Thursday, May 29, 2008

ORIGINS 101

The following is another article I saved in my files a while ago. This was written by Rusty Benson and gives a primer on the debate about origins which is taking place in the U.S. This is for those of you who want to know what all the fuss is about and what the differences are. Enjoy.
Origins 101: Worldviews Begin With Beginnings
Rusty Benson
AgapePress

Nearly a century-and-a-half after Darwin's Origins of the Species was published, and 75 years after the Scopes trial, the argument over life's origins still inflames contentious debate.

Today three distinct theories of origins compete for public affirmation. Darwinian Evolution remains entrenched as the orthodox position of the cultural ruling class. Once challenged by Creationism, Evolution's latest contender is a theory known as Intelligent Design (ID).

As in the past, the debate regularly surfaces in the context of which theory or theories should be taught in public schools.

In El Tejon, California, Americans United for Separation of Church and State bullied a school district into promising that it would never again offer a "course that promoted or endorses creationism, creation science or intelligent design." However, in Kansas the State Board of Education recently approved a set of science standards that question evolution.

Even President Bush has weighed in on the issue saying, "Both sides should be properly taught so people can understand what the debate is about."

So far that hasn't happened. The result is a largely confused public.

The following is offered as a synopsis of Creationism, Darwinian Evolution and Intelligent Design. For a more in-depth study of these theories and the implications of each, see the suggested resources listed at the conclusion of this article.

Creationism - Also called Creation Science, this theory attempts to defend the biblical account of the origins of the universe. Creationists freely admit that their presuppositions are different than evolutionists', and thus, their interpretation of the archeological evidence is often different.

In addition, creationists frequently use independent data from the fossil record and from radiometric and carbon-14 dating to make their case.

Variations of Creationism include the Young Earth Theory (closest to the literal Genesis account), the Gap Theory and the Day-age Theory.

Darwinian Evolution - Charles Darwin was a 19th century British naturalist who first offered a plausible naturalistic theory for the origin of life in his book On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

According to Darwin's theory, the universe is without a beginning and life on earth evolved over a span of three to four billion years by the process of natural selection. Natural selection, according to Understanding the Times by David Noebel, is "the process that through competition and other factors such as mutations, predators, geography, and time naturally and randomly allows only those life forms best suited to survive to live and reproduce."

Concerning the status of man in the evolutionary process, George Gaylord Simpson, paleontologist and evolutionist, bluntly stated: "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material."

Intelligent Design (ID) - The heart of the theory of ID, according to Nancy Pearcey, author of the landmark book Total Truth, is that design in nature can be empirically detected.

She writes that ID "formalizes ordinary intuition." For example, we instantly recognize the difference in a landscape formed by wind, rain and erosion and one that includes Mt. Rushmore. That difference is the clear evidence of a designer. It's the same kind of observable science that enables an archeologist to distinguish between a rock and an arrowhead.

In presenting their case, proponents of ID often point to recent scientific research in three areas:

(1) The inner working of cells: Scientists are learning that living cells are like a complex assembly line in which each part serves a perfectly timed, specific purpose. If the whole system is not complete and functioning flawlessly, it cannot perform at all. ID proponents argue that this kind of irreducible complexity is clear evidence of a designer.

(2) The origin of the universe: ID proponents say that life is only possible when thousands of variants such as gravitational, nuclear and electromagnetic forces are meticulously set and balanced. Again, they claim this is the perfect working of a designer's plan.

(3) The architecture of DNA: DNA is seen as the most convincing evidence of the work of design. It is often described as remarkably computer-like, with the DNA code analogous to software that directs the DNA molecule (hardware). This information is embedded in the DNA molecule, but is separate from the matter that makes up the molecule itself. The question becomes: "Where did the information come from?" Answer: an intelligent designer.

Winner Take AllWhat's at stake in the debate? In short, everything. "Whatever a culture adopts as its creation story shapes everything else," Pearcey writes.

If evolution continues as our culture's official orthodoxy, Christians can only expect the complete secularization in all areas from education to entertainment, from philosophy to politics. And with the natural implications that human beings are neither accountable nor responsible, the future is likely to be one in which raw power rules.

But don't give up too quickly. Although it faces an uphill battle, acceptance of ID as a viable theory of origins is growing. At a minimum that could result in the re-establishment of the discarded idea that human life has inherent meaning and purpose. And that could change everything.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

SCIENTISM

Here's another article I pulled from my files written by Charles Colson. This speaks about what he calls "scientism," a strident anti-Christian worldview which many scientists now practice. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind.
Brooking No Debate
Scientism, Crowbars, and Bats
January 2, 2007 - Breakpoint - by Charles Colson

The late Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard used to describe religion and science as occupying "non-overlapping magisterial authority," or what he called NOMA. That is, science and religion occupied different "domains," or areas of life, in which each held "the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution."

There were many problems with Gould's approach, but at least a lack of respect for religion and religious people wasn't one of them. Not so with some of today's scientists.

The New York Times reported on a conference recently held in Costa Mesa, California, that turned into the secular materialist equivalent of a revival meeting.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg told attendees that "the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief." According to Weinberg, "anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."

Another Nobel laureate, chemist Sir Harold Kroto, suggested that the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion be given to Richard Dawkins for his new book The God Delusion.

Continuing the theme, Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute called for teaching "our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty."

In case you were in doubt about which worldview would inform this "catechesis," she then added: "It is already so much more glorious and awesome—and even comforting—than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know."

Attempts at a Gould-like d├ętente between religion and science didn't sit well with this crowd. A presentation by Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden on how to make evolution more acceptable to Christians was disrupted by Dawkins himself who called it "bad poetry."

After a while, the rancor and stridency got to be too much for some of the attendees. One scientist called it a "den of vipers" where the only debate is "should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"

Another, physicist Lawrence Krauss, chided them, saying "science does not make it impossible to believe in God . . . [and] we should recognize that fact . . . and stop being so pompous about it."

Fat chance. What's behind all of this animosity? It is a worldview known as "scientism," the belief that there is no supernatural, only a material world. And it will not countenance any rivals. It is a "jealous god."

As Weinberg's comments illustrate, it regards any other belief system other than scientism as irrational and the enemy of progress. Given the chance, as in the former Soviet Union, it wants to eliminate its rivals. It is no respecter of pluralism.

But this really exposes the difference between the worldviews of these scientists and Christians. We welcome science; it's the healthy exploration of God's world. The greatest scientists in history have been Christians who believe science was possible only in a world that was orderly and created by God. We don't rule out any natural phenomenon.

The naturalists, on the other hand, rule out even science that tends to show intelligence, because that might lead to a God. Now, who is narrow-minded?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Doubts About Darwin


This is an older article that I had in my files. I wanted to share it because it sheds some light on how some things have changed and some things haven't. On the one hand, many more scientists have found the courage to question Darwinism. On the other hand, the climate for this kind of admission has gotten a great deal more difficult. It seems the more we learn the more questions are raised. I hope this will cause you to think.


DOUBTS ABOUT DARWIN
In the face of mounting evidence, more scientists are abandoning evolution.
by Thomas E. Woodward (Moody Monthly, 1991)

"For the last 18 months or so I've been kicking around non-evolutionary or even anti-evolutionary ideas. For over 20 years I had thought I was working on evolution in some way.

"One morning I woke up and something had happened in the night, and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for more than 20 years, and there was not one thing I knew about it. It's quite a shock to learn that one can be misled for so long.

"For the last few weeks I've tried putting a simple question to various people and groups: Can you tell me anything you know about evolution? Any one thing --- that is true?"

Colin PattersonSenior Paleontologist
British Museum of Natural History

IN JUNE 1987, the Supreme Court battle lines were drawn again: evolutionists on one side, creationists on the other. The battle was over Louisiana's "Act for Balanced Treatment of Creation-Science and Evolution," which required the teaching of both theories in public school biology classes.

Once again the creationists were soundly defeated, prompting Steve Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union to call the decision "a legal end to the creationism movement."
But what the creationists have not accomplished in courts and classrooms, they are now winning in universities and science labs around the world. You probably won't read about it in Time, Discover, or National Geographic, but a growing number of scientists and intellectuals are abandoning Darwin and their faith in evolution.
Recent advances in biology and other sciences have dealt such heavy blows to evolution that one scientist said, "This whole thing is coming apart at the seams."

In 1981, British paleontologist Colin Patterson started asking other scientists to tell him one thing they knew about evolution. Lecturing to biologists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, he said, "I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, `I do know one thing - it ought not to be taught in high school.'"

Patterson says modern science assumes that "a rationalist view of nature [evolution] has replaced an irrational one [creation]." He made that same assumption until 1980. "Then I woke up and realized that all my life I had been duped into taking evolutionism as revealed truth in some way." He said he had experienced "a shift from evolution as knowledge to evolution as faith."

Patterson says one of the main reasons for his skepticism is that there are no real transitional forms anywhere in the fossil record. (Transitional fossils would be in-between forms, such as fish gradually developing arms and legs and turning into land animals.)

"I don't think we shall ever have any access to any form of [evolutionary] tree which we can call factual," he says. Although Patterson still believes that evolution has occurred, he emphasizes that belief in creation or belief in evolution is equally a faith-commitment. This is the heart of his Darwinian "heresy."

Reasons for Doubt

Actually, Patterson is far from being the most extreme of evolution's new intellectual skeptics. Some researchers have completely abandoned Darwinism as a credible theory.

Because of recent findings in genetics, molecular biology, and information science, a growing number of these skeptics are also embracing the concept of an intelligent creator as the most plausible explanation of the origin of life.

Still, they have developed their views independently of the Genesis creation account. Most assume the earth is billions of years old. And because their critiques are directed to a scholarly audience, their methods differ from those of traditional scientific creationists. Through careful research and quiet reasoning, these creationists have calmly presented their case to evolutionary scientists and earned a hearing.

Their greatest inroads have been through critiques of the widely accepted chemical evolution theory (which says the first cell evolved from a "chemical soup" rich in amino adds and other organic substances).

As scientists have studied in detail the intricacies of the cell --with its chemical factories and spiral-ladder molecules of DNA that record millions of bits of genetic information-- many have started wondering how all this could have happened by chance, through natural processes.

One prominent skeptic is British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, famous for his research on the origins of the universe. Hoyle claims that believing the first cell originated by chance is like believing a tornado could sweep through a junkyard filled with airplane parts and form a Boeing 747. Instead, through a theory of "genes raining down from space," Hoyle theorizes that where there are major gaps in the fossil record, new genetic material was incorporated into existing species to produce more complex structures. He believes the creator of these genes from space is not God, but some superintelligent extraterrestrial life.

Reassessing the Mystery

In 1984, three former evolutionists, with doctorates in chemistry, materials science, and geochemistry wrote the first comprehensive critique of chemical evolution, The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (see "Books About Origins," page 24). With pages of mathematical equations and chemical formulas, it dealt serious blows to the theory that life started by chance.

Despite the book's creationist content, evolutionists have widely praised it. The most surprising endorsement came from Dean Kenyon of San Francisco State University, co-author of Biochemical Predestination, a key work on the evolution of the first cell.

After he read Mystery, Kenyon offered to write the book's foreword. In it, he says the book is so full of fresh and original critiques of chemical evolution that he is puzzled that other scientists have not voiced similar criticism

According to Kenyon, many scientists hesitate to admit or study the theory's problems because they "would open the door to the possibility (or the necessity) of a supernatural origin of life." So they continue looking for naturalistic solutions.

Others, recognizing chemical evolution's problems, have adopted a theory called "directed panspermia," or that life was sent here from another part of the universe. The problem is, they still haven't answered how life originated. They have just moved the question outside our solar system. In the epilogue of Mystery, the authors explain how philosophical biases have prevented many scientists from considering the possibility of creation. Then with scientific precision, they argue that a "Creator Beyond the Cosmos" is the most plausible explanation of life's origin.

That does not mean that science has discovered the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. According to one of the book's authors, chemist Charles Thaxton, science cannot affirm a supernatural origin of life. This is because science is limited to what can be known through man's senses, and God cannot be known by our senses alone.

But science can distinguish natural causes from intelligent causes, Thaxton says. For example, through our senses we can conclude that the faces on Mount Rushmore had an intelligent cause and that the ripple marks on the seashore had a natural cause. Similarly, science can conclude that the vast store house of information recorded along the DNA molecule of even the simplest cell must have an intelligent cause (see "Signature of Intelligence," page 27).

What science cannot do is show what kind of intelligence caused it, whether a Creator-God, extraterrestrials, or something else. That must be shown through apologetics, Thaxton says, not science.

Twenty years ago, evolutionists would not have seriously considered any book criticizing chemical evolution and advocating creation. Yet even the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine and the Journal of College Science Teaching have given Mystery high marks.

"The volume as a whole," the Yale Journal said, "is devastating to the relaxed acceptance of current theories of abiogenesis [chemical evolution]."

And Yale biophysicist Harold Morowitz, no friend of creationism, called the book "an interesting start with considerable scientific thrust." Several of the world's authorities on chemical evolution have described the book as a "brilliant critique" and an "important contribution."

A Theory in Crises

On another front, Michael Denton, an Australian biologist and self-described agnostic, has also challenged Darwinian faith. His book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis shows that evolution's intellectual foundations have been steadily eroding and that only a philosophical "will to believe" in Darwin remains. New findings of biology are bringing us very near to a "formal, logical disproof of Darwinian claims," Denton says.

Citing evidence from fossils, embryology, taxonomy, and molecular biology, Denton shows that Darwin's "grand claim" -- that all life forms are interrelated and evolved from a single cell -- has not been supported by one empirical discovery since 1859, when Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

Murray Eden, professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Denton's book "should be made required reading for everyone who believes what he was taught in college about evolution."

Even the renowned British anthropologist Ashley Montagu has praised Denton: "I found him to be a writer of the most astonishing range of knowledge in the natural sciences, and a scientist whose criticisms are, for the most part, just and telling." Still, he says Denton's critique does not destroy the "fact" of evolution; it only questions how it happened.

On this point, Montagu seems to have missed Denton's summary of Darwin's theory as the "great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century." Denton shows not only that there is no fossil evidence of any major changes between different kinds of animals, but also that it is impossible to imagine how these radical changes could have happened step by step through natural selection.

Denton carefully probes, for example, the absurdity of a land mammal gradually evolving into a whale and the implausibility of a reptilian scale transforming into a feather or a crude amphibian egg becoming a vastly more complicated reptilian egg.

He points out that birds, which supposedly evolved from reptiles, have a completely different "flow-through" lung. What, Denton asks, are the possible intermediate stages between a reptile's branching, dead-end lung and a bird's flow-through lung?

More important, Denton shows how molecular biology is posing even greater problems for evolution. Since scientists have started probing the structure of proteins and DNA, they have been able to compare the "chemical spelling" of these structures in different species. In the 197Os, some scientists claimed this new data would be the final blow to creationism. Instead, the sequences of chemical units in proteins and DNA seem to show no trace of the family tree that evolution teaches.

Denton traces the striking pattern of "equidistant isolation" of every group, as shown in the variations in Cytochrome C, a protein found in species as diverse as yeast, carp, and man. "Thousands of different sequences, protein and nucleic acid, have now been compared in hundreds of different species," he says, "but never has any sequence been found to be in any sense the lineal descendant or ancestor of any other sequence."

Later, Denton adds, "There is little doubt that if this molecular evidence had been available one century ago, it would have been seized upon with devastating effect by the opponents of evolution theory like Agassiz [a Harvard biologist who opposed Darwin], and the idea of organic evolution might never have been accepted."

According to Denton, science has so thoroughly discredited Darwinian evolution that it should be discarded. Yet because he is agnostic and does not accept biblical creationism, he offers nothing to take its place. Instead, he suggests that science may find some other natural explanation in the future.

He appears to be open, however, to the general concept of intelligent cause."Is it really credible," he asks, "that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which -- a functional protein or gene -- is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man?"

Pointing to God

Paul said, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made" (Rom. 1:20).

Despite the evidence against evolution, most biologists will probably not abandon Darwin. Many will continue to belittle creationism as the equivalent to believing in a flat earth and will continue to teach evolution as a basic fact of biology just as gravity is a fact of physics.

But because of scientists like Patterson, Thaxton, and Denton, the scientific community is no longer ridiculing those who doubt evolution and believe there is an intelligence behind DNA and the beginnings of life. Several researchers have admitted that reading The Mystery of Life's Origin has made them think positive thoughts about God for the first time in years.

In fact, as the evidence pointing to a "creative intelligence" at work in the universe accumulates, and the number of Darwinian skeptics grows, more scientists are openly considering the possibility that this intelligence has already communicated with man.

Christians now have the opportunity to show them the wealth of apologetic evidence that identifies that intelligence as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then the historical evidence of Christianity can be presented in the "courtroom of the intellect" without it being thrown out on the technicality that God does not exist.

Thomas Woodward, an associate professor at Trinity College of Florida, formerly served with UFM International in the Dominican Republic.

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