Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reality of Mind and Body

As very young children we may not have considered the mind/body duality of our existence. Our needs were simple—food, sleep, comfort, amusement, and interaction with other people. The desire to fulfill those needs exceeded awareness of how the mind functions within the framework of material matter.

We might ask when a young child becomes conscious of the interface between two realms of existence—mind and body. Children may be more conscious of the duality than we think. Over the Christmas holidays the answer became clearer to us. Under the category of Art Linketter’s “Kids say the darndest things,” we illustrate our point with an amusing story about our granddaughter, not quite three years old. Her uncle asked her a question. We do not remember what the question was, but we vividly recall the essence of her answer: “I haven’t thought about that yet.”

Philosophers and theologians have long investigated mind/body dualism. Historically, some scientists, philosophers, and even theologians have embraced a concept termed monism which denies the distinction between mind and body. Most modern theologians would conceive of mind and body as separate. Similarly, most theologians would distinguish between God and his created works. They caution that God is separate from His created works. The concept of unity and separation of realms has generated many philosophical, scientific, and theological discussions.

With respect to the workings of the human brain, some of the most fascinating speculations arise from the ongoing research concerning how the brain functions in contrast with the behavior of ordinary matter. The autonomic nervous system controls, for example, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. These events are coordinated by centers in the brain. Such functions may be more easily understood than brain activity producing high order, creative thinking. High order thinking surpasses purely cause and effect phenomena which are sometimes explained by the term “reductionism.” Even more complex effects are creatively described by a phenomenon termed “emergentism.” In the latter, effects are spontaneously generated or “arise” mysteriously from other properties but are not merely the sum of the previous properties. These statements describe an effect. They do not come close to explaining the causes.

The Stanford Encyclopedia has an interesting description: “Emergence is a notorious philosophical term of art… There has been renewed interest in emergence within discussions of the behavior of complex systems and debates over the reconcilability of mental causation, intentionality, or consciousness with physicalism.” We wonder: Is the concept of free will reducible to the actions of atoms and molecules (reductionism) or to a spontaneously generated effect (emergentism) which arises mysteriously from other properties?

Lisa Zyga, in an article in, states, “But perhaps the ultimate example of emergence is in the brain where thousands of randomly firing neurons spontaneously reach a coherent state of collective, periodic firing that underlies all brain functions. Despite significant progress, the mechanisms responsible for the origin and maintenance of spontaneous neuronal activity are still poorly understood.”
Our previous post on emergence may be of interest to our readers. Creative scientists speculate on the concept of emergence as it may relate to the behavior of both mind and matter.

We recognize the physical causation of conditions such as insomnia, anesthesia, or coma, and dysfunction or mental disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. The physical basis of brain activity in the above-mentioned phenomena as well as the volitional, creative, and free will capability of the human mind are all relevant, wonder-provoking subjects for contemplation and study. Our physical bodies are subject to deterioration while our minds are still capable of enormous imagination and creative power.

Scripture is clearly dualistic referring to the dichotomy between managing our intellectual activity and spiritual choices in contrast with the physical world surrounding us. In each realm, mind and body, God has gifted us with free will choices to live in a manner pleasing to Him. 2 Timothy 1:7 is a favorite verse for advocates of free choice. I quote the traditional King James translation for its emphasis on the gift of a sound mind. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Other translations of 2 Timothy 1:7 translate sound mind with other terms of personal behavioral choice—self control, self-discipline, sound judgment, sobriety, and discretion. Let us give thanks to the Creator who provides his people with opportunities to serve and please Him freely.  


Friday, December 19, 2014

Problems of Dualism

Ontological Dualism is not ordinarily a coffee table topic. Before raising such a topic, one should be confident the foundation is laid for such a weighty discussion. The physical constants of matter ordering our everyday lives in the physical world may fascinate our friends at some level, (they may profess a fondness for science), but soon the subject may become too challenging. Add the topics of the human mind and human consciousness to the discussion and the conversation may clearly outdistance the ordinary attention span. With this introduction, we hope to supply some insights into the relationships of matter and mind. Physical matter and its relationship with the human mind and human will is fascinating and complex.

We begin by reminding readers of past discussions of physical constants. The universe could not exist  if these constants assumed values different from what we observe. We repeat—our universe would not operate if even one or just a few physical constants were altered. There are dozens of physical constants upon which life in our universe depends.

The proposition that the universe would not be conducive to life, particularly human life, “is discussed among philosophers, scientists, theologians, and proponents and detractors of creationism” in Wikipedia’s opening paragraph discussing the “Fine-tuned Universe” concept. The meaning and significance of physical constants of the universe are sometimes hidden from science laypersons by esoteric definitions of physical constants such as “a physical constant is a physical quality that is generally believed to be both universal in nature and constant in time.” While correct, this definition may obscure the significance of physical constants.

Scientists agree that existence in our physical world is governed by a set of constants. We have lightly termed them “rules of the game.” Some have proposed the philosophical scenario that our world is a completely material, physical world. If no life of any type existed, such a case could be proposed. No sapient life associated with humanity or even conscious life in lower life forms would theoretically exist in such a lifeless universe. We assume such a world could be ordered and free of chaos. No living things would be present, however, to make this judgment.

Locked in a physical world governed by constants, philosophers have long speculated on a complex reality termed ontological dualism. They made a distinction between matter and mind. In Christian theology, mind may relate to the distinction between physical matter and the soul/spirit. At serious risk of oversimplifying a topic of intricate complexity, we shall inject a theological component into the long-standing discussion.

In terms of physical constants, the universe has no “choice” but to be governed by them. The physical order of our universe has been fixed by the Creator of All Things. Free will for humanity is a different reality superimposed by God in a different realm. God creates different realms for different purposes. The world of God’s physical creation is a backdrop for the existence of “free-will” beings with minds. It is the will of God that humans are free either to love and serve him, or not. In this fashion we might say that the soul/spirit (mind) co-exists with the world of ordered matter. This is a divine plan of incredible depth and beauty.

The Apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians describes the will of our Heavenly Father that we should choose to walk in free-will obedience to him. Formerly, Paul stated, we all willfully obeyed “the ways of the world.” But it was God’s will that we should walk, by our choice, according to good works: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

We thank God for his created, orderly constants. How much more do we thank God for creating an ontologically dual world in which we have freedom to enjoy the predictable physical world and also willfully serve the Creator.        


Friday, December 12, 2014

Coping with Gravity

One of the first lessons infants and toddlers experience is the phenomenon of gravity—how it acts on their bodies and how they must cope. If our young children’s ability to think or reason were better developed, their awareness of gravity may initially be negative. They are not aware how the force confining them to their bed or holding them to the floor acts in a beneficial manner. Perhaps at some level of awareness children in their early walking stage may realize their muscles and sense of balance compensates for their body’s tendency to fall when they are learning to walk. The body’s reaction to gravity consumes much early learning.

When our preschool grandchildren began to visit our home in the country, they were fascinated with the discoveries available on our lot. These included all manner of plants and animals, including a few astronomy lessons before going off to bed. One source of concern for us grandparents, perhaps worthy of less caution than we feared, was the steep, curved paver block driveway we had installed. Most children are tempted to run pell-mell down an incline. It is a wonder more facial abrasions and broken limbs do not result from tumbling down such threatening inclines. My stern warning, “Watch out…gravity will get you!” went unheeded. I needed to remind myself the children were more focused on healthy fun than caution.

At the risk of becoming overly esoteric, we discuss briefly some of the governing characteristics of our privileged planet known as physical constants. Our planet is ruled by dozens of physical constants. Science authors generally agree that the universe would be impossible with even slight changes in the numerical quantities defining the physical constants. The popular expression “law of gravity” implies at least one physical constant—the numerical quantities defining the strength of gravity as it operates in this universe. Physical laws such as the “law of gravity” involve constants which are changeless wherever you are located in the universe and whenever they occur.

One writer stated it is “spooky” that even tiny changes in almost any physical constant would result in making life in the universe impossible. While small changes in the strength of gravity—greater or less—may seem to make it easier for my grandson to charge up or down our driveway, physicists have identified the chaos ensuing in our world if gravity would increase or diminish even by a tiny amount. Life processes of plants and animals would be thrown into hopeless confusion by even a minute change in gravity. The domino effect on other physical constants would be catastrophic. Life would cease and conditions in the universe would descend into chaos. These changes would result from alteration of the parameters of only one physical constant—gravity.

Gravitation is one of the four fundamental forces in the universe. Of these four forces, gravity is far and away the weakest, but its effects operate at an infinite distance. Every object exerts a gravitational pull on every other object. It is the glue which holds together entire galaxies and keeps planets in orbit. It holds our bodies on earth and governs the trajectory of baseballs, footballs, and soccer balls. We must keep in mind that the gravitational constant together with all other physical constants keep our universe functioning in an orderly manner. We embrace the meaning of “privileged planet” as the production of the Creator who fixed the physical constants at the moment of the initial creation and every divine work of creation since that time. Even the formless, empty earth of Genesis 1:1-2 was governed by the physical constants still in effect in today’s world.

As a science teacher I sought to present our world’s physical constants in an accessible and reverent manner. Metaphorical humor was often useful as a teaching tool. Many students identified with athletic imagery and the necessity of playing their games by the rules. These posts are from the archives of 2009:



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Order and Purpose

Pictures of “The Blue Marble” and “Pale Blue Dot” taken during explorations of our Solar System have helped the human race focus on the role and position of our planet in the grand scheme of things. Does this planet, our home in the cosmos, exist in a very special location in this vast universe as it provides a home for the human race? So far as is known, Earth is unique in its ability to harbor life because no other planetary system has been found with life supporting conditions remotely close to Earth. Add the presence of human life to the cosmic coincidence. These are two remarkable concurrences, a coincidence without precedent: Unique human life supported by unique conditions for life’s existence.

The sixteenth century Copernican discovery that Earth is not central in the planetary scheme of things was merely the beginning of a cascade of cosmic discovery. Earth was removed from centrality in terms of our planetary location. Along with Earth’s demotion from geocentrism, centuries later it remained for Georges Lemaitre, Edwin Hubble, Carl Sagan and others to pose that our environs are merely “a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” Remarkably, we are less than one hundred years removed from Edwin Hubble’s telescopic discoveries of universal vastness. On a personal level I calculate with wonder the fact that early in my parents’ lifetime the vastness of the universe had yet to be discovered.

The discoveries of Edwin Hubble from 1921-1926 revealed the true magnitude of the universe, including the idea posed in 1927 by Belgian physicist Fr. Georges Lemaitre that the universe was expanding from from its initial singularity. Later, details of the Big Bang were conceptualized. In the sixteenth century naturalistic scientists began posing the Copernican principle, variously suggesting that in the incredible vastness of space, man’s importance seemed diminished. As millions of additional galaxies were discovered populating the vastness of space, the probability of abundant, habitable, life supporting planets appearing by chance seemed increasingly more likely. The concept of Earth as a special and unique place harboring a divinely created race of men also seemed easier to reject. Naturalistic world views have evolved in the days since Copernicus first proposed his inspired scientific discoveries.

Guillermo Gonzales’ and Jay Richards’ Privileged Planet DVD highlights discoveries of characteristics of Earth, our solar system, our galaxy, and our universe as manifesting multiple traits pointing to the Earth as a place specifically designed by God for human habitation. The DVD subheading reads “The Search for Purpose in the Universe.” Purpose and design are dual partners in a universe divinely created with humanity in mind. The hour-length production touches on fundamental parameters which make this universe a place designed for human habitation. They are a planet (1) having the proper distance from the sun (2) having liquid water (3) that is terrestrial (4) having tectonic plates (5) protected by large planets (6) orbiting the correct type of star (7) having a large moon (8) having a magnetic field and (9) being oxygen rich. The outline of these parameters is merely the beginning of wonders.

The same factors which make Earth uniquely habitable also provide the best conditions for scientific discovery. The DVD product description “explores a startling connection between our capacity to survive and our ability to observe and understand the universe.” Modern world views of atheistic, naturalistic materialism do not locate an overriding purpose for our existence in this sphere. The very concept of purpose is foreign to much modern thinking. The Copernican Principle, later named by scientists and philosophers who did not share Copernicus’ Christian faith, was articulated by scientists who developed more pessimistic, materialistic views of the role of humanity.               

The theistic Christian worldview recognizes specific purpose and order in our planetary abode. The human race and millions of species have been created by God both for our enjoyment and for His. Our environment has been created and designed with an overwhelming characteristic of order. Moreover, the Creator enables us to discover and comprehend his created works.          



Friday, December 5, 2014

Overview Redo

The Apollo 8 and Apollo 10-17 astronauts who either journeyed to lunar orbit or landed on the lunar surface submitted exhilarating accounts of how the “overview effect” impacted them. Wikipedia defines the Overview Effect as a “cognitive shift in awareness…while viewing the Earth from orbit or the Lunar Surface.” Their accounts surpassed any previous reports of man’s interaction with our cosmic home on this wonderful planet. The astronauts were able to view Earth directly from outside Earth’s dominant gravitational influence. Their vision of Earth has been captured photographically for posterity. One photograph is famously called “The Blue Marble.” Beyond the thrill of seeing Earth as no humans had ever seen it, their reactions ranged through speculations of mystic unity, expressions of awe and wonder, and voiced reverence for the Creator demonstrated by the Apollo 8 crew’s recitation of Genesis 1.

The most startling “overview” photograph may be a famous picture snapped of Planet Earth taken long after the Apollo flights from a remote camera on its way out of the Solar System. It was taken in 1990 from Voyager 1, a space probe designed to collect information about the four giant outer planets of our Solar System. Launched in 1977, the Voyager cameras turned back toward the inner Solar System following completion of the main assignments of the mission at the suggestion of cosmologist Carl Sagan. The photograph was later named the “Pale Blue Dot.” The concept of Earth has suffered historically from the view that the Copernican Revolution “demoted” our home planet from the center of the Solar System to a subordinate position as just another tiny planet circling the “real” center of the Solar System—the Sun.

In terms of our personal “overview” of earth, whether from an Apollo spaceship, or a remote photographic “overview” of Earth from beyond the orbit of Pluto; whether by one of the mere 24 human beings who have experienced the “overview effect” in person, or by one of millions of humans who have vicariously enjoyed the famous Voyager “Blue Dot” photograph; our view of Earth is either that (1) our planet is uniquely special, created specifically by the benevolent provenance of the Creator for the benefit of humanity, or (2) our planet is not particularly special, being merely one of many billions of planets in the universe.

Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards of The Discovery Institute produced a brilliant DVD in 2004 entitled “Privileged Planet.” You may review my previous entry here:

Privileged Planet uses the Voyager photograph to pique the readers’ interest in the smallness of our home planet in the vastness of the universe. The Discovery authors cite many physical parameters which must be fine-tuned all across the universe for life to exist. The physical constants of the universe are present all over the universe. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics which benefit earth life across only a small range of locations. For example, at the inner margins of the “habitable zone” the temperature is almost too hot to sustain water in liquid form while at the outer reaches of the habitable zone water would freeze solid. Our Earth in particular is the beneficiary of hundreds of designed life supporting conditions.

The professional science community is not amenable to the concept of an intelligently  designed cosmos. When we examine the natural world, the intelligent design proposal is intuitively sound. Scientists, however, go to extreme lengths to dismiss the concept of an acting “designer intelligence.” For them, only naturalistic explanations satisfy. They forcefully resist other explanations. Skilled scientists like Gonzales and Richards are denigrated by the science community. Misinformed laypeople may avoid The Privileged Planet as a result. Anyone may view the production on YouTube. 



Monday, December 1, 2014

Overview Effect

Twenty-four humans have left Earth for a journey to the moon, the only humans to directly view the far side of the moon. Twelve astronauts actually set foot on the moon’s surface. Six of these drove the lunar roving vehicles on the moon’s surface. Only twenty-four men have escaped the gravity of low earth orbit. Eight astronauts ages 79-84 have walked on the moon and are still living as of this writing.

Former astronauts have communicated their emotions as they experienced the demanding launch process and bodily separation from the constraints of earth’s gravity. As their space vehicle continued beyond the launch process the demands on the astronauts in carrying out the many technical responsibilities at first overwhelmed their temptation to visually observe what was happening to them. The TLI (translunar insertion) occurred nearly three hours from launch. From that time to the Lunar orbit insertion (LOI) three days elapsed. The astronauts had time to gaze at the scenario unfolding before them. 

Different astronauts have related their emotions on seeing the Earth from space. They were overwhelmed at the beauty of our planet. Some turned the cameras back toward earth, seeing a profound view of Earth hanging in space. They viewed the stars  and sun in a dark sky. The view of the stars and the sun was profound, but not to be compared with looking back at the Earth to see the line of separation between day and night. Lightning appeared as fireworks, light from cities highlighted population centers, auroras appeared as dancing curtains of light, and meteors were visible below the spacecraft. Earth clearly appeared as a living, breathing mechanism.

Was the mission primarily a discovery process of uncharted waters? Did the astronauts look ahead, or look back on the beauty of our home planet? Edgar Mitchell “realized that the molecules of my body and of the spacecraft had been manufactured in an ancient generation of stars. It wasn’t just an intellectual knowledge—it was a subjective visceral experience accompanied by ecstasy—a transformational experience. The experience was so powerful that when he got back to earth Mitchell started digging into various literatures to try to understand the experience.” The space scientists reported they spent much of their free time earth gazing, struck with the truth that the earth is a living, breathing organism.” The paper thin atmosphere, barely hugging the surface, sustains and protects seven billion people with its fragile dynamics.

The three Apollo 8 astronauts on Christmas eve, 1968, startled the world with the recitation of Genesis 1:9-10 as they orbited the moon. Just a few months before man’s first steps on the moon, there was a riveting live television broadcast to the earth from the moon. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, while in moon orbit took turns reading the first ten verses of Genesis 1 while transmitting images of the earth. Included in the reading were verses 9-10, a most explicit description of earth as seen from space: And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

That live broadcast had a stunning impact on me and many other listeners.            


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lennox and the Literal

John Lennox is an articulate spokesman for the interface of science and religion. He is  a mathematician and scientist and represents the evangelical intelligentsia. As a brilliant apologist for the Christian faith, he has achieved notoriety for his public debates with atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. In 2007, one of his live debates with Dawkins occurred at UAB. My commentary follows:

Recently, Lennox was guest on Janet Parshall’s In the Market radio interview program. Lennox highlighted many of his views including those in his volume “Seven Days That Divide the World.” One area of misunderstanding in integrating the message of Genesis with the message of science is the understanding of literality. Misunderstandings concerning literality of the days of creation in Genesis 1 unfairly generates accusations of unfaithfulness to scripture. Which meaning of Genesis 1 days must we adhere to? Lennox claims any Bible text should be interpreted according to its intended use. In Genesis 1:1 to 2:4 there are four intended uses of the term day. Terms should not be consigned to only one level of literality. Rather, we must interpret text according to the intentions of the writer.

The examples of a car “flying down the street” or Jesus Christ as “The Door” serve to highlight metaphors. The authority of scripture or the truth of such statements is not diminished in the least. Their meanings are clear. Questionable passages may be taken literally, but we don’t have to in order to ascertain their intended meaning. The question becomes how we relate scriptures to something real in spite of their obvious metaphorical or poetic flavor.

Lennox cited other beliefs resulting from errant application of literality. To illustrate, we cite passages like I Sam. 2:8, “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the earth” (ESV) or Psalm 104:5, “He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.” Before Copernicus and Galileo in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, nearly all Christian theologians accepted a literal interpretation of foundations and pillars on which the immovable earth supposedly rested. Copernicus and Galileo were Christian believers in the avant guard of scientific discovery. Their observations propelled them to belief in heliocentricity—the belief that the Sun instead of Earth was at the center of the Solar System. For many years their ideas were scorned. A modern parallel is the disdain with which young earth creationists denigrate old earth creationists, sometimes even pronouncing them doctrinally deficient.

Earth’s age is not addressed in the Genesis Hebrew text. Our belief is that modern science supplies answers to such questions. The text, however, points out that the verses in Genesis 1:1-2 occurred before the recitation of events of sequential “day” events beginning in verse 3. Therefore, many billions of years transpired in the formation of the solar system and occurred long before the initial creation of primitive life. The appearance of light on Earth’s surface was no doubt related to the slow clearing of a cloud-shrouded planet, not the initial creation of the sun (Job 38:9). Herein is evidence of another interpretational flaw. The Bible does not express detail of the Solar System’s geologic history in two short chapters. The time sequence of events accords with modern scientists’ discoveries even though scripture is not a detailed science text.

Lennox’s highlighting of “And God said” is stated for all of God’s creative acts, but is significant in terms of the creation of life, the transition of inorganic to organic matter (non-life to life), and especially the creation of humanity. Man was created after advanced animals on the sixth day. New life, including man, appears as an outcome of God speaking. Microevolution—minor adaptations—Lennox explains, occurs all the time. It is not the same as macroevolution which, if it occurs, would produce new levels of life. We do not proceed from the production of inorganic to organic matter (the transition from non-life to life) or the production of new levels of life (macroevolution) without the caveat “And God said.” Lennox seems to disdain evolution, because it does not result from the action of “And God said.”

Finally, Lennox posits that man appears on Earth from “a direct supernatural intervention.” The creation of life and the creation of humanity is a supernatural miracle, he asserts. As a scientist, Lennox believes in miracles which are manifestations of the supernatural. He believes “the universe is a miracle.”

We are grateful to Janet Parshall for bringing many of the finest minds in Christian leadership to the attention of the public.    



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Evolution's Requirements

The recent papal pronouncements on evolution have elicited responses from hundreds of commentators. It is well known that approximately one third of the US population belongs to church groups endorsing evolution. Most of these believe evolution is a God-ordained means of bringing into existence Earth’s millions of species, including humanity. Another one fifth of the population believes in evolution but do not believe God had anything to do with it. Adding the two groups together, we find at least half the population believes in evolution. The two groups are in agreement concerning general evolutionary theory, but not in agreement on evolutionary processes. Most church members who believe in evolution believe God “created all things” in the beginning, a reiteration of “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (all that  exists). From the first appearance on earth of LUCA, a one-celled common ancestor about 3.8 billion years ago, evolutionists say God has been watching evolution proceed without any further acts of creation in the traditional sense. Those who believe in both God and evolution are forced to this conclusion.

Many commentators in the past month reported that the Pope reinforced the position that evolutionary theory is consistent with the Christian belief system. By extension, mainline Protestants and evangelical Protestants who believe in evolution would also find evolution compatible with their Christian belief system. Creationism, thereby, assumes a different definition: Theistic evolutionists have lately characterized themselves using the moniker “evolutionary creationist.” The term creationist, therefore, has now acquired diverse meanings. The challenge of theologians continues to be finding the truth, not merely reciting a spectrum of possible meanings of create, creationist, and creationism. Evolutionist evangelical Christian Denis O. Lamoureux, Associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College, writing on the website of BioLogos, writes that, “Evolutionary creation…contends that the Creator established and maintains the laws of nature, including the mechanisms of a teleological evolution. In other words, evolution is a planned and purpose driven natural process.” (emphasis mine)

Pope Francis’ statements conflated the Big Bang and evolution: (1) The Big Bang doesn't contradict the notion of a divine creator, but demands it; (2) “Evolution is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve. The term demands with respect to the creation event seems unrelated to the occurrence of the Big Bang; the term requires seems unrelated to the creation of beings which evolve.

Our blog has expressed the position that the Big Bang was God’s initial creative act in this cosmos. According to many independent discoveries of sound science, the Big Bang occurred. About ten billion years later, life appeared suddenly on this planet. Life’s appearance was also a creation event or events according to Genesis 1. We have stated that the progressive sequence of life forms has consisted of changes occurring in step-like fashion. According to our knowledge of paleontology, the record affirms no significant sequences of transitions of species as evolutionary theory would predict. Thus, evolution is not confirmed; rather, it is denied. Instead, sudden creation acts are affirmed.

Some of the heartiest doubts concerning evolution are voiced by evolutionists themselves. For example, Stephen J. Gould (1941-2002), popular evolutionary theorist, wrote earth’s species exhibit “no directional change” nor do they evidence the “steady transformation of its ancestors.” Nevertheless, the concept of biological evolution is enormously appealing to our modern world. Rationale for this phenomenon relates to the fact that traditional supernatural creation events seem more difficult to accept than naturalistic explanations.

God is the author of miracles. He is also the author of natural laws and processes by which the world operates on a daily basis. To attribute a transcendent miracle to a natural process is as mistaken as to attribute operation of a natural process to a transcendent miracle. We search for the wisdom of God in discerning the difference between transcendent miracles and the operation of natural laws and processes. God is the author of both. 

We affirm, along with the Pope, that the Big Bang occurred. We do not affirm that macro-evolution occurred. Scientific evidence for creation events in the geologic record overwhelm scientific evidence for molecules to man evolution. Micro-evolutionary events occurred, but the evidence for macro-evolutionary events are virtually absent. If we acknowledge creation events, we acknowledge the divine works of God the Creator.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Autumn Appeal

Choosing a favorite season of the year is like picking your best loved hymn or most preferred food. We report best loved or preferred hymns or foods out of true conviction or possibly to spark a conversation. Either way we recognize God gifts us with abilities to discriminate among alternatives—to appreciate diverse physical and environmental characteristics and express preferences according to our personal priorities.

My personal favorite season is autumn, but only by a slight margin. Having grown up near Syracuse, NY, I have fond memories of recreational opportunities supplied by harsh central New York winters—frozen ponds, lakes, and rivers and trillions of swirling, wind-driven snowflakes. Winter loosened its grip in early March even before spring arrived, heralded by the beginning of maple sap flow when my grandfather noted daytime temperatures starting to rise above freezing. A multitude of other reawakening phenomena such as leaf-out became apparent as the countryside warmed. Summer followed, the period of rapid agricultural plant growth followed by rides on the tractor to observe operations of hay balers and corn stalk binders (1930s and 1940s vintage) completing their late summer work.

Fast forward to recent autumns of the 21st century.  A few short weeks ago in our midwest area some grain crops needed additional days of warmth to complete their maturity after a late planting season and a cool summer. Now it is clear that 2014 will produce an all-time US record corn and soybean harvest, 14.41 billion bushels and 3.98 billion bushels respectively. Autumn is a time to contemplate the blessings of God in providing man with ability to supply the nutritional needs of seven billion souls. The harvest phenomenon is but one example of “filling the earth and subduing it” (Genesis 1:28). In autumn humanity reaps life sustaining harvests.

In many parts of the world plants transition to colorful autumn splendor—a sign that the leaves of trees and grain crops have completed their task of manufacturing food from water, chlorophyll, minerals, and CO2 in the presence of light. Plants annually manufacture food for humans and other living things. In Genesis 1:29 scripture informs us: “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’” All beasts and birds and everything that has life in it were also given every green plant for food (Genesis 1:30). The first mention that humans were invited by God to consume meat occurs in Genesis 9:3. Meat producing animals are ultimately dependent on food supplied by plants.

Colorful autumn resplendence is a sign that green chlorophyll has degraded, mainly triggered by diminishing daylight. This permits different color pigments to appear which had previously been masked by the chlorophyll.  A layer of cells growing at the attachment of the leaf stem blocks further transport of nutrients from the plant’s roots. Food making is finished for the season. Deciduous leaves drop away to become mulch and release nutrients back to the soil, increasing fertility for future benefit of the plants.

Autumn daylight diminishes and darkness increases as the daily east to west arc of the sun falls closer to the horizon. This is a consequence of the tilt of earth’s axis constantly pointing in the same direction in space—away from the sun in cooler seasons; toward the sun in warmer seasons. This astronomical phenomenon provides wondrous variety in terms of earth’s weather conditions. Lack of seasons due to a lack of axial tilt would preclude many agricultural benefits we now enjoy. For example, wheat production in quantities needed by the current world population would not be possible without a warm/cold seasonal cycle.

In autumn all living things rejoice in harvest, preparing and adapting for the coming winter and the approach of another warm season in prospect for the next spring. Psalm 96:12 affirms the devotional reality inspired by the beauties of our harvest seasons: “Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy…”     




Sunday, November 9, 2014

God as a Magician?

Pope Francis created headlines recently when he cautioned against “…imagining God as a magician with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so.” Less quoted is a much better translation of the Pope’s statement: “God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives birth to all entities.” A demiurge is a demigod, a platonic notion of a sub-deity. It relates to the pagan concept of formation of the world from chaos. Pope Francis was misunderstood on this point. He was not announcing his atheistic denial of God’s deity. Rather, he was voicing support for the concept of evolution.

The Catholic Church has long endorsed the concept of evolution beginning with Pope Pius XII in 1950 and continuing with Pope John Paul II in 1996 and Pope Francis in 2014. This endorsement amounts to agreement with the secular science community that natural processes are responsible for the sequential development of life from LUCA, the last universal common ancestor, to the historic development of millions of distinct species, and finally to full-fledged humanity. We characterize these papal endorsements as “molecules to man” evolution. The evolutionary LUCA hypothesis proposes that a simple organism about 3.8 billion years ago was the forerunner of every life form on earth existing at the present moment. Primarily, the foundation of belief in LUCA springs from the commonality of the genetic code: DNA and RNA are found in every living thing in various manifestations. From this commonality, bio-scientists infer evolution has occurred.

Our blog position stands against the theory of evolution. We have held that evolution is a weak theory notwithstanding the consensus of the bio-science community. Creation scriptures are interpreted to signal miraculous interventions of God to account for the sudden arrival of biochemically complex life on this planet, the dramatic appearance of new life forms exemplified by the Cambrian Explosion, and the “cultural big bang” marking startling changes in hominid ability and behavior within the last few tens of thousands of years. The theorized pace and operation of evolution acting under natural law conflicts with significant paleontological and archeological evidence and denies miraculous interventions of the monotheistic deity described in Genesis.   

Substantial segments of church attendees endorse evolution. As noted above, the leaders of the Catholic Church have long accepted evolution as part of their belief structure. Almost all of their members accept evolution and believe, along with their leadership, that Christian faith and evolution are fully compatible. We highlight two other church groups whose origins beliefs are similar. Mainline Protestants largely accept evolution as do some evangelical Protestants. The three groups mentioned would almost unanimously acknowledge that “God is the Creator of all things.” A May 2014 Gallup Poll would doubtlessly place these three groups among 31% of the US population who accept evolution in their survey. Another 19% of the US population endorses evolution but they do not believe God had any part in the process. All told, about half of the US population accepts evolution. They would agree with Pope Francis that “God is not a demiurge or a magician” responsible for creating life forms at any moment of past time.

The Gallup organization reports that a separate 42% of Americans believe the Earth and its life forms originated in divine miracles of creation less than 10,000 years ago. We suspect Pope Francis refers primarily to this group with his cautionary advice not to imagine that God is a magician able to wave a magic wand. The Pope may also refer to old universe creationists who perceive periodic divine interventions initiating life and new life forms. The imagery of waving of a magic wand does not equate with divine, miraculous acts of creation. Evolutionists believe the naturalistic process of evolution occurs neither miraculously or suddenly. The process of creation, however, cannot be explained in naturalistic terms.

Pope Francis’ statements have many ramifications. The media reported his message primarily as affirmation that evolutionary science and biblical faith need not be in conflict. This is a chic and popular proposal in our culture. The Pope’s statements went even further. For example, he conflated evolution and the Big Bang. It is difficult to draw a parallel between these theories. In a future post we will return to these challenging issues.  



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Speciation Requirements

As one of the most important scientific icons of the day, organic evolution permeates our 21st century consciousness. The term evolution is most commonly used in connection with organic evolution, the widely accepted belief that “every individual alive today, the highest as well as the lowest, is derived in an unbroken line from the first and lowest forms.” The previous quote was uttered by August Weismann (1834-1914), an important German evolutionary biologist. Evolutionary biologists today regularly voice identical beliefs. In public school and secular college science classrooms this is the accepted belief du jour. The impact on our young people and the culture at large has been breathtaking. Some evangelical organizations and individuals now accept evolution and disparage concepts of intelligent design and creationism, joining hands with secular scientists and liberal theologians who have countenanced evolution for many years.

The Biblical Hebrew terms for create have several interpretations ranging from fashioning from nothing to organizing, shaping, or forming previously existing material.   Evolution described by Darwin and his followers is not meant to convey the intent of scripture writers. The naturalistic evolutionary production of several million species of animals and plants in hundreds or thousands of incremental developmental steps beginning with a primitive common ancestor is a theoretical process beyond the understanding of many in our culture. The action just described is an idealized “bottom-up” process of development from non-life, to simple life, to complex contemporary life. This hypothetical and inferential scenario consists of a sequence of events supported by little or no observational reality. Rather, it is supported primarily by a theoretical concept—organic evolution—which has acquired cachet as accepted “scientific” reality.

Evolution of each species is supported by the scientific principle of cause and effect, a fundamental relationship in the field of natural science. The principle is sometimes termed “causal adequacy.” When we observe an attractive, beautifully integrated, functioning species of any one insect, bird, mammal, or plant, we could assume the existence of an extended sequence of specimens stretching into the past with unlimited historical information concerning its genealogy. In our fantasy we imagine a pictorial review of this process. The review would consist of millions or billions of sequential images of the ancestors of our recently highlighted post subject, the familiar praying mantis tenodera sinensus. This species is but one of over a million classified species. If our imaginary video review became reality, it would not be science fiction. The record would be a treasure to the community of evolutionary science!

Continuing our journey of fantasy, evolutionary scientists should be able to identify the nexus moment when our praying mantis species transitioned from an ancestral species. How would such a transition from one species to another be observed? Would all the necessary changes in morphology and physiology be observed at once? Would the changes be observed in one specimen or in all species specimens in unison? Beyond the startling visual changes from one generation to the next, how would we account for acquisition of new genetic information and replacement of old genetic information? Many other questions cry out for answers from our fantasized video projection.

Evolutionists must offer hypotheses to account for production of new species. The literature is filled with multiple explanatory hypotheses. Gradual changes are not an artifact of the fossil record. New species appear suddenly and fully formed. These phenomena have been termed “the trade secret of paleontology.” When they disappear from our planet due to extinction, they do not manifest significant morphological changes over their lifetime. In the case of sudden appearance of multiple novel phyla which characterize the Cambrian Explosion, the hypothetical problem for evolutionists posed by our video review fantasy becomes far more intense.

We have quoted Stephen C. Meyer’s account of the necessary steps in the transition of one species to another several times in past posts. We repeat a passage from 6/21/12 entitled “Evolution or Creation Miracles” 

Moreover, the sudden radiations of major new phyla after extinction events are more characteristic of miraculous creation events than of the classic theoretical evolutionary scenario. Stephen C. Meyer details the transition of Species A to Species B: Such transitions would involve the simultaneous production of new proteins, then new cell types, followed by new tissues, new organs, new body parts, and finally, a new organism. Transitions between major phyla would entail even more startling changes to body plans. The relatively sudden appearances of fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals after extinction events have been carefully detailed. The miracle scenario is far easier to grasp. In terms of a familiar figure of speech we might say the miracle of the  creation process may be far easier to “wrap our arms around” than a naturalistic theory involving many complex contingencies.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Insect Genealogy

Do insects have a genealogy? In the sense that insects have a line of descent, yes. As short-lived creatures, their descent may include many millions of generations. Human genealogy is of more interest, a treasured historical entity of the human race. The genealogy of modern man represents perhaps as many as 2000 generations since the well known “Cultural Explosion,” considered to have occurred roughly 50,000 years ago. Human genealogy is in a different category of importance than genealogies of lower animals. To the evolutionary biologist, however, their view of descent puts all living things into a common category since all living things were descended from a common ancestor according to their evolutionary paradigm.

Our recent posts have focused on insects, so we remain with this topic for our present discussion. I have searched back through our posts on insects over the past few years. Readers will forgive your blogger if he cites his experiences with grandchildren and their adventures with several wonderful insects in our neighborhood: ants, digger wasps, monarch butterflies, and praying mantises. Our grandchildren have responded with interest, curiosity, and joy as we captured or observed each of these animals. The Monarch Butterfly, from egg, to larva, to chrysalis, to adult, seems to possess more than its share of observational thrills as we participate in collecting eggs, feed the hatched larva for 14 days, provide a place for the larva to transition to a chrysalis, and finally, after a 10-day wait…watch the animal hatch and send it on its way.

Partial archive of past insect posts:

When our grandchildren are a little older, perhaps they will become interested in a more in-depth discussion of insect life. For example, what is the life cycle of each of the other insects? How long do they live? How do they reproduce? If they study evolution in their biology courses, they may become interested in the proposed evolutionary history of each of the four neighborhood animals they experienced as young children at the home of their grandparents. The lessons they learn in their secular bioscience classes will be startling: All animals have a common ancestor. According to evolutionary theory, ALL living things have evolved from a common ancestor! Surely our children and grandchildren will be exposed to the presentation of evolution as “good science”—the consensus of the bioscience community on origins. In fact, evolution is the consensus of bioscience educators. Consensus is not a synonym for what is true, however.

Our children and grandchildren in secular schools will have no choice but to accede to the teaching of evolution, notwithstanding the weaknesses of the theory and the ongoing changing viewpoints of evolutionary experts. How is the field of evolution changing? Just a few years ago the wonder of speciation of millions of organisms was attributed to natural selection, mutation, and lots of time. At present, it appears that the case for natural selection and mutation as the driver of the wonders of speciation has become exceedingly problematic. Plentiful time does not help, for over millions of years of the history of life on earth, the fossil record manifests multiple sudden appearances of new life forms. The Cambrian Explosion demonstrates abrupt mass emergence of novel life forms. Some writers describe the scenario as a succession of alternating rapid and slow phases resembling steps of a stairway.  

Based on the evidence of nature, supernaturalism appears to trump naturalism when considering origins. But alas, as defined by today’s ruling science practitioners, science does not accept a “supernatural foot in the door.” Did God suddenly create these wonderful animals at certain points in earth history? Or did the naturalistic process of evolution produce them? In most of our science classrooms only natural explanations are accepted. There is, therefore, no basis for discussion when we address the beauty and wonder of ants, wasps, butterflies, and mantises in terms of the production of a supernatural Creator.

Cause and effect is a fundamental relationship in the field of natural science. In terms of recognizing cause and effect when we examine the incredible design and functionality of our insect life, it would be a serious error to overlook the role of the insects’ Creator in producing multiple causes and effects in our world and in our neighborhood. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Insect Taxonomy and Evolution

Carolos Linnaeus (1707-1778) originated one of the most long lasting classification systems in the world of science. Linnaeus developed binomial nomenclature for living things. He had an early fascination with botany, but his two term Latin scheme for classification of both plants and animals has earned him the title of Father of Taxonomy. He became one of the most acclaimed scientists of his time. He wrote the first edition of Systema Naturae in 1735, a major work which perfected the Linnaean system of taxonomy for the world of science. It was written in Latin, customary for scientific literature of his day. Many revisions and perfections followed during and after his lifetime. The Latin double name classification system persists to this day. He believed his classification system reflected the glory of God’s creation.

When Linnaeus developed the taxonomic system, the prevailing theory was that each species represented an independent act of creation by God. He stated, “The Earth’s creation is the glory of God as seen from the works of nature by Man alone. The study of nature would reveal the Divine Order of God’s creation, and it was the naturalist’s task to construct a natural Classification that would reveal this Order in the universe.” Linnaeus himself claimed, “God created, Linnaeus organized.”

In the 1735 Systema Naturae, Linnaeus listed only 10,000 species of organisms. As a botanist, we may understand why he included 6000 plants but only about 4000 specimens from the animal kingdom. Even in 1753 he believed the number of plants in the world would only reach 10,000. He classified 7700 plants during his lifetime. Two and one half centuries later, we now have 950,000 classified insects, with many more unclassified and undiscovered.

As we examine some of the 950,000 insect species classified under the Linnaean system, several insights come to mind. Each insect has its own design features, its own beauty, its own adaptations, and its own ability to reproduce. The reproduction process inspires reverent awe at the creative ingenuity necessary for the existence of each and every extant species on earth. It is understandable that the wonder of human reproduction garners substantially more attention. The reproductive process of the many diverse species on earth, insects included, is also worthy of our study. Zoologists know far more about such wonders than they do about the speculative and inferential processes supposedly driving the evolution of living species.

Concerning the inferential character of evolution, scientists must develop new and different apologetics for evolutionary theory on a continuing basis. Rumblings within the evolutionary camp are becoming louder that natural selection and mutation as a cornerstone of evolutionary theory may be eroding. Examples are evolutionary scientist Masatoshi Nei, winner of the prestigious Kyoto Prize, cognitive scientist Jerry Fodor, and the Altenberg 16. The latter group met in 2008 to discuss alternatives to natural selection. Lynn Margulis, wife of Carl Sagan stated, “Mutations create impaired offspring.” These few examples illustrate the necessity of “Modern Evolutionary Synthesis” supporters to acquire reinforcements in their battle against creationist and intelligent design theorists.

One need not be a student of the complete history of the development of the evolutionary paradigm to understand that evolutionists and creation/design proponents are locked in a very intense struggle. Contemporary evolutionists have transitioned to topics like gene flow, developmental plasticity, genetic accommodation, phenotypic innovation, and epigenetic inheritance to bolster their confidence, even as they admit that natural selection and mutation are inadequate to support the belief in the “Modern Evolutionary Synthesis,” today’s widely accepted account of the theory of evolution.

How does this discussion relate to our announced post topic of “Insect Evolution?” An extensive and helpful Wikipedia entry on “Insect Evolution” may give us clues that the evolutionists and creationist/ID proponents are far from being on the same page in their discussions. Numerous insect orders have appeared suddenly in the geologic record ever since the first insects appeared on this Earth in the later half of the Paleozic. Thereafter, the term “major radiation” occurs frequently. Major radiation means a sudden appearance and profusion of new forms. The term applies to the sudden appearance and profusion not only of insects, but also of virtually all living things in the fossil record of life on earth. In the case of sudden appearances, the term major radiation applies to the appearance of fish, reptiles, land plants, birds, and mammals.

Hundreds of book-length treatises on these topics exist. Most biological authors are evolutionists. They are untroubled by (1) sudden appearances, (2) lack of legitimate antecedents, (3) missing transitional species, and (4) stasis (unchangeableness) of existing species. All of the experts quoted above are evolutionists, some avowed atheists. Their commitment to the paradigm of evolution impels them to justify their evolutionary beliefs by revising or modifying the mainstays of evolutionary theory.

Intelligent Design, creationism, and evolution are not compatible belief systems. Evolutionary creationism, the chic moniker now used by theistic evolutionists to describe their brand of evolutionism, really does not differ from naturalistic evolution in any significant way. Naturalistic evolutionary processes, however, now seem inadequate to explain the incredible design complexity and functionality of earth life. Even more difficult to explain is the process of speciation (the appearance of new species) without the timely interventions of a Creator.     


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Insect Profusion

The recent post on the wonders of one species of praying mantis triggered our contemplation of the wondrous profusion, complexity, and diversity of life on earth, not to mention our focus on just one class of animals—insecta. Eighteenth century Swedish zoologist Carolus Linnaeus proposed the system of naming individual species by assigning two latin names—one for its genus followed by one for its species. The Linnaean system has survived the test of time. Each time a child enthuses over a specimen of class insecta in the yard or garden, her discovery could be found in a descriptive book of insect species. For example, the praying mantis, tenodera sinensus, recently discovered by our grand-daughter, is but one of thousands of praying mantis species listed in the specialized literature.

In a flashback to our high school or college biology courses, we recall the taxonomic system of Linnaeus which still dominates with minor modifications among zoologists.  The PCOFGS (phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) scheme is still used. Reading backward through the series from species to phylum, the biological groupings become smaller. Each smaller grouping includes specimens with major morphological traits in common. The top of the hierarchy, the phylum, has only 35 categories of animals. All living animals fit within these 35 categories including all named species. Included is the well known praying mantis tenodera sinensus, one of 1.3 million named species of 8.7 million existing species of animals. Many more than 1.3 million species have been described, but not yet named and many more species on earth are yet to be discovered.

One of the 35 phyla is arthropoda—animals with an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages. The largest group of arthropods is included in the class insecta. Specifically, insects are arthropods having six legs and a body divided into three parts. Insects are the most numerous species of animals in the world, making up about 950,000 of 1.3 million named species. Therefore, insects are far and away the most plentiful animal species on earth—about three times as many as all other species known on earth combined! As an aside, beetles are an order of insects comprising 40% of the entire class of insects. One in four of all named animal species on Earth is a beetle.

Earth dwellers may be unwise to shrink in horror from “bugs,” creatures so dubbed by many with less than respectful favor. What accounts for the plentiful distribution of just one class of animals—insects—in the economy of the created order? This is a question without a satisfactory answer for some people. Parents and teachers of young children may do well to foster appreciation of the world’s most plentiful species. Their existence is recognized as a mainstay in the balance of nature. Recently a friend inquired if any purpose was served by annoying, stinging insects on the beach during their vacation. The answer must be given in a broad context of reality.

Why did God create so many insects? The answer has both philosophical and scientific dimensions. In the balance of nature, insects provide various products for man’s use, pollinate our crops, exert natural control of many harmful pests, provide aesthetic beauty (who does not appreciate the beauty of the monarch butterfly with its unique life cycle?), and even food in some foreign countries. In the scheme of God’s creative genius, I enjoy thinking about a Creator with imagination, enjoying his work of creating and inspecting his creation. Considering the millions of insect species, God’s imagination and creativity are virtually limitless.

Finally, an analogy springs to mind. Many skeptics have poked fun at a God who created a septillion stars in hundreds of billions of galaxies in an unimaginably vast universe, yet apparently created life on only one planet in the cosmos. That seems wasteful, even unwise, they opine. Many astrophysicists have concluded that the vastness of the cosmos is a prerequisite for even one habitable planet such as Earth.

We wonder if Psalm 147:4 is literal, figurative, or metaphorical: “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name” (NIV). If the Creator knows the names of all the stars, we may be sure he also knows the names of millions of unnamed insects. We may be certain the God of the Bible is infinitively wise and creative, even though some of our questions have no answer in human terms.