Sunday, August 21, 2016

Is this the best proof they have for evolution?


On the website, evolutionfaq.com, there's an article titled, Five Proofs of Evolution. I can see the article is geared toward a lay audience and is certainly not very technical so I won't try to pretend that this is the best evidence evolutionists have. On the other hand, the author calls these five examples “proof” of the theory. What's more, there is a lot of supposed evidence for evolution out there and this site picked these five to make the argument for the theory so they must think they're somewhat compelling. So even if they're not what I would consider great evidence for the theory, this website presents them as though they are. Let's take a look at list and see.

1) The universal genetic code. All cells on Earth, from our white blood cells, to simple bacteria, to cells in the leaves of trees, are capable of reading any piece of DNA from any life form on Earth. This is very strong evidence for a common ancestor from which all life descended.

Universal DNA is not a prediction of evolution. Certainly if all life descended from a single common ancestor with DNA, then all living organisms should also have DNA but there's nothing about evolutionary theory that requires abiogenesis to have only occurred once. Another lineage could exist that did not have DNA. Would that then prove evolution false? Hardly. Therefore, whether DNA is universal or not, the theory of evolution would chug along either way.

It makes perfect sense, on the other hand, to believe that universal DNA is the product of design. If God originally intended people and animals to eat only plants, for example, it wouldn't be possible if the various life forms were completely alien to each other.

2. The fossil record. The fossil record shows that the simplest fossils will be found in the oldest rocks, and it can also show a smooth and gradual transition from one form of life to another.

This is a misleading characterization of the fossil record. First, many of the creatures appearing near the bottom of the illustration provided with the article, are organisms that are still alive today – sponges, protozoans, and protists. Over the last 500 million alleged years, sponges have evolved into what? Sponges?

But even the “simplest” life forms are incredibly complex. Darwin might have believed that unicellular creatures were little more than gelatinous blobs of protoplasm that could form accidentally from a fortunate arrangement of amino acids. We know better now. Single-celled creatures, for example, use a whip-like tail, called a flagellum, for locomotion. This diagram shows the complexity of just this single structure. There really is no such thing as a “simple” organism.

The fossil record shows something completely different than simple to complex progression from bottom to top. If you looked at a cross section of the earth, you would see marine animals at the lowest layers with plants, birds, and mammals at the top. That very closely resembles the order in the article's tree-of-life chart. I maintain that the appearance in the fossil record more closely depicts where the creatures lived rather than when they lived.

3. Genetic commonalities. Human beings have approximately 96% of genes in common with chimpanzees, about 90% of genes in common with cats, 80% with cows, 75% with mice, and so on. This does not prove that we evolved from chimpanzees or cats, though, only that we shared a common ancestor in the past.

The similarity between human and chimp DNA has been vastly exaggerated, to the point of lying. I wrote about this just a few months ago. Most telling is that chimp DNA is 8% longer than human DNA. Therefore, if the two were identical in every other respect, they could only be 92% similar at most. But human/chimp DNA are not identical except for their length. If you do a letter by letter comparison of human/chimp DNA, estimates of their similarity range between 70-81%. So if similar DNA “proves” we shared a common ancestor with chimps, then dissimilar DNA should be evidence against having a common ancestor.

Regardless of all this though, I reject the premise that similar DNA must be the result of common descent. DNA has been compared to blueprints; they are the instructions that build living things. The more similar 2 creatures are, the more similar their DNA should be. Even according to creation theory, human DNA would be more like a chimp's than a bird's. Consider this, if I drew 2 lines, one 9 inches and one 10 inches, the lines are 90% similar – but they are similar because I drew them that way, not because they have a common ancestor!

4. Common traits in embryos. Humans, dogs, snakes, fish, monkeys, eels (and many more life forms) are all considered "chordates" because we belong to the phylum Chordata. One of the features of this phylum is that, as embryos, all these life forms have gill slits, tails, and specific anatomical structures involving the spine. For humans (and other non-fish) the gill slits reform into the bones of the ear and jaw at a later stage in development. But, initially, all chordate embryos strongly resemble each other.

Ernst Haeckel was a professor of biology about the time of Darwin. He published several papers and books where he presented a series of drawings comparing the embryos of different animals. He advanced a theory called embryonic recapitulation which basically says that, as embryos develop in the womb, they progress through stages similar to our supposed evolutionary history.

There was a controversy surrounding Haeckel with claims that he intentionally altered the drawings to make the embryos more similar. Modern photos we've taken of embryos at the same stages as Haeckel's drawings do not show the same similarity Haeckel saw.

Human embryos do not have gill slits. At a certain stage of development, human embryos have folds in the skin of their necks that bear a superficial resemblance to gill slits. As they develop, though, the folds become glands and parts of the ears. They have nothing to do with the respiratory system as fish gills do.

5. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria colonies can only build up a resistance to antibiotics through evolution. It is important to note that in every colony of bacteria, there are a tiny few individuals which are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics. This is because of the random nature of mutations.
When an antibiotic is applied, the initial innoculation [sic] will kill most bacteria, leaving behind only those few cells which happen to have the mutations necessary to resist the antibiotics. In subsequent generations, the resistant bacteria reproduce, forming a new colony where every member is resistant to the antibiotic. This is natural selection in action. The antibiotic is "selecting" for organisms which are resistant, and killing any that are not.

The author here has precisely described natural selection. I've said many times that natural selection is the opposite of evolution. Some bacteria in the colony already have the immunity to antibiotics and the ones that don't are removed. It's survival of the fittest. Pointing to an example of unfit creatures being removed from a population doesn't demonstrate the kind of evolution that would add feathers to dinosaurs or legs to fish. Evolutionists routinely conflate natural selection with evolution as though they are the same thing. They're not. Evolutionists want to use examples of things we do observe (natural selection) as evidence for something we don't observe (evolution).

In conclusion, these supposed "proofs" of evolution are hardly persuasive.  Not even in the least.  Is this the best they have.  Surely not.  What it does demonstrate is how people's belief in evolution is less about the evidence and more about their willingness to believe in evolution.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The first cell formed in the universal solvent?

There are a lot of theories regarding the origin of the first life form. Actually, there are no “scientific” theories about the origin of life because anti-creationists are quick to point out that theories are well-tested and substantiated by the evidence. When it comes to abiogenesis, however, evolutionists are a little more relaxed over the use of the term “theory.” Any idea about how life could have formed from non-living chemicals cannot be tested because it has never been observed to happen. Not even once. Ever! So when they're talking about the origin of life, they say “theory” when they mean “guess.”

Anyway, the various theories... er... I mean “guesses” concerning abiogenesis all center around the idea that life began in the oceans. The most popular guess currently is that life first formed near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. Of course, Phys.org reported a couple of years ago about a team of scientists that challenged that idea. According to their research, the sea is just too salty to provide the ideal conditions necessary to spur life into existence. Now that's funny. No one has been able to create life under any conditions so how do they know what the “ideal conditions” are? Regardless, they suggested then that hot pools of fresh water formed by thermal vapor are the more likely place where the first life form emerged. Um, but just a couple of days ago, Phys.org published another article saying we've been wrong about the origins of life for 90 years. Now it's being suggested that it's electrostatic discharges or UV radiation that drove life's first chemical reactions in the primordial soup.

Do you see how they are a little bit all over the place with their abiogenesis stories? Regardless, you can see the common theme in all of these guesses is water. Most evolution-believing scientists are so convinced that life began in the sea that, if liquid water is ever found on another planet, they are certain we will find life there also. Oh, really?

According to the US Geological Survey's website, Water is called the "universal solvent" because it is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid.... It is water's chemical composition and physical attributes that make it such an excellent solvent. Water molecules have a polar arrangement of oxygen and hydrogen atoms—one side (hydrogen) has a positive electrical charge and the other side (oxygen) had a negative charge. This allows the water molecule to become attracted to many other different types of molecules. Water can become so heavily attracted to a different compound, like salt (NaCl), that it can disrupt the attractive forces that hold the sodium and chloride in the salt compound together and, thus, dissolves it. Isn't that interesting? Water is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid!

Now, water is vital to every form of life. Water aids in digestion by breaking down our food. Our kidneys use water to filter out harmful substances from our bodies. But in these examples and others, organized systems are using water to break down compounds. Water by itself, though, tends to be destructive. I admit that I'm no chemist but it just sounds odd to believe the first life form organized itself in water. It's sort of a catch-22 for evolutionists: water is so necessary that life could not exist without it. But water, being the universal solvent, would tend to break down amino acids – not allow them to arrange randomly into complex proteins.

The fact that water tends to break chemicals down instead of organizing them doesn't deter evolutionists. No matter how impossible it sounds, they'll just keep guessing until they come up with a plausible-sounding way a complex cell could randomly form in the universal solvent.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Does God hide himself?

In a list of arguments against God's existence, one critic at Backyard Skeptics questioned the existence of God based on what he called, “Divine Hiddenness.” From the article we read the following:

Why is God so stingy with direct evidence?... [T]he supposed miracles that attest to a supernatural power all happened in ancient, pre scientific, times, in which there existed no means of reliable verification. These supposed miracles are not being duplicated today so that we could see that such things are possible. Scientific errors in the Bible and its other flaws, including the commanding of atrocities, all make Scripture much harder to believe. A loving God would not erect such high barriers to belief and then further compound the difficulty in believing by providing us with such strong evidential circumstances against the supernatural, such as the inviolability of the laws of nature.

The implication being made is that, if God were real, He would openly reveal Himself to His creation; since He doesn't openly reveal Himself, it is evidence that He is not real. I've heard this same argument raised many times. Often, critics will sum it up with the question, “If there is a God, why doesn't He just appear to us?” I don't recall having heard the term, “divine hiddenness” before but it seems to make the same point. Here are some of my thoughts on that subject.

First, I would question the premise that God would necessarily reveal Himself. In the above quote, the author stated rather firmly, “A loving God would not erect such high barriers to belief.” Really? I've always considered it a bit presumptuous of people to tell me what God will or will not do. I agree that I might expect Him to appear, but on what grounds could one argue that He must? I can't think of any reason that obligates Him. Constructing a false narrative about how God should act, then criticizing God for not acting according to the false narrative is a logical fallacy known as a straw man.

Beyond that, though, I would say that God does not hide Himself. At the most fundamental level, we see God behind His creation. Psalm 19:1 says, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.The enormity, the complexity, indeed, even the existence of the universe tell us plainly that there is a Creator who made it all. Romans 1:20 goes even further, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

God also revealed Himself in special ways to people of the Old Testament. He appeared to Moses in the burning bush. He lead the freed children of Abraham through the desert as a pillar of fire or a cloud of smoke. The people heard His voice audibly at Mt Sinai. These examples and others show that God is a personal God who has made Himself known to His people.

God also made Himself known through the prophets and apostles. In many passages, the writers recite the words of God verbatim, prefacing their remarks with, “Thus saith the LORD....” As evidence that they were speaking with the authority of God, they were often given the ability to perform miracles. By extension, the words given to the prophets of old have become our Scriptures today. The canon of Scripture is God's revealed word to us.

But above all these is the incarnation – the birth of Jesus, our Emmanuel (God with us). John 1:14, 18 says, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.... No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. God has revealed Himself in the Person of the Son. He told us who He was and proved it through many miracles including His own resurrection. He told us that we can have eternal life through Him and He gave His own life as the atonement for our sins.

People who would claim that God remains hidden have to ignore the clear evidence for His existence in His creation; they have to ignore His revealed word in the Bible; and they have to ignore the historical certainty of Jesus Christ. Of course, some critics still complain saying that the Bible was written so long ago and where is Jesus now? I'm sorry, but God has already made Himself known to them and there is no obligation that He reappear every few years to remind them that He is still Lord of the universe and that they will someday have to give an account of their lives to Him.

Even if Jesus did appear today, it still wouldn't change the mind of some people. Many of the people He appeared to in the Bible refused to believe in Him. It's not so much that God is hidden from them but rather they have blinded themselves to the truth.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Can God forgive really really really really really really bad people?

To the cat, “cat and mouse” is just a game. Cats will stalk mice, catch them, torture them, release them, catch them again, torture them more, and eventually kill them. You know it's a game to them because even after the rodent dies, the cats don't necessarily eat them immediately. Often they'll walk around with the carcasses in their mouths like it's some kind of toy. Still other times they will leave it as a “gift” for their owners. Many cat owners abhor this behavior. Sometimes, they leave their cats' bowls full of food thinking cats won't hunt if they're not hungry. I've heard though that well-fed cats only prolong the torture because, again, it's a game to the cats.

Are cats evil when they do this? I ask because I'm still a little fuzzy about how atheists define right and wrong.

Critics often criticize Christianity by attacking the justice/mercy of God. I came across an article online the other day where the author was making just that argument. Consider this quote from the article:

To the Almighty, nothing is unforgivable. Let that sink in. Nothing. You can be a genocidal maniac who eats crushed-up infants on toast during snack time… and still go to heaven if you eventually repent. [italics and ellipsis in original]

To drive this point home, the author relates the horrific career of Liberian-born Joshua Milton Blahyi. Blahyi's vile history supposedly began at age 11 when he began sacrificing and cannibalizing small children. He claims to have personally killed more than 20,000 lives, many by decapitation and later, he and his soldiers would play soccer with the severed heads. One source cited in the article describes Blahyi as, “the most evil man in the world.” Blahyi now claims to be a born-again Christian, forgiven of his many sins, and bound for an eternity in glory with the Father.

Critics often point to the forgiving nature of God and question its “fairness.” Could even people like Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot, after their lifetimes of sin, have been forgiven by God if they had just confessed and accepted Jesus on their deathbeds? Even many Christians struggle with this concept and will hem and haw when asked to defend it. Indeed, that is why skeptics like the Friendly Atheist continue repeating the criticism. I see many flaws with this argument.

The first problem with this criticism is that, at its core, it commits the fallacy of an argument from incredulity. This is where a speaker claims something seems too outrageous to be true. It's hardly a rebuttal when you think about it. Even if it seems unfair of God to forgive really bad sinners, it doesn't make it untrue. Romans 10:13 says, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. You might look up the meaning of the word, “whosoever.” There's no qualifier in that verse limiting salvation to “only those who haven't been that bad.”

Next, atheists have a problem claiming any moral high ground because, ultimately, they have no objective standard of morality. If they are correct and the universe is all there is, then everything that happens is nothing more than matter acting on matter. One person murdering another is no different than a cat torturing a mouse or an apple falling from a tree. It's just the way things are and the universe doesn't care. Actually, if one particular cat were able to torture thousands of mice, it would probably be considered a superior cat from an evolutionary perspective. Likewise, one human who is able to personally murder thousands of others could arguably be described as the better human if the goal is the survival of the fittest.

Think carefully about atheism. If there is no ultimate Lawgiver, then “morality” is merely the product of whatever people think is preferable. You may think it's horrible to play soccer with severed heads but Blahyi and his soldiers didn't think so. Without appealing to anything beyond human opinion, what makes your view right and Blahyi's wrong? By that same token, critics try to say that God's standard of justice is perverse. On what grounds can they say their opinion is correct and God's wrong? Evil can only exist if God exists.  Their argument, then, really has no teeth. They rely solely on the fact that it sounds awful that God could forgive someone like Hitler.

I understand that we struggle sometimes to understand God. It's a symptom of our sin nature. God is infinite and perfect; we are finite and corrupt. His ways are not our ways so we should never presume to judge God according to how we think it ought to be done. It's laughable, really, that the clay should think it can instruct the potter. To understand God, we need to look into His word.

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. I always encourage people to read the Bible themselves but, for the sake of brevity, I'll give you a thumbnail: A land owner goes into the marketplace early in the morning and hires people to work in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them a penny (the standard wage for a day's work). Throughout the day, he returns to the market and hires more workers. He even hires some 1 hour before quitting time. At the end of the day, as the workers are leaving, the land owner gives all of them a penny. Those who were hired first felt slighted that the people who worked only 1 hour got the same pay as they, who had worked all day. We tend to have the same attitudes as the workers hired early. We are, in a sense, saying, “God, I've worked much harder at being good than that person. How can you give him the same reward as me?”

The owner of the vineyard gave an interesting reply to the complainers. He said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” The Bible says that God will have mercy on whoever He chooses to have mercy (Romans 9:15). If God has made salvation available to anyone on the condition that the person believe in His Son, then who are we to attach strings? “God, I know that person accepted Christ but let me tell you how bad he's been....” Really? If you really think some people can be forgiven but not others, then you are endorsing a type of salvation by works. You're essentially saying, “This person has been good enough to deserve Christ's forgiveness but this other person hasn't.”

At the bottom line, no one deserves God's mercy. Indeed, if it is deserved, then it's not “mercy,” is it? We all have broken God's commandments and we all are deserving of hell. The Father has made salvation available through the Son. Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one who takes away the sin of the world. Please do not mock God by saying some sin is more than His blood can cover!

God forgives sins. It doesn't matter if you don't think He should; it doesn't matter if you don't know how. He still does. People should rejoice when they read articles like those written by the Friendly Atheist. It shows that even your sins can be forgiven. No matter how great. No matter how many. Accept Jesus now and though your sins be like scarlet, they'll be made whiter than snow. Now that's good news! Praise God!!