Articles

Monkeying With Science Education

The “Monkey Bill” now before the Tennessee Legislature is a bad means to a good end. The good end is to teach students the fascinating process by which scientific theories come to be established as “facts.” Scientific theories in general and Darwin’s in particular are human interpretations of nature which come to be accepted because they are persuasive. The public Read More ›

A New Paradigm in War

The concept is simple. Its implications are not. And a lot of people at the Pentagon, especially along the Army corridors, just wish it would go away. Here’s the non-technical version, drawn in part from an Air Force briefing that’s been attracting attention within the Building and On the Road. Americans believe – or like to believe, at any rate Read More ›

The Dr. Seuss Defense Debate

Were history honest, the 1990s would already be known as the era of the Dr. Seuss Defense Debate. It was Mostly MRCs — a Pentagon acronym standing for Major Regional Conflict and pronounced, “Murk.” The debate centered on how many it might be nice to fight at the same time, one or two, and on how to go about it. The Read More ›

Alchemy, NK Boolean Style

There’s an old joke about the philosopher Rudolf Carnap and his method of doing philosophy. According to the joke, Carnap’s method was to begin any philosophical investigation with the statement “Consider a formal language L.” As the good logical positivist he was, Carnap desired the precision inherent in formal languages. Unfortunately, precision has its price. Formal languages are not natural languages and the problems expressible in formal languages need not connect to actual problems in the real world. With formal languages the question ever remains whether they adequately capture the subject under investigation.

Appropriately modified, the joke about Rudolf Carnap can be retold about Stuart Kauffman and the scientific method he employs in At Home in the Universe. According to the modified joke, Kauffman’s method is to begin any scientific investigation with the statement “Consider an NK Boolean network.” Indeed, throughout At Home in the Universe just about every real-world problem gets translated into a toy-world problem involving NK Boolean networks. As with Carnap’s formal languages, NK Boolean networks have the advantage of complete logical precision. But they also suffer the disadvantage of losing touch with reality. And it is this disadvantage which ultimately proves the undoing of Kauffman’s project.

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The Army vs. the National Guard

The United States Army doesn’t like the Army National Guard very much. They never have. Some of the tension is cultural: the professional’s instinctive disdain for the “weekend warrior.” Another part is political, the problem of dual chains of command. Except when federalized, the Guard works for state governors. The Army supervises, but lacks the total control it exercises over Read More ›

Defending Faith & Learning:

When The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last week that the faculty senate of Baylor University voted 26-2 to recommend that the administration dissolve the recently established Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design, many readers must have assumed that the new hotspot in the Darwin Wars was Waco, Texas. Move over, Kansas. After all, despite much huffing and Read More ›

Politically Dead Wrong

Review of What is Darwinism? And Other Writings on Science and ReligionCharles Hodge, Edited and with an introduction by Mark A. Knoll & David N. LivingstoneGrand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994. 182 pp. The central administration building at Princeton Theological Seminary is Hodge Hall, named after the most prominent and respected Presbyterian theologian in mid-nineteenth-century America. Charles Hodge taught theology Read More ›

Literature Survey March 1996

Charles Darwin on Social Darwinism Richard Weikart, “A Recently Discovered Darwin Letter on Social Darwinism,” Isis 86 (1995): 609-611. For many decades, historians have debated whether Darwin was himself a social Darwinist, i.e., someone who believed that human beings were and should be subject to the same competitive forces acting on all other living things. The debate is sharpened by Read More ›

woman-in-church-heading-to-altar-stockpack-adobe-stock
Woman in church heading to altar
Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Church Without State

When Alexis de Tocqueville arrived in United States in 1831, he was struck by how Americans were “forever forming associations.” Tocqueville found especially noteworthy the myriad of civic associations that Americans organized for moral and educational purposes. Instead of looking to the government for help, publicly-spirited citizens sought to solve societal problems on their own. What Tocqueville may not have Read More ›

Are Wildlife Corridors the Right Path?

Not far from La Jolla, California, lies some of the vast undeveloped land left along the coast of fast-growing San Diego County. Pardee Construction, the Weyerhaeuser subsidiary that owns the central portion of the land, plans to turn it into a suburban neighborhood. But local environmental activists believe it should serve a more valuable purpose: The area forms a corridor Read More ›