Archive for the ‘science’ category

Atheism Stands Alone? Don’t Fool Yourself

December 12, 2008

One of the most basic tenets in all of atheism is that atheism is not a belief, it is only a lack of a belief.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard it  . . . I’d have at least ten dollars.  The statement that either precedes or follows this is more than likely, “Atheism doesn’t take any faith”.  I’ll be honest, it took me a few months of hearing this statement to form a coherent response to it.  Only recently have I been able to do more than shout, “No, it takes TONS of faith!  You don’t know that God DOESN’T exist!”  As you can probably see, while true, that argument didn’t get me anywhere. 

A quick thesis:  The atheist is deluding themselves into thinking that atheism, or any belief can stand independent of a system of beliefs.

I am in three current conversations at different stages of development, so some of this might be repetative to those of you who am in the middle of this with, but the redundancy is necessary for me to clearly articulate my argument. 

To make sure we’re all on the same page, the most basic question becomes . . .

How Do We Know Things?

The study of that question is called Epistemology.  Atheists and Christians have completely different methods of epistemology.  However, we can all agree that there are three basic ways to know something (I’m stealing this from Eugenie Scott because I like it so much): 

  1. Personal state or insight — a.k.a. intuition or internal knowledge;
  2. Authority or revelation — including religious/spiritual revelation 
  3. Scientific inquiry — Which can only be related to the natural world around us

What this means to us:  Every piece or statement of knowledge such as “atheism is not a belief, and therefore takes no faith” must be scrutinized under, “how do we know this?”. 

This will become important later on. 

Firstly, NO Belief Stands Alone

That is, everyone has a system of beliefs, also known as a worldview.  Truly, an individual could not survive without an entire system.  When I get up in the morning to go to work, I must first believe that I’m truly awake, that I’m not mistaken about which car is mine, and that the interactions I have at work are with real people. 

Can you see what I did there?  I asked myself the all important “how do I know _____?”  in regards to my waking state, the accuracy of my memory, and the existence of reality.  When I ask this question, I must be honest and realize that scientific inquiry can answer none of those questions for me.  The knowledge must have come from one of the other sources of knowledge, either personal insight or authority/revelation.

Can the belief that my car exists be taken separately from my belief that reality exists?  Of course not.

As you can see, in order to function in the real world, I must have a very basic set of beliefs.  However, we must have these beliefs in order to function, so we merely acknowledge them and move on. 

In The Same Way

In order to be a Christian, you must have some very basic beliefs that science can’t inform you about.  That there is existence of things outside of matter (spiritual things), that God is able to speak with humanity, and that the Bible is that communication.  Those pieces of knowledge must come from either personal insight or authoritative revelation.  Of course, Christians believe that our knowledge of God’s existence and His Word comes from the ultimate authority!

Atheism is no different.

In order to believe that God doesn’t exist, you must first or concurrently believe that the natural world is the cause of all things and that only the material exists.  These beliefs are called naturalism and materialism.  Once you believe those two, then you’re free to believe that no god exists.  The modern atheist adds the beliefs of uniformitarianism and empiricism as well. 

Note: It was pointed out to me that perhaps Buddhists would call themselves atheists but still believe in a spiritual realm.  Even if this is true, the Buddhist would then have other beliefs that are inseparable from their atheism, the Buddhist is not an exception.

The Atheistic Delusion

One of my conversations is with morsecOde.  In his most recent comment he made a very interesting and telling statement.  This statement is the crux of the issue, and is one of the main reasons I was moved to write this article.  He said:

 Evidence backs up naturalism and materialism.

When morseOde talks of “evidence” he means evidence as a result of scientific inquiry.  This is the most basic of atheistic assumptions, that all the scientific evidence we have backs up their position and that God is an added, unnecessary and illogical conclusion.  You’ll hear it all the time, “If I saw evidence to believe in a god, I would”.  If it can be shown that scientific inquiry can not back up the big four atheistic beliefs, then their atheism becomes nothing more than personal preference.  So here it goes.

Note:  If, as an atheist, you want to object to my assertion that you must believe in these things.  Then please do so by more than just claiming that you don’t have to.  Please show me.

1. Naturalism

Let’s ask the all important question, “How do we know that nature is responsible for all phenomena?”.  Can scientific inquiry answer any question in the form of an absolute positive?  Of course it can’t.  Any attempt to use science, which only deals with the natural, to prove that the natural is responsible for everything only begs the question.  Does scientific inquiry test the natural world?  Of course, but it can’t test naturalism.  That’s the difference.

The atheist will attempt to get out of this trouble by saying, “The only thing we have is natural evidence so why add the assumption of a god?”  This is a cop out and part of the delusion.  If God doesn’t exist then nature MUST account for all phenomena.  There is no middle ground. 

2.  Materialism

How do we know that only the material exists?  In the same way, using the material process of scientific inquiry to test if only the material exists is circular reasoning.  Also, just like naturalism, there is no middle ground cop out.  Either a god exists or only the material does.

3.  Empiricism

How do we know that scientific inquiry (sense experience) is the only way to true knowledge?  Using scientific inquiry to show evidence that only scientific inquiry is true knowledge is circular. 

4.  Uniformitarianism

How can we know that the present rates of growth and decay stayed exactly the same in the past?  Using present growth and decay rates, can scientific inquiry tell us of past growth and decay rates?  Of course not. 

So Then What Do We Say?

Since scientific inquiry cannot give us evidence about the atheistic beliefs of naturalism, materialism, empiricism, and uniformitarianism, those pieces of knowledge must be decided by one of the other ways of knowing, either personal insight or authority.  The question then becomes, since science didn’t tell you about it, how do you know it’s right?  How does the atheist know his big four personal beliefs are more accurate than the Christian belief of a benevolent God? 

They don’t.

They ignore the inability of science to give evidence for their big four, or ignore the big four altogether, and delude themselves into thinking their atheism can be absent of any type of “belief” or “faith”.  When put under the microscope of epistemology, the big four degrade into nothing but pure personal preference.

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An Atheistic Creation Story in Action; “The Origin of the Genetic Code”

November 27, 2008

After I posted my explanation of abiogenesis as the atheistic creation story, Ubiquitous Che, over at rhetoric sans pareil, posted a video, and an article, in rebuttal.  I’ve already responded to his article on his blog, but I wanted to respond to the video itself.

 

The video is by someone called cbk007, who has a entire library of videos explaining evolution, and tackling the sticky subjects that are much attacked by Intelligent Design and Creationist folk.  This video is entitled “The Origin of the Genetic Code.”

 

I know that Ubiquitous Che meant the video as a response to “Abiogenesis:  The Atheistic Creation Story”, however all he did was provide a GREAT example of that creation story in action.  The point of my article wasn’t to show the impossibility of abiogenesis persay (anything is possible), but to show that abiogenesis is a story equal in mythology to any other creation story portrayed by any other belief system.  Cbk007’s video has only helped me to make that case.  I recommend you watch the video with the mind of discerning what is observable science and what is speculative.

 

 

 

I will now take the important claims and phrases cbk007 uses to make his case and I’ll respond to them. 

 

“As showed in the previous video, life can spontaneously form from fatty acids and activated nucleotides”

 

I don’t even need to watch the previous video to know that all cdk007 is doing here is speculating.  “Life CAN sponteaneously form . . .” is a statement in the same mold as “Anything CAN happen”.  And it violates a LAW of biology, the Law of Biogenesis.  In fact, if he had ANY evidence that this was possible he would have won the Nobel Prize in biology.  Also, this doesn’t solve ANY of the problems I put forth in my post.  Where does the genetic information come from?  But I’m sure he’ll get to that.

 

“Mutations in the originally random nucleotide sequences that increased the rate of replication would rapidly be selected for, this jumpstarting evolution.”

 

Ok, again, there is no evidence of this, it has never been observed, this is pure speculation.  As I already mentioned in my article, Natural Selection REQUIRES sexual reproduction to happen in the first place.  Cdk007 is using the very thing he is trying to explain; he’s begging the question.  He is also equivocating the definition of Natural Selection to pretend that it applies to non-sexual replication, it just doesn’t.

 

Correction:  An astute reader, Zhatt, pointed out to me that bacteria reproduce asexually.  I stand corrected.  However, Natural Selection still requires reproduction and pre-biotic chemicals don’t reproduce, so the rebuttal stands.

 

There are several points in this video I don’t need to respond to because all cdk007 is doing is saying what “could have” and “maybe” or “possibly could have maybe” happened.  He is manufacturing ways that RNA came about without explanation or evidence, because he has neither.  This is not science, it is naturalistic speculation at it’s most blatant. 

 

“ribozymes are routinely evolved in laboraties”

 

Firstly . . . your point?  Secondly, cdk007 is begging the question of how RNA can function on it’s own without DNA because this has NEVER BEEN OBSERVED.  It’s like cdk007 believes that the world of the hypothetical can just be transposed onto the real world without explanation and that this makes rational sense.  Thirdly, “ribozymes have been evolved” suggests that an outside hand guided the evolution.  Is this an example of true evolution?  Or is this evidence of theistic evolution?

 

“Experiments tell us that such micropeptides did exist naturally in the pre-biotic environment”

 

Now he’s just lying to people.  The “pre-biotic environment” that he is referring to happened 4.5 billion years ago.  How do experiments recreate the earth 4.5 billion years ago?  Oh, that’s right, they can’t.  It’s more pure speculation.  Scientists guess at what they think the primordial soup could have been made of, because they weren’t there and therefore can’t have any evidence of it, and call it an “experiment”, it’s disengenous at best and plain bearing false witness at worst.  That cdk007 portrays it as absolute fact makes it the latter.

 

“joining two amino acids can be evolved”

 

You need at least 15 more, in the right order, only left handed aminos, and then 500 just like it to form a cell.  I already went over this in my post, the chances of this are ridiculous and that cdk007 thinks it happened is a statement of faith.  But that’s not the real problem; how were these two amino acids joined in the lab?  With a scientists’ guiding hand?  With Intelligence?  Hmmmm.

 

“From here the evolution of DNA is simple”

 

This is just a flat out lie.  ANY geneticist will tell you it’s not simple.  I’m honestly just incredulous right now.

 

Cdk007 then shows pictures of ribozymes forming amino acids together in chains. 

 

He’s missing the point.  It isn’t that the amino acids can form into chains, it’s that they know the EXACT chains to form into, they must be a precise shape to work and cdk007 knows it.  How do they do this?  They are told by DNA how to do this.  This is what DNA does, this is DNA’s job, telling the RNA how to form the proteins.  He is using the formation of proteins to explain DNA; this is impossible, proteins would not form without DNA, they wouldn’t know how to.  Without the information DNA provides, proteins would not form properly.  He is begging the question and flat out ignoring the problem of the genetic information that proteins REQUIRE to form. 

 

He continues to use Natural Selection as a pre-biotic driving factor when this is impossible.  Natural Selection requires already formed, recombinating cells.  Cdk007 flatly ignores this.

 

During the video, cdk007 just repeats the fallacies I’ve pointed out above over and over again.  Using phrases like, “Over time . . .”, “will . . .”, “then . . .”, in order to ignore and falsely portray the COMPLETELY SPECULATIVE nature of his creation story.

 

The primitive structure of protein formation that he shows:

 

What he completely ignores is that, in ALL observed cases, in all observable science, this structure ONLY takes place within a cell, AND DNA must tell the RNA how to form this structure.  Where does the information on how to form in this way come from, cdk007?  Genetic information is required for this structure to form correctly, where does this information come from absent of DNA?  Where does this information come from at all?

 

“Curious how many of these components (mRNA, tRNA, rRNA) are still RNA today”

 

This is hilarious because he’s never seen anything besides mRNA, tRNA, and rRNA.  The existence of some “primitive” RNA that he is comparing the “today” RNA to is complete speculation and has never been observed. 

 

Then he begins to attempt to give computer simulations as evidence of evolution:

 

Computer simulations are designed by intelligent human beings with a purpose in mind (creating a simulation that will allow for evolution).  Thank you for providing evidence and an argument that evolution requires intelligence.

 

“There goes the ‘common design-common designer’ argument”

 

More hilarity.  So different codons means they have nothing in common with the rest of life?  Give me a break.  And plus, this is a strawman of the argument.  That argument is only saying that similarities in the genetic code aren’t evidence of evolution, only evidence of similarity.  The argument IS NOT saying that every genetic code must be closely similar.

 

“Intelligent Design/Creationism would predict a perfect code”

 

Uh, not really.  I can’t speak for ID guys, because I’m not one, but a basic doctrine of the Christian worldview is that humanity has messed up what God created in the Garden of Eden.  If this corruption is reflected in the genetic code then that only supports the doctrine.  However, I’m not sure that even Creationists need a perfect genetic code in Adam.  The argument that God didn’t create a perfect genetic code at creation therefore God isn’t intelligent or perfect is exactly like saying since God created humans with the ability to do evil therefore God must be evil. It doesn’t follow.

 

In closing, cbk007 makes several statements:

 

“Even something as complex as a “language” can evolve by purely natural means.”

 

I watched the whole video and cbk007 didn’t tackle the complexity of the genetic code, not once.  He pawned it off on Natural Selectin, which I thoroughly debunked, and left it at that.  What cbk007 actually did his entire video was IGNORE the problem of genetic information by speculating that the ribozymes, amino acid and RNA structures can form on their own and randomly, without being told how to do so.  This has never been observed.  It’s a nice story, and even atheists need a creation story, but calling it “science” when there is zero evidence to back it up is a bit irrational.

 

“All you have to do is open your eyes.  The evidence is out there.  The experiments have been done.  The simulations have been run.  Closing your eyes to the world around you, will not change reality.”

 

Actually, what it seems that I have to do is CLOSE my eyes and imagine the scenarios that you put forth.  None of them have been observed, they are pure speculation, and they have come from the intelligent and active imagination of atheistic scientists with the purpose of denying God.  It’s funny that you talk about reality but, in reality, nothing that you say happened has ever been observed to happen.  The reality is that RNA and proteins need DNA to form correctly, every observable instance shows that they cannot do what you say they can do on their own.  The reality is that Natural Selection only acts upon sexually recombinating cells.  In fact, everything you put forth asks us to imagine a violation of reality.

 

“The Genetic Code DID evolve”

 

And they say evolution and atheism is not dogmatically defended.

 

“All I ask is that you think about it . . .”

 

Actually, what it seems you’re asking is for us to take what you’re saying at face value.  Because if we were to think about it, we would realize the mere speculation that your entire creation story is based upon. 

Abiogenesis: The Atheist Creation Story

November 20, 2008

The idea that the diversity of life could be accounted for without God was not unique to Darwin.  Darwin was the first to provide a legitimate scientific paper, with some real world evidence, to support the idea.  However, Darwin was not willing to speculate on where that life came from in the first place in Origin of the Species.  The implication, in Darwin’s theory, of life originating without God is not a stretch by any means.  In fact, it was firmly understood by his followers.

Thomas Huxley is called “Darwin’s bulldog” for a reason.  His declaration that life was able to, and did, spring from non-living matter was a bold, aggressive and successful campaign.  However, it wasn’t an original idea.

Spontaneous Generation

Until the time of Darwin’s Origin, not only was it thought that life could spring from non-life, it was thought that it was happening all the time.  Every time they saw flies come out of a carcass or frogs from a newly created pond, this was spontaneous generation or life coming from non-life.  In fact, it was the Ancient Greek philosophers that taught this fallacy and it was still a part of the consciousness of humanity at the time.  Although the cell was just being discovered, the fields of molecular biology and biochemistry had not yet developed in order to explain the intricacies of the cell, so it was perfectly plausible that the bag of goo the cell appeared to be could come from non-living matter of similar substance. 

However, at that very same time, Louis Pasteur, one of the founders of microbiology, was in the process of proving spontaneous generation to be as fanciful as a flat earth.  Because of this, Huxley was forced to rename his position to bring it out of the ridiculous, so he called it “abiogenesis”.

‘… if it were given to me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time to the still more remote period when the Earth was passing through physical and chemical conditions which it can no more see again than a man can recall his infancey, I should expect to be a witness of the evolution of living protoplasm from non-living matter.’ (Biogenesis and Abiogenesis, in Huxley, Thomas, Critiques and addresses, Macmillan, London, UK, 1873.

Notice how he cleverly pushes his re-definition of spontaneous generation into the distance past in order to ignore that the phenomena was no longer observable.  Huxley manufactures this explanation, fully admitting that no human being will ever observe it, not because he has any physical evidence this is possible, but merely because he believes it happened.

The Thesis

Can I say that abiogenesis is impossible?  Of course not, because I could never prove a negative.  However,  abiogenesis IS the atheistic supernatural creation story, requiring an equal amount of faith as any other creation story. 

The Current State of Abiogenesis

Obviously, much has happened in the fields of molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry since Huxley reinvented spontaneous generation.  For the past 150 years, scientists have been attempting to experimentally create life from non-living matter.  Also, several theories that could explain the possibility of abiogenesis have been postulated.  Let’s discuss the most popular theories and experiments and how current molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry show the impossiblity of each. 

 1.  The First Protein Formed from Pure Chance

Among secular academia, this theory has been completely rejected as an explanation for the origin of life.  However, it is still popular in normal circles, and as such, deserves some attention. 

Proteins are the building blocks of life.  Every biological structure is either made of proteins or rely on them to function.  Every protein has a job, a function, and that function is decided by the shape of the protein.  Proteins are made up of a group of amino acids, linked together in a chain.  But it’s not as simple as that sounds.  Even with the smallest of proteins, there is a minimal level of complexity that must exist for the protein to function.  It’s called tertiary structure.  And you don’t get any kind of tertiary structure in any protein made up of less than seventy-five amino acids.

So, in order for a protein to form itself you’ll need at least seventy-five amino acids to . . .

1.  Have the right type of bonds between eachother

2.  Amino acids come in left-handed and right-handed versions and you can only use the left-handed ones

3.  They must form in an exact sequence like letters in a sentence

Running the odds of amino acids randomly forming a short, minimally functional protein comes to one chance in a hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion.  That’s a 10 with 125 zeroes after it.  And that’s only one protein molecule.  A minimally complex cell would need between 300 and 500 protein molecules.  So you must do a 1 in 10 with 25 zeroes chance at least 300 times.  It’s literally like saying that if we throw hundreds of thousands of scrabble peices onto the floor, the peices will eventually form Hamlet by themselves.

With this in mind, to suggest that randomly formed proteins could form a cell is to invoke a naturalistic miracle.  It’s a statement of belief at best and a confession of ignorance at worst.  It’s literally like saying, “I believe it happened” and leaving it at that.

2.  DNA Formed Itself

Another problem with the “protein first” theory is that it is common knowledge that proteins need DNA and RNA to form their structure and tell them what to do.  As such, it has been postulated that DNA formed itself first.

DNA is an acronym for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.  The best way to describe it is this:  DNA is the library for a digital code containing the instructions for telling the cell’s machinery how to build proteins.  It is literally genetic information.  The question becomes, where did this information come from?  Can information randomly form itself?

This is the problem with the protein hypothesis.  Where does the protein get the information in order to order itself correctly?  As humans know, we can convey information in our twenty-six letter alphabet, or in the binary code which is just ones and zeroes.  The stunning discovery of DNA was that it stored genetic information in the form of a four-character digital code.  The characters in the code are adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine.  They are represented by the letters A, G, C and T.  These characters are also called “bases” and properly arranging these bases into “base pairs” (when they are grouped with another base) will instruct the cell to build different sequences of amino acids.  Different arrangment of characters yields a different sequence of amino acids.  In one protein you’ll typically need 1,200 to 2,000 letters or bases. 

The problem for the atheist is this; if you can’t explain where this information came from, you haven’t explained life because it’s the information that makes the molecules into something that actually functions. 

A few hypothesis have been suggested to rectify this information problem.

    A. Natural Selection Acted Upon DNA, Allowing It to Adapt Over Millions of Years

In fact, this was the premise of Richard Dawkins’ 1996 book Climbing Mount Improbable.  Dawkins’ suggested that a complex biological structure is like a sheer cliff.  It may seem, at first, to be an impossible climb, especially if someone attempts to accomplish it in a single bound.  However, the backside of the mountain reveals a gradual upward slope that makes the climb slow, but possible and, inevitable.  Natural Selection is this backdoor path that selects the chance variations that are most advantageous and, over long periods of time, little changes become large differences.

This explanation seems to be able to explain how abiogenesis could have climbed the seemingly impossible cliff of building the first cell.  The fact that Natural Selection allows for the huge differences that molecules-to-man evolution requires is a matter of debate, however Natural Selection certainly does not apply to prebiotic chemicals. 

Here is why.  Natural Selection requires a self-replicating organism to work. To have reproduction, you must have cell division.  Cell division requires DNA and proteins which are the very things they are trying to explain in the first place!  You cannot a postulate an explanation presupposing what you are trying to explain. 

   B.  Chemical Affinities Explain How DNA or Protein Formed Itself

Inherent chemical attraction could explain how the four base pairs of DNA or the amino acids of a protein are able to form themselves.   The idea is that the development of life was inevitable because of the self-ordering capacities that amino acids and DNA’s base pairs have. 

There are some natural phenomena in support of this idea.  For example, Sodium (Na+) and Chloride (Cl-)ions use their naturally occuring affinity to form a crystalline solid called . . . Sodium Chloride (table salt). Experiments were done to discover wether or not amino acids and DNA base pairs have similar forces of attraction that would cause them to order themselves.   What did they find?  Amino acids just don’t have this chemical attraction.  And the slight affinity they did demonstrated don’t correlate to the patterns found in functional proteins.  This is not surpising since the DNA information they need to be ordered correctly is absent with just amino acids present. 

However, there is a deeper problem.  Even if the DNA bases did have chemical affinities to eachother (which they don’t), that wouldn’t explain the complex library we see today.  DNA expresses it’s language in the bases A, C, G and T.   If A had a chemical affinity to T, it would form itself like NaCl does, with a pattern of A-T-A-T-A-T-A-T.  This is not the pattern we observe in DNA and it is not the ordering that would yeild a genetic message, just a repetative chant, so to speak. 

Self-organization would not yield a library of protein forming information.  You need a variation in the message to get information out of it.  If you open a book, you don’t see the word “the” repeated over and over again.  Instead, you have an irregular sequencing of letters.  It’s this irregularity that adheres to a certain known pattern that conveys information.  The same is true in language as it is in DNA.

 

 

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself yet again.

    C.  RNA Formed First

The idea is that since RNA is much less complex than DNA, it’s more likely that RNA formed itself first.  In order to subscribe to this theory, you must ignore that none of the above described problems have been solved just because the required lenghth of an RNA sequence is shorter than a DNA’s sequence. 

In fact, you’ve added two problems.  The first one being that RNA needs DNA to know in which order to form, so you’re back to square one, the second being that in order for single strand of RNA to replicate, there must be an identical RNA strand (that also formed itself exactly like the first) right next to it.  So you’ve doubled your problem.

Conclusion

Every belief system has their creation story.  The supernatural event that started it all.  Atheism is no different with abiogenesis.

As Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953, said:

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get going.”

A miracle indeed.  The main point is that no matter how many theories and hypotheses’ origin of life researchers come up with, they are mere speculation.  That is, every available piece of information tells us that life comes only from life.  There are no examples of DNA, RNA or proteins forming themselves under any conditions.  Any phenomena that theoretically makes this possible is outside of every known natural law.  This, by definition, makes abiogenesis a supernatural phenomena. 

Every atheist must believe in this supernatural phenomena in order to keep being an atheist and any statement of affirmation regarding abiogenesis is a statement of faith, directly on par with the religious statements of faith they so joyously deride.  The only difference is the cloak of “naturalism” that they put over their supernatural belief in order to hide their faith from themselves.

The Cambrian: A Huge Problem for Molecules-to-Man Evolution

October 16, 2008

Evolutionists want us to believe that the small successive changes we see around us can be reversed to billions of years in the past so that all life has a common ancestor with a single cell.  Claiming that life is evolving right now and that all life evolved from a single cell organism are two different statements.  I call the former “evolution” and the latter “molecules-to-man evolution” (or “macroevolution” depending upon who I’m talking to).  They also claim that the fossil record absolutely supports this and the more fossils we find, the more molecules-to-man evolution is supported. 

This claim is false.  The fossil record absolutely does NOT support the molecules-to-man evolution claim.

What do we mean by “Evolution”?

Modern evolutionary theory states that the diversity of life we see around us a result of small successive changes over billions of years.  These changes come about as a result of genetic mutations that are selected or discarded based upon their ability to increase biological fitness.  That is, only mutations that help the organism survive in their particular environment are kept (neutral mutations may or may not stay around to turn into beneficial mutations later on, but are not selected for until they ARE beneficial).  The massive amount of biological material and information that we find ourselves studying today is accounted for by the massive amount of time it took to develop through these tiny genetic changes.

The problem with this? The fossil record states that it didn’t happen this way at all.

The Cambrian “Explosion”

The evolutionary “story” goes something like this; about 4 billion years ago, the first simple celled organisms appeared (prokaryotes).  They dominated the scene until about 2 billion years ago when complex multi-cellular organisms appeared (eukaryotes), these include simple plants, fungi, and sponges.  Then, about 530 million years ago, life exploded. 

In about a 5 million year period, most of the life as we know it suddenly appeared with no evolutionary ancestors.  As few as twenty and as many as thirty-five of the worlds’ forty phyla (the highest category of the Kindom Animalae) appeared out of no where (J.W. Valentine Development 126, 1999).  This means that entirely novel and highly complex body plans shows up in the fossil record with no ancestors.  If we compress all of the Earth’s history into twenty-four hours, the Cambrian explosion would last only about one minute.  Put another way, seventy-five percent of all life shows up in about .07% of the time the Earth has existed. 

The fossil record literally goes from fungi and simple worms to the trilobite with an articulated body, complicated nervous system and compound eyes, fully formed and novel, in the blink of an eye!  The most astounding thing about the Cambrian explosion is that it’s followed by stasis.  That is, zero new body plans have evolved in the 500 million years since the Cambrian. 

The “Top Down” Pattern

Neo-Darwinian theory predicts a “bottom up” pattern where small differences develop before the large differences in form and body plan are seen much farther down the line.  For instance, pre-Cambrian sponges should have produced a myriad of varieties and those varieties would then eventually lead to different species, forms and body plans. 

However, the fossil record from the Cambrian shows a completely different “top down” pattern.  Massive differences in form and body plan appear suddenly with nothing simpler preceding them.  Then, after the Cambrian, only minor variations arise within the framework of the body plans set down in the Cambrian.

The modern theory of evolution just plain can’t account for the Cambrian fossil record.

The Evolutionary Response

The knowledge of the Cambrian has been around for a long time, and yet, evolution is still going strong.  The Cambrian explosion must not be as big of a problem for evolution as I am saying it is.  Well, my position is that NOTHING is a big problem for the theory of evolution since the theory can easily be adapted to fit whatever evidence is found.  The thinking goes something like this, “Since evolution happened, there must be an evolutionary explanation for the Cambrian explosion.”  The theory will just “evolve” (pun intended) an explanation. 

Punctuated Equilibrium has been proposed as an explanation for the fossil record.  However, punctuated equilibrium is merely another form of gradual change, there is no evidence that even heightened mutation rates could produce the amount of novel body plans found in the Cambrian. The mutations rates would have to be amazingly fast in order to account for the fossil record.   Also, punctuated equilibrium predicts a “bottom up” approach so it cannot account for the “top down” fossil record as well.

To explain how life as we know it evolved from a single cell, evolutionary theory says, “It had billions of years to do it”.  The fossil record contradicts this by telling us it did most of the work in only 5 million years.  To explain the contradiction, Stephen Jay Gould comes up with punctuated equilibrium, which STILL doesn’t explain the fossil record.  Then to explain why life went into body plan stasis after the Cambrian, evolutionary theory goes back to “well, evolution IS really slow”. 

“Miracles”

This topic was brought up with a discussion I was having with Forknowledge and Penguin Factory on Forknowledge’s blog.  In the discussion, I was asserting that molecules-to-man evolution is unfalsifiable, not only because it is unobservable and untestable, but also because any new discovery can just be absorbed by the theory, no matter how contradictory to the previously accepted tenets of the theory the discovery is.  

Penguin countered by saying that the discovery of a mammal in the pre-Cambrian fossil record would be “a miracle” and would destroy evolution.  While I have no idea what academia’s reaction to a pre-Cambrian mammal would be, and neither does Penguin, I know that previous discoveries that directly contradict evolutionary theory, like the Cambrian explosion, were put on the shelf in the “we don’t know yet” section until a plausible theory, like punctuated equilibrium, explains the phenomena.  Now, punctuated equilibrium STILL can’t explain the “top down” formation of fossils, and the speed and magnitude of mutation required by the Cambrian, but evolutionists aren’t worried.  Why?  Because they’ll explain it someday.  In the mean time, molecules-to-man evolution is a fact, “miracle” Cambrian explosion or not. 

In the same discussion, Forknowledge said “It is common knowledge that the theory has undergone (and may soon undergo) dramatic changes.”  Exactly, Forknowledge.  Every time contradictory evidence is discovered, all the theory of evolution has to do is “change”.

God is in the Rain

September 29, 2008

Specifically, God is in water.  More specifically, water is biocentrically fine-tuned to allow life to exist.  Even more specifically than that, the unique properties of water, every single one of them, are fine-tunely designed to allow large mammalian life to exist. 

All I ask, is that people think outside the box a bit here.  Why is water the way it is?  How did it’s molecular structure form itself to give water unique, law-violating properties?  The laws of physics didn’t have to be the way they are.  Water didn’t have to have the properties it has, there is no “law of water” that forced it to become this way.  But most importantly, IF the laws of physics were fine-tuned to allow large mammalian life, what would we find?

The Necessity of Liquid

Life exists in a liquid medium.  A complex chemical system that assembles, reassembles and replicates itself as well as manipulating it’s atomic and molecular components and drawing it’s vital nutrients from it’s environment would not exist without a liquid medium.

Solid and gaseous mediums would be excluded.  Atoms in solids are held together in a regular or irregular packed, rigidly stuck to each other where the dynamic interactions that life requires would be unable to happen.  Gases, on the other hand, are far too volatile for the chemical matrix of life to occur there. 

Life can be appropriately defined as a complex chemical system capable of assembling and replicating itself, of manipulating it’s components and drawing its vital nutrients and constituents from its environment.  If the laws of physics had decided that only solid and gaseous states would exist, then life, as it is defined above, would certainly not exist.  Frankly, everything that a cell has to do to survive must happen in a liquid medium.  Stick with me, I’ve got a point.

Unique Thermal Properties

There are several thermal properties of water that allow it to STAY in a liquid state.  What good a liquid medium to life if that liquid medium cannot sustain it’s liquid form in the real world?

For instance, water contracts as it gets colder (technically, it gets more dense).  If water were to contract all the way to the freezing point, then water would freeze bottom to top.  If this were the case, large bodies of water would be unthawable.  In fact, we are able to boil water on the surface without thawing out the bottom freeze so it wouldn’t matter how hot the surface water would get, the bottom freeze of a body of water wouldn’t thaw.  In fact, all the oceans would have long ago been frozen solid as each winter would have expanded the amount of frozen water without summer being able to undo winter’s action. 

However, as it is, water expands at the freezing point, forcing frozen water to the top of a body, allowing that ice to be thawed once the temperature is no longer at the freezing point.  This anamolous property of water expanding below 4 degrees celcius, and expanding further at the freezing point, are in violation of a general law of liquids, solids, and gases.  Shortly, without water’s particular property to contract when cold, yet expand when frozen, we would have no standing bodies of water, it would all be ice.  Life, as we define it, certainly wouldn’t exist. 

The thermal conductivity of ice is very low.  In fact, ice is unable to create an ice pack any more than a few meters deep no matter how cold the ambient temperature gets.  If the thermal conductivity of ice was any higher than, again, our large bodies of water would be made mostly of ice.  If the thermal conductivity of ice was higher, than life would have no thermal insulation underneath ice.  Many species that requires this insulation, including humans living in ice environments, would be unable to survive.

Latent Heat of Freezing

When ice melts, heat is absorbed from the environment and heat is released when the reverse happens.  This is a phenomena called “latent heat”.  The latent heat of freezing of water is one of the highest of all known fluids.  In fact, in the ambient temperature range, only ammonia has a higher latent heat.  Water’s latent heat of evaporation is the highest of all liquids in the ambient temperature range.

If the latent heat of water was similar to other substances, then the climate would be subject to much more diverse temperature changes.  Small lakes and rivers would vanish and reappear constantly. 

Biocentrically speaking, warm-blooded creatures would have a MUCH harder time releasing heat from their bodies.  Heat is needed to be released in large quantities in warm-blooded animals such as humans.  There are three ways of doing this, conduction, radiation, and evaporation.  But as we know, releasing heat by conduction and radiation just doesn’t happen in anything but small amounts,  “Evaporative cooling is therefore the only significant means of temperature reduction” (Lawrence Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment, 1913).  Water has a unique ability to allow such heat reduction via evaporation, and if it’s properties were any different, it wouldn’t happen. 

What this means is that large mammals would be much more greatly affected by the environment and any kind of strenuous activity would cause our organs to overheat and fail on us.  This would greatly limit the size of mammalian life and any increase in size probably would not be selected for because of the enormous energy costs.

Surface Tension

The surface tension of water is exceeded by only a few substances.  It’s very high surface tension allows for water to be pulled up the roots and into the branches and leaves of plants.  Certainly without this high surface tension, large terrestrial plants would be an impossibility and along with it every species that relies on them, including humans.  Not to mention the oxygen creation that all of life requires and large terrestrial plants provide. 

The very high surface tension of water also draws water into the crevices and cracks of rocks, assisting in the process of weathering and washing chemicals from the rocks.  Also, as the water freezes (and expands) the rocks are fragmented, helping to create soils and further release minerals into the environment to be used by life.

This is an instance when the properties of water are literally adapted for a role in forming the physical environment for life while at the same time being fit for a number of specific biological functions, without either of which large mammalian life wouldn’t exist.

Viscosity and Diffusion

Viscosity is a liquids’ resistance to flow (it also is a resistance to shearing forces).  The viscosity of liquids varies greatly.  For instance, tar has viscosity 10 billion times greater than water and glycerol has a viscosity a thousand times greater than water.  Water has one of the lowest known for any fluid, however there are a few that have viscosities less than water.  Ether is four times lower while liquid hydrogen is one hundred times lower.

If the viscosity of water was any lower biological tissues would not be able to hold together under shearing forces.  Delicate biological structures would be subject to much more violent forces and even under “normal” stress, they would be unable to maintain their structure.  The delicate molecular architecture of the cell probably almost surely wouldn’t be able to hold together.

On the other hand, if the viscosity of water was any higher, then nothing we now call a fish would be able to exist.  Imagine how hard it would be for a fish to swim through olive oil or treacle!  Also, no microorganism or cell would be able to move, not to mention perform the vital processes such as cell division and the action of the mitochondria and other organelles.  Life just wouldn’t exist.

Viscosity also has everything to do with the process of diffusion.  Diffusion is essential for not only microscopic but also large mamallian life.  Due to the viscosity of water, diffusion rates in water are very rapid over small distances (thin membranes).  Oxygen, through diffusion, will cross the average body cell in about one hundredth of a second.  This explains why microscopic life, including small multicellular life, doesn’t need a circulatory system.  If the viscosity of a liquid goes up, the diffusion rates go down.

For instance, if the viscosity of water was just ten times higher, and therefore the rate of diffusion ten time lower, cells would have to be a thousand times smaller.  As a result, only the very simplest of microscopic cells would be possible, anything bigger just wouldn’t be able to feed itself.

An important characteristic is that diffusion rates are very rapid over short distances but very slow if there is far to go.  This brings us to the question of what would happen with large mammalian life with vastly complicated circulatory systems.

Viscosity and the Circulatory System

Diffusion is a greatly inefficient as a transport mechanism over distances greater than a fraction of a millimeter.  Yet, all large organisms, in order to survive, must somehow get nutrients to their cells.  In mammals, billions of tiny capillaries permeate all the tissues of the body. No cell can survive unless it is within 50 microns of a capillary.  For instance, in the active muscles of a guinea pig, there may be 3,000 open capillaries per square millimeter of muscle.  This is a huge number, taking up about 15% of the volume of the muscle.  It’s equivalent to 10,000 tiny parallel tubes running down a pencil lead.

Due to the miniscule nature of these capillaries, only a liquid with a very low viscosity could travel down them.  Imagine attempting to push treacle through a narrow glass tube!  Water is extraordinarily fit for this purpose.  A two-fold increase in viscosity would cause the flow to half.  If the viscosity of water had been only a few times greater than it is, pumping blood through a capillary bed would require an enormous amount of pressure and almost any circulatory system just wouldn’t work. 

There is more:  We just finished saying that the tube must be small enough to make sure that each cell is within 50 microns of a capillary.  Yet, if the capillary tube was only one half smaller, the resistance to flow would be increased by sixteenfold!  (It’s inversely proportional to the fourth power).  Put another way, to achieve the same rate of blood flow through a capillary of only half the size would either require a lowering of viscosity by sixteen times OR a sixteenfold increase in pressure.  Since we can’t change the viscosity of water, to accomplish a sixteenfold increase in pressure would be a biological engineering impossibility. 

The smallest capillaries are 3-5 microns in diameter.  Considering all the limitations described above, 3-5 microns is nothing short of a physiological constant!  It couldn’t be any higher (capillaries would take up too much space) or lower!

Water Did Not Have To Be This Way

It is also evident that this could have been different.  Each substance, solid, liquid or gas that we have investigated have properties that have no mutual dependence on any other substance.  That is to say that there is no law governing the properties of water, they could have been different.  That these independent laws of substances fit together in such a way that if it was any different, life could not have developed.  This points to design.

In Conclusion

The question we must ask ourselves is this:  Is all of this just coincidence upon coincidence?  The viscosity of water must be very close to what it is to be a fit medium for life.  It’s sufficiently high enough to provide protection against shearing forces and sufficiently low enough to provide enough diffusion across cell membranes to allow cellular life to obtain nutrients.  In the case of large mammalian life, it is suffiently low enough to allow diffusion across capillaries that must be the biological constant of 3-5 microns in diameter. 

Water also has unique properties that make it fit for sustaining itself as a liquid.  These properties are, a high thermal capacity, the conductivity of water, the expansion of water upon freezing, expansion of water below 4 degrees Celcius, low heat conductivity of ice, latent heat of freezing, relatively high viscosity of ice. 

The brief evidence reviewed above indicates that water is uniquely adapted and fit for it’s biological role as life’s liquid medium in every single one of it’s characteristics.  There is no other fluid that is competitive with water as the sustaining fluid for carbon-based life.  If water did not exist, it would have to be invented.  The bottom line, we are brought dramatically face to face with an extraordinary body of evidence of precisely the sort we would expect on the hypothesis that the laws of nature are uniquely fit for our own type of carbon-based life as it exists on Earth.

(This post was gleaned from the second chapter of Michael Denton’s Nature’s Destiny:  How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe.  Since the book is fairly technical, I summarized and paraphrased as much as I could but sometimes I just didn’t know how to say it any differently than Dr. Denton did, so there are some verbatim passages in here too).

The Basic Fine-Tuning Argument For God’s Existence

September 18, 2008

Before I delve into writing some more technical articles on fine-tuning, I wanted to give an overview of what the argument means and the general point the argument is attempting to convey. 

What is Meant by Fine-Tuning?

If I’m attempting to fine-tune a vehicle, I’m doing so with a certain goal in mind.  I’m attempting to get a certain characteristic out of the vehicle.  Either fuel economy, horsepower, top-end speed or whatever my goal happens to be.  I’m using my intelligence to tweak the characteristics of the vehicle to accomplish my goal.

Although the above was a poor attempt by a mechanical ignoramous to use a mechanical analogy, the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence claims that the universe was tweaked in such a way, with a goal in mind.  That goal was human life.  There are two equally important parts to this argument . . .

1.  The characteristics, forces, and phenomena of the universe are fine-tuned to such a degree that human life is possible.  That is to say that if any characteristics were any more than slightly (and in some cases even slightly) changed, human life would be impossible.

2.  The characteristics, forces and phenomena didn’t HAVE TO be this way.  There is no law governing why these characteristics, forces, and phenomena turned out the way they are.  They could have been different. 

The second part of the argument is important in describing the significance of the first part.  If the argument only consisted of the first part, the easy answer would be, “Well of course the characteristics, forces and phenomena of the universe are fine tuned for life, because we are here.”  The second part suggests that the forces were designed for a certain goal in mind, which can only be accomplished by an Intelligence.

Let’s give an example . . .

The Forces of the Universe

Physicists recognize four fundamental forces of nature.  These four determine the characteristics of the universe.  The interesting part, is that they vary greatly from each other over many orders of magnitude.  These forces are the force of gravity, the weak force, the strong or nuclear force and the electromagnetic force.  They are given below in international standard units:  (if only I knew how to do subscripts)

Force of Gravity                    =   5.9 x 10 -39th power

Weak Force                           =  7.03 x 10 – 3rd power

Strong or Nuclear Force        =  15

Electromagnetic Force          =  3.05 x 10 -12th power

The gravitational force is an unimaginable thirty-nine orders of magnitude smaller than the nuclear force.  If it was a mere (in comparison) trillion times larger than it is now, then the universe would be far smaller than it is now.  The average star would have a mass a trillion times smaller than our sun and the lifespan of about a year.  Far too short for life to develop in any meaningful way if at all.  If the force of gravity had been any less powerful, the universe would not be able to hold itself together (and therefore never would have formed at all). 

The other forces are no less essential and precariously positioned in their values.  If the strong force had been slightly weaker, the only substance that would be stable would be hydrogen.  No other atoms could exist. 

As Paul Davies in his Accidental Universe summarizes it:

The numerical values that nature has assigned to the fundamental constants, such as the charge on the electron, the mass of the proton, and the Newtonian gravitational constant, may be mysterious, but they are crucially relevant to the structure of the universe that we percieve. . . . Had nature opted for a slightly different set of numbers, the world would be a very different place.  Probably we would not be here to see it. . .And when one goes on to study cosmology – the overall structure and evolution of the universe – incredulity mounts.  Recent discoveries about the primeval cosmos oblige us to accept that the expanding universe has been set up in it’s motion with a cooperation of astonishing precision.

The laws of physics are exteremely fit for life and the universe has given every appearance of having been specifically set in motion with that goal in mind.

The Force-Dial Analogy

To put this in perspective, there is a great analogy that is in Lee Strobel’s A Case for a Creator.  Lee is interviewing a physicist by the name of Robin Collins.  Let’s say I go to Mars and I find a biosphere there.  Let’s forget for a second about how the biosphere got there.  In the control room of this biosphere, there are 12 dials that control the various forces and constants found in the biosphere.  Note that these dials have an exteremely large range of possible force or constant values.  As you leave the biosphere, you leave all the dials in random positions so that life is not possible in the biosphere.

Let’s say you come back a year later and find that all of the dials are set differently than you left them, all set precisely for the optimal conditions for life.  The word amazement wouldn’t begin to describe it.  The headlines all over the world would be Proof of Intelligent Life Found on Mars.  This would be the conclusion because only an intelligent being would be able to set all 12 dials for all 12 forces or constants to be optimal for life, random would not even be considered a viable answer. 

The situation is actually worse than that for atheists.  Let’s consider the force values table above.  If I were to set all of the possible force values on a linear dial, from the strong force to the force of gravity and everything in between, with one inch increments, each inch representing a possible force value.  There would be billions upon billions of inches that would stretch across the entire universe.  Let’s say I wanted to increase the force of gravity by a single inch increment on this linear dial; the effect would be catastrophic.  It would increase the force of gravity by a billion fold!  Human life would be impossible.  In fact, a planet with a gravitational pull of only one thousand times that of Earth would have a diameter of forty feet.  Multiplying our current gravitational force by one thousand times may seem like a large number.  However, taking into account the entire range of possible force values, as seen in the chart, a thousand fold increase is miniscule!

The Big Picture

In order for this article to be concise enough, it will suffice to say that am I excluding the names and explanations of several ratios, constants, forces, biological and chemical interactions ect. that need to be precisely the way they are to allow human life.  I will gradually get into many of these fine-tuned phenomena. 

Taking into account the many phenomena that need to be precisely the way they are, and considering the possible range of values they COULD HAVE, the probablity of fine-tuning for human life has been conservatively estimated to be at least one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion.  That would be a ten followed by fifty-three zeroes. If you were to randomly throw a dart at some part of the Earth, that would be like hitting a bullseye that’s less than one trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter.  That’s less than the size of a single atom.  It’s unbelievably precise, and the universe NEEDS this precision in order for human life to be possible.  Chance cannot begin to explain this precision, it’s like throwing darts an atom.  Only Intelligence explains this precision.

The Atheistic Response

I’m open to an atheist offering me an explanation I haven’t thought of, but the only one I can come up with, based on my understand of their worldview, is, “We just got lucky”.  Really?  One part in a ten with fifty-three zeroes after it lucky?  As in, we hit that atom with a dart lucky?  Along those lines is the explanation of, “Well, of course the universe is fine-tuned that precisely, because we’re here.”  Is that really a valid explanation?  Isn’t it along the same lines as “God did it”?.  Aren’t you just saying, “Chance did it”?  This is basically admitting that the atheist has no explanation for why or how the constants became the way they are.  It becomes an “It is because it is” argument.  But if that isn’t the only answer the atheist has, then I’m open to discussion.

This is Science?

September 10, 2008

I usually don’t comment on current science news because if I attempted to keep up on it, this blog would be nothing but.  However, I was watching the Today Show this morning and I was struck by something.  As everyone who follows the news a bit knows, physicists in Geneva have built a Large Hadron Collider that took them 30 years and 3.8 billion dollars and is 17 miles long.  The idea, very briefly, is to send particles going almost the speed of light to collide at eachother, perhaps simulating the Big Bang. 

On the Today show, Dr. Michio Kaku was interviewed about the experiment which is close to happening.  When asked what may be the outcome of this experiment, Dr. Kaku said it was about “The theory of everything”, perhaps telling us about “other dimensions and other universes”.  Doing a small bit of research on Dr. Kaku, he has written a book called Physics of the Impossible, which seems to be quite popular.  In the book he urges us to take seriously the ideas of invisibility and time travel.

Wait a minute here.  Other universes?  Other dimensions?  Invisibility?  Time travel?  This is science?  Of course it is.  No really, I agree that we should scientifically explore all options, including these seemingly pointless endeavors.  The ironic part comes in when Dr. Kaku, and any atheists that agree this is science, is asked about God.  I imagine the interview would go something like this . . .

“So, Dr. Kaku, alternate universes, alternate dimensions, invisibility, and time travel.  All these things are possible?” 

“Of course.” 

“Well what about God?”

“That’s not science!”

Hilarious.  Why not explore EVERYTHING?  If we’re willing to entertain the ideas of invisibility and time travel, why not God?  Why the exclusionary bias?  I thought science wasn’t supposed to exclude anything?  No, seriously, I’m asking the question.