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: …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: 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: 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.

 

Does Human Reason Point Toward God’s Existence or God’s Absence?

thinker

Human anatomy is a mind bogglingly amazing thing.

 

For example…

 

The cardiovascular system threads through your body. Hundreds of miles of plumbing carry 5 litres of blood around our frame every minute. Oxygen is distributed, nutrients shared, and cellular waste products are disposed of.

 

The digestive system converts food into energy, absorbs that energy and excretes the waste.

 

The skeletal system is like scaffolding that supports and protects our soft tissues. Each bone is a living organ; some featuring mounting points for muscles, many containing red marrow for the production of new blood cells.

 

And on – and on it goes. Amazing.

 

Now some think that your body and its systems are simply the product of the blind and purposeless forces of nature. Others feel that it is the intentional product of a supernatural (i.e. outside of time + space) Designing Intelligence. But both groups agree – there is clear purpose inherent in each and every one of our body’s systems.

 

 

 

We also have another incredible system.

 

I’m referring to our faculties of REASON. This is our capacity to think, to consider, to explore, to theorise and to speculate about whatever takes our fancy! I believe (or I reason) that our ability to reason has as much purpose as any of the other biological systems we have mentioned.

 

We can reason for a good reason.

 

So what is the purpose of our ability to reason? Surely it is there so that we can begin to understand. So that our choices are carefully selected from the options open to us. And we use reason in the hope that it will lead us to an important destination. Discovery of the truth!

 

If the purpose of the digestive system is to keep me energised and healthy – then the purpose of my faculties of reason are to allow me to move towards discovering the truth – in which ever topic takes my fancy.

 

I reason that it’s a pretty cool system. But it leads me to a question.

 

Why do you trust your ability to reason?  And why do I?

 

 

 

Okay – we might not feel very clever, or quick to reason. Yet I can guarantee that we are sharper than we think we are. Think of the smartest person you know. Perhaps you’ve read one of their books or listened to them talk. And you have been captivated by their ideas and their discoveries around life’s big questions. Why are we here? What is our purpose in life? My question is not why do you like their ideas – my question is is why do you trust their ability to reason in the first place?

 

“The fact that we human beings – who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature – have come close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our Universe is a great triumph.” — Stephen Hawking

 

Yes okay Professor Hawking – but why do we choose to trust your understanding of the Universe? After all, we did not create the Universe. Did we? We were born into it. We have found ourselves here and some of us are compelled to study it and reach some understanding about the truth contained within it. But here is an important thing to consider. My ability to reason does not define that truth – it simply seeks to understand it. However clever the reasoning is – these are just ideas and theories about how life works. How do I know the theories are right?

 

Ah – by using our senses. That’s the answer. By gathering evidence! But wait – evidence is simply an input to my system of reason. I’ve still got to draw conclusions about the evidence I have found. This takes me back to my original question. Why does anyone trust the conclusions that we make?

 

Is human reason capable of reaching objective truth? Think of it like this. Someone who sits down at a piano with no training – will quickly master the ability to make the sound of musical notes. But as they randomly press down on the keys, the result will most likely sound horrible! It takes time and training to master the instrument – to play a tuneful melody (altho what is tuneful to my teenagers right now, ain’t so to me!). My question is – we do we believe that human reason is able to reach the truth, in the same way that a pianist can work reach that tuneful melody?

 

To most people – the intuitive rightness of human reason is just assumed. But I am asking – why is that…and is it right?

 

 

 

It is common amongst many people today to assume that life is a big cosmic accident. That human beings are the product of millions of years of biological mutation and natural selection of the most appropriate mutants. This counts AGAINST our assumption that human reason is right and trustworthy. Why? Because if all of life’s an accident – then there’s every chance that my reasoning faculties are just compounding the mistake!

 

“if the thoughts in my mind are just the motions of atoms in my brain – a mechanism that has arisen by mindless unguided processes, why should I believe anything it tells me?” — J.B.S Haldane

 

Why indeed.

 

It seems to me – as I exercise my questionable faculties of reason – that if people are solely the result of blind, unguided, Darwinian evolution, then we lose any solid ground for rationality. Chaos leads to chaos – randomness leads to randomness not exquisite structure and information.

 

Further – if we are the product of evolution – why do people intuitively care about truth anyway? Why do we spend so much of our lives seeking for our own truth that will bring us security and happiness? Or running from that same truth? Why do so many spend their lives seeking a true understanding of how our Universe works? Surely if we really were the product of evolution – we would simply be a machine that prioritises survival above everything else. Genes are apparently selfish, not truth seeking!

 

 

 

I suspect the irony of atheism is that it may undermine the very rationality needed to understand, to study and to explore the Universe.

 

“If Dawkins is right that we are the product of mindless unguided natural processes, then he has given us strong reason to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties and therefore inevitably to doubt the validity of any belief that they produce – including Dawkins own science and his atheism.” — Alvin Plantiga

 

 

I am not painting a rosy picture here. If evolution is right – then human reason is broken.

 

 

 

Unless, however, Christianity is true.

 

 

 

If Christianity is true then we have a coherent explanation for why our Universe is rationally intelligible. Because God lovingly created everything – including my mind – to be rational and intelligible. He made me in his image – in other words, he has passed his rationality on to me.  This is precisely why I can trust the capacity of human reason. Because I’m built to reason my way toward the truth.

 

“we are faced, not with the choice between God and science, as the New Atheists would have us to think, but with the choice either to put faith in God or to give up on understanding the universe. That is, if there is no God there can be no science.” — Robert Spaemann

 

 

If there is no God – there is no designing first cause mind – therefore there is no guarantee of a rationally understandable universe.

 

And yet a rationally understandable universe is precisely what we find. Surely a Designing Intelligence is sure to follow?

 

Personally I believe that Christianity is true; that it makes sense of human reason and points to God’s existence. And I agree with CS Lewis, when he said:

 

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” — C. S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

If you have reached this far – you will be reacting to the argument that I am laying out. Namely that human reason points to the existence of a creator God. At this point – let me mention that we have also been provided with free will in addition to human reason. This means I am well within my rights to acknowledge God – or not. Some today happily stand on the firm ground he has provided – and declare him absent. Or shake their fists at him in anger. Or exercise their reason and communicate in a way that tries to obscure his presence for other people. I can choose to use my God given reason to deny him.

 

At least I can for now. But our window of opportunity for ignoring him is closing. The clock is ticking.

 

And frankly what an unreasonable exercise anyway? Cos I reckon the human faculties of reason point to the true, loving, patient and hope giving God that we are working so hard to avoid!

 

 

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him–though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:27, NLT

 

 

“Beneficial Mutations” is a Contradiction in Terms

ascent of man

Perhaps you’re reading this post on your laptop. Or maybe you’re using a phone or tablet? However you are reading – imagine something for me. What if the data in your device suddenly changes? The files on your hard drive…the apps on your phone…they began morphing. Now I don’t mean they instantly become something else. No – I’m talking about gradual slow change. Single bits of data start to flip…a number “1” becomes a number “3” instead. A “4” becomes a “5”…and so on. And let’s say…the change happens very slowly. Out of all of the gigabytes of data that make up the apps, the code, the operating system and the documents you have stored …a single digit flips every day. What do you think might happen?

Would the blog post or the essay you are writing begin to say something better than it did before (that’s a compelling fantasy, believe me). Would the operating system in your tablet begin to morph into a different but equally functional one?

I don’t think you need a degree in Computer Science to answer those questions with a shake of the head. Gadgets and anything with a microprocessor inside them are very sensitive objects. The software is carefully crafted by – probably – hundreds of engineers over decades of time. It is precisely aligned to do a job. And if something’s not right…your laptop and therefore your life is about to get very frustrating.  If you have ever accidently loaded the wrong driver or a virus into your laptop – you will know what I mean.

In my job I sometimes work with engineers who are designing flight computers to operate in the harsh environment of space. And they put an incredible amount of effort into designing their system to make sure that “1s” cannot turn into “5s” when cosmic rays blast the vehicle. Many software systems in space travel are designed to be self-diagnosing and self-correcting – because if it breaks down on the surface of Mars, there’s not a thing we can do about it!

What I am saying is – the specific information contained within a computer system is valuable and any random unforeseen changes to that information will degrade its function. And it will probably eventually break down as a result of the change.

Why am I bringing this fairly obvious conclusion to your attention today?

Because it strikes me that the popular (some would say undeniable) theory from Charles Darwin of Biological Evolution presents the same scenario in a different context. It proposes random mutations on biological systems. And it points to something called Natural Selection and says that this process will make sure the beneficial mutations are carried forward as animals adapt and grow into different types of animals. Over time.

Beneficial mutations? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

Now I grant you – organisms do vary over time based on their environment. Beak lengths, wing colours are well documented examples. Minor change…or minor evolution… can be observed within a class of creature. It’s observable because life is built so that it will adapt to survive. But what about gradual mutation from one class of animal to another?  (Darwin’s theory of Common Descent) I am skeptical and I think the phrase “Beneficial Mutation” is a contradiction in terms here. Why?

Well – I have two problems with Darwin’s theory. And frankly – I’m going to raise them whether it’s PC to do so or not!

FIRST – where did the original organisms come from? The fossil record seems to show that life began with very simple organisms. We know from recent study of simple single celled organisms that they contain an incredible amount of digital information and complex systems for processing that information and generating proteins to manage and control the organism. There’s a vast amount of digital code in simple organisms. Where did it come from? Why does it suddenly appear in the historical record? Evolution? I don’t think so because random change doesn’t create information – it degrades it.

SECOND – Following on from the simple organisms – suddenly a vast array of incredibly complex animals, all with different body plans, appear in the fossil record (a period often called the Cambrian explosion). The fossil record starts by presenting simple organisms…and then many years later in the record we are suddenly presented with a vast array of amazing new Cambrian fully formed animal fossils. Who wrote the code for them then? There certainly isn’t any evidence of transitions from a few simple forms to a vast array of fully functional complex animals! And nor would we expect there to be – because random change doesn’t create information – it degrades it.

Not only has no evidence of transitional forms been found – but Science has begun to understand more and more about life since Darwin’s day. Roy Davidson in the 1960s discovered that each animal inherits biological circuitry (Developmental Gene Regulatory Networks or dGRNs) when it is conceived. What is a dGRN? It’s a biological control system  – completely separate from the cell’s DNA – that ensures that the organism will grow two wings, two legs and a beak (if it’s a bird). These control systems are very specific to the beast in question. And what Roy found was that any minor change to this dGRN system will render the organism unviable…in other words mutation will kill it.  Just like what will happen to the tablet you are holding if its operating system software begins to randomly flip “1s” and “0s”.

If you are anything like me, we have gotten so used to hearing people say with authority that animals evolve from one physical form to another, we naturally accept it. They say that random mutations – guided by Natural Selection – move species forward over a long period of time.

Yet just because people say this with authority does not make it right.

I don’t buy it…not because I am a Christian (which I am) but because practical experience in life with our information rich Sat Navs, our Laptops and our Tablet Computers shows this theory to be naïve and improbable . I don’t buy it because complex information processing systems – and the information they contain – do not improve when the program randomly changes. They break down.

If information systems – electrical or biological – break down in the face of random change, then the mutations that Darwin was talking about couldn’t form new living creatures. Darwin’s mutations would lead to dead ends instead. So there would be no guiding job for Natural Selection to do.

“Beneficial mutations” is a contradiction in terms.

And it’s not just me saying this. Current Scientific discoveries presented by the likes of Origin Scientist Stephen C Meyer give real weight to this conclusion. A conclusion that applies to biology in the same way as it applies to our digital technology today.

Evolutionary biologists are fond of saying that “life gives the appearance of design.” Hey – so does my IPAD. Let’s at least consider the possibility that life looks designed because it is!