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
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
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
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.
Lost in confusion.
Continue reading Dear Steve: I’m ready to do Intelligent Design research!
Faithful and good readers. Apologies for my absence. Shortly after my last post, I attended the Philosophy of Science meetings in Montreal, and then was called upon to sit on a EPA Scientific Advisory Board. That was earlier this month and required me to read about 1500 pages of documents to prepare. I was also teaching two classes. Excuses, excuses. I will try to do better.
The prophet offers a challenge to those who see the revelations he has received and doubt that they are genuine. He suggests that you try to write one. If you cannot, then you ought to accept that they came from God. If they are just the works of a man, then they should be reproducible by a man or a woman, or at least reproducible by the wisest among us. It is worth quoting the verses in full: Continue reading Does complexity mark revelation as such?
BCC’s Ronan introduced me to the work of Nick Bostrom, an Oxford Philosopher. He writes and thinks on technology and ethics issues. He has a fascinating line of reasoning. He argues that quite possibly we are living in a simulation, like The Matrix. Continue reading Thought-experiment August: What if you are just a minor character in a computer game
Here are few pictures from my talk to show some of the evolutionary convergences I was talking about: Continue reading The implications of evolution for key LDS Doctrines: My SMPT paper part IV
Continuing . . .
Below are the points seem to cause some confusion and may need the most work in framing a detailed reconciliation. Here I sketch of where I think these pivot points lie. I’ll start where I feel there is little tension between science and our religion and that the hermeneutics of each seems not to pose any major difficulties in providing narratives that are comfortable lying side by side. Continue reading The implications of evolution for key LDS Doctrines: My SMPT paper part III
The relationship between Science and Theology
I begin with a controversial claim from Haught,
“For its part, theology can become reputable in an age of science only if it abandons any attempt to provide information of a scientific sort. It must allow that the Bible and other religious teaching cannot add anything to our store of scientific knowledge. However, scientists for their part must concede that evolutionary theory, or any other set of scientific ideas, cannot provide answers to religious or theological questions either.”
Continue reading The implications of evolution for key LDS Doctrines: My SMPT paper part II
So during the last month because of trips to Indonesia and Senegal and the SMPT conference, I’ve been rather inactive on my blog. Time to repent. The following is the text from my SMPT paper. It will be posted in four parts.
Just this week, researchers reported the results of the DNA analysis of a 40,000 year old finger fragment. It was a previously unknown species of human. It’s last common ancestor with humans and Neanderthals was over a million years ago. This forensic reconstruction and the skull going around are from Homo erectus, a hominin that lived about 1.5 million years ago. Our last common ancestor with the Neanderthals was about a half million years ago. Do such things have implications for Mormon Theology? Continue reading The implications of evolution for key LDS Doctrines: My SMPT paper part I