Progressive Gradualism

            In formulating his theory of macroevolution, Darwin threw purpose, meaning, and intelligent agency overboard in order to embrace atheistic materialism within his proposed mechanism.  In my opinion, in so doing he made the huge miscalculation of relying upon gradualism as the ruling paradigm in nature…a reliance that cannot bear the weight of scientific fact-based evidence.

            In his 1996 book Climbing Mount Improbable, Richard Dawkins offers a theoretical mechanism by which innovative features like the eye could be reached through entirely naturalistic processes. 

            Mount Improbable has one face that is a sheer vertical cliff, metaphorically representing the difficulty of reaching an innovative feature in one giant step.  Such marvels in nature as eyesight, winged flight, and upright bi-pedal walking cannot come into existence in large steps of anatomical progressions called saltations…being single leaps up the face of this cliff  equivalent to miracles.

            But there is a gradual uphill slope going up the other side of the mountain, which can be traversed to the top of the mountain through small incremental steps.  Thisis one of the fundamental axioms of Darwinian evolution…that the only plausible explanation for how a purely naturalistic process could work is through the use of infinitesimally small, random, undirected, and beneficially progressive accumulated steps.

            This is all well and good.  Except this hypothetical explanation in the book did not mention that if true this concept would require a near infinity of Mount Improbable scenarios in various stages of completion. 

            In addition to the example of eyesight, any snap-shot in time slicing through the natural living world would show these enumerable developing features in mid-ascent all traversing up the gradual slope sides of millions of Mount Improbable scenarios in progress.  This would be an obvious and a prolific reality visually apparent to everyone…scientist and layman alike.

            The number of innovative “creations” using this naturalistic model does not improve upon the difficult-to-swallow large number of individual creations by divine fiat of the tens of millions of living species by an intelligent designing agent God. 

            The difficult concept of God creating each individual species is one of the things Darwinism was in 1859 and still is today trying to replace with a purely materialistic mechanism. 

            Both a theistic and an atheistic mechanism must account for the numerical reality of the vast biodiversity of life and the large volume of beneficial physical features this entails.

            The gradualism central to Mount Improbable does nothing to simplify this reality, but merely chops the overall ascent up the mountain into smaller, random, and undirected steps.      

            In a talk given by Philip E. Johnson entitled Grand Metaphysical Story of Science,[1] on the Internet…Dr. Johnson…a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of the book Darwin On Trial…gives an account from the Richard Dawkins book The Blind Watchmaker, which describes again a hypothetical way by which an ancient prototype squirrel climbing in a tree could over time and many iterations morph into a flying bat having wings.  This is paraphrased here by me from Johnson’s talk.

            The general idea is that by adding progressive genetic mutations of the variant trait of larger and larger flaps of skin between the fingers of the prototype squirrel…this enables slower, more aerodynamic, non-lethal accidental falls from the branches of tall trees. 

            This innovative invention for survival could then eventually combine with other coordinating features that would over long periods of time create the capacity for winged flight, the flying bat immerging at the top of Mount Improbable as a completed functional new creature.  All this occurs through the ruling paradigm of progressive gradualism by naturalistic processes.

            The massive evidentiary problem here again is that this same fictionally imaginative methodology for explaining the vast diversity of life cannot be merely confined to a single example of the theoretical sequence of events that might transform a tree-climbing squirrel or small rodent into a flying bat.          

            These same types of hypothetical arguments must be extended-out to apply gradualism in action to every living organism on earth.  This would catch and record in our current snap-shot of time an unmistakably large number of these organisms in various stages of progressive development.

            Not only does the obvious question arise here of why a squirrel would “want” to morph slowly into a bat through a series of incremental steps, but also is this the true reality of the phenomena we see in the natural world?  Clearly, it is not.

            The squirrels I observe in the neighborhood where I live can nimbly run along the top of one-inch wide sections of five-foot high property-line plastic fence panels…without falling off.  These squirrels nimbly climb part-way to the top of 40 to 60 foot high palm trees planted along the city street sidewalk… using the claws on their hands and feet that capably grip the sides of the palm trees as they expertly climb upward to a safe height as I approach on foot.

            Squirrels carelessly falling-out of tall trees to their injury and death is not observationally an optimum choice as an illustrative hypothetical example of the motivating force for macro-biological change through mutation/selection.

            Of equal importance in the talks by Phillip E. Johnson accessible on the Internet, one of which is footnoted above, is the brilliant insight that merely chopping-up a larger problem into smaller pieces does not improve the positive probabilistic case for random chance.

            Dr. Johnson asks: Is it easier by chance to win one single lottery of one-million dollars…or to win separate lotteries of one-thousand dollars…one-thousand times?  Obviously, the chances of winning one-thousand separate lotteries of smaller dollar amounts is considerably improbable compared to the chances of winning one single lottery of a large dollar amount.

            Chopping-up a complex feature like eyesight into smaller incremental steps, gradually traversing up the gently sloping side of the theoretical Mount Improbable explanation for achieving the innovative marvels of nature, does not make the initial problem of achieving finalized function easier…but instead much more difficult. 

            If we take the vast biodiversity of the ten-million different living species on earth and chop-up each organism into their varied defining characteristics of architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits, and then throw into the mix the incredibly rich and varied ecosystems on earth…that this could all be the mindless product of enumerable Mount Improbable scenarios…is illogically nonsensical.

            As will be repeated over and over again in this book, if the pure naturalism of Darwinian macroevolution was true we should see some portions of the living world still “in-progress” in the major development of new architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits.  This universal momentum towards future end-points of finalized function in terms of survivability and enhanced reproduction would observably showcase today an incomplete and ongoing process still exhibiting macro changes.

            Genetic information has limiting boundaries.  This is why we cannot breed dogs through artificial selection to be as large as elephants, and why multitudes upon multitudes of complex living organisms universally appear to have reached their developmental end-points…”like producing like” year after year.

            The main point here again is that if gradualism is to be used as the ruling paradigm in all of the natural world…including the “evolution” of earth, our solar system, and the galaxies in the universe…as some Darwinists do today in defending scientific materialism…then the brand of universal gradualism that supports materialism must be visually obvious and noticeably prolific as fact-based evidentiary reality, recognized and accepted by everyone.

            A near infinity of Mount Improbable scenarios would be obvious in nature long before Charles Darwin came along with his book The Origin of Species.

            As I began in the 1970’s and 1980’s to think about the arguments for and against evolution…the counterintuitive idea struck me that if the macro half of Darwin’s theory was in fact true, then the natural world at the present time should be like looking from a distance at a growing city.  Several new skyscraper buildings of various heights would be under construction, all topped with cranes rising upward to reach definitive end-points that show the dynamic energy of progress moving towards some future as-yet unreached destination in time. 

            Over the following decades, in the books I read for and against Darwinian evolution, I saw that the rationale that scientific materialists gave for the lack of our ability to detect evolution in action in the present time, was that the infinitesimally small incremental steps of mutation/selection occurred so slowly as to not be discernable over a human lifespan.

            This always seemed to me to be a clever deflection that did not have the clear bell-ring of truth…an “evolution-of-the-gaps” that did not “hold water”…a futile attempt to explain-away the evidence until some future better explanation could be found.

            If gradualism plus chance is the ruling paradigm in the natural world, then no matter how slowly it was moving forward at any snap-shot in time, invariably there would still be enumerable life-forms caught mid-course in their development. 

            We do not have to possess a PhD in science to flatly see that the natural world does not display works-in-progress in mid-course, transitional change according to the mechanism of gradual progressive development.  We do not see this reality functioning anywhere as the singularly controlling, explanatory paradigm.

            If all we see today in the living and non-living natural world are a few examples of gradualism, of gradualism not being the ruling paradigm explanation for the development of all of natural phenomena, then the biological theory of macroevolution based upon atheistic materialism falls apart as a workable hypothesis.


[1] Grand Metaphysical Story of Science—Phillip E. Johnson…published on April 21, 2012, by Izzy Invasion.

Scientism

            When a person today objects that they cannot believe the Bible, because they live in the modern Age of Science, they are voicing a storyline narrative that is based upon a 20th-century philosophy that is obsolete and no longer currently credible.

            The false narrative of scientism that is still popularly shared in our culture…blocks people from being able to enter into their highest created destinies. 

            Unfounded skeptical unbelief blocks people from entering into the essence of their fullest worth and value, of experiencing their God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts.

            Faith in the God of the Bible is undermined at the very outset by a skeptical unbelief in the existence of God…a fundamental by-product of scientism widely accepted in the modern Age of Science.

            In reality…we now live in the Age of Science and in the new Age of Information

            During the previous three or four decades, information has now joined matter and energy as the third fundamental element in the universe, making scientism too narrow of a viewpoint. 

            In our modern understanding of the breadth of information, scientism is now a non-relevant argument…an evasive distraction in the ongoing evolution/creation debate over the origin of the universe and the purpose of life.

            What is this philosophical worldview of scientism that we find still strongly and profusely embedded in modern-day cultures?

            The worldview of scientism says that we should only reach a consensus over what we can agree-upon as established and empirically verifiable truth, through the means of the hard sciences alone.  Only phenomena that can be quantified and tested through science…that is observable…that is amenable to being testable by repeatable experiments in a laboratory, and therefore is “in theory” falsifiable by neutral, experimental verification…qualifies as reliable truth.

            The materialistic component of scientism by definition excludes the agency component of intelligent design…agency being the moderated, choice-making discretion inherent in the intelligent design of anything complex and specified. 

            Agency by definition falls outside of the reach of hard, bench-science analysis in a laboratory in terms of being measurable and quantifiable.

            But we do not have to look any farther than beyond ourselves to see that agency exists.

            It is an irrefutable fact that well-defined, moderated choice-making exists in the creative origination of varied laptop computers, in a segment of the field of engineering called constrained optimization.

            The screen size, weight, battery-charge capacity, screen resolution, processing speed, and price of laptop computers are multiple competing objectives differentiated by design engineers and marketing considerations.  This creates inescapable decision-points to produce the optimum ranges of laptop computers available for purchase by consumers.[1]

            This intelligently designed differentiation of the well-defined, moderated choice-making of constrained optimization is also evident in the essences of the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of living organisms.

            Living organisms require discrete design choices made upfront.

            This intelligence-driven creativity produces complex systems of information that fall outside of the narrow, explanatory reach of scientism, outside the reach of measurable quantification and test-tube validation alone.

            The existence of well-defined, moderated decision-making inherent in cognitive design, admitted into the realm of genuine knowledge, expands the boundaries of reality beyond what can be discovered through the limited scope of scientism.

            The philosophical worldview of scientism actually reduces the boundaries and the reach of the human capacity for intellectual and moral reasoning to discover truth.  It excludes the obvious evidence of well-defined, moderated choice-making prolific and universal all around us in nearly every reality we see and experience.  It sets a high-bar standard for truth that not even scientism…by its own definition…can achieve.   

            Here I am borrowing heavily from a recent podcast[2]…I listened to on You Tube entitled: Science and Faith in a Secular Society with J. P. Moreland, hosted by Think Biblically, through Biola University…downloaded by me on 3/24/2020.

            It turns out that scientism is a concept that is self-refuting

            Examples of concepts that are self-refuting might be: “No statement is longer than three words”…or “I can’t utter a word of English”…or “There are no truths”…each of which makes itself false…is self-refuting.

            To quote Dr. Moreland from this podcast: “The statement: ‘The only way that you can know truth is through the hard sciences,’ is not something that itself could be known to be true through the hard sciences.”

            In this sense, scientism makes itself false, is self-refuting…by its own definition.

            It also turns out that scientism, as a worldview adopted uncritically and for the most part unknowingly by many people in our modern world, is as false a narrative as can be.  Upon closer inspection it is actually an enemy of science, undermining the very field of science it purports to defend.

            It is widely understood that scientific discovery is dependent upon several general assumptions, essential to conducting science, that do not meet the high definition test that scientism itself cannot reach.

            These fundamental assumptions are: that the natural world is orderly and intelligible, that the laws of mathematics and logic are true, that truth has a correspondence to reality, and that human beings are endowed with the mental capacity to be able to understand things external to ourselves…paraphrased by me from this podcast.

            Without first accepting each and every one of these fundamental assumptions as being true, assumptions themselves lacking formal proofs, the empirical enterprise of human scientific investigation of the natural world…cannot proceed forward…does not exist.

            This is part of the gaping hole of inconsistency in the modern narrative of naturalistic materialism that makes the untrue and unscientific suggestion to modern mankind, to rely solely upon the hard sciences as the only sure standard by which to identify truth. 

            The fact is that all of science is built upon the foundation of philosophical assumptions we accept “by faith” to be true, without hard scientific, backup proofs of their truth-value.

            One of Dr. Moreland’s main themes of this podcast is that scientism is one of the most corrosive and destructive ideologies in our modern social culture.  Scientism erroneously contributes to the post-modern relativism regarding truth, which attempts to reduce all of the things we know to be true, down to the narrowly limited database of only those things that can be demonstrated as true through hard-science alone.

            This then downgrades everything else asserted to be true to the relative opinions of my truth or your truth, neither one being able to rise to the standard of repetitive laboratory testing for truth as defined by scientism, including all philosophical assumptions.

            Because the fundamental underlying assumptions that form the basis for all scientific research are philosophical in nature, and therefore cannot meet the standard of verification through the hard sciences, the narrow worldview philosophy of scientism ironically undermines by definition the very foundational assumptions of science itself.

            This narrowly crafted approach to categorizing genuine knowledge would also reduce the obvious existence of well-defined, discretionary choice-making down into the inconsequential category of scientifically unsupportable data… not amenable to being quantified or tested physically in a laboratory.

            Scientism is therefore a logically incoherent philosophical program that dissolves itself by being self-refuting, and by undermining the very edifice of the science it purports to defend.

            The irony here is that the complex, specified, and coherently integrated systems of information in the natural living and non-living world point towards the need for intelligent agency.

            The skeletal explanatory frameworks that define the distinctive essences of these systems of information are similar in character to the four basic assumptions underlying science listed above…being abstract, intangible, philosophical realities needed to conduct science.

            A reasonable argument could be made that if scientific materialism insists upon excluding intelligent agency based upon the abstract nature of some of the implications of its findings…then much of science should also be abandoned because the scientific method itself relies upon informational assumptions that are abstract and intangible…assumptions that are conceptually philosophical in nature.


[1] Paraphrased from the DVD Darwin’s Dilemma (2009), by Illustra Media, from the Bonus DVD Features of Questions and Answers, the topic of constrained optimization discussed by Jay Richards.

[2] https://www.biola.edu/blogs/think-biblically/2018/science-and-faith-in-a-secular-society

God of the Gaps

            Borrowing from the two Socrates in the City interviews of John Lennox in Labastide, France[1], the interviewer Eric Metaxas makes the point that the atheistic worldview of naturalistic materialism creates a false zero-sum game in science.

             Each new discovery made by science adds to the increasing database of valid human knowledge on one side of the ledger sheet, and creates an equal and opposite subtraction of human ignorance on the other side of the ledger sheet.  This beneficially decreases the number of explanations of the phenomena in nature based upon old-wives tales, superstition, black magic, witchcraft, unfounded speculation, and the unfathomable whims of the ancient gods.

            Human scientific investigation is the one and only research methodology that can move the innumerable mysteries regarding the phenomena in the natural world…from the ignorance column over to the knowledge column.

            But for atheists, in a closed-system worldview consisting only of material things, the more we know about the workings of the natural world discovered through the reliability of the hard sciences, the less our need by default to ascribe the things we do not yet understand to the random serendipity of unknown causes. 

            This artificial, zero-sum dynamic from ignorance to knowledge has created the erroneous concept of a god-of-the-gaps explanation…of a god that does nothing else…but exists to perform the role of a temporary placeholder for ignorance.  The contrived god-of-the-gaps fills-in as a “nothing burger” explanation until scientific investigation can uncover the real, empirical truths underlying the particular phenomena in nature.

            Until we scientifically understood the physics of lightning, for example, in ignorance mankind historically ascribed the mystery of lightning to be an act of God…which in one sense it is…for the Christian theist lightning being a creation of God.

            During the past four to five centuries of the Scientific Revolution, in the finite, closed philosophical system of naturalistic materialism, the god-of-the-gaps explanations for what we do not understand have been steadily decreasing in number.  As scientific investigation solves the mysteries of the natural world one-by-one…the forward progression of empirical knowledge steadily erases the hypothetical utility of the god-of-the-gaps.

            But in these two episodes of Socrates in the City…Lennox and Metaxas arrive at the brilliant observation that the God of the Bible is entirely unique amongst other gods…is not a material entity.  The God of the Bibleis not like the gods of the ancient world descended from the primeval “stuff” of the universe, but instead is an eternal, immaterial Spirit Being (Jn. 4:24).

            One problem with a zero-sum approach to judging the advancing achievements in science is that it requires a materialistic universe having a finite total number of available, objectively knowable facts that can be moved from the ignorance side of the ledger sheet to the knowledge side of the ledger sheet.

            But a universe having a transcendent Creator God…an eternal Mind…being a living Spirit, radically differs in that this theistic worldview infinitely broadens the possible diversities of the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of the ten-million living species on earth. 

            A non-material God who is a living Spirit broadens beyond human imagination the possible scope and diversities of the life-scripts that can be composed and orchestrated for human beings, from Abraham through Paul recorded in the Bible, and into our present-day…one of the outstanding features exhibited in the biblical narrative stories of faith.  

            An Intelligent Spirit Being is a superior explanation for the origin of information in our universe, because both the Bible and modern science tell us that all of the universe-related matter, energy, and information all came into existence at the Big Bang.

            Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-3 tell us that God invented the information and created the physical matter and energy through the medium of His spoken words, through information in the form of divinely uttered speech. 

            This is a metaphorical medium not currently amenable to scientific investigation, but has outcomes that can be empirically recognized and appreciated through its complex, specified, and coherently integrated function…a concept commonly referred to as organized complexity.

            Paraphrasing John Lennox, the Bible has the priority of creation in the right sequential order, in saying that immaterial, universe-building information generated by the Word of God Jesus Christ…is primary…and matter/energy in the universe is secondarily derivative.

            Naturalistic materialism has it backwards, saying that matter/energy comes first…is primary…and information is derived secondarily from matter and energy.

            This brings up again the fundamental question: Is the universe it before bit, or bit before it?

            The naturalistic materialism approach is illogically nonsensical, because information cannot come from purely physical, material things.  This is like the information conveyed in the New York Times headlines mentioned above that cannot be derived or attributed to the physics and chemistry of ink bonding to paper.

            One of the most brilliant takeaways I got from watching these John Lennox interviews is that for much of the phenomena in the natural world, the best that science can do is to offer descriptions only…but not full explanations.

            Isaac Newton’s mathematical descriptions of motion and gravity…called the laws of gravity…can get us to the moon, but Newton himself admitted that he had no idea what gravity actually is.  Newton attempts to offer no explanation of gravity beyond his description of it.

            Even today we do not understand what gravity, energy, and many other things in the natural world actually are, even though we can describe them in terms of mathematical equations and the laws of physics.  

            John Lennox tells the story about his 2008 debate with Richard Dawkins, who asked Lennox the question: “If God created you…then who created God?”

            In answer to which John Lennox asked the question: “If you believe that the universe created you…then who created the universe?”

            The Bible tells us that God is not a created Being, but is eternal.

            This seemingly paradoxical dilemma becomes easy to answer, if we simply jettison the notion that the dimension of time created at the Big Bang must apply to God going backwards for an eternity.  A more straightforward explanation is that God lives in a timeless reality, rendering the question of a moment in time when He Himself would have been created or come into existence…as being mute and inapplicable.

            Unlike the ancient fertility gods that humanity invented…derived from material things like the sun, the moon, the sky, mountains, and wild beasts, that can be reduced to idol-gods of wood, stone, or precious metals…the God of the Bible is the Creator of the universe (Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1-3).

            The God of the Bible was not created by the universe, and therefore is transcendent and outside of the zero-sum reality that scientific materialists have limited themselves to…through their closed-system philosophy.

            John Lennox goes on to say that the God of the Bible is far above being a mere placeholder for temporary ignorance…for mankind the invented god-of-the-gaps…who can be displaced by the empirical findings of science.

            Lennox gets a laugh from the audience when he recites a materialistic revision of the first verse in the Bible: “In the beginning God created the bits of the universe that we do not yet understand.”

            Then he recites the correct first verse in the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1)…which says that God created everything.

            The materialistic zero-sum approach leaves out the Intelligent Designer who invented the information content of the phenomena we investigate through science.


[1] Socrates in the City with John Lennox…in Labastide, France…Part One on Jan. 12, 2018…and Part Two on Jan. 23, 2018…interviewed by Eric Metaxas, on You Tube.

Our Brain is a Mind

            In the Socrates in the City interview “Has Science Buried God?”…conducted by the questioner Eric Metaxas[1]…the scientist and author John Lennox makes the critical point that modern science has not buried faith…but that modern science can bury atheism.

            Oxford professor of mathematics Dr. Lennox tells the story of some of his world-famous scientist friends and colleagues asking the question why he is not an atheist. 

            His telling response is to ask them that if the computer and equipment they use in their scientific research was produced…was designed and manufactured through a random and undirected process…could they have a reasonable and consistent confidence in the data the computer and lab-equipment generated.  Their answer every time is no.

            If, according to materialism, the human mind/brain is likewise the product of the random and undirected process of Darwinian evolution, this undermines our sure confidence in the accuracy of human rational thought.  When extended-out to its logical end-point…this radical materialism dissolves rationality…even dissolves the philosophical thinking of atheism itself.

            Atheism thought-out all the way through to its end-point…dissolves the reliability and credibility of its own thought process, because the accuracy of a computer, lab-equipment, or a human brain that is the materialistic product of a random and undirected process…cannot be absolutely trusted.

            Atheism based upon naturalistic materialism, when extended-out logically, destroys rationality in every field of science.  Materialism sweeps away our reasonable confidence in the human mental capacity to accurately take advantage of the fundamental assumption underlying all scientific research, that the natural world is both orderly and intelligible. 

            But most importantly and insightfully recognized…the natural world is intelligible to human beings alone…amongst all other living organisms, an extraordinary capacity I do not believe we want to give up so easily to misleading philosophy.

            The reliability of our mental capacity to differentiate truth from error, and our ability to place value upon trustworthy research methods, enables the pursuit of modern science in the first place.

            One of the ingeniously insightful apologetic arguments in recent times for the existence of God…is the differentiation between matter and mind…the contrast between “concrete” material things as opposed to the abstract, conceptual nature of information.

            The classic case is made that the information conveyed in the daily headlines of the New York Times newspaper…is not explainable by means of the physics and chemistry of ink bonding to paper.

            The information conveyed in the newspaper headlines is the product of the intelligent arrangement of the ink on paper…in this instance in the English language.  This reality transcends above and is completely detached and independent from the mechanical explanation of how ink bonds to paper.

            Physics and chemistry alone are incapable of the abstract thought process of arranging ink on paper to convey intelligible information.  The arrangement of anything complex, specified, and coherently integrated…like the intelligent design of the headlines of the New York Times newspaper…requires a mind.

            In the Socrates in the City interview noted above, John Lennox makes another critical point by saying that information is not a material thing.  Information is correctly defined to be an abstract, intangible entity that has a non-materialistic essence, quite apart from the material explanation of how ink bonds to paper.

            Dr. Lennox gives a beautiful illustration of this.  On a mountaintop in the state of Washington, he sends up a message using smoke signals, which are read by Native American Indians who telephone this information to someone in Oxford, England, who types-inputs this into a computer that can be emailed to friends and colleagues of John Lennox at Oxford University.

            In this illustration, the information/message remains the same…but the mediums used to convey the information…smoke signals, telephone, computer, and email…are different. 

            This means that the complex, specified, and coherently integrated systems of information discovered in the natural world by modern scientific investigation cannot be the product of naturalistic materialism. 

            The information cannot be the product of the smoke signals, the telephone, or the computer, but instead originate from an intelligent mind, because information correctly defined is not materialistic…but abstract.

            The fundamental questions about human life: “how did I get here, who am I, and where am I going?”…are in essence non-material questions, and therefore require non-material answers.

            These questions cannot be answered through the mathematics, physics, and chemistry of empirical, bench-top, hard-science.  Their defining character, like the essence of the abstract information in a newspaper headline or in a Chopin Etude, is not materialistically amenable to measurement, quantification, and qualitative testing in a laboratory. 

            I would theorize here that the instinctual part of the lifestyle habits of the lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, water buffalo, wildebeest, Thompson’s gazelle, giraffe, zebra, hippopotamus, and other large mammals on the African savanna plains…are also immaterial…but different from the intellectual and moral reasoning capacity of human beings.

            The point has been raised by Christian apologists that if the human mind is a brain only, produced solely by the random and undirected processes of materialism, then the mutation/selection process of Darwinian macroevolution would home-in exclusively on those attributes supporting only survival and reproduction. 

            The origin of the additional attributes that define the human experience beyond mere survival and reproduction are not explainable by the process of Darwinian macroevolution.

            This raises the question of just how is it that humans can identify the existence of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and decipher the unimaginably complex chemical code of the DNA molecule, being the longest word in existence. 

            These are intellectual attributes that have little or nothing to do with the instinctual lifestyle habits of basic survival and reproduction (Gen. 1:27).

            This differential between an immaterial, instinctual mind in animals and an immaterial, intellectual mind in humans…may be a puzzle partially solved by scientific investigation in the future. 

            But the definitional question at the fundamental level of what is instinct, and what is intellect, in my opinion will not be answered by the study of matter and energy…because instinct and intellect are non-material.

            The physics and chemistry of how ink bonds to paper cannot explain the intelligently specified arrangement of that ink on paper that formulates the information conveyed in the headlines of the New York Times newspaper. 


[1] Socrates in the City: “Has Science Buried God?” Aug. 21, 2019.

Devolution

            One recent scientific discovery now illuminates our understanding of genetic mutations, which can be chosen by natural selection in the wild or by the artificial selection of human breeding. 

            Some genetic mutations produce helpful “variant traits,” which can now be tracked in a broad range of living organisms, thanks to the hard work of the 10-year project to map the human DNA genome.

            What took years of painstaking effort mapping the 3.5-billion letters of DNA letter-by-letter, now can map the DNA sequence of a particular breed of dog, for example, in an afternoon as a result of faster computers and specialized software programs.

            Thanks to improved technology, we are now able to track-down helpful changes/mutations in the DNA, and match these mutations to their actualized traits, the physical characteristics they produce.

            This new research has revealed that Darwin’s theory of evolution is in actuality a process of devolution.[1] 

            This is discussed in an interview by Eric Metaxas of biochemist, professor, and author Dr. Michael Behe in Socrates in the City, in March 2019.

            It turns out that genetic mutations do not add new information to the DNA strand that if so, might support Darwin’s theory that the mutation/selection process is capable over long periods of time of producing complex, innovative new features. 

            Developments like the fully functional winged flight of birds, the visual sight of an owl, the running speed of the cheetah, the underwater sonar capacity of a dolphin, bipedal upright walking, human speech, and the human mind…require vast amounts of complex, specified, and coherently integrated systems of information.

            Molecular biochemistry is now telling us that devolution is instead a process that breaks individual genes in the existing DNA sequence of chemical letters…not adding new creative information, but subtracting information from the DNA code.

            The human breeding of a prototype wolf to produce the variant forms of a Golden Retriever, Great Dane, or Black Labrador dog over many generations, involves at the molecular level in the cell the breakage of particular genes that code for specific characteristics. 

            Scientists can now identify and track these broken genes from wolf to new breed of dog…resulting in a reduction rather than an addition of genetic information…creating “damaged” genes that will not go back in the reverse direction to recover this original lost information.

            This means, according to modern genetic biochemistry, that the entire program of Darwinian evolution is in reality a process of conservative devolution, and not radically progressive macroevolution as originally theorized…instead having strict boundary limits around the change-effects of beneficial genetic mutations, which we can now track through empirical scientific investigation.

            These revolutionary new discoveries in molecular biochemistry invalidate Darwin’s mechanism of an ever-expanding, tree-of-life common descent of all living things, when this mechanism is solely based upon macro changes through mindless and undirected processes.

            The original Darwinian process of mutation/selection theorized to produce major macroevolution is refuted at the molecular level of biochemistry today, now seen to only produce minor variations of characteristics traceable in the DNA genome coding.  This is a catastrophic development for atheism in science, because this removes the very heart-and-soul, the main puzzle-piece of the naturalistic worldview, that gained so much momentum following Darwin’s 1859 book The Origin of Species.

            This does not mean that there isn’t a matter-and-energy, material mechanism to explain the vast diversity of life from A to Z.  Design information in-built into living cells can produce the growing number of different cell types as an index of ever-increasing complexity over time…from single-cell bacteria to human beings. 

            What it does mean is that the Darwinian hypothesis of mutation/selection as the driving force behind the vast diversity of life is empirically no longer valid.

            This new discovery in molecular biology simply removes the chance happenstance of random and undirected materialism from consideration…in the grand traditions of the Scientific Revolution of eliminating false possibilities.

            This replaces a mindless and undirected, naturalistic process with an information-based mechanism that guides the development of life towards the vast biodiversity we observe today on earth…which I sense we are getting close to formally identifying.

            Modern biochemistry at the molecular level of DNA and developmental gene regulatory networks (DGRN’s) are telling us that Darwin’s hypothetical extrapolation from micro to macro evolution…using random and undirected chance as the fueling mechanism…is in fact unsupported by the latest scientific fact-based evidence.

            This then undermines the entire atheistic program of Darwinian naturalistic macroevolution, including the attempts to close the gaps of discontinuity at the phylum level of classification between fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and mammals in the fossil record.

            This pulls down the secular story of the materialistic origin and diversity of life…like a house of cards.

            But this does not at all threaten the further scientific investigation into the matter-and-energy material mechanisms that truly do generate the vast biodiversity we see in the natural world.

            This will be information-based material mechanisms, more plausibly attributable to intelligent agency instead of random happenstance.

            The point here is that Darwin’s hypothesis was and is partially true.  But his approach to embrace the agnosticism or atheism of scientific materialism was in my opinion a mistake. 

            The real truth about the engineered biodiversity of life may be scientifically discovered to be found in information-based mechanisms in living cells starting with the adequate DNA information content front-loaded 3.8-billion years ago.  This then generated the future potential for the expanding number of cell types…building organisms ever increasing in complexity over time.

            Managed by the on/off switches of developmental gene regulatory networks and epigenetic systems, this all could be created through an intelligent designing agent in the same way that an architect designs a new building. 

            An architect starts with conceptually abstract information that is translated into a physical building on the construction site. 

            In living organisms the conceptually abstract information translates into physical reality starting in the cell progressing through the developing embryo…immerging into a viable organism able to grow from infancy to maturity to survive and reproduce. 

            In my opinion, this concept of theistic material mechanisms makes a lot more sense than the atheism of a purely random and undirected materialistic approach.  To my thinking this has no practical bearing upon the quality and integrity of the scientific inquiry and the data produced.

            Quoting two passages from Dr. Behe’s book:

“The molecular parts of the cell are elegantly arranged to fulfill many subsidiary purposes that must blend together in service of the large overall purpose of forming life.  As we’ll see in this book, no unintelligent, undirected process—neither Darwin’s mechanism nor any other—can account for that.”

“It seems, then, that the magnificent Ursus maritimus (polar bear) has adjusted to its harsh environment mainly by degrading genes that its ancestors already possessed.  Despite its impressive abilities, rather than evolving, it has adapted predominantly by devolving.  What that portends for our conception of evolution is the principal topic of this book.”[2] 

            The devolution that occurs in living cells that produces the suite of broken and damaged genes that in turn produce the variation of physical traits that changes a black bear into a polar bear…does not explain how a “bear” comes into existence in the first place.

            The information content in living cells that produces the architectural body-plan and lifestyle habits of a bear is much larger and more sophisticated than the microevolutionary processes that put-out variant traits for natural selection to choose from to enhance survivability…to create the differences between a black bear and a polar bear.

            Devolution will never bridge the gulf between the first single-cell bacteria 3.8-billion years ago and a polar bear today.

            The brilliant observations that Darwin made in the middle 19th century has been overtaken by the forward progress of technology and knowledge.  This is something that has occurred in enumerable cases throughout the history of the modern Scientific Revolution…that is inherent within the scientific method.  

            This recent discovery of evolution actually being devolution, discovered in the field of molecular biochemistry, has enormous implications in the very near future regarding the number of viable options remaining within the sea of multiple competing worldviews for human life…within the search for purpose and meaning in the universe.


[1] Michael Behe: Darwin Devolves…Socrates in the City interview, on You Tube dated March 29, 2019

[2] Michael J. Behe, Darwin Devolves (New York: Harper Collins, 2019), 9, 17.

Truth, Lies, and Faith

            John Lennox in his second interview in Labastide, France on Socrates in the City…says something about the limits of the laws of physics that has enormous implications when applied to all types of written laws.[1]  

            Lennox says that the laws of physics will never move a billiard ball in a million years, but a person with a cue-stick can. 

            The laws of motion can describe a billiard ball striking another billiard ball and where they will each go in terms of physics.  But first someone has to supply the movement of the billiard ball before physics can describe what happens. 

            A second example given by Lennox is that the laws of mathematics cannot create money. 

            Dr. Lennox credits C.S Lewis with the original thinking on this.

            “One plus one” will never actually put two dollars in our pocket.  We have to get the first dollar, then the second dollar…and only after this does mathematics describe the correct calculation of my having two dollars in my pocket.

            These examples by Dr. Lennox are given within the context of the discussion of the origin of the universe at the time of the Big Bang, refuting the statement by the famous physicist Stephen Hawking in his book The Grand Design (with Leonard Mlodinow, 2010) that “because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself.”

            The point here is that laws do not create anything…they do not produce anything.

            The laws of physics are abstract.  They cannot move a billiard ball, put two dollars in my pocket, or create the universe.

            A correct understanding of this distinction when applied to human systems of government reveals the insightful truth that laws by themselves do not produce good behavior and virtuous living.

            Laws that abolish human slavery will not eradicate racial prejudice.

            There are no laws that can be enacted that will universally produce kindness and thoughtfulness.

            No law could be so well-written that its wording could guarantee that every high school and college student would legitimately achieve A-grades in all math classes up to and through calculus.

            No legislated law…no matter how well crafted…has the power to do that.

            Extending this concept even more broadly, this is why the Law of Moses cannot produce righteousness.

            The Ten Commandments written on the stone tablets by the finger of God Himself…cannot produce virtue and righteousness any more than the laws of physics can move a billiard ball.

            God knows this better than anyone.

            The question then becomes: Who moves the billiard ball…God or ourselves?

            Is right human living based upon the self-realization of the performance of good-works codified in laws, which realistically judges all of us without exception falling short of absolute perfection?

            Or is virtue and righteousness actualized into human life through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts after the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            The existence of this radical dichotomy within the contemplation of the marketplace of ideas is inexplicable in a purely materialistic universe.

            Here I sense that I am exploring concepts that are way beyond my depth…that exist at the very heart of reality.

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”        (Rom. 1:17)

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall be no flesh justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”                                                                                    (Rom. 3:20)

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”                                            (Rom. 5:1-2)

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”                                          (Rom. 8:1-2)

            Here is where the concept of the limitations of the laws of physics described above by Dr. John Lennox, broadens into the separation between belief and unbelief when we look at the character trait of lying…of being untruthful.

            The liar by nature will seldom admit they are wrong.  The liar will attempt to “spin” the facts to explain their way out of some wrong-doing, shortcoming, or criminal activity.

            For the Christian theist, Satan has never admitted defeat after Calvary and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            This is what condemns unbelief.

            The gospel message begins with repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt. 4:17).

            If our fallen, imperfect nature is in fact the necessary research vehicle to be able to truly explore the knowledge of good and evil…then unbelief is the ultimate folly

            Like the liar, unbelief actualizes into worldly conventional normalcy and thinking the inability to admit we are wrong.

            Every sane person can admit and accept that we are not perfect.

            But we find it difficult to make the small additional step of repenting towards God (having a turn-around in our minds and hearts) in this area of admitting we are not perfect…to the God of the Bible who is not condemning us for our imperfection.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”             (2 Cor. 4:7)

            The God of the Bible is the very person who set-up redemptive salvation for the express purpose of taking this fallen nature for a ride into the research program of a first-hand, experiential exploration of the knowledge of good and evil…via the “safe-conduct” of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

            What is so profound here once we see it is that the massive gulf between the two outcomes of a timeless existence in heaven or in hell…divides itself within human experience in the seemingly simplistic and subtle difference between belief and unbelief.

            The liar within all of us will spin the facts about our moral imperfection and sweep this reality “under the rug” as being merely a part of worldly conventional normalcy.

            But salvation does not come through the unachievable, perfect performance of good-works.

            This fallen human nature instead has been brilliantly flipped…by God’s program of redemptive salvation by grace through faith…into the positive vehicle for exploring the knowledge of good and evil in the one and only way we could claim this knowledge for ourselves through empirical experience.

            The internal lie of unbelief blocks this.

            This is why on Judgement Day people will be weeping and “gnashing their teeth” (Mt. 25:30) over the profound regret that belief was so within reach and accessible.

            Truth and lying divide into polarized opposites at Calvary. 

            The Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes in first-century Jerusalem would/could not admit they were wrong.

            The rejection and crucifixion was an attempt to “spin” the facts regarding the expected nature of the coming Messiah into the alternate reality that Jesus was a fraud and that they were righteous…because they followed the Law of Moses and were the “children” of Abraham (Mt. 3:7-9; Mk. 12:24; Lk. 11:37-44; Jn. 8:39-40).

            The United States Constitution cannot “do” anything in terms of virtuous citizenship.  Virtue cannot be legislated.

            The laws of physics cannot create anything.

            A billiard ball needs a person with a cue-stick to set it in motion.

            The Law of Moses was never intended to produce righteousness.

                        When skeptics include biblical faith within their general criticism of world religions, they have no idea what they are talking about.

            The redemptive salvation that enables believers to embark upon journeys of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible…removes the risk of the threat that the absolute certainty of my imperfect performance could jeopardize my eternal salvation (Mt. 5:6).

            The impunity of my sins past, present, and future being covered by the blood Jesus shed on the cross enables an exploration of the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts…contained within the knowledge of good and evil…through the research vehicle of my imperfect nature.

            In my opinion, this rivals the empirical quality of any scientific investigation into the phenomena of the natural world.

            In my opinion, scientific materialists…rather than being staunch opponents of biblical faith…should logically be the first people in line to receive redemptive salvation…being by career choice investigative researchers.

            If we blithely sweep under the rug our human imperfection as being merely the product of a materialistic Mother Nature according to Darwinian evolution, then we are lying to ourselves.

            If we downgrade biblical faith into the relativism of man-invented religions that have no real standard for determining what genuine truth actually is, then we have created an alternate reality for the purpose of working around our universal imperfect natures.

            God invented biblical-quality journeys of faith precisely because laws of any kind cannot produce actionable virtue.

            Abstract concepts will not create a universe, move a billiard ball, or put two dollars in my pocket.

            This is too profound for the worldview of naturalistic materialism…but not too profound for divine agency.


[1] John Lennox: Socrates in the City in Labastide, France, Part 2, Jan. 23, 2018 on You Tube.