Posts Tagged ‘science vs religion’


Is it sensible that natural processes, unaided, can make something entirely unique, something that never existed before, something never possessed by matter? First life — here, or anywhere — how did it come to be? Science insists that given just the right physical and chemical conditions, life will spontaneously emerge. The Bible, and most of the world’s religions, states that life can only be bestowed by the sole keeper of life: The Creator God. These are more than technical positions, they are fundamental worldviews.

The worldview a person holds does a lot for them, but it also carries baggage that can be not so good. The Wikipedia encyclopedia says that a worldview “is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society” and is the perception one holds of reality. “Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.”[1] This last phrase is especially important to today’s topic.

Science, by definition, can only deal with the physical. The scientific method has no way of mixing metaphysical causes with physical causes and effects. Indeed, good science strenuously rejects data that cannot be verified by direct observation. Consciously or unconsciously, scientists tend to adopt this scientific approach as their personal philosophy of living or worldview. Many disdain the existence of God.

Theist proponents of a biblical Creator are no less closed minded and biased. While devoted protection of the inerrancy of the Bible’s account of creation is understandable, even laudable, the resulting position is no less intractable as that of science. A cornerstone of Scripture is that God created both the universe and the Bible. Isn’t it sensible, therefore, that the study of both Scripture and nature (science) must be in harmony? Why isn’t it? I have come to conclude worldviews get in the way.

Concept of early Earth

The concept that life began as a simple one-celled organism originated with Charles Darwin. “Darwin’s theory presupposes that non-living chemicals, if given the right amount of time and circumstances, could develop by themselves into living matter.”[2] Guillermo Gonzalez, Ph.D., assistant research professor in astronomy and physics, and Jay Richards, Ph.D. philosophy and theology, write, “In the nineteenth century, many thought life at the microscopic level was simple. The nineteenth-century Darwinist Ernst Haeckel, for instance, characterized cells as simple “homogeneous globules of protoplasm.” Despite what we now know about the mesmerizing complexity of cells, and the fundamental difference between chemistry and the biological information encoded in chemicals,[3] many still assume that where there’s liquid water, there may very well be life.”[4] (regarding note 3 , see the discussion later in this article on DNA encoding).

So how could life have begun? The National Academy of Sciences in their 2008 publication, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, tells us that “For life to begin, three conditions had to be met. First, groups of molecules [intricately formed from amino acids] that could reproduce themselves had to come together. Second, copies of these molecular assemblages had to exhibit variation, so that some were better able to take advantage of resources and withstand challenges in the environment. Third, the variations had to be heritable, so that some variants would increase in number under favorable environmental conditions. … No one yet knows which combination of molecules first met these conditions, …”[5]

Far be it for me to question the esteemed National Academy of Sciences, but as I read this explanation, it seems that these conditions might be necessary for the kind of first life that could proceed to develop according to the process of biological evolution (which is the topic for the next article in this series). However, conditions two and three don’t appear to be requisite to life if there are other explanations for the subsequent development of higher life forms (granted I have left out context in my quotation, but the full text does not help me with my question). Could their worldview be biasing the scientists?

After the Late Heavy Bombardment

What are we certain of about how long life has existed on Planet Earth? Although slim it is possible the first life on Earth may have occurred after the Earth cooled following formation of the Sun and the Solar System’s planets — including Earth — some 4.6 billion years ago. If life and its prerequisite water existed then all signs of it were obliterated during the subsequent period of intense meteor, asteroid, and comet strikes termed the Late Heavy Bombardment. Earth’s surface once again became molten. When the planet cooled after these collisions subsided about 3.8 billion years ago … Dr. Schroeder narrates: “In the 1970s, Elso Barghoorn, a paleontologist, discovered micro-fossils of bacteria and algae in rocks close to 3.5 billion years old. Deposits representative of organic carbon appear in formations 3.8 billion years old. That is also when the first liquid water appeared on Earth, and hence the first time life could survive. All life on Earth is water based. No water, no life, but with water life is possible. It had only to develop, and develop it did, immediately in the presence of water. There were no “billions of years” for amino acids to combine randomly into life.”[6] Dr. Peter D. Ward, Professor of Geological Sciences and Curator of Paleontology, and Dr. Donald Brownlee, of the National Academy of Sciences and Professor of Astronomy, both of the University of Washington, in their landmark book, Rare Earth, echo Dr. Schroeder’s conclusion, “Life seems to have appeared simultaneously with the cessation of the heavy bombardment. As soon as the rain of asteroids ceased and the surface temperatures on Earth permanently fell below the boiling point of water, life seems to have appeared.”[7] (emphasis added)

As indicated above, a single living cell – once thought to be so simple and, therefore, so easy to emerge by natural processes – is extraordinarily complex. In 1953, science was able to produce, in an early-Earth simulation, amino acids – the most basic building blocks of a living cell (that experiment has since proven to be invalid because of errors in the laboratory simulation.[8])

Complexity of a living cell

Jonathan Wells, Ph.D., geology, physics, and biology, gives us the best description I could find of the complex structure of a single cell. In answer to the hypothetical question that if amino acids were present, “… how far would that be from creating a living cell,” Dr. Wells responded, “Very far. Incredibly far. That would be the first step in an extremely complicated process. You would have to get the right number of the right kinds of amino acids to link up to create a protein molecule — and that would still be a long way from a living cell. Then you’d need dozens of protein molecules, again in the right sequence, to create a living cell. The odds against this are astonishing.”

To illustrate the impossibility of a living cell occurring by natural processes, Dr. Wells continued, “Put a sterile, balanced salt solution in a test tube. Then put in a single living cell and poke a hole in it so that its contents leak into the solution. Now the test tube has all the molecules you would need to create a living cell … [but] you can’t put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. So even if you could accomplish the thousands of steps between amino acids … and [just] the components you need for a living cell — all the enzymes, the DNA, and so forth — you’re still immeasurably far from life.”[9] (emphasis added) Even under optimized conditions, the odds of producing, naturally, just one of the dozens of functional protein molecules needed for life is estimated to be one chance in 10 with 60 zeros behind it.[10]

Science – not theists – seems to making a sensible case that a Creator God must have initiated life. However for me, the strongest evidence for creation of life lies in understanding a little bit about the DNA molecules in every living cell. Without DNA no cell can replicate itself — an essential in the very definition of life. For a technical description of the DNA molecule and what has to occur for one to come into existence, see Ward and Brownlee’s Rare Earth, pages 60 through 66.[11] Also note 3 cites several excellent sources on the subject. For our purposes here I’ll quote Perry Marshall, a computer science expert,[12] author, and consultant in communications theory.

“DNA is not merely a molecule.  Nor is it simply a “pattern.” Yes, it contains chemicals and proteins, but those chemicals are arranged to form an intricate language, in the exact same way that English and Chinese and HTML are languages. …But non-living things cannot create language. They cannot create codes. … DNA has a four-letter alphabet, and structures very similar to words, sentences and paragraphs.”

Intricate coding in DNA

Marshall continues: With very precise instructions and systems that check for errors and correct them, it is formally and scientifically a code. Whether I use the simplest possible explanation, such as the one I’m giving you here, or if we analyze language with advanced mathematics and engineering communication theory, we can say this with total confidence: Messages, languages and coded information never, ever come from anything else besides a mind.”[13]

Astronomer Hugh Ross, Ph.D., agrees. “Genomics [DNA] research reveals that no organism, not even a simple parasite (dependent on other species for some of its life-critical functions), can survive without at least 250 functioning gene products.[14] It came as a shock, then, when geochemists found uranium oxide precipitates in rocks older than 3.7 billion years [remember the above discussion on how long life has existed]. This discovery revealed that oxygen-exploiting photosynthetic bacteria were already prolific at that early date.[15] Such bacteria require more than 2,000 gene products—500 more than the simplest independent (nonparasitic) organisms alive today.[16] … The sudden simultaneous appearance of highly diverse and not-so-simple life-forms as early as 3.8 billion years ago would be consistent with the work of a supernatural super-intelligent Being …”[17]

Have all these scientific findings and astronomical odds against naturally occurring life moderated the worldview of science to a more sensible position? “Some scientists have argued that, given enough time, even apparently miraculous events become possible—such as the spontaneous emergence of a single cell organism from random couplings of chemicals. Sir Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer, has said such an occurrence is about as likely as the assemblage of a [Boeing] 747 by a tornado whirling through a junkyard.[18] Reflect on the timing: as I quoted Dr. Schroeder above, “There were no “billions of years” for amino acids to combine randomly into life.”[19] Life, in surprising variety, originated virtually at the same time as the first water appeared on Earth following the cessation of the late Heavy Bombardment.

Does it seem to you that faith in the Creator God is sensible?




[1] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, re: worldview.

[2] Lee Strobel, (2000), The Case for Faith, (92), Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervon Publishing.

[3] On the importance of information in biology, see Hubert Hockey, Information Theory and Molecular Biology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press); Bernd-Olaf Kuppers, Information and the Origin of Life (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990); Bernd-Olaf Kuppers, Molecular Theory of Evolution (Heidelberg: Springer, 1983); W. Loewenstein, The Touchstone of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). On the difference between biological information and chemical structures that carry no information, see Michael Polanyi, “Life’s Irreducible Structure,” Science 160 (1968):1308, and Michael Polanyi, “Life Transcending Physics and Chemistry,” Chemical and Engineering News (Aug. 21, 1967), 54-66.

[4] Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, (2004), The Privileged Planet, (285), Washington, D. C. , Regency Publishing.

[5] National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, (2008), Science, Evolution, and Creationism, (21-22), Washington, D. C., The National Academies Press

[6] Gerald L. Schroeder, (1998), The Science of God, (86), New York, NY, Double Dell

[7] Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, (2000), Rare Earth, (61), New York, NY, Copernicus Books

[8] The gases chosen to represent ancient Earth’s atmosphere in which the experiment was conducted were significantly in error, invalidating the results. Walter L. Bradley, Ph.D., quoted by Lee Strobel. (2000), The Case for Faith, (92), Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervon Publishing.

[9] Lee Strobel, (2004), The Case for a Creator, (38-39), Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan

[10] ibid, Strobel, The Case for Faith, (101)

[11] ibid, Ward and Brownlee, (60-66)

[12] Perry Marshall, (2010), Cosmic Fingerprints, http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/blog/prove-god-exists/

[13] ibid, Marshall

[14] Arcady R. Mushegian and Eugene V. Loonin, “A Minimum Gene Set for Cellular Life Derived by Comparison of Complete Bacterial Genomes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 93 (1996): 10268-10273; and others.

[15] Minik T. Rosing and Robert Frei, “U-Rich Archaen Sea-Floor Sediments from Greenland — Indications of >3700 Ma Oxygenic Photosynthesis,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 6907 (2003); 1-8.

[16] Don Cowan, “Use Your Neighbour’s Genes,” Nature 407 (2000); 466-467

[17] Hugh Ross, (2006), Creation as Science, (127-128), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress

[18] ibid, Schroeder, (85)

[19] ibid, Schroeder (86)

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Is the Bible real?

In the first two articles on this subject I suggested answers to the first two of the three questions I proposed are essential:

Are today’s Bibles accurate copies of the original writings?

Were the original writers recording the events accurately?

Is the Bible, in its entirety, really God’s personal message to mankind, that is, the inspired (directed by God), inerrant, and completed writings to us from God?

In this third article on the topic, please don’t think I am undertaking to prove that God Himself penned each letter. I think it’s obvious that the supernatural cannot be proven by any natural means. But the evidence available infers God’s authorship to a compelling degree — at least it seems so. You decide.

Most who have tackled this subject use text within the Bible itself as evidence of its Holy origin. Technically, this is circular reasoning. So let’s look at other facts first.

Harmonious internal consistency. If just 10 people today were picked who were from the same place, born around the same time, spoke the same language, and made about the same amount of money, and were asked to write on just one controversial subject, they would have trouble agreeing with each other. But the Bible stands alone. It was written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 40 writers from all walks of life. Some were fishermen; some were politicians. Others were generals or kings, shepherds or historians. They were from three different continents, and wrote in three different languages. They wrote on hundreds of controversial subjects yet they wrote with agreement and harmony. They wrote in dungeons, in temples, on beaches, and on hillsides, during peacetime and during war.[1] Yet the Bible is one story. Characteristics of the content throughout the Old Testament and New Testament have a surprising congruence, pointing to a single Author.

The underlying heptadic structure. Ivan Panin devoted 50 years — his life — analyzing the Bible for what he came to be certain was an inexplicable structure in the original writing of all 66 books. The recurrence of the number seven – or an exact multiple of seven – he found occurs throughout the Bible. This has been verified and is widely recognized. The Sabbath on the seventh day; the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine in Egypt; the seven priests and the seven trumpets marching around Jericho; the Sabbath year of the land and the Sabbath of Sabbath years of the land, 49 (the year of Jubilee), are well-known examples of which there are many, many more.

But it turns out this pattern continues below the surface in the numerical properties of both the Greek of the New Testament and the Hebrew of the Old Testament. One of the simplest – and most provocative – occurrences of this pattern shows up in the vocabulary used. Usually one finds no repetitive relationship between the number of vocabulary words used in a section of writing and the total number of words in that section. Not so in the Bible. For example, in the opening passage of Matthew recording the genealogy of Christ, 72 Greek vocabulary words are used. The number of those words which are nouns is exactly 56, or 7 x 8. A gee-whiz happenstance? Not so fast. The Greek word “the” occurs most frequently in this passage: exactly 56 times, or 7 x 8. Also, the number of different forms in which the article “the” occurs is exactly 7. In the first of the two main sections of this passage (verses 1-11) the number of Greek vocabulary words used is 49, or 7 x 7. Of these 49 words, the number beginning with a vowel is 28, or 7 x 4. The number beginning with a consonant is 21, or 7 x 3. Also in these 49 words, the number of words which occur more than once is 35, or 7 x 5. The number of words occurring only once is 14, or 7 x 2. The number of words which occur in only one form is exactly 42, or 7 x 6. The number of words appearing in more than one form is also 7.[2]

There are more examples in just this one passage from Matthew than space here allows. Moreover, Panin alone recorded occurrence of these repetitive structures of 7 in over 43,000 pages of his work! Coincidences of textual analyses (although wildly impossible to find in any other writing) or a divinely planted authenticating message? Certainly no human intelligence could have written this way.

Prophesy. Throughout the Bible there are prophecies concerning nations, historic events and individu­als. But what lends such overwhelming creditability to the divine origin of these prophecies is the fact that hundreds have been literally fulfilled in the most minute detail. God Himself established the issue of prophetic fulfillment as a legitimate test of divine authorship and authenticity, Isaiah 41:21-23, 26.

The Old Testament, written over a 1,000 year period up to about 400 years before the birth of Christ, contains 300 hundred references to his coming — all of which were fulfilled exactly by Jesus Christ.[3] Peter Stoner, in his book Science Speaks, offers the statistics that the chance of any one man fulfilling just eight of these 300 prophesies is 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. If the State of Texas was covered with this many silver dollars (the depth would be two feet) and just one of them was painted red, the odds of a blind man picking it up with just one try is the same. And these odds are for fulfilling only eight of the 300 prophesies Jesus fulfilled! Proof the Bible is God’s Word? No, but the inference is … what?

Scriptural writings authenticate God as author. The Bible focuses on one message: the Person and mission of Jesus, The Christ, God incarnate, and Savior of the World. Outside the Bible, there are several ancient writers who verify the life of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Tacitus—in Book XV, Ch. 44—writing in A.D. 114, tells us that the founder of the Christian religion, Jesus Christ, was put to death by Pontius Pilate in the reign of the Roman Emperor, Tiberius.

Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan on the subject of Christ and Christians (Book X—96).

Josephus, the Jewish historian, in A. D. 90, has a short biographical note on Jesus Who is called Christ in his Antiquities —Book XVIII, Ch. III, Section 3 .

The Babylonian Talmud makes mention of Jesus Christ.[4]

Historical verification of Jesus of the Bible lends credence to the Bible itself which, in turn, speaks to its own authenticity. Old Testament (OT) passages identify the Mosaic law and the words of the prophets, both spoken and written, with God’s own speech (cf. 1 Ki. 22:8-16; Ne. 8; Ps. 119; Je. 25:1-13; 36, etc.). New Testament (NT) writers view the OT as a whole as ‘the oracles of God’ (Rom. 3:2), prophetic in character (Rom. 16:26; cf. 1:2; 3:21), written by men who were moved and taught by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20f.; cf. 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Christ and his apostles quote OT texts, not merely as what, e.g., Moses, David or Isaiah said (see Mk. 7:10; 12:36; 7:6; Rom. 10:5; 11:9; 10:20, etc.), but also as what God said through these men (see Acts 4:25; 28:25, etc.), or sometimes simply as what ‘he’ (God) says (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:5, 8), or what the Holy Spirit says (Heb. 3:7; 10:15). Furthermore, OT statements, not made by God in their contexts, are quoted as utterances of God (http://ref.ly/Mt 19.4f.; Heb. 3:7; Acts 13:34f., citing Gen. 2:24; Ps. 95:7; Is. 55:2 respectively). Also, Paul refers to God’s promise to Abraham and his threat to Pharaoh, both spoken long before the biblical record of them was written, as words which Scripture spoke to these two men (Gal. 3:8; Rom. 9:17); which shows how completely he equated the statements of Scripture with the utterance of God.[5]

Can the Bible be its own “proof”? No, that’s circular reasoning. But once more, what’s the inference?

Jesus teaching (Wikipedia)

Divine Inspiration. Inspiration is that mysterious process by which the divine causality worked through the human prophets without destroying their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings.[6] The belief that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures are “inspired” by God—that is, that their language and imagery are directly willed by God and committed to writing under his direction—is ancient and influential.[7] Just how such divinely directed writing could be accomplished is beyond comprehension, which has given rise to doubts and entirely new schools of scholarly criticism. Again, supernatural acts cannot be proved, or disproved, by natural means. Not proof, but inference remains, and compellingly so.

Inerrancy. Is all of Scripture God’s personal word to mankind or does the Bible only contain God’s word, that is, is scripture without error? Modernist thinking and the Higher Critical interpretation of the Bible challenges both of these choices — as well should be the case if the metaphysical can be proven by the physical. But that’s not possible. If it is sensible, as inferred by the information I have presented, that the Bible is God’s Word then the inference must also extend to inerrancy of what He superintended the inspired writers to write. But what about the contradictions and errors? Paradoxes? Yes. Contradictions? No. Invariably, passages which seem to contradict simply show us we didn’t understand the meaning of one, or the other, or both passages. Apparent errors are resolved in much the same way. Are there hard passages? Certainly. Is there any person, any theologian, who understands God’s message in every detail? Absolutely not. Understanding is, in itself, a gift from God — which is why so many non-Christian Bible scholars find reason to criticize.

This article could go on and on. There is much more evidence to commend God’s personal authorship of the Bible. For example, the Bible’s power to change lives, the incredible way it interacts with those who seek answers from its pages, even that it has survived repeated annihilation attempts. By 1930 over one billion Bibles had been distributed and over 200 million are being printed each year. Nothing compares.

That’s all for now. I apologize for letting this go so long.


[1] Jordan and Justin Drake, ed, from The Evidence Bible, pinpointevangelism.com/The_Bible_Stands_Alone.pdf

[2] Chuck Missler, PhD, (1995) Personal Update News Journal, Feb 1995, citing:

McCormack, R., (1923), The Heptadic Structure of Scripture, London, Marshall Brothers Ltd; E. W. Bullinger, Numbers of the Scriptures; F. W. Grant, The Numerical Bible (7 vols.); Brown, Ordo Saeculoreium, et al., and

Ivan Panin (various works), Bible Numerics, P. O. Box 206, Waubaushenen, Ontario, L0K 2C0.

[3] Ibid, Drake.

[4]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations  : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

[5]Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (508). Leicester, England;  Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[6]Geisler, N. L., & Nix, W. E. (1996, c1986). A General Introduction To The Bible (Rev. and expanded.) (39). Chicago: Moody Press.

[7]Fahlbusch, E., & Bromiley, G. W. (1999-2003). The Encyclopedia Of Christianity (2:713). Grand Rapids, Mich.;  Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans;  Brill.

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The following parameters of a planet, its moon, its star, and its galaxy must have values falling within narrowly defined ranges for life of any kind to exist. Characteristics 2 and 3 have been repeated from [Appendix A] since these apply to both the universe and the galaxy.

1. spiral galaxy disk shape
if too elliptical: star formation would cease before sufficient heavy element build-up for life chemistry
if too regular: radiation exposure on occasion would be too severe and heavy elements for life chemistry would not be available

2. supernova eruptions
if too close: life on the planet would be exterminated by radiation
if too far: not enough heavy element ashes would exist for the formation of rocky planets

if too frequent: life on the planet would be exterminate
if too infrequent: not enough heavy element ashes would exist for the formation of rocky planets

if too late: life on the planet would be exterminated by radiation
if too soon: not enough heavy element ashes would exist for the formation of rocky planets

3. white dwarf binaries
if too few: insufficient fluorine would be produced for life chemistry to proceed
if too many: planetary orbits would be disrupted by stellar density

if too soon: not enough heavy elements would be made for efficient fluorine production
if too late: fluorine would be made too late for incorporation in the proto-planet

4. parent star distance from center of the galaxy
if farther: quantity of heavy elements would be insufficient to make rocky planets
if closer: galactic radiation would be too great; stellar density would disturb planetary orbits out of life support zones

5. number of stars in the planetary system
if more than one: tidal interactions would disrupt planetary orbits
if less than one: heat produced would be insufficient for life

6. parent star birth date
if more recent: star would not yet have reached stable burning phase; stellar system would contain too many heavy elements
if less recent: stellar system would not contain enough heavy elements

7. parent star age
if older: luminosity of star would change too quickly
if younger: luminosity of star would change too quickly

8. parent star mass
if greater: luminosity of star would change too quickly; star would burn too rapidly
if less: range of planet orbit distances appropriate for life would be too narrow; tidal forces would disrupt the rotational period for a planet of the right distance; uv radiation would be inadequate for plants to make sugar and oxygen

9. parent star color
if redder: photosynthetic response would be insufficient
if bluer: photosynthetic response would be insufficient

10. parent star luminosity relative to speciation
if increases too soon: would develop runaway greenhouse effect
if increases too late: would develop runaway glaciation

11. surface gravity (escape velocity)
if stronger; planet’s atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane
if weaker: planet’s atmosphere would lose too much water

12. distance from parent star
if farther: planet would be too cool for stable water cycle
if closer: planet would be too warm for stable water cycle

13. inclination of orbit
if too great: temperature difference on the planet would be too extreme

14. orbital eccentricity
if too great: seasonal temperature differences would be too extreme

15. axial tilt
if greater: surface temperature differences would be too great
if less: surface temperature differences would be too great

16. rotation period
if longer: diurnal temperature differences would be too great
if shorter: atmospheric wind velocities would be too great

17. rate of change of rotation period
if larger; surface temperature range necessary for life would not be sustained
if smaller: surface temperature range necessary for life would not be sustained

18. planet age
if too young: planet would rotate too rapidly
if too old: planet would rotate too slowly

19. magnetic field
if stronger: electromagnetic storms would be too severe
if weaker: ozone shield and life on the land would be inadequately protected from hard stellar and solar radiation

20. thickness of crust
if thicker: too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust
if thinner: volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great

21. albedo (ratio of reflected light to total amount falling on the surface)
if greater: runaway glaciation would develop
if less: runaway greenhouse effect would develop

22. collision rate with asteroids and comets
if greater: too many species would become extinct
if less: crust would be too depleted of materials essential for life

23. oxygen to nitrogen ratio in the atmosphere
if larger: advanced life functions would proceed too quickly
if smaller: advanced life functions would proceed too slowly

24. carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere
if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
if less: plants would be unable to maintain efficient photosynthesis

25. water vapor in the atmosphere
if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
if less: rainfall would be too meager for advanced life on the land

26. atmospheric electric discharge rate
if greater: too much fire destruction would occur
if less: too little nitrogen would be fixed in the atmosphere

27. ozone levels in the atmosphere
if greater: surface temperatures would be too low
if less: surface temperatures would be too high; there would be too much uv radiation at the surface

28. oxygen quantity in the atmosphere
if greater: plants and hydrocarbons would burn up too easily
if less: advance animals would have too little to breathe

29. tectonic plate activity
if greater: too many life forms would be destroyed
if less: nutrients on ocean floors (from river runoff) would not be recycled to the continents through tectonic uplift

30. oceans-to-continents ratio
if greater: diversity and complexity of life forms would be limited
if smaller: diversity and complexity of life forms would be limited

31. global distribution of continents (for Earth)
if too much in the southern hemisphere: seasonal temperature differences would be too severe for advanced life

32. soil mineralization
if too nutrient poor: diversity and complexity of life forms would be limited
if too nutrient rich: diversity and complexity of life forms would be limited

33. gravitational interaction with a moon
if greater: tidal effects on the oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would be too severe
if less: orbital obliquity changes would cause climatic instabilities; movement of nutrients and life from the oceans to the continents and continents to the oceans would be insufficient; magnetic field would be too weak

[1] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, (138-141), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress.

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ITS TIME TO REVISIT why I’m writing these articles — and why you are reading them.

Every one of us lives by faith! The question is — is the faith we live by sensible?

Each of us navigate the decisions in life in a framework of beliefs. Each of us, even the most accomplished scholars, face life with many solid, testable facts at his/her command and an even larger inventory of things we don’t know. So how do we handle life when it hinges on factors we don’t understand? Now resist self-defensiveness for a moment. Pull together the pieces of your answer fairly, objectively. Criticism is not intended here.

Don’t we decide by drawing from the sum total of our life experiences everything that bears on the issue at hand and make reasonable guesses at what we don’t know? For the scientist, the guessing part is one or more hypotheses. For the businessman, maybe a hunch or a risk/reward calculation. For the engineer, it’s a probability. For others perhaps intuition is the right word. But for all of us, we have to acknowledge we act on faith, faith in our guesses. For each of us, we conduct our science, run our businesses, build, invest, and care for our families on, what is to us, sensible thinking — sensible faith. It may be very difficult to admit to ourselves (no one else is looking right now) but consciously or unconsciously, every single one of us is a person controlled by faith!

So, why is this and the other articles numbered “#3x” seemingly about the so-called “war” between science and religion? Why am I writing these, as well as all the articles I have in mind for the future?

Because I’d like to persuade you, the reader, to be certain your faith is sensible! I’d like to persuade the scientist and the engineer that maybe science and religion are not really in conflict. I’d like to persuade the theologian that perhaps some doctrines, while not in error, maybe we’re not thinking about them as was intended. I’d like to persuade every reader to consciously think about what’s guiding his/her life — rejecting subconscious servitude to self-indulgence, peer pressure, and partial/misunderstandings.

I’ve just waded into a hornets’ nest. What intellectual arrogance! What vitriolic personal attacks on others for no reason other than they offer different thoughts!! That’s what made me stop and rethink this whole undertaking from which you are reading the early articles, and caused me to express the opening thoughts above.

This particular article is about the amazing uniqueness – or apparent uniqueness – of planet Earth. It’s about how “finely tuned” it and, in fact, the whole universe (see previous article) seems to be for life. In my research, those of you who know this subject know it was inevitable that I would run into two important principles: The Anthropic Principle and The Copernican Principle.

The Anthropic Principle – the idea that the physical, chemical, and biological laws of nature are so fine tuned that they could not have happened by chance — Random House Unabridged Dictionary

The Copernican Principle – in physical cosmology, the Copernican Principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, states that the earth is not in a central, specially favored position. More recently the principle has been generalized to the relativistic concept that humans are not privileged observers of the universe. In this sense it is equivalent to the mediocrity principle, with important implications for the philosophy of science. — Wikipedia Encyclopedia

As I always try to do, I looked for other than one source on any given topic. That’s when it happened. The Wikipedia information on The Anthropic Principle carries the note that its “neutrality” had been “questioned,” and offers a link to the “talk” section. I encourage you to go there if you wish. I found it interesting and informative, but I can’t recall when I have read anything that disappointed me more about our human condition.

So, there are many critics of religion who have placed their faith in the belief that natural cause-and-effect relationships will be found in the future to explain this incredible “fine tuning” of the universe and this planet for life without the need for a transcendent super-intellect to “design” it all. There are also many who are convinced that — although circumstantial — this fine tuning is unbelievably improbable unless guided/designed supernaturally.

Interestingly, one side of the debate is science — the other philosophy. How these intelligent, highly educated people can think that science will ever settle a philosophy (metaphysical) issue, or philosophy can ever settle a science question strains my comprehension.

If you, the reader, would like to peruse samples of the “fine tuning” all this intellectual tempest swirls around, please go to Appendix B to this article, Evidence for the Design of the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System for Life Support[1]. A similar sampling regarding the fine tuning of the universe is provided at Appendix A.

About this fine tuning, Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, PhD, astronomy and physics, who coauthored the highly rigorous book, The Privileged Planet, said in an interview with Lee Strobel:[2]

When I took this together with all the various “serendipitous” circumstances involving our privileged location in the universe, I was left without a vocabulary to describe my sense of wonder. The suggestion that all of this was based on fortuitous chance had become absurd to me. The tell-tale signs of design are evident from the far reaches of the Milky Way down to the inner core of our planet.

Commenting on just one of these “serendipitous” factors, astronomer and applied theologian Gerald Schroeder, PhD, says:[3]

“A just-right Earth with just the needed gravity, radioactivity, magnetic field, and volcanic activity to support life is located at just the right distance from the Sun to nurture the inception and development of life. But Earth should not be where it is. Among the planets circling the Sun, Earth is the oddball. The distribution of matter initially spiraling in toward a central attractor may reach an equilibrium that clusters along what is known as an exponential curve. In this curve, each successive swirl is a given factor farther out than its predecessor. The distances of the planets from the Sun fall on an exponential distribution. Each planet is approximately two times farther from the Sun than the preceding planet, except for Earth. Earth should not be where it is. . . . Yet here we are in all our life-giving splendor and awe. A miracle, perhaps, or just a fortunate quirk of nature.

So what are we, the ordinary introspective skeptic or religious believer, to conclude about is our faith sensible? Is this undeniable “fine tuning” an accident of natural processes or has it happened by Divine design? Perhaps Timothy Keller, pastor of the 6,000 member Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, NY, has some helpful thoughts:[4]

“It is the conflict model [science vs. religion], however, that gets the most publicity. Fortunately, this view is losing credibility with a growing number of scholars. The history of the secularization of American institutions is treated in an important and influential book edited by Christian Smith.[5] In it Smith argues that the conflict model of the relationship of science to religion was a deliberate exaggeration used by both scientists and education leaders at the end of the nineteenth century to undermine the church’s control of their institutions and increase their own cultural power. The absolute warfare model of science and reason was the product not so much of intellectual necessity but rather of a particular cultural strategy. Many scientists see no incompatibility between faith in God and their work.”

This is a lot to think about. So until next time …


Appendix B, Evidence for the Design of the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System for Life Support[6]

Next: article #3f “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” – THE SIX DAYS OF GENESIS (pending)


End Notes

[1] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, (138-141), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress.

[2] Lee Strobel, (2004), The Case For A Creator, (184-185), Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan

[3] Gerald L. Schroeder, (1998), The Science of God, (185-186), New York, NY, Double Dell Publishing.

[4] Timothy Keller, (2009), The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism, (92), New York, NY, Riverhead Books.

[5] Christian Smith, ed, (2003), The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life, (1-12), University of California Press

[6] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, (138-141), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress.

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Unless you, the reader, accept that there is at least a reasonable probability that God exists and is interacting in His creation today, read no further. Perhaps reading, or rereading, the articles numbered #3 may help (at the tab above the picture labeled “Is There A God?”). Failing this, I’m afraid that this post, and all the articles that follow, will simply be an irritant to you if you are philosophically unconvinced that God exists.

If you doubt the credibility of the Bible, or have acquaintances who do, three questions should dominate:

Are today’s Bibles accurate copies of the original writings?

Were the original writers recording the events accurately?

Is the Bible, in its entirety, really God’s personal message to mankind, that is, the inspired (directed by God) and inerrant Word of God?

You may be surprised to learn that extensive work has been done to answer those questions. So much information is so readily available that I am wondering why am I trying to add another “grain of sand to the beach?” Because I must. Because you may find this article while missing the others. And because resolving these three issues is essential to the credibility of the writings you will find here in the future – many of which will differ in important ways from traditional writings.

So all I can give you in this small space is unsatisfyingly brief summaries together with references to help you find more complete treatments of the material.

First, are today’s Bibles accurate copies of the original? The accepted method for verifying the authenticity of an ancient writing is to (a) compare the date of the writing with the time of the historical events, (b) If a copy, determine the time gap between it and the original writing, (c) determine the number of existing copies of the writing, and (d) compare the texts of the new find with the existing copies. The closer the date of the writing with the historical events or other existing copies the more accurate it is. The fewer textual differences with other copies the more accurate, and the more existing copies the greater the confidence in accuracy.

Old Testament: Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our earliest Hebrew copy of the Old Testament was the Masoretic text, dating around 800 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls date to the time of Jesus and were copied by the Qumran community, a Jewish sect living around the Dead Sea. We also have the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament dating in the second century B.C. When we compare these texts which have an 800-1000 years gap between them we are amazed that 95% of the texts are identical with only minor variations and a few discrepancies[1].

New Testament: The supporting evidence for the New Testament is far greater. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts from the New Testament, in part or in whole, dating from the second century A.D. to the late fifteenth century, when the printing press was invented. These manuscripts have been found in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, making collusion unlikely[2]. In comparison, the evidence for the widely accepted ancient classics such as Homer’s Iliad and Plato’s works is embarrassingly meager causing many historians like F. F. Bruce to exclaim, “The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical author, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.”[3]

Consider the following:

Manuscript Evidence for Ancient Writings[4],[5]

Author          When Writtten    Earliest Copy   Time Span   Nbr of Copies

Homer (Iliad) 900 B. C. 400 B. C. 500 yrs 643
Herodotus (hist) 480-425 B. C. 900 A. D. 1,300 yrs 8
Thucydides 460-400 B. C. 900 A. D. 1,300 yrs 8
Plato 427-347 B. C. 900 A. D. 1,200 yrs 7
Aristotle 384-322 B. C. 1,100 A. D. 1,400 yrs 5
Caesar 144-100 B. C. 900 A. D. 1,000 yrs 10
Pliny (history) 61-113 A. D. 850 A. D. 750 yrs 7
Suetonius 75-160 A. D. 950 A. D. 800 yrs 8
Tacitus 100 A. D. 1,100 A. D. 1,000 yrs 20
New Testament 40-100 A. D. 125 A. D. 25-50 yrs 24,000

For me, this comparison is astonishing! How is this possible when we know that, without the invention of the printing press, copies had to made by hand for 1400 years? The human effort in the copying process was huge. It was so meticulous that every character and every word was counted; any discrepancy resulted in destruction of the entire copy – probably years of work.

The result? New Testament manuscripts agree in 99.5% of the text[6] compared to only 95% for the Iliad for example. Most of the discrepancies are in spelling and word order. A few words have been changed or added. There are two passages that are disputed but no discrepancy is of any doctrinal significance, i.e., none would alter basic Christian doctrine[7].

In addition, there are so many New Testament quotations in the non-Biblical writings of the Church Fathers of the day that even if all 24,000 N. T. manuscripts were lost and all Bibles existing today were destroyed, the entire New Testament could be reconstructed except for eleven verses!

Any impartial examination of this mountain of evidence simply has to conclude the New Testament we have today is a faithful and accurate copy of the original writings. Further, this highly credible New Testament text repeatedly quotes, verbatim, the text we have in the Old Testament, greatly enhancing the credibility of today’s Old Testaments.

“But what about all these translations lying around today?” you ask, and rightly you should. The copy accuracy to which the above material refers is today’s text in its original language, that is, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Preserving the original meaning of words is always a challenge in any translating task and the Bible is no exception. Still, the Bible translators have done an amazing job, especially considering how rapidly today’s “street language” changes. When in doubt, or when correct translation is critical to an important doctrine, the student is well advised to consult a good interlinear and/or dictionary-commentary.

I think I have summarized the case for the accuracy of today’s copies of the Bible pretty well, but we still have two more important questions to answer, namely:

Were the original writers faithfully recording actual events?

Is the Bible, in its entirety, really God’s personal message to mankind? That is, is it the inspired (directed by God) and inerrant Word of God?

I think I must address these in the next article – I’m already well beyond the length here I like to stay within.

More thoughts next time . . .


[1] “Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original?”, Rich Deem, Evidence For God.

For the referenced text in full, click here (http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/bibleorg.html#6v7VQ7FsT66w).

[2] ibid

[3] F.F. Bruce, (1988), The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? 5th rev. ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] ibid, Deem

[5] The Case for Cristianity, Part I, The Historicity of the Bible

For the referenced text in full, click here http://www.answering-islam.org/Case/case1.html

[6] Metzger, Bruce M. (1992). The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

[7] ibid, Deem

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Among the top issues which challenge assertions for the existence of God is the disputed age of the universe. So if atheists, skeptics and Christians can possibly be “on the same page” in reading future articles here, we have to try to clear up this disparity.

Without question, scientific findings firmly establish the age of the universe at some 15 ¾ billion years. Yet the book claiming to be God’s Word (see future posting #4, AUTHENTICITY OF THE BIBLE) sets that age at about 6,000 years. However, it’s the first six days of those 6,000 years, “the six days of creation,” that seem the hardest to accept in view of solid scientific evidence.

Future posting #3f, THE SIX DAYS OF GENESIS, is going to address the events contained in those six days as well as the conflicting science. This posting discusses the timing disparity – six 24-hour days or 15+ billion years?

Most of the content of this posting is my understanding of the excellent work, The Science of God, (1997), by Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder, Ph.D. My apologies to him for any unintended misrepresentations I have inflicted on his work. Dr. Schroeder received both undergraduate and doctorate degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the latter in Nuclear Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences. Pursuing his orthodox Jewish faith, he emigrated to Israel in 1971 after serving on the faculty of M.I.T.  for some years. As a researcher and applied theologian, he does work at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Volcani Research Institute, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Wikipedia).

What is so remarkable about Dr. Schroeder’s work I will discuss here is that he has reconciled the Genesis and science perspectives of the age of the universe by showing that the perceived flow of time for a given event in an expanding universe varies with the observer’s perspective. Applying Einstein’s Law (no longer a theory) of Relativity leads one inexorably to the conclusion that the six 24-hour days of Genesis and science’s 15 billion years are exactly the same! Indeed, Dr. Schroeder verifies this with a convincing numerical calculation (see below) based upon the scientifically accepted Expansion Coefficient, that is, the rate at which the universe expanded following the big bang, 1 X 1012 or a million-million (It is significant to point out that Dr. Schroeder’s work on this subject has been formally peer reviewed for accuracy by members of the relevant fields of science).

All too briefly, here is my understanding of what this means: When the universe – and time – was rapidly expanding from the big bang, the unit of time defined today as a “year”, if applied then, would contain many, many more events than today’s year could hold. So a “year” then had a greatly different meaning than it does today. If, from today’s perspective, we could look backward from here and watch those events occur we would feel things were moving really, really fast, that is, “time” was moving much, much faster then than it is now. Science records that period of rapid time expansion in terms of how many of those events would “fit” into today’s year. The result: science greatly increases the number of today’s years in the early universe so we can understand it with a unit of time with which we are familiar.

Another way of looking at this effect is to imagine we could actually be there at the big bang. Let’s say we could remain in one place right at the point of the big bang and watch everything expand into stars, galaxies, and space. If we could do this, our conception of a unit of time wouldn’t change, that is, an “hour” before the Big Bang would remain an hour, a day would continue to have 24 of these constant hours in it and all events would appear to be moving at a normal rate. If we wanted to write down everything we saw happening in one of these pre-big bang 24 hour days we would have a diary of all the events that today – looking backwards in today’s time – we see occurring in billions of years.

This imaginary diary is not so imaginary – it’s called the Bible. The account is in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1.

I think many, perhaps most, seminaries haven’t yet found and incorporated Dr. Schroeder’s reconcilia­tion into their curriculum. Consequently, the popular Christian explanation of this glaring disparity in the accounts of time is to translate the word “day” in Genesis 1 as an undefined epoch – a rendering that conflicts with the original Hebrew. Interestingly, the Bible’s time reference shifts from pre-big bang time to today’s Earth time when mankind came on the scene late in the 6th day of the Genesis account.

Dr. Schroeder confirmed this time dilation as it’s called with a numerical calculation summarized in the following table:

From the Bible’s perspec­tive looking forward in time from start of day one Time in each day from Earth’s perspective looking backward in time from the present Approximate Earth years before Adam at the start of each Biblical day looking backward from present
Day one 8 billion years 15 ¾ billion years
Day two 4 billion years 7 ¾ billion years
Day three 2 billion years 3 ¾  billion years
Day four 1 billion years 1 ¾ billion years
Day five ½ billion years ¾ billion years
Day six ¼ billion years ¼  billion years
Total: six 24-hour days 15 ¾ billion years

As if to provide a simple proof calculation, Dr. Schroeder concludes with:

“In terms of days and years and millennia, … stretching of the cosmic perception of time by [the Expansion Coefficient     1 X 1012], the division of fifteen billion years by a million-million reduces those fifteen billion years to six days!

Genesis and science are both correct. When one asks if six days or fifteen billion years passed before the appearance of humankind, the correct answer is “yes!”” (emphasis added)

For the next article in this series click here: #3d  NARROW SAFE ZONES FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

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Is there a God? Many think ‘no, there isn’t.’ And many think ‘there certainly is!’ How can we come to appreciate each of these age-old opposing views? For a layman to undertake a reasonable explanation is a very tall order. But since the topics envisaged for the future of this blog depend on a sound treatment of the question, I have to give it a shot. Through this and the next seven postings I hope to build an acceptable understanding on which we can proceed. Most of these eight postings is about origins and whether they are the result of natural processes or do they point to a transcendent Designer.

“The big three questions about origins — of the universe, of life, and of humans — have … divided the secular from the religious. Until the 1960s, most scientists came to believe that the universe had no beginning. Most believers insisted it did.”  — from The Science of God, p 20, Gerald L. Schroeder, applied theologian with undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Did a Big Bang really happen? Was that the beginning of everything? And what or Who caused it?

From Aristotle to the 1960s the accepted understanding was that the universe was infinite and eternal. The stars and galaxies were unmoving, static. There was no beginning. No need to wonder about its cause.

However, Christians (and a surprising number of other religions and cultures) have long insisted that there was a beginning, caused by a creator. Aside from Biblical statements, substantiating evidence for this view was missing. To the Christian assertion that divine creation is “accepted on faith,” scientists and skeptics responded that to accept this was not sensible faith.

Surprisingly, it has been science itself that has substantiated the religious claims, mostly in the last 30 years. Cracks in the eternal universe model began in 1929 when Edwin Hubble found that the galaxies were not fixed in space but were all moving away from each other. But moving away from where? Was there a starting point?

In 1965, using data from a specialized satellite telescope, two scientists discovered the universe’s background faint residual heat from a primordial “explosion.” The temperature was only about 3.7 degrees above absolute zero, but matched the mathematical predictions from the Big Bang model. This finding together with Hubble’s and other’s work have firmly established the Big Bang as fact. Stephen Hawking, the renown cosmologist has said, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” (The Nature of Space and Time, Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose, 1996, pg 20)

“Wait a minute,” exclaims the Christian, “This Big Bang thing isn’t Biblical creation. It’s just more science mumbo-jumbo.” My personal guess is that this is a problem for many Christians because they see creation in a sort of mental picture in which the earth and all its vegetation and creatures appeared instantaneously like an action scene on TV emerging full blown out of a black screen following a commercial. Such an impression indeed would not match what is known about the Big Bang, but then it doesn’t match the creation account in Genesis either. We’ll get into the Big Bang sequence of events, the age of the universe as well as the six days of creation in Genesis in the coming few postings.

Now just because everything in the universe, including space and time itself, came from nothing (that is, the Big Bang) doesn’t establish that there was/is a Creator God Who caused it all. Against the Christians’ continuing professions that “of course there’s a Creator,” a number of alternatives to the standard Big Bang model continue to be proposed. The theological implications of the Big Bang is irritating, repugnant, and distasteful to the scientific mind say luminaries like Einstein, British astronomer Arthur Eddington, Robert Jastrow, and MIT’s Phillip Morrison (The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel, pg 112).

Astronomer Carl Sagan in his popular TV series Cosmos suggested an Oscillating Model of the universe in which the universe expands, slows and then collapses and expands again, cycling in this fashion indefinitely, thus avoiding the need for a beginning and a creator. Steven Hawking has been working on his Theory of Everything. Other models try to avoid the need for a cause (creator) of the Big Bang by relying on behaviors found in quantum mechanics where, indeed, particles can appear out of nowhere. As fatal flaws are found in each hypothesis new proposals grow more and more imaginative to the point that more faith is required to believe in some kind of a universe without a creator than to look to the Biblical account as the most sensible faith.

In Strobel’s book referenced above, William L. Craig, PHD, THD, and author of many scientific articles and books including the coauthor of the foundational book Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, says: “The situation is reversed from say, a hundred years ago. Back then, Christians had to maintain by faith in the Bible that despite all appearances to the contrary, the universe was not eternal but was created out of nothing a finite time ago. Now the situation is exactly the opposite. It is the atheist who has to maintain by faith, despite all the evidence to contrary, that the universe did not have a beginning a finite time ago but is in some inexplicable way eternal after all. So the shoe is on the other foot. The Christian can stand confidently within Biblical truth, knowing it’s in line with mainstream astrophysics and cosmology. It’s the atheist who feels very uncomfortable and marginalized today.” (pgs 120-121)

Next, #3c A YOUNG OR OLD UNIVERSE? (click here)

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Some say you can’t be an educated, thinking person and believe there is a God. The existence of God cannot be “proved” anymore than it can for any other spirit being. In fact, so goes the argument, just because man is a self-aware creature doesn’t mean he has a spirit or that there is any such thing as a spirit. It can’t be proved.

Fair enough. Let’s accept that. So then, what’s with all these Biblical Christians?

In the first two postings we examined what “faith” is and “how we choose to trust.” How do I choose to have faith that driving is save on the interstate with all those trucks and crazy drivers? (clarity of the following depends on your already having read those postings).

Does the decision to be a Christian involve study of the factual evidence for the existence of God? Can there be any “factual evidence” for His existence? Or does being a Christian simply rest on a few magic words and a strange little procedure. Maybe, sorta like choosing a political party, a lot of people decide to be a Christian only because their parents were. Then they find that their church is a warm, friendly place so, like membership in the Rotary, they decide to stay and “play church” without ever looking much for factual evidence.

Can we be any less harsh on the unchurched person? How has he decided to ignore the existence of God, if God really does exist? Do scientists reason that since the existence of God cannot be explained by the physical laws of nature, He cannot exist? Therefore, any evidence suggesting His possible existence is categorically discarded without serious consideration. Such thinking does not substantiate the conclusion that God does not exist, it only establishes that the scientist exercised no thought process at all, that he decided to reject objective examination of the question. Very human.

Is faith sensible for either of the persons described? And make no mistake about it – contrary to what you might think, the scientist’s choice to place no faith in God requires every bit as much faith [that he is right] as that held by some Christians who choose the opposite. So, is science right or is Christianity right? Or what if our examination of this question in the upcoming postings turns out that both are right?

To quote Werner von Braun: The vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.

To repeat all the pros and cons on each side of this so-called “war” is way beyond what can be done here, especially in view of all the issues to be addressed beyond this one. But I think I can summarize most of the main arguments and refer you to good, reliable reading covering material we can’t get to here. I’m going to try to cover: (3a) this posting, (3b) The Big Bang, (3c) The Age Of The Universe, (3d) Life’s Safe Zones In The Universe, (3e) Fine Tuned for Life: Planet Earth, (3f) The Six Days of Genesis, (3g) Origin of Life, Evolution and Darwinism, (3h) Statistics Versus Random Mutations, and (3i) The Watchmaker and the Watch.

For those who would like to read along as I develop these topics, you may want to get Darwin’s Origin of The Species, Craig and Smith’s Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, and, of course, the Bible, probably an NIV or ESV translation. With the exception of the Bible, these books demand pretty focused reading. Therefore, you may be happier with the excellent The Case For The Creator (Lee Strobel), and equally outstanding The Science Of God (Gerald L. Schroeder).

Some may find this “war” between Christianity and science interesting but, c’mon! Eight postings, all on this one subject?! So I’m going to try to find a way to make postings beyond these available in a parallel stream so one can move on without having to wait. If that will work, posting (4) will be: The Authenticity Of The Bible (Parts I, II, and III), and (5) will be: The Garden, God’s Perfect Creation, and (6) What Happened To Paradise? Beyond these? There’s much, much to get to, but my crystal ball gets a little cloudy way out there in the future.

Click here for the next article in this series, #3b “God, Are You There?” – The Big Bang.

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Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “faith” as:

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

None of these is satisfactory for how I will use “faith” in the postings here, although I can find elements of some of my thoughts in some of the definitions.

I think our society tends to use the word faith only in the religious sense. We can see that influence in these dictionary definitions. Unfortunately this tends to relegate the term away from the things we focus on in the main stream of our daily living. This leads to serious misunderstandings about life, living, and choices.

“Faith,” as I will use it in these writings permeates every thing we do. Illustrations:

Our exposure to aircraft (TV, movies, books, school) convinces us that these big, heavy machines do fly, and reliably so. Commercial airliner crashes are so few that it doesn’t diminish our faith in flight safety sufficiently to relegate our travel only to ground transportation. We even have faith that the pilots (whom we have never met, nor do we know their qualifications, nor even their state of health) will operate the plane safely, even in stormy weather which we also know little or nothing about when we make reservations for our next trip. Yet we have enough faith in air travel to walk on that airplane and have a seat.

Every time we drive to work or the grocery store, we have faith that each one of the multitude of drivers we will meet on the road will stay in his lane and will stop at stop lights/signs, that is, will drive according to the rules. Highway accident statistics are terrible yet our faith in auto travel is unshakable. Why is that?

We also have faith in institutions, like banks, hospitals, nursing homes and schools. We have faith that they will keep our checking accounts with honesty, heal us, care for our loved ones, and teach our children truthfully.

Perhaps it is in individuals where we place our deepest faith, for example, doctors, pastors, friends, family, parents, and spouses.

Instances of faith in the daily stuff of our lives is almost endless. This is the sense in which I will use the term “faith” in these articles. In only a moment of reflection each of us will realize that “faith” saturates our lives, whether intentional or not. How does it happen that we have faith in something or someone? We’ll discuss that.

Notice how easily we can substitute the word trust for faith without changing meaning. Even the dictionary definitions do this. Indeed, trust is a true synonym for faith, certainly so in the contexts of this blog. However, we must be more careful how we use the word belief. We can, and often do, believe some information about something or a person without trusting them or having faith in them. It is important that we make these distinctions carefully.

So now we’re close to being able to think correctly about the question “is faith sensible?” First we need a few minutes with the question of how we come to place our faith in something or trust someone. But that’s a good place to start the next posting.

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“Faith is a choice” many will say. “I don’t need a lot of information.” Many others will say, “I won’t trust something I don’t understand.” People are different. Before we will trust something or someone, each of us needs to come to our own level of prerequisite factual information, whether through study, knowledge, first-hand experiences, or simply listening to a loved parent or respected clergy. The spectrum is wide. The consequences of our choices?  Maybe trivial. ‘Depends on what the choice is about. Maybe life or death.

My guess is that the choice to fly or drive a 1,000 mile cross country trip is, for most of us, based on how much time we have and the cost. Beyond time and cost, consequences aren’t really thought about. The chances of being killed in an auto accident are about 1 in 5,000; in a commercial airliner, 1 in 11 million, or 2,200 times safer, based on US Department of Transportation data (1999-2000). Yet which do we usually choose? In which do we have greater trust/faith?

It has long seemed odd to me how little our society thinks about risk. Especially when the consequences of a choice are great, why don’t the overwhelming majority of us ask ourselves the obvious question, “what am I risking in making this choice? Is the risk very much different if I do this rather than that?” Generally, I think we just don’t know much about risk.

Perhaps too many of us are inclined to replace a thoughtful reflection on facts and risk with what our friends or colleagues think, or what ‘everybody else is doing’ when making similar choices. Peer pressure from friends or work as well as the news media and activist groups strongly influence our sense of risk, choice, and trust in many cases. For example, did you know that each year, 10,000 to 50,000 Americans die from respiratory diseases due to coal fired electric generation plants, and 300 more are killed in mining and transportation accidents? In contrast, no Americans have died or been seriously injured because of a reactor accident or radiation exposure from American nuclear power plants. But what perception do you think most of us have?

So is faith sensible? I have a hunch our choices to trust someone or something could stand a lot of improvement. For example, how do we choose to trust a person? By their place in society (doctors, scientists, pastors)? Are they a part of our social group (neighborhood, Rotary Club, school team)? Surely skin color (ethnicity) has nothing to do with trusting them or not! And let’s not even get into how we choose a mate.

Maybe a lot of our faith choices are just based on what “feels right” or what we really want to do. I think our advertising industry capitalizes on this. For example, do we choose to buy a specific car because it looks cool or because it is the most reliable and safe? Yet we’ll drive that car in snowstorms through remote, potentially hazardous, areas and spend more money for it than anything else except our house. Is our faith in those choices sensible?

You probably won’t be surprised then when I tell you that I’m not at all impressed by the arguments that fill so many books and often get so heated on talk shows about the so-called “war” between faith in religion and faith in science. Remember, I’m talking about “faith” as being an accepted truth based upon factual evidence. No, no – wait – check those immediate reactions our minds have become conditioned to have about claims of  “factual evidence” on both sides of this “war.” If we are so defensive of our past choices that we can’t look fairly at the other guy’s factual evidence, there’s no point in going on to the next posting(s). But before you turn away, think a bit about the consequences and whether your faith is sensible.

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