Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the timeline of Genesis events and why so many Christians believe in a young universe.

JY writes to ask:

When you say that for God the Gen. 1 events unfold over six literal days, does this mean six twenty-four hour periods? If the earth is 4.5 billion years old (which I accept because I don’t think the Bible tells us so we should instead look to those with expertise in the field) how long should we envisage humans as occupying the planet? Were there epochs of other animal life prior to humans? Do you believe God used the evolutionary process or created humans like we now see them? Finally, why do so many Christians believe and argue so adamantly that the universe is 6,000 years old?

Gerald Schroeder, in his book The Science of God, elegantly makes the case for a 14 billion year-old universe that is developed over the course of six literal 24-hour periods. Genesis 1 does not explicitly state that the six days of Genesis are literal 24-hour periods, but it can be inferred from other passages in scripture that make reference to Genesis 1. Schroeder admits that this assumption is the one part of his argument that is subjective, but since the great Genesis commentator, Nahmanides, inferred it that way, this is what Schroeder chooses.

Biology is not my area of expertise, but I’m reasonably confident of the following. Homo sapiens has been around for about 200,000 years. Bacteria first appeared on Earth almost immediately (in geological terms) after the appearance of liquid water, a few billion years ago; animal life exploded well before humans appeared, about 500 million years ago in what’s aptly called the Cambrian explosion.

There is little doubt in my mind that what eventually became human lifeforms — I’ll refer to them as hominids — arose through some natural, but God-designed, process. Darwinian evolution has effectively been ruled out as the process, and nobody really knows what the actual process of the development of life is, but there are some interesting hints from a field of biology called “evo devo.” Anyway, the great biblical commentators, Maimonides and Nahmanides, had no problem accepting the idea that hominids predated Adam. These hominids were physically identical to Adam in terms of physiology, but lacked the neshama, the human soul. Schroeder talks about the process whereby God took a preexisting hominid and breathed the neshama into it to create Adam. In my mind, this is the most reasonable inference from scripture, and resolves some major problems with the young earth creationist view.

As for why so many Christians insist on a young universe, I am still trying to figure that out. Some of my Christian colleagues say it is because young earth creationism is primarily what’s taught in seminary, and it gets passed down to church members. I don’t know how much truth there is in that. I sense that a lot of it is pushback against atheist misuse of science, which is really unfortunate and completely unnecessary.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the confluence of biblical wisdom and evolutionary science.

Ken writes in the comments to “Is God’s word difficult to understand?” the following:

This is a very interesting site. I like reading scientific articles on here and anyone who visits your site can learn a lot about science. However everyone who comes here needs to be careful when comparing the unique scriptural interpretations found here to 2000 years of Biblical understanding. TF is correct. The Bible is not impossible for average people to understand and one does not need to jump thru hoops altering the clear meaning of scripture in order to make it comport with the latest of atheistic evolutionary Beliefs in order to remain true to empirical science. The nature of time at the fringes of the universe is an intriguing discussion, and there is no doubt that science supports scripture, but then you swerve into supporting Evolution, saying, “It does not matter that evolution is scientifically correct in its finding that the mortal human body is biologically related to that of other primates. The basics of evolutionary science are entirely consistent with the biblical account?” None of that is true. There is no evidence of it. I am amazed you would say that. I also believe what you said above is a misrepresentation of both Genesis and Corinthians 15:46-47. You are probably relying on the unique interpretations of Dr. Schroeder who fails to recognize his own Jewish Messiah as described in the Old Testament in which he is such an expert. So although I enjoy your site, and look forward to seeing an article on the “discovery” of “gravitational waves” as has been in the news today, I do not agree with some of your theology as it seems to be twisted in favor of satisfying the claims of “science falsely so-called” —in some cases, unintentionally, invalidating parts of essential Christian doctrine.

The basics of evolutionary science as it stands today in 2016 are completely consistent with the Biblical account of creation. Both biology and scripture agree on the following:

  1. Life began after the formation of oceans on Earth
  2. The first forms of life seem to have been built into the creation of the universe
  3. Vegetation preceded animal life
  4. There was a sudden explosion of animal life
  5. There is no scientific explanation for the sudden appearance of animal life
  6. The first animal life appeared in the oceans
  7. Then come animal forms that crawled from the oceans
  8. Then come great reptiles
  9. Then winged flying creatures
  10. Then mammals
  11. Then hominids
  12. Finally, unique beings appear in hominid form that have consciousness
  13. Science has no explanation for human consciousness
  14. All species of life on Earth are connected to each other
  15. Biology and scripture are in total agreement on the order of the stages in the development of life

This is a remarkable amount of agreement between modern biological science and Christian scriptures. He is wrong when he says this is not true.

I am grateful to Dr. Schroeder for bringing to our attention something so obvious and important that I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t see it myself. But that is what genius so often does for us — helps us see something we are blind to. Unless one thinks that God would be very casual in the use of the words chosen to express his message to humankind, it has to be admitted that the very different words ‘make’ and ‘create’ were used in Genesis 1 for an important reason.

Schroeder’s genius was recognizing that the word ‘make’ means to take whatever is already available and fashion it into something new. That’s what God caused to happen when he took the basic primate body plan and reshaped it into human form through some process we label evolution but do not adequately understand.

The meaning of the word ‘create’ on the other hand is something very different. We can take our cue from the first use of the word ‘create’ in the Bible to understand what God did with humans. God’s first act of creation brought a universe into existence from nothing. So when the Bible then says that humans were created in God’s image, that can only mean that the spiritual, non-material aspect of humankind was brought forth without using anything from this world. 1 Corinthians 15:46-47 confirms in a totally unambiguous way the difference between making people and creating people:

The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

What else could Genesis 1 and 1 Corinthians be saying about God’s work in relation to humankind? Ken’s criticism of Schroeder is unfounded.

It is worth the effort to clear up the confusion around evolutionary theory as much as possible. Darwinism in its classic form did maintain some things that were not stated in Genesis. The four pillars of Darwinism in its original form were common descent, random mutation, natural selection, and gradualism. The genetic and fossil evidence in favor of common descent is overwhelming. Common descent is the closest thing to a proven theory in all of science. But, the Bible has no problem with common descent because every life form on Earth was brought into existence by God, so of course all life on Earth is connected.

The evidence for the other pillars of classic Darwinism is far less favorable. Random mutations do occur in the DNA of all animal species including human beings. But, there is currently no hard evidence that random mutations work in a way that make species stronger. The evidence for natural selection is almost non-existent, which is why even Thomas Huxley rejected it. The fossil evidence has completely overthrown Darwin’s most important principal, gradualism. That is why Stephen Jay Gould had to propose ‘punctuated equilibrium’ as an alternative to gradualism. Gould’s attempt to save Darwinism from the contradictory fossil evidence created more problems for evolutionary theory than it solved. Punctuated equilibrium makes the combination of random mutation and natural selection completely untenable by removing the vast amounts of time needed to make the Darwinian process mathematically plausible.

But, all efforts to defend Darwinism in its classic, Neo-Darwinist, Modern Synthesis, or punctuated equilibrium forms are now moot because of the findings of Evolutionary Development (Evo-Devo). Evo-Devo has found, contrary to everything Darwinists have ever believed, that all of the animal phyla are connected in ways that make Darwinism impossible. In the words of one of the pioneers of Evo-Devo and a loyal Darwinist, Sean B. Carroll, in his book Endless Forms Most Beautiful:

                  …the prevailing view of the architects and adherents of Modern Synthesis was that the process of random mutation and selection would so alter DNA and protein sequences that only closely related species would bear homologous genes…Virtually everything I have described…has been discovered in the past twenty years…they have forced biologists to rethink completely their picture of how forms evolve. p285 (emphasis added)

The fact that such different forms of animals are shaped by very similar sets of tool kit proteins was entirely unanticipated … the discovery … has forced a complete change in our picture of how complex structures arise. p285 (emphasis added)

In other words, current evolutionary theory is wrong. Most biologists are either ignorant of the findings of Evolutionary Development or are loathe to admit what the most recent genetic evidence so clearly demonstrates; Darwinism in all of its variations is a failed hypothesis. What evolutionary science now shows is that something totally inexplicable in Darwinist terms happened about 540 million years ago in what is now called the Cambrian Explosion or the Biological Big Bang. Animal life appears to have exploded out of nothing – there is no fossil evidence of life forms that preceded it. The Bible has no problem with this latest findings of evolutionary science. Christians understand what happened with the beginning of animal life as one of the three acts of creation that God performed during the Genesis 1 account.

Professor Carroll even confirms in his own way what Christians know to be true. In describing the way interchangeable genes organize all of the various animal life forms, Carroll uses the word ‘logic’ throughout his book (pages 8, 12, 26, 35, 54, 55, 56, 60, 60, 61, 106, 195, and 271 for example) to describe something he believes is the result of a mindless, Darwinian, random process. Logic is the product of a rational mind — its Greek root, logos, is translated as “Word” in the opening passages of the Gospel of John — but Carroll can’t help himself in this seemingly inappropriate use of the word because everything he observes in the operation of animal DNA is so elegantly intricate, efficient, and consistent — something like an unimaginably good computer program. His mind is evidently so closed by Darwinist fundamentalism that it doesn’t occur to him what he is really saying:

His field of evolutionary development is providing significant evidence of a great, creative, rational mind behind the workings of the genes he studies.

This is the current state of evolutionary science and the reason I can say with great confidence that biological science and Christian scriptures are in agreement.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we expose the intellectual dishonesty of a commenter and a few scientists.

“Allallt” commented on the Science as true worship, Part I post:

I am currently in my 5th year of study at a university, I worked alongside a biologist for a year, I lived with two doctors, and although I don’t mean to imply that you are lying, I have never met a single person who claimed to know a deficiency in evolution that kept quiet about.
I’ve never met a scientist who thought they could disprove another scientist, who didn’t take the opportunity and the pay for the paper they published.
‘Science’ is a collection of scientists in different universities in different countries publishing in different journal articles. I’m not sure they have the structure to keep such a conspiracy going.
None of this makes biologists right about evolution. But it does mean I am very sceptical of your opening story about a scientist who not only claims to know the deficiencies in evolution, but also thinks everyone else knows but everyone is just a part of a big global conspiracy.

You know you’re dealing with an intellectually dishonest person when he says he doesn’t mean to do something, but does it anyway. As I pointed out to him in my response, I did not say there was a big global conspiracy. Biologists are forthright about the work they’re doing, but they’re not always forthright about the conclusions. Until now, I had assumed it was not always deliberate, and that some scientists are just so locked into a particular paradigm that they can’t admit the obvious — that Darwin’s theory is flawed — to themselves, let alone to the public. However, after reading the following, I’m starting to doubt that.

When I was young, Stephen Jay Gould was derided, as was Carl Sagan. Of Gould, John Maynard Smith, Emeritus Professor at Sussex, once wrote, “Because of the excellence of his essays, he has come to be seen by non-biologists as the preeminent evolutionary theorist. In contrast, the evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed his work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists.” [emphasis added]

This was precisely the point of my anecdote about the biology student who didn’t want to “hand a victory to Christians” with any public admission of flaws in Darwin’s theory. Actual biologists are well aware of Darwin’s deficiencies. The reason most of the general public is not is because any criticisms are deliberately held back from public discourse. So, while there is no global conspiracy to hide the research, how many nonbiologists are going to read through journal papers or even popular level science books with the necessary rigor to realize that Darwin’s theory is as scientifically dead as geocentric theory? Not many, and those who do are derided as “deniers” or “creationists.”

All of this dissembling and labeling betrays an incredibly unscientific attitude, and shows to what degree ideology rules certain scientific fields (see also: climate change). Contrast this with the way physicists openly and even joyfully discuss serious challenges to one of the most successful and widely-accepted theories in physics, the standard model of particle physics:

“It was so weird that people were forced to chuck their favorite theories and start from scratch,” Adam Martin, co-author of the paper, said in a press release. “That’s a fun area of particle physics. We’re looking into the unknown. Is it one new particle? Is it two new particles?”

The LHC’s data shows two deviations from events expected by the Standard Model, which is the theoretical foundation of particle physics. The recent paper examines four possible explanations for the deviations, one of them being a heavier version of the Higgs boson. Further research may open up doors for new models in particle physics or lead to a mundane, anticlimactic explanation, according to Martin.

“People are still cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Everybody knows that with more data, it could just go away. If it stays, it’s potentially really, really, really exciting.”

Darwin’s junk science

One of our readers, Russell, is studying Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and finding it less than compelling:

I’m halfway through “On the Origin of Species” So far, it’s been junk science. I’m serious, multiple times now he’s said something along of the lines of “I totally have super-solid proof, but I don’t have room in the book to share it. Any of it. Ever. But believe me, it’s totes awesome.” And “Let’s say evolution could possibly do X.” Then a few sentences later, “Since evolution does X, it does Y.” No proof offered, nothing but assertions and denial of actual data.

So far, he’s done one experiment with bees, gave up in the middle of it, and then declared it was a success!

How this became as popular as it did baffles me. How it became a cornerstone of scientific thought confuses me to no end.

If people, especially scientists, actually read his book with the same skepticism they use for just about anything else, I’m sure they’d toss out Darwin’s evolution and start over.

For me, as a believing Christian, Darwin’s book has only strengthen my conviction that the Bible’s account of creation is more accurate in description than the theory of evolution.

This is why you should always go to the source, and not take anyone’s word for what an author said or meant.

As for why the book became so popular, my guess is that it’s mostly to do with Thomas Huxley, aka Darwin’s Bulldog. Huxley latched onto Darwinian evolution as a way to undermine Christianity, even though he was aware of its scientific shortcomings. It’d be difficult to quantify, but he was at least modestly successful in that regard. Huxley’s most profound achievement, however, was to undermine scientific advancement in the field of biology and to erode public trust in science in general. If he had known that this would be the cost of attacking Christianity, I wonder if he still would have promoted Darwin’s idea.


Physicists must defend the integrity of science

** Written by “Surak” **

German climate scientist, Lennart Bengtsson, is speaking out about the overwhelming pressure he experienced after joining a group skeptical of climate change:

News that Lennart Bengtsson, the respected former director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, had joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), sent shockwaves through the climate research community. GWPF is most notable for its skepticism about climate change and its efforts to undermine the position of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The tremors his decision sent through the scientific community shocked Bengtsson.

The scientist said colleagues placed so much pressure on him after joining GWPF that he withdrew from the group out of fear for his own health. Bengtsson added that his treatment had been reminiscent of the persecution of suspected Communists in the United States during the era of McCarthyism in the 1950s.

It is time for physicists around the world to wake up to what is happening to science. They cannot sit back and do nothing as their colleagues in climate science are being harassed, having their jobs threatened, and being denied the opportunity to publish their works for political reasons. Physicists have to feel and express outrage whenever politicians make nakedly self-serving pronouncements that the scientific debate on climate change is over. Physicists know better than anyone else that’s not how science works. How often during the centuries from Aristarchus to Copernicus to Lemaître have physicists witnessed the lone individual prevail in the search for truth over the mistakes and objections of the multitude?

The threat to science is not confined to the study of climate change. Consider the field of biology, which, since the time of Thomas Huxley, has been dominated by the flawed theory of Darwin. What true scientist could accept the near deification of another scientist or the effective canonization of his works? Physicists certainly venerate the pioneers of astronomy and physics, but they do so even as they attempt to fulfill their scientific responsibility to do everything they can to prove those great scientists wrong. Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton did much for humankind, but physicists don’t try to shield them from criticism. They fully accept and honestly proclaim that these great luminaries were often wrong. By contrast, try getting any biologist to publicly admit the truth that Darwin was seriously wrong about evolution. They don’t dare.

And then there are the behavioral and social sciences—the benighted drudges of left-wing political ideology for so many generations. Take a few moments to investigate the latest pronouncements from the professional associations that represent the mainstream of psychology, anthropology, sociology and all the other behavioral disciplines; you will quickly understand the anti-science they truly represent. Psychologist, William James, was correct when he wrote about the study of human behavior over one hundred years ago, “This is no science … ,” but he was tragically wrong when he continued, “… it is only the hope of a science.”

There is no hope of science in these fields, because in them there is none of the overriding desire for or genuine commitment to truth that can defeat the human failings that physics took two millennia to overcome. That is why the social and behavioral studies have failed to accomplish the paradigm shift, the empirical conversion, and the discovery of natural laws which are the necessary steps to true science. Instead of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and the light of truth, these fields have give humankind nothing more than scientific abominations such as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud.

Physicists must understand the terrible and dangerous imbalance in human knowledge their lack of leadership is allowing to occur. Physics and the other physical sciences have given humankind an incredible power over the forces of nature. We can harness nuclear energy, create a multitude of new chemicals, manipulate the building blocks of matter, reshape the surface of the Earth, and change the atmosphere. But, because we do not understand or have any power over the inner forces that cause human behavior, we are like little children handling loaded weapons.

It took 1800 years before Copernicus realized the truth of what Aristarchus said about the structure of our solar system and took the first step toward true science. We can’t wait another 1800 years to develop a true science of human behavior. We won’t last that long. All sciences have to be put back on the path to truth. That’s why physicists must find the courage and determination to act as the keepers of the scientific flame and light the way for the others.

Physicists must shine a scientific light on all of the pretenses, the dishonesty, and the abuses that pass for science in other disciplines. Physicists must turn their love of science into a rage against all efforts to bend science away from the search for truth. Physicists must react with intellectual fury against all attempts to subvert science into the service of greed (yes, I’m talking about you, Al Gore) and the lust for political power (yes, I’m talking about you, IPCC).

Physics is the father and mother of all science. Physicists must act like the loving but determined parents of a hoard of unruly children who, instead of working hard to become real scientists, spend their time playing at and pretending to be scientists in the fields of biology, climate change, and human behavior. Physicists must guide and instruct those who are willing to learn from the magnificent successes of the physical sciences. They must relentlessly call out, scold, and discipline those who aren’t. If physicists lack the foresight or are simply too wimpy to take charge and lead the way, science will fail. Only God can help humanity if that happens, because we won’t be able to help ourselves.

The scientific method and ‘real science’

The following is a comment left by a reader at Vox Popoli about a year ago, in response to another reader who was concerned about the current state of science. I had written the following response with the intention of posting it here, and then forgot about it. Surak is about to offer some commentary on a disturbing development in science that bears on this, so I figured now was a good time to dig it up and post it.

To answer your question as to what ever happened to the scientific method, here’s the shocking truth: Science does not operate according to the scientific method unless there’s a crisis. Never did.

Science, just like every other avenue of human endeavor (why should it be different, honestly?) operates under the thrall of a power structure. Always has.

The scientific method only applies when challenges come up against prevailing paradigms. Then, it is utilized, and don’t be a fool understand that every effort is made, always, to doom the challenger and to favor the prevailing paradigm.

The great merit of the scientific method is that under these rare conditions reason and proof hold sway. But please do not be so foolish as to assume that science is governed by the scientific method on a basis, because it is not.

Science is governed by egos. And nothing more.

It is true in a grand Kuhnian sense that crisis precedes advancement. It is also true that egos are a factor in science. But so what? Science is the triumph of the human mind over ego and a multitude of other human failings—limited perspective, misleading emotions, dominant philosophies that act as closed boxes, and the corrupting effects of the universal desire for fame, fortune, and/or political power. The scientific method is the means by which these frailties are remedied. Since these obstacles to advancements in knowledge will always be with us, there will always be a turbulent interplay between human nature and the pursuit of science.

The key element of the scientific method that keeps it from flying off in the direction of wild, unsubstantiated speculation is the peer-review process. If you want to know if the scientific method is alive and well in any branch of science, simply observe how rigorously the peer-review process is being used. I go through the peer-review process on several levels every time I submit a research paper for publication.

The first hoop I have to jump through is the judgment of the referee assigned by the journal in which I hope to have my paper published. The most important thing the referee does is check how well I have accomplished the observe –> hypothesize –> predict –> test –> theorize part of the process. If the judgment is that my work is scientifically sound, the paper is published. Then the whole body of my profession passes judgment on my work by deciding whether or not to cite my work. At the next level of the peer-review process, decisions are made about which scientists are deserving of funding, tenure, and promotions. At the final level, judgments are made about which work is deserving of awards. The end result of this in physics is a steady advance in knowledge where occasional detours from truth are corrected and dead ends are usually recognized and reversed.

I accept that there are some areas of science in which the scientific method does not currently function as it should. So-called “climate change science” is the most obvious example of science being corrupted by politics, money, and dogma. Surak will have something to say about this soon with regard to a disturbing development in this field. Meanwhile, there is a simple test one can apply in this regard: any time the name Al Gore or the terms “scientific consensus” and “the debate has been settled” are used in regard to any branch of science, it has undoubtedly strayed from the scientific method.

Biology certainly suffers from an ego problem to the extent that it is nearly impossible to get a mainstream biologist to utter the words, “Darwin was wrong about some important things.” He was wrong about some important things, and a paradigm shift is long overdue in the field of evolution. But, it must be acknowledged that a multitude of biologists are doing very good work that is firmly based on the scientific method.

The real test of any field’s application of the method is whether that field petrifies into dogma or if it routinely accepts change. I must speak in defense of my field of physics/astrophysics. It has a long history that includes the initial establishment of the scientific method as well as continuous successful applications of its process. After the Copernican revolution and the invention of precision clocks, experimental methods were sufficiently advanced that it didn’t take all that long to accumulate enough evidence to overthrow old ideas and adopt new paradigms. To name but a very few examples: Newton’s uniting the heavens and the earth under one set of laws, Maxwell’s unification of electricity and magnetism, Poincaré’s relativity of time and space, Planck’s quantum, Hubble’s confirmation of other galaxies and the expanding universe, Einstein’s new view of gravity, Lemaître’s big bang theory, Zwicky’s dark matter, and the supernova teams’ accelerating universe.

You say this is rare, but how often do you think this is supposed to happen? How often can it happen on such a large scale? The Hubble/Lemaître paradigm is an especially important example of the scientific method working as well as it possibly can. Most physicists did not like the idea of a universe with a beginning, but the scientific method is so firmly established in physics that the vast majority of them accepted it once there was sufficient evidence to overcome all reasonable objections. Those who clung to the notion of the eternal universe for reasons of ego and non-scientific concerns were discredited for straying from the scientific path.

The application of the scientific method does not have to be perfect to be functional. My own everyday experience in the field of astrophysics has been that the method sometimes proceeds as the classic observe -> hypothesize -> predict -> test -> theory. But quite often it is something very different: observe -> huh? -> observe -> what the … ?! -> hypothesize -> predict -> test -> getting close to a theory! -> test again -> wait, what? -> OH! -> hypothesize -> test, and so on. As long as it is evidence- and prediction-driven throughout the confusion, that’s good enough.

As for the system being set up to doom the challenger, how else would you have it? That’s the way it should be, as long as this resistance is not rooted in ideology (e.g. “climate change science”). It’s not unlike a court of law, where the presumption should be the innocence of the accused and the burden of proof lies with the accuser.

Egos, admittedly, often get in the way of true science, but on the other hand I doubt science could proceed without them. Scientists will always be fully human and infinitely closer in nature to Captain Kirk than to Mr. Spock. The vast majority of people I work with are truly driven by a desire for truth, but also the competitive hope for recognition and reward (which is why science has always been a traditionally masculine endeavor). And yes, they also have an understandable instinct to protect the fruits of their labor.

The point of all this, do not confuse the inevitable imperfect application of the scientific method for its absence.

Why are Americans skeptical of some scientific ideas?

A recent poll indicates that Americans are skeptical of evolution by natural selection, global warming, and the big bang theory. Surprisingly (for me, anyway), the biggest scientific loser is the big bang, with 51% of the respondents skeptical that the universe was created approximately 14 billion years ago.

Frankly, this astonishes me. There are sound reasons to be skeptical of the theory of evolution by natural selection (TENS) and anthropogenic (man-made) global warming, but the evidence and arguments for the big bang theory are excellent — and also consistent with the Bible, which is no small thing, since the poll indicated that religiosity is correlated with disbelief in the big bang.

So, why are most Americans skeptical of the big bang?

This is not a rhetorical question; it’s something I’m striving to understand. Some Christians make the argument that a literal interpretation of the Bible requires a young Earth and young universe, but it appears to me that this belief is inspired, or supported, by an argument against evolution. Many people who are skeptical of TENS (particularly evangelical Christians) believe that it requires billions of years to work, therefore if the universe and the Earth are only thousands of years old, TENS doesn’t work. Never mind that billions of years can’t even begin to help TENS, that doesn’t explain why more people are skeptical of the big bang than evolution.

In any case, scientists are, understandably, distressed by these results. Randy Schekman, a Nobel laureate in medicine at UC-Irvine, said, “Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts.”

Schekman is both right and wrong. If quizzed on why he or she disbelieves in certain scientific ideas, I’m confident the average individual would not be able to explain the best evidence and arguments for and against the ideas. However, I don’t believe it has anything to do with leaders (presumably, he means religious and political leaders) being antagonistic to facts, but rather a vocal minority of scientists and their advocates being openly antagonistic to religious belief.

The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

And scientists know they’ve got the shakiest leg in the triangle.

To the public “most often values and beliefs trump science” when they conflict, said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. [emphasis added]

Of course values and beliefs trump science in a conflict. Unlike science, values and beliefs comprise an entire worldview, one that has been around much longer than modern science and has been much more influential.

But there was a time, at the beginning of the era of modern science up until the mid-20th century, when the Christian worldview and science largely went hand-in-hand. In the 17th century, many if not most natural philosophers (what scientists were called at the time) were Christians, and they saw their work as glorifying God. Mitch Stokes, in his brief biography of Newton, writes:

According to metaphor, God has written two books—Scripture and Nature—and He is glorified by the study of either one. This view, this “belief in the sacral nature of science,” was prevalent among natural philosophers of the seventeenth century. As Frank Manuel, one of Newton’s most important twentieth-century biographers, says:

“The traditional use of science as a form of praise to the Father assumed new dimensions under the tutelage of Robert Boyle and his fellow-members of the Royal Society, and among the immediate disciples of Isaac Newton. … In the Christian Virtuoso, demonstrating that experimental philosophy [experimental science] assisted a man to be a good Christian, Boyle assured readers that God required not a slight survey, but a diligent and skilful scrutiny of His works.”

Although Newton’s intensity while pursuing his work ranges from humorous to alarming, it is put into a different light if we see it as a measure of his devotion to God. For Newton, “To be constantly engaged in studying and probing into God’s actions was true worship.” This idea defined the seventeenth-century scientist, and in many cases, the scientists doubled as theologians. [emphasis added]

There was only occasional conflict for scientists like Newton in the form of struggling to understand how certain aspects of nature are consistent with their interpretation of scripture.

The antagonistic sort of conflict we see today goes back at least as far as Thomas Huxley using Darwinian evolution to undermine Christian belief. Huxley knew TENS had insurmountable problems, but he saw it as a useful weapon to attack Christianity, which he despised.

Unfortunately, this sort of practice has become increasingly commonplace into the 20th and 21st centuries. Global warming isn’t by its nature useful as a direct attack on Christian belief, but it does represent an attack on the Christian ideal of limited government. The historical misuse of biology as a weapon against Christian belief began with Huxley and continues with modern biologists and their supporters — so much so that the public has little idea how much the most recent findings of evolutionary biology support the Christian view of creation. The misuse of physics to undermine Christian belief, however, is relatively new. I find it distressing not only because it is my field of study, but because the field of physics has historically led the way for the other sciences and represents the greatest scientific support for the Christian view of creation.

As a scientist — and irrespective of my Christian beliefs — I find the behavior of the attackers perplexing. The majority of Americans are either Christian or hold some general belief in a supreme being, so why do some scientists go out of their way to alienate a majority of people who support science by sending their children to universities and by paying taxes for government-supported science programs? At some point, they’re just not going to see the value of either. And they’re certainly not going to make the effort to become more literate in a topic that they’re told is in opposition to their faith. Modern scientists like Stephen Hawking who use their considerable scientific knowledge to attack religious belief are therefore doing a tremendous disservice to science. I don’t know what Hawking’s motivation is, but if he dislikes Christianity to the extent that he’s trying to undermine it, as Huxley did, then he is only indirectly realizing this goal and at the cost of eroding confidence in good science.

Poll results notwithstanding, big bang theory is good science — in fact, it is arguably the crowning achievement of modern science — and it is not only compatible with Christian belief, but in my opinion mandated by it. (I will expand on this in a future post.)

Meanwhile, there’s no use blaming political and religious “leaders” for the lack of confidence in science, because, if history has taught us anything, it’s that they don’t tend to lead the way, but jump out in front of the direction in which people are already going. If good science is going to flourish in America, two things must happen. Christians must become scientifically literate — which is something I hope to encourage with my ministry — but scientists have got to stop the public antagonism toward Christian belief.

It wasn’t the rats after all

It seems that not only did rats get an undeservedly bad rap for the Black Death, but that the evidence favors a very simple explanation for its deadliness. Researchers have determined that the plague that wiped out 60% of London’s population in the 14th century was pneumonic — meaning spread through the air — rather than bubonic:

On Sunday, London scientists who’d studied 25 skeletons discovered in a new rail line said everything we’d thought about the bubonic plague — what caused it, what kind of disease it was, its strength — was wrong. Most of the ensuing coverage focused on the finding that the disease wasn’t likely spread by rats’ fleas, as has been taught in every high school in the West, but had actually been airborne.

But that discovery overshadowed a bunch of other equally fascinating findings, which provided a glimpse into how Europeans lived during the darkest chapter in human history.

And the article goes on to describe how horribly Europeans lived at that time.

It’s not clear if people are grasping the full meaning of this. The exact same strain of the plague that wiped out millions upon millions of people in a relatively short time surfaced in Madagascar last year and only managed to kill 60 people. What’s the difference between now and then? Most people living in London in the 14th century had horrible lifestyles — they were dirty, malnourished, got into a lot of fights, and were probably working under brutal conditions. When a person’s overall lifestyle is poor, that makes him much more susceptible to deadly disease. It’s the same principle that explains why some people with HIV go on to get devastating diseases like AIDS and some don’t. Adopting a very restrictive and healthy lifestyle is the best protection a person has against not only infectious disease, but against functional disorders like neuroses, cancer, adult-onset diabetes, and so on.

We’ll be writing a lot more about this topic in the future and how it relates to a meta-principle that turns out to vindicate Christian philosophy in a most powerful way.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 11

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series. See also: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9; Part 10

How does evolution relate to the belief of a creator? And please address the time frame. / Please address the timing of evolution and the Bible. / How do you reconcile biologists teaching evolution and coming from apes with the creation story in Genesis?

There is no conflict between Christianity and science inherent in scripture or the theory of evolution. There are at least 26 scientifically testable statements in Genesis 1 about the origins of the universe as well as the origins and diversity of life. All 26 statements are consistent with modern science without any dodgy interpretations of the Bible or contortions of the science to fit religious beliefs. And, all 26 statements are in the correct order according to modern science. See here for a detailed scientific explanation of this.

At the time of Darwin, there was a serious conflict between the Christian belief in a created universe and the scientific consensus of the time that the universe was eternal. That conflict was resolved in favor of the Christian view when big bang theory prevailed in the 1960s, because the basic premise of this theory (very simply stated) is that our universe had a beginning and came into being out of ‘nothing.’ Taking this one logical step further, the fundamental scientific concept of cause and effect requires something outside of and greater than (super-) our material world (-natural) capable of causing the universe to come into existence. In other words, based on the best evidence available, the supernatural must be part of the scientific discussion. Evolution cannot be isolated from consideration of the supernatural since everything biological is made of the stuff that makes up the universe.

In regard to evolution specifically, the Genesis account of creation lists several stages in the development of life on earth: vegetation, animal life in the oceans, flying creatures (winged insects), great sea creatures, life forms that crawl on land, every species of winged creature, land animals which became livestock (mammals), and finally man. There can be no doubt that this indicates a scriptural acceptance and understanding of a progression in the development of life. It is also important that this order of events conforms to the fossil evidence. So, there is no conflict about the fossil evidence between Judeo-Christian scripture and the theory of evolution.

There is a seemingly insurmountable disagreement between scripture and science in terms of the time it took for life to be created. The Bible says that all of creation took just six days. Science provides abundant and convincing evidence that this is absurd. As a result, the notion that the amazing diversity of life was accomplished in a few days is widely ridiculed in scientific circles as a silly and hopelessly unscientific myth of an ignorant ancient people. But, scientists, having lost one great argument with scripture, should have been somewhat humbled and exercised more care in their criticism of the Bible.

A continued lack of humility did in fact set Darwinists up for another scientific fall. There was something else the great minds of the mid-19th century were not aware of besides the big bang—relativity. In all the years since Einstein proposed his theories of relativity, only one man had the insight and ability to use Einstein’s first great achievement to gain a deeper understanding of scripture. Physicist and theologian, Gerald Schroeder, found, through a skillful and honest reading of Genesis coupled with a scientist’s understanding of Einstein’s relativity, that the six-day account of creation does not deserve the ridicule it has received for so many generations.

The first clue to this has always been available to anyone with an open mind. According to Genesis 1:2, for the first two days of Genesis “The earth was without form.” The Earth was not formed until the third day. Since there was no Earth for the first two days of the Genesis account, one has to wonder how time was being reckoned. The author of Genesis must have been marking time according to some other means than the time it takes the Earth to spin on its axis.

It is totally understandable why non-scientists failed to pick up on this clue. Einstein told humankind something hugely counterintuitive—that time passes at a comparatively different rate for every location in the universe. The commonly accepted age of the universe—10 to 20 billion years–is very likely true, but only from the perspective of Earth-bound beings looking back in time. The age of the universe and the passage of time from any other perspective would be very different—seemingly strange, but scientifically indisputable. The same is true of all evolutionary estimates of biological events; scientific observations that life emerged 3.8 billion years ago or that the dinosaurs were destroyed 65 million years ago are only valid from that same extremely limited perspective.

A combination of Einstein’s relativity, Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding, and the big bang theory provides scientists a different way of measuring time—a universal clock based on the frequency of the cosmic background radiation left over from the big bang. This is the only all-inclusive perspective available to us. When this ‘universal clock’ is applied to events since the big bang, something truly amazing is revealed—the six days of Genesis are literally true and completely compatible with modern science. See here for a rudimentary explanation of the science of the universal clock and its application to the six days of creation.

There are a number of clues which substantiate this claim. The earthly measure of time is not used in the Bible until after man is created. During the six days of creation, time is not tied directly to the events described. As Gerald Schroeder explains, events are listed and then the reader is informed that another day has passed. After the creation of Adam, time is directly linked for the first time to events on Earth. Another important clue is found in Psalms 90:4, “A thousand years in Your eyes are as a day that passes …” This is clearly an expression of the relativity of time by an ancient writer who had only scripture and revelation to go by.

The Bible’s use of universal time 3,000 years before humans discovered the relativity of time is far beyond remarkable. It is a scientifically inexplicable mystery equal to that of someone actually finding a genuine fossil of J. B. S. Haldane’s famous ‘Precambrian rabbit.’ Haldane used this amusing idea to make the point that one way to empirically falsify evolution theory would be to find a fossil so out of place (hence the rabbit in the Precambrian age) there could be no explanation for it within the bounds of Darwinism. This test can be applied to the Genesis account of creation; the ancient biblical use of universal time is so far out of place there is no scientific explanation for it. It could not have been a lucky or informed guess; it can only be the result of revelation.

Darwin himself said that a person could be a Christian and an evolutionist. Not only is there nothing in scripture or science that prevents a person from believing that evolution was the means by which God created the great diversity of life on Earth, there is evidence for it. Sean B. Carroll is a biologist and modern Darwinist at the forefront of a wonderful new field of study known as evolutionary developmental biology (or ‘evo-devo’ for short). In his fascinating book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, Professor Carroll is compelled to use a word that seems completely at odds with the basic concept of evolution, and he uses it over a dozen times in the book.

The incongruous word he employs over and over again is ‘logic.’ You can find it on pages 8, 12, 26, 35, 54, 55, 56, 60, 60, 61, 106, 195, and 271. The word seems so inappropriate, because it is being used to describe something he and all other Darwinists believe is the result of a mindless, random process, even though logic is the product of a rational mind. Nevertheless, Professor Carroll can’t help using this ill-fitted word, because everything he observes in the operation of animal DNA is so elegantly intricate, efficient, and consistent—something like an unimaginably good computer program.

It is unfortunate that his mind and those of most of his fellow biologists are evidently so closed by the current scientific prejudice against the notion of God that it doesn’t occur to any of them what he is really saying in his hugely informative and enjoyable book: There is significant evidence of a great rational mind at work in the structure and workings of genes.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 8

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series. See also: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6; Part 7

What is the most important piece of knowledge you have come to learn about evolution since becoming a believer?

Darwin was a great scientist and pioneer in the field of biology. In that regard he is similar to Copernicus in the field of physics. Physicists honor Copernicus, but they also recognize and readily admit his shortcomings. He helped accomplish the first great paradigm shift that set science on its present course of discovery. What a great thing to do! But he was wrong about some important things; the Sun is not the center of the universe, and planets do not travel in perfectly circular orbits. We forgive Copernicus for his mistakes, because he did his work before the basic tools and higher mathematics of astronomy were developed. How could he be expected to get everything right four hundred years ago?

Darwin worked under similar limitations decades before the revolutionary discoveries of the Burgess Shale fossils and genes. So, once again, how could the great pioneer in the field of biology have gotten everything right all the way back in the mid 1860s? That would not be a fair expectation on the part of either supporters or detractors of Darwin.

The main principles of Darwinism are common descent, random mutation, natural selection, and gradualism. Each of these components is a necessary part of current evolutionary theory, which is important because people often confuse evolution theory for just one of these parts—the common descent of all animal life. It is true that common descent has all but been ‘proven,’ about as well as any scientific belief can be proven, and there can be little remaining doubt about it. But, the massive evidence in favor of common descent neither establishes the truth of evolution theory as a whole nor undercuts Christian beliefs. The most that can be said is that Darwin’s championing of this principle counts as a great success of the same magnitude as Copernicus’ heliocentric theory.

But, Darwin, just like Copernicus, got some things wrong. The fossil evidence does not support gradualism. In the words of one of the most respected biologists of modern times, Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City: “The fossil record we were told to find for the past 120 years does not exist.”

It was Darwin who told biologists what to expect in the fossil record, and this mistake was a significant failure on his part.

In fact, the fossil evidence contradicts Darwin so badly, it compelled Eldridge and his more famous partner, Stephen Jay Gould, to offer something they called ‘punctuated equilibrium’ as an alternative to strict Darwinism. There are other serious problems with Darwinism (the mathematics of random mutations doesn’t work and there is a fatal lack of empirical evidence for natural selection), but, for the sake of brevity, it is enough to say that without gradualism Darwinism is seriously undone. In other words, Darwin was wrong about at least one major thing.

In light of this, the most important thing any scientist can come to learn about evolution is that biologists are generally incapable of saying the following words: “Darwin was wrong.”

Physicists can say without hesitation that there were times when “Galileo was wrong, Newton was wrong, and Einstein was wrong.” In spite of their mistakes, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein are still considered giants in the field of physics. Why can’t biologists make the same and obviously true statement about Darwin? I believe it is because strict Darwinism has become anti-Christian gospel, and many biologists are betraying science by promoting and defending this dogma.

Would the discovery of intelligent life on another planet disprove the existence of God?

Why would God be limited to creating one group of beings with souls in just one part of a vast universe? While the Bible is addressed to and concerned about the conscious beings inhabiting the Earth, there is nothing in the Bible that says that life was created only on Earth. “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2). See here and here for further discussion.