Posts

Showing posts from September, 2011

Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation

This weekend is the big Bryan Institute symposium on Genesis at the Chattanooga Convention Center. I will be there, and I will likely (very likely) post some thoughts either during or after the event. Yesterday, I was talking with one of our Bible professors here at Bryan (not a speaker), and we both hope that this "conversation" really does transcend the battle lines of the propaganda war and become an actual conversation. Since most of the speakers have taken one side or another, I'm not sure how it will turn out. Will it be an edifying and enlightening weekend or a biblical re-enactment of the larger creation/evolution debate?

However it turns out, I wouldn't miss it, and I hope you won't either. Details on the schedule can be found here, and information on directions, parking etc. are here. There is a small cost for the events (which includes Saturday lunch), and you can register at the door.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Venema on Neandertals and Denisovans

Dennis Venema and I don't exactly see eye to eye on human origins, but as fellow believers, we ought to take what he has to say seriously, even if we disagree. Dennis recently posted a piece over at BioLogos on the recent evidence of hominin interbreeding between modern Homo sapiens and Neandertals and between Homo sapiens and the mysterious Denisovans. This is crucially important stuff and deserves our careful attention.

Personally, I think this new data could potentially devastate old earth creationist scenarios for the origin of humans, and I'll be explaining more about that in my book review of Collins's Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?. Look for that in the coming months, and in the meantime, have a look at Dennis's article.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Letter to Great Britain

Dear Great Britain,

Thanks to my friend Paul Garner, I have been quite interested to read of the new "Teach evolution, not creationism!" campaign, detailed at its website. I was especially fascinated to read the short position statement of the campaign, which reads in part:
The current government guidance that creationism and 'intelligent design' should not be taught in school science should be made statutory and enforceable. It also needs to be made comprehensive so that it is clear that any portrayal of creationism and 'intelligent design' as science (whether it takes place in science lessons or not) is unacceptable.As a Christian, creationist, and science professor at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, I find this position extremely ironic. You see, the state of Tennessee tried to enforceably legislate orthodoxy in curriculum some 85 years ago. The Butler Act stated
That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all oth…

This is important!

Critical thinking exercise: This paper strikes me as amazingly important. Why?

Uyeda et al. 2011. The million-year wait for macroevolutionary bursts. PNAS 108:15908-15913.
Abstract
We lack a comprehensive understanding of evolutionary pattern and process because short-term and long-term data have rarely been combined into a single analytical framework. Here we test alternative models of phenotypic evolution using a dataset of unprecedented size and temporal span (over 8,000 data points). The data are body-size measurements taken from historical studies, the fossil record, and among-species comparative data representing mammals, squamates, and birds. By analyzing this large dataset, we identify stochastic models that can explain evolutionary patterns on both short and long timescales and reveal a remarkably consistent pattern in the timing of divergence across taxonomic groups. Even though rapid, short-term evolution often occurs in intervals shorter than 1 Myr, the changes are constra…

About those new sediba papers

I read the new Au. sediba papers over the weekend, and I'm really excited to see so much in-depth analysis being published in such a timely manner. To recap: Last year, I was in the midst of preparing a paper on human baraminology when a description of a newly discovered hominin fossil was published. That fossil was dubbed Australopithecus sediba. I halted work on my paper while I added that fossil to my analysis, and much to my surprise, it consistently grouped with members of Homo rather than australopiths. Of course, other creationists weighed in with their rather strong opinions that sediba was just another ape fossil. When my paper appeared claiming that sediba was human, some creationists felt I had erred in my analysis. Responses ranged from accusing me of recklessness and arrogance to this baffling assertion in the Answers Research Journal:
Let me point out that we creationists can tell, merely from reading our Bible, that some fossils are human and some are not; we …

All about sediba

Science this week has five new papers on the marvelous fossil Australopithecus sediba that debuted some 18 months ago. There's one on the brain, the pelvis, the hand, the ankle/foot, and the date of the known sediba fossils. The verdict? From my brief skimming of the articles, sediba is a mixed bag of australopith and Homo traits (surprise, surprise). I'm eager to have a more detailed look, and I just can't wait for my fellow creationists to weigh in with their opinions. There's plenty of material here that they can selectively quote to support their claims that it isn't human. There's also plenty I can selectively quote to support my claim that sediba is part of the human family. But when it comes down to it, selective quoting isn't science. I'm eager to see if the new data actually changes any of my previous analyses (what a concept).

I'll be reading over these papers this weekend, and maybe I'll be back with a more informed commentary…