The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science part 4

Mt. Rushmore taught us important lessons about how to identify something that was made by an intelligent designer vs. naturally occurring randomness. The faces’ complexity, specificity, and recurrences in other places such as photographs and paintings combined with historical records—even if there was no record of their carving—tell us those presidential images did not appear in that mountain by chance. They were intentionally made by someone. They function as both “information” and evidence of intelligence. Likewise, the best explanation (abductive reasoning) of the complexity, specificity, and recurring likenesses of DNA tell us that DNA was intentionally designed by someone outside of nature. The “recurring” likeness of DNA is found in modern technology. The computer is a marvel production of human intelligence. It is no wonder that this greatest “creation” of the human mind so closely mimics the creation of God within mankind. Remember, man was created imago Dei—in the image and likeness of God.

This blog entry is devoted to building upon that foundation by looking at some examples of the similarities between DNA and technology. This one is a bit long, but if you hang in there, I trust it will be worth the effort! I put in some really interesting pictures and resources to season it for you.

dna-binary

The Code

Here again is the quote by Bill Gates, in order to complement the claim from a non-religious viewpoint (Note that I am using Bill Gates as an “authority” because he is arguably THE most well-known representative for computer operating systems.):

“DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software every created.”

If you are a bit “rusty” on your biology and haven’t watched the video I mentioned in Blog #3, please do that now. It quickly and creatively explains some fundamental aspects of DNA. For my purposes, you need to know that the Genetic Code in DNA is comprised of four chemical bases that molecular biologists have assigned the characters, “T, C, A, and G.” My very simplified explanation is that how these chemicals are arranged within the DNA strand tell your cells what to become and what to do. In the womb, you are “built.” All of the biological components—the heart, the lungs, the brain, lymph nodes, and etc.—are formed into systems—circulatory, respiratory, nervous, immune, and etc.— needed for life are constructed. They are constructed simultaneously and interdependently.

Computers, though not self-generating like DNA (see why Bill said DNA is “far, far more advanced”), operate using a code. Computers use electrical charges, voltage, that have been assigned the characters “1” and “0” by electrical engineers. (The picture below is taken from an excellent slide show explaining DNA and computer technology. Check it out here.)

dna-binary-chart

Note that computers accomplish their myriads of tasks using two characters (binary) while DNA is made up of four characters. Mathematically, this puts the potential functionality of DNA on orders of magnitude beyond computers!)

The sequential arrangement of these 1’s and 0’s were standardized in what is known as ASCII code (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Assigned sequences of 1’s and 0’s equate to letters of the alphabet. That means, after having loaded and opened a word processing program, when you push a key on your keyboard, a voltage is passed along to the computer such that a set pattern of 1’s and 0’s are generated internally, and put into memory, awaiting the next command.

ascii-chart

The base elements of binary logic can serve their function only because there is an internal group of systems within the computer. Where organisms have organs within biological systems, computers have components within electronic systems—power supply, input/output devices like disk drives and keyboards, the CPU (central processing unit), and memory—all interconnected through conductive traces which function like nerves and blood vessels for transport between systems.

pc-architecture-blocks

The Hardware

Thus far I’ve shown you the most basic concepts of computer architecture. Next I’ll show you the fascinating world of the hardware, the physical make-up of how this technology works. This is like the laboratory looking under the microscope at your cells, because it is using microscopes.

As a Failure Analysis Engineer, I have to get at the internal “guts” of the chip (integrated circuit). To do that, we use acid to dissolve the chip’s outer shell and expose the “die.” It looks like this:

decap-die

Those tiny gold strands in the middle are wires that connect the outside world to the electronic circuit inside. Here is what the circuit looks like under a microscope:

die-picture

You can make out some of the separate circuits by noticing the outlined sections of squares and rectangles. That shows the various circuits that are made up of sections designed with independent functions. The above chip is a relatively simple one and likely an analog, not digital, The partial chip below is more complex and shows the parts of a CPU with the blocks outlined for you:

digital-die-pic

The purpose of this detail is to simply emphasize the organization, purpose, and structure—both physically and logically—that goes into the inner workings of a computer, which mimics the inner workings of biology and DNA. The physical design shown in the previous pictures works because an electrical design engineer, trained in the principles of electronic theory, produced an electrical diagram with functionality. To most of us, the schematic diagram below means nothing and might as well be ancient hieroglyphics painted on a pyramid wall. But to electrical engineers, it is information that all makes perfect sense. (By the way, the picture below would more likely represent the simpler, analog die above and not the complex digital, computer circuit. Also, for any electrical engineers reading this, I recognize that analog circuits are in many ways more difficult than digital circuits. By “complex” I mean the number of functions that typical digital circuits perform is greater which requires more and smaller components.)

schematic

The “Guts” of the IC

My final dive into the semiconductor world is the deepest I can go with my training. For a physical reference, the dimension of the IC I showed you earlier could likely be about 5 millimeters by 5 millimeters. Now I want to show you what a single transistor looks like.

The left slide shows what a simple “inverter” looks like. The leftmost image in that slide is the physical layout, the other two symbols shows the electrical schematic equivalent. An engineer sees this and recognizes that whatever logic value enters the circuit simply changes to its opposite. In other words, a “1” is changed to a “0” and vice-versa. The image on the top right is a physical cross section of a transistor taken with a Scanning Electron Microscope. The individual chemical components and their functions have been outlined for you. The lower image is just a diagram of it. Note that the scale of the physical dimension is 100nM (nanometers). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter! The width of a strand of DNA is about 2 nanometers. A carbon or oxygen atom is about 0.15 nanometers.

So, from the concepts of computer architecture, the coding of information with instructions, to the physical dimensions we see similarity between biology and technology! The similarities are uncanny, which leads us to conclude that the best possible explanation for biology is an intelligent Design Engineer!

Some Really Cool Mechanics

Just for fun, to wrap up this blog entry. I want to show you another comparison to marvel. Don’t worry, it is not as involved or lengthy. The Scanning Electron Microscope is such a cool instrument to see these things.

The technology that gave us the physical properties of transistors lead to what is called “Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems” or MEMS. When I worked for Texas Instruments at the turn of the latest century, they were producing their DLP© technology which gave the world amazing clarity in cinematic and projector technology. The specialized chip uses micrometer sized mirrors for each pixel. Those mirrors are mounted to hinges which move, directing the reflected light and turning the mirror on or off. (If you are interested, you can read more detail on TI’s website.) Here are two Scanning Electron Microscope images of the mirrors. Some mirrors (the squares with the hole in the middle)are missing, which shows their hinges:

mirrors-low-magmirrors-high-mag

Here is another cool picture I found on the internet of MEMS technology used to make micro-scale gears:

gears

Now, check out this close-up image of 20 micron (micrometer) scale gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-high-mag

Now, let’s zoom out and see more of this gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-low-mag

gear-jumping

These gears function as a cock and release mechanism that propels this tiny leaf hopper forward. According to the article in Smithsonian.com bug

The reason for the gearing, they say, is coordination: To jump, both of the insect’s hind legs must push forward at the exact same time. Because they both swing laterally, if one were extended a fraction of a second earlier than the other, it’d push the insect off course to the right or left, instead of jumping straight forward. 

(The article also mentioned):

To the best of our knowledge, the mechanical gear—evenly-sized teeth cut into two different rotating surfaces to lock them together as they turn—was invented sometime around 300 B.C.E. by Greek mechanics who lived in Alexandria. In the centuries since, the simple concept has become a keystone of modern technology, enabling all sorts of machinery and vehicles, including cars and bicycles.

 

I highlighted “the reason for” to again show that scientists are compelled to use terminology of intelligence and purposeful design. I argue they do so NOT because it has the “illusion of design” as Darwin said, but because nature actually has been designed at every level.

Concluding Remarks

I had mentioned that DNA is “orders of magnitude” more advanced than computers. I want you to try to grasp the magnitude of scale at play in this discussion. Indeed, DNA and the world of biology mimics computer technology and thereby proves the same complex and specific architecture exists in two completely different environments, proving an intelligent designer is behind it all. But that is just “scratching the surface.”

What we see in nature are complex and functional systems working from the subatomic level to the cosmological level, both ends of which appear to go on infinitely. You and I can know and observe these things because we are alive and have the brains to do so. We are alive because we have the biological systems working in concert with an environmental system arranged to sustain life. Our bodies can breathe and eat because our planet has its own complex chemistry of air, seasons, and nutrients. Our planet is able to do this because of its place within our solar system which is governed by complex laws of physics, chemistry, and things we really do not yet understand. As humans, the supreme creatures made in the image of God, we are the only creatures capable of exploring the Creation and discovering these things. We are doing what we were created to do—bring glory to God and enjoy him forever! (Hat tip to the Westminster shorter catechism question 1.)

What science is doing for us is showing the great complexity and specificity of the natural world at every level. In so doing, it is showing us that the most reasonable explanation is that a supreme, intelligent Being has designed it all and brought it all into existence. The scientific explanation of origins—randomness and chance—that has dominated the modern era is untenable and short-sighted.

There always seems to be a pendulum swing. The pendulum of enlightenment is swinging in the Christian’s favor. It would behoove us and bring glory to God if we would lay hold of these things and present them to our world. Before modernity, the world largely accepted Theism as the intuitive explanation for our world (Romans 1:18-ff). As humanism and the Age of Reason gave rise to Scientism, the world seemed to gain the upper hand in the cultural war for truth. Christianity, as Theists, appeared to be operating from “blind faith” hanging on to a passé world view, ignorant and unsophisticated. Ironically, the science of Darwinism is now passé. He, comparatively, knew nothing of microbiology, genetic codes, etc. at work within the cell. His followers today have their own “God of the gaps” to explain scientific mysteries. Theirs is “chance and time.” Post-modernity science is pointing to the conclusion that Theists had it right all along. They were just unable to explain it “scientifically.” May we Christians equip ourselves with the latest information to put us on the leading edge of the pendulum rather than the trailing edge. Let us use recent scientific discoveries to buttress the truth of God’s word and confront our world—not with medieval knowledge, but cutting-edge knowledge.

Having shown that science does indeed reveal the “fingerprints of God,” the next blog will show that we can know WHO the Intelligent Designer is.

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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.