Is Faith Scientific?
Peter A. McGowan
In the drawer beside my bed I have collected a number of geometric puzzles – the type composed of many intricate pieces that must be assembled very carefully to create the final shape. Such “Chinese” puzzles usually require assembly in a specific order so that all the pieces will fit and lock together.
Now suppose I place all these pieces on the flat tray of a small delivery van and drive over some rough roads for several hours. Question: will the vibration and movement eventually assemble the puzzle?
- An evolutionist might answer, “Yes, if you keep driving long enough and randomly jostling the pieces. However, there are several objections to this simplistic answer:
- Such puzzles are deliberately designed so that, at various stages, several pieces must be held together while other pieces are slid between and around them. These operations require skilful dexterity and the use of two hands. This makes assembly via random jostling of the pieces beyond credibility.
- While the pieces are bouncing around on the flat bed of the van, they are becoming damaged. A long period of jostling will eventually damage the pieces so that assembly will be impossible even with a dextrous pair of hands.
- No one has ever assembled such a puzzle by random movements, nor could anyone ever imagine how it could be done; yet the evolutionist believes it can be done! That is, the atheistic evolutionist must accept this by blind faith, without a shred of supporting evidence.
I find this fascinating – just as a theist (one who believes in God) accepts by faith that God exists and created all things, so the atheist (one who does not believe in God) accepts by blind faith, despite the laws of science to the contrary, that somehow the universe and life just happened! Let me be more specific – the modern theory of evolution rests on at least five pillars which we will examine one at a time.
What is scientific?
The so-called, “scientific method” essentially consists of two stages – an observer observes some events and then notices a pattern and so formulates a rule about this behaviour; eg, sparks always fly upward. This process is called induction. This observer then becomes a scientist when he/she deliberately seeks evidence to disprove the rule (or “law” or theory) so as to severely test the new scientific law. If exceptions are found, the rule/law will require modification.
Now here is the point: Science is clearly based on observable evidence; that is, science is NOT based on the unobserved.
Here is an example of a rule/law which is unscientific: “Butter turns blue in the dark.” This law is unscientific precisely because it cannot be observed or tested.
Let us now turn to 5 of the pillars of evolution.
The Big Bang
The current most popular theory about the origin of the cosmos asserts that our entire universe began with a “singularity” of infinite density which expanded to the present size of the universe. Further, as the universe expanded, it began to cool and clump to form stars, planets and other bodies which somehow neatly began to orbit each other. This expansion (and its accompanying “inflation”) occurred at just the right pace, to permit the stars to start shining; and the quantum fluctuations were just right to create the delicately balanced and evenly distributed galaxies we now observe.
There are numerous difficulties with this idea including, what ignited the thermo-nuclear fires that lit the stars? A star’s own gravity is not enough. What separated the material so conveniently into gassy stars and rocky planets with water? What provided the energy and material to start the original singularity?
This takes considerable faith to believe that an event without a cause could have such a dramatic result. It disobeys all known laws of physics such as the first law of thermodynamics about conservation of matter and energy – things just do not just appear unless on an atomic scale and then only briefly. It also disobeys all current understanding of the second law of thermodynamics about the decay of order and information – no mechanism has yet been proposed for the ingenious arrangement of the orderly cosmos – order is always observed to come from some external source.
Thus, the big bang is not reproducible, unobserved, inconsistent with known laws and facts, and cannot be tested in a laboratory. It is therefore unscientific.
There is still more difficulty here – what is the origin of the laws of physics? What made the values of the fundamental constants just right to allow the universe and life possible at all? These constants include Plank’s constant, the gravitational constant, the speed of light, the electromagnetic constant, the rate of expansion of the universe, the ratio of the abundance of various elements, etc; all these are so precisely chosen so as to be able to make our universe possible, to say nothing about life itself! This takes big faith to believe in such a serendipitous accident!
By contrast, The Scriptures simply assert (without proof), “It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshalled their starry hosts.” Isa 45:12.
Geogenesis (Origin of the Earth)
There are similar leaps of faith required to believe that the universe evolved in just the right way (entirely by chance) to be able to produce our planet and its ideal environment for life.
Suppose we have a very large jar of jellybeans – perhaps 10,000 little sweet lumps have been placed in a jar. Let us further suppose that we have a mixture of colours, red, green blue and black. Now further suppose that the black jellybeans are quite rare but uniformly distributed (well mixed) among the other jellybeans. What would you think of a person who reached into the jar, blindfolded, to get a hand-full of jelly-beans and brought out just black jellybeans? Impossible you say? Well, that is what evolutionists suggest about the origin of the earth.
The composition of our planet is quite different from all the other bodies in the solar system – it is largely iron, silicon and nickel, producing a planet of very high density – much higher than all the other bodies in the solar system. This terrestrial material is very scarce in our galaxy. Most of the material, more than 99%, in the universe is hydrogen and helium, with a very small portion of other elements. Of these other elements, a very small portion is iron, nickel and silicon. Yet somehow, we are asked to believe that from the primordial gas cloud that formed our solar system, random processes made some of the rarest material in this swirling cloud collect into a body to form our earth!
How did our land and seas and atmosphere develop? They should have boiled away during the early evolution of the planet as it cooled. How did the ratio of oxygen to carbon develop with just the correct amounts at the planet’s surface in just the right places? No theory to explain this has ever been proposed!
As far as life is concerned, the elements of life, oxygen and organic (carbon and nitrogen) chemistry should not be capable of co-existing especially in the formative stages and especially in the presence of copious amounts of dangerous radiation from the sun and outer space.
Again, these origins are unobserved, inconsistent with current knowledge, not reproducible and untested. They are therefore unscientific. This is not to suggest that these events are impossible but only unscientific – a serious problem for the atheist who must depend on the scientific method alone.
Again, the Bible says, without proof, “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” Jer 10:12.
Abiogenesis (Non-life origin of life)
Probably the greatest problem or “miracle” in evolution’s theoretical history is the origin of life itself. How did the first living cell arrive? Before that, how did the first DNA and amino acids form in conjunction with each other? DNA stands for Deoxyribo-nucleic acid and is contained in the nucleus of every living cell. This DNA holds the formula for every living protein in the cell. Each protein is composed of hundreds to thousands of amino acids, all arranged in a strict order.
Now here is the problem: Nucleic acids and amino acids are normally incompatible and decompose each other. So how did the first ones get together (by chance) to form the first cell? Further, where did the elaborate chemical and cellular machinery come from to read the DNA and create the proteins.
It is a fundamental law of biology, according to any biology text-book, that all cells must have their origin in another living organism – an invariant law known as Biogenesis. However, evolution wants to assert that despite this law of biogenesis, somehow the first cell arrived and broke that law of science. On this basis alone, evolution is unscientific.
But there is more. Even if some mechanism were proposed for the coexistence of the right chemicals, where did the huge information for the construction of the cell and its elaborate proteins come from? What was the origin of the cellular reproduction equipment? Where did the repair of damage and growth mechanisms come from, etc, all so ingeniously coded in the DNA? This problem is not just difficult, it is impossible. Not only has no mechanism ever been proposed for this abiogenesis, but no biochemist could even produce the required results under controlled, contrived laboratory conditions!
Then there is the problem of the very one-sided chirality (handedness) of many organic chemicals. Many chemicals occurring in living matter can exist in two forms which are mirror images of each other. For example, the simple molecule of glucose is one such – it exists either as a left handed or right handed form. If a quantity of all (say) right-handed glucose is dissolved in water, within a short time, half the glucose will convert to the left-handed form. However, proteins are composed of only left-handed amino acids and DNA and RNA have only right-handed sugars. Thus, if naturally occurring chemicals exist in equal proportions of left and right handed forms in the “primordial soup”, and living cells arose naturally (and accidentally), this should be reflected in cell chemistry. However, in all living cells, these chemicals exist exclusively as either left or right handed entities as illustrated above. This fact alone (called homochirality of bio-chemicals) demonstrates the extreme difficulty of abiogenesis.
Again, abiogenesis has never been observed, cannot be reproduced in the laboratory and cannot be tested. It is therefore, unscientific and must be accepted as a miracle of faith by the atheist.
Aware of this problem, the Bible reminds us, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.” Ps 139:13.
The next miracle of atheistic faith is the development of the numerous species of living creatures and plants from a single, original (single cell) species. Let us be clear about what we are discussing. Adaptation is well observed and is not controversial – a species can develop different variations of its principle characteristics which will better suit its environment. But the development of new species from another species is another matter entirely. Again, this has never been observed and cannot be tested.
It has been suggested that small mutations of the genetic code (DNA) are what lead to the evolution of new species. However, this assumes that such mutations are, at least occasionally, helpful and an advantage to the organism. That is, the mutation will sometimes be beneficial by adding new and better information to the genetic code. Again, no such beneficial mutation has ever been observed – all mutations result in the loss of information and are always detrimental to the organism. Beta-thalassemia and cystic fibrosis are two extreme examples of genetic mutations which are highly detrimental.
Thus, the miracle of speciation must remain a matter of faith for the atheist as they cannot be observed or reproduced.
The faith of the theist simply asserts, “And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds.” Gen 1:24, 25.
Even if we admit all the previous miracles, including the miracle of genetic mutations leading to speciation, there remains another insurmountable problem of irreducible complexity.
It is an integral part of the evolutionary “faith” that any and every mutation that becomes a permanent feature of the genetic code must be an advantage to the organism as it gradually develops. But this is a serious problem with some complex organs. Let us take a common example like the eye.
The eye has several components including the pupil (with the optic sphincter muscle) to control light intensity, eye muscles for accurately pointing the eye in the correct direction, the lens and focusing mechanisms, aqueous and vitreous humours, the retina to convert light to electrical signals, the optic nerve to transmit the information to the brain, appropriate and very complex parts of the brain to interpret the huge flow of information, etc. Without any one of these components (and this is not an exhaustive list), the eye would not work and the other components would be of no advantage to humans or other creatures.
Now we ask a simple question – How could any one of the components of the eye have evolved because not one of them confers any advantage on the creature before all the others have developed? Again, no explanation can be offered and the miracle of irreducible complexity must be accepted by faith.
If the eye were the only such example, then this would be only a minor irritation for evolutionists. Unfortunately, such examples abound and include things such as the blood and circulatory system, the skeletal system, etc. In fact, almost every organ of the human body could be cited as an example of irreducible complexity that could not have been produced by blind evolutionary processes.
As shown above, probably the greatest example of irreducible complexity is the single cell itself, the origin of which cannot be explained, nor can any possible origin even be foreseen. Again, this is an important element of the atheist’s faith.
The Bible notes the same fact by observing, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Ps 139:14.
The ultimate problem of irreducible complexity is the existence of sexual reproduction. Biologically, it is far more efficient to reproduce asexually (without sex); it involves little risk and much less energy. Why should nature have gone to so much trouble to evolve two sexes in so many species when sexual reproduction involves greater risk and energy?
Of course, there is the considerable problem of how the sexes evolved at all. Evolving (say) a male without the female would be useless. How did the transition from asexual to sexual reproduction evolve? There are no suggestions on the table and this atheistic miracle must be (yet again) accepted by faith. There are not even any credible suggestions about how sexuality could have evolved even if guided during the supposed aeons by an outside intelligence, let alone by blind chance.
By contrast, the Scriptures record, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Gen 1:27.
Thus, we have a stark choice between an omnipotent creator-God on the one hand and a series of miracles on the other including the Big Bang, the order of the cosmos, the ideal environment of the earth, abiogenesis, speciation, irreducible complexity, sexuality, etc, to name only a few. Each of these miracles is inconsistent with current observation and natural law, which makes atheism an inconsistent philosophy.
That is, atheists often claim that theism is unacceptable because it requires a faith in the unseen, unobserved and unexplainable. But atheism requires exactly the same faith in miraculous, unobserved events! And it is precisely because atheism rejects the miraculous in its “scientific” basis that it is so inconsistent.
Choose we must! In order to be a human being, it is essential to choose between believing the miracle of God the creator, or the multitudinous miracles required by evolutionary atheism. But choose we must – the issue cannot be avoided by intelligent humans.
The idea of atheism is, historically speaking, relatively new. It arose during the seventeenth century and spawned the modern form of evolution. For millennia before this, no one had been seriously drawn by atheistic thought. So why is it so appealing? The answer is simple enough when we ask about the consequences of the two alternatives.
Atheism: There is no god and the universe is meaningless. Homo Sapiens are just another species of animal; morals and ethics have no meaning. We are not responsible to any higher authority.
Theism: There is a Creator-God who made humans and all else. He defines right and wrong which makes us responsible to Him.Thus, atheism is seen as a convenient way of avoiding our responsibility to God. Many reject theism on this basis alone because they are unwilling to make the commitment of service that theism implies. At least one atheist has been brave enough to actually say so:
“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door!” (Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons”, The New York Review, January 9, 1997, p31)
[This is not to suggest that atheists are immoral or unethical people – most are quite moral and ethical but choose to be free of the imposed external responsibility that theism requires. This forms a fundamental irony at the heart of atheism which continues to be a conundrum for atheism.]
By contrast with atheism, theism is much more consistent. All theists will testify that they have a personal relationship with their Creator-God who regularly performs miracles. Thus, God and His miracles are a matter of personal observation which makes theism entirely consistent with observation. This is not to suggest that theism is scientific because God will only rarely allow Himself to be subject to laboratory type tests. However, for those who serve God, He is a source of strength and inspiration.“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth… For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Psalm 33:6, 9I choose to serve Him who made me.
God of the Gaps or Creator God?
Scientific questions can be divided into two types of which the table below lists a few examples.
Type 1 Questions
Type 2 Questions
- What causes the colours of the rainbow? [dispersive refraction]
- What causes the phenomenon of mass in subatomic particles? [Unknown]
- Why are steels (iron alloys) so much stronger than aluminium alloys? [Differences in crystal lattice energies]
- Why is the sky blue? [Atmospheric diffraction and absorption]
- Do all zeros of the Riemann Zeta function lie on the critical line? [Unknown]
- What is the source of plant food and energy? [Photosynthesis]
- What created the mass of the universe despite the law of conservation of mass?
- What is the origin of order, complexity and information (eg genetic and astronomical) despite the universal law of entropy?
- What is the origin of life despite the universal law of biogenesis?
- What is the origin of irreducible complexity despite the evolutionary law of blind natural selection?
- What is the origin of biological homochirality despite the universal laws of solution equilibria?
Notice that the type 1 questions concern themselves with understanding the laws of nature in its current observable condition. Some of these questions are well understood but others are unresolved; however, they will probably be answered with further research.
By contrast, the type 2 questions concern origins which cannot be observed; further, according to all current scientific laws and observations, these origin questions imply a situation which disobeyed the current observable laws of nature.
Now, these type 2 questions existed when the theory of evolution was first proposed and have only become more profound with time and further research. Further, there appears to be no purely scientific (materialistic) resolution in sight.
Here is the fundamental problem for materialistic science: Science seeks to explain all phenomena on the basis of observable facts and deducible laws. Indeed, the stated reason for Richard Lewontin’s objection to “the Divine Foot in the door” is because, “To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.” Bob Holmes and James Randerson have the same objection to the element of the supernatural: “ID’s appeal to the supernatural forces by definition puts it outside the scope of science says Eugenie Scott head of NSCE. After all, saying ‘God did it’ can never be disproved. And that’s the point. Underlying the ID agenda is a challenge to the basis of the scientific method… But far from just redefining science, most scientists would argue that introducing the supernatural will destroy it.”
In Paul Davies’ book, “The Mind of God” , he reports an apocryphal conversation between a deist and an atheist concerning the cause of the big bang. The atheist (= materialistic scientist) has to frankly admit that the cause of the big bang is outside science and concludes: “I would rather admit accept the existence of the universe as a brute fact than accept God as a brute fact. After all, there has to be a universe for us to be here to argue about these things.”
Thus, the type 2 questions posed above are grudgingly admitted as being outside materialistic science. In the same apocryphal conversation, the atheist accuses the theist of inventing a “God of the Gaps” to explain these things, which one day may be explained by science alone. The atheist has clearly confused type 1 and type 2 questions. I agree that given enough research, type 1 question may be solved; however, type 2 questions are more fundamental and involve something outside science.
Thus, the theist does not have a God of the Gaps, but a God of creation. By contrast, the atheist must respond to these type 2 questions by simply saying that evolution somehow did it because we are here to discuss it. Thus, the atheist has an evolution of the gaps!
This, again, presents us with a difficult choice. Should we believe in a creator God or an “evolution of the gaps”? As Paul Davies points out, it is a matter of taste, or more precisely, for both the theist and atheist, it is a matter of faith.Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons”, The New York Review, January 9, 1997, p31. See also www.csus.edu/indiv/m/mayesgr/Lewontin1.htm New Scientist, 9 July 2005, “A Sceptics Guide to Intelligent Design”, p10-12.ID = Intelligent DesignSimon and Schuster, London, 1992, p58-60