Thursday, September 24, 2015

Creationism vs ID

Creationism is a faith-based belief. As a verb, “create” has multiple meanings including “bring into being.” If we count the creation of all things in our universe as “bring into being,” we assume that our universe did not exist before. Therefore, when we use the word “creationism,” we posit that God initiated the universe. He “brought it into being.” We are creationists, according to definition. Our faith (belief system) requires a belief in creationism.

We highlight a difference between creationists and adherents of Intelligent Design. ID is not a faith-based theory. Believers in ID do not attempt to identify a specific designer. The designer could be an “extraterrestrial.” Polytheists might ascribe the design features of our universe to a non-biblical deity or even a mystical self-organizing principal of the universe. Some believers in Intelligent Design, however, subscribe to a Judeo-Christian view of the Designer. They believe the Designer is the God of the Bible.

All creationists described in our opening paragraph are adherents of the main features of ID whether or not they wish to identify as ID theorists. The primary cause of the universe is an Organizing Intelligence—the God of the Bible. Creationist belief is clearly faith-based.

Some creationists resist identification with the ID movement because of the ongoing confusion posed by conflating the two terms. For example, some evolutionists have coined the term “Intelligent Design Creationism.” Discovery Institute, the most well known organization promoting the concept of Intelligent Design, has devoted substantial effort to distance ID from the concept of Creationism. They do not wish to be known as Intelligent Design Creationists. Instead, they prefer to present ID as purely an empirical, scientific proposal: the physical features of the universe and its life have a cause. That cause is an organizing intelligence (no capital letters in this case) but not necessarily the God of the Bible.

People holding various positions on this lively issue have criticized both creationists and ID advocates. Some critics such as Eugenie Scott, former National Center for Science Education (NCSE) Executive Director from 1987-2014, have humorously poked fun at ID as “nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” Most of these critics hold both creationism and ID in low regard.

The confusing relationship between creationism and ID hides doubt concerning a far deeper reality. Apart from disagreements over definitions of various terms of language, our blog recognizes the real issues are (1) whether the God of Scripture really exists, (2) whether God created all things in the beginning replete with design features and (3) whether we are able to make some conclusions about the Creator/Designer. This woefully incomplete list raises many other questions. If God exists, if He designed and created our universe, and if humans are able to discover truths about the Creator/Designer, do we have a plan for behaving responsibly as creatures created in God’s image?

Both creationism and ID relate to questions of origins of our physical universe and life forms within it. Our outlook flows from proper answers to fundamental issues relating to questions of origins. The Genesis account of origins affirms both creationism and intelligent design. The findings of science support design. Many scientists reject this supporting evidence, claiming that the proposal of design is “faith-based religion.” In discoveries that a Big Bang occurred, science also supports creationism: The universe had a beginning just as Genesis claims. These scripture-supported facts are troubling to naturalistic scientists. They go to great lengths to disparage both theories.

“He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make.” (John 1:3 NLT)              


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stephen Meyer, Design Advocate

Stephen C. Meyer is director of Discovery Institute, possibly the most high profile organization promoting the theory of Intelligent Design. The theory (ID) endures criticism from a variety of sources ranging from atheists to theists, and from naturalistic evolutionists to theistic evolutionists. Even some evangelical Christians have taken up the anti-ID cause. Meyer has promoted the Intelligent Design proposal coherently and energetically for the past several decades. His latest important volumes have been Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt.

There are differences between Intelligent Design theory and Creationism. Traditional creationists believe the God of the Bible created all things “in the beginning.” Not all Intelligent Design theorists believe the God of the Bible was the Creator and Designer of the ordered features of our universe, but most do. There are other subtle differences between creationism and ID.

Theologian John Ankerberg interviews a wide array of spokespersons commenting on a variety of contemporary issues. Over the years Dr. Ankerberg, founder of the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute (ATRI), has interviewed both young earth and old earth creationists. In the past few months he interviewed Intelligent Design advocate Dr. Stephen C. Meyer in a series of programs. Daystar, one of Ankerberg’s television outlets, broadcast seven interview programs with Dr. Meyer from July 2 to August 14. These archived interviews with Dr. Meyer may be accessed at Readers are encouraged to review the entire series by searching for “All Broadcasts” and “View Programs” at the website under the Daystar symbol.

Dr. Meyer has degrees in physics and earth science and has a PhD in Philosophy of Science. His doctoral thesis was titled “Of Clues and Causes: A Methodological Interpretation of Origin of Life Research.” Today he is most famous as a spokesman for Intelligent Design. ID as a well known theory has become more popular in the last several decades, propelled by new discoveries in the fine tuning of the universe and discoveries concerning information in living cells in the last half of the 20th century.

Intelligent design is not popular among either secular evolutionary scientists or theistic evolutionary scientists. Our culture has acquired a secular bias. One may look at the increasingly secular turn of our modern society to understand the attacks of scientists who claim that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. This proposal reduces confidence in whether ID is true. The field of science took a secular turn in the years following the Civil War as a result of Darwinism and other influences. Many members of our science community still bask in the delusion that it is improper to connect findings in science with any sort of theological vision. To do so is an improper “border crossing” of science and religion, they claim. This may be a reflection of changing world views rather than the “discovery” among scientists that ID is inherently unscientific.

We recommend a past post which may prove instructive:

We believe the connection Meyer makes between the rich information-bearing properties of cells in living things and the thesis of intelligent design is entirely consistent with traditional operations of science. The disrespect from scientists is rooted in their idea that ID is a mainly a faith-based theory. Meyer has gone to great lengths to dispel this false analysis. Secular scientists are fond of confusing the evidence of ID theory with the theistic implications of the theory. Since ID has implications for theistic belief, it should be rejected and relegated to the realm of religion, they declare.

Meyer has coherently advocated the theory of intelligent design as the best explanation of the apparent order in our universe and in its living things. The conclusion that the cosmos functions as a result of the actions of an intelligent agent is defensible based on (1) a digital code in living cells, (2) the presence of multiple machines in cells, (3) the fine tuning of the laws of physics and chemistry, and (4) the existence of multiple usage of standard scientific reasoning concerning the remote past and the history of life.

An important standard is overlooked in the storm of exchanges over Intelligent Design. Most often scientists fortify their negative views by claiming ID is unscientific. Apart from our view that ID is not unscientific, we remind readers of the far more important question, “Is ID true?” 


Friday, September 18, 2015

Migration Mysteries

Sources of wonder and worship spring from knowledge of mysteries of the distant universe. But lest we overstress the mighty wonders of astronomy discussed in the last few posts, we have decided to devote our current post to the wonderful animal residents close to our home in the northwest corner of Illinois. We trust our citation of physical and biological realities reawakens our awareness of a gracious Creator. We focus on mysteries of the complex process of seasonal migration in some animals. 

Some of our neighborhood wildlife companions are preparing for a long journey before the calendar dictates summer is over. We begin with first person observations of several colorful and unique animals in our area. In turn, we address hummingbirds, indigo buntings, bobolinks, and Monarch butterflies.

This summer has seen a proliferation of ruby-throated hummingbirds. These birds inhabit regions east of the Mississippi River. They are virtually the only hummer species in our area. For this discussion we relate mostly our own observations. Beating their wings 50+ times per second hummingbirds are able to hover, change their flight path in any direction instantly, or quickly zip from one flower pot to another in search of nectar to fuel their high energy activity. This summer I learned to wait quietly beside red salvia and geranium pots at a distance of one foot. The birds approached me and fed at close range, sometimes diverting to observe the colors of my shirt. Soft chirping accompanied the hum of their wingbeats. Some birds would pull off red salvia petals, perhaps intent on keeping their food source plants well groomed. This morning I observed a ruby-throat flying at high speed overhead in the company of two larger birds. Adult hummingbirds defend their feeding territories and chase away other birds.

Our hummers will soon be on their way to their wintering habitat in Central America. Sourcebooks suggest the males may already have departed. Next spring their northward migration will bring them back to this area, perhaps even to the same feeding stations. Migration maps reveal that first arrivals almost always return to northern Illinois during April. In 2012, our spring was unusually warm; they arrived in March that year. Hummingbird populations are increasing. We witnessed greater numbers this year. Soon the 1/8 ounce summer joy-givers will embark on their migration of approximately 3000 mi, many traveling non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico. Our admiration for them as an instance of God’s creativity has been strengthened.

Several times our posts have dealt with indigo buntings. This small iridescent blue bundle of exuberance had visited the same empty branch in a hickory tree above our garage four years running, singing mightily. This summer he did not make his appearance. Instead, we believe his descendant commandeered a neighborhood tree about one hundred feet away to offer his genetically programmed serenade. Having not heard their song for several weeks, we presume the indigos have already departed for their wintering grounds in Central America.

In my youth I discovered the joys of local farm meadows with their summer inhabitants of birds such as red-winged blackbirds and meadowlarks. One of my favorites was the black and white bobolink with a yellow patch on the back of its head. These birds have declined in numbers owing to reduction in their favorite meadow habitat. I had not seen a bobolink for many years, but for the past few summers, I have noted a male bobolink resting on a fence wire along a short stretch of narrow country road a few blocks from our home. If this was the same bird, he had repeatedly claimed the same territory several years running. In addition, he knew how to follow familiar migrational cues year after year. Bobolinks overwinter in southern South America after a one way trip of 6000 miles. If he returns next year he will have traveled 12000 mi.

With respect to the ability of long distance migratory birds to navigate precise destinations thousands of miles away from their summer and winter residences, we have studied unique systems of indigo buntings, bobolinks, and other species. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in The Basics of Bird Migration: How, Why, and Where states, “Birds can get compass information from the sun, the stars, and by sensing the earth’s magnetic field. They also get information from the position of the setting sun and from landmarks seen during the day.” That this information can be processed and interpreted by animals without the ability to reason like human beings, is a source of wonder and an occasion to worship the Creator. Literature describing these phenomena is extensive.

Finally, in a renewal of our past summer reports on Monarch butterflies, we note with satisfaction that the summer of 2015 has seen a slight increase in Monarch sightings. Many naturalists are alarmed that one of the most spectacular natural wonders—the Monarch phenomenon—has witnessed a steady decline in the population of migratory butterflies returning to a small forest in Mexico. One article suggested the problem of diminished Mexico overwintering acreage is somewhat misleading. This year there are some encouraging signs. Locally, I have seen a number of butterflies the past few days making their way in a southwesterly direction. Last summer I did not notice any on their migratory journey. Perhaps I was not observing diligently enough. On a recent walk one monarch flew by me closely, met a bank of trees, then ascended up and over, flying higher and higher. He flew to an altitude of about 200 feet, then disappeared flying southwest. Was Mexico in sight for him?

Linked below is the first of several annual summer commentaries on the Monarch butterfly from 8/8/08. We detail some remarkable facts about the Monarch migration:

Our home in this universe, extending from the distant cosmos to our neighborhood back yard, is filled with opportunities to glorify the God of Creation. We are reminded of one of the Apostle Paul’s unusual defenses of the Christian faith before a group of pagan, polytheistic Athenians at the Areopagus (Acts 17:15-34). Paul appealed not to deep theological verities, but initially encouraged the Athenians to look for God in the physical creation. For the Greek thinkers, their innate religious sense could be affirmed. It is interesting that a recognition of God in the physical realities of creation origin and the current creation order may exemplify God’s grace. Ultimately, our young people and adults may more easily perceive the grace of God which leads to salvation through Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11).





Saturday, September 12, 2015

Just Right Elements

As we study the history of the universe from its beginning until the present, the word “miracle” or a similar term is sometimes used by materialistic scientists notwithstanding their unbelief in supernatural creation to explain our current reality. Even if scientists do not believe in the action of a divine Creator, almost all scientists would admit the formation of our existing array of elements is a extraordinarily lucky accident. Some scientists have used the terms “miracle” and “overwhelming” to describe the formation of life-friendly elements from the hot primordial sea of particles, to early elements hydrogen and helium, and finally to the approximately 100 chemical elements known today.

We often hear claims that our universe is finely tuned. Its mass cannot differ from the currently measured quantity even minutely. Slightly more or less mass would result in an unworkable universe. In addition, the universe has been expanding since the initial creation event. We observe an expanding universe. Minutely faster or slower expansion would also create an unworkable universe. Linked is our post from 5-13-14:

Let us add another dimension to the necessary fine-tuning of our universe. This dimension involves “just right” quantities of the approximately 100 known chemical elements. As far as we know, life exists on but one planet of the likely billions of planets orbiting uncounted trillions of stars in our vast universe. Earth life is carbon based. Carbon is the key element necessary for life. Without carbon there would be no life. The mass of carbon existing in the cosmos must be precisely tuned in order for the universe to support life.

Discovery of the process of carbon production from earlier, simpler elements hydrogen and helium was a brilliant achievement of astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915-2001). His idea is known today as “stellar nucleosynthesis,” proposed in 1946. This is the process by which new elements are created within stars by combining protons and neutrons from the nuclei of lighter elements. During his lifetime Hoyle offered many brilliant insights as well as bizarre theories. His genius proposal of stellar nucleosynthesis caused him to consider believing in the guiding hand of a “god,” and become one of the original scientists to flirt with the concept of intelligent design. Hoyle thought the energy level necessary to produce the quantity of carbon in the universe was statistically highly unlikely.

Hoyle uttered a fascinating statement in 1981: “Would you not say to yourself, ‘Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.’” Hoyle has not been noted, however, for his faith-based beliefs.   

We reiterate that without carbon no life, including human life, could exist. Only 0.0007 of the mass of the universe is carbon, far less than hydrogen and helium which compose 0.98 of ordinary matter in the universe. For life to exist the quantity of carbon must be balanced between too much and too little. We cite a link to our previous commentary on carbon:

All chemical elements have been formed in the nuclear furnaces of stars. Fred Hoyle no doubt discovered more about the remarkable transitions of simple elements hydrogen and helium into carbon and eventually all other elements than most scientists. If materialist scientist Hoyle had a serious vision of “a super intellect monkeying with the physics,” what sort of vision might we acquire of God’s acts of creation since our universe began if we have a theistic, Judeo-Christian worldview?  




Monday, September 7, 2015

Telescopic Macrocosmos

When I taught astronomy I favored the naked eye approach in my classroom. What could be seen with the naked eye? What could we learn by observing and interpreting the skies without a telescope? Students responded favorably to visual stimuli in order to discover the nature of sky object movement, including the movements of the Earth, Moon, and planets. Subsequent challenges of astronomy involved distinguishing real motion from apparent motion with respect to what we visually observed.

Telescopes were an exciting add-on after a few weeks of introductory instruction in astronomy. Whenever we presented an outdoor “star watch,” telescopes were supplements to the lessons of astronomy already learned from naked eye observations. Premature use of telescopes, however, could complicate introductory concepts of astronomy. We illustrate by citing early use of microscopes and telescopes for very young children. Parents may be wise to use neither device before children are reasonably able to process their observations according to everyday visual experiences.

We are confident the lessons of our last seven posts have increased readers’ knowledge of naked eye astronomy. But what of telescopic revelations of our magnificent macrocosmos? We have not dealt with these revelations. Our preliminary near Earth discoveries do not instruct us concerning the wonders of the magnificent distant universe. Visualizing distant celestial objects farther away and smaller than our unaided eye can see is only the beginning of discovery. Enhanced knowledge gained with advanced telescopes leads us to deeper inquiry about how the universe began, how the universe developed, and how it presently works.  

As a classroom teacher, occasionally I challenged my students with a puzzling riddle. I claimed, “I really don’t see any of you. I merely see the light coming from your bodies!” In the ensuing discussion students acknowledged that the light reflected from their bodies to my eyes consumed travel time, albeit a very short time. Even at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, some time was necessary. When I observed the students, I perceived them with slightly “old” light. Therefore, I was observing a past event, I claimed. An analogy from the world of sound transmission helped students understand the riddle. It is common knowledge that the sound of thunder needs time to travel to us after the cause of the thunder—the bolt of lightning. When we hear thunder we sense sound energy generated by a past event. We may calculate the distance to the bolt of lightning if we know sound travels at 1116 ft/sec and how long the sound was in transit.

Knowledge of speeds, distances, and times operating today on earth help us derive information about our vast universe. For example, knowledge of any two enables us to calculate an unknown third factor. Telescopes enable us to see objects which sent their light to us very early in the history of the universe. In a sense we are looking at the past just as I observed my classroom students with slightlyoldlight. Telescopes today, whether an inexpensive one purchased at Walmart or an advanced telescope such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) help remind us that observed light coming from objects in distant space is very old. Since that light was generated, many events have taken place including the ongoing expansion of the universe.

We close with an invitation to contemplate a startling fact of our universe. In the past few decades our telescopes such as the HST have enabled us to discover the vastness of the universe we observe and calculate how massive it really is. Hugh Ross in his 2008 volume Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Baker Books) states, “The Universe that exists today is different from the universe that astronomers actually observe. Astronomers look back in time when they look at distant objects because light (even though it’s very fast moving) takes time to travel through space. Thus, the universe astronomers observe is the universe of the past. The farther away astronomers look, the farther back in time they see…”

Ross continues, “In a continually expanding universe, the universe of the past is spatially smaller than the universe of the present…The actual universe of the present must be at least an order of magnitude (a factor of ten) larger than the universe they observe via telescopes.” 

There are over a dozen scripture passages that reference the stretching out or expansion of the heavens, including Isaiah 40:22 (NIV), “…He stretches out the heavens like a canopy…” Even if we view such verses as metaphorical, astronomers have discovered that the universe has been stretched out (expanded), is being stretched out, and will be stretched out until the onset of the New Creation.