Sacred texts are central to many faith traditions, but how do they retain their authority as divine revelation in a supposedly rational age? What happens when the Word of God appears to contradict modern scientific knowledge about the world? And how do individual believers reconcile these potential conflicts?
Tom Kaden:So welcome, John Evans, to this talk. Could you first of all please say a little about who you are and your general areas of study?
John H. Evans: My name is John Evans. I’m a Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. I was trained as what’s called a sociologist of religion. The basic difference between a sociologist of religion and, for example, a theologian, is a theologian makes arguments based upon faith presuppositions, like the bible was influenced by God or something like that. A sociologist of religion makes claims about religious people, religious institutions, using secular forms of argument, mostly through social science. Continue reading ‘Most people don’t have the time to be concerned with systems of ideas, because they have day jobs’
For nearly 35 years, Gallup has polled Americans regarding their views on human evolution using a polling question that gives respondents three options to choose from regarding human origins. Surprisingly, the results of the survey question remained relatively steady over time. Since 1982, the percentage of Americans that believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years has remained relatively stable at just over 40%. Continue reading What’s in a name? Does Darwin hinder the acceptance of evolution?
Today, Friday February 12th 2016, is the 207th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Celebrated around the world as ‘Darwin Day’, events across 6 continents from Tel-Aviv to Tokyo will commemorate the English naturalist’s work, explore his legacy, and discuss the current state of affairs in the field of Evolutionary Biology and beyond. Whilst the majority of those attending lectures or participating in events today may do so to simply learn more about Darwin’s work, it is an opportune time to consider more deeply ‘why Darwin?’ Why not Newton, Einstein or Turing Day? Further, are we naïve to presume that such commemorative days are purely about celebrating history and science? Is what on the surface seems like a secular celebration of a historical scientific figure, in danger of alienating those with religious beliefs, and deifying one figure above all others? Continue reading Darwin Day: Celebrating Without Deifying
Joseph Farman: “Well I mean as Scouts one went to church […] I don’t think I ever found it very attractive and […] when you sort of kept saying, ‘You use these three letters together, g-o-d, and I haven’t yet fathomed out what on Earth you mean by it’ and then they just say, ‘Well forget all about that, you know, it will come, it will come.’ [Laughs] To which the answer is […] that if you think in the silly ways which I do, I guess it never comes at all. [Laughs] There’s no room for it. […] Science is thinking you know how things work. And so you make something work and it either works as you think it does, or it doesn’t work as you think it does, and now you move on. It’s no good sort of praying to God and if something doesn’t happen so – I mean this isn’t a test of anything.”Continue reading Talking about science, religion and oneself
Evolution doesn’t seem scary. It is the processes of change in heritable traits of biological entities over successive generations, which give rise to biological diversity between and within organisms. This isn’t something likely to make you cower behind your popcorn box at the multiplex. However, the horror genre has frequently borrowed from science to create cinematic nightmares and evolutionary concepts provide a rich source of raw materials. In this piece I outline four key themes in horror cinema: ‘super-evolved monsters’, ‘abomination’, ‘devolution’ and ‘monstrous mutation’ all of which are informed by evolutionary science, and along the way I’ll suggest a few films for your Halloween viewing pleasure.
Like the harbinger of doom in any good slasher movie I must offer some warnings. Firstly, horror films frequently misrepresent the reality of evolutionary science; the underlying themes are influenced by evolution, but no film discussed is scientifically accurate. Secondly, this isn’t an exhaustive review; I’d welcome you to consider these themes in relation to your own horror favourites. Thirdly, some of the hyperlinks link to scenes of a graphic nature. And lastly, there may be spoilers ahead. You have been warned! Continue reading Un-Natural Selection: Evolutionary Concepts in Horror Cinema