Gamma Ray Flares Constrain Beginning-of-Universe Speculations

BY HUGH ROSS – AUGUST 12, 2019

Skeptics of big bang creation cite a loophole in their attempts to avert a beginning for our universe and, hence, the implication of a causal agent. A new discovery on gamma-ray emissions from a supergiant galaxy stands to address the loophole from early in the universe’s history in an “era” (an extremely brief moment after the beginning) called quantum gravity.

Big Bang Wiggle Room?
As I describe in my book The Creator and the Cosmosthe last-ditch loophole to escape a cosmic beginning that implies the existence of a Causal Agent beyond space and time (the God of the Bible) is speculation about the quantum gravity era.“Era” is a misnomer. It refers to a time back in the history of the expanding universe when the universe was smaller than the diameter of a fundamental particle. In the context of the big bang creation model, it refers to when the universe was younger than 10-43 seconds old!

The quantum gravity era is that imperceptibly brief moment when:

  • all four fundamental forces of physics (electromagnetism, weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, and gravity) were unified into a single force,
  • the effects of quantum mechanics in governing the dynamics of the universe and how those effects integrate with gravitational effects can no longer be ignored, and
  • the energy density of the universe is so extreme that no conceivable instrument or experiment is capable of duplicating that energy density to determine what happens under those conditions.

The experimental limitation combined with the lack of a testable quantum gravity theory has motivated some theoretical physicists to speculate that perhaps the universe had no beginning and, hence, no need for a cosmic Beginner. In other words, these physicists take advantage of our ignorance about the quantum gravity era to speculate that perhaps some strange physics operated in the quantum gravity era that would permit a possible escape from a cosmic beginning. I will summarize some of the latest experimental results in the next several sections. Not every reader will need the technical details. If that’s you, feel free to jump ahead to “Creation Implications.”

Constraining the Unknown
There will always be something unknown about the universe. Thus, skeptics can speculate about strange physics that somehow undoes everything scientists understand about the known universe. Nevertheless, we can affirm what we do know and constrain speculations about what we do not know by pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. An analogy I offered in The Creator and the Cosmos would be for me to speculate that my wife of 41 years may not actually exist.2 Instead, I have been fooled all these years by some kind of very sophisticated three-dimensional hologram embedded with artificial intelligence. One way I can push farther back into the realm of incredulity would be for me to conduct more and a greater variety of experiments and observations on my wife.

In a recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal, a team of 228 astronomers reported on how observations they performed on gamma rays emitted from the blazar Mrk 501 (see figure 1) constrain those quantum gravity models that speculate Lorentz symmetry is broken during the quantum gravity era.3Lorentz invariance or Lorentz symmetry is the proposition that the laws of physics are the same for different observers—for example, no matter what the observer’s position, velocity, or rotation. It is a foundational principle of special relativity.

A blazar is a supergiant galaxy where the supermassive black hole in its nucleus generates a powerful jet of radiation that is aimed toward Earth (see figure 2). These jets exhibit flares over the entire electromagnetic spectrum. The highest-energy gamma rays in these flares allow astronomers to investigate propagation effects that determine the degree to which Lorentz invariance holds.

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Figure 1: The Blazar, Markarian 501. Image credit: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

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Figure 2: Artist’s Conception of a Supermassive Black Hole Producing a Blazar. Image credit: Robert Hurt, NASA/JPL-Caltech

Local Lorentz Invariance Affirmations
In the laboratory and within the solar system, Lorentz invariance has been affirmed to an exceptionally high degree. For example, a limit on the cyclotron frequency variation of the antiproton has been established at the level of 10-26.4 University of California, Davis physicist David Mattingly has written an excellent open-access review of laboratory experiments that yield high-degree affirmations of Lorentz invariance.5 In my December 18, 2017 blog I reported on how 48 years of data from lunar laser-ranging experiments had placed upper limits on possible violations of solar-system-scale Lorentz invariance that were 100–1,000 times superior to previous best measurements.6

Constraining Quantum Gravity Speculations
Several quantum gravity approaches require Lorentz symmetry to be broken at energy scales relevant to the quantum gravity era, otherwise known as the Planck scale or Planck energy, which = 1.22 x 1019 GeV (1.96 billion joules or 543 kilowatt hours).7 The Planck energy is equivalent to the chemical energy in 57.2 liters (15.1 gallons) of gasoline compressed into a single subatomic particle.

A major problem for observational and experimental constraints on quantum gravity speculations is that the highest-energy photons observed by astronomers top out at about 400 GeV8, and the highest particle accelerator energies at about 1,300 GeV.9 That is, direct observations and experiments fall a factor of ten quadrillion short of reaching the Planck energy. (To reach the Planck energy requires a particle accelerator 170 quadrillion miles, or 29,000 light-years, long!) However, violations of Lorentz invariance at the Planck energy level predict potentially observable consequences for the highest-energy particles and photons that traverse great distances of interstellar or intergalactic space. Such observations are known as time-of-flight measurements of high-energy neutrinos and photons from distant sources.

In the June 2019 issue of Journal of High Energy Astrophysics, a team of ten Chinese astronomers and physicists reported on their analysis of the 2018 detection of a high-energy (2.9 x 105 GeV) neutrino that was coincident with a flare from the blazar TXS 0506+056.9 This blazar is about 5.7 billion light-years from Earth. It is only the third astronomical object (the other two being the Sun and supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud 168,000 light-years away) from which physicists have detected neutrinos.

The team demonstrated that the association of the neutrino with the blazar flare placed limits on the energy scales of quantum gravity for both linear and quadratic violations of Lorentz invariance at greater than 3.2–37 x 1015 GeV and greater than 4.0–14 x 1010 GeV, respectively. While these limits fall 330 times short of the Planck scale, they represent a factor of a hundred thousand times improvement on previously established limits on linear Lorentz invariance violation energy scales in neutrino propagation.

In the September 2017 issue of Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, a team of 145 astronomers reported that they had found no variation in the arrival times with respect to energy levels for high-energy gamma rays emitted by the Crab Nebula pulsar. Consequently, they determined limits on the Lorentz invariance-violating energy scale greater than 5.5 x 1017GeV for a linear and greater than 5.9 x 1010 GeV for a quadratic scenario, respectively.10 Here, the established limit on the linear Lorentz invariance violation energy scale is only 22 times short of the Planck scale.

The team of 228 astronomers mentioned earlier has determined the best limit to date onLorentz invariance-violating energy scales. Their limit came from analyzing observations of 100+ GeV gamma rays with the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) phase II array of Cherenkov telescopes (see figure 3) during a bright flare of the Mrk 501 blazar on the night of June 23–24, 2014. For the linear scenario using a spectral approach on the observed gamma rays, the 228 astronomers established a limit of greater than 2.6 x 1019 GeV, and for the quadratic scenario, a limit of greater than 7.8 x 1011 GeV.11

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Figure 3: High Energy Stereoscopic System phase II Array of Cherenkov Telescopes in Namibia. Image credit: Klepser, DESY, H.E.S.S. Collaboration, Creative Commons Attribution

Creation Implications
For the first time, scientists have established a measured limit (of more than a factor of two) beyond the Planck scale. The lack of a positive signal of Lorentz violation in these new observations now requires cosmologists and theoretical physicists to restrict the classes of quantum gravity theories/space-time models that they should consider.

Scientific advance has constrained some of the nontheistic speculations about the quantum gravity era. The loophole now appears to be partially closed. This advance demonstrates that the farther we push back the frontiers of our scientific knowledge of the universe, the more strained it becomes to speculate a nontheistic explanation for the universe and the stronger the evidence becomes for the biblical cosmic creation model.12

Endnotes
  1. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God, 4thed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 100–105, 113, https://shop.reasons.org/product/599/the-creator-and-the-cosmos-fourth-edition.
  2. Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 191–92.
  3. Abdalla et al., “The 2014 TeV g-Ray Flare of Mrk 501 Seen with H.E.S.S.: Temporal and Spectral Constraints on Lorentz Invariance Violation,” Astrophysical Journal 870, no. 2 (January 10, 2019): id. 93, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aaf1c4.
  4. G. Gabrielse et al., “Precision Mass Spectroscopy of the Antiproton and Proton Using Simultaneously Trapped Particles,” Physical Review Letters 82 (April 19, 1999): 3198–3201, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.82.3198.
  5. David Mattingly, “Modern Tests of Lorentz Invariance,” Living Reviews in Relativity 8, no. 5 (December 2005): id. 5, doi:10.12942/lrr-2005-5.
  6. Hugh Ross, “General Relativity and Its Christian Implications Pass Yet More Tests,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, December 18, 2017, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2017/12/18/general-relativity-and-its-christian-implications-pass-yet-more-tests.
  7. Abdalla et al., “The 2014 TeV g-Ray Flare.”
  8. MAGIC Collaboration, “Constraining Lorentz Violation Using the Crab Pulsar Emission Observed up to TeV Energies by MAGIC,” Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 232, no. 1 (September 2017): id. 9, doi:10.3847/1538-4365/aa8404.
  9. Jun-Jie Wei et al., “Multimessenger Tests of Einstein’s Weak Equivalence Principle and Lorentz Invariance with a High-Energy Neutrino from a Flaring Blazar,” Journal of High Energy Astrophysics 22 (June 2018): 1–4, doi:10.1016/j.jheap.2019.01.002.
  10. MAGIC Collaboration, “Constraining Lorentz Violation.”
  11. Abdalla et al., “The 2014 TeV g-Ray Flare,” 1.
  12. Hugh Ross and John Rea, “Big Bang—the Bible Taught It First!” in The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 25–31, https://shop.reasons.org/product/599/the-creator-and-the-cosmos-fourth-edition. A slightly abbreviation version is available for free at https://reasons.org/explore/publications/rtb-101/read/rtb-101/2000/06/30/big-bang-the-bible-taught-it-first.

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Carbon-14 Dating Supports the Writing of the Great Isaiah Scroll Prior to the Crucifixion

By Guest Writer – July 26, 2019

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By Ken Wolgemuth

Radiocarbon dating is one of the best-known tools used by geochemists to obtain an age of ancient materials such as wood, bones, charcoal, and coral reef limestone. The method is suitable for samples less than 50,000 years old, and can be applied to disciplines like geology, paleontology, anthropology, and archaeology. Famous artifacts and sites dated with carbon-14 include the Dead Sea Scrolls and Hezekiah’s tunnel.

The dating of all biblical artifacts and sites is valuable for improving our understanding of Scripture, and dating the Dead Sea Scrolls helps establish the credibility of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. For example, Isaiah 53 paints a vivid picture of the pain endured by “a man of suffering.” This man is “pierced,” “crushed,” and “slaughtered” despite his innocence. Rather, declares the prophet, “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Christians believe that Jesus’s death fulfilled this prophecy. Indeed, it is difficult to miss the parallels between Isaiah’s man of suffering and Christ’s crucifixion. Because of this, skeptics have long argued that Isaiah 53 must have been written after the death of Christ. Radiocarbon dating of The Great Isaiah Scroll in the 1990s placed the texts between 351 and 230 BC—well before Christ’s time on Earth.

Here I will describe how three independent processes are integrated to give confidence in the reliability of the carbon-14 dating method: radioactive decay of carbon-14 (physics and chemistry), the growth of tree rings (biology), and annual layers of sedimentation (geology). It is ideal to have multiple lines of evidence!

Radioactive Decay and Tree Rings

The first process is the radioactive decay of carbon-14. The known half-life of carbon-14 is 5,730 years. These atoms are produced by collisions of cosmic rays with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. The resulting carbon-14 combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which growing plants take in for photosynthesis. When the plant dies, the resupply of carbon-14 is cut off and the concentration declines as the carbon-14 decays into nitrogen. Animals ingest the carbon-14 into their tissues until they die and then the carbon-14 declines. In both plant and animal matter, carbon-14 decays at a predictable rate based on its half-life.

The second process is the growth of tree rings. Each year of a tree’s life, rapid growth in the spring results in a light-colored layer in the trunk followed in autumn and winter by a darker layer. This process yields a method to count years into the past. In fact, the oldest known living tree is a bristlecone pine located in the White Mountains of California. This tree was discovered to have more than 5,000 annual rings, representing that many years. (It is in the same area as the tree nicknamed “Methuselah,” which was identified as the oldest tree for many years until recently.)

Dendrochronologists (scientists who study tree rings) can count beyond the age of individual trees by “cross-dating” the rings of multiple trees (see figure 1). Patterns in ring growth from trees in the same region can be aligned like bar codes. This overlap can provide a record extending much further into the past than the lifetime of any one tree. Using this method, scientists in Europe have produced an uninterrupted, overlapping, and cross-dated tree-ring record back to 14,000 years. (See red line in figure 3, by Davidson and Wolgemuth).

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Figure 1: Cross-dating tree rings. Patterns in ring growth from trees growing in the same region are aligned like bar codes to extend the count back in time. Image credit: Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth

Lake Suigetsu Varves

The third process is the sedimentation of annual layers called varves. Lake Suigetsu is part of a multi-lake system on the west coast of Japan that is dramatically unique for the study of climate history—so unique it’s nicknamed the “Miracle Lake.” Core samples from Lake Suigetsu show varves in alternating dark and light stripes (see figure 2). For long periods of time, the bottom waters of Lake Suigetsu were anoxic (no oxygen), which prevented burrowing organisms from disrupting the sediments.

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Figure 2: Photo of Lake Suigetsu varves. See Lake Suigetsu here. Image credit: Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth

River flow into adjacent Lake Mikata serves to trap coarse-grained sediment before the fine-grained sediment passes into Lake Suigetsu. This creates the dark layers. Each spring, algal blooms grow and produce tiny shells that rain down on the lake floor. This results in the light layers.

As with tree rings, age can be determined from counting the annual varves. One interval of Suigetsu core does not have varves from a time when bottom waters were oxygenated. Fortunately, the varve record overlaps the tree-ring record, – from 10,000 to 14,000 years – allowing varves and tree rings with the same carbon-14 content to line up (see figure 3). The majority of samples measured for carbon-14 were leaves and twigs found between the varves. In figure 3, varves are identified as (tiny) green circles and data from tree rings are in red. You can see that there are about 4,000 years of overlap between the tree rings and the varves. This overlap provides a superb opportunity to verify that the sedimentary couplets in Lake Suigetsu are varves—that is, the light and dark layering is indeed annual. Together, the tree-ring and varve count traces a history of nearly 50,000 years.

Notice that the red and green line of carbon-14 data is squiggly. This result is expected because the cosmic rays bombarding the earth vary over time. Therefore, to obtain a calendar age in years, this reference line is prepared first from the carbon-14 content in the tree rings and in the leaves among the varves as shown in figure 3. Then, for a sample of unknown age, its carbon-14 content is entered on the vertical axis, and the calendar age is determined from the horizontal axis entirely from counting the tree-rings or varves. So, if you can count tree rings/varves, and a laboratory measures the carbon-14, you can determine the calendar age on the horizontal axis – no complex half-life equation required.

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Figure 3: Tree ring and varve count vs. carbon-14 content. The solid lines represent the window for conventional expectations. Image credit: Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth. (For the full description, see figure 10 in the Davidson and Wolgemuth paper referenced in resources.)

Still another confirmation of the tree-ring count and carbon-14 age comes from a specific volcanic eruption 10,000 years ago. Argon-argon dating of an ash bed from the Lake Suigetsu core is consistent with the age determined by tree-ring counting. In other words, the ash is next to leaves in the varves that have the same amount of carbon-14 as a 10,000-year-old tree ring! (See figure 4.)

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Figure 4: Carbon-14 dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ar-Ar dating of an ash bed from the Lake Suigetsu core are consistent with ages determined by tree-ring counting. Image credit: Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth

Carbon-14 dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls is also consistent with the age determined by tree-ring counts that date back to 351 to 230 BC. This means we have the intersection of three completely independent methods tied together for one coherent result. Multiple lines of evidence support the conclusion that Old Testament prophecies, like Isaiah 53, predate the life of Christ. God has given us some very powerful tools to understand the past, including this history of His Scriptures.

* I want to thank Mark McEwan and Arnold Sikkema for assistance in clarifying the text. Thanks to the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation, who first published this article as a pamphlet at https://www.csca.ca/pamphlets.

Resources

  • Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth, “Testing and Verifying Old Age Evidence: Lake Suigetsu Varves, Tree Rings, and Carbon-14,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 70, no. 2 (June 2018): 75–89, https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2018/PSCF6-18Davidson.pdf.
  • Gordon Schlolaut et al., “Event Layers in the Japanese Lake Suigetsu ‘SG06’ Sediment Core: Description, Interpretation and Climatic Implications,” Quaternary Science Reviews 83 (January 1, 2014): 157–70.
  • R. A. Staff et al., “Integration of the Old and New Lake Suigetsu (Japan) Terrestrial Radiocarbon Calibration Data Sets,” Radiocarbon 55, no. 4 (2013): 2049–58; Christopher Bronk Ramsey et al., “A Complete Terrestrial Radiocarbon Record for 11.2 to 52.8 kyr B.P.,” Science 338, no. 6105 (October 19, 2012): 370–74.
  • Carol Hill, Gregg Davidson, Tim Helble, and Wayne Ranney (eds), The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2016). See chapter 19.

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About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

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New Speciation Model Challenges Evolution, Supports Creation

BY HUGH ROSS – AUGUST 19, 2019

Which model, naturalistic evolution or supernatural creation, best explains the pattern of life’s history on Earth? If a test produces “strikingly divergent results” for the expectations of a model, what does that tell us? A new study on speciation and extinction rates provides persuasive evidence.

Model Tenets
A fundamental tenet of all naturalistic models for the history of Earth’s life is that natural changes in the genomes of life will be responsible for the observed changes in the physical body structures (morphology) of life. Consequently, evolutionary trees (phylogenies, see figure 1) developed from the observed patterns in present-day genomes and the presumed natural rates of change of those genomes (molecular clocks). Assuming that strictly natural processes are responsible for the changes occurring throughout the history of life, the phylogenetic trees should match the morphological changes and the timing of those changes observed in the fossil record (or paleontological trees—see figure 2).

The same kind of match between the paleontology and phylogenetics can be realized if God intervened throughout life’s history. However, apparently only supernatural interventions can explain significant mismatches between phylogenetic and paleontological trees.

 

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Figure 1: Phylogenetic Tree of Life Derived from Completely Sequenced Genomes. The center represents the presumed first life-form on Earth. The genomes denoted on the outer circle are based on actual genetic data. The branching patterns in the inner circle presume that all species are entirely related to one another through strictly natural processes. Image credit: Ivica Letunic

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Figure 2: Spindle Diagram of the Presumed Evolution of Vertebrates. Width of the spindles indicates the number of extant families or the number of families represented in the fossil record. The curved (presumed) connecting lines are not supported by any physical remains. Image credit: Peter Bockman

In an open-access paper published in Nature Communications1, four computational biologists and biochemists led equally by Daniele Silvestro and Rachel Warnock concede:

“The fossil record and molecular phylogenies of living species can provide independent estimates of speciation and extinction rates, but often produce strikingly divergent results.”2

Silvestro, Warnock, and their two colleagues do not concede, however, that supernatural interventions explain the “strikingly divergent results.” They attempt to offer a possible naturalistic explanation.

Divergence Is Real and Striking
Biologists use over a dozen different definitions of a species. In their paper, the Silvestro-Warnock team defines a species as “an identifiable taxonomic unit (a lineage) that can persist through time, give rise to other species, and become extinct.”3

The team first recognizes that since “extant and fossil species are samples of the same underlying diversification process,”if the diversification process is by strictly natural means, researchers expect that in all cases the phylogenetic (presumed evolutionary) trees will match the paleontological (fossil record) trees. To put it another way, a match is expected since “methods used to estimate rates [of change] from fossils and phylogenies are based on the same underlying mathematical birth-death theory.”The team then documents that evolutionary biologists can no longer deny the frequent and striking divergences between phylogenetic and paleontological trees.

The Silvestro-Warnock team cited a recent study of extant terrestrial Carnivora.There, the estimated mean species longevity based on fossil evidence was 2.0 million years, contrasted with 9.8 million years derived from phylogenetics. They also cited a study demonstrating incongruence between phylogenies and fossils for primates.They noted that, at least for mammals, the occurrences of congruence are few.8

Speciation rates derived from phylogenetics consistently supersede those derived from the fossil record, while derived extinction rates are consistently lower than speciation rates. Perhaps the best studied example (see featured image) is for cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). The Silvestro-Warnock team cited research showing:

“Phylogenetic estimates of diversification rates among cetaceans suggest speciation has exceeded extinction over the past 12 Myr9implying diversity has increased towards the recent. In contrast, analyses of the cetacean fossil record indicate extinction has exceeded speciation over this same interval, and that the diversity of cetaceans was in fact much higher than it is today.”10

In other words, the naturalistic biological evolution model based on phylogenetics predicts that introduction of new species has exceeded extinctions, but the fossil record shows that the reverse is true. The research team did not address the fact that the discrepancies between phylogenetics and the fossil record appear to increase with the complexity and the adult body size of the genus. By contrast, such a correlation is predicted from a biblical creation model perspective for life.11

Silvestro, Warnock and collaborators do point out that several other researchers have attempted to explain the discrepancies by underestimates of the statistical and systematic errors in the two methods. However, the discrepancies in fact are much too large to be attributed to these errors.12

Attempted Reconciliation
The Silvestro-Warnock team suggests that many of the discrepancies between phylogenetics and the fossil record are due to sensitivities to different speciation modes. They identify three distinct modes of speciation that can leave behind fossil evidence without impacting the calculated phylogenetic trees:

  1. Cladogenesis via budding: a speciation event that gives rise to one new species. The ancestral species persists and no extinction occurs.
  2. Cladogenesis via bifurcation: a speciation event that gives rise to two new species, replacing the ancestral species, which becomes extinct.
  3. Anagenetic speciation: evolutionary changes along a lineage that result in the origination of one new species and the extinction of the ancestral species.

They also point out that extinction without replacement is a frequent occurrence, where a species becomes extinct without leaving any descendants. More simply put, the fossil record includes extinct and extant (living) species; whereas phylogenetic data typically include extant species only.

Silvestro, Warnock, and their colleagues developed a model in which they unify budding, bifurcation, anagenesis, and extinction in a single “birth−death chronospecies” (BDC) process. Their BDC model shows that phylogenetic and paleontological speciation and extinction rate estimates will only be equal if all speciation has occurred through budding. Furthermore, they demonstrate that “even in an ideal scenario with fully sampled and errorless data sets, speciation and extinction rates can only be equal across phylogenetic and stratigraphic inferences if all speciation events have occurred through budding and no speciation has occurred through bifurcation or anagenesis”13 (emphasis added). Their BDC model also reveals that phylogenetic analysis indicating extinction equal to zero does not imply that no extinction occurred.

Actual Reconciliation
The team’s BDC model establishes that relative to the fossil record, phylogenetics always underestimates extinction rates. The fossil record, which is largely incomplete, underestimates the true extinction rates. Much higher extinction rates pose a serious challenge to all strictly naturalistic models for Earth’s life because higher extinction rates require higher speciation rates to explain the increasing diversity of life observed in the fossil record throughout life’s history.

This requirement of higher speciation rates is all the more problematic for Earth’s most advanced species. For mammals, birds, and advanced plants, the observed extinction rates far exceed the observed speciation rates during the era of human existence (God’s seventh day when, according to Genesis 2, God ceased from his creation work and allowed natural processes operate).

The Silvestro-Warnock BDC model also exposes a fundamental limitation in naturalistic explanations for the history of Earth’s life. Since all naturalistic models require more than one speciation mode, and since the only way to reconcile phylogenetics and paleontology is to posit just one speciation mode, something other than strictly natural processes must operate.

Some evolutionary biologists will insist on the caveat that perhaps some unknown natural process might salvage a reconciliation between phylogenetics and paleontology. However, it is difficult to conceive how a natural process of sufficient magnitude to reconcile phylogenetics and paleontology could remain undiscovered. It appears to me that a creation model positing that the supernatural Creator intervened at several times throughout life’s history to replace life-forms driven to extinction fully reconciles this “discrepancy.” I am reminded of a verse (Psalm 104:24) from the longest of the creation psalms:

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Featured image: Nine Different Cetacean Species. Featured image credit: Little Jerry, Creative Commons Attribution

Endnotes
  1. Daniele Silvestro et al., “Closing the Gap between Palaeontological and Neonotological Speciation and Extinction Rate Estimates,” Nature Communications 9 (December 7, 2018): id. 5237, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-07622-y.
  2. Silvestro et al., “Closing the Gap,” 1.
  3. Silvestro et al., “Closing the Gap,” 3.
  4. Silvestro et al., “Closing the Gap,” 2.
  5. Silvestro et al., “Closing the Gap,” 2.
  6. Oskar Hagen et al., “Estimating Age-Dependent Extinction: Contrasting Evidence from Fossils and Phylogenies,” Systematic Biology 67, no. 3 (May 2018): 458–74, doi:10.1093/sysbio/syx082.
  7. James P. Herrera, “Primate Diversification Inferred from Phylogenies and Fossils,” Evolution 71, no. 12 (December 2017): 2845–57, doi:10.1111/evo.13366.
  8. Juan L. Cantalapiedra et al., “Congruent Phylogenetic and Fossil Signatures of Mammalian Diversification Dynamics Driven by Tertiary Abiotic Change,” Evolution 69, no. 11 (November 2015): 2941–53, doi:10.1111/evo.12787.
  9. Daniel L. Rabosky, “Automatic Detection of Key Innovations, Rate Shifts, and Diversity-Dependence on Phylogenetic Trees,” PLoS ONE 9, no. 2 (February 26, 2014): id. E89543, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089543.
  10. Charles R. Marshall, “Five Paleobiological Laws Needed to Understand the Evolution of the Living Biota,” Nature Ecology & Evolution 1 (May 23, 2017): id. 0165, doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0165; Lee Hsiang Liow, Tiago B. Quental, and Charles R. Marshall, “When Can Decreasing Diversification Rates Be Detected with Molecular Phylogenies and the Fossil Record?” Systematic Biology 59, no. 6 (December 2010): 646–59,doi:10.1093/sysbio/syq052; Catalina Pimiento et al., “The Pliocene Marine Megafauna Extinction and Its Impact on Functional Diversity,” Nature Ecology & Evolution 1 (June 26, 2017): 1100–1106, doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0223-6.
  11. Hugh Ross, More Than a Theory: Revealing a Testable Model for Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 149–79, https://shop.reasons.org/product/269/more-than-a-theory.
  12. Silvestro et al., “Closing the Gap,” 2.
  13. Silvestro et al., “Closing the Gap,” 5.

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Does Information Come from a Mind?

BY FAZALE RANA – AUGUST 14, 2019

Imagine you’re flying over the desert, and you notice a pile of rocks down below. Most likely, you would think little of it. But suppose the rocks were arranged to spell out a message. I bet you would conclude that someone had arranged those rocks to communicate something to you and others who might happen to fly over the desert.

You reach that conclusion because experience has taught you that messages come from persons/people—or, rather, that information comes from a mind. And, toward that end, information serves as a marker for the work of intelligent agency.

blog__inline--does-information-come-from-a-mind

Image credit: Shutterstock

Recently, a skeptic challenged me on this point, arguing that we can identify numerous examples of natural systems that harbor information, but that the information in these systems arose through natural processes—not a mind.

So, does information truly come from a mind? And can this claim be used to make a case for a Creator’s existence and role in life’s origin and design?

I think it can. And my reasons are outlined below.

Information and the Case for a Creator

In light of the (presumed) relationship between information and minds, I find it provocative that biochemical systems are information systems.

Two of the most important classes of information-harboring molecules are nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins. In both cases, the information content of these molecules arises from the nucleotide and amino acid sequences, respectively, that make up these two types of biomolecules.

The information harbored in nucleotide sequences of nucleic acids and amino acid sequences of proteins is digital information. Digital information is represented by a succession of discrete units, just like the ones and zeroes that encode the information manipulated by electronic devices. In this respect, sequences of nucleotides and amino acids for discrete informational units that encode the information in DNA and RNA and proteins, respectively.

But the information in nucleic acids and proteins also has analog characteristics. Analog information varies in an uninterrupted continuous manner, like radio waves used for broadcasting purposes. Analog information in nucleic acids and proteins are expressed through the three-dimensional structures adopted by both classes of biomolecules. (For more on the nature of biochemical information, see Resources.)

If our experience teaches us that information comes from minds, then the fact that key classes of biomolecules are comprised of both digital and analog information makes it reasonable to conclude that life itself stems from the work of a Mind.

Is Biochemical Information Really Information?

Skeptics, such as philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, often dismiss this particular design argument, maintaining that biochemical information is not genuine information. Instead, they maintain that when scientists refer to biomolecules as harboring information, they are employing an illustrative analogy—a scientific metaphor—and nothing more. They accuse creationists and intelligent design proponents of misconstruing scientists’ use of analogical language to make the case for a Creator.1

In light of this criticism, it is worth noting that the case for a Creator doesn’t merely rest on the presence of digital and analog information in biomolecules, but gains added support from work in information theory and bioinformatics.

For example, information theorist Bernd-Olaf Küppers points out in his classic work Information and the Origin of Life that the structure of the information housed in nucleic acids and proteins closely resembles the hierarchical organization of human language.2 This is what Küppers writes:

The analogy between human language and the molecular genetic language is quite strict. . . . Thus, central problems of the origin of biological information can adequately be illustrated by examples from human language without the sacrifice of exactitude.3

Added to this insight is the work by a team from NIH who discovered that the information content of proteins bears the same mathematical structure as human language. To this end, they discovered that a universal grammar exists that defines the structure of the biochemical information in proteins. (For more details on the NIH team’s work, see Resources.)

In other words, the discovery that the biochemical information shares the same features as human language deepens the analogy between biochemical information and the type of information we create as human designers. And, in doing so, it strengthens the case for a Creator.

Further Studies that Strengthen the Case for a Creator

So, too, does other work, such as studies in DNA barcoding. Biologists have been able to identify, catalog, and monitor animal and plant species using relatively short, standardized segments of DNA within genomes. They refer to these sequences as DNA barcodes that are analogous to the barcodes merchants use to price products and monitor inventory.

Typically, barcodes harbor information in the form of parallel dark lines on a white background, creating areas of high and low reflectance that can be read by a scanner and interpreted as binary numbers. Barcoding with DNA is possible because this biomolecule, at its essence, is an information-based system. To put it another way, this work demonstrates that the information in DNA is not metaphorical, but is in fact informational. (For more details on DNA barcoding, see “DNA Barcodes Used to Inventory Plant Biodiversity” in Resources.)

Work in nanotechnology also strengthens the analogy between biochemical information and the information we create as human designers. For example, a number of researchers are exploring DNA as a data storage medium. Again, this work demonstrates that biochemical information is information. (For details on DNA as a data storage medium, see Resources.)

Finally, researchers have learned that the protein machines that operate on DNA during processes such as transcription, replication, and repair literally operate like a computer system. In fact, the similarity is so strong that this insight has spawned a new area of nanotechnology called DNA computing. In other words, the cell’s machinery manipulates information in the same way human designers manipulate digital information. For more details, take a look at the article “Biochemical Turing Machines ‘Reboot’ the Watchmaker Argument” in Resources.)

The bottom line is this: The more we learn about the architecture and manipulation of biochemical information, the stronger the analogy becomes.

Does Information Come from a Mind?

Other skeptics challenge this argument in a different way. They assert that information can originate without a mind. For example, a skeptic recently challenged me this way:

“A volcano can generate information in the rocks it produces. From [the] information we observe, we can work out what it means. Namely, in this example, that the rock came from the volcano. There was no Mind in information generation, but rather minds at work, generating meaning.

Likewise, a growing tree can generate information through its rings. Humans can also generate information by producing sound waves.

However, I don’t think that volcanoes have minds, nor do trees—at least not the way we have minds.”

–Roland W. via Facebook

I find this to be an interesting point. But, I don’t think this objection undermines the case for a Creator. Ironically, I think it makes the case stronger. Before I explain why, though, I need to bring up an important clarification.

In Roland’s examples, he conflates two different types of information. When I refer to the analogy between human languages and biochemical information, I am specifically referring to semantic information, which consists of combinations of symbols that communicate meaning. In fact, Roland’s point about humans generating information with sound waves is an example of semantic information, with the sounds serving as combinations of ephemeral symbols.

The type of information found in volcanic rocks and tree rings is different from the semantic information found in human languages. It is actually algorithmic information, meaning that it consists of a set of instructions. And technically, the rocks and tree rings don’t contain this information—they result from it.

The reason why we can extract meaning and insight from rocks and tree rings is because of the laws of nature, which correspond to algorithmic information. We can think of these laws as instructions that determine the way the world works. Because we have discovered these laws, and because we have also discovered nature’s algorithms, we can extract insight and meaning from studying rocks and tree rings.

In fact, Küppers points out that biochemical systems also consist of sets of instructions instantiated within the biomolecules themselves. These instructions direct activities of the biomolecular systems and, hence, the cell’s operations. To put it another way, biochemical information is also algorithmic information.

From an algorithmic standpoint, the information content relates to the complexity of the instructions. The more complex the instructions, the greater the information content. To illustrate, consider a DNA sequence that consists of alternating nucleotides, AGAGAGAG . . . and so on. The instructions needed to generate this sequence are:

  1. Add an A
  2. Add a G
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2, x number of times, where x corresponds to the length of the DNA sequence divided by 2

But what about a DNA sequence that corresponds to a typical gene? In effect, because there is no pattern to that sequence, the set of instructions needed to create that sequence is the sequence itself. In other words, a much greater amount of algorithmic information resides in a gene than in a repetitive DNA sequence.

And, of course, our common experience teaches us that information—whether it’s found in a gene, a rock pile, or a tree ring—comes from a Mind.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. For example, see Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry, “Why Machine-Information Metaphors Are Bad for Science and Science Education,” Science and Education 20, no. 5–6 (May 2011): 453–71; doi:10.1007/s11191-010-9267-6.
  2. Bernd-Olaf Küppers, Information and the Origin of Life (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 24–25.
  3. Küppers, Information, 23.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Does Information Come from a Mind?

By Fazale Rana – August 14, 2019

Imagine you’re flying over the desert, and you notice a pile of rocks down below. Most likely, you would think little of it. But suppose the rocks were arranged to spell out a message. I bet you would conclude that someone had arranged those rocks to communicate something to you and others who might happen to fly over the desert.

You reach that conclusion because experience has taught you that messages come from persons/people—or, rather, that information comes from a mind. And, toward that end, information serves as a marker for the work of intelligent agency.

blog__inline--does-information-come-from-a-mind

Image credit: Shutterstock

Recently, a skeptic challenged me on this point, arguing that we can identify numerous examples of natural systems that harbor information, but that the information in these systems arose through natural processes—not a mind.

So, does information truly come from a mind? And can this claim be used to make a case for a Creator’s existence and role in life’s origin and design?

I think it can. And my reasons are outlined below.

Information and the Case for a Creator

In light of the (presumed) relationship between information and minds, I find it provocative that biochemical systems are information systems.

Two of the most important classes of information-harboring molecules are nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins. In both cases, the information content of these molecules arises from the nucleotide and amino acid sequences, respectively, that make up these two types of biomolecules.

The information harbored in nucleotide sequences of nucleic acids and amino acid sequences of proteins is digital information. Digital information is represented by a succession of discrete units, just like the ones and zeroes that encode the information manipulated by electronic devices. In this respect, sequences of nucleotides and amino acids for discrete informational units that encode the information in DNA and RNA and proteins, respectively.

But the information in nucleic acids and proteins also has analog characteristics. Analog information varies in an uninterrupted continuous manner, like radio waves used for broadcasting purposes. Analog information in nucleic acids and proteins are expressed through the three-dimensional structures adopted by both classes of biomolecules. (For more on the nature of biochemical information, see Resources.)

If our experience teaches us that information comes from minds, then the fact that key classes of biomolecules are comprised of both digital and analog information makes it reasonable to conclude that life itself stems from the work of a Mind.

Is Biochemical Information Really Information?

Skeptics, such as philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, often dismiss this particular design argument, maintaining that biochemical information is not genuine information. Instead, they maintain that when scientists refer to biomolecules as harboring information, they are employing an illustrative analogy—a scientific metaphor—and nothing more. They accuse creationists and intelligent design proponents of misconstruing scientists’ use of analogical language to make the case for a Creator.1

In light of this criticism, it is worth noting that the case for a Creator doesn’t merely rest on the presence of digital and analog information in biomolecules, but gains added support from work in information theory and bioinformatics.

For example, information theorist Bernd-Olaf Küppers points out in his classic work Information and the Origin of Life that the structure of the information housed in nucleic acids and proteins closely resembles the hierarchical organization of human language.2 This is what Küppers writes:

The analogy between human language and the molecular genetic language is quite strict. . . . Thus, central problems of the origin of biological information can adequately be illustrated by examples from human language without the sacrifice of exactitude.3

Added to this insight is the work by a team from NIH who discovered that the information content of proteins bears the same mathematical structure as human language. To this end, they discovered that a universal grammar exists that defines the structure of the biochemical information in proteins. (For more details on the NIH team’s work, see Resources.)

In other words, the discovery that the biochemical information shares the same features as human language deepens the analogy between biochemical information and the type of information we create as human designers. And, in doing so, it strengthens the case for a Creator.

Further Studies that Strengthen the Case for a Creator

So, too, does other work, such as studies in DNA barcoding. Biologists have been able to identify, catalog, and monitor animal and plant species using relatively short, standardized segments of DNA within genomes. They refer to these sequences as DNA barcodes that are analogous to the barcodes merchants use to price products and monitor inventory.

Typically, barcodes harbor information in the form of parallel dark lines on a white background, creating areas of high and low reflectance that can be read by a scanner and interpreted as binary numbers. Barcoding with DNA is possible because this biomolecule, at its essence, is an information-based system. To put it another way, this work demonstrates that the information in DNA is not metaphorical, but is in fact informational. (For more details on DNA barcoding, see “DNA Barcodes Used to Inventory Plant Biodiversity” in Resources.)

Work in nanotechnology also strengthens the analogy between biochemical information and the information we create as human designers. For example, a number of researchers are exploring DNA as a data storage medium. Again, this work demonstrates that biochemical information is information. (For details on DNA as a data storage medium, see Resources.)

Finally, researchers have learned that the protein machines that operate on DNA during processes such as transcription, replication, and repair literally operate like a computer system. In fact, the similarity is so strong that this insight has spawned a new area of nanotechnology called DNA computing. In other words, the cell’s machinery manipulates information in the same way human designers manipulate digital information. For more details, take a look at the article “Biochemical Turing Machines ‘Reboot’ the Watchmaker Argument” in Resources.)

The bottom line is this: The more we learn about the architecture and manipulation of biochemical information, the stronger the analogy becomes.

Does Information Come from a Mind?

Other skeptics challenge this argument in a different way. They assert that information can originate without a mind. For example, a skeptic recently challenged me this way:

“A volcano can generate information in the rocks it produces. From [the] information we observe, we can work out what it means. Namely, in this example, that the rock came from the volcano. There was no Mind in information generation, but rather minds at work, generating meaning.

Likewise, a growing tree can generate information through its rings. Humans can also generate information by producing sound waves.

However, I don’t think that volcanoes have minds, nor do trees—at least not the way we have minds.”

–Roland W. via Facebook

I find this to be an interesting point. But, I don’t think this objection undermines the case for a Creator. Ironically, I think it makes the case stronger. Before I explain why, though, I need to bring up an important clarification.

In Roland’s examples, he conflates two different types of information. When I refer to the analogy between human languages and biochemical information, I am specifically referring to semantic information, which consists of combinations of symbols that communicate meaning. In fact, Roland’s point about humans generating information with sound waves is an example of semantic information, with the sounds serving as combinations of ephemeral symbols.

The type of information found in volcanic rocks and tree rings is different from the semantic information found in human languages. It is actually algorithmic information, meaning that it consists of a set of instructions. And technically, the rocks and tree rings don’t contain this information—they result from it.

The reason why we can extract meaning and insight from rocks and tree rings is because of the laws of nature, which correspond to algorithmic information. We can think of these laws as instructions that determine the way the world works. Because we have discovered these laws, and because we have also discovered nature’s algorithms, we can extract insight and meaning from studying rocks and tree rings.

In fact, Küppers points out that biochemical systems also consist of sets of instructions instantiated within the biomolecules themselves. These instructions direct activities of the biomolecular systems and, hence, the cell’s operations. To put it another way, biochemical information is also algorithmic information.

From an algorithmic standpoint, the information content relates to the complexity of the instructions. The more complex the instructions, the greater the information content. To illustrate, consider a DNA sequence that consists of alternating nucleotides, AGAGAGAG . . . and so on. The instructions needed to generate this sequence are:

  1. Add an A
  2. Add a G
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2, x number of times, where x corresponds to the length of the DNA sequence divided by 2

But what about a DNA sequence that corresponds to a typical gene? In effect, because there is no pattern to that sequence, the set of instructions needed to create that sequence is the sequence itself. In other words, a much greater amount of algorithmic information resides in a gene than in a repetitive DNA sequence.

And, of course, our common experience teaches us that information—whether it’s found in a gene, a rock pile, or a tree ring—comes from a Mind.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. For example, see Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry, “Why Machine-Information Metaphors Are Bad for Science and Science Education,” Science and Education 20, no. 5–6 (May 2011): 453–71; doi:10.1007/s11191-010-9267-6.
  2. Bernd-Olaf Küppers, Information and the Origin of Life (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 24–25.
  3. Küppers, Information, 23.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

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Worshippers by Nature

By Kenneth R. Samples – August 13, 2019

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Virtually every human being seeks to find an overarching purpose in life. As part of this common pursuit, people naturally attach themselves to belief systems, values, causes, interests, and even physical things in order to give their lives meaning and fulfillment. Philosophers talk about the idea of worldview, which is understood as a person’s big-picture view of reality and consists of a cluster of beliefs about such critically important realities as God, the world, knowledge, values, and beauty. This purpose-seeking characteristic and need to grasp reality seems to set humans apart from the animals.

But why are humans uniquely purpose-seeking creatures?

Scripture tells us. I’ll provide a brief biblical explanation as to why people instinctually look for meaning in life and align themselves to something of enduring significance.

The Image of God = Worshippers

One way of thinking about the biblical truth of being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) is that to bear God’s image makes people worshippers. As finite creatures, humans have been brought into existence by an infinite God. And to be made by God means that people were made for God. By their contingent creaturely nature, humans were meant to know, love, and worship their Creator. Thus, human beings are uniquely dependent upon God for their existence, meaning, and ultimate spiritual fulfillment.

Yet humankind’s fundamental problem is that original sin (a corrupt nature inherited by all people from their progenitor Adam: Romans 5:12) has cut people off from their Creator. However, creatures who were made to be worshippers can’t stop worshipping. Despite the vacuum of being separated from God by sin, people naturally look for something to replace God. Such worship today isn’t like the ancient formal worship of various deities (polytheism), but rather takes the form of associating oneself with a defining belief, value, cause, or interest.

So the imago Dei (divine image) makes humans worshippers, yet the spiritual vacuum caused by sin makes the creatures natural idolaters (Romans 1:18–23). The worship replacements that humans commonly seek instead of the true and living God manifest as egotism (self), sensualism (sex), and materialism (money). However, more developed and refined worship replacements consist of the natural world, politics, and the idea of beauty. Interestingly, all the common replacements are good things instead of bad things. But those good things have become disordered (functionally misused) in fallen creatures.

The existential problem with life in a fallen world is that all common worship replacements, though good, are finite realities that can’t provide ultimate purpose and fulfillment for human beings. St. Augustine (354–430), a wayward soul for the first half of his life, provided this penetrating spiritual insight: “You [God] made us [humanity] for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”1 In other words, true meaning and purpose can’t be found in worship replacements. God has created human beings in such a way (imago Dei) that ultimate fulfillment (rest and peace) can’t be found apart from him.

C. S. Lewis makes the same point by using the analogy of an automobile’s need for the correct fuel:

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.2

From a biblical perspective of the imago Dei, when people fail to worship the true God they replace him because they must worship something. Today the replacement might take the form of a perceived ultimate or reason for being. But these and all other alternatives to God are finitely inadequate and leave humans existentially unfulfilled.

In the New Testament Jesus Christ uniquely offers rest for weary and burdened souls:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30).

The biblical perspective seems to offer a plausible explanation concerning both humankind’s search for purpose and dissatisfaction with finite goods. If Scripture can explain the complexity of the human condition, it seems worthy of careful consideration as a true revelation from God himself.

Reflections: Your Turn

What worship replacements have you used in your pursuit of meaning and purpose? What was the result? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. Augustine, Confessions, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (NY: Penguin, 1961), 1, 1.
  2. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 54.

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About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Can Science Identify the Intelligent Designer

By Fazale Rana – July 16, 2015

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We live in a world that values tolerance and religious pluralism. Because of this widespread attitude, perhaps it’s not surprising that one of the questions I’m most often asked by non-Christian academics relates to the identity of the Designer. They want to know, how does the scientific case for intelligent design specifically identify the God of the Bible as the Designer?

I answer this question differently than many of my friends associated with the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement. They argue that scientific inquiry cannot determine the Designer’s identity. Christian ID proponents maintain that there are nonscientific reasons why they believe that the biblical God is the Designer, but they insist that the Designer’s identity is not a question science can address.

I respectfully disagree. I think that science has the wherewithal to provide sufficient clues that allow us to infer the Designer’s identity. To appreciate why I would adopt this position, I need to first explain why intelligent design has a place in science.

Intelligent Design Is Part of the Construct of Science

Because of the influence of methodological naturalism (the philosophical position that scientific explanations must be restricted to natural processes), many people assert that intelligent design lies beyond the bounds of science. Yet a number of scientific disciplines are predicated on scientists’ ability to detect the activity of intelligent agents and distinguish that activity from natural processes. For example, forensic scientistscan determine whether or not an individual died as the result of natural processes, by accident, or by the intentional action of another person—an intelligent agent. Anthropologists can examine pieces of rock and determine whether the stones were intentionally fabricated into a tool by a hominid (such as Neanderthals) or merely shaped by natural processes. In the quest to identify alien civilizations, researchers at SETI monitor electromagnetic radiation emanating from distant stars looking for signatures that bear the hallmark of intelligent agency. In the early 1970s, Leslie Orgel and Francis Crick proposed directed panspermia to explain the origin of life on Earth, and they even suggested ways to scientifically test this idea.

Science does have the toolkit to detect the work of an intelligent designer and distinguish it from natural causes and events. If so, then why can’t scientific inquiry determine if an intelligent designer played a role in the origin, history, and design of life and the universe? It seems to me that it can, and I would argue that it has.

Science, not only possesses the capacity to detect the work of intelligent agency, it also has the means to provide insight about the agent’s characteristics. Crime scene investigators can determine if a murderer was left-handed or right-handed, the probable height of the culprit, etc. Anthropologists can glean a tremendous amount about the biology and cognitive ability of hominids by examining the tools they made. If SETI scientists were to detect a signal that emanated from an alien civilization, no doubt they could discern something about the aliens that sent it by analyzing the signal’s properties and studying the star system that generated the signal.

The Scientific Case for God’s Existence and the Identity of the Designer

So, what can we infer about the identity of the Intelligent Designer from science? A handful of scientific insights provide some important clues.

Astronomers have learned that the universe had a beginning. This means that it must have a cause, and that this cause exists outside the universe itself. To put it another way, a transcendent cause brought the universe into existence. (For many people, this knowledge provides evidence for God’s existence.) If we take the transcendent cause to be the Intelligent Designer, then the Designer must reside beyond the universe and must be powerful enough to cause the universe (Genesis 1:1). Astronomers also believe that time began when our universe began, suggesting that the Intelligent Designer must operate outside the confines of time (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 40:28).

Astronomers and astrophysicists have learned that the fundamental parameters, constants, and characteristics that define the universe must assume precise values for life to exist. This fine-tuning suggests that the universe was designed for a purpose. (Again, many people view the fine-tuning of the universe as further evidence for God’s existence.) Design and purpose are qualities that derive from a Mind. This insight about the fine-tuning of the universe means that the Intelligent Designer must have personality (Job 38–41).

The constancy of the laws of nature and the orderliness of the universe indicate that the Designer is not capricious. Instead, the Agent responsible for the universe appears to be unwavering and unchanging (James 1:17; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

The repeated occurrence of the same designs throughout biology and the universal nature of biochemical systems imply that a single Designer produced life, not an ensemble of designers (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Advances in our understanding of biochemical systems revitalize William Paley’s watchmaker argument for God’s existence. The remarkable similarities between the architecture and operation of biochemical systems and human designs indicate that the cell’s chemical systems are the work of a Mind. This observation also suggests that a resonance exists between the mind of human designers and the Intelligent Designer. To put it another way, human beings appear to be made in the image of the Intelligent Designer (Genesis 1:26–27).

The beauty on display throughout the universe and the marvelously fascinating creatures that make up the biological realm demonstrate that the Designer possesses an artist’s flair and playfulness. The Intelligent Agent responsible for life seemingly takes great delight in what He has made (Genesis 1:31a; Psalm 104:26).

There are many such evidences, but I believe that this short list provides us with sufficient insight about the Designer’s qualities that we could reasonably conclude that the Intelligent Designer is most likely the God of the Bible.

But a skeptic might raise the question about so-called bad designs in nature. What about all the pain and suffering? Do these features of nature mean that the Intelligent Designer is malevolent? Do they imply that the Intelligent Designer is incompetent? Not necessarily. It is hard to argue that the Creator who could bring the universe into existence lacks competence. And when we examine supposed bad designs more carefully, we often find compelling reasons to view the “bad” designs as actually good designs. Junk DNA has become the quintessential case in point.

As for pain and suffering in the world, a number of philosophers have pointed out that there may be good reasons why the Intelligent Designer would create a world where pain and suffering exist. And science provides some clues as to what those reasons might be.

It is remarkable to me how strong the scientific case is for intelligent design. As a Christian, I don’t find it all surprising that the scientific evidence directs us to the God of the Bible. After all, Scripture teaches that God has revealed Himself to us through the creation.

Resources

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About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.


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