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Hemoglobin from Dinosaurs is evidence against Macroevolution June 24, 2017

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Science.
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Macroevolution is a very difficult thing to test in a scientific experiment. Among other difficulties, the time scale upon which this process might happen is simply too large. So, lacking direct evidence, scientists generally point to the experimental results from other evolutionary mechanisms that work on smaller time scales as proof that macroevolution did indeed occur.

But did it? The truth is that evidence for one type of process is only evidence for that one type of process. (For more information see my post, What is Evolution?) So whether macroevolution actually happened remains an unproven hypothesis. Now a series of amazing discoveries over the past decade has shed new light on this debate. What has been unearthed is nothing short of amazing and it is evidence on the scale of millions of years.

Hammond-1

I’m referring to the modern recovery of dinosaur soft tissue. What was once the realm of science fiction and the basis for a very popular series of novels and movies from the 1990s has become science fact. Well, sort of.

In his book, Dr. Fazale “Fuz” Rana goes into detail about this amazing discovery, how no one ever thought it possible and so no one ever actually searched for soft tissue remains from dinosaurs. And to be honest, this discovery is controversial but Dr. Rana makes a strong case — with all the appropriate references to the scientific literature — that we should believe that these scientists were in fact successful in recovering actual dinosaur remains. (For that story I refer you to Dr. Rana’s book, “Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth“.)

Now let us turn our conversation to an implication of this discovery. What the scientists investigating the soft tissue remains of dinosaurs have shown is that dinosaurs most likely had the same biological systems that we use today. Specifically, these scientists believed they recovered hemoglobin from dinosaurs which is the same molecule that all vertebrates use in their blood. Thus dinosaurs were just like us in their biology.

Someone with a shallow understanding of this discovery may misinterpret this as evidence for macroevolution by common descent. However, it is really evidence against macroevolution. The key here is the timescale plus our understanding of how macroevolution is expected to work and our understanding of genetic codons.

First, a little bit about codons. All DNA is composed of four base molecules: Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C), and Guanine (G). Conveniently for our discussion these are referred to as the genetic “letters”. The informational layer above this is the codon level in which combinations of three bases form a “word”. Given any three bases from our set of four results in exactly 64 combinations. Thus there are 64 different codons.

dna-codon-table

It is this “glossary” of words that encodes the information found in DNA. Amazingly, this arrangement of 64 codons shows incredible design. It has been deconstructed by modern computer programmers and was found to be highly efficient at storing information given the complexity of the 3D structure of DNA. What looks like redundancy in the encoding is actually highly efficient error-avoidance functionality.

So here is the million-year-old question: If macroevolution is true and evolution is essentially an undirected random process, how is it that this glossary of codons has remained unchanged over the millions of years that evolution has supposedly operated while evolution is also responsible for evolving dinosaurs into birds over the same time frame?

The discovery of hemoglobin from the preserved soft tissue of dinosaurs begs this question.

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What is Evolution? June 24, 2017

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Interpretation, Science.
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In this video, biochemist Fazale “Fuz” Rana explains evolution for a non-scientist christian. His approach challenges the idea that evolution is somehow a deathblow to the concept of special creation in Christianity. Dr. Rana does this by defining the five major categories of biological change and then dividing them into two groups, those that are a challenge to Christianity and those that are not.

Knowing what is being referred to when scientists talk about evolution is helpful in making sense again of the evolutionary paradigm, learning how to think about it. But one thing we all have to be careful about as we’re looking at the evidence for evolution is to not allow yourself to be sucked into what I’ll call the ‘shell game of evolution’. – Dr. Rana, “What is Evolution?” <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BMvxTb0I6U&gt; (7:28)

Dr. Rana’s Five Categories of Biological Change (All commonly referred to as evolution)

  • microevolution
  • speciation
  • microbial evolution
  • macroevolution
  • chemical evolution (a.k.a. abiogenesis)

Put simply, Dr. Rana argues that what is evidence for one specific type of biological change is only evidence for that specific type of biological change. Scientists generally have good evidence for the top three on this list (which coincidentally are not strong challenges to the christian faith) but lack strong evidence for the bottom two (which generally are).

This video is the first in a series about evolution. If you’d like to learn more, explore the “Through the Lens” playlist on YouTube.

‘God and Suffering’ Video September 25, 2014

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Morality.
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The best explanation I’ve ever heard for how God can still exist even though human beings experience suffering in this life.

A Scientific Test for the Existence of a Creator April 5, 2011

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Faith, Science.
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We find comfort among those who agree with us–growth among those who don’t. ~ Frank A. Clark

Last night, I attended a panel debate between Dr. Fazale “Fuz” Rana and Dr. Howard Neufeld on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Dr. Rana is an old-earth creationist employed by Reasons to Believe who believes that there is strong evidence for a creator and who identifies this creator as the judeo-christian God. Dr. Neufeld is a naturalist in the department of Biology at Appalachian State University, a proponent of evolution, and an atheist who believes there is no need for a creator to explain the natural world.

Despite the use of the term debate, this was not a fierce, emotional battle. It was a well-organized back-and-forth where each of the speakers was allowed uninterrupted time to showcase their arguments with time for rebuttal and audience questions at the end.

Full disclosure: I subscribe to the RTB model. I think it’s a well thought out scientific model that is above trivial arguments of being unsound from a scientific perspective. That said, Dr. Neufeld did raise an interesting point that I would like to address.

He said that science is only interested in what can be tested and I agree with him. He further said that one could not devise a scientific test for God. He invited anyone with such an argument to share it and so I am.

To get there, we must travel through a few hypotheses so let us begin:

  1. For the sake of argument and hypothesis, suppose a creator does in fact exist. What can the natural world tell us about this being? He or she would, by necessity, have to exist outside our physical space in order to create it in the first place.
  2. This is testable because we know from Einstein’s laws and their extensions that matter, energy, space, and time were all created with the creation of the universe. Thus, such a deity would have to exist independent of matter, energy, space, and time.
  3. So, assuming such a being exists and that this being has chosen to reveal himself (for the sake of simplicity, since gender cannot be inferred, I will use the masculine), which of the world’s religions, if any, describes a god in these terms? The answer is only one – the judeo-christian God. No other religion describes their god as being transcendent beyond matter, energy, time, and space.

Here is one such passage:

Luke 24:33-43 (NIV)

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

The above passage demonstrates transcendence beyond matter, space, and energy. Jesus had a physical body but it appeared out of nowhere. Scientists now have a theory of teleportation, but it only works on the scale of atoms and requires an enormous amount of energy which is beyond humanity’s capacity to produce.

The following passage demonstrates transcendence beyond time. It’s a lengthy passage. The example begins in verse 48, but I have chosen to include the verses leading up for context.

John 8:31-59 (NIV)

Dispute Over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.[b]

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Jesus’ Claims About Himself

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

There you have it. A scientific test for the existence of a creator – provided one posits the existence of a creator in the first place which is a necessary and reasonable hypothesis. It is the nature of the scientific method to embrace all new hypotheses in order to test new theories and ultimately expand the scientific knowledge of humanity.

In summary, if there is a creator this being can be identified as the judeo-christian God. This concept is very nicely codified in Romans 1:20 (NIV):

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Why I’m Biased Toward Christianity November 12, 2010

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Morality.
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Are there thoughts that are so distasteful and upsetting that they should be banned?

[This post developed out of a comment I posted on First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Writers – The Kill Zone by John Gilstrap. It is my reponse to John’s pertinent question quoted above.]

In November 2010, Phillip R. Greaves II was legally able to write his book, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child Lover’s Code of Conduct, and publish it. The resulting uproar was a reaction over his permission to do so and Amazon removed the book. Thus, this is not a question of censorship. Certainly, the removal was a business decision on Amazon’s part albeit one that aligned with the dominant morality of the moment.

When discussing any situation it is necessarily through the lens of one’s worldview. The western worldview has most strongly been influenced by the ideals of Christianity which are still felt today in the laws and ideals of America. But humans need boundaries to know what is right versus what is wrong. Religion provides part of that and government another.

In vocabulary terms, it’s the difference between the definitions of “can” and “may“. “Can” has to do with ability. “May” has to do with permission and implies a request by the asker to make a decision. In general terms, “Can” is the realm of government while “May” is the realm of religion, philosophy, culture, and worldview. The above situation encompasses aspects of both making it complicated and interesting.

Because of the above, it is impossible to ban anything based on a moral objection to it while remaining perfectly objective and neutral to all parties. Drawing that line *requires* a position be chosen on the moral issue first. Justice truly is and must remain blind.

Since one cannot remain neutral, I will defer to my own Christian heritage and worldview to answer John’s question with a resounding “yes.” Some may call this conclusion biased, and they’d be right, but there is no possibility of an impartial conclusion so at least I know why and can explain how I came to this decision.

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