Open letter to the Texas State Board of Education

Dear Board,

It seems the work groups have decided that our standards exaggerate the biblical influence on the founding of our country. This is simply not true. All we need to do is teach our children what really happened in the past. Here’s some excerpts from Thomas Cahill’s, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Change the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. This book is from his Hinge of History series.

• The Jews started it all—and by “it” I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and gentile, believer and atheist, tick. P. 3

• The Jews were the first people to break out of the circle, [a cyclical worldview] to find a new way of thinking and experiencing, a new way of understanding and feeling the world, so much so that it may be said with some justice that theirs is the only new idea that human beings ever had. P. 5

• …the Bible is rightly considered the book of the Western world—its foundational document… p.6

• But to understand ourselves—and the identity we carry so effortlessly that most “moderns” no longer give any thought to the origins of attitudes we have come to take as natural and self-evident—we must return to this great document, the cornerstone of Western civilization. P 7-8

• But this peculiar migration would change the face of the earth by permanently changing the minds and hearts of human beings. (Referring to the call of Abraham in Genesis 12) P.59

• But as we follow the wanderings of Abraham’s children down through the centuries, we will witness many such developments. We will be witnesses, in fact, to the slow evolution of our entire system of values. P. 96

• The Jews gave us a whole new vocabulary, a whole new Temple of the Spirit, an inner landscape of ideas and feelings that had never been known before. Over many centuries of trauma and suffering they came to believe in one God, the Creator of the universe, whose meaning underlies all his creation and who enters human history to bring his purposes to pass. Because of their unique belief—monotheism—the Jews were able to give us the Great Whole, a unified universe that makes sense and that, because of its evident superiority as a worldview, completely overwhelms the warring and contradictory phenomena of polytheism. They gave us the Conscience of the West, the belief that this God who is one is not the God of outward show but the “still, small voice” of conscience, the God of compassion, the God who “will be there,” the God who cares about each of his creatures, especially the human beings he created “in his own image,” and that he insists we do the same. P. 239-240

• The Jews gave us the Outside and the Inside–our outlook and inner life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our best words, in fact—new, adventure, surprise; unique, individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope, justice—are gifts of the Jews. P. 240-241

• But however miraculous Jewish survival may be, the greater miracle is surely that the Jews developed a whole new way of experiencing reality, the only alternative to all ancient worldviews and all ancient religions. If one is ever to find the finger of God in human affairs, one must find it here. P. 246

• We are the undeserving recipients of this history of the Jews, this long, excessive, miraculous development of ethical monotheism without which our ideas of equality and personalism are unlikely ever to have come into being and surely never have matured in the way that they have. P. 250

• Unbelievers might wish to stop for a moment and consider how completely God—this Jewish God of justice and compassion—undergirds all our values and that it is just possible that human effort without this God is doomed to certain failure. P. 251

Please do not under emphasize our precious biblical heritage. Again, the children deserve to know what really happened in the past.

Don McLeroy

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Life aand Living Forms Present a Problem for Materialism but not for Biblical Theism

Two Essays

 In June 2015, the Royal Institute of Philosophy and Cambridge University Press announced their 2015 Philosophy Essay Prize. The topic for the 2015 essay competition was:

 ‘Do Life and Living Forms present a problem for materialism?’

Old style vitalism, attributing an internal animating substance or force to living things gave way to the idea that life may yet be a property over and above physical and chemical ones. Subsequent to that it was widely thought that life is an organisational or functional feature of bodies instantiated by their physical properties. With ongoing debates about analogous issues relating to mind (especially consciousness and intentionality) still running, and renewed interest in anti-reductionist interpretations of emergence and of teleological description and explanation the question is posed: do life forms present a problem for materialism? 

 

What follows are two essays that are adapted from my original competition essay submission in September 2015.

The first is a stand-alone essay adapted from my original essay that just addresses “Materialism.”

The second is a stand-alone essay adapted from my original essay that just addresses “Biblical Theism.” (Page 11)

 

 

 Do Life And Living Forms Present a Problem for Materialism?

 

Abstract

An analysis is made of how well materialism explains life and living forms; the analysis reveals serious problems for materialism’s explanations. Science is used to test the materialist explanations for the origin of the universe, the origin of plant life, the origin of creature life and the origin of human consciousness. All four fail the test of science.

 

Introduction

The fact this question is even asked demonstrates that materialism has problems explaining life and living forms. Therefore, why is it today so many highly educated people accept a materialist explanation? The idea that ‘physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter’[1] defies common sense. And, it will be demonstrated that materialist explanations concerning the origin of the universe, the origin of plant life, the origin of creature life and the origin of human consciousness, fail the test of science. The materialist is ultimately left with only philosophical speculations, not scientific explanations.

The first problem is the materialist is trapped by his worldview.  As Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton observed over a hundred years ago, ‘The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.’[2]

This is admitted by evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin. In a review of Carl Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, he observed:

‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’[3]

Thus, for the trapped materialist, nothing can present a true problem for materialism, not life, not living forms – nothing. Having rejected the ‘Divine Foot in the door’, the materialist speculates there must still be an explanation out there – somewhere; he just concludes it has not been found yet. As we will see, there is a good chance his speculations are wrong. Life and living forms require explanations, not speculations.

The second problem the materialist faces is that he must rely on a religious conviction to develop scientific thought. James Hannam, in God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (2009), clearly documents the consensus view of historians of science that the religious conviction God created nature led to the development of the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages. He then shows how this led to the achievement of modern science. Hannam also describes how the Christian theologians of the Middle Ages, whom he refers to as ‘God’s philosophers’, made the crucial distinctions about how God uses secondary causes or natural laws to affect his will, which encouraged the study of nature. Without such distinctions theology becomes fatalistic and no science ensues. Rodney Stark, in his book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery, concurs. He concludes his section on science with two points: ‘First, science arose only once in history – in medieval Europe. Second, science could only arise in a culture dominated by belief in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator.’[4] Interestingly, one does not abandon science when one accepts biblical theism; one invents it.

 

Testing Materialism

But, the most important problem facing materialism is that it fails the test of science. In the opening episode of the television documentary series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, (2014) astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson presents a clear and powerful definition of science. He explains that science is just a ‘…simple set of rules:

  • Test ideas by experiment and observation,
  • Build on those ideas that pass the test,
  • Reject the ones that fail,
  • Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and
  • Question everything.’

We will now test the materialist ideas. All these ideas will be tested by observation as they are not testable by experiment.

 

                     The Origin of the Universe

What about the idea that our universe popped into existence out of nothing? It is not a problem for Lawrence M. Krauss, cosmologist and author of A Universe from Nothing: Why there is Something Rather than Nothing (2011). In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (September 8, 2010) discussing some of physicist Stephen Hawking’s speculations, he wrote:

‘As a scientist, I have never quite understood the conviction, at the basis of essentially all the world’s religions, that creation requires a creator. Every day beautiful and miraculous objects suddenly appear, from snowflakes on a cold winter morning to rainbows after a late afternoon summer shower.

Yet no one but the most ardent fundamentalists would suggest that every such object is painstakingly and purposefully created by divine intelligence. In fact, we revel in our ability to explain how snowflakes and rainbows can spontaneously appear based on the simple, elegant laws of physics.

So if we can explain a raindrop, why can’t we explain a universe? Mr. Hawking based his argument on the possible existence of extra dimensions – and perhaps an infinite number of universes, which would indeed make the spontaneous appearance of a universe like ours seem almost trivial.’[5]

 

Krauss makes it seem so simple, but his understanding of nothing is extremely weak. Over three hundred years ago, American theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards, as a teenager, described the task we must go through if we truly wish to describe perfect nothing:

‘When we go about to form an idea of perfect nothing we must shut out all these things; we must shut out of our minds both space that has something in it, and space that has nothing in it. We must not allow ourselves to think of the least part of space, never so small. Nor must we suffer our thoughts to take sanctuary in a mathematical point. When we go to expel body out of our thoughts, we must cease not to leave empty space in the room of it; and when we go to expel emptiness from our thoughts, we must not think to squeeze it out by anything close, hard, and solid, but we must think of the same that the sleeping rocks dream of; and not till then shall we get a complete idea of nothing.’[6]

You will not get ‘an infinite number of universes’ out of what ‘sleeping rocks dream of’. When nothing is ‘perfect nothing’, we can conclude that the materialist idea that the universe has popped into existence out of nothing has failed the test.

 

The Origin of Plant Life

What is the materialist explanation for the origin of plant life? Today, we do not observe scientists sprouting new life forms in a test tube, and we certainly do not see new life forms spontaneously self-assembling themselves into existence in nature. All we do see is modification of existing life forms in nature or the lab. Is it possible that a new life form could come into existence by itself? The materialist claims this must have happened; the problem is he has no idea how. It would seem that brilliant scientists working in a lab stand a better chance than unguided natural processes, even operating over immense periods of time. The facts are, as of today, there are only speculations for how this could have happened.

Is it possible someday scientists could create a brand new life form in their lab? Maybe. Would this then mean plants, as living forms, do not present a problem for materialism? No. The materialist still has to get something from nothing to work with and he still needs a scientist in the lab. Plant life, though, is probably as close as it will get for life not presenting a problem for materialism.

What about the idea that evolution is bringing forth new life forms from previous life forms? According to the materialist, the unguided natural processes of evolution have done what an intelligent scientist in his lab has not done. Yet, since evolution still requires some life form already in existence, it does not save the materialist position. Until the naturalistic origin of life is demonstrated, evolution is a moot point. Thus, in explaining the origin of plants, materialism has failed the test.

 

The Origin of Creature Life

Concerning the origin of creature life materialism runs into even greater problems. The materialist has not and probably will not ever make a single observation of a creature dying and coming back to life. Once a creature has died it cannot be resuscitated. This is so obvious it does not even seem to be profound, but it is. Every single creature that has ever lived is either still alive or dead. Is it not easier to imagine that if you take a fish the instant it dies, you have a better opportunity of resuscitating it than you do making a fish from scratch? At the moment of death you would have little to no material disintegration of its organs and body. Or, imagine getting to this point in a lab and making an exact physical copy of a fish, you still need to bring it to life. The ‘breath of life’ is clearly a problem for materialism. In explaining the origin of creature life, materialism has failed the test.

Only a non-materialist will make the claim that someone has been resurrected from the dead.

 

            The Origin of Human Consciousness

 What about the materialist idea that human consciousness arose from purely naturalistic processes. We find no observations for this idea. Jerry Fodor, Professor of Philosophy and cognitive scientist, writes ‘Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious.’[7] Nobel Prize winning biologist George Wald stated ‘Consciousness seems to me to be wholly impervious to science. It does not lie as an indigestible element within science, but just the opposite: Science is the highly digestible element within consciousness….’[8]  It also seems highly improbable the editors of Philosophy are only a collection of molecules that enjoy having a conversation. Thus, this idea has failed the test.

 

Conclusion

We have now scientifically tested materialism by making observations of the world around us. From what we have seen, do life and living forms present a problem for materialism? Yes. We do not see the possibility of anything coming into existence from perfect nothing; we do not see living forms spontaneously popping into existence; we do not see life as living creatures coming back to life, much less starting life; and, we do not see any explanations for human consciousness. Clearly, if materialism were to be true, we should see some evidence of these things happening; we do not. In every instance materialism fails the test of science.

Therefore, we should reject materialism as a rational scientific explanation for life and living forms. As Tyson explained: let us ‘build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail, follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.’

 

 

Do Life And Living Forms Present a Problem for Biblical Theism?

 

Abstract

An analysis is made of how well biblical theism and the Genesis creation account explain life and living forms; the analysis reveals strong support for the biblical explanations. The analysis is organized around the first three uses of the Hebrew word bara in the first chapter of Genesis – where it is translated as ‘created’, and means ‘to create out of nothing’. Science is then used to test the biblical explanations for the origin of the universe, the origin of plant life, the origin of creature life and the origin of human consciousness. All four of the biblical explanations pass the test of science.

 

Introduction

Many people assume that biblical explanations have problems explaining life and living forms. Why is it today so many highly educated people accept a materialist explanation but reject a biblical explanation? Likely, it is because they believe the biblical explanation is an ancient myth, or that it has already been examined and found wanting. And, they truly fear that if they invoke God as a Creator, it would mean they would have to abandon reason and science.

But, the Bible has an excellent historical record in regard to science. James Hannam, in God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (2009), clearly documents the consensus view of historians of science that the religious conviction God created nature led to the development of the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages. He then shows how this led to the achievement of modern science. Hannam also describes how the Christian theologians of the Middle Ages, whom he refers to as ‘God’s philosophers’, made the crucial distinctions about how God uses secondary causes or natural laws to affect his will, which encouraged the study of nature. Without such distinctions theology becomes fatalistic and no science ensues. Rodney Stark, in his book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery, concurs. He concludes his section on science with two points: ‘First, science arose only once in history – in medieval Europe. Second, science could only arise in a culture dominated by belief in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator.’[9] Interestingly, one does not abandon science when one accepts biblical theism; one invents it.

Given the historical fruit of biblical ideas, we will now examine what the Bible actually says about life and living forms, and see if it is found wanting or not. We do not need an extensive study of the scriptures; all we need to do is examine its first chapter. The Bible does not leave us in suspense about such important questions.

 

Created Out of Nothing

For our purpose, we will focus on the first three uses of the Hebrew word bara (בָּרָא, ḇârâ’) in the first chapter of Genesis. The English translations of the Hebrew text carefully translate the word bara as ‘created’; in contrast, the Hebrew word asa (עָשָׂה, ‘âśâ) is used to denote ‘made’. In the context of Genesis 1, the Hebrew word bara means ‘to create out of nothing’, or more clearly ‘to call into existence that which had no existence’. This analysis assumes these first three uses of bara represent special one-time creative events. Once these creations come into existence, they become available for God’s continued use. Therefore, the word asa, which means to ‘assemble from things which already exist’, is used.

Any analysis of Genesis 1 must account for the distinct use of these words.  The first three uses of the word ‘created’ are found in Genesis 1:1, 1:21, and 1:27, that is, on the first, the fifth, and the sixth day.  This usage is precise. What did God create out of nothing on the first day, the fifth day, and the sixth day?  The answer, simply stated, is: ‘the cosmos’, ‘the breath of life’, and ‘the image of God’.

 

The Universe

‘In the beginning God created (1st bara) the heavens and the earth.’ (Genesis 1:1 English Standard Version) Here we find God creating the cosmos: the space, mass, time universe out of nothing; it had never existed before.  On day two, we find God separating the waters from the waters and making (asa) an expanse; on day three, we find God letting the dry land appear and the plants bearing (asa) fruit; and on day four, we find God making (asa) the sun, moon and stars.  Note, on days two, three, and four, God had everything he needed, created out of nothing on the first day, to form, shape and mold what he wanted to accomplish.

 

The Breath of Life

On the fifth day you could say God had a problem; he was unable to make a living fish or bird out of what he had created out of nothing on the first day; all he could do was to make an inanimate fish or inanimate bird.  To make a living breathing creature, he had to create something brand new out of nothing – ‘the breath of life’; it had never existed before.  ‘So God created (2nd bara) the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.’ (Genesis 1:21) What is ‘the breath of life’?  It is simply the life a creature possesses.  Imagine a fish out of water and flapping around on the shore.  In a short while, it dies; it is at this instant it loses its ‘breath of life’.

 

The Image of God

 On day six, God makes all the land creatures.  As on the second, third and fourth days, we find God already had everything he needed, created out of nothing on days one and five, to make (asa) the land creatures. However, to make a man, he had to create something else brand new out of nothing – ‘the image of God’; it had never existed before.  ‘So God created (3rd bara) man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’ (Genesis 1:27) Being created in the image of God is how the Bible distinguishes man from all the other creatures.

 

Some Observations

 To help clarify what we have learned, let us ask and answer a few questions.

  • What is the essential difference between a rock and a plant? There is no essential difference; while the plant is incredibly more complex, they are both made from what was created by the first bara.
  • What is the essential difference between a fish and a plant? The fish has the breath of life, the second bara.
  • What is the essential difference between a man and a fish? The man has the image of God, the third bara.

 

Interestingly, in the first chapter of the Bible, we find answers to some of our most important philosophical questions. Chesterton, in The Everlasting Man, states: ‘… so that it need only be noted that no philosopher denies that a mystery still attaches to the two great transitions: the origin of the universe itself and the origin of the principle of life itself.  Most philosophers had the enlightenment to add that a third mystery attaches to the origin of man himself.’[10] Even though Chesterton is not commenting on the usage of bara in the Genesis account, his description of these three mysteries fits them perfectly. One does not abandon reason when one accepts biblical theism, one embraces it.

Note also, the Bible, with its use of the word bara, makes a distinction between plant life and creature life; plant life arose from the first bara while creature life needed the second. If we equate ‘living forms’ with plants, and ‘life’ with the creature life, we find we have a perfect fit with the question under investigation.

 

Testing Biblical Theism

Now that we have examined the biblical creation account and have become familiar with the special distinctions Genesis 1 makes about plant life, creature life and human life, let us look at them through the lens of science.  In the opening episode of the television documentary series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, (2014) astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson presents a clear and powerful definition of science. He explains that science is just a ‘…simple set of rules:

  • Test ideas by experiment and observation,
  • Build on those ideas that pass the test,
  • Reject the ones that fail,
  • Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and
  • Question everything.’

 

The Origin of the Universe

We will now test the ideas of Genesis 1. All these ideas will be tested by observation as they are not testable by experiment. What about the biblical idea that ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’? (Genesis 1:1) When we consider everything that had a beginning is always observed to have a cause and since we now know the universe had a beginning, simple logic tells us the universe must have had a cause. And, since the qualities possessed by this cause describe the God of the Bible – spaceless, massless, timeless, uncaused, willful, and all-powerful – we find the biblical idea has passed the test.

 

The Origin of Plant Life

What about the origin of plants as living forms? According to the Bible, on day three God made the plants. ‘And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.’ (Genesis 1:11) What do we observe in the world around us?  We see amazing complexity of myriads of plants that replicate themselves after their kind and can be organized into distinct classifications. This bothered Charles Darwin. He pondered why they were not ‘blended together’.

‘As according to the theory of natural selection an interminable number of intermediate forms must have existed, linking together all the species in each group by gradations as fine as are our existing varieties, it may be asked, Why do we not see these linking forms all around us? Why are not all organic beings blended together in an inextricable chaos?’[11]

The ‘interminable number of…linking forms’ we do not see puzzled Darwin but the ‘according to their kind’ vegetation we do see supports the Genesis account. The biblical idea has passed the test.

 

The Origin of Creature Life

Let us now consider the vastly more complex issue of creature life. Again, exactly like the plants, the Genesis description of fish and birds fits what we observe in the world around us. We see myriads of creatures that replicate themselves after their kind and can be organized into distinct classifications; we see none of Darwin’s ‘inextricable chaos.’ Observations we make of creature life support what the Bible says. It has passed the test.

 

The Origin of Human Consciousness

Let us now test the biblical idea that man is ‘created in the image of God.’ Man is unique, but so are other creatures. However, as Chesterton observed, ‘It is customary to insist that man resembles the other creatures. Yes; and that very resemblance he alone can see. The fish does not trace the fishbone pattern in the fowls of the air; or the elephant and the emu compare skeletons.’[12] We are of a completely different quality than all other creatures. When we identify this uniqueness as the ‘image of God’, this idea has passed the test.

 

Conclusion

We have now scientifically tested biblical theism and the Genesis creation account by making observations of the world around us. From what we have seen, do life and living forms present a problem for biblical theism? No, they make an excellent fit.

We see a universe that had a beginning and thus had a cause; we see plants and animals that reproduce after their kind and can be organized into distinct classifications; we see creatures with a life and not just a living form; and we see man in a separate class from all the other unique creatures.  All these simple observations support the ideas of Genesis; they pass the test of science. Therefore, why not give the biblical explanations a better look? As Tyson explained: let us ‘build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail, follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.’

 

Author

Don McLeroy

donmcleroy@gmail.com

1-979-255-2538

4343 Carter Creek Parkway Suite 105

Bryan, Texas 77802

Dentist, Practicing Dentistry in Bryan, Texas 1978 – present

Former Chair, Texas State Board of Education

 

Education

 

B.S. Electrical Engineering

Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, 1969

Doctor of Dental Surgery

University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, 1978

 

Publications

  • ‘To Achieve Equity: Rediscover the Lost Ingredient – Knowledge’, Texas Lyceum Journal November 30, 2005
  • ‘Enlisting in the culture war’, Austin American-Statesman, March 25, 2009
  • ‘Opposing view on education: Teach founding principles’, USA Today, April 10, 2010
  • ‘The State Board of Education’s standards should make Texans proud’, Austin American-Statesman, December 31, 2010
  • ‘Texas’ evolution teaching meets science standards’, Austin American-Statesman, February 2, 2010
  • ‘Two Views: Keep requiring evolutionary explanations’ Austin American-Statesman, January 30, 2017

 

[1] Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/materialism

[2] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (London, John Lane Company, 1909), 41

[3] Richard Lewontin, ‘Billions and Billions of Demons’, New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, 10

[4] Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery, (Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2003) 197

[5] Lawrence Krauss, ‘Our Spontaneous Universe: I have never quite understood the conviction that creation requires a creator’ (Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2010)

[6] Jonathan Edwards [1721], ‘Of Being’, Scientific and Philosophical Writings (WJE Online Vol. 6) , Ed. Wallace E. Anderson

[7] Jerry Fodor, ‘The Big Idea: Can There be a Science of the Mind?’ (Times Literary Supplement, July 3, 1992) 5

[8]George Wald, ‘Life and Mind in the Universe’ (International  Journal of Quantum Chemistry, April 6, 2008) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/qua.560260703/abstract

[9] Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery, (Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2003) 197

[10] G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, (1925, reprint Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1995), 26

[11] Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, 6th Edition, (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882), 407

[12] G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, (1925, reprint Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1993), 263

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2013 Kenneth Miller regresses in his explanation of science

Miller and Levine’s Scientific Honesty?

 

When it comes to explaining how science works, Kenneth Miller and Joe Levine are the Jekyll and Hyde of biology textbook authors. In their 2011 on-line textbook for Texas school children, they masterfully explain scientific methodology and then just two years later they deliberately weakened their explanations.

In 2011, they clearly explain how science tests hypotheses by what they call “Experimentation” or “Observational Studies.” They describe “Experimentation” as when “the experimenter caries out a controlled experiment in which just one variable is changed to test its effect on the results.”

“Observational Studies” are explained as testing when “controlled experiments are simply not possible. For example, it would be impossible to perform a controlled experiment to test a hypothesis regarding the origin of the universe.” They go on to state “When experiments are not possible, scientists may gather data by making observations that might tend to support or reject the hypothesis.”

They then explain “Data in the form of both results and observations serves as evidence for scientists to use to test their predictions.” They conclude their discussion of what science is by stating “Only questions that can be tested against collected data and evidence can be analyzed by science.”

A better discussion about how science works and the key role of testing would be hard to find. Congratulations Dr. Miller and Dr. Levine!

However, just two years later, in 2013, Miller and Levine seem to forget about how science tests scientific hypotheses with “Observational Studies.” Their latest textbook explanation of how science works is silent about testing with “Observational Studies”; they only present Texas school children with what they now label as “Designing Controlled Experiments.” There is no mention of the impossibility of testing for the origin of the universe with a “controlled experiment.” While they do mention that sometimes experiments are impossible, they only state it is because it might be impractical or unethical; they do even state that it may because it actually is impossible!

Why this intentional backwards leap from 2011 to 2013 in explaining scientific methodology? Why deny Texas school children the better more complete explanation from 2011? I do not know their motivation but I do recognize the impact of this dishonest presentation of scientific methodology. It denies Texas school children the very scientific methodological tool they need to analyze and evaluate evolution. Evolution, like the origin of the universe, is tested by “observational studies.” Scientists examine the fossil record and cellular complexity for historic clues or “data” to test the hypothesis that all life is descended from a common ancestor. Personally, given what evolution must explain, I find the evolutionist’s “collected data” simply insufficient.  For example, in Miller and Levine’s text, they present NO data to support evolutionary explanations for the complexity of the cell—none! All they present is “just-so” stories and—I presume—hope that the students do not realize that evolution has not been scientifically tested by the evidence.

Miller and Levine claim to stand for scientific accuracy and integrity. What do you think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2011 Testing evolution by experiments and observations

 

Major Blow to Evolution

 

In “The Emperor’s New Clothes” the deceivers’ spell is broken by a simple child’s cry. In science, evolution’s spell could be broken by some simple youth textbooks—new biology books in Texas that expose evolution’s inability to explain the complexity of the cell. The texts were written to new standards that were adopted in March 2009. Science, immediately grasping their significance, reported “New science standards for Texas schools strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution.”

 

Charles Darwin did not even know the cell needed an explanation; it went unmentioned in The Origin of Species. As details of the cell’s complexity became known, one would have intuitively thought that scientists would have reconsidered Darwin’s hypothesis. How could natural selection, evolution’s main mechanism, have created such gargantuan complexity? Instead, already confident in the certainty of evolution they look for bits and pieces of cell biology for confirming evidence. Thus, they miss the big picture and do not seem to realize they offer no explanations for the origin and development of the cell’s organelles, biochemical pathways and complex molecules.

 

Science tests explanations—classically, with controlled experiments, and historically, by collecting evidence that supports or rejects predictions. Genetics is an excellent example of classical testability. Gregor Mendel, in 1865 after growing 29,000 pea plants, empirically deduced the basic laws of inheritance—becoming the father of genetics. And as a result, almost nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of genetics. Continental drift is an excellent example of historical testability. The obvious fit of the coastlines of Africa and South America with similar corresponding geologic formations, along with the eventual discovery of the Mid Atlantic Ridge and sea-floor spreading make a convincing argument. Likewise, evolution is tested historically; thus, evolutionists need to present convincing evidence.

 

What must the evidence explain? In 1998, Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, gives us a good idea as he described the cell as a collection of protein machines.

 

“…the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines… Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like the machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts.”

 

We will evaluate the evidence provided in one of the new textbooks. The author is Kenneth Miller, a prominent evolutionist who served as the plaintiff’s lead expert witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Intelligent Design trial. Science, in June 2009, reported his prediction that “The new Texas standards leave plenty of room for the authors to explain the robustness of evolutionary theory….” Therefore, Miller’s explanations provide a fair sample to test evolutionary evidence concerning the cell.

 

What evidence does Miller present? In seven pages, he cites only two specific facts: (1) a single cell organism engulfs an alga that then acquires the photosynthetic ability of the alga, and (2) two distinct classes of bacteria share some similar enzymes. Would finding a radio in an automobile and finding identical bolts and nuts in a lawnmower and a scuba tank explain their complexity? And, they can’t even reproduce.

 

Miller also explains that scientists have discovered that: (1) several cell organelles have their own DNA, (2) special molecules are vital in protein synthesis, (3) some biochemical pathways may have “borrowed” proteins from another pathway, (4) a bacterium adapts to a new food source—man-made nylon, and (5) “borrowed” proteins might have been used to form a new protein machine. That’s it for the evidence he cites to test the evolutionary hypothesis.

 

His predicted “robust” explanations have failed science’s requirements for historical testability; the evidence is simply insufficient. This is not a surprise; it was expected. In that June 2009 Science article, I also made a prediction: “The explanations offered [in the texts] will be so weak that students who are skeptical of evolution will see the weaknesses for themselves.”

 

Even evolutionists should find this analysis useful. In an interview in 2009, Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, stated “professional evolutionists don’t seem to know what the supporting evidence is: many of them just take it on faith, that is, on the authority of their forerunners.” Maybe we should have less faith and more evidence.

 

This issue is even bigger than evolution; scientific integrity itself is at stake. If, for example, evolution has trouble explaining the origin of a cell nucleus or protein machines, scientists should say so. Texas students, understanding that science demands testability, can now use the evidence presented and test evolution’s explanations for themselves. This is the way science operates. Actually, those 2009 standards did not “strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution;” they restored its integrity.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2009 — Kenneth Miller boasts of robustness of future Texas biology books coverage of evolution

Science story June 2009

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2009 Editorial in the Austin American-Statesman the week before adopting new science standards

Austin American-Statesman
Opinion 

COMMENTARY

McLeroy: Enlisting in the culture war

Don McLeroy, SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is the greatest challenge facing science education in Texas? The answer is simple: to make sure an excellent teacher is in every classroom. What’s the greatest challenge in writing the state science standards? It is identifying appropriate content that builds from grade to grade and leaves our high school graduates college and work force ready. However, the greatest difficulty in writing these standards is the culture war over evolution.

The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom. Even Texas’ 20-year-old requirement to teach the scientific strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses and theories has come under attack. Words that were uncontroversial and perfectly acceptable for nearly two decades are now considered “code words” for intelligent design and are deemed unscientific. The elite fear that “unscientific” weaknesses of evolution will be inserted into the textbooks, leaving students without a good science education and unprepared for the future, compelling businesses to shun “illiterate” Texas.

The editorial writers incessantly argue that evolution skeptics are motivated by religion, that they are anti-science and fundamentally dishonest. In contrast, evolutionists are portrayed as sincere defenders of the truth, completely honest and free of any ideological bias. But who is rejecting the empirical demonstration of science, that is, the directly observable and verifiable, for ideological purposes? Let us find out as we take a close-up look at a two-step solution to the controversy.

The first step is to define science in a way that is satisfactory to both sides. Using new wording from the National Academy of Sciences, Texas’ standards define science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomenon as well as the knowledge generated through this process.”

This definition replaces the academy’s 1999 language that was very controversial; it stated that science was “to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena.” The change from “natural explanations” to “testable explanations” is very significant. The old definition was inferior in that it undermined both the philosophy of the naturalist and the supernaturalist. By circular reasoning, the naturalist was prevented from using science to prove that “nature is all there is,” and the supernaturalist was prevented from offering supernatural hypotheses. With the new definition, both the naturalist and the supernaturalist are free to make “testable” explanations. The debate can now shift from “Is it science?” to “Is it testable?”

The next step in resolving this controversy is simply to use the scientific method to weigh in on the issue of evolution. Consider the fossil record. What do we actually observe? What are the data?

Stephen Jay Gould stated: “The great majority of species do not show any appreciable evolutionary change at all. [This is called ‘stasis.’] These species appear … without obvious ancestors in the underlying beds, are stable once established and disappear higher up without leaving any descendants.”

“…but stasis is data…”

Once we have our observations, we can make a hypothesis. The controversial evolution hypothesis is that all life is descended from a common ancestor by unguided natural processes. How well does this hypothesis explain the data? A new curriculum standard asks Texas students to look into this question. It states: “The student is expected to analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.” It should not raise any objections from those who say evolution has no weaknesses; they claim it is unquestionably true.

And the standard is not religious but does raise a problem for the evolution hypothesis in that stasis is the opposite of evolution, and “stasis is data.”

If we are to train our students, engage their minds and, frankly, be honest with them, why oppose these standards? If the standards do not promote religion and they are not unscientific and they deal directly with the data, then possibly these standards are being opposed for ideological reasons. This supports the argument that this culture war exists, not because of the religious faith of creationists, but because of the rejection of the empirical demonstration of science by academia’s far-left and the secular elite opinionmakers.

McLeroy is chairman of the State Board of Education.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is this science?

Comments on evolutionary convergence from Kenneth Miller’s Only a Theory, page 152-153

 

… Run the tape of life again, starting from the Cam­brian or wherever one might choose, and it’s almost inconceivable that you’d get hairless bipedal primates with brains big enough to endow them with self-awareness, reflective thought, and calculus.

But, upon reflection, that’s not really the issue.

The issue is not whether the exact scenarios of this planet’s actual natural history would be repeated. They clearly would not. The genuine question is what sort of living world would emerge from a second or third running of the tape of life. Although we cannot predict the detailed outcome, this much we do know: Life vigorously explores adaptive space, and it finds its way to the same niches in that space again and again. One can, for example, study the ecological roles played by dinosaurs in various habitats—herbivores, scavengers, predators, keystone species—and discover that the exact same roles were quickly taken by mammals, birds, and reptiles when these great animals disappeared. Not even the most gifted naturalist could have looked at the world of the Creta­ceous and predicted exactly how the balance of nature would settle in the postdinosaur world–but even the dullest would have been confident that settled it would be.

Turning our attention to the special case of our own species, we can be fairly confident, just as Gould tells us, that our peculiar natural history would not repeat, and that self-awareness would not emerge from the primates. Indeed, we would have no reason to sup­pose that primates, mammals, or even vertebrates would emerge in a second running of the tape. But as life reexplored adaptive space, could we be certain that our niche would not be occupied? I would argue that we could be almost certain that it would be—that even­tually evolution would produce an intelligent, self-aware, reflective creature endowed with a nervous system large enough to solve the very same questions that we have and capable of discovering the events. It would be to maintain, for no particular reason that this corner of adaptive space was found once by the evolutionary process but could never be found again. Everything we know about evolu­tion suggests that it would, sooner or later, get to that niche.

I’ll admit that there’s nothing to be gained by pretending that one can settle this question of repeatability with any certainty. So far as we know, nature has conducted the experiment just once, and the result was us (plus a few million other species). Science demands repeatability, and that’s not possible in this case. Perhaps at some point in our own development we will discover a second experiment, a planet with characteristics similar to our own, on which we can truly test the grand principle of evolutionary conver­gence. Maybe that data will even be good enough to satisfy a Steve Gould. But that’s a question for another book, and maybe even for another century. The point for today is that it’s perfectly reason­able to maintain that evolution as we know and understand it was almost certain to produce a species like ours under conditions that prevail on Planet Earth.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment