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Science - Creation/Evolution

How does the world explain the origin of life?

or, highlighting the problems with a Naturalistic explanation

 ***** 

Naturalism can be defined best by what it doesn’t believe: in the Supernatural; it denies the existence of God.

That means that all naturalists are left with to explain all that exists, why we exist, and how we came to be is Nature and natural laws. And that presents them with a problem. Nature cannot provide us with an explanation for abiogenesis – life coming from non-life.

You don’t have to take my word for it – this is also acknowledged as a foundational problem by many scientists, sometimes explicitly, and sometimes only by the irrational arguments they’ll offer as an alternative to acknowledging God.

In what follows I’m going to share both the publicly acknowledged problems with naturalistic abiogenesis, as well as some of the theories the world has proposed to address those problems. Both are revealing.

The RNA problem

In paleontologist Peter Ward’s book Life As We Do Not Know It, he addresses how RNA (or ribonucleic acid) – because it is simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) – is theorized as an evolutionary step in the development of DNA. But, Ward notes:

Amazingly, one of the major criticisms of RNA life…the hypothesized last common ancestor of all DNA life, is that it probably did not exist because it would have been impossible to build RNA through natural chemical processes. Paul Davies notes: .… ”without a trained organic chemist on hand to supervise, nature would be struggling to make RNA from a dilute soup under any plausible prebiotic condition.”

Or, as organic chemist Clemens Richert wrote in the Dec 12, 2018 edition of Nature Communications:

Experimentalists in the field of prebiotic chemistry strive to re-enact what may have happened when life arose from inanimate material. How often human intervention was needed to obtain a specific result in their studies is worth reporting.

When Diego Maradona was asked about having used his hand to score a goal in the quarter-finals of the 1986 soccer World Cup, he initially claimed that there had been divine intervention, and the term “Hand of God Goal” was coined. – There had been manual intervention, and there had been an understandable interest of the player not to admit it. – Organic chemists, if not all experimentalists in the field of prebiotic chemistry, are faced with a similar dilemma. We do our best to perform experiments that we believe re-enact possible steps of prebiotic evolution, but we know that we need to intervene manually to obtain meaningful results.

Further, the ideal experiment does not involve any human intervention.

He also frankly said:

Understandably, this has drawn the ire of those who feel that no or only minimal intervention is allowed for a process to be called prebiotically plausible. After all, it is not easy to see what replaced the flasks, pipettes and stir bars of a chemistry lab during prebiotic evolution, let alone the hands of the chemist who performed the manipulations. (And yes, most of us are not comfortable with the idea of divine intervention in this context.)

Whether divine intervention or human intervention, there’s a conscious entity doing the intervening. So even if our friends were to succeed in creating life in the lab, that would only demonstrate that intelligence and deliberate intent are needed to create a living thing. I'm glad this issue is explicitly acknowledged.

Every honest Origin of Life (OOL) researcher will agree fully. It’s one thing for highly trained chemists to create RNA in a lab, but another thing entirely for unaided Nature to accomplish the same. Especially considering that Nature is not trying to make RNA, and has no intention of doing so.

The multiverse “solution”

But, if the researcher is committed to Naturalism and atheism, then he has no choice but to maintain a strong (and unrealistic) faith that Nature did it anyway, even though he knows it’s not possible.

One such researcher, Eugene Koonin, resorted to “an infinite multiverse” as a potential way out of this problem. This is the view that supposedly, anything that can happen will happen in an infinite multiverse, and this would also include the chance origin of life.

In a 2011 book, The Logic of Chance: the Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution, he added this:

The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science, but it is also one of the most important. Origin-of-life research has evolved into a lively, interdisciplinary field, but other scientists often view it with skepticism and even derision. This attitude is understandable and, in a sense, perhaps justified, given the “dirty” rarely mentioned secret: Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth. Certainly, this is due not to a lack of experimental and theoretical effort, but to the extraordinary intrinsic difficulty and complexity of the problem. A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life, from the synthesis and accumulation of nucleotides to the origin of translation; through the multiplication of probabilities, these make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle.

“Almost like a miracle” is a frank admission of what OOL entails. Nevertheless, in the same book, Koonin continued to cling to the multiverse hypothesis as a guaranteed solution to the problems involved with OOL. Here’s the summary of Koonin’s argument, in his own words:

Simply put, the probability of the realization of any scenario permitted by the conservation laws in an infinite universe (and, of course, in the multiverse) is, exactly, one.... Thus, spontaneous emergence of complex systems that would have to be considered virtually impossible in a finite universe becomes not only possible but inevitable under MWO …

What he’s saying is that if you have an infinite number of universes then anything, no matter how improbable, not only can happen, but will happen… in some universe somewhere within the multiverse. Including naturalistic abiogenesis.

According to Koonin (and some “Many Worlds” physicists who agree with him), in some universe somewhere right now, there’s a guy who’s a practicing neurosurgeon, a janitor, and the lead actor in a recent blockbuster movie – simultaneously. He owns 271 cars, and is married to his high school sweetheart (who happens to be a princess from a tribe of highly-advanced super-beings). Their son adopted a pet chimpanzee named Wilson, while their twin daughters are ballistic missile experts in the local galactic army.

No, this isn’t a hypothetical story I just made up. Or, rather it is, but according to Koonin’s logic these things are actually going on right now as we speak, in some universe somewhere. The pet chimp is also very clever, and has learned how to fly a helicopter, among other things.

Now think about this trained monkey trying to synthesize life in a chemistry lab. What are the odds of him succeeding?? Exactly. But even the monkey has a better chance than a prebiotic Nature which has no intent or purpose whatsoever.

In any case, simply postulating an infinite multiverse in an attempt to overcome the problem does not help – Koonin doesn’t put forth any mechanism whereby life could be naturally synthesized, but just makes the bold assertion that it must certainly happen given a multiverse.

Time is no solution

Another factor that is usually seen as a possible helper for abiogenesis is Time. If Nature has billions of years to work with, she should be able to eventually get the right combination to the safe, right?

No, not at all. That would be akin to claiming a blind engineer could invent a BMW, or a Model-T Ford, given billions of years to live and try. It’s clear why time isn’t the problem. The blind engineer actually has better odds in this analogy than Nature does, since he at least knows what he’s attempting to accomplish.

The language/information problem

The origin of life gets all the more complicated when we realize it also necessitates the origin of information, and the origin of a language to convey that information. I could employ many quotes here concerning what information is, but I like how physicist and information theorist Hubert Yockey put it in this simple statement:

The meaning, if any, of words, that is, a sequence of letters, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement ... For example, "O singe fort!" has no meaning as a sentence in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means, "O sing on!" and in French it means "O strong monkey". Like all messages, the life message is non-material but has an information content measurable in bits and bytes.

Or, as chemistry professor Michael Polanyi already noted way back in 1958, in his book Personal Knowledge:

Information in the DNA could no more be reduced to the chemicals than could the ideas in a book be reduced to the ink and paper: something beyond physics and chemistry is encoded in DNA.

The origin of encoded genetic information is also assumed to have just happened miraculously under the multiverse scenario. Information here isn’t just the physical nucleobases, or even their sophisticated ordering alone, but the ribosomes’ understanding of the language, and their ability to decode and use those instructions to build the specified proteins. And then we have multiple regulatory genes in addition, which are all information networks.

There’s actually a $10 million challenge out there still ongoing, for anyone who can demonstrate a set of coded information that didn’t originate from a mind, i.e., that can be spontaneously generated by Nature. The judges include well-respected biologists George Church and Denis Noble, and the Royal Society has also gotten involved recently. No one has claimed the prize (find out more in the 2 minute video below).

The complexity problem

Most of us don’t actually know, much less appreciate, the number of things that need to be done in order to arrive at the “simplest” cell. Nature has no goal or aim or plan to create a cell. The fact that highly trained, highly intelligent chemists still can’t do it, speaks volumes.

So how is it that some lay naturalists and even some with degrees think all that’s needed is lots of time, and then Nature will eventually produce a living cell? The sheer amount of intellectual effort that goes into OOL research is more than impressive, and we still can’t make life ourselves – we can’t pull it off. But a mindless prebiotic Nature with no intention of creating a cell somehow did?

Consider the ingredients needed to make a basic candy. Here’s the list for Skittles:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Hydrogenated palm kernel oil
  • Citric acid
  • Tapioca dextrin
  • Modified corn starch
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Colors (Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake)
  • Sodium citrate
  • Carnauba wax

Now consider just a miniscule piece of a Skittle. Would Nature alone be able to synthesize and assemble the ingredients needed to make a tiny piece of a Skittle? No. Never. Not in ten billion years! But many adults believe Nature somehow synthesized and assembled everything that’s needed to make a living, metabolizing, self-replicating cell.

The extraterrestrials “solution”

But what if we were to claim that life on earth resulted from panspermia – that Extraterrestrials (ETs) seeded the first life on Earth? This is indeed what some among our SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) friends propose.

Well, then they’d have the problem of explaining how Nature produced those ETs. As Richard Dawkins wrote in The God Delusion:

…there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century…In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense…the crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way…They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution.

Saying ETs put the first life on Earth still keeps us inside the box of Naturalism. And then Nature still has to create and evolve the ETs, so the abiogenesis problem – how life can ever have come from non-life – remains.

Then there’s at least one scientist in peer-reviewed publication who also thinks panspermia by ETs isn’t a good enough proposal. Brig Klyce concedes there’s one of two possibilities:

  • “supernatural intervention or intelligence” (aka God)
  • or that cellular life has existed from eternity

This concession appeared in a paper (“Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic?” in the August 2018 edition of the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology) that Klyce co-authored with more than a dozen other scientists. He believed “that the complexity and sophistication of life cannot originate (from non-biological) matter under any scenario, over any expanse of space and time, however vast.” But if that’s so, then how is life here? Rejecting the possibility that God was involved, Klyce then proposes this:

A strictly scientific way around this dilemma would be to amend or tweak the big bang theory to allow for life from the eternal past. After all, the big bang theory is relatively new and still occasionally amended. Therefore, it seems unready to forever overrule the unviolated principle and consistent evidence that life comes from life.

Yes, that’s an actual suggestion from a peer-reviewed secular scientific paper – that life started here from a universe before the big bang. So either God did it, or self-replicating microbes have always existed. The difference between the two proposals is that:

  • God is an eternal Supernatural This is logically consistent and plausible, and even a metaphysical necessity to avoid an infinite regress of causes.
  • On the other hand, proposing an eternity of replicating microbes, each of which had a beginning and an end, is trying to say that abiogenesis never happened because there was no “first ever microbe.” But things that have a beginning still need to have an explanation for that beginning. Trying to hide that behind an infinite regression isn’t an answer to this problem.

Conclusion

For decades, highly trained experts have been striving to create life from scratch, using the raw materials found in nature. They have yet to succeed.

Even if they did eventually succeed somehow, that would only demonstrate that a high level of intelligent input is needed to create biological life; which is what we’ve been saying the evidence has always shown. Proposing an infinite multiverse where “anything that can happen will happen” is an unsubstantiated assertion with no empirical evidence whatsoever, and doesn’t offer a mechanism for abiogenesis or even address the issue that Nature has no intent to create life. The suggestion that microbial life has always existed and self-replicated is a logical absurdity, since there can be no such thing as an infinite regress of causes.

Thus in the question of God vs Naturalism, there is no question as to which answer is absurd.

Kenechi Okoli is a Christian who loves science, and in his free time he enjoys reading, music, and cooking. While he lived for over a decade in the US, he now resides in Nigeria.

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

Wrong questions lead to wrong answers

Why don’t brilliant scientists see evidence of God’s design in Nature? Because they deliberately limit the questions they are willing to ask. ***** The conflict between Biblical revelation and some aspects of modern science is a longstanding issue, and Christian young people can’t avoid being impacted by this dilemma. What should they believe? Should they accept that creation took place in six literal days, or should they seek some sort of accommodation of Scripture with the teachings of science? Many have anguished over this choice. The appeal of trying to accommodate to the popular scientific view – the appeal of bundling the Bible with the Big Bang – is clear. After all, don’t objective scientists know what they are talking about? So don’t we need to listen to what they are telling us they see? Christian vs. secular agendas In this context, what everyone must understand is that there are no objective scientists. Everyone has starting assumptions. The Christian naturally confesses that God exists, that He is omnipotent and omniscient and has communicated with us. Nature is God’s handiwork. Thus the Christian confesses that we see testimony to God’s work and character when we look at nature. For example we read in Psalms 19:1-3: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Another famous passage about the testimony of nature is Job 12:7-9: But ask the beasts, and they will teach you, and the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? When we study biology, we see that God is the creator! The secular position contrasts sharply with the Christian view. Mainstream scientists maintain that natural explanations can be found for everything. No supernatural input will ever be evident. For example, an editorial in the journal Nature (March 12, 1981) remarked concerning the definition of science: “…one prejudice is allowable, even necessary – the preconception that theories can be constructed to account for all observable phenomena.” Thus the Christian expects to see God revealed in nature, while the secular person says God will never be revealed in nature. Different expectations prompt different questions How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. With different expectations come different questions – there is a big difference between what secular scientists and what some Christians will ask about natural systems. And their different questions will result in very different answers obtained. How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. For example, suppose somebody showed you a photograph of three unfamiliar objects, green in color and square in shape. If you were to ask that person “How did Nature form that?” the only possible response would be some sort of natural process. However, if you were instead to ask, “Did Nature form that?” then the person has the opportunity to investigate whether or not these square watermelons (which is what the objects turn out to be) had a simply natural origin. Only then could they discover that no, they did not. Similarly, if a scientist asks, “How did life come about spontaneously?” then the only possible answer is a natural process. If the same scientist were to ask “Could life come about spontaneously?” in this case he has the opportunity to examine what cells are like and what the biochemical processes in cells are like, and thereafter conclude that life could not have come about spontaneously. Thus the answers obtained from the study of nature depend upon what questions are asked. No results There is no issue that more clearly demonstrates the impact of what questions are asked of nature, than the discipline of origin of life studies. Specialist John H. McClendon’s summary of the situation was as follows: “Since we know that life did arise, we are obligated to find mechanisms to accumulate enough organic matter to start life.” Scientists may feel themselves obligated to find such a scenario, but they are having a difficult time finding one nonetheless. The difficulties of proposing and defending a reasonable scenario for the origin of life were further highlighted by Simon Conway Morris in 2003 in a chapter entitled “The Origin of Life: straining the soup of our credulity” from his book entitled Life’s Solution. Of these chemists who are not discouraged by the results of their experiments, he remarks: …chemists have devised reaction pathways that can produce reasonable quantities of ribose , but the sheer complexity of the process and the careful manipulation of the many steps during the reaction make one wonder about its applicability to the origin of life. Dr. Morris is telling us that the kind of chemical reactions that require fancy manipulation by a chemist do not occur spontaneously in nature (apart from in living cells). Scientists were still looking for support for the “RNA world” in 2014 when the following description of a possible process was printed in Nature: After ten rounds of selection and amplification of catalytic molecules; pruning of superfluous sequences; insertion of another randomized segment to create a new pool; and then another six rounds of selection and amplification, a D-ribozyme was isolated that could perform template-directed joining of L-substrates about a million times faster than the uncatalyzed reaction. One would have to be very gullible indeed to believe that any of this could happen spontaneously. Indeed the article referred to the process as “engineering” which presupposed that an intelligent agent (the chemist) carried out the process. An article in Nature five years previously had similarly highlighted the difficulties of the RNA world hypothesis, the most popular explanation today for how life could have originated in spontaneous fashion. Matthew W. Powner et al declared: At some stage in the origin of life, an informational polymer must have arisen by purely chemical means. According to one version of the “RNA world” hypothesis this polymer was RNA, but attempts to provide experimental support for this have failed (italics mine). The determination of the mainstream scientists to keep looking for a spontaneous solution to the origin of life, even when the results are totally contrary, has long been recognized. But they do not see this situation as a problem. Thus David Deamer remarked in a book review on origin of life theories: Harold argues that, notwithstanding the vast literature, progress has gone little beyond the findings of Soviet biochemist Alexander Oparin and British polymath J. B. S. Haldane more than 80 years ago, when they independently argued that Louis Pasteur’s dictum “All life from life” was wrong. Note that the “findings” of Oparin and Haldane that Pasteur was wrong, were not based on any evidence, (they still aren’t), but on a choice to believe that life can come from non-living chemicals. Their bias blinds The secular scientist approaches the study of nature with a specific agenda. Nature is to be interpreted only in terms of matter, energy, and natural processes, even if the results look ridiculous. A prominent geneticist, Richard Lewontin (b. 1929) actually stated this very clearly. In a famous review of a book by Carl Sagan, he wrote: Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science…. because we have an a priori 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 absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. What Dr. Lewontin said, was that scientists bias their studies so that only natural explanations will ever be obtained. Similarly astronomer Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) equated such an approach as almost a religion for scientists: Scientists…. believe that every event that takes place in the world can be explained in a rational way as a consequence of some previous event. If there is a religion in science, this statement can be regarded as its main article of faith… Nothing to do with the truth It is certainly reasonable to ask how legitimate it is to restrict science to only naturalistic hypotheses. The answer you’ll get to that question depends upon whom you ask. Biologist Leonard Brand (b. 1941) replies that such restrictions are not legitimate. Our research only answers the questions we are willing to ask, naturalism allows only certain questions to be asked… Naturalism has a powerful biasing influence in science, in steering scientific thinking, and, in many cases, deciding what conclusions are to be reached. Others point out that secular scientists may restrict what explanations about nature qualify for the term “science” but they cannot at the same time claim, that what they are dealing with is truth. For example, philosophers of science Stephen C. Meyer (b. 1958) and Paul A. Nelson (b. 1958) point out: Restricting science to naturalistic hypotheses is not an innocuous methodological stratagem which nevertheless leaves science free to pursue the truth. God, after all, may not have been away on other business when life originated, or humankind came to be. These men declare that the secular assumption that God did not intervene directly in nature does not make it so. Similarly Calvin College (in Michigan) philosopher of science Del Ratzsch points out that: If nature is not a closed, naturalistic system – that is, if reality does not respect the naturalists’ edict – then science built around that edict cannot be credited a priori with getting at truth, being self-corrective or anything of the sort. What Dr. Ratzsch has pointed out is that wrong questions will always elicit wrong answers. Scientific explanations may change (and indeed they do) but the answers will never be any closer to the truth if the wrong questions are being asked in the first place. It is often said that science is “self-corrective” i.e. that errors are exposed and better explanations developed. However, the term “self-corrective” is meaningless when the studies are biased from the beginning. Conclusion Secular scientists, with their expectations of never seeing God in nature, have confined themselves to mechanistic explanations and interpretations. Such, of course, is the theory of evolution. As Dr. Ratzsch remarks: “… materialists have no viable choice but to view the world through evolutionary spectacles of some sort.” Similarly Dr. Brand tells us: “The evolutionary theory is based on the philosophy of naturalism, and does not consider any hypotheses that involve divine intervention in the history of the universe.” Influenced by their secular colleagues, many Christians choose a theistic evolution type of explanation for origins. For example, Clarence Menninga (b. 1928, science professor emeritus at Calvin College), wrote in The Banner: But it is presumptuous and arrogant for us to restrict God’s options by claiming that he could not have used natural processes to bring about certain complex structures and functions, even if we do not understand in scientific terms how that was done. Thus Dr. Menninga explains the appearance of living creatures in terms of an evolutionary process. He assumes that this is so, contrary to what the Bible says, even though he is unaware of a scientific explanation for the process. It is evident that if such scientists were to ask different questions, based on the expectation of seeing God’s work and character revealed in nature, they might not necessarily come to any evolutionary conclusions at all. In addition, the concept of long ages is a necessary ingredient in any evolutionary scenario. If there were no process of gradual change (evolution), if organisms were created directly, then there is no need for a long period of past time other than the few thousands of years for which we have historical records. This is an extract from Margaret Helder’s book "No Christian Silence on Science" which you can buy at the Creation Science Association of Alberta website...

Science - Creation/Evolution

Squirrel wonders (and the failure of evolution to explain them)

One of the most abundant wild mammals living in moderate latitudes is the common squirrel. Squirrels thrive in almost every habitat, from tropical rainforest to semiarid desert. They avoid only the cold polar regions and the driest deserts. Squirrels are also one of the very few mammals that thrive in cosmopolitan areas. Some wild squirrels have even become pets of a sort, or at least comfortable around people, if the human is patient and not aggressive towards the animal.1 As two of the leading squirrel authorities observed, “one can only marvel at how well adapted squirrels are to exploiting a forested environment” and, one could add, an urban environment as well.2 Their diversity is enormous and the squirrel family includes, not only tree and ground squirrels, but also flying squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, groundhogs and prairie dogs, all which deserve a separate paper. Many of the 273 squirrel species live in North America where they have very few enemies. This paper covers only tree squirrels, which nest and live in trees and have bushy tails to help them balance while running up and down trees. Ground squirrels live on the ground, have shorter, less bushy tails, and their fur is usually brown-gray with gray and white dots. Extremely well-designed Squirrels are very well designed for their terrestrial and arboreal life. Growing up in Michigan, I remember tree squirrels moving on the ground by a “hopping run” travel mode to scurry up a tree. Their sharp claws enable them to run down the tree about as fast as they can run up it. Their trademark is their slender bodies with very long, very bushy tails. The term “squirrel” derives from the bushy tail, which is one of their more-defining traits. Their large eyes give them excellent vision, allowing them to jump from one limb to another limb of the same tree, or even to other trees. They are one of the few mammals, aside from primates, that have color vision.2 Their excellent sense of touch uses the vibrissae (whisker-like hairs) on their strong flexible limbs as well as their heads. This system allows then to navigate telephone wires with ease, even while running on a wire almost as rapidly as they run on the ground. A talented tail Their tail is central to maintain balance on telephone wires high up the ground as well as in trees. Its function is similar to how a tightrope walker uses a pole to balance. They can also use their long tail, which is 40 percent of their body length, to protect their face and body from dogs, raptors, and other predators. The blood vessels in the tail serve as an efficient thermoregulation system, opening blood circulation to the tail to cool the squirrel, and closing it to retain heat. Raising their tail over their body affords them the ability to enjoy the cool shade it provides. It also serves as a warm blanket that greatly helps to keep them warm during cold winter nights. Lastly, their tail is critical in communicating to other squirrels and potential predators.3 Their diet Squirrels are herbivorous, subsisting on seeds and nuts, but some will eat insects and even very small vertebrates.2 They have large incisor teeth designed to crack open their diet of walnut, acorn, hickory and other nuts. Their constant gnawing helps them to keep their teeth razor sharp. Both tree and ground squirrels live in the same area year-round, including the cold winters. A motivation to write this paper is to understand how squirrels survive the ferocious winters where I live. Ground squirrels live on, or in the ground, and not in trees, and hibernate during the winter. Their heart rate and breathing rate slows down greatly and their body temperature falls below zero in preparation for hibernation. In contrast, gray tree squirrels rely on sheltered nests made from twigs and leaves, or dens in trees like woodpeckers, to sleep. In the winter they sleep in their nest or den and rely on fat reserves, and stored food to survive the long, cold winters.3 Also, in preparing for winter, they maximize their food consumption and body mass. They venture out during the morning and evening only if their food supply is low. They prepare for the winter by storing acorns and other nuts, berries, and tree bark in shallow holes near the trees where their nest is located. Squirrels use spatial memory to locate stored food, and often bury their food near landmarks to aid them in remembering where they stored it.4 Evidence for squirrel evolution Evolutionists believe that squirrels evolved about 36 million years ago from some hypothetical “more primitive rodent.”5 Previously, the earliest squirrel fossil evidence was found in western North America Darwin-dated to about 36 million years ago. A nearly complete skeleton was discovered in 1975 which “is surprisingly like that of a modern tree squirrel.”5 The skeleton of the find, determined to be a D. jeffersoni breed squirrel, was “…discovered in early Oligocene deposits of Wyoming, represents what may be the oldest fossil squirrel known… Except for minor differences in joint construction, the skeleton is strikingly similar to that of Sciurusniger, the living fox squirrel. It differs from extant ground squirrels in the more gracile proportions of its long bones and asymmetry of foot construction. This early member of the squirrel family was clearly an arboreal squirrel, with morphology, and presumably habits, very similar to those of extant Sciurinae.”6 The bones that were examined were judged to be “identical” to modern squirrels.6 The newest discovery after 1975 was a squirrel-like creature from China Darwin-dated over 200 million years old. The fossils were discovered by private collectors and amateur paleontologists in the fertile fossil province of Liaoning.7 The phylogeny of the fossils found “remains unsolved and has generated contentious views on the origin and earliest evolution of mammals.”8 As two of the leading experts of squirrels observed: “biologists consider tree squirrels to be living fossils because they remain virtually indistinguishable from European and North American specimens that lived more than 5 million years ago.”2 Squirrels are only one of hundreds of examples of living fossils.9 Many examples of variations within the genesis kind exist, such as documented by Michael Steele and John Koprowski,2 but I have been unable to locate any evidence for the evolution of squirrels from a non-squirrel. In short, the origins concern is not of variations within the genesis kind, but the evolution of the first squirrel from a non-squirrel. From what is known, the first squirrel was very close to identical to modern squirrels. And if a local squirrel is making off with seed from your bird feeder, just reflect that they are all wonderful creations! This is reprinted with permission from Creation Dialogue Volum 48, #2 and is by Jerry Bergman, the author of "Wonderful & Bizarre Life Forms in Creation." For more on the wonder of squirrels, check out Mark Rober's 20-minute video below. Though this is a secular presentation, it highlights God's genius in crafting these incredibly clever creatures. Parents, cautions for the video include a couple uses of "fricken" and a reference to a squirrel stuffie dressed up in a bikini as a "homewrecker."  Endnotes 1 Rose, Nancy. 2014. The Secret Life of Squirrels. New York, NY: Little Brown. 2 Steele, Michael A., and John L. Koprowski. 2001. North American Tree Squirrels. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 3 Cheevers, Carrie. 2020. How do squirrels prepare for winter? Spectrum News, November 11. https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/weather/2020/11/11/how-do-squirrels-prepare-for-winter- 4 Jacobs, Lucia, and Emily Liman, 1991. Grey squirrels remember the locations of buried nuts. Animal Behaviour. 41 (1): 103-110, January. 5 Thorington, Richard W., and Katie E. Ferrell. 2006. Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 6 Emry, Robert, and Richard W. Thorington, Jr. 1982. Descriptive and comparative osteology of the oldest fossil squirrel. Protosciurus (Rodentia: Sciuridae). Washington, D.C. SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION PRESS, Number 47. 7 Choi, Charles Q. 2014. Ancient squirrel-like creatures push back mammal evolution. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/47774-ancient-squirrels-push-back-mammal-evolution.html 8 Shundong, Bi, et al., 2014. Three new Jurassic euharamiyidan species reinforce early divergence of mammals. Nature. 514 (7524): 579-584, September 10; doi: 10.1038/nature13718. Epub. 9 Eldredge, ‎Niles, and S.M. Stanley. 2012. Living Fossils. New York NY: Springer-Verlag. Other references Pope, Joyce. 1992. Living Fossils (Curious Creatures): Animals Unchanged by Time. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn Library. Emry, Robert, and Richard W. Thorington, Jr. 1984. The Tree Squirrel Sciurerus carolinensis  as a living Fossil. In: Eldridge, Niles, and S.M. Stanley. Living Fossils. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

In the Beginning: Listening to Genesis 1 and 2 

by Cornelis Van Dam 2021 / 371 pages Dr. C. Van Dam begins his latest book by explicitly laying out his presuppositions.  He’s upfront about his non-negotiable assumptions and biases.  As I review his book, it’s appropriate that I share mine too.  I share his presuppositions about Scripture as the trustworthy Word of God, but I also bring a personal bias to the table.  Back in the day, Van Dam was my Old Testament professor at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary.  I had an affectionate nickname for him in view of his ability to put the smack-down on unbelieving or shoddy scholarship:  “Wham-Bam-Van-Dam.”  This was always said with the greatest admiration for Dr. Van Dam.  As a seminary professor, he was nothing if not thorough and careful. Far more than a commentary This new book exhibits that same kind of comprehensive and precise approach to the two opening chapters of Scripture.  Van Dam leaves no stone unturned.  In the Beginning is an exhaustive treatment not only of the meaning of these two chapters, but also the various challenges that have been raised in Old Testament scholarship regarding them.  What you’re looking at here is not just a commentary on Genesis 1-2, but far more. Over the last decade or so John Walton has become well-known for his views on the early chapters of Genesis.  Walton argues that we often misunderstand Genesis 1-2 because we don’t take into account the ancient Near Eastern context of these chapters.  Once we do that, says Walton, then we can see that Genesis 1-2 was never meant to be taken literally as history.  The history can then be filled in with what science teaches us, including what science says about human origins.  In chapter 2 of In the Beginning, Van Dam discusses Walton’s views at length and explains how and where they fail to do justice to the character of Scripture as the Word of God.  In my view this is the most important chapter of the book. A sampling To whet your appetite further, let me share a selection of questions that Dr. Van Dam answers elsewhere in the book: Can new scientific data be regarded as general revelation given by God? What is the relationship of Scripture to science?  Is Scripture a scientific textbook? Can geology give us a history of creation? Was Herman Dooyeweerd faithful to Scripture in his view of origins? How are we to evaluate Meredith Kline’s Framework Hypothesis? Did the ancient Israelites believe that heaven was a solid vault above us? Why is there no mention of evening and morning with the seventh day in Genesis 1? What does Scripture mean when it says that God created through his Son? Can the breath of life in Genesis 2:7 be equated with the Holy Spirit? Was there animal death before the fall into sin? Why did God create everything with an appearance of age?  Was he being deceptive in so doing? Those are just a few of the questions answered.  There are far more.  What I appreciate about Van Dam’s answers is that he bases them on what Scripture says.  He doesn’t want to go beyond Scripture and so he’ll sometimes say, “Scripture doesn’t say more than this – this is as far as we can go.” A point of disagreement If I would venture some respectful disagreement, it would be in the final chapter where the author briefly discusses whether there’s a need for new confessional formulations to address the challenges of evolution.  In 2014-15, I was involved with an effort to add some clarification to article 14 of the Belgic Confession in the Canadian Reformed Church.  That effort was ultimately unsuccessful.  I don’t regret having made the effort, nor do I think it unnecessary to this day. Van Dam argues that Scripture is clear and our “confessions faithfully reflect that testimony.” However, that fails to account for those who have argued that the Three Forms of Unity provide the latitude needed to hold to forms of theistic macro-evolution.  Their arguments have persuaded some.  This wiggle-room ought to be addressed, especially if there is openness to theistic macro-evolution in your churches. Van Dam also posits that: “A difficulty with preparing a new formulation asserting the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2 is the temptation to go beyond what Scripture says, in other words, to provide specifics about that which Scripture gives no additional detail.” The proposal to add clarification to BC 14 was to state what Scripture states:  that Adam was created from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:21-22).  As a consequence:  “They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans.  There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid.”  If one thinks that this infringes upon the freedom of exegesis, then one is willing to grant the latitude for theistic evolutionary accounts of human (and other) origins. Conclusion That criticism notwithstanding, In the Beginning was a delight to read – personally it brought me back to many of the OT lectures I enjoyed from Dr. Van Dam in my seminary years.  While enjoyable, it could be tough-going at times for some.  It’s not highly technical, but in places Van Dam does go academic.  It’s not a book you’d necessarily be giving out as gifts to those doing profession of faith.  It would, however, be a great gift for someone doing post-secondary studies, whether in the sciences or in the humanities.  And it’s definitely a recommended read for those who’ve completed such studies. Take a look at the Table of Contents and Introduction here. Dr. Bredenhof first posted this review to CreationWithoutCompromise.com, a blog “promoting the biblical understanding of origins” and it is reprinted here with his permission....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Replacing Darwin Made Simple

by Nathaniel T. Jeanson 85 pages / 2019 How's this for an intriguing thesis for a creationist book: Darwin got it right. So what exactly is the "it" Darwin got right? Author Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson argues that in On the Origin of Species Darwin's scientific argument/approach did successfully poke holes in creationism...but the 1859 version, which held that all the species were created exactly as they are, remaining unchanged. This "fixity of the species" isn't found in the Bible. God tells us He created "kinds" (Gen. 1:11, 21, 24, etc.) but why would we assume that has to mean species? We never see horses becoming deer, but we do see them becoming a whole host of different sorts of horses. So, might the "kinds" God created encompass larger groupings? We know, for example, that horses can breed with zebras. Might they belong together in the same "kind"? As Jeanson explains, this is how Noah could fit the animals on the ark: he didn't have to take horses, zebras, and donkeys, but instead took a representative pair of horse kind, from which these threes species eventually descended. And the same for dogs, and cats, and more. The author not only gives Darwin credit for highlighting the problems with a "fixity of species," he wants today's scientists to question like Darwin. Jeanson argues that if they used this same scientific critical approach it would back today's creationism and tear down today's evolution. Then scientists would find creationism has explanations for some of the same observations evolution is said to explain. And they would also find that evolution has problems that creationism does not when it comes to sexual procreation, rapid speciation, mitochondrial "clocks," and more. Made Simple is actually a simplified version of Jeanson's 2017 Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species, which clocks in at 335 pages. The larger version is written for the skeptic, something you can give to a curious friend, and it is larger because skeptics have lots of questions – it is a thorough overview of the creation vs. evolution debate. And that's also why it is the much more technical of the two. Both do require effort, but Made Simpler is probably accessible to anyone who had some high school science and is interested enough to put in the effort – the author describes it as the "Cliff Notes" version. Parts of the larger original are probably at a university level, but don't let that dissuade you if the topic is of interest – you don't need to (and I didn't) understand every last little bit to find it fascinating. So pick up a copy of Replacing Darwin Made Simple to get a good overview of a compelling argument: Darwin rebutted 1859 creationism, but would also do damage to modern-day evolution. And if you want to dig deeper (or have a skeptical friend) then pick up Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species. You can also listen to Dr. Jeanson give a presentation on the same subject matter in the 1-hour lecture below. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Giraffe: nature’s gentle giants

This is Chapter 7 from Dr. Jerry Bergman’s new book Wonderful and Bizarre Life Forms in Creation which you can order at Creation Science Association of Alberta. ***** Giraffes, the tallest living terrestrial animals on earth, are often called nature’s gentle giants due to their nonaggressive persona. Their most well-known trait is their long neck, longer than that of any living animal. Their 6-foot (1.8-meter) neck weighs about 600 pounds, more than the entire body of most animals. Their total height often reaches 20 feet and their weight 4,250 pounds. They are enormous animals. Their legs alone are taller than many humans, about 6 feet. They can run as fast as 35 miles per hour (mph) over short distances, or trot at 10 mph for longer distances. Giraffes are favorite animals in many cultures, both ancient and modern, and are often featured in books, paintings, and even cartoons. This is not only due to its long neck but also to its very distinctive coat patterns. It looks like the paint called “crackled” that shrinks as it dries, leaving distinct patterns of cracks spread throughout the animal’s body. For most young people, the giraffe is one of the most intriguing and exotic of all animals. It is so unusual, and in such contrast to other animals, that many people typically are more interested in it than many other fascinating creatures. In fact, the word “giraffe” is derived from the Arabic zerafa, a poetic variant of zarafa, meaning “lovely one” or “charming.”1 As one author noted, viewing a giraffe is one of humankind’s greatest visual experiences.2 The giraffe’s intelligent design The giraffe’s entire body – both its anatomy and physiology – is tightly intertwined as a single functional unit.3 The giraffe is an excellent example of intelligent design that demonstrates special creation. Its neck alone is a wonder of enormously complex design that requires all necessary parts to be in their proper places before its neck structure is functional. As Charles Darwin said, it is a beautiful animal with “an admirably coordinated structure” of many parts in its neck. Of interest, in The Origin of Species Darwin did not mention the giraffe’s neck as an example of evolution until the sixth edition, and then only in response to a critical review of his book by creationist St. George Mivart.4 In this work, it is clear that Darwin never regarded the giraffe’s long neck as central evidence of natural selection like biology textbooks that discuss evolution often imply today. Another major problem with the standard textbook story is that Darwin accepted Lamarckianism later in his life. Lamarckian theory of acquired characteristics explained giraffe neck evolution by arguing that constant stretching slowly elongated their necks, and they then passed on their beneficial longer neck trait to their offspring.5 Darwin resorted to the idea that evolution occurs by use and disuse of body parts because he was unable to come up with a plausible theory that explained the origin of genetic variety that Natural Selection could select.6 Darwin knew that without a viable source of genetic variety, no evolution can occur and his theory was dead. To produce a 6-foot-long neck from a short-necked animal (like evolution requires) necessitates hundreds or thousands of simultaneous, or nearly simultaneous, mutations – a set of events that has a probability of zero. It cannot just become longer, but requires a very different design than the less-than-one-foot neck that is common in most mammals. The late Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould said, “the long neck must be associated with modifications in nearly every part of the body – long legs to accentuate the effect, and a variety of supporting structures (bones, muscles, and ligaments) to hold up the neck.”7 The giraffe’s head and neck are held up by large powerful muscles strengthened by nuchal ligaments anchored by long dorsal spines on the anterior thoracic vertebrae. The giraffe’s neck vertebrae use an atlas-axis joint that allows the animal to tilt its head vertically and reach more branches with its tongue to obtain food. Giraffes require not only long necks to reach tall trees, but also long legs and even long faces and tongues (their tongues are over a foot long) to reach the high growing acacia leaves they favor. One major problem for Darwinists is how natural selection simultaneously altered necks, legs, tongues, prehensile lips, knee joints, muscles, and complex nervous system and blood-flow control systems to control the pressure necessary to pump blood from the heart up to the giraffe’s distant brain. The common explanation of the giraffe’s long neck is that it was not produced by gradual evolution but instead mistakes called mutations produced it.8 To eat grass or drink water, because they are the tallest animals in the world, giraffes must move their heads to a point seven feet below their heart and, when upright, to a point about eleven feet above it. When the giraffe puts its neck down to drink, one would expect blood to rush into its head. Then when he raised his head after drinking, the blood flowing away from its head should cause it to faint. But a system of ingeniously designed reservoirs and valves inside its arteries prevents this from occurring. Its strong heart beats 150 times per minute. A spongy tissue mass below the brain helps to regulate blood flowing to the brain to ensure that rapid pressure changes are blunted.9 When water is available, giraffes drink regularly from ponds and streams. But during a drought, they can survive very well without water for several weeks at a time because they can satisfactorily obtain their needs from plants.10 Giraffes are an Icon of Evolution One of the more common icons almost universally presented as proof of evolution is giraffe evolution. It is used in high school and college biology, anthropology, and evolution texts. Science “has made giraffes the very symbol of evolutionary progress.”11 So important was this icon that Francis Hitching titled his critique of Darwinism “The Neck of the Giraffe” (1983). A survey of all major high school biology textbooks found “every single one – no exceptions – begins its chapter on evolution by first discussing Lamarck’s theory of the inheritance of acquired characters,” then presenting Darwin’s theory of natural selection as the correct alternative to Lamarck’s theory.12 As a result, the “classic textbook illustration of our preferences for Darwinian evolution... an entrenched and ubiquitous example based on an assumed weight of historical tradition that simply does not exist.”13 Thus, this example teaches evolution by use of “a false theory,” and thus is a false icon.14 A typical explanation for the evolution of the giraffe’s long neck is that some giraffes, purely by chance, were born with fortuitously slightly longer necks, and that this conferred upon them a selective advantage enabling them to reach higher branches in times of famine and drought, which greatly improved their chances of surviving and leaving offspring similarly endowed with longer necks. Such a process repeated over many generations would inevitably lead to the long neck of the modern giraffe.15 The giraffe’s neck is used to illustrate how natural selection gives more variety within a population. In any group of giraffes, there always exists variation in neck length, as is true of any trait. Consequently, the theory postulates when their food supply is adequate, the animals do quite well, but when food is inadequate, giraffes with longer necks have an advantage. They can feed off the higher branches. If this feeding advantage permits longer-necked giraffes to survive and reproduce even slightly more effectively than shorter-necked ones, the trait will be favored by natural selection. The giraffes with longer necks will be more likely to transmit their genetic material to future generations than will giraffes with shorter necks.16 The problem with this theory is that it is not just a matter of stretching the neck. Rather, giraffes require an entirely new design. WHAT IS LAMARCKIANISM? Larmarckism or Larmarckianism is a theory of evolution named after Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. He believed that characteristics that an animal organism acquired during its lifetime could be passed on to its offspring. It’s the idea that if a man started working out and getting huge muscles, his offspring would have bigger than normal muscles too, even without working out. It is also the idea that if a giraffe managed to stretch out its neck by reaching for those leaves on those tallest branches, its offspring would be born with longer necks. Long neck essential for its lifestyle The giraffes’ long necks are critical in allowing these long-legged animals to rise from a lying position. They use their neck to shift their weight, allowing them to stand on their long legs. It is also critical in climbing and running, which involve snake-like, slithery movements that propels their entire body forward. The long, thin giraffe neck provides a great deal of surface area, which is also important for effective body cooling. For this reason giraffes – in contrast to many other large mammals that live in warm temperate areas – can remain in the hot sun for long periods of time. Darwinists give reasons why giraffes evolved their long necks which include for mating, for defense, for thermoregulation, to facilitate their fast-forward travel (up to 30 mph), or for one of many other reasons, but it is a poor icon for their theory. They propose that the giraffes’ long necks evolved for all of these reasons – or none of them. As Gould concludes, “The giraffe’s neck cannot provide a proof for any adaptive scenario, Darwinian or otherwise.”17 The giraffe’s neck is far more useful as an example of the many problems with Darwinism. Common claims of giraffe neck evolution fail The typical textbook story is that giraffes evolved long necks to reach the leaves located “at the tops of acacia trees, thereby winning access to a steady source of food available to no other mammal.”18 Some question why the trees did not evolve to become taller to prevent the giraffes from consuming their leaves. Although now an icon for Lamarck’s mechanism of evolution, Lamarck presented no evidence for this interpretation but rather only “a few lines of speculation.”19 His reference to giraffes in his classic work consists of only one paragraph based on zero data.20 Lamarck also wrongly claimed that the animal’s forelegs evolved to become longer than its hind legs, indicating that Lamarck was not familiar with the literature on this animal.21 Why giraffes are used to support Darwinism A major reason that the giraffe example is used to support evolution is because it is an easy illustration of Darwinism by artwork or photographs.22 Virtually all textbooks picture giraffes eating from acacia trees, incorrectly implying that its leaves are the main staple of their diet. So “appealing is this hypothesis that students of giraffe behavior and evolutionary biologists alike accept it.”23 Although the tall acacia tree leaves may be a preferred food source, giraffes will graze on many other tree and bush types. Plentiful foliage exists at the lower-levels of the tree, and giraffes also commonly consume grass and low bushes and many kinds of ground-growing plants.24 Female giraffes are, on average, about a meter shorter in height than males – and they survive quite well. If leaves at higher levels are a large unexploited niche, then why have not many other animals, such as antelopes, also evolved the same long neck as giraffes have?25 One could argue that giraffes with shorter necks could thrive better because most of the foliage in the part of Africa where they live is near the ground, and it would be a decided survival advantage to be closer to the more plentiful ground vegetation compared to the comparatively rarer acacia tree leaves.26 All young giraffes feed on grass and bushes until their neck has grown long enough to reach the trees, usually at 3 to 4 years of age. The females spend over half their time feeding with their necks horizontal, indicating that their neck’s length may actually be a handicap. The giraffe diet is extremely varied. Generally, they are browsers, feeding by plucking leaves with their 17-inch tongue. Or they will grab a tree branch, put it into their mouth, and pull off leaves by twisting their heads. The over 100 plant species in the giraffe’s diet include flowers, vines, herbs, along with an occasional weaver-bird nest. If there are chicks in the nest, the giraffe eats them too, gaining some extra minerals from their bones. Giraffes also get minerals by gnawing on the bones of animals killed and left by hyenas and other predators.27 Other problems with the Darwinist textbook story One common theory is that the long neck evolved to aid in mating. The chief adaptive reason for evolving long necks could be sexual success “with a much-vaunted browsing of leaves as a distinctly secondary consequence.”28 The longer neck enables males to perform their ritual dominant battles called “necking.”29 The intrasexual competition theory assumes that “necking” behavior evolved first, then the neck length evolved due to sexual selection. Other evolutionists suggest that giraffes’ long necks evolved to function as look-out towers to spot potential predators. This, coupled with giraffe’s excellent vision, enables them to spot a lion as much as a mile away. The problem with this theory is giraffe’s have virtually no enemies – lions are the only wild animal that usually attacks them, but only when desperate.30 A lion is little match for a 2,000 to 4,000-pound giraffe. A giraffe hoof can kill a lion with a single blow. The giraffes’ best defense is not their necks, but it is their long legs and heavy hooves that are deadly to enemies. They defend themselves primarily by kicking. This theory may explain their long legs, but not why they evolved long necks. The legs could have evolved first to allow them to run from carnivores, then the neck grew so that the giraffe could stretch down to eat grass and drink water. The problem with this scenario is long legs do not always give the giraffe an advantage to outrun predators. Many of the fastest animals have legs far shorter than a modern giraffe’s. Fossil evidence for giraffe evolution lacking Much controversy exists about giraffe evolution, partly because no empirical evidence of giraffe evolution exists. Without any evidentiary constraints, scientists are free to speculate. As a result, they have tried to link giraffes to a variety of often very dissimilar animals.31 About a dozen giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) types are recognized. They are plentiful in the fossil record, and their bones have not changed much, if at all, in shape or size since giraffes first appeared in the record. The extant fossil record evidence leads to the conclusion that giraffes have been unchanged, by evolutionary reckoning, for about two million years.32 Furthermore, the fossil evidence that does exist “provides no insight into how the long-necked modern species arose.”33 Except that they are greatly elongated, the seven giraffe cervical vertebrae and leg bones are about the same number and are very similar to those of virtually all mammals.34 If giraffe neck and leg elongation occurred in evolution, then this should be obvious in the fossil bones. Yet no fossils supporting their neck evolution have ever been discovered. Savage and Long conclude that the origin of all three of the mainpecorans (giraffes, deer, and cattle) lineages “remains obscure” due to the total absence of relevant fossil evidence.35 Although some estimate that there exist approximately 50 extinct giraffe species, all are known from fossils extending back to the Miocene, estimated by evolutionists to be 17 million years ago. In spite of considerable effort, none of these show evidence for giraffe evolution. After unearthing millions of fossil bones, paleontologists have not located evidence for giraffe neck elongation, or any transitional stages. As Danowitz documents “the giraffe neck has been adequately researched” which has confirmed that “osteological demonstration of the fossils and evolutionary transformation of the neck is lacking.”36 Summary In conclusion, we agree with Gould that the standard giraffe evolution story “in fact, is both fatuous and unsupported,” and the existence “of maximal mammalian height for browsing acacia leaves does not prove that the neck evolved for such a function.”37 Gould’s major concern about this case is, “If we choose a weak and foolish speculation as a primary textbook illustration (falsely assuming that the tale possesses a weight of history and a sanction in evidence), then we are in for trouble – as critics properly nail the particular weakness, and then assume that the whole theory must be in danger if supporters choose such a fatuous case as a primary illustration.”38 We critics have nailed, not only this major weakness in Darwinism, but also its many other weaknesses and outright incorrect conclusions. This is Chapter 7 from Dr. Jerry Bergman’s “Wonderful and Bizarre Life Forms in Creation” Each of the 23 chapters examines a different animal or creature, so if you liked this, you can order the book at the Creation Science Association of Alberta. References 1 Allin, M. 1998. Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, From Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris. New York: Walker and Company, p. 5. 2 Burton, M. and R. Burton. 1969. Giraffe. The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 7. NY: Marshall Cavendish, p. 885. 3 Davis, P. and D. Kenyon. 1993. Of Pandas and People; The Central Question of Biological Origins. Dallas, TX: Haughton; Brantley, G. 1994. A Living Skyscraper. Discovery. 5: 26. April. 4 Spinage, C.A. 1968. The Book of the Giraffe. London: Collins. 5 See J. B. Lamarck’s English translation. 1914. Zoological Philosophy. Translated by Hugh Elliot. London, England: Macmillan, p. 122. 6 Gould, S. J. 1998. Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History. NY: Harmony Books, p. 312. 7 Gould, ref. 6, p. 309. 8 Sherr, L. 1997. Tall Blondes, A Book About Giraffes. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, p. 40. 9 Hofland, L. 1996. Giraffes; animals that stand out in a crowd. Creation. 8 (4): 11-13.; Davis, P. and D. Kenyon, 1993. Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins. Dallas, TX: Haughton Pub. Co. 10 Peterson, D. 2013. Giraffe Reflections. Berkeley, CA: University of California; Dagg, A. 2014. Giraffe: Biology, Behaviour and Conservation. NY: Cambridge University Press. 11 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 40. 12 Gould, ref. 6, p. 302. 13 Gould, ref. 6, p. 302. 14 Gould, S. J. 1991. Bully for Brontosaurus. NY: Norton, p. 166. 15 Denton, M. 1986. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda, MD. Adler and Adler, pp. 42-43. Emphasis added. 16 Kottak, C. P. 2000. Anthropology: Exploration of Human Diversity. NY: McGraw-Hill, p. 166. 17 Gould, ref. 6, p. 317. Emphasis added. 18 Gould, ref. 6, p. 303. 19 Gould, ref. 14, p. 166. 20 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 41. 21 Gould, ref. 6, p. 306. 22 Hoagland, M., B. Dodson, J. Hauck. 2001. Exploring the Way Life Works: The Science of Biology. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett. 23 Simmons, R. E. and L. Scheepers. 1996. Winning by a neck: sexual selection in the evolution of giraffe. The American Naturalist. 148(5):771-786. p. 771. 24 Burton and Burton, ref. 2. 25 Gould, ref. 6. 26 Spinage, ref. 4. 27 Allen, T. 1997. Animals of Africa. Washington DC: Levin, p. 86. 28 Gould, ref. 6, pp. 317-318. 29 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 42. 30 Simmons and Scheepers, ref. 23. 31 Dagg, A. I. and J. Bristol Foster. 1976. The Giraffe: Its Biology, Behavior and Ecology. NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 32 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 42. 33 Gould, ref. 6, p. 315. 34 Gould, ref. 6, p. 309. 35 Savage, R. G. and M. R. Long. 1986. Mammal evolution. NY: Natural History Museum, p. 228. 36 Danowitz, M. et al. 2015. Fossil evidence and stages of elongation of the Giraffa camelopardalis neck. Royal Society Open Science 2: 150393. See also Danowitz, M., R. Domalski, N. Solounias. 2015. The cervical anatomy of Samotherium, an intermediate-necked giraffid. Royal Society Open Science. 2: 150521. 37 Gould, ref. 6, p. 318. 38 Gould, ref. 6, p. 314....

Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Free film: Genesis Impact

Docudrama 68 minutes / 2020 RATING: 7/10 This is a very good...something. The topic matter is plain enough – human origins – but what's less clear is whether this is a documentary or drama. The beginning is standard documentary: apologist Ray Comfort, just off camera, interviewing college students about their views on evolution. But when the camera pulls back we discover these interviews are actually a smartphone's 3-D holographic projections being viewed by a teen boy sitting on the edge of his couch (presumably a decade or two into the future seeing as there's no app for that quite yet). When mom wanders by to put away groceries, he shares his doubts about whether God really did create in just six days. "What if they're right, and we're wrong?" he asks, "I mean, the scientific evidence for evolution is pretty overwhelming. What if God...used evolution?" To answer his questions, mom takes us through another scene change, shifting back 20 years to modern day when she was still in school, listening to an origins lecture at a Natural History museum. When the speaker concludes and most of the other students leave the auditorium, the young mom-to-be stays behind to question, and eventually debate, the scientist/lecturer. That's where we stay, along with a few student stragglers, listening to a well-reasoned critique of the lecturer's evolutionary presentation. While Genesis Impact hardly has a plot, it still has plenty of drama as evolution and creationist go head-to-head over the next hour. Genesis Impact shouldn't be evaluated as a drama though. The acting is fine – solid enough not to get in the way, and better than many a Christian drama – but the young lady is far too knowledgeable, and the evolutionist lecturer far too reasonable (readily conceding her every good point) to be realistic. Fortunately, the filmmakers' goal isn't realism. They wanted to present a challenging, highly educational lecture on a pivotal topic, and they wanted to deliver it in a really unique and entertaining manner. Mission accomplished! Caution While the topic matter is the sort you might want to share with an atheist friend, that this is a staged debate – an acted out debate – provides the "out" any skeptic would take to dismiss it entirely, arguing that a real evolutionist would have had better responses, or wouldn't have conceded so many points. So one caution would be that this isn't one to win over an unsympathetic or hostile audience. Conclusion What makes it valuable is that the creationist critique is a really good one. Evolutionary proofs aren't so overwhelming as it seems, with guesses built on assumptions, stacked atop beliefs. Secular science presents their conclusions as being unassailable, though sometimes the hype is as much the fault of the media as the scientists. Even when researchers couch their guesswork with phrases like "could be" and "might" and "probably" the media is likely to trumpet "Evidence of life has been found on Mars!" in 36-point front-page headlines.  Still, the same sort of unwarranted certainty can be found in Natural History displays, and in university classrooms, so evolutionary arrogance isn't simply a mainstream media invention. Who should see Genesis Impact? It's best suited for bible-believing Christians who are interested in, or troubled by, evolutionary accounts. It'll be an encouragement and could serve as a leap-off point for further study. The depth of the material discussed also means this is best suited for college-age and up. You can watch it for free below, and visit the film's website to dig deeper: GenesisApologetics.com/Impact. ...

Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Secrets of the Cell with Michael Behe

When Darwin first published On the Origin of the Species, the science of his time saw the cell as an uncomplicated organism. That’s quite the contrast with what we’ve learned in the 150 years since: the deeper we delve into life on the smallest scale, the more we find there is yet to discover. Even the simplest cells are more intricate than the most complex automated factories. In the five short videos that follow, Dr. Michael Behe shares "secrets of the cell" to show us how evolution's random mutation and time simply can't account for the magnificent design we find even on the cellular level. And in each episode, he uses helpful analogies and computer animations to introduce key Intelligent Design concepts. Behe is one of the principal figures behind the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement, which argues that Nature gives evidence of being intelligently designed. Creationists would agree, but the two groups part ways on who gets the credit. ID proponents refuse to name their Intelligent Designer, leaving room in their tent for Muslims, Moonies, Christians, and even agnostics (some of whom might believe in thousands of years, and others who hold to millions of years). Meanwhile, creationists give glory specifically to God for how fearfully and wonderfully we have been made. Thus these ID videos, on their own, don't bring us to the Truth. However, they do a fantastic job of exposing the evolutionary lie. SEASON 1 Episode 1: Someone Must Have the Answer! (4 minutes) In the opening episode, Dr. Michael Behe introduces us to "the unseen world of organic micro-machines" contained inside the "most fundamental unit of life," the cell. He also shares how he first came to question the explanatory power of Darwin's Theory: "My own view of the cell took a turn years ago. I was in a lab at the National Institutes of Health doing postdoctoral research; I was discussing the origin of life with a fellow postdoc. As she and I thought about the cell, we wondered, how could its complex membrane, proteins, metabolism, genetic code, how could all that have formed by the accumulation of undirected changes? So we were both sort of stunned by the notion. But then we just laughed it off. We figured that even if we didn't know the answer, somebody must know..." But that isn't what he found. Episode 2: The Complexity of Life (5 minutes) One of the key evidences of Intelligent Design is how some biological "machines" could not have evolved via any sort of step-by-step process – they need all the steps already in place to function. This is what Behe calls "irreducible complexity" and he gives as one example, the flagellum – a type of "outboard motor" that some single-cell bacterium use to move about. " has a number of parts a driveshaft, a universal joint, a rotor, bushings, stator, even a clutch and braking system. The motor of the flagellum has been clocked at a hundred thousand revolutions per minute and...removing even one component of this elegant machine destroys its function..." So how could such an irreducibly complex machine have been "developed blindly, in stages"? Episode 3: The Power of Evolution (6 minutes) Behe begins with how bugs are amazing, and far more intricate than anything Man can engineer. In fact, there is a whole field of science called biomimetics, or biomimicry devoted to improving human designs by studying bug and animal mechanisms that are "both precise and purposeful." Did you know that one bug even comes complete with gears?!?  Behe talks about mutation and natural selection, and because these are key elements of Darwin's Theory, Christians sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must oppose and deny their impact. But the way to figure out the truth isn't simply to hold to a position 180-degrees from that of mainstream science – evolutionists can't be trusted to be that reliably wrong. The key difference between evolution and creation is not in whether mutation and natural selection happen, but rather in what they can accomplish. Evolutionists say mutation and natural selection can, together, create wholly new species, accidentally. We argue that the changes possible are of a more minor sort, and the potential for them is largely built-in, or the changes come about as a result of mutations causing information loss, which would be better called devolution. Episode 4: Effects of Mutation (7 minutes)  Richard Lenski's 30-year long E coli bacteria experiment is one of the most popular, and seemingly best examples of evolution observably happening. Mutations had helped the offspring grow faster, and grow bigger than their ancestors. But what sort of mutations were these? It turned out that they involved broken genes. Thus this was, once again, devolution and did nothing to explain the growth in complexity that would be needed to take us from the simple first molecules to the awesome creature that is Man. But how does breaking genes help a cell grow faster? Behe notes that just as jettisoning key car parts - maybe the doors, most of the seats, the hood, and cigarette lighter – might allow it to run further on a tank of gas, so, too, some broken genes can increase a cell's ability to reproduce in a given environment...but only at the expense of the complexity it might need to deal with other circumstances. As Behe puts it, such "...helpful mutations are not a DNA upgrade." Episode 5: The X Factor in Life (8 minutes) In this conclusion, Behe invites us – challenges us! – to follow where the evidence takes us. This is where Behe gives his most overt pitch for an Intelligent Designer, asking "Who is this Mind?" But he then doesn't answer his question. So we're left with his conclusion that there is a Mind behind it - an immensely intelligent, but still unnamed, Designer. SEASON 2 Episode 6: Bacteria: Superheroes of the Microbial World While the fifth episode was the original conclusion to the series, it started up again 2 years later, with a sixth, and plans for more. This time Dr. Behe highlights just how complex even a simple bacterium really is, doing naturally, what no scientists has been able to do via concerted effort, and computer-assisted design. There is, in fact, an astonishing factory – one that would "rival any modern-day fabrication plant" – at work in these small organisms. What's so fun here is the amazement evidenced by Behe in all that he shares. He's making an argument, one that'll put evolutionists in their place, but he's also enjoying himself peering closely at the wonders God has put on display on the microscopic scale. We should do likewise. Maybe the most interesting factoid this time around is, did you know that we have almost as many (generally helpful) bacteria residing on and in us as we have cells in our body? Roughly 40 Trillion, give or take a few trillion. But because they are so small, they cumulatively only weigh about 1/300th of an ounce. How's that for amazing? Episode 7: Blood clotting: the bodies emergency response team (16 minutes) In this episode, Dr. Behe highlights how the blood clotting system needs to work to save us from bleeding out due to minor cuts and scrapes. But it also has to work in delicate balance, because if it works too well, it could clot blood in the body, stopping the distribution of oxygen, or causing strokes. Behe also explores whether there are beneficial mutations. He notes that the answer is yes.... and no. Any advantages that do happen aren't the sort that would contribute to evolutionary progress. Conclusion For more Michael Behe, be sure to check out his full-length free documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of the Molecular Machines, which is both an account of the man, and also a history of the Intelligent Design Movement. The film, and our review, can be found here. You can also watch the first five episodes of the series above - the first "seasons" – re-edited into one half-hour-long video here....

Science - Creation/Evolution

Evolution as a gravedigger

Theistic evolution undermines God’s Truth, but it’s only continuing what Old Earth Creationism began *** Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland has recently published an excellent article, "Theistic evolution, Christian Knowledge and Culture's Plausibility Structure", in the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies (Volume 2, Issue 1:1-18, 2017). In it he reflects on the broader cultural implications of adopting theistic evolution as a means to integrate Christianity and science. Knowledge and plausibility structures Dr. Moreland notes that our Western society is highly empirical. Our culture presumes that valid knowledge can be acquired only through science (scientism), whereas non-empirical claims concerning values, ethics, spirits, and the like, are merely personal opinions (cultural relativism). Today, the central issue is not whether Christianity is true, but whether it can be known to be true: Does Christianity have a valid source of knowledge? Knowledge is defined by Dr. Moreland as "true belief based on adequate grounds".  He contends: The deepest issue facing the church today is this: Are its main creeds and central teachings items of knowledge or mere matters of blind faith–privatized personal beliefs or issues of feeling to be accepted or set aside according to the whim of individual or cultural pressures? Do these teachings have cognitive and behavioral authority that set a worldview framework for approaching science, art, ethics–indeed, all of life? Or are cognitive and behavioral authority set by what scientists, evolutionary biologists, or the members of BioLogos say? Are the church’s doctrines determined by what Gallup polls tell us is embraced by cultural and intellectual elites? Do we turn to these sources and set aside or revise two thousand years of Christian thinking and doctrinal/creedal expressions in order to make Christian teaching acceptable to the neuroscience department at UCLA or the paleontologists at Cambridge? The question of whether or not Christianity provides its followers with a range of knowledge is no small matter. It is a question of authority for life and death, and lay brothers and sisters are watching Christian thinkers and leaders to see how we approach this matter. And, in my view, as theistic evolutionists continue to revise the Bible over and over again, they inexorably give off a message about knowledge: science gives us hard knowledge based on evidence and with which we can be confident, and while theology and biblical teaching do not give us knowledge, they provide personal meaning and values for those with the faith to embrace them. Every culture, Dr. Moreland writes, has a plausibility structure – a set of background assumptions that determines what ideas people are willing to entertain as possibly true. Our current Western cultural plausibility structure elevates science, and bans Christianity from serious consideration. Such cultural bias makes effective evangelization difficult. Theistic evolution as a gravedigger Dr. Moreland contends that the acceptance of theistic evolution by many Christians has greatly contributed to the undermining of Christianity as a source of knowledge: In my view, there are certain contemporary currents of thought that risk undercutting Christianity as a source of knowledge, and I shall argue that by its very nature, theistic evolution is the prime culprit. It is one of the church’s leading gravediggers... The term "gravedigger" (from Os Guinness's 1983 book The Gravedigger File) refers to Christians who, though well-intended, adopt views that eventually undermine the church. Dr. Moreland raises three concerns: Theistic evolution reinforces scientism. It exemplifies the notion that, when science and the Bible clash, we revise the Bible, not science, since scientific truth claims exhibit solid knowledge based on facts. Such willingness to revise Biblical interpretations held for 2000 years implies that Biblical teaching is tentative. The most pervasive form of theistic evolution holds that God's involvement in evolution is undetectable, so that it is in practice indistinguishable from naturalistic evolution. Most theistic evolutionists are opposed to Intelligent Design, the notion that God's hand can readily be discerned in nature. According to Dr. Moreland: Theistic evolution is intellectual pacifism that lulls people to sleep while the barbarians are at the gates. In my experience, theistic evolutionists are usually trying to create a safe truce with science so Christians can be left alone to practice their privatized religion while retaining the respect of the dominant intellectual culture. ...Sometimes theistic evolutionists claim that by embracing evolution, they are actually contributing to the plausibility of Christianity by removing an unnecessary stumbling block – the rejection of evolution – before one can be a well-informed Christian. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. While there are exceptions, my experience with theistic evolutionists is that they have a weak faith, do not see many answers to prayer, and lack a vibrant, attractive Christian life. Ideas have consequences, and if one knows he had to revise the early chapters of Genesis, it will weaken his confidence in the rest of the Bible...After all, if we have to provide naturalistic revisions of the Bible over and over again, why take the yet-to-be-revised portions of scripture seriously? This approach significantly weakens the cognitive authority of the Bible as a source of knowledge of reality... Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids towards placing non-scientific claims in a privatized upper story in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined... Dr. Moreland expresses particular concern about the readiness of some Christian scholars to abandon belief in the historical reality of Adam and Eve. Given our culture's current plausibility structure, this contributes to the marginalization of Christian teaching. He comments: If I am right about the broader issues, then the rejection of an historical Adam and Eve has far more troubling implications than those that surface in trying to reinterpret certain biblical texts. The very status of biblical, theological and ethical teachings as knowledge is at stake in the current cultural milieu as is the church’s cognitive marginalization to a place outside the culture’s plausibility structure. Those who reject a historical Adam and Eve inadvertently harm the church by becoming its gravedigger. Finally, Dr. Moreland notes that evolution entails that we are purely physical beings, and that an immaterial soul is no longer considered plausible within our modern culture. He deplores the fact that a number of Christian philosophers have adopted a physicalist view of humans. Responding to cultural challenges How should Christians respond to our culture, with its anti-Christian plausibility structure? Dr. Moreland urges that we should not cave in to the prevailing contemporary currents of ideas. Instead, Christians should hold their ground, "eventually winning the argument due to hard-hitting scholarship and confidence in the Bible": Accordingly, it is of crucial importance that we promote the central teachings of Christianity in general as a body of knowledge and not as a set of faith-practices to be accepted on the basis of mere belief or a shared narrative alone. To fail at this point is to risk being marginalized and disregarded as those promoting a privatized set of feelings or desires that fall short of knowledge... I want to win people to Christ and to “bring down strongholds” that undermine knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), to penetrate culture with a Christian worldview and to undermine its plausibility structure which, as things stand now, does not include objective theological claims. He stresses the importance of apologetics, especially scientific apologetics, such as is done by the Intelligent Design movement (ID). The church should seek ways, such as a scientific critique of naturalist evolution, that may help to modify a person's plausibility structure so as to create space in which Christianity can be seriously entertained. How should conflicts with science be handled? Dr. Moreland advises that we should not be hasty to revise Scripture. Rather: No, we should be patient, acknowledge the problem, and press into service Christian intellectuals who are highly qualified academically, have respect for the fact that scripture presents us with knowledge (not just truth to be accepted by blind faith), and who want to work to preserve the traditional interpretation of scripture and avoid revisionism. These intellectuals should be given the chance to develop rigorous models that preserve historical Christian teaching, unless, in those rare cases, our interpretation of scripture has been wrong. These intellectuals are heroes because they value loyalty to historic understandings of scripture over the desire to fit in with what scientists are currently claiming. The Intelligent Design movement is just such a set of intellectuals... Rather than tucking their tails between their legs at the first sign of a conflict between the Bible and science, and standing ready (even eager) to let the scientists tell them what they must revise, the members of the ID movement have the intellectual courage and confidence in biblical teaching not to back down. Rather, ID advocates “deconstruct the pretentiousness” of truth-claims that go against biblical assertions that are properly interpreted (and they don’t grab for an interpretation that, all by itself, gives in to the other side of the conflict.) And they don’t make excuses for the Bible; they advance arguments in its support. Digging deeper There is much in this article that I can heartily endorse. I fully concur with Dr. Moreland that theistic evolutionists help dig the church's grave by promoting modern culture's plausibility structure, which has no place for Biblical knowledge. Allowing science to change our views on Adam and Eve is certainly a prime example of this danger. Further, it is commendable that the Intelligent Design movement exposes the weaknesses of naturalist evolution, and seeks to show that nature exhibits many marks of an Intelligent Designer. Yet, in stressing scientific argumentation, and rarely referring to Scripture, the ID movement itself may be contributing to scientism. Moreover, many proponents of ID do not consistently exhibit great confidence in the Bible as a source of knowledge. For example, most of them – including Dr. Moreland – accept an ancient age for the earth, as given by mainstream geology. This obliges them to revise the traditional reading of Genesis 1-11, regarding such things as the creation days, the physical extent of Adam's Fall, Noah's Flood, the genealogies of Gen. 5 & 11, etc. For more discussion on this issue, see my article The Cost of an Old Earth: Is it Worth it? Indeed, the plausibility structure reigning in most of Christian academia is such that it scorns those rare Christian academics who still promote traditional Biblical history. Old Earth Creationism is subject to the same concerns that Dr. Moreland raises regarding theistic evolution, namely: It reinforces scientism. It exemplifies the notion that, when science and the Bible clash, we revise the Bible, not science, since scientific truth claims exhibit solid knowledge based on facts. Such willingness to revise Biblical interpretations held for 2000 years implies that Biblical teaching is tentative. Moreover, the Biblical Adam, though an essential part of traditional Biblical history, becomes blatantly implausible when thrust into the setting of mainstream geology and paleontology, which traces modern humans back at least 300,000 years, with much earlier ancestors, exhibiting suffering and death from the beginning, etc. Consequently, a plausibility structure that includes mainstream geology, and correspondingly downplays Biblical ancient history, paves the way for plausibility structures that exclude further Biblical teachings, such as the historical Adam. I have a high regard for Dr. Moreland. He has written much worthwhile material, and made important contributions to Christian scholarship. Nevertheless, I believe that he has been inconsistent in upholding his own standards, thereby inadvertently contributing to grave-digging. Theistic evolutionists are merely deepening the grave already substantially dug by Old Earth creationists. In his article Dr. Moreland cautions: It should be clear that naturalism is not consistent with biblical Christianity. If that’s true, then the church should do all it can to undermine the worldview of naturalism and to promote, among other things, the cognitive, alethic nature of theology, biblical teaching and ethics. This means that when Christians consider adopting certain views widely accepted in the culture, they must factor into their consideration whether or not such adoption would enhance naturalism’s hegemony and help dig the church’s own grave by contributing to a hostile, undermining plausibility structure. Wise advice! Perhaps Dr. Moreland should heed it by reconsidering his own plausibility structure. This article first appeared in an Oct. 24, 2009 post on Dr. John Byl’s blog Bylogos.blogspot.com and is reprinted here with permission. Dr. John Byl is a Professor emeritus for Trinity Western University, and the author of "God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe" and "The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning.”...

Science - Creation/Evolution

"Inferior" design: a proof of evolution?

"Suboptimal" design in nature is supposed to be the result of, and evidence for, evolutionary trial and error ***** Everybody loves to hear about wonderful living creatures with their amazing talents. It is certainly uplifting to learn about Monarch butterfly's continent-spanning migration, and the toe pads of the gecko that allow it to walk upside down, and the amazing strength of spider silk. Christians enjoy discussing the wonderful designs that we see in nature. And among scientists, these creatures have their fans too. Indeed, there is an entire field in science called biomimicry where scientists try to learn from living creatures in order to produce practical designs for modern application. But not everyone is equally enthusiastic about the implications of these amazing talents. Prominent evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) in 1978 wrote: "...ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator." Dr. Gould thus said that everyone should ignore examples of wonderful design and concentrate on phenomena that are below par. He continued: "Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution – paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce." Gould was telling us that he knew how God should act if, that is, God really existed. God, according to Gould, would make everything perfect. And since we know that everything is not perfect in nature then, said Gould, this proves there is no God. This kind of argument, based on assumptions of how God should act, continues to be common in science today. There is thus a lot of interest among scientists, in suboptimal (less than perfect) design. Let us look at some examples to see what the implications are. THE PANDA'S THUMB The example Gould discussed in 1978 was the thumb of the Giant Panda. These animals, native to China, eat almost nothing but bamboo shoots. They use their hands to strip off the leaves, leaving the nice tender shoots on which to munch. Their flexible hands are unusual – they have a thumb of sorts, an extra structure produced from an enlarged wrist bone, with associated muscles and nerves. Gould declares that this extra finger is a "somewhat clumsy, but quite workable solution…. A contraption, not a lovely contrivance." Here he was declaring that the panda's thumb was of suboptimal or inferior design, which thus constituted proof that the source of the thumb was evolutionary trial and error rather than from a "divine artificer" (supernatural designer). A major argument employed by many evolutionists, even today, is to point to suboptimal (inferior) design and to declare that this proves that evolution was the source rather than God. However, what makes something "suboptimal" is an open question. Sometimes a phenomenon that appears less than ideal actually displays superior and unexpectedly sophisticated design. Gould might not like the panda's thumb, but there is no denying how wonderfully this thumb gets the job done. INFERIOR EARS? Another example: the inner ear of humans includes a spirally coiled structure called the cochlea. Lining its interior are very fancy hair cells which, by their motion, amplify the sound. The whole cochlea functions as a remarkably sensitive and finely tuned sound detector. However, at the same time, it also distorts the sound. Might these distortions be considered inferior design? A study in 2008 (Nature, Nov 13) demonstrated that the distortions actually contribute to clarity of sound. The distortions come from a particular structure connecting the top of the various hair cells. Mice without this connector in their cochlea became progressively deaf. Who knew distortions were so useful? STABLE vs. MANEUVERABLE A recent article published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (November 4-8) discussed another counter-intuitive (contrary to our expectations) situation. The study was conducted by engineers trying to build efficient robots. This is a large field of research. The designers want systems that are not only stable but maneuverable. The problem is that these are opposite objectives. In general, the more maneuverable a robot is, the less stable it is. If your robot tips over, clearly it is not going anywhere. Alternatively, the more stable a robot is, the less one can fine-tune what it does – the harder it is to make sudden changes of direction. Thus your robot may be able to proceed briskly straight ahead, but what if you need it to turn a corner or climb over an obstruction? Will it be able to turn, or will it instead tip over? Animals obviously have no such problems. That's why engineers have turned their attention to animal locomotion. They ask themselves, how do animals achieve the "impossible" combination of stability and maneuverability? How indeed do actual insects like cockroaches manage their excellent locomotion skills? Biologists may have already observed the solution without recognizing its significance. Why, many biologists have wondered, do animals move in directions that are different from their desired destination? Why, for example, do cockroaches and lizards tilt from side to side as they run forward? An engineer would most likely eliminate these motions, which seem to waste energy, as they do not obviously contribute to the forward motion. Lately, however, mechanical engineers have begun to research how unexpected, "inefficient" movements may benefit these animals. Insight into this mystery recently came from studies of a tiny fish from the Amazon basin. In order to avoid predators, this fish prefers to hide in various shelters such as tiny tubes. Scientists used slow-motion video to study fin movements of this fish as it finessed its way into its hiding places. At 100 frames per second, a strange situation became apparent. The fish was using one part of the lower body fin to push water forwards, and the other part to push it backwards. This was definitely against common sense since it was like two propellers fighting against each other. When scientists built a fishy robot, they found that the opposing forces actually improved the stability and maneuverability of their model. The assumption of the engineers that it is wasteful or useless to employ forces in directions other than the desired forward motion had now been proven wrong. Apparently, the same principle applies to the motion of many other creatures. The take-home lesson is that what, at first glance, appeared to be inferior design (opposing forces) actually turned out to be superior design! PENGUIN ROCKETS  Another recent robotic study which shows promise is one inspired by the talents of emperor penguins. While these creatures look pretty inept on land, in the water they can accelerate from 0 to 7 meters/second in less than a second (a veritable rocket). One student at Caltech's Aeronautics Department set out to create new propulsion technologies with high maneuverability and improved hydrodynamic efficiency. The new mechanical design is based on the penguin's shoulder and wing system and features a spherical joint with various other technical features. Concerning the promise of the study, the student declared that the manner in which penguins swim is still poorly understood. Nevertheless, by accurately reproducing an actual penguin wing movement, he and his collaborators hope to shed light on the swimming mysteries of these underwater rockets (ScienceDaily.com November 14, 2013). THE FLY EYE There are many other examples of unrecognized excellence in design. For example, the compound eye of insects and other invertebrates is often considered to be less ideal than our own camera eyes. However, a recent study that modeled the compound eye found that it does offer some advantages over the camera style eye (Young Min Song et al. Nature. May 2, 2013). Specifically the compound eye provides for an exceptionally wide field of view, and secondly such an eye has a nearly infinite depth of focus. As an object recedes away from the eye, the object becomes smaller, but it still remains in focus. It is apparent that in the case of eye design, there is no such thing as inferior design. There is instead good design that is more applicable to certain applications than to others. GOD TELLS US TO EXPECT "INFERIOR" DESIGN Obviously however there are many situations in nature that are less than ideal. This is a fallen world and there are many cases where we see distressing phenomena. The secular argument that a good God would never mandate inferior design is simply not valid. God cursed nature as a result of man's sin, so we have no reason to expect wholesale perfection, and the former "very good" creation now displays many inferior design choices. For example in Job 39:13-17 we read: The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,    but are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaves her eggs to the earth    and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them    and that the wild beasts may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;    though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear, because God has made her forget wisdom    and given her no share in understanding. Clearly, the breeding behavior of the ostrich is suboptimal but nevertheless designed by God. Yet "when she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider" (Job 39:18). The strong legs of this bird and her running prowess also come from God. These gifts are a strong contrast to the behavioral deficits of the ostrich. The evolutionists think they have proven that God did not work in nature. However, since their argument depends upon a discussion (however faulty) of the nature of God, this is a religious argument. Since they claim to have ruled out all religious arguments, then how can they use arguments concerning what God would or would not do – arguments touching on the character of God – to prove evolution? They need to make up their minds. If they want to explore the character of God and why He'd allow brokenness in the world, then let's open our Bibles. As for Christians, despite the fallen condition of the world, we can still enjoy and benefit from, and give thanks for, the many wonders of creation as coming from God's divine wisdom. This article first appeared in the January 2014 issue under the title " Upon further reflection..." Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of “No Christian Silence on Science.”...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Scarred Earth (The Grand Canyon)

This half-hour video is divided into two parts. The opening 15-minute are an investigation into how the Grand Canyon was, and was not formed. Presenter Eric Hovind notes that while evolutionary explanations don't fit well with the facts, the evidence does line up with the biblical account: that this massive scar on the planet Earth had to have been formed during the events of the worldwide Flood described in Genesis 6-8. While the first half of the film will be interesting to both Christians and open-minded non-Christians, the second half of the film is aimed at specifically the unbeliever. It is a Gospel presentation where Hovind, in interviews done with visitors to the Grand Canyon, explains how we are all sinful and in need of a savior. He then shares how God has provided that Savior in Jesus Christ, who takes our deserved punishment on Himself. This approach – taking a topic as a leap off point to sharing the Gospel – is inspired by the work of Ray Comfort, who has done something similar with abortion, homosexuality, and even bananas. For a more in-depth look at the Grand Canyon from a 6-day creationist perspective, see Chapter 18 "When and How Did the Grand Canyon Form?" (which can be read for free here) from The New Answers Book 3: Over 35 Questions on Creation/Evolution and the Bible. One important point the chapter makes that doesn't come out in this video is that while a creationist explanation lines up well with the evidence, and better than a millions-of-years-timescale, that doesn't mean creationists have it all figured out. And since we don't want to overstate our case, it's important to acknowledge we have our own unanswered questions. To watch the video without signing up to Eric Hovind's email list, simply hit the "No thanks" button. But if you liked his 3D film Genesis: Paradise Lost (which we review here) you may want to pass along your name and email. Grand Canyon Movie from Creation Today on Vimeo....

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

God is visible to any with eyes to see

Our universe, if just slightly different, would never have been able to support life. For example, a proton’s mass is 1,836 times greater than that of an electron, but it carries a positive charge that is exactly equal to that of the electron’s negative charge. How very strange that the two, so different in size, would yet be perfectly matched in charge! If they weren’t paired just so, then the vast array of elements could never have formed and life could never have existed. This is but one example of the fine-tuning that so troubles atheists that they’ve resorted to “what if” stories to explain it away. Yes, they acknowledge, the universe is too finely tuned to have come about just by chance…if we’d had only one role of the dice to get here. But wait, what if this wasn’t the only universe? What if there were billions and trillions and gazillions of universes out there somewhere? What if we could stack the odds in our favor by supposing as many universes as we might need? Then it wouldn’t seem so very improbable that at least one of these might be suited to life…right? However, there's a problem. As physicist Frank Tipler notes, there's as much evidence for these other universes as there is for the existence of leprechauns and unicorns. None at all. So on what basis do scientists propose this theory? Because they need it to be true – otherwise the odds are so obviously against them. And these same atheists will mock Christians because we speak of faith! The only case that can be made for this "multiverse" theory is that the alternative is too terrible for them to consider – that a Fine-Tuner brought the balance, order, and wonder to our universe. Atheists can be inventive, but God won’t leave them with any excuse. As Psalm 19 explains the heavens declare His glory. Want to explain away fine-tuning by postulating a multiverse? Well, then answer this: why would the Sun just happen to be roughly 400 times bigger than our moon and also 400 times further away? This precise pairing means that the moon and sun appear to be the same size in our sky. This allows us, during a solar eclipse, to study the Sun’s corona in a way that we just can’t any other time and wouldn’t ever be able to if the two celestial bodies weren’t sized just so. As the moon passes in front of the Sun only the corona is still visible – flaring fire crowning the moon in the dark daytime sky. Yes, dear atheist, we are not only in a universe impossibly finely tuned for life, but implausibly suited for us to study our own Sun. Why would that be? The multiverse doesn’t explain it. There is no reason that the one universe in which all the dice rolled just right for life would also be the same universe in which we’d be gifted with a moon that was sized exactly right to study our own Sun. Atheists have no explanation. But we do. We know our God created us as the very pinnacle of His creation (Psalm 8:3-9, Genesis 1:26-28) and that our purpose is to glorify Him. So it isn’t surprising to us that God would so arrange things that the precise sizing of the moon enables us to study our Sun – God is showing us His wonders! A version of this article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Reformed Perspective. A related article by Eric Metaxas, of Breakpoint Ministries, called "Observatory Earth" can be found here. Also, be sure to check out this great 6-minute clip below about more amazing interactions between our moon and the Earth. ...

Articles, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

12 free Creation videos that'll have you awestruck

There's something to be said for short and sweet. Each of the following dozen clips is just 6 minutes or less, totaling up to just over 40 minutes of content. They're broken into three categories: the inner working of the human body the wonders of the animal kingdom problems with the theory of Evolution So this evening, instead of your regularly scheduled programming, why not take a peak at some of God's creative genius? Be sure to gather the kiddos too (though do note the warning on the very first video). These clips may well get them imagining what it would be like to be a biologist, doctor, vet, scientist, or farmer – occupations that allows them to be around and study God's creatures full-time. And while all of the videos are amazing, if you only have time for a few be sure to include the one on starlings! 1. WE ARE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE  (Ps. 139:14) Conception and implantation (4 minutes) The amount of teamwork between a woman's egg and her body, and the man's sperm is astonishing. (WARNING: This might not be suitable for younger audiences, not because of anything graphic in the content, but only because of the questions that it will prompt, and which mom or dad might not want their younglings to have to think through quite yet) .  Transport inside the brain (4 minutes) How do signals get transported to and through the brain? It's an intricate combination of intra and intercellular highways that we're only starting to understand. To see this same information presented in a lighter, almost comedic manner, be sure to check out "A Day in the Life of a Motor Protein" (5 min). For another informative video, see: "The Workhorse of the Cell: Kinesin" (4 min).  Our cells' microscopic power generators (3 minutes) Your body needs fuel constantly. And wouldn't you know it, our cells come complete with power generations facilities – we have our own power plants! The simple cell is insanely complex (3 minutes) You don't have to understand every bit of this to be hit by how awesomely crafted we are, even on the smallest of scales. An introduction to irreducible complexity (4 minutes) Bacteria are all around us, including in us, some to good effect in our digestive tract, and some causing us problems by making us sick. What we're looking at here is a bacteria's flagellum motor which can spin as fast as 100,000 revolutions per minute, and stop completely in just one quarter turn. For more on this astonishing outboard motor and other amazing cellular machines, be sure to watch the free one-hour documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of Molecular Machines, available here. 2. CREATION DECLARES GOD'S GLORY Even a bird's feathers are amazingly designed! (2 minutes) Any time you dive into God's creation, whether it's on the grand scale of space or on the teeny tiny cellular level, you can see what an amazing Craftsman our God is. Here we look at the "simple" feather, and find out it is anything but. Butterflies are bizarrely cool (4 minutes) Butterflies are like a Model T that suddenly encases itself in a garage and, after some delay, the garage doors burst open to reveal a helicopter swooping out. And that might not even be the coolest thing about butterflies: just consider their migration. The journey that Monarch butterflies undertake each year involves them navigating a path that their grandparents took. So how do they know where to go? You can learn more about that journey here and in the DVD Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies that these clips come from.  Starling murmuration is stunning! (4 minutes) This is my favorite clip of the bunch, with starlings diving, dodging, and dancing, as if the thousands of birds were, together, one living cloud. This is from the fantastic documentary Flight: the Genius of Birds (which we review here). Dolphins are designed to "see" and hear underwater (4 minutes) Anyone who watched Flipper as a kid is going to want to see this – dolphins are even cooler than we imagined! 3. PROBLEMS WITH EVOLUTION Is antibiotic resistance evidence for evolution? (6 minutes) Creationists agree that change happens over time – after all, we believe that today's dogs come from just the two that survived the Flood. So the fact that bacteria can mutate and change and even develop antibiotic resistance isn't surprising to us. The real point of dispute is, do these sorts of mutations support the goo-to-you type of evolution – evolution that involves increases in complexity – that is needed for a naturalistic explanation of Man's origins? And the answer is, no. This antibiotic resistance leaves the bacteria less fit in the long term. Evolutionary "proofs" that actually show devolution (1 minute) Most advantageous mutations involve a loss of information. And while this degeneration fits in well with a biblical understanding that the world is fallen and decaying (Romans 8:21-22, Gen. 3:17-19), it doesn't fit in well with an evolutionary theory that needs to explain how complex Man arose from one-celled organisms via a long chain of ongoing increases in information and complexity. Mutations are causing us to devolve, not evolve (2 minutes) It turns out that mutations, Evolution's key mechanism, not only aren't helping us, they're hurting us. In fact, the accumulation of mutations means that we, as a species, are "rusting out." If this clip has you interested in learning more, you can watch Dr. John Sanford's fantastic 1-hour lecture, "All Creation Groans." ...

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