Working Toward a Mature Faith

In undergraduate school, I remember one professor marveling at various features of brain functioning and talking about the reasons that a particular function evolved.  It was just as easy, or easier, for me to think of reasons that these features were designed into the system.  In my first class on physiological psychology, the professor did not have an evolutionary bent that I could tell, and merely marveled at the function and complexity of the brain.  I think many students are unprepared for the naturalistic worldview, and that this often can trigger a crisis of faith.  In their book, God Attachment, Clinton and Straub (2010)1 note that people often enter adulthood with the same views they had with their faith that they learned in early childhood.  In other words, they have not developed a more mature faith that allows them to have an understanding of the problem of evil, the existence of many different religions, and the evolutionary viewpoint (a view espousing the all-powerfulness of useful accidents).  Thus, they are setting themselves up for a crisis of faith that will inevitably come with real-world life experiences and the hard knocks that life delivers.  I frequently encounter people who become sort of paralyzed in that crisis of faith without attempting to find answers to their questions.  They will often just resign themselves to somewhat of a wishy-washy stance like, “I’m not sure I believe everything in the Bible.  I believe, but I’m just not sure about X.”  When asked, they’ll admit they’ve never tried to resolve the issue with learning more about the subject.  So, they end up assuming a distant stance with God on the basis of a particular issue that they have not taken the time to resolve.

I don’t think people have to believe that Genesis is literally true to be saved.  I don’t think there is anything in the Bible that would suggest that.  But I do think it is possible to be logically consistent and hold an intelligent worldview encompassing a literal account of Genesis.  Frankly, I think a literal account of Genesis leads to the most logically consistent stance in explaining the problem of evil in the world (i.e., the fall).  Also, one only needs a vaguely possible scenario to explain certain observations (apparent age of the Earth and Universe) to make this tenable.  If God is all-powerful, then He could have done it.  I’m not advocating a kind of “God did it” approach to science, but I am rather asking believers to explore the issue in more depth and to develop a more mature way of viewing their faith.  This can help believers have a more mature relationship with God.

I would also caution creationists against the view of saying that people who advocate for evolution are liars.  Evolution contains many lies, but to lie involves intent to deceive.  There are times when they do likely lie, but it’s better to be careful about this.  I’d rather look at it as a worldview, which I think contains many untruths.  It’s understandable, just false.

I urge fellow believers, and those with doubts, to more fully explore these issues in order to develop a more mature faith—a faith which can stand up to the complexities of the world and the problem of evil in the world.  More personally, it will help with the very difficult things that you face in your own life and promote a deeper connection with God.

1). God Attachment: Why You Believe, Act, and Feel the Way You Do About God

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More Complex than Previously Thought – Part XII – Cellular Movement

Research out of Brown University has found that cells move in ways that are much more complex than previously thought.  It’s yet another example of the complexity of life’s design that consistently surprises biologists.

“We’ve learned that cells move in much more complex ways than previously believed,” said Christian Franck, assistant professor in engineering at Brown and the co-lead author of the study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Now, we can start to really put numbers on how much cells push and pull on their environment and how much cells stick to tissues as they move around and interact.”

In the study, Franck and co-lead author Stacey Maskarinec, who both conducted the experiments while graduate students at the California Institute of Technology, placed cells on top of a 50-micron-thick water-based gel designed to mimic human tissue. They added into the gel spheres about a half-micron in diameter that lit up when jostled by the cells’ actions. By combining two techniques — laser scanning confocal microscopy and digital volume correlation — the scientists tracked the cells’ movement by quantifying exactly how the environment changed each time the cell moved. The team recorded results every 35 minutes over a 24-hour period.

What they found was cells move in intriguing ways. In one experiment, a cell is clearly shown operating in three dimensions by extending feelers into the gel, probing at depth, as if thrusting a leg downward in a pool. The Brown and Caltech scientists also found that as a cell moves, it engages in a host of push-pull actions: It redistributes its weight, it coils and elongates its body, and it varies the force with which it “grips,” or adheres, to a surface. Combined, the actions help the cell generate momentum and create a “rolling motion,” as Franck described it, that is more like walking than shuffling, as many scientists had previously characterized the movement.

“The motion itself is in three dimensions,” Franck said.

Reference:
Brown University (2009, December 17). Cells move in mysterious ways, experiments reveal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2009.

More Complex than Previously Thought – Part XI – Simple Bacteria?

Because of their rigid adherence to a failed framework, Darwinists have continuously been surprised at the sophistication of even the simplest organisms.  The researchers examined mycoplasma pneumoniae and found the following.

The inner workings of a supposedly simple bacterial cell have turned out to be much more sophisticated than expected.

An in-depth “blueprint” of an apparently minimalist species has revealed details that challenge preconceptions about how genes operate. It also brings closer the day when it may be possible to create artificial life.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which causes a form of pneumonia in people, has just 689 genes, compared with 25,000 in humans and 4000 or more in most other bacteria. Now a study of its inner workings has revealed that the bacterium has uncanny flexibility and sophistication, allowing it to react fast to changes in its diet and environment.

“There were a lot of surprises,” says Peer Bork, joint head of the structural and computational biology unit at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. “Although it’s a very tiny genome, it’s much more complicated than we thought.”

The biggest shock was that the organism gets by with just eight gene “switches”, or transcription factors, compared with more than 50 in other bacteria such as Escherichia coli. Transcription factors are generally thought of as the key components enabling living things to respond to environmental conditions by switching genes on and off.

Another unexpected discovery was that bacterial genes grouped together in clumps or families called “operons” don’t work as had been thought. The assumption was that if there are four genes in an operon they always work in unison, but the new analyses show that only one, or perhaps two, operate at any one time.

Even more surprising, the proteins the genes make don’t necessarily always couple with their nearest neighbours – again contrary to previous assumptions. Instead, they often join up with proteins originating from other, distant operons, vastly increasing the bacterium’s flexibility and versatility when faced with a changed environment.

Reference:
(1). ‘Simple’ bacterium shows surprising complexity, NewScientist, 11/26/09.

Whence Scientific Hypotheses?

Scientific hypotheses can come from anywhere at all (well actually just from an intelligent mind).  One important thing I learned about science in graduate school was, it did not matter where your hypothesis originated, it only mattered that it could be tested and falsified in a rigorous, repeatable, and measurable way.  Scientific notions can arise from any metaphysical framework or lack of a framework.  At the basis of creationism and naturalistic evolution are presumed metaphysical truths.  Quite possibly, neither of which can be falsified, leaving the resolution to be a matter of faith.  However, that does not prevent scientists from developing testable hypotheses that spring from those underlying beliefs.  One could argue that intelligent design has fewer metaphysical entanglements than either creationism or naturalistic evolution.  The point is that testable hypotheses may come from almost any underlying belief or idea, whereas the actual underlying belief or idea itself may not be a scientific hypothesis.

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale – Part XXIX

The Multiverse

The Multiverse

Then did we, the Most High Scientist, through the use of calculations and formulas, imagine that there exists a great many more universes in the multiverse than we had previously imagined.  We did previously imagine through string theory that there are 10500 universes in the multiverse.  One of our Most High, Andrei Linde, did recently imagine through calculations that there are many more than 10500 universes in the multiverse (Praise Science).1 And let us first tell you why we do feel this is important.

“The idea that there is more than one universe, each with its own laws of physics, arises out of several different theories, including string theory and cosmic inflation. This concept of a “multiverse” could explain a puzzling mystery – why dark energy, the furtive force that is accelerating the expansion of space, appears improbably fine-tuned for life. With a large number of universes, there is bound to be one that has a dark energy value like ours.”

That pesky fine tuning might suggest to the less evolved of our species that universe may have been created or evidence hallmarks of design.  Of course we know that is ridiculous, as is attested to by our vivid imaginations.  And so, we endeavor to explain one “furtive” unmeasurable thing (dark energy) by invoking a larger quantity of unmeasurable things (even more universes).  Because if we do know anything at all, that is there is no design in the universe(s).  And we know you would have to agree, that with a great number of universes, “there is bound to be one that has a dark energy value like ours.”

So, we do now appeal to the god of chance, and evoke randomness in all its power and glory as is provided by quantum mechanics.  We do now calculate the existence of 1010^10,000,000 universes (Praise Science)!  We know how much you like large numbers, and have no doubt you are in awe of the large number we have invoked here.  We’ll also speculate a bit that an hypothetical observer determines how many universes can effectively exist because of quantum mechanical effects, but don’t be concerned, because that’s a really large number as well. We do hope you’ve been pleased by our Science and that you continue to be impressed by the power of randomness and imagination.  Rest assured, all of the appearance of design and fine tuning can, and will continue to be, explained away by chance and imagination.

1 Multiplying universes: How many is the multiverse? NewScientist, October 28, 2009.

Colbert v. Dawkins – Priceless

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More Complex than Previously Thought – Part X – Internal Organization of Bacteria

A recent paper finds that organization within bacteria is more complex than previously thought:

Simple visual inspection of bacteria indicated that, at least in some otherwise symmetric cells, structures such as flagella were often seen at a single pole. Because these structures are composed of proteins, it was not clear how to reconcile these observations of morphological asymmetry with the widely held view of bacteria as unstructured “bags of enzymes.” However, over the last decade, numerous GFP tagged proteins have been found at specific intracellular locations such as the poles of the cells, indicating that bacteria have a high degree of intracellular organization. Here we will explore the role of chromosomal asymmetry and the presence of “new” and “old” poles that result from the cytokinesis of rod-shaped cells in establishing bipolar and monopolar protein localization patterns. This article is intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive, so we have focused on examples drawn largely from Caulobacter crescentus and Bacillus subtilis, two bacteria that undergo dramatic morphological transformation. We will highlight how breaking monopolar symmetry is essential for the correct development of these organisms.1

1). Dworkin, J. (2009). Cellular Polarity in Prokaryotic Organisms.