RESPONDblogs: The number of Biological Lego bricks isn’t random – it matters

lego-bricks-large

 

Evolutionary Biologists often criticize the Scientists who propose that Intelligent Design (ID) – rather than the blind uncaring + random laws of physics – caused life on Planet Earth. This is not surprising – these two views are completely at odds with each other. They are two different ways of looking at our World.

 

The Evolutionary Biologist studies life and looks for signs that animal groups are related; that over millions of years genetic mutations have amassed as life forms have gradually transitioned from one form into another form.

 

Advocates of Intelligent Design, however, study the same life and look for evidence that it has been carefully crafted on purpose for a purpose. That it contains specifically coded information for the maintenance of life.

 

These views are completely incompatible. So no wonder there are tensions between the two groups!

 

One of the common criticisms on ID is that it does not engage in proper Science. The way Science often works is – someone comes up with a prediction (perhaps about how the coding in DNA works) – and the Scientific community work together to discover whether this prediction is either true or false.

 

The criticism that ID is not proposing scientific predictions is not completely true. Because one Scientific Establishment doing ID research – the Discovery Institute – has made a number of predictions that are being studied by the Scientific community right now.

 

For example – Evolutionary Biologists have traditionally claimed that large portions of the DNA strand in our cells is just Junk. While some parts of our DNA contain instructions that code up proteins – the Junk regions don’t do that. Think of the Desktop Recycle Bin on your laptop. The rubbish just fills up the bin over many generations. But because no one has selected “Empty Bin” it just sits there in our DNA.

 

The Discovery Institute has predicted that there IS no such thing as Junk DNA. Their prediction is that – a genetic Rubbish Bin does not exist. Instead they have predicted that we just don’t fully understand what the apparently junk regions are for. BUT – they ALSO predict that – when we DO understand more – we will find that the regions of DNA will perform very important tasks for the management of the cell and the maintenance of life, etc.

 

This is a Scientific Prediction from ID that many Biologists are investigating on both sides of the fence.

And a peer reviewed non-ID sponsored paper from “D’Onofrio and Abel” was released back in May 2014 that points to ID’s prediction being right – there is NO GENETIC RUBBISH BIN.

What do they say in the paper? Well – they are talking about Codons.

Codons are like groups of DNA instructions that contain the code for building amino acids. Amino acids and Codons are like the biological Lego bricks that are used by the cell to construct Proteins. It has long been known that there is a lot of redundancy in the Genome around Codons. In other words – there are repeats of the same Codon over and over again in the Genome. And they all seem to point to the formation of the same Amino Acid.

Evolutionary Biologists have looked at this evidence and said – there you go. Here’s more evidence of junk in the system. But this junk is useful to evolution. As life evolves and some of the Codons are mutated into different Codons…the life form will still have some original Codons remaining. So the amino acid can still be constructed. Isn’t nature lucky?

Well – the scientific community is beginning to view redundancy in Codons in a different way following “D’Onforio and Abel’s” paper.

 

What they are reporting is that – rather than these redundant Codons just being a happy accident that works in evolution’s favor – there is a purpose behind the repeating of the Codons. There is information being conveyed by the number of repeating Codons.

 

They have discovered that – while the cellular machinery reads the Codon and creates the Amino Acid from the instructions it finds there – the number of repeating redundant Codons itself is also vitally important. Why? Because the repeating codons control the speed at which the cell builds the Amino Acid. Multiple repeating Codons are like a cellular pause button. The number of repeating Codons tells the cell how long to pause. This is a highly sophisticated timing mechanism in the cell which is very similar to mechanisms found in computer software (my own personal area of work and experience) and important for any machine. Electrical, mechanical…or biological.

 

Sophisticated coding of information – and precise control mechanisms – are both predicted and expected by Intelligent Design. Traditional Darwinian Evolution doesn’t expect specific design…just the accumulation of the selected, random jumble of chemicals that have crashed together to form life.

 

In the light of this latest discovery – which understanding of Biology seems the most likely?

 

 

Further details here:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/08/paper_finds_fun089301.html

http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fgene.2014.00140/abstract

 

Advertisements

RESPONDblog: Is belief in God Reasonable? Kalam says YES.

football

Imagine you are walking thru a forest with a friend. And you come across a ball sitting on the grass. It’s a football. And as you pick it up…you realize it’s not just any football. It’s finely stitched together and covered with signatures from the victorious England squad who beat Germany in the 1966 World Cup!

 

What would your reaction be? Hey – wait a minute. This is valuable. The way England are playing these days…I can’t foresee us winning another World Cup soon…we need to treasure this and look after it!

 

You might also wonder – who does this ball belong to? They must be gutted that they lost it!

 

And as these thoughts are running around your mind…your friend says to you…”Just leave it. Let’s keep walking.”

 

Any reasonable reaction to that would be – “Huh? Wait a minute. We can’t just leave it here. Someone carefully stitched this together. And it’s so valuable…it MUST belong to SOMEONE.”

But your friend goes on – “It doesn’t belong to anyone. It wasn’t stitched together it just happened in the forest all by itself. Let’s not look into the reason this football is here and who it belongs to……”

 

Now – in your mind, please expand the size of that football. Let it grow to the size of the Universe itself.

These strange responses from your friend about the football are so familiar to me. Because I hear them and read them all the time.

  • The Universe just happened.
  • It doesn’t belong to anyone
  • It wasn’t carefully stitched together

 

In the same way that these reactions are pretty strange and unreasonable when applied to the football…they are also strange and unreasonable when applied to the universe. Only much more so.

This is the essence of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. You can learn a bit more here:

 

 

Is it reasonable to believe that God exists? Well – the Kalam Cosmological Argument says this:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore the universe has a cause

 

Are the premises of this argument reasonable? I would say – YES absolutely! Our own life experience tells us that Premise 1 is true. Things don’t just appear! There is always a cause behind them.

 

What about Premise 2? Well Scientists have been telling us that the Universe exploded into being at a point in the past – the Big Bang. I’m not going to argue. Many have…but their theories have not really stood the test of time. Big Bang Cosmology is the predominant scientific understanding.

 

So if Premise 1 is true and Premise 2 is also true, then it follows that Premise 3 must be true.

The Universe has a cause.

 

The only way we can prove the Universe didn’t have a first cause…is to find a way to reject Premises 1 and 2. Personally – I wouldn’t reject them. And I’ve not read or heard any convincing arguments to cause me to want to reject them. So this means that Premise 3 stands.

 

Strikes me that…if the Universe has a cause…that cause must be incredibly powerful, outside of space and time. And for anyone who has ever taken a cursory glance at a Bible will tell you…that sounds very much like God.

 

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.” Isaiah 40:28, NLT

Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalm 90:2, NLT

 

Now…speaking of miracles…if we can just get England to play better in the next World Cup!

RESPONDblog: It’s Bigger on the Inside

doctorwho-8144-2

“It’s bigger on the inside!”

This is generally the reaction when someone first steps into the famous blue Police Box; the outer shell of the best ship in the universe. When you enter, you are stepping into a humming time and space machine with an interior sitting in another dimension, and an engine powered by an exploding star time-locked in the act of becoming a black hole. No wonder the Doctor’s latest companion starts out on their journey with a shocked expression.

There is something that fires the imagination when we suddenly get a sense that things are not necessarily what they seem. Whether we encounter it in fiction, or we sense it during of one of our own personal and very ordinary days. The realization that – ‘It’s bigger on the inside’ – can spark curiosity and excitement in some, perhaps even fear or cynicism in others.

But what if?

What if there really is something we have been passing by and ignoring in our lives. We’ve not taken any notice of it because it’s so mundane. Yet all the while, it is actually bigger and more striking than we could ever imagine. But we’ve got to look inside to realize it.

The average British man on the street wouldn’t blink twice at a blue Police Box in the 1960s. That’s one reason why it was a genius move for the BBC to make the Doctor’s TARDIS look like one. We’ve lost the sense of it a bit now, but Doctor Who posed a provocative statement to the people who first encountered it. The TV show declared that the mundane can be the door to the extraordinary! You might think you know all there is to know. But even the most ordinary and unexciting thing can be a door to stuff you just would not believe!

Now – I reckon you’ve lost count of the number of hotel rooms you’ve slept in that had a Gideon’s Bible in the drawer by the bed. Many times – you probably didn’t even open the drawer in the first place! But it was there. You have probably walked or driven past countless churches in your life. And you didn’t give them a second thought. Well – what I am saying today is this. ..

God and church might seem mundane – even out dated and as irrelevant as a 1960’s Police Box standing on the corner of a 21st century street. But guess what – there is adventure waiting inside. Christianity is the door to a future that you could never anticipate or imagine. Yes, you expect your eyes to fall on to the cramped space, 4 bare walls as you swing those doors inward. But what you actually get – blows your mind.

What I am saying  is this. There is a God…

Who crafted our Universe so that we could enjoy it

Who stepped into time so that we could know him (that’s who I and countless other Christians have discovered that Jesus is)

Who hand crafted us to achieve great things in the years we are alive on this beautiful planet

 

In fact – here’s a little bit of what he says on the subject:

“I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11, The Message

Perhaps we’re thinking today – God show up? Yea right! He’s had plenty of opportunity to make a difference in my life already – and I’ve seen nothing of it. God show up? Give it a rest.

Well – maybe he’s actually been closer than you’ve realized. In the days, months and years that have led us to this point, we’ve thought that we were the master of our own destiny. But maybe he’s been waiting in the wings for longer than we knew. Maybe even in the midst of the tragedies we have suffered, he has been there.

And maybe – he’s just waiting for us to enter thru his doors. He’s not going to force himself on us. But he longs to travel thru life together with us. Caring for us, our special friend…on a journey full of the unexpected. A journey that will give us real…and perhaps unexpected hope.

I think Jesus knows what he’s doing. And adventure with him is just a step away.

But even more than that – at the end of the journey when our time aboard as his companion is drawing to a close…as we face our life’s end…he will take care of us and bring us safely back home. He promises it. He’s committed himself to it.

Our future will be better because there was a day when we personally and honestly discovered that God and church…the mundane …was actually completely extraordinary.

Wait a minute – “It really IS bigger on the inside!”

RESPONDblog: the Warning of Atheism

risk management

There  is a popular caricature of Christianity around today. It states that people with faith in Jesus Christ are lazy and – frankly – pretty stupid. Faith heads aren’t willing to do any work – they are happy just to point to a magic man in the sky and confidently smile – God did it. Faith is simply belief in the absence of any real evidence – its lazy.

 

Interestingly, the people pushing this picture are not Christians themselves. So they don’t necessarily have direct experience of what the Christian’s faith is all about. Rather – they have decided that Christianity is outdated, irrational and therefore dangerous.

Where has the Christian caricature come from?

 

It could be that they have seen a tendency in other religious traditions towards a sort of fatalism. Muslims have a term that tends towards this default thinking; “Insha’Allah” they say, or “What Allah wills.” Maybe the atheists are mistakenly projecting this Islamic tendency onto Christians?

 

Or it might just be that there is a grain of truth in what the vocal atheists and skeptics observe in the Christian church today? They might not realize it – but they are presenting a helpful warning that real Christians everywhere would do well to listen to.

 

What warning are they giving?

 

Well – if I claim to be a Christian but I do not actively trust Jesus Christ with everything in my life – then how can I be described as a person of faith at all? Its so easy to become a church goer that never actually lives life like God is real; never to embrace risk, never to throw myself into his hands saying – God if you aren’t there…I don’t know how this is going to work out!  How am I ever going to grow into a person of real faith in a real Saviour…if I never do the real work of trusting him?

And further – if I don’t spend time exploring the true, rational and historical underpinnings to Christianity – feeding the ample available evidence into my Christian life – then I am vulnerable for the whole thing to collapse when arguments and intellectual challenges come my way.

 

You see being a Christian actually cannot work as the atheists say it does. It cannot operate in a vacuum (an absence of evidence). Because real Christianity is about knowing Jesus. It’s about knowing his good work and his activity in my life – and for that to happen I’ve got to trust him enough with my life to allow him access to it. To lead my life, my words, my choices…everything.

 

In other words –  we need funds in our faith account so we are ready for the time when we are going to withdraw from it.

 

Bill Foster says it this way.

When we face one of life’s truly difficult situations – maybe the death of a loved one, or a big life choice –  it is a bit like going on a shopping spree with your Credit Card. We go on the shopping spree to make ourselves feel better  by buying some stuff that I have always wanted! (Retail therapy never works long term, btw) Now – what if my Bank Account was empty to begin with? What if I never had any funds in my account to begin with? Well – eventually the nice stuff I bought will be repossessed because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. The emotional lift I felt when buying the items – will crumble into despair once they are taken away from me again.

 

This is a picture of how Faith in Jesus Christ works. How does the picture work?

In life – if I am not growing in my personal practical experience of Jesus Christ as my Lord, as the one I look to first when the going gets tough – then it is like I am not feeding funds into my faith account. In the same way – if I don’t spend a bit of time studying and learning about the historical and rational underpinnings to Christianity so I can make a case for Jesus Christ to my not-yet-Christian friends and family…then again I am not feeding funds into my faith account.

 

When the hard times in life come – it is then time to make a withdrawal from our faith account…will there be anything there to withdraw?

  • When a friend gets really sick…and it comes out of the blue and we are surrounded by people who are in a state of emotional meltdown.
  • When we are speaking to an opponent of Christianity and they throw some arguments that are really devastating to us that challenge us to the core.

 

In these situations – we need to have a healthy faith account to fall back on. If the account is empty (as our atheist friends want it to be…blind faith, and all that) then we will be tempted to despair! But if our account is healthy – as it should be – then we won’t just come thru the testing times but our faith account will grow further as a result. And other people around us will be encouraged too in their faith.

 

The atheist is right – blind faith, or a Christian with an empty faith account – IS dangerous!

 

But there is no need for an empty faith account – he gives himself to anyone who calls on him. And if we have been thru a difficult period in our lives…and our faith reserves are pretty depleted right now…then help is on the way from Jesus….

 

“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world.”  Matthew 12:18-21, NLT

 

For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6, NLT

The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18, NIV

 

RESPONDblogs: Radical Thought – Let the Bible Decide What Christian Faith Is All About

bungie

Imagine for a moment that a journalist decides to write an article on the extreme sport that is –  Bungie Jumping. He wants to understand what makes those adrenaline junkies tick.

 

Now – he doesn’t actually sign up to perform a Bungie Jump himself. He doesn’t even explicitly interview the adrenaline junkies that regularly engage in it. Instead – he interviews a cross section of the public about what Bungie Jumping is like. He leaves it to chance whether he hits a true Bungie Jumper or not. And he writes his article based on that. Can I suggest – the article probably wouldn’t be something that would contribute much to the world’s understanding of adrenaline fuelled Bungie Jumpers?

 

Switch tracks for a moment with me.

 

Ben Holman is a Psychology graduate and he’s doing a post grad in Biology. Ben has published some interesting research on how our Society understands the meaning of the word – Faith. What his study does – is to gather data from a cross section of his University peers to explore their understanding of the definition of this word.

 

You can find it here:

http://benholman.net/

 

Why does he do this? Partly because – he observes that “there is a trend among Christian Apologists to define ‘faith’ as placing trust in a well evidenced proposition, which seemed at odds with popular usage.”

 

His study comes to the conclusion that the majority of people sampled view faith as “believing something is true even when there is insufficient evidence.” That’s one in the eye for the Christian Apologists, then! Hardly anyone in Ben’s study agrees that “faith is trust in a well evidenced proposition.”

 

Ben describes himself as the “president of the Wichita State Atheists and Agnostics” society.  So I’m suspecting that when it comes to the Christian faith – he does not currently have any personal investment or maybe even experience of genuine Christian belief (of course I don’t know Ben’s past here…this is an assumption). It seems to me that Ben wants his study to be used as ammunition against those so called “Christian Apologists” who understand faith to be “trust in a well evidenced proposition”. Christians are stupid and out of step with society – and I’m going to produce data to show just how stupid they are.

 

What does all this mean?

 

1 – Ben’s Research Seems to Underline Society’s Blind Spot

I have previously made a case for why I say that our society has a blind spot when it comes to the definition of faith.

https://respondblogs.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/respondblogs-faith-isnt-pretending-to-know-something-you-dont-know/

I think  that the meaning of the word faith has become selectively subverted in our culture.

Despite the fact that we all regularly put our faith in trustworthy Teachers, Airline Pilots, Doctors, etc…somehow our society has a twisted view of faith when it touches on issues of belief in God. This twisted view portrays faith as an irrational belief in the absence of concrete evidence.

Coming back to Ben’s study – I suspect that the vast majority of people sampled are not Christians…and therefore are persuaded by this subverted definition.

This is where my Bungie Jumping illustration kicks in. Ben probably didn’t spend time talking to the people who really know what a real Bungie Jump feels like. Pity.

 

 

2 – The Majority Don’t Get To Dictate what Biblical Faith Means

Ben’s study is very useful in that it shows that whatever Christian Apologists feel – there are lots of people today who subscribe to a subverted and broken understanding of faith.  Actually – I think Ben’s study underlines just how post-Christian our culture has become. I suspect there were very few Christians in his group. That’s not Bens fault.

 

However – there does appear to be an underlying assumption in Ben’s study that I must challenge. It mistakenly assumes that the majority’s understanding qualifies as truth. How do the majority define faith? Well – that’s what it means then! This is the classic position of the Humanist. Who is in charge of life the universe and everything? We are! So what WE say – must go.

 

Well – I would like to point out that – the majority do NOT  get to dictate the definition of Biblical faith. The Christian faith  is – quite frankly – under attack here. And I am standing up for it. Who and what gets to define Biblical faith? The Bible does. So what does the Bible say about the nature of faith?

 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

Notice that the essence of loving God – involves our faculties of reason and logic. Our minds. In other words – the Bible’s requirement on Christians – is that we be thinking people who exercise our minds. This is a Biblical and therefore positive challenge that I place before Christians in Churches everywhere.

 

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” John 14:11

This is Jesus speaking – the man who’s life is recorded in the New Testament; the man who has shaped human history like no other. The one who claimed to be God – and who demonstrated it as such. Death could not hold him – his tomb is empty.

But notice what he says – look at the EVIDENCE. Jesus does not require his followers to believe anything in the absence of evidence. Miraculous his evidence may be – but that evidence was there for our analysis…and it still is today.

 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

 

Do you see a theme developing here? Biblical Faith is not belief in spite of evidence. Rather – the Bible’s understanding of faith involves us getting a growing confidence in that which we cannot yet directly observe.

 

 

3 – Maybe Western Culture Need a New Word to Explain Biblical Faith

So – where does all this leave us?

 

Society is out of step with God and the Bible. So – what else is new! The job of Scripture is to transform OUR thinking – not the other way around. But we’ve got to be willing to receive this transformation.

 

In the meantime, maybe we need to coin a new term for Biblical Faith altogether? How about – BAITH instead of Faith?  Biblical Faith – or BAITH – is not belief in spite of the clear evidence. Rather – it is trust in a well evidenced proposition. That’s the position the Bible takes. That’s the position Christians take. What our post Christian society understands as Faith is completely alien to the Bible and to Christianity.

 

FAITH – selective belief in the absence of evidence (according to society at large)

BAITH – the Biblical and Christian position of trust in a well evidenced proposition.

 

I am a man of BAITH in Jesus Christ.

 

And guess what – the irony is that – when it comes to our daily lives – everyone else has BAITH too. We have Baith in our Doctors, Dentists, in our Airline Pilots and our kids School Teachers.

 

Hey – here’s a radical thought. Why not also have some Baith in Jesus Christ? It’ll change your life.

From Mormonism To Christianity Conference 2014

Incredible resource here.

My heart goes out to those who are submerged within Mormonism. It truly subverts the hope found in the Bible. Yet these folks don’t need to be rejected or accused.

They need to be loved and believed in.

They need the hope of the Jesus of the Bible held out to them. “Read the New Testament again as if you are a child.” — Lynn K. Wilder

They need to opportunity to say yes to the truth!

In related news…my wife Janet is reading Unveiling Grace by Lynn K. Wilder right now…and is really benefitting from the experience!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00BW293DA?pc_redir=1403875750&robot_redir=1

Stuart

The Blog Of Mormon

conference

Recently in Salt Lake City (of course) there was a very interesting conference. I thought it may help those that are interested (and maybe unaware) of this conference to have all of the talks available in one place. So please find the youtube videos and audio’s that you can download if you want below.

Some of the best people in the world (as far as I am concerned at least) on this subject are speaking here and it is so worth the time to listen. Some of the talks are not up yet and will be added as they become available.

For those if you in the UK that are Ex-Mormon or maybe just interested Christians. Would you like to see a conference like this in the UK? I really would, please get in touch and let me know if you feel the same way.

 Earl Erskine – Former Mormon…

View original post 98 more words