Monthly Archives: September 2014

Perfection and Whale Hips

One so-called “scientific” argument against the existence of God is that there are organs or features that appear unnecessary or imperfect. The argument is that this somehow shows that species evolved through a purely unguided process. Darwin wrote:

“On the view of each organism with all its separate parts having been specially created, how utterly inexplicable is it that organs bearing the plain stamp of inutility … should so frequently occur.”

This is nonsense. To borrow a phrase from a friend who teaches physics at MIT, this argument “is so bad it’s not even wrong.” It makes no sense on several levels. First, we are not able to judge God. What we think of as useless or imperfect may make sense in God’s plan. Second, who says everything has to be perfect or even useful? You don’t have to show that everything is perfect to have a scientific basis for belief; all you have to show is clear evidence of design in the universe and in life. (My book shows overwhelming evidence for that in seven areas of science.)

That’s all old news. What’s new, and amazing, is that organ-by-organ, feature-by-feature, scientists are discovering that items once thought useless are absolutely necessary. Take the appendix, cited by Darwin himself as useless. We now know the appendix is a “safe house” for helpful bacteria that may be otherwise destroyed in our stomachs, and serves other critical functions. About fifty species of mammals have an appendix, and those species are so diverse that, to quote one scientist, the appendix “must have evolved separately at least 32 times, and perhaps as many as 38 times.” Wow! So some blind, unguided, and ultimately chance-based process produced the same organ dozens of times in different species – or a common designer placed it there for a reason. Draw your own conclusion.

Take the myth of junk DNA – the argument that human beings were not designed because the majority of our DNA code was thought to be useless “junk.” This myth was destroyed in 2012 by 450 scientists worldwide as part of the ENCODE project.

And now whale hips. Whale hips were said to be the “marquee example” of a useless feature. Guess what? A recent scientific article explains why they are still necessary. Details aside, without whale hips you’re not likely to get baby whales.

I think baby whales are cute. Perhaps they’re perfect.

Thanks for reading.

Guided Evolution

“What’s in a name?” wrote Shakespeare. Perhaps a lot. In today’s sound bite world, we need to be careful with each word we use, because we may not get a chance to explain further.

I have found confusion over the word “evolution.” Some, particularly academics, will tell you that the word refers to Darwinian evolution – the theory that all species arose solely from random mutations and natural selection. That’s certainly one of the definitions in many dictionaries. But to many people, including I think most children, “evolution” just means any process of formation or change. In that sense, “evolution” is what we used to call at MIT a “no-brainer.” Clearly there have been different species at different times. There are no dinosaurs walking around my neighborhood.

So what’s the best way to frame the debate, to open minds to the substantial new evidence that Darwin’s theory is wrong? If you equate “evolution” with Darwin’s theory, and argue “evolution is wrong,” I think you are giving Darwinists an unnecessary advantage. To those people who have a basic, nonacademic, concept of evolution as a process of change, you appear to be arguing that species don’t change. You could come across as a flat-Earth person.

I would frame the debate as “guided” evolution versus “unguided” evolution. To me that puts the key issue out front – is there evidence of design? Most people have an instinctive awe over the variety and beauty of life. Today intelligent design is attacked, yet in the early 1800’s every educated person believed in intelligent design. Let’s regain the high ground. Let’s put forth the evidence that evolution was guided.

So what’s in a name? Perhaps a lot. When you add “guided” to “evolution,” you add God.

Thanks for reading.

Different Paths

This week I drove across Florida to be a guest on “It’s Time with Herman and Sharron,” also known as the “Herman and Sharron Show.” I had never heard of Herman, or Sharron, or their show, but I thought it could be fun. I also thought that perhaps it was an invitation I was supposed to accept.

The show is produced by the Christian Television Network, is widely syndicated, and has been rated in the top 10 Christian programs on cable television. I bumped into Herman backstage before taping, and he radiates genuine warmth and peace. He proudly introduced his bride of 51 years. The half hour went by too fast. I’m told it will be broadcast on Monday, September 15, beginning at 10 am on the East Coast. As they say, check your cable listings. The show will also be available on YouTube a few days after that.

Herman and I have taken different paths. His show focuses on prayer and faith healing. He noted, at the beginning of the show, that most of his programming assumes no more than a 5th or perhaps 8th grade education. Yet he clearly wanted to reach beyond that, and I guess that is why he invited me. I did my best to explain the scientific evidence for God, the subjects of my book. I noted that you can’t get meaningful information by chance, and that scientists have found tremendous new information in every species. We discussed how many people are not willing to adapt their views when the evidence changes. We chuckled at the truth that, although many perceive believers as refusing to adapt, in reality it is Atheists who ignore the evidence of modern science. I have a tendency to get too technical, and I was probably guilty of that again. But Herman kept smiling and wanting to learn more, and I loved it.

I envy Herman his path to faith. I often wish I wasn’t a sort of scientific doubting Thomas, a person who took decades to sort through the evidence of science. But that’s my path. As I say in my book, there are many paths up the mountain, many different ways to seek God. Whatever your path is, I wish you the best. If you can achieve the faith of Herman and Sharron, you will be high up on the mountain.

Thanks for reading.

The Best of Science and Religion

My publisher has promoted my book as combining the best of science and religion. I like that. It’s a succinct statement of why I wrote the book.

Of course, you have to be careful with terms. By “science” I mean the basic definition in the dictionary: observation, experimentation, and reasoning – what I call “figuring it out.” By “religion” I mean the essence of Abrahamic faith – the simple belief that our universe and life were designed, that we are not here by accident.

The basic theme of my book is that when you do true science, when you try to “figure it out,” the evidence that our universe and life were designed is overwhelming. Evidence from established, mainstream science — cosmology, nuclear physics, molecular biology, the fossil record, planetary physics, quantum physics. I am constantly astonished by the general but false perception that science and religion are in conflict. I had one person recently ask me three times: “So you think science and religion are compatible?” He had a hard time even hearing my message.

He and many others confuse “science” with a belief system that attempts to make a religion out of “science,” which says that the natural world is all there is and that there are no truths other than the truth of science. That belief system has different names – Scientism, Naturalism, Materialism – but one purpose, to deny the existence of God. Scientism is not science. Scientism puts a box around science, and says you can’t look outside the box for truth, even when you ask how the stuff in the box came to be.

We need both true science and religion. We need to keep figuring out how our world works and how to make it better. I, for one, am not willing to give up modern dentistry! There’s no going back on the comforts and wonders of modern science.

We need religion too. Science without religion is empty. Scientism would have us believe that existence is pointless, and that human beings were created by random events, mere “chemical scum.” That pathetic philosophy is the cause of many of our social problems. How wonderful and liberating that true science supports the existence of God.

Pope John Paul II wrote: “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” I like that. As we move forward in this third millennium and twenty-first century, let’s combine the best of science and religion

Thanks for reading.