Thursday, December 30, 2010

Helicopter Therapy

The packing box proclaims 14+ the appropriate age for ownership and operation of this toy. Perhaps this is the age at which the principles of physics governing the Syma S-107 helicopter’s operation are first introduced to middle school or high school students. More likely, the manufacturer wants to avoid excessive crash damage from underage operators. Even seasoned citizens, I’ve discovered, must be diligent following the operating rules precisely.

Could a toy helicopter contribute in any way to our understanding of spiritual principles for operating our lives? The answer depends on how deeply we wish to think about its function. When we manipulate the two control sticks on the remote control box, we may move the helicopter up or down, point it right or left, and direct it forward or backward. Successfully directing the two-ounce, eight-inch long toy around the air space in the room gives us a powerful feeling of being in control. Obeying the invisible digital infrared signals from the hand-held remote unit, the helicopter submits to the will of the operator. And therein lies the potential for satisfying success or tragic disaster.

At the risk of becoming too pedantic, I’ll mention a few science principles inherent in the toy’s operation. Of course, these are the same principles governing every physical activity of our lives. Understanding them may or may not enable us to direct the tiny flying machine perfectly, but practice and experience certainly help. Rules of energy transformations and laws of motion--how acceleration relates to force and mass, how laws of inertia apply to matter’s behavior, how reaction is equal and opposite to action--these are just a few of the topics we may discuss in the science classroom, if not in our family play room.

Our physical universe is governed by dozens of God-ordained “universal constants,” mathematical quantities which are the foundation of the equations of physics governing the behavior of all physical systems such as our toy helicopter. These constants and the proven equations derived from them are not subject to change. Our personal physical activities are successful to the degree that we adhere to these “rules of the game.” Our activities fail when we do not adhere. Lack of adherence occurs through willful “disobedience,” careless adherence, or ignorance.

Doing what I want to do apart from the “rules of the game” for helicopter operation results in failure and frustration. My “helicopter therapy” sessions have taught me that when I follow the physical rules for its operation I am happily entertained, affirmed and satisfied. Behavioral rules and spiritual truth have also been ordained and revealed by God. Once again, man exercises his free will in obeying or not obeying them. The consequences of each alternative are described in Scripture as well as from our personal experience.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Geostationary Orbits

Man’s ability to place objects in orbit provides us with spiritual object lessons. Our musings about radio and television satellites beaming their digital messages to our receivers at the speed of light raise some questions. We may observe our rooftop satellite dish and wonder why the installation technician pointed it in a precise direction. Early earth satellites circled the earth in low orbit in a little more than an hour. So what accounts for our rooftop dish always pointing in only one direction? The answer triggers a need to review the basics of what keeps satellites in orbit.

Earth satellites are launched into earth orbit at almost 18,000 mph. They must achieve an altitude high enough so the drag of the atmosphere will not slow the satellite sufficiently to cause it to fall back to earth. Once a satellite’s rocket reaches orbital speed, the rocket’s engine is no longer needed. The satellite continues to fly on its own. Inertia, the tendency of a moving object to continue moving at its current speed and direction, allows the satellite to continue moving forward on its own.

If inertia were the only factor, the satellite would continue straight into outer space. Earth’s gravity always tugs on the satellite, causing it to travel in a curved path. The satellite, therefore, is always falling toward the earth, but always missing, because the earth’s surface curves away precisely the right amount. In theory, the satellite could remain in orbit forever. Near earth satellites whiz overhead, out of range in only a few minutes. Low orbit satellites would not be useful for transmission of continuous radio and television broadcasts.

Scientists are able to boost satellites into higher orbits. These orbits do not require such high speeds. Because the gravity diminishes the farther we go away from earth, lower speed is required to maintain the desired orbital path. For example, a satellite 22,223 miles above the earth needs a speed of only about 7,000 mph to continue in orbit. Under these conditions the satellite revolves once around the earth in the exact time earth rotates once. As a result, the satellite remains in a fixed position with respect to one location on the earth’s surface. Your DirecTV dish antenna is fixed toward only one position in the sky to receive its continuous stream of audio or television signals. We receive our Christmas music, our religious broadcasts, or our favorite baseball team’s play-by-play almost instantly, relayed from earth to outer space and back to us.

The satellites described are termed “geostationary.” They must orbit directly over the equator in the same direction earth rotates--west to east. Other types of satellite orbits serve other purposes. A successful satellite is one which meets multiple criteria precisely in order to fulfill its mission. Some satellites have failed because of errant human planning or execution. They travel too fast or too slow, they orbit too high or too low, or their power is lost. Praise belongs to our teams of scientists who implement precision processes to keep our satellites operating at peak performance levels.

Man’s technological achievements have outpaced his achievements in the spiritual realm. As progress in science and application of technology has expanded, we do not see a corresponding improvement in man’s spiritual achievement. Perhaps this is a function of living in the “perilous” or “difficult” times described in various translations of II Timothy 3:1-5. Man’s mastery of technology has increased his sense of self-empowerment, but not his devotion to God. Man’s spiritual dish antenna is not fixed upon God. Adherence to God-ordained physical laws of the universe is necessary for successful outcomes in thousands of scientific applications. In a different realm of human experience, obedience to God’s standards for our behavior is no less crucial.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Blue Marble

“Awesome” has become an overworked word in our culture, especially among young people. “Awesome” is slang for “enthusiastic approval.” Its root word, “awe,” is less used and underappreciated, but its meaning is far more powerful: deep wonder, respect, reverence, perhaps even coupled with holy fear.

Eclipses inspire awe as few other natural phenomena. Total lunar eclipses are easily visible events, occurring several times each decade. In such an event, the Moon, always at its “full” phase, enters the “umbra,” the dark shadow cast by the Earth. Over several hours we observe Earth’s shadow slowly pass across the bright surface of the moon. Finally, the entire Moon is engulfed in nearly total darkness, faintly glowing from a small amount of light bending around the Earth’s atmosphere. After being eclipsed for up to an hour, the Moon slowly emerges from Earth’s dark shadow back into bright sunlight.

On December 21, 2010, a total lunar eclipse was visible over North America. Because of cloud cover over the mid west, my personal experience was limited to observing that the usual moonlight-drenched countryside became eerily dark, even with snow cover to help reflect light. Other total lunar eclipses I have observed were truly awe-inspiring. As Earth’s shadow passes across the moon’s surface, one experiences a unique sense of our location in the Solar System and the cosmos. The object we stand upon, nicknamed The Blue Marble, casts a shadow on a distant body. A palpable feeling of reverence and humility grips the thoughtful, contemplative observer.

Where did The Blue Marble nickname originate? On December 7, 1972, the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft photographed Earth from 28,000 miles in space. The astronauts were on their way to a Moon landing. Apollo 17 was the last manned flight to Earth’s companion satellite. Since that flight, no humans have been at such a distance from Earth where taking such a photograph would be possible. This famous full-sphere photograph of Earth is called The Blue Marble.

Four years earlier, on Christmas Eve, 1968, three famous astronauts, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, had become the first humans to orbit the Moon. A few hours earlier they were also the first humans to escape Earth’s gravitational grip far enough to enter the gravitational field of another Solar System body. After orbiting the Moon several times, they began to beam back to Earth one of the most famous direct television transmissions of all time. With a gibbous Blue Marble Earth shining over the horizon of the Moon, the astronauts took turns reading from the first ten verses of Genesis. Then Commander Borman said, “We close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.” I was riveted to the television set, watching that broadcast direct from the Moon.

If you have never observed a total lunar eclipse over several nighttime hours, you may plan ahead with the knowledge that a cluster of four total lunar eclipses will be visible over North America in 2014 and 2015. A total of eighty-five total lunar eclipses occur during this century. For readers who have already watched the shadow of The Blue Marble slowly creep across the Moon’s surface during a total lunar eclipse, perhaps these accounts will rekindle your sense of awe and reverence toward the Creator.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Celestial Celebration

On the evening of March 12, 2009, my wife and two dozen other Holy Land tourists arrived in Jerusalem by bus from Ben Gurion Airport. Before arriving at our hotel, tour host Jimmy DeYoung instructed our driver to pull in to an elevated parking area. Most of our group members carefully descended a gravel path to a vantage point where we could overlook the distant lights of Bethlehem. We were told a nearby hillside may have been the home of “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8 NIV). We sang “Joy to the World” under sparkling starlight.

Scripture does not tell us if the praise offered by the “great company of the heavenly host” was heard only by the shepherds or by all the residents of the surrounding countryside. Perhaps the arrival of God incarnate was witnessed only by the humble shepherds. In retrospect, our tour group, had we been present on that miraculous night long ago, could have heard the celestial praise celebration of Christ’s first advent from that Jerusalem hillside venue. Short of a miracle multiplying the range of sights and sounds and extending them to the entire civilized world of that era, Jesus’ angelic birth celebration was a local event.

Revelation 1:7 speaks of Christ’s Second Advent: “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…” This second appearance contrasts sharply with the first. Will the miracle “every eye will see him” be divinely transcendent? Or will God the Father use the remarkable technology He has enabled man to develop the past two centuries--especially in the last few decades? The answer is known only to God. But our sense of wonder at the marvels of scientific discovery sparks our imagination.

Digital electromagnetic signals from satellites orbiting far outside our atmosphere can now be harnessed to provide virtually instant pictures and sounds from any event any place in the world. We could be forgiven if we loosely use the term “miracle” to describe technological achievements not even imagined by our grandparents.

There is an evident irony as we consider the First Advent of Jesus in Bethlehem so long ago. The heavenly host heralded Jesus’ arrival from “outer space”--heaven’s glory. Orbiting satellite signals which deliver joyous Christmas programming also arrive from “space,” beaming their message of worship and honor to the Son of God. Of course, the reality of the Incarnation is, by far, the greater miracle.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Programming

At Christmastime, some radio stations modify their musical programming to conform to the season. Most stations assume a secular stance, only occasionally offering a carol with an explicitly Christian message. I confess my preference for “real” Christmas music. At times I’ve contacted station management about their Christmas “lite” offerings, hoping at least for more balance, trying not to sound like Scrooge. Songs about bells, chestnuts, and snow at Christmas may arouse my sense of melody, harmony, and rhythm, but they do not grip my soul very deeply.

The day after Thanksgiving I tuned to one of the Sirius XM classical radio stations. They had just converted their programming to Christmas music--real Christmas music. On that station, “Joy to the World” was elevated above “Happy Holidays.” The soul-stirring message of the Incarnation was arriving from space via satellite technology.

The Incarnation is a cornerstone of Christian theology. It originated in the heart of God and was intended to grip our spirit, soul, and body, our minds and our hearts. The paradox of Divine Being intersecting with humanity is a truth we do not easily grasp. But God’s gift of artistic expression--music set to lyrics--is profoundly effective in bridging the communication gap between the divine and the human.

Christmas music set to text may grip our souls, but there are other truths to contemplate. These include the artistic genius possessed by the most creative and skilled composers and lyricists. Historically, enduring music has been produced by only a small fraction of the human population. But their achievements are now available for all to enjoy. Gifted composers have found ways to share their unique creative skills and spiritual insights with humanity at large. A substantial portion of the population feels ownership of the music. In our day, billions of people are able to access the finest Christmas music through the medium of satellite radio, to name only one. The DuPont Corporation’s trademark slogan “The Miracles of Science” was never more applicable.

As I listen to the highest quality Christmas music performed by skilled musicians, sometimes I am overswept by a sense of worship as I contemplate the Incarnation. The message of the music is inspired by the message of Holy Land events two millennia in the past.

Sirius XM radio is beamed from satellites far out in space, hovering above the earth in a geostationary orbit. Their signals are sent at the speed of light, taking only 0.25 sec to arrive at our receivers on earth. While not technically a “miracle,” this process inspires awe. The real miracle is the reality of the supernatural arrival of Jesus these music channels celebrate this time of year.

One of the greatest Christmas anthems ever written declares, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity.” Gal. 4:4 (NASB) echoes, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Science Wars

The term war conjures up powerful emotions. In most cases a war is a battle between those holding differing ideologies. Most often people associate war with armed conflict. Other disputes could result only in verbal exchanges or other hostile actions short of armed conflict. Many would be surprised to learn that groups of scientists sometimes strive with one another about their practices, conclusions, and the philosophy guiding their work. Sometimes science as a general discipline could be perceived to be at war with a completely different discipline or school of knowledge. One of the best-known examples is the alleged war between science and religion--Christianity in particular.

On October 27, 2010, Walter Bradley addressed participants at the Vibrant Dance of Science and Faith Symposium in Austin, TX. His topic was the alleged war between science and Christian faith. Bradley co-authored The Mystery of Life’s Origin in 1984. The book was one of the first to tackle the origin of life issue from a creationist and intelligent design perspective. Contrary to the popular claims of well-known atheist scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Bradley stated that claims of a running conflict between science and faith have been exaggerated. Nevertheless, the relationship between the domains of science and faith has been complex and interesting.

Andrew Dixon White, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) co-founder and first president, wrote a provocative two volume History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in 1896. He claimed religious leaders had long attempted to interfere with science progress. White’s thesis became influential in molding public attitudes. It has been largely discredited, but its effects linger today in the public consciousness. Instead of the “interdigitation” of science and faith optimistically addressed earlier in the Vibrant Dance conference by Andy Crouch, many people within and outside the church still do not perceive faith and science as “vibrant dance partners.”

Bradley discussed four models of the science/religion relationship. More time was devoted to the “conflict” model than the other models, because the perception of conflict may still be more prevalent in our culture. Enlightenment figures from the 17th/18th centuries have been wrongly reported as promoting the idea that religious figures suppressed scientific investigation and knowledge. That model has little basis in fact. Many early scientists of that era were Christians, including Pascal, Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. As centuries passed, other scientists of faith appeared, such as Maxwell, Kelvin, and Faraday.

With the secularization of higher education around the time of Darwin, Christian creationist views came under attack. Later, from 1910-1990, the “warfare” was actually fomented by Christians whose hermeneutical frameworks did not permit them to accept scientific discoveries on the age of the earth and the beginning of the universe in a “Big Bang” creation event.

Materialistic worldviews conflicted with the Christian worldview. Naturalism (“Nature is all there is”) and scientism (appealing solely to the authority of science) began to achieve status as popular worldviews. More recently, from about 1990 to the present, a shift occurred. Intelligent Design proposals posited that evidence in the natural world supports the inference of an Intelligent Designer. Meanwhile, creationists of all stripes, both old and young earth, have attempted to reconcile the words of the Bible with correct interpretations of modern science.

Aggressive, militant atheist scientists are the most high-profile proponents of a science/religion disconnect. They have attracted a lot of attention and have gained prominence, helping to keep ideas of “science/faith wars” active. Other models of the science/faith relationship are less confrontational, even describing mutual support for each other. The “independence” model is exemplified by Stephen J. Gould’s NOMA (separate realms) principle: The two realms are not adversarial, but they do not impinge on one another. Other models are termed “constructive integration” and “complementarity.” Many writers have described these models. Generally, they provide visions of accommodation between scientific and religious thought.

It is important to understand the relationship of science and faith. We err in thinking that the many God-given dimensions of our lives are separated into compartments. Science and faith may both grow more effective as our Christian worldview is strengthened.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Purpose of Scriptural Language

The type of language used in scripture helps reveal the author’s purpose for writing. C. John (Jack) Collins recently addressed the Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science Symposium from that standpoint with respect to the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Collins is professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary. One of his areas of interest and expertise is the text-linguistic approach to Hebrew grammar and lexicography.

Genesis 1-11 is described as the “front end” of the story of Abraham, the patriarch of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. These chapters include vast time frames, in contrast to the following chapters of Genesis which relate detailed accounts of events within a much shorter time period. The author of the first eleven chapters sought to correct the views handed down in the literature of surrounding cultures which conveyed their beliefs of reality and events long past. Those examples of literature are known as myths, but the writers thought their accounts described real events. Moses’ writings were based on his experience with the one true God and present a proper monotheistic worldview.

The Old Testament expresses a coherent view of one true God who originated all things and created man to rule his creation in a wise and benevolent way. Sadly, man’s disobedience put an end to their enjoyment of caring for Eden. But Genesis 12-50 describes Abraham and his descendants as recipients of God’s purposeful blessing: hope for common human dignity, a just human society, and righteousness resulting from obedience to God’s commands.

Moses wrote Genesis, therefore, with a purpose in mind. That purpose was best expressed using a combination of “ordinary” and “poetic” language which could be understood by the Hebrew people. Collins described “ordinary” language as descriptive or phenomenological. For instance, a day may be described as “very cold” or the sun may be described as “rising.” The writer may also use familiar “poetic” imagery such as “pillars of the earth” or “the windows of heaven.”

A third type of language may be termed “scientific.” It aims for a high level of precision and detail with minimum ambiguity. Modern scientific language may describe temperature or speed with a great degree of exactitude. Examples of modern scientific language are, “The temperature is -13.7 degrees Celsius,” or “Our speed is 52 km/hr.” Such scientific language is not found in Genesis. Science as a systematic discipline would not develop until several thousand years later. The purpose of Genesis 1-11 is not to render a scientific account. The purpose, rather, is to unfold a worldview in preparation for later detailed accounts of God’s work through Abraham and His chosen people.

Hyper-literal interpretations of lengths of Genesis days (yom) do not use the Bible properly, according to Collins. I reaffirm my previous claims that the Bible is not a textbook enabling us to answer specific scientific questions. To make a scientific claim that each Genesis creation day is equivalent to our 24-hour day betrays the purpose of the Genesis account. That purpose is not to answer scientific questions such as precisely how or when events occurred, or precisely how long they took. Rather, the purpose of Genesis is to communicate a theistic worldview. Scripture reveals one true God who is the Creator of all things.

Events described in Genesis are historical. They are true. In Moses’ time the written account helped the people develop a proper view of God and His acts of creation and redemption. God’s word does the same for us in our day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Science in Our Churches

Most pastors have a clear goal for topical and stylistic emphasis in their preaching and the direction their educational programs should travel. For that clarity of vision, they should be affirmed and commended. Willingness to expand outreach and improve ministry effectiveness is also a characteristic of effective church leadership.

At the recent Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science Symposium, Deborah Haarsma, Calvin College Chair of Physics and Astronomy, offered many useful suggestions for strengthening faith by using science in various ways within our church congregations. Her encouragement transcended the spectrum of differing views expressed at the symposium on the interpretation of various science data and centered instead on the usefulness of employing science-related topics in ministry.

Could using science in our local churches possibly overwhelm some of our members? Applying science within our assemblies would demand a “mature unity.” There are prudent ways to avoid being overbearing in our use of science within the church program, according to Haarsma. The pulpit should not be the forum for a science lesson. But occasional science-related references could be included in pulpit expositions as meaningful illustrations. Some church officials may resist making use of science in ministry because they believe the church must deal with other missions and has little time for topics not deemed to be relevant.

With respect to the important question of origins, we should offer age-appropriate instruction at all levels in our church education ministries. In preschool and the earliest elementary grades, we focus on the highlights of the Genesis 1-3 narrative. Older elementary children should learn that the pagan cosmology of the cultures surrounding the Hebrews (earth and sky “gods”) is untrue. Genesis declares the pre-eminent truth that the one true God of the Bible created all things in the beginning. Middle School students will begin to distinguish between who/why and how/when questions and should receive instruction concerning the primary purpose of the creation account and the authority of scripture. High School young people could discuss different Christian points of view on origins, learning the pros and cons of each and establishing which issues are essential to the Christian faith and which issues are not.

Haarsma stressed the dangers of saying nothing concerning science within our churches. The natural world is God’s revelation of Himself as is inspired scripture. All age groups should experience the joy of discovery as a gift of God. To neglect or ignore science in our church programs, therefore, is to make our church young people ill-equipped or even misinformed. If they later discover the church is silent or in error in the realm of science, they may wonder if the error extends to matters of personal faith.

The faith/science interface is not only about origins. Many other science-related topics inhabit the boundary between faith and science. Ten different scientists at Calvin were asked to list “What I Wish My Pastor Knew About.” The list included rocks and fossils, ecology, sustainability (energy use), medical ethics, biological development and stem cells, responsible use of technology, psychology/brain chemistry and the soul, mathematics and beauty, and multiverse and string theory. Many other topics are matters of concern, such as species extinctions, pollution, natural evil (earthquakes), bioengineering, and food supply. The Creation Care mandate originates in the first chapters of Genesis, but we must avoid becoming political about these issues.

Worship is enhanced by our awareness and understanding of events in the natural world. For example, it is easy to acquire a sense of the divine by observing the dark night sky. Creative illustrations, applications, and imagination-stretching challenges could amplify a sermon’s effectiveness. Science should not be used in such a way to suggest it could replace God. Rather, it draws us closer to the Creator by helping us focus on His many wonderful works. Our model comes from the counsel Elihu offered Job: “Stop and consider God’s wonders” (Job 37:14).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Origin of Information

Charles Darwin’s legacy, according to Stephen Meyer, Discovery Institute’s director of the Center for Science and Culture, is that the appearance of design features in living things is a gradual process and a mere accident of natural selection and random mutation. Selective breeding, deliberately accomplished by man to produce woollier sheep or special breeds of dogs over many generations, can just as well be accomplished by nature alone--no intelligence required.

Meyer’s October 26, 2010 address to the Vibrant Dance of Science and Faith Symposium in Austin, TX, posited that the mechanisms of the neo-Darwinian synthesis (support for evolution based upon genetic information in addition to observational evidence) are not sufficient to explain the overwhelming design features apparent in living things. Darwin did not refute every manifestation of intelligent design. For example, the origin of design features necessary to jump-start life itself was not explained. If Darwin did not refute every appearance of design, asks Meyer, why do people think he has refuted the design hypothesis?

In little more than fifty years the incredible functions of the cell have been laid bare for all to see. In 1958 Francis Crick proposed the “sequence hypothesis.” A four character digital code, amounting to a specific, sequential arrangement of chemical bases (shorthand A, C, G, and U) forms a code for organizing twenty amino acids into specific structures to produce tens of thousands of different proteins and folding them into three-dimensional building blocks of living tissue. Proteins are the cell’s “tool box,” performing functions such as structural support, movement, germ defense, catalyzing chemical reactions, storage, transport, and energy production.

This suite of functions owes its existence to the DNA molecule. Meyer referred to the “DNA enigma.” We may be amazed by the molecule’s design structure, or by what it does. More important is the question, “Where did the information come from?” Information in the DNA molecule conveys meaning. In turn, meaning produces functionality. Does any chemical evolutionary theory explain it? Meyer thinks not.

Blind chance to account for the production of even one functional protein would demand a computer search of such vast scope that if every event since the Big Bang until now were devoted to the search, there is still no possibility it would be found. Secular scientists now recognize the hopelessness of the “chance” scenario. In desperation, evolutionists consider bumping the selection process and the origin of information back to the pre-biological level. Matter’s hypothesized self-organizational properties also prove fascinating to the naturalists.

None of these hypotheses successfully deals with the insurmountable problem of the origin of information. Where does the complex information come from? Renowned physicist Paul Davies describes the living cell as “an information processing and replicating system of astonishing complexity.” Few evolutionists speculate openly on the abductive reasoning principle of “inference to the best explanation” while attempting to answer the question, “Where does the information come from?” Answering this question may force the admission that coded information is always associated with conscious, intelligent activity. The position of our blog is that the intelligent activity originates with the God of the Bible.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creation Markers

Reasons to Believe scholar Fazale Rana, a biochemist, addressed evidence for design in the biosphere at his October 26, 2010 plenary address at the Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity’s “Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science” symposium. God is not only the Creator, but also the Redeemer. Therefore, we could expect to identify evidence for God’s character in the record of nature just as we identify his attributes in the interventional redemptive work of Jesus Christ described in the Word of God. Rana highlighted a number of divine interventions apparent today in the fossil record of life on earth.

The origin of life is clearly a marker for a sudden act of creation. The record shows life emerging suddenly with a well-developed genetic code for protein synthesis apparently intact from the start. There is no evidence for a primordial soup which might have slowly birthed the process of molecular organization, the production of RNA and DNA, and life’s origin.

Secular scientists recognize many suddenly appearing markers in earth’s history of life. Of course, they are not described as “creation” markers. Evolutionist Eugene V. Koonin, proposes six “BBBs” (biology’s big bangs), sudden events for which there is no detectable preparation: Origins of (1) protein folding, (2) viruses, (3) cells, (4) bacteria/archaea, (5) eukaryotic organisms, and (6) animal phyla. My own research into Koonin’s BBB proposals uncovered a number of creative explanations, some of which drew analogies to theorized events during the Big Bang. Koonan describes the rapid changes as, “a switch between two phases of evolution, a phase of rapid evolution (inflation) by rampant exchange and recombination of genetic material, followed by congealing into a relatively slow phase governed by the tree pattern.” Anyone already firmly committed to evolution would no doubt feel a sense of affirmation when reading such a flowery theoretical account from a well-known evolutionary biologist of Koonan's reputation.

Many other sudden changes of various types have occurred. Vertebrate radiation events (sudden appearances) have occurred which might also be termed “big bangs of biology.” Since the extremely rapid proliferation of marine life in the Cambrian Explosion, other events have raised questions--the appearance of fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals have all occurred relatively suddenly after extinction events. Even Charles Darwin thought such phenomena weakened his theory. The secular literature is replete with descriptions of many abrupt appearances of novel forms of life in the fossil record. Niles Eldredge and the late Stephen Jay Gould have called this phenomenon “punctuated equilibrium.” Evolutionary biologists offer many imaginative theories to explain it, but their descriptions of the phenomena substitute for convincing explanations.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Rana’s address was the origin of humanity, a topic of sometimes intense disagreement in our culture and in our churches. Modern humans appeared very recently on the world stage. Genetic markers point to man’s origin in a single location in the Near East or Africa from a small population, perhaps a single man and a single woman. These are discoveries of secular scientists, but descriptive biblical imagery is being used by researchers. The harmony between the biblical account and findings of science has become more apparent. Rana described this phenomenon as a “resonance between scripture and science.”

Research does not show that early hominids which roamed the earth for several million years are ancestral. Numerous early hominid discoveries do not provide any clear relationships to modern man. Complete fossilized remains are non-existent. Often only cranial-dental remains are found--parts of a skull, a jawbone, or a few teeth. It now appears these creatures were created beings with some modest achievements such as fashioning simple tools. All went extinct without leaving clear evolutionary relationships, either among themselves or with modern man. Phylogenies cannot be constructed with any confidence. There was no evidence of “God’s image,” a complex set of characteristics clearly manifest in modern man beginning several tens of thousands of years ago. The capacity for producing sculpture, jewelry, painting, and music comes from “virtually nowhere.” This appearance of unique manifestations of “God’s image,” is sometimes called the “Socio-cultural Big Bang.”

There are two views of origins. One is suffused with a tendency to interpret the evidence from an evolutionary perspective. The other sees the divine intervention of the God of the Bible as a valid inference from the identical evidence. This view sees clear markers of scripturally referenced creation acts as well as the character of the Creator in the record of the rocks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Supernatural Universe Design

A humorous irony concerning physics and astronomy is revealed by the different terms sometimes used to describe these branches of science. Physics, with its applications related to such fields as cosmology and space science, is known as “hard science”--perceived as more rigorous and quantitatively precise than “soft science” disciplines such as psychology or sociology. At the same time, physics is sometimes called a “simple science,” while behavior sciences are dubbed “complex sciences.”

When astrophysicist Hugh Ross addressed a Vibrant Dance Symposium plenary session in Austin, TX on October 26, 2010, someone joked that he had the advantage of speaking on “simple science.” Of course, most people would not consider astrophysics simple. Nevertheless, Ross helped his audience focus on the simplicity of the general concept that the universe manifests plentiful instances of design. He claimed evidence for design and fine tuning in our universe is growing as our knowledge base expands.

Ross declared the universe manifests unmistakable evidence of a transcendent beginning. This implies the existence of a transcendent Beginner--the God of Judeo-Christian scripture. The creation event language described in Genesis 1:1 uses Hebrew bara to denote the production of something “brand new,” preceded by nothing. Secular scientists grudgingly acknowledge a singularity beginning and a universe where multiple instances of design are ubiquitous. The debate does not concern the indisputable presence of design, but rather, “Where did the design come from?”

In acknowledging a detectable origin event which is not naturalistic, the door is open for other non-natural interventions such as the enigmatic, sudden appearance of life with its fully developed protein coding DNA molecule some ten billion years after the creation event. Fazale Rana and Stephen Meyer addressed these issues in detail later in their own sessions.

More than a dozen scriptures explicitly address the observed “stretching out” of the universe. This expansion is referenced far more frequently than the creation event of Genesis 1:1. The book of Genesis is silent on this topic, but many references in Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and other books speak of ongoing, continual expansion.

Gravity is not the dominant force impacting the current expansion according to Ross. Rather, it is the recently discovered dark energy, an anti-gravity force which acts to increase the rate of expansion. The discovery of this acceleration disturbs some secular scientists because its precision points to an agent controlling the rate. Carbon-based life is made possible by this precise degree of expansion, enabling complex, stable organic molecules to exist. These factors are only several of the hundreds of exquisitely fine-tuned design features of our universe.

Supernatural design occurs at all size scales, from our Milky Way Galaxy, to the Sun, Jupiter, Earth, and our moon. With respect to how many of the Universe’s billions of planets possess all of the requirements for supporting life, Ross gave statistics supporting the vanishingly small likelihood that even one other satellite in the entire universe could support life. Our earth is unique beyond imagination. The cheerful optimism in some quarters that another Earth-like planet exists is unwarranted.

As knowledge of our home in this universe increases, the uniqueness of Earth and its life is revealed more stunningly. Hugh Ross effectively linked God’s infinite love for humanity with the seemingly limitless degree of fine-tuning and careful preparation of our created cosmos and Planet Earth.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Theistic Evolution and Modern Science

The recent Vibrant Dance Symposium and its avowed purpose “to understand the landscape of faith/science interaction” brought together a blend of viewpoints from “expert witnesses.” Theistic evolution (TE) was prominently represented. This position is frowned upon by many Christians but readily embraced by others who feel, as described by C. John Collins in Science and Faith – Friends or Foes? "…that natural events are God’s action by ‘ordinary providence’ –- that is, that God designed a universe so well that he could simply keep it in being and it would go on to generate life, and eventually us.”

Theistic evolution is the position of the BioLogos Foundation, established by prominent geneticist Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project. The current president of BioLogos is Darrel Falk, who served for many years as biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He was a Vibrant Dance Symposium plenary speaker and panelist. BioLogos literature states “The leaders of BioLogos believe that the findings of modern science are compatible with Christian faith.” They also say they “are committed to promoting a perspective on the origin of life that is both theologically and scientifically sound.”

Theistic evolutionists would concur that belief in molecules to man evolution relies on “the findings of modern science.” My previous blog posts have referenced the existence of errors in both theological and scientific interpretations of reality. When disagreements occur between them, there is obviously an error in one or the other, or perhaps both. When theistic evolutionists use the phrase “findings of modern science,” they really mean modern evolutionary science, complete with the paradigm of “molecules to man” evolution. Theistic evolutionists do not believe intelligent design within earth’s life forms is scientifically detectable as do most old earth and young earth creationists and everyone in the intelligent design movement.

Darrel Falk’s plenary address relied on genetic evidence from DNA sequences, particularly the similarity between primates such as chimpanzees and humans in those sequences. To the theistic evolutionist, such similarities point to common ancestry. Falk spoke in some detail about three such lines of evidence: (1) repeated DNA sequences called ALu, (2) apparent fusion of two separate chromosomes in chimps into a single chromosome in humans, and (3) similarities in DNA coding patterns for protein synthesis. Such a brief review does not begin to do justice to Falk’s proposals. What is clear, however, from his proposals is that evolutionist arguments use a filter which allows them to interpret genetic information in terms of common ancestry. Creationists and intelligent design advocates, by contrast, infer the operation of common design strategies of an intelligent designer as an equally valid explanation for genomic similarities. Researchers regularly uncover stronger evidence to support such an interpretation. As additional evidence accumulates that “quirks” in the genome such as common ALu elements or so-called “junk” DNA found plentifully in all primates have a previously unrecognized purpose rather than being meaningless artifacts left over from our ancestors, the molecules to man paradigm appears to be weakening.

It is certainly true that God could have originated a “fully gifted” creation (a term suggested by Howard Van Till) which possessed the ability for life forms to acquire their present complexity without any additional theistic interventions in the time frame between the Big Bang singularity and the present. Accumulating evidence seems to tilt us away from this belief. Ultimately, each person needs to examine the plentiful evidence manifest in our cosmos and its life forms and decide for himself. It is not, however, simply a “pick and choose” matter of what best suits the way we choose to think. Such issues have great significance as we refine our personal worldviews.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Boundary Pioneers

How should Christian faith and science knowledge “interdigitate?” This imagery was used by Andy Crouch in his kickoff address at the recent Vibrant Dance Symposium in Austin, TX. Literally, interdigitation is an interlocking of the fingers of clasped hands. It suggests a figurative image of one entity overlapping and becoming an integral part of another. With respect to the interaction of faith and science, this imagery describes a desirable model proposed by conference speakers: a complementary relationship between the domains of faith and science.

Crouch, a journalist and senior editor at Christianity Today magazine, effectively presented several imageries to describe the impact of existing rigid boundaries between the magesteria (schools of knowledge and authority) of the faith and science communities.

Before the rise of the scientific revolution and, in particular, the geological discoveries of the early 19th century which clearly signaled a cosmos and earth of great age, no rigid boundary existed. Science as a body of knowledge was not well developed. The beliefs of Christians were not seriously challenged by science because so few discoveries were capable of presenting a serious challenge to long held beliefs concerning creation events, geologic time scales, and development of life on earth, for example.

Discoveries in geology, physics, and cosmology after 1800 began to produce a better developed boundary between faith and science. For some Christians, their travel across the boundary was (and is) relatively stress free. Their comfort level is related to their confident acceptance of the mainstream discoveries of science. For others, boundary crossings are painful because some of their long-standing, cherished beliefs need modification.

Ideally, the domains of faith and science should not conflict if both theology and science are without error. The Creator is the author of both realms. Sadly, scientists began to send bulldozers across the boundary, beginning especially in the 19th century. Even yet we hear the roar of the heavy equipment, and some religious leaders bear the wounds. Religious faith, according to Crouch, remained static, its adherents unwilling to launch a response based on an intelligent grasp of the world of science located across the boundary. Secular science, therefore, fortified its defenses and strengthened its modes of attack. Both religion and science see themselves as “victimized minorities.”

Crouch suggested the feelings of intimidation felt by scientists could be remedied if Christians became “boundary pioneers.” This includes a number of strategies, including learning the language of science and listening carefully. Above all, the discussion should be characterized by “graceful discourse,” an “intentional conversation” which assumes that our neighbor on the other side of the boundary is able to “teach us something.” Our conversations would be “integrative, not disjunctive.” Christians should expect to discover truth from the dialogue with our neighbors across the boundary. The implication follows that scientists, regularly humbled by their own work, may also learn from us, perceiving the humility of Christians who approach them in this manner.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vibrant Dance Symposium

Opportunities for gracious, Christ honoring dialogue related to the intersection of science and Christian faith extended over three days last week in Austin, Texas. I was privileged to attend. The mission of “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science” symposium was to provide pastors, church leaders, scientists, and interested lay people with quality, accessible explanations of the relationship between science and Christianity.

Gathering the best minds together in a single venue offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchanging ideas in the crucible of a lively and respectful personal exchange. Participants were able to discover each other’s personal paths to faith as well as their reasons for embracing various locations along the faith/science interface.

Three main positions were represented by the invited speakers: (1) Concordism, (2) Intelligent Design, and (3) Theistic Evolution. Intelligent Design and Theistic Evolution are generally well understood. Randall Isaac, executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), a diverse group of Christians in science professions, states that Concordism “seeks to equate the interpretation of biblical passages with scientific observations.”

Concordists were represented by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana from Reasons to Believe. Intelligent Design proponents were Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer and William Dembski. Theistic evolutionists were represented by BioLogos Foundation president Darrel Falk and biophysicist/theologian Alister McGrath. There were at least twenty other well known scientists and theologians on the roster of speakers. Dinesh D’Souza spoke on a variety of related topics.

I find myself generally in agreement with William Dembski who had stated last summer, “It’s perhaps unfortunate that no young-earth creationists were invited to this event. Young earth creationism is a very widely accepted position among conservative Christians, so by not inviting any of its proponents, any attempt at theological unification will accordingly be limited.” Perhaps symposium organizers sought to avoid rancorous exchanges which sometimes characterize discussions related to creation time scales. All symposium participants accepted the responsible findings of mainstream science with respect to the vast age of our earth and universe.

Old earth, Day-Age creationists and Intelligent Design advocates respectfully disagreed with the theistic evolutionists on how changes in earth life have occurred over the geologic timeline. The former groups see occasional creative, transcendent interventions within earth history. Theistic evolutionists tend to view such changes as naturalistic events occurring under divine providence.

My judgment is that the goal of achieving collegiality and respect for one another as members of the body of Christ was successfully fulfilled. In particular, personal testimonies offered by several presenters were well received. The speakers are gifted, articulate communicators. Our moving, collective worship sessions were enhanced by music and visuals which heightened our love and awe for the Creator and Sustainer of all things. The same Creator and Sustainer is also the Redeemer of mankind (Isaiah 54:5).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Observing Is Believing

The universe we observe is a physical universe, created transcendently by God from outside our currently observed dimensions of time, space, matter, and energy. God is not confined to the dimensions we observe. He exists beyond them in dimensions we do not experience. But He also exists in our physical dimensions. Humanity observed Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity.

Since God created our universe with its time, space, matter, and energy, one would expect Him to leave behind observable, telltale signs of His work, just as we would expect an artist or artisan to do. New Testament disciples Thomas and Philip (John 14:11) had difficulty believing in Christ as the revelation of the Father. Christ provided a mundane “learning aid.” He implored them, “At least believe the evidence of the miracles themselves.” Observing the incarnate Son of God, what He said and what He did, helped them judge the truth of His divinity. Their conclusions were supported by physical evidence.

Those who perceive intelligent design (ID) in our cosmos and in our living systems base their judgment on observations of the physical realm. Even as Christ urged His disciples to believe based on His works, so we may observe the complex, ordered, functional systems surrounding us. It is not difficult to perceive plentiful and overwhelming evidence of design.

What is simple and credible to some observers does not seem simple and credible to others. They may, by an act of their will, reject the idea of a physical order intelligently designed by a supernatural agent. Others complain that ID is religion because God must enter the discussion. Some may grumble that we should not conclude the reality of ID based on scientific principles because ID is not legitimate science.

Objections to ID are not limited to secularists. Some thoughtful theists do not possess a vision of ID as an apologetic tool either within the church or outside its doors. It is surely true that the full message of God’s love and redemption for man is not revealed merely by inspecting the order and design of the cosmos.

The path to belief in God is traveled by scholars of history, philosophy, theology, and science, to name a few disciplines. The knowledge provided by each of these fields is God-gifted. The structure of our faith and belief system is supported in multidimensional ways. Observation of the design features of our universe and its life forms is one of the strong support pillars of that structure.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Politics of Intelligent Design

Political campaigns are both amusing and depressing. Ideally, different viewpoints on political issues and proposed solutions for the challenges of governing should be showcased. Instead, obscure past statements, beliefs, and actions of the candidates are touted as campaign issues; what the candidate would do to solve the problems of government sometimes becomes secondary. Outrageous charges often supersede the truth and coherent solutions to the day’s significant problems are not offered and considered.

So it is with the concept of intelligent design (ID) which posits that the order, design, and successful functioning of the cosmos and its life forms are best explained as the product of an intelligent mind operating at some time in the past, setting things in motion. Christian supporters of the ID concept would acclaim the Judeo-Christian God of scripture as the designer. Other religions could legitimately be considered proponents of ID, but their designer may not be the God of Christian scripture.

Consider the term “design.” Observing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., no one would deny that design is apparent. It has interdependent elements such as pattern, structure, arrangement, and function. Our conclusion of a past operational intelligence is inescapable, so the design is qualified as “intelligent.” By analogy, living systems manifest similar design features. Therefore, ID believers feel justified believing an intelligent agent acted in the past to design and create the systems.

Those opposed to the idea of ID in the natural world raise such points as (1) ID is a “cover” to promote supernatural creationism, particularly young earth, six-day creationism, (2) ID is a religious concept and, therefore, has no place in a scientific discussion, and (3) ID is not legitimate science. Other points have been raised with respect to ID, even by creationist Christians. There are issues worthy of discussion with respect to each of these points. Each one, when enthusiastically proclaimed by the media, repels segments of the population who might otherwise consider ID on its own merits, whether or not it fits under the definitional umbrella of modern science.

Just as a worthy candidate for political office could unfairly lose support by the revelation of a youthful indiscretion, so ID has lost favor due to the strident objections mentioned above. Other philosophical objections await discussion.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Affirming Divine Being

As we consider the history of the Jews described in the Pentateuch, we may experience frustration at the unbelief and unfaithfulness of the Chosen People. They witnessed many transcendent events including the miraculous parting of the waters during their departure from Egypt, the lengthy provision of manna, and the divine inscription of the stone tablets.

The New Testament era populace witnessed the transcendent miracles of Jesus and the apostles. Notwithstanding, there were relatively few believers. Some of us in the modern era may scorn such persistent unbelief in the face of these miraculous manifestations. Jesus himself said, “Believe the miracles, that you may learn and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38 NIV). In the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:31) Jesus repeated the sad truth that many people will not believe “even if someone rises from the dead.”

Modern era people no longer witness the transcendent miracles experienced by the ancient Israelites or New Testament Palestine. Discoveries of reality in the realm of physical and biological systems, however, amount to “miracles” of a different order. Residents of several millennia past had no concept of the precision of physical constants, predictable operation of the laws of science, or the beauty and complexity of body cells in their structure and function. Had they been able to preview the future, perhaps they would also have concerns about us. Why do so many of our contemporaries fail to appreciate the role of a designer? And why are so many indifferent to searching for the Designer/Creator’s plan for mankind?

God has revealed himself in the flow of various events throughout history. These events have been recorded by reliable witnesses. Modern man possesses not only the trustworthy written record of transcendent miracles to affirm the reality of the Divine Being, but also plentiful recently uncovered scientific knowledge of the operation of the Creator heretofore hidden. If the Psalmist could exclaim, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (Psalm 139) when he considered God’s omniscience in knowing his thought life from afar, and recognized God’s ability to knit him together in his mother’s womb, how much more meaningful are such statements in light of discoveries of modern science?

Thoughtful reflection about design in our environment leads us to consider the various ways God has chosen to make his Divine Being and work known to man. Old and New Testament miracles and today’s knowledge of apparent design and function in the natural world can be (1) denied, (2) recognized but dismissed, or (3) accepted and embraced as one of many ways God chooses to reveal himself to humanity. The choice among these three options has been available to man from the day of his creation.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Inferring Design

Modern design arguments hark back to early proponents of design such as William Derham (1657-1735) and William Paley (1743-1805). Derham wrote Physico-theology, subtitled A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God from His Works of Creation. William Paley presented an even more famous exposition of the teleological (design) proposal for God’s existence in Natural Theology. Even Charles Darwin, in his early years, professed to be convinced by Paley’s argument from design.

There have always been spirited objections to arguments for God’s existence and actions based on identification of apparent design. Some objections are thoughtful and reasoned while others are rooted in antagonism toward theism. Historically, it is instructive to look back at William Paley’s argument from design, illustrated by the Watchmaker argument, and study the sort of objections offered in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Philosopher/skeptic David Hume expressed doubt that causes could be inferred from effects. With the limited scientific knowledge of that day, analogical arguments did not resonate with him. This related to his commitment to empiricism, his doubt about the reality of miracles, and many other positions rooted in his skepticism. His beliefs flourished in the intellectual freedom of The Enlightenment.

The modern intelligent design movement has been with us formally for only about twenty years. But in reality, similar arguments in one form or another have been prevalent for centuries. Some believers in the principle that design points to a designer are pre-suppositionalists who hold “properly basic beliefs” (true intrinsic beliefs which demand no evidence). For such people, belief comes easy. The existence of apparent design is all they need to establish their faith in the reality of God.

Modern skeptics embrace many of the same arguments against design posed by David Hume and others during The Enlightenment. One could wonder how effective Hume’s anti-design arguments really are today. Empirical evidence is beyond plentiful and scientific skills of drawing inferences have been refined. Knowledge of the precision of the physical constants and the fine-tuning of the cosmos has increased a thousand-fold. Likewise, modern knowledge of the structure and function of bio-chemically complex life systems stretches our imagination.

We caution readers not to rely solely on scientific evidence to affirm the reality of God’s existence and acts, regardless of how strong such evidence appears to be. The truth of historical events, the credibility of special revelation, reason and philosophy, and yes, even the affirming quality of properly basic beliefs, all contribute to our belief system and affirm our worldview. We must make a diligent effort to be sure that our beliefs are true. Only then can we be sure we have acquired knowledge.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Questions on Common Ancestry

While secular scientists are busy attributing the apparent fine tuning of the universe to chance or the multiverse hypothesis, many bio-scientists are explaining the diversity of earth’s life in terms of common ancestry and naturalistic evolution. But traditional confidence in naturalistic mechanisms to explain cosmic design and earth’s biodiversity has been eroding.

Support for the notion of an evolutionary common ancestor has traditionally rested on anatomical similarities such as organ structure. This study is known as homology. Similarity in organ structure and function was inferred to indicate common ancestry. Biologists traditionally constructed branching tree diagrams suggesting common origin.

In more recent years evolutionary trees have also been drawn based on increasing knowledge of DNA sequences. Identical or similar nucleotide sequences in the DNA of different organisms supposedly indicate common ancestry in the distant past, even among creatures now physically dissimilar; the greater the similarity, the more recent the ancestor. Differences supposedly arose through the ages by the theorized processes of mutation and natural selection.

On paper, such ancestral genealogical trees appear convincing. Nearly the entire bioscience community has been convinced. Students are assured of the "fact" of common ancestry and of evolution, reinforced by ancestral tree graphics. Such tree diagrams prove nothing in themselves. Common ancestry concepts and graphics which illustrate them are not self-proving, whether they rely on old-fashioned homology or on more recent knowledge of DNA sequencing.

Several red flags of doubt concerning common ancestry have been raised in recent years. Two troubling mysteries for evolutionary biologists center in the terms convergence and horizontal gene transfer. According to biochemist Fazale Rana, convergence is the occurrence of “nearly identical anatomical and physiological characteristics” in otherwise unrelated organisms. According to theory, evolutionary outcomes occur by a succession of unpredictable, chance events. Virtually identical structural characteristics in unrelated species, therefore, should be exceedingly rare, but they occur with surprising frequency. The identical echolocation ability in bats and toothed whales, for instance, is highly unexpected, as is winning the lottery multiple times.

The evolutionary case for common ancestry is also weakened by the recent discovery of a phenomenon known as horizontal gene transfer. Rana writes, “Horizontal gene transfer refers to any mechanism that transfers genetic material from one organism to another, without the recipient being the offspring of the donor. Because of horizontal gene transfer (when viewed from an evolutionary standpoint), organisms unrelated by common descent will share the same DNA sequences." It appears the mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer are transposons, pieces of DNA able to move around or into the genomes of different organisms. There is good evidence that the shared transposons are transferred from animal to animal by parasites.

What is the meaning of such developing uncertainties in the “common ancestor” hypothesis? Creation scientist Rana proposes that common anatomical and physiological characteristics and common DNA sequences could be more convincingly ascribed to the deliberate work of a creator, the God described in Holy Scripture. The repeated use of identical, optimum, common design features and the multiple presence of the same DNA code sequences across various species, speaks more convincingly of the deliberate use of a common design template than a chance, undirected series of events.

The repeated use of optimum design features is a practice common to intelligent, human activity. Improving a system by inputting new information is also customary. When we look at the record of life on earth, past and present, the conclusion that a transcendent mind operates is far more rational than ascribing purposeless, chance events to explain what we observe.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dismissing Design

People of many different belief persuasions dismiss the concept of intelligent design. The discussion is not just a scientific question, but also a philosophical one. Did a super-intelligent agent act supernaturally within our present dimensions of time, space, matter, and energy? Are we able to detect such actions using scientific methods? Or must we explain all phenomena since the beginning of time in terms of natural processes?

Beliefs regarding intelligent design contrast sharply, whether operating in the pre-life universe, at the sudden appearance of complex life, or in its subsequent profusion. Even atheists and agnostics acknowledge the presence of hundreds of apparent design features in the physical cosmos from the beginning until the present. But they offer speculative explanations for these features such as the currently popular multiverse hypothesis.

This purely speculative hypothesis poses the possibility of the generation of an infinite number of universes in addition to our own. The idea of an infinitely large number of universes provides the possibility that at least one of them, just by chance, would manifest all the life-favorable conditions possessed by our universe. This reduces the possibility that the actions of God explain the presence of thousands of apparently ordered design features in our own universe. The multiverse hypothesis titillates the thinking of people leaning toward naturalistic explanations and away from supernaturalism.

Astrophysicist/theologian Hugh Ross discusses cosmic multiverse models in More Than a Theory. Ross’s proposals of a testable creation model based on examination of evidence contrasts sharply with multiverse proposals being advanced today. Multiverse concepts originated in philosophical and fictional writings decades ago. Refined models are now granted currency when proposed and discussed. The distinction between solid, testable science hypotheses and speculative, popular science is often difficult to make.

Ross writes, “When leading proponents of a model use irrelevant evidence and/or arguments, their efforts hinder science and confuse the public.” He continues, “Multiverse models are purely speculative, not based on any measurable or scientifically testable evidence.” There is no hope of demonstrating the truth of the multiverse hypothesis. Design features in our universe are ubiquitous. But so are imaginative proposals to deflect our focus away from considering and demonstrating evidence for the reality of God as the Creator.

Under the heading “All Size Scales Great and Small,” Ross states, “…the more cosmic or galactic details astronomers discover, the more fine-tuning evidence they see. The same outcome occurs for living cells, subatomic particles, and all the rest. If everywhere scientists can measure design they do detect design—and if the degree of detected design consistently increases with their measuring capabilities—it seems irrational to discount all this design evidence by appealing to that which can never be detected or measured.”

As measurements of precise physical constants have been refined and knowledge of fine-tuning features have beome better defined, more creative naysayers have attempted to cast doubt on the reality of the Creator. The side of the discussion one embraces relates more to supporting one’s previously held worldview than to a desire to embrace the best evidence. Human tendency to support our previously existing beliefs often overwhelms our desire to change our beliefs in order to conform to the truth.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to change our thinking when necessary. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 NIV). This instruction applies not only to doctrinal purity and personal holiness, but also to the discovery of general truth concerning creation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Life Site Preparation

In a home building project, we could highlight two time frames. First, the site on which the home is to be built must be prepared in multiple ways, including proper surveys, approvals, payment, assignment of title, and lot clearing, to name a few. Second, previously conceived architectural plans are printed and distributed. Workers lay the foundation, erect the frame, install walls, flooring, and electrical circuitry, fabricate ducts, set doors and windows, and complete the finishing work.

One may ask what connection this story might have with our blog’s focus on creation of the universe and its life forms. Did the Creator adhere to the pattern of preparation followed by execution in bringing our planet to its current state of life-abundance? Did God follow the sequence of the creation of time/space/matter/energy, and then much later in cosmic history intervene to suddenly establish life on Planet Earth? Can we recognize that the universe possessed an original condition of acute fine-tuning and retained that condition during the onset of earth life and continuing until this moment?

Even atheistic and agnostic scientists realize the universe must possess an almost unimaginable degree of precision fine-tuning in order for life to exist at any time in cosmic history. For example, the precise rate of expansion must be matched by a precise quantity of mass in the universe. Translated, this means both must be perfect. The latter has been declared by scientists to be much less than the mass of a dime. There are dozens of additional environmental characteristics scientists know must fall within the same degree of precision.

Alan Sandage, noted astronomer, sums up the sentiments of dozens of well-known, secular scientists by saying, “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” We might say “life-site earth” was being prepared.

Then, about four billion years ago, life quickly burst upon the scene, remarkably complex. Previous posts deal with this phenomenon:

Paleobiologist J. William Schopf, confesses he would prefer that earth’s earliest life forms such as cyanobacteria would have a history leading from “primitive ways of living” to later “advanced metabolic lifestyles.” Instead, plentiful, morphologically simple but biochemically complex bacterial life suddenly appeared. Stuart Kaufmann, theoretical biologist, expresses what all origin-of-life researchers know, but cannot adequately explain: “Life emerged…not simple, but complex and whole, and has remained complex and whole ever since.”

From its initial arrival, even single celled bacterial life possessed DNA, with its remarkable ability to replicate and its coded instructions for protein synthesis. This brilliantly conceived code could not have been an evolutionary accident of the random mixing of molecules in the “warm little pond” conceived by Darwin. The problem of life’s origin remains one of the profound enigmas of naturalistic science. There is no naturalistic explanation for life’s origin.

The appearance of life on Earth marks the line of demarcation between eons of a life-absent, but fine-tuned universe, and a suddenly life-plentiful, tiny pinpoint of matter named Planet Earth. Perhaps the second verse of the Book of Genesis locates that point of demarcation this way: “…and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 NAS).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Creator of the Code

Several sources of wonder and awe concerning cells have been addressed in recent posts. These include their complexity, organization, design, information content, replicating capacity, and synthesizing ability. So far, we have not specifically dealt with the most fascinating question of all with regard to the cell’s ability to synthesize proteins: How does the cell do that?

The cell is the lowest organizational structure with ability to perform all activities necessary for life. Biology’s focus, therefore, centers on understanding how a cell works. How, for example, does growth occur from a single cell to a complete living organism possessing trillions of cells? How are the instructions for completion of such a task given and followed? The answer is found in understanding how the cell’s genetic code works. That code contains the instructions for assembling the twenty existing amino acids into the tens of thousands of different proteins needed to build the complete, efficiently functioning organism.

The cell’s molecular chain of command reads DNA --> RNA --> proteins. In addition to preserving and passing inheritance along through multiple generations, DNA is also the template for producing an even more versatile molecule--RNA, containing the code for the protein production. A long strand of RNA consists of a sequence of only four nucleotides, abbreviated A, G, C, and U for short. The sequence may be thousands of nucleotides long. They occur in any order. The same letter may sometimes occur multiple times consecutively. Example: UUGUUUGGCUCA. Embedded in the long RNA strands are sections thousands of nucleotide letters long.

Now the story becomes more fascinating and needs more explanation. If one nucleotide letter were to signal one amino acid, only four amino acids could be specified. A two-letter code using arrangements of the four letters in any order, with possible repeated letters, could code for as many as sixteen amino acids--still not enough for the existing twenty. But if a three-letter code is used, making use of all possible arrangements, it is possible to achieve 64 different groupings, more than enough to specify all twenty amino acids. These three-letter sequences are called codons. Several of the codons signal “stop” or “start” in the translation process.

Consider a modern supermarket analogy. In the bulk foods section of our local supermarket there is a wonderful selection of products which customers may self-dispense and self-package. Once I have bagged my product I proceed to the scales and type in the proper digital code for that product. Let’s say the digital code is 313 for our favorite sesame oat bran sticks. That number code, along with the proper equipment, has been programmed by the store manager to “synthesize” a gummed label with specific details of product name, weight, unit price, total cost, and store name.

Imagine supermarket customers claiming such an event sequence is merely the result of blind chance. No, the supermarket bulk purchase department is obviously intelligently designed as is its coding system. The process of coding for the appropriate amino acids, followed by the synthesis of tens of thousands of specific proteins by the cell’s manufacturing centers-- ribosomes in the cell’s cytoplasm--makes the accomplishments of our supermarket’s bulk purchase department minimal, by comparison.

The proteins produced are not just any proteins. They are the correct proteins needed to produce a specimen of a particular species. The conclusion that the cell’s protein coding apparatus is intelligently designed is inescapable as is the rational belief in the existence of the Creator described in Holy Scripture.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” exults King David in Psalm 139:14. In his extensive commentary on the Psalms, 19th century Prince of Preachers Charles H. Spurgeon wrote that the science of anatomy was quite unknown to David. Had he been aware of the details of nerves, sinews, blood vessels, and organ structure, his awe would have been multiplied. Beyond that, we may wonder what David would have thought and written had he known of body cells and their role in making tens of thousands of different proteins in the human body and assembling them precisely into various body tissues, organs, and complex organ systems.

Scripture uses Hebrew verbs to state that the Creator initially produced the cosmos ex nihilo, out of nothing existing previously. Theologians describe such miracles as transcendent. At the creation event, God also created matter to obey a multitude of physical laws governed by physical constants--fundamental, invariant quantities observed in nature. We may say the cell was created and coded with the ability to make our bodies and the bodies of all living things. This ability clearly has the hallmark of an intelligently designed process since codes are always the product of a mind.

King David the psalmist pronounced the human body “fearfully and wonderfully made” three thousand years ago. Knowledge of human anatomy advanced slowly and did not flourish until the 17th and 18th centuries. But detailed knowledge of cell function and how we are made has been acquired only within the last few decades.

Psalm 139, according to Spurgeon, “warns us against that practical atheism which ignores the presence of God, and so makes shipwreck of the soul.” With our present knowledge of the protein manufacturing ability of the cell, the phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made” becomes even more powerfully meaningful.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's in a Code?

In earlier days, before the onset of social networking and ubiquitous electronic gadgetry, many of today’s mature adults were entertained by toy coding devices offered by radio adventure programs or commercial food marketers. These devices enabled us to send intelligent messages using mysterious signals which needed translation in order to “decode” the message. Someone had to devise the meaningful message, the code signals to carry it, and the means to translate the code. The supplier of the devices sometimes included a coded message consisting of a set of instructions we were encouraged to follow.

Today’s young people, and perhaps many adults, do not grasp the impact of “breaking the genetic code” which occurred during the early years of the 1960s. The cell, the basic functional unit of all living things, contains the instructions and the means for the manufacturing the thousands of different proteins which make up those living things. The human body is composed of 50,000 to 100,000 proteins. The genetic code directs the synthesis (manufacture) of these proteins by providing the instructions for protein synthesis. In the first few years of the 1960s, molecular biologists broke the “code of life.” That is, they figured out how protein synthesis occurs.

In the building of a skyscraper or even the building of a house, there are thousands of different substances, mostly chemical mixtures and compounds, integrated in a prescribed and orderly manner into the whole structure. Likewise, the bodies of animals, including humans, are composed of multiple substances, mostly organic compounds, which must be manufactured and organized into a functional whole.

It is a fairly simple matter to write a description of such a process. A simple description, however, belies the intricacy and wonder of what actually happens when living things progress from a single cell into a complex, integrated, functional unit containing trillions of cells.

What’s in a code? The blueprint for a skyscraper or a home contains many symbols, instructional shorthand which means little or nothing to the casual onlooker. The blueprint codes were produced by an intelligent agent--the designer. Taken by themselves, the code symbols are meaningless. In the hands of the builder, however, the information contained is interpreted and its instructions followed to produce the desired final product.

We honor the designer of a beautiful, functional home. We marvel at how the coded blueprints were read and correctly executed by the builder and we delight in the final product. How much more exciting is the assembly of a functional living being which has received the Creator’s breath of life? Enabling this miracle is the genetic code which directs the detailed assembly of every living thing.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Design in Different Contexts

Examining a skyscraper, an automobile, or a fine sculpture, we would have little difficulty recognizing that they are designer-conceived and artisan-executed. One could also admire the “beauty” of each achievement, especially in the case of the sculpture.

When we consider a cell in the human body, most people would recognize its design features. This recognition is based on clues that its structures seem systematically fashioned and organized, complete with passageways and enclosures analogous to those in a skyscraper or automobile. We correctly infer a causal agent, a designer.

Some physical systems manifest great beauty but do not signal design features in quite the same manner. For example, weather phenomena exhibit majestic patterns: the shape of a snowflake, the structure of a hurricane, or the deposition of sediment at a river delta. We could experience a sense of worship observing a mountain range, a colorful sunset, or a spiral galaxy seen through a telescope. Each of these systems obeys the determinate laws of physics now in effect in our cosmos. The design inference relates to the original establishment of “rules of the game,” the definite physical laws and constants established from the beginning of time.

Physical scientists revel in the causal logic of physical systems. They experience satisfaction dealing with causes and effects which can be described mathematically. They appreciate order and predictability, a characteristic quite evident as they discover more about how the universe operates.

Biological systems manifest design and order at a different, perhaps higher level. Physicist Walter M. Elsasser (1904-1991), recognized for proposing the dynamo theory to explain earth’s magnetism, became interested in biological issues late in his life. Elsasser recognized the overwhelming complexity of the cell, realizing that its functions could not be explained in a reductionist manner as could physical systems. He became interested in a new field, today called systems biology, in which the complex cellular interactions are explained holistically. Stated another way, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Some naturalistic bio-scientists take this idea even further, assigning aggregates of molecules the ability to "think," or even self-organize.

Walter Thorson, writing in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (PSCF), journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), states “Elsasser realized that the phenomena of greatest importance for biology arise from highly coordinated functions of structurally complex systems.” Biological (living) systems manifest a different type of logic--“bio-logic.” Thorson calls it abstract logic contrasted with the causal logic of physical systems. More simply stated, there is something about living systems which transcends the operation of even the most complex physical mechanisms. Living systems function, reproduce, and grow using information programmed by a code--always a sign of the operation of an intelligent mind.

The Creator reserved unique capabilities for living entities, especially the highest form of living beings--man. “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7 NIV) Reflecting on these truths is an occasion for the most reverent worship.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Designed Structure

When a child receives a new toy, before asking “How does it work?” he may pause to admire its structure and other physical features. Likewise, before considering the function of the cells in our body--that is, what cells accomplish in their role as the fundamental units of life--we may pause to consider some of their basic structural characteristics.

The most well-known structure within the cell boundary (the plasma membrane) is the nucleus. Inside the nucleus, all the cell’s DNA molecules are packaged in fibers called chromatin which are wound together to improve packing efficiency. Chromatin fibers then loop repeatedly and are attached to a protein scaffold, which loops even further. Finally this compact structure forms chromosomes. The human has 46 chromosomes in each human body cell. They become visible through a microscope during cell division.

The nucleus also contains one or more structures called nucleoli. These produce particles called ribosomes which are exported to the cytoplasm outside the nucleus. Suspended within the semi-fluid medium outside the nucleus are many different organelles, tiny bodies with specialized functions. An intricate network of tiny tubes and sacs provides pathways for orderly transport. A few of the organelles are mitochondria, lysosomes, and the golgi apparatus. Of course, this brief description of cell structure is inadequate to convey its complex and wonderful beauty.

This discussion is not meant to prepare you for an exam on cell structure. It may, however, trigger a greater measure of appreciation for the structures manifest in nature, an important goal science educators share in addition to their lofty goal of imparting science literacy. More specifically, the many structures of the human body and, indeed, all living things, are evidence of design activity triggering our thoughtful contemplation: Who designed the structures? How did they come to be?

Curiosity about the natural world is often innate, especially among children. Natural enthusiasm sometimes wanes as the concerns and interests of teenagers and adults shift focus. Pastors and religious educators, however, could become more effective in presenting the wonders of structure and apparent design in our environment. Their goal should be not only to stimulate appreciation of structure for its own sake, but also to foster appreciation of the Designer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Intelligent Agency

It is surprising that the concept of intelligent agency in bio-systems or in the cosmos at large is rejected so vehemently by many science professionals. There is no disagreement from that community that the many physical systems we encounter in everyday life fall generally into one of several categories. They may clearly manifest intelligent input and causation, or there is uncertainty, or there is no evidence of intelligent input and causation. Uncertainty provides the occasion for careful, further investigation. Sometimes the intelligent input is obviously highly complex and organized. At other times the intelligent input is less obvious and shows a lower level of organization. Identifying intelligent agency in system organization, however, is usually not a difficult task.

Using human body cells as an example, the structure and function of our many trillions of body cells is becoming better known with each passing year. A study of any contemporary high school or college biology textbook would make a 1950 edition seem primitive by comparison. The makeup of thousands of molecules and the exquisitely functional structures they form within the cell stretch the imagination. Here we speak only on the level of the cell, not the organization of tissues, organs, organ systems, or the complete organism. In Darwin’s day such information would have read like science fiction with the author’s creative talents gone wild.

At a more mundane level, when we inspect our children’s bedroom and closet, our home’s kitchen, or even our local school district’s 10th grade biology classroom, we easily detect the operation of an intelligent agent. At times we may be more impacted by the absence of intelligent input than by its presence. In our everyday life experience, identification of organization as an outcome of an intelligent mind at work is a fairly simple matter.

It is difficult to separate a cell’s structure from its function. The relationship of structure and function is a basic theme of biology, but is not always clearly evident when we examine the cell’s structure. But we wonder how the cell’s design is related to function: What functions are enabled by the cell’s design features?

The cell is a paragon of efficient packing and storage. It is complex and intricately organized. Seen visually through various types of microscopes, we may even pronounce it aesthetically beautiful. For a mundane example, we may inspect a suspension bridge spanning a river. We admire its structure without immediately considering its function in facilitating transportation. Likewise, we could examine the cell and admire its structure as a prelude to understanding how it functions.

Even without considering the function of cells to build, benefit and sustain the organism, it is not intuitively difficult to perceive intelligent agency in their origin. We define intelligent agency in this blog as the creative actions of the God of the Bible.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Problem Solving Cells

Garden hoses have an innate tendency to weave themselves into bewildering, inextricable tangles. Perhaps this is just another manifestation of Murphy’s law. Our body cells solve far more intricate problems than are posed by the most complex garden hose project imaginable. Living cells possess coded information and have the ability to issue instructions, synthesize countless new products, and regulate numerous activities. The cell’s activities have the unmistakable signature of a mind in its design and function.

What problems, we may ask, does the tiny cell solve? For starters, consider that in each body cell the DNA double helix molecules, tightly packed in loops and folds inside the cell’s nucleus, would be six feet long if stretched out. DNA molecules are composed of two delicately twisted ribbons of sugar-phosphate backbones. Between these backbones, billions of chemical “base pairs” are positioned like rungs on a ladder. Molecular biologists call these base pairs “CG” and “AT,” shorthand for their chemical composition.

The base-paired spiral, if stretched out, could be visualized as a single strand of material, like a string. But the strand does not remain straight like a garden hose leading to a distant corner of our lawn. Imagine that we wrapped our hose two or three times around a thick spindle every few feet. The analogy to DNA is strong. At frequent intervals the DNA strand is wound around eight-molecule protein packages. These structures are then called nucleosomes. Another analogy is winding yarn on a spool. Some writers report the product of this periodic winding of the strand around the protein packages appears similar to “beads on a string.”

Most remarkable, the DNA strands must be unraveled and reassembled many times during the process of DNA replication, RNA synthesis, and other cell activities. One article reported “No one knows exactly how cells solve this topological nightmare.” That secret, however, abides with the cell’s Master Designer. It appears the cell solves the problem of keeping its DNA in order far more effectively than most people deal with tangles in garden hoses and balls of yarn.

My brief review does not do justice to the grandeur of the process. The layperson is not obligated to know all the intricate details, but rare is the person who cannot express wonder and amazement over the cell and intuitively recognize that its design and achievement is the product of an intelligent mind.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Cell -- Small Wonder

Searching through dusty picture albums of my early childhood, I find snapshots of my toddler years do not resemble those taken at my wedding. They bear even less resemblance to my appearance today. Likewise, my high school and college biology textbooks would not compare well with the texts in use today. Molecular biology was in its infancy during the Dwight Eisenhower administration. Today it has achieved adulthood.

Knowledge of what occurs inside the cell has multiplied exponentially in the past six decades. One of my primary basic resources is the ever-popular Biology by Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece. In its 1231 pages of text, my sense of wonder and worship is heightened as I study it and contemplate the secrets of life our Creator has enabled man to discover. At mid-20th century, biologists basically knew what occurs inside the cell, but not very much about how things occur. They did not know the structure of DNA, how it functions as a code, how the information in the code translates to an instructional system, and finally, how many thousands of proteins needed to build the body are actually synthesized.

To illustrate, when we were young, we recognized the splendor of Grandmother’s completed Thanksgiving dinner. Years later when we became adults, however, we became fully aware of the many intricate steps necessary in procuring, preparing, processing, and presenting such a magnificent feast.

In the last sixty years we have discovered the structure of the cell’s molecular genetic material. We now know how its information storage and transfer mechanisms work and how the synthesis of thousands of new proteins needed for life actually occurs. The essentials of this knowledge were in place fairly early after the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure and composition. Noted biologist Sydney Brenner (b. 1927) stated in 1963 that nearly all of molecular biology’s classic problems had been solved or soon would be. One could compare solving these classic problems to ascending a steep slope on our way to achieving our goal of reaching a broad plateau. The ascent may be slow and difficult, but it makes possible exploration of the potential of the broad plateau. For example, we have now sequenced the complete human genome, making possible treatment of some diseases. And we have the potential ability to create artificial, non-natural microbes for possible production of new fuel sources. The possibilities are almost limitless.

Scripture (Daniel 12:4) refers to an increase in human knowledge during the end times. Proliferation of knowledge has never been harmful when achieved with the help of God’s wisdom and for God’s purposes. Increased knowledge of cell function, cosmology, particle physics, earth sciences, and digital technology are God-enabled gifts to man. We are able to see and understand the works of God in ways impossible a few generations ago. Knowledge of our intelligently designed universe and its life forms enables man to make a more intelligent choice in accepting the reality of the work of the Creator, or even choosing willfully to deny it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beyond Theory

When a repair or service technician comes to my home, I have the habit of lingering nearby to ask questions. Of course, I ask permission for the privilege. The knowledge I acquire is theoretical, not practical, rather like the knowledge of an enthusiastic baseball fan who never really played the game.

Simple understanding that every physical trait of the millions of species present on earth is stored in information contained in the DNA molecule may be regarded as true, but theoretical knowledge. Knowing information contained in DNA is present and transmitted in four-digit code form is also theoretical, but we may begin to feel more pride in our knowledge. Discovering that codes are always the product of an intelligent mind enhances our sense of pride and wonder even further. But our sense of cognition may be diminished as we realize we do not really know the first thing about how the system works. We only know the systems works, and that it works marvelously.

Probing the world of operating living systems serves to increase our intuitive sense that living things are intelligently designed. For the believer familiar with Christian theology, it is not difficult to conclude that the designer is the God of the Bible. Even the most basic knowledge of the functionality of living things and the transmission of genetic traits from one generation to another serves to trigger our exclamation that these events do not “just happen.”

Many scientists married to the naturalistic worldview, however, have no problem dismissing God from the picture. They loudly proclaim the irrationality of such a belief. This proclamation flies in the face of abundant evidence for design. The design indicators mentioned in this post do not consist of detailed, ironclad proof for the truth of intelligent design. There is no “proof level” verification for intelligent design in the scientific sense, but inferential evidence is beyond plentiful.

Questions I pose to my service or repair technician as he labors over our water heater or air conditioner help me grasp the sequence of events in a properly functioning system. For the most part I do not understand the precise workings of the unit he repaired or installed. In the world of living things we may know that DNA transmits the coded information necessary for proper system function, but it is in discovering more profound details about how the code operates and how its instructions are carried out that our deeper senses of awe and wonder fully engage. As a result, we may plan better instructional strategies using science as an apologetic tool in the church to help us think more deeply about the reality of God.