Monthly Archives: February 2010

John Haught: Making Sense of Evolution

THIS is about a new book by John Haught, a Roman Catholic theologian whom we regard as an important figure in The Controversy between evolution and creationism. He was an expert witness for the winning side in the landmark case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. We’ve previously posted what the opinion by Judge John E. Jones III said about his testimony. See John Haught: Witness in the Dover Case.

TalkOrigins has Dr. Haught’s complete testimony starting here: Trial transcript: Day 5. The cross-examination continues here.

Dr. Haught has just had a new book published. Here’s the link to its Amazon listing: Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life.

This is the “Product Description” at that website, presumably from the publisher — the bold font was added by us:

Evolution makes good scientific sense. The question is whether it makes good theological sense as well. Christians who find evolution contrary to faith often do so because they focus solely on the issues of the world’s design and the notion of the gradual descent of all life from a common ancestry. But that point of view overlooks the significance of the dramatic narrative going on beneath the surface. What evolution is has become more important than what it means.

Haught suggests that, rather than necessarily contradicting one another, theologians and Darwinian scientists actually share an appreciation of the underlying meaning and awe-inspiring mystery of evolution. He argues for a focus on evolution as an ongoing drama and suggests that we simply cannot — indeed need not — make complete sense of it until it has fully played out.

Ultimately, when situated carefully within a biblical vision of the world as open to a God who makes all things new, evolution makes sense — scientifically and theologically.

This is an important book by an important thinker. You may not agree with Haught in all things, but he’s a friend of science. We need more like him in the field of theology.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationism and Earthquakes

BECAUSE of the recent earthquake in Chile, we bring you a guest column appearing in the Abilene Reporter News, a daily newspaper based in Abilene, Texas. In the pages of that worthy organ we read The anatomy of a earthquake. Yes, dear reader, that’s the exact title — it says “a earthquake.”

The author of today’s column is Earl Harrison, who is described as being a certified professional geologist in Abilene. We Googled around to see who he is, but didn’t find much. We learned, however, that our cyber colleague, John Pieret, has scooped us on this story. To acknowledge his priority we link to his fine blog article on this same topic: Disconnect.

Although we found no indication anywhere of Earl’s educational status, none is needed. Earl must be a respected intellect, because the Abilene Reporter News has published his writing before, for example: U.S. must keep Christian roots. Verily, Earl’s education speaks for itself. Here are some excerpts from today’s column, with bold added by us:

The earthquake that devastated the island of Haiti was the result of natural and explainable earth processes.

Earl starts out okay. But then:

As we take a look at the intelligent design of the creation of our solar system, with this earth being included, we must conclude that the total creation was the handy-work of a “Supreme Intelligence” force, which we credit to God.

Deep thinking, Earl. Way to go! Let’s read on:

For the atheist, agnostics and any other nonbeliever, there is no other possible answer. They cannot prove otherwise.

Aaaargh!! We continue:

In the creation, God instilled all of the principle physical forces in the creation that would preserve the creation and control its continued existence. There cannot be any other logical conclusion for the creation.

The people of Abilene are fortunate to have such a giant living among them. Here’s more from the pen of this great man:

In the study of our earth, science has determined facts about the earth and its functioning. Science has determined that this earth is composed of an outer layer of rigid rocks and designated it as the crust. Below the rigid crust is a layer of molten magnetic earth materials, called the mantle. The innermost portion is a solid body, designated as the core.

Wow! Magnetic mantle, solid core. Who knew?

We’re going to skip most of Earl’s column, because we can’t find anything else worth excerpting — wait, you must see this:

The damage done to the island of Haiti is horrible proof of the earthquake.

Behold, O ye earthquake skeptics — there’s the proof!

And so we leave Earl and the town of Abiline. Bless ‘em all.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Texas SBOE Election: McLeroy vs Ratliff

Don McLeroy (left) and Thomas Ratliff (right)

AS we’ve been reporting, for example here: Texas SBOE Elections on 02 March and here: Primary Election Picks, the Texas primary elections for the State Board of Education are this Tuesday, 02 March.

As a special treat, here’s Part 1 of a debate between Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist, and Thomas Ratliff, who deserves to win. This video is about ten minutes long. If that’s not enough, there are more YouTube offerings at this link. You can also watch parts 2 through 6 of the debate.

There’s no need to thank us. Making this thrilling material available is the only reward your Curmudgeon requires.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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In Praise of Promiscuity

IT has been a year since we discussed this happy topic. That’s when we posted: Female Promiscuity and Evolution. Now have some interesting information from the University of Exeter. Their news office reports this story Does promiscuity prevent extinction? Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Promiscuous females may be the key to a species’ survival, according to new research by the Universities of Exeter and Liverpool.

Your Curmudgeon finds this to be exciting news. Let’s read on:

Published in Current Biology, the study could solve the mystery of why females of most species have multiple mates, despite this being more risky for the individual.

Here’s the abstract: Polyandry Prevents Extinction. You will need a subscription to read the full article. We continue with the news release:

Known as ‘polyandry’ among scientists, the phenomenon of females having multiple mates is shared across most animal species, from insects to mammals. This study suggests that polyandry reduces the risk of populations becoming extinct because of all-female broods being born.

How big a risk is that? Here’s more:

This can sometimes occur as a result of a sex-ratio distortion (SR) chromosome, which results in all of the Y chromosome ‘male’ sperm being killed before fertilisation. The all-female offspring will carry the SR chromosome, which will be passed on to their sons in turn resulting in more all-female broods. Eventually there will be no males and the population will die out.

Egad! Moving along:

For this study, the scientists worked with the fruitfly Drosophila pseudoobscura. They gave some populations the opportunity to mate naturally, meaning that the females had multiple partners. The others were restricted to having one mate each. They bred several generations of these populations, so they could see how each fared over time.

A splendid test. What happened? Here’s another excerpt:

Over fifteen generations, five of the twelve populations that had been monogamous became extinct as a result of males dying out. The SR chromosome was far less prevalent in the populations in which females had the opportunity to have multiple mates and none of these populations became extinct.

A great triumph for the promiscuous females! On with the news:

The study shows how having multiple mates can suppress the spread of the SR chromosome, making all-female broods a rarity. This is because males that carry the SR chromosome produce only half as many sperm as normal males. When a female mates with multiple males, their sperm will compete to fertilise her eggs. The few sperm produced by males carrying the SR chromosome are out-competed by the sperm from normal males, and the SR chromosome cannot spread.

And now we come to the end:

Lead author Professor Nina Wedell of the University of Exeter’s School of Biosciences, said: “We were surprised by how quickly – within nine generations – a population could die out as a result of females only mating with one partner. Polyandry is such a widespread phenomenon in nature but it remains something of an enigma for scientists. This study is the first to suggest that it could actually save a population from extinction.”

So, gentlemen, when the love of your life is unfaithful, try to look on the bright side. She’s averting extinction. Darwin would understand. Surely you can too.

Update: See Darwin, Evolution, and Promiscuous Squirrels.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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