Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the specific ‘scientific’ reason for my conversion to Christianity.

LC writes:

Thank you for making the story of your conversion to Christianity public.  I am a Christian apologist who is using your story as a discussion point in a meetup I am holding.  One of the atheists that is attending is asking what specific scientific reasons (not philosophical or theological) you found most compelling in your conversion.  The article mentions your work on deuterium abundances as well as your amazement that the universe is comprehensible.  Do you have any other scientific reasons that I could share with the group that you find compelling?

My conversion was a two-step process that took place over many years. I first went from atheism to theism, and then after a few years, I went from theism to Christianity. The former was completely unexpected; the latter was a very deliberate process.

You will have to explain to your atheist attendee that you cannot separate science from philosophy, so there was no ‘purely scientific’ reason for my conversion. What specifically led me to believe in God was the idea best expressed by Einstein when he said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

Through my research in cosmology, I got an overwhelming sense of a universe that is so rational that it’s as though it wanted to be understood. I had a specific question I was trying to answer with my research — how much of the universe is comprised of ordinary matter* — and it shocked me when I realized not only how answerable the question was, but that there was no reason it had to be this way. How is it even possible to have a rational universe without some kind of rational cause? I realized that by far the best explanation for the existence of the universe is that it was caused by a personal, rational, transcendent being of some kind. At that time, I called this personal cause “God,” but didn’t have any specific religious beliefs beyond God as the Creator.

Note that this is not a God of the gaps argument or an argument from incredulity, which is how atheists often try to spin it. It’s simply the most rational explanation, and I had no choice but to accept it on that basis. If you want to understand this explanation in greater depth, William Lane Craig has some good articles and videos on the philosophical argument that the cause of the universe has to be a personal being.

It was that realization that took me from atheism to theism. What took me from theism to Christianity was mostly Gerald Schroeder’s book, The Science of God, which I highly recommend. After reading the first four chapters in particular, I reasoned that the odds of Genesis not being divinely inspired were so low as to be effectively impossible. Once I realized that Genesis was, contra the odds, rather scientifically accurate for a thousands year-old document, I began investigating the rest of the Bible and specifically the evidence for the gospels. I came to the conclusion that the best explanation, given the evidence, is that the gospels were true, so I accepted Jesus on that basis.

* One of these days I’m going to write a post about the details of the research project and how it ultimately led to my conversion.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

bigbang_metric_expansion

In which we try to clear up some confusion about Genesis and time dilation.

EC writes:

With regard to your time dilation theory… How would the mechanics of this work on a local level? With the expansion and the moving away from the rest of the mass, time slows down is the basics of it, right?

If time is slowing down, are other “constants” changing at the same rate? For example, would gravity be affected differently? What I am wondering is, how to reconcile the needed days in this time if its simply apparent time with the motion of the planets themselves. If time was moving faster due to greater mass, but the planets were not moving faster, then days would be much much longer. If planets were moving faster, then gravity would have to be stronger in relation to the dilation or the planets and other bodies would leave each other, which obviously hasn’t happened.

Perhaps I am missing something, but I seem to be stuck here.

Schroeder’s time dilation reconciliation of Genesis 1 with modern science seems to confuse a lot of people. Part of the problem is that relativity is weird, non-intuitive, and confuses just about everyone. I can say to you in words that time dilation is just the stretching of the flow of time in one frame of reference relative to another, but it’s not very relatable in terms of everyday experiences. The best I could do is to say something like this: what is an hour for you is really two hours for me. Or if you’ve seen the movie Contact, you might remember that time dilation was used to explain how Dr. Arroway could experience several hours on another planet while the observers back on Earth experienced only a few seconds.

Besides the fact that it’s just weird, probably the most confusing thing about time dilation is that it can arise from three different things:

  • relative velocity
  • relative gravity
  • stretching of space as the universe expands.

Even though it confuses some people, Schroeder and I both like to use practical examples of relativity that have nothing to do with Genesis, because it demonstrates that time dilation is a real thing and not just some wacky mathematical idea. For instance, time dilation due to relative velocity explains how particles called muons can be produced in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and time dilation due to relative gravity explains the very slight difference in the flow of time on board global positioning satellites compared with the surface of the Earth. When I tell audiences in my lectures that without accounting for differences in the flow of time due to gravity, GPS would be useless, it impresses on them that relativity is real.

However, the cost of this is that these examples seem to stick in people’s minds once we switch over to discussing the flow of time and Genesis. So, what I want you to do is this. Remember from those examples that relativity is real, and then forget the rest. Then, when anyone talks about using time dilation to reconcile Genesis 1 and modern science, remember that it is solely due to the fact that the universe is expanding. It doesn’t have anything to do with relative speed or gravity.

The way it works is that we use the wave nature of light as the beat of the cosmic clock. Since light waves traveling through space get stretched out as the universe expands, that shows us how the flow of cosmic time is stretched out compared with earlier times in the universe’s history. Every time the universe doubles in scale as it’s expanding — that is, every time the distance between very far away galaxies doubles in size — the flow of time is stretched out by a factor of two compared with when the universe was half its present scale. This means, as the universe gets more and more stretched out, the flow of time gets slower and slower compared with earlier times. This is how you reconcile six Genesis days with 14 billion years.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

800px-Bloch-SermonOnTheMount

In which we discuss the scientific method in terms of the gospels and one beginning.

PS writes:

Thanks for taking time to answer my questions. I find the Biblical notion of the Gospel very intriguing, as well as current notions within the field of cosmology.

1. When doing science, we employ the scientific method to arrive at a particular degree of certainty for a given problem. How does belief in Jesus differ? Are we to use the same scientific method when assessing the veracity of the Gospel? Or is there another method, rigorously defined and assessed, that we can employ?

2. To what degree of certainty does the average professional cosmologist think space/time had a single beginning? I think I’ve noted that cosmologist who actually study this notion are not very dogmatic.

3. What percentage of actual cosmologists hold to a high degree of certainty (95%?) that space/time had a single beginning?

4. What degree of certainty do you have that the Gospel is true? Is it possible for you to change your mind in the future?

Sorry if these are tough questions, but I’ve been very curious about these notions for a long time.

The eminent cosmologist and professor of philosophy, Michael Heller, points out in his book, Ultimate Explanations of the Universe, that the scientific method has proved so powerful a tool for investigating the physical world that there is a tendency to misapply it by extending its use to anything a person might wish to study. However, the scientific method is not only not applicable to everything we could ever want to investigate, it’s not even applicable to the majority of things we could ever want to investigate.

1. The scientific method is not applicable to the gospels. We couldn’t use science to test them any more than we could use science to test the historical claims about George Washington or Alexander the Great. Instead, we apply the legal-historical method to determine if the claims about Jesus in the gospels are true. My friend, J. Warner Wallace, who is a homicide detective and skilled apologist, explains this approach in his book, Cold Case Christianity.

2. Presumably PS is referring to a cyclical model in which the universe bangs, expands, contracts, and crunches, over and over, possibly for eternity, but the question isn’t answerable as written. We can assign a certainty to something like the measured age of the universe, but not to something that is beyond our ability to measure. Theoretical cosmologists have attempted to come up with models that take the current physical evidence and fit it into a cyclical timeline, and these do have some testable aspects. In terms of the physical evidence, however, there is no support for multiple beginnings, and the models just don’t work. It looks like we’re stuck with one beginning.

3. I have no idea. But, as the link above shows, the best and the brightest in theoretical cosmology have not been able to make cyclical models work. In terms of the models and evidence, the cyclical universe is currently a dead end. That doesn’t mean some cosmologists won’t hold to it for personal or philosophical reasons.

4. I can’t quantify it, but I’m as certain about the claims of the gospels as I am of the claims about other major historical events that are widely accepted, which is to say very certain. Enough to bet my life on it. It’s always possible for me to change my mind about something, given sufficient evidence.

Image: Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch

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 the blind faith of a True Believer is exposed.

In response to my claims of philosophical corruption in biology and climate change, JLAfan2001 comments:

All of this is just biased assertions. No links or evidence was provided anywhere to support anything that was written in this article. Why? Because there isn’t any evidence for it. Climate change and Darwinian evolution are proven facts because the actual evidence is overwhelming in favor of them. Stop spreading misinformation.

A blog is not a research journal, and it’s unreasonable to expect a blogger to provide links and evidence for every claim he makes. On the other hand, if a reader wishes to engage in a meaningful discussion, he has the obligation to fairly consider and give a thoughtful reply to the claims made.

Darwinism, as some of you are hopefully aware, is based on four principles: common descent, random mutation, natural selection, and gradualism. It is not enough for Darwin to be right about one of these ideas; if any one of these foundations of Darwin’s theory is undone by the evidence, then Darwin was wrong.

There is no need to discuss common descent of all animal life on Earth for two reasons: the evidence for common descent is virtually conclusive, and there is no conflict between science and scripture on this point. There is also convincing evidence that random genetic mutations do occur. There is nothing in Christian scripture that conflicts with the notion of genetic mutation. The problems with Darwinism in regard to both science and scripture occurred from the beginning because of the lack of evidence for natural selection and gradualism, as Darwin’s friend, Thomas Huxley, pointed out to him. There is now overwhelming evidence against natural selection and gradualism.

Consider the following evidence provided by naturalists Peter and Rosemary Grant who studied Darwin’s famed Galapagos finches for about 25 years. Keep in mind that they are highly acclaimed supporters of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The following comes from the Wikipedia article about them and their work:

They won the 2005 Balzan Prize for Population Biology [2]. The Balzan Prize citation states:

“Peter and Rosemary Grant are distinguished for their remarkable long-term studies demonstrating evolution in action in Galápagos finches. They have demonstrated how very rapid changes in body and beak size in response to changes in the food supply are driven by natural selection. They have also elucidated the mechanisms by which new species arise and how genetic diversity is maintained in natural populations. The work of the Grants has had a seminal influence in the fields of population biology, evolution and ecology.” [Emphasis added]

It always amazes me that the followers of Darwin are so dogmatic they don’t realize the real significance of the evidence they uncover. Darwin was able to spend only a limited amount of time studying the finches of the Galápagos — long enough to observe groups of finches that had differences in beak and body structures, which seemed to be determined by available food supplies, but too short a period of time to actually witness changes the way that the Grants did.

The key words from the Grants’ observations are “…very rapid changes.” The Grants witnessed changes as they were taking place over a period of a few years. Darwinian evolution cannot take place like this. Yes, random mutations take place, but the overwhelming evidence is that positive genetic mutations are rare and do not occur often enough to allow natural selection to bring about such significant effects over the incredibly short period of time the Grants reported. According to classic Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism, natural selection cannot cause large changes in body and beak over a period of a few years or generations. The evidence shows that some other process must be at work, and the likely candidate is epigenetics.

The Darwinist’s basic premise about time and evolution was stated by Harvard biologist George Wald in Scientific American in August 1954,

Time is in fact the hero of the plot. The time with which we have to deal is of the order of two billion years. What we regard as impossible on the basis of human experience is meaningless here. Given so much time, the “impossible” becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles.

For Darwinism to work, very long periods of time and countless generations are required.

Wald’s argument was undone in the 1970s when Elso Barghoorn, a Harvard paleontologist, discovered fossils of bacteria and algae in rocks that were about 3.5 billion years old. What this fossil evidence shows is that life occurred on Earth almost immediately (in geological terms) after the formation of the oceans at about 3.8 billion years ago. Water is necessary for life as we know it, and the evidence that life suddenly (in geological and biological terms) appeared just after water showed up in significant amounts completely undercuts Wald’s argument. As a result of this conclusive new evidence, Scientific American published a retraction of Wald’s article in 1979. Because of this time problem, Darwinism now has no credible hypothesis about the origins of life on Earth.

Also in the 1970s, eminent paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould advanced their hypothesis of punctuated equilibrium in response to the severe problems the fossil record posed for Darwinism. Niles Eldredge was quoted in a Nov. 4, 1980 New York Times article:

The fossil record we were told to find for the past 120 years (since Darwin) does not exist.

The plain truth is that the fossil evidence has fractured the field of evolution.

The genetic evidence discovered during the last few decades has not only failed to support every version of Darwinism, it has simply destroyed the Darwinist notions of natural selection and gradualism. First, this from the book Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, by the well-known science writer and ardent Darwin supporter Carl Zimmer:

But they [referring to Darwinists] assumed that the genes that built fruit flies would be peculiar to insects and other arthropods. Other animals don’t have the segmented exoskeleton of arthropods, so biologists assumed that their very different bodies must be built by very different genes.

Joy turned to shock when biologists began to find Hox genes in other animals — in frogs, mice, and humans; in velvet worms, barnacles, and starfish. In every case, parts of their Hox genes were almost identical, regardless of the animal that carried them.

Biologists discovered that the Hox genes did the same job in all of these animals: specifying different sections of the head-to-tail axis just as they do in insects. Hox genes in these different animals are so similar that scientists can replace a defective Hox gene in a fruit fly with the corresponding Hox gene from a mouse, and the fly will still grow its proper body parts.

In the simplest possible words, the genetic evidence described by Zimmer refutes the Darwinist and Neo-Darwinist ‘tree of life.’ The Darwinists are seriously wrong.

The genetic evidence gets even worse for Darwin’s theory based on natural selection and gradualism. The following comes from noted biology professor, Sean Carroll, who in his 2005 book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo, quotes and supports Thomas Huxley’s opposition to Christian beliefs:

As a natural process, of the same character as the development of a tree from its seed, or of a fowl from its egg, evolution excludes creation and all other kinds of supernatural intervention.

Once again, we find an ardent supporter of Darwinism who is incapable of understanding the most important implications of his own research. Carroll draws these conclusions from the best and most recent fossil and genetic evidence:

For more than a century, biologists had assumed that different types of animals were genetically constructed in completely different ways … But contrary to the expectations of any biologist, most of the genes first identified as governing major aspects of fruit fly body organization were found to have exact counterparts that did the same thing in most animals, including ourselves. [emphasis added]

The discovery that the same sets of genes control the formation and pattern of body regions and body parts with similar functions (but very different designs) in insects, vertebrates, and other animals has forced a complete rethinking of animal history, the origins of structures, and the nature of diversity. [emphasis added]

…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.” [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.” [emphasis added]

Carroll appears incapable of drawing the final conclusion that is irresistible to anyone who is not a dogmatic Darwinist. The evidence from the field of Evo Devo conclusively demonstrates that classic Darwinists and Neo-Darwinists need to “rethink completely” how evolution took place. Let’s help Carroll out and state the obvious: Darwinists have always been and continue to be wrong about the way life evolved on Earth.

Carroll goes on to put a final nail in the coffin of Darwinism. Open your mind if you can to the following evidence from Endless Forms Most Beautiful:

The surprising message from Evo Devo is that all of the genes for building large, complex animal bodies long predated the appearance of those bodies in the Cambrian Explosion. The genetic potential was in place for at least 50 million years, and probably a fair bit longer, before large, complex forms emerged. [emphasis added]

It does not appear that scarcity is a fault of the fossil record. Without confirmed body fossils, paleontology is reluctant to conjure up more than a vague image of a featureless, wormlike creature for the last common ancestor…” [emphasis added]

If we can’t say much for certain from the fossil record, what can we say about the animal ancestors based on other kinds of evidence? We can make inferences based on what is shared among descendants. This is the critical logic used in Evo Devo to peer into the distant past.” [emphasis added]

…the common ancestor of bilaterians…(…Urbilateria…)…had a tool kit of at least six or seven Hox genes, Pax-6, Distal-less, tinman, and a few hundred more body-building genes. It is intriguing to ponder just what so many genes were doing in Urbilateria. [emphasis added]

So, according to the best and latest genetic evidence, the tool box genes necessary for the formation of eyes (Pax-6), hearts (tinman), limbs (Distal-less) and many other complex structures of large and complex animal forms must have predated the Cambrian explosion of animal life forms by at least 50 million years. But, it is during the Cambrian Age when all of these structures, organs, and basic body plans are first observed in the fossil record. What this evidence means in terms of the Darwinian evolution hypothesis is that some very primitive, worm-like, as yet undiscovered animal form must have possessed all of the genes necessary for the Cambrian explosion even though it didn’t have any of the complex structures itself.

So, the best a Darwinist can do to reconcile the evidence with current theory is to “conjure” a primitive organism that developed these genes vital to complex life forms even though no advantage had been gained from the genes and, therefore, natural selection had no chance to work. Carroll’s genetic evidence is irrefutable and his logic is devastating to Darwinism. But, as a devoted secular evolutionist, he does not take and is likely incapable of taking the last step demanded by both evidence, logic, and a commitment to science. So it is left to you to draw and honestly state the only possible conclusion:

Darwin was wrong about natural selection and gradualism.

For someone like our doubtful commenter, being able to admit and publicly state Darwin’s limitations is a test of one’s commitment to true science. Can he pass that test by stating here and now that Darwin was wrong?

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 discuss Tabby’s Star, the meaning of “up,” time dilation, and Christian scientists.

HD, a retired school teacher, writes in with several interesting questions.

I wondered….Could the structures observed around the Tabby star that are postulated be the constructs of the new Jerusalem that is being constructed to come to Earth some day?

She is referring to the star, KIC 8462852, sometimes referred to as Tabby’s Star. This peculiar object captured people’s imaginations after scientists admitted they haven’t been able to explain irregular changes in the amount of light it’s emitting. Observations suggest a close formation of small objects is surrounding the star, blocking out some of its light. One idea is that these objects could be a swarm of comets (see artist’s impression below), while another idea is that they are some form of “alien superstructure.” (Neither idea turns out to be well supported by observational data.)

PIA20053

HD’s idea is novel and interesting, but I think it’s unlikely for the simple reason that Revelation 21 tells us God is going to scrap this universe and start over with a new creation.

And when Jesus says “I have not yet ascended to my Father” and speaks many many times of Heaven…then it is a for sure thing. We can count on it. It is real. It is there. And….it is up. (ascend) So as a scientist who studies space, can you tell me ….where is up?? If I am in Gulfport, I can point up. On the other side of the planet, someone else can point up. So where, scientifically….is up??

“Up” in terms of space and in terms of scripture are two different things. In space, “up” is more accurately described as “out,” as shown below.

up1

up2

When Jesus talks about ascension, I don’t think He is going “up” (i.e. out) from the planet the way a rocket ship does, but rather He is transcending the universe similar to the way a three-dimensional creature would transcend a two-dimensional world. This animated sequence narrated by Carl Sagan illustrates the principle:

Then I saw a special on National Geographic about an experiment on distance and time. Using two atomic clocks, synchronized to perfection, one was left at the bottom of a tall mountain. One was taken to the very top. I think it was four days later the clock from the top of the mountain was brought down. There was a tiny, miniscule difference in time.   So, if 1,000 years are like a day to God (Scripture), how far out would you have to travel to have the 1,000 years equal to a day on Earth?

Gravitational time dilation results from differences in gravity. Despite the fact that it’s difficult for us to escape Earth’s gravity, it’s actually pretty weak, so there’s not much difference between the flow of time on the surface of the Earth and the flow of time out in deep space. It’s enough of a difference that engineers have to account for it, otherwise things like GPS wouldn’t work,  however, it’s not nearly enough to dilate time so that 1,000 years on Earth would be like a day for someone in deep space.

So, the question isn’t how far out you would have to travel in space to make 1,000 years equal a day, but how deeply into a gravitational field you’d have to go before time dilates that much. Turns out, it’s pretty deep, as in just a hair outside of the event horizon of a black hole.

It is amazing that more scientists haven’t become Christians.

There was a time when most scientists were Christian, particularly so in Newton’s time. It’s seems strange from our modern perspective, but in the 17th century, one had to be an ordained Anglican priest in order to hold a professorship at Cambridge. In the 17th century, American universities like Harvard and Princeton were religious institutions.

An entire thesis could be written on the subject, but suffice it to say, somewhere along the way Christianity not only ceased to be the dominant cultural force in the academic world, but academia became hostile to it. Still, the evidence for some kind of conscious creative force is there, and I suspect most scientists know it. English Nobel laureate physicist, George Thomson, observed, “Probably every physicist would believe in a creation if the Bible had not unfortunately said something about it many years ago and made it seem old-fashioned.” I think this is very much the case.

Image credit for Tabby’s Star: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.”

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss an atheist’s not-so-clever attempt to dismiss the Argument from Contingency and the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

JB is arguing science and faith with an atheist friend and asked for a bit of help with the science. JB’s friend sent him a link to “Arizona Atheist,” who attempts to refute two of William Lane Craig’s arguments for God’s existence. Despite AA’s bold claim to have “demolished” Craig’s arguments, it is in reality such a weak and muddled attempt that it hardly seems worth commenting on. However, since it’s apparently cited with some frequency by those seeking to refute Craig’s arguments, it’s worth getting into it.

The first argument is the Argument from Contingency, which goes like this (quoted from the link):

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).

Now this is a logically airtight argument. That is to say, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like the conclusion. It doesn’t matter if we have other objections to God’s existence. So long as we grant the three premises, we have to accept the conclusion. So the question is this: Which is more plausible–that those premises are true or that they are false?

Since the logic is airtight, the only way to attack this argument is to show that any of its premises are wrong. AA goes after Premise 1:

According to modern physics, however things can seemingly happen without cause. There are several things we observe that appear to have no cause. For example, “[w]hen an atom in an excited energy level drops to a lower level and emits a photon, a particle of light, we find no cause of that event. Similarly, no cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus.”

This constitutes a very weak attack on Premise 1, for two reasons:

  1. Just because we find no cause doesn’t mean there is no cause. Note the tacit acknowledgement of this with hedge words like “seemingly” and “evident.”
  2. AA has misunderstood the argument. The Argument from Contingency doesn’t address events, it addresses existence. The photon exists, and it most certainly has a cause — an electron in an atom dropping from a higher energy level to a lower energy level. The products of radioactive decay exist, and they likewise have a cause — radioactive decay of a nucleus.

Next, AA goes after the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which goes like this:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is similar to the Argument from Contingency, but differs in that it rests on the “controversial” nature of Premise 2. (As we’ll see, it’s only controversial in the sense that you can sort of dispute the standard interpretation of big bang cosmology if you accept some strange assumptions.) AA therefore primarily goes after Premise 2, but not before first dismissing Premise 1, again on the erroneous basis that “things can seem to happen without cause.” (Note how he once again hedges and does not state that things do happen without cause, just that they “can seem to.”)

AA then goes on to attack Premise 2 in one of the most desperately feeble attempts to dismiss reason and evidence I have ever seen. (Why are atheists constantly held up as champions of reason? I have seen no evidence that this stereotype is warranted.)

Craig supports the validity of Premise 2 with both philosophical and scientific arguments against an infinitely old universe. For the latter, he cites work by theoretical physicist Alexander Vilenkin, who figures prominently in AA’s refutation.

AA awkwardly begins his refutation by stating,

Again, as I’ve said already, just because Craig can’t imagine an infinite universe doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Simply arguing that it’s impossible without any proof is no argument.

Craig rejects an infinitely old universe, not on the basis of his inability to imagine an infinitely old universe, but on the basis of what he demonstrates is a logical impossibility. At this point, it is incumbent on AA to show in what way Craig’s philosophical argument for Premise 2 is flawed or to provide evidence contradicting it, but he doesn’t do this. Instead, he supplies a quote from Vilenkin, which is irrelevant, because it doesn’t address any of the premises, but instead disagrees with the interpretation that Premise 3 implies the cause is necessarily God*.

Okay, now for the bit where AA completely abandons any reasonable standard for evidence and reason. The prevailing paradigm of modern physics is that the universe began to exist somewhere (somewhen?) between 11 and 17 billion years ago in a sudden event called the big bang. There is loads of evidence for the big bang, which is why virtually no one believes the steady-state cosmological model anymore. Now, even though the standard interpretation has been that the big bang represents the creation of the universe from complete and total nothing, there’s a wrinkle: in actuality, it’s not entirely clear what sort of a beginning the big bang represents. In spite of the mounds of evidence supporting the big bang, there is a limit to what we can know about it. As physicist Alan Guth put it, the big bang theory “gives not even a clue about what banged, what caused it to bang, or what happened before it banged.”

AA rests his entire case against the Kalam Cosmological Argument on this wrinkle, even after Vilenkin’s commentary on it should have convinced him otherwise.

Vilenkin is an author of a theorem that shows pretty conclusively that the universe cannot be past-infinite; in other words, it has a finite age. But does this necessarily imply a beginning? In a correspondence AA initiated between Vilenkin and the late atheist physicist, Victor Stenger, Vilenkin comments that his theorem does not prove that the universe must have had a beginning, however

…it proves that the expansion of the universe must have had a beginning. You can evade the theorem by postulating that the universe was contracting prior to some time.

First of all, it doesn’t disprove that the universe had a beginning. Second, what this essentially means is that the big bang could represent, not the beginning, but one of many “beginnings.” If the universe is cyclical, that is, if it bangs and expands and then contracts and crunches, and does this over and over for eternity, then the universe is effectively eternal, and this is what supposedly negates Premise 2.

That could kind of, sort of maybe present a very weak argument against Premise 2 — its chief drawback being that not only is there no evidence for it, there is no known way to test it — except that AA inexplicably goes on to quote Vilenkin stating that it also happens to be theoretically impossible given what we assume about the nature of time, and that even if we grant that something very weird happens at time = 0 to allow a contracting universe, it still effectively supports Premise 2:

This sounds as if there is nothing wrong with having contraction prior to expansion. But the problem is that a contracting universe is highly unstable. Small perturbations would cause it to develop all sorts of messy singularities, so it would never make it to the expanding phase. That is why Aguirre & Gratton and Carroll & Chen had to assume that the arrow of time changes at t = 0. This makes the moment t = 0 rather special. I would say no less special than a true beginning of the universe.

So, AA’s refutation of Premise 2, his “demolishment” of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, rests not on the standard, accepted interpretation of the prevailing paradigm of cosmology — that the universe began to exist billions of years ago — but on the untested, unproved possibility that Vilenkin’s theory is wrong, that you can somehow get around a beginning, but at the cost of accepting something that is “no less special than a true beginning of the universe.”

I’m genuinely confused by AA’s response to Vilenkin’s comments. How much do you have to hate evidence and reason to read Vilenkin’s responses to these questions about his theorem and still conclude that it supports your case?

Having gone through this exercise, the absolute worst you can say about the Kalam Cosmological Argument is that Premise 2 is not 100% proven. But we already knew that. If you know anything at all about how science works, you know that nothing in science is a done deal — you can’t ever prove beyond doubt that any scientific theory is true — which is why Craig says “that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence.” That is the standard by which all of modern science has operated for centuries. For something to be considered “true,” it only needs to be probably true based on a preponderance of evidence to support it and with no evidence to seriously contradict it. By this standard, it is true that our universe began to exist 13.8 billion years ago — which means we are reasonably assured Premise 2 is true, and therefore the Kalam Cosmological Argument is a legitimate argument. Given the weight of evidence and reason, it is far more supported than an untested — and untestable — theoretical exercise in exploring alternatives.

AA says he does not think philosophy is the best way to get at the truth; it’s reasonable to assume that he thinks science is, and yet he does his level best to ignore it to avoid accepting the conclusions of two very powerful arguments in favor of God.

Incidentally, two years after AA posted his attempted refutation of Craig’s arguments, Vilenkin announced — at Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday celebration, no less — that there is just no getting around a beginning for the universe.

—–

* I don’t know what Vilenkin’s arguments are against Premise 3 implying the cause is necessarily God, but there is a case, however weak, to be made on the basis of an eternally expanding and contracting model of the universe. If it’s correct, it renders God superfluous. However, not only is this model theoretically unlikely, it’s physically untestable.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the ensoulment of a pre-existing hominid with the creation of Adam.

Andrew enjoyed my Six Day slideshow, but took issue with the claim that God chose a pre-existing hominid and breathed a soul into it to create Adam:

Genesis 2 describes a created man formed from dust that God subsequently breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living creature. As I read that, I understand that to say there was a man formed out of dust in order to be created for the specific purpose of making us in His image. I agree that our spiritual identity is truly what defines us as in His image, but I stop at the notion that there were physical human beings identical to Adam beforehand that he simply ‘utilized’. As Genesis 2 documents the account, God didn’t go looking around to select some pre-soul ‘animalized’ version of a man that had already been created and arbitrarily deemed him fit to put a soul (the image of God) into him.

For those who haven’t gone through it, my slideshow is based on Gerald Schroeder’s bestselling book, The Science of God. Schroeder does not claim that a man was ‘animalized’; that’s a misleading term. Animal is the initial state of man, followed by ensoulment, and it is ensoulment that transforms him from animal to human being.

Now, do we know for certain from the Genesis 2 account that God didn’t select a pre-soul version of a man for Adam? Schroeder explains that, according to the great Torah commentators and some leading Jewish theologians, there is room for that interpretation. It hinges on two things:

1. The distinction between “making” and “creating” in Genesis. The former means to form something out of preexisting material; the latter means to bring something into existence that did not exist before. From Chapter 9 of Schroeder’s The Science of God:

The fact that Adam was first “made” (Gen. 1:26) and only later “created” (Gen. 1:27) informs us unequivocally that some amount of time passed during which Adam was fashioned. The neshama was implanted only after that vessel was complete. Whether that time was measured in microseconds or millions of earth years is not certain from the text. What is certain is that the making of Adam’s body was not instantaneous and that its making preceded the introduction of the neshama. Making takes time. The ultimate change from the final form into human was instantaneous, the creation of the neshama.

2. A subtlety in the text that is overlooked in English translations of the Bible. From the same chapter:

The closing of Genesis 2:7 has a subtlety lost in the English. It is usually translated as: “… and [God] breathed into his nostrils the neshama of life and the adam became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). The Hebrew text actually states “… and the adam became to a living soul.” Nahmanides, seven hundred years ago, wrote that the “to” (the Hebrew letter lamed prefixed to the word “soul” in the verse) is superfluous from a grammatical stance and so must be there to teach something. … He concludes his extensive commentary on the implications of this lamed as: “Or it may be that the verse is stating that [prior to receiving the neshama] it was transformed into another man.”

Another man! According to Nahmanides, who is the major kabalistic commentator on the Bible, the biblical text has told us that before the neshama there was something like a man that was not quite a human.

Maimonides also comments on the soulless man. In Part I, Chapter VII of his book, The Guide for the Perplexed — written over 800 years ago, long before he could have been influenced by modern science — he describes the sons of Adam who came after Cain and Abel, but before Seth:

Those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not “the form of man.” With reference to Seth who had been instructed, enlightened and brought to human perfection, it could rightly be said, “he (adam) begat a son in his likeness, in his form.” It is acknowledged that a man who does not possess this “form” (the nature of which has just been explained*) is not human, but a mere animal in human shape and form.

* In Chapter I, Maimonides explains that “form” means “essence.” Adam’s essence was that which made him distinctly human — the neshama. In other words, the pre-Seth sons lacked a soul. These are the sorts of “mere animals” that would have preceded Adam, and into which God breathed a human soul to create the first human.