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7 Biology Myths No Electrical Engineer Would Ever Tolerate

A stimulating and unarguably rational post by Perry Marshall. See the original HERE (and don’t miss the great comments underneath it!)

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

As an Electrical Engineer, I am appalled at the intellectual slop that passes for science in biology.

Engineers would lose their jobs in droves if they tolerated the mushy thinking and lack of rigor that is routine in the life sciences. Before I elaborate on this, some background.

15 years ago I couldn’t have imagined I would become interested in DNA, biology, evolution or any such thing. Biology in high school was b-o-r-i-n-g. Chemistry in college was a hard slog.

I got my degree in Electrical Engineering. Specialized in communications and control systems. Graduated and developed analog circuits. Worked as an acoustical engineer. Designed the speakers in the 1994 Ford Probe, the 1995 Acura Vigor, the 1995 Jeep Cherokee and the 1996 Honda Civic.

Left acoustics & pursued digital communications. Sold embedded networking hardware, software and IC’s in the automation and robotics industry. Fought digital networking standards battles in manufacturing.

Wrote an Ethernet book, published by the world’s #1 technical society for process control engineers. And now here I am discussing DNA, evolution, and telling you about scientific discoveries so new, you can’t buy books about them in the bookstore.

I’m loving it. As an outsider to the “biology industry” I bring a very particular perspective: That of an engineer who’s performed digital network design (very exact), analog circuit design (a quasi-art form), and acoustics (extremely complex and messy).

All industries become incestuous as they age. They resist change. All professions are run by good ol’ boys clubs.

In every industry, innovations almost never come from the inside. Novel approaches usually come from outsiders. External innovations are opposed by the old guard because they threaten the status quo. Bill Gates was a complete outsider to the computer business. Larry and Sergey, founders of Google, were complete foreigners to the search engine game.

(Early on, they tried to sell their search technology to Yahoo for $1 million but Yahoo turned them down.)

Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express, was a complete virgin in the shipping industry. Ray Kroc of McDonalds wasn’t a restaurant veteran; he was a milkshake machine salesman.

All these people had an outsiders’ point of view that enabled them to see what insiders were blind to. Like these men, I am a total outsider in biology.

Yet despite the fact that I wouldn’t pass a test on retroviruses or organic chemistry, as an EE I see certain things with crystal clarity that biologists are blind to.

One reason is, in Electrical Engineering, theory matches reality better than it does in almost any other engineering discipline. Examples: In metallurgy, when you predict the failure load of a steel beam, you’re lucky if your guess is within 10%. In chemical engineering, a 5-10% error factor is considered good for many reactions.

Civil engineers over-design bridges by 50% to 100% just to be safe. But a model of an electrical circuit or computer chip is often accurate to within 1% and sometimes 0.01%.

Because you can’t see electricity and shouldn’t touch it, EE is abstract and very mathematical. It’s also rigorous. I can’t tell you how many times in my engineering classes, the professor would be explaining something like, say, the behavior of a semiconductor, and he would derive the calculus equation from scratch.

Of the appliances in your house, which ones work exactly the way they’re supposed to? Your car doesn’t. Your dishwasher doesn’t. Your refrigerator needs new parts every few years. The mechanical stuff is prone to problems.

But your TV does exactly what it’s supposed to, for years. So does your iPod and your Microwave oven and your clock radio and your cell phone. You can thank an EE for that. For this reason, EE’s have very high expectations of theoretical models… because the model has to be built and it has to work.

Engineers don’t have much tolerance for B.S.

Today: 7 Urban Legends Biologists Believe…. but an Engineer Would Never Tolerate:

1. “Random mutations are usually neutral or harmful but occasionally they confer a benefit to an organism. Natural Selection filters out the harmful mutations, causing species to evolve.”

This is the central dogma of neo-Darwinism and is allegedly accepted by “virtually all scientists.” You will find it in literally 1,000 textbooks and 10,000 websites. To the average biologist and to the average man on the street, it sounds perfectly plausible. And I fully understand why people believe this.

But I’m an EE. I know that the information in DNA is a signal. By definition, random mutations are noise. Telling a communications engineer that adding noise to a signal sometimes create new, useful data structures is like telling a nurse you can occasionally cure a common cold by swallowing rat poison. This is absurd!

You’ll be hard pressed to find any communications engineer who, upon examining this claim, would agree with it.

Have you ever had a data glitch on your computer that improved your files? Ever? There is not a one single principle or practice in engineering that would ever suggest that this is actually true.

All the Natural Selection in the world is powerless without a beneficialmutation. And you’ll never get a major benefit from accidental copying errors. The mutations that drive evolution are systematic and directed, not accidental.

2. “97% of your DNA is junk – an accumulation of evolutionary leftovers from random mutations over millions of years.”

The only reason anyone believes lie #2 is that they believe lie #1. Here’s how any rational person can quickly figure out that #2 is B.S.: Human DNA holds 750 megabytes of data, the same as a Compact Disc.

If 97% of your DNA is junk, that means the 3% that isn’t junk is 22 megabytes. In other words, they’re implying that the entire plan for a human body only takes up 22 megabytes of storage space. Heck, the “Windows” folder on my PC – the directory that contains most of the Operating System – is 27gigabytes.

Does anyone actually think Microsoft Windows Vista is more sophisticated than the human body? Bill Gates sure doesn’t. The fact that a plan for an entire human body can even be contained on one CD is nothing short of a miracle of data compression.

Actual fact: DNA is not 3% efficient. It’s more like 1,000% efficient. The same gene can be used in completely different ways by a dozen different processes. The result is a level of data density that software engineers only dream of.

Engineers see profound elegance where biologists see junk. Which perspective is more in keeping with the aims of science?

3. “You only need 3 things for evolution to occur: heredity, variation and selection.”

Tufts university philosopher and prominent atheist Daniel Dennett famously said this. He would never say this if he had an engineering degree. If this were true, computer viruses (which have heredity, variation and selection) would mutate all by themselves and develop resistance to anti-virus software. They don’t.

If this were true, the pirated copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of Windows XP or The Eagles’ “Hotel California” that you can buy on the street corner for $2 in China would occasionally be superior to the original. It never is.

If this were true, Bill Gates wouldn’t have to employ 10,000 programmers in Redmond Washington. He would just buy truckloads of computers, add random errors to a billion copies of Windows and filter them through natural selection.

Nobody writes software that way. Nobody.

Have you ever wondered why?

Most biologists think evolution just happens automatically. They say all you need is time and a lot of raw materials and it will just happen. So why don’t computer programs ever evolve by themselves? They don’t and they never will – not unless they’re programmed to do so.

Evolution is not a given; in the real world it’s always a design feature. Software programmers will tell you that self-adaptive code is profoundly difficult to write.

Never happens by accident. This pronouncement by Daniel Dennett is Exhibit “A” of pseudoscience.

4. “Biology is nothing more than sophisticated physics and chemistry.”That’s like saying the Internet is nothing more than sophisticated copper wire and silicon chips.

I’m an e-commerce consultant. I practically live on the Internet. I have conversations with people about the Internet all the time. Nobody I talk to ever describes the Internet that way. Do you?

You talk about things like email and Google and Facebook. You tell your friend about the Youtube video where the guy goes to every country in the world and does his little dance jig. And the latest gaffe by Donald Trump.

All those things are information. 90% of Electrical Engineering is concerned with controlling and processing information. Only a small part of EE is concerned with things like motors and generators and watts and horsepower.

Even power equipment is controlled by information. All the interesting things you do with electricity involve signals or digital codes. Temperature measurement or text messages or a radio transmission.

The software is more interesting than the hardware. So it is with DNA. Chemicals are just the hardware.

Until the biology profession accepts that the real power in biology is in the information – the software and not the chemicals – it will continue to slam into brick walls and put forth evolutionary theories that make wrong predictions.

These assumptions continue to get nowhere in Origin of Life research. Information never improves by accident. Information evolves only through highly structured processes.

(By the way, Systems Biology bypasses old-school reductionism and is making great strides.)

5. “Genetic Algorithms Prove Darwinian Evolution.”

A Genetic Algorithm (GA) is a computer program that modifies code and then evaluates the code against some pre-programmed goal, keeping the winners and discarding the losers. GA’s refine software programs through an evolution-like process.

GA’s are not a be-all-end-all by any means, and they have limited application. But they are useful.

Some years ago Richard Dawkins wrote a software program that took the following garbage text:


After only 43 iterations, by deleting characters it didn’t want, the program reached its pre-programmed goal: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL

Traditional Darwinian evolution by definition has no goals, just blind natural selection. Dawkins’ program has a definite goal and is programmed to reach it.

This program has nothing to do with formal Darwinian evolution. It’s intelligent evolution.

Every single Genetic Algorithm I’ve ever seen, no matter how simple or complicated, only works if it has pre-programmed goals.

Which requires both a program and objectives. I’ve never seen a GA that actually mirrored Darwinian Evolution. They always sneak in some element of design. Which only adds to the reasons why the Neo-Darwinian theory of purposeless random events is wrong.

Real world evolution is pre-programmed and has goals of some sort pre-loaded. I’ve never seen an exception. This is no different than computer programs that evolve.

6. “The human eye is a pathetic design. It’s got a big blind spot and the ‘wires’ are installed backwards.”

There are many, many variations on this argument. It’s just another version of “Junk DNA.”

When I was a manufacturing production manager, I had to produce an indicator lamp assembly for a piece of equipment. The design had a light bulb and 2 identical resistors, which I thought were stupid. I suggested that we replace the 2 resistors with one resistor of twice the value. This would save money and space.

I told the customer the design was obviously lousy. The engineer got angry and almost took his business elsewhere. Then my boss spent 30 minutes lecturing me. He reminded me that my job was to put the customers’ product into production, not insult him with my warped critique of his design skills.

What I didn’t know was that 600 volts would arc across one resistor, but not across two. A second, “redundant” resistor was an elegant way to solve that problem and it only cost 2 cents.

I learned the hard way that when you criticize a design, you may have a very incomplete picture of the many constraints the designer has to work within.

Designs always have delicate tradeoffs. Some have amazing performance but are extremely difficult to manufacture. Sometimes a minor change in material would make a huge improvement but the material is unavailable. Sometimes you have to make a compromise between 15 competing priorities.

Sometimes people have no appreciation for how difficult that maze is to navigate. I am not saying that there are no sub-optimal designs in biology – I’m sure there are lots of sub-optimal designs. Furthermore I do believe that life followed an evolutionary process and many designs are “best guesses” engineered by the organism’s ancestors.

But human beings must be very careful to not proudly assert that we could ‘obviously do better.’ We don’t know that. We do not understand what’s involved in designing an eye because we’ve never built one.

My friend, if you lose your eye, there’s not a single arrogant scientist in the world who can build you a new one. Especially not the scientists who try to tell you why the design of the eye is “pathetic.”

If I were selecting an eye surgeon, I’d look for one who has deep respect for the eye, not disdain for it. How about you? Every engineer knows that you never truly know how something works until you can build it. Merely taking it apart is not enough. Until we can DESIGN eyes for ourselves, we must be very cautious about what we say. The scientist must ALWAYS be humble in the face of nature and you should be wary of anyone who is not.

7. “There is no such thing as purpose in nature. There is only the appearance of purpose.” “Teleology” is a scientific term which is defined as ‘purpose in nature.’ Atheism denies teleology in the universe. For this reason some biologists have forbidden their students to use purposeful language. In 1974 Ernst Mayr illustrated it like this:

1. “The Wood Thrush migrates in the fall in order to escape the inclemency of the weather and the food shortages of the northern climates.”

2. “The Wood Thrush migrates in the fall and thereby escapes the inclemency of the weather and the food shortages of the northern climates.”

Statement #1 is purposeful, statement #2 is not. Mayr does fancy footwork in order to avoid reference to design in biology. (It also converts all of his writing to colorless passive sentences. Any good writer will tell you passive language is a sign of mushy thinking.)

The famous biologist JBS Haldane joked, “Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.”

Everything in biology is purposeful. Which is precisely why biology is fundamentally different than chemistry.

Chemicals have no purpose. Organisms do. You cannot formulate a coherent description of life if you deny purpose.

For proof of this, look no further than the genetic code. Every codon in DNA maps to an amino acid that it is SUPPOSED TO make – but an error is possible.

It is not possible to even talk about any code at all without acknowledging purpose. Purpose is implicit in every strand of DNA in every organism in the world.

In his book “Perceptual Control Theory,” William Powers explains that the study of any goal-directed (control feedback) system is fundamentally different than the study of rocks or chemicals or magnetic fields or anything purely physical. The failure to acknowledge this has wreaked all kinds of havoc in science for 150 years.

Even something as simple as a thermostat cannot be understood if you see it as only an assembly of molecules.

A thermostat is programmed to hold your room at a certain temperature. The thermostat’s purpose can only be understood from a top-down point of view. It has a goal.

In Electrical Engineering, the top-down nature of information is described by something we call the OSI “7 Layer Model.”

Simplified explanation: The 7 Layer model says that in your computer, there’s an Ethernet cable that connects you to the Internet. The copper wire and the voltage on that wire is Layer 1 – the “physical layer.”

Layer 2 is is the 1’s and 0’s that voltage represents. Layers 3, 4, 5 and 6 are the operating system and layer 7 is your spreadsheet or email program or web browser, the “application layer.”

When you send me an email, information is encoded from the top down and sent through your Ethernet cable. When I receive your email, information is decoded from the bottom up starting with the signal on the cable, and I read your email on my screen.

ALL information is organized this way – in a top-down hierarchy. The wire has its purpose. The 1’s and 0’s have their purpose. The operating system has a purpose, my email program has a purpose and your message has a purpose.

You cannot deny purpose in computers or biology without immediately contradicting yourself 2 minutes later. Even a person who denies purpose is purposefully denying it.

Everything I just told you, I absolutely know to be true as a result of my education and experience as an engineer.

Darwinism as we know it CANNOT stand under the weight of 21st century DNA research. It’s impossible. Because I’ve read the literature. Amazon is absolutely littered with books written from every imaginable point of view, both religious and non-religious, pointing to the creaking, groaning edifice of Neo-Darwinism.

It is inevitable that it will fall. And it’s not going to be long. It will be replaced by an algorithmic model of Evolution.

BOLD HYPOTHESIS: When Biologists accept what Electrical Engineers know about information, a whole bunch of problems in biology will be solved:

1. The random mutation theory will be discarded. It will be replaced with Transposition, Natural Genetic Engineering, Horizontal Gene Transfer and Genome Doubling. Suddenly evolution will make sense because it is understood as an engineered process not random accident.

2. We’ll discover that what was originally thought to be junk DNA is actually the heart of the most sophisticated database format ever devised.

3a. Evolution will not be taken for granted but deeply appreciated as an utterly ingenious mechanism, pre-programmed into living things. As software engineers replicate the evolutionary algorithm in computer programs, we’ll achieve huge breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence.

3b: Evolution is orchestrated at a very high level within the organism. It is controlled by a mechanism that is currently poorly understood. This mechanism is beautifully efficient, elegant, fractal, and follows a very exact mathematical protocol. Bioinformatics will become the most rigorous discipline in engineering. The ‘code’ of this protocol will be cracked because of the Human Genome Project and the public availability of DNA sequences. This discovery will lay the foundation of an entire new branch of Computer Science in the 21st century.

4. The “Physics and Chemistry” paradigm of biology will be replaced with a “Bioinformatics” paradigm. Evolution and the origin of life theories will make much more successful predictions.

5. Neo-Darwinism will be discarded because biologists will recognize that biological evolution is just like Genetic Algorithms: It employs pre-programmed goals and educated guesses, not random chance.

6. Rather than assuming designs in biology are “pathetic” or “stupid” we’ll discover deeper reasons for why organisms are the way they are. And greater insights into the subtlety of living things.

7. Everything in biology makes sense once you understand that every single one of the 5 million trillion trillion cells on earth is purposeful and intentional and the original cells were designed to evolve and adapt.

Finally I would like to suggest that there is nothing in the world that can teach us more about digital communications and software programming than DNA.

DNA is an absolute gold mine, a treasure trove of insights of data storage, error correction, software architecture, robust design and fractal data compression.

Every Electrical Engineer and Computer Science major should study it intensively. And there is much we engineers can learn from the biologists – because even the simplest living thing is more elegant than the greatest man-made supercomputer.

As Engineers and Biologists begin to talk to each other, the 21st century will be amazing indeed.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: Innovations almost always come from outsiders. This means that those who read widely and embrace multiple disciplines – pockets of humanity that don’t normally talk to each other – can enjoy long and prosperous careers as innovators. The watchword of 21st century biology will be “Interdisciplinary” – the great mysteries will be solved by people who bring the expertise of other fields to bear on the biggest questions in science.

My challenge to you: Make a deliberate decision to step outside of your normal and familiar environment and innovate. The world will reward you for it.

Do children naturally believe in God?

Photo credit: http://www.thisfabtrek.com/journey/europe/latvia/20100605-riga/daniel-david-hats-looking-bug-4.jpg

A thought-provoking piece by Eric Hatfield

Published on his blog http://www.is-there-a-god.info/ under the title “Is it natural for children to believe in God or do they have to be taught it?” Read the original piece here: http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/clues/is-it-natural-for-children-to-believe-in-god-or-do-they-have-to-be-taught-it/
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This comment was made on a blog I was visiting recently: “None of us are born with any smattering of whether or not there is a god, or for that matter, even what a god is (or is not) – we have to be taught that”

I was interested, for I knew of some scientific research that suggested the opposite. I asked the author of the comment whether they had any scientific evidence for the statement, but none was forthcoming. Instead, I was asked what evidence I had seen.

A blog comment isn’t the place for an extended review of evidence, so I decided to post it here. This post repeats some of what I wrote a year ago in Do children naturally believe in God?, but adds additional information I have found since then.

Science and opinion

In the following discussion, as always, I distinguished between the science (which I outline first) and opinion (mine and others’) based on the science. The science is by qualified professionals at recognised universities (I have found a number of different studies), and should be accepted by anyone who recognises the value of scientific study. Each person is entitled to their own opinion based on the scientific findings.

Scientific studies on the cognitive science of religion

Kelemen & Rottman (Boston University)

Deborah Keleman studies cognitive development in children and Josh Rottman is a PhD student working with her. In a chapter in Science and the World’s Religions they write (p206, 7):

…. religion primarily stems from within the person rather than from external, socially organised sources …. evolved components of the human mind tend to lead people towards religiosity early in life.

They discuss theories on the development of religious concepts in young children. They conclude that religion “cannot be understood as resulting primarily from education or passive acquisition from parents or society”. For them the question is whether children come into the world as “born believers” (a view held by others in the field but not by them) or that children develop religious views as they try to understand the world around them (the view they accept).

They say the research suggests that various factors inherent in children’s thinking lead to religious conclusions: understanding other minds, agency detection, beliefs about creation and purpose, and belief in mind-body dualism.

Paul Bloom (Yale University)

Paul Bloom runs the Mind and Development Lab at Yale University. He says that humans have a tendency to believe in God:

…. the universal themes of religion are not learned. They emerge as accidental by-products of our mental systems. They are part of human nature.”

Like Kelemen & Rottman, Bloom sees several evolutionary causes that lead to religious belief in young children: distinguishing bodies and souls (“we are natural-born dualists”) and “we’ve evolved to be creationists”. He nominates Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, Justin Barrett, and Deborah Kelemen as other cognitive scientists who share these conclusions.

Bloom is convinced that all humans, even his own children, will inevitably see design and divinity in the world: “Creationism—and belief in God is bred in the bone.”

Bloom says of course much of the content of religious belief is learned but “the universal themes of religion are not learned. They emerge as accidental by-products of our mental systems. They are part of human nature.”

Bruce Hood (Bristol University)

Bruce Hood is professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University whose work suggeststhat magical and supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth.

Our research shows children have a natural, intuitive way of reasoning that leads them to all kinds of supernatural beliefs about how the world works

Like Bloom and Keleman, Hood believes this propensity to religious belief is a result of how our brains evolved: our brains have a mind design that leads us naturally to infer structures and patterns in the world, and to make sense of it by generating intuitive theories.

Hood believes it is futile to try to get people to abandon their beliefs because these come from such a “fundamental level”.

Olivera Petrovich (Oxford University)

Olivera Petrovich is a psychologist studying religion and human development at Oxford University. Her studies have led her to conclude that basic religious belief, primarily “the concept of God as creator” is hard-wired into the human psyche.

It isn’t religion that has to be learned, she says, but atheism. “Atheism is definitely an acquired position”.

The Cognition, Religion and Theology Project (Oxford University)

This study, led by Dr Justin Barrett from the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at Oxford University, drew on research by an international body of 57 researchers from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and theology. They conducted over 40 separate studies in 20 different countries that represented both traditionally religious and atheist societies.

According to the Oxford university website, “the project was not setting out to prove the existence of god or otherwise, but sought to find out whether concepts such as gods and an afterlife appear to be entirely taught or basic expressions of human nature.”

Barrett says “young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose”. He concludes “cultural inputs help fill in the details but children’s minds are not a level playing field. They are tilted in the direction of belief.”

The conclusions Barrett cites come from the studies that made up the project, including:

  • Studies by Emily Reed Burdett and Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford, suggest that “in early childhood we have a natural tendency to attribute super properties to other humans and gods, including super knowledge, super perception, and immortality.”
  • Experiments involving adults, conducted by Jing Zhu from Tsinghua University (China), and Natalie Emmons and Jesse Bering from The Queen’s University, Belfast, suggest that people across many different cultures instinctively believe that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lives on after death.
  • Children expect that someone, not something, is behind natural order. Margaret Evansfound that children younger than 10 favoured creationist accounts of the origins of animals over evolutionary accounts even when their parents and teachers endorsed evolution.
  • Based on inputs from a range of researchers in UK and US it seems that the idea that some part of us — our mind, soul, or spirit — does not need a physical body and can persist after death may be largely intuitive and that we have to be talked out of beliefs in the afterlife rather than talked into them.

Summary of the science

It seems there is a broad consensus among cognitive scientists that the basics of religious belief – God as a creator, an afterlife and mind-body dualism – are innate. Some believe they are hard-wired at birth because of our evolutionary origins while others believe that early experience of life and the external world leads children to the religious predisposition.

But it is clear that, at the present at least, those who say religious belief wouldn’t occur without teaching are not basing their views on the best science, though of course much of the specific content of belief is taught. It appears in fact that it is unbelief that must be taught if it is to be acquired.

Draw your own conclusions

That is the science, on which there is broad agreement. And all seem to agree that these findings say little about whether God actually exists and the natural beliefs are in fact true. But the scientists have their opinions.

As a christian, Justin Barrett believes the innate disposition towards religious belief is part of God’s plan – perhaps what philosophers and theologians call a sensus divinitatis. On the other hand, atheists Paul Bloom and Bruce Hood believe the propensity to believe is a result of evolution and has nothing to do with any God.

We are each free to interpret the information as we choose. What appears not to be open to anyone who believes in science is to say that religion only exists because it is taught.

Religious indoctrination?

It has been claimed that teaching children religion is indoctrination that amounts to child abuse. These studies show that children don’t have to be taught to be religious, but will tend to be religious naturally.

Other studies (summarised at Faith and Wellbeing) show that giving content to children’s religious impulses improves their life in many ways. As Justin Barrett says, based on“considerable research on the relationship between religious commitment and psychological and physical well-being”, that religious beliefs “tend to better physical and mental health” and that believers are “psychologically healthier and better equipped to cope with emotional and health problems than non-believers”.

Doubtless the arguments will go on, but these studies suggest that atheists who continue to promote this view care more for polemics than for science.

Can Any Theory of How Life Began “Disprove God”?


Photo credit: Yannemann https://www.flickr.com/photos/yannemann/4924077647  Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

A few days ago, the Independent was ablaze with the following headline:

“New theory could prove how life began and disprove God”

To add to the fireworks, the article went on to say that “a writer on the website of Richard Dawkins’ foundation says that the theory has put God “on the ropes” and has “terrified” Christians…” and that someone on the website wrote that “the theory could make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”.”

It is always amusing to see how, in their desperation to “disprove” God, certain people confuse PROCESS with AGENT. Whatever the process was through which life was created from dead matter and made to evolve, knowing its finer details will not rule out the assertion that the process was guided by a super-intelligent agent, any more than knowing how an apple is digested will rule out the eater. Nor will it explain how the universe, in which the apple exists, appeared in the first place.

This may remind some readers of the joke in which God was approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.” God replied, “Don’t need me, huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being?” The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it like He did in the good old days. “Fine!” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.“Whoa!” says God, “Not so fast! You get your own dirt.”

The new theory, proposed by a researcher at MIT, is that “when a group of atoms is exposed for a long time to a source of energy, it will restructure itself to dissipate more energy. The emergence of life might not be the luck of atoms arranging themselves in the right way, it says, but an inevitable event if the conditions are correct.” The researcher is reported to have said: “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.”

It is quite shameful for a researcher, who one would expect to be a dignified member of the scientific community who is always circumspect when it comes to drawing conclusions and making them public, to talk of atoms “arranging themselves” and the first life forms in the same breath, as if these two things were just a step or two away from each other. The layman will come away with the idea that the first life forms must have been rather basic, primitive things, not much more than rearranged atoms.

More discerning readers will of course know that for cells to function, they require the presence of a whole series of molecular machines to run like clockwork from Day One. Whatever the processes were that led the simple rearrangement of atoms to a fully functional, self-replicating, conscious cell, they were certainly more complex than simply shining light on atoms and ending up with a plant.

The key delusion here is shining a light “for long enough”. In other words, we are being asked to believe that TIME creates life. This is extremely dishonest, when mathematicians have demonstrated time and again that the amount of time available since the universe began is simply not suffient for life to appear by unguided processes. To circumvent this unavoidable mathematical reality, the fantastical idea of a “multiverse” has been conjured up; something which has absolutely no evidence to back it up with, and which only exists on paper because there are scientists who are obsessed with the idea of disproving God by any means instead of humbly following the mathematical and scientific evidence wherever it leads.

For a glimpse into what goes on inside a human cell, watch THIS

And for plant cells, THIS

As for the smug declaration that this new theory will make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”, six-24-hour-day creationists and 6000-year-old earth protagonists are already in a whole heap of scientific trouble, so it is difficult to imagine how this new theory will make things any worse for them. The fact that they ascribe unscientific actions to God in no way changes what really happened. All they do is give an opportunity to the noisier anti-theists to further ridicule the idea of God. In fact, such creationists and anti-theists both have equally ridiculous conceptions of God. And of science. The ones say that plants appeared all of a sudden, the others affirm that if you keep shining light on a clump of atoms, you’ll inevitably get a plant. They truly deserve each other!

The Qur’an, like the Bible, speaks of creation in six days. However, there is a big difference between the two accounts. Unlike the Book of Genesis, which limits each day to 24 hours by specifying that there was an evening and a morning,  the Qur’an leaves the expression as simply “six days”, and explains that in God’s parlance, a “day” means a period of time of any length; some “days” are equal to 1000 years, others to 50000, others still to far longer periods as we will now show.

In one verse, the Qur’an declares:

Allah it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six periods; then He settled on the Throne. You have no helper or intercessor beside Him. Will you not then reflect?

In another verse, it proclaims:

Say: “Do you really disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him?’ That is the Lord of the worlds.”

Thus, the creation of the whole universe is said to have occurred in six “days”, of which our planet took two “days” to be created. Or in other words a ratio of 2:6 or 1:3.

When we turn to what science has discovered so far, we find that the approximate age of planet earth is 4.56 billion years and that of the universe is 13.77 billion years. If 13.77 billion years is divided into six periods of equal length, planet earth will take up two of them. Again, a ratio of 1:3.

That an illiterate 6th-Century inhabitant of the Arabian desert could make such a declaration has implications that are for our readers to reflect upon. He said that it was God Who had told him to say this:

“Do you really disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him?’ That is the Lord of the worlds.”

No matter how much knowledge of the creative process can be acquired by Man, it will never explain away the Agent behind it all. Au contraire.


Is Life Sacred in an Atheist World?

With the recent controversy over whether Humanism should be taught in UK RE classes, this belief system is getting more attention than it’s ever done. We thought we’d help out the British Humanist Association with their policy of promoting critical thought around Humanism by publishing a series of posts examining whether Humanism makes, well… any sense at all. Enjoy!

Humanism assumes universally accepted precepts such as the inherent sanctity of human life. It tells us that human life is something worth fostering and promoting, and that it is morally despicable to actively try and harm it. I agree. I cannot help but note, however, that humanism offers absolutely no intellectual basis for these laudable ideals. In fact, as it is a moral philosophy based on God’s non-existence, it seems to offer quite the opposite.

In a world without God, the universe is at best an accidental one, the origin of which is entirely unexplained, but certainly not the result of a Higher Power. Similarly, human life is not at all intended. Rather, it is simply the happy byproduct of Darwinian evolution – the dubious idea that a fortuitous, unexplained, fully-functioning cell appeared one day, consequently underwent countless copying errors in its DNA, and after being ravaged by similarly undirected environmental changes, produced you, me, and that barking dog that keeps you up at night.

If this outlook is true in all its serendipitous details, then in what way is human life sacred? It is simply the accidental product of an accidental universe, a fluke that will disappear entirely in the blink of a cosmic eye. At best, one can say that human life is rare, remarkable only in a probabilistic sense. But that does nothing to obscure the obvious fact that in an atheistic perspective, human life has no intrinsic worth. It was an accident. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts. A good philosophy for a night out perhaps, but the sombre hangover is sure to kick in soon. If human life is an accident, then why should we value it? If a callous, uncaring oppressor seeks to trample on the rights of others for his own selfish ends, then by what argument will we silence him? ‘Be good!’, we cry.‘Why?’, he retorts. ‘The law of the jungle is what brought us into this world- why not continue it?’ In this bleak atheistic outlook, the idea that life is valuable can be chalked up to a psychological survival instinct drilled into us by the selfish dictates of natural selection. If someone ignores its compulsions, can we really argue against such cruel principles coherently? After all, an unspoken truth is being acted upon: none of this really matters anyway.

A theistic outlook however, radically alters this. We are not an accident. The universe did not bring itself into being through sheer force of non-existent will; rather, it was created by an eternal Higher Power for a very specific purpose. That purpose was to produce conscious beings capable of high moral and spiritual endeavour – beings that could know their Creator, develop a relationship with Him, emulate His Mercy, and thus work to produce peace amongst creation.

Human life therefore is absolutely valuable- it has a purpose, and belongs in reality to its Creator. To take a life away is to rob that life of its potential to fulfil the purpose of its existence, and experience the spiritual bliss that comes with it. To take a life away it is to take a life that was never ours to take.

Of course, believers and non-believers alike know that life is sacred. It is a principle which screams inside our very core. The difference is, alas, that the atheist’s heart finds no support from his or her head.

Note: That there is a cosmic plan for Man is obvious. Take a pygmy child from the Congo, or a Tuareg child from the Sahara, or the child of a Samoyed nomad from northern arctic Russia; bring them up in an upper-class household in England. Send them to Cambridge. One becomes a brain surgeon, the second a great musician, the third an astrophysicist. Why did these children have that hidden potential within them? Had time travel been possible, we may just as well have made a caveman’s child pass through the same process, with the same result. What use could such potential have for the survival of children born in tribes who had always been nomads or hunter-gatherers? Why should such children have the hidden potential to read, write, and comprehend the sciences and the arts? Clearly, this potential was placed in them long in advance, despite bringing no evolutionary advantage for millenia, so that one day it could blossom. Blind selection cannot create such amazing potential in any creature. The human race is special, and has had a noble purpose willed for it long before the purpose could reveal itself.


The first part of this article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

Richard Dawkins & Natural Selection: a Love Affair

Richard Dawkins & Natural Selection (1)

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is. (Qur’an 2:118)

Why is there something rather than nothing? That is the question that has plagued philosophers, scientists, and billions of people, throughout time and space. It is a question that is not only related to the Universe but is related to us on an individual basis, personally. Observing the Universe around us, it lies within our intuition that the Universe too has not existed forever. This observation has recently (as far as Human History goes) been confirmed by scientific, empirical research. The Universe as it is today, has not always existed. It has continuously expanded from a singularity, before which in both space and time, it did not – to our current observation – exist. To surmise that it did would be to assume something for which there is scant evidence currently. In short, the Universe came from a state of nothingness, into a state of existence.

Professor Richard Dawkins does not believe that the question “why is there something, rather than nothing” is worth acknowledging. In his book “The God Delusion”, instead of first solving the riddle of how the Universe came from nothing, he raises the same question against God. What follows is the intriguing construction of a house of cards.

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.”

“The God Delusion” is several hundred pages in length and yet remarkably, it only gives one actual argument against the existence of God, and that too, borrowed from his favourite atheist philosopher, David Hume. There are many pages of his book that talks about why he doesn’t like religion, why he believes you can live without religion, why believers in God are self-deluded fools, etc., etc., but it is only after some one hundred pages on page 138 that the Professor actually shoots the only bullet in the barrel of his gun:

The creationist misappropriation of the argument from improbability always takes the same general form, and it doesn’t make any difference if the creationist chooses to masquerade in the politically expedient fancy dress of ‘intelligent design’ (ID). [i] Some observed phenomenon — often a living creature or one of its more complex organs, but it could be anything from a molecule up to the universe itself — is correctly extolled as statistically improbable. Sometimes the language of information theory is used: the Darwinian is challenged to explain the source of all the information in living matter, in the technical sense of information content as a measure of improbability or ‘surprise value’. Or the argument may invoke the economist’s hackneyed motto: there’s no such thing as a free lunch — and Darwinism is accused of trying to get something for nothing. In fact, as I shall show in this chapter, Darwinian natural selection is the only known solution to the otherwise unanswerable riddle of where the information comes from. It turns out to be the God Hypothesis that tries to get something for nothing. God tries to have his free lunch and be it too. However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747. (The God Delusion, p. 138)

In short, Professor Dawkins’ argument is that if you believe the Universe’s complexity requires a designer, then surely God, who must be as complex or if not, more complex than the Universe, must require a Designer too. Who then, created God? The argument is however, riddled with false assumptions.

The first of these is that believers in God believe that the Universe requires a Designer because it is complex. This is an error. The reason the Universe requires a Designer is because prior to the Big Bang, there was no Universe. As far as current science can tell us, prior to the Universe, this Universe did not exist. It then came into existence. For this process of something coming from nothing, one requires a Designer. Why is this?

To answer this we will have to examine another aspect of Professor Dawkins’ claims, and that is, that besides “design” and “chance” there is a third alternative possibility of the motive force driving the Universe:

A deep understanding of Darwinism teaches us to be wary of the easy assumption that design is the only alternative to chance, and teaches us to seek out graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity. Before Darwin, philosophers such as Hume understood that the improbability of life did not mean it had to be designed, but they couldn’t imagine the alternative. After Darwin, we all should feel, deep in our bones, suspicious of the very idea of design. The illusion of design is a trap that has caught us before, and Darwin should have immunized us by raising our consciousness. Would that he had succeeded with all of us. (The God Delusion, p.138)

Thus Professor Dawkins claims a third type of process: Natural Selection, but on a cosmic scale. He claims that there may be a process whereby different universes of increasing complexity are created, and which are selected for. Those that are unable to survive, due to their physical constants being incompatible with continuation of that universe, automatically die off, while universes which can continue, do, and of them, those that produce life may be a tiny fraction. We just happen to be in a Universe that has produced life. This theory is also called The Multiverse Hypothesis.

The Multiverse (NB: not actually the multiverse).

The Multiverse
(NB: not actually the multiverse – just an artist’s representation)

The gaping hole in this argument, is that how did the laws that govern the creation and selection of the universes, come about? Did they also come about through a process of cosmic selection? Are these laws eternal in and of themselves? If there is a process of producing Universes and selecting for them through a process of graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity then what is the process by which this all occurs? Ultimately therefore, the laws that govern the generation of Universes, or the selection of them, must themselves either be designed, or have come about by chance. Or were the laws and processes which governed the creation and selection of the laws, themselves the product of a similar process of selection? Once again, an infinite regress of absurdity sets in, in which one continues to ask, by which process did the laws themselves that govern correct “selection” come about.

Unfortunately, all Professor Dawkins seems to have is Natural Selection as his hammer, and when all you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.

In short therefore, the notion that there is a third option besides “design” and “chance” is false. All ordered processes must themselves be explained; the very method of Universe production and selection must itself be explained, if it is an ordered process. If it is not an ordered process, then what differentiates it from random chance? If it is a gradual process of possible but improbable steps in a linear fashion – graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity – then this too is illogical, for how did those steps come about in the first place? Did this Universe-producing machine create the laws of cosmic selection which were required to create itself in the first instance?  Did the child give birth to it’s own mother? Did the omelette scramble itself into an egg, and thence into a squawking chicken?

When we look at it this way, and realise that there is only “design” or “chance”, one realises that the very origin of anything can only be “design”. This is because “chance” is defined as the random selection of an outcome from a set of possibilities. If those possibilities do not yet exist, then chance cannot act. Dice which have no sides cannot be rolled and a racehorse without any horses doesn’t offer much of a gamble. Even if one was to apply the theory of cosmic selection, selection is not a creative process, but rather, a culling process. Without an initial creation, there is nothing to cull, nothing to “select” and nothing for “chance” or any other selective process to act upon. When the issue is looked at from this point, the creation or existence of anything which had a beginning and an origin will always be by “design”, not “chance”, “selection” or any other non-creative process. Unsurprisingly, you need a creative process to create something. Neither chance nor any process reminiscent of natural or cosmic selection are adequate.

What, however, if the Universe existed prior to the Big Bang, and then merely came into a new form of existence? Thus the Universe did not come from nothing, but merely was developed from one state into another. One Universe collapsed upon itself, produced another black hole and developed into our current universe.

This too does not satisfy reason. Suppose for a moment that the Big Bang occurred due to something called The Big Cause, and The Big Cause was caused by The Bigger Cause. What then caused the Bigger Cause? This chain of cause and effect cannot extend infinitely, as otherwise, there would be no beginning to the chain of cause and effect, and without a beginning, how would we have reached the present moment? If there wasn’t a beginning to this blog post, how do you find yourself reading in the middle of it (it’s coming to an end soon, don’t fret)? If there isn’t a beginning to a race, how to do you find yourself running in it? In short, an infinite chain of cause and effect can never reach any point anywhere along it’s chain, because it will always be infinitely behind the present position on that chain. You will have an infinite regression of causes.

This indicates that everything that has a beginning is dependent on having originated with an Uncaused Cause. This is because, something that has a beginning cannot have created itself. To create itself, while it didn’t yet exist, would require it to both exist and not exist, simultaneously. Without an Uncaused Cause therefore, anything that has a beginning, cannot exist. Moreover, such an Uncaused Cause does not suffer from the deficiency of requiring a designer, because such an Uncaused Cause did not itself originate from anything, rather, it has always existed. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, David Hume, Julian Baginni, etc., all misrepresent this argument by citing it as stating that everything that exists must have a cause. This is erroneous; the argument states that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Thus, an Uncaused Cause that does not have a beginning, such as God, does not require a “designer”. An Uncaused Cause is therefore a logical necessity and an imperative.

It is interesting to note that atheists, by assuming the Multiverse argument, have also accepted the belief in an Uncaused Cause. Many atheists accept that the Uncaused Cause is a logical necessity, only they claim that a Universe-generating machine, is the Uncaused Cause. This is logically inconsistent; because if they are willing to accept the existence of an Uncaused Cause, then what is the big leap in saying that such an existence could also be conscious of itself – thus making it a Divine, or Personal Entity. Thus, by assuming the Multiverse hypothesis, they jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. They run into precisely what they wished to avoid.

To Allah belong the East and the West; so withersoever you turn, there will be the face of Allah. Surely, Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing. (Qur’an 2:116)

To summarise then, something did not come from nothing. Something (the universe) came from something else (an Uncaused Cause). The universe must have had a beginning – an origin, as an infinite chain of cause and effect is an illogicality.

Furthermore, all things that have a beginning, must take their origin in “design”, not “chance”. There is no third alternative such as “cosmic selection” because any process or laws that govern such selection must themselves be either the product of “design” or “chance”, lest a further infinite regression of absurdities be created.

Thus, the only logical outcome for this Universe, which must have began either with the Big Bang or at an event prior to it, is that it came into existence from nothingness, by the Design of an Uncaused Cause.

Gosh. That sounds a lot like God, doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought…


The present article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com