Categories
Evolution Faith

Did Darwin make atheism credible?

Imagine that my wife and I walk into our living room one morning to find that our son’s toy box has fallen over, and pieces of BRIO train set track lie jumbled on the floor. But eight of the pieces are joined together in a perfect circle, lying on the floor, with a train on top of the tracks. My wife asks me: “Did you make that railway?” I say “No – it must have been you”. She says it wasn’t her. We look at each other for a moment, thinking and then we come to two different conclusions.

My wife is worried and says: “Someone must have come into the flat last night. Railways don’t just spontaneously appear from a jumble of fallen pieces. We need to check my jewellery is still there.”

I shake my head and say “This is evidence that there are billions more BRIO sets in the world than anyone has realised. I am going to call a stockbroker and buy some shares in BRIO PLC.”

“Are you crazy?” my wife asks.

Categories
Bottlenecks Faith Genomics

Adam and Eve our ghostly ancestors?

This blog was first posted at Nature Ecology & Evolution Community on 4 March 2020

That a single couple could be the ancestors of all living humans is widely seen as an area of conflict between genetics and the Abrahamic religions. Though little detailed attention has been paid to this idea in the scientific literature (see ‘Adam and Eve: a tested hypothesis?’), current models of the history of genomic variation in African populations tend to forbid a bottleneck of two in the human lineage within the last five hundred thousand years (see ‘Adam and Eve: lessons learned’). Thus, belief in a literal pair of ancestors for all humans would entail an older date for Adam and Eve than believers had expected, or a revised understanding of human molecular evolution.

In a recent book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve, S. Joshua Swamidass, an Associate Professor at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, seeks to resolve the dilemma faced by believers. He makes a major contribution to the debate, taking both sides seriously. Swamidass is a Christian himself, and a well-established scientist in chemical bioinformatics and drug metabolism. He has clearly read widely and deeply in evolutionary genetics. He outlines his ideas with caution and many references to the literature. He deserves a hearing by anyone who is interested in a better relationship between science and religion.

Categories
Environment Faith

Unselfish gardeners? Christianity and the environment

Human degradation of the natural environment is a great tragedy of our time. One of its major drivers is selfishness leading to over-consumption and waste. Despite growing concern about the environment, the majority of us struggle to forgo convenience and consumption for the long-term good of the planet.