The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science – part 3

Thus far in these blogs I have argued from Stephen Meyer’s position that proving God scientifically requires the use of abductive reasoning. Furthermore, the religious skeptic’s demand that God must be “proven scientifically” or else God does not exist, must be handled judiciously and not taken at face value. The common notion of materialism— Only what is material, what can be seen and measured, is real; therefore, if God cannot be observed, He does not exist—is untenable and myopic. The broad discipline we know as “Science” does not recognize such a limited approach to understanding the world around us. The scientific studies of origins and forensics demonstrate this. If the skeptic is willing to acknowledge the different, but still scientific method of historical science—piecing together present day clues to prove past events—as the right tool for this job, then his demand for scientific proof of God can be satisfied. If our hypothetical skeptic is willing to accept that argument, then we can continue. This blog entry will take the next step by looking at intelligence as scientific evidence for the existence of God.

einstein

We Are All Einsteins…Sort of

Is intelligence a substance? We all know it is not matter. But does it exist? I would like to ask the skeptic if intelligence is real. Perhaps I could make it personal and ask him if he possesses intelligence. If he says “no,” then that is going to be embarrassing for him and we should politely end the discussion. If he says “yes,” then he agrees that intelligence is recognizable, albeit not material. I could go on with him to acknowledge that according to some sectors of the scientific community, intelligence is even measurable (MENSA). Education systems around the world measure intelligence, or its compatriot, knowledge, through assigning scholastic grades. The points of this line of reasoning are to show that immaterial things do exist and that intelligence is particularly important in proving, or recognizing, the existence of God.

Consider the symbiotic relationship between intelligence and information. These two words occupy the same category of thought to the degree that one sub-definition of intelligence is information. For instance, whenever we speak of “military intelligence” we mean “information” about the enemy. Information presumes intelligence. That is, information is data that has a purpose. It is intended to communicate. An intelligent source intends to use that information for a purpose. It either is intended to inform another intelligent being or to control an inanimate object. Again, Stephen Meyer helps here when he defines information as “A sequence of characters or arrangements of something that produces a specific effect” (Signature of the Cell, pg. 91).

detour-ahead

[Just a brief excursion: By contrast, the scientific community has proposed “chance” as the source, or cause of all things—ergo, including intelligence. Ironically, Darwin acknowledged the intuitive rationale for an intelligent designer. Neo Darwinist Richard Dawkins echoes that tenet of Scientism: “The beauty of biology, really, is the illusion of design.” That notion is inescapable. I think back on all of those National Geographic Nature documentaries we watched when our kids were young. Consistently, the narrator would refer to some creature’s distant ancestor “deciding” to change some anatomical feature in order to stay alive: “The great-horned watcha-madoodle grew that horn so that he could better dig for his favorite beetle and survive the ice-age.” It is rampant. In defending science, atheist and religious antagonist Jerry Coyne says, “We [scientists] may reach the limits of explanation for several reasons: because the evidence eludes us…or because our brains aren’t configured to puzzles out the answers” [highlights are mine] (Faith vs. Fact, pg. 227).

To “configure” indicates a configure-ATOR, an intelligent being having a design and purpose. Thankfully, Douglas Axe has written a very helpful book, in layman’s terms, that validates humanity’s common intuition that our world had to be designed purposefully. I HIGHLY recommend it. It is: Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed. ]

dna

What do Bill Gates and Teddy Roosevelt Have to do with DNA?

Meyer’s definition of information is patent in the very sentence I am writing and that you are reading. The sentence can exist because there is an alphabet; but the alphabet is not information. It is useless by itself. But it has the potential for a limitless amount of information. The letters become information when they are arranged in a purposed, particular sequence. Mathematician Claude Shannon is considered the originator of “information theory.” His work paved the way for the information age. If Jack Kilby—the inventor of the Integrated Circuit (IC)—is responsible for laying the groundwork for the hardware side of modern computing, then Claude Shannon is responsible for laying the groundwork for the “intelligence” within computers. Meyer says, “Shannon had taken nineteenth-century mathematician George Boole’ system of putting logical expressions in mathematical form and applied its categories of ‘true’ and ‘false’ [Boolean Algebra] to switches found in electronic circuits…His master’s thesis…became the foundation for digital-circuit and digital computer theory.” So, how does all of that relate to our topic? Enter DNA.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation and personal computer operating system mogul, once said,

DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created” (The Road Ahead, pg. 228. I found this quote through multiple secondary sources on the internet. The citation is credited to: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/he-said-it-bill-gates-on-the-genome-as-software/ accessed September 5, 2016).

The molecule known as “DNA” (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) is the built-in “operating software” for organic development. Meyer explains the “sequence hypothesis,” whereby “the chemical parts of DNA function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code” (Signature, pg. 12). It is pretty much common knowledge in our day that ALL features of ALL living things are the way they are because of DNA coding. That is astounding! What may be even more astounding, if that is possible, is how DNA works to replicate itself. There is no way I can fully explain it here. There’s a great video that simulates the process, embedded on Meyer’s website here. Now, you may be asking yourself, “How can we know if the information got there by natural means or by design?” I’m glad you asked.

mt-rushmore

The proof that the encoded instructions within DNA was intentionally crafted by a designer rather than by chance through natural causes lies in Mt. Rushmore! Okay, not exactly. But Mt. Rushmore provides a great illustration of the proof. Below are two faces observed on Mt. Rushmore. One was formed by chance through natural processes. The other was skillfully crafted by an intelligent designer. Can you tell which is which?

nature-face          roosevelt-2

If you guessed that chance and natural causes formed the face on the left and an intelligent designer caused the face on the right, then you would be correct! Good job. But, how did you know that? Douglas Axe would likely say that it is intuitive. And that would be correct. A more sophisticated response is: “If an object or event is both complex and specified, then we should attribute it to intelligent design…We typically attribute to necessity highly probable events that recur repeatedly in a regular or lawlike way” (Meyer, Signature pg. 354). One face on Mt. Rushmore is convincing enough, but FOUR faces side-by-side just “seals the deal.” Meyer teaches us there is still more to be gleaned from his Mt. Rushmore analogy.

The evidence that Mt. Rushmore was planned and executed by an intelligent designer increases exponentially due to the fact that we can recognize the faces as those of former U.S. presidents. Meyer says,

Observers recognize a pattern in the shapes that they know from an independent realm of experience, from seeing the faces of ex-presidents in photographs or paintings” (pg. 353).

TRoosevelt    We look at a picture of Teddy Roosevelt, then look at  Mt. Rushmore,  look at Mt. Rushmore, and then back at the picture. We observe that the images are of the same person. Therefore, we reasonably conclude that the best explanation for the faces on the mountain is NOT because they happened to appear randomly, by chance from erosion, but they were carved by someone.

From these points we identify three ways to determine if something exists because of intelligent design or by chance. The first is probability. The probabilities of DNA occurring by by chance are low, more like “zero.” Meyer’s research shows, “the probability of producing all the necessary proteins needed to service a minimally complex cell is 1 in 1044 multiplied by itself 250 times, or 1 in 1041,000” (Signature, pg. 213). For reference, the estimated number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in the observable universe is 1080 (Signature, pg. 212)! The 1 in 1041,000 number is the odds for having the bare minimum components of a cell. The complexity found in DNA would far exceed that. Secondly, repeated, complex patterns that achieve a goal or function indicate design. Thirdly, when those patterns have a corollary from a different context, or realm, then we see design.

The amazing functionality of the recurring codes in DNA has such a corollary in computers. I personally find the similarities to be mind-boggling. As if the programming and software likenesses weren’t enough evidence, we also see that both DNA and computers require physical environments in which to carry out their purposes. Organisms and computers have hardware in which to run the software. Imagine your personal computer becoming self-aware. Imagine the computer taking a look at itself and discovering it has systems within itself, a power supply, disk drive, memory cells, and electrical circuits. Then it goes further and learns that its entire computing process is made up of organized, logical, bits of electrical energy arranged in patterns of “1’s” and “0’s.” As 21st Century people, we know that such a computer did not just happen, but is the culmination of the work of Engineers from many disciplines. We humans are like that self-aware computer discovering the marvelous intricacies of how we were marvelously designed.

The next blog entry will continue with this comparative analysis. I will give examples of the similarity between these biological wonders and modern technology, in order to drive home the point that mankind’s science is overwhelmingly obvious proof of the Fingerprints of God in nature.

The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science – part 2

wizard-exposed

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

If the skeptic demands Christians pull back the curtain and expose God, as Dorothy exposed the Wizard of Oz, then he will never be satisfied. And Christians need not “wring their hands” trying to fully accommodate them. After all, what would the skeptic say if he were required to replicate the big-bang, resurrect Charles Darwin for direct dialogue about his book, or show the world a living, breathing hominid before evolution could be believed?  Okay, that is technically a tu quoque fallacy [“thou too”: a retort by one charged with a crime accusing an opponent who has brought the charges of a similar crime] and an emotional response. Yet it does provide some measure of perspective for the skeptic—leveling the playing field to some degree. That response is intended to challenge the skeptic to consider that his demand for empirical science to prove the existence of God is not a legitimate demand. Rather, the discussion of proving the existence of God should have other criteria. Nevertheless, the skeptic is convinced of his position and believes science is the arbiter of truth—a.k.a. scientism. Therefore, as Christians, unafraid of challenges to the veracity of God’s word, we can confidently discuss these objections with some measure of science in hope to lead the followers of scientism into a fuller understanding of the true and living God.

science-lab

Scientism’s Creed and a World Run Amok

Scientific “conclusions” are rather rare. Often, the closest a true scientist will get to a “conclusion” is to posit a “theory.” When I was in the Navy learning electronics, I was taught Electronic Theory. Even though those theories have proven very consistent and they successfully propel technology to greater accomplishments, it is still considered “theory.” Scientists laud such a fluid methodology as superior to the a priori dogma of religion. Jerry Coyne, in his book Faith Vs. Fact, explains that “In the world of science, scrutiny is relentless, scary. But it’s a ‘quality control’ mechanism to expunge the dross. It’s not personal” (pg. 27). Furthermore, he states

Science comprises an exquisitely refined set of tools designed to find out what is real and to prevent confirmation bias. Science prizes doubt and iconoclasm, rejects absolute authority, and relies on testing one’s ideas with experiments and observations of nature. Its sine qua non [essential element] is evidence—evidence that can be inspected and adjudicated by any trained and rational observer. And it depends largely on falsification. Nearly every scientific truth comes with an implicit rider: ‘Evidence X would show this to be wrong.’

That is what I am calling Scientism’s “creed.” Scientism, according Douglas Axe in Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition That Life is Designed, isthe belief that science is the only reliable source of truth” (pg. 17).

I hope you see the irony in Scientism’s creed. On one hand, science has a built-in “quality control” feature meant to prevent any claim from ever becoming dogma. Yet, it relies on empirical evidence—a euphemism for “certainty.” If something is tested and “proven” in the lab, why does that not settle the case? In other words, the lab results—the “science”— which is meant to give answers, should never really be considered settled. There is always another question to ask, a better experiment to conduct. The skeptic demands that the Christian use a self-defeating, irrational system, designed to never settle a matter, to settle the matter of God’s existence.

Is it no wonder then that science has corroborated so well with postmodernism? Has science merely been swept away in the torrent of the philosophy that says “one can only know with certainty that we cannot really be certain of anything?” Or perhaps science birthed postmodernism. The Renaissance’s humanism begat a prevailing optimism for mankind called “modernism” that spanned into the Victorian era. It was thought that man’s rationalism, science, could and would indeed answer all questions of life and usher in a Utopia apart from God—enter Darwinism and Evolutionary theory. Maybe the subsequent, consecutive world wars deflated those expectations and gave rise to paralyzing doubt about everything. Whether science begat postmodernism, postmodernism influenced science, or if they were twins growing up together is insignificant; the resulting philosophically Dystopian world of the 21st Century shows there has been a sad humbling where optimism has largely given way to chaos. The passionate expectancy that science would be society’s imminent savior was doused. The aftermath is a philosophical desert. Yet the “New Atheism” of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Jerry Coyne, et. al. appears to have been a revival of modernism, a pitiful attempt of CPR upon the corpse. Yet, accepting no other savior, our present world maintains its faith that science is the only path to truth which will set us free. Thus, the arguments against the existence of God persist.

forensics

The Right Science Tool for the Right Job

Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT playing into the distorted claims New Atheists make that if Christians had their way, no one would need pursue science, and the world would be satisfied with ignorance, death, and disease—e.g. Jerry Coyne’s book. I am advocating for a balanced and right use of science that can help Christians speak to skeptics.

Using scientific evidence for proving God’s existence reasonably gravitates to the matter of origins—creationism vs. evolution or old universe vs. young universe. Approaching the study of origins from a “purely scientific” perspective is a very tricky endeavor—for atheists as well—and is really “the wrong tool for the job;” that is, if one defines “purely scientific” as a laboratory experiment producing empirical results. The methodology for studying origins is not the unemotional, strictly objective, sterile laboratory, exclusively-based-on-empirical-data sort of science that people (and scientists) like to think it is. The scientific method is full of assumptions and rabbit trails. In the process of science, those assumptions have to be acknowledged and the trails have to be explored before one can determine if they lead to anything useful. Certainly the laboratory is part of the process. But that’s the point—it is a process. The laboratory, when used exclusively, is not the right tool for the origins job. Better yet, it is not the only tool for the job.

The “right tool for the job” in studying origins is Historical Science using abductive reasoning. Dr. Meyer addresses this in The Signature in the Cell. He explains that “abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present” (pg. 153). The syllogism Meyer begins with is:  If it rains, the streets will get wet. The streets are wet. Therefore, it rained. The logical fallacy is obvious because several alternative explanations can cause wet streets—a nearby sprinkler system, a city water truck, etc. Nevertheless, we use abductive reasoning all the time to reach accurate conclusions. A case-in-point can be taken from history: we can know Napoleon Bonaparte once lived without using a time machine to return to 18th century France and see him for ourselves. We have artifacts and other evidence to observe. The best explanation for the present artifacts, records, and the European political landscape is that Napoleon existed. A past event can be proven using present information.

Abductive reasoning is used in forensics. A detective pieces together information, or “clues,” left behind from a past event; though he was not a witness to the event. He incorporates a variety of techniques from multiple disciplines. That approach to the task does not make it unreliable science. Rather, it is a different kind of science than the so-called empirical, laboratory experiment. It is really the only possible kind of science that can be used in the study of origins.

Historical scientists, including those studying origins, are detectives. They begin making observations [not yet “evidence”] like a collection of puzzle pieces. Those pieces are then interpreted by the investigator to form a hypothesis…a hunch…a theory. The theory is pursued logically and new information either proves or disproves it. When gaps in the story arise, plausible leaps are made to keep the theory progressing. The more leaps there are, the less viable the theory becomes. Eventually, if more gaps (questions) arise than connections made (answers), the theory cannot be sustained and it must be abandoned. However, when the pieces do align, they give us a great deal of certainty. In opposition to postmodernism, our world does operate in certainties. Abductive reasoning gives us a large measure of stability. We know who we are as a culture, looking back on where we’ve come (history). We govern ourselves using abductive reasoning in our judicial systems, absolving the innocent and convicting the guilty.

Concluding Remarks

The purpose of this blog entry was to lay a foundation and establish the trajectory for proving God using science. I find it helpful to first hash out some of the philosophical perspectives. Doing so communicates how I see the world and how I see other people seeing the world. Hopefully it sheds light for reader and author alike.

Another goal was to shrink the size of the foe. The “Goliath” of science can appear like an indomitable adversary to Christians who lack a background in science. By exposing some of the weaknesses of the skeptic’s demands, the Christian can be strengthened and thereby encouraged to give himself to further study and contemplation. I was encouraged to read some of my inclinations were also voiced by Douglas Axe. Whether one is an elite, walking the hallowed halls of Cambridge’s science departments or “your average Joe,” he can intelligently debate religion vs. science issues. In fact, the fundamental questions and answers remain the same, no matter what league you are in. Douglas Axe explains it this way, “We’ll see [in this book] that mastery of technical subjects isn’t at all needed in order for us to know the answer to the big question [to what or to whom do we owe our existence?]. Common science will be perfectly adequate” (pg. 10).

In the next blog, I’ll deal with the “Intelligent” part of Intelligent Design— making the connections between God, intelligence, information, and DNA.

The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science

A constant drum beat in our age is the skeptic’s mantra: “Prove God exists using Science.” It seems as though every public, social media comment promoting God is vehemently attacked with this sentiment. Even though the essence of the question is “as old as dirt,” each generation deals with it afresh. This series of blog posts is my attempt to contribute to the discussion in our times. Perhaps it will assist some Christians with speaking to friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers about the hope of Christ that is in them.

telescope

Perspective

The only difference between our generation and previous generations in trying to prove the existence of God by observing the natural world is the sophistication of the data. The ancient king of Israel wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him…?” King David “considered” the heavens using only his eyes to see the night sky. Today, massive rocket-launched space telescopes can travel a million miles from Earth in order to peer into deep space using giant mirrors detecting the slightest traces of infrared light. I suspect that if David saw these telescopes’ dazzling images of galaxies, stars, super-novas, and nebula, his conclusion would be the same: “What is man that You take thought of him?” Modern information yields age-old conclusions. Truly David’s son Solomon had it right when he said “there is nothing new under the sun”—even though we know a lot more about the sun and what is under it.

helix-nebula-unraveling

The complexity of science stands as a Goliath-like foe taunting Christians to dare challenge its impenetrable theories and conclusions. Often times we average Christians feel as though we are resigned to sit in the bleachers as spectators watching the intellectual champions fight the battles we cannot. We tell ourselves, “I do not have a PhD in Astrophysics or Molecular Biology. Who am I to refute science?” We often stick our heads in the sand, exercising “blind faith,” appealing to more learned Christians and theologians. Unwilling to face the implications, we shrug our shoulders in ignorance and go on. As I was writing this blog, I came across this article by the Pew Research Center citing the worst case response—apostasy—is on the rise:

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.

Let me encourage you to neither live in passive ignorance nor renounce the faith because of science. Instead, educate yourself to the degree you are willing and able, then by faith launch your stones against the adversary. The fact is, God has providentially placed each of us within a sphere of influence comparable to our ability. Admittedly, most of us would be pummeled in a debate against Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens. The encouraging thing is that you and I will never have to! God has placed other Christians in that sphere who can. The likes of Ravi Zacharias, Alister McGrath, and John Lennox come to mind. These men are among those great intellectual champions we admire from a distance. But, like the young fan watching his favorite sports hero on television, who then goes to the back yard and mimics them for hours honing his own skills, we too can learn from our apologetic champions and put those skills into action in our own arenas. You and I typically traffic among people within our own “league.” Our sphere of influence is among those having a similar background and education. We are satisfactorily equipped to converse about these topics with our peers.

Furthermore, I maintain that the answers to the tough questions, whether they are posed by Dawkins, your brother-in-law, or your co-worker, are essentially the same. The only differences between us and the juggernauts may be the breadth and depth of knowledge about the data and the level of sophistication in the arguments. But we can identify the arguments and concepts, understand them biblically, and do quite well in defending the faith. You will find that the truth concepts are within grasp without having to master the science. Nevertheless, being able to dialogue with your friends about science to some degree will help. The world around us is enamored by science. Because they are interested in science it behooves us to be able to speak to them intelligently and respectfully.

ID DNA evolution

Intelligent Design

The scope of scientific knowledge is vast, spanning Physics, Cosmology, Geology, Biology, and etc. This blog will be limited to introducing concepts and arguments largely from Intelligent Design (ID) scientist, Dr. Stephen Meyer in his book Signature in the Cell . I will also add to those concepts using my own background in Semiconductor (or Integrated Circuit) Failure Analysis and Theology.

The ID community has done a spectacular job in promoting and buttressing the “Cosmological Argument.” The Cosmological Argument, accredited to Thomas Aquinas, states that every effect must have a cause. It is an elaborate name describing a simple concept. It speaks to a truth that mankind knows intuitively as we look at the world around us and as we consider the heavens—“Surely somebody made everything! It’s all just too complex with order and too spectacularly beautiful to have happened by chance.” The recent ID effort has sought to argue for the existence of an intelligent designer using science and the philosophy of science. They make no claims about WHO that grand designer is. (Actually, that is consistent with the theological framework that God has revealed truth to mankind by two methods: General and Special Revelation.)  Since ID is focused on General or Natural revelation (the physical world), it cannot identify the Designer. I will seek to argue that using Scientific means, we can go further than ID and state that the Intelligent Designer is Jesus Christ.

Humans are the Greatest

Taking cues from Scripture, the best place to prove the existence of God is with mankind. Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NASB) Mankind bears the “fingerprints” of God most clearly.

Studying the extremities of the natural world, from far away galaxies to subatomic particles, shows us the eternality and power of God. But those divine attributes are just the introduction to the Being revealed to us as God. The closest, natural expression—evidence—of God is man, the pinnacle of His creation. The temptation for me is to jump to discussing the attributes that give us the highest resolution of God, holiness or righteousness—at the least, morality. But these aspects fall into the Anthropological and Ontological arguments. [The Anthropological argument is that man’s morality and self-aware search for God proves God exists. The Ontological argument is the concept that man’s ability to imagine no greater Being than God, proves God exists.] For the secularist, these philosophical and metaphysical arguments are inferior to empirical, scientific data.

Therefore, in the spirit of being all things to all men, this blog will consider some empirical data resident in humans. Drawing from Dr. Meyer, the biological evidence of intelligence residing in DNA has no other logical explanation than an intelligent designer.  Secondly, Dr. Meyer teaches us that the entire study of origins is based on abductive reasoning of the scientific information. [I’ll explain abductive reasoning more thoroughly in the next blog entry. Basically, it is reasoning that infers knowledge of past events derived from present information.] This is an important counter-argument against the presupposition that science is strictly, bare empirical evidence. This sword cuts both ways. In other words, Christians can benefit from using science to argue science. One line of argument Christians should abandon is their oft-used claim that science contradicts its own Scientific Method. That is not entirely true. The standard “Scientific Method” approach we were taught in Junior High science is a mainstay, but it’s not the only definition of “science.” Ironically, the God-skeptic that we deal with in our common-man life does not know this either. And thus, he lays down the gauntlet: “Prove God using Science.”

Therefore, after arguing for the empirical evidence of an Intelligent Designer, I will apply the same abductive reasoning to the Bible and show that the Intelligent Designer is indeed the God of the Bible. The next blog entry will lay a philosophical foundation necessary for building my case.