googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: It's Because of Science that I Believe Creation

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's Because of Science that I Believe Creation

The "god of the gaps" is a bit of theological reasoning which invokes divine intervention as a way to understand natural phenomena that science is presently unable to explain; since we don't know how x happens, it is assumed that Goddidit. Of course, scientists and most rationalists would argue that naturalistic explanations for still-mysterious phenomena are always possible.... The human brain appears to be hardwired to find causes for any "effect" experienced in the world, from eerie sounds, to scary thunder, to terrifying ground shakes, and deadly diseases. Early humans, just beginning to seek explanations for natural things they experienced in their world found answers by saying those things were caused by gods, or other supernatural figures (like ghosts or witches); many early "gods" are storm gods (such as Thor) or gods of the wind (the Kami, in Japan).... But as humans explored more, they found naturalistic answers to simple things they once attributed to gods. As humans developed a simplified scientific method, more "gaps" were filled with naturalistic answers. God or the supernatural were no longer needed as an explanation.

Creationists are often accused of using a god-of-the-gaps argument to bolster creationism. That is, it's sometimes said we point to a lack of any natural explanation for some phenomenon as though that were evidence for a supernatural explanation. I suppose that happens sometimes and we should be careful not to let that be our entire argument. On the other hand, it's not entirely unreasonable to suppose a natural explanation for the evidence doesn't exist because there truly is no natural explanation.

Consider, for a moment, that a suspect's fingerprints were found in blood at a murder scene. The most obvious conclusion is that the suspect was at the murder scene at about the time of the murder. His defense attorney might deny his client was there but without any plausible alternative of how his fingerprints got there, the jury will probably stick with the most obvious conclusion. The same is true about creation. One simple explanation for the existence of the universe is that it is the creation of God. Secular scientists might object but without any credible alternative explanation of how everything came into existence (aside from poofism), why should I summarily reject a very plausible explanation? Besides, if scientists don't know how matter came into existence, on what grounds can they insist it wasn't an act of God?

Let's set all that aside, though. My belief in creation isn't limited to what can't be explained by science. I believe in creation because of the things I already know are true! I'll start with design.

If I found pebbles stacked in the shape of a pyramid, I would know they were intentionally stacked that way. It doesn't matter that I didn't see them being stacked or that I don't know who stacked them, I would still know that they were arranged with intent and purpose. How do I know this? It's because I've learned that organization is the product of design.  Everyone has learned this.  We recognize design seemingly without effort.  In an instant, we can tell the difference between a pattern painted on the floor and paint spilled on the floor.  

Scientists know this already. If the Mars Rover found a rock with weird symbols engraved on it, they would immediately know some intelligent being carved them. It wouldn't matter if they couldn't read the symbols. It wouldn't matter if they never found out who carved them. The presence of the symbols alone would prompt a barrage of headlines saying, “Intelligent life was once on Mars!”

Life is remarkably organized. The DNA molecule is exceedingly complex – far more complex than a stack of pebbles or symbols carved on a rock. Our bodies are incredible machines with thousands of intricate parts. Our circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems are complicated and extremely fine tuned. Life is far more than a collection of chemicals – it's about organization.  Simply finding amino acids in nature is a far cry from believing amino acids could arrange themselves into a DNA molecule.  It's like the difference between pebbles strewn along a beach and pebbles stacked in the shape of a pyramid. It all screams of design. It screams so loudly that scientists go to great lengths to explain why things might seem designed but really aren't.

The organization of living things (from bacteria to basketball players) is evidence for creation. It's not that we don't know how life could happen so, therefore, goddidit. Instead, we know it's created because we know organization is the result of intelligence. So, yes! God did it!

But besides the obvious design we see in nature, there's another scientific principle I've learned that tells me the universe was created. I believe it was in my 9th grade physical science class where I first heard the phrase “matter can neither be created nor destroyed – it can only change forms.” It wasn't until much later that I understood this is a scientific law called the conservation of matter/energy. You can convert matter into energy (as in Einstein's famous formula, E=mc2) but the total amount of matter/energy in the universe remains constant.

So if new matter isn't being created, where did all the existing matter come from? Scientifically speaking, I know it can't be created naturally. Therefore, it must have been created supernaturally. That is the only other option. I think secular scientists truly want to have it both ways. When pressed about the origin of matter, they sometimes weakly appeal to some quantum mechanism where electrons seem to appear out of nothing but they still refuse to abandon the trusted certainty that the net matter/energy in the universe doesn't change. They want us to believe the universe poofed into existence while simultaneously telling us matter doesn't poof into existence. It's funny. I already know matter doesn't poof into existence. Therefore, I know that matter and time and space were supernaturally created.

There are probably other examples I could give but let's wrap this up. Creation is sort of like the miracles performed by Jesus. If I lived in a 3rd world country, I might think David Blaine was a sorcerer. However, I know they're really just card tricks. They may be clever, but they're not magic. It is by that same principle that I can identify the miracles of Jesus. People can't really walk on water. People can't really rise from the dead. It is because I can understand how nature works that I know Jesus performed miracles.

Matter exists but it couldn't have been created naturally. Organization exists but it couldn't have been created naturally. They're miracles. And I don't believe they're miracles simply because science doesn't have any explanation for them. It's precisely because I understand science that I understand the creation is a miracle.


Steven J. said...

It occurs to me that you are arguing for "design" as an explanation of abiogenesis and cosmogony, with very little to say about "design" as an explanation for, e.g. the nested hierarchy of comparative anatomy and genomics, or the specific details of complex adaptions. The version of "design" you defend here is technically consistent with the ideas that humans share common ancestors with gibbons and goldfish and that complex adaptions were shaped by natural selection of random mutations.

Consider, for a moment, that a suspect's fingerprints were found in blood at a murder scene... His defense attorney might deny his client was there but without any plausible alternative of how his fingerprints got there, the jury will probably stick with the most obvious conclusion

I feel that way about shared pseudogenes and endogenous retroviruses shared by humans and chimpanzees. We know of a mechanism that produces shared genetic quirks: descent from shared ancestors. You could argue that, for no very obvious reason, Someone installed identically-disabled copies of the GULO gene, or the cytochrome-c gene, in humans and nonhuman primates, just as the defense attorney could argue that some evil genius faked the fingerprints at the crime scene, but it is not so parsimonious an explanation. The same point applies to the entire nested hierarchy of comparative anatomy and comparative genomics.

If I found pebbles stacked in the shape of a pyramid, I would know they were intentionally stacked that way ... because I've learned that organization is the product of design.

I would say, rather, that it's because you've observed that humans can stack objects and that humans can construct pyramids. We don't, e.g. attribute that intricate structure of a snowflake to a snowflake-artificer hiding in the clouds. Rather, we attribute similar effects to similar causes. We attribute inscriptions to intelligent inscribers because we recognize inscriptions as something that we've observed being made, by a known class of causes, which, yes, happens to be intelligent.

We take a leap of logic when we go on to infer that, e.g. because a house had a builder, a galaxy must have, or that because the computer I'm using was manufactured, that a baby must have been -- or that the earliest arguably human being must have been.

Steven J. said...

Life is remarkably organized. The DNA molecule is exceedingly complex – far more complex than a stack of pebbles or symbols carved on a rock.

William Paley noted that this is actually a problem for creationism (even though he was defending creationism). Human designers make complex things because we can't figure out how to accomplish something in any simpler fashion. He noted that "specified complexity" (which he called "contrivance") was always a mark of finite power and skill; a truly omnipotent Designer could bestow sapience, sentience, mobility and the ability to manipulate its environment on a rock or a mud puddle. The complexity of life is an argument for a finitely powerful designer, or for finitely powerful natural causes (though of course Paley argued that life was made complex to impress us with the skills of the Designer -- although again, an all-powerful Designer could have so impressed us without complexity).

So if new matter isn't being created, where did all the existing matter come from?

Two explanations have been proposed (consistent with a Big Bang cosmology of some sort). First, while out of fashion currently, cyclic universe models have not been entirely ruled out -- matter and energy might be eternal in some sense (e.g. the Turok-Steinhardt ekpyrotic cosmology). Conversely, conventional inflationary Big Bang theory suggests that the rapid expansion of space created a negative energy (as in, less than zero energy) which required the appearance of massive quantities of positive energy to keep the net energy of the universe at zero (so that indeed, matter and energy are conserved). Please remember that cosmologists have indeed read basic physics textbooks.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I don't have time to respond to all of your points but I want to make a couple of comments.

First, I should clarify my point by saying that organization may not be “proof” of intelligence but it is always “evidence” for it. The more complicated something is, the more likely it is the product of design. But even a simple structure – like the ten, stacked pebbles in my illustration – can demonstrate design by intent. How do we learn to recognize order? I suppose it's as you have suggested – I've seen it over and over. If I saw 3 sticks lying on the ground side by side and parallel to each other (as in I I I) my first thought would be that someone arranged them that way.

It's hard for me to think of a rigorous definition to define “order” in the sense that I mean it hear but I suspect that you too know order when you see it. What strikes me as odd is how evolutionists so stubbornly reject design as ever being evidence for intelligence if it means a divine intelligence. Sir Francis Crick, for example, would rather believe that DNA was planted here by intelligent aliens rather than created by God. He can see recognize intelligent design – he just refuses to consider it as evidence for God.

But what I really wanted to respond to in your comments was your point that “specified complexity” is truly overly complex and, therefore, evidence against a divine Creator. I suppose God could have created a universe that operated under entirely different laws – one where a puddle of water could be ambulatory. I'm not sure how such a thing would work but I suppose God could figure it out. However, it's not mine to say how God could have done it nor mine to say why He did it this way. I only know that He did it this way.

Life in the universe that we know is quite remarkable. You might say we're overly complex but I see such a claim as highly specious. Is the brain, for example, overly complex? This 2-3 pound piece of gray matter literally allows us to animate our bodies just by thinking about it. But it's not its size that important. Consider a smaller animal, like a dragonfly, whose brain is only the size of a pinhead, yet it can still perform complex calculations in the fraction of second and allows the dragonfly to maneuver in the air with more precision than a fighter jet. And don't forget that God is also the inventor of nanotechnology. Even the “simplest,” single-celled animal is far more complex than any machine we've ever invented regardless of size.

So if you want to stick to this argument that design in nature is NEVER evidence for intelligence and that when systems are complicated it's actually evidence they're NOT created (!), then have at it. It's my opinion that such arguments are ridiculous and only sound credible to people who already refuse to believe in God.

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!