RESPONDblogs: Human Beings are Unique

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What are we?

 

I listened to an interesting talk recently from Simon Conway Morris, who is Chair of Evolutionary Paleo biology at the Dept. of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University.

 

He asks the question – are we essentially just more “evolved” animals that belong on Darwin’s incremental tree of life? Or is there something unique about people compared to the animals? However much time has elapsed, perhaps we aren’t just naturally selected incremental improvement? Rather – we are something different altogether.

 

Evolutionary theory has drummed into us that we are essentially no different from other animal species. We’re related to other hominids. We are just matter – we are physical – we are all related. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard this idea.

 

Or are we? As Morris says, “Maybe it’s not as simple as that.”[1]

 

 

First – we often misunderstand the animals we invest our lives in.

Morris thinks we have a habit of reading ourselves into the animals we relate to. Our relationship with dogs is a perfect example of this, he says. We humanize them…and they are happy to play along with our delusion. But crucially – as Morris points out – the evidence suggests that dogs have no idea what is going on inside our minds. They react to stimuli – they learn what actions and objects mean and sound like. Nothing more.

 

Dogs live happy and fulfilled lives as our pets. But we are of a different order to them.

 

We are not the only intelligent species on the planet – but it seems that our consciousness is of a completely different order to anything else. We live in an extended universe – the animals are confined to a monotonic universe. And they are happy that it is so.

 

What experimental evidence does Morris appeal to in making this claim?

 

Second – Morris offers the following evidence:

 

1 – Humans Uniquely Understand Cause and Effect

There’s evidence that crows are very intelligent. An experiment has been done where the bird has to perform a task – drop stones into a container – in order to raise the water level so it can have a drink. The fascinating thing is – often the crow will work this out. It will find and deposit the stones to raise the water level.

It is tempting to assume then – that it understands cause and effect, that it gets the implication of what it’s doing. Unfortunately – when the conditions of the experiment change – it becomes clear that the crow doesn’t understand this.

Yes, it has memory, yes its intelligent. But no, it’s not building up an understanding of nature. It can do one thing well – and that involves survival.

 

2 – Humans Live in an Out of the Box Culture

We can think in terms of “analogy”; we are meta-thinkers that can work outside of the box. We explore seemingly unrelated ideas and come up with ingenious solutions to problems.

A simple example of this is – humans use tools. We employ them in many tasks, and the evidence suggests we have done this for a long time. Chimpanzees also use tools.

Yet we go beyond them; we live outside the box. We are the only species we know today that creates tools to build tools. What’s more, we rely on the discoveries and processes laid down by previous tool builders as we do so. Human culture is cumulative, it builds on itself.

Animals like chimpanzees don’t exhibit this behaviour at all. They use tools, they have a culture. But they don’t appear to KNOW they have a culture, and they don’t build tools to make tools.

Morris opines, “This sounds like a trivial difference. But it might be larger than we realize.”[2]

 

3 – Human Culture Features Teaching and Learning

Humans have a sophisticated approach to teaching. We have a self-referential pedagogical approach – the teacher observes the pupil and knows where their mind is currently at. Through observation, the teacher works to move the student forward to where they need to be. We intuitively sense the student’s mind.

Do animals? Morris refers to various species of Ant, Meercat and chimp. And the scientific observation to date suggests that which the animals instinctively develop habits and abilities, they do so in a simple way. Animals don’t go to University like humans do. We are of a different order.

Do animals have false beliefs about the world? Do they have a theory of mind? Current understanding says no, it doesn’t look like it.

 

4 – Human Language is Very Peculiar Indeed

Morris refers to Vervet Monkeys who have been observed to make sounds that seem to relate to other animals in their habitat like a leopard, a snake and an eagle. This sounds like it could be a proto-language, like the foundations of our own language capabilities?

Well, clearly, we have words that also refer to objects and concepts. This blog post is full of them! But our language isn’t just a more evolved version of the Vervet Monkey’s sound. Why?

Morris points to two peculiar aspects of human language:

  • We can say things that go beyond a single meaning. Our communication can have an infinite number of meanings, depending on the context it is used in.
  • We have a bottomless depth of rich imagination in human discussion. We easily move between factual and fictional statements. And we have the ability to create fictional worlds – completely unrelated to our own – where the reader can enter through their imagination. And the fictional world resonates deeply with them.

 

5 – Humans Apply Mathematics in a Unique Way

Experiments suggest that Guppy fish exhibit numericity. They are able to judge relative numbers in terms of distance and size.

For example, if some were to say – “Imagine you have a stone and a feather. How much do I have to add or remove from each to perceive a difference in their weights?” It turns out that I have to add or remove quite a lot from the stone, but not very much at all to the feather to notice a weight change. This is numericity…and Guppy fish can do something similar to this.

Is this proto-maths? Well, it’s called a psycho-physical sensory effect by the scientists. But to suggest it is proto-maths is nonsense to Morris.

Mathematics is a rich conceptual language that bridges the abstract and the physical. Maths:

  • involves abstract entities that don’t exist; numbers, complex numbers.
  • requires that we can do sums like addition and subtraction. Animals can’t seem to do that.

 

 

Conclusion

Are we just advanced chimpanzees? Morris suggests this well-worn message fails to recognize the uniqueness of human beings. It underplays our conscious, thinking abilities that came up with that inadequate theory in the first place.

Humans are of a different order to animals. We have “dominion over the natural world” and uniquely exhibit the characteristics of our Creator.[3] This is not just the Bible’s opinion, it is born out in our relation to those animals we were supposed to care for.

But aren’t we just physical beings like the animals? Is brain simply a biological computing engine? Morris thinks otherwise. He’s a substance dualist. Mind and brain are different aspects of human existence.

The physical human brain seems to be more than a biological information processing organ. It’s a filter. Our intangible, human mind exists independently of our physical bodies. Our brain is part of the mechanism we use for intercepting, exploring and harnessing what goes on in our minds.

People aren’t just more advanced than the animals. We’re built specially; we’re of a different order altogether.

 

Image courtesy of New Old Stock.

[1] Simon Conway Morris, The Emergence of Life, James Gregory Lectures on Science and Christianity, https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/james-gregory-lectures-on-science-and-christianity/id917410241?mt=2&i=1000382210716.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Genesis 1:26 – 27.

 

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RESPONDblogs: Is Theology Compatible With Computer Science?

SAMSUNG TECHWIN DIGIMAX-340
SAMSUNG TECHWIN DIGIMAX-340

A friend proposed recently to me that “the problem with doing theology in science…is that you end up looking for God in the things that you see.”

 

And this statement raises two questions for me

  • is it possible to be a genuine scientist and also be a Christian?
  • is it right to look for evidence of God in the things that you see?

 

 

Well, personally I became a Christian when I was 7 years old. I distinctly remember the experience – and I also am aware of the affect it has had on my life in the years…the decades since. When I was 21 I graduated with an Honours Degree in Computer Science…as a Christian…and have worked in this field for close to 25 years.

Initially I worked in the Broadcast Industry, developing the early automation systems that made complex TV broadcasting more doable for the army of people that it took to make broadcast telly work in the 1990s. I spent many happy days up at BBC TV Center……geeking out at where they used to make “Doctor Who” in my childhood. Latterly…I spent my working life helping other people who were themselves developing complex software systems. I used my experience to – hopefully – make their jobs easier.

Did I use the scientific method in my career? Absolutely I did. It is at the core of the software engineering principles I learned both at University and as I worked in Industry. Was I also a Christian? Yes – I distinctly remember being so. I still am, by the way.

 

Is it possible for a real scientist to also be a Christian? Some people say that Christianity is anti-reason. In my experience, the atheist position is just as welcoming to unreasonable, unthinking and obnoxious people as the Christian position is.

 

I’ve never found the need to separate Christianity from logic and reason. And I’m not alone. I listen to podcasts from “Reasons to Believe” – a scholarly organization employing cosmologists, biochemists and philosophers who develop testable computer models that work to follow the hard observable data, while also recognising and embracing the historic Judeo Christian claims.

 

 

So what? Well it seems to me to be head scratching-ly short sighted to accept therefore the New Atheist,  “Science is at War with God” narrative. Clearly – it’s not Science that’s at war with God. It’s only a subset of Scientists today who don’t subscribe to the claims of Christianity…and a small but vocal number who like to shout about it.

 

Coming back to where I started this blog, I think what my friend meant to say…was this. It is not possible to be a Scientist who is committed to NATURALISM…and be a Christian. By Naturalism – I mean the belief that all there is…is a Universe which is a closed system governed only be physical laws. I agree that one can’t be a committed Naturalist and a Christian. But my friend’s smuggling something controversial in here. He’s implying that only naturalistic Scientists are genuine scientists.

 

So – is that true?

 

Well naturalism views our Universe as a self-contained unit, a place where cause and effect reign. We don’t like thinking about what caused it…but the laws of physics and material process is king to the Naturalist. But here’s the thing. Those material processes are also king to Christians who do Science as well! When I was developing a software application to perform video field accurate control of a Broadcast A/V Mixing Desk using an RS-422 based serial protocol at 38k4 baud…I was applying principles of logic, of CPU architecture and my understanding of software engineering. I wasn’t praying that it would work – I would work to build the thing correctly SO THAT IT WOULD work. (OK – I’ll admit it…sometimes I was praying…please let this bug be fixed now)

 

I think one difference between a Naturalist and a Christian is actually found not in our understanding and respect of material processes. Rather it’s in our personal recognition that these material processes that operate in our Universe…are not just an end in themselves. There is a bigger narrative at play here. Our Universe is not the result of chance and necessity. We have become convinced that it is the result of intention, personality and design. There’s a God who is responsible for creation.

 

How did we become convinced of this? I will grant you – I didn’t become a Christian by learning the laws of Physics! I didn’t study the behaviour of electrons thru a transistor and therefore wind up in church the following Sunday. I don’t know anyone who did. But I do know people who look at our exquisitely ordered Universe and scratch their heads, “I wonder whether there is a God after all?”

 

So – I agree. You can’t be a Christian and a Naturalist…that’s true for Scientists, Authors and Shop Keepers. But clearly you don’t HAVE to be a Naturalist to be genuinely good at any of those professions. To claim otherwise…is just mistaken. Now there will always be one voice that claims – the Christian Scientists are the rubbish ones. Well – it takes hard work to be good at anything…whether we believe in God or not! Let them be measured by the quality of their work. I was always happy for that to be done to me as a software engineer.

 

 

What about the other question – is it right to look for evidence of God in the things that we see? Well – again – if we are a committed Naturalist…then this won’t be happening. But my argument is this. If we do open our eyes to this evidence…what we will find may challenge our Naturalistic presuppositions to the core.

I find the argument from “Information in Biology” to be particularly compelling (as a Computer Scientist myself, that’s predictable). The cells found in all living things contain mind bogglingly complex Nano machines for processing and replicating pre-existent information that is found in DNA and in the epigenetic systems that influence animal body plan construction. Life is rich in complex information. Information that a Naturalistic worldview does not have a reasonable explanation for IMHO.

I’m not saying – it is so complex that God must have done it. Rather, I’m saying that the most plausible explanation for this information rich biological complexity is that it was designed by a creator. And that creator sounds very much LIKE God.

I’m reminded of this quote from Stephen Meyer:

“Yet we know from our uniform and repeated experience that some types of phenomena – in particular, information-rich sequences and systems – do not arise from mindless, materialistic processes. For just this reason, no rational person would, for example, insist that the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone in the British museum must have been produced by purely materialistic causes such as wind and erosion.”[1]

I suggest that the argument from information points to a Designer. I’m not smuggling in the notion of a Designer – rather I’m saying that a Designer is the most plausible explanation for the complexity we see in nature. This argument doesn’t identify who that Designer is. There’s only so far that this evidence takes us. But coming back to my friends at RTB, something happened to convince them as scientists that the claims of Christianity were true. Something took them the next step – from simple intellectual assent – to belief in Jesus Christ.

For myself, that something was the discovery that God isn’t distant and unknowable. He comes close to us and speaks to us. He has done in recorded human history primarily through the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But he also does so now – I know He does cos he did so with me. He will make the first move. He will speak to our hearts and soften us towards him.

The real question is – will we let him?

[1] David Klinghoffer, Debating Darwin’s Doubt, Discovery Institute Press Seattle, 147.

RESPONDblogs: A Morality I Don’t Understand

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Human morality makes no sense to me if atheism is true – and there is no God.

 

Some of my best and longest friends are atheists. And sometimes they will tell me what morality is all about. But my problem is…I just don’t think it holds together.

 

  1. Often I hear that we are genetically programmed to care for those most likely to be genetically similar to us. Morality is genetic programming.
  2. Then there is the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” theory. Society is really just all about supporting each other to achieve a good end.
  3. And thirdly – reputation. We want to be seen to be doing the right and good thing.

 

But who defines what the right and good thing is? Is it you? Is it me? Is it the one with the most control in society – might makes right?

 

There are so many problems with this Godless understanding of morality. Here are a few big ones.

 

PROBLEM ONE  – it’s not much of a moral framework because it’s focussed squarely on ME. It is a theory that is happy to encourage selfishness. Yet I would suggest that human selfishness is at the root of our problem, it’s not supposed to be the best foundation of society at all.

Moral reformers from the past stood out amongst their peers for the precise reason that – they thought more of others than about themselves. A moral framework can’t be built on selfishness.

 

PROBLEM TWO – it’s a deterministic view of humanity. In other words – it completely denies human free will. We are nothing but genetic machines dancing to the tune written out in our cells. But this is a dangerous theory because it legitimises all sorts of behaviour that we know to be wrong.

We cannot prosecute the rapist anymore, because he is simply doing what he’s programmed to do.

The alcoholic or drug user has no hope because their addiction is predetermined.

To that, we should all say no. There is hope! A crucial part of being human is that we all intuitively know – that we have the ability to choose. Genetic factors do affect us – but at the core we are creatures that can and do make free will choices.

 

PROBLEM THREE – there is no absolute morality. No overall moral code. I know people who would cheer and say – that’s right, Stuart! Welcome to the party at last. But I don’t want to come to this party – it doesn’t sound much fun at all. Because if there’s no absolute morality, there are no standards to judge anything by. And so we are left with – anything goes. Whatever you want to do – have fun with that. As I said before – this leads to “might is right”. And we live at the whim of the most powerful people who, as we have already established, are self-centred and do not respect our free will. Sound familiar? Horrific regimes were run that way by powerful dictators in the 20th century and millions of people died as a result. Welcome to the party? No thanks!

 

PROBLEM FOUR – there is no good or evil. It doesn’t exist, according to a Godless materialistic view of morality. You know that notion inside of you about what the right and good thing to do? You know your conscience? You know all the stories that have been written down thru human history to help people grasp a transcendent moral code? It’s all nonsense. Just stick to personal preference. There is no absolute good or absolute evil. Just choose what you like and go with that.

As Richard Dawkins describes it –

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”[1]

 

 

 

And my atheist friends cheer. Now you are getting it, Stuart! And I reply – no I’m not. I am not getting it. Not because I don’t want to get it – but because from what I can see – no one lives this way! No-one is able to live as if these 4 tenants of atheistic morality were true! This is all simply a grim fantasy.

 

For example, take atheist Sam Harris. He like to take the opportunity to point of God’s abject failure to protect humanity. Why doesn’t God intervene and stop the rape, torture and murder of children? Where was God in 2005 when the city of New Orleans was destroyed by a hurricane? Didn’t God hear the prayers of its victims, hiding in their attics, trying to escape the rising water level? Many of these people died talking to an imaginary friend, according to Harris.[2]

 

So as Sam Harris rails at God – what is he saying? Is he saying that such suffering is evil and should not be allowed by God? But I thought we had established that there is no good and evil?

 

Now I would understand it if Sam Harris is just expressing his feelings on the matter. I agree with him – the suffering he points to is truly horrible. But he doesn’t just tell us how he feels. He goes beyond that. And according to his atheistic worldview, he is making assumptions that he simply cannot make.

  • He cannot assume the intrinsic value of every human life. From the perspective of matter…of chemistry and biology, he has no reason to do so.
  • He cannot move on from expressing his feelings and climb upon a moral high ground. Because there isn’t any!

YET – and this is my point – this is EXACTLY what he and many like him do. Why? Because atheistic morality is a grim fantasy that no one can honestly live with. And so we naturally go with the moral framework we’ve been given….by the God that so many deny.

I agree with Ravi Zacharias who sums up what Sam Harris is doing like this:

“he is selectively borrowing from the biblical revelation of justice and retribution while ignoring the big story into which it fits and by which it gains its purpose. His moral argument distorts the Bible’s finer points while denying its big picture.”[3]

 

 

I don’t understand the explanation for morality that my atheist friends give me. It just doesn’t hold together for me. What does make sense…is the possibility that God himself has written the moral law on each and every one of our hearts. After all…

 

  • When I say there’s such a thing as evil, I assume there’s such a thing as good.
  • When I say there’s such a thing as good, I assume there’s a moral law that helps me distinguish between good and evil.
  • When I say there’s a moral law, I must posit a moral lawgiver who give us the moral law in the first place.
  • And that moral lawgiver…sounds a lot like God. [4]

 

 

 

…who does not exist. According to my friends.

[1] David Robertson, The Dawkins Letters, quoting Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker.

[2] Ravi Zacharias, Why I am Not an Atheist, quoting Sam Harris Letter to a Christian Nation.

[3] Zacharias, Why I Am Not An Atheist.

[4] Ibid.

RESPONDblogs: Darwin’s Doubt

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Western culture has soaked in the theories of Neo Darwinian Evolution for 150 years. Particularly common descent, the tree of life. And yet many people in scientific roles who are studying the origins of life are beginning to have the courage to stand up and challenge the long held assumptions of Neo Darwinism.

 

My background is Computer Science, not Biology. I’ve never been convinced by traditional Darwinism. Clearly life adapts, it is designed to be able to do so. But that does not mean all life can be traced to a single ancestor. I see evidence in Biology for the adaption of species, not the origin of species.

 

Philosopher of Science, Dr. Stephen C Meyer, would agree with me…for better and more thoughtful reasons! He helped to found the Center for Science and Culture. This is NOT a religious organization. This is an organization focussed on examining the evidence we have, building scientific models to help understand past processes and predict future outcomes in Biology.

 

“We are the institutional hub for scientists, educators, and inquiring minds who think that nature supplies compelling evidence of intelligent design. We support research, sponsor educational programs, defend free speech, and produce articles, books, and multimedia content.”[1]

 

Dr. Meyer points out that, contrary to the prevailing theories, the fossil record does not show gradual evolution. It shows “sudden” life emergence.

Evolutionary Biologists have to cope with the observable evidence of “sudden” life emergence from the Cambrian period. Multiple animal phyla appear “suddenly” during a very narrow period of geological time. By “sudden”…they are talking about millions of years. But this is certainly not long enough for the evolution of a complex protein by traditional Darwinian models…never mind the formation of a complete life form like Anomalocaris.

 

Why not zoom into the summary below for more…?

darwins-doubt-3

 

I am a fan of following the evidence where it leads in all areas of life. And I’m watching what Dr. Meyer says closely.

[1] http://www.discovery.org/id/

RESPONDblog: The Faith Position of Naturalism

It is quite common these days to hear from some people that rational belief – and belief in a creator God – are two opposing things! Rational thought requires the assumption that – everything that is real and exists is found within the confines of the material universe. Belief in a creator who is outside of the material universe – is therefore irrational.

AND YET – to maintain this naturalistic worldview, we need to avoid a very important question. Where did it all come from in the first place? Where did all the matter in the Universe come from? In reply, many people will point out that billions of years ago the Big Bang happened…eventually leading to what we see today.

Wow – so we’ve given a name to something – Big Bang – but we don’t understand how it happened. Or indeed why!

In fact – naturalism sometimes sounds like we actually believe that it was a miraculous process that booted our Universe up…so that it all got arranged in place for us to enjoy…to live in…and to study today. From naturalist cosmology…to naturalist biology and evolution (which never seems to manage to actually identify but just assumes a miraculous ORIGIN of all the Species!)

Hey. Sounds a lot like the opening chapters of Genesis…except at least the Bible is wise enough to point out that the Universe looks designed because it actually is the work the intervention of a Designer.

This blind spot that Naturalism has – and the irony of this situation…is illustrated in this fun story:

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that humankind had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point where we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and mind your own business?”

God listened very patiently to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this? Let’s say we have a people-making contest, ” to which the scientist replied, “Okay, we can handle that!”

“But,” God added, “we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”

The scientists said, “Sure, no problem,” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go get your OWN dirt!”

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

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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

 

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.