Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Yawn....

Another news headline today.....traces of methane apparently found on Mars, so maybe life!!!!!

2 problems-A) this isn't a new claim, and B) if there is methane on Mars it isn't even a glimmer of a fragment of the beginning of an explanation of the origin of life. And this isn't my faith position, it's basic biochemistry.

I remember hearing this one around 10 years ago. Setting aside issues about the accuracy of the technology that may have detected traces of methane, the herd of elephants in the room is the many steps from simple chemicals like methane to even a single strand of protein.

The reporters and commentators who constantly repeat these 'building blocks of life' assertions seem to be on a mission to persuade us by repetition that the origin of life is fairly straightforward. This is absolutely the opposite of the truth, and what's more the scientists know this very well.

This 'reporting' is not news, it's propaganda. Repeat something often enough, however false, and folks will assume it's true.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Silicon age fairy tales and chronological snobbery

Christianity is often dismissed as 'Bronze Age Fairy Tales'. This lazy slogan is inaccurate on so many levels you could write an essay about it.

For a start, I ask the scoffer, can you make, and work, bronze? I didn't ask 'Do you know what bronze is' but can you MAKE it, not in theory but for real, starting with rocks, sticks and fire. Because our ancestors whom you denigrate with your cheap slogans somehow worked out how to.

C S Lewis wrote about 'chronological snobbery', the idea that we are necessarily better than our ancestors because we come after them and have taller buildings, airplanes and mobile phones. They were dumb so they just believed any old nonsense, but we're so much wiser than them.

Oh yeah? Because they had Mozart, Shakespeare and Columbus while we have Lady Gaga, Shoot 'em up computer games, a generation of kids on prescribed amphetamine for 'ADHD' and Magalluf?

There is no evidence that our ancestors were stupider than us. Our technology is more advanced, but that is down to building on accumulated knowledge we inherited. Standing on the shoulders of giants.

We believe some pretty dumb stuff today. We believed that conquered Iraqis would willingly embrace Western style liberal democracy, pluralism and probity and then the whole Middle East would follow suit. Our rulers refused to listen to those who knew different. But we repeated the same errors in Libya and Syria. We have borrowed money we can't pay back to buy stuff we didn't need.

We have eviscerated marriage and encouraged, subsidised and enabled an epidemic of fatherless families which we know harms future generations. We are short of nurses, engineers and artisans because we encouraged our youth to do junk university degrees in 'film studies', 'criminology', sociology, graphic design, media studies and other liberal vanities. And we have created a housing crisis partly by epidemic divorce and single parenthood and also by bringing in 5 million immigrants to to do the work our own benefit claimants won't do-not least because we sold them unrealistic expectations and recruited them into a Ponzi scheme to pay our pensions and healthcare costs out of their taxes while they struggle with student debt and unaffordable housing. No wonder euthanasia is being talked up so much.

I don't think we are wiser, or even cleverer, than the generations of Chaucer, Bede and Newton. Our grandchildren will curse us for our selfishness and stupidity as they deal with the broken relationships, dismembered culture and cosmic levels of debt we are leaving them. We have abandoned our Christian heritage not for 'enlightenment' but for debt funded electronic toys and games.

Something else our worthy ancestors knew was that Islam wanted to eat Western Civilisation (formerly known as Christendom) and needed to be restrained. But for their efforts we'd be speaking Arabic and certainly not on line as the industrial revolution would not have happened, or the so called Enlightenment. We have welcomed it in and invited it to sit at table and have a drink while they look at the menu.

When you ditch the beneficent Creator God and His Saviour Christ, eventually reason and liberty follow true religion out the window and are succeeded by madness and tyranny.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Government to legislate against free thought

An item on the Centre for Intelligent Design web site shows how anxious the evolutionist establishment has become at the intelligent, articulate criticisms of the Darwin Mythos that are coming their way.

rather than rethink their position in the light of unwanted evidence, they use bullying tactics to censor inconvenient questions.

read more about the doctrinaire atheist assault on academic freedom here.


Scientism is not science, it is materialist philosophy.

Science should be unchained.

Enquiry should be free, not restricted by well connected pressure groups.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Rosetta/Philae comet project

So they dropped a washing machine on to a rock from a minibus?

Very clever of them, and a £billion is small change compared to overall government spending.....but in the end, so what?

Commentators keep saying this will help us solve the question of the origin of life. But how?

We already know that life only comes from life. They are asking the wrong questions and looking in the wrong place.

When will the scientific establishment admit the truth that all the science ever done shows that life cannot begin without design input?

Is the whole Rosetta project, clever though it is, just another attempt to produce more obfuscation around all the dead end origin of life experiments?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Intelligent design hypothesis-conclusion of reflections

Intelligent design hypothesis-conclusion of reflections

After posting a few reflections on ID over the last month or so, I'd like to conclude for now with these thoughts.

Scientific endeavor is about hypothesis, measurement and testing. It always begins with a problem or question, and it should be a worthy one. A philosopher whose name escapes me (Popper?) said that doing research into the cubic volume of books in a library would be a theoretical subject for study, but pointless. Agreed. Not all research is worthwhile. But big questions about origins are worth asking, and we had better get the answers right since one of the options floating around out there is that we have a creator to whom we are accountable and who plans to bring us into judgment in eternity. Surely as the Christian philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal suggested in his 'wager', if that option is even anywhere near the table we had better take it very seriously? We ought at least not be willing to be thrown off the track by bluster, censorship and slogans.


'I've been out walking, for hours.
got something on my mind.
how did we get here
where are we going?
and why is life so hard?'

Fair questions, and old ones. We exist, our existence in this astonishing universe and marvelous planet seems very improbable but nevertheless here we are. we had to have originated somehow-so was it God or was it Chance? Its a question worth asking, and getting the right answer matters. As Dr Vij Sodera says (see link below) 'It doesn't matter what you believe as long as what you believe is true.'

It's probably true to say from anthropological studies and history that most humans since the beginning of humanity have assumed that we have a creator. Belief that the universe and its inhabitants were created by atoms sticking together whether entirely accidentally or through some impersonally 'life-force' (deism) go back to the ancients. I came across the idea that we had formed from atoms in Marcus Aurelius and I understand that Epicurus was an atheist who accepted some form of evolution. 

But obviously the idea was developed by Darwin in his 1859 book 'Origin of Species' that humans and other life forms developed by natural selection acting very slowly on naturally occurring variations and became known as the theory of evolution. And it is clear, notwithstanding the contradictions of professing Christians who say that molecules to man evolution is compatible with biblical Christianity, that the theory of evolution explains away our existence without recourse to a Great Maker or creator. In my opinion that has always been its purpose.

So what of ID? Clearly ID does not exist in a vacuum, it is primarily an  attempt by mainly (although not exclusively) Christian believers to falsify evolutionary theory by using the scientific method. Let's not be coy about this-but this is NOT an admission that ID arguments are inadmissible because they are tainted by the motives of their advocates, since CLEARLY the advocates of evolution are equally open to a charge of wanting materialism/atheism to be true.

to summarise

1) The intelligent design (ID) hypothesis is not religious. If its advocates have religious or philosophical motivations, then so equally do evolution advocates. Similarly, if ID has metaphysical implications, so equally does evolution theory. It is therefore NOT LEGITIMATE to exclude consideration of ID arguments and questions by smearing them as creationism in disguise.

2) ID makes observations and asks questions about structures in the natural world, particularly nanomachinery and information in living cells.

3) ID posits that unguided evolutionary mechanisms could not possibly have made the living things that we observe, and that unguided molecule to man evolution by natural selection acting on random mutations is therefore falsified. (*)

4) ID also notes, using similar arguments to Lyell and Darwin (the present is the key to the past) that we can observe the process and results of purposeful design today. Applying the lessons learned from studying design today, we find that living things share aspects of devices and structures that we know from direct observation were designed and made. We therefore deduce that the living things which we did not see originate were most likely designed by a superior intelligence. We deduce this on the grounds that we know from direct observation that complex, purposeful structures with numerous working parts routinely arise from intelligent design but are never seen to arise from unguided processes as evolutionists claim must have happened in the unobservable distant past.

I could go on but will leave it there for now.

Intelligent design  was a given for the Psalmist (e.g. Psalm 19:1 'the heavens are telling the glory of God') and the Apostle Paul (Romans 1: 8-22 where he argues that the divine nature is obviously seen through the things that have been made).

Going beyond the intelligent design hypothesis, the bible believing Christian notes that we have good reasons for believing that the God of Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Daniel etc is the creator and has spoken to us, most notably and finally through His Son Jesus, who was raised from the dead and is coming again to judge the living and the dead. This Jesus and His Apostles repeatedly warned about false teachers and false prophets who would come particularly in the last days before the end of the world and would lead many astray. Paul wrote to the church at Colossae (Col 2:8)

'Take care that no one takes you away by force, through man's wisdom and deceit, going after the beliefs of men and the theories of the world, and not after Christ:'

I'd like to leave this discussion on ID there. For more information the UK centre for ID and the excellent book by Dr Vij Sodera which comprehensively documents the scientific evidence against evolution 'One Small Speck to Man: The Evolution Myth.'

Intelligent design basically shows, using scientific arguments and facts, why evolution theory doesn't work. Ask yourself, why is ID routinely vilified, misrepresented and censored in the main stream media? Ask yourself if you have ever seen a TV programme consider the arguments being put forward in support of the ID hypothesis. No, we are just constantly bombarded with evolutionist propaganda.

God or Chance? This is much too important to be left to the people who tell society what to think. If ID can be falsified by empirical science, for example by demonstrating a meaningful new structure self assembling without design input, then let it be so falsified. But if ID is being shouted down and suppressed by arrogant establishment bullies, then maybe consideration could be given to the possibility that evolution is an elaborate deception promoted and sustained by powers who want to stop you thinking about Christianity perhaps being true. If it is, then we will be giving account to God for our wrongdoing, including our culpable unbelief, sooner than we think.

(*) it is conceded that many ID advocates including Michael Behe, accept many aspect of evolution including long ages and a common ancestor, hence my carefully qualified description of evolution, a word that is claimed to mean many different things. I think Behe is wrong to accept long ages and common descent, but that does not invalidate the facts and arguments set out in his books and lectures.



Sunday, 19 October 2014

What is the intelligent design hypothesis?

OK, so what is the intelligent design hypothesis?

This question can best be addressed by studying the books at the heart of the movement. These would be (in my view and I would suggest by common consent)  'Darwin's Black Box' and 'The Edge of Evolution' by Michael Behe and 'Signature in the Cell' by Stephen Meyer

Cue snorts and retorts from the 'Behe has been refuted many, many times.' brigade. Behe has indeed been cursed, derided and misrepresented many, many times but his arguments have not been refuted, even if they have had to be modified to a limited extent. I'll come to that later. We are discussing what kind of thing ID is: the question of whether its principal protagonists are right or wrong in their arguments is obviously very important but peripheral to the question 'Is intelligent design religion?'

In 'Darwin's Black Box' Behe considers several biological processes in detail and asks whether Darwinian mechanisms (natural selection acting on random mutations) are capable of having built such systems. By meticulous study of the details of the systems, which include the clotting of blood, sight (photosensitivity) and the immune system. Behe develops the concept of 'irreducible complexity' in which we find that sophisticated machines in which  many parts work together to achieve a particular outcome tend to fail completely when one part is removed or wrongly assembled. Behe uses the analogy of a regular mouse trap to lead into the much more sophisticated nanomachinery of a bacillary flagellum. If any one part of the mouse trap, let alone the flagellum is taken away, or is even slightly wrong (for example, if the spring of the mouse trap is too strong or too weak, the trap does not catch FEWER mice, it catches NO mice.

As an example of the poor reasoning which opponents of Behe and intelligent design are willing to use rather than admit he might have a point, one opponent (Ken Miller) has made a video in which he uses a broken mouse trap as a tie clip. He claims that this refutes Behe's irreducible complexity argument, although in fact he is only using typical Darwinian 'could have' assertions. On another web site I saw a series of drawings which claimed to show functional mouse traps in varying degrees of functionality. But none of the traps would in fact have worked. Presumably their proposers know this because these 'might have been' traps remain drawings. Nobody to my knowledge (I'm happy to be corrected on this, comments are not moderated or censored) has made working models and used them to catch real mice. I don't think any of them would work. What's more, any spring based trap has to actually be SET and BAITED, which can't be explained without an intelligent external agent. More importantly, the mouse trap analogy is many orders of magnitude less sophisticated than the simplest biological system.


But even if we can debate the validity of the mousetrap analogy, we note that Behe hasn't got anywhere near talking about religion or creation. He is just testing a scientific hypothesis-that biological structures like the eye can develop gradually by steady slow improvement, or whether this (like the fake mousetraps referenced above) is merely a philosophical abstraction which would not deliver working structures that progresses from good to better to best by unguided processes in real life.

meaningful versus meaningless complexity

Stephen Meyer mainly uses mathematical arguments in his book 'Signature in the Cell' . The book could in my view do with being about 40% shorter, but the long preamble is all about the mathematics. Meyer studied the discovery of DNA at Cambridge and his central argument is about meaningful versus meaningless information. This is very important when we are talking abotu probabillity. If we could assign a number to the precise spatial arrangement of all the grains in a cubic metre of sand, it would be a stupefyingly massive number with effectively zero probability of it being repeated randomly. Nevertheless, the number evidently did occur once. This argument or one like it is used against those who (like me) assert that the probability of life assembling itself is so small that it can be discounted, because 'Given enough time, anything could have happened'. However, this sand number is utterly meaningless. Plot the spatial arrangement of grains in a billion, billion, billion etc cubic metres of sand, they will all have highly complex and rare numbers but all be the exact same kind of dead inanimate thing. Meyer successfully explains the difference between random complexity and purposeful complexity.

In the nucleotide sequences found in DNA, we also have stupefyingly unlikely numbers, BUT they carry coded information which DOES something. When transcribed and used to build amino acids in correct sequences into proteins by intracellular nanomachinery (which has all the appearance of being purposefully designed and does in fact behave purposefully) we see that the information carried on DNA is PURPOSEFUL.

Meaningful information is never seen to emanate from a non intelligent source.

Having explained what we mean by a meaningful piece of information (which could be as simple as a rhyming couplet) Meyer argues that there is no example in any field of human study where a meaningful piece of information has ever arisen from a non intelligent source. He argues from this that if we use the same principles that Darwin and Lyell used in their reasoning (the key to explaining effective causes in the distant unobserved past is the study of effective causes/repeatable events today) then we should logically deduce that since meaningfully complex things ARE routinely seen to arise from designing intelligences but NEVER observed (where we know the cause by direct observation) to arise from non rational causes, we should reasonably conclude that the high order magnitude meaningfully complex things that we see in nature had a designer.

Random DNA changes are observed to degrade information

As Behe, Meyer and other ID advocates observe, even relatively small changes in the DNA nucletotide sequences lead to wrongly assembled proteins which will not function normally. In another book which uses ID arguments 'Genetic Entropy: the Mystery of the Human Genome' by geneticist john Sanford, the author speaks of 'near neutral' mutations. these are analogous to small, infrequent spelling mistakes which we initially compensate for but which will inexorably and inevitably convert a meaningful piece of written information into illegible junk. The same thing is happening with the human genome, and it would happen very much faster if it were not for the incredible DNA check and repair mechanisms we have which detect and correct most mutations.


The above is a very short overview of some of the arguments used by prominent intelligent design advocates. Although to my knowledge Behe, Meyer and Sanford are all Christians, the key arguments advanced in the books mentioned above do not rely on God, faith or the Bible but only meticulously reasoned science. In particular, the complex and purposeful nature of the information carried on DNA which instructs cellular nanomachinery to build correct proteins. 

DNA mutations are seen to be harmful, sometimes lethal.

If the information is corrupted by random alterations (mutations) the tendency is for the protein to become less functional or to fail completely, leading to less fit or dead plants, animals and people. The genetic disease Xeroderma Pigmentosum (caution, disturbing images)  illustrates this very effectively by showing us what happens when our DNA check and repair mechanisms do not work properly. 60% XP of sufferers are dead by age 20.

If ID is religious, is Darwinism anti-religious?

So far, we have seen no evidence that intelligent design hypothesis is religious. Admittedly, I have not proved it isn't religious, but all I have cited above (and you can read the books and judge for yourself) is a fair reflection of typical ID arguments. But if we accept that ID is not religious, does ID have a religious agenda? That's an interesting question, which must be considered with the opposite question 'Does evolutionism have an anti-religious agenda?'.



Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Is intelligent design religion: how do we define religion?

To progress the discussion about the question 'Is intelligent design religion?' we need a definition of religion. But how can we get one that isn't biased?

For those who get their ideas about religion in the form of short memorable slogans from Brian Cox, Chris Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, there is no problem. Religion is mumbo jumbo bronze age fairy tale delusional nonsense for losers without a shred of evidence and the cause of most of the evil in the world and has been disproved and displaced by science. But what about those of us who would like to think calmly and rationally about the subject?

my Oxford Reference Dictionary defines religion as 

'1) Belief in a superhuman controlling power, especially in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship; the expression of this in worship . 
2) A particular system of faith. 
3) A thing that one is devoted to. 
4) Life under monastic vows 
(Latin religion-obligation, bond, reverence.

Well that is interesting. Evidently the Dictionary was put together by men (and/or women) who like me are fallible and may have differences of opinion, so the above cannot be claimed as absolutely definitive. It seems reasonable, if not absolutely clear cut. Fair enough, the great Oxford scholar C S Lewis wrote a book (The Four Loves) about the 4 different Greek words that can be translated 'love' and their different meanings. As Einstein is reported to have said, 'Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.' Reality isn't always easy to comprehend and we should not violate reason and stifle enquiry by oversimplification, let alone in pursuit of a partisan agenda. I have a partisan agenda, perhaps readers (if any) have one too. Dawkins openly does, he wants to eliminate religion (including, perhaps especially, Christianity which he compares to child abuse, cancer and a virus). See 'confounding factors.

Christianity is a religion under definitions 1-3 (but not IMO 4) above. I'm a Christian, so I am (or try to be) 'religious' in the sense that I believe in, worship and seek to obey and follow the teaching and example of Jesus of Nazareth. But as soon as I say that, someone will quite reasonably ask 'What kind of Christian? Catholic? Eastern/Russian/Greek Orthodox? Protestant? And if the latter, what species of Protestant?' And I can respond to this, but not right now. Thousands of books have been written about the differences between different sects of Christianity, but that's not what I'm writing about here.

Religion: 'A thing that one is devoted to'

I note with interest the 3rd definition above 'A thing that one is devoted to'. This would appear to be capable of including various human philosophies and other objects of desire and perceived worth, even football or music. The question 'Is Atheism/materialism eligion?' is raised occasionally, and of course the proper response is 'it depends on how you define materialism and religion.' My Dictionary defines materialism as

'1) The tendency to prefer material possessions and physical comfort to spiritual values. 
 2) The theory that nothing exists but matter and its movements and modifications.'

Materialism: theory, philosophy, fact or religion?

Once again, I do not claim that any dictionary is absolutely reliable, but am interested to note that in 2 above materialism is called a theory. I would call it a philosophy, but I find that many of its followers consider it an established fact. More than a fact, the very ground and nature of our being. Anyway, can we consider materialism to be a religion?  Clearly it is not belief in a supernatural being, quit the reverse. It is a belief that there is no supernatural being. But materialism (which is basically another name for atheism) is clearly '2) A particular system of faith and  3) A thing that one is devoted to.

Do we ever deceive ourselves?

Atheists in my experience tend to be touchy when accused of BELIEVING in atheism. They reply that they have no beliefs but simply accept the findings of science. They have an absence of belief in God or gods for the same reason they do not believe in unicorns or fairies, that they have seen no evidence for these things. (*) They would believe in God if they were presented with compelling evidence, they say. Obviously their world view compels them to say that, they can hardly say that they would continue to refuse to believe if they saw good enough evidence. But how could we test that assertion? Sometimes we say things that we feel we ought to say in order to preserve out high self esteem and impress others, but maybe sometimes we are lying to ourselves. 

Christian apologists and preachers like G K Chesterton, C S Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, Ken Ham, John Piper and others would say that there is plenty of evidence if you look at it in an unbiased manner (see earlier post on confounding factors) but that no evidence will convince someone of something that he is determined not to believe.

Let me cut to the chase. every country has a criminal prosecution system of some kind. Why? Why do we need lawyers to prosecute and also to defend accused people? For the very simple reason that when people are in the wrong and facing sanctions, they lie, lie and lie again to evade facing their responsibilities. Same for politicians. The idea that people are routinely persuaded by good evidence when they don't want to be is.....unsupported by evidence.

When 2 men disagree, one of them at least must be wrong

But how can we know which is wrong and which is right? Its easy if we just say 'The one who agrees with me is right' but can we be more objective than that? Look at a Muslim and a Christian arguing. One of them (at least) must be wrong, but neither will change his mind. Look at a Catholic and a Protestant arguing about whose interpretation of the teachings of Jesus is correct. One must be wrong, but rarely is either persuaded by arguments. Atheist versus theist: same thing again. If you think I'm wrong, Dear Reader, then you have to ask yourself the question 'Why does this apparently educated person persist in believing nonsense which has been refuted many, many times?'. Fair question, why do you think I believe poisonous nonsense despite the evidence? But can you then find the wit and grace to apply the same reasoning to yourself and the position you hold? Oh but you don't need to, do you, because your beliefs are all supported by mountains of overwhelming evidence, aren't they? Obviously that would not apply to everyone, but it describes some fairly IMO.

Anyway, clearly the task of finding an agreed, clear and reasonable definition of 'religion' is not quite as simple as some would like to make it. But as we can't progress this discussion without a definition, why not go with

'1) Belief in a superhuman controlling power, especially in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship; the expression of this in worship . 

Suits me. For the purpose of the discussion 'Is intelligent design religion?'

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PS the question of religion and good and evil is often raised. Too big and too interesting a subject to deal with as a postscript to this discussion which is about the question 'Is intelligent design religion?' but I'll very briefly address Christopher Hitchens' famous question 

'Can you tell me of any good deed which could be done by a person of faith but not by an atheist?' 

Hitchens evidently thought this was an incredibly powerful anti-religious question, because as set the answer is clearly 'no'. But, as his brother Peter said 'It's a duff question.'

to address the question, 2 questions and an observation about measurement.

1) What do you mean by 'good'?

2) Why are you so sure that atheism isn't a 'faith'?

3) 'could' versus 'would'. In other words, potential versus performance. What might happen versus what does happen. If you are into science and evidence, we are not interested so much in what might theoretically happen, but what actually happens in the real world and can be MEASURED. Not anecdotes or questions designed so that only one answer is possible but careful measurement with confounding factors taken into account.

More on this later.

(*) Oddly, many atheists are Marxists despite the evidence of misery, tyranny, poverty, environmental degradation and war produced by that particular godless philosophy when put into power in countries like China, Russia and North Korea. When I was approached by a Socialist Worker Party man with their magazine, I said 'No thank you, Marxism has failed.' He sneered at me 'It's never been tried.'

How deep our denial can run when the evidence is against something that we really desire to believe in?