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

More Complex than Previously Thought – Part IX – The Ribosome

The ribosome is a nanomolecular factory that uses genetic instructions and amino acids to build proteins.  If the previous understanding of the functions of the ribosome were not enough evidence for design, new technology has enabled researchers capture nanoscale movements inside the structure and found that the functioning of the ribosome was complicated than previously thought.1

In the protein manufacturing process, the genetic code – or instruction manual – for making proteins lies inside a cell’s double-stranded DNA. When the cell needs to produce more proteins, the DNA unzips into two separate strands, exposing the protein code so it can be duplicated by single-stranded messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA dutifully delivers that code to the ribosome, which somehow reads the instructions, or “data tape,” as each amino acid is added to a growing protein chain.

At the same time, other RNA molecules, called transfer RNA (tRNA), bring to the ribosome amino acids, the raw building blocks needed for protein construction.

To help elucidate the ribosome’s movements as it interacts with mRNA and tRNA, the researchers used X-ray crystallography to obtain a highly detailed picture of the ribosome – a mere 21 nanometers wide – from an Escherichia coli bacterium. In addition to revealing atomic level detail, the technique allowed the researchers to capture the ribosome mid-action, a challenge because it acts fast, adding 20 new amino acids to a protein chain every second.

“Scientists used to think that the ribosome made a simple two-stage ratcheting motion by rotating back and forth as it interacts with mRNA and tRNA,” said Cate, who is also a member of the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3) at UC Berkeley. “What we captured were images of the ribosome in intermediate stages between the rotations, showing that there are at least four steps in this ratcheting mechanism.”

“We suspect that the ribosome changes its conformation in so many steps to allow it to interact with relatively big tRNAs while keeping the two segments of the ribosome from flying apart,” said Cate. “It’s much more complicated than the simple ratcheting mechanism in a socket wrench.”

Cate said that while this study marked a major accomplishment in cracking open the “black box” of ribosomal function, there are far more details yet to be revealed. Advances in imaging techniques over the next decade should allow researchers to go beyond the snapshots taken in this study to high-resolution movies of a ribosome’s movements, he said. (emphasis mine)

1 New Images Capture Cell’s Ribosomes At Work, ScienceDaily, 8/23/09

More Complex than Previously Thought – Part VIII – DNA Differences

Previously, it was considered to be axiomatic that all cells in the human body contained the same DNA. However, recent research found differences between the DNA contained in blood cells and other tissue in the body.

This discovery may undercut the rationale behind numerous large-scale genetic studies conducted over the last 15 years, studies which were supposed to isolate the causes of scores of human diseases.

Except for cancer, samples of diseased tissue are difficult or even impossible to take from living patients. Thus, the vast majority of genetic samples used in large-scale studies come in the form of blood. However, if it turns out that blood and tissue cells do not match genetically, these ambitious and expensive genome-wide association studies may prove to have been essentially flawed from the outset.

This discovery sprang from an investigation into the underlying genetic causes of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) led by Dr. Morris Schweitzer, Dr. Bruce Gottlieb, Dr. Lorraine Chalifour and colleagues at McGill University and the affiliated Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital. The researchers focused on BAK, a gene that controls cell death.

What they found surprised them. AAA is one of the rare vascular diseases where tissue samples are removed as part of patient therapy. When they compared them, the researchers discovered major differences between BAK genes in blood cells and tissue cells coming from the same individuals, with the suspected disease “trigger” residing only in the tissue. Moreover, the same differences were later evident in samples derived from healthy individuals.
“In multi-factorial diseases other than cancer, usually we can only look at the blood,” explained Gottlieb, a geneticist with McGill’s Centre for Translational Research in Cancer. “Traditionally when we have looked for genetic risk factors for, say, heart disease, we have assumed that the blood will tell us what’s happening in the tissue. It now seems this is simply not the case.”

It remains to be seen how many other differences will be discovered. But what is certain, is that a whole other layer of complexity has been added to the enormous complexity of biological systems. Yet we are told that there is “no evidence of design or a Designer.”

More Complex than Previously Thought-Part V

The New York Times ran an article last November on the Language of Biology. This article is more amusing than anything else for some of the language that is used in the article.

Scientists have learned that the canonical “genes” account for an embarrassingly tiny part of the human genome: maybe 1 percent of the three billion paired subunits of DNA that are stuffed into nearly every cell of the body qualify as indisputable protein codes. Scientists are also learning that many of the gene-free regions of our DNA are far more loquacious than previously believed, far more willing to express themselves in ways that have nothing to do with protein manufacture.

So much for the Junk DNA myth that was advanced by Darwinists as previous “proof” of their theory. But we’ve already been down that road, so let’s get to the interesting part.

Dr. Keller is a big fan of the double helix considered both in toto and in situ — in its native cellular setting. “DNA is an enormously powerful resource, the most brilliant invention in evolutionary history,” she said. “It is a far richer and more interesting molecule than we could have imagined when we first started studying it.”

Still, she said, “it doesn’t do anything by itself.” It is a profoundly relational molecule, she said, and it has meaning only in the context of the cell. To focus endlessly on genes, she said, keeps us stuck in a linear, unidirectional and two-dimensional view of life, in which instructions are read out and dutifully followed.

“What makes DNA a living molecule is the dynamics of it, and a dynamic vocabulary would be helpful,” she said. “I talk about trying to verb biology.” And to renoun it as well. Writing last year in the journal PloS One, Dr. Keller and David Harel of the Weizmann Institute of Science suggested as an alternative to gene the word dene, which they said could be used to connote any DNA sequence that plays a role in the cell. So far, Dr. Keller admits, it has yet to catch on.

So a blind process is brilliant. That’s impressive language, and so is “verb biology.” I wonder if dene will be a verb (That ribosome is dening a protein.) And indeed, Darwinists “never would have imagined” the complexity they would encounter, and they continue to be surprised.

Here is the part I found most amusing:

In a similar vein, we may never understand the workings of our cells and genomes as comfortably and cockily as we understand the artifacts of our own design. “We have evolved to solve problems,” Dr. Keller said. “Those do not include an understanding of the operation of our own systems — that doesn’t have much evolutionary advantage.” It’s quite possible, she said, that biology is “irreducibly complex,” and not entirely accessible to rational analysis. Which is not to say we’re anywhere near being stymied, she said: “Our biology is stretching our minds. It’s another loop in the evolutionary process.”

I guess we’ll have to wait until we do evolve to understand the operation of our own systems, and that may entail waiting for a selection process that allows only those with greater understanding to live. Note also, the Darwinists use the term “irreducibly complex,” but not in the way intended by Behe. I think what they mean is, “So complex we could never understand it.”

More Complex than Previously Thought-Part II

I thought I’d provide a few recent snippets along these lines.

1). The First Animal on Earth was More Complex than Previously Thought

ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2008) — A new study mapping the evolutionary history of animals indicates that Earth’s first animal — a mysterious creature whose characteristics can only be inferred from fossils and studies of living animals–was probably significantly more complex than previously believed.

2). Volcanoes function in a far more complex way than previously thought

Washington, Oct 10 (ANI): A new research by a team of US and UK scientists has found that volcanoes function in a far more complex way than previously thought, making future eruptions even harder to predict.

3). Arctic Ice Formation is More Complex Than Previously Thought

Contrary to historical observations, sea ice in the high Arctic undergoes very small, back and forth movements twice a day, even in the dead of winter. It was once believed ice deformation at such a scale was almost non-existent.

4). Research: Bee vision

Bees’ colour vision is more sophisticated than previously thought.

Like humans, bees are sensitive to light at three different wavelengths (trichromatic). Also like humans, they can recognise the colour of objects such as flowers even when their illumination changes (so-called colour constancy).

5). Study: Single muscle far more complex than previously believed

The finding enriches a gradually emerging picture of a single muscle as a far more complex unit than traditionally believed. Research in the late 1970s and early 1980s showed that the amount of work a muscle does can vary along a lone muscle fiber. The most recent research is the first to document a range of activity within a single muscle of a live animal, in this case a helmeted guinea fowl.