June 13th, 2011 by M. French

This month’s Christianity Today cover story concerns ‘The Search for the Historical Adam’, and includes thoughts from various Christian scientific and biblical camps on the historicity of Adam.

Fuz Rana and Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe (great scholars we’ve had on The Line of Fire multiple times) gave the following response to the article, which Rana describes as unbalanced, calling it “more of a mouthpiece for theistic evolution”:

[Link to Audio]

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In the audio file, Dr. Rana responds to the assertion from BioLogos in the article that “… the human population, … ‘was definitely never as small as two …. Our species diverged as a population. The data are absolutely clear on that.'” with the following statement (the models he mentions are the ones that are used to make the claim that BioLogos is making here):

These models are not that robust, they are prone to error, so … for us to completely abandon the historic Christian faith in light of the evidence from genomics that indicates a recent origin for humanity, from a single location, from a small population of individuals arguably traceable to a single man and single woman, to throw that all out, and the historic Christian faith out the window, based on population size estimates, when we know these estimates are crude, that to me is very short-sighted, and its a defeatist attitude I think, on the part of at least some evangelicals.

The article that Rana mentions on the results of a genetic experiment involving sheep, which shows how models may predict larger original population sizes than there actually were , is below:

In 2007 a research team reported on the genetic diversity of wild mouflon sheep on one of the islands that are part of the Kerguelen sub-Antarctic archipelago. This group of sheep provided researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to study the effects of population dynamics on genetic diversity in small populations.

In 1957 a male and female yearling were placed onto Haute Island (an island in the Kerguelen Archipelago). These two sheep were taken from a captive population in France. By the beginning of the 1970s, the number had grown to 100 individuals and peaked at 700 sheep in 1977. Since that time the population has fluctuated in a cyclical manner between 250 and 700 members.

Given that the population began with only two individuals (the founder effect), has experienced cyclical changes in the population size, and was isolated on an island, the researchers expected very low genetic diversity (measured as heterozygosity).

Using mathematical models, the heterozygosity of a population can be computed at any point in time from the heterozygosity of the ancestral population (which was known for the original mouflon pair) and the original population size.

What the researchers discovered, however, when they measured this quantity directly for the sheep on Haute Island was that it exceeded the predictions made by the models by up to a factor of 4. In other words, the models underestimated the genetic diversity of the actual population.

As we attempt to sift through the various biblical and scientific evidences on the historicity and meaning of the Adam of Genesis, lets keep in mind these words from agnostic mathematician David Berlinski on where evolutionary biology as the exclusive mechanism for the diversity of life we see really stands with regard to testability and coherence:

“Before you can ask ‘Is Darwinian theory correct or not?’, You have to ask the preliminary question ‘Is it clear enough so that it could be correct?’. That’s a very different question. One of my prevailing doctrines about Darwinian theory is ‘Man, that thing is just a mess. It’s like looking into a room full of smoke.’ Nothing in the theory is precisely, clearly, carefully defined or delineated. It lacks all of the rigor one expects from mathematical physics, and mathematical physics lacks all the rigor one expects from mathematics. So we’re talking about a gradual descent down the level of intelligibility until we reach evolutionary biology.”

– from Expelled April 18 2008 29.33

 

Marcus French is the Editor of Voice of Revolution, and helps produce the daily syndicated radio talk show, The Line of Fire.

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June 5th, 2009 by M. French

Editor’s Note: We’re continuing to look at Francis Collins’ book The Language of God, other posts here.

From Atheism to Belief

Collins opens his book The Language of God with a look at his journey “from atheism to belief.” Raised on a dirt farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Collins grew up without spirituality being an important part of his life, recalling “an upbringing that was quite conventionally modern in its attitude toward faith – it just wasn’t very important.” (An attitude I can thoroughly relate to, having grown up in a similarly “modern family.”)

After earning his PhD in physical chemistry at Yale, he turned his attention towards biology by enrolling in medical school at UNC in Chapel Hill. Considering himself an atheist at this point, a simple question from a dying patient thoroughly challenged his beliefs (or lack-there-of).

According to Collins:

My most awkward moment came when an older woman, suffering daily from severe untreatable angina, asked me what I believed. It was a fair question; we had discussed many other important issues of life and death, and she had shared her own strong Christian beliefs with me. I felt my face flush as I stammered out the words “I’m not really sure.” Her obvious surprise brought into sharp relief a predicament that I had been running away from for nearly all of my twenty-six years: I had never really seriously considered the evidence for and against belief.

That moment haunted me for several days. Did I not consider myself a scientist? Does a scientist draw conclusions without considering the data? Could there be a more important question in all of human existence than “Is there a God?” And yet there I found myself, with a combination of willful blindness and something that could only be properly described as arrogance, having avoided any serious consideration that God might be a real possibility.

Suddenly all my arguments seemed very thin, and I had the sensation that the ice under my feet was cracking. This realization was a thoroughly terrifying experience. After all, if I could no longer rely on the robustness of my atheistic position, would I have to take responsibility for actions that I would prefer to keep unscrutinized? Was I answerable to someone other than myself? The question was now too pressing to avoid.

Following this encounter, Collins investigated the major religions of the world, eventually stumbling upon a book from C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity.  The argument from Mere Christianity that challenged Collins the most was the argument from the Moral Law. The opening pages of Lewis’ book describe this law:

Every one has heard people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: ‘How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?’–‘That’s my seat, I was there first’–‘Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm’–Why should you shove in first?’–‘Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine’–‘Come on, you promised.’ People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: ‘To hell with your standard.’ Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

Where did the Moral Law come from? Finding no satisfactory explanation in Darwinian evolution for its presence (especially when considering selfless altruism, which Collins describes as “a scandal to reductionist reasoning”), Collins became stunned by the logic of Lewis’ straightforward explanation:

If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe – no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find inside ourselves. Surely this ought to arouse our suspicious?

Collins comments that this Moral Law, which had been “hiding in [his] own heart as familiar as anything in daily experience,” “shone its bright white light into the recesses of [his] childish atheism,” forcing him to consider its origin, and ultimately bringing him to consider the question: “Was this God looking back at me?”

According to Collins:

I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism. That now lay in ruins as the argument from the Moral Law (and many other issues) forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis. Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second-place haven, now loomed like the great cop-out it often is. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

Personal Reflections & a Challenge

Like Collins, I grew up in a household without any real consideration of spirituality or religion, and like Collins I found myself a non-believer in God upon entering college (I described myself as a “hardcore agnostic,” believing that one could not know whether or not God exists), and finally, like Collins, I was deeply touched by the writings of C.S. Lewis upon my initial conversion into faith in Jesus (though unlike Collins, I came into faith after trying to prove to some friends that Christianity was a lie and their faith was in vain).

I invite you to take the journey that Collins, I, and countless others have undertaken, and seriously consider the evidence for the existence of God from the Moral Law and elsewhere. But do not take on this search with your eyes closed and ears blocked, convincing yourself that you’re really considering the questions, but never actually softening your heart enough to really look at the evidence.  Collins described his state as one of “a combination of willful blindness and something that could only be properly described as arrogance” when he was asked about his beliefs regarding God, where are you?

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May 30th, 2009 by M. French

The launch of BioLogos from Francis Collins resulted in fierce criticism from David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute (Dr. Brown’s review of Klinghoffer’s book “Why The Jews Rejected Jesus” can be found here).  He wrote the following concerning theistic evolution on May 28th for Evolution News & Views:

Collins and Giberson are sincere Evangelical Christians — as far as I, a Jew, can tell — and undoubtedly innocent of all guile, but they represent an insidious trend in religious and intellectual life. This genuine opiate of the masses works as a stupor-inducing fog, enveloping the debate about intelligent design versus Darwinism. The fog lulls you with the thought that between the idea of design in nature, and that of no design in nature, there is actually no need to make a choice.

As the battle over human origins continues, I thought it would be worthwhile to look through Collins’ book “The Language of God” and present some of his ideas for thought and dicussion over the next few weeks as I read through it.

The book’s introduction includes a wonderful section concerning the presentation of Dr. Collins’ most well known work, the Human Genome Project, to the world:

But the part of his speech that most attracted public attention jumped from the scientific perspective to the spiritual. “Today,” [Clinton] said, “we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.”

Was I, a rigorously trained scientist, taken aback at such a blatantly religious reference by the leader of the free world at a moment such as this? Was I tempted to scowl or look at the floor in embarrassment? No, not at all. In fact I had worked closely with the president’s speechwriter in the frantic days just prior to this announcement, and had strongly endorsed the inclusion of this paragraph. When it came time for me to add a few words of my own, I echoed this sentiment: “It’s a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”

What was going on here? Why would a president and a scientist, charged with announcing a milestone in biology and medicine, feel compelled to invoke a connection with God? Aren’t the scientific and spiritual worldviews antithetical, or shouldn’t they at lest avoid appearing in the East Room together? What were the reasons for invoking God in those two speeches? Was this poetry? Hypocrisy? A cynical attempt to curry favor from believers, or to disarm those who might criticize this study of the human genome as reducing humankind to machinery? No. Not for me. Quite the contrary, for me the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship.

Reading this made my heart leap. Yes! This is what true scientific discovery and the pursuit of truth is about. Peering deeper into the wondrous design of the Universe and the design of man is cause for worshiping He that is the author of life. For “in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Below is a video of Collins on CNN discussing his journey into faith: [Link to Video]

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May 20th, 2009 by M. French

Researchers say they have found the “missing link” between humans and apes in a fossilized primate they have dated at 47 million years old. According to Daily News:

A team of researchers Tuesday unveiled an almost perfectly intact fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.

Officially known as Darwinius masillae, the fossil of the lemur-like creature dubbed Ida shows it had opposable thumbs like humans and fingernails instead of claws.

Scientists say the cat-sized animal’s hind legs offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright – a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists,” lead scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

“It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years.”

The History Channel will air a film concerning the fossil next week, the promo is below: [Link to Video]

Interestingly, the announcement of this research comes just a few weeks after the launch of evangelical Christian Francis Collins’ pro-evolution BioLogos initiative (for perspective on how the BioLogos team believes God could have had a role in evolution, click here).

Robert Crowther at Evolution News & Views of the pro-intelligent-design Discovery Institute was not shaken by the news:

If they weren’t atheists, you’d think the scientists raising the ballyhoo over Ida were hailing the second coming.

Here is yet another icon of evolution. Every time one of these discoveries is made, there’s a huge PR snow job from the Darwin lobby to make it seem like it answers all the questions and objections. I thought Tiktaalik did that. Or maybe Archaeopteryx. It goes at least as far back as Proconsul. Each time the Darwinists seem to forget they already found the missing link — the one fossil to rule them all — and re-find it all over again.

At least CBS News was a bit more skeptical than Sky News when they reported it on Friday.

While the fossil doesn’t relate to the more heated debate over whether chimpanzees and humans share a common identity – the fossil is not the so-called “missing link” — the two factions will likely pounce on this new find with evolutionists claiming the skeleton adds to the limited fossil record.

Today’s Sky News article is amazing in its breathless excitement over this latest missing link. Naturally, this more nuanced and balanced piece is the one the media is jumping on and trumpeting today.

The discovery of the 95%-complete ‘lemur monkey’ – dubbed Ida – is described by experts as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

For perspective on another fossil that was proclaimed to have “illuminat[ed] our ancestors’ transition from sea to land,” only later to be dismissed as a fossil of “poor” quality with radials that “did not seem to match the way modern fingers and toes radiate from a joint, parallel to each other” by evolutionists, take a look at Evolution News & Views’ TikTaalik article.

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