Saturday, April 26, 2008


“Intelligence” as an underlying cause of observed natural phenomena is a forbidden word in the academic world of science. Leaders in that world investigate only “natural” cause and effect. The idea of intelligence, or the more formal intelligent design (ID), is said to be a religious concept and therefore out of bounds. However, a startling irony is revealed in the secular SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) movement. For a time SETI was an adjunct of the government’s NASA program. It received some taxpayer money for activities such as microwave surveys of the heavens, searching for indicators of intelligent life in distant space. Budget-cutting removed all government support in 1993, to the disappointment of scientists. It continues, however, with private funding.

If an “intelligent” signal were to be received from outer space, no doubt that signal would be in the form of a code. Scientists would evaluate the code and then agree on the meaning of the code’s message. This would create an instant public sensation. It would be recognized as one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. Intelligence would be “proven” to exist in another part of our universe. If SETI enthusiasts even proved that a microwave signal from a distant galaxy was produced by intelligent beings, that discovery would be hailed as a great scientific achievement.

Before we get too carried away with enthusiasm, let’s return to earth. The DNA molecule contained within the cell is responsible for the nuances of every physical trait and every physical function of each human being on earth. DNA contains coded information responsible for differentiating each human being from six billion others on our planet. That code also differentiates each of the millions of earth species from every other species. This submicroscopic repository of information has no equal. The DNA code is complex beyond comprehension. Codes are always produced by an intelligent agent and are the product of a mind.

When disagreements over issues of intelligent design arise, we must realize that differences in worldview may be at the heart of the disagreement. More people are recognizing that science, evidence-based as it is, may be better-served by admitting design as an explanatory option in some cases. Isaiah 45:18-19 (NIV) is not unscientific because it speaks about the activities of God, the Creator: For this is what the Lord says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. Isaiah’s statements invite observation and testing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Reader Reaction: Theistic Evolution

We encourage email responses to our blog content. Our 4/19 post generated a thoughtful, detailed response worth sharing with our readers. The writer responded to several specific points in the post.

Point: Theistic evolutionists would say God endowed matter with self-organizing capabilities. Reaction: Accepting the exact same intrinsic principle as naturalistic evolutionists, theistic evolutionists are not supported by hard, observational science in this assessment. This is bad science.
Point: Dr. Francis Collins sanctions the idea of molecules-to-man evolution and claims there is no conflict with his evangelical faith. Reaction: I find theistic evolution extremely inconsistent in its biblical interpretation. For example, theistic evolutionists are quick to point out that they regard the Genesis account of creation as allegory and metaphor, seriously lacking in scientific credibility. Yet, they strongly defend the historical narrative found in the Gospels and the entirety of the New Testament. Why isn’t the New Testament allegory and metaphor as well? It is chock full of the miraculous. And what about Jesus, Luke, and Paul? They all refer back to Adam and Eve. Were they just symbols? Was the fall of mankind just a story written by the scientifically illiterate? If so, why did Jesus have to come and die on the cross? And what about the 200 references in the New Testament to people, places, and events in Genesis? And what about 100 or so references in the New Testament to Genesis 1-11? I think it’s fair to say that New Testament authors and Christ himself did not believe it to be allegory, metaphor, or merely meaningful myths.
Point: Theistic evolution locks arms with naturalistic evolution in many significant ways. Reaction: It locks arms with a theory whose very foundational roots are atheistic in nature. Evolution, as derived by its founder, Charles Darwin, and practiced by the vast majority of the current scientific community, is an inherently atheistic scientific theory. It also locks arms with a theory that is quite inconsistent with sound, scholarly, biblical interpretation.
Point: In deciding between theistic evolution and creationism, the Christian must constantly consider whether nature calls attention to itself, or to the Creator. Reaction: I think the Christian would be better served considering whether evolution is good science at all. No testable explanation for the origin of the cosmos, the origin of DNA, the origin of the cell, the sudden appearances that dominate the fossil record, and the unique intellectual, moral, and spiritual capacity of mankind. Or the fact that it can’t quantify or qualify the precise anatomical and physiological steps required to turn a frog heart into a lizard heart, or a dinosaur lung into a bird lung, or an ape brain into a human brain, no matter how much time is allotted. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of theistic evolutionists utilize the argument from authority to defend their position. I would challenge these individuals to take a much harder look at the claims of theistic evolution, both from a scientific and biblical perspective.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Expelled, the newly released movie by Ben Stein, will generate howls of horror by the community of evolutionists, particularly those in the academic world. Our readers should know what the furor is all about.

Intelligent design (ID) is a concept which has become popular mainly in the last two decades. It proposes that the multiple instances of precise fine tuning in the cosmos and the incredible functional complexity of living things from the cell to integrated organ systems bespeak origins which can best be explained by an intelligent agent. But any mention of ID in venues from research labs to public school classrooms generates mocking ridicule, or worse, from scientists and department heads securely locked in a box labeled “NATURAL EXPLANATIONS ONLY – NO SUPERNATURAL CONSIDERED!”

The case for design and the weaknesses of evolutionary theory are discussed in the film but play secondary roles as the film proceeds. Primary attention is devoted to the blatant suspension of academic freedom and the dangerous practices of social Darwinism such as the Holocaust, eugenics, and abortion. No professional scientist in the world of academia, no matter how well-reasoned and logical his proposal, no matter how his thesis otherwise conforms to recognized scientific principles, is ever allowed to propose, discuss, or even mention ID. The usual penalty if he does? Discipline, censure, non-renewal, and a bleak prospect for future employment. Many dismissed scientists, university officials who have sanctioned the dismissals, and well-known evolutionists are interviewed by Stein. The viewer is left to make conclusions primarily based on those interviews and historic film clips of the impact of social Darwinism in the 20th century.

This film will likely produce an “earthquake.” The strength of the worldview that supports evolution and excludes the supernatural will be tested. That worldview is that of atheism/naturalism. There will be a clash of atheism/naturalism with the theistic/Christian worldview. Expelled will take you on an emotional journey along the fault lines of the earthquake. It is a powerful film!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Theistic Evolution - Why Not?

Several Christian friends of mine are theistic evolutionists with whom I have had lively discussions. Theistic evolutionists state that God, at the beginning, brought all things into existence. They would also say that God endowed matter with self-organizing capabilities. Thereafter, God sustains matter and His natural laws, but plays no direct role. Theistic evolutionists and creationists alike would agree with the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:16-17: Everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it together right up to this moment (The Message Translation).

In contrast, naturalistic evolutionists claim “nature is all there is.” They would not accept the idea that God programmed matter with self-organizing properties. The process of evolution has produced the most complex life present today. They do not believe God exists. Consequently, the truths expressed in Colossians 1:16-17 have no reality for them. Theistic evolutionists, while believing in God, also accept the innate ability of matter to produce man from the simplest ancestral life. They join with naturalistic evolutionists to endorse the principle of descent with modification. They believe mutation and natural selection drive the process.

When a well-known biologist becomes a theistic evolutionist and comes out unequivocally for both evolution and belief in God, it attracts considerable attention. Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and one of the world’s leading scientists, wrote The Language of God. This popular book is cited by many Christians as giving credence to theistic evolution, because Collins is a high profile, self-proclaimed Christian. Essentially, he sanctions the idea of molecules-to-man evolution and claims there is no conflict with his evangelical faith. What, then, could be the objection to theistic evolution?

Evolution and creationism are affirmed by two entirely different worldviews. Naturalistic evolution finds its fulfillment in nature and its inherent properties. Creationism has God as the natural world’s author and sustainer. Theistic evolution locks arms with naturalistic evolution in many significant ways. Miracles are not needed for the formation of complex physical life. For a theistic evolutionist, the dangers of absorbing naturalistic habits of thought are ever present. In deciding between theistic evolution and creationism, the Christian must constantly consider whether nature calls attention to itself, or to the Creator.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Open and Closed Science

The American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) is an organization of scientists who are Christians sharing a common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science. Craig Rusbult is chairman of ASA’s Science Education Commission. He has written a description of what he terms “open” and “closed” science. It highlights the problems inherent in the naturalistic restrictions under which professional scientists must work.

“Open science” is liberated from methodological naturalism (MN), even though it begins with an MN position. That is, all scientists start their work in pursuit of natural explanations for events or natural solutions for problems. If evidence and logic point to an end of the road for natural explanations, on rare occasions a scientist using open science would be willing to consider an explanation which does not force him to a naturalistic conclusion. For instance, the genetic code stored in the DNA molecule has no precedent in naturalism, since all codes are the product of a mind. Open science would allow possible supernatural causation as a topic for further research. The scientist would not be restricted to naturalism as the only explanatory option. But alas! Professional scientists do not practice open science. They practice “closed science.”

In “closed science” the opening assumption in any investigation is that all phenomena in nature are and have been natural occurrences. Therefore, any investigation must end with a naturalistic conclusion. This is an example of circular reasoning. It results in a true conclusion only if the original assumption is true. In previous posts we have established that science deals only with natural causation. But many science professionals have extended this idea to embrace the “nature is all there is” position. Unfortunately, even if a scientist uses the finest evidence and logic, any suggestion of supernatural intervention in the natural world or any kind of miracle at any point in time is unscientific by definition. In the mind of the public, unscientific has acquired a negative connotation.

We have extolled the many benefits of science in previous posts. The activities and discoveries of science, which can be seen as God-gifted, are mostly in the natural realm using God-ordained laws of nature. Our prayer for the future of science is for a movement toward open science where our gifts of logic and rationality do not exclude consideration of the reality of a Creator and His impact along the timeline of cosmic and biological history.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Darwinian Stamina

The stamina of evolution is well-known. There is no question that it is firmly ingrained in our science and in our culture. This is true partly because a well-developed model of creation has been absent until now. It is also true that the real weaknesses in the naturalistic model of evolution have been shielded from public scrutiny. And finally, it has survived because there is no better naturalistic explanation.

Scientific theories sometimes function better as guides for further research than as statements of truth. When weaknesses in a scientific theory become evident, scientists begin to propose alternate theories. Charles Darwin thought that if numerous successive, slight modifications could not form a complex organ, his theory would absolutely break down. When it became well-known that instead of gradualism, many sudden appearances of new species dominated the fossil record, evolutionists not only gave the phenomenon a name–-punctuated equilibrium–-but also proposed creative, even bizarre naturalistic theories to account for it.

Scientists began to pronounce evolution a “fact” because they “saw” that life forms changed over time. They began to use phrases like “we have discovered” or “we now know.” Inference from the fossil record began to be equated with factual evidence. The theory of mutation acting in concert with natural selection to account for new species became an article of faith. The science community embraced that idea because there was no better theory that conformed to the naturalistic requirements of the science establishment. Evolution was touted as good science, but in reality, it was the only science. A better naturalistic alternative did not exist.

After scientists accepted blind, purposeless processes as the driving force of evolution, it remained for them to convince the public. Included in the basket of belief in evolution is a belief that matter possesses the full capability of self-organizing into complex living systems. Evolutionary scientists, 90-95% of which are self-acknowledged atheists or agnostics, believe matter has this capability. This explains Richard Dawkins’ famous statement that Darwinism made it possible to become “an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Evolution needs no deity to direct the process or to smile on it from afar. While examining evolution’s underlying assumptions, therefore, some may want to rethink their own beliefs about origins. How is it sensible that theistic evolutionists blend a process perceived by scientists as unguided and naturalistic with the concepts of theism, God, and Creator?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Consilience of Induction

For many years I have heard scientific laypeople, in conversations or letters, express their thoughts that evolution is “tested and proven…rock solid.” Strangely, most evolutionary scientists would probably not use that description, but they are pleased the public thinks that way. The support pillars for evolution are not nearly so massive. Let’s illustrate the point with a literary tussle from the early 1990s. Phillip E. Johnson, a brilliant lawyer, wrote a critique of Darwinism in 1991 entitled Darwin on Trial. For his effort, he has taken many cynical hits from evolutionists who do not like exposure of the weaknesses of evolution. Evolution is firmly ingrained in the very bone marrow of the scientific community and consequently, our culture. Anyone who challenges it becomes the victim of the “attack mode” by scientists, sympathetic media, the education system, the courts, and many others.

One famous scientist who has attacked Johnson was the late evolutionary guru Stephen Jay Gould. His 1992 rebuttal in Scientific American, entitled “Impeaching a Self-appointed Judge,” attempted to embarrass and mock Johnson more than defend evolution. Anyone who questions evolution these days may expect a counter attack, an indication of the very high stakes involved. He criticized Johnson for suggesting that traditional scientific methods such as observation, experimentation, and testability, were desirable investigative tools. Gould characterized Johnson's suggestion as "a narrow and blinkered caricature of science as experiment and immediate observation only." But Johnson's understanding of science was not so narrow. He objected to making the "explanatory power" of the theory almost equal to "fact." Gould's article went on to introduce an unfamiliar term - consilience of induction - to describe how evolutionary scientists work.

Consilience of induction? Consilience is an obscure word, meaning the joining or jumping together of knowledge and information across disciplines to create a unified framework of understanding. I respect the inductive insights scientists are blessed with, along with the value of consensus. But when the main support structure for evolution’s major thesis boils down to consilience and consensus rather than traditional scientific evidence, we may be dealing more with wishful thinking than with TRUTH.