aici.

For example, although he admits that the Cambrian explosion might be used as an argument for a supernatural intervention, he immediately rejects it as representing an unconvincing appeal to the “God of the gaps” fallacy, and suggests – against Stephen Gould’s skepticism -, that this explosion of life might represent nothing more than a change in Earth’s condition which allowed the fossilization of a great number of species. He neglects here the fact that, for example, Precambrian strata show incredibly preserved microscopic fossils of sponge embryos (which are small and soft-bodied), and that in the Precambrian records the scientists found – beyond the old microbes which appeared more than 580 million years ago -, also the Vendian strata (approx 570 million years ago), which, at best, might contain only a very small fraction of the many new phyla that appear in Cambrian. The idea is that the Precambrian strata (and other fossil strata too) are not poorly sampled (as some evolutionists would like to believe), but rather they are truly representative of the history of life.[1]

How about the other fossil records? Collins considers that – in spite of the many unsolved enigmas -, there are good evidences that we already have the essential transition links between aquatic life and land dwelling amphibians, between reptiles and birds, between reptile and mammals, and between terrestrial mammals and whales.[2] But how convincing are these supposed transitions?

 For a long time it was said that between aquatic life and amphibians there are no true transitional fossils: the land dwelling amphibians appear suddenly in the fossil record. More recently paleontologists have found fossils that seem to show a connection between fish and tetrapods – in particular the structure of the front fins of some bony fish and the forelimbs of an early tetrapod. But even if we might admit this connection as possible, the common ancestry of all tetrapods is not yet evident: since the first amphibian fossils appear at the same time – but yet they are separated by large distances (Greenland, South America, Australia, Russia), and since – moreover -, it seems to exist an incongruence between their molecular data[3]  it would appear that the same transition has taken place simultaneously in multiple locations, a conclusion many scientists would find very improbable.[4]

How about the reptiles and birds transition? The evolutionists say that Archaeopterix is the missing link between reptiles and birds, because it has a toothed jaw like a reptile and true feathers like a modern bird. But the problem is that Archaeopterix was a true bird (and birds with toothed jaw were found also in later strata), and her supposed bird-like Dinosaur ancestors were million generations younger than her.[5] (mai mult…)

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Titlu original: The Language of God – A Scientist Evidence for Belief
Autor: Francis S. Collins
Traducător: –
Editura: Free Press
Anul apariţiei: 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-8639-1
Preț: 10 $

   

 Recenzie de Valentin Teodorescu

Francis Collins is one of the greatest scientists of our times. As specialist in medical genetics at Michigan University, he contributed to the discovery of the genetic errors that lead to the apparition of cystic fibrosis, of neurofibromatosis, and of Huntington’s disease. In addition to that, as director of Human Genome Project, he had the great merit of leading the team which – for the first time in world history – mapped the Human Genome.  And even more interesting (for the Christian community), is the fact he also is an engaged evangelical Christian, a Christian who believes that between science and faith there is no contradiction. On the contrary, between them is harmony; we need both of them: we need to know how to integrate them if we hope to build a reasonable and satisfying worldview.

So, what is Collins’ motivation for writing another book – The Language of God – having as its subject the much debated relation between science and religion? Are not enough books written on this topic?  Surely there are. But – we guess – Collins is concerned that in this respect there is – in the public opinion – a false image of the science-religion relationship: the idea that between these two domains is an opposition: this motivates him of writing his book.

 On the one side, we have the new atheism perspective (represented by people like Richard Dawkins), which suggests that religion is the enemy of science – that a honest and intelligent person cannot accept neo-darwinism and embrace in the same time Christian faith.

 On the other side, we have the Young Earth Creationism position (represented by people like Henry Morris), which – in Collins’ perspective – suggests the opposite idea: that science is an enemy for religion (although the YEC proponents would deny such an affirmation, Collins still considers that, once they have refused to accept evolutionary theory as true, they have refused in fact the truth of science – because neo-darwinism is, for Collins, real science). In contrast with these two opposite (and extreme) views, Collins suggests that there is a third way, a way which successfully reconciles neo-darwinian evolution with Christian faith – a view which affirms a full reconciliation between science and religion.

But is this reconciling perspective plausible? – one might ask. What we will try in this review is to weight Collins’ arguments in this respect.

Before starting our analysis, it is important to observe that, in many respects, Collins is extremely qualified to write such a book. First of all, he speaks with the authority of a great scholar: this fact is by itself a strong argument for his position. What better support for the harmony between science and religion than a scholar who fully (and knowledgeable) embraces both domains? And secondly, he brings some arguments from an area which few other people would know better than him: the human genome. This should be, by itself, a motif of humility for us, as reviewers: any critical argument brought by us to this book needs to be backed by serious data and bibliography – if it is to have any trace of plausibility.

I would like, in the beginning, to start by appreciating many of Collins’ arguments for his case. If one would refer only to his ethical-theological arguments, they are intelligently and elegantly formulated; in many respects he uses in treating these matters ideas from serious Christian thinkers as C.S. Lewis (his most admired spiritual mentor), Saint Augustine, John Polkinghorne, Ian Barbour, Allister McGrath, etc. These kinds of arguments have even greater power as he combines – when stating them – reason with passion: that is because they played a key role in his conversion; as a result, he is “experientially” attached to them (not just intellectually).  (Collins started, as C.S. Lewis, Allister McGrath and others did before him, with being an atheist; and finished as they also did, by becoming a Christian – after the encounter with the moral argument and with the fascinating figure of Christ). (mai mult…)

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