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The debate over human origins has intensified, hitting the mainstream media like a tsunami. The debate is really about God, and whether or not our origins are explainable without him. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins are attempting to prove that science and belief in God are incompatible. Their premise is that the material world is all that exists. And if science has eliminated God as the source of all life, then the late materialist Stephen Jay Gould was correct in his view:
"Human life is the result of a 'glorious evolutionary accident'." Stephen Jay Gould
But new insights into our universe belie such a simplistic view. Quantum mechanics has revealed that our material world is based upon an invisible world of subatomic particles that is totally non-material. And over 95% of our universe consists of dark matter and energy that is beyond scientific observation. Also, scientists are openly discussing dimensions beyond ours where walking through walls and teleportation could be realities. The dilemma for materialists is that these areas are beyond the purview of science.
In spite of such mysteries, materialists single-mindedly proclaim their faith in a purposeless universe without any underlying intelligence. But Gould's and Dawkins' materialistic view does not reflect the opinions of an increasing number of scientists who are seeing fingerprints of design in our universe. Others don't go so far as to advocate intelligent design, but admittedly see evidence of a "superintelligence" behind creation.
Surprisingly, what has triggered the debate are stunning new discoveries from several scientific disciplines. It is these discoveries that have convinced some scientists that there is compelling new evidence for intelligent design. These scientists are not interested in bringing religion into the science classroom. However, they see no conflict between science and faith, and want the evidence to speak for itself about whether an underlying intelligence exists.
In fact, modern science was actually born out of the Christian belief that God was rational and personal. Early scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Pascal, and Faraday, believed in the biblical God of objective truth and order. Philosopher Francis Schaeffer notes, it was the biblical belief that the world was created by a reasonable God that gave scientists confidence in being "able to find out about the world by observation and experimentation."
Many scientists today do believe in a creator. But there is a huge range of beliefs on the creative process. Some scientists believe God created everything outside of natural laws, while others believe He designed or directed natural laws to create our universe and life within it. However, many who speak of an underlying intelligence in the universe are agnostics who are simply reporting objective evidence for something or someone that Einstein labeled:
"an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection." Albert Einstein
Einstein, rarely discussed God, but he was in awe of the "superintelligence" revealed in nature. Since Einstein, many other leading scientists have revealed stunning new insights about our origins. These new insights have come in the past few decades, primarily from the three scientific disciplines of astronomy, molecular biology and paleontology.
Cosmologist George Smoot said on ABC TV, "If you're religious, it's like looking at God." The Nobel Prize winning scientist was referring to the discovery that our universe had a one-time beginning. His experiments from the COBE satellite had confirmed what scientists call the big bang theory. Decades earlier, Edwin Hubble had discovered that our universe is expanding. An expanding universe means if you go far enough back, there must have been a beginning.
Smoot's experiments proved that all matter, energy, space, and even time itself came into being at one point in time. Prior to that discovery, scientists committed to materialism were content to believe that the universe was self-existent, and didn't require someone to start it.
But if the universe had a beginning, then the logical question is "who---or what caused it?" Even though he is an agnostic, Smoot wrote of the obvious parallel that exists between the big bang and the Christian teaching of creation from nothing.
A beginning of all matter, energy, and time seems to point clearly to a creator. But some materialists argued that the universe might have begun with some kind of random quantum event that happened on its own. However, as scientists looked at the odds, they soon realized that a random explosion like the big bang could never have led to a universe compatible with life. Cosmologists, physicists, and astronomers all agree: the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned for life. This led many like astronomer George Greenstein to ask,
"Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon the scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being?" George Greenstein
This discovery of the beginning of the universe and its precisely fine-tuned laws has set materialists on their heels. Even atheistic scientists realize that a random big bang could never have resulted in human life. In his number one best selling science book, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking grapples with the implications of a finely-tuned universe:
"There must be religious overtones. But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it." Stephen Hawking
Hawking further admits, "It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us." Stephen Hawking
But as a materialist, Hawking looks for scientific answers rather than religious ones. He and other materialists have tried to explain away intelligent design by proposing that ours is not the only universe, but perhaps one of billions that are both unseen and unknowable. If true, they reason we would not be so special after all---we simply would have been the one grand lottery winner of all those universes. This multiverse theory seems like something out of a Star Trek episode, and unlike good science, it is not based upon one shred of empirical evidence.
The multiverse theory has been branded by other scientists as pseudo science, an almost laughable diversion to explain away the logical inference of design. An article in Atlantic Monthly says as much.
"The multiverse idea rests on assumptions that would be laughed out of town if they came from a religious text." Atlantic Monthly
But even though some materialists have tried to explain away fine tuning of the universe as mere luck, many have been more open to common sense. After carefully looking at the evidence and reversing his original view, the shocked agnostic astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle remarked:
"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question." Sir Fred Hoyle
Scientists like Hoyle have been stunned by the overwhelming odds against life occurring by unguided natural processes. Such odds are like purchasing one ticket for a hundred Power Ball lotteries, and being lucky enough to win them all. How likely is that---unless the outcome was fixed by someone who had control of the numbers? And that is exactly what has many scientists like Hoyle are thinking---that the numbers were fixed by a superintellect monkeying with nature's laws.
"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Charles Darwin
Prior to 1859, most people believed that life was too complex to have originated without a creator. But when Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species, materialists saw his theory of human origins as evidence supporting an atheistic world view where God was excluded. Although Darwin was not an atheist, his theory became the linchpin for materialists to teach that God is irrelevant to life. But that was nearly 150 years ago.
In 1859 there was no understanding of how the cell worked at its molecular level. Darwin assumed that all biological systems including the cell would evolve gradually by natural selection over great periods of time. But science has made great advances since then, and the organs and systems Darwin thought were so simple have been found to be extremely complex and interdependent.
Irreducibly Complex Organs
In fact, new discoveries in molecular biology reveal that some organs and biological systems only work when all their parts are fully developed, thus they could not have developed gradually, one part at a time. Biochemist Michael Behe compares their interdependence to that of a mousetrap which can't catch mice unless all its parts function perfectly. Behe defines these organs and systems as irreducibly complex.
Darwin knew that his theory had problems. He was especially concerned about the eye, and how it could have originated without design. He assumed that each progressive step in the eyes' development gave the creature an evolutionary advantage. But that was merely his theory with no empirical evidence to back it up.
The truth is that in the nineteenth century Darwin knew very little about the extreme interdependence and intricate complexity of the eye. Now, with the aid of powerful microscopes molecular biologists like Behe are able to probe the depths of the eyes' inner workings. Molecular biology has revealed that each human eye has over 100 million rods and handles 1.5 million simultaneous messages. It works similar to a TV camera, has automatic focusing, and has six million cones that can distinguish among seven million colors.
Behe points out that the eye is an irreducibly complex organ that could never have developed gradually by unguided natural selection. Materialists like Dawkins argue, however, that it is possible to imagine how the eye could have developed gradually like Darwin theorized. But it is one thing to imagine how the eye could have developed gradually, and quite another to say that there is scientific evidence to back up such an idea.
Darwin himself said he was "not concerned" with how the eye actually began, and was never really convinced that his theory of how the eye developed was right.
Later in his life Darwin confided to a friend: "to this day the eye causes me a cold shudder." Charles Darwin
The cell is another example of irreducible complexity. It operates like a factory with many working parts that must each synchronize perfectly. In the cell, a chemical named DNA instructs RNA to manufacture different proteins in a process so sophisticated and complex that it is beyond anything Darwin ever imagined. Biochemist Michael Behe writes of scientists' reactions to this intricate complexity in his book, Darwin's Black Box.
"In the face of the enormous complexity that modern biochemistry has uncovered in the cell, the scientific community is paralyzed." Professor Michael Behe
Behe is joined by several other scientists who see evidence of a divine hand behind life's complexity. Cosmologist Allan Sandage echoes Behe's perspective;
"The more one learns of biochemistry the more unbelievable it becomes unless there is some type of organizing principle - an Architect for believers." Cosmologist Alan Sandage
The "brains" behind each cell in our bodies and every other living thing is a tiny molecule called DNA. Molecular biologists have discovered that this basic molecule of life is far too intricately complex to have originated by chance. DNA's intricate complexity caused its co-discoverer, Francis Crick, to call it "almost a miracle." Microsoft founder Bill Gates says that the software of DNA is "far far more complex than any software we have ever developed."
Since no scientific process, including natural selection, is able to explain DNA's origin, many scientists believe that it must have been designed. The amount of DNA that would fit on a pinhead contains information equivalent to a stack of paperback books that would encircle the earth 5,000 times. And DNA operates like a language with its own extremely complex software code. The coding behind DNA is pointing to a designer of such intelligence that it staggers the imagination. That view was stated by none other than the world's leading atheist for the past 50 years, Professor of Philosophy, Antony Flew.
In Flew's fifty years of proclaiming atheism in university classrooms, books, and lectures he argued that science had all but disproved God. But when he saw the intelligence behind DNA, this leading atheist reversed his long-held belief:
"What I think the DNA material has done is to show that intelligence must have been involved. It now seems to me that the finding of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design." Antony Flew
Although this former atheist is not a believer in a personal God, he now admits that the evidence points to some form of intelligence behind our origins.
Since writing Darwin's Black Box, Behe's scientific findings have ignited a firestorm of rhetoric over his book. Materialists have fervently attempted to marginalize his discoveries. However, to date, no scientist has been able to adequately explain how unguided natural processes could have produced these irreducibly complex biological systems.
As he ponders the intelligence behind DNA, Amir Aczel, an admitted materialist raises the question,
"Are we witnessing here something so wonderous, so fantastically complex, that it could not be chemistry or random interactions of elements, but something far beyond our understanding?" Professor Amir Aczel
The discovery of the incredible intelligence behind DNA has convinced many scientists that the answer to Aczel's question is an emphatic "Yes!"
Charles Darwin was a genius who correctly explained why viruses mutate, house insects have evolved resistance to our pesticides, and dogs, cats, and humans, come in various shapes sizes and colors. These observable changes in nature within a particular species are called microevolution.
But Darwin made a big leap from the observable to the theoretical by proposing macroevolution. He theorized that all of life developed gradually over time as one species evolved into a new species. However, Darwin's leap of macroevolution has never been empirically verified. Thus when scientists take issue with Darwin's theory of evolution, they are not debating changes evident within a species. They are simply pointing out the fact that no evidence exists that all of life evolved by undirected natural selection.
Darwin proposed a way to test his theory of macroevolution. During the lengthy process, millions of transitional species would leave a trail of fossil evidence. Darwin predicted that the discovery of these transitional fossil forms would eventually prove his theory right. Such fossils would take us from the world of theory and "what ifs" to the world of forensics. Fossils are hard evidence, not theoretical probabilities.
There were plenty of fossils for Darwin to evaluate in his day, but he was concerned that his theory's predicted transitional fossils were absent from the fossil record. He asked,
"But as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?" Charles Darwin
It's still a good question.
But why are the missing links essential to Darwin's theory? Couldn't gradual macroevolution have occurred without producing transitional fossils? Not according to Darwin.
And certainly if countless species had undergone very gradual transitions from one category to another (for example, cats into dogs or fish into birds), then, according to Darwin, there should be countless fossils. The trail of evidence should be abundantly evident in the fossil record.
Now, a century and a half later, there is an abundance of evidence, with over a billion fossils that have been scrutinized. And it seems to be going against Darwin's theory. The transitional fossils Darwin predicted would validate macroevolution are embarrassingly absent. Even ardent evolutionist, Niles Eldredge admits,
"No one has found any such in-between creatures... and there is a growing conviction among many scientists that these transitional forms never existed." Niles Eldredge
Another setback for materialists is the Cambrian explosion, a period where complex life forms developed much quicker than gradual evolution predicts. Stephen Jay Gould, a staunch advocate of materialistic evolution, sums up the problem for Darwinists:
"We do not know why the Cambrian explosion could establish all major anatomical designs so quickly. The Cambrian explosion was the most remarkable and puzzling event in the history of life." Stephen Jay Gould
Darwin said that his theory would "absolutely break down" if sudden appearances of species were ever discovered. These sudden appearances of new life forms during the Cambrian explosion prompted Gould and Eldredge to theorize that Darwin was wrong about gradualism. Renouncing Darwinian gradualism, they derived a theory entitled "punctuated equilibria," which says that life evolved too quickly to leave a trail of transitional fossils.
Although materialists point to a few spurious fossils they say are transitions, most paleontologists are surprised at the lack of hard evidence to support Darwin. However, those who believe in intelligent design are not at all surprised. The results fit perfectly with a master architect who superintended his creation.
The Unique Origin of Man
Paleoanthropologists (scientists who study the origin of man) have been searching for hundreds of years to discover human ancestors. Darwin's theory predicts the evolution of man from ape-like creatures would result in a fossil trail. But that trail has become a source of frustration due to the lack of a direct ancestor.
Additionally, paleoanthropologists are baffled by the single origin and sudden appearance of Homo sapiens in the fossil trail. Many evolutionists had predicted that the evolution of man would be common and widespread throughout different geographical regions. However, mitochondrial DNA studies have shown that our species originated from one location, and one mother (they call Eve).
Although fossil hunters have discovered a few extinct species of hominids, these creatures are vastly inferior to humans in their intellectual capacities. In fact, there is a huge jump from such hominids to our own species. Evolutionist Ian Tattersall (curator at the American Museum of Natural History) remarks in his book The Fossil Trail:
"Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species... Homo sapiens is as distinctive an entity as exists on the face of the Earth, and should be dignified as such instead of being adulterated with every reasonably large-brained hominid fossil that happened to come along." Anthropologist Ian Tattersall
Thus the evolution of man remains an enigma with Darwinists. Homo Sapiens came from one location, one ancestor, and have much larger brain cavities than hominids. Additionally, we are the only species with the capacity for spoken language. This led reputed evolutionist Ernst Mayr to state,
"Man is indeed as unique, as different from all other animals, as had been traditionally claimed by theologians and philosophers." Evolutionist Ernst Mayr
Thus, if we truly unique, we need to revisit the question of whether we are the accidental winners of a grand cosmic lottery, or whether we are special creations in a grand cosmic scheme.
So what do all these scientific discoveries mean? Many scientists believe that there is increasing evidence that a Designer's "fingerprints" are coming into focus.
Dr. Robert Jastrow is a theoretical physicist who joined NASA when it was formed in 1958. Jastrow helped establish the scientific goals for the exploration of the moon during the Apollo lunar landings. He set up and directed NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which conducts research in astronomy and planetary science. Jastrow wrote these thoughts that summarize the view of many scientists.
"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
Many theologians think they see a compelling correlation between the Christian view of God and the new discoveries in our universe. And surprisingly many agnostic scientists are also making startling statements that are consistent with the Christian view of creation. (See "Is a Designer Revealed in Creation?")
Agnostic Michael Denton, senior research fellow in human molecular genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand says that the evidence that the universe exists for mankind is more compelling today than at any time in the history of modern science.
No other theory or concept imagined by man can equal in boldness and audacity this great claim that all the starry heavens, and every species of life, that every characteristic of reality exists for mankind. But most remarkably, given its audacity, it is a claim which is very far from discredited prescientific myth. In fact no observation has ever laid the presumption to rest. And today, four centuries after the scientific revolution, the doctrine is again reemerging. In the last decades of the twentieth century, its credibility is being enhanced by discoveries in several branches of fundamental science.
But more hardened materialists still hold firm to the belief that we are merely "cosmic accidents." They have even been successful in silencing the debate in the classroom about these new scientific discoveries.
On the other hand, an increasing number of scientists have recognized evidence for intelligent design behind all the laws of science and the fine-tuning in the universe. They are willing to risk their reputations in the interest of fair handed academic debate, letting the evidence speak for itself. In fact, the motto of these open-minded scientists is,
"following the evidence, wherever it leads."
And that is what true science is all about---letting the evidence speak for itself.