What is the Best Evidence for Intelligent Design? Interview with Brian Johnson.

Last year, when I was speaking at a church in South Dakota for a Heroic Truth Event, I met Brian Johnson. He invited me on his Podcast, and we had a great conversation about “hot” cultural issues today.

Brian is one of the founders of South Dakota Apologetics, an organization dedicated to spreading the Gospel and helping fellow Christians better understand why they believe what they believe. Brian and his buddies at SDA actually offer their speaking services for free, so check ‘em out!

Brian is especially passionate about the evidence for intelligent design. Given his interest and expertise, I recent caught up with him and asked him some pressing questions about the evidence for intelligent design. Enjoy!

Evidence Intelligent Design

SEAN MCDOWELL: Are there any recent scientific advances that are changing what we know about the inner workings of the human body?

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think that accolade needs to go to the discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953 by Crick and Watson. Once this was discovered it blew open the doors to a whole new world of biology. From that we have been able to begin to piece together an entirely new understanding of what it takes to make our bodies function. This has led to major advancements in medicine as well as many other disciplines. The discovery of DNA has also enabled us to build an incredibly strong case for Intelligent Design.

SEAN MCDOWELL: What got you interested in DNA as evidence for design? And why do you think this is such an important area for Christians, and in particular students, to understand?

BRIAN JOHNSON: I’ve always been interested in science and it was the scientific evidences for God that really started to convince me of His existence. As I started to look into the biological evidences I was awestruck at how obvious it was to make a design inference based on the inner workings of the cell. The molecular machines that are working inside each of our bodies at this moment scream of a designer.

If more Christians understood the beautiful structure of how the different processes within our bodies function I know it would not only strengthen their faith but would give them a much greater sense of just how amazing God’s creation really is. And this is certainly true for students who are often not exposed to the evidence for ID since our schools only teach Darwinian evolution.

SEAN MCDOWELL: Can you give a few specific examples of things in DNA that point to design?

BRIAN JOHNSON: Sure!

The first argument for Intelligent Design is based on the information we find in the cell. The arrangements of the four nucleotides, ACTG, contain specified information and convey meaning for the production and arrangements of proteins. Stephen Meyer makes the case for this in his book Signature in the Cell.

The second is a process called DNA error correction (aka, DNA repair). This process is mind-boggling and is currently at work in your body as you read this. Your body is creating new DNA at this moment in a process known as DNA Replication. During this process the DNA double helix is split in two, kind of like a zipper on a coat. As you unzip your coat you then have two sides of that zipper. Now pretend that the ‘teeth’ of the zipper on one side of the coat are each represented by a nucleotide letter of either a, c, t, or g. During the replication process a brand new set of ‘teeth’ are joined to the existing set of ‘teeth’ much the same way as when you zip the coat up and the two set of ‘teeth’ are joined together to seal the coat. If during this process an incorrect nucleotide is put down an error correcting process catches the error, stops the process, plucks out the wrong nucleotide, inserts the correct nucleotide, and then allows the replication process to continue. Describing this process as mind-blowing is actually an understatement.

The third process is one that has just recently been discovered. It now appears that in addition to repair mechanisms DNA also contains proofreading processes as well that make sure the information that passes through it is as accurate as possible. This all happens where messenger RNA transcripts are translated into proteins. The complexity of these processes is simply inconceivable.

SEAN MCDOWELL: Isn’t Intelligent Design based on a “God of the gaps” fallacy?

BRIAN JOHNSON: The God of the gaps objection is a common one. But it is mistaken. Rather than arguing from gap in our knowledge (i.e., what we can’t explain), Intelligent Design reasons from what we do know about the world by considering all the evidence and making an “inference to the best explanation.” This is the exact same scientific method Darwin used in his theory of natural selection. If you want to disregard the method we just used to infer an Intelligent Designer as the cause for what we find in the genome, then you must also reject Darwin’s conclusion as well. The knife cuts both ways.

Why Evolutionary “Just So” Stories Fail

During my graduate philosophy work at Talbot, I took an independent study on Darwinism and intelligent design. My guiding professor, Dr. Garry Deweese, had me read books on both sides of the debate, including Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins.

Evolutionary Just So Stories

It was during this study that I began to understand the concept of a “just-so” story, and it has stuck with me ever since. Essentially, to save the Darwinian paradigm, Darwinists sometimes come up with logically possible, but evidentially unsubstantiated stories to account for some recalcitrant feature in the natural world (yes, Christian apologists can sometimes be accused of doing the same thing to explain apparent contradictions in the Bible. But that is a story for another time).

For instance, evolution has been used to explain why men (allegedly) prefer blondes to brunettes, why humans like to burn their mouths with hot chilies, and the origin of religion.

On a more serious (and common) note, many Darwinists aim to provide an evolutionary explanation for morality. As it is often claimed, morality is a tool for survival. After all, if we didn’t have principles such as faithfulness, promise keeping, and honesty, we couldn’t function as a society. Society would crumble if there were no moral code. A belief that there is a real right and wrong helps species survive and flourish.

Now, morality certainly could, at least in principle, provide an evolutionary advantage to a particular species. If a group of human beings, for instance, lacked any moral compass, they would arguably be less likely to survive than a tribe committed to courage, honesty, and chastity. But this possible explanation fails to explain how morality evolved in the first place. Rather than providing an actual mechanism for the evolution of morality, the evolutionist offers a benefit of evolution and then assumes his job is done.

But this misses the point. If Darwinists want to provide a successful mechanism that can account for the totality of life, they need to offer an explanation for how these features evolved in the first place. It is not enough for naturalists to begin with a certain feature of the world and explain its (supposed) evolutionary advantage. There is always some possible evolutionary story that can be spun to save the theory. For their views to have explanatory power, naturalists must first provide an explanation for how a given feature evolved in the first place.

In his excellent book The Experience of God, David Bentley Hart offers a helpful illustration for how naturalist just-so stories fail to explain key features in reality, such as consciousness:

If I should visit you at your home and discover that, rather than living in a house, you instead shelter under a large roof that simply hovers above the ground, apparently neither supported by nor suspended from anything else, and should ask you how this is possible, I should not feel at all satisfied if you were to answer, ‘It’s to keep the rain out’—not even if you were then helpfully elaborate upon this by observing that keeping the rain out is evolutionary advantageous.[i]

Hart is exactly right. Offering a positive benefit of why a hovering house protects from rain does not explain how such a feature originated. Similarly, explaining how consciousness benefits mankind does not to explain how consciousness first emerged. An explanation that merely explains why such a feature is beneficial leaves the mystery unexplained.

All evolutionary “just-so” stories are certainly not equal. Some are much more believable, natural, and evidentially supported than others. But many are simply outlandish. The key point is that, for Darwinism to be considered a successful worldview with explanatory power, it needs to explain some of the big features of reality, such as the origin of morality, consciousness, personhood, and free will. Unless it can successfully explain these features, Darwinism itself is merely a “just-so” story.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D.is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


Resources for Greater Impact

Darwin Dilemma

DARWIN’S DILEMMA

MacroDVD1_SHADOW

MACRO-EVOLUTION?

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be a Darwinist


[i] David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 205-206.

Are Christianity and Darwinism Compatible? One Biologist Says No.

Did God Use Evolution?

Years ago I was sitting in the middle seat of an airplane, minding my own business as I watched the PBS show Evolution. As soon as I closed my laptop, the lady next to me perked with interest and asked what I was watching. It turns out she was a practicing geologist and a staunch Darwinist. She didn’t just believe in neo-Darwinian evolution, she described it as a beautiful theory that ties all of science and humanity together.

Since she was both trained in geology, and a committed Darwinist, I simply asked her what evidence she considered most compelling for her views. As best as I can remember, she said, “Have you been to a museum? There are tons of fossils that clearly reveal that we descend from a common ancestor. The fossils tell us that evolution is true.”

Christianity Darwinism Compatible

Her answer struck me as both interesting and confused. First, while there are certainly many preserved fossils, there is genuine debate about whether they support Darwin’s theory of gradual evolution. But second, even if the fossil record were complete, it could not in principle establish Darwinian evolution as true. Why not? Waynesburg University Biologist Wayne Rossiter explains:

Even if we grant the pattern of common ancestry (which has recently been cast into doubt), proponents of evolution cannot stand back, post hoc, and simply declare that this is the product of natural selection…it is possible that all of life could share a common ancestor, and yet the splitting of species (and their evolving) could be the consequence of things other than natural selection.[i]

In other words, while the fossil record could be consistent with Darwinism, it could never independently establish it. A complete fossil record could also be consistent with another naturalistic mechanism and some versions of intelligent design. To establish Darwinism, proponents need to show that the mechanism—natural selection acting upon random mutation—is sufficient to explain the diversity and complexity of life. Despite the enthusiasm of my geologist friend on the plane, the fossil record simply can’t establish Darwinism alone.

This is just one example of an important insight that Dr. Rossiter makes in his recent bookShadow of Oz. His goal is to raise some difficult questions—both scientific and theological—for common attempts to wed Darwinism and Christianity. While there is considerable variety of perspectives and approaches within the theistic evolution camp, Rossiter raises some apparent “inconsistencies” in the views held by prominent spokespersons such as Ken Miller, Karl Giberson, and Francis Collins. Consider ten quick examples that he cites in the book:

  1. “The fatal flaw of all attempts to hold both Darwin and Christianity in their full potency is that one cannot be unintended and intended at the same time.”[ii]
  2. “Theistic evolutionists are persuaded to make room in their theology for Darwin, but not room in their Darwin for theology. They perceive this as a discussion between demonstrable facts (for Darwinian evolution) and claims of blind faith (in God’s activity). Naturally, whenever the two disagree, the facts will necessarily carry the day, or the faith claims are simply compartmentalized, and the conflict is not acknowledged.”[iii]
  3. “For all their contempt for ID, they seem utterly unaware that they are also offering a brand of ID. If they believe God exists and is intelligent, and they believe he created anything at all, then he is an intelligent designer!”[iv]
  4. “We understand large-scale (and small-scale) physics better than biological evolution, and yet the theistic evolutionist is happy to argue against the consensus views of physicists and cosmologists, but not those of evolutionary biologists.”[v]
  5. “Why are [some theistic evolutionists] so willing to accept fine-tuning in the physical constants that govern the universe, but not in biological instances of the coding of specified information in DNA?”[vi]
  6. “[Theistic evolutionists] seem to be arguing that he [God] is content to simply let his machine run, rather than tinker with its inner workings. It is hard to reconcile this position with the constant interactions between God and his creation described throughout the books of the Bible.”[vii]
  7. “Theistic evolution puts the God-man project on its head, holding that creation emerges from chaos toward perfection, rather than it being in a continual state of decay.”[viii]
  8. “In theistic evolution, God’s creative process is destructive. His method for creation leads to the death of stars, the annihilation of habitable planets, disproportionate ratios of negative mutations—many of which lead to inhuman deformities, sufferings, diseases, and loss of life—and the evolutionary mechanism of fitness at all costs in the biological realm.”[ix]
  9. “It is ironic that theistic evolutionists argue that all creation appears random and meaningless, while staunch atheists like Richard Dawkins attempt to explain away the ‘apparent design’ of creation using blind and purposeless mechanisms.”[x]
  10. “It’s funny how evolutionists like to reference ‘poor design’ as evidence against the hand of a creator, and then use words like ‘near-perfect’ when they are describing what Darwin’s theory is capable of.”

Rossiter is not necessarily aiming to disprove Darwinian evolution, but to draw out some particular implications (often ignored) that follow from attempts to blend Christianity and Darwinism. According to Rossiter, the devil is in the details.

Since co-writing the book Understanding Intelligent Design with William Dembski, I have been eagerly following the discussion over the intersection of science and religion. While I have read many books on all sides of this issue, Shadow of Oz is one of my new favorites. It is accessible, insightful, and not overly technical or wordy. If you enjoy the science and faith dialogue, this book is a must-read. You can also listen to Dr. Rossiter discuss the book in an interview with Greg Koukl.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact:


[i] Wayne D. Rossiter, Shadow of Oz (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2015), 108, 111.

[ii] Ibid., 9.

[iii] Ibid., 6.

[iv] Ibid., 16.

[v] Ibid., 18.

[vi] Ibid., 49.

[vii] Ibid., 53.

[viii] Ibid., 70.

[ix] Ibid., 77.

[x] Ibid., 83.

[xi] Ibid., 146.

How is the Intelligent Design Movement Doing? Interview with William Dembski.

William A. Dembski is one of the founders of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. He is largely known for being the mathematician and philosopher behind ID, having written three critical academic books: The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press, 1998),No Free Lunch (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), and Being as Communion (Ashgate, 2014). He has also written a textbook on intelligent design (The Design of Life), and many other influential books such as The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World(B&H Academic, 2009).

Since we wrote a book together in 2008 (Understanding Intelligent Design), people often ask me what Dr. Dembski is doing these days. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the state of ID and his current professional focus. Enjoy!

Intelligent Design

SEAN MCDOWELL: What kind of research and writing have you been up to lately? What do you hope to accomplish?

WILLIAM DEMBSKI: Thanks Sean for this opportunity to address your readers. It’s been almost a decade since we collaborated on our book Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language. It was fun working with you on that book, and I still think it’s a good book that wears its age well.

With regard to my research, it has shifted quite a bit these days. I’m largely retired from intelligent design. My last serious writing effort on intelligent design was my 2014 bookBeing as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information. It encapsulates my two decades work on intelligent design, and I’m not sure I have a whole lot more to add.

My work these days is focused on the connections between technology, education, and freedom. I tend to keep a low profile here, but I’m essentially an entrepreneur and businessman these days, involved with various startups and websites. I’m especially interested in developing interactive learning tools for helping people in the majority world get educated, get out of poverty, and enjoy freedom.

But I remain a writer at heart, and am still publishing books. My two latest are (1) a biography of the math teacher Jaime Escalante[i] and (2) an intelligent design book on evolutionary informatics (I said I was “largely” retired from ID, not fully retired!)

MCDOWELL: Now that it is over two decades in, how would you rate progress of the intelligent design movement in countering Darwinism?

DEMBSKI: I would say that we have by far the better argument. Indeed, the Conservation of Information results described in my book Being as Communion (cited in the last question) and developed at length by me and my colleagues at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab seem to me to show that Darwinism cannot succeed as a complete theory of evolution, and that it requires hidden sources of information that it must smuggle in and that are best conceived as the product of intelligence. So I would say we have shown (as in demonstrated and not merely gestured at) that naturalistic evolution is a failed intellectual and scientific enterprise.

Unfortunately, progress is not merely gauged in terms of intellectual accomplishment but also in terms of social and cultural impact. Here we still have our work cut out for us. Go to Wikipedia, and the editors responsible for the article on intelligent design have made sure to discredit it from the get-go: the very first sentence refers to it as a pseudoscience. So we may have truth on our side, but we’re still largely marginalized.

MCDOWELL: What do you consider some of the greatest successes, and also challenges, in the ID movement?

DEMBSKI: Unlike creationism, with which it is often conflated, intelligent design shifts the discussion of biological origins from a religion vs. science controversy to a science vs. science controversy. This is a success, even if ID’s critics continue to try to claim that it is religion in scientific garb.

There are really two strands to ID’s scientific program. There’s the pure information-theoretic side, as represented by the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, and then there’s the molecular biology research side, as represented by the Biologic Institute and its journalBio-Complexity.[ii] We continue to push the research frontiers forward on both sides.

The biggest challenge for us is gathering a talent pool and the funding to accelerate this research program. The incentive structure in the scientific community rewards bashing intelligent design and vilifying its proponents. If you doubt this, see Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

MCDOWELL: As a whole, how would you assess the reception of ID within the church?

DEMBSKI: I would say that the church broadly and even the evangelical community has — on balance — been somewhere between useless and downright counterproductive to the success of ID. I know this may sound strange, but note my qualification: on balance. Of course, a crucial nucleus of support for ID has come largely from the church and especially evangelical Christians. But that nucleus is small. By contrast, the opposition to ID in the church is large.

On the one hand, there are the theistic evolutionists, who largely control the CCCU schools (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities), and who want to see ID destroyed in the worst possible way — as far as they’re concerned, ID is bad science and bad religion.

And then there are the young-earth creationists, who were friendly to ID in the early 2000s, until they realized that ID was not going to serve as a stalking horse for their literalistic interpretation of Genesis. After that, the young-earth community largely turned away from ID, if not overtly, then by essentially downplaying ID in favor of anything that supported a young earth.

The Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky is a case in point. What an embarrassment and waste of money. I’ve recently addressed the fundamentalism that I hold responsible for this sorry state of affairs.[iii]

MCDOWELL: How do you see the future of ID?

DEMBSKI: I think ID finds itself in a similar environment that democratically minded people behind the iron curtain found themselves in during the 1970s and 1980s. The communist ideology in Eastern Europe as dictated by the Soviet Union was clearly not working. Food shortages, poor standards of living, a world of grays rather than colors were the norm.

I would say we see a comparable failure with the ideologies of naturalistic evolution, theistic evolution, and young-earth creationism. Unfortunately, it often takes reality a while to catch up with bad ideas. With communism in Eastern Europe, reality came suddenly with the fall of the Berlin Wall (this was especially meaningful to me since my mother had lived through the Berlin Air Lift and my uncle was a professor at the Technical University in West Berlin when the Wall fell).

In the long run, I do see ID as succeeding. But as John Maynard Keynes put it, “in the long run we’re all dead.” I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m not holding my breath that we’re going to see ID victorious, as in becoming the dominant paradigm of biological origins, any time soon. As a New Yorker cartoon put it over half a century ago — attorney speaking to client: “You have a pretty good case, Mr. Pitkin. How much justice can you afford?” I’d say we have a very good case, but propaganda and ideology can be formidable foes.

========================================================================================================

TWO POST-INTERVIEW CLARIFICATIONS BY DEMBSKI

(1) The interview above was brief, and I had groups like AiG in mind when addressing young earth creationism/ists. I should have been clearer that my target was what may more precisely be called institutional young-earth creationism — comprised of young earth creationists who think that anything other than a literalistic interpretation of the Genesis days constitutes heresy and that this interpretation needs to serve as a litmus test for biblical orthodoxy and right thinking in general. Frankly, I don’t care what you believe about the age of the earth. But if you use the young-earth position as a club to beat down the views of others (and this has happened to me repeatedly, with my job on the line), then I do have a problem with you. My apologies to young-earth creationists who see the scientific merit of intelligent design and who hold their views about the age of the earth undogmatically. Thankfully, such do exist.

(2) In my remarks about the role of the church in advancing ID, I was trying to be a bit provocative to get people thinking. To be sure, well-wishers of ID abound in Christian circles. But how many are willing to put their necks on the chopping block and make a real difference in the scientific and cultural debate? As 19th century activist Annie Besant put it:

Plenty of people wish well to any good cause, but very few care to exert themselves to help it, and still fewer will risk anything in its support. “Some one ought to do it, but why should I?” is the ever re-echoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. “Some one ought to do it, so why not I?” is the cry of some earnest servant of man, eagerly forward springing to face some perilous duty.

So, how much good has the Christian community really done in advancing ID? Sure, there have been pockets of genuine support in the Christian community. But why is the first and only ID think-tank/research center at a Christian college or university Baylor’s Michael Polanyi Center (which I founded in 1999, and which was dismantled the following year — thanks in this case not to young-earth creationists but to theistic evolutionists)? And why is the $100M spent on a Noah’s Ark theme park several times more than has been spent on all ID efforts over the last 20 years? Let’s get some sense of proportion.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact:


[i] http://www.thebestschools.org/jaime-escalante-inspired-learning/ — this is an ebook that will also be published in hardcopy.

[ii] http://www.biologicinstitute.org/ and http://bio-complexity.org/

[iii] http://www.thebestschools.org/features/william-dem… and http://www.thebestschools.org/features/paradoxes-o…

 

Is the Evidence for Intelligent Design “Undeniable”? One Scientist Makes the Case.

There have been a number of recent books by leading scientists challenging the Darwinian synthesis, such as Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (Michael Denton), In The Shadow of Oz (Wayne Rossiter), and most recently Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life Is Designed, by Douglas Axe. While there have always been evolution skeptics since the time of Darwin, the resistance seems to be gaining some steam.

In Undeniable, Dr. Axe aims not so much to advance the scientific argument for intelligent design, but to motivate non-specialists to trust their design intuition, and to consider weighing in on the debate. By “design intuition,” he simply means the universal human faculty of recognizing design both in human products and in nature. He says, “I intend to show that the universal design intuition is reliable when properly used and, moreover, that it provides a solid refutation of Darwin’s explanation for life.”[i] According to Axe, we know that intelligence is necessary for making omelets and bricks, and yet we’re told that more complex things, like dragonflies and horses, came about without anyone making them. He finds this utterly implausible and in defiance of common sense.

Axe also aims to rid people of the naïve belief that science involves a purely objective and unbiased search for truth. He finds no reason to question the scientific community on issues like how many moons orbit Neptune or how many protons are found in the nucleus of a cobalt atom. He notes, “Why would anyone distort facts of that kind? Matters where everyone wants to see things a certain way, however, are a completely different story. With those we should always apply a healthy dose of skepticism” (p. 38). He recognizes that worldview, peer pressure, desire for prestige, and other human tendencies often taint how science is done.

Why Does the Question of Origins Matter?

The question of human origins is so important, says Axe, because it raises deeper questions about human value and purpose. He cites UW professor David Barash, who says that Darwin’s theory implies that humans “are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.”[ii] Axe considers this “impoverished” view of life entirely dehumanizing. He responds, “Contemplate for just a moment the dystopian vision of a generation of human beings believing in their hearts that they are nothing more than bestial accidents fending for themselves in a world where morality is a fiction, and you begin to grasp the true stakes” (55).

A Big Problem for Darwinism

Axe happily concedes that the most compelling aspect of Darwin’s theory is its simplicity. The idea that better-fit organisms survive and pass on their genes to the next generation seems plausible on its surface. As a result, says Axe, we ought to view many kinds of life the way we view geological features: as things in constant flux. One big problem, says Axe, is that living things are “busy wholes,” which he defines “as an active thing that causes us to perceive intent because it accomplishes a big result by bringing many small things or circumstances together in just the right way.”[iii] Like a perfect composition, perfect poem, or perfect mathematical proof, individual living things such as the spider, the salmon, or the orca “is strikingly compelling and complete, utterly committed to being what it is.”[iv]And just as we know compositions, poems, and proofs come from a mind, we should trust our intuitions that spiders, salmons, and orcas do as well.

Denying Darwinism

Specifically, Axe takes aim to Darwin’s grand theory through the lens of the feasibility of protein evolution. He says, “If natural selection really coaxed sponges into becoming orcas in less time, inventing many new proteins along the way, we figured it should have ample power for this small transformation.” On the flip side, if selection cannot creatively build new protein features, then it certainly can’t build more complex organisms.

Building a new complex protein, according to Axe, is beyond the purview of selection. In fact, he argues, “Of the possible genes encoding protein chains 153 amino acids in length, only about one in a hundred trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion is expected to encode a chain that folds well enough to perform a biological function.” This is like finding one hydrogen atom out of the entire visible universe!

At the heart of Undeniable is a penetrating question: If accidental causes cannot build “simple” proteins, then how can it build complex organisms, such as killer whales and foxes? To make this point, Axe uses the example of someone who claims he can jump to the moon. But if this same person cannot perform a simpler task, such as slam-dunking a basketball, then why believe his greater claim?

Conclusion

Axe deals with many other issues such as the multiverse and the origin of mind. Yet he concludes, “My aim has been to show you that there’s a much more compelling view of life than the materialist view and that this compelling view also happens to be innate—known by us from early childhood and stubbornly persistent thereafter, such that to deny it requires sustained effort.”

Undeniable is a wonderful book. Axe skillfully uses stories, examples, and helpful illustrations to make his points understandable and memorable. He is careful not to overwhelm the reader with unnecessary scientific jargon, but it is also clear that he’s an expert on the issue and has done the “heavy lifting” to back up his claims. Whether you are an expert or novice, a believer in intelligent design or Darwinism, you will undeniably find value in this book.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


[i] Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life Is Designed(New York, NY: HarperOne, 2016), 21.

[ii] David P. Barash, “God, Darwin and My College Biology Class,” New York Times, September 27, 2014.

[iii] Axe, Undeniable, 68.

[iv] Ibid., 75. Axe does respond to the charge that there are faulty designs in nature (p. 77-78).


Resources for Greater Impact:

Is Evolution A Theory in Crisis?

Michael Denton’s 1985 book Evolution: A Theory In Crisis was one of the most influential scientific critiques of Darwinian evolution in the 20th century. That’s why I eagerly anticipated the release of his 2016 book, Evolution: Still A Theory In Crisis, which both updates and expands his original arguments.

While Denton believes in common descent, and embraces a non-Darwinian law-based explanation for the diversity and complexity of life (although he concedes that his theory “may point to the intelligent design of the universe as uniquely fit for life” ), he launches a trenchant critique of the Darwinian model of adaptive gradualism. Essentially, he defies the claim that macroevolution is merely an extension of microevolution. There exist certain “homologs” or “primal patterns” in nature, claims Denton, which simply cannot be accounted for by cumulative selection. According to Denton, natural selection does play a minor role in the development of various organisms in nature, but there must be other operational forces. He explains:

The Darwinian claim that all homologs were gradually achieved over millions of generations by incremental functionalism—the genetic code, human language, the flower, the diaphragm, etc.—is a phantasm. The near-universal absence of intermediates leading from antecedent structures to the homologs speaks volumes.”

Simply put, there are not the innumerable transitional links Darwin predicted, and in many cases, there is not even conceivable links to account for various “structures” in nature. According to Denton, this is one of the major unsolved challenges for Darwinian evolution.

Denton provides a number of examples in nature that lack Darwinian pathways, such as the cell, limbs, feathers, wings, flowering plants, language, and more. Let’s briefly consider a few of his examples:

SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF THE ANGIOSPERM (group of plants)

The sudden appearance of angiosperms in the fossil record has been a persistent problem for Darwinian evolution. According to Denton, “None of the taxa-defining characteristics of angiosperms, including the key novelties of the flower—sepals, petals, stamens, carpels—are found in any group of plants, extant or fossil, outside of the angiosperm clade.” The angiosperm, along with many other groups of land plants, appears suddenly in the fossil record without antecedents.

According to Denton, the problem is that the evolution of the angiosperm requires large-scale changes that cannot be accounted for by incrementalism: “Not only are there no transitional forms, but to my knowledge, there does not appear to exist anywhere in academic botanical literature even a tentative hypothetical Darwinian functionalist scheme showing how the flower Bauplan or any of its defining homologs—sepals, petals, etc.,—might have emerged via a series of tiny adaptive steps from some ancestral reproductive organ...”

THE TETRAPOD LIMB

It is generally believed that fish are the evolutionary precursors for amphibians. But according to Denton, there is a gap between the tetrapod limb (for amphibians) and the fin (for fish). Some Darwinists have offered Tiktaalik as the best transitional candidate, but the problem is that tetrapod tracks have been found ten million years earlier, which calls the entire scenario into question. Denton concludes:

No matter what Darwinian evolutionary ‘spin’ is put on the gap between fin and hand, there is no avoiding the fact that a significant break does exist in the natural order, and the new evo-devo picture provides no support for any sort of Darwinian gradualist, functionalist scenario…trying to envisage the process as occurring under the direction of gradual natural selection poses herculean challenges.”

FINAL EXAMPLES

Another example Denton raises is the wing of the bat. The problem for Darwinian evolution, says Denton, is that the first known bat appears in the fossil record with fully developed wings (as developed as modern bats), and there is no evidence for transitional precursors. Again, with this example, there is no evidence for the kind of incrementalism Darwinian evolution requires.

The development of language also poses a serious problem for Darwinian evolution. Denton raises an interesting Darwinian paradox: “How could blind unintelligent cumulative selection, the blind watchmaker, have assembled a device—the language organ—of such complexity and sophistication that intelligent humans cannot ‘intelligently’ simulate these unique abilities in a machine?” Denton raises further problems for the origin of language, such as how our intellectual abilities (mathematical, musical, artistic, etc.) could have emerged through a Darwinian pathway when these abilities did not possess any initial utility.

CONCLUSION

Evolution: Still A Theory In Crisis is a challenging book to read. It’s not written for the novice! But if you have the interest and time to wrestle with an important scientific critique of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, it is well worth the investment. Even if you end up disagreeing with Denton (as I do on some points), his book is thoughtful and timely.

Denton concludes that natural selection has a minor role to play in the development of various organisms, but as an explanation for the whole of nature, the Darwinian model of incremental change fails. If he is right, then where do we go from here?

He concludes: “Either the ‘jump’ was…already prefigured into the biology of the ancestral form and its actualization due to internal causal factors according to a structuralist ‘laws of form’ framework, or it came about as the result of special creation.”

He’s right. The Darwinian model faces significant hurdles, which seem to get increasingly higher. Either the naturalist needs to answer the challenges raised by Denton, pose another naturalistic model (as Denton does at the end of his book), or be open to special creation. There are only so many available options.


 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

Evolution and the “Convictions of a Monkey’s Mind”

By Tim Stratton

In my last article I made the case that evolution cannot account for human rationality unless it could explain genuine free will. In the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism, I argued that free will cannot be explained if naturalism is true. It follows that naturalistic evolution cannot account for the ability humans possess to rationally affirm knowledge claims.

My Freethinking Argument stands strong on its own, but Alvin Plantinga has made a separate case supporting my argument. He argues that if evolution is true, then naturalism is probably false. To be clear, Plantinga is not making a case against evolution; rather, he argues that naturalism and evolution are most likely incompatible. This argument is called the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism(EAAN).[1]

I will not offer the EAAN in its entirely (Plantinga summarizes it here), but one of the key ideas behind this argument is that evolution is not guaranteed to select for truth. Natural selection is a cause of evolution. Organisms that are best able to survive and reproduce are selected for, however true beliefs do not necessarily increase the likelihood of survival. If it could be demonstrated that (at least sometimes) false beliefs can enhance survivability, then we have good reason to believe that naturalistic evolution cannot guarantee that our thoughts correspond with reality. Darwin himself seemed to have lost sleep over this idea:

With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has always been developed from the mind of 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?[2]

Darwin may have realized the problem of combining naturalism with evolutionary theory; that is to say, if evolution is a non-teleological and a non-rational process, it challenges our confidence that we can form true beliefs that lead to rational conclusions. Naturalistic evolution (as opposed to some form of theistic evolution) presupposes that our cognitive faculties developed as they did because it had some survival value or reproductive advantage. The theory of evolution affirms that natural selection does not select for beliefs unless they benefit the chances of survival and/or reproduction. Beliefs only have to lead to a survival advantage even if they are completely false.

The biologist and atheist, Lewis Wolpert, confirmed Plantinga’s case, albeit inadvertently, in a debate with William Lane Craig. In his first speech, he affirmed that although he believes theism is false, he acknowledges there are evolutionary advantages and survival benefits to those holding theistic beliefs.[3] It follows from this admission that evolution selects for survival, not for true beliefs (since he assumes theism is false). Consequently, why should Wolpert trust his evolved belief that theism is false? He is reasoning in circles.

Mormonism is a good example of false beliefs contributing to survival and reproductive benefits. After all, Mormonism teaches morality and human flourishing as well as having as many children as possible to populate future planets that they will rule.[4] Those holding the belief that Mormonism is true also believe they have a moral responsibility to reproduce.

Consider the other side of the coin: a belief in atheism could actually hinder human survival (even if atheism were true — which it is not). If one believes atheistic naturalism is true, then one ought to logically reach the conclusion that life is objectively meaningless.[5] There would be no foundation for objective meaning, value, or purpose in life if God and soul do not exist. What’s the point of surviving? Moreover, there would be no objective grounding for moral values and duties.[6] If nothing really matters, then human flourishing and survival do not really matter either. Therefore, atheistic beliefs do not logically lead to survival benefits.

Many atheists want to reject the idea that evolution does not select for true beliefs but then they turn around and affirm Plantinga’s key premise when objecting to the Moral Argument for God’s existence. They will exclaim that objective moral values and duties do not really exist, but humans have evolved to hold this false belief to survive and flourish.

There are two major problems here. First, if the atheist agrees with Plantinga — that evolution is aimed at survival and not truth — then how does he knowhis beliefs about anything are true, including his evolved belief that God does not exist? Second, it does not logically follow from this that God does not exist or that objective moral values and duties do not exist. After all, God could have intelligently designed the initial conditions of the big bang to guarantee that our comprehension of objective moral values and duties would be realized via evolution. I am not arguing that this is how God “wrote the law on our hearts” (Romans 2:15), but simply stating that this would not be a problem for an omniscient and omnipotent God.

In conclusion, let me be clear: my Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism stands on its own two feet, even if Plantinga’s argument fails. With that said, if the EAAN passes (and I think it does), it adds strength to the Freethinking Argument as it reaches similar conclusions for different reasons. As Plantinga has noted, “[Evolution] doesn’t give a hoot about whether your beliefs are true or false!”[7] If this is true, then we cannot know our beliefs are true. All we are left with is question-begging assumptions that our evolved and causally determined beliefs correspond with reality. Therefore, naturalistic evolution fails to explain free will, rationality, and knowledge.

The FreeThinking Theist,

Tim Stratton

 

For more articles like: Evolution and the “Convictions of a Monkey’s Mind” visit Tim’s site at FreeThinkingMinistries.com


NOTES

[1] Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2011

[2] Charles Darwin to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; repr., Boston: Elibron, 2005)

[3] Wolpert, Lewis, in debate with William Lane Craig, http://youtu.be/kzhczra3o4o

[4] “We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:48, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, 1976, p.132)

[5] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, Page 72

[6] William Lane Craig, “On Guard,” (David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO 2008) Pg. 127

[7] Alvin Plantinga discussing the EAAN on “Closer to the Truth” http://youtu.be/xpw9UsdbvW8

 

Can Evolution Account for Rationality?

By Tim Stratton

The topic of my master’s thesis while at Biola University focused on what it means to genuinely be a “freethinker.” This argument — called the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism — deductively proves that not only does libertarian free will exist, but so does the human soul. If the human soul exists, then the worldview of naturalism goes down the drain.

This has led many who hold a blind faith in naturalism to bend over backwards attempting to refute my argument that concludes their faith is faulty. Some attempt to counter my case by stating evolutionary theory can account for rationality. Can evolution refute the Freethinking Argument? No. The only way evolution could account for rationality is if it could account for libertarian free will (as I explained here). But, the reason most naturalistic scientists reject the notion of libertarian free will is because if all that exists is nature, then everything is determined by the laws of nature.

The well-known atheist, Daniel Dennett, on the other hand, has tried to make a case that “freedom evolves.”[1] However, we must recognize that this “freedom” Dennett argues for is not the same kind of freedom I discuss in my Freethinking Argument. It is not genuine libertarian free will; rather, he argues for compatibilism, which is simply faux determinism “covered with frosting!” The famous atheist and evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne, has realized Dennett’s mistakes and has forcefully disagreed with him:

Where does Dennett find freedom in a determined world? As his title implies, in evolution. . . .  Even though evolution tells us why we make certain “choices,” they still are not choices in the classical free-will sense: situations in which we could have decided otherwise. . . . In the end, I saw (Dennett’s) argument as a type of philosophical prestidigitation, in which our intuitive notion of free will had suddenly been replaced by something that, at first, sounded good, but ultimately didn’t comport with how we see “free” choice.  I felt as though I’d been presented with a cake, only to find that it was hollow in the middle, like a hatbox covered with frosting. . . . I see free will as the way most of us conceive of it: a situation in which one could have made more than one choice. If that’s how you see it, and you’re a determinist—which I think you pretty much have to be if you accept science—then you’re doomed.  You’re left with the task of defining free will in some other way that comports with determinism. . . . we aren’t really responsible for anything we do.[2]

 

Coyne appears correct: if naturalism is true, we are simply not responsible for anything we do. It logically follows that we would not even be responsible for any of our thoughts and beliefs. However, this also means that Coyne was not responsible for his beliefs that he was forced to state in response to Dennett. Similarly, Coyne should not be aggravated at Dennett’s argument, because he could not help thinking about or writing it in a determined world. It simply was not his fault.[3]

The FreeThinking Theist,

Tim Stratton

 

For more articles like: Can Evolution Account for Rationality? visit Tim’s site at FreeThinkingMinistries.com


 

NOTES

[1] Daniel C. Dennett, “Freedom Evolves” Penguin Books, London England, 2003

[2] Jerry Coyne, “Did Freedom Evolve?” http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/did-freedom-evolve/ (Accessed 8-30-14)

[3] Peter van Inwagen logically demonstrates that there is nothing “free” about compatibilism via his “Consequence Argument.”  An Essay on Free Will(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 16.

Rule Alpha: There is nothing anyone can do to change what must be the case (or what is necessarily so).

Rule Beta: If there is nothing anyone can do to change X, and nothing anyone can do to change the fact that Y is a necessary consequence of X, then there is nothing anyone can do to change Y either.

4 Quotes on Natural Selection by Naturalists that Support Theism

By Billy Dyer

Familiar claims to the contrary notwithstanding, Darwin didn’t manage to get mental causes out of his account of how evolution works. He just hid them in the unexamined analogy between selection by breeding and natural selection…we can claim something Darwinists cannot. There is no ghost in our machine; neither God, nor Mother Nature…and there are no phantom breeders either. What breeds the ghosts in Darwinism is its covert appeal to intensional biological explanations…Darwin pointed the direction to a thoroughly naturalistic—indeed a thoroughly atheistic—theory of phenotype [trait] formation; but he didn’t see how to get the whole way there. He killed off God, if you like, but Mother Nature and other pseudo-agents got away scot-free. We think it’s now time to get rid of them too.  (Fodor, J. and M. Piattelli-Palmarini. 2010. What Darwin Got Wrong. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 162-163.) 

  • Essentially Fodor & Piattelli-Palmarini are saying that Darwin denies God as an agent but then gives Mother Nature all the qualities of God. That is, in a scientific book you might read on page 2 that God does not exist but then on page 5 you will see Mother Nature “choosing”, “selecting”, “deciding”, “having wisdom”, etc… It is simply a bait and switch.

No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed. (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd ed. (1874), ch 5 www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext00/dscmn10.txt) 

  • To me it looks like Darwin is affirming the degeneration of breeds. It seems that he is saying that when a race breeds it degenerates but then gives the only exception to mankind. My point with this quote is to say that Darwin wasn’t consistent. If breeding leads to degeneration then why is man an exception? Evolution says that we evolve to a better plight but history & all human experience says we devolve. Even Darwin seemed to see this but he couldn’t let it contradict his theory.

What is the use of their (bacteria) unceasing mutations if they do not change? In sum the mutations of bacteria and viruses are merely hereditary fluctuations around a median position; a swing to the right, a swing to the left, but no final evolutionary effect. (Pierre-Paul Grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms (New York: Academic Press, 1977), 87.)

  • We need to understand the difference between micro and macro evolution. They are not the same. Grasse shows us that surely there can be mutations but only on a micro level. That is, fruit flies might mutate to having a third wing, be faster, or be bigger but they are always fruit flies. We have always heard that mutations lead to change and then natural selection “selects” the changes that are beneficial. But Grasse tells us that mutations do not have any purpose or goal. They are simply fluctuations a little to the right or left but always come back to the median position. Simply put, you can breed all sorts of different dogs and make micro changes to the left or right. But left up to normal breeding and all dogs go back to the median position or being a wolf.

Although, at the phenotypic level, it deals with the modification of existing parts, the theory is intended to explain neither the origin of parts, nor morphological organization, nor innovation…But selection has no innovative capacity: it eliminates or maintains what exists. The generative and ordering aspects of morphological evolution are thus absent from evolutionary theory.  (G. B. MÜLLER, ‘Homology: The Evolution of Morphological Organization’ in G. B. MÜLLER and Newman S.A. (eds.), Origination of Organismal Form. Beyond the Gene in Developmental and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard, MIT Press, Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology, 2003, p. 51.) 

  • I love this quote. Müller really hits one out of the park here. He explains that evolution doesn’t and cannot explain the origin of parts. It tries to explain how we got to this level but it doesn’t tell us how the whole thing started. Secondly, it cannot deal with the organization of parts at the very beginning. Third, natural selection doesn’t have free will. I get tired of hearing people tell me that natural selection “chose”. Natural selection isn’t an agent, it cannot make a choice. Therefore, it has no mind to innovate as Müller says. So even if evolution is true, which it certainly is not, it still fails to explain origins and natural selection can’t make choices. Therefore, Darwin failed.

 

Visit Billy’s Website: DyerThoughts.com

Billy Dyer is a CrossExamined Instructor Academy Graduate.

4 Key Points Christian Kids Need to Understand About Evolution

By Natasha Crain

The other day, I saw a post on Facebook from a mom who was concerned because her teenage daughter was turning away from God after learning about evolution. The mom was considering pulling her out of public school because she wasn’t sure what to do about it.

It breaks my heart when I see parents who feel unequipped to dialogue with their kids about evolution and age of the Earth issues. These questions are so crucial for parents to be able to discuss with their kids that I devoted 8 of the 40 questions in my book to explaining the scriptural and scientific considerations at stake.

Today I want to bring to light four key points I think Christian parents need to make sure their kids understand about evolution, but are often left unaddressed. This post could easily have been 101 things kids need to understand about evolution, but that would be another book! This is far from comprehensive, but I hope it will get the conversation going.

 

1. Evolution isn’t necessarily an anti-Christian concept.

A lot of Christian parents think of evolution as a dirty word. They immediately assume it’s the antithesis of Christianity and are quick to state their opposition to everything associated with it.

But the word evolution, in its most basic sense, simply means that a species has undergone genetic change over time (a species is a group of organisms capable of interbreeding—for example, humans are a species and dogs are a species). This basic concept of evolution isn’t controversial at all. Genetic change within species is a well-documented fact that scientists can observe within a human lifetime.

Christians of every viewpoint (young-Earth creationists, old-Earth creationists, and theistic evolutionists) all agree that evolution, in this sense, takes place (sometimes people refer to this as “microevolution”).

What is controversial is whether the same mechanism that drives change within a species is capable of changing one species into another (sometimes called “macroevolution”). Ultimately, evolutionists claim that all species on Earth today descend from a single species that lived 3.5 billion years ago. This is the claim most Christians object to.

When Christian parents negatively overreact to the mere idea of evolution, they can quickly lose credibility with their kids for not understanding and interacting with the issues more deeply. Our kids need us to understand what they are learning and how to process it scientifically and scripturally. If this is an area you don’t feel confident talking to your kids about, it’s important to get up to speed.

 

2. There is scientific evidence both consistent and inconsistent with evolutionary theory.

I didn’t hear much about evolution growing up, but I do clearly remember my youth group leader laughing it off one day: “Yeah, right, like we all really came from apes!” I chuckled along, because that thought did seem crazy.

But there were two problems with what he said. First, it wasn’t even a technically accurate representation of what evolutionists claim. Evolutionists do not claim that humans descend from modern apes, but that we share a common ancestor with them. That might sound like a fine detail, but it’s clear to me in retrospect that my leader didn’t understand evolutionary theory at all.

Second, it’s not good critical thinking to dismiss something because it sounds weird. It’s weird but true, for example, that we live on a big rock that jets around the sun and we don’t feel a thing.

Unfortunately, I have heard far too many Christians trivialize what evolution is in favor of caricatures like those of my youth pastor. When I eventually learned about the scientific evidence for evolution as an adult, my life-long faith was initially shaken in a matter of hours. No one had ever told me there was actually extensive scientific evidence that could be consistent with evolutionary claims. Based on the light-hearted handling I had seen from other Christians, I had assumed evolution was an idea that could easily be dismissed.

In reality, there is significant scientific evidence both consistent and inconsistent with evolutionary theory. Our kids need to 1) have an accurate understanding of what evolution is and 2) have a thorough understanding of the scientific evidence that is both consistent and inconsistent with it.

 

3. The age of the Earth and evolution are related but separate scientific subjects that Christians must grapple with.

A common misunderstanding many Christians have is that questions about the age of the Earth and evolution are all part of one issue. They’re related, but actually pose separate scientific (and theological) questions for Christians.

As a basic background, mainstream scientists estimate that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Young-Earth creationists estimate that the Earth is 6,000-10,000 years old, based on a timeline deduced from biblical data on historical events and genealogies. These young-Earth estimates are derived first and foremost from the biblical data, but there are young-Earth scientists who work to support those estimates with scientific evidence and models (called “creation science”). Conversely, to my knowledge, there are no mainstream scientists (Christian or non-Christian) who believe the Earth is 6,000-10,000 years old based on scientific evidence ALONE.

Here’s the bottom line.

  • Evolution requires billions of years in order to even possibly have the amount of time necessary for small genetic changes to amass into the diversity of species we see today. In that sense, evolution and an ancient Earth do go hand-in-hand.
  • However, the reverse is not true. An ancient Earth does not necessarily mean evolution took place. The scientific evidence for an old Earth is mostly independent from the evidence for evolution. For this reason, there are many Christians who are “old-Earth creationists”—accepting the scientific evidence for an old Earth, but rejecting evolution.

 

4. Theistic evolution (the belief that God used evolution to create life) has significant theological implications.

While some Christians are too fast to dismiss anything related to the word evolution (see point 1), others are too fast to embrace it without understanding the full implications. For example, I’ve heard many people say, “It doesn’t matter whether God used evolution or anything else to create the world!”

While it’s true that God could have used evolution, many people don’t realize the broadertheological implications of accepting evolution as His creative mechanism:

  • The Bible states that humans are made in God’s image—a very different, morally accountable, creature than animals. If all life evolved from one common ancestor, however, we are biologically no different than animals. (Theistic evolutionists believe that the properties related to God’s “image” are those of a person’s soul, and that God could have imprinted His image on humans at an unknown point in their evolutionary development.)
  • Most theistic evolutionists do not believe a literal Adam and Eve existed. If a literal first couple did not exist, the important question of how and when sin entered the world is left unanswered. Why is that so important? Well, the Bible overall is a story of the problem of sin and God’s “rescue plan” through Jesus. If you’re left without any biblical explanation of how the “big problem” arose, it can diminish the need for the “big solution” of Jesus. (Theistic evolutionists differ in how they address this.)

There are many other implications, but these are two of the most important to understand.

Biologos is the leading organization that promotes theistic evolution (they prefer the term evolutionary creation). Whether you agree with their viewpoint or not, they publish good resources for helping Christians better understand evolution.

Post edited to add: Based on multiple requests from readers of this post, I will follow up soon with a new post dedicated to providing resources for learning more about evolution and age of the Earth issues!

I’d love to hear about the experiences your kids have had with evolution in the classroom. Please share your thoughts in the comments! If there are specific subjects on this topic you’d like me to address in the future, please let me know how I can help.

Visit Natasha’s Site: ChristianMomThoughts.com

 

God’s Crime Scene

It’s about 2 a.m. on an August morning in 1979. A beautiful young nurse by the name of Lynne Knight is living in a bungalow behind a larger house in Torrance, California. As two police officers approach her door, they notice a chair overturned in the entryway and bloody footsteps leading back to the rear bedroom. Each officer has his gun drawn, not sure what to expect.

When they switch on the light, they witness the worst murder scene of their careers. Ms. Knight is lying on her bed, undressed. Her throat is deeply severed, and her lifeless body, which had been stabbed repeatedly, is covered in blood.

Under her body is 18 inches of twisted wire strung between two small pieces of wood that had been sawed off from an old broomstick. Although they’ve never seen one in person before, the officers immediately know it’s a garrote—a homemade weapon used to strangle someone in order to commit a murder quietly.

The killer tried to murder Lynne with the garrote, but couldn’t complete the evil act because she fought back. So the killer stabbed her to death and left the garrote behind in a panic.

Could the garrote lead the cops to this monster? Not soon enough. For nearly three decades the case went cold until cold case homicide detectives J. Warner Wallace and Rick Glass got involved in 2007. They dusted off the evidence left in a box at the Torrance PD, and Wallace made it his personal mission to analyze every aspect of the garrote. It turned out to be the key to the murder trial that took place last summer in the same LA courtroom where O.J. Simpson was tried. And there was familiar face in this trial. The defendant, Doug Bradford, hired O.J. lawyer Robert Shapiro to be his defense attorney.

While Bradford was a former lover of Knight, there was no eyewitness or DNA evidence to link Bradford to the murder. And there were several other suspects in the case, some of whom had since died. Wallace, Glass, and LA District Attorney John Lewin had an uphill battle to convince a jury of twelve that Bradford had indeed committed the crime. There would be no conviction unless all twelve agreed.

But Wallace, Glass and Lewin had been down this road before. They earned convictions on every cold case they had brought to trial so far. Three of those cases were so intriguing that NBC’s Dateline featured them. This case was no different: Keith Morrison and his Dateline crew were filming the case in an episode they called “The Wire.”

Although Dateline didn’t know it going in, their confidence was rewarded: on August 14, 2014, this LA jury returned a guilty verdict. Robert Shapiro, perhaps aware he had been out argued, didn’t even show up for the verdict. Doug Bradford is now serving a life sentence after being free for 35 years.

How did they get the conviction?

They began by asking the question all detectives ask at a death scene: can this death be explained by staying inside the room, or does it require us to look outside the room? Obviously, this death was a murder and required a suspect outside the room. Had this been a suicide, natural death or accidental death, the event could be explained by staying inside the room.

Then Detective Wallace used some very ingenious methods to link the garrote back to Bradford. (You can watch the entire Dateline explanation here.) He linked the effect (the garrote) back to the cause (Bradford).

Now Wallace is employing the same investigative principles he uses to solve cold case murders to eight of the greatest questions we ponder as human beings. He does this in his insightful new book, God’s Crime Scene. In the book Wallace seeks to discover if we can stay inside the room (the natural world) or must go outside the room (the supernatural world) for the causes of the following effects:

  • The origin of the universe
  • The fine-tuning of the universe
  • The origin of life
  • The origin of new life forms and biological machines
  • Consciousness
  • Free will
  • Objective Moral Values
  • Evil

Each of the eight chapters starts with the details of a real criminal case and then applies the principles to the question at hand (the Lynne Knight case is in Chapter 4).

Wallace was a committed atheist until age 35. Now he is a highly skilled author and speaker who presents a unique case for the Christian worldview across the country. Columnist Mike Adams and I have recently teamed with J. to equip Christian youth and their parents with the case for Christianity through a dynamic new College Prep program. I can tell you that audiences are captivated by the way he applies forensic principles to build the case for Christianity.

But don’t think Wallace just tows the party line. Since he is a cold case homicide detective, Wallace presents you with the evidence pro and con, and then leaves you to draw your own conclusions. He does a masterful job of laying out the evidence and even illustrates that evidence with over one hundred of his own drawings, which clarify and summarize some potentially difficult subject matter. (Who said a serious book can’t have pictures?)

God’s Crime Scene is an engaging and very readable work that investigates some of life’s most important questions. I highly recommend you get it regardless of your religious viewpoint. I can’t guarantee you’ll be convicted, but your thinking will be challenged.

Godbuster: A Debate With Elliot George

This past week I engaged in a radio debate with an atheist on Unbelievable on Premier Christian Radio (which you can listen to here). My interlocutor was a British atheist, a retired biology teacher who goes by the pseudonym Elliot George. In his book, Godbuster, George attempts to dismantle theistic belief. I knew when I saw the front cover that the book was unlikely to be particularly professional or intellectually challenging. After all, who writes “Dare you read this?” on the front cover of an intellectually serious piece of work? This initial impression was further compounded when I noticed that the book contains no citations or references, except for the occasional in-text citation to YouTube or Wikipedia. Apparently Elliot George was even reliant upon Wikipedia as his source for the ten commandments (p. 125).

The intellectual content of the book is also confronted with severe problems. The book showed little, if any, engagement or interaction with high-level Christian argumentation. No serious Christian arguments were addressed by the book. Instead, George throughout the book persists in attacking strawmen, even redefining terminology to comport with his position. Read more

You Can Still Hear the Recording of My Appearance on “Dogma Debate” Atheist Radio Show

A couple weeks ago I was invited, along with two friends, Blake and Derrick, to be on an atheist radio program called “Dogma Debate” (website here). Blake Giunta is the recent founder of a really great apologetics website called TreeSearch. The main host, David Smalley, and his co-hosts, enjoy interaction with Christian believers, and I applaud their efforts in seeking out opportunities to provide a platform to both sides of the argument to present and defend their case. Unfortunately, few shows are like this. Unbelievable, with host Justin Brierley, on Premier Christian Radio might be the closest Christian equivalent to this show. The hosts for this episode — indeed, our interlocutors — were David Smalley and Lydia Allen. We were originally invited on to discuss how Christians and atheists could better engage and interact with one another (something I have previously written about here). But, as is often the case with radio, the conversation went way off on a tangent quite quickly. The debate was rather intense at some points and went on for about three hours — then there was also the “After Show” discussion exclusive for paid subscribers, which went on for perhaps another 90 minutes.

You can listen to the debate at this link. Enjoy!

Was There Only One God in the Beginning?

The Case for Original Monotheism from Wilhelm Schmidt

Where did the idea of one supreme God originate? There are really only two options: either monotheism (mono– “one” theos – “god”) was original to humans from the very beginning, or it was an invention or development of religion in early human cultures.

Anthropologists and historians of religion, at least since the European Enlightenment, and certainly by the end of nineteenth century, have taught that the idea of “one supreme God” was not original to mankind, but rather was a late development in the history of religion stemming from animism and/or polytheism. Today Muslims, Christians and Jews comprise the three great monotheistic faiths of the world. The adherents to these three faiths reach well into the billions.

According to the Bible, God directly created mankind from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:5-9). In the Genesis account, the first man and woman (Adam & Eve), enjoyed direct fellowship and communication with God. The fellowship was broken when the first humans acted independently of God by an act of direct disobedience to His command (Gen. 3). The results of that act of disobedience was broken fellowship with God and banishment from His presence.

If we track with the Bible’s account of history, then as the population of the earth increased, mankind moved further and further away from God, where eventually an understanding of who He was, was either lost or replaced with polytheism, the deification of the forces of nature, or some combination of both.

In his excellent new book, In the Beginning God, Winfried Courduan states that,

The Bible does not give us an account to how idolatry and polytheism arose historically. We know that Abraham came from a line of people who worshipped a moon god, but we don’t know where that chain was broken. …there is good reason to believe that there were other monotheists around besides Melchizedek. Further, there were multiple opportunities to learn about the one God, not to mention the probability of there having been a live memory carried all along in Moses family.[1]

Nevertheless, in Genesis 12 we learn that God did not allow mankind to be unaware of who He was, but appeared to a man in ancient Mesopotamia named Abram. Historian F.E. Peters summarizes:

…at a given moment in historical time, he [God] addressed himself to one Abram, the sheikh of an extended family of Near Eastern sheep nomads who were camping in what is today called the Negev. Worship me, the god said, and I will make you and yours a great people. It was not a unique or a solitary voice; we know from plentiful evidence that there were other, many other, gods on that landscape and in the minds of Abram’s contemporaries. Abram, however, limited his worship to this one deity, and the god in turn granted his favor to Abram, or Abraham, as he was henceforward called.[2]

God tells Abraham to count the stars (Gen. 15:5)

God tells Abraham to count the stars (Gen. 15:5)

Later in biblical history, God would appear once again, but this time to Moses who grew up in Egypt, another nation of many gods. In the famous scene of the burning bush (Ex. 3), when Moses asks God His name, God tells Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 3:15). Finally, when God gives Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) the first three commandments all deal with the nature of the one true God and what it means to properly worship Him and Him only (Ex. 20:3-7).

That was the working narrative for at least nineteen centuries until the rise of naturalistic & skeptical theories concerning the Bible and the rise of monotheism.

In the seventeenth century Dutch philosopher, Benedict Spinoza published the Theologico-Political Treatise in 1670 (also posthumously in 1677). In it he argued (among other things), that all revealed religion had to be analyzed on the basis of reason; not blind faith. Theology & philosophy must be kept separate. He categorically denied prophecy, miracles & the supernatural. He also denied Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and stated that it was probably a cobbled-together text which was likely composed of multiple authors.

In the following years, scholars such as Thomas Hobbs, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Julius Welhausen and many others followed Spinoza in their distrust of the biblical record of history.

By the end of the nineteenth century many scholars had developed serious doubts about the Bible’s account of reality, especially the dawn of history’s monotheistic origins in Eden.

Wilhelm Schmidt to the Rescue!

Enter Wilhelm Schmidt, a German scholar who lived in the early twentieth century and argued on scholarly grounds, that the original religion of human beings was monotheism. According to Corduan, “In 1906 Schmidt created a journal called Anthropos, [which was] intended to provide missionaries with greater awareness of new developments in the field of cultural anthropology.”[3] From this humble beginning and focus on religion, Schmidt’s thesis eventually developed into a massive 12-volume work, Der Ursprung der Gottesidee [The Origin of the Idea of God] (Munster: Aschendorff, 1912-55).

Schmidt’s thesis of original monotheism derives from what he called the “culture-historical method.”[4]

[to read Schmidt’s main thesis for yourself, it is now available this excellent new reprint version The Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories originally published in 1931]

Schmidt’s Main Thesis & Ideas

In his massive 12 volume work, “Ursprung” or The Origin of the Idea of God, Schmidt analyzed the major theories of comparative religion up to his day, as well the theories of the development of religion in ethnology from cultures around the world (ethnology is a branch of anthropology that compares global nations and cultures and how they identify themselves).

Essentially Schmidt’s case for original monotheism “is grounded in the culture-historical method by which we can discern which among present cultures appear to be the ones that most closely resemble the earliest human cultures. Ethnologically, those are the ones that show the least amount of growth in their material culture. And it is precisely those that display forms of monotheism” (W. Corduan). When all of the data are sifted and analyzed, Schmidt argues that one can discern the core belief of the earliest human cultures was monotheism, or a belief in “the Primitive High God” [one God].[5]

He writes:

…the goal of all work on the lines of the historical method is not to set up theories or hypotheses but to arrive at scientific certainty. Here we mean by ‘scientific certainty’ the facts which make up our picture of primitive religion, not indeed as atoms, but as an organic and mutually interdependent whole. …If we apply that criterion to the abundant mass of data which we can now produce regarding the primitive Supreme Being, the first thing to notice is that the total sum of facts is of a nature to satisfy the total sum of human needs…[6]

Schmidt’s thesis is well grounded in his extensive research and analysis in historical, linguistic, and anthropological studies. Yet, his theory also fits perfectly with what the Bible teaches about original monotheism (in Genesis).

That being said, Corduan warns us of absolute certainty beyond all objections in Schmidt’s “original monotheism” theory.

Have we (that is to say Wilhelm Schmidt and those of us who support his cause) really shown that original monotheism is true beyond all conceivable objections? Of course, we have not. It would be impossible for any human to do so. …There is no scientific enterprise where eliminating all “conceivable” objections is the point[7]

The point is that there are good and sold reasons (aside from, but also in support of the Bible) that are grounded in thorough research and data in the field, that mankind worshipped one God from the very beginnings of the human race.

Theistic Arguments Are Grounded in Both Reality and Scripture

Although this is not the main point of my post here, the second way in which one could argue for original monotheism is via theistic arguments. If theistic arguments (such as the cosmological, teleological and moral arguments) can succeed in establishing theism, then theism (properly defined) would be the default position in the history of humanity, and atheism only a recent development.

In a touch of irony then, the so-called “primitive” monotheists of the Ancient Near East [i.e. Abraham & Moses] were more up-to-date, and in touch with reality than today’s modern sophisticated and “educated” atheist elites.

The Unique Message of Christianity: The Broken Relationship Between God and Man Is Restored in Christ

Finally a brief word about the uniqueness of the Christian claim that is relevant to the question about original monotheism. Christianity has its roots deeply embedded in the Old Testament and as such Jesus claimed to be the one promised and predicted from the writings of the Old Testament prophets (Luke 4:14-21). Not only this, but He also made the audacious claim that He was God in human flesh (John 8:21-58), even stating that He was the visible manifestation of the great “I Am” (Creator & Covenant making God) of Exodus 3 when Moses spoke with God face to face from the burning bush. In John 8 the Jewish leaders questioned Jesus about His true identity.

Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”…(Jesus said), Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds (John 8:53-8).

When the Apostle Paul was waiting for his traveling companions in Athens he even made an appeal to the Athenian philosophers, to their belief in an “unknown God” in Acts 17.

For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription TO THE UNNKOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you; ‘God who made the world and everything in it, since He is the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, Nor is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath and all things. And He has made from one blood, every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth and has appointed their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’ “ (Acts 17:23-28).

Paul then continued to proclaim Christ and His resurrection to which some of them mocked, some believed and yet others were curious to hear more (Acts 17:32-34).

Christ came for one reason only and that is to perfectly reveal the God whose fellowship was broken with mankind in the garden. He restored the knowledge of God and even more by His death, burial and resurrection, showing the world what God is truly like.

He is the image of the invisible God the first-born over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on the earth, visible and invisible…For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness [of deity] should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:15-16, 19-20).

 

[1] Winfried Courduan, In the Beginning God: A Fresh Look at the Case for Original Monotheism (Nashville, B&H Academic, 2013), location 5409 in the Kindle Edition

[2] F.E. Peters, The Monotheists: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Vol. 1 The Peoples of God (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press), xix.

[3] Forward in Wilhelm Schmidt’s, The Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories (Protorville, OH: Wythe-North Publishing, 2014), v.

[4] Ibid.,pp 219ff.

[5] W. Schmidt, The Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories (Protorville, OH: Wythe-North Publishing), p. 283.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Win Corduan, In the Beginning God: A Fresh Look at the Case for Original Monotheism (Nashville, B&H Academic, 2013), loc 5809 in the Kindle Ed.

What Counts as Evidence for God from Science?

Some might say that science leaves no room for the supernatural and therefore it’s impossible for science to ever provide any evidence for God. Note that if such a claim is made then science could likewise never claim any evidence against God’s existence as it would be completely blind in that realm. There is actually a scientific effort underway to try to find intelligent life beyond earth. They’re looking for physical alien life forms but a search for supernatural intelligence shares much in common. Both types of searches seek to discover artifacts not produced by humans or natural processes.

Independent of how one defines science, however, science can support the truth of premises in philosophical arguments. That is what I would like to offer in this series – philosophical arguments for the existence of God where we have scientific support for the truth of key premises. We want to find the truth about origins without worrying about conventions concerning how to define science. As I previously blogged, science is not the only source of knowledge.

As another introductory blog in this series, I want to provide some background and lay down a foundation. Let’s start with the proper definition of evidence – evidence is not the same thing as proof. Science isn’t in the business of proving things and if you’re waiting for mathematical-type proofs before acting on evidence you’re going to be pretty idle because one almost never has such proof. Here is a fairly standard way of defining evidence: An observation is evidence for a hypothesis if the hypothesis is more likely given the observation than it would have otherwise been.

One can have some evidence for each of several different competing scientific explanations. In some cases, there is not yet enough evidence to determine which candidate hypothesis is true. Thus, evidence does not even necessarily make it more likely that the hypothesis is true than not. The combined evidence and prior probabilities can yield this assessment (from a Bayesian perspective). What I would like to do in this series is to present several different lines of evidence for God that together form a powerful cumulative case. Independent of one’s prior probability that God exists, each piece of evidence increases the likelihood that God exists. Each line of evidence can and should be assessed independently before combining all of the probability assessments. This is a standard Bayesian approach to probability. This series of blogs will be somewhat like a courtroom evaluation of some science-related evidence. I encourage you to interact with this evidence and the argument that it points to God.

There at least two general ways in which God might operate within the universe in detectable ways. First, God might directly intervene to do something beyond the laws of nature to bring about life or some intended feature of nature. This could be detected by finding some feature of nature that seems generally in accord with God’s purposes but which is very unlikely to be the product of natural processes. Secondly, God might setup the natural processes themselves and/or the initial conditions to bring about His purposes. This “fine-tuning” would be detectable evidence for God if these natural laws or initial conditions were constrained to a tiny range among possibilities. Some leading atheist thinkers agree that it’s possible to have this type of scientific evidence for God although they obviously resist the conclusion. Stephen Hawking admits in Brief History of Time that fine-tuning is possible evidence of “a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science (by God)” Peter Millican, a prominent philosopher at Oxford, conceded in a debate with William Lane Craig that “if there is an inexplicable coincidence in the fundamental constants of nature whose values have to be precisely-tuned within a wide range of otherwise available possibilities that would make a complex universe possible then this constitutes a phenomenon that very naturally invites explanation in terms of a cosmic scale designer.”

I’ll discuss their responses to this evidence in a future blog but first I’d like to discuss a few possible pitfalls in the origins debate. Here are some problematic responses or arguments in this debate about God and design:

“Feature X is so complicated it must be designed”

This is not a good way to argue for design because it’s not really an argument at all. The theist needs to argue why natural processes would not be expected to account for feature X and why God would be expected to want such a feature.

“Science has no explanation for X, therefore God did it”

This is a “god of the gaps” argument, an argument from ignorance. Even in the Christian view, God has set up many natural processes and it’s highly inappropriate to assume by default that divine intervention is happening in every unknown situation.

Indiscriminately calling every argument for God a ‘god of the gaps’ argument

At the other extreme, the skeptic may reject any evidence that seems to point to God by appealing to a future but as of yet undiscovered natural explanation. Philosopher of science Karl Popper coined a term for this unsubstantiated hope in future evidence to sustain naturalism – “promissory naturalism.” Just as promissory notes promise to pay money in the future, some naturalists promise that evidence will be found to justify naturalism. Returning to our courtroom analogy, one cannot appeal to possible evidence that might be found in the future but rather a judge must examine only currently available evidence. If what is known about science indicates natural processes are highly unlikely to produce an effect that God would plausibly want to bring about, then this wouldn’t be a “god of the gaps” argument.

Using questionable theology to refute clear science

An atheist should not have overly narrow expectations of what a god would or wouldn’t do. If you don’t believe that any gods exist, why assume very particular expectations of how a god would act? Just as a SETI researcher should not refuse to recognize evidence of alien artifacts just because she is surprised at certain aspects of the artifacts relative to her narrowly preconceived expectations, so a truth-seeker shouldn’t dismiss evidence for God because of overly narrow expectations of what God would and wouldn’t do.

In the next blog, we’ll start off at the very beginning and see if we can find evidence for God based on the origin of the universe.

The Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye “Post-Debate” Round Up

Just as expected, the much anticipated and hyped debate between Kan Ham (CEO of Answers in Genesis) & Bill Nye (the “Science” Guy) sparked a “mini-blizzard” of blogs and articles from people on both sides of the debate (I guess this is just one more to add to the pile).

Ham-Nye debate

If you happened to miss the debate, it will be posted here on the AiG (Answers in Genesis) website and will also available for purchase. An estimated three million people viewed the debate which was streamed live from the internet to schools, churches and colleges across America and around the world.

It is certainly easy to play “Monday morning quarterback” on these sorts of debates. Both men are to be admired for being willing to stand “in the arena” and defend their respective views and take criticism.

I thought both men handled themselves admirably, although I must say that I thought Nye was more personable and passionate when he was speaking which certainly plays to his favor rhetorically. One of Ken Ham’s strongest moments, I thought, was when he played the clips of various PhD. scientists who are  creationists and have either invented useful technologies [MRI] or have conducted peer-reviewed research, undercutting Nye’s claim that a belief in Divine creation stifles or limits science.

Nearly everyone has thoughts on what “should have been said” or “what kinds of evidence should have been used.”

I read though the various blogs and articles, however, I came across several great points which I will highlight in a moment.

Originally, I had planned on writing a point-by-point critique and evaluation of the debate, but since that has already been done on numerous other sites (which I will list below for your consideration); instead, I will review just a couple of my personal expectations on what I thought the debate would accomplish (I originally shared all six on my personal Facebook page) and whether or not they “played out” as I expected.

1. Both debaters represent a popular understanding of the respective positions on this debate (Faith & Science). It will certainly not be settled in this debate, but will spark even more debate and reams of new blogs from apologists scrambling to distance themselves from “Simple minded” creationists like Ken Ham.

As expected, I remain unconvinced that someone who was watching the debate last night will walk away with a deeper and more enlightened understanding of this complex issue (i.e. faith and science and their compatibility).

There’s certainly nothing wrong with public speakers who try to popularize complex ideas and communicate them to an broad audience (that’s what I do!), but I don’t believe that these two gentlemen were the best representatives of their respective “camps.”

As a friend of mine pointed out last night, “…they both seemed like they were giving infomercials for their respective audiences.” I agree.

Also expected and fulfilled were the reams of new blogs and articles from apologists offering alternative explanations and perspectives (I guess this one is a self-fullfilled prophecy!).

2. As a classically trained apologist (in the vein of Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Geisler, et. al.), I cringe at the very likely possibility that Ham will “…beg the question” in his presuppositional approach to defending the Bible. When and if he uses evidence, I will rejoice and be glad.

The question that was debated was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” While this is a good question, it actually doesn’t get at the root issue which is whether or not a theistic God exists and what evidence, if any points to His existence.

At CrossExamined we don’t take an official position on the age of the earth. We have students and supporters who defend each of the mainline views on origins (i.e. Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism, etc…).

That said however, we confidently stand on evidence in support of our belief in a personal, all-powerful, space-less, timeless, immaterial Creator. We leave it to Christians to sift the evidence for themselves, as to whether or not the earth is young or old.

The question of the age of the earth is a “second order question.” The question of God’s existence is a “first order question.” In dialoguing and debating non-believers, we should not front-load the conversation with secondary questions. Establishing God’s existence is primary.

Last night Ken Ham’s very starting point for science was the Bible itself and the age of the earth. The only problem with that is that Bill Nye and perhaps millions of others, don’t accept the Bible as true because they don’t believe there is a God.

My criticism isn’t necessarily leveled against Ken Ham’s Young Earth Creationism (or some of the other evidences he presented), rather it’s against the WAY that he argued which is just as important. In beginning with the Bible, he put the cart before the horse.

Let me be perfectly clear – I am a staunch defender of Biblical inerrancy, but in order for inerrancy to be philosophically true, Truth (with a capital “T”) must exist, God must exist and naturalism (as a worldview) must be false. The space-time universe is not a closed system, so miracles and the supernatural are very reasonable possibilities.

3. The truth of Romans 1 & Psalm 19 has been in full operation since the creation of the world when there were no publicly hyped debates.

One of the great things about God’s Word is that its truths are timeless and ever relevant.

Creation itself (which is silent yet vocal – Psa. 19:3-4) is the greatest evidence for the Creator. The evidence is so great and overwhelming that there is no debate – all men are without excuse (Rom. 1:20). The age of the earth wasn’t an issue when Paul penned Romans, yet he tells us that “everyone can know that there is a Creator.”

Below are a few blogs that I found especially helpful in illuminating and evaluating the Nye/Ham debate.

Helpful Blogs About the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate On Feb 4th, 2014

Casey Luskin (Discovery Institute) Old Earth Creationist 

David Coppedge (Creation Writer) Young Earth Creationist 

Melissa Cain Travis (Houston Baptist University) Old Earth Creationist

Dr. Albert Mohler (President, Southern Seminary) Young Earth Creationist 

 

 

Human Design Blindly Echoes Design in Nature

"Gears" from a plant hopping insect look designed

“Gears” from a plant hopping insect.

Scientists continually tell us that certain features found in nature are not “designed” but are the product of unguided evolutionary development. In his book The Blind Watchmaker biologist Richard Dawkins curiously has to remind his readers and warn them that some things in nature may appear designed when in fact they are not. He wrote that, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

A recent article posted by Christian apologist, Melissa Cain Travis, offers some compelling reasons that nature is in fact, designed. Many of these designs are copied either unconsciously or consciously (via the science of Biomimicry) by humans. The most reasonable inference is that these designs come from an Intelligent Creator.

You can read about it here

 

Evolution vs. God

Evolution vs. God

Ray Comfort has recently put out several provocative, informative and entertaining half hour videos.  His latest called Evolution vs. God asks some top evolutionists to offer evidence for their view (included in this production is P.Z. Myers, one of the more aggressive proponents of macro-evolution).  Their responses may surprise you!

It is certainly true that God could exist and macro-evolution also be true.  However, this film exposes the difficulty macro-evolutionists often have offering evidence for their view without assuming what they are trying to prove.  It seems to me that they have a lot faith.  Maybe given more time they could make a better case, but they certainly don’t do so in this film (and in nothing I’ve read either).

You can watch the trailer and download the complete production right now here (over 247,000 trailer views and 6,000 downloads in about a week).  For those of you that can wait, it will be available on You Tube on August 7.  However, downloading it helps pay for production costs for this and future videos.  Check it out.  I think you’ll find it enlightening and entertaining!

Darwin’s Doubt

Darwin’s Doubt, the brand new New York Times bestseller by Cambridge-trained Ph.D., Stephen Meyer, is creating a major scientific controversy.  Darwinists don’t like it.

Meyer writes about the complex history of new life forms in an easy to understand narrative style.  He takes the reader on a journey from Darwin to today while trying to discover the best explanation for how the first groups of animals arose.  He shows, quite persuasively, that Darwinian mechanisms don’t have the power to do the job.

Using the same investigative forensic approach Darwin used over 150 years ago, Meyer investigates the central doubt Darwin had about his own theory.  Namely, that the fossil record did not contain the rainbow of intermediate forms that his theory of gradual evolutionary change required.  However, Darwin predicted that future discoveries would confirm his theory.

Meyer points out that they haven’t.  We’ve thoroughly searched the fossil record since Darwin and confirmed what Darwin originally saw himself: the discontinuous, abrupt appearance of the first forms of complex animal life.  In fact, paleontologists now think that roughly 20 of the 28 animal phyla (representing distinct animal “body plans”) found in the fossil record appear abruptly without ancestors in a dramatic geological event called the Cambrian Explosion.

And additional discoveries since Darwin have made it even worse for his theory. Darwin didn’t know about DNA or the digital information it contains that makes life possible.  He couldn’t have appreciated, therefore, that building new forms of animal life would require millions of new characters of precisely sequenced code—that the Cambrian explosion was a massive explosion of new information.

For modern neo-Darwinism to survive, there must be an unguided natural mechanism that can create the genetic information and then add to it massively, accurately and within the time allowed by the fossil record.  Is there such a mechanism?

The answer to that question is the key to Meyer’s theory and entire book.  Meyer shows that the standard “neo-Darwinian” mechanism of mutation and natural selection mechanism lacks the creative power to produce the information necessary to produce new forms of animal life.  He also reviews the various post-Darwinian speculations that evolutionary biologists themselves are now proposing to replace the crumbling Darwinian edifice.  None survive scrutiny. Not only is there no known natural mechanism that can create the new information required for new life forms, there is no known natural mechanism that can create the genetic code for the first life either (which was the subject of Meyer’s previous book Signature in the Cell).

When Meyer suggests that an intelligent designer is the best explanation for the evidence at hand, critics accuse him of being anti-scientific and endangering sexual freedom everywhere (OK, they don’t explicitly state that last part).  They also claim that Meyer commits the God of the gaps fallacy.

But he does not.  As Meyer points out, he’s not interpreting the evidence based on what we don’t know, but what we do know.  The geologically sudden appearance of fully formed animals and millions of lines of genetic information point to intelligence.  That is, we don’t just lack a materialistic explanation for the origin of information. We have positive evidence from our uniform and repeated experience that another kind of cause—namely, intelligence or mind—is capable of producing digital information.  Thus, he argues that the explosion of information in the Cambrian period provides evidence of this kind of cause acting in the history of animal life. (Much like any sentence written by one of Meyer’s critics is positive evidence for an intelligent being).

This inference from the data is no different than the inference archaeologists made when they discovered the Rosetta Stone.  It wasn’t a “gap” in their knowledge about natural forces that led them to that conclusion, but the positive knowledge that inscriptions require intelligent inscribers.

Of course, any critic could refute Meyer’s entire thesis by demonstrating how natural forces or mechanisms can generate the genetic information necessary to build the first life and then massive new amounts of genetic information necessary for new forms of animal life.  But they can’t and hardly try without assuming what they are trying to prove (see Chapter 11).  Instead, critics attempt to smear Meyer by claiming he’s doing “pseudo science” or not doing science at all.

Well, if Meyer isn’t, doing science, then neither was Darwin (or any Darwinist today).   Meyer is using the same forensic or historical scientific method that Darwin himself used.   That’s all that can be used.   Since these are historical questions, a scientist can’t go into the lab to repeat and observe the origin and history of life.   Scientists must evaluate the clues left behind and then make an inference to the best explanation.  Does our repeated experience tell us that natural mechanisms have the power to create the effects in question or is intelligence required?

Meyer writes, “Neo-Darwinism and the theory of intelligent design are not two different kinds of inquiry, as some critics have asserted.  They are two different answers—formulated using a similar logic and method of reasoning—to the same question: ‘What caused biological forms and the appearance of design in the history of life?’”

The reason Darwinists and Meyer arrive at different answers is not because there’s a difference in their scientific methods, but because Meyer and other Intelligent Design proponents don’t limit themselves to materialistic causes.  They are open to intelligent causes as well (just like archaeologists and crime scene investigators are).

So this is not a debate about evidence.  Everyone is looking at the same evidence.  This is a debate about how to interpret the evidence, and that involves philosophical commitments about what causes will be considered possible before looking at the evidence.  If you philosophically rule out intelligent causes beforehand—as the Darwinists do—you will never arrive at the truth if an intelligent being actually is responsible.

Since all evidence needs to be interpreted, science doesn’t actually say anything—scientists do.  So if certain self-appointed priests of science say that a particular theory is outside the bounds of their own scientific dogma, that doesn’t mean that the theory is false.  The issue is truth—not whether something fits a materialistic definition of science.

I’m sure Darwinists will continue to throw primordial slime at Meyer and his colleagues.  But that won’t make a dent in his observation that whenever we see information like that required to produce the Cambrian Explosion, intelligence is always the cause.  In fact, I predict that when open-minded people read Darwin’s Doubt, they’ll see that Dr. Meyer makes a very intelligently designed case that intelligent design is actually true.  It’s just too bad that many Darwinists aren’t open to that truth—they aren’t even open minded enough to doubt Darwin as much as Darwin himself was.

Ancient Israel: Myth or History?

Part 1

The Importance of this Question

Among the many archaeological anomalies which the biblical apologist must contend with, perhaps the enigma of the Biblical Patriarchs is one of the thorniest. Who were the founding fathers of our Judeo-Christian faith? Who were the Israelites? Were they just figures invented by someone in the past to lend credibility to the stories in the Old Testament or were they real people who actually lived in the past? This blog will be the first of three that I will post concerning the historicity of the earliest chapters of the Bible. Part one will be a statement as to why Ancient Israel is important to apologetics. In part two I will highlight the main arguments and criticisms against historical Israel and in part three I will share evidence from history and archaeology as to why we can trust the Old Testament when it comes to our spiritual forefathers.

 

On a recent family trip to Virginia, I took a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s house, Monticello. Jefferson was a man of many talents and abilities, and of course, he was the third president of the United States of America. Just recently a new visitor’s center has been constructed which highlights the amazing life and contributions of this man who has been called one of the founding fathers of liberty and a (then) new democratic form of government, not only in America but also in the world. He was in every sense of the word a founding father for America and for freedom loving peoples around the world. Monuments have been built in his honor, statues have been erected, museums built, and libraries have been constructed; all for the sole purpose of remembering who Jefferson was and what he did. Jefferson was certainly not the only founding father of America. At the founding of this great country stands three great men: Washington, Jefferson and Adams.

Within Judeo Christendom there also stands three great founding fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We know about these men in the pages of the Pentateuch or Torah.  In 1 Samuel 1:27a, David wrote the haunting song of lament upon hearing the death of Saul and Jonathan. He cried,  “How are the mighty fallen…?” In responding to this, Egyptologist James K. Hoffmeier writes, “The same question might be asked of the central figures in Israel’s early history – Abraham, Moses, and Joshua – in the scholarly literature in the past two decades.”[1] So, where have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses gone?

Many notable Christian apologists today, rightly defend the historicity of the New Testament and the Resurrection, however, when it comes to defending the historicity of Old Testament there is a paucity of defenders. In our apologetic defense of the resurrection, the life of Christ, Intelligent Design, theism, and many other worthy subjects, it seems as if evangelical apologists have side-stepped the Pentateuch and the Patriarchs.[2] Why is this? Are the earliest chapters of Scripture not as important as the latter? After all, the theological message of redemption is intimately linked not only to the resurrection of Christ but also to the historical reality of Adam and Eve and the faith of Abraham and Noah.

 

Christ Affirmed the Historicity of the Patriarchs

 In addition to the historical and archaeological data I will be sharing on future posts, those who hold to a high view of Scripture have the testimony of Christ Himself who was a prophet confirmed by miracles and by His own resurrection from the dead. Christ affirmed that the Patriarch’s were real persons and not ideals or inventions. They are, in fact, included in His genealogies (Matthew 1:2-16, Luke 3:23-38). Christ, in affirming who He was to the Pharisee Nicodemus (an “expert” in the Torah), used a passage in the Torah to validate His person and ministry. Christ said, “Just as Moses [actually – historically] lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must [actually-historically] be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14).  Here, Christ spoke of an event recorded in the Torah, in the book of Numbers 21:8-9.  That event was the wandering of the Israelites in the desert wilderness, an actual historical event that would be used as an illustration of faith. The wilderness wandering and the sending of the serpents to kill the Israelites in the desert was an historical event which Nicodemus should have known about. Perhaps Nicodemus did know about it, but the theological meaning escaped him. Nevertheless, Jesus told him,  “I spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”(John 3:12).

Throughout the pages of the Gospels no-where does Christ refer to the biblical Patriarchs, Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses as anything but actual historical persons. It is possible Christ was deluded or that He was just following the “traditions” of Judaism in the first-century, but this is highly unlikely. Christ even connected the future [actual] judgment of the world with the biblical patriarch Noah. In the Olivet Discourse Christ said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man…” (Matt. 24:37-9). The passage and the message would not make hermeneutical sense if the referent (i.e. Noah) is anything but historical. It would have no force or weight if the Noah to which Christ referred was an “ideal” or an “invention” by a people to give them legitimacy.

Did not Jesus Himself rebuke His disciples for not believing the Old Testament?

He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Like the disciples, we are too are slow to believe all that Moses and the prophets have spoken.

Why is defending the historical existence of Israel as she is portrayed in the Old Testament important? Because the very integrity of the Scripture is at stake.

[1] James K. Hoffmeier, Israel In Egypt: Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press), 3.

[2] This statement is not entirely true. There are a small number of biblical scholars who are conducting research and defending the historicity of Ancient Israel and the Old Testament Patriarchs: such as evangelical archaeologist Bryant Wood,  Egyptologists, Kenneth Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier as well as Dr. J. Randall Price, John Currid and Gleason Archer. However, their work remains virtually unknown and unappreciated by many evangelicals and politely ignored by the larger community of academics in Near Eastern archaeology.