Tag Archives: evolution

Tick, tock, tick, tock

For almost twenty-five years a wedding gift has hung in our hallway or living room. That battery powered wooden framed clock has marked the passage of seconds, minutes and hours for decades.

Such clocks are not the only ones. The earth is filled with many different types of clocks, some more accurate than others. Tides regularly wax and wane. Trees experience periods of rapid growth and then dormancy thus producing tree rings.

A new clock has been identified. From our mothers we inherit a slightly imperfect copy of her mitochondrial DNA. Experimentation has identified the rate at which human mitochondrial DNA mutates./1

Continue reading Tick, tock, tick, tock

The power of story

by Barry Newton

The ancient Aztecs told the story about Tonatiuh, the fifth sun god. Their tale illustrates how powerfully story can shape culture and behavior. The Aztecs believed the earth had passed through four eras with four different suns, each of which suffered a cataclysmic destruction.

According to their tradition, this fifth sun god, Tonatiuh, required daily assistance or a new catastrophe would wipe out humanity. To ensure sunrise, Tonatiuh’s daily birth, and the sun traversing the sky, human hearts had to be cut out from their bodies.

It is not hard to imagine their intensity in guaranteeing a steady supply of human sacrifice to Tonatiuh. This story influenced their culture and thinking. It seems even the Aztec’s sporting events involved competing for the privilege to be sacrificed!

Americans can easily perceive how this tale dominated their society. But how adept are we in recognizing how our society’s official origin’s story shapes our culture?

As students return to school this fall, they will be taught a sanctioned story something like this.

A very, very, very long time ago the ingredients necessary for life began to be synthesized and concentrated upon the earth. Finally, the right chemical combination occurred, and life sprang into existence.

Through natural selection and other completely physical processes some of these early life forms adopted advantages over their sibling rivalries. Eventually, this process produced various new life forms. Humanity owes its existence to a long line of successful, but gradual, evolutionary steps.

What happens when a society embraces such a story? This narrative of the survival of the fittest will shape science, government, business, education, religion, and so forth.

Furthermore, unless an irrational sentimentality inhabits someone’s mind, it will be obvious that if animals are not subject to morality neither is the human animal. Just as the Aztec’s myth shaped their daily lives, so too the consequences of this naturalist story will ripple through beliefs, values and behavior.

All of this is quite straightforward. However, it is ironic that some of the same Americans who readily identify the Tonatiuh story as myth, since it fails the test of verification, will nevertheless embrace the unverified story of macro evolution.

In view of the growing body of knowledge challenging the plausibility of a naturalistic origin for life and species, this becomes especially ironic. Reject Tonatiuh, but accept man from amoeba?

Stories provide direction and shape human life. We need them. But how sensible is it to embrace a story that requires naturalistic principles incapable of producing the final product?

It would seem much more reasonable to accept a story, where the Source is capable of producing the world in which we live.

Is it Science? Is Science being diluted?

by Barry Newton

Is Intelligent Design science? Is evolutionary biology science? This depends upon how science is defined. Expect wide disagreement.

Whenever definitions become fuzzy, bloated, or philosophically inconsistent, hidden agendas are likely driving partisan thinking. Like political parties trying to gain advantage by reassigning voting precinct boundaries, special interest groups over the past 100 years have tried to redefine science’s boundaries.

Should science be limited to describing naturalistic causes? Then only evolutionary biology could be science and at best it would yield probabilistic conclusions. Yet if God has created or acted within the physical universe, then some of science’s conclusions must be wrong.

Should science be the pursuit of wherever the evidence points?  If so, then if the evidence were to warrant it, either Intelligent Design or evolutionary biology could be science. Science would then yield what was most likely true.

Should science be restricted to describing a methodological tool utilizing repeatable experiments to seek verification of functional knowledge?  Then neither evolutionary biology nor Intelligent Design would be science. Furthermore, science would provide functional truth. However, such an empirically verifiable science would produce the smallest field of what constitutes science.

Would not the audaciousness of defining science in this latter manner, only upset the most people, but also promote the clearest critical thinking?

There is a huge barrier, however. The label of science wields prestige. Many academic disciplines, even those that deal with questions of history, desire the credibility of the scientific label that is associated with functional technology. After all, the profound insights and advances made possible through repeatable experimentation testifies to the power of functional verification.

Nevertheless, such a science remains mute when addressing questions of purpose, beauty, ethics, morality, history, origins or the possibility of miracles. Disciplines delving into such areas cannot put their actual questions of history or morality into a test tube to derive experimental verification. While fields of study such as forensics, paleontology, evolutionary biology, intelligent design, and various forms of forecasting might employ scientific tools to discover probabilistic answers, their conclusions exceed verification by a truly empirical science.

In the interest of clear thinking, I would prefer to designate these latter fields as Probabilistic Studies. Probabilistic Studies would employ the tools of math, science and logic to interpret and extrapolate conclusions from data. But since we cannot return to the past nor teleport to the future, their conclusions would possess a degree of uncertainty – a probabilistic character not exhibited by functional technology.

At the same time, it would remain clear to all that in spite of whatever consensus building or explanatory power these probabilistic fields might possess or regardless of how philosophically impacting their conclusions might be, their knowledge would nonetheless remain what it actually is – probabilistic. Would not such clear thinking benefit everyone? But special interest groups want their probabilistic conclusions to be regarded as fact.

If we continue to insist on lumping together everything currently termed science, than since a chain can be no stronger than its weakest link, it would appear that the prestige of the sciences cannot rise above a diluted “maybe that’s true.”

Nature's battery

The how doesn't explain the whyby Barry Newton

If a scientist were to explain a battery’s functioning, he might say: “An oxidation reaction on the anode terminal releases electrons.”

Although physics and chemistry can explain how a common battery works, can these fields of study provide accurate information about its origin?

Through the scientific method, our understanding of physics and chemistry continues to amass deeper insight into how and why things work as they do. Nevertheless, neither can explain a battery’s origin, since more than purposeless and undirected natural principles are needed for making AA batteries.

Where Batteries Come From

Commercial batteries are produced by engineers, who design both the manufacturing equipment as well as the fabrication process, and by workers who run that equipment.

We know that even eons of time combined with mere natural principles do not create AA batteries. AA batteries owe their existence to the ingenuity of the human mind to design and fabricate them.

A Scientist’s Explanation of Battery Origins

Imagine what would happen if scientists assumed that batteries were merely the result of natural forces. (The notion is silly, because we know where AA batteries come from.)

In this case, there would have to be a naturalistic story explaining their origin. Human curiosity would demand discovering how a battery could form naturalistically, even if we did not get all of the story’s details right.

Perhaps excerpts from such a story might include:  “This molten metal composition under volcanic pressure could have been driven into thin rock fissures. … As the surrounding rock eroded over time, these tiny sheets of metal would then have been exposed. We are still far from a battery, but what would eventually become the casing had been formed.”

In spite of a naturalistic imagination, the undirected and purposeless forces of physics and chemistry could never accurately describe either the origin of AA batteries nor those objects that surround our lives: electronics, furniture, buildings, roads, signs, and vehicles. All of these objects exist, not because of naturalistic forces, but because intelligent human beings designed and built them.

A Battery in Nature

While humans manufacture many types of batteries, another type exists in both the plant and animal world. We call these tiny packets of stored energy ATP, for adenosine triphosphate. Within living cells a whole host of tiny machines depends upon the energy within ATP in order to function.

While biochemistry and physics can tell us how kinetic mechanical energy is converted into potential chemical energy during ATP synthase to manufacture ATP, can these disciplines tell us how these marvelous, minute energy-manufacturing factories, often operating at 9000 RPM with near 100% efficiency, came into existence?

Just like its commercial counterpart, ATP is manufactured by a machine. Furthermore, just as human designed battery-making machines are constructed from many parts, so too the enzyme responsible for ATP synthase is itself composed of multiple smaller protein units, each of which are constructed from DNA instructions and then assembled.

We know that commercial batteries did not just happen. What about ATP and its manufacturing process?

How It Works Doesn’t Explain Where It Came From

Some will insist that mere naturalistic principles are responsible for the origin of ATP synthase. Really? How do they know this?

What evidence demands that undirected and blind naturalistic forces provide us correct insight into the origin of ATP synthase? After all, there is a categorical difference in describing how a process works and assuming that those same naturalistic principles can account for the origin of that entity.

Such an assumption abandons the realm of verifiable science to engage in philosophical speculation. The seeming plausibility of the story will be dependent more upon one’s own insight and ignorance than in actually reconstructing history.

The naturalistic imagination must create innumerable origin stories.

A More Ancient Story

There is another story, an ancient story, that proclaims, “In the beginning God created.”

When we use our intelligence to design and manufacture commercial batteries, our efforts are a poor imitation of the efficiency of what Someone has already done at the nanoscale to store usable energy.

The naturalistic Imagination

by Barry Newton

Imagine rice turning into mice. For Jan Baptist van Helmont, who lived from 1580 to 1644 A.D., this seemed reasonable. In fact, he proposed a recipe for making mice from rice.

Today it seems incredible that anyone could be so gullible and ignorant of the ongoing processes in biology. Herein lies both the fundamental flaw and the raw power of the naturalistic imagination.

At any given time a ceiling of scientific understanding limits our understanding of life’s true complexities. Our ignorance fuels our ability to imagine the impossible and the absurd.

Imagine a warm little pond filled with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts giving rise to the first life. About a hundred and fifty years ago Charles Darwin dreamed of just such an event. He could imagine this being a possible scenario because he assumed a simple living cell to be little more than a simplistic protoplasm.

While some of Darwin’s aficionados still believe life could arise through such a simple process and for lack of a better explanation some biology textbooks still muse that maybe life began in a manner similar to this, scientists involved in origin of life studies have moved beyond rice producing mice and warm prebiotic soups creating the first living cell.

Imagine a small incremental change to an organism that is passed on to its descendants. Imagine these changes accumulating over vast periods of time to eventually produce an entirely new species.

Research is now revealing that there are limits to how much an organism can change, in spite of our ability to imagine an unending progression.

Today’s naturalistic imagination of how life arose or how species came to be will always seem feasible given our current level of ignorance. Without fail, all such nature-based stories regarding origins eventually lie abandoned on the pile of an outdated era’s curious speculation.

While naturalistic stories flare then wane, the plausibility of another story simply continues to grow. With the discovery that functional information defying naturalistic explanation exists at the very heart of all life, the best explanation for life rests with the ancient witness – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Flaws in Creation?

Evolution vs creationby Barry Newton

I still remember the first time I read the allegation that our biological world was not merely clumsily cobbled together by evolutionary forces, but modern engineers could have designed better living systems. The assertion struck at the heart of the worldview asserting, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

One such attack comes from Kenneth Miller and Richard Dawkins, who contend that the vertebrate eye contains a functional flaw.

Since the optic nerve in vertebrates extends over the retina instead of protruding out from the back of the eye, Miller has claimed that its “visual quality is degraded because light scatters as it passes through several layers of cellular wiring before reaching the retina.”/1 In Dawkin’s words, the retina is “wired in backwards” because light sensitive cells face away from incoming light thus revealing “the design of a complete idiot.”/2

In contrast to their derisive analysis, further examination of the eye’s organizational design reveals optimization for visual acuity. If retinal cells were turned around to aim directly at the incoming light as Miller and Dawkins propose, this design would interfere with the blood supply needed for high-quality vision. Solving this problem would then require capillaries to lie over these light sensitive cells resulting in even greater blockage of light than the optic nerve!

Sometimes it just takes time to discover our ignorance. As of 2010, it was discovered that special “glial cells” cover the retina. These cells channel light through the optic nerve wiring directly onto photoreceptor cells keeping images clear.

This is hardly a clumsy cobbled together biological system. Rather, the vertebrate eye produces the highest degree of vision quality revealing the work of a Master Craftsman.

1/ Kenneth Miller, “Life’s Grand Design,” Technology Review (February/March 1994), pp. 25-32.
2/ Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (Free Press, 2009), p. 354.

Plausible Stories and Origins

by Barry Newton

What we regard as plausible often reveals our ignorance. Years ago a child enthusiastically insisted, “Inside of me are little people. I have an elevator that takes the food down to my stomach where they work on it.”

A gentle smile can spread across our faces at hearing such childish explanations. Yet, our children can be very serious. What we regard as plausible often reveals our ignorance.
To Charles Darwin and Alexander Oparin, the hunch seemed reasonable enough. After all, were not single cell organisms merely small relatively simplistic blobs of protoplasm? Continue reading Plausible Stories and Origins

To Darwin Or Not To Darwin?

by Barry Newton
Will Ben Stein’s film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” succeed in raising questions of angst among the entrenched voices of “Big Science?” From the spigot of Wikipedia gush sources revealing the standard reaction by dissenters to Intelligent Design. The customary party line mantra can be represented by:

“…intelligent design meets none of the tests of a scientific theory and is simply an updated version of century-old creationist arguments. At a time when the United States faces serious economic challenges, we cannot risk derailing efforts to provide the best possible science education for the next generation of problem solvers.”/1

“The fundamental problem with intelligent design as science is that intelligent design claims cannot be tested. … Untestable claims are not scientific claims.”/2

“Scientific theories do not include God because scientific theories must be tested. Testing requires holding constant some variables, and no one can “control” God; therefore, scientific explanations are restricted to the natural causes that are testable.”/3

Such quotes expose the crux of this divide actually revolves, not upon the evidence, but around the philosophical question, “What is science?” Furthermore, those making such pronouncements seem to be oblivious to the repercussions for evolution.

First, what is science? If the scientific establishment wishes to limit science to only discovering naturalistic explanations, regardless of what might have actually transpired in the past, not only is Intelligent Design excluded from being scientific but the public should be educated to realize that scientists are committed to promoting a naturalistic ideology regarding human origins in spite of where the evidence might actually point.

On the other hand, I suspect the commonsense answer most people would offer will equate science with discovering what is true now, and at least what is likely true about our past. If an Intelligent Designer actually did create life and if such an Architect left behind evidence, such as objects which could not have arisen naturalistically, then Intelligent Design would certainly fall into the realm of offering scientific explanations. Accordingly, the hypothesis of an Intelligent Designer would be just as tentative and scientific, as other scientific theories grappling with the evidence to interpret the past.

Evolutionists can not have it both ways. Either they own all of the scientific answers, but such conclusions are simply the output of a narrowly-focused ideology in spite of whatever contrary evidence might exist, or science examines the feasibility and probability of all theories in light of the evidence.

Second, and perhaps even more significant are the repercussions of their scientific definition for evolution. Lurking in the shadows of the preceding evolutionists’ quotes lies an untamed razor prepared to cut through the smoke and mirrors to discredit evolution as a legitimate science. If science is determined by what can be tested which involves verifying and falsifying theories, then consider what even evolutionist and Harvard professor emeritus Ernst Mayer conceded regarding evolution’s inability to withstand the same rigorous testing standards as the physical sciences as he wrote about the history of the philosophy of science.

“Popper … insisted that falsification was the only way to finally eliminate an invalid theory. If the theory fails a test, it has been falsified. … (Mayr then comments: Falsification) is particularly ill-suited for the testing of probabilistic theories, which include most theories in biology. The occurrence of exceptions to a probabilistic theory does not necessarily constitute falsification. And in fields such as evolutionary biology, in which historical narratives must be constructed to explain certain observations, it is often very difficult, if not impossible, to decisively falsify an invalid theory. The categorical statement that a single falsification requires the abandonment of a theory might be true for theories based on the universal laws of the physical sciences, but is often not true for theories in evolutionary biology.”/4

In plain English, testing the feasibility of a story that claims to be historical is categorically different than directly testing a theory to discover what works or does not work. The story itself cannot be tested. Potential mechanisms can be tested. The story can only be indirectly evaluated based upon interpreting favorable evidence to suggest feasibility.

For example, how does someone conduct a scientific experiment to test if Washington or perhaps Napoleon may have crossed the Delaware? Even if an experiment is performed today proving a person can cross the Delaware (the mechanism) or even if one species can be shown to mutate into another, would such experiments prove that Washington or perhaps Napoleon crossed the Delaware or that macro-evolution occurred in our past? No. They remain probablistic stories about what is feasible. Feasibility does not constitute recounting history. The nature and conclusions of the physical sciences are of a different order than either evolutionary or intelligent design stories.

If evolutionists choose to limit all scientific theoretical stories a priori to naturalistic explanations, then they have been exposed indeed. For if science is to be a bigoted bully somehow permitting indirect “testing” of naturalistic stories and interpreting physical evidence to support them while denying similar “testing” of Intelligent Design stories and discrediting its favorable physical evidence, then certainly no intelligence is being allowed into the classroom.

The fury is over philosophical definitions and assumptions, not the laboratory. The storm engulfing intelligent design is not about what evidence actually exists; it is all about ideology. The focus should be with a courageousness to face the evidence, wherever it might point.

1/American Association for the Advancement of Science www.aaas.org/news/releases/2008/media/0418aaas_statement.pdf. Retrieved on 2008-05-16
2/The National Center for Science Education www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/the-truth/id. Retrieved on 2008-05-16
3/The National Center for Science Education www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/the-truth/evolution. Retrieved on 2008-05-16
4/Ernst Mayer, This is Biology: The Science of the Living World, (1997), pp. 49-50

A Lesson From A Law Professor

Several years ago, I invited Phillip Johnson, a staunch adversary of macro-evolution and a law professor at the University of Berkeley for over thirty years, to be a guest speaker for a regional preachers? meeting. On the appointed day in a local restaurant while we sat around a large table, I cautiously presented a question about “evolution and creationism.”

I have forgotten the exact nature of my question or the answer he offered. What does remain clearly etched in my mind is his discourse on the danger of speaking about “evolution and creationism.” When the discussion is framed in this manner, he said that this automatically places the creationist at a disadvantage since he is defending an “-ism.”

In order to engage the topic without verbal bias, he recommended speaking of “evolution and creation” or if preferred “evolutionism and creationism.” Otherwise, evolution by definition automatically has the upper hand on a verbal basis, not an evidential one.

His lesson on the significance of getting the starting framework right, also has implications for the church. As those who are interested in serving God in the manner God desires, we need to make sure that our assumptions about definitions and our doctrinal understandings are faithful to the biblical author’s intent. If interpretation is severed from the mooring of the author’s intent, then eisegesis becomes the legitmized and accepted norm.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to use words like faith, grace, works, and baptism with definitions the biblical author never intended. If such building blocks are misrepresented, the result would be biblical whitewash plastered over a human creation. The teaching might sound biblical because the words would be biblical, but the source of the message would be all too human.

I Appreciate Honesty by Evolutionists

In preparing for yet another multimedia seminar on evolution, I stumbled upon a book in the San Jose public library which amazed me. The following six quotes are from Franklin Harold’s, The Way of the Cell published by Oxford University Press in 2001, and they illustrate the actual bankruptcy behind what so many assume has been proven. While he is an ardent evolutionist, I appreciate Franklin’s candor and brute honesty about the paucity of scientific evidence to support their evolutionary tale about the origin of life and the assumed prebiotic soup from which it sprang.

“Life arose here on earth from inanimate matter, by some kind of evolutionary process, about four billion years ago. This is not a statement of demonstrable fact, but an assumption almost universally shared by specialists as well as scientists in general. It is not supported by any direct evidence.” p. 236.

“It is important to acknowledge the degree to which this field of inquiry is founded on surmise. The reasons for the general consensus are, first, the lack of a more palatable alternative; and second, that absent the presumption of a terrestrial and natural genesis there would be no basis for scientific inquiry into the origin of life.” p. 237.

“It bears repeating that we know very little for certain, and that it is seldom possible to formulate hypotheses that can be falsified by experiment; the opinions of scholars are, therefore, colored by personal beliefs about what should have happened, and even by what is meant by life.” p. 239.

“A historical theory must account for historical events, and in truth there is not (and perhaps cannot be) convincing evidence that there was ever a rich broth of organic substances, or that it played the role assigned to it by the theory.” p. 244.

“Creation myths lie at the heart of all human cultures, and science is no exception; until we know where we came from, we do not know who we are. The origin of life is also a stubborn problem, with no solution in sight. Biology textbooks often include a chapter on how life may have arisen from non-life, and while responsible authors do not fail to underscore the difficulties and uncertainties, readers still come away with the impression that the answer is almost within their grasp.” pp. 235-236.

“What is life? How we answer that question must eventually impinge on the practice of medicine and law, influence what we teach our children, nudge the direction of economics and public policy, and color our attitude to man, God, and all ultimate concerns.” p. 253.

While I object to his implication that the biblical story of creation is just another myth, I am grateful that he acknowledges the evolutionist’s story of origins is myth. In view of the cascading significance of what we believe about our origin, it is tragic that so many people have falsely concluded that the weight of scientific evidence backs the evolutionist’s tale about how life began. Accordingly, they are led to the erroneous conclusion that the story of a prebiotic soup is actual history. Unfortunately, this unwarranted belief has shaped values which in turn have influenced behavior. Tragic indeed.