The Horseshoe Crab’s Evolutionary Success

7362374450_65b219388c_zBy Kathleen L. Housley

This post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

Horseshoe crabs are not on anyone’s list of favorite animals. Looking like slow-moving tanks, they hit the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean in late spring to spawn. The only thing about them that might be perceived as warm and fuzzy, garnering them a spot on the favorite animals list, is that they breed at twilight surrounded by soft sand and the sound of the surf. Thus they have done for 450 million years, evolving so slowly that a modern horseshoe crab is nearly the spitting image of a fossilized one. [Read more...]

The Dissonant Note

This post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

debussyI have a heart arrhythmia that, though benign, is frustrating and feels like death despite its clinical insignificance. It has no cause and no effect; cardiologists call it capricious. It’s meaningless and unreasonable and irregular, and I hate it.

After a night of insomnia and errant heartbeats, I spend a comforting morning on the piano with Claude Debussy’s First Arabesque. Its rhythm is purposefully unpredictable, notes falling all over themselves.

I played the piano all the time when the arrhythmia was first monitored and diagnosed, drifting toward arrhythmic music I hated learning as a child. All those misplaced beats and skittering hands and attempts to hold multiple melodies in my head at the same time. It felt wrong, but my piano teacher knew: This one, she will never befriend the metronome.

The arabesque is a problem that never gets solved, an unanswered question. Playing it is like endlessly falling with nothing to right the body. It is all sky and no ground.

Arrhythmia is distressing in any form. Debussy’s use of arrhythmic structure—bitonality—got his music shunned by the artistic thought leaders of the day. In nineteenth-century Europe, tone was integral to composing music, tone being a steady sound in one key that predicts and guides the composition. Haydn and Bach were the greats, the ones to be emulated: repetition leading to rhythm, a diversionary tactic here to indicate that something is happening, a return to the source soon after. Set the metronome; do not deviate. [Read more...]

Science and Faith: an Evolving Conversation

Transparent chemistry glass tubes filled with substances

“I left the Church,” my tablemate explains, “because my priest couldn’t answer my questions.”

We are at a gathering of scientists, religious leaders, and people who write about science and religion. We are discussing how people in these often counterposed domains can collaborate for the betterment of mankind.

I confess I am skeptical about the benefits to mankind that will accrue from elite collaboration. I’m a Madisonian in that regard: our wellbeing is safer when elites keep each other in check rather than partner.

[Read more...]

The Evolution of Evolutionary Language: The Imago Dei Project

I’m a word-watcher. I like noticing which words are winning the popularity contest in our general culture, then tracing back how (and why) they achieved this winning position.

Take “development.” Folks who were once “fundraisers” are now “development directors.” Formerly “backward” countries are now “developing countries.” The United Nations promotes “sustainable development.” And so on.

“Development” is so popular because it connotes progress—a steady movement toward a worthy goal. But it didn’t begin life this way. Around 1600, “development” entered English via French, meaning “unfold.” Carrying this idea of inner latency, it was adopted by the early nineteenth century European Romantics to articulate their theories of organic growth.

Around mid-century, development’s “unfolding” picked up the idea of “progress”: of unfolding to a higher condition. And so it became a natural term for the newly emerging concepts of evolution.

Etymologically, develop and evolve are nearly identical. But eighteenth century biologists had taken “evolution” as the name for their static view that all forms of life were pre-formed by God at creation. So as pre-Darwinian concepts of progressive evolution began to emerge, “evolution” had the wrong connotations for them. “Development,” though, with its association of organic growth toward a higher state, was perfect for this vision of a changing, transforming natural universe.

[Read more...]


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