Series Overview

Who created God? (and other small questions)

Evolution did according to the textbooks, the media, and government-funded agencies.  Evolution created our brains, and we created God in our mind. But what do the hard sciences actually say (the Big Bang theory, modern physics, origin-of-life research, the Darwinian theory of evolution, and mind sciences)? In each of these areas, the scientific evidence of the last 50 years paints a different picture. The evolutionary edifice of the 19th and mid-20th century is collapsing, and the cracks are showing, but the word is not getting out. In this seven-part series you will learn what up-to-date science reveals and the alternative answers it suggests to our Big Questions.

SaddleBrooke is wondrous

[email protected] is headquartered in SaddleBrooke, Arizona USA. It is a majestic place. We see craggy mountains carved out of raw earth. At 3500 hundred feet we are wrapped in a black sky ribboned with the Milky Way, dotted with radiant stars and planets majestically adorning it. We see and hear innumerable creatures; birds fill the sky with beauty and song; lush varicolored vegetation decorates the expansive Sonoran Desert. Where did it all come from? Was it always there, or was it put there? Does it have a purpose? Was it designed, or did it just happen? How long has it been here? Does it last forever? I know I won’t! In fact, how am I even able to ponder such magnificent things with this three pound piece of flesh called a brain sitting on top of my neck? All I know is that I am smitten with an incredible sense of awe and wonder.

Science and religion — friend or foe?

Religion addresses the Big Questions of wonderment, but science, too, is awash with awe and wonder. Science keeps me alive longer and empowers my days with every form of technology imaginable. Science not only invents new things and tells us how they work, but it also “thinks deeply about origins and destiny.” Unfortunately, the ethos of today pits science against religion in a war with each other. God is “not relevant” in public education, and in scientific disciplines in particular. It is assumed that smart people don’t believe in God. But, aren’t there plenty of smart people who believe in both? Has science really explained how it all happened so that there is no longer need for the “God Hypothesis”? Or is there really a Creator who had a purpose in mind and revealed it through the creation? In what direction does the evidence point? That’s the real truth-test.

Albert Einstein, perhaps the greatest scientist of the 20th century, said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”  and he was not a religious practitioner. But he knew that “the harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” How can today’s science ignore such a conclusion from one of its greatest practitioners? In this series you will learn that it came about when an atheistic philosophy known as Materialism or Naturalism took over science. This philosophy is antithetical to how science originated, and today, science has become the victim of naturalistic philosophy. But we also know that religion can be just as dogmatic. So today, we are both lame and blind if we depend only on dogmatism from either side and do not depend on some level of harmonious relationship between scientific evidence and reasonable faith.

Socrates and his prize students, Plato and Aristotle, were perhaps the greatest philosophers of all time. They broke through philosophical messes by restoring the idea that our goal should be a search for wisdom, not just a search for answers. Philosophy means the “love of wisdom.” We are not required to have dogmatic answers, pretending that we know everything. That can be destructive. Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.” He wanted us to go in search of wisdom, not proclaim that we already have it. This series will be such a search.

What has the last 50 years taught us?

In this series of seven videocast presentations, we will look at our Big Questions up close and up-to-date. We will explore the heavens, the earth, and the creatures that inhabit it — including us. We will go on a fascinating voyage by peering through the tools of science — the telescope, microscope, and other instrumentation — even discovering that nature talks to us in its own language of mathematics. We will be amazed that the technology of the last 50 years has advanced to a point where we actually have direct observation into these deep mysteries.

What is the purpose of [email protected]?

[email protected] is a new educational club originating in the beautiful community of SaddleBrooke, near Tucson, Arizona, but its reach and engaging discussions are worldwide by virtue of the internet. Its purpose is to go in search of wisdom like the Greek philosophers and evaluate evidence like the modern scientists in order to explore the Big Questions of life: “Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here?” We will be encouraged throughout the study to question and discuss, following the path of inquiry and employing wisdom to draw out our own conclusions  wherever the path may lead.

 

What Are Your Conclusions?

Assuming Covid restrictions permit by October, we will host a concluding live event with guest speakers and a scrumptious dinner that closes the series. It will be an opportunity to get to know one another, invite guests, and discuss Club plans for the remainder of the year and thoughts for the 2022 series. We will also announce small discussion groups that will be held in homes for the remainder of 2021.

As a member of the Club, you are enrolled in the Q&A Forum which gives you access to ask questions, receive answers, and start probing conversations with Club participants. Please Join the Club to participate in all the activities.

#7 Who Is God?

(VIDEOCAST COMING IN OCTOBER)

What do we know so far?

In this series, we have been thinking deeply about origins and destiny and comparing the atheistic worldview of Naturalism that currently dominates science, to the theistic worldview that most people have held since the beginning of human history. We’ve been asking Big Questions in the spirit of Socrates that seek out evidence-based answers using modern scientific, philosophical, and legal reasoning, not just concluding a matter based on dogma or blind faith. We have noted along the way that our initial assumptions and worldview play a major, if not defining, role in arriving at our conclusions, sometimes even transcending the clear verdict of evidence. We’ve learned to discover and challenge our own presuppositions, then follow a path of unencumbered inquiry no matter where it may lead, whether we like the conclusion or not. We are curious. We want to know.

Since it is evidence that points to the best explanation, we’ve learned to measure any proposed explanation against how well it conforms to reality. In other words, is what we know objectively true and not just what we want to believe (subjective)? We have found that to arrive at a conclusion almost always requires an element of faith to close the gap between “absolutely true” and the evidence, which can only be” the preponderance of” or “beyond a reasonable doubt.” For our kinds of questions, some evidence is always missing. Only in formal logic, e.g., 2+2 = 4, can we be absolutely sure of a conclusion without closing the gap with an element of faith. This is true in science as well as religion. Evidence is what minimizes the gap.

What can we know about God?

In this final session, we explore the deepest of all questions: What can we know about God?  We may ask, “What or who is God?” however my main thrust will be based on the Judeo-Christian conception of God as given in the Bible. I will use a definition of God as proposed by Saint Anselm (11th century). He is known to be the first to reconcile ancient Greek philosophy with the Bible and is considered the father of the Scholastic Movement. He developed what is known as the “ontological argument” for the existence of God. Anselm developed a workable definition for our study: God is that entity of which nothing greater can be conceived.” He encourages us to keep elevating our questions and investigation until we reach the greatest conceivable dimension of that subject. As we seek to compare an understanding of God derived from science with one derived from religion, we would say: God is that “Being” maximally endowed with capabilities in any and all “physical” attributes imaginable, e.g., power, knowledge, presence; as well as all “human” attributes imaginable, e.g., love, goodness, justice, forgiveness, mercy.

Using Anselm’s definition, our question becomes “Who is God?” eliminating an impersonal God since “life” is obviously greater than “non-life,” and “personhood” is greater than “non-personhood.” God must be a who and not a what. We will not be investigating what science says from the perspective of the Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism and their derivatives, since they are not open to scientific comparison because they do not profess an essential differentiation between the creator and the created, i.e., the spiritual and material universe (Pantheism). In Pantheism there is no “Creator” that is separate from the material creation. There is one impersonal animating force that coexists with all things.  Therefore, there is not a subject/object distinction that is required for scientific investigation. Also, we will not be investigating ethical-based religious belief systems such as Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism. They, too, are not subject to evidential-based analysis. Nor will we be comparing to the polytheistic religions of the Greco-Roman empire whose gods were mythical and metaphorical entities. They, too, are insulated from scientific inquiry. We have been evaluating evidence for creation from the perspective of the three great monotheistic religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. All three view God as a transcendent Creator. Even though they have differing conceptions of God’s attributes, they all agree that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and all things in them.” This assertion is open to scientific inquiry. I will refer to it as the “Genesis account.”  We are employing logic and reason to evaluate the “Genesis account” of creation against the hard data of today’s empirical scientific findings, but without the arbitrary ideological restriction imposed by Naturalism.

What is open-minded science?

In its original form, the scientific method was open to 360-degree evaluation of competing hypotheses. As we have previously discussed, modern science was given birth by the Christian worldview in the 16th through 18th centuries as the first great scientists were believers and saw the universe as comprehensible and rational, being created by a rational God. When Naturalism took over the National Academy of Sciences in the mid-19th century, it established the dogma to remove God from “scientific consideration.” But who gave the National Academy of Sciences the right to decide that science can only consider “naturalistic explanations,” and that explanations involving “in the beginning God created” were unworthy of consideration? Who gave the National Academy of Sciences the authority to decide that only scientific conclusions of the materialistic kind are valid, and that conclusions derived from the humanities, philosophy, theology, and history  the best of human thought are not equally valid paths of discovery? It is ironic as science is founded on philosophical not scientific presuppositions. Who gave the National Academy of Sciences the right to say that incorporating any thinking in the classroom other than Naturalism “stifles the development of critical thinking patterns in the developing mind and seriously compromises the best interests of public education… hampering the advancement of science and technology” (quotes from NAS published documents)? Really? Tell that to Plato and Aristotle, and Newton and Copernicus, who originally taught us how to think critically and consider all possible causes for events transcendent ones such as purpose and design, as well as mundane causes such as material and natural law. Naturalism arbitrarily limits investigation to the mundane (a 180-degree view) no matter how ridiculous the explanation may be and its proponents are even proud of it! Richard Lewontin, a key leader in evolutionary biology articulated this:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs… in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment… to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

In our study we have allowed “a Divine Foot in the door” (in the customary Socratic manner) and found the result to offer a more robust explanation than Naturalism. We implore the academy to return to its foundational principles of scientific investigation and be open to “causes” whether visible or invisible, whether they like the path being explored or not, and base the inquiry on evidential merit not dogmatism. Especially when they have to resort to censorship of ideas they don’t like. Ironically, Naturalism rejects Theism as being dogmatic and not worthy of scientific consideration. Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate the dogma wherever it appears and allow evidence to speak for itself, deriving conclusions based on merit alone? Reason will prevail. Fantasy will be readily exposed. The inquiry will develop the path to follow and lead to where it should go — truth!

The author’s conclusions

Beginning of the Universe Science and Genesis both agree that the universe had a beginning. It couldn’t create itself or be born out of nothing. Furthermore, science says it cannot tell, or even know, what was before the beginning of the Big Bang. “Something” had to be self-existent, transcendent and amazingly powerful to start it off or we wouldn’t be here to inquire. Science’s current best explanation is the “multiverse,” which is total speculation and not subject to verification. The multiverse, since it, too, needs a beginning, doesn’t explain our universe except to push off the cause to some unknowable universe-generating “machine.” So it, too, requires an explanation. That’s just “kicking the can down the road.” On the other hand, the Bible clearly identifies the “something” to be God the Creator, Session 2.

Privileged Planet Earth Science and Genesis both agree that Earth has been elegantly tailored with purpose and design for life to be born and sustained. To happen by natural law and chance alone is beyond the bounds of credulity and believability. Naturalism might plead a better explanation will be forthcoming from unknown sources, but it offers no empirical basis for such a hope. Genesis has already given us an answer. God is the Creator, and he had a purpose for his creation: to build a home to give birth to and nurture human life, Session 3.

Origin of Life Science doesn’t have a credible hypothesis regarding how life originated, although naturalistic speculation abounds concerning unknown processes that may be found that could have created the first “self-replicating molecule.” This “hope” is passing for knowledge in science. Media headlines that life has been created out of non-life in the laboratory turn out to be either false reports, or the product of human intelligent manipulation of previously living matter. Genesis states that God directly created life from non-life, Session 4.

Origin of the Species Science claims that Darwinian evolution (natural selection working on random mutation) has the power to create all the variety of life on earth. This has never been shown. Only minor adaptation to environmental changes has been demonstrated (micro-evolution). That evidence has been unduly extrapolated to be the so-called proof for large-scale evolution (macro-evolution). There is no causal link between the two, only speculation and hand-waving. The historical evidence (fossil record) and the empirical evidence (biochemistry) of the irreducible and specified complexity of the living cell, are best explained by the intelligent design of a species by a Designer, Session 5.

What Is Being Human? Evolution claims that mankind (along with his mind) is just an evolved variation of an ape-like ancestor, but Naturalism has not demonstrated that, nor does it have a credible hypothesis of how that might happen. Evolution of man is a speculative assumption of Naturalism supported by very little concrete evidence. The competing hypothesis, that man is a direct creation of God, is not only more likely but also provides the theological reasoning for man’s privileged position within the realm of creation — made in God’s image to rule his creation, Session 6.

Who Is God? In this session we ask the biggest question of all. Naturalism assumes that “God” is the creation of the wishful thinking of mankind (secular psychology), or is some unknown remote force or agent of creation that is not involved in sustaining the creation (deism). Theism, however, concludes rightly the existence of God as Creator based on the cumulative case of the evidence above. The path so far points most likely to the direct and special creation by God. This is more convincing than the case for atheistic Naturalism.

It’s time for open-minded science 

Neither Naturalism nor Theism can be fully proved, but in our study, each has been given the opportunity to present its evidential support so that people can make up their own minds. It’s outrageous that in our public education system, students are not exposed to all the data nor the legitimate competing hypotheses. They’ve only been exposed to the handpicked data of Naturalism and Atheism. That’s not education, that’s indoctrination.

Naturalism is not a requirement for doing good science as proclaimed by the National Academy of Sciences. In fact, in the 20th century, of all the Nobel Prize winners in science, some 65% self-identified as Christians and 20% as Jews. They are obviously familiar with the “Genesis account” and it didn’t point them in the wrong direction. Only 11% of the winners self-declared “no belief in God,” i.e., atheists and agnostics (Baruch Shalev report, Los Angeles, 2005). Yet over 90% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences identity as atheists or agnostics. Through their influence they determine what can and cannot be taught in public schools, universities, museums, textbooks, and public broadcasting presentations. And that determination is grounded in Darwinian macro-evolution with no criticism or skepticism permitted.

On the other hand, dissent over the plausibility of Darwinian evolution is rampant among professional biologists (in private), and some are speaking up. Over 1,000 PhD scientists have publicly declared that they are skeptics of evolutionary theory and have signed a public document attesting to the fact  A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism (dissentfromdarwin.org). Many signers hold professorships or doctorates from top universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Berkeley, and UCLA, among many others.

Many open-minded self-identified atheistic or agnostic top scientists who are ideologically committed to Naturalism are even coming to theistic-laden conclusions as they consider the empirical data with an open mind.

Francis Crick, molecular biologist. An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. (Crick, however, goes on to defend his atheism in spite of the evidence by believing that design in nature is an illusion.)

Paul Davies, mathematical physicist. The laws of physics “seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design.” “The impression of design is overwhelming.” “If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose.” (Davies maintains his agnosticism in spite of his evidence-based conclusion by holding out for some future scientific teleological discovery.)

Fred Hoyle, astronomer. A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question. (Hoyle remained agnostic/atheistic.)

Freeman Dyson, theoretical physicist. Knowledge of good and evil, knowledge of grace and beauty, knowledge of ethical and artistic values, knowledge of human nature derived from history and literature or from intimate acquaintance with family and friends, knowledge of the nature of things derived from meditation or from religion, all are sources of knowledge that stand side by side with science, parts of a human heritage that is older than science and perhaps more enduring. (Dyson remained agnostic.)

Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist. The harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. (Einstein believed in an impersonal intelligence behind the universe.)

Great science can be done no matter what one’s ideological or theological worldview may be. By arbitrarily limiting science to exploring only naturalistic (atheistic) answers, scientific inquiry has become hampered, and young minds have been prevented from exploring the full range of options. Also, they have been discouraged from using science to mature in the full range of human inquiry and development. I was one of them.

The author’s search for a “reasoned faith”

I was a hard-core skeptic as an undergraduate physics major, and a systems engineering graduate school major, firmly entrenched in the assumptions of Naturalism. In my mid-30s, and at a crucial time in my life, I went in search of answers for meaning and purpose to life. Naturalism communicated to me that there was no meaning and purpose — other than accepting what is known about the universe as a materialistic entity — and making the most of that. Carl Sagan, astronomer, science communicator, and originator of the award-winning TV series Cosmos (still popular after four decades) put it this way, “The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be.” Steven Weinberg, theoretical physicist, Nobel laureate, and atheist, adds, “Human life is… just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes” (of the Big Bang). “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” Theoretical physicist and atheist Lawrence Krauss: “You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded. Because the elements, the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars. And the only way they could get into your body is if the stars were kind enough to explode. So forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.” This author needed something more satisfying than that — not a “blind faith” of dogma, but a “reasoned faith” with evidential support.

As part of my search, I was introduced to the Christian worldview and the Bible through the work of philosopher Francis Schaeffer. I couldn’t shake off the possibility that the Bible was correct regarding creation since my fundamentalist scientific training kept bringing me back to the first and second laws of thermodynamics. #1: Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Yet here it is, and here I am, “created”! #2: The universe (and I) isrunning down like a wound-up clock (entropy). If the universe has an ending, it had to have a beginning otherwise we wouldn’t exist at this point in time. Along with the fundamental law of cause and effect, the idea of a self-existent, transcendent, all-powerful Creator became a logical possibility actually more logical since the universe could not come out of nothing, and it was not infinitely old. I investigated the claims of the Bible and was amazed at how it not only accurately described the sequence of the creation events in Genesis 1 and 2 but, more importantly, it better explained our human condition and the secular milieu in which I was living. It opened my mind to the spiritual, moral, and philosophical dimensions of life from which I was sheltered in my secular science education. I considered that the idea of God would give me the meaning, purpose, and hope I was seeking. And I was right.

What is the Bible?

I was a skeptic about the Bible and its claim to be the Word of God, a special revelation by the Creator himself (John 1). How could I possibly believe such an extraordinary claim? It would require extraordinary evidence. What I discovered is that the Bible, unlike many other holy books, makes testable evidential claims of history and science using standard academic disciplines that are routinely used to validate the accuracy, authenticity, and authority of any historical document. The Bible has been put to that test for 2,000 years and has proven to be true. It is beyond the scope of this study to review the evidence and methodology, but the reader is urged to investigate the claim. Perhaps a good place to start research would be a general analysis of the truth-claims of the Bible in a source such as Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.

When you read the Bible, you will discover that it asks you to “examine” it and “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God begs the reader to “reason” with him (Isaiah 1:18), which I did. It declares that nature herself gave an unambiguous testimony to her Creator (Romans 1:20) even of God’s supernatural attributes (Hebrews 11:3). The Bible introduced me to the reason for man’s separation from God and his rescue plan for mankind through Jesus Christ, as well as a future destiny of eternal life. This was not only reasonable once I understood the biblical worldview of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, but its explanation of reality far outshone any other secular or religious truth-claim I had been investigating. And there had been many: from the great religions of the world to the prevailing secular philosophies of existentialism, objectivism, materialism, nihilism. Today, more than 40 years later, those truths are even more real to me since life’s abundant experiential opportunities and challenges have testified to the reality of the Bible’s wisdom. Christianity has become the organizing principle of my life  my worldview and it has given me the meaning, purpose, and hope I was seeking, and as a bonus, eternal life and a concluding destiny. Elizabeth Elliot verbalized my commitment well, “There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.” I had taken Socrates’ challenge to “know thyself” seriously and examined the Big Questions of life through the eyes of scientific knowledge and biblical faith. I have followed the path of both for over 40 years with joy and without regret. Click here if you are interested in my personal journey.

What are your conclusions?

How has this study impacted your thinking about origins and destiny? About meaning and morality? About the Big Questions of life? What’s your takeaway? How might you be different as a result of what you have learned? Are you more aware of your own worldview? Do you better appreciate the worldview of others? How might you want to follow up in action and study? Join the club on the link below and start asking questions and entering into discussions on the Socrates Forum.

Blaise Pascal was a renowned 17th century physicist, mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. He argued that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. He put the terms in a probabilistic formulation known as Pascal’s Wager: If God does not exist you will have only a finite loss (perhaps some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if he does exist you stand to receive infinite gains (heaven) and perhaps avoid infinite losses (hell).

Pascal said it this way, “If you win you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that He exists.”

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes —
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware…

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

Author Oscar Wilde put it a little less poetically, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

#5 Origin of the Species

(VIDEOCAST COMING IN AUGUST)

Once life got started, did creatures continually evolve in an increasingly complex manner over time as Darwin described? Or did God intervene in miraculous, creative ways? What does the fossil record show? What does the biochemical evidence tell us about Darwinism? Is Darwinian evolution compatible with the Genesis account?

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) was a renowned evolutionary biologist and a central figure in shaping modern neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. Fifty years ago, he declared that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” He was saying what virtually everyone was thinking at the time that the future for Darwinism was bright and hardly in doubt. Fast forward to 2016 at a conference hosted by the Royal Society of London, one of the most distinguished scientific organizations in the world. The most prestigious biologists and scientists came to discuss the growing dissatisfaction with the Darwinian explanation for the history of life on Earth. In 2018, a similar conference of academics announced in its preview, “Now it is recognized that errors [mutations] cannot explain genetic novelty and complexity,” which is a core premise of neo-Darwinian orthodoxy. As scientific observation, testing, and research became much more sophisticated over the intervening 50 years since Dobzhansky’s proclamation, what happened to the inexorable confidence once placed in Darwinian evolution? Science failed to find the hard evidence to support its claims. Instead, the evidence pointed in another direction. That’s quite a turnaround.

This session will concentrate on the evidence and give only a brief overview of evolutionary theory. Most people already know something about evolution from their biology and science classes in school, and from the decades of TV documentaries National Geographic, Nova, PBS, and the like.  Media headlines, magazines, books, internet resources, films, sci-fi thrillers, etc., all talk about the history of mankind using the ubiquitous term “evolution.” The term has come to be the common descriptor for how all things were created and progress over time. What in the past was credited to God has become “Evolution did it.” In the late 19th century this paradigm shift became the tipping point to support the secularization of America, not only in science but also in every other cultural institution.

In terms of Darwinian biology, evolution means something very specific how man came about from a common ancestry of apelike creatures (hominids); which in turn came from a long line of intermediate creatures; which came from an initial line of sea creatures, all the way back to bacteria in the early oceans and eventually back to a simple cell, the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). The Darwinian mechanism for this process is genetic, “natural selection working on random mutations” that produce offspring with survival advantages over the previous generation. The “natural selection” guiding force is so powerful that it creates all the awe and wonder of the animal and plant world that in times past was attributed to the Creator. God is no longer necessary to explain their existence. Over billions of years, natural selection gradually crafts descendants into such wonders as insects, flowers, cattle, and cats and eventually us. Darwin based his theory on the assumption that species are not immutable as implied by the biblical account that uses the descriptive word “kind” to characterize a limit beyond which change is impossible. For example, evolution extrapolates minor modifications observed in dog breeding (artificial selection) over long periods of time to account for all the diversity of life we observe on planet Earth.

In his magnum opus of 1859, The Origin of Species, Darwin proposed that this unguided, random, small stepwise modification mechanism would accumulate monumental unplanned changes and yield a brand new creature. Evolution quickly replaced the previously held biblical view that God specially created creatures by his direct and/or guided action. Within a few decades God was pushed out of the biological creation business and replaced by Mother Nature. This was a new worldview. That’s why Dobzhansky could make such a sweeping comment (“nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”), and why the theory is so rigorously defended. It was quickly elevated to the status of “scientific fact” (like the fact of gravity) and defended with religious zeal. But, what does the scientific evidence show?

In the Origin, Darwin gave a test to validate his claim: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Evolution is a historical science  nobody was around to give testimony but we can look at the historical trail it leaves. We can look at the “records” left by the ancient creatures themselves in their death their fossils. The fossil record has been continuously heralded as proof of evolution. There have been over an estimated 250 million fossils found and classified representing over 250 thousand species. The results are in, and it’s not good for Darwinism. The record shows sharply defined gaps, not “numerous successive slight modifications” as Darwin had hoped. There are no transitional fossils (partial this and partial that), but there is a lot of wishful thinking and speculative interpretation. The “missing links” are massive throughout the record, not only between the various categories of animals, but even within the same species. The fossil record, even though it nicely reveals the history of life on Earth, actually disproves the hoped-for Darwinian mechanism of evolution. Yet our school textbooks offer the fossil record as direct evidence. Modifications to improve Darwin’s gradualism have been proposed to help explain the findings punctuated equilibrium, symbiotic systems, and “hopeful monster theories,” but they all run afoul of the same evidential problem. As with the Origin of Life theories, hope for Darwinism has moved to outer space, where life might have originated elsewhere in the universe under “evolutionary conditions” more favorable, and then transported to Earth (panspermia). There is no evidence for this.

The single greatest fossil problem for Darwinism is the “Cambrian Explosion” of around 600 million years ago. Nearly all the major animal groups appear in the rocks of this period without a trace of evolutionary ancestors. If evolution were true, we would expect to find millions of evolutionary specimens of Cambrian life forms in the Precambrian rocks. However, there are none. And the fossil evidence gets worse all the time. In 1995, the most prolific evidence for the Cambrian Explosion was found in Chengjiang in China. At the time the cover of Time magazine read, “Evolution’s Big Bang. New discoveries show that life as we know it began in an amazing biological frenzy that changed the planet almost overnight.” The headline in the Chinese newspaper Peoples Dialog read, “Chengjiang Fossils Challenge Evolution.” The National Museum of Natural History in Beijing built a large display with an impressive collection of the fossils, stating how the evidence challenges Darwin’s theory. It even quoted Darwin who was concerned that the sudden appearance of a large number of animals during the Cambrian Period would challenge his theory.

In the U.S., however, the evidence received little attention. The prestigious California Academy of Sciences didn’t even mention the discovery on their “Hard Facts” wall of evolution. Instead, their “hard facts” remained as confirmation of Darwin’s original predictions. J. Y. Chen, a Chinese paleontologist lecturing in the United States, put the situation this way, “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.” Our school textbooks give little attention to the Cambrian Explosion. The guardians of Darwinian orthodoxy are firmly entrenched to assure that no disconfirming evidence ever gets into the texts or into our students. If word sneaks into the classroom through an inquisitive teacher who might bring in an article describing such things, that school district needs to prepare itself for the onslaught of an ACLU lawsuit, and the teacher will perhaps find him- or herself looking for another job or line of work.

There are several other biological “Explosions” in the fossil record besides the Cambrian that have no precursors — such as the sudden appearance of multi-cellular creatures, plants, and human beings. These are being collectively referred to as the “Big Bangs of Biology.” If there are no precursors, then there are no “numerous successive slight modifications,” and according to Darwin himself, “my theory would absolutely break down.”

The most devastating evidence disconfirming evolution, however, is to be found in the modern science of biochemistry. This group of sciences studies the basic building blocks of life  the cell what it is and how it operates. In Darwin’s time, before the invention of the electron microscope, the cell was thought to be no more than a simple blob of protoplasm that was easily moldable. Biologists thought that the cell could easily evolve itself, under the right environmental conditions, into body plans and parts eventually morphing into brand new living creatures. With the power of the electron microscope, the researchers found, however, something even more amazing than what the astronomers found when they turned their telescopes toward the heavens. The living cell is more complex than the cosmos! There are a hundred trillion cells in just one human body, all working together as an exquisitely fine-tuned system. Each grouping of cells (internal systems such as the cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, etc.) has its own specialized function and cells to perform it all centrally controlled by the brain. What we have learned about the cell as a building block is nothing short of miraculous. Each cell is a complex of interacting components (organelles), and each cell is more complex than an entire city! There are manufacturing facilities, power plants, transportation systems, waste treatment facilities, distribution centers, quality control plants, computerized information systems, and process control computers, each precisely engineered and programmed to carry out life moment by moment. These facilities even build themselves while conducting the functions of life, and miraculously self-replicate to do the same in the next generation! The engineering and programming are at a level so far above the genius of our own ability that biochemists simply marvel when they peer inside just one tiny cell a few millimeters across. Yet the genius of the biochemist to comprehend all this is contained in the 3-pound “blob of tissue” on the top of her neck.

In the 1970s, the “blueprint” for this engineering marvel was discovered and the “code” was broken for how the process works. DNA is a string of chemical molecules some 10 feet long in a human cell. The string consists of 3 billion pairs of molecules represented by the alphabetic characters A-T-C-G, which is encoded in a 4-bit scheme (like the numeric 0-1 binary code in a computer). This “genetic code” defines and carries out the assembly instructions to build the body’s entire protein infrastructure. In 2000, the Human Genome Project announced it had decoded all the instructions that make up the blueprint for the human body some 30,000 genes. This is a remarkable scientific achievement, but it has devastating consequences for the Darwinian theory of new species being created by “numerous slight modifications.” Not only are these systems so complex that they cannot be built up over time that way, but they are “irreducibly complex” and contain “complex specified information.” That means that all the parts required to make a particular function work have to come together at one time and contain the precise information required. Any part missing or not precisely engineered; any information not specifically called for by the blueprint; any part not arriving at the exact time needed; any system not properly quality controlled or properly regulated will make the system fail. Yet our bodies, and those of every other living thing on planet Earth don’t normally miss a heartbeat even though trillions of these operations are carried out with utmost precision every second of our lives.

Is there a better explanation than Darwinism for how all this has come about? Yes. In the 1990s a group of independently minded scholars from multiple disciplines joined together to develop a science of intelligent design in nature (ID). Design was always an intuitive fact of nature, but it didn’t have a scientific program at its foundation — design was just obvious to everyone. But in the mid-19th century, after Darwin published his Origin of Species, design in nature was co-opted by evolutionary theory. This was more of a political takeover in the academy than a scientific revolution based on data. Up until the 1990s “design theory” lacked a rigorous scientific program, but it was time to develop a “design theory” and pit it against “evolutionary theory.” The Discovery Institute was given birth, and the rigor began discovery.org. The scientific foundation for design in nature (in fact, for design in all disciplines not just biology) is being firmly established. Only the current political domination by the evolutionary establishment keeps it from being widely known by the public, and out of the schools and textbooks.

As you might expect, the concept of Intelligent Design (ID) is repugnant to Naturalism, which is bent on finding a materialistic evolutionary answer to life no matter how bizarre the proposal. Naturalism is not even open to the possibility that there may be other avenues of scientific discovery! Naturalism is a self-limiting ideological bias on science, whereas science in its nonideological form is open to the journey of discovering truth wherever the path may lead. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Design Theory is that design is a specified purposeful complex arrangement of parts. The only mechanism we know that can accomplish such a feat is intelligence; and intelligence is a property of mind. ID proposes that mind (not matter, as Naturalism says) is the fundamental stuff of the universe  and of ourselves.

Since ID has theological and ideological implications, it has been rejected out of hand by the mainstream evolutionary elite, such as the National Academy of Sciences. This situation is reminiscent of how the Big Bang theory was initially rejected in astronomy because of its theological implication of a creation. Eventually, however, the data wins and the self-correcting scientific method yearning for truth follows the path of hard evidence. Ideally, it doesn’t cling to defending old theories that don’t work. But that takes time as old paradigms and prejudices don’t die easily. Intelligent Design is a promising new line of research and needs to be given a place at the table of options, as well as a place in the educational system so that new and open minds can ponder it. Banning and censoring ID because it has religious implications is anti-science and anti-truth. At the same time, theologians can celebrate its inauguration as it aligns with what the Bible has proclaimed for 3,500 years  that God created life and it was good.

So where does that leave the “fact of evolution,” as it is called? The only fact of evolution is that adaptation within a species is an observable part of nature. Minor adaptations to internal and environmental changes enable a living organism to survive changing conditions. This is “survival of the fittest,” “evolution in action,” “micro-evolution,” and is all that Darwin really explained. Beyond this, Darwin speculated that these adaptations would continue over long periods of time with the ensuing small changes being accumulated (without limit) to produce brand new body plans, parts, and creatures. This “macro-evolution” has never been demonstrated. So Darwin’s main theory (origin of the species) rests on an unproven assumption. Whereas the fact of gravity is ubiquitously demonstrable, the most evolution (natural selection working on random mutation) has ever demonstrated is micro-evolution. To extrapolate and confuse micro- with macro-evolution is total misrepresentation. Finches, bacteria, butterflies, dogs, etc., can all be shown to change on a “micro” basis within their own kind (adaptation), but no creature has ever been shown to have the capacity to change into another kind either in nature or by artificial means. Yet, every museum across America, every textbook in public school, most every TV documentary on the subject displays and portrays macro-evolution as a fact and uses very limited micro-evolution to prove to it. Most every Wikipedia search on the internet is controlled to testify to this misrepresentation (of the “fact of evolution”) and refer to Intelligent Design as pseudoscience. What’s going on? What is fact? What is fiction? What is wishful thinking? How does ideology play into this? In Dobzhansky’s terms, what in biology “makes sense in the light of evolution,” and what doesn’t?

#4 Origin of Life

VIDEOCAST CONTINUES IN JULY

Those of us engaged by this series are curious by nature. We are educated people and enjoy the quest for knowledge and understanding. We want to know things about our world and discover its truths for ourselves without indoctrination. And when we sense we are being bullied with bluster, we react negatively and confront it with doubt. That’s the spirit of true science and the spirit of true religion. Even though there are more mysteries than answers, we are driven to know. Inquiring minds want to know! That’s the thesis behind [email protected]addleBrooke — to explore the Big Questions of life because we sense “the unexamined life is not worth living.” In this series on science and faith, we are examining the Big Questions about origins and destiny. What answers do science and the Bible offer? Are they in agreement or disagreement? Are they reconcilable?

One of those questions and the subject of this discussion is: What is the origin of life? Where did I come from? When we were children, the answer was simple. It was probably along the lines of “Mommy’s tummy.”  (I hope it wasn’t “The stork brought you.”) As adults, some are satisfied with their genealogical tree to be found in sources such as ancestry.com. For many others, the answer provided by their faith is sufficient: “God made me.” In this discussion we will explore how modern science and an ancient holy book, the Bible, answer the question, examining the evidence that supports each.

One thing we now know for sure is that life comes from life. It was once believed that life came from non-life. Flies were thought to come from dirty rags, but it was discovered that the flies came from maggots that developed from eggs that flies laid in the rags. Louis Pasteur finally disproved this theory of “spontaneous generation” showing that “life only comes from life.”

The line of ancestry for all creatures begins with “Mommy.” For biblical believers, that line extends back to Adam and Eve, and then to God who created them. But how it happened is the question science asks. Evolutionists say our line of ancestry extends back through a lineage of ape-like creatures, which, in turn, came from a long line of other creatures (common ancestors), all the way back to LUCA (the Last Universal Common Ancestor). LUCA originated somewhere, somehow in a primordial “soup” of chemicals on the ancient planet Earth some 3.8 billion years ago. Is that true? What does the evidence show?

Both the Bible and science reveal an advancing sequence of creatures from the beginning, starting with a simple life form and advancing to the most complex life form — us. The current session focuses on the creation of the very first life form. The next session will trace the alleged ancestry from that first life to us. (Or as some have said, “from goo to you.”) Both sources tell us that the first life originated in the waters of early Earth. The scientific evidence starts in the fossil record with simple single-cell creatures (prokaryotes); proceeds through more complex single-cell creatures (eukaryotes); then simple multi-cell creatures all existing some 3 to 4 billion years ago in what is called the Precambrian Period. Around 600 million years ago, in a minute span of geological time, most all the major groups of complex creatures appeared (“as if out of nowhere without evolutionary history!”) in an event known as the Cambrian Explosion. The biblical account (Genesis 1) is rather succinct about this history but says that life originated “in the waters” with God speaking it into existence, along with the “plant yielding seeds.” Science agrees and defines the first “seeds” as algae and cyanobacteria both single-cell living organisms. According to the Bible, the first complex creatures were the “swarms of living creatures” created when God said, “Let the waters teem” with them.

We ask, is it possible for life to originate from nonlife as science speculates (abiogenesis)? What is life as compared to nonlife? What does the chemistry look like? Do we know any mechanisms that create life’s chemistry (organic) from nonlife chemistry (inorganic)? What do we know about the circumstances and environment of early Earth that might have led to this transformation? How is life capable of replicating itself? Where does the “recipe” come from?

In laboratory experiments that attempt to simulate the early Earth’s environment, a number of hypotheses have been developed and tested throughout the 20th century. We will look at the two most prominent the Oparin-Haldane theory (1920s), and the Miller-Urey experiments (1953), which produced some simple amino acids in a test tube. Sparks of energy were blasted through molecules of hydrogen, methane, ammonia, and water — supposedly the elements of the early Earth’s atmosphere. Could these inorganic compounds combine accidentally to form the organic compounds of life? The experiments made media headlines for decades  “Life has been formed in a test tube!” and the work is still featured in high school and college textbooks. However, these findings have been subsequently discredited. Are we being duped into accepting abiogenesis (life arising from nonlife) when all the evidence says, “No way!”?

Today, we don’t know and can’t understand how life could have originated on planet Earth, especially self-replicating life! So current speculation for the source of life has shifted to outer space (Moon, Mars, even the moons of Jupiter and Saturn) in hopes of finding it there, and supposing that life somehow found its way to Earth. In 1996, researchers claimed that a four-pound meteorite, originally from Mars but recovered in Antarctica, contained fossils and chemical signatures of life. Early enthusiasm was expressed by many astronomers and the media proclaimed, “It will change the way we think about life in the universe.” But what has subsequent research revealed? What is the overall evidence for life being seeded from outer space? We are more baffled now than we were 50 years ago.

In the 1970s scientists began speculating that Earth is not a unique place in the universe. Earth may be just one of trillions of similar planets. Life could have started “out there somewhere” and been subsequently transported to Earth, either accidentally or with intent, by an advanced civilization. These “panspermia” theories remain mere speculation.

Today there are no scientific answers to the Origin of Life (OoL) problem, but trying to find a naturalistic solution proceeds at full speed. The biblical story written down some 3,500 years ago still stands unchallenged  life is the special creation of a purposeful God. Naturalism doesn’t accept this explanation because by definition, naturalism is atheistic (God doesn’t exist). But there is nothing in science, logic, or reasoning that obviates creation as a legitimate path of inquiry. In fact, it remains the most likely inference to the best explanation.

Not all believers, however, share the same interpretation of the biblical text. Some ask, why would God bother to take billions of years when he could have spoken it into existence instantaneously, or in a 24-hour day?  They opt for “Young Earth Creationism,” estimating the age of the Earth at under 10,000 years old. Others accept the current scientific evidence for the age of the Earth and life in it (Old Earth Creationism), saying the Bible can be interpreted that way. They also say, from a scientific standpoint, that billions of years were necessary for Earth to develop a “home” for life to exist. Others see the Genesis accounts as allegorical, so they don’t have problems reconciling the two. Another group accepts Darwinism (the next session in the series) and conjoins biblical faith with evolution.

In the 1990s a new science was born  Intelligent Design (ID). It postulates that “design in nature” can be scientifically detected and claims that following the ID path of inquiry will lead to better science. The “design of life argument” that was abandoned in the mid-19th century is back on the table with scientific gusto (even though strongly reviled by naturalists) and is gaining strong credibility.

#3 Privileged Planet Earth

The scientific evidence from the Big Bang model along with astronomical observation tell us that the universe was born 13.8 billion years ago and formed planet Earth 4.5 billion years ago. Also born in that first moment were the natural laws that govern the universe’s birth, death, and operation. Theists can’t imagine a universe born without a Creator, let alone imagine laws coming into existence without a Lawgiver. They can’t imagine atoms in motion without a Prime Mover. Reason alone tells us that whatever the cause of the universe and Earth (whether it’s God or something unknown), it must be transcendent, i.e., beyond nature, eternal, and unchanging. Something must be self-existent, eternal, and all-powerful or there would be nothing to discuss.

In this session, we take a look at how these fundamental laws and their parameters must be fixed ahead of time if planet Earth is to be formed out of the Big Bang. We will discover that these settings cannot be “blind” and must be predetermined. The settings are so elegantly fine-tuned that even a minuscule variation in any one of them (by just a hairbreadth) would negate the formation of our planet, or at least make it incapable of sustaining life. So remote is the probability of planet Earth being created by chance alone it would be comparable to tossing a bundle of 30 sharpened pencils into the air and having them all land on the table point down at one time!

There are four fundamental forces of nature gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. They are so precisely fine-tuned with respect to one another that the universe runs like a perfect clock every atom in the universe doing exactly what it is supposed to do. If these forces were just slightly “out of tune” no elements of matter would form. Biological life would be impossible. Scientists call this fine-tuning “the anthropic principle” because the settings are “just right” for life to exist on planet Earth. Let’s look at some of these settings:

Our “Just Right” Neighborhood

  • Planet Earth is positioned “just right” within the Milky Way galaxy.  Our sun and Earth are in the “just right” neighborhood. If they were any closer to the center of the Milky Way, we would be bombarded with deadly radiation.
  • Our sun is a star that is not too big and not too small. It is not too hot and not too cool. It is not too young and not too old. It is “just right.” Our sun is in the “just right” neighborhood for carbon-based life to exist on Earth. Scientists say that we live in the “Goldilocks Zone.”
  • The orbit of our planet around the Sun is “just right” nearly circular instead of elliptical like many of the other planets. If otherwise, temperature variations would be too extreme.
  • The axis of the Earth is tilted precisely right (23.5 degrees) for seasonal variation. Otherwise, the near perfect temperature range for life could not be maintained.
  • The Earth’s rotational period is “just right” to allow sufficient warmth during the day and coolness at night so that plants and animals can flourish all over the earth.
  • Our moon is totally unique compared to all the other moons in the solar system. Its size compared to Earth (a ratio some 50 times larger than any other moon-planet pair) and its closeness ensure the stability of the Earth’s axial tilt, and appropriately governs the Earth’s tidal action and nutrient recycling.

Our “Just Right” Construction Materials

  • The Earth is a rocky planet with a crust, mantel, and a liquid iron core that produces the “just right” magnetic field surrounding the Earth to deflect harmful radiation from the Sun. At the same time, it allows the “just right” type of good radiation to reach the surface.
  • Our atmosphere is nearly perfect in every way with its composition of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and carbon dioxide (0.04%). All the other planets (as well as the thousands of exo-planets those outside our own solar system) have hostile atmospheres.
  • The amount of oxygen is “just right.” A little more and one lightning strike could literally ignite the entire Earth instead of just starting a local forest fire. If the level of oxygen were a wee bit less, we would not be able to breathe and stay alive.
  • Our atmosphere is perfectly fine-tuned to allow the “just right” amount of sunlight and the “just right” kind of sunlight (from the electromagnetic spectrum) to reach the surface of the Earth so that life can flourish.

The “Just Right” Molecules

One of these miracle molecules is water. Two gaseous atoms of hydrogen (H2) and one gaseous atom of oxygen (O) combine to form one liquid molecule of water (H2O). Its amazing qualities have no equal in all of science! That is why scientists attempt to discover liquid water first in their search for extra-terrestrial life. Look at these remarkable properties.

  • Water’s “stickiness” (in freezing) helped form the solar system out of the cosmic dust cloud.
  • Its surface tension and density make its solid state form (ice) float on top of our frozen lakes to allow fish below the surface to survive the winters.
  • It facilitates the transport of water from a plant’s root system to the top of the plant so the plant won’t die.
  • It has the perfect fitness to facilitate an incredible process called photosynthesis, which makes life on Earth possible. Animals breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants take in the carbon dioxide and give off oxygen for us to breathe. Water brings dissolved nutrients to the leaves. Sunlight supplies the energy for the chlorophyll in the leaves to split the water molecule into its component parts — hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the air and the leaves then absorb the carbon dioxide. All this takes place in the precise right amounts and timing.
  • Water plays a major role in erosion and tectonic activity (e.g., earthquakes) producing the soil necessary for vegetation. This action also recycles nutrients throughout the planet.
  • Water makes up some 70% of our bodies, giving life to our cells that make up our organs bones, lungs, kidneys (and our brain!), as well as our blood supply that delivers oxygen throughout our body.
  • Through perspiration, water precisely regulates the extremely narrow range of mandatory temperature levels in which our body can function.
  • Water’s hydrologic properties (evaporation and rainfall) allow planet Earth to miraculously teem with vegetation and animal life throughout.
  • Water, with its minutely-tuned temperature range for remaining liquid (32 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit), fits with a “just right” atmospheric pressure on the planet (14.7 psi).
  • And its beauty is unsurpassed whether it is in its ice, liquid, or vapor form!

The anthropic principle (all these “just right” conditions) demonstrates that the Earth was designed and is not the result of a series of astronomically improbable accidents. The theist sees God as the Grand Designer, whereas the naturalist must see accident upon accident to be the cause of all the “just right” conditions. At the same time the naturalist sees these incredible properties of nature as an “almost miracle” even though they cannot offer any realistic, scientific, natural pathway to account for such incredible fine-tuning. Sir Fred Hoyle, one of Great Britain’s most distinguished astronomers, and a self-avowed atheist/agnostic, said it well, “A common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests… that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

#6 What Is Being Human?

(VIDEOCAST COMING IN SEPTEMBER)

Is humankind just an evolved species of animal, or are human beings special creations of God, “made in his image”? What is humanity’s relationship to God? Is life just what we can make out of it, or is there transcendent meaning, purpose and hope? Is there a transcendent “right and just” moral order for our lives, or are all values relative to how we set them up?  

Answers to these questions come from two fundamentally opposing worldviews Theism (God exists and relates with his creation) and Atheism (God does not exist) or they are incidentally formed by secular culture that tells us that God may exist, but that he is not relevant in these matters. Secularism has been adopted by many of the well-educated cultural elite and rests on the Grand Story of Evolution. It tells us that we have evolved sufficiently and are now intelligent enough to make it on our own without the need for the superstitions about a supernatural God and his rules. Humankind is in charge of their own destiny, and human reason alone is sufficiently reliable and just not only for the individual but for the collective society as well. Secularism says that “humanism” should be the basis of our worldview and following it will build a peaceful one-world global order. The Secular Humanist Declaration of 1980 takes the place of the Bible. It gives secular guidance on all aspects of life moral, intellectual (including the interpretation of history), aesthetic, and mental. Human reason replaces the Grand Story contained in the Bible which had been followed for centuries by nearly half the world’s population. Truth no longer need be found in a transcendent God, or in a spiritual reality, or in a transcendent ethical system. It can be constructed and reconstructed in nontranscendent terms through human reason alone. Secularism assumes that truth based on Naturalism (nature is all there is) can be reasoned out for every field of knowledge and is or will be perfectly complete without reference to God.

Both the biblical and the secular worldviews are rational each is based on reasonable assumptions. How should one decide on which foundation to build his or her life? Each is on a different path and leads to different conclusions regarding the Big Questions: “Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here?” I have suggested that we look at the evidence for each worldview, follow each path to its conclusion, and then decide which path best corresponds to reality. In this series we are exploring evidence for Naturalism (Atheism) versus Theism. Does Naturalism explain reality better than Supernaturalism? Is it conclusive that nature is all there is? Or is it more reasonable that God created nature? Is it more reasonable that dead material brought life into existence based on natural laws, or that God created life? Is it more reasonable that all the living things on earth came into existence by the power of natural selection and random mutation (Darwinism), or is it more reasonable that God created and guided the process of life building? In this session we examine the following Big Question: Is it more reasonable that man and his mind evolved from the lower animals, or does humankind exhibit the genius of the Creator?

Only human beings possess genius. It has been popular among evolutionists to speculate that even genius, like that of Shakespeare, can be emulated by animals. Scientists intent on defending Darwin’s theory have posed intriguing scenarios such as: If a million monkeys pounded on typewriters for a million years, they would eventually produce Hamlet. In 2002 enterprising researchers set up a computer in a cage at a zoo in England and let six monkeys bang away at the keys for a month. Their work began with ffvvvvvvvss followed by 300 g‘s and almost 2000 s‘s. The lead researcher said, “They pressed a lot of s’s… the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it… Another thing they were interested in was defecating and urinating all over the keyboard.” As authors of A Meaningful World put it, “Suffice it to say, their literary efforts fall a good deal short of the Bard.” Darwin, himself, was skeptical that our minds could emerge from the evolutionary process. He said, “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Only human beings contemplate the BIG QUESTIONS of life. Only human beings can “think deeply” and participate in a Socrates Club and contemplate ultimate issues. As our namesake Socrates famously put it, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Animals don’t examine their lives. Only humans are cognizant of their imminent death that they have an expiration date. This awareness generates personal angst, contemplation of God, and the possibility of immortality. Nearly every one of us pursues some form of spiritual truth and has some deep-seated beliefs of ultimate concern. We are aware of our “soulishness,” even if we say there is no such thing as a soul. Atheists and skeptics as well as religious people are drawn to ultimate questions of meaning, purpose, and hope. We love and want to be loved, even if we’re not exactly sure of what that means. And if the source of our identity is not in a personal God, then it probably aligns with a substitute impersonal source, e.g., the state, race, gender, politics, and/or some personal truth or ideal. These are dimensions of our personality that are missing in all other creatures. The Bible calls it being “made in the image of God,” which animals are not.

Only human beings communicate at a highly abstract level of reason, logic, mathematics, propositions, arguments, inferences, and invent conceptual languages of highly specified complexity that not only transcend the capability of the animals, but even the categories of such things. Animals don’t generate questions and answers to the truth of philosophical, mathematical, psychological, religious, ethical, aesthetic, and historical claims. They don’t seek to have a relationship with God, or an image of him, nor to worship him. They don’t have “religious” encounters with God such as in prayer, or in experiencing miracles; nor do they have religious experiences such as epiphanies and moments of inexplicable spiritual beauty and ecstasy.

Only human beings are conscious of the grand theater of time and space the creation of the universe and planet Earth, the origin of life and the myriad of individual species. Only humans inspect the full spectrum of their world from the microscopic intricacies of the atom and the cell, to the astronomical reach of the galaxies. Mankind recollects the past, recognizes the present, and anticipates the future. We even think of living beyond this lifetime. And we live our entire lives aware of these opportunities. We possess an intense curiosity to know what is true and further our quest for improvement through innovation and technology, driven by what atheists and theists alike call “knowing the mind of God.” Yes, animals are powerfully instinctive, but they don’t have the ability to take dominion over nature with such innovative ideas.

Human beings are individually gifted with genius to express creativity for their own well-being and for the well-being of the society. Many are driven to express their love and devotion to the Creator. Think of an orchestral performance of Handel’s Messiah. Each individual instrument made by a craftsperson for a particular sound. Each individual musician skilled in that instrument. Each individual sheet of music tailored for a particular role. And then the genius of the composer who visualizes in his or her mind the masterpiece coming together with all the individual parts and musicians coalescing in perfect harmony and timing. Finally, there’s the conductor who directs the score so the audience can assimilate the entire revelation in a harmony of majestic mystery and beauty.

Only humans create, recognize, and appreciate beauty on its own merit art, music, literature, film, and the awe and wonder of the natural world. We are moved by a deep and inscrutable sense of the magnificent, which is not explainable by evolutionary natural selection, nor the need for adaptation and survival. Anthropological excavation has shown that this aesthetic expression dates from the very beginning of humanity’s existence. Animals might do creative acts out of practical necessity, but human beings will do it for just the sake of sheer pleasure.

Only human beings are aware of their own being (in a “first-person” sense “I am aware that I exist”), and aware that other human minds exist (in a “third-person” sense), and further aware that a “super-mind” (the mind of God) may exist. Evolutionists say that this awareness is an illusion and caused by chemical processes within a material brain. Theists say that such an awareness is transcendent and exists only in the immaterial mind (the soul). The mind is not the brain, although the brain is a physical entity that facilitates mind activity.

Only human beings are capable of moral (right and wrong) judgments “about” things, i.e., things that have a subject matter beyond themselves. We call these judgments our values, and we have free will to take action and make decisions based on those judgments. We hold people responsible for their actions. We hold a person accountable for killing another human being, but we don’t hold a tiger responsible for killing a zebra. We are intuitively cognizant of moral obligations through our conscience (it is always wrong to murder, and always right to be compassionate). Regarding these value and moral obligations, there is an “oughtness” that transcends our personal preferences and steers us in a direction of “doing the right thing.” These values can be discovered and need not be invented by others or the culture. They are implanted in us from the beginning. We experience the psychological pull of moral responsibility and duty.

Only human beings have these transcendent capacities and can speak of dignity, righteousness, and justice for all humankind because we are intuitively privy to the way the world is supposed to be, and subject to a transcendent order. Animals are not even aware of such capacity let alone endowed with it. As award-winning author Tom Wolfe summed it up, “To say that animals evolved into man is like saying that Carrara marble evolved into Michelangelo’s David.”

Psalm 8 puts it this way: “What is man that You [God] think of him, And a son of man that You are concerned about him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!”

Human beings are not just another kind of animal. Human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation — “made in the image of God.”

#2 Beginning of the Universe

The Genesis account of the beginning of the universe was written down in the Hebrew Scriptures some 3,500 years ago. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Up until recently, however, the scientific consensus was that the universe was not created but was infinitely old. The Bible said that there was an eternal Creator and science said there was an eternal universe. They were at odds with one another, and no definitive reconciliation could be conceived. In the last 50 years, however, science has come to believe that the universe, space, and time had a beginning in a cosmic burst of energy some 13.8 billion years ago and has called it the “Big Bang.” The Big Bang confirms that the universe had a beginning, which corresponds to the Genesis account.

The Bible says “that” God created the heavens and earth, but it doesn’t say “how,” other than that he spoke it into existence. And it doesn’t say “when,” other than “in the beginning.” There are four major differing biblical interpretations as to specifically how and when, but they all agree that God did it.

In this session we will explore what the Big Bang theory has come to believe about the origin and destiny of the universe.

  • It was given birth out of an infinitesimal dot of energy and matter of near infinite density and in tens of billions of degrees of heat and light.
  • It has no known cause. In fact, science says it is impossible to discover what happened before the first trillionth of a trillionth of a second.
  • Both space and time (space-time) were created at the Big Bang, and its expansion (inflation) has been accelerating at a fantastic rate ever since.
  • The four fundamental forces of nature (behind the natural laws) were also created at that time.
  • In less than the first minute, the universe was a million billion miles across with hydrogen being the only element.
  • After the first minute, all the other known natural elements (92 of them) were created through the outworking of natural laws.
  • Clumps of elements formed the stars and galaxies by natural processes. One of these stars became our Sun. These processes continue to this day.
  • Gas and dust clouds surrounded our Sun and condensed to form our solar system of planets one of which was planet Earth, born some 4.5 billion years ago.

Prior to 1965 the Big Bang theory was only moderately accepted. One reason it was resisted was because it sounded too much like the Genesis account, and that was “philosophically unacceptable” to some. Science had no desire to “accommodate religion,” and in some quarters was even hostile to it. But it couldn’t avoid the data science found solid evidence consistent with an origin of the universe. Then even deeper questions were raised how could something apparently come out of nothing? Astronomer Arno Penzias won the Nobel Prize for his role in this amazing discovery (1978) and became a religious believer at age 50, saying, “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.”

This discovery story begins in Los Angeles in the 1920s at the Mt. Wilson Observatory and involves a most fascinating cast of characters: Edwin Hubble, a law student turned astronomer; Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer, and Albert Einstein, who didn’t want to believe in an expanding universe. Einstein later called his take on that as the biggest blunder of his life. The story reaches an inescapable conclusion with Stephen Hawking helping to put the final nail in the coffin of an eternal universe by showing that time was also created at the moment of the Big Bang.

The universe is like a time machine. At its farthest edge we can observe the very first vestiges of the initial “explosion.” With our telescopes we are actually looking back in time to what existed 13.8 billion years ago as well as everything in between that is closer in time and distance. In this session, we will tell the story of the development of the theory and the scientific evidence that supports it. We will take an amazing tour across the vast distances and of time and space, “watching” the birth and death of the galaxies, stars, and planets that adorn our skies. How far away are they? How big are they? How fast are they moving? Where are they going? What’s it like in outer space? What are these four forces of nature (behind the natural laws), and are they complete?

We will discuss the compatibility of the Big Bang theory with the biblical account. If God is the cause of creation, then who or what created God? Is the Big Bang a miracle? What are miracles, and how do they differ from natural events? Is it OK for scientists to believe in miracles, or are they restricted to think only in terms of natural events?

This will be an exciting tour of one of the most extraordinary mysteries of all time, and space!

#1 Science & Faith

Whether you’re a believer or a nonbeliever, an examination of the unexpected scientific evidence from the last 50 years will fascinate you; it may even startle you. In this seven-part series, we will present, discuss, and engage in Q&A regarding the evidence from many branches of modern science (astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, paleontology, psychology) and compare the findings with classical philosophy and the traditional religious view, “In the beginning, God created…” You will be encouraged to ponder the evidence and follow it wherever it may lead you. We will discuss the assumptions, both philosophical and theological, that are at play in supporting each position.

Contrary to popular belief, science and faith have had a rich complementary history, beginning with the development of modern science in the 17th century. Nearly all modern historians agree that science was birthed within the traditional biblical worldview and the two collaborated in the academic world for the next 150 years. However, tensions began in the mid-18th century when the Enlightenment movement stressed “reason and experience” and distanced itself from theology. These tensions increased in the mid-19th century when conflict arose over the Darwinian theory of evolution and its implications regarding God. By the end of the 19th century, a political struggle for the preeminent seat of authority came to a head. Evolutionary science won the battle and assumed the mantle in academia. It defined science in terms of the ideology that “nature is all there is,” which is an atheistic worldview (no God is necessary). Since God claimed that he created nature  a theistic worldview the ensuing ideological battle intensified as neither side was able to prove or disprove the other’s assumptions.

However, what we now know from reason and experience is that

  • Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.
  • The universe began to exist, so it must have a cause.
  • That cause must be transcendent and self-existent, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

So the question becomes, is nature all there is, or did God create nature? This series will examine the evidence and what it shows.

Up until the 1970s, each worldview was firmly planted on opposing sides. Naturalism (nature is all there is — no God necessary) was increasingly successful in pushing God out of the picture and into gaps of the “still unexplained” (the so-called “God-of-the gaps” argument). But in the last 50 years, science has uncovered an incredibly deeper understanding of

  • The formation of the universe, including its origin.
  • The privileged status of planet Earth.
  • The origin of life.
  • The evidence of the fossil record.
  • The living cell and the mechanisms required for biological evolution.
  • A psychological understanding of the human mind that disembodies it from the biological organ of the brain.

This new scientific evidence mitigates against Naturalism’s assumption of “no God” and greatly strengthens the case for a Creator.

Return to the Events page to see a description of all the topics that we will be covering through the free video podcasts. Q&A and discussion for members will subsequently take place online through the Socrates Forum. When we are able to host live events there will be a lecture followed by a time for open Q&A. Continuing live discussion of the questions raised will be held in local small groups during the months following.