Monthly Archives: October 2014

Origin of Life – Atheist Pseudo-Science #3

“That’s life,” sings Sinatra. Well, exactly what is life? We now know that all life, even the most “primitive” life, is amazingly complex. This week let’s look at perhaps the most stunning evidence of design in the universe, the origin of life. We will also look at the pseudo-science claims of some atheists that life could have arisen by chance.

Impressed by your digital toys – smartphones, computers, TVs, and more? Life began with digital technology – DNA coding — 3.5 billion years ago. Life’s digital technology is far superior; you could store the coding for every species that has ever existed in a spoonful of DNA, with perhaps enough room left over for every book that has ever been written.

Heard of work to build “3-D printers” – machines that take in pure information and build parts and items on command? Life began with 3-D printing 3.5 billion years ago. Life’s 3-D printers – ribosomes – use the information in DNA to snap together fantastically long chains of amino acids, and then to fold that chain into the shape required for the precise functional protein a cell has ordered to be created. Ribosomes are 3-D printers that manufacture parts for cells, and all life uses essentially the same technology to do that.

Do you think your computer or cell phone could have arisen by accident? All life, even primitive life, is more sophisticated. Your cell phone can’t reproduce itself.

Last week I gave a talk in Florida. A person in the audience suggested that, since we now know that some of the amino acids used by life can arise by chance, we can now explain the origin of life as having arisen by chance. That’s like saying that, if we can find a way the letters of the English alphabet could have been created by chance, then the works of Shakespeare could have arisen by chance. The amino acid experiment he was referring to – the Miller-Urey experiment of 1953 – was tremendously flawed, and both Miller and Urey later admitted that it did not explain the origin of life. Yet this sad experiment is still given in most high school textbooks as an explanation for the origin of life. I read of it in high school and, not knowing of the flaws, began my personal sad conversion to atheism, a conversion that took decades to reverse.

There is so much more to say on this subject. I’ve got a whole chapter in Counting To God on it. If someone thinks there’s a way to explain life without God, they should read Chapter 10.

In 1964 Yale Physicist Harold Morowitz estimated the odds of life arising by chance, at any time in the history of the universe, as one in a number with a hundred billion zeros. I have never seen that estimate challenged. In other words, it is more likely that you will win a Powerball lottery 10 billion times in a row than that life arose by mere chance.

To me the origin of life is a “chicken-and-the-egg” problem. To have life, you need to begin with both the chicken and the egg. You need to begin with ribosomes and other fantastic machinery to read and copy DNA and do all the other work of life, and the exact DNA code that those machines will use to build copies of themselves.

I’m often asked what is the one question you should ask an atheist who is trying to bully you with false science. That’s easy:

How did life begin?

Thanks for reading.

Ell’s Law

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately as to how I’m going to earn my Nobel Prize. I’m not getting any younger. I’ve decided I need my own “law.” That seems to be how you make it really big science-wise – to have a law or principle either named after you or always associated with you. There’s Hubble’s Law, Newton’s Law of Gravitation, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and so on. And of course Murphy’s Law. So, to get me started on the road to Nobel, I propose Ell’s Law:

Whenever there are competing explanations for natural phenomena and one suggests, however slightly, the existence of God, the other will become the accepted “scientific” explanation, regardless of whether there is any evidence to support it.

Let’s look at Ell’s Law in operation, starting with Cosmology. The night sky is dark. Did the universe have a beginning, or do we infer there’s a lot of totally undetected dust in the heavens blocking the light from those infinite and eternal stars way out there? You guessed it! – the answer must be dust! Hubble discovers the universe is expanding, and the speed of receding galaxies is proportional to their distance from us. Do we now conclude the universe had a beginning? Nope, applying Ell’s Law, scientists invent the “Steady State” theory, where the universe is still constant and eternal and somehow matter is created in the voids to build new galaxies. This violates a basic rule of science – the First Law of Thermodynamics, the conservation of matter/energy – but, under Ell’s Law, we don’t worry about that. In 1965 we discover radiation from the Big Bang, and other evidence, absolutely confirming that our universe had a beginning. Do we now infer the existence of God? Of course not! Applying Ell’s Law, scientists conclude our universe was created by another universe, which was somehow created by a third universe, and so on, to infinity and beyond, to avoid having to come up with a “First Cause” for a first universe. We discover the constants and laws of physics are exquisitely fine-tuned for the existence of life. Do we infer a designer? Nope! Applying Ell’s Law, we just tweak our model of an infinite number of universes (together called a “multiverse”) to imagine that somehow the laws and constants of physics (and even the number of dimensions actually) can change from one to another. We have absolutely no idea how this occurs, and of course absolutely no idea how we can ever detect evidence of other universes, but, under Ell’s Law, you don’t need evidence!

Now let’s apply Ell’s Law to biology. We discover an incredible molecule called DNA that contains the information for all life. Apply Ell’s Law, and we conclude it arose by accident. We discover an amazing genetic code that all life uses to build proteins from the DNA code, and amazing machines to process DNA. Obviously, created by accident! We don’t have a mildly plausible explanation for the origin of life (and believe me, Harvard and others threw a lot of money at the problem), but, no problem, we ignore that and keep printing high school textbooks suggesting the “scientific” explanation that life was created by accident. We find all species contain massive amounts of unique DNA coding (orphan genes). Evidence of design? Not a chance! Just apply Ell’s Law, and you will conclude it all arose because of accidental mutations and natural selection, even if that’s mathematically absurd.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. Ell’s Law is one of the most powerful laws in science. It also applies in quantum physics and planetary formation. I’m going to start work on my acceptance speech.

Thanks for reading.

The Churches of Europe

This year I’ve had the great fortune to take three vacations in Europe. I’ve walked or biked through beautiful small towns and the historic centers of great cities. In every town, and every city, I’ve found amazing churches. Of all the sights of Europe, I can’t seem to stop thinking about the churches.

I was inspired and amazed by their splendor. Some took more than a hundred years to build. They seem to be everywhere, in least in the historic parts. In Bruges, Belgium there are three cathedrals, and one has a sculpture by Michelangelo. These churches contain the greatest art of the Middle Ages. Many are jaw-droppingly beautiful, others serene, others just impressive. They are magnificent monuments to the glory of God.

The churches of Europe are burdened with a sad history of religious intolerance and bloodshed. Armies were launched, and monarchies rose and fell, falsely in the name of God. As I noted in my book, it’s a lot easier to get someone to fight for you and die for you if you can convince them that God wants them to do it. This misuse of religion is rampant in history, from the Crusades to the Protestant/Catholic wars to today’s hijacking of Islam by radicals.

The churches of Europe are also, it pains me to say, becoming empty. This is more so in Northern Europe; in Belgium some are now being used primarily as museums or public meeting places. Church attendance in Europe is declining. It is very sad that the countries with the most magnificent churches are turning away from God. The disease of Scientism – the false belief system that our material world is all there is and that there are no truths outside the laws of science – is rampant in Europe, and it is growing dangerously in America.

I suppose there are many reasons for this, perhaps their bloody history of religious battles makes many Europeans want to distance themselves from God. I think the false belief that science is contrary to God is a key reason. People seem to think we are here by accident. To me, the belief that we are here by accident is a superstition, and the idea that science supports it is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the human race.

Thanks for reading. If you’re in Vero Beach Florida next Tuesday, Oct. 21, I invite you to stop by Trinity Church at 6 pm for my talk.

A Paradigm Shift to God?

College professors don’t always get it right. They preached the virtues of collective economies as the Soviet Union imploded and China embraced markets. They loved Freud long after working psychiatrists moved past him. Today most refuse to consider evidence of design in living creatures, but new findings from mainstream science point in the same direction. Could we be on the verge of a paradigm shift to God?

Unthinkable, you say? Before you close your mind, consider the evidence. I was an atheist when I was an undergraduate at MIT, and during graduate school in theoretical mathematics. I have spent 30 years reconciling science and God. Let’s look objectively at three relatively new findings.

The first finding is a stunning negative, an inability to come up with an atheist explanation for the origin of life. Harvard’s 2007 “Origin of Life Initiative” is a good example. Their 2009 conference only served to emphasize that we don’t have a clue how life began. There is no chance-based explanation for the origin of life, for the appearance, perhaps 3.5 billion years ago, of complex molecules with millions of DNA subunits and ultra-sophisticated machines to copy and repair DNA and use its information to build proteins. All life works on this same operating system. Chance can’t explain the simultaneous appearance of DNA coding and this molecular machinery, particularly when you realize it’s a chicken and egg problem. To get life, you need to begin with both the exact code for the proteins and those same proteins – machine parts – to read the code and build themselves and other proteins. Yale Professor Harold Morowitz estimated decades ago that the odds of life arising by chance in the history of the universe are about one in a number with one hundred billion zeros. Darwin’s theory of unguided evolution (random mutations and natural selection) doesn’t apply; natural selection only works after you have a system for storing and passing on traits. Where did the information and technology to create life come from?

The second finding comes from 450 scientists worldwide working on the ENCODE project to map the human genome. In September 2012 they announced that most and likely all of our 3.2 billion “letters” of DNA is functional. Despite attacks by Darwinists, ENCODE issued a paper this year holding their ground. As one die-hard Darwinist admits, “if ENCODE is true, then Evolution is wrong,” using “Evolution” here to refer to Darwinian theory. ENCODE announced in December 2012 that human DNA has two layers of information. How could 3.2 billion letters of all or mostly functional code with two layers of information arise by chance? Some Darwinists would now like to believe that extra DNA confers a major evolutionary disadvantage, but there is no known disadvantage to excess DNA. Some species have a lot. The marbled lungfish has 132 billion “letters” of DNA; a Japanese flower has 152 billion.

The third finding is that all species contain genes with no analogue in any other species. They are called “orphan genes,” because it was once believed we would find their ancestors. We know today their ancestors never existed. Orphan genes play a key role in making a species unique, such as creating toxins in jellyfish and preventing freezing in polar cod. A 2009 paper reported that “Comparative genome analyses indicate that every taxonomic group so far studied contains 10-20% of genes that lack recognizable homologs [similar counterparts] in other species.” Leaf-cutter ants have 9,361 genes that are unique; they create the largest and most complex societies of all animals, surpassed only by human beings.

Each of these findings is evidence of information in the universe. In all of human history, and in all of science, we have found only one thing that can create meaningful information. That is intelligence. I gave a lecture at MIT earlier this year, and asked the roomful of scientists if there was there was any other known source of information. The room became silent.

This argument from probability is a paradigm buster. Take the atheist/Darwinist claim that there is nothing special about human beings. In 2011 scientists identified 198 orphan genes in humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans that code for proteins used in the brain. Fifty-four of these genes are solely human. The odds of getting by chance DNA code to perform a specified function are vanishing small; one paper estimates that likelihood as one part in a number with 77 zeros. How many proto-human candidates do you think there could possibly have been – maybe a number with nine or ten digits at most? The odds that any of those proto-humans ever had a mutation creating one of these orphan brain genes is less than picking a specified marble out of almost unimaginably big pile, a pile of marbles 100 light years in diameter, extending far beyond our Solar System to include many nearby stars.

As the experimental evidence points to God, the academic rhetoric gets louder. A recent piece in the Sunday Review came from a biology professor who gives his students an anti-God “Talk” each year. He admits living things are “wonderfully complex,” but states that this is consistent with random variations plus natural selection, unguided evolution. That may be Darwinian dogma, but it’s mathematical nonsense. Orphan genes can’t be explained by chance; they’re not derived from any prior genes. 3.2 billion “letters” of all or mostly functional DNA code can’t be explained by chance. The origin of life can’t be explained by chance. I’d like to give that professor a course in probability.

There’s other evidence. The fossil record contradicts Darwinian theories of gradual descent; it documents an infusion of information into the universe 540 million years ago as part of life’s Cambrian Explosion. Could we be on the verge of a paradigm shift to God? Will people be open to these new facts of science? God only knows.

Thanks for reading.