Thursday, 19 March 2020

Near-complete transitional fossil sheds light on evolution of vertebrate hand

A 380 million year old fossil fish which features in an article by R. Cloutier, A.M. Clement, and M.S.Y. Lee et al, in the current edition of Nature has provided us with a critical insight into the evolution of the vertebrate hand.  Elpistostegi watsonii is the most complete epistostegalian (tetrapod-like fish) found to date. Discovered in Upper Devonian strata in Canada. Its importance lies in the preservation of the complete anatomy of the pectoral fin, which provides insigbht into the evolution of the tetrapod upper limb, and “further blurs[s] the line between fish and land vertebrates.” [1]

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Review - Grabbe, Lester L. Faith and Fossils: The Bible, Creation, and Evolution

Review - Grabbe, Lester L. Faith and Fossils: The Bible, Creation, and Evolution. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018.

As the founder and convenor of the European Seminar on Methodology in Israel’s History, Lester Grabbe is not someone whom I would have imagined likely to enter the overcrowded field of evolution / creation literature, even though his expertise as an historian of ancient Judaism eminently qualifies him to comment on the biblical end of the subject. Having expressed my reservation up front, I am happy to admit that my reservations about the value of a book on evolution / creation by a specialist in Second Temple Judaism were ill-placed. Grabbe has written a book that not only is informative and accessible, but which deserves a place on the shelf of anyone seriously interested in the subject.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Review: Nathan H. Lents “Human Errors – A Panorama of Our Glitches From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes”

Review: Nathan H. Lents Human Errors – A Panorama of Our Glitches From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes (2018: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Cell biologist Nathan H Lents, professor of biology at John Jay College, The City University of New York has written an engaging, highly accessible book showing the interested layperson how the errors in our body from the gross anatomical down to the genomic levels attest to our evolutionary origins. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Sociocultural analysis, the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, and Manners and Customs of the Bible. Yes, they do have a connection...

Last month, OT scholar John Walton gave a public lecture entitled “Do believers have to make a choice between science and faith?” at which he “explore[d] how we might faithfully read Genesis 1 and 2, in light of its Ancient Near Eastern context”. [1] Unsurprisingly, as Christadelphian - Origins Discussion noted, [2] Walton’s eminently sensible approach was met with unremitting hostility by an ultra-conservative part of the Christadelphian community which to date has twice attacked Walton, accusing him of denying the inspiration of the Bible and promoting an intellectual, elitist approach to the Bible. Christadelphiain - Origins Discussion has ably refuted these criticisms of Walton so there is no need for me to beat this particular dead horse into the dirt. However, the ongoing argument in the US about interpreting the Second Amendment of the US constitution provides a fascinating insight into the need for sociocultural analysis to more fully understand the Bible, which unlike the US constitution was written thousands of years ago in three different languages by people living in an alien culture to ours.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

When YECs share Israel-related archaeology news without recognising how it undermines their worldview

A few weeks ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced [1] the discovery of the largest neolithic settlement yet found in Israel. Located near the town of Motza just west of Jerusalem, the 9000 year old settlement would have numbered around 3000, making it the Neolithic equivalent of a city. Given that anthropologists believed that at this time the area west of Jordan was largely empty, with large settlements on the eastern side of Jordan, this discovery is understandably being hailed as momentous.

I've noticed over the years that fundamentalist Protestant Christians, particularly those with an obsessive interest in eschatology who see every geopolitical or sociocultural event that even tangentially affects Israel as an alleged fulfillment of Biblical prophecy will reflexively share Israel-related news. Recently, I noticed that one obscure website had shared a Times of Israel article commenting on this discovery. Browsing the website quickly made apparent to me its evolution denialism, which immediately raised the question of why a website maintained by people who appear to believe the entire universe is 6000 years old bothered to report the discovery of a Neolithic settlement that is three thousand years older than the age of the universe according to their view of reality.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Too Much Natural History for a Young Earth...

Sometimes, it's the little things that highlight the utter absurdity of the YEC worldview which asserts that not only is the Earth a mere 6000 years old, practically all the fossils were deposited by a global flood in a period lasting under one year a mere 4500 years ago. One of the best sources of such YEC-defeating material comes from Dr Joel Duff, whose website Naturalis Historia has featured here more than once. The last few posts at his website have features some of these fascinating glimpses into the past, including:
Mainstream geology has no problem explaining these discoveries, but as Duff points out, YECs who start with their conclusion - a young Earth and a single recent cataclysmic event operating over a few months as the mechanism which created these phenomena - have insuperable problems to face. 

Saturday, 27 April 2019

The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1 - Part 2: Creation via Divine Might

Creation as Divine Might

The first Biblical model of creation Mark Smith explores in The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1 [1] is creation as divine might, which looks at how creation emerges as a result of God’s victory of cosmic enemies. Smith notes that the best example of this model of creation is found in Psa 74:12-17 [2]
Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the earth.
You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You cut openings for springs and torrents; you dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the luminaries and the sun.
You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter.
Also of relevance is the narrative in Psa 89:8-13
O LORD God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O LORD? Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.
The north and the south—you created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.