Mailbag: Why did God create dinosaurs?

JB writes:

Hi Dr. Salviander,

I’m a undergrad student in Dallas and I want to thank you for your dedication to the Lord in your work. It has helped me greatly and I’ve suggested your blog to my friends.

I had a simple question, just looking to get some insight:

Assuming the Anthropic Principle, why do you think God created dinosaurs and other species for mass extinction?

Thanks for your time–if you can!

I get wonderful questions from students, and this is no exception.

Dr. Hugh Ross runs an apologetics ministry called Reasons to Believe (also linked under “Helpful Resources”), and he talks a great deal about the fine-tuning argument. This argument says that the universe, and specifically the Earth, are very finely tuned for human life. In fact, so much so that all this fine-tuning overwhelmingly points to a Creator. Dr. Ross would say that, as with all cosmic events, mass extinctions play a part in preparing the Earth for the eventual appearance of humans. He discusses the dinosaur extinction in this article.

A corollary to this question might be, why did God carry out such an elaborate plan for the eventual appearance of humans—why not just create the universe and humans all at once and just bypass stuff like dinosaurs? The answer to that is in scripture, e.g. Psalm 8 and Romans 1:20. We learn about our Creator and his actions in this world by studying his creation. As physicist and theologian Dr. Gerald Schroeder points out, there is a Talmudic tradition that says the Torah (the first five books of Moses) was split in two on Mount Sinai; half was given to us in the book of scripture, the other half was sequestered in nature. In fact, the only name used for God in Genesis is ‘Elokiim,’ which means ‘God as made manifest in nature.’ Schroeder claims that we must study both scripture and nature in order to truly understand God’s word (see Schroeder’s book God According to God for more about this).

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.

Replay: Politics, science, and a false dichotomy

Traffic’s up after the announcement of the publication of our Astronomy and Astrophysics curriculum, so we’re replaying some of our more important posts from the archives for our new readers.

** Written by “Surak” **

There was a political confrontation last Thursday [August 2011] in New Hampshire between conservative politician, Rick Perry, and a liberal woman protestor. The dispute concerned Perry’s views about evolution and creationism, and it demonstrated why we need to be concerned about the future of science in America. Governor Perry spoke to the woman’s young son in front of the usual swarm of reporters eager for a headline. Perry gave them one by telling the boy that evolution was a theory with gaps in it. In an obvious attempt to contrive an unflattering media incident to hurt the Texas governor’s campaign, the mother could be heard urging the child to ask Perry why he didn’t believe in science. Perry ignored the mother and told the boy that in Texas both evolution and creationism are taught, “… because I figured you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.” I am appalled by what the mother did and troubled by the implications of Perry’s response.

The mother undoubtedly thinks of herself as a defender of ‘science,’ by which I guess she means the usual vague understanding of the currently popular but failed mid-20th century version of evolution. Whatever her beliefs, it was an abuse of science to pull a cheap political trick like this. And, it was a disturbing corruption of her child’s innocence by putting words in his mouth he couldn’t possibly have understood. She obviously thought she was protecting him and other children from false ideas, but her actions amount to nothing more than a crude form of indoctrination based on the prevailing conviction that any questioning of ‘evolution’ is an intellectual sin.

I do not endorse Rick Perry or his political viewpoints. Having said that, I do agree with two important things he said. First, evolution theory, even in its best, most current form, does have serious gaps. For instance, it cannot explain how life began, the incredible explosion of animal life in the Cambrian, the fossil record that shows the sudden appearance of a multitude of new organ, limbs and species with no apparent transition stages, or the very recent appearance and mysterious nature of human consciousness. One cannot defend science by becoming indignant when someone else points out the obvious.

More importantly, I hope Governor Perry was sincere about trusting students to get it right. Science education in America should be based on that trust in (and challenge for) young minds. The foundation of modern science, as well as the basis of genius, is the ability to ask good questions, usually in the form of ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘what if.’ Einstein’s thought experiments are a famous example. Scientific questioning, if it is to continue to lead to amazing and useful new answers, should never be shackled by politics, religion, or philosophy. Children must be taught and encouraged to ask their own questions no matter how strange, silly, or politically incorrect they might seem to parents and teachers.

Years ago, my high school science classes consisted mostly of rote memorization of facts and stale reenactments of old experiments. We were forced to think about other people’s questions (including a lot of mind-numbing ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘where’) rather than our own questions. The whole process was as divorced from real life concerns, important philosophical questions, and religious beliefs as possible, and therefore totally irrelevant and boring. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the wonders and power of real science.

I have a deep commitment to the scientific method. But, that commitment is tempered by an understanding that science is a tool that has limitations which must be acknowledged. Science cannot continue its positive role in society by becoming some kind of false idol, something created by humans but worshiped as infallible. Scientists and science teachers need to model a necessary and healthy humility that includes the need to state up front that science can only deal with our material world and can have nothing legitimate to say about anything that might lie outside our universe, such as God or heaven. Then maybe we’d get fewer annoying distractions at political events, and politicians could focus more on what they really need to do.

But humility is not happening. Science is being promoted by some as the complete, unerring, and only way to arrive at the truth. So, instead of being a good example for others, we witness more than a few scientists make the grave mistake of denigrating other people’s deepest beliefs and alienating them from science. Look up the latest silly musings of the great scientist Stephen Hawking to see a sad and disturbing example of this. If humility fails on a large enough scale, science can’t help but slide in the direction of political correctness and eventually petrify as dogma.

We won’t be able to avoid this fate if protecting science comes to mean putting young people like the woman’s son in an educational bubble to protect them from philosophy and religion under the guise of separation of church and state. Remember that science started as something called natural philosophy and was given its modern form by its devoutly Christian founders. You cannot separate these three things without damaging science. If our current generation of students is to become the next generation of effective scientists, they must be given the opportunity to understand how science relates to and differs from religion and philosophy objectively without the biases and fears that currently stifle our schools and rupture our communities.

So, Governor Perry is right about teaching creationism, because it is a powerful force in American history and culture that needs to be studied not just in social studies classes but also in science classes. Even young-Earth creationism, which I view as sadly non-scientific, should be squarely presented to high school students. Students need to understand what science is not in order to understand what it is. They will benefit from understanding young-Earth creationism, have fun debating it, and discover the truth for themselves if given the necessary tools, opportunity, and encouragement.

My challenge to the mother and all others on the left of the political spectrum is ‘what are you afraid of?’ If all the variations of creationism are so totally wrong, if the science you believe in is so strong, won’t it be obvious to the vast majority of students by the time they finish high school? Allow creationism, intelligent design, and the various forms of evolutionary theory to contend with one another in an honest competition of ideas, and then trust students to get it right. One can only object to this if his or her real goal is indoctrination.

This open approach to science education would include a spirited defense of Darwinism in the schools, because Darwin is a prime example of a great scientist asking important questions and coming up with an original and compelling answer. But evolutionary theory must be presented truthfully and fully, including not only its strengths, but also its many weaknesses. In the spirit of an open and effective science curriculum, would the liberal mother from New Hampshire be willing to have science teachers discuss the totally unexpected results of evolutionary development (Evo Devo)? Is this ‘defender of science’ even aware that the findings of biologists in this new field have turned evolutionary thought on its head in the last few years? (I refer the reader to Sean B. Carroll’s excellent book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom). Would she be willing to have students informed that the three great enduring mysteries of biology – the origins of life, the inexplicable explosion of animal life in the Cambrian, and the sudden development and mysterious nature of human consciousness – correspond to the three instance in Genesis that the word ‘creation’ is used to describe how things came about? (As an agnostic about religion, I’m not sure what this means, but it is really interesting.) Or, would she insist that young people be kept ignorant of all this in defense of some quasi-sacred belief she calls evolution?

To be fair, it is likely and terribly unfortunate that most people on the political right and the Christian side of the science/religion debate don’t trust young people either. As the religious and political conflict continues to intensify, which it seems to be doing, each side will probably do all it can to indoctrinate and control children. I fear that, as a result of this irresolvable conflict, science as the search for truth will eventually be fatally corrupted and seriously diminished as a force for good in people’s lives.

So, I want to say this to people on the left who declare their desire to protect science: you don’t protect science by sanitizing education and excluding other ways of thinking. You must look at yourselves in the mirror and realize that you are just as susceptible to political dogma and metaphysical prejudice as the people you oppose. Quit trying to use science to score political points and undercut Christian influence. In other words, if you have to fight, fight fair and leave science out of it.

To the people on the religious right who want to protect their faith: you can’t protect it by rejecting science or promoting false scientific views, because it will only make you look foolish and alienate your children in this age of science. Young-Earth creationism in particular is self-defeating because it leaves Christian youth vulnerable to the powerful (but false) scientific arguments of prominent atheists who are increasingly successful in turning young people away from faith. You believe, or at least many of you say you believe, that the Bible is true. You also understand that God gave us minds capable of comprehending his works. Won’t both paths, scripture and science, eventually lead to the same truth?

If you doubt this, consider the following quote from Gerald L. Schroeder’s bestselling book, The Science of God:

At the briefest instant following creation all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. The matter at this time was so thin, so intangible, that it did not have real substance. It did have, however, a potential to gain substance and form and to become tangible matter. From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin noncorporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from this ethereally thin pseudosubstance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is and will be formed.

As Dr. Schroeder points out (p. 56), “This … could be a quote from a modern physics textbook.” But in fact it comes from the 13th century biblical scholar, Nahmanides (1194-1270), who was able to anticipate modern science by 700 years using nothing more than a literal interpretation of the Bible. It’s true that the best scientists in the world were not capable of this level of understanding of our universe until after 1965, but science did finally catch up with scripture. Christians must have faith that scripture and science are two paths to the one and only truth, and God intended us to use both. (See Psalms 19:1 and Romans 1:20.)

This is why I am concerned about Governor Perry’s statement. His indirect response to the mother’s attack assumes that either science (in this case, evolution) or Christian scripture (in this case, creationism) is right, that they can’t both be right. Christians must not buy into the imagined conflict between science and faith — there is no inherent schism. I believe both the scientific view of our universe (effectively understood) and the Genesis account of creation (properly understood) are entirely compatible.

You don’t have to be a believer in scripture to accept the possibility there can be more than one path to the truth. It would be wonderful if we could all wish each other well on whichever path each of us chooses and help one another in the search for truth. If we can’t manage that level of good will, then we should at least accept, in the American spirit of freedom, that no one has a right to tell anyone else what to believe. I hope that all Americans will embrace science as the objective search for truth and keep it above the fray, that Christians will not see science as the enemy but will once again become fully involved in the scientific adventure, and that our brothers and sisters on the left will refrain, even if they must see religion as the enemy, from using science as a weapon. Otherwise we will all lose so much.

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.

Zombie science

There’s a simple reason for the corruption of biology and the social sciences: these studies are not based on Christian beliefs and faith the way science originally was and must always be. Modern science developed in only one place—Christian Europe. If you look up the great pioneers of physics and astronomy, you will find that they were almost all devout Christians, from Copernicus to Galileo to Newton to Maxwell to Planck to Lemaître.

The one glaring exception was Einstein, but even he famously said, “I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.” Even though Einstein was not Christian, he was the product of the Christian European culture that gave birth to science, and he was a willing participant in a process based on Christian principles:

But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. (Albert Einstein, 1941)

The prime motivation of Einstein and so many other great figures in science was to uncover divine truth and know the mind of God. People who feel they are doing God’s work are far less likely to succumb to human frailties and engage in activities that corrupt the search for truth. That tradition remains strong in physics, the original science. That is why the field of astrophysics was able to resist the degenerative effects of an increasingly atheist society. When the devout Lemaître conceived of the primeval atom (aka big bang theory) and demonstrated that the Genesis account of a universe with a beginning was scientifically sound, the stubborn resistance of scientists with a hatred for the idea of God was quickly overcome by the evidence.

The other branches of science have not fared as well. Atheists stole science from Christians in the mid and late 19th century with the false social science of Marx and behavioral science of Freud as well as the misuse of Darwin’s theory of evolution and the gross misrepresentation of Christian scripture. Over the last century and a half, secular humanists have successfully alienated Christians from the scientific method the faithful created and taken over most of its areas of study. Physics still has a substantial minority of Christians (and people with a general belief in God), and much good work is still being done. The social and behavior studies, on the other hand, are the tools of secular humanism and the zombies of the scientific world—active but not alive. Biology was bitten long ago and is gradually succumbing to the humanist infection. There is an easy way to tell a zombie biologist from a true biological scientist; ask him to say the following words, “Darwin was seriously wrong about some important things.” If he can’t bring himself to say this, you are speaking with one of the walking dead. Climate change ‘scientists’ are just garden-variety corrupt hacks who have sold out for money, prestige, and political favors. Bundle up for the coming ice age or thank the polluters for preventing it.

The lesson here is that the further any area of study is from the Christian foundations of true science, the more corrupt it is. The United States has been the source of a great deal of the productive science done in the 20th and early 21st centuries. It is also the most Christian of all developed countries. If atheists succeed in turning the United States into anything similar to what the formerly Christian European nations now are, science will die and humankind will experience a dark age.

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.

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.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 6

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 4; Part 5

What’s the most common scientific argument you encounter against Christianity? How have you responded?

The most common scientific arguments against Christianity are the following:

1. The six days of creation are completely contrary to modern science.

This is false. See here for a thorough explanation of this.

2. Evolution explains everything and makes God ‘unnecessary.’

The first part of this statement is false; the second part is an extremely weak and silly argument. First, Darwinism in all of its forms has not provided answers for the most fundamental biological questions of all: how did life originate, what caused the tremendous explosion of life forms in the Cambrian explosion, why do different phyla of animal life share common genes, what is human consciousness, and where does human consciousness come from? Modern biologists who make grand pronouncements about God end up sounding like teenagers who discover where their mom and dad keep the car keys and the credit cards and then declare that their parents are no longer necessary. They are also like kids in their immature conviction that they know everything. They once confidently declared that they knew how life started: huge amounts of time in which nearly infinite random combinations of chemicals occurred solved the problem of the origins of life on Earth. Then the fossil evidence destroyed that argument by showing that life arose almost immediately after water formed on the Earth; there was no long period of time for random processes to work their magic (it really was a case of magical thinking all along).

Then the Darwinists said, well, never mind that we really don’t have an explanation for the origins of life; once life started, it developed and diversified without any supernatural help. According to evolutionary theory the various phyla of the animal kingdom all evolved separately according to the laws of random mutation and natural selection. That claim turned out not to be true either.

Sean B. Carroll is a current Darwinist biologist at the forefront of a new field of study known as evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). In his book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, he announces the startling discovery that animal life forms as different as mammals and insects share interchangeable genes, something that Darwinists always believed was impossible:

[T]he 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. … The insights provided by these discoveries … [have] forced biologists to rethink completely their picture of how forms evolve. (p. 285, emphasis added)

In other words, Darwinists (“the architects and adherents of Modern Synthesis”) are “completely” wrong about how life developed on Earth. With a track record like this, biologists should be humble enough not to make grand pronouncements that God does not exist or is unnecessary.

3. The idea of a creator god doesn’t provide any final or satisfying answer, because the question remains ‘who or what made God?’

This is more of a philosophical question with scientific overtones and implications.

Whether atheists like it or not (and they don’t), big bang theory necessitates the inclusion of the supernatural in all philosophical and scientific discussions about the origins of the universe and life. Something outside and greater than (super-) the universe (nature) must have caused it to come into being. Taking this logic one step further, there must be something outside our universe that has, as an inherent quality, the power to exist. In other words, at the bottom of everything is something or ‘someone’ that was not made by something else. We can’t understand this power or the nature of the thing that holds it, but we are living proof that it ‘exists’ in some unfathomable manner.

Rather than argue about the unknowable, we should pose the most obvious question worth asking, “Is this entity that possesses the power to exist conscious or unconscious?” These two alternatives seem to exhaust the possibilities and be mutually exclusive. If you can think of another possibility, let me know.

If one prefers to believe that the creative power behind the universe is unconscious, then the fundamental entity would be some form of eternal material universe based on equally eternal natural laws. Since we are reasonably sure this universe is not eternal, we would be forced to fall back on notions such as the multiverse. Because of the limitations of science, these ideas will never be anything more than unprovable speculation forever consigned to the realms of philosophy, science fiction, or anti-Christian dogma.

I find these unconscious alternatives not only emotionally and intellectually unsatisfying, but truly terrifying. Atheists generally take this idea just one baby-step further by grandly pronouncing that all we have is this one life, and we should courageously accept the truth and live that life to the fullest. But, why bother? According to them, all of humankind will be exterminated and nothing anyone does, feels, or learns will have any lasting significance. As bad as that sounds, the reality of an eternal universe is actually far worse.

One of the most annoying things about atheists who make this argument about ‘who made God’ is their inability to take an idea all the way to its most logical conclusion. Consider for a moment the two most fundamental aspects of their eternal material universe:

  1. Another word for eternal is infinite (in time).
  2. In the unconscious eternal material universe, everything would happen according to the laws of probability.

Put these two things together and the result is total weirdness that offends reason.

We don’t know what the exact probability of you existing in an eternal material world is, but we do know it is some positive non-zero value, because you exist. So, what is the probability that you could exist twice? According to the mathematics of probability, you can calculate that by multiplying the probability you will exist by itself. Well, a positive number multiplied by a positive number is … a positive number. In other words, you could exist in two or more places at the same time, and you will definitely exist again given an infinite amount of time. But it gets more complicated than that because an infinite amount of anything plays havoc with our sense of reality.

If the universe is eternal, you have already lived an infinite number of lives. You have already lived each of these lives an infinite number of times. Each life was lived and then completely lost—no memories, no lasting achievements, no personal growth, no enduring love. There is only an endless and pointless repetition. Really! I can imagine no more terrifying prospect than this utter and endless lack of purpose.

Science is ultimately incapable of proving anything either way. So, I chose for non-scientific but rational reasons to hope that the creative power behind the universe is conscious. That is the only chance we have for meaning, purpose, and love.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 4

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 3

You mentioned the big bang.  In your interpretation, does the big bang coincide with the moment of creation? / How does scientific proof of the big bang line up with the biblical teaching of creationism?

The scientific theory of the big bang is in every way consistent with the Genesis account of creation. These two very different ways of understanding the origin of the universe agree on all of the basics:

  • The universe had a beginning.
  • The universe was created out of nothing (nothing material).
  • What came before the big bang is scientifically unknowable.
  • There was no matter in the universe just after creation.
  • Something scientifically inexplicable happened just after the big bang. Physicists believe that something unusual (and so far unexplained) happened, and they call this one-time event ‘inflation.’ In scripture this one-time act of God is a miracle.
  • After this one-time event, light came into existence.
  • Darkness was created as something more than just the absence of light—in science this phenomenon is studied as dark matter and dark energy.
  • Our universe is constructed out of what scientists call fluids and the Bible calls ‘waters’ (ancient Hebrew vocabulary was very limited—about 3000 words—and didn’t have a different word for fluids).
  • The stars and galaxies were formed after light appeared.
  • The Earth was formed after stars first appeared.
  • Bodies of water and continents formed on Earth.
  • Life almost immediately came into existence after these bodies of water formed.
  • There was a progression in life forms.
  • When the atmosphere became oxygen-rich it became transparent, which made the Sun, Moon, and stars visible from the Earth’s surface for the first time.
  • Life first developed in water and eventually spread to dry land.
  • Winged insects appeared.
  • Dinosaurs lived (in the ancient Hebrew of Gen. 1:21 they are called e·thninm e·gdlim—the reptiles great).
  • Other winged creatures besides insects appear.
  • Mammals appear.
  • Hominids appear.
  • Conscious man appears.

When convincing evidence for the big bang was presented in the 1960s, newspaper headlines declared that the Bible had been vindicated1.

However, we must be careful not to overstate what science has done or is capable of doing. Science has not and cannot ‘prove’ that the big bang occurred. There is nothing in any branch of science that has been proven once and for all. Anyone searching for finality in understanding will be disappointed with science. Scientists have found evidence of the big bang that is so compelling that the theory is now accepted by most in the scientific community. But like every other theory in science it has gaps and unanswered questions.

Most important of all, science is the study of our material universe. It cannot directly address questions about what may or may not be outside the universe. The existence of God is therefore not scientifically provable or disprovable. What has been accomplished since the discovery of relativity, particle physics, and the big bang is the overthrow of the false argument that science and scripture are incompatible. That is enough.

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[1] Several newspapers reported on astronomical observations, presented at the Royal Astronomical Society’s February 1961 meeting, that appeared to rule out steady-state theory. The Evening Standard published an article with the headline “‘How it all began’ fits in with Bible story” (Peter Fairley, 10 February 1961), and the Evening News and Star featured an article headlined, “The Bible was right,” (Evening News Science Reporter, 10 February 1961).