Samuel F. B. Morse’s first telegraph message on May 24, 1844 used a phrase from Numbers 23:23 (KJV): “What Hath God Wrought?” The electronic transmission from Washington, D. C. to Baltimore, MD was the world’s baptism into instantaneous long-range communication. However, breakthroughs such as the 19th century telegraph, while remarkable at the time, have proven to be mightily overshadowed by discoveries and inventions of the past half-century. Since I entered high school in the 1950s, there have been startling advances in scientific knowledge on a great number of fronts. If we were to graphically illustrate these advances, the line may resemble the human population growth curve: slow growth followed by an explosive rise. We live in an unparalleled era of proliferating knowledge. The fallout has produced some strange ironies. Let’s mention two major areas and enlarge on a point we made in the post on 1/17/09.
Unlocking the genetic code: The following events rank as noteworthy in human discovery: the 1952 confirmation of DNA as the fundamental genetic material, the 1953 discovery of its double helix molecular structure, and the resulting unlocking of the genetic code in the 1960s. DNA is a molecule containing a code of startling informational power. Coded information from the DNA of one human body cell would fill 900 books the size of an encyclopedia. DNA synthesizes RNA, which in turn directs the construction of proteins. The human body contains millions of different proteins, which are organic compounds of folded amino acids. There is an astonishing irony about the unlocking of these secrets of genetic information: instead of pointing scientists toward the recognition that living things are intelligently and purposefully designed, many scientists have concluded that all living things have common ancestry resulting from mutation and natural selection, a proposal called the “strong” evolutionary hypothesis. A more valid conclusion based on evidence alone, instead of naturalistic presuppositions of common ancestry, would state that all types of life on earth exist and operate with a remarkable template allowing for a vast degree of varied and unique genetic expression.
Earth Sciences: Revolutionary gains in knowledge have occurred in the earth sciences in the last century. For example, the theory of plate tectonics is now a proven concept not even fifty years old. Plate tectonics is the slow movement of continents with respect to one another, resulting in earthquakes and volcanoes; it also is a beneficial large-scale, long-term mechanism for recycling minerals and biomass. Furthermore, most of our knowledge of oceanography, including the analysis of ocean sediments, which gives us information about ancient earth events and climates, has also been acquired since 1960. Moreover, accurate geologic timescales were deduced from forty independent radiometric dating methods perfected only since the mid-20th century. Additionally, Big Bang cosmology was affirmed in 1964 when leftover universal background radiation permeating the entire universe (previously theorized to exist if a cosmic Big Bang creation event really happened), was discovered at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ. Far more detail about that hot Big Bang creation event was revealed by the 1992 COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) and the more recent WMAP (Microwave Anistropy Probe) satellites. The latter has expanded the evidence many-fold. It has made possible determination of the most accurate age of the universe yet determined (13.73 billion years with an error bar of less than 1%) and revealed accurate proportions of the universe’s ordinary matter, dark matter, and dark energy. Finally, in the last three decades we have discovered hundreds of previously unknown fine-tuning characteristics of our universe. Each and every one of these characteristics must exist with great precision for life to exist anywhere in the universe.
What is our response to this recent burgeoning knowledge? Has there been an increase in recognition of a loving God who designed this universe and its characteristics with us in mind? Many spokespersons in the field of science, education, and our culture generally have become more naturalistic and secular, even antagonistic, as if our society’s freedoms of investigation and expression are threatened. Christian creationist views in particular have received scorn and ridicule from prominent scientists. Incredibly, on the other side of the picture, a large number of Christian evangelicals since 1960 have been hardened into an even stronger view that our earth and the universe are only six to ten thousand years old. They reject all evidence of an ancient, finely-tuned cosmos and Planet Earth. They prefer to believe God did all His work on a time scale of several thousand years. They mock the idea that the Big Bang was an event of incredible creative precision, not destructive at all. They reject the idea that God’s sudden and transcendent creative acts could be widely spaced on the time scale of historical geology, evidence for which is abundant.
What Hath God Wrought? In our day, God has enabled mankind, as in no other previous age, to unlock knowledge hitherto inaccessible. Scripture encourages believers to study, to evaluate, to reason. The creation time scale is not a matter of doctrine. It is, however, a matter of rational, accessible truth.