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Gresham College: The Mathematics of Evolutionary Biology – Professor Sarah Coakley


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The latter part of the 20th century saw a revulsion against classic forms of “natural theology” which was propelled as much by theological fashion as by secular scientific resistance. This lecture lays out a cautious case for the reconsideration of a new style of “natural theology”. It does so in the light of remarkable new discoveries in mathematicalized accounts of evolutionary “cooperation” which significantly challenge the idea of pervasive randomness in evolutionary processes. The ethical and teleological questions which are raised by these cooperative phenomena, it is argued, demand some sort of meaning-making response and ultimately metaphysical issues cannot be shirked. The question of God is reconsidered in this context, with a surprising final twist to the argument in which the human epistemic subject is itself drawn towards an invited transformation.

 

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