Barr's answer: no, not in any direct way.
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What about the ramifications of quantum mechanics and the controversial interpretations that some physicists have adopted for it? Barr is fine with the classic interpretation, most commonly known as the Copenhagen Interpretation , in which the role of the 'observer' in any experiment is crucial. Indeed, he sees the standard interpretation as a healthy corrective not only to the determinism that once dominated science up through the beginning of the 20th century, but also to materialism. My own opinion is that the traditional Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory still makes the most sense.
In two respects it seems quite congenial to the worldview of the biblical religions: It abolishes physical determinism, and it gives a special ontological status to the mind of the human observer. In contrast, the Many Worlds Interpretation tries to avoid assigning any special ontological status to the observer, Barr writes.
While it is fascinating, it fails to convince. Because if the mathematics of quantum mechanics is right as most fundamental physicists believe , he points out, and if materialism is right, then one is forced to accept the Many Worlds view.
In the Many Worlds picture, you exist in a virtually infinite number of versions: in some branches of reality you are reading this article, in others you are asleep in bed, in others you have never been born. Even proponents of the Many Worlds idea admit that it sounds crazy and strains credulity. Also noteworthy are two tough reviews of books by Richard Dawkins, whom Barr takes to task among other things, for being sloppy about his science. In his previous book he showed that he did not know the difference between a cosmic ray and a gamma ray.
The Einstein myth is part of the larger Romantic myth of the genius as rebel: Beethoven shaking his fist at the heavens. Speaking of b. I think Barr is rightly skeptical of attempts to force-fit modern science into neat philosophical and theological systems--whether it's that of Thomas Aquinas and medieval scholasticism, or the looser more freewheeling cosmic view introduced by the priest-scientist Teilhard de Chardin.
Science is a great tool, Barr states in his closing chapter, but for the sake of your own philosophical sanity, one mustn't read too much into it or out of it. My own guiding principle is to trust the experts generally speaking on anything purely technical, but to rely more on my own judgment as far as human realities go. I trust the architect on what will keep the building up, but not on what is beautiful. I trust the pediatrician, but not always the child psychologist.
My own feeling was that if it took a degree to raise a child properly, the human race would have died out , years ago. The Believing Scientist is published in paperback by Eerdmans. Unfortunately it is not in e-book format as yet. He attempts an elementary combinatoric calculation and gets it wrong.
He discusses a well-known quantum phenomenon in terms that are incorrect. One should be used to this sort of thing from Dawkins, I suppose. Fortunately, science is not much affected by this idiocy. Partly, this is because experimental data serves as a reality principle.
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If you are a scientifically literate adult, you should believe in evolution. Evolution, in three words, is descent with modification. We used to have monkeys, and now we have people — no matter what John Lennon believed, that much is a fact. Genetic change has happened over time. The real brilliance of the evolutionary hypothesis is in its falsifiability — by defending the existence of a single hereditary line from a universal common ancestor to the present diversity of life, evolution is committed to a very precise and continuous timeline.
As geneticist J. In the early s, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered what would become the founding idea of the new field of genetics: the double-helical structure of DNA.
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That language, traced back over past generations, tells a clear story about how modern human DNA came to be. Species that have similar DNA are likely to look like each other: genetically, all humans are You heard it here first: humans are literally one-fourth wine. Our closest relatives, however, are the primates. Evolution is committed to the idea that we evolved directly from primates, which implies that there must have been a very specific change to our DNA as we evolved: we must have lost one chromosome completely or had two chromosomes fuse together to make one.
Amazingly, scientists have found evidence of the latter. Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project, writes:. Those sequences generally do not occur elsewhere.
But they are found right where evolution would have predicted, in the middle of our fused second chromosome. The fusion that occurred as we evolved from the apes has left its DNA imprint here. Similar digital clues can be found in the massive history written in the language of our cells. We came from primates, primates came from mice, and so on and so forth back to the universal common ancestor. We have discovered some billions of individual fossils, and they all confirm the evolutionary timeline.
Paleontologists can use radiometric methods e. Evolution is one consistent timeline that extends from today back to the beginning of life.
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The upshot, of course, is that any other theories that contradict evolution are simply incorrect. In the 17th century, Irish archbishop James Ussher added up the ages of all of the people in the Bible, and calculated that the Earth must have been created on the evening of October 22nd, BC. We know that our Earth is about 5. At this point in my journey, I was of the mind that you should always trust scientific proof over any other kind of justification. Thousands of objective observations and repeatable measurements felt more objectively true than the words of the Bible or the shoddy calculations of an old archbishop.
I had always seen truth as a concept that was invented to build objective consensus between people — e. Evolution is the theory of the timeline, and explains that life moved from wine grapes to apes to humans. For that, Darwin needed another hypothesis: natural selection. Evolution and natural selection are often grouped together. But I quickly learned that natural selection was far more fraught with difficulty and ambiguity than its sister theory — a fact that proved troubling as I attempted to establish the dominance of evolution over creationism.
I came to internalize the difference between the two hypotheses with a simple, if silly, metaphor: evolution is the path through the jungle, and natural selection is the machete. As we look back, we can see a well-defined trail cut through the dense underbrush.
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The question is… what blazed that trail? Could it have been just a dude with a machete? Or would it have taken more advanced technology? As Darwin discovered, natural selection takes just three ingredients: heritability, variation, and fitness. Heritability is DNA: a way for parents to pass on their traits. Variation makes that evolutionary line branch into a tree. As my blonde-haired, blue-eyed sister proves, children are not always exact replicas of their parents because DNA is a good, but not perfect, self-replicator. Fitness determines which branches will thrive and which will wither away.
The rationale behind natural selection is solid to the point of seeming tautological. When Darwin proposed evolution and natural selection in the same book, the two concepts became forever paired: Darwin showed us a trail through the jungle, and a simple way to cut down trees. The complications for natural selection come in the form of two interrelated problems: complexity and time. The former was explicitly acknowledged by Darwin in On the Origin of Species :.
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
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But I can find out no such case. No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to much-isolated species… [but] we should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. The mousetraps that my family uses in our home to deal with unwelcome rodents consist of a number of parts.
There are 1 a flat wooden platform to act as a base; 2 a metal hammer, which does the actual job of crushing the little mouse; 3 a wire spring… 4 a sensitive catch which releases when slight pressure is applied; and 5 a metal bar which holds the hammer back… If any one of the components of the mousetrap the base, hammer, spring, catch, or holding bar is removed, then the trap does not function. In other words, the simple little mousetrap has no ability to trap a mouse until several parts are all assembled. To evolve by natural selection, mousetraps would have to gain incremental benefits from its intermediate stages — for example, from having just a base, or just a hammer.
The question, then: do irreducibly complex features exist in nature? Behe thinks so, and uses the eye as an example. An eye is made of dependent, interconnected parts: retina, pupil, lens, and so on. Does this make the eye an evolutionary mousetrap? The earliest precursor of the human eye is the photo-receptive spot present in plants like algae. Over time, these spots became indented allowing animals to determine the direction of a light source , then had their openings constricted allowing those directional light sources to focus , then developed a rudimentary lens focusing light without reducing the total amount of light the eye could see.
Each model gave a small advantage over the model previous, which kept the train of evolution rolling. Could some evolutionary steps have happened too quickly for natural selection to have caused them? This is the second, and more damning, problem for natural selection; and here, I found a healthy debate in the scientific literature. The problem is twofold: first, generating the vast diversity of life from a single common ancestor in just four billion years; second, matching the incredible sprints documented in evolutionary history.
They make an analogy to hacking a character-long password. Brought to the scale of evolution — so, dealing with the countless genetic letters of DNA — the difference between changing 20, genes without locking and with locking is absurd. If natural selection can lock in mutations as well as the Professors claimed, it would indeed have plenty of time. That bold of a claim was bound to get a visceral response, and it did. The most detailed critique came from Casey Luskin, the research coordinator for the Center for Science and Culture:.
It can only assess mutations based on their current effect on fitness in the local fitness landscape. He continues:. By doing so, they ignore the enormous sequence complexity of actual genetic loci typically hundreds or thousands of nucleotides long , and vastly oversimplify the search for functional variants.
In other words, the Penn Professors might give natural selection too much credit. The second facet of the time problem only compounds the first.