The Investigation of the Natural World is not the Same Thing as the Natural World Itself

            The ingenious methodologies of research by humans going in the positive direction from ignorance to a more truthful understanding of the phenomena in the natural world, cannot break through the impregnable barrier of the empiricism of matter and energy to unravel the greater ingenuity in the creative, abstract thinking coming from another direction, that resides within the intelligent agency that invented the thing being researched.

            We do not formally recognize that the data we obtain by studying falling objects though space using the modern scientific method, that reaches the laudable point of sophistication to be able to send men to the moon and back, that this factual database falls short of the imaginative creativity that brought into being a reality as amazing as the force of gravity that we investigate.

This issue of the glass ceiling of the empiricism of the scientific method is central to the God and science debate.

Let’s analyze this issue in more detail.

In the making of Italian spaghetti sauce, a favorite topic in this book, there are at least three main realities.

The first is the cookbook recipe of sequential steps.

The second is the taste-test reaction from the spaghetti eaters.

The third is the breaking-down of the various ingredients into their individual chemical components using the scientific method in a laboratory by trained scientists. 

Similarly, artistic oil painting, water-color painting, and ink drawing can be divided into at minimum three main realities.

The first is the sequential steps of mechanically producing a work of art.

The second is the opinionated viewing by the public of this artwork in a museum.

The third, again, is the breaking-down of the painting ingredients into their chemical components via the scientific method in the controlled environment of a laboratory by scientific researchers.

Another easily understood example might be the construction of a new house, which again can be divided into at least three main realities.

The first is the sequential steps of the assembly of the house from the ground up, following a well-established pattern common to all new housing construction.

The second might be the “curb-appeal” of the front elevation of the house as viewed from the street, or the utility of the floor plan for optimal living.

But the third reality once again can go into the highly technical aspects of what is called materials science, which studies the structural strengths of materials, resistance to fire, waterproofing qualities, insulating between heat and cold, and sound insulation.

In these examples, it would be the height of arrogant hubris to insist that the scientifically empirical perspective was the only one that mattered.

In each of the realities given in the three examples above, it was the Scientific Revolution that added the new, third approach of discovering empirical, fact-based evidence at this level of detail.

But the scientific method is the new kid on the block.

Long before Newton’s equations described gravity, people could throw a small rock four feet above themselves and observe the repetitive laws of physics that the rock always comes down to the ground, without being able to describe this reality mathematically.

Long before the scientific field of modern chemistry, a mother would explain the sequential steps of dressing and seasoning the meat from an elk killed by the hunter/gatherer husband, to her daughter in preparation for cooking, before these steps were ever recorded in a cookbook or analyzed chemically in a laboratory for its nutritional value in terms of sodium, sugar, calories, and fat content, or the features of heat in cooking.

The sequential steps for doing all manner of things, and the theorizing and conceptualization of the good or bad, right or wrong, and best practices compared to poor practices, were a part of the human experience long before the scientific method of research was invented in the 1500’s.

Scientific materialists cannot dogmatically insist that mankind has been wrong all this time by placing faith, confidence, and value in the first two realities in each of the three simple examples given above, and in countless other examples commonly observed and perceived in ordinary life.

Most people can detect the intelligence of design in good Italian spaghetti, world-class paintings in a museum, and pleasing architecture in buildings.

Most people can detect the presence of design in the natural world.  The question then becomes the plausibility of competing explanations for its source.

The recognition of intelligence that infers design occurs in the middle, second reality of the three examples given above.

It is not up to scientific materialists to tell us that methodological materialism defines the entirely of reality.

It is not the job of scientists to tell us about the limits of reality.

We are capable of making that determination ourselves.

It seems to me that the arguments made by scientific materialists that only natural causations and explanations are allowed in science, makes reasonable sense only until we reach the near end-point of the investigation of a particular area of research…when most or enough of the data is in.

Once we confidently reach the nearly complete, end-points of research projects that generate sufficient data to begin drawing final conclusions, then broader interpretations and the consequences of the evidence must be allowed that fall outside of the domain of materialistic explanations.

This is what happened in the example of the discovery by Edwin Hubble of an expanding universe that led to the theory of the Big Bang, which has definite theistic implications.

This is what we see in the fine-tuned constants of physics in the universe, that are too precise to be the product of blind chance.

This is what we see in the information content in DNA and in the nanotechnology at work in living cells that defies a materialistic explanation through a blind and undirected process.

            When and if the brilliant scientific method of research in the future discovers a complete matter-and-energy explanation of precisely how the creation of the universe occurred in terms of purely naturalistic causations…then the complexity, specificity, and coherently integrated systems of this information would be so magnificent in its scope and breadth as to be fantastically beyond any atheistic explanation.

            This is the dilemma for modern science today, in that the atheism of scientific materialism is incapable of recognizing the fundamental dichotomy of perception in the scientific method that when most of the factual data is in, this leads to valid inferences to the best explanations that go beyond the limited domain of materialism.

The more we learn about the information required to produce function and fit within living and non-living systems, the more difficult it is to make a plausible argument that the empirical, fact-based evidence derived through the scientific method can exclude agency from the theorizing and conceptualization drawn from this evidence.

This is based upon the reasonable, modern recognition that human scientific research is going in the positive direction towards the discovery of truth regarding the workings in the natural world, using our human thinking skills, while the realities we study deserve the same recognition and appreciation of the cognitive, analytical thinking skills that come from another direction in producing these phenomena, in the first place. 

This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.

Empirical Evidence for the Existence of God

            During the follow-up questions & answers period after a presentation given by a Christian apologist or after a public debate between an atheist and a Christian, invariably a person from the audience will ask some version of the question: “Is there empirical evidence for the existence of God?”

            In this modern 21st century, this has to be one of the most outdated questions a person can have.

            I place the blame for this partially at the feet of the scientific materialists of the second half of the 20th century and our current 21st century, for the atheism of their philosophical worldview of scientism that attempts to prevent anyone, based upon science, from considering a broader and more rational view of the natural world.

            Richard Dawkins in his 1987 book The Blind Watchmaker wrote: “Darwin made it possible to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”[1]

            But this only works today if Darwinian evolution is actually true.  If Darwinism is false then atheists would have to look elsewhere for their fulfillment.

            It is not difficult to show that the atheism of naturalistic materialism or scientific materialism does not hold-up under close examination.

            Let’s start with the hypothetical example of humans as physically material beings trying to produce a duplicate, identical, Plan-B backup planet to colonize. 

This new planet would complement our own earth as human overpopulation now critically stretches the natural resources to their limits available on this planet.

This Earth-2 planet must be placed precisely within the same “goldilocks zone” orbit, distanced from the sun to enable water to exist as a liquid. 

It would have to be orbiting at the same speed so the two planets would not collide with one another.

            First, we would have to find enough cosmic dust and gases that contained all of the fundamental elements of the Periodic Table. 

We would then have to bring this material in the right quantities to coalesce together into close-enough contact for gravity to condense this material into a habitable, non-star planet yet having a hot, molten-iron core like that of earth.

            We might do this by searching through the asteroid belt for free, loose material hopefully already in the form of what is called a debris disc.

            We could not use atomic bombs to break-off large pieces of other planets in our solar system, as this material would then be radioactive and unusable.

            We would then have to figure-out how to get this material from where it currently is to its new location within the same elliptical orbit of the earth around the sun.

We could then set it in motion four days travel out ahead of us or four days behind us in our orbital rotation, for example, at the right speed while it is condensing into a planet. 

This would take some currently unknown length of time discoverable only through trial-and-error.

            And we currently do not know how to accelerate this process of building a planet by altering the strength of gravity.

            Next, we would have to produce a similar moon like our own, having just the right size and distance from the new planet. 

We would need to tilt this Earth-2 planet to spin on its axis at the same 23-degree angle to produce seasonable, temperate climate.

            We would have to find somewhere enough nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in the right quantities to form a comparable atmosphere, having enough carbon so that the gravity of Earth-2 could hold the atmosphere in place without drifting off into outer space.

And we would have to find enough hydrogen and oxygen to produce water to create oceans, lakes, and rivers.

            It would take unimaginable control over geography to duplicate exactly the size and shape of our continents on earth to successfully mimic our functional ecosystems. 

We would have to develop the technologies to get the crust of Earth-2 to be the same thickness as our planet, and to encourage the formation of plate-tectonics with geological uplift, to form higher elevations of dry land plateaus and mountains, and lower elevated depressions to form oceans, lakes, and rivers.

            The atmosphere that we created would have to consist of the exact same proportions of elements and have the same depth as on earth, to allow photosynthesis to occur. 

The HշO water we created out of hydrogen and oxygen would have to possess exactly the same properties of transparency to allow sunlight to penetrate to the same depths within the oceans, lakes, and rivers for fish to be able to see, and for underwater plant-life to flourish.

            Once we got the hydrological cycle functioning, starting with evaporation from the oceans, to clouds, to rain over the land, to the breaking-up of rock into soils, and the erosion that puts nutrients into the soil, then we could begin transporting land plants from earth to produce terrestrial life on the new planet.

            Then things get even more complicated.

            How large a percentage of each ecosystem of living organisms would be required to sustain an ongoing and self-sufficient environment on the new planet?  Would we copy exactly the pattern of the varied, living environments like the Amazon rainforest, the African savanna plains, the North American plains, the Sahara Desert, the Canadian tundra, the Australian Outback, or the mountainous regions of Tibet?

            This simplistic example of breaking-down into a bare minimum of details some of the coordinated steps needed to make a new planet Earth-2 using the universal dictum in biology of “like begets like,” reveals the extreme complexity of creating a life-sustaining planet earth.

We can so easily take this popularly for granted or as scientists, because our understanding always comes from looking backwards through the viewpoint lens of the existing orderliness and intelligibility currently in place.

            This example illustrates the obvious impossibility of a single living organism or multiple organisms in however large a number, existing as physically material beings, from a purely practical perspective even theoretically being unable to build planets, solar systems, galaxies, or a universe.

            This recognition narrows the field of possible candidates for the position of creator of the universe down to a non-physically material, thinking Spirit-Being.

This conclusion holds as long as we first eliminate as plausible candidates matter and energy as non-thinking entities being incapable of the organized complexity of self-design and self-assembly needed at the Big Bang beginning of the universe.

            But this real-world difficulty only becomes apparent when we take a fresh look from the direction of starting from scratch with nothing.

We need to look from the past to the present and from the present to the future, through the series of complex, sequential steps to reach function and fit for some particular phenomenon, like in this hypothetical example of humans creating a new and nearby planet Earth-2.

            Apply this looking-forwards approach to the creation of the universe or the creation of life on earth starting from scratch with nothing, and the same acknowledgment of the difficulties involved quickly eliminates naturalistic materialism as being hopelessly implausible as the causal explanation behind the existing order, function, and fit we presently recognize in the natural world.

            Acknowledging and discussing the realistic difficulties in creating a complementary, backup planet Earth-2 is not a God-of-the-gaps surrender to giving-up on scientific advancement.

            It is not out of the question that human beings at some time in the future could develop the technologies to harness gravity to pull together the gases and particles needed to create a new nearby planet, having all of the qualities required to support ecosystems that are favorable to human colonization. 

            I think as difficult as this would be that it is not out of the realm of possibility in the far distant future.

            But I will go out on a limb here and say that humans as physically material beings, limited by the spatial realities of distance and time, will never create a galaxy like the Milky Way.

This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.

[1] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: Norton, 1987), 6.

Scientists Speaking Outside of Their Specialty are Laymen…Revised

            Some scientists have been telling us for decades that God is dead, and that the only reliable route to obtain truth is by the empirical evidences acquired through hard, bench-top science.

            Some scientists have been saying for decades that the clear evidence of design that we see in the natural world is not real, but is an illusion.

            The term-of-art popularly used by scientific materialists here is to say that the appearance of design in nature is an artifact…an artificially produced appearance created through human imagination.

            I can look through an electron microscope and see the nanotechnology of the molecular machinery at work inside a living cell, and conclude that the organized complexity I see occurring in action before my eyes is design-produced.

            To draw this reasonable conclusion, I do not have to produce an alternate database of facts to support the non-existent notion of “creation-science.”

            For the Bible believing Christian the existing database of scientific, fact-based evidences is the creation science that supports an intelligent designing agent God, whether we classify these evidences as being secular or theistic.

            No alternative set of facts is required of creationists.

            I simply draw a different conclusion in contrast to scientific materialists.

            I am not sure our modern culture has recognized clearly how potentially dangerous viewpoint bias is if carried to an extreme.

            The anti-god, materialistic worldview of Darwinism is on the brink of destroying the credibility of all human analytical ability because Darwinism exposes our susceptibility to the intimidating force of imposed group-think consensus that can even exist in science.         

            Confidence in the reliability of the reasoning capacity of the human mind/brain to arrive at genuine truth in science and in life, from the Christian viewpoint connects directly to a divine, non-material Mind/Being.

            From the Christian viewpoint, the God of the Bible created human beings with the capacity to enter into highly specified and detailed life-scripts as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith from Abraham through Paul, based upon a dependable and reliable confidence in our innate intellectual and moral reasoning ability.

            Atheism extended to its logical end-point reduces the human mind/brain to a mere material entity produced through blind, random, undirected, and accidental processes, having no firm basis to rely upon its reasoning capacity. 

            One contention of this book is that modern scientific investigation was always going to arrive at a point in time when it reached the inescapable recognition of the need for a Designing Intelligent Agent.

            The organized complexity of the information content now reveals scientifically an architectural and engineering Artisan/God of incomparable precision at the highest standards of craftsmanship.

            This Artisan has complete mastery of the database of information to create everything material and non-material in existence in the universe, because He Himself created all of this information.

            Because the natural world was always this complex,starting at the Big Bang creation of the universe 13.7-billion years ago and the formation of our planet earth 4.5-billion years ago, this paradigm-changing epiphany was waiting all this time for human scientific discovery to catch-up. 

            The functional coherence of specified complexity now points to intelligent design as the only remaining plausible option, in contradiction to the reasonableness of scientific materialism thrust forward by Darwinian evolution in 1859 based upon the database of knowledge understood at that time. 

            One point that is easily overlooked in the evolution versus creation debate, is that by making the natural world orderly and intelligible, and by having human beings with the capacity to do science, God is taking the risk that we might discover that He was sloppy, slip-shod, and incompetent as an architect and engineer.

            A God who was not completely confident about the quality of His workmanship credentials, would never open-up the first sentence in the Bible by saying: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” knowing full-well that a beginning point in time for the creation of the universe would not be validated by science, until at the relatively late point in time in 1929 in the discovery of an expanding universe.  

            In my career in building construction, I learned early in the customer service phase of new housing construction as a jobsite superintendent, that if a particular condominium unit or house was not ready to be shown to the homebuyer during the formal walkthrough prior to occupancy, that the best approach was to ask the sales staff to reschedule the walkthrough to a time a few days later.

            This gave myself and the customer service prep-crew time to fine-tune the unit, so that the walkthrough would produce from zero to two or three minor repairs at most, creating satisfied new homebuyers and general good-will throughout the remaining warranty period.

            There was no point in prematurely conducting the walkthrough with a unit that was not ready, producing two or three pages of needed repairs identified by the disappointed and dissatisfied new homebuyer.

            There is no reason in a purely matter and energy universe that the natural world would be orderly and intelligible to human beings having the capacity to do science.

            The God of the Bible has in essence invited us to do a walkthrough utilizing the human scientific enterprise.

            One of the key observations coming from modern science today is that everywhere we look, as science digs deeper and deeper into the causations behind the phenomena in the natural world, that the specified complexity exhibited in nature wins the awe and admiration of atheist and theist alike.

The Giant Asian Hornet, revised Part 1

            The 2009 book Why Evolution Is True by Dr. Jerry A. Coyne…an emeritus professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, is a well-written, interesting, and up-to-date expose in support of Darwinian macroevolution.

            But one of the head-scratching, colossal ironies of our modern times is that when I read this book, by around page 80 and thereafter, his descriptions of the wonders of nature have put forth so much brilliant detail that I begin to sense that he is unwittingly making a cumulative case argument[1]in favor of intelligent agency. 

            Yet as a career-long Darwinian evolutionist, intelligent design through agency acting in the natural world is the very thing he is trying to marshal the facts to disprove.[2]

            So coordinated and integrated are the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of living organisms, so well “thought-out” are their instinctual programs for fitness that as our modern understanding of them increases, then the more implausible becomes the purely naturalistic explanations for their conceptual origin and design.

            In other words, the more we learn factually about the natural world through science, the less plausible becomes the gradual, trial-and-error, self-organizing, secular story for the creation of the universe and all of its natural phenomena.

            In this new Age of Information, increasing knowledge is narrowing the worldview choices down to intelligent agency as the only plausible explanation for the origin of the complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated[3] systems of information we now recognize and study, operating everywhere in the natural living and non-living world.

            One example of the paradoxical dilemma for scientific materialists[4] in having to harmonize the marvels of the living world with purely naturalistic causations, absent designing agency, is found in Dr. Coyne’s book of the description of the havoc that is created when the giant Asian hornet (wasp) on its home turf attacks a colony of European honeybees imported by humans into Japan.[5]  

            The giant Asian hornet is the world’s largest wasp…about two inches long, having a three-inch wing-span that can fly 25 miles per hour and travel up to 60 miles a day, and is a predatory wasp especially common in Japan.

            When a lone hornet scout finds a honeybee colony, it marks the beehive with a drop of liquid pheromone scent which then guides a group of 20 to 30 attacking hornets which can decimate in a couple of hours honeybees numbering up to 30,000.

            The giant Asian hornet has large jaws that can bite the heads off the smaller honeybees at the rate of 40 per minute.

            But the native honeybees in Japan have an incredible defense tactic that defies naturalistic explanation.

            These native honeybees send-out an internal alarm within the beehive when they first detect the hornet intruder.  They then quickly form a group of around 100 honeybees at the entrance into the beehive, and when the lone scout first enters through the beehive opening to begin its investigation, these 100 honeybees form a tight cluster around the now immobilized giant Asian hornet. 

            In coordinated unison the honeybees in this cluster all flap their wings, before the giant Asian hornet can mark the beehive with the scented pheromone. 

            This raises the temperature to around 115º F within this cluster, but also produces carbon dioxide (CO²) that further raises the temperature up to as high as 122º F[6]…which is not lethal to the honeybees but kills the giant Asian hornet scout. 

            If the Asian honeybees can immobilize and kill the intruder scout before the beehive is marked with this pheromone, then the chance that the marauding group of attack wasps will stumble by accident upon the beehive is greatly reduced.

            The question can reasonably be asked if the Asian honeybees in and around the beehive out-number the attacking group of wasps 30,000 to 30, why do not small groups of 100 bees break-off and cluster around each wasp for 20 minutes to kill the entire attack-group of wasps using this successful strategy?

            The answer is that we do not know.

            The defense tactic of the Asian honeybees is limited to successfully neutralizing this scout early, before it can mark the beehive, but does not go further to expand this brilliant military defense tactic into a larger theater of warfare.  

            But the recently imported European honeybee colonies lack even this initial defense strategy to kill the roving scout, and are quickly and completely overwhelmed by the marauding band of attacking giant Asian hornets, guided by the pheromone placed at the opening of the beehive by the hornet scout as the result of a successful reconnaissance.

            Leaving aside a narrow or a broad application of this defense strategy, the basic underlying question arises of how the native Asian honeybees could acquire this novel, instinctual defense tactic of a brilliantly functional, coordinated approach of just the right high-temperature of 117-122º F and the accumulation of CO² gas that would kill this insect enemy, but not harm themselves in the process…in the first-place? 

            Using the materialistic mechanism of blind, mindless, accidental, and undirected trial-and-error, this would produce catastrophic honeybee failures along the small-step transitional route of gradual, successive rises in temperature.

            For argument’s sake, if we start with an ambient temperature inside the honeybee’s nest at 100º F, and go upward at 2º F increments over the 16-20 minutes needed to kill the giant Asian hornet scout, this results in 8 failed trials…catastrophic defeats…if the effort at some point of time stops short of the successful goal of 115-117º F (100º, 102º, 104º, 106º, 108º, 110º, 112º, 114º, 115º F).

            This defense mechanism of the Asian honeybee is an all or nothing affair.  Intermediate stages in transition will not work.  Partial function is dysfunction in terms of survival.

            The Asian honeybees do not immediately produce the required lethal temperature to cook the lone scout to death, but time is needed to build-up the temperature within this ball of honeybees flapping their wings to 115-117º F.

            At the trial-and-error test phases thousands or millions of years ago, the Asian honeybees upon reaching the pre-lethal, mid-point of 108º F in their group clustering, would somehow have to “know” through foresight to keep going until they reached the deadly temperature of 115º F. 

            The Asian honeybees would have to know at the very start that this particular defense tactic had a successful end-point outcome to aim for, otherwise they would be going down a fruitless path, amongst a multitude of other possible fruitless paths, to oblivion and extinction.

            Modern information theory tells us that if there are more chances that something can go in the wrong direction than in the right direction, then a positive end-point outcome is more difficult to arrive at.[7]

            My hypothetical example above is divided up into increments of 2º F, but using the measurement of time instead of temperature, 20 minutes x 60 seconds each minute = 1,200 seconds of total time to kill the giant Asian hornet.

            This equates to 1,200 possible wrong choices for the honeybees to quit, to give-up short of killing the lone scout intruder, compared to only one right choice to arrive at the positive outcome of the successful defense of the beehive colony…to persist for the full 20 minutes from start to finish to reach 115-117º F.

            The Asian honeybees could easily have quit after attempting this narrowly specified, defense tactic their first try after 20 seconds, seeing no immediate positive result, the successful outcome being at the end-point of a full 20 minutes of flapping their wings.

            How would honeybees acquire this sensible, life-saving foreknowledge of a positive outcome to aim for?

            Not by accident, and not by random and undirected trial-and-error.

            In this life and death struggle the Asian honeybees only get one crack at pursuing a particular strategy all the way to success.  Quitting early or choosing another strategy through trial-and-error ends in extinction. 

From Pondering Our Creation: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.

[1] Drawing upon facts from several areas to make a convincing argument.

[2] Jerry A. Coyne, Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible (New York: Penguin Books, 2015).

[3] A phrase coined by William A. Dembski in Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999).

[4] The philosophical worldview that physical matter and energy in the universe are the only realities.

[5] Jerry A. Coyne, Why Evolution Is True (New York: Penguin Books, 2009), 111-113.

[6], Asian giant hornet, updated May 20, 2021.

[7] Canceled Science: Scientific Discoveries Some Atheists Don’t Want You to See, with Eric Hedin, published by Discovery Science on You Tube, April 26, 2022.

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