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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.

What is Evolution? June 24, 2017

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Science, Interpretation, Apologetics.
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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.

Honest to God on the Issues #002: Evolution and Creationism November 16, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Honest to God on the Issues.
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There are fundamental questions capable of changing the direction of the entire human race.

  • Where did we come from?
  • How did the universe come to exist?
  • Is there a God?

By and large, there are only two real alternatives – Creation or Evolution – though some individuals would discount either one or the other. Furthermore, the Creation-Evolution controversy is well known but it’s also incredibly complex in ways that most people are not familiar.

First, let’s talk about Evolution which is actually an umbrella term. It can refer to any of several different and specific scientific processes acting at different zoom levels of our world. It’s a common tactic for a proponent of evolution to provide an example from one area, say the mutation of a virus into a new strain at the micro level, and then claim that proves evolution is the explanation for what happens in a different area, like Man evolved from an ape-like ancestor at the Macro level. Dr. Rana of Reasons to Believe likens it to the Shell Game.

It takes someone trained in the sciences to understand such details and to provide a way to refute the truth-claims of evolution (that Man evolved from an ape-like ancestor) without mucking up the science. Which brings me to a particular bible passage, Romans 1:18-23:

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” – Romans 1:18-23 (NKJV)

This amazing passage states that the universe (the heavens) reveals God’s handiwork. What the bible says about God creating the universe cannot be separated from scientific facts. God is both Lord and Creator. Thus the Evolution – Creation debate is in fact a “false” debate. Modern Christianity has stepped right into a trap that C. S. Lewis warned us about long ago:

“[The Devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” – C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Young-Earth Creationism is the other error because it denies that the physical world, which God created, is the way that science says it is. Scientists merely observe the physical world and make interpretations and inferences about how it works. The scientific process itself is very pragmatic: whatever works is kept and built upon to create a fuller and more complete model.

Now, I am not proposing that the evolutionary explanation for the origin of humanity and the universe is correct. Far from it in fact. As a Christian, evolution is the obvious error in Lewis’ comparison. But Romans 1:18-23 merges belief in God with an accurate understanding of the world God made. The bible states that humans are fallen and sinful. How much more then must our own interpretations, both of scripture and of science, be treated with suspicion?

I cannot help you make the choice to accept this conclusion but I can point you to the organization which helped me. I spent years working through trying to find an integrated approach to science and scripture and I found it in Reasons to Believe. Do not believe all the lies you might have heard about them. They are honest, professional, and trustworthy. More to the point, they’re also logical and consistent. They’re scientists and Christians so they understand the particulars of this debate in ways that the rest of us cannot. I’ve looked at the alternatives and found them illogical and God is a God of logic, of sense, of consistency.

So I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to look to Reasons to Believe. Contact them. Subscribe to their podcasts. Read their books. According to I Thessalonians 5:21, test what they say and hold on to the good. I have followed them for 15 years and they have never faltered or failed to offer an explanation for all of the challenges posed by so great a debate.

Your science apologetics will soar through the roof when based on real science. Another tool in the Master’s toolkit to minister, counsel, and encourage.

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.

My Christian Worldview February 16, 2009

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Faith, Science.
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Over at Rebecca LuElla Miller’s blog, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, I’ve been part of a lively discussion concerning my Christian worldview of science and how that interacts with my faith. The particular post in question is: Is God Cruel, Deceptive, or Incompetent?.

I invite those that wish to know more about my beliefs to read through the comments there, but here are a few quick excerpts:

“I guess what I’m saying is there must be a foundation for the belief. I trust what the bible says too, but I believe God invented the laws of the universe that are studied in science as well. Thus, they are also a trustworthy avenue of inquiry. Only when an interpretation of scripture and empirical evidence from science are found to be in agreement can I be certain that I have found the right explanation. (Otherwise, look to an incorrect interpretation of the scripture or the scientific data.) God inspired both and He can’t contradict Himself. Thus, both will be in agreement when understood properly”

And:

“Now, I don’t want this to turn into a debate about evolution. I completely reject evolution as an explanation for human origins. That said, evolution, when understood properly as merely the scientific principle of change over time, is something I do believe exists. Now, do not confuse the two! Since that last sentence is probably not clear enough, let me be even clearer. Evolution does not explain where humans came from. Only the bible can explain that. Evolution utterly fails to explain how even the simplest creature formed on its own without divine intervention. But as adaptation or ‘change over time’ evolution is a good, usable model for scientific inquiry. This should not be misunderstood as one species converting into another like apes into humans or dogs into cats. That doesn’t work, there is no evidence for it, and I simply don’t believe it happens or ever happened. But creatures do exhibit small changes over time. As climate changes creatures adapt or migrate. This is what evolution means. Separate this from the human origins issue. They really are separate (but obviously related) issues that often stay confused by well-intentioned Christians.”

To clarify:

“’For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:’ – Romans 1:20 (KJV)”

“’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 men are without excuse.’ – Romans 1:20 (NIV)”

“I think this verse clearly states that the natural world (what has been made) is a trustworthy source of truth. If it can convict of sin, then it’s a very powerful witness for God indeed. Thus, we can trust what we find in nature, in science, to tell us the truth about God. If it happens to conflict with scripture, I say look into the interpretation of the thing. Either the interpretation of scripture or the explanation of nature is faulty since both are done by fallible humans. It’s also possible that there isn’t enough information yet. Any of these things will give the appearance of an incompatibility when there really isn’t one.”

Finally:

“Somehow, I just don’t see God changing things and then covering it all up. That comes across as deception to me and that is outside God’s nature. Why is it so difficult to believe that God is so intelligent and so powerful that He got the entire universe right and working perfectly right from the beginning without needing to make any changes or exceptions, ever, along the way? It seems that an appeal to God having to manipulate His creation on occasion lessens His power and majesty. That’s a small God in my opinion. My God has no such shortcomings. But, just because He can doesn’t mean He did or had to.”

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