Those who are suspicious of science are missing part of the restoration

Scientific literacy is falling in America. Part of the reason is that its value is being under-appreciated by a larger and larger segment of the population. Suspicions about evolution and climate change have created an atmosphere where two of science’s most strongly supported investigations are dismissed. To do that, you have to dismiss science itself. Really. Continue reading Those who are suspicious of science are missing part of the restoration

Life as Emergent Agential Systems: Tendencies Without Teleology

 So here is the whole thing. I sent his off  for review last week and had restructured it so completely that posting in the sensible pieces based on what went before was impossible. So this is the whole shebang. When you run across sections you have read before you can just skim and move on. This is very long for a post. Sorry. 

For those who don’t want to read this long, long paper in a nutshell the argument is:

A) Life has evolved in a completely Darwinian fashion. 

B) Even so their are strategies that evolution has stumbled upon over and over like the move to individuality and sociality which produces more individuation at higher levels. Other’s include the emergence of life imbedded in a context, changes the design space upon which it rests through influencing and restructuring that space in a constant back and forth between life and that design space. The result in genuine novelty.

C) Bergson, a French philosopher of the early 20th century, noticed that there were creative tendencies in evolution that life uses again and again despite the non-teleological direction of evolutionary change. 

D) This has implications for theology:

  1. The creation is ongoing.

  2. That the creation is unique, unpredicted, and surprising and worthy of preservation and protection. Life is not a set of predefined necessary forms.

  3. That emergence means that the universe is open ended and that surprises await in what evolves. 


For: What Is Life? Theology, Science, and Philosophy Conference

Krakow, Poland June 2011


Biology has something relevant to say to theology and visa-versa (Cunningham 2010), and as a biologist I would like to hone in on some aspects of life that may gesture to perspectives that cross disciplinary lines. In particular I would like to draw on the work of Henri Bergson, long ignored in biology. However, he is growing in relevance as problems in understanding what life is and how it enfolds in an emergent universe become more pressing and more perplexing. Continue reading Life as Emergent Agential Systems: Tendencies Without Teleology

Mormons and Evolution

Myself, my longtime friend, BYU colleague and mentor, Duane Jeffery, and my buddy the always entertaining James McLachlan, conviene with the amazing Dan Wotherspoon for nearly a couple of hours discussion and commentary on the LDS Church and its historical and contemporary relationship with Evolution.

Click here to go to the Mormon Matters Podcast . . . → Read More: Mormons and Evolution

Mormonism and Evolution, Life as Emergent Agential Systems: My Presentation at the Krakow Theology Conference Part II

My talk at the Science and Religion Conference held in Krakow Poland, “What is Life? Theology, Science, and Philosophy” continued (Part I is found here) . . .

Life’s processes are often mischaracterized as a simple reductive scheme that misses some of life’s most astonishing features. Bergson criticized this as finalism in which the whole was given. This ‘whole’ can be seen in Philosopher Daniel Dennett idea of a design space. He uses it to argue for a deterministic universe, but the idea is that there are only so many possible combinations of DNA that produce viable ‘creatures.’ From a given starting point, the unfolding of different life forms, must wander around on this space, driven by local selection regimes, but the set is finite, and the steps must be small ones. Richard Dawkins uses the same notion in his view of ‘climbing mount improbable’ in which he demonstrates how evolution can completely explain the designed complexity of life on earth. They are right that evolution completely explains complexity, but the question that deserves some consideration is can we ask where the design space comes from? Of course that is in principle unanswerable from a scientific perspective.
Continue reading Mormonism and Evolution, Life as Emergent Agential Systems: My Presentation at the Krakow Theology Conference Part II

Mormonism and Evolution, Life as Emergent Agential Systems, and a Basia Bulat Concert

Where have I been? It’s been a while so I suppose some explanation is in order. I’ve been attending meetings! First I presented a paper at a Science and Religion Conference held in Krakow Poland, called “What is Life? Theology, Science, and Philosophy.” It was a theology meeting exploring questions about ‘Life’ from multiple religious perspectives. It was a blast hobnobbing with priests, monks, Jewish thinkers, Catholic theologians, and most fun of all, a stunningly bright contingent of LDS thinkers including Jacob Baker, Jim Faulconer, Ralph Handcock, Adam Miller, Joseph Spencer, and Justin White. I don’t think I’ve had more fun since I was a teenager (Which fun included a Basia Bulat concert in a small cafe in Krakow). Continue reading Mormonism and Evolution, Life as Emergent Agential Systems, and a Basia Bulat Concert

Dear Steve: I’m ready to do Intelligent Design research!

Dear Steve,

I love that you are a Mormon Scientist. I have a question. I’ve decided to become an Intelligent Design scientist. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to get started? I’m really committed to this and ready to devote great resources (my family is independently wealthy) and the rest of my life to the cause. However, I can’t seem to find out exactly what I should do to proceed? Can you help? I set up my laboratory and I’m ready to start. I’ve got test tubes, DNA sequencer, all the latest equipment, but the Discovery Institute’s website seems not to have any practical advice on what to do at this point.

Yours Faithfully,

Lost in confusion.

Continue reading Dear Steve: I’m ready to do Intelligent Design research!

Intelligent Design: snake-oil science cries ‘whaa whaa whaa’

It always seems surprising when I hear LDS people arguing for the Discovery Institute’s fundamentalist evangelical campaign of Intelligent Design as if there were some science behind the idea. ID was exposed long ago as a backdoor attempt to get creationism taught in the schools. This was made abundantly clear in the Dover Trial, in which ID was put under the microscope and found to be a fuzz ball rather than a living organism—by a conservative Christian judge nonetheless. It’s an idea without a modicum of scientific merit. There are no scientific institutes, programs or organizations that recognize it as a science. Still, myths persist. Here are a few. Continue reading Intelligent Design: snake-oil science cries ‘whaa whaa whaa’

Guest blogging for Manuary at fMh

Check out my post at fMh for Manuary!

Why science is so darned powerful

Crossposted at

What is Science? A school kid’s definition goes something like this: Find a hypothesis (from somewhere); make sure it is falsifiable; test it against reality; if it fails, discard it; if it doesn’t, published it. Rinse and repeat. We’ll call this SKD view of science for shorthand.

There is some truth in it. In the same way that, being a good tennis player means, being able to hit the ball really hard, keeping your knees bent, and keeping your eye on the ball. While that’s got some things right and that seem to lean somewhat in the direction of what it means to be a good tennis player, there is much that could be taken away and gobs of stuff that could be added to give a richer and more accurate description of the concept. Continue reading Why science is so darned powerful

Why Science Matters

It turns out that getting the science right matters. We live in a wondrous age in which a breathtaking understanding of our universe is possible. We understand the nature of life though DNA and how structures arise though protein construction during embryonic development. We are discovering possibly inhabitable worlds at distances measured in light years. We have mapped the interior of our own planet and explored its oceans from deep under its waters and scanned them from above with orbiting satellites. This is not to say that science will answer all our questions, or provide all sources of value in all areas of meaning. But ignore it at your peril. Continue reading Why Science Matters