Speaking With Authority About Origins

demolition

In an ingenious slam poetry performance, Taylor Mali addresses the trend in intellectualism for the past several decades of doing the easy work of tearing down ideas without doing the hard work of building cohesive new ones.  The last line of his humorous performance suddenly takes a turn for the serious as he pronounces:

“Contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days just to question authority, you gotta speak with it, too.”

Atheism claims that there is no reason to believe in God anymore because we do not need Him to explain the existence of the world around us.  In science, we are told, we do not assume that something exists unless its existence is necessitated by the evidence.  The burden of proof is placed on the believer.

It really is so much easier to tear down an idea than to build one up.  To place the burden of proof on your opponent.  To point out all of the things that we can’t know.  This is really the essence of the argument against God.

In light of this principle I would like to address the use of the studies of physics and macroevolution by the atheistic movement.

In my limited understanding and exposure to the world of contemporary physics, I find it to be a substantial, respectable field.  Much of it is speculative, but much of it is also well documented and speaks with authority in describing the world around us.

I’ve got my own problems with the theory of evolution.  I don’t think it holds water.  But I will say in its favor that the theory of evolution speaks with authority about something.  It isn’t about shifting the burden of proof onto someone else.  It isn’t about pointing out all of the things that we can’t know or can’t prove.  

I don’t believe in the theory of macroevolution, but I can respect the fact that it seeks to explain, rather than to tear down.  What I can’t respect is the arrogance with which atheism takes these theories and others and uses them to tear down the idea of God.  Let me explain why.

Concerning macroevolution:

To claim that because we have a plausible theory (which I would claim is actually very weak) about how life could have evolved from a single cell into man, has little to do with the incredible questions of the universe’s existence or order.  It even leaves the question of the origin of life unanswered.

Concerning contemporary physics:

I said earlier that science claims not to need God to explain the existence and order in the cosmos.  But science has not explained why the universe exists or why it is the way it is.

The general vague idea is that the laws and constants that govern our universe are eternal and that they called the universe into existence.  For starters, this does’t explain where the laws themselves came from.  Secondly, it doesn’t explain why they happen to be so beautifully and incredibly fine-tuned.  And thirdly, this is a very primitive and unsubstantiated view of natural laws.

As philosopher and author Jim Holt points out, “physical laws are actually generalized descriptions of patterns and regularities in the world.  They don’t exist outside the world… they can’t call a world into existence out of nothingness.”  He points out that even Stephen Hawking asks what breathes fire into the equations and gives them a universe to describe.

Why does something exist instead of nothing?  Physics, which merely explains the behavior of our universe, has no answer.

Why is there so much fine tuning in the universe?  The best atheistic answer is that there are an infinite number of universes and that we happen to live in an amazingly orderly one.  So let’s see, the chances of that are about… 1 in infinity.

Where did the first life come from?  Investigate the atheistic theories for yourself.  Panspermia simply dodges the question, and all other proposals are embarrassing and contrived.

Where does consciousness come from?  The best atheistic answer is that it is a fundamental constant of reality.  Which borders on and honestly encroaches on the existence of the supernatural in its implications.

In conclusion:

Macroevolution makes pronouncements and theories about the way things are.  Physics describes our universe with elegance and precision.  But atheism wrongly uses these studies to tear down ideas which it has no ability to replace.  It questions authority without the ability to speak with it.

If you want authoritative, substantial answers, consider a Biblical worldview.

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Do Scientific Dating Methods Support Macroevolution?

jungle

Christians believe that God’s creation of the universe ended just 6,000 years ago.  Thus, human history goes back only 6,000 years, to a real man named Adam and a real woman named Eve, and macroevolution has not occurred.  How can this be true?  Does this view not contradict good science?

First, remember that Einsteins demonstration that time and space are a part of the same fabric.  In light of this, it is logical that when God stretched out the space in the universe, he was stretching out time with it.  Thus, in a very literal sense, there could be 14 billion years of the dimension that we call time between us and that event, just as there appears also to be a great deal of the spacial dimensions between us and that event as well.

This view would allow for astrophysicists and cosmologists to see evidence for a universe that was, technically speaking, billions of years old.  The material in our earth would also be very old in a technical sense.  But there would be no evidence for life existing on earth more than about 6,000 years ago.  So, is this view even possible, or is it absolute nonsense?

It is time for a basic review of scientific dating methods.  There are two types of dating methods: relative, and absolute.  

Relative dating means we take objects that we already know the age of, and use them to evaluate the ages of other objects that we know came before or after them, or were contemporaneous of them.  So basically, if we find a fossil in a rock that we believe to be 2 billion years old, the fossil is assumed to be 2 billion years old.  Or, if we find a fossil that we believe to be 2 billion years old in a rock, we will assume the rock to be that age as well.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this kind of dating will spread inaccurate dates like wildfire through the scientific community if incorrect assumptions are made about the ages of objects that we do know.  This illustrates the great importance of the second kind of dating method, the absolute, which according to the UK’s Natural History Museum, gives us an item’s “exact age.”

There are a handful of categories that absolute dating methods can further be divided into, but the most widely used and trusted are radiometric dating methods.  Most objects in nature contain radioactive isotopes.  In very basic terms, these are elements that decay into different elements, or different isotopes of the same elements.  Since they decay at a steady rate (or at least they have since we started paying attention,) if we know the amount of an isotope in something when is was formed (or in the case of a living thing, when it died,) we can determined its age based on the amount of the products of its decay in our sample.

But the problem, as many have pointed out, is that in the case of non-living objects such as rocks, there is so much room for contamination during the time between the objects creation and our sampling of it.  To make matters worse, we can only speculate about the amount of isotopes in the original.  Perhaps this is why samples of fresh lava from Mt. St. Helens were dated to between 340,000 and 2.8 Million years old only a few years after its creation.

But with living things the method is much more reliable, right?  Not in all cases.  Not unless living mollusks died 2,300 years ago (“Radiocarbon Dating: Fictitious Results With Mollusk Shells,” Science , Vol. 141, p. 634).  We are making too many assumptions about initial quantities of isotopes, constant rates of decay, lack of contamination, and precision of measurement.

I’m skeptical of the dates that the scientific community is putting on fossils.  If rocks are being dated to be extravagantly older than they really are, and we are then using relative dating to determine the age of the fossils in those rocks, then our entire timescale for living things on earth is reduced to rubble.

Even scientists admit that carbon-14 dating is “not generally reliable for finds that are more than 40,000 years old,” and the rampant use of relative dating leaves the door open for widespread error.  Evolution does indeed need millions and billions of years between the appearance of the first living organisms and the appearance of man, and we simply have no reliable way of validating those kinds of numbers.

Natural Selection: Evidence for Macroevolution?

Darwin's Finches

I remember being a sophomore in high school when my biology teacher announced that we would be studying evolution in the coming weeks.  Honestly, I was excited.

That might be surprising since macroevolution is inconsistent with my religious beliefs.  But I understood that if evolution turned out to be true, it would mean an error in my hermeneutic, rather than necessarily indicating error in God’s words.  I didn’t feel threatened by the theory, I felt intrigued by it.

I also understood that the truth has nothing to fear from investigation.  If my religious views were correct, there was no reason not to test them thoroughly.  So what I had heard so many adults get so upset about, I saw as a personal opportunity to seek out the truth for myself.

Despite a fairly large section of my textbook dedicated to the subject, I was truly shocked by the lack of conclusive evidence in the book.  There were a few vague statements about genetic mutations, and numerous, exhaustive examples of natural selection.  It was as if natural selection was evolution at work and we should need no further proof.

Natural selection is very easy to understand.  In any given environment, the organisms that are fit to thrive and reproduce in that environment grow in number, while those not suited to the environment are less successful at survival and reproduction and become rare or even die out.

In this way, nature “selects” certain traits in the gene pool of an organism.  For instance, in a species of moths with varying patterns on their wings, those with wing patterns that camouflage them against their environment more effectively will become more common.

So, could this process not drive evolution?  Use some basic critical thinking skills with me for a moment.

1) Natural selection never creates any new genetic information.

In order for a species to evolve into a higher species, it must acquire new genetic material.  But natural selection does not introduce even one bit of new genetic information into the gene pool of a species, it simply changes the prevalences of various traits within the gene pool in that specific setting.

Natural selection didn’t create moths with certain wing patterns, or finches with certain sized beaks, it simply made those traits, which were already present in the gene pool to begin with, more common in that area.

I’m sorry if you know your science and find this kind of review condescending.  But it amazes me how many young people who subscribe to macroevolution think that natural selection demonstrates it.

2) Genetic limits within species.

Dogs are a great illustration for this point because they have such an amazing degree of genetic variability within their gene pool.  Starting with wild dogs and given a few centuries, we have bred them into everything from chihuahuas to great danes and bull mastiffs.

This wasn’t just natural selection.  This was guided, intelligent selection on a huge scale.  So, if we wanted, could we breed dogs into cheetahs?  What about whales?  Stupid questions.  A dog will always be a dog because there are genetic limits in its DNA.  It can only present the morphologies that correspond to its genetics, and all of our breeding introduces no new genetic material.

Once again, we are changing the prevalences and frequencies of genetic information, but we are not creating any of it.  Not macroevolution.

3) Natural selection would almost surely work against many of the changes that would have been necessary between species.

If reptiles evolved into birds, explain to me how scales evolved into feathers and arms evolved into wings.  Remember that every step we take must be more fit to the animal’s environment that the one before it, or natural processes won’t select it.  

Its going to take some very creative thinking to dream up why nature would select an arm/wing-scale/feather hybrid over a fully functioning, elegantly designed normal reptile.  Natural selection won’t tolerate those kinds of ridiculous morphological leaps.

The real question is whether or not genetic mutations are capable of introducing new, beneficial genetic information into the genetic makeup of an organism in ways drastic enough to drive evolution.  For instance, can a species feasibly change its number of chromosomes?  (Chimps have 48, humans have 46)  Can we explain the emergence of two distinct, codependent sexes through mutations alone?

These things haven’t been demonstrated satisfactorily for me.  And that is where the discussion needs to happen.  Mentioning natural selection to me again is not fruitful.

Morpho Butterflies: Amazing Hidden Technology in Nature

morpho butterfly

Maybe you’ve seen an image of one of these beautiful butterflies before.  They are called Morpho butterflies.  There are several species with wingspans ranging from 3 to 8 inches.

Their beautifully colored wings have a metallic sheen that varies noticeably in color depending on the angle at which you view them.

morpho butterfly wing

Antonio Donato Nobre, who has spent many years studying the Amazon Rainforest and who gave a talk that inspired me to research Morphos, describes the beauty of seeing one of these insects in the wild:

“When we see the morpho butterfly in the forest, we feel like someone’s left open the door to heaven and this creature has escaped from there.”

What if I told you that these beautiful colors were not due to pigment?  The blue morpho doesn’t actually have blue pigment at all!  To discover what makes them blue, we will have to take a closer look.

morpho butterfly scales

Viewing a few of its scales reveals that they are largely translucent, but still doesn’t reveal the stunning technology present on this butterfly’s wings.

Take a look at this image, at 10,000 times magnification, of a morpho scale.  The ridges you see are something like the strait rows of a forrest of photonic crystals.

morpho butterfly scale magnified 10000X

With 15,000 times magnification we can see the actual shapes of these crystals in a cross- section.  These christmas tree shaped structures are not made of a blue material or colored with a blue pigment.  They operate on a principle of physics known as interference, or wave propagation.


morpho butterfly 15000X magnification
According to Nobre, these crystals are so sophisticated that at the time of their discovery, man had not developed a comparable technology.  This type of structure has since been used to create some very beautiful color display monitors.

Man often borrows his inspiration, or even his actual technology from nature.  But imagine the kind of creativity present in a Mind that could conceive of these things out of nothing.

morpho butterfly technology

Consider finally the difficulty of explaining this kind of biological technology from a macroevolutionary standpoint.  The evolution of a structure would require that it change slowly from some less sophisticated or at least different structure into the new one over thousands or millions of years.  This evolution would include countless transitionary phases that lacked the sophisticated functionality of the final product.

So what feasible transitionary stage is there between using pigment and using a perfectly organized and elegantly designed microscopic forrest of highly sophisticated crystals which are in fact not colorful themselves but create stunning colors through light wave interference?

Only in their fully developed form would these crystals create the desired effect.  Evolution would have had no incentive to labor through countless years of worthless transitionary structures to get there.

God on the other hand, had a beautiful incentive.  To show us the grandeur He was capable of putting into His creation.  To give us, as this creature has given Nobre and his associates, a glimpse into the kinds of beauty we may one day see in heaven.

Why Macroevolution Isn’t Real Science

dna

Science enjoys a prominent status in the minds of millions as the gold standard of academic disciplines.  While philosophy, religion, art, music, etc. are created by humans and thus fallible, science is distinguished from them as an infallible discipline which uncovers incontrovertible truths.

I’m well aware that the majority of informed scientists would concede that nothing can be truly proven with 100% certainty, and I agree with them, but the fact remains that scientists go around claiming to have discovered things that simply cannot be denied by any rational person.

It bears consideration that we would exalt our certainty in one discipline above others.

Why are they so confident?  Why are we, as a society, so comfortable with holding up science as the pinnacle of certainty in such an uncertain and all-too-human world?  Human error saturates our relationships and experiences, but science, we feel, is different.  Are we justified in feeling this way?

In many cases, I think, yes.

We are justified in holding up science as a pinnacle of certainty, relatively speaking.  Not to the same extent that we can be certain of the rules of math and logic.  Not to the extent that I hold a personal conviction in the existence of God due to my own personal experiences.  But in a world where nothing is – technically speaking – certain, science has an impressive integrity that it derives from some corrective measures that it includes in its definition.

I should make it absolutely clear that at this point I am speaking of science as a method of gaining knowledge about the world around us and using that knowledge to make accurate predictions.  I am certainly not speaking on behalf of every branch of, and assertion made by, the field of academia known in the contemporary world as science.  But science, inasmuch as it can identify constant and therefore predictable behaviors in the world around us when variables are manipulated, is a pretty sure thing.

To give an extremely simple example, the laws we have discovered about gravity dictate that if I drop a rock out of my window, it will fall to the ground.  I do not technically know for sure that this will happen unless I try it, but this experiment has been performed so many times with the same results in so many places in so many time periods of human existence that my degree of certainty is extremely high.

So the reason why we lift up science as a pinnacle of certainty is because it involves repeated experiments and observations.  When we discover long term, stable, repeatable results from an experiment, we begin to trust those results as things of certainty.

This has allowed us to systematically create some amazing machines in the worlds of computers, engineering, and technology.  It is truly phenomenal what bright minds have done with science in the past several decades especially, and indeed in the last several centuries also.

So, does macroevolution qualify as this kind of science, and thus receive the status of certainty that we confer on other scientific discoveries?

Earlier this year I watched the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate concerning evolution vs. creation.  Ham repeatedly stated that evolution was historical science rather than observational science, and thus it was essentially reduced to mere conjecture.  I think Ham may have been on the right track, but his distinction was overly simplistic and lacked practical weight.

Yes, some sciences are historical, because they deal with understanding the past.  But it doesn’t necessarily follow that this makes a reasonable degree of certainty about the past impossible.  For example, on a crime scene, we expect investigators to dust for fingerprints, collect DNA samples, observe the many markers that the crime may have left on the scene, and come to relatively certain conclusions based on the data that they collect.

Now, does this kind of science lose a little bit of certainty.  Yes, a little.  Just because someone’s fingerprints are on the knife, and their DNA is on the victim, and rubber from their tires is on the street at the victims house, and they had a good reason to kill the victim, and an honest person said they saw the suspect do it, doesn’t make us certain that they committed the crime.  But to simply dismiss all of this evidence as “historical science” because it wasn’t actually observed is not justified.  Using observations made in the present to make reasonable assertions about the past is a practice strong enough to hold up in court.

And in fact, creationists do it, too.  We didn’t observe creation.  We weren’t there when God made the stars or the plants or the animals. But we have a satisfactory degree of certainty about the event based on what we have seen within our short lives.

So now I’d like to expand and adjust the argument Ham made:

Macroevolution isn’t science because its consistency is only demonstrated through “explanatory and predictive power,” and these are indicators of correlation, not causation.

Please let me clarify.

Macroevolutionary biology is championed by atheists and widely propagated by the scientific world.  Its validity is supposedly demonstrated by its power to explain why the world is the way that it is, and its ability to predict new discoveries about the way the world is.  No, macroevolution cannot be observed, but it can explain why we find the correlation we do between the morphological and genetic hierarchies of organisms, and a fossil record that matches both of these.

But can I just point out that there could literally be millions of theories that could explain perfectly why the world is the way that it is?  If I discover that morphological, genetic, and fossil data all cross-confirm each other and then say “AH HA!  The Flying Spaghetti Monster – sometimes used by atheists for satirical purposes – created the world so that it would be exactly this way!” then objectively speaking, my explanation has just as much explanatory power as macroevolution.

The point here is that you can’t observe the way the world is, then ask what could explain the world being that way, and then assume that this theory is true simply because it has “explanatory power.”

I would also like to point out that of course, if God used DNA as the blueprints for the physical features of all organisms, then wouldn’t we expect those organisms with more similar physical features to also have more similar DNA?  Then if we consider the possibility of a worldwide flood a few thousand years ago, I’m already seeing some plausible explanations for the fossil record, including the “Cambrian Explosion” that gives evolutionists such a hard time.

The “predictive power” of evolution can be investigated by a simple google search and a critical investigation.  This field, like any field, is much too vast to be addressed in one short article.  I think you will find that data is quite frequently interpreted to reinforce the predictions which the scientists already expected.  Here is an area where human error can easily creep into science: we tend to perceive what we expect.

If we say “evolution predicts that we will find transitionary fossils between other primates and man,” and we expect it to be so, and we also have millions of dollars of grant money on the line (sometimes I get the idea that the people with all the money want to degrade our morals,) then when we find an ancient skull with a larger jaw than the average human, we say “AH HA!” and invent a new species out of it.

I know I don’t have time to get into real scientific depth here, but all of the “transitionary fossils” that we find could easily be accounted for by variations within the bone structures of the organisms we see in the world around us today or in recent history.  That’s why the “evolutionary tree” illustration is actually more like a mile wide bush, getting wider and wider with new fossil discoveries.  But that wouldn’t look very nice in TIME magazine and would require a several page fold out.

And the methods used to date all of these discoveries over the decades?  Carbon 14 dating.  Which may actually be completely and wildly unreliable.  Researching dating methods a couple of years ago really opened my eyes to the uncertainty of the scientific community over dating things anywhere close to accurately.

I’m going to reign it back in now.

The underlying principle here, is that a correlation between what a theory explains or predicts and the reality that we find, does not prove that the theory is true, only that its explanations and predictions correlate with the data.

On these grounds I find evolution and creation rather equally matched.  Both accurately explain and predict things about our world.  Neither can be observed or objectively, universally tested.  Of course, in my opinion, when you bring the human experience and philosophy into the picture, Creationism comes out squarely on top. But the point of this article is that Macro Evolution is NOT science because the correlation between its “explanatory and predictive mechanisms” and our reality is woefully insufficient grounds for certainty. 

Besides the fact that there are no plausible explanations as to how we got the first living organism, with all of its necessary proteins, by mere chance with no intelligent intervention, or that genetic mutations, even when beneficial, don’t create new meaningful information in the genetic code and thus evolution has no viable mode of progression.

I suspect that within my lifetime – this is if the masses are not brainwashed beyond recovery – we may have dispensed with the idea altogether.