Friday, 10 October 2008

Creativity as god?

Something that a number of popular science magazines and websites have been talking about is Stuart Kauffman's latest book "Reinventing the Sacred". I haven't read it, so I won't be commenting about it. However, I did read his Perspectives column in New Scientist.

He uses biological "pre-adaptations" and how we're unable to predict them as being evidence of a "ceaseless creativity, with no supernatural creator."He then goes on to say:

Shall we use the "God" word? We do not have to, yet it is still our most powerful invented symbol. Our sense of God has evolved from Yahweh in the desert some 4500 years ago, a jealous, law-giving warrior God, to the God of love that Jesus taught. How many versions have people worshipped in the past 100,000 years?

Yet what is more awesome: to believe that God created everything in six days, or to believe that the biosphere came into being on its own, with no creator, and partially lawlessly? I find the latter proposition so stunning, so worthy of awe and respect, that I am happy to accept this natural creativity in the universe as a reinvention of "God".
I've been thinking about this, and have to say I disagree. To start with the second paragraph, as astounding as God's creativity and beauty in His creation is, the incredible thing is that that same God who holds the universe in His hand loves you and I with a passion we cannot comprehend. A passion that lead to Jesus' death by crucifixion so that we may have true freedom. THAT is stunning and worthy of awe and respect, far more so than a disembodied, faceless and impersonal creativity.

In terms of the first paragraph: God is the same God through the ages. Jesus taught that God was a law-keeper and judge, and Moses talked of God as being merciful and loving. Greater emphasis was given to the qualities that Kauffman states, but both aspects have been there throughout the revelation God has given us. Indeed, God's love and Jesus' sacrifice is shown more clearly by an appreciation and an understanding of his Holiness and Justice.

Kauffman, S. (07 May 2008)
Perspectives: Why humanity needs a God of creativity news service

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Solomon Island Freshwater Insects

A few months ago, Dan Polhemus and a team from the Bishop Museum in Hawaii published a report on the freshwater insects of the Solomon Islands. Funnily enough, it makes for some very interesting reading. The Solomons are a fascinating and beautiful place, though somewhat off the track and as such the fauna and flora are relatively little known. It's isolation and temperamental politics combine to make it somewhat unattractive to visiting scientists. There is information out there though, if you put the effort in to find it.

Coming back to the report in question: having skimmed through it I am determined to read it in much greater detail in the future. It has a summary of the geological history of the islands which is of use to anyone wanting to understand the biota of the islands. They also summarise the work done on freshwater fauna and augment it with the results of a expedition there in 2004-2005 in which they visited the six main islands and several surrounding ones. They record the variety of fish and aquatic insects from each site before finishing with comments on the conservation status of these environments and the patterns of endemicity.

The other great thing about this report is that it has some really cool pictures! The photo above is one that I stole from it. It's a beautiful Nososticta salomonis from Choiseul...

All in all a very interesting and timely publication, and one that I may have to revisit sometime.

Polhemus DA, Englund RA, Allen GR, Boseto D, and Polhemus, JT (2008.)
Freshwater biotas of the Solomon Islands. Analysis of richness, endemism, and threats.
Final report prepared for Conservation International, Washington, D.C. 127 pp. [PBS 2008-013]