Saturday, August 06, 2005

A reader has kindly sent me this link to a site put together by a computer programmer on information in the genome. I was struck that some of his thoughts have run along similar lines to mine on the genetic language and random mutation. However, I received some very interesting feedback to the Yahoo group from a Christian molecular biologist which might shed some light on how mutation works in practice. In short, we have many copies of each gene of which we are only using one leaving the others free to mutate without causing trouble. I'm not user I understand how these mutated genes get switched on or why it would be good if they did, but the picture does seem to be more complicated than I, or the page I linked to above, imagined.

I have just finished Ian Barbours's book When Science Meets Religion (SPCK, 2000) and I thought it was rather good. Barbour splits all science/religion interaction into the categories of Conflict, Independence, Dialogue and Intergration which sounds a bit artificial but works reasonably well. Each chapter of the book (on evolution, the big bang, quantum mechanics, neuroscience etc) is split into the four categories and the many different viewpoints of thinkers assigned to each one. Sometimes I disagree with Barbour's categorisation - he puts Michael Behe in the 'conflict' category with YECs rather than 'integration' where he belongs. This is because, like me, Barbour, thinks Behe is ultimately wrong and wants 'integration' to include ideas he agrees with.

The major strength of this book is the number of potted explanations of philosophers and theologians that Barbour summarises under each heading. Huge amounts of material have been condensed into a two hundred page book including process theology, creationism, dualism, the anthropic principle and loads of others that don't even have names. True, this is all in the manner of a brief introduction, but the notes double as a short bibliography allowing anyone to push off much further if they desire. In all, I strongly recommend this as a first book on science and religion. Also, if you think you have covered quite a lot of this ground through popular works and the internet, read Barbour to find that there is a great deal more territory out there than you probably imagined.

Comments or questions? Post them at Bede's dedicated yahoo group.

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