Posts Tagged ‘Science’

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It’s A Matter Of Which Bias Is The Best Bias To Be Biased With

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

In my previous post I made mention of an editorial, written by a local high school student, which was published in his school’s newspaper.  I went on to explain that the author of the editorial had expressed a great deal of skepticism with regard to Christianity, the Bible, and the existence of God.  The reason that I decided to use his article as a springboard for discussion is because he raised some very important questions and objections that frequently come up in conversation whenever the topic of Christianity is being discussed. 

          One of the many issues that he raises is the idea that science has not only discredited the Bible, it has somehow called into question God’s very existence.  Throughout the article he attempts to portray the debate over God’s existence as a matter of “science vs. religion” or “facts vs. faith”.  For example, he states, “Of course many religious people dismiss the overwhelming majority of scientists as wrong.”  This idea that science and religion exist in two distinct, separate, and even opposing categories with no overlap between them is a view that seems to be held by most people today, both by believers and unbelievers alike.  As they see it, on the one hand you have science which deals only in matters of fact and reason, proven by experimentation.  On the other hand you have the category of religion which is portrayed as the very opposite of science, logic, reason, and rationality because it supposedly requires a “leap of blind faith”  as a feeble attempt to make up for its utter lack of scientific evidence and credibility.

            Even though this view of “science vs. religion” persists as one of the great myths of our time, it is not grounded in reality.  It cannot be the case that the debate over God’s existence is a matter of “faith vs. science” because both sides of the debate use scientific facts to support their view and both of them require some element of faith.  For example, the atheist, by faith, must believe that the universe either came from eternal matter or that it came from nothing, out of nothing, by nothing for no reason.  (By the way, notice that while some atheists ridicule Christians for believing that Someone created everything, they are apparently willing to believe that nothing created everything!)  In addition to their views on the origin of the universe, the atheist must believe, by faith, that the process of evolution began with the “biochemical evolution” of life from non-living matter.  By faith, the atheist must believe that the staggering complexity and order that we observe at every level in biological systems arose out of chaos and disorder.

            Not only do both sides of the “God debate” require some element of faith, both sides offer scientific arguments in an attempt to support their view.  The creationist and the evolutionist are both examining the same facts from the same fossil record, geology, biology, etc.  In the final analysis, the origins debate is not over the facts themselves.   The debate is strictly a matter of how to best interpret those facts. 

            When it comes to the process of interpreting the facts, one thing that we must be careful not to overlook is the role that one’s bias plays in that process.  In his editorial, the writer falsely assumes that all scientists are objective and unbiased when it comes to the process of interpreting the facts in front of them.  Either that, or he’s  assuming that no scientist would ever allow his or her bias to influence the outcome of their work.  At one point he writes, “Scientists are not trying to prove God is unreal, they base their work on evidence and logical reasoning.”  Let’s be up front and honest here.  Everyone has a bias of some sort, and everyone carries that bias with them wherever they go.  As a result, it influences everything they say and do, whether they are a teacher, a politician, a judge, or a scientist.  There is nothing “magic” about putting on a lab coat that somehow enables a person to suddenly give up their bias.  To illustrate, here are a couple of quotes from two scientists who are atheists:

“Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”  

-Dr Steven Weinberg

Nobel Laureate in Physics: in New York Times, 11-21-06

 

“We take the side of science,…because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism….Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”  

-Richard Lewontin (of The Museum of Comparative Zoology) in “Billions and billions of demons.”  The New York Review, January 1997, p.31

 

So much for the editorial’s claim that no scientist is trying to disprove God’s existence.

            Not only does one’s bias play a role in interpreting the facts in science, it may actually be the most important factor of all.  If that’s the case, then the real question we need to ask is, “Which bias does the best job of explaining the facts?”  Or, as Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis says, “It’s a matter of which bias is the best bias to be biased with.”  The bias of an atheistic worldview suggests the following; Something came from nothing.  Order came from disorder. Life came from non-life.  Mind and consciousness came from inanimate matter.  Moral law and moral obligation came from amoral material.  Non-physical entities, such as information and the laws of logic came from purely physical processes. 

            In contrast to this, the bias of a Christian worldview offers us a more plausible, coherent, and comprehensive explanation that comports with reality.  As C. S. Lewis said,  “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

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If You Can’t Get Started, You’re Not Going Anywhere

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Picture yourself preparing to take your family on vacation.  For weeks you’ve been talking about where you’re going to go, who you’re going to see and what you’re going to do.  With great anticipation, you’ve thought about your upcoming adventure in such vivid detail that it’s almost as if you’ve already been there.  So you get in the car with your spouse, the kids, your luggage, and plenty of snacks all packed up and ready to go on your long-awaited trip.  As you turn the key to start the car, the unthinkable happens.  You realize that the battery in your car is dead!  At that point, no matter how much you talk about the trip, no matter how excited you are about the prospects of going, and no matter how vivid your imagination may be, you are not going on vacation-  at least not until you’re able to replace the battery.  The point is, if you can’t even get started, you’re not going anywhere.

            Such is the position that the theory of evolution finds itself.  For all of the talk, for all of the hype and speculation, and for all of the stories spun about how, when, and where evolution allegedly happened, scientists have yet to discover a realistic mechanism to begin the “journey”.  Even Richard Dawkins, one of the most visible and certainly one of the most vocal atheists today, cannot provide a convincing explanation for the origin of life.  Despite all of his rhetoric promoting evolution and for all of his rabid hostility toward creationists, when interviewed by Ben Stein in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”, he openly admitted that scientists do not know how life got started.  The reason I emphasize that no realistic mechanism has been found to explain the origin of life is because many scientific theories and scenarios have been suggested from time to time, such as the “RNA world” hypothesis.  But for all of their explanations filled with “what if”, “maybe”, and “probably”, each theory they propose faces deep and serious obstacles from a biochemical standpoint.

            In order to appreciate how improbable it is that life somehow began on its own, consider the following example given by microbiologist Jonathan Wells.  In the highly acclaimed presentation, “The Case For A Creator”, Dr. Wells walks us through the following experiment.  Take a sterile test tube and fill it with just the right amount of fluid, at just the right temperature.  In addition to this, make sure that the fluid has just the right amount of salts and the right balance of acidity and alkalinity.  In other words, create the perfect environment for a living cell.  Now take a living cell and place it in that fluid.  Notice that this cell already contains all of the “ingredients” necessary for life.  In fact, it contains much more than that because it not only contains the basic building blocks of life, it contains all of the complex molecules of life already assembled.  Now take a sterile needle and poke the cell to puncture it, resulting in all of its contents being released out into the fluid.  What you now have is a test tube which contains everything that is necessary to create life.  If ever  there was a chance for life to begin on its own, here is the perfect opportunity and yet, it’s not going to happen.  It cannot and will not create life.  So if life cannot begin on its own under perfect conditions, with all of the major components already assembled, why would we think that it happened under less-than-perfect conditions?  Or, as Dr. Wells summarizes, “What makes you think that a few amino acids dissolved in the ocean are going to give you a living cell?  It’s totally unrealistic.”  So, while evolution as a theory makes for interesting conversation and speculation, as a plausible explanation of the real world of biology, it leaves too many important questions unanswered.  For now, the theory appears to be dead in the water-  literally.

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Chimp vs Human DNA- The “Ninety-Eight Percent” Myth

Monday, August 9th, 2010

As we enter the month of August, it’s time once again for students to head back to school.  That being the case, there’s a good chance that in science classes all across the country, as teachers cover the topic of evolution, sooner or later they will make mention of the “98 percent similarity” between human DNA and chimpanzee DNA, thus implying common ancestry.  Over the past several years, this idea of 98 percent similarity has been repeated so many times that it is now widely accepted by most people as a “scientific fact.”  But is that really the case?

To begin with, it’s really important to understand that this whole idea of comparing DNA can be rather tricky business and we must exercise a great deal of caution when it comes to the conclusions that we draw from the data and how we interpret that data.  For example, compare the two sentences below:

“You are going on an all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean aboard a luxurious cruise ship.”

“You are NOT going on an all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean aboard a luxurious cruise ship.”

Even though these two sentences have 98 percent homology (similarity), they have  opposite meanings- the difference between going and not going!  In a similar way, since DNA is all about information, a high degree of similarity between two DNA sequences does not necessarily mean that they have the same meaning or function.

Another pitfall that we must avoid in comparing DNA is that we have to be careful not to assume that genetic similarity necessarily points to some sort of ancestral-descendant relationship or relatedness.  After all, some studies have shown that humans and daffodils share a 35 percent genetic similarity.  But I don’t think that anyone is prepared to interpret that data to mean that humans are “related to daffodils” or that humans are “over one-third daffodil.”

Getting back to the claim that humans and chimps are 98 percent similar, the most damaging evidence of all was revealed in more recent studies as reported a few months ago in the journal Nature.  (see Nature. 463 (7280):536-539)  The article’s title alone speaks volumes about what researchers found: “Chimpanzee and Human Y Chromosomes are Remarkably Divergent in Structure and Gene Content.”  In other words, chimp and human Y chromosomes are surprisingly different.  The results of this more recent research contradicts the initial findings from the 2005 chimpanzee genome project which ultimately led to the idea of 98 percent similarity.  As it turns out, one of the underlying problems with the 2005 study was that it was extremely biased toward an evolutionary view.  Rather than trying to determine whether or not chimps and humans are related, researchers in the 2005 study began with the assumption that chimps and humans are related.  When they began the process of assembly and orientation of the sequences gathered from the chimpanzee genome, they did so based on a map of the human genome rather than basing it on a map of the chimpanzee genome.  Taking this approach allowed their evolutionary bias to influence the outcome of the study.

So, the long and short of all of this is that the idea of “98 percent similarity” is a myth.  According to the latest, more accurate study, the overall similarity turned out to be 70 percent or less.  It will be interesting to see whether or not this latest information is mentioned at all in our high school science classes this year.  If not, it should be a reminder to all of us that those who knowingly disallow such information are more interested in pushing their ideology than they are about doing good science.

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Undermining the Basis for Science

Monday, May 17th, 2010

A few years ago, a close friend of mine invited me to join him in attending an afternoon lecture at ASU that was open to the general public. The speaker was a professor of zoology who also happened to be a staunch evolutionist.  His lecture that day was dealing with the topic of Intelligent Design.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, Intelligent Design (I.D.) is basically the scientific investigation of living systems that reveal striking examples of design, thus implying a designer behind it.  Proponents of I.D. do not make any claims as to who the designer is, only that evidence of an intelligent designer is clearly present.  As those attending the lecture were about to find out, not only was this professor absolutely closed-minded to the possibility of I.D., he was a cynical opponent to the very notion of a designer.

Throughout the entire lecture, in various ways, he continued to drive home the point that “no REAL scientist would ever allow for the possibility of a designer behind the design.”  His presentation included political cartoons that portrayed I.D. scientists as inept, ignorant, ‘pseudo-scientists’ not worthy of serious attention.  By the time he was finished, he had left the students with the impression that there are two distinct categories of people when it comes to the origins debate.   On one side, you have those who are bright, intelligent, educated people who are smart enough to know that evolution is a ‘fact’ and that there is nothing outside of the material world- especially God.  On the other hand, you have those who dare to question evolution, but they only do so because they are ignorant, uneducated, pitiful, superstitious types, most of whom are only pretending to be real scientists.  That was his overall message, but the scenario he had presented that day is a false dichotomy.

During the question and answer time, my friend and I pointed out to the professor that if we are expected to take his claims seriously, then what are we to make of someone such as the late Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith, professor and lecturer, who held three doctorates and authored or co-authored over seventy scientific publications and thirty books that included such topics as the scientific problems with evolutionary theory and the scientific case in favor of a Creator.  Furthermore, what are we to make of the growing list of  scientists who have recently signed on to a document openly stating their dissent from Darwinism?

Had time allowed, there were many other things that we could have said that afternoon to point out that “the emperor has no clothes”, but the most telling thing of all occurred to me as we were leaving the building after his lecture.  As we stepped outside, I looked back and noticed that on the front of the very building that we had just exited, there were several names engraved across the top of the building for all to see.   The list included such notable names as Pasteur, Newton, and Kepler.  It is no accident that the architect intended for those names to appear on that building because those names represent some of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of science.  More importantly, those very same scientists all shared something in common- they all held the view that there IS a Creator behind the creation and that He has revealed Himself through that which He has made.  More than that, they also felt that through scientific investigation of His creation they would be able to understand  more about Him.

Maybe it’s a good thing that we didn’t get a chance to bring this to the attention of the professor.  Had we done so, he may very well have demanded that the university plaster over those names in an attempt to expunge their memory from science’s ‘Hall of Fame’.  But, try as he may, that professor will never be able to blot out the enormous contributions that they have made in laying the very foundation of modern science- the same science of which he has been a beneficiary as well.

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Who Made God? – Part 2

Monday, January 25th, 2010

This post is Part 2 in the series “Who Made God?”. Click here to read Part 1 first.

In my previous post, I was talking about a formal debate that I was watching that involved two scientists, one of whom was the famous atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins and the other was Christian theologian, Dr. John Lennox.  I mentioned that they were debating some of the more notable points in Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”.  Eventually, the question “Who made God?” came up for discussion and I went on to explain why the question itself was invalid according to the rules of logic.  But no matter how many times it is pointed out that such questions would not apply to an infinite God, people of all ages continue to ask it as if there must be another, more “satisfying” answer to this question.  After all, to say that such questions do not apply to God is really just another way of saying that God was “always there”.  Now of course I realize that such an explanation is totally unacceptable to some people and they would even consider such an answer to be not only too “convenient”, but much worse, they would consider such an answer to be a “cop-out”.  Dawkins, in fact, makes it clear that as an atheist, he really does feel that such an answer is a cop-out.

The irony in all of this is that even though Dawkins considers it to be absolutely ridiculous to suggest that God is uncaused, self-existent, and eternal, He (Dawkins) is apparently willing to believe that matter can possess all of those characteristics!  So, according to Dawkins, God must have a beginning, but matter doesn’t require a beginning. God could not possibly be eternal, yet matter must be eternal.  Dawkins insists that “only an idiot” could accept the statement, “In the beginning God..”, yet he finds it perfectly reasonable to accept the statement, “In the beginning dust and gas….”.

All of this reminds me of a similar situation that I encountered a few years ago when I was invited to speak at a Christian club at one of the local high schools.  I had just finished presenting evidence for the existence of God, and I opened it up to Q&A time.  There was one particular student in the audience who was an atheist and he was a very intelligent young man.  He had a reputation for asking tough questions in order to make the speaker look bad and that was obviously his intent on that day.  He raised his hand, so I called on him, expecting a question.  Instead, he had a comment.  He said, “Basically, what you’re trying to say is that nothing caused God, nothing created God, and that He didn’t come from anywhere-  He was just…..always there”.  I responded, “Yes.  That is exactly what I’m saying”.  The atheist student sat down in his chair and was laughing at me, expecting that I would simply move on to the next question, but I stayed with him.  I said , “May I ask you a question?  I understand that you are an atheist”.  He replied, “That’s right.  I don’t believe in God because I believe in the Big Bang”.  I said to him, “That’s fine.  The problem is that you’re trying to start in the middle of the story and I refuse to let you get away with that. In fact, I’m going to “push you backward in time“, back, back, back before the Big Bang.  The point is, what you’re really trying to say is that prior to the Big Bang, there was a “particle” that never, ever, ever had a beginning.  Nothing caused this particle, nothing created this particle, it didn’t come from anywhere, it was just……always there. So, why is it that when I say that God was always there, you think that it’s ridiculous, yet you are willing to accept, by faith, that the particle was always there?”.   Not having a response, he looked at me and said, “Fine.  You can go on believing that God was always there and I’ll go on believing that the particle was always there.  We’ll just call it even-  our views are equal”.  I went on to point out to that young man that there is nothing “equal” or “even” about those two ideas.  As we will see in future posts, the evidence for God is very compelling, whereas the evidence for “eternal matter” requires a tremendous amount of faith.

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Posted in Theology | 3 Comments »

Who Made God? – Part 1

Monday, January 11th, 2010

It was one of those rare nights when I didn’t have any commitments, no meetings, no place where I had to be, and no particular plans. I sat down in front of the t.v. with a plate of buffalo wings that I had just picked up on the way home, and reached for the remote. I’m so busy these days that I don’t have a lot of spare time to watch television, and after only a few minutes of searching through the channels, I realized that I really hadn’t missed anything worthwhile anyway. I decided to watch a dvd that I had purchased a while back and even though I had already watched it once, it was worth viewing again to pick up on any details that I may have missed the first time.

The title was “The God Delusion Debate” which was an actual debate that took place in 2007 in an auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama and was filmed before a sold-out audience. One of the debaters was Dr. John Lennox, a scientist, mathematician, author, and Christian theologian who was representing Christianity. Dr. Lennox holds doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Wales, as well as an MA in Bioethics from the University of Surrey. The other speaker was scientist, author, and well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. As an author, he has written several best-selling books. In fact, his most recent book, “The God Delusion”, was the topic of that evening’s debate as the two speakers gave arguments and counter-arguments over some of the points that Dawkins had presented in his book.

One of the points from Dawkins’ book that they discussed was the question, “Who made God?” (“Where did God come from?”, “What caused God?”, etc.). Apparently, Dawkins had devoted a considerable amount of time to this in his book, so he must honestly feel that this is a difficult and serious argument against the existence of God. Even though this question is often asked by the average person on the street, I was both disappointed and surprised to hear such a question put forth in a best-selling book by one of the world’s leading atheists who obviously prides himself on his great intellect.

The question itself is really not all that difficult and it involves a couple of issues. First of all, the question is invalidated by the fact that it commits an error in logic by confusing two different categories. Dawkins’ question would be similar to asking, “Who is that bachelor married to?”, or “What does the color red sound like?” In both cases, the question makes the mistake of attempting to mix two distinct and separate categories. Such questions are therefore invalid because they violate this foundational rule of logic. The same rule applies to this question about God. Such questions as, “What caused this?’, “Who made this?”, and “Where did this come from?” are perfectly legitimate questions within the category of that which is finite. However, God, by definition, would be in the category of that which is infinite, therefore such questions would not apply to God. So, the obvious answer to Dawkins’ question is that no one and nothing “made” God. Nothing “caused” God, and He didn’t “come from” anywhere. Nevertheless, even though we understand that the question itself is invalid, we still feel the need to ask it. And so, many people such as Dawkins continue to ask it. Is there another, more “satisfying” answer to this question? I believe that there is, and we will explore it in my next post.

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Posted in Theology | 7 Comments »

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.