RESPONDblog: The Danger of Scientific Consensus

When discussing scientific theories, it can be tempting to appeal to the consensus view of scientists when we want to silence a new theory that we don’t like. This has been done to me in online discussions by people who disagree with my position. And – frankly – I’ve not really known how to respond beyond just saying, “okay…if you say so!” However – I’m coming to think that an  appeal to consensus is not only unjustified, but its also dangerously unscientific.
In his book “Undeniable”, the biologist Doug Axe recounts his experience as an undergraduate student sitting one of his first University exams. One test question asked which macro molecule was most apt to have been the first “living” molecule. Doug decided to give the correct answer to the question, but he then decided to continue his answer by pointing out why he felt that no molecule actually had what it takes to “start life off” by itself. He did this anticipating extra credit from his professor for his creative thinking.

What he got – was marked down.

Why?

Because, “we students were expected not only to know current thinking in biology but also to accept it without resistance. We were there as much to be acculturated as educated.” (1)

Axe goes on to point out that in the conclusion of the first edition of Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species”, Darwin voiced his hope that scientists would stop rejecting his theory of evolution, and one day they might gradually take it on board. To Darwin’s surprise (I’m sure), within a period of just three years, we read in the sixth edition of the book that

“Now things are wholly changed, and almost every naturalist admits the great principle of evolution.” (2)

What caused the change? Was it a scientific discovery? No – because as Axe points out, Darwin would have recorded the discovery and attributed the change to it. (3) No, instead “peer pressure is a part of science…scientific interests compete against one another for influence…might the sudden change in Darwin’s favour have been more like a change of power than a change of minds.” (4)

Human influence and power turned the tide opinion. Not scientific discovery. Ironically – it was Darwin at the time of his book’s first edition who was the one straying from the herd…not complying with the consensus view at the time on the origin of biological life. Consensus doesn’t move us forward. As Axe says, “those rare people who oppose the stream are the ones to watch.” (5)

In other words – scientists from the past were influenced by human factors as well as data factors. Possibly more so. Our deference to consensus seems to be about sticking with the herd and not straying too far from it. And discouraging others from straying from the consensus view. If that was true for scientists back then – its sure to be true now. Arthur Koestler talks about this principle in play during the formation of cosmology. It’s also present in biology too. 

Now – I’m not suggesting accountability is wrong. Not so – our colleagues keep us honest. What I am criticising – is consensus. Or to put it another way – “group think” holds creative scientific discovery back. It hurts scientific understanding by slowing the formation and adoption of new theories.

Here are three observations about the scientific process and the dangers of group think:

First – this suggests to to me that it takes courage to be the one to stand up and disagree with the consensus – and propose a new idea. It takes courage to put forward a new theory, and back that theory up with evidences. Courage is required because, inevitably, rejection will follow from your peers.

Second – it also suggests to me that scientific consensus does not equate to truth. I wish Darwinians today could wrap their heads around this. Just because the consensus of scientists agree on something does not make their theory true, however scientifically orthodox it may currently be. Rather – the consensus is simply that. The widely held public view of qualified people today. Tho in private – they may say something else entirely.

Thirdly – it suggests to me that anyone who rejects a new theory based on the views of scientific consensus is missing the point of science, and actually behaving in an unhelpful and non-scientific way. Consensus is just the current status quo. Humanity needs people of courage to stand up and propose something that’s new so it can be examined and tested. To simply reject this on the basis of personal and consensus led bias…seems unscientific and harmful to the scientific enterprise as a whole.

The answer to a new scientific theory is not, “Don’t be so silly. No one else believes that because its stupid.” Rather – the answer should be, “That’s an interesting idea. Let’s test it together.”

Scientific consensus is harmful to the progress of scientific understanding.

Michael Crichton, who went to Medical school and taught anthropology before he authored books like Westworld and Jurassic Park, stood against scientific consensus much more strongly then either Doug Axe or myself. He calls the notion of scientific consensus “pernicious…and the refuge of scoundrels, because it’s the way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.” Oh – how familiar that problem is to me today.

I’ll end with a Crichton quote.

“I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period. . . .

I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. .” (6)

(1) Douglas Axe, Undeniable How Biology Confirms our Intuition That Life Is Designed, (Harper One, 2016), 3.

(2) Online Variorum of Darwin’s Origin of Species: first British edition (1859) comparison with 1872, http://test.darwin-online.org.uk/Variorum/1859/1859-483-c-1872.html

(3) Axe, 5.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Axe, 6.

(6) Michael Crichton, “‘Aliens Cause Global Warming’Links to an external site.,” reprinted in Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2008.

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RESPONDblogs: Science Cannot Explain Everything. Discuss?

einstein

Open letter to New Atheist Scientists:

I heard Oxford Professor Peter Atkins recently assert that “God is not necessary…Any argument that asserts that God did it is the sign of a lazy mind wallowing on assertion rather than climbing the intellectual Everest of comprehension.”[1] Like you, I recognise the effectiveness of scientific tools in skilled human hands. Yet I am wondering whether you truly believe the scientific method is all mankind needs? Surely there is more to life than trying to simply understand the mechanisms of existence? The point I would like to make is that, while science is useful, there are certain tasks that it is simply inappropriate for. There are some things that science cannot tell us anything useful about.

I think we both know this at an intuitive level. The Latin word “universitas” was originally used to refer to a seat of higher education encompassing many separate disciplines. The Universities I have studied with have all had Science Faculties, but they have also had departments dedicated to the Humanities, to Language, to Music and so on. Are we to believe that these departments should be closed and their subjects relocated to the laboratory? This proposal would destroy the University in favour of a College of Science. Universities operate as if there are some areas that science cannot tell us anything about.

We can go further. Not only are there things science can’t tell us about, science makes assumptions that are closed to scientific scrutiny. An example is mathematical knowledge. We probably agree with Atkins who comments that “it’s a really deep and interesting question why mathematics works as such a profound language of description of the physical world.”[2] And it is clear he believes this fact will one day itself be explained by Science and we will, “come to understand the fabric of reality. I certainly don’t think that at this stage of science we should say…this is something we can never understand.”[3] To avoid intellectual laziness, Atkins requires a scientific explanation of the usefulness of mathematics. I suggest this attitude reveals a wrong understanding of what science is for.

As we know, science is an a-posteriori realm of knowledge. Scientific study identifies particular instances of behaviour, logs these sensory inputs as experimental data, and then attempts to build a general law based on the observations.

Mathematics, on the other hand, is an a-priori realm of knowledge. Mathematical concepts are confidently asserted without appealing to any sense experience whatsoever. Our confidence comes from the self-evident nature of mathematical principles. Within science, we must do the work to justify a belief. Yet in mathematics we must recognise and form an understanding of self-evident mathematical principles. For example, when I was teaching my children arithmetic, I would reach for the fruit in the fruit bowl. I would engage their own sensory mechanisms as I taught them the principle “2+2=4”. Yet notice what is happening here. I am not appealing to sense experience to justify the existence of the mathematical principle, but to illustrate the abstract self-evident law of arithmetic itself. And those are different tasks. As Philosopher J P Moreland puts it, “If you have an understanding of what 2 is and an understanding of what sum means and what 4 is then you can know 2+2=4 in your intellect without having to look at anything.”[4]

My conclusion is that, while mathematics is the language of science, mathematics cannot be explored and understood using the scientific method it enables. These are two wholly separate but related fields of reasoning and knowledge. And to attempt to bend these laws risks our descent into irrationalism. There are some things that science cannot tell us about.

Ethics is also closed to scientific scrutiny. What is good and what is evil? Why is it wrong to torture babies for fun? Why is it right to display loyalty to our friends? These are important considerations for the legal professions, not to mention philosophy and theology. Science has nothing to say about where morality has come from and why it is as it is.

Many scientists would disagree. After all, the human race is generally assumed to have evolved. “Just as good manners have emerged for the sake of decorum and the avoidance of offense, so good behaviour has emerged for the sake of survival.”[5] The material naturalist’s trump card when it comes to morality is evolution. Survival of the fittest requires moral principles that aid our survival. Why is it wrong to murder? Professor Atkins tells us, “Because we might be murdered.”[6]

Yet I think this is to misunderstand what is going on. Anthropologists observe how societies act, they don’t speculate about what is true and good. As Computer Scientist David Glass commented while debating Atkins, “Evolution cannot account for moral duties and laws. What perhaps it can account for is particular types of behaviour. Why it is beneficial in some respects, but not if something is true or false, good or evil.”[7] The evolutionary approach smuggles in the concepts of truth and goodness and then points to why human beings might strive towards them. But this is to misunderstand the point. Where does human good and evil originate from? Science does not know.

Further, why do these moral laws exist, yet human beings appear incapable to measure up to them? “The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not…You have the facts (how men behave) and you also have something else (how they ought to behave).”[8] Ironically morality is often less about human action, and more about our inability to act in these good and moral ways. Why is this? Science has no response.

But we can take this argument further still. Not only does science not know everything, scientifically derived truths are generally more tenuous than other things we know and rely on. Like mathematics, ethics is self-evident to us. We intuitively know, “mercy is a virtue. True! There are electrons? Well – probably.”[9] We know our own thoughts and feelings but we have not derived that understanding using any scientific method. “You know it from a 1st person introspective point of view. Science does not know things from a 1st person introspective point of view.”[10] We are surer about how we think than we are about the scientific observations we’ve made. Again, there are some things that science is just not able to talk about.

Finally, were we to stand by the notion that we can only properly know something if it is known by scientifically testable means, then we are defending a self-refuting position. We cannot know this statement’s truth by appealing to the scientific method. So if it is true then it must be false because we have not appealed to science to establish it.

In summary, science is only one of many disciplines. It cannot tell us everything, and the knowledge it does give us must be treated carefully. Let us value the scientific approach while recognising its limits.

 

 

 

[1] “’Does God Exist?’ Bill Craig Debates Peter Atkins,” bethinking, accessed November 21st, 2015, http://www.bethinking.org/does-god-exist/does-god-exist-bill-craig-debates-peter-atkins.

[2] “Unbelievable? Has science explained away God? David Glass, Peter Atkins & James Croft”, Premier Christian Radio, accessed November 21st, 2015. http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Has-science-explained-away-God-David-Glass-Peter-Atkins-James-Croft.

[3] Ibid.

[4] J. P. Moreland, PH.D., Christianity and the Nature of Science, CD, (Biola University, 2015), disc 2.

[5] “’Does God Exist?’ Bill Craig Debates Peter Atkins,” bethinking, accessed November 21st, 2015, http://www.bethinking.org/does-god-exist/does-god-exist-bill-craig-debates-peter-atkins.

[6] “Unbelievable? Has science explained away God? David Glass, Peter Atkins & James Croft”, Premier Christian Radio, accessed November 21st, 2015, http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Has-science-explained-away-God-David-Glass-Peter-Atkins-James-Croft.

[7] Ibid.

[8] C. S Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Fount, 1989), 26.

[9] J. P. Moreland, PH.D., Christianity and the Nature of Science, CD, (Biola University, 2015), disc 2.

[10] Ibid.

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: …but Who Made God?

dawkins

Who made God?

 

It’s an interesting question that many have pondered. Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins has expressed the question this way.

 

“The whole argument turns on the familiar question ‘who made God?’ which most thinking people discover for themselves. A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right.” (Dawkins 2008: 109)

 

If God is the creator – he’s big…he’s complex…so who made him? There is the question again.

 

What is interesting is that as Professor Dawkins asks the question, he makes a crucial assumption. And the assumption is this – that any explanation must be simpler than the thing being explained. This sounds a lot like evolutionary thinking – and of course this is exactly what it is. The assumption of the gradual evolution of life from simple to more complex forms is exactly what he brings to the question of God.

 

He is saying that because God – by definition – is bigger and more powerful than the universe he has created – there surely cannot be a God. The thought is absurd to Dawkins.

 

Given his assumption, I can see his problem. And unfortunately he has passed his problem on to many vulnerable people who are taken in by this reasoning.

 

But to me, Dawkins’ reasoning makes no sense for 2 reasons. The first reason is from our normal, observable personal experience. The second is a philosophical reason.

 

First Reason – imagine an Archaeologist finds some primitive paintings on the wall of a cave. That scientist will NOT assume the cause of those marks on the wall to be simpler than the marks themselves. Instead – they will excitedly assume intelligent activity from an ancient being that is infinitely more complex than the marks themselves.

Imagine a SETI scientist detects an ordered signal amongst the random noise in our Galaxy. And that ordered signal is emanating from a star system somewhere distant in the Milky Way Galaxy.  You can bet that scientist will want to be the first to break the exciting news. And suddenly social media, news stations, newspapers and discussions around the coffee machine at work…will be full of the exciting news that alien life has been discovered! Why? Because the SETI scientist does not naturally assume the source of the ordered signal to be simpler than the signal itself but more complex…an entity with the intelligence to not only communicate, but transmit their communication over vast distances. So that complex creatures like us can detect it.

What I’m saying is this. That in many areas of Science – the assumption that the cause must be simpler than the effect – is simply an invalid one. And I would suggest – that it is also an invalid assumption to bring to the question of the origins of the Universe…and therefore the existence of a creator God.

 

Second Reason – it makes good philosophical sense to quickly dismiss the question – “who made God?” The Kalam Cosmological argument – or the argument from first cause – says this.

 

Whatever began to exist must have a cause for its existence

The universe (and we) began to exist

Therefore the Universe must have a cause for its existence

 

People naturally think in these terms. We are finite beings ourselves. We literally did have a beginning. My birth certificate and the testimony of my parents confirm it.

Anything that begins to exist – had a first cause. We began to exist. Therefore we have a first cause. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to point towards our parents again for that cause. Yet my parents are entities who – themselves – had a beginning and therefore they themselves had a first cause.

We live within the ebb and flow of beginnings and first causes. And so it would be natural to project that understanding onto God. But doing so shows we misunderstand the philosophical argument from first cause.

Why?

Well – the argument begins with the words, “Whatever began to exist…”. You see we are not claiming that absolutely EVERYTHING has to have a first cause. It doesn’t make sense to suppose that God had a first cause. The creator God is by his very nature outside of our Universe. So he is therefore also timeless and space-less. So the question – who made God – is an inappropriate use of the argument from first cause. No-one made him – he’s the cause who starting everything off for all of us. He is not bound by the laws around first cause – because he is the cause of that law to begin with.

Imagine a parent of twins. And the little children are bored. So the parent digs out a bunch of big cardboard boxes. And he makes a game for them to play. He sets out the rules of the game. And then he steps back – and watches his children play! And because they are happily playing now…he’s able to safely go and watch TV! It’s a pretty silly example – but it illustrates my point. The creator of the game – isn’t bound by the rules. Rather – he has set the rules up for a good reason (in my example…because he wanted to watch telly!)

The God presented to us in the pages of the Bible IS the explanation of the beginning of it all for us – he doesn’t demand an explanation.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1, NIV

 

The cause need not be simpler than the effect. And the creator is not bound by the laws he creates. This thinking is absurd to Dawkins and so many more. Yet it is an argument that makes perfect logical sense. It makes sense as long as we stay open to the possibility that there are realities outside of the one we exist in today that we need to learn more about.

Surely this is the very nature of an honestly inquiring scientific mind?

 

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

 

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

 

RESPONDblog: New Empirical Evidence Pointing Away from Darwinian Evolution

cell

An important experimental discovery has just been made that casts doubt on the traditional models of Darwinian Evolution. And instead, provides support for the existence of irreducibly complex – and by implication designed – mechanisms within Biology.

 

Biochemist Michael Behe does not believe that the incredibly intricate biological machinery in the cell has developed step by step, with natural selection acting on each viable mutation. Instead – he has contended that much cellular machinery is – like a mousetrap – irreducibly complex. In other words – if you take away the base or the spring or the lever or the trigger…the system fails to function as a mousetrap altogether. While the mousetrap example is hotly debated amongst Biologists – it is just a simple example. The real issue – is the incredible complex co-dependent mechanisms that we find, working away in the billions of cells that operate within our bodies.

 

And there is now some tantalizing experimental evidence that could just suggest that Behe has been on the right track all along.

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/07/so_michael_behe087901.html

 

The experiment was undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences, USA, and has focused on the proposed Darwinian process of Protein Evolution. While I’m no Biologist – I’ll explain what I know as simply as I can!

 

What are Proteins? They are the crucial biological machines that keep our bodies running. For example, Hemoglobin is the protein that allows oxygen to be carried thru your bloodstream. The protein is basically a precise, complex chain of many different amino acids. Proteins are constructed within cells – the protein has a distinctive 3 dimensional shape that determines its function. The instructions for assembling proteins from amino acids are found in our DNA, which lives in the nucleus of our cells.

hemoglobin

 

Since Charles Darwin, it has long been proposed that the evolution of life occurs one step at a time. Zooming down to the cellular level, it is proposed that protein evolution works something like this. An event causes the protein – which is composed of many amino acids – to randomly flip one of its amino acids in its chain. Assuming the newly mutated protein is still functionally viable – natural selection ensures that the system continues creating more and more proteins like the new mutated one for a while longer. Until the next new protein mutation occurs – and so on.

 

John Maynard Smith, Evolutionary Biologist, describes the process using a word game.

The object of the game is to get from one meaningful word to another meaningful word while only changing one letter at a time. Remember – each intermediate step must also be a meaningful word.

For example, to get from the word “WORD” to the word “GENE” takes 4 steps  –

WORD -> WORE -> GORE -> GONE -> GENE

 

This is the essential understanding of how protein evolution would work – one step at a time. Whenever an amino acid flips causing the intermediate to be non-meaningful (e.g. WORD -> WORQ) then natural selection ensures that that this latest protein does not continue to reproduce. This protein dies out.

 

This model makes sense – and it fits inside the wider cultural understanding of evolution in the West. Namely – day by day…step by step…we are getting better and better all the time.

 

So – what is the big deal around the latest experiments that perhaps point towards Design rather than evolution?

 

Behe has proposed in his book “The Edge of Evolution” that – for many functioning proteins, one could never ever arrive at its function by moving just one a step at a time toward it. Why? Because in order for the protein to survive – and maintain its meaningful status – more than one amino acid has to flip state simultaneously. In other words…two letters or more have to flip SIMULTANEOUSLY. Further, the nature of the protein is such that – were you to try to get to certain functions one step at a time – you would fail. The protein would die, it would become non-functional during the intermediate steps. UNLESS two or more specific amino acids flipped to the appropriate setting at the same time.

 

Behe was predicting that for the process of evolution to actually produce the complex protein mechanisms we find in life forms today – highly complex changes must happen in one evolutionary step. This is a massive problem for the theory of evolution – because science doesn’t believe the Universe is old enough to accommodate all the probabilities and random letter flipping involved. Darwin only works if we can get there one step at a time!

 

As you can imagine, many Darwinian Evolutionary Biologists have rejected Behe’s proposition. They choose instead to believe in a step by step approach to protein formation.

 

Well – this belief is now more tenuous than it used to be. The big deal this year is – Behe’s proposal of necessary highly complex mutation has been experimentally verified and documented by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

 

The experiment was related to how an important protein in the Malaria Parasite becomes resistant to anti-malarial drug chloroquine. They have proven experimentally that it cannot happen in a step wise fashion (WORD -> WORE -> GORE -> GONE -> GENE). Instead – for the protein to remain viable – it has to happen in a much more complex scenario (WORD -> GONE -> GENE). Two specific letters switching to a specific alterative SIMULTANEOUSLY. The Malarial Parasite does not become resistant to the drug unless this very rare and very specific complex mutation happens this precise way.

 

Now this is just one example where protein function requires highly complex mutation rather than stepwise mutation to arrive at a viable, new function. There are bound to be countless more. But it provides some experimental evidence that begins to support Michael Behe’s overarching thesis.

 

What is the overarching thesis?

 

The Universe is not old enough for all of life’s various proteins to evolve because more and more highly complex mutations would be required to get from one viable stage to another. The latest experimental results intensify this position – its not longer a theory, its experimental observation.

 

THEREFORE…maybe evolution hasn’t been the cause of these proteins after all. Rather – these irreducibly complex and co-dependent biological mechanisms are actually a small part of the work of an Intelligent Designer.