Science Uprising: a revolutionary case for Intelligent Design

Science-uprisingThe Bible tells us this world and this universe were spoken into being by God Himself, and that Mankind is the pinnacle of His creation (Ps. 8:3-9, Gen. 1:26-28). Meanwhile mainstream science – the sort we read about in the newspapers and get taught in our public schools and universities – says we’re only modified monkeys.

So which is it? Are we a special creation? Or does the scientific evidence show we’re just the products of time and chance?

As the six videos below lay out, there’s evidence aplenty to undermine mainstream science’s modified monkey theory. And while evolution preaches we are matter and nothing more, that turns out to be philosphy, not evidence-based.

Each of the videos are between 6 and 8 minutes long, and all are part of the “Science Uprising” project crafted by the Intelligent Design think tank Discovery Institute to “directly confronts the false views of science held by the growing number of science popularizers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye.

Be aware, though, that Science Uprising is not a specifically Christian argument. In none of these videos is the Bible mentioned, and the Intelligent Designer the series argues for is never specifically named. That means the project, as compelling as its argument is and as professional as the production values are, has a notable shortcoming: it ably tears down evolutionary arguments, but it never raises up God’s Truth. If we share this material with non-Christian friends, we need to also point out everyone’s need for a Redeemer, and share with our audience who that Saviour is, the God-man Jesus.

That limitation noted, this whole series is remarkable. This is as succinct and slick a presentation of the Intelligent Design argument as you will ever find. So grab some popcorn, shut off your phone, and for the next hour kick back and enjoy the show!

Materialism vs. reality – Episode #1

The Bible says that the universe and all that is in it was created by Someone who is more than it and beyond it. But materialist science tells us “the cosmos are all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be.”

So is our universe matter and nothing more, and is it anti-science to believe that non-material things like love and consciousness are real? Dr. Jay Richards weighs in.

No, you’re not a robot made out of meat – Episode #2

Who are we? The Bible says we are physical and spiritual beings – we have a body, but we are more than our body. If I lose an arm and leg, I may have lost 25% of my body, but am still all there – there isn’t 25% less of me.

And the evidence agrees. For example, it shows that our immaterial minds – our thoughts – can actually change our material brains.

The Programmer – Episode #3

The Bible says we were are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a Master Craftsman.

And what does Science say? The materialist scientists reduce us to mere machine. And yet they have to acknowledge that “our DNA code is more complex than any man-made software…” And as Stephen Meyer explains, our observations of the world show us “information always arises from an intelligent source.”

You don’t suck – Episode #4

The Bible declares that Man is something special, created in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26-28).

Materialist science has a very different perspective. As Bill Nye puts it, “I am a speck on a speck, a whirling speck, among still other specks in the middle of specklessness….I suck!” At the same time, scientists are discovering that this supposedly purposeless universe seems to be especially and improbably fine-tuned to not just support life but to enable us to thrive.

How do the materialists explain that? By proposing this is just one of millions or billions or trillions of universes out there, and this is the one where everything came out just right. One problem: as physicist Frank Tipler explains there’s exactly as much evidence for this “multiverse theory” as there is for the existence of unicorns and leprechauns

The origins of life – Episode #5

The Bible says that life was designed, and came about by an extraordinary supernatural act of God. In contrast, materialist science says that life came about by simple, random, unguided chemical interactions.

But if life really could come about by sheer unintended luck, then why haven’t the world’s most brilliant scientists – with their billions of dollars in equipment, awesome computing power, refined chemicals, and ready blueprints all around them – ever been able to create life on purpose?

Mutations break; they don’t create – Episode #6

The Bible says that due to Man’s Fall into Sin the perfect world that God created is broken, and wearing out (Isaiah 51:6, Ps. 102:25-25). In this worldview it is no surprise that mutations are harmful, causing things like cancer. It’s no surprise because Christians understand that we as a species are breaking down.

But evolutionary theory says Mankind is the end result of a long process of beneficial mutations that changed us and improved us, progressing upward from life’s simple origins as a single cell, to eventually evolve into the incredibly complex creatures that we are today. Evolution says that we as a species are improving.

So which worldview fits best with the evidence? Do we see mutations improving us, or harming us? A closer look at the science shows that mutations don’t have the type of creative power the evolution proposes and needs.

The picture at the top of the page is a screenshot from episode #6.

 

2 free films tackle evolution from different directions

Human Zoos (1 hour)

Are we made in the very Image of God? Evolutionists say no, and Human Zoos explores some of the implications of their beastly thinking.

The Programming of Life 2: Earth (1/2 hour)

Our planet is incredibly fine-tuned for life, and yet amazingly robust in its provision for that life. This film explores how unlikely it is that the Earth would just happen to have everything that we need in exactly the proportions we need. This is a fantastic sequel to Programming for Life which explored just how impossible it would have been for life to have come about by chance. You can watch that one for free too, right here.

The cautions I would add are that the scientists consulted run the gamut from six-day creationist to intelligent design proponent to theistic evolutionist, and there seems a sort of “scientism” at work here (Science as the sole arbitrator of truth). That said, the overall argument they make – that the evidence shows that the Earth is uniquely and clearly designed for life – is one we can endorse wholeheartedly.

Why haven’t we heard from ET?

cowalienSome 70 years ago physicist Enrico Fermi looked up at the stars and wondered where everyone was at. With billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, it seemed inconceivable to him that ours would be the only planet to evolve life. So where was everyone?

His query is now called Fermi’s Paradox, and on March 18 a group of about 60 scientists met in Paris to share their latest theories as to why we haven’t heard from any of our galactic neighbors. Live Science’s Mindy Weisberger shared some of their creative ideas:

  • The “zoo hypothesis” – Earth is like a galactic animal reserve where aliens are leaving us alone to be observed in our natural habitat.
  • We’ve been quarantined – aliens know about us, but don’t like us.
  • Aliens are trapped by their superplanets’ intense gravity and they can’t come out to meet us.
  • Aliens have come and gone, dying off before we had a chance to connect with them.

Three days after the Paris conference Cosmos dug deeper into Fermi’s Paradox with an even more vexing question: where are all the “von Newmann probes”?

What’s a von Newmann probe, you ask? Well, back in the 1960s, mathematician John von Newmann argued that a sufficiently advanced civilization would be able to build a space probe that could mine raw materials on other planets and use those to make replicas of itself. These replicas would, in turn, build other copies. And as the process repeated, the number and spread of these self-replicating “von Newmann probes” would expand exponentially until, as Cosmos’ Lauren Fuge put it, “in a relatively short space of time – perhaps as little as 10 million years – the galaxy would be teeming with these exploratory machines.”

But there are no hordes, teeming or otherwise. So, again, where is everyone?

The Cosmos article offered, as a possible explanation, astrophysicist Duncan Forgan’s “predator-prey hypothesis,” soon to be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Astrobiology. Forgan argues that “self-replication could result in encoding errors” and that maybe some of these coding errors could lead to some of these probes taking a predatory turn. If they did, then perhaps the reason we don’t see these teeming hordes is because the predatory probes are hunting down and destroying the other probes.

Hmmm….

While these various hypotheses make for incredibly creative speculation, they all share one thing in common: there are no facts to back them up. In fact, the only “evidence” for any of these theories is that aliens haven’t contacted us.

So why did scientists bother meeting to swap what amounts to untestable, unverifiable, just-so stories? Why did Live Science and other media outlets bother covering the Paris event? And why did Cosmos think Forgan’s theory worth sharing? 

They covered them because these stories – to the undiscerning – seem to offer an explanation to Fermi’s Paradox and the problem it presents to evolutionary theory. But they’re just stories. And what does it say about the theory if its defenders are willing to hype stories that the public will mistake for scientific, factual, or evidence-based?

Here’s a different sort of hypothesis to consider: what if ET just isn’t out there? What if life, instead of being easy to come by, only happens via miraculous means? And God only did so here on Earth?

It’s worth noting that there is nothing in the Bible that speaks against the possibility of life being on other planets. But while the Bible allows for life on other planets, evolution would seem to demand it – if life can just happen, then someone else should be out there. It’s only when life is miraculous that it becomes understandable that it might be rare.

Now here’s a question for our evolutionary friends: if we suppose that dumb, unplanned, undirected luck can create life, why can’t the world’s most brilliant minds, using available blueprints (from living creatures), and working with quadrillions-of-calculations-per-second supercomputers, in laboratories staffed with every device and chemical they could possibly want, manage to make even a single living cell? If living things can come about by chance, why hasn’t anyone created them on purpose?

Looking at evolutionists’ still-lifeless labs we can’t help but ask again: where is everyone?

*****

In 2013 cartoonist Zach Weinersmith crafted a cartoon and gave the talk below on his “Infantapaulting Hypothesis” in which he theorized that the reasons babies are so aerodynamic is because they used to be catapulted into neighboring villages, to increase their chances of finding a mate among a more genetically diverse population. He was satirizing the tendency among evolutionists to indulge in “just-so stories” – to indulge in creative hypotheses that might fit the available evidence but which are not testable. If a fellow who still believes in Darwin’s theory can be this brilliant, insightful, and hilarious in exposing evolutionary flaws, can creationists take this further and be even funnier?   

The limits of the “two-books” metaphor

The Bible and the "book" of Nature

There is an idea, common among Christians, that God has revealed Himself to us via “two books”: Scripture and the book of Nature. The Belgic Confession, Article 2 puts it this way:

“We know [God] by two means:

  1. “First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature, as the apostle Paul says in Rom 1:20. All these things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse.
  2. “Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.”

But what happens when these two “books” seem to conflict? This happens in the Creation/Evolution debate, where the plain reading of Genesis 1 and 2 conflicts with the evolutionary account of our origins. So, as Jason Lisle notes, that has some Christians thinking that since:

“…the book of Nature clearly reveals that all life has evolved from a common ancestor….we must take Genesis as a metaphor…. we must interpret the days of Genesis as long ages, not ordinary days.”

ANALOGIES HAVE THEIR LIMITS

But that’s getting things backwards. While the Belgic Confession does speak of Creation as being like a book, metaphors and analogies have their limits. For example, In Matt. 23:37 God is compared to a hen who “gathers her chicks under her wings” – this analogy applies to the loving, protective nature of a hen, and should not be understood to reveal that God is feminine. That’s not what it is about.

Clearly Nature is not a book – the universe is not made up of pages and text, and it’s not enclosed in a cover or held together by a spine. The Belgic Confession is making a specific, very limited, point of comparison when it likens God’s creation to a book. How exactly is it like a book? In how it proclaims “God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature.” It does so with book-like clarity, “so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

But in the Creation/Evolution debate some Christians extend this book analogy in a completely different, and entirely inaccurate, direction. It has been taken to mean that Creation can teach us about our origins with book-like clarity. This misunderstanding then presents us with a dilemma: if we have one book saying we were created in just six days, and another saying it took millions of years, and both are equally clear on this matter, then what should we believe?

We need to understand that this dilemma is entirely of our own making. Creation is not like a book when it comes to teaching us about our origins. As Dr. Lisle has noted, it does not speak with that kind of clarity on this topic.

ONLY ONE ACTUAL BOOK HERE

In contrast, the Bible is not merely like a book, it actually is one! It is there, and only there, that we get bookish clarity on how we, and the world around us, came to be.

So, yes, the two-book analogy remains helpful when it is used to illustrate the clarity with which God shows “his eternal power and divine nature” to everyone on the planet. But when it comes to the Creation/Evolution debate, the way the two-book analogy is being used is indeed fallacious. God’s creation simply does not speak with book-like clarity regarding our origins.

We can be thankful, then, that his Word does!

Jon Dykstra also blogs on at www.ReformedPerspective.ca

 

On DNA and how “things are seldom what they seem”

Duck

by Margaret Helder

Sometimes we forget that scientists like to be amused just as much as other individuals, and the illustration in the November 20/08 issue of Nature is certainly amusing. You see five ducks swimming serenely in a row. Above the water line, they are all identical but below the surface one duck is propelled along by a massive tricycle, one has extremely long legs with webbed feet, one has normal legs, one is propelled by a motorized propeller and the last one sits serenely on top of a gigantic octopus.

It all makes one think of the sentiments expressed by “Little Buttercup” in the English operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. She warbles: 

Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream…
Black sheep dwell in every fold
All that glitters is not gold.

The amusing illustration in the Nature article, was actually promoting a similar idea. Organisms may look similar on the outside, it declares, but on the inside, their genetic information may be vastly different.

Why does this matter? Well, it is certainly contrary to evolutionary expectations.

DEFYING EXPECTATIONS

As scientists first started building up a database of DNA coding in various organisms, they knew what they expected to find. Based on evolution theory, they expected that organisms that seemed to have a close evolutionary relationship would exhibit similar DNA codes, and those with a remote connection would show much different collections of code.

In previous generations, scientists looked for similarities in form and function among organisms to draw conclusions about evolutionary relationships. Thus catlike animals would all be placed in the same group. Obviously the experts expected that the results of DNA coding studies would reflect the relationships already established on the basis of similarity in shape and biology. But often that’s not what happened.

The illustration of the ducks, so similar above the water line, represents the form and function of organisms. The vastly different controlling mechanisms below the water represent the here-to-fore hidden differences in the DNA controls inside organisms.

The first sign of unfulfilled evolutionary expectations was when the DNA from a spectrum of organisms was compared. Often the most similar DNA coding was not found among organisms that looked the most similar.

SIMILAR APPEARANCE ≠ SIMILAR DNA?

This discovery can also be compared to an adult assembling two children’s toys. The first box is opened and various component parts fall out along with an instruction sheet. The brave parent duly sets to work and assembles the toy.

Now imagine a second box is opened and a similar toy needs to be assembled. The parent thinks this one should be easy, but alas, he discovers the component parts are all differently shaped and the instructions are different too.

However in due course the second toy is assembled, and it looks and works much like the first toy. If the parent didn’t know that the insides of the two toys were very different, he might have thought they came from the same company. But after seeing the instruction sheet and all the parts, the parent realizes that these two toys must have come from totally separate sources. Even if the first company had wanted to produce a slightly more elaborate model, it would not change the basic components and instructions. It would merely modify the initial program as required.

It is the same with DNA coding in an organism’s cells. Even if the end result looks and works the same, if the instructions and component parts in the cell are very different, we suspect that the organisms have entirely separate sources, or lines of descent.

SIMILAR DNA ≠ SIMILAR APPEARANCE

The response of the scientific community to this unfulfilled expectation was to change the groupings of organisms so that the pattern of DNA differences once again gave a picture of gradual change.

The problem with this solution however is that the new groupings did not make much sense. Now creatures were grouped together as closely related, in an evolutionary sense, that did not have much in common at all. Hence we now have a classic “conflict between molecules and morphology [shape].” As a result, over the past twenty years, we have seen a “radical re-ordering of relationships” among many animal groups (Nature Feb. 12/09 pp. 812 and 816). The same holds true for plants.

So scientists have rearranged their groupings, often in illogical ways, to make the DNA fit an evolutionary scenario. The ducky illustration, however, applies more closely to other problems for evolution theory.

Biochemists firstly noticed that many creatures which have few characteristics in common, nevertheless have many genes which are “virtually identical” (Nature Nov. 20/08 p 300). This can be made to fit both evolution theory and design. Evolutionists interpret this as showing lines of common descent, even if very remote. Meanwhile creationists understand this as showing God’s choosing to use some similar elements in otherwise very different creatures.

But at the same time, the experts have found “closely connected species can connect up their genes in very different regulatory networks while keeping the end result deceptively unchanged” (p. 300). Not only have the scientists found that similar organisms may use genes in different ways, but they may even use entirely different genes to produce the same result (p. 301).

This discovery of very different codes in organisms that appear so similar is, of course, not predicted by evolution theory. Naturally these experts are looking for explanations that will still fit their theory. Thus:

“Now researchers are trying to understand how evolution finds the solutions it does, and why. Some think that this ‘underground’ variation was selected for. Some think it appeared by chance” (p. 300).

When scientists appeal to chance for an explanation, it means that they have no explanation.

WHAT’S YOUR PRESUPPOSITION?

The article in Nature declares that the situation “feels very counter-intuitive.” But is it?

It all depends upon one’s basic premises. If evolution is the basis for one’s interpretation of nature, then the results do not make sense: very similar organisms (often microorganisms) using very different molecules to achieve the same result.

It is obvious that many DNA data do not fit evolutionary expectations. However, the scientists involved simply look for alternative evolutionary explanations. It seems evident that this irregular pattern of DNA coding better fits an explanation involving intelligent choices by God the Creator.

The evolutionist may retort that this does not prove the case for creation. Fair enough. There is no proof to be had in science. The evolutionists claim that all data can be accommodated within their worldview – this is not proof, but preference. Similarly we insist that all data fit Biblical revelation. In the case of DNA, the information from nature does not fit evolutionary expectations very well at all. It does fit the creation model better.

Don’t expect ducks, however, to show the scale of internal diversity illustrated in the Nature article. That was merely for purposes of illustration. However, if anyone sees a duck driven by a propeller, let me know!

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in September 2009 issue of Reformed Perspective under the title “On ducks and DNA.” Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of No Christian Silence in Science, a book every Christian teen considering a career in Science should read before heading off to university.

WONDERFUL WHALES: Design on a gigantic scale

whale3

by Margaret Helder

When we look at nature, we can hardly miss the design that is everywhere so apparent in living creatures. We recognize it every time we see aspect of an organism that are elegant, beautiful and useful. There are many famous examples of design in nature, traits that are not only beautiful, but which work beautifully as well….but one can look anywhere! Some examples are more interesting to us than others, but all are worth considering.

DESIGN DONE BIG

Consider for example the difficulties that the largest animals on earth, the rorqual whales must overcome to obtain enough food. The blue whale is the most famous and largest example of a rorqual. Another is the humpback. Such big animals are not going to be good at chasing smaller more agile prey. Their solution is to find very thick schools of small fish, and then to lunge forward and gulp in a huge mouthful of water containing lots of fish.

The whales engulf the water and fish before the latter have a chance to panic and escape. The whales then push the water back out of their mouths through a special filtering system like venetian blinds, which in this case is called baleen. What is left in the mouth, the whale swallows.

It all sounds relatively uncomplicated, but it is not. Without a number of special and unique design features, these whales would starve.

1. Pleated throats

The rorqual whales are named for their specially pleated throats (extending from mouth to navel) which can expand tremendously to accommodate 60 – 80 cubic meters of water and prey, “a volume equal to or greater than that of the individual rorqual itself” (Pyenson et al. Nature, 2012 p. 498, emphasis mine).

2. Filtration systemwhale1

The prey must now be separated out from all that water. What the whale does is push the water out of its mouth through a sieve-like structure which replaces teeth. This filtering system or baleen, consists of keratin, like our fingernails and hair.

The baleen whale’s “suspension feeding system” – which involved feeding on, and straining out, suspended food particles from water – is unique among mammals and the pleated throat of the rorquals is unique to this even smaller group of baleen whales. That is not the end of the story. Without further special design features these whales would still be “dead in the water.”

No group other than the rorqual whales engulfs a massive volume of water in a single gulp. In order to do this, the animal lunges forward, accelerating to high speed, and then gulping in that huge volume of water, all within six seconds. But how does the whale know what volume of water to engulf? And how does it manage to engulf a volume larger than its own body? How does it know what water to gulp? If the whale just went around gulping random volumes of water, it would certainly starve – schools of fish are patchy in their distribution, and thus cannot be found in any old place.

3. The hair of their chinny chin

For a start, the whale has bristles on its chin which function sort of like whiskers. These allow the animal to identify schools of fish that are sufficiently dense. Now the whale must take advantage of this dense concentration of fish. To do this, the rorqaul must control the rate of mouth opening and throat-pouch expansion so as to maximize the intake volume. All this must happen while the whale is lunging forward at high speed.

4. Jaw that splits down the middle

We now discover more unique design features of the rorquals. The lower jaw consists of left and right halves which are only loosely connected by fibres, and also are only loosely connected to the skull. This allows for great flexibility of the mouth opening. As the rorquals lunge forward, they rotate the components of the jaw so that the opening is close to 90 degrees at the peak of the lunge. The tongue becomes convex and the throat pleats expand. Soon the jaws clamp around a huge volume of water and the whale begins the process of expelling the water and retaining the fishy harvest.

5. Always new wonders to find

New research has shown that the rorquals enjoy the benefits of yet another design feature which enables them to be successful in this unusual life style. In the centre of the lower jaw (between the two loosely connected halves) is a special and completely unique sensory organ. In its basic design it is something like the semicircular canals in our inner ear which allow us to figure out the orientation of our bodies. Inside the canals in our ears, there is clear gel and particles which occupy one position or another.

Similarly in the jaws of these whales there is a structure which has papillae (soft projections) surrounded by a gel-like matrix. This seems much like the mechanoreceptors in our inner ears. Apparently this organ in the whale jaw informs the animal as to the extent of the rotation of the jaws and the expansion of the pleats during mouth opening. The rorquals alone possess this organ between the unfused halves of the lower jaw.

Scientists consider that this sensory organ plays a fundamental role in the extreme feeding method of these largest animals on earth.

CONCLUSION

It is evident from details of the lifestyle of the rorquals that even apparently uncomplicated methods of feeding require special design features. The rorquals are certainly an example of irreducible complexity. Even with baleen instead of teeth, if they didn’t have the unique unfused lower jaw, pleats in the throat, the special sensory organ in the jaw, and the sensitive bristles on their chin, these largest of animals could never survive. Evolutionists have no adequate explanations for how these unique features could have developed through spontaneous processes.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Margaret Helder’s “No Christian Silence on Science” which you can buy here. This article first appeared in Reformed Perspective.

MOLECULAR MOTORS: Design on a microscopic scale

by Margaret Helder

One of the most famous molecular machines is the rotary bacterial flagellum made famous by Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box (1996). This miniature mechanical biological wonder is like a miniature outboard motor for the cell going at 100,000 rpm!

While this motor is only found in some bacteria another rotary motor has been discovered and that is universally found in all living cells. It is called the ATP synthase motor. ATP or adenosine triphosphate provides the chemical energy that drives the metabolic reactions of the living cell. If the cell has no ATP, it is dead.

But of course ATP gets used up and more has to be provided. The “burning” (oxidation) of food provides the energy to produce more ATP. The motor that achieves this is extremely tiny, only 10 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter compared to 50 for the bacterial flagellum. The motor is very simple in its structure. As the motor spins, it squeezes two components (adenosine diphosphate and phosphate) together forming the finished ATP molecule. Apparently the motor’s efficiency is “uncannily high: nearly 100%”

So this motor that spins at 10,000 rpm is almost 100% efficient! Not only is this rotary machine elegant in its design, but it is also unusual. None of this sounds like a phenomenon that came about spontaneously!

This is an excerpt from Dr. Margaret Helder’s “No Christian Silence on Science” which you can buy here. It first appeared on ReformedPerspective.ca.