Challenging the Blind Watchmaker

blind_watchmaker

“The only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics…the blind unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for…life, has no purpose in mind…If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is that of a blind watchmaker.”

 — Richard Dawkins

 

 

The Blind Watchmaker Thesis says that life has the appearance of design – but it not actually designed. It is the result of millions of years of gradual random unguided biological mutation and change acted upon by natural selection.

 

 

Our culture has – on the whole – accepted the Blind Watchmaker Thesis. And it has done so in spite of the despair filled destination to which this thesis leads us to. (Cue wails of…everything is pointless, there’s no real purpose to our lives, etc, etc)

 

 

I do not accept the Blind Watchmaker Thesis – I challenge it. I believe that there are good reasons to be skeptical of it. There IS a point to existence – and there’s a God given purpose for you and me THAT IS THERE FOR US…if we want it.

Here are two reasons I’m skeptical of the Blind Watchmaker.

 

 

1 – The Fossil Record Does Not Suggest It is True

2 – The Information at the Heart of Life Cannot (by normal human experience) Arrive by Random Processes

 

 

Would you give me a few minutes of your time to explain these reasons?

 

 

1 – The Fossil Record Does Not Suggest It Is True

This might sound like I’m completely denying the science of Paleontology, the institution of the Natural History Museum in London, etc! Not so – the Fossil record gives us a fascinating snapshot of ancient history. I’m simply repeating an objection that was levelled at Darwin’s Theory by one of his contemporaries.

Darwin looked at the layered fossil record…

older fossils lower down

more recent fossils nearer the surface

…and saw an increase in creature complexity the nearer to the surface he got. Surely a sign of evolutionary development?

 

 

The problem with this conclusion is – it ignores an important piece of data. There is a massive jump in complexity and diversity between each layer at various points in the fossil record. This period is usually referred to as the Cambrian Explosion – a period of time in earth’s history which is estimated to have lasted millions of years. But it’s a period where single celled forms of life were eventually joined by plant life…and then joined by small but complex forms of life like Trilobites (armoured beasties who had eyes, mouths, digestive systems, spines, etc).

 

 

The fossil record does not suggest that all creatures are descended from a single ancient primordial form. Rather – life appeared and existed for a while in history. Much of it died out – much of it is still living to this day.

 

 

If we look at the jumps in creature complexity between the geological layers with a mind that is not already decided about the truth of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – it looks for all the world like there were periods of time when complex life suddenly appeared on the planet.

Suddenly appeared? Sounds like magic rather than science!

 

It’s only magic if we decide ahead of time that life WAS NOT created by a designer. If we are open to the possibility of a designer – then doesn’t the fossil record leave the fingerprints of the God who injected life into his creation? This creation is outside of Science – but God’s creative results are study able BY Science. Which is great fun!

 

 

Darwin’s critic Agassiz put it this way.

“[Darwinism] contradicts what the animal forms buried in the rocky strata of our earth tell us…Let us hear them – for after all, their testimony is that of the eye witness and the actor in the scene.”

— Agassiz

 

 

In other words – these creatures lived. Their fossilized remains suggest appearance rather than gradual development. 150 years of Paleontology has not found the fossilized intermediate forms that prove Darwin right. We could hang on to Darwin’s  fanciful theory or – we could at least be open to following the available evidence of the fossil record where it leads. Life appeared. And this points to a Life Designer.

 

Ah – but that’s very closed minded. Isn’t it? Not very scientific. Why can’t I be more open to the possibility that the missing fossilised links will really be completely convincingly found?

Well…because of my second problem with the Blind Watchmaker thesis.

 

2 – The Information at the Heart of Life Cannot (by normal human experience) Come about By Random Processes

Darwin didn’t realise it – but each of the countless billions of cells in our bodies is an efficient factory. It’s a complex microscopic biological facility for storing and using information to create biological machines – or proteins. Don’t believe me? Just look at this.

 

 

 

Every car or TV production line (and the factory building it sits in) that you have ever seen was designed and built by clever people. Every instruction manual you’ve ever referred to was written by an eloquent author (sometimes Chinese!). Every machine you have ever used – whether it’s your microwave or your iPhone – was intentionally designed by a creative agency.

So why is it when we move from electronics or automotive engineering to Biology – do we suddenly throw away any need of a designer when we reach Biology?

 

 

The truth is that life is more complex than ANY man made mechanism.  It demands design even more than electronics or automotive engineering.

 

 

Consider for a moment the strand of DNA stored in each cell nucleus in your little finger. The DNA contains instructions for creating proteins, and instructions for managing the life of the cell. It’s the software that keeps the system working. The use of the word “software” is not a metaphor – this is an accurate description. Just ask the guys who are building storage devices today that treat DNA molecules as microscopic hard disk drives.

 

DNA ‘perfect for digital storage’

dnastorage

Just consider the way that – whenever a new organism is conceived – the cells that appear are hard wired with Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) to create specific body plans. The cells that comprise a fish embryo are hard wired to create the shape of a fish. The cells in a bird embryo know ahead of time how to create a bird shape, and so on.

 

 

I have worked in software and electronics for 20 years. My Manager’s expectations have never been met by accident or random chance. I’ve always had to work hard – and use as much insight and learning as I can – to build the circuit that will work, or to write the code that compiles and runs and performs its task correctly. Circuits don’t mutate into other circuits. They either do their job – or they don’t. And we fix them – or we give up on them.

 

 

Why should the situation be any different for biological software and circuitry? A creative intelligence was required to start life off. To deny this just doesn’t fit with normal everyday experience!

 

fiction

I find the idea of life arriving on planet Earth by purely natural processes as fascinating. But to my mind it sounds like a fiction book full of cool ideas – without any grounding in the real world. I do not accept the Blind Watchmaker Thesis – I challenge it. I believe that there are good reasons to be skeptical of it.

 

I’m much more willing to sing along with the ancient psalmist:

“O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24, New Living Translation

Christianity Compared to Racism?

odowd

 

I’m wondering whether Chris O’Dowd was caught on an off day.

He was recently quoted by GQ magazine as saying he reckons following a religion will eventually become as offensive and unacceptable as racism is today. He says…

 “…religion is ruining the world… you need to stop! There’s going to be a turning point where it’s going to be like racism. You’re not allowed to say that weird sh*t! It’s mad! And you’re making everybody crazy!”

I’m guessing that by “religion”…Chris refers to people who believe in a higher purpose…and ultimately the existence of God (altho some religions don’t go that far). Whatever he means – his comments surely are leveled at Christians. Right? As a Christian, I believe in God…I believe in Jesus Christ. So I guess his comments apply to me.

The thing is… I’m completely baffled by Chris’s likening of Christianity to Racism. Christianity is not a threat. Quite the opposite – Christianity is the only life raft that’s available, folks.

And I’ll tell you why.

If we look back a few hundred years, we had a big problem in the British Empire (back when Britain was great – right?). Part of our African trade involved buying and selling African slaves. To Brits in the late 1700s, slavery was just part of everyday life.

Britain treated those of a certain colour as less important than everybody else.

Britain treated them as objects, as property.

Now – surely that describes racism applied on a national scale?

wilberforce

Enter one man – William Wilberforce – who challenged this appalling state of affairs. He stood against slavery – and therefore racism – in the strongest way. In fact – for 18 years he regularly proposed anti-slavery motions in British Parliament. And they were continually swept aside by the business people who profited from slaves. That is…until 29th July 1833 when the act to free slaves in the British Empire was finally passed in the Houses of Parliament.

The thing is – William Wilberforce was a very devout Christian. In fact – his Christian faith was one of the things that drove his anti-slavery activism.

You see – the Bible teaches that every person matters to God. There’s not one person we lock eyes with – that God does not care about. Now – groups of Christians will sometimes disagree on lots of things – it is not The Worldwide Church’s most attractive quality! But this particular fact is foundational to all followers of Jesus Christ. People are made in God’s image, they are precious, they are given a unique dignity by the Creator and God has gone incredible lengths to reach out towards each and every one of us.

People matter to God. William Wilberforce knew this. That’s why he gave his life to abolish the enforced slavery of people God loves.

So I would ask this. If Christianity can

  1. Propel William Wilberforce to dramatically reform the racist British Empire,
  2. Inspire him to work towards reclaiming and recognizing the inherent dignity of countless African people

…on what grounds can you claim that Christianity is a danger to society today? Christianity and racism are such polar opposites – that William Wilberforce devoted his life to eliminating institutionalized racism within the Great British Empire. What’s not to like?

I’m baffled that Christianity would be likened to such a hateful, segregating, controlling and evil period in Britain’s past. Jesus Christ came to bring freedom – not bondage. That’s the whole point.

shaftsbury

A contemporary of Wilberforce was Lord Shaftsbury who, in the 1800s, reformed appalling working practices that were springing up as a result of the new Industrial Revolution. The least important in society  – women and children – were abused in the name of business. Lord Shaftsbury transformed the lives of countless workers and is remembered as a reformer and friend of the poor. You know where I’m going with this…he was a committed Christian. There’s a direct line between his faith in Christ and his social action.

kingfisher

Thinking about the 21st century for a moment, the Christian Church that I serve in as a leader – Kingfisher Church – is also working towards reclaiming and recognizing the inherent dignity of marginalized people in British society. In our case – these people are adults with learning difficulties.  Without seeking to blow our own trumpet – there are Christian leaders at Kingfisher Church today who are moving in similar circles as William Wilberforce did so many centuries ago.

Why?

Because people matter to God. Every single one of us do. We always have done. We always will do. And anyone who has been a Christian for 5 minutes instinctively begins to long that society would reflect that.

What is so offensive about that? What is so abhorrent about valuing people so much that we choose to work towards making society a better place?

Jesus didn’t come to make everyone crazy.

He came as a Doctor to the sick,

As a Light in the darkness,

To bring Life to those facing death.

He brings Hope to the hopeless and

Sight to the blind.

And his intention is that Christians everywhere would join him on this path.

Christianity is not a threat – it’s the only life raft that’s available, folks.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Luke 4:18-19, NLT