Why I Am a Christian (Part Four): Fine Tuning for Discoverability

In my last article in this series we talked about how the universe appears to be finely tuned for life, and particularly for intelligent life (ie human beings). This is only part of the “design argument” as some have called it.

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Evidence for design keeps stacking up…

Previous articles in this series:

Why I Am a Christian (Part One)

Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff

Why I am a Christian (Part Three): Fine Tuning (or, Design of the Cosmos)

To take the design argument a step further, not only does the universe appear to be designed to support our particular species, but it also seems that the designer has woven the fabric of the cosmos together in such a way that the very conditions which make our existence possible here on Earth also lend advantage to our ability to discover those conditions, and much more.

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. -Albert Einstein

The Human Mind – Before I talk more about the physical properties of the universe and our little corner of it, I want to talk about the human mind. We have been uniquely gifted with an infinitely curious nature, and the ability to think about and learn about all of the things related, not only to this particular discussion, but to a multitude of other subjects, both real (actually existing), abstract (such as mathematics), and non-existent (such as unicorns and vampires). Human beings are the only known creatures in existence that have these unique mental properties. You can read more about the improbabilities involved in the possibility of similar life forms evolving elsewhere in the universe, purely through naturalistic processes, here.

Given that the universe is inordinately vast, is it therefore reasonable to claim that intelligent extraterrestrial life almost certainly exists elsewhere in the universe? Not at all. Multiplying the many scenarios which led to the human developments of symbolic language, mathematical understanding, and advanced technology quickly leads to probabilities which are easily as insanely small as the universe is ridiculously large. [emphasis mine]

Discoverability: the right time – In addition to the qualities of the human mind, it is also difficult to account for the fact that we (humanity) are living at just the right time in cosmic history to observe the very conditions and circumstances that cause us to question whether or not the cosmos is designed in the first place. In a paper authored by Lawrence M. Krauss (certainly no friend to theism) and Robert J. Scherrer entitled “The End of Cosmology“, the authors have made the following observations. (Note, the quotations are not contiguous. Please read the entire article for context.)

We may be living in the only epoch in the history of the universe when scientists can achieve an accurate understanding of the true nature of the universe.

What will the scientists of the future see as they peer into the skies 100 billion years from now? … The big difference will occur when these future scientists build telescopes capable of detecting galaxies outside our own. They won’t see any! The nearby galaxies will have merged with the Milky Way to form one large galaxy, and essentially all the other galaxies will be long gone, having escaped beyond the event horizon.

We are led inexorably to a very strange conclusion. The window during which intelligent observers can deduce the true nature of our expanding universe might be very short indeed.

Rather than being self-satisfied, we should feel humble. Perhaps someday we will find that our current careful and apparently complete understanding of the universe is seriously wanting. [emphasis mine]

Now, 100 billion years may seem like a long time, but as the authors admit, it “may seem long but is fairly short compared to
the wilderness of eternity.” So, the obvious question would seem to be, given the insanely small (naturalistically speaking) probability of our existence, “Why us? Why now?”

Discoverability: Our Place in the Galaxy – The “galactic habitable zone” is defined as that area of the galaxy that is life permitting (see graphic). As you can see, this zone is roughly circular, about halfway out from the center, and in between the spiral arms of our galaxy. The reasons for this seemingly narrow area of habitability are varied, ranging from radiation from stars destroyed by the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy to a lack of the heavy elements needed for earth to form out near the periphery. For more specifics on this subject, you can read this article at Astrobiology Magazine.

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Galactic Habitable Zone

It turns out that the very conditions which make our solar system’s location in the Milky Way advantageous for life also make it possible for intelligent life (such as human beings) to explore their surroundings in the galaxy and universe. Because our solar system is located between the clusters within the spiral arms, we can view both the shape and structure of the Milky Way galaxy and much of the universe at large. If we were closer to the center of the galaxy, or located within one of the spiral arms, stellar dust and gaseous clouds illuminated by nearby starlight would severely inhibit our ability to see very far, no matter how powerful the telescopes we were using. Why should the one (habitability) so closely coincide with the other (discoverability)?

Discoverability: Earth’s Atmosphere – From National Geographic: “The Earth’s atmosphere is more than just the air we breathe. It’s also a buffer that keeps us from being peppered by meteorites, a screen against deadly radiation, and the reason radio waves can be bounced for long distances around the planet.” Earth is the only planet in the solar system with a clear atmosphere. If we had an atmosphere like Saturn, or Jupiter, we obviously could not observe very much from the surface of our planet (not to mention that type of atmosphere is inhospitable to life). The very qualities of our atmosphere that protect us from danger and enable us to breathe also lend to our ability to discover the universe around us.

A Note on Observers: As a Marine, one of the jobs I trained for was Forward Observer (FO). The FO’s purpose was to survey the battlefield and call adjustments back to the indirect firing batteries (ie mortar reams, artillery batteries, air-to-ground strike forces) so that the ordinance was delivered to the proper locations to disrupt or destroy enemy positions and operations. When the commander positions his FO, he chooses the most likely position from which the FO can see the battlefield while also trying to minimize risk to the FO from the enemy.

The location of earth and humanity in our universe seems to follow these guidelines with respect to observation and discoverability as well.

I have mentioned just a few of the features of the universe that appear to be finely tuned which also make discoverability possible for intelligent life (ie human beings). I will also give you some links so you can check these things out yourself.

Privileged Planet (video documentary) playlist

Fine Tuning for Discoverability-Robin Collins

The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton

Those who disagree with the idea of a designer will of course say that it is only a happy coincidence that:

  • the values for so many of the fundamental universal constants are such that they allow humanity to exist
  • the unique qualities of our solar system and the planet earth are uniquely fitted to allow for humanity to exist
  • many of these same constants and qualities that make humanity’s existence possible also place us in a privileged position to discover, observe and study our universe and surroundings.

My question to them is at what point do we look at the mounting pile of coincidences and ask ourselves “are these really coincidences after all or is there something else going on here?”

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9/1/14 – Some Biological Common Sense

Every now and then I run across an article with information I think is relevant to the purposes of this blog, but that I am not prepared (or maybe not inclined) to write a full blown article on the subject. So, I have decided to do a “Quick Quotes” post on some of these articles, in order to highlight information for interested parties, and to help myself keep track of possible ideas for future articles.

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Some quotes are more informative than others….

Today’s quotes are from the following article: Evolution Used the Same Molecular Toolkit? Common Sense from Jonathan Marks  “Marks is an evolutionary biologist/anthropologist at the University of North Carolina, and an uncommonly plain speaker and writer.” Here are the quotes that caught my eye, and this is what I think about when I invariably hear or read that we are genetically “99 percent identical to chimps.”

If the overall biology of the animals tells you that they are very different, and the genetics tells you that they are nearly identical, it follows that the genetic comparison is telling you something relatively trivial about the overall biology.

Does it not stand to reason that if you essentially cannot tell human hemoglobin from gorilla hemoglobin, the sensible thing to do is to look at something else? In other words, if you cannot tell a human from a gorilla, you really should not be in biology.

If hemoglobin provides you with a lens that blurs the difference between human and gorilla, then just get a different lens. What is curious is why anyone would want to privilege such a weird dataset, a dataset that makes a human seem like a gorilla. [emphasis mine]

Thank you, Sir, for expressing what should be painfully obvious. Would anyone care to take a stab at the bolded comment?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Sometimes you see something and…. SMH (Welcome to the inaugural CRoF rant)

As anyone who has read my blog with any frequency already knows, I like science. However, sometimes I see things that are being done in the name of science and it’s a #facepalm moment. For instance, The US Department of Energy is funding an experiment that is supposed to tell us whether or not we actually exist within a two-dimensional hologram. A TWO DIMENSIONAL HOLOGRAM!! REALLY? C’MON MAN!!

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A Fermilab scientist works on the laser beams at the heart of the Holometer experiment. The Holometer will use twin laser interferometers to test whether the universe is a 2-D hologram.

(click picture for link to article)

Like I said, I’m all about scientific endeavor, but surely this is the most ridiculous experiment ever devised. In the first place, what would lead anyone to think in such nonsensical terms. Now, don’t get me wrong. The actual work being done with the Holometer could lead to some new information about our world and the quantum state of space-time. Okay, sure. Go for it. But seriously, what if the results show that, in their estimation, we are indeed living in a two dimensional hologram?  What are we supposed to do with that information? Why should we take something like that seriously?

In all actuality I blame this fiasco on science writers trying to hype up overblown interest in a fairly straightforward scientific endeavor. Does this really sound like something an actual scientist would write (while being serious and not trying to get a laugh that is)?

Much like characters on a television show would not know that their seemingly 3-D world exists only on a 2-D screen, we could be clueless that our 3-D space is just an illusion. The information about everything in our universe could actually be encoded in tiny packets in two dimensions.

That analogy is flawed in so many places, starting with the fact that “characters on a television show” are actually actors who live in just as much a three dimensional world as the rest of us, and in NO WAY do they exist on or in a “magic box” (AKA television). Is that what they are trying to assert we are? Characters in a television show? If not, then why that analogy? (Because of hype, that’s why.)

At any rate, it will be interesting to learn what was actually discovered by the scientists performing this experiment. I just hope they can deliver the results without resulting to cheesy and inappropriate analogies invented solely for the purpose of hype. Thanks for letting me rant!

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Is Christianity Opposed to Science?

The claim has been made, in recent years, that the Christian faith stands in opposition to the scientific enterprise. Christians are labeled as “science deniers”, among other things. Is this historically accurate?

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Are Christianity and Science necessarily opposed?

First, I would like to make an acknowledgement. There are those who hold a Christian worldview who have no inclination to learn anything about science, those who are ignorant of science, and those who are skeptical of or refute the claims made by science. However, the same can be said of people who ascribe to any other worldview, whether that worldview affirms any particular religion or no religion. This fact in itself does not render any particular worldview more valid than any other. We must assess each particular worldview on the strengths of its particular truth claims, and not on the variability of those who hold it.

As I have stated in previous articles, I like science. I know many other Christians who do as well. In fact, many of those most theologically knowledgeable among my denomination hold degrees in science and engineering. I do however, firmly believe that some scientists draw unreasonable conclusions from their collected data. For instance, climate science seems to be particularly susceptible to this. Consider the following article:  Over 4.5 Billion people could die from Global Warming-related causes by 2012 This article was first published in 2007, and is just one of many examples of climate alarmism caused by overblown conclusions reached by scientists interpreting limited data. So we see that some degree of skepticism about scientific claims seems to be justified.

However, I firmly believe that science (and here I mean that process by which scientists collect their data, the  Scientific Method) and Christianity are not only compatible but are complimentary. Thankfully, I am not alone in this belief. Many of the great scientific pioneers of history were motivated to learn more about God’s creation by their Christian worldview and not in spite of it. Take a moment to read how, in their own words, their Christianity inspired their thirst for knowledge.

Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism. Galileo has been called the “father of modern observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of science”, and “the Father of Modern Science”. He was one major individuals that caused astronomers to shift to a heliocentric (the earth revolves around the sun) view of the galaxy. Galileo once said:

“The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”

Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist and mathematician (described in his own day as a “natural philosopher”) who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”), first published in 1687, laid the foundations for classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics and shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the invention of calculus. He also  formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, which dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries, and Newtonian physics are still used today in designing air and spacecraft. Newton once said:

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being…This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; … He endures for ever, and is every where present; and by existing always and every where, he constitutes duration and space.”

Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal’s earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defense of the scientific method. Pascal once said:

“The God of Christians is not a God who is simply the author of mathematical truths or of the order of the elements; that is the view of heathens and Epicureans. He is not merely a God who exercises His providence over the life and fortunes of men, to bestow on those who worship Him a long and happy life. That was the portion of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of Christians, is a God of love and of comfort, a God who fills the soul and heart of those whom He possesses, a God who makes them conscious of their inward wretchedness, and his infinite mercy, who unites Himself to their inmost soul, who fills it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, who renders them incapable of any other end than Himself.”

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish mathematical physicist. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in physics” after the first one realized by Isaac Newton. Maxwell once said:

“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth, who hast set thy glory above the heavens, and out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast perfected praise. When we consider Thy heavens and the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou has ordained, teach us to know that Thou art mindful of us, and visitest us, making us rulers over the works of Thy hands, showing us the wisdom of Thy laws, and crowning us with honour and glory in our earthy life; and looking higher than the heavens, we may see Jesus, made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.”

There are others who could be quoted (Kelvin, Kepler, Bacon, Carver, Copernicus, and MANY more) but I think you get the picture. These fathers of science never saw the scientific enterprise as an enemy, but as a way to find out more about God’s creation. As Christians, we should not be afraid of science properly applied, and we should be vigilant to recognize when science oversteps its bounds ( 1 Timothy 6:20).

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

(Note: the historical facts and quotes stated here are common public knowledge and widely available on many different websites and in many different books. Feel free to investigate these facts for yourself.)

Does Science Have Limits?

Science is a beneficial enterprise. Science has enabled today’s society to enjoy luxuries never dreamed about in past generations. Science does, however, have limitations, and we will attempt to discuss some of these in this article.

Does Science Have Limits?

The study of science has made many things possible that were unthinkable just a few generations ago. We are now able to get to any destination in the world within a matter of hours, when previously it took weeks. We put a man on the moon. We have a world of information at our fingertips via the internet. Medical science has advanced greatly. These are just a few of the accomplishments that have been made possible through the application of science. Science is a valuable tool.

Considering all the ways science has enhanced our lives, it is no wonder so many people hold science (and scientists) in such high esteem. Some have even come to believe that the only way we can know anything at all is through science. This view has become more and more pervasive of late in today’s culture.

Scientism: an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities) (Merriam-Webster). This view, although now widely held, is easily falsified. First of all, the notion defeats itself. See the following dialogue.

Fred: Science is the only way we can know anything. If it can’t be proven scientifically, then I don’t believe it.

Joe: Really? Can you show me the scientific experiment that proves that statement?

Of course there is not and will never be an experiment to prove science is the only source of true knowledge. Here’s another defeater: science can not tell you what you are thinking right now. Note, I am not talking about mapping neural pathways to see which ones are lighting up as your thoughts process, I am talking about the substance of your actual thoughts. Science has no way to “read your mind”, as it were. Yet, you A. are actually thinking, B. are aware of what you are thinking and C. absolutely no scientific experiment has informed you of these facts. In other words, you have true knowledge of your thoughts entirely separate from the enterprise of science.

In fact, the scientist relies on several presuppositions before he can even attempt to engage the  Scientific Method. Among these include knowledge that there is a world external to the mind that operates in an orderly fashion and which can be explored and understood; that the findings discovered through science can be intelligibly communicated to others; the existence of numbers and the operations of mathematics;  the laws of logic; the principle of cause and effect… these are just a few of the facts that must be assumed to exist before any scientific experiment can be accomplished, and without which the scientific enterprise would be totally incoherent and useless.

Additionally, we must remain cognizant that the operations of science are performed by people just like you and me. People with varying degrees of talent, education and intelligence, people living in an imperfect world with pressures to perform adequately in their job, pressures to pay bills and support families, and everything else that goes along with being human. Just as in any other walk of life, there are biases that cloud judgment, there is dishonesty, and there are mistakes made in innocence but are not always caught.

Finally, science can not really speak to the things most people deem to be most important in their lives. Abstract and immaterial ideas such as joyfulness, satisfaction, freedom, love, right and wrong… these things are not discovered through science, but through our direct experience with the world around it.

So we see, a healthy respect for the enterprise of science is warranted, however we must be careful not to overrate its capabilities.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Problems with the Theory of Evolution: The Fossil Record

“The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [must] be truly enormous.”-Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (emphasis mine)

Does the fossil record support the Theory of Evolution?

 `According to the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution (NDE), all life that we see today, and all of the extinct species that have been found in the fossil record, plants and animals alike, evolved from a “simple” single-celled organism (which itself evolved through chemical evolution through abiogenesis). This “simple” life-form is referred to as the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). The problem seems to be, if this is actually the case, the glaring lack of transitional fossils in the fossil record. It would seem, intuitively, that given this paradigm, that the vast majority of fossils we find would be transitional, but this is not the case. (See the quote at the beginning of this article, and here are some more.) At the time, Darwin himself recognized the problem, and in fact, he considered it the strongest evidence weighing against his theory:

“Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”-Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

For instance, scientists claim that fish evolved into amphibians. How many “finely graduated” intermediate organisms would it take to bridge the gap from a true fish to a true quadrupedal amphibian, such as a salamander. Now, I’ll admit, evolutionary artists can paint a convincing picture…

If science imitated art…

…but these artistic pictures are not evidence, only speculation. Also, NDE (the modern synthesis) realizes that these changes have to take place at the molecular level in the cells, via mutation of the animal’s DNA. So although the picture above may look reasonable, it is woefully inadequate to explain the amount of changes necessary to transition from fish to amphibian. Where is the evidence for this unknowable number of transitional organisms? Keep in mind, the transition from fish to amphibian is just one of millions of transitions that have occurred according to Darwin’s theory (NDE).

Darwin rationalized his theory by claiming the fossil record was imperfect, hypothesizing that the intermediates didn’t get fossilized. Again, this seems to be counter-intuitive: if transitional organisms far outnumber those extant and extinct species that we find today and in the fossil record, it would seem that just in light of the law of averages that we would find more transitionals than not. To be fair, scientists have identified some fossils which some have deemed to be transitional (i.e. archaeopteryx, ambulocetus, acanthostega, tiktaalik) and perhaps in a future article we can look at some of these more closely. However, even with these fossils, the overwhelming majority of evidence weighs against Darwin’s idea of a “finely graduated organic chain.”

Darwin’s “incompleteness” hypothesis has since been discounted.

“The record jumps, and all the evidence shows that the record is real: the gaps we see reflect real events in life’s history — not the artifact of a poor fossil record.”-Eldredge, N. and Tattersall, I., The Myths of Human Evolution, pg. 59

The leading mechanism that seems to be favored to rescue Darwin’s theory is called “punctuated equilibrium.” Briefly, the claim is that species remain unchanged for long periods of time, known as stasis, and then suddenly and drastically change, perhaps due to a change in environment. Because the changes in the organisms happen so fast, the intermediates somehow escape being fossilized. There are problems with this type of evolution, but the main problem is that if NDE happens at the cellular level, as the theory predicts, then how does it happen as rapidly as proponents of punctuated equilibrium claim? The idea seems to contradict Darwin’s understanding of a “finely graduated organic chain.” Punctuated equilibrium seems to be a case of special pleading, where the changes required are too great for the way the general NDE theory is understood to work in the requisite amount of time, and the transitionals happen so quickly they escape fossilization.

The fossil record is just one area that shows weakness in the NDE theory. I hope to cover more in future articles.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

The Mystery of Science (Not Really)

Science: Some love it, some hate it, many ignore it. What is science and how is it accomplished?

The Mystery of Science (Not Really)

Don’t be blinded by science!

I have always had an affinity for science, although I never pursued it professionally. So let me be clear up front, I am not a scientist! However, one does not have to be a scientist in order to appreciate science and scientific endeavor. The purpose of this blog is to take the “mystery” out of science.

Science itself is a simple concept. From Wikipedia: “Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning, “science” also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. A practitioner of science is known as a “scientist.”

Simply put, science is a means of knowing stuff, and provides a way to double check the things we think we know. Contained in the Wiki definition above is the rudiments of what is known as the Scientific Method. Here is a simple explanation of said method:

  • The steps of the scientific method are to:
    • Ask a Question
    • Do Background Research (observation)
    • Construct a Hypothesis (A hypothesis is an educated guess about how things work.)
    • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    • Communicate Your Results

And that’s it. I know this all seems very simple, but the concepts that underpin science are indeed very simple. Obviously as knowledge advances, the act of doing science becomes more involved, difficult, and complicated. However, the concept behind the enterprise is not complicated at all.

As a non-scientist I welcome commentary and correction from those who actually participate in the field, or anyone else that may have something to add or say on the subject. In future posts I hope to discuss the limits of science, how science and the Christian faith intersect, and some particular scientific enterprises that seem to go against the teachings of the Bible (some of which we have previously discussed in prior articles).

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Stephen Hawking and Haman; Kindred Spirits

 

He taketh the wise in their own craftiness…

Who is Stephen Hawking? A prominent physicist, very famous, referred to by some as a modern-day Einstein. Stephen Hawking is one of the most famous scientists in the area of cosmology. In his book, “The Grand Design”, Stephen Hawking writes:

“as recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch-paper and set the universe going.” (Emphasis mine)

Let me tell you a story about two fellows in the Bible named Haman and Mordecai. Their story can be found in the book of Esther, which is a really good read and doesn’t take much time, if you are so inclined. Haman had been promoted to a very high position in the king’s court, while Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, held some type of functionary position. Haman enjoyed having the people bow and scrape before him, but to his great displeasure Mordecai refused to do so.

And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. (Esther 3:2)

You would think that Haman would have been satisfied with his position and the respect he got from everyone save one old Jew, but of course he was not. He just couldn’t let it go.

Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai. Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife. And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king. Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate. Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made. (Esther 5:9-14)

That very night, by an amazing coincidence, the king couldn’t sleep a wink. So he had the royal chronicles brought to him and read them out of boredom. It happened that prior to all of these events, Mordecai had foiled an assassination attempt on the king’s life, but was never recognized or rewarded. So just about the time Haman comes be-bopping into his chambers to ask the king to hang Mordecai, the king asks him:

So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? (Esther 6:6)

So Haman, thinking the king wants to honor him, says:

…For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour. (Esther 6:7-9)

It turns out the king thought this was a capital idea, and commanded Haman to do that very thing for Mordecai. Can you imagine Haman’s surprise when he found out the king was talking about Mordecai? Can you imagine how Haman felt as he led Mordecai through town to the adulation of the king’s subjects? Not only that, but Haman (and his family) ended up being hung on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. This is known, in today’s parlance, as receiving “come-uppance.” There are, it turns out, some very applicable Bible teachings on this situation:

The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. (Palms 9:15-16) He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong. (Job 5:13)

Now, you are asking, what does all this have to do with Stephen Hawking? Here’s the thing: Stephen Hawking, by ruling out God as the creator of the universe, has wedded himself to “Scientific Determinism.” Simply put, everything that happens is the result of particles (atoms, molecules, etc.) interacting with physics. Just like a in long chain of dominoes falling, each individual domino falls in accordance with the physics of the previous domino striking it. The individual dominoes have no choice to stand or fall, nor can they choose where and how to fall. You, my friend, and I, are just dominoes in the line (according to Hawking).

“It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion. ” (Emphasis mine)

What are the consequences of this view? Well, here are a few. If Hawking is right, and it’s all just dominoes, then he had no choice to write his book, and had no control over the things he wrote. He has no way or even ability to know if the things he has written are true. Anything he wrote has no more meaning than if a monkey had banged it out on a typewriter. Do you think Stephen Hawking really believes that? I don’t believe it, and I don’t think Hawking does either. How about you, dear reader?

If Hawking is right, then I have no choice but to believe the way I do, just as he has none (and you either!). The people who bought his book were determined (by the laws of physics and chemistry) to do so. However, if he wrote the book because he made a choice to do so (an act of free will), then he has just negated what he has said in his book. Stephen Hawking has “hung” his book in a gallows he made to hang another (God, in this case).

He taketh the wise in their own craftiness…

Over all, it looks like Mr. Hawking needs to go back to the drawing board. Somehow he needs to come up with a model of the origin of the universe that allows for free will. I have an idea, Mr. Hawking… read the first chapter of Genesis.

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

P.S. Of course I realize that Stephen Hawking has forgotten more science than I will ever know. This article is not about knowledge of science, or intelligence, and is in no way meant to be derogatory to Mr. Hawking. At issue is his acceptance of Scientific Determinism. Let’s discuss that in your comments!

Are the Origin of Life and Evolution Two Separate issues?

Many times people try to divorce the origin of Life and Evolution as two separate issues. However this is mistaken and misleading.

(This article is the second in a series of articles on evolution, particularly neo-Darwinian evolution. The first article in the series can be found HERE.)

“Darwin never mentioned life’s origin!” This is a common argument one might hear on various blogs and boards when discussing the Origin of Life (OOL) in relationship to neo-Darwinian evolution (NDE). “You have to have life before it can evolve.” However, scientists in the field and professors who teach the subjects realize that the two subjects are inextricably linked. In this article I will attempt to show how one can not simply dismiss the subject of OOL when discussing NDE.

First witness: Wikipedia. I don’t typically recommend Wikipedia for research, especially when looking for information that is controversial or politically charged. However, for subjects for which there seems to be consensus, it can be a good starting place. In the Wikipedia article on evolution, under the evolutionary history of life, the first sub-heading is “Origin of Life“.

Next, we have a well reasoned article written by Greg Laden, at Science Blogs. Mr. Laden concludes:

Most models for the origin of life are very Darwinian. Most have some selection going on, most have some diversification going on, and all, by necessity and definition, have change over time going on. And, it is organic change, because the stuff of life before the primordial animation was organic stuff.

The origin of life is part of evolutionary biology. (emphasis mine)

Tell us what you really think, Greg. Finally, I present to you a website located on the University of California, Berkeley, web site. This series of web pages is dedicated to “understanding evolution for teachers.” Part of this series is on-you guessed it-the Origin of Life. So, now at least you have a few handy resources to refer to when someone tells you that evolution and the origin of life are two separate issues.

The thing is, why do they make such a fuss about it? In a recent article I posted, “Is Science Opposed to Christianity?“, I was told not once but twice that the two subjects can not be discussed jointly: “these are 2 completely different scientific doctrines” and “you confuse abiogenesis with evolution.” I provided these same references for the gentleman who leveled these charges, but as happens so many times in these types of discussions, he simply deflected and refused to acknowledge the evidence offered.

Here are my thoughts on the equivocation: proponents of NDE know that when it comes to OOL, they have no footing whatsoever. As I quoted in my article “The Origin of Life: A Pause for Clarity“,  prominent OOL scientist Eugene Koonin woefully stated:

“However, the origin of life—or, to be more precise, the origin of the first replicator systems and the origin of translation-remains a huge enigma, and progress in solving these problems has been very modest — in the case of translation, nearly negligible However, these advances remain only preliminaries, even if important ones, because they do not even come close to a coherent scenario for prebiological evolution, from the first organic molecules to the first replicator systems, and from these to bona fide biological entities in which information storage and function are partitioned between distinct classes of molecules (nucleic acids and proteins, respectively).”

“In my view, all advances notwithstanding, evolutionary biology is and will remain woefully incomplete until there is at least a plausible, even if not compelling, origin of life scenario.” Koonin, Eugene V. (2012). The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution. , Pearson Education, Inc., Publishing as FT Press Science, New Jersey, page 417. (Emphases mine)

Well said, Dr. Koonin. Notice how low he sets the bar- “plausible… if not compelling.” Conversely, proponents of NDE do feel like they are on solid ground when discussing the neo-Darwinian synthesis. After all, it is widely accepted, there seems to be overwhelming consensus in the scientific community, and it is universally taught in the public school system. However, over the next few articles I will attempt to show some of the areas in which NDE falls far short of explaining life as we see it today.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Thank you for your time!

Previous Writings Published on “The Patch” (Part 2)

About a year ago, I started publishing articles on a web site called “The Patch“, which a actually collection of sites specific to local communities. I started posting in the Woodstock Patch, and branched out from there to cover much of the metro-Atlanta area and even some other states. “The Patch” has recently undergone a major reformat, and thus far the tools provided to post articles on the new platform seem to be somewhat of a downgrade from what they were previously.

I tried somewhat to start working on a foundational basis of explaining why the Christian worldview is a reasonable worldview to hold. Here I will list links to the articles I posted there, and along the way I might pull them out, dust them off, and re-post them. Take a look. Let me know what you think!

The Dials of Life

This will be the first article in a series on the origin of life. The series will cover a brief explanation of the conditions that make life possible, what we mean when we say something is “alive”, and an exploration into the concept of abiogenesis.

The (Not-So) Simple Life

In this article on the subject of life, we will discuss what it actually means to be “alive”, and some of the minimum requirements for life to exist.

The Origin of Life

In order to live, life must be specifically programmed. Can this programming be explained by naturalistic processes?

The Origin of Life: A Pause for Clarity

There have been many and varied challenges to my post on “The (Not So) Simple Life”. In this article I will attempt to cut through the smoke screens that are typically thrown up on these issues and get to the crux of the matter.

The Mystery of Science (Not Really)

Science: Some love it, some hate it, many ignore it. What is science and how is it accomplished?

Does Science Have Limits?

Science is a beneficial enterprise. Science has enabled today’s society to enjoy luxuries never dreamed about in past generations. Science does, however, have limitations, and we will attempt to discuss some of these limitations in this article.

Is Science Opposed to Christianity?

The claim has been made, in recent years, that the Christian faith stands in opposition to the scientific enterprise. Christians are labeled as “science deniers”, among other things. Is this historically accurate?

Was the Sinking of the Titanic a Copycat Myth?

A 1898 Novella, “Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan”, was published. The story contains many eerie similarities with the actual story of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, fourteen years later!

Horus and Jesus: Practically Twins! (well, not really….)

As I wrote in my last post, there are many different sources that claim a multitude of similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth. Does closer scrutiny bear out these claims? The devil, as they say, is in the details…

Cross Roads of Faith: News Roundup, July 20th, 2014

This week: smart Christians, overzealous ACLU actions, the atheists that don’t exist, the inhabited planet that never was!

Evolution? What do you mean by that?

“Evolution.” The term can have different meanings based on the context of the conversation, or the thoughts and views of the person speaking or being spoken to. This article will attempt to draw some of the different meanings of “Evolution”.

Cross Roads of Faith: News Roundup July 26th, 2014

Welcome to the Cross Roads of Faith News Roundup!

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