Eye of the beholder

images-2Eye of the beholder

Familiar with the expression “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?

Various forms of the phrase date all the way back to Greece in the 3rd century B.C.

However, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford is generally credited with the first use of that exact phrase in her book Molly Bawn, originally published in 1878. The cliche simply means that different things will appeal to different people.

The eye is a collection of tissue that forms an organ and provides visual feedback from our physical world. The ability to see an adversary who is fighting blind is almost always gives an unsurmountable edge to the fighter with unimpaired vision.

Some biologists, notably Jerry Coyne, describe the eye as an imperfect creation or an organ that is easy to create. Coyne wrote,

The human eye, though eminently functional, is imperfect – certainly not the sort of eye an engineer would create from scratch. Its imperfection arises precisely because our eye evolved using whatever components were at hand, or produced by mutation. Since our retina evolved from an everted part of the brain, for example, the nerves and blood vessels that attach to our photoreceptor cells are on the inside rather than the outside of the eye, running over the surface of the retina. Leakage of these blood vessels can occlude vision, a problem that would not occur if the vessels fed the retina from behind. Likewise, to get the nerve impulses from the photocells to the brain, the different nerves must join together and dive back through the eye, forming the optic nerve. This hole in the retina creates a blind spot in the eye, a flaw that again would be avoidable with a priori design. The whole system is like a car in which all the wires to the dashboard hang inside the driver’s compartment instead of being tucked safely out of sight.

All of this bluster is to say how much better the Jerry Coyne eye would be as an improvement over the eye made by God. No engineer has produced an functionally operational equivalent eye, much less a superior version. There is no Jerry Coyne manufactured eye, or any artificial device that can replace a human eye and restores vision.

Science can do wonders with the existing organic material, but once the sight is gone, as of this date it cannot be restored. Yet Coyne claims science can make a better eye. So where is it?geordilaforge

Prosthetic devices may look real, but they do not restore vision. Unfortunately, those stylish Geordi Le Forge shades with the oil filter lenses don’t really exist – except as a prop from a television show. Apparently, the writers of Star Trek: the Next Generation seemed to realize the foolishness of suggesting artificial eyes would be superior to the ones we have, or else the entire crew would have worn the same apparatus.

Coyne isn’t the first biologist to foolishly claim the eye would be easy to make one or improve. In his summary statement at the Wistar conference , Dr. Waddington made the remarkably silly statement, “I think it is relatively simple to make an eye.” (pg 97)

Astonishingly, Ernst Mayr agreed with him, and the remaining participants were apparently too dumbfounded by the suggestion to respond. Mayr said,

Somebody quoted Darwin yesterday and, as with the Bible, you can quote him for one thing or another. In one place he said that it completely horrified him to think of the eye and how to explain it, and at another place he said once you assume that any kind of protein has the ability to react to light, once you admit that, then it is no problem whatsoever to construct an eye.

No problem at all to make an eye? Easy peasy? Respectfully, Drs. Waddington and Mayr, then why hasn’t science made one?

Dr. Trevor Woodhams and company at the local Woodhams Eye Clinic in Dunwoody do remarkable work using LASIK surgery to correct vision, but they are working with existing organic material. Corneas may be transplanted, but not entire eyes. Doctors do not perform artificial eye replacement with “bionic” eyes — that technology only exists in science fiction novels, movies, and television shows.

The latest and greatest medical miracles seem to be organs grown from stem cell tissue in a lab. Although the cultivated heart does not yet beat, it still qualifies as a significant scientific achievement. But if and when it does begin to beat, it cannot be considered an improvement over what God created. It is merely a replica, not a superior creation.

Perhaps they next can cultivate an eye. But it isn’t the same thing as making an eye from scratch, better than the real thing.

We cannot make a better heart, a better brain or a better eye. Our best efforts mimic God’s creation but never surpass it.

In his poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, Keats famously wrote, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

To recognize beauty for what it is, we must first be able to see it.

Microtubules of the brain

microtuble

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: The bulk of the original content of this article was published at Examiner.com when I wrote as the Atlanta Creationism Examiner. Unlike previous articles from that source which were only re-formatted and lightly edited, new material has been added that has developed since the article was first published.]

Microtubules of the brain

How does our brain really work?  Are brain cells special?  How do brain cells store memories? Computers are modeled after the human brain, and like humans, they have both short-term and long-term memory.

For short-term memory, computer allocates space in a storage cache to “remember” information…for example, a calculator application accepts input from a user and must remember the numerical values entered, the operand (in order to know whether to add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc.) and then must store the result of the operation to be displayed as feedback. However, when the application ends or the computer is turned off, the short-term memory is wiped out. Lost forever.

As far as long-term memory is concerned for computers, a storage device is required, and the information is literally written to a computer chip, hard drive, flash drive, or some other permanent medium. If you store your data “in the cloud” it only means you’re using storage provided by someone else, which might be convenient, but not very secure. Literally, somewhere there must be a physical device which stores your information to be recalled and reused at a later date.

So with that in mind, how does a human brain record long-term memories?

If we simply assume, for the sake of argument, that short-term memories are merely chemical reactions in our physical brain cells (because that’s probably how a neuroscientist would describe them, but that isn’t the point of this article), it doesn’t answer the question of how we remember past events from thirty, forty, or more years ago. Where, and how, are those memories stored?2430001_z_memek16cau

One of the most interesting and brilliant movies I’ve ever watched was called Memento.

A brief summary of the plot: due to a severe blow to the head, the protagonist’s brain was injured to the point where he could no longer form new long-term memories. Any distraction that disrupted his attention span would cause the hero to forget where he was, what he’d been doing, and why he was there, but he was determined to hunt down (and kill) his wife’s murderer. Because his brain no longer worked normally but the protagonist remained very intelligent, he solved his long-term memory problem by tattooing clues to the identity of the the killer on his own body, so he couldn’t forget them.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. Director Christopher Nolan has made a number of excellent movies, but in my opinion, this is his very best work.

And here is the problem: I have no tattoos. How did my brain record and then recall the details of this movie so vividly, when at least a decade has passed since I last watched it? Exactly where, in my brain cells, do my memories live?

Anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff worked with Sir Roger Penrose while serving as associate director of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to develop a theory of consciousness. They have asserted that the mind is not simply a by-product of the biological activity of the human brain but something more.

Hameroff’s research focused on microscopic structures in brain and nerve cells called microtubules. Their claim to have discovered quantum vibrations in the microtubule structures in our brains have been published as a result of their work toward a theory of consciousness.

Dr. Hameroff said in an interview:

“The inside of the brain and nerve cells are comprised of girders or cylindrical structures called microtubules that self assemble to form the shape of a cell. They are the nervous system of a cell and process information internally to organize what happens within each cell and also how cells interact with other cells. These microtubules are actually very well designed as computational devices.”

Not only has our brain been compared to an organic computer, Dr. Hameroff has characterized each microtubule as a quantum micro-processor as he asks this pointed question: is DNA really a quantum computer? This prompts me to ask another interesting question of my own: like creation without a creator, can intricate and extraordinarily complex design really exist without a designer?

Primary source: The Day I Died, a BBC documentary.

 

Compounded improbabilities

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the final article originally published at Examiner.com in the series on the theory of evolution, on a favorite topic of mine: is it possible to quantify the luck that would be necessary to explain our existence, without invoking a supernatural Creator of all things? The secular approach to eliminating God from creation can take at least two different, diametrically opposed forms. The goal of both is to eliminate a problem called fine-tuning of this universe, described in this article.

First, there is the multiverse hypothesis, which improves the probability of “this” (successful) universe by speculating an unknown number of unsuccessful universes were also created at the Big Bang anomaly. The other option is that it may be argued that the creation of the universe was actually deterministic (Grand Unified Theory, or GUT) assuming that this universe had no choice except to exist, and to enable complex life to exist.]

Compounded improbabilities

martin_reesCosmologist Sir Martin Rees has declared that “just six numbers” dictate the nature of our universe. For clarity and ease of discussion, these six values shall be referred to as “cosmic factors” for the remainder of this article.

Apparently to avoid giving a divine Creator any credit, Rees said,

These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator? I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different.

It’s the old “multiple universe” trick, as Maxwell Smart would say. But, as with any theory, there are problems. According to Rees, the six cosmic factors are:

  1. omega (value=1) to represent the amount of matter in the universe.
  2. Epsilon (value=0.007) represents the degree to which atomic nuclei are bound together.
  3. “D” is the number of dimensions (value=3).
  4. “N” is the strength of electrical forces that bind atoms, divided by the force of gravity:(value=1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).
  5. “Q” is a number that represents two fine-tuned fundamental energies (value=1/100,000).
  6. Lambda (value=0.7) represents a measurement of anti-gravity in the universe.

Also according to Rees, the slightest change in value in any of the cosmic factors would result in a universe that would not support life. One less zero for the value of “N”, for example, would mean this universe failed. His proposed alternative to supernatural creation for resolving the statistical improbability of our “Goldilocks” universe is an infinite number of “universes”, also known as the “multiverse.”

A simple formula (using the right values, of course) should produce the cumulative improbability of the combined cosmic factors, expressed as a single value:

Probability(Universe) = Probability(Omega) * Probability(Epsilon) * Probability(N) * Probability(D) * Probability(Q) * Probability(Lambda)

Even if the probability value of variation in each universal factor were as low as one percent, the total improbability of the Big Bang producing our perfect universe are considerably lower because of the compounded risk of variation in any one of the six — not unlike the odds against winning a lottery [the following example is for illustrative purposes only, not actual values]:

.01 * .01 * .01 * .01 * .01 * .01 = 0.000000000001 chance of total success

Thus for life to exist, we must “win” more than one lottery.

The likelihood of variation in any cosmic factor is probably much greater than one in a hundred. Therefore, we may reasonably conclude that odds against the origin of our universe were ridiculously low. But even if my simplistic example were accurate, an undirected origin of life would be even more improbable because the improbable universe was first required.

The odds against the origin of life increase exponentially — the improbabilities do not merely aggregate; they are compounded because the existence of life as we know it is actually predicated on the existence of the universe that supports it. According to (co-discoverer of DNA) Francis Crick, the random assembly of six billion pieces of information found in the double helix should have taken several billion years to form, leaving practically no time for evolution theory to work its magic.

Francis Crick wrote,

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 it going. (Life Itself, pg 88)

Naturally, I aspire to be an honest man. Crick proposed a hypothesis called directed panspermia to solve the time problem without invoking a divine Creator, effectively moving the problem from earth into outer space.

Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Ilya Prigogine claimed,

The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident is zero.

Even if Prigogine was wrong and the statistical probability of undirected life was an incredibly small number but slightly greater than zero, it would be further reduced when compounded by the improbability of our anthropic universe. To properly evaluate “the Big Scheme” of things, life cannot be separated from the environment that supports it.

We must also ask: even if our universe could have “accidentally” happened through a fluke related to quantum mechanics, why did entropy fail to break down the chemical compounds before they had time to complete assembly of the first form of life?

Speciation theory allegedly describes the undirected mutations that occur through the mechanism of sexual reproduction.

After countless generations, two compatible, paired organisms diversify solely through the mechanisms of sexual reproduction and turn into organisms as unlike as oak trees, sperm whales and humans — all from the same single, original cell called LUCA.

This concept is difficult to quantify into any numerical probability.

For sake of argument, let’s say it’s a fifty/fifty probability — essentially a coin flip, whether a vampire bat could have evolved into existence without intelligent direction. Please consider the complex ability by which they are able to fly by night to hunt: echo location navigation.  And take into consideration the fact that a flying mammal and an aquatic mammal possess this same capability and ask yourself why we should assume these two wildly disparate creatures in most respects should share a common ancestor.  Simply throw away the concept of irreducible complexity, at least for a moment, in order to consider the whole problem.

Even in that scenario, that flip of the coin (which gave us dolphins, whales, and vampire bats) had to happen after two unimaginably unlikely events happened in the right order. The improbabilities of the anthropic universe and abiogenesis being created by nothing adversely affect the odds of speciation happening by random chance, further compounding its improbability factor.

No matter how hard you try, the numbers just don’t logically add up.

 

Supernatural evidence

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is (I think) the fifth installment in the series originally published several years ago, during my tenure as the Atlanta Creationism Examiner. Minor editing and re-formatting  to accommodate the differences between the old and new platform have been done on every article, but the original content has otherwise remained unchanged. ]

superman-3d-artSupernatural evidence

We have examined the few real “facts” of evolution. Then we reviewed the conjecture about evolution expressed in the theories of Charles Darwin.

Then I suggested an alternative to Darwin’s theory of natural selection (evolution theory) which I have called Iterative Creation (IC).

And of course, we talked about DNA as a unique and dynamically generated source code for the creation of a new living organism.

The remaining question left unasked thus far: is evolution theory clearly superior to IC?  Are the theories equally unprovable, or does IC actually hold some advantage over evolution theory?

The only way evolution theory can be considered superior to IC is by resorting to scientism. By asserting that evidence somehow “belongs” to science would imply IC can’t use the same evidence, presumably because a different standard for scientific method is applied to each theory. At the heart of any scientific argument against any form of creation lies the postulate that a supernatural God is simply impossible to believe.

This is a very important point.

God is derisively referred to “an invisible man in the sky” by my atheist friends, as a legend or fairy tale. Tales of NDEs and other supernatural accounts are all lumped together and collectively treated like hearsay anecdotes told by Aunt Martha, flatly dismissed as impossible. Ghost stories and psychic predictions are all believed myths and frauds. No exceptions. Interestingly, scientists claim to be able to “predict” the past by examining old bones and guessing they’ll find something in the fossil record to support their prediction.

On the other hand, when someone otherwise believed rational declares to have experienced the inexplicable, their story is discarded as unreliable or unscientific. Keep in mind, the only proof for evolution is allegedly found by super scientist-detectives that don’t trust their own eyes, but trust the sheer genius of their own intellect to devise some clever explanation for what they cannot see and cannot be observed because it allegedly happens over such a long period of time. Think more “Sherlock Holmes” than “Dick Tracy.”

Yet their evidence is not as convincing as some would lead us to believe. Furthermore, no two tales of supernatural experience are created equal.

Some are purely anecdote in nature. For that very reason, the three examples I shall present for the reader’s consideration will not include my personal anecdotes of ghost experiences.  While many of these personal experiences were witnessed by at least one other person (who now holds a PhD), there are even better examples to share.

Nevertheless, there IS evidence of allegedly supernatural phenomena that CAN be investigated according to the scientific method.

The first example of compelling evidence of supernatural activity was first told in my article recounting the apparently miraculous tilma of Juan Diego.guadalupe1

The following information about the tilma should be easily verified or investigated:

  • Two fibers from the image were examined by the director of the Chemistry department at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Heidelberg.  He concluded “no coloring agent of any kind [existed] in the fibers.”
  • Scientists using a microscope examined the image and declared no visible brush strokes were present.
  • Using an ophthalmoscope, Dr. Rafael Lavoignet examined the eyes in the image and announced in the cornea, a human figure could be seen that had been imposed with the correct optical imagery produced by a “normal” eye.  The date the image was created has been established as 1531.  The nature of corneal eye reflections were not scientifically verified until 300 years passed.  The image Dr. Lavoignet found has been identified as Juan Diego.
  • In 1962, an optometrist and his wife magnified a photograph of the image 25 times and announced they had discovered two more faces reflected in Mary’s eyes: those of Bishop Ramirez and translator Juan Gonzalez, also identified from period portrait paintings of the men.
  • Professor Philip Callahan examined the image using infrared technology in 1979.  The professor, an expert in the field of infrared radiation and an accomplished painter, wrote about the image on the tilma, “it’s color rendering and the preservation of its brightness over the centuries are inexplicable.  There is no sizing and no protective over-varnish present on the image.  Without sizing the tilma should have rotted centuries ago, and without protective varnishing the picture should have been ruined long ago by prolonged exposure to candle smoke and other pollutants.  Under high magnification, the image shows no detectable sign of fading or cracking—an inexplicable occurrence after 470 years of existence.”
  • The normal life span of such a garment is twenty years.  We should be able to observe its decay unless clever replication is periodically performed and substitution done in continuous practice over 500 years.
  • Must Dr. Lavoignet, Professor Callahan and the other medical professionals involved be wearing their white lab coats before their results pass scrutiny by the scientific community?

These men put their personal reputations on the line by making declarations that logically make no sense. Quite frankly, their claims defy all scientific explanation. What makes evidence scientific?  Are not opinions obtained from multiple independent medical professionals worth anything?

goldflwr3For our second example, let’s revisit my recent post about Astral travel.

If the facts are accurate and true as reported, then this information demands some form of scientific rebuttal or explanation.

To categorically reject this information as false without an investigation implies serious charges that call into question the integrity of law enforcement officials who were directly involved in a murder investigation, without evidence or justification other than personal bias.

A brief summary of the facts about the psychic who allegedly stopped a serial killer were:

  • She gave law enforcement an accurate and detailed physical description of the killer.
  • Correctly identified the killer’s means of entry into the Phillipe house – the chair on the A/C unit.
  • Correctly provided the name of the killer’s girlfriend and her place of work.
  • Correctly predicted the killer’s gambling problems contributed to motive.
  • She incredibly predicted somehow of the exact wording of the “River Rat” description the old woman would give after his next future attack.

If the information in the program was not true, then it would mean:

  • Police Chief Bill Landry participated in a hoax in a case involving a serial killer.
  • (Psychic Rose) Kopp was actually an accomplice of the killer.
  • The victim who wrote “River Rat” on the notepad must have collaborated with her assailant and Kopp.
  • Kopp must have visited Louisiana in the past in spite of no evidence to indicate she’d ever been there.

Granted, the source of this information was a television program called Psychic Investigators, shown on the Biography Channel. The police chief was not providing sworn testimony in a court of law.

On the other hand, the facts of the case should be easily verifiable through additional research, court transcripts, interviews and sworn affidavits. If the psychic involved could somehow be proved a fraud, perhaps a convicted serial killer might gain his release from Death Row.

For my third and final example of supernatural evidence, let’s reconsider my favorite NDE account, the one of Pam Reynolds. It occurred while she had full medical instrumentation monitoring her vital signs while every drop of blood was drained from her head, with absolutely no detectible neurological activity. Yet she overheard a conversation between her doctors and accurately conveyed what had been said while they were slicing open her leg to tap her femoral artery in order to drain all the blood from her body.

Her neurosurgeon Dr. Spetzler said, “I don’t have an explanation for what happened [to Pam].  I don’t know how it’s possible to happen considering the physiological condition the patient is in.  At the same time, I’ve seen so many things I can’t explain that I can’t be so arrogant as to be able to say there’s no way it could happen.”

These are the words of Pam’s attending physician during surgery.  He does not appear to consider the possibility that Pam’s story was untrue or a hallucination. Dr. Spetzler only asserts that he cannot explain what happened during her surgery. Because Pam seemed absolutely thrilled by her experience, it seems hard to believe Dr. Spetzler feared a suit for medical malpractice with the claim the surgery had been performed while she suffered anesthesia awareness.

By no means are these three the only examples of supernatural accounts with compelling documentation and evidence to support their veracity.  They are three examples that should be easily verified or debunked with further investigation. Evidence of another realm of supernatural knowledge and activity clearly exists.

It’s not incumbent upon me to prove these accounts are true.  I already believe in a supernatural God. It is my contention that each of them must be false to support any contention that a supernatural God is impossible to believe. That hardly seems fair — my work is done, but the those in disbelief of the supernatural still have theirs cut out for them. But Death is unfair, or very fair, depending on your perspective.  Whoever said life had to be fair?

You don’t have to believe any of these stories are true. However, to successfully remain an atheist, you must believe all of them are not, and cannot, be true.

Astral travel

obeAstral travel

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is another favorite piece from my days as the Atlanta Creationism Examiner. Had to put it together rather quickly this morning because a link to it was embedded in the next article in the ongoing series on evolution.]

Astral travel (or astral projection) is supposedly the ability for a person to enter into a trance so deep they are able to travel great distances without their physical body. Sounds impossible to believe, doesn’t it?

This writer has to admit to a fair amount of skepticism about this ability, having never experienced it personally.  Does that mean the ability doesn’t exist, or does it only mean that this one particular individual has not personally experienced it?

What evidence (if any) exists to support such an outlandish claim?

Psychic Rose Kopp lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. She claims to have an ability to leave her body and visit remote locations, which she does occasionally to assist the police in solving a crime. After a grisly murder was committed in Gonzales, Louisiana, a childhood friend of Police Chief Bill Landry suggested that he ask Kopp for help obtaining information about the robbery and murder of elderly Lillian Phillipe, the third in a series of similar crimes.

The serial killer left no fingerprints or DNA, making the police very frustrated with the lack of progress in the case. Kopp agreed to help. She asked Landry to send a picture of the victim and one personal item the victim had touched. Three more homicides were committed in Landry’s jurisdiction before Kopp received the package from Landry.  The killer was increasing the pace of his murders.

Kopp describes astral travel as a shamanic journey that she embarks upon by entering a trance induced by repetitive chanting accompanying a rhythmic drumbeat.  According to Kopp, she left her body during a trance and in her mind she flew over Diamond Head, across the Pacific, California, Texas, and finally arrived in Gonzales, Louisiana, at the crime scene of the Lillian Phillipe murder. There she claims that she was able to “see” the killer and tell Landry he was a white male, about five foot nine and powerfully built.  She told Landry the killer had entered the house through the roof that he reached by placing a wrought iron chair on top of the air conditioner.

Landry’s investigation shockingly confirmed the details Kopp gave from “visiting” Phillipe’s house. The chair was still there. Because those three additional murders had occurred between the time Kopp’s help was requested and her receipt of the related items from Landry connected to the victim Phillipe, in desperation the police chief asked Kopp to remotely use her psychic abilities to visit Louisiana a second time, hoping to obtain additional information about the killer.

On Kopp’s second “astral” visit, she claimed the killer’s car contained betting slips indicative of a gambling problem.  The FBI profile of the killer had predicted that excessive gambling debts would be the motive for the robberies. Kopp also said the killer’s girlfriend worked in a diner and relayed that her name sounded like “Cindy” or “Candy”.  She saw a vision of a severed cow’s head immediately after seeing the vision of the girlfriend at work.  The jarring image almost startled her out of her trance. These images made absolutely no sense to Kopp.

But as a lifelong resident of Ascension Parish, Chief Landry knew the history of the area well and they made perfect sense to him.  He knew an old slaughterhouse had closed that was near a diner.  The old slaughterhouse had used a cow’s head like she described to advertise the business. Asked by Chief Landry if she could add anything to the killer’s description, Kopp mysteriously said she saw an old woman’s hand write “River Rat” on a notepad.

The very next time the killer struck, he shot an elderly woman in the face and her husband in the chest.  Both victims barely survived.  The wife was asked if she could describe her assailant.  Because of her facial injury she was unable to speak.  She took a notepad and wrote the words “River Rat” on it.

How could this be possible? How could Rose Kopp have accurately predicted the exact same words a future victim would write before the crime occurred?

An informant’s tip led the police to suspect a man named Daniel Blank, a self-employed mechanic with a waitress girlfriend named Cindy and a known gambling problem.  Blank matched the physical description given by Rose Kopp almost perfectly.  He was arrested and convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.

If the information provided in the program Psychic Investigators on the Biography Channel was true, Rose Kopp amazingly provided the police with the following information:

  • Gave them an accurate and detailed physical description of the killer.
  • Correctly identified the killer’s means of entry into the Phillipe house – the chair on the A/C unit.
  • Correctly provided the name of the killer’s girlfriend and her place of work.
  • Correctly noted the killer’s gambling problems.
  • She incredibly knew somehow of the “River Rat” description the old woman would give after his next attack left a witness.

If the information in the program was not true, then it must mean that:

  • Police Chief Bill Landry participated in a hoax in a case involving a serial killer, seriously jeopardizing the ability to bring justice to the murderer.
  • Kopp was actually an accomplice of the serial killer.
  • The victim who wrote “River Rat” on the notepad must have collaborated with both her assailant and Rose Kopp.
  • Rose Kopp must have visited Louisiana and the specific locations in question at some point in the past, in spite of no evidence to indicate she’d ever been there.

Critically analyzing this information seems the prudent course of action. However, healthy skepticism should not lead one to automatically conclude Kopp and Landry’s stories are simply impossible to believe, because there is investigable and verifiable claims being made in this account.

How could anyone who believes in the foundational premises of evolution — that something could come from nothing and inanimate matter could become alive without a miracle — summarily dismiss information such as this without any real consideration or further investigation? If out-of-body experiences can actually happen, isn’t that a precursor of the near death experience or actually becoming a ghost?  We know that a large percentage of the world’s population believes they have had a NDE experience themselves. If it is truly possible, does astral travel offer some semblance of proof that our spirit and physical body can be separated?

Is it the spirit itself evidence that we were created in God’s image?

[Author’s update: Daniel Blank remains on Death Row in Louisiana, awaiting execution for the murders reported in this story.]

Iterative creation

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Fourth installment in the series of articles originally published as the Atlanta Creationism Examiner about existential questions and the theory of evolution.]

DivineEvolutionCover_eBook_finalIterative creation

A new Facebook friend sent me a link to an article by a scientist advocating his version of Divine Evolution, another reason I now think iterative creation might have been a better name for my own personal philosophical beliefs.

Stuart Kauffman wrote in the Edmonton Journal,

I believe that we no longer need a Creator God, we need God’s creativity.

In other words, Kauffman believes in a form of theistic evolution ala Francis Collins, where we have a creator God who doesn’t really do anything but get the ball of evolution rolling, more deist than theist.

Creation theory is concerned about the origin of things. If there is reason to believe that a supernatural entity of extraordinary intellect caused our universe to happen, why not believe that same Creator is directly responsible for the origin of life? Why would God put in all the work to set up the universe for life but lose interest before creating it?  What exactly are we saying here? Do “we” believe that God suffers from some sort of Attention Deficit Disorder, or what?

The so-called facts of evolution and the scientific evidence used to support my hypothesis of iterative creation are one and the same.

The conjecture about evolution is where the theories significantly differ. Iterative creation begins with a bang. Actually, it begins with the Big Bang. The Big Bang Theory makes sense, mostly because scientific evidence like redshift and CMB support it. It only leaves us with one real question: from where did the matter come?

Matter “exploded” with such great ferocity that the expansion of the universe began over 14 billion years ago continues to this day. How long was this dense, hot clump of pre-matter just sitting around before it decided to create the universe? It’s interesting to note the Bible reports in the first chapter of Genesis that God spoke and said, “Let there be light.” The Bible is claiming that God created matter to create our universe — simply by speaking.

I’ll be the first person to admit, that sounds pretty hard to believe — pun intended. But science tells us that plants turn into people once enough time passes, without any sort of help.  Is that really easier to believe than an invisible God?  Additional information offering very compelling support for belief in a supernatural God is readily available and has been reported upon previously, but my argument to support belief in a supernatural creator is best left for the next article, titled Supernatural evidence.

Science tells us light equals energy.  Energy equals matter. The Bible is essentially telling us that the first thing God created was matter. That makes perfect sense. You can’t make anything without raw materials. This universe, ideal for producing abundant life on Earth, is unbelievably improbable. Physicist Sir Martin Rees could tell you all about Just Six Numbers. He and most other cosmologists agree these cosmological values show how remarkably improbable it is that our universe originated by sheer luck or random chance.

In an article for American Thinker titled “Does science refute God?”, Vasko Kohlmayer presented the cosmological or First Cause argument favoring belief in a creator God. The Kalam Cosmological Argument goes as follows:

Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe must have a cause.

This universe is required before we can get to the origin of matter.

The only answer Richard Dawkins seems to have mustered in response to the First Cause argument uses circular logic; he insists if God created the universe, then somebody must have created God. His argument completely ignores any concept of eternity. More recently he’s also entertained the notion Lawrence Krauss asserts, that an invisible creator God is preposterous, but quantum mechanics shows us that a universe from nothing created by invisible particles is easily believable.

Once matter, stars, and planets exist, complex chemical elements become stardust that sprinkles over the Earth. These chemical elements are essential to form life. Who knew Joni Mitchell was right?  She wrote the lyrics, We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon. She’s obviously a very smart woman.  And her song begins: Well I came upon a child of God

Stars are like cosmic volcanoes, spewing essential chemicals absolutely necessary for life into the universe.  These chemical elements bond to form molecules, which in turn combine to form nucleotides.

Following specific rules of recombination for nucleotides, “Lego” like building blocks assemble genes sequenced together into a unique single DNA strand of six billion coded instructions, all residing within a single living cell.  That does not happen by accident or random chance, my friend.

Richard Dawkins first advocated his theory of replicators in his book The Selfish Gene. It’s a simple theory: replicators are “anything in the universe of which copies are made.”

Iterative creation asserts that replicators do not really exist, because nature does not produce carbon copies of anything.  This information is easily observed using the tools of modern science. Every living organism is unique, conforming to a specific genetic blueprint.

Replication makes exact copies.  However, very human has unique DNA. Every human has unique fingerprints.  Each finger has a unique print.

Unique DNA is not limited to humans. According to science, any dog on the planet may be identified by DNA found in his poop.

DNA is really amazingly organized information, if you think about it. dna-structure-and-bases

We have learned through analysis of DNA culled from various organisms that each distinct morphological type has a unique pattern, and within that pattern each individual has a unique algorithm that differentiates that creature from every other known creature on Earth.

Evolution theory is only assumed true (and we recently learned that making flawed assumptions often leads to erroneous conclusions) because we know a very few “facts” and extrapolate beyond the limits of imagination simply because of the perception there isn’t viable alternative in the form of competing theory. That’s only because iterative creation hasn’t been seriously considered by anyone (but me) to date. Creationism in general is treated synonymously with Young Earth Creation (YEC), which cannot be true if the scientific tests we know as radio carbon dating are accurate for the first 50,000 years. Iterative creationism is not constrained by time.

Furthermore, the fossil record contains every indication that modern life is quite different from earlier and more ancient life forms. Unless the Bible references to “leviathan” and “behemoth” are references to dinosaurs, it’s reasonable to assume the Bible omitted mention of dinosaurs because its writers were unaware of its existence. As far as we know, mankind wasn’t around when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

But is it reasonable to assume humans descended from dinosaurs through a number of intermediate stages when the only means of produced a new generation was sexual reproduction?

The argument about the Bible and YEC is irrelevant to iterative creation. The value of Noah isn’t when it happened or whether the flood actually occurred according to the geological record, but the important fact to realize is that the Bible is reporting an incident of mass extinction.

Creation theory is often mocked by atheists because God is perceived as magic.  Its critics are quick to point out perceived errors and contradictions in the Bible and point out that the six days of creation are demonstrably untrue. Assuming radio carbon dating is anywhere close to accurate. I’m prepared to assume the margin of error is not plus or minus several billion years. Yet in evolution theory, time itself is magic.

Please consider this simple, elegant alternative to YEC (Young Earth Creationism) and Darwinian evolution: after creating the universe by speaking in the Big Bang anomaly, God formed the first living organism, solving the problem of abiogenesis (we have no idea how it happened.) The breath of life from a supernatural Creator caused inanimate matter to become animated. It’s much more logical to believe the origin of life happened on purpose than by accident. Iterative Creation also solves the “insufficient time” problem for DNA to form, eliminating the need for silly hypotheses like panspermia to move the problem of life off the Earth to give DNA more time to evolve. Simple life came first in order for the building blocks to come in proper sequence. Plants had to precede animals because animals need plants for food, to produce oxygen, shade, etc.  Interestingly, the order in which life emerged in the Bible according to Genesis Chapter 1 essentially matches the fossil record.

God made a blueprint, sexually paired the creature with male and female, and continued creating. Iterative creation hypothesis differs from biblical teaching in that life is not believed to be “perfect” from the onset as created by a perfect Creator, but more like a divine experiment. Each day of creation was not delineated by the revolution of the Earth on its axis, but punctuated by a period of extinction. Therefore, by human standards, our “experiment” and God’s “day of rest” may have only started between 6,000 – 10,000 years ago, but the Earth may have formed much earlier.

Why say “may” instead of “was?” Because I don’t know with absolute certainty when the Earth was created. I know that a consensus of scientists agree that the planet is around 4 billion years old, but I also realize that these are experts who believe they know certain things, not unlike how I believe that I know God exists.

southernprose_cover_CAFGThe creator God artiste periodically cleaned the palette of creation and formed new life.  The biblical account implies perfection of God is reflected in the finished product of creation. Dinosaurs were simply models, or prototypes, if you will.  Why do we assume each animal form is a “one and done” proposition?

A perfect creator is not required to create perfectly. Six mass extinctions create problems for evolutionary biologists – a lot of chlorine gets periodically poured into the gene pool.

Evolutionists proposed a theory called punctuated equilibrium or explosive evolution to explain the rather obvious periodic episodes of eradication and renewal.

The problem with punctuated equilibrium is that the theory strongly implies innate intellect is somehow programmed into our DNA. When asked directly how species came to rapidly diversify and repopulate the Earth with new organisms in what scientists term “the Cambrian explosion”, evolution expert Dr. Michael Ruse suggested that the remaining organisms somehow recognized environmental niches existed and evolved to fill them. With all due respect for Dr. Ruse, that sounded remarkably flippant, and not unlike the ridiculous plot in one of my favorite Monty Python skits.

I wish I’d been ready to propose my hypothesis of iterative creation as an alternative at the time.

The overall weakness of secular evolution is that obvious interdependencies must be denied so that theory can be separated from hypothesis and conjecture. Therefore evolution theory is unconcerned with abiogenesis.

Conversely, iterative creation acknowledges that the Big Bang, abiogenesis, speciation and natural selection must be explicable in order for life to exist.

My theory asserts this occurs when God creates a base pair of “species” (a term abused and bastardized by scientism advocates to muddy the waters). God didn’t have to individually create polar bear, grizzly bear, sun bear, etc.  He only needed to create the genetic blueprint for bear in male and female form. Afterward nature could take its course.

God created the dinosaurs. Then God apparently decided he didn’t like them and essentially wiped them off the face of the Earth.  Given the awesome power required to perform a supernatural act of creation (or destruction), I’d have to say it’s God’s prerogative. It seems logical to assume, after five major extinctions followed by emergence of almost exclusively new life forms, that some sort of divine plan is being executed to perfection.

It’s perfectly natural to believe God, the very creator of Nature, would use natural means to perform supernatural feats.  In fact, a future article will offer natural explanations for the ten plagues of Egypt.  God may work in mysterious ways — why not use natural methods?

Does it make sense that God might use evolution to shape new life from existing DNA? I suppose God does not have to actively create new creatures because he created a purposeful vehicle called sexual reproduction to accomplish His work without intervention.

Even variations within a morphological form occur; we call them ring species. Perhaps even mutations beyond what should be considered a species are possible. If the term species actually still meant something, we might be able to tell. Only God can say how he created life. Humans simply don’t live long enough to witness a mass extinction and the emergence of new life. The only thing we really know is that life exists.

Life is remarkable, diverse, wondrous, and incredibly resilient.

Apparently by design.

 

DNA, the ultimate source code

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Another in the series of articles explaining how evolution theory requires luck or intent in order to be reconciled with existential science knowledge and current understanding. The original content has been reformatted and lightly edited to make it easier to read.]

dna_sequencingDNA: the ultimate source code

In my writings as Atlanta Creationism Examiner, I have never pretended to be a scientist. On the other hand, for two decades I wrote computer software for a living, so I am considered an expert by many in the field of software development and application programming.

In college I was taught “Computer Science”, called Management Information Systems in Business school, but I never really considered programming software a “science.”  Science seems to take place most often in an ivory tower paid for by government grant.

By the same token, I saw very little management of information systems in the real world. Our code more behaved like electronic assistants to help do a job as opposed to decision makers who told you how.

If there’s any one thing that I know about computer software that will always be true, it’s that you cannot guess what will happen inside the machine simply be reading its source code. If something is in code, it is a form of software. That means it has been designed.

Look, I know how software works; I have created applications that remains in use today, years after leaving the business. I know the computer is no smarter than its programmer.

I wrote banking software, translation tools, financial applications, email service providers and user interfaces in languages called Basic, Pascal, and Visual C++.

Depending on where you bank or shop, you might deposit your paycheck or buy a tennis racquet using code I wrote.  You may swipe your credit card and answer a question I posed: credit or debit, or “electronic benefits transfer?” (a quaint euphemism for food stamps) At various points in my career, I was considered quite good at my job. Often, I got more credit than I deserved.

My boss thought it ingenious to see how I learned to reuse code by making it more generic in function, but I always considered myself something of a slacker. I wasn’t being economical as much as I hated writing the same block of code more than once. Why reinvent the wheel?

Code is always written in a form of extreme punctuation-specific “pidgin” English. It gets translated by a compiler into machine language, an unintelligible stream of zeroes and ones. An essential tool of any software developer is called a debugger. It is software that allows the programmer to follow the code instructions line-by-line, looking for errors called software “bugs.” The term originated with the first computer malfunction, literally caused by a flying insect.

More than once dubbed a “Subject Matter Expert”, I was sent to teach others how to use our application products to develop customized solutions.

It’s never hurt my potential for success as a public speaker that, as my wife has said, I can talk the bark off a tree. I had geek street credentials. Once I got “marooned” in Australia for almost six months. I got paid to watch a tennis tournament. It was a tough life, but somebody had to do it.

Paid to travel the world on an expense account just to play the hero when something broke…is this a great country, or what? Life is good. Those t-shirts aren’t lying.

When we write software code, expecting it to perform a specific task and produce work to our benefit. Sometimes unanticipated consequences arise from our best conceived plans. We fail to account for bad data introduced by operator error or otherwise flawed input.

Garbage in, garbage out. Best laid plans of mice and men, you know? Simply reading through the “pidgin” English of software language does not explain why the software broke. Was the code fault tolerant in the sense it handled the exception properly? You have to be able see a problem happen to know where things began to go wrong.  It could be as simple as a comma used instead of a semi-colon or a misplaced parenthesis.

The wrong value could be stuffed into a variable or the wrong variable could be used by mistake in equation. It’s extraordinarily difficult to write a thousand lines of source code without making a single mistake. Software code should be elegant, meaning as few instructions as possible should be used.

Keep It Simple, Stupid – the KISS principle.

By building simple blocks of code into procedures and functions, source may be reused by multiple processes, even crossing application boundaries by the inclusion of dynamic linked libraries (DLLs).

The most evolutionary software development tool in my repertoire for about half of my career was C++, a development language that used inheritance to share code attributes between objects.

Ironically, we really did create and deploy objects using descent with modification. I may not be a scientist or a geneticist and certainly, I’m no expert on DNA. But I do know quite a bit about designing, writing, and debugging software code to solve real problems. Slinging code is not easy.  To be more precise, it’s not easy to do well. One of the few things I know about DNA is that 3 billion lines of code, or instructions, are programmed within a single living cell.

That’s a lot of information crammed into a microscopic object. No human programmer who ever lived has come up with a comparable design. It’s a miracle that two people were able to figure out how DNA works. We owe a debt to Crick and Watson. Simultaneously, the code is incredibly simple and complex. DNA is so simple, it contains only four nucleotides: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. Recombined into different sequences, these four building blocks can create any living organism on Earth. We aren’t sure how it happens but if the order of gene sequencing is scrambled, the result seems to be a completely different organism.

From information culled from one cell, scientists can tell if it was a liver or a brain cell. They can tell if it came from a primate or a human. They can tell you exactly which human body produced that one cell, out of several billion on the planet. All done from the DNA instructions found in one living cell.

Computers are only half as complex as DNA – instead of four variables, you only get a zero or a one. No computer expert on the planet can read a thousand lines of source code and predict every conceivable outcome with both valid and invalid input. How can any human on earth read 3 billion instructions in a single strand of DNA and without testing be able to tell what purpose each individual nucleotide serves?dna-structure-and-bases

It’s a pretty impressive partial list when you consider organisms to which this “law” of simple DNA recombination applies: alligator, ape, boa constrictor, centipede, daffodil, elephant, flounder, giraffe, hippopotamus, iguana, jackal, kangaroo, lemur, moose, newt, oak tree, penguin, Quaker, rooster, salamander, worm, and zebra.

The one common denominator between each of these disparate life forms is DNA. In my years of experience, I never encountered code that wrote itself except by using code generation tools.

I helped write a code generation tool once.  An (arguably) intelligent designer exists somewhere behind every piece of source code in existence. I felt obligated to qualify “intelligent designer” because I lumped humans together with God.

I’m quite sure that God is intelligent, but sometimes I question the wisdom my fellow man. Frequently I question my own intelligence.

No human is qualified to question the intelligence of the only true Creator, the designer of DNA. Humans don’t really know how to make anything from scratch.

 

[Author’s Addendum: Since this article was originally published, I have confessed to being rather impressed by the 3D printer, but that output still doesn’t compare to a living organism.]

[Final Word: The lecture by Dr. James Tour that specify the problems with assuming a purely “natural” origin of life are quite convincingly presented in this lecture video.]

The conjecture of evolution theory

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the second installment of the series of articles originally published at Examiner.com while I was writing as the Atlanta Creationism Examiner. Lightly edited and re-formatted from the original version.]

dick-tracyThe conjecture of evolution theory

Change occurs constantly.  It’s impossible to deny.

However, the word “evolution” is often used analogous with virtually all “change”. That definition is much too ambiguous.

The philosophical theory called evolution describes an ambiguous process by which new life forms allegedly are created if given enough time. I will repeat the question I have invited my biologist friends to answer:

Assuming “evolution” is true, how does sexual reproduction create a new genome that alters a creature’s morphology to be different enough from its parents to be called a new animal (or plant)? 

What magic elixir or ingredient besides time causes or allows for this sort of change (I have somewhat mockingly referred to as shape shifting) to occur?

Surely we can all agree that for Archaeopteryx to evolve into another creature or vice versa, there has to be some point in time where the “base” parent animal (stealing terminology from my objected-oriented past) can be differentiated from the “derived” child animal as a fundamentally different organism, correct? Surely some explanation other than sexual reproduction can account for different morphologies in variant organisms derived from DNA?

In layman’s terms — at some point in time, my zoologist friends have got to be able to say the offspring of an Archaeopteryx is no longer Archaeopteryx. Dawkins insists the only possible explanation is natural selection allows for advantageous mutations accumulate over time to the point where a rat can go blind, grow wings, develop sonar and can then be called a bat. If given enough time. It sounds so simple. But how does it work?

Assuming some sort of answer to my question for the biologists does exist, it will provide the beginning of a foundation for my finally understanding how Darwin’s “evolution theory” (which is actually called natural selection) really works. Natural selection is not synonymous with evolution. It is merely one facet of the secular attempt to solve the creation equation.

My hypothesis for Divine Evolution includes an equation to express how best to explain the origin of life:

Creation = Big Bang + abiogenesis + (speciation + X) + natural selection.

This only stands to reason if evolution is asserted to somehow disprove creationism as the theory’s advocates such as Richard Dawkins have done.

My rationale is simple – creation is a philosophical theory (albeit with religious overtones) that attempts to explain the origin of the universe and the origin of life in addition to the origin of the species.

Any secular solution must be able to do the same if it can be successfully used to remove creation from all due consideration.

Any solution to the creation equation must solve for X.

The answer is not time. (Hint: Try X = God.)

I find it flabbergasting that so many people assert that science somehow “own” the facts of evolution. By contrast, religion is said to be purely based on faith, divorced from fact.

But facts are facts. Facts belong only to the truth.

And what is truth? Quid est veritas?

While faith is certainly a component of my belief in a supernatural Creator, I’m not sure why others automatically assume that logic, facts, and reason are absent because religious faith is present. Common sense and logic are not mutually exclusive to my faith in God. If anything, the opposite is true. Let’s examine evolution theory a little further, shall we? We can separate more fact from conjecture.

Sometimes natural selection is referred to as “micro evolution”. The theory no one seems to be able to explain is called “macro evolution”, another name for the many flavors of speciation.

Gene flow, allopatric speciation, or genetic drift seems to reasonably answer the question of why we have polar bears and grizzly bears that can mate and spawn polizzlies when they come into proximity. Peripatric speciation may well be a valid explanation for slight variations within an isolated population of fruit flies breeding on a bunch of floating rotten bananas. An excellent example of sympatric speciation seems to be available in the cichlids of Lake Victoria. Parapatric speciation ought to explain the existence of ring species such as Larus gulls. [Author’s Note: future posts will explain Larus gulls, which are a type of ring species.] I don’t have any problem with any these theories to explain changes to cause variations in sea gulls, fish, or salamanders..

But all of these theories haven’t begun to answer my question.

What biological process plus natural selection leads to polizzlies, fruit flies, cichlids and Larus gulls from a single common ancestor?  Why is it so easy to believe something that we know cannot happen within a short period of time will happen eventually if enough time elapses? We are told that bears “evolved” from an extinct ancestral species of mammal about 13 million years ago, but crocodiles basically haven’t evolved since they were dinosaurs.  Why?

Help me solve for X.

By regressing evolution theory to the origin of life, we will eventually reach LUCA and the hypothesis known as abiogenesis. Sort of like the hero of the movie Highlander, there can be only one LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor.) Abiogenesis (chemical origin of life) is grotesquely improbable enough without expecting it to happen more than once by accident.

Yet it’s precisely why Richard Dawkins would say it’s a “fact” that my dog is also my cousin.

And somehow I’m the one who’s labeled the delusional “history-denier?”

Now Richard Dawkins might be considered the equivalent of a modern day Emperor of science (by the average atheist) for all I care, but if he’s wearing no clothes, shouldn’t someone speak up? How can “fact” or even “theorum” possibly be constructed on the foundation of a relatively weak hypothesis?

It’s a rather curious use of the word “fact.”

Remember, in his book Dawkins kindly provided a definition he borrowed from Oxford Dictionary for the word “fact” which I repeated in The “facts” of evolution theory.

The salient phrase from the definition that Dawkins offered was truth known by actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred, or to a conjecture or fiction.

Yet Dawkins disparages the reliability of eyewitness testimony, using himself as example after viewing the infamous Simons gorilla video experiment.

I marvel at the fact he took from the experiment that we should not trust our own eyes in favor of scientific inference because he can’t trust his. He was easily fooled, so Dawkins naturally assumes everyone else would be fooled as easily. He must believe that no one else on the planet would notice the gorilla…the implication seems to be that nobody else could possibly be as smart as Richard Dawkins. That may well be true — but I saw the gorilla.

True, if he hadn’t revealed the trick behind the real experiment, I might also have been fooled when I watched the video. I knew it was coming, only because he revealed the secret of the experiment. Now we’ll never know for sure. He’s such a spoil sport.

The key to creating the deception is that the viewer is told what to watch for something specific. Misdirection was a favorite trick of magicians long before the Bible was ever written. It’s an odd coincidence that the overwhelming appearance of intelligent design is said to be an illusion by people who freely admit they can easily be fooled into believing an illusion.

Dawkins does apparently have a sense of humor – he suggested in his book that scientists are like detectives investigating a crime scene. With all due respect, however, Mr. Dawkins makes for a pretty lousy detective.frontpagecolumbo1

However, I shall save my critique of his relative skill in deductive reasoning for my next article, tentatively titled Watching the Detective. [Author’s Note: pretty sure I never published an article by that title, but I do write detective novels and stand by my evaluation of his skills as a detective, which are rather poor.]

I’ve tried to explain to my biologist friends that you don’t have as much time as you think you do for life to “evolve” by random chance combined with natural selection and X. (Because of numerous mass extinctions shown in the fossil record.) That’s why we need more than hypotheses like panspermia and punctuated equilibrium just to give DNA enough time to form, much less create the extinct life seen in fossil record and modern life without God. And the whole reason for coming up with the hypothesis of panspermia is because according to “experts” like Richard Dawkins, DNA supposed to be formed by random chance.

Earth has finally existed long enough for DNA to have had time to form by random luck, but just barely. Yet we know carbon dating says the earliest forms of life are billions of years old.

Six billion coded instructions in one living cell!  Think about it! DNA is an enormous statistical improbability, to say the least. However, the “ultimate” argument made against supernatural creation is that it is more impossible to believe than natural evolution.

Belief in God is ridiculed, and Yahweh is called “an invisible man in the sky”. Creationists are ridiculed as delusional ignoramuses for daring to think a supernatural Creator might be responsible for everything. But shape shifting from plant to animal when simply “given enough time” should be accepted, no problem.

A Watchmaker loses to Cat People? Irony can be delicious.catpeople

The facts of evolution spoke for themselves. I have certainly accepted that Crick and Watson decoded the mystery of DNA, the common denominator.

DNA is the fundamental building block of life, the “Lego” of divine construction.

DNA is the most sophisticated yet simple source code algorithm to which I’ve ever been exposed. It’s brilliant, the ultimate source code. (Spoken as a former software developer.) Consider how remarkable it is that “spelling” the same simple code in different genetic patterns can create such unbelievably difference life forms as a peony and a porcupine.

But it does not stand to reason that peonies and porcupines share a common ancestor. The conjecture of evolution is that:

1. Humans are most closely related to bonobo apes or chimpanzees, slightly less related to other apes, and related to every other form of life on Earth by some form of descent over eons.

2. The fossil record proves the Earth is ancient, that primitive life forms came first and more complex life came later, and DNA proves the close relationship between different organisms.

3. Animals such as the cichlids in Lake Victoria and Larus gulls differentiate and alter genetic code to be distinguishable from similar fish and birds sharing a common ancestor, we should also assume that fish are related to birds because both have DNA.

4. Complexity such as eyes, wings, or the ability to navigate by sonar is not irreducible because useless organs could have genetically altered to become productive, as long as there is enough time. Hence we have the mousetrap/tie clip. (I bet this guy in the video does believe in the intelligent design of the pocket protector.)

5. Because “creation” means that a perfect God created life perfectly within a six day period and every known science provides rather obvious evidence to refute that claim, there is no viable alternative to scientific theory of evolution. (My next article I shall call Iterative Creation, and it will specifically address this claim.)

6. We can safely conclude that God does not exist because science has demonstrated that a Creator is not necessary for evolution to occur.

I promise not to cast aspersions on your character if that’s what you want to believe.  Believe whatever you want. But please don’t claim the theory of evolution is an indisputable fact.

The “facts” of evolution theory

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was another article originally published as the Atlanta Creationism Examiner, the first in a short series written shortly before the publication of my book Counterargument for God. The purpose of the series was to explain my alternative to Darwin’s theory of natural selection as the best potential explanation for the origin of new species, based on the existing evidence. Although my alternate hypothesis involves a supernatural intelligence capable of designing the universe and life within, it is called iterative creation. Other articles in this series include The conjecture of evolution, Compounded improbabilities, and Iterative creation.

This morning an atheist acquaintance on the internet inspired publication of this piece (originally written in 2012) by accusing me of advocating intelligent design as a scientific theory. The reality is that my argument is almost the polar opposite extreme — iterative creation is a philosophical hypothesis that competes with the philosophy known as “macro” evolution to explain the existing scientific evidence, which consists of DNA analysis, the known fossil record, and comparative anatomy.]

southernprose_cover_CAFGThe “facts” of evolution

This might take a while.

The argument from authority, which could also be called the argument of superior intellect, gets old after a while.

You don’t have to convince me that you’re smart.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

You only need to convince me that you’re right.

Then I’ll actually believe what you tell me.

A new Facebook friend tried to help me, sending a link to a HuffPo article explaining why my Christian faith required accepting evolution as fact.

Article author Mr. Dudley said nothing new or interesting except:

In this analysis, Christians must accept sound science, not because they don’t believe God created the world, but precisely because they do.

With all due respect sir, I only must accept sound science when it makes sense or is provably true. Seeing is believing.

Ironically, Mr. Dudley might be tempted to join Mr. Dawkins and assure me that some things I have seen were “all in my head.”

I even devoted a chapter of Divine Evolution to ask that question, “Is It In My Head?”DivineEvolutionCover_eBook_final

Asked, then answered with a little help from Carl Jung.

In his article, Dudley advocates accepting Francis Collins’ theory called theistic evolution. The subject was broached first when I wrote a review of his book The Language of God.

While I appreciate Dr. Collins’ contribution to decoding the human genome, I think his skills in deductive reasoning are as challenged as, well…Richard Dawkins.

This article is the first in a series inspired by Dawkins’ book The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution.

It will be soon followed by a complementary piece tentatively titled The conjecture for evolution.

In his most recent tome, Dawkins made some rather audacious claims about evolution that demand to be addressed.

His first, and most bold claim, is to assert the “fact” of evolution.  He writes,

Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzee, somewhat more disk that cousins of monkey, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips…continue the list as long as desired. (pg 8) [bold and italics added for emphasis]

Did you catch that? Dawkins is asserting that I am insane and stupid for daring to question whether or not I might be the distant cousin of a turnip, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. What a curious definition of insanity!

I would never be so bold to respond in kind. Remember, he does argue from authority.

Richard Dawkins is a former Oxford professor and the Charles Simonyi beneficiary/recipient with a PhD in zoology. To be open and honest about the limits of my formal education, I graduated with a BBA in Management Information Systems from UGA.  So we’re not exactly comparing an apple to an apple. Advantage to Mr. Dawkins.

Mr. Dawkins has also written ten books, including the international best seller The God Delusion, with sales in excess of 2 million copies. By comparison, to date I’ve written one book called Divine Evolution that somebody else was kind enough to publish, some short stories I’ve sold and an unpublished detective novel. I’m certain the number of copies sold of Divine Evolution is greater than zero, but by how many is anyone’s guess.  It may not have reached triple digits — yet. [Author’s update: up to six published works as of this republication.]

Check. Advantage again to Mr. Dawkins, however.

The first chapter of The Greatest Show on Earth is littered with names dropped of clergy that support evolution theory: the Bishop of Oxford and the Pope, just to name two “enlightened bishops and theologians” as Dawkins quaintly described them.

Dawkins’s argument from authority is buttressed by scientific and religious authority, neither of which impresses me unduly. Sorry, but I’m not Catholic, Anglican, or a scientist.

His argument from authority won’t stop me from asking a few pointed questions. We have not yet reached checkmate.

What is a theory?  What is a fact?

The Oxford English dictionary gives two meanings for the word “theory.”

Theory, Sense 1: a scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.

Richard Dawkins liked that first definition, but not this second one…

Theory, sense 2: a hypothesis as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion.

Mr. Dawkins contends “Sense 1” conveys the appropriate use of the word “theory” as it applies to scientific theories such as the Newtonian theory of gravity or our “belief” that the Earth revolves around the sun.

We’re pretty sure about gravity and the operation of our solar system through direct observation of the effects of gravity and the annual revolution of the Earth around the sun.

Dawkins distinguishes between the two definitions by saying “common sense treats it [scientific theory] as a fact.”

Fact: Something that has actually occurred or is actually the case; something certainly known to be of this character; hence, a particular truth known by actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred, or to a conjecture or fiction; a datum of experience, as distinguished from the conclusions that may be based upon it.

Eureka! He’s opened the door for me to use common sense to discuss the “facts” of evolution.

Now, we’re talking!

And the first thing I’d like to say is that the argument from authority does not allow one to make up words if the opposition isn’t allowed.

Remember how I got lambasted [Author’s note: you shouldn’t unless you read my work during my tenure as Atlanta Creationism Examiner] for inventing a term to describe a “scientific” theory that seemed to lack a name? I called it “forked speciation” (the actual technical term is allopatric speciation) to describe the “evolution theory” explanation for Archaeopteryx, and the objections were deafening.

Well, Richard Dawkins invented the word “theorum.”

I object. I was simply following his example, which was to make up a word to describe something for which I didn’t know the technical term. His definition of his made-up word was as follows:

Theorum: it has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; [it is] a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles or causes of something known or observed.

Evolution is neither a theory or a fact. It’s a philosophy that extrapolates Darwin’s theory of natural selection as an interpretive explanation of scientific evidence. The evidence is indisputable. The interpretation is not.

It’s isn’t a silly made-up term like “theorum” or an equally ridiculous “meme.”

The facts of evolution are quite easy to summarize.

  1. Things change.
  2. All living organisms have unique DNA, meaning that an DNA can be classified to belong
    to a particular species, then further to one specific animal within that species.
  3. There are rocks with impressions of dead animals and plants called fossils. This “fossil jackwebbrecord” indicates that vastly different animals like dinosaurs lived in the past. Most modern creatures are quite different than these ancestral forms, but there are modern versions of the earliest forms of living organisms on Earth.

Those are “just the facts”, as Detective Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet. The “facts” of evolution speak for themselves.

And I will cheerfully stipulate that the above facts are true.

Assuming we agree on this much, we can now examine the conjecture about evolution.

Proof versus evidence

guadalupe1Some of my atheist friends (excluding my friend Kyle, of course) are always demanding proof that God exists, but I’ve come to realize that they don’t really mean it.

What most of them want is to insist they have no reason to believe in a supernatural God, but generally because they simply don’t want God to exist, because that would conflict with their existing worldview. Demanding proof that God exists implies that person does not fully understand the concept of faith.

Proof and faith are mutually exclusive.

If you have proof, faith is no longer required. Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you. (Pun intended)

Anyway, honest scientists don’t talk in terms of proof. Scientists mostly talk about what they can deduce from what the evidence tells them.

Personally, I think that I waste too much of my life arguing with unhappy atheists. I don’t particularly enjoy being constantly needled or ridiculed by very angry people simply for expressing my opinion, especially I don’t really consider myself any sort of evangelist for Christianity. I’m just a writer.

My best writing seems to focus on things that interest me, and because I consider myself a Christian, alleged evidence that supports Christian faith interests me quite a bit.

But I understand that when I seek information about a story, I’m not seeking proof the story is true. I’m merely seeking evidence to support or debunk a claim being made.

For example, I’ve said before that the Shroud of Turin will never and could never be fully authenticated as the burial cloth in which the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped after crucifixion, no matter what any scientific expert might claim.

That claim can never be proved simply because we don’t have the DNA of Jesus on file to compare with the blood evidence reportedly found on the shroud.

However, tests have shown that real blood once saturated the material, that the cloth was once located within a 50-mile radius of Jerusalem, and the carbon dating tests that many atheists have been led to believe “proved” the shroud was a medieval forgery were more recently invalidated.

As a Christian, I don’t need the shroud to be real, but I am comfortable believing it’s real because scientific evidence hasn’t proved it’s fake. The fact that a team of scientists spent two weeks trying to determine how the image could have been faked only managed to rule out all the known ways such an image might have been intentionally created by human hands.  They couldn’t prove what created the image on the shroud; they could only say they knew what wasn’t done — the image wasn’t painted.

Though not as famous as the Shroud of Turin, the tilma of Juan Diego is another example of a religious relic that science can’t begin to explain.

When I originally posted the article about the tilma as the Atlanta Creationism Examiner, some of my critics actually complained because I described the material as cotton, which was incorrect, while failing to acknowledge that the actual material, cactus fiber, is even less durable than cotton.

Even so, like the Shroud of Turin, the decision on whether or not to believe that it is what some people believe it is ultimately becomes a matter of faith. If someone doesn’t want to believe the shroud or tilma are real, it only becomes necessary to point out that proof they are authentic is an unachievable goal.

The believer does not require proof, but may still enjoy the benefits of having strong circumstantial evidence support their “leap” of faith, if that helps.

Consider the tilma of Juan Diego — we could never prove this allegedly illiterate peasant actually encountered the Virgin Mary on a hilltop outside of Mexico City, but information exists that lends tremendous credibility to the belief that extraordinary events may have created the image on the tilma, such as:crucifix

  • In 1929, a terrorist tried to destroy the tilma with 29 sticks of dynamite, which blew out windows 150 meters from the site of the bomb, which had been placed directly underneath the relic. The heavy iron crucifix shown on the right that was next to the tilma was horribly bent and mangled by the bomb blast. The thin fabric, protected only by a sheet of glass, was undamaged.
  • In 1785, a worker accidentally spilled nitric acid on the tilma, which should have destroyed both image and material. However, within thirty days, the image had self-restored.
  • Most interestingly, scientists have taken readings on the material and discovered it is consistently the exact same temperature as a living human being (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Personally, I’ve never seen the Shroud of Turin or the tilma of Juan Diego. As a non-Catholic, religious relics and icons aren’t terribly important to me.  On the other hand, I have friends who have either seen the Shroud of Turin or the tilma of Juan Diego in person who shared their experiences with me.

My friend who visited Mexico and saw the tilma of Juan Diego gave me his impression of the evidence and in his opinion, the image looked as if it had been dyed into the fabric, and not painted. The fact that I know he’s a professionally trained artist allows me to assign a little more weight to his opinion of an “art” object than I might to an amateur opinion from an unknown or questionable source.

That doesn’t make his “better educated” opinion true, of course, only more likely to be correct. Fortunately (for my artist friend) his beliefs are in complete agreement with analysis and testing conducted by fully qualified professional scientists, considered experts in their respective fields. My friend doesn’t really need to worry about his opinion being distorted by personal confirmation bias; it has been confirmed by experts.

And yet what do all of these words prove? Nothing, of course. All this information does is to give a person open to belief valid reasons to believe.

I don’t need for the Shroud of Turin or the tilma of Juan Diego to be real in order to have my faith. The atheist simply can’t afford for them to be true.

This might explain why the argument about their authenticity always seems far more important to the average atheist than it is to me.